With more and more Americans turning to the food truck industry for a quick, cheap meal and sometimes even a gourmet meal, emissions from these gas guzzling machines is becoming a fairly significant factor.
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So the question is, how can the U.S. make a move to keep and expand on our well-loved food trucks, while cutting their environmental impact? New York might have a solution, by going solar. The state has taken a huge step by launching an initiative to get 500 energy-efficient, solar-powered carts out on city streets by next summer. The pilot program will give food truck vendors the opportunity to lease carts for five years at little to no extra cost.
Food trucks have become increasingly popular over the past few years, with their revenue rising an average of 9.3 percent every year since 2010. With budget-friendly meals on-the-go, it’s no surprise why Americans are choosing this four-wheeled kitchen over a meal at a standard sit-down restaurant. In 2012, there was an estimated 3 million food trucks in the U.S. And while they have proved to be more efficient for the consumer, for the vendors and environment it can be another story entirely.
In a survey, food truck vendors were found often spending more than $500 a month on gas: the lights and refrigeration systems in the trucks are powered by diesel generators, while a tank of propane is used to keep the grills warm. Running sometimes up to 10 hours a day, this seemingly small contributor to air pollution is proving to make a big impact. Three million trucks running every day on fossil fuels adds more than 14 million pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every hour, turning into hundreds of billions within a year. And when tackling a problem as large as air pollution, sometimes it makes the most sense to focus on individual factors.
Perhaps it is time for the rest of the nation to follow New York’s example, and make sure this growing industry makes the right steps towards energy efficiency, recognizes the potential for saving money and takes the next steps to protect the environment: all by going solar.
These carts are expected to cut fossil-fuel emissions by 60 percent, and smog-causing nitrous-oxides by 95 percent, as stated by EnergyVision in an independent analysis of the cart’s technology. If this technology were to be implemented nation-wide, it could mean over 28 million pounds of fossil fuels spared from the atmosphere every hour. This is good news for the vendors too, helping them cut energy costs by up to 20 percent.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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