Did Nestlé Use the Shutdown for Good PR?
By Miranda Fox
The impacts of the government shutdown on the nation's national parks have been widely reported: overflowing bathrooms, decimated habitat and widespread litter resulted in parks that remained open without staff oversight and management. In response, individuals, organizations and corporations have volunteered to help out with the clean-up. One of these is Nestlé Waters North America, which released this statement last week:
"At Nestlé Waters North America, we believe that even one bottle or can that is not recycled properly is one too many. When we heard about the need in our national parks, we wanted to help."
What Nestlé's press statement doesn't address is that this company's commitment to creating single-use products like bottled water makes it one of the largest contributors to the problem. In fact, clean-up audits organized by #breakfreefromplastic found that Nestlé's packaging was among the most frequently littered brands in nearly 200,000 pieces of plastic gathered around the world last year.
Parks report that plastic bottles make up to a fifth of their entire waste stream. The bottled water industry has been trying to stop national parks from going bottled-water-free for nearly a decade. In fact, a Nestlé-backed lobby group, the International Bottled Water Association, spent years lobbying Congress and the Department of Interior to rescind the National Park Service's bottled-water-free policy. And, in 2017, the Trump administration finally did—just weeks after Trump's Deputy Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt, who has ties to Nestlé, was confirmed.
To make matters worse, Nestlé has single-handedly depleted water supplies around the country to profit from selling bottled water, causing damage to environmental ecosystems—including national forest land in Southern California. We've been working to stop Nestlé's dewatering of the San Bernardino National Forest for four years, where it bottles water that it pays nothing for from public land. Last year, we forced Nestlé to renew its 30-year expired permit to operate legally within the forest, but we continue to fight for greater environmental protections and to end this egregious use of public water.
Nestlé's marketing scheme is clever but transparent. It continues to obstruct policies and laws that would eliminate plastic waste and protect public, natural spaces. Nestlé is trying to present itself as the solution to the very problem that it profits from. Herein lies the danger of corporate-driven solutions: they never address the broken systems that they claim to fix because corporations are invested in safeguarding what benefits their own economic interests—the broken systems themselves.
Charles Edward Miller / CC BY-SA 2.0
The feud between President Trump and Congress created a 35-day government shutdown—the longest in U.S. history—and reports continue to surface detailing the wide-reaching effects of a government in crisis. Most disturbingly, around 800,000 federal employees missed a second paycheck and turned to food banks, despite expectations that they continued to work. Small businesses couldn't get loans, private companies didn't go public, federal courts were running out of money, and economic losses reached at least 6 billion dollars. Needless to say, these are just a few reasons why a functional government matters.
AFGE / CC BY 2.0
Functional government also matters because, in its absence, already minimal checks on corporate power become nonexistent. Moreover, broken and dysfunctional government systems open the door to corporations like Nestlé whose interests inherently intertwine with an ulterior motive: increasing their own profits. They offer false solutions to profit from problems much larger than overflowing trash bins in national parks, like taking over crumbling water infrastructure systems in major cities like Pittsburgh.
Corporations leap at the opportunity to perform services for positive PR, inspiring positive brand affiliation, or to participate in a public-private partnership. These allow corporations to build relationships with public institutions that pay them for contractual work or eventually sell their public services to the most well-connected private entity, or highest bidder, when debts become too high to reconcile. When the government shuts down, it creates opportunities for corporations to step in. And once they're in, good luck getting them back out.
However, ordinary folks have also been stepping up to volunteer their time to keep things running. These selfless acts should be celebrated and demonstrate what's great in America: people coming together for the common good, working to help others and build community. When services are performed for the public good and not for profit, whether by volunteers during emergencies, or (ideally) by functional, democratic governments, real solutions that tackle some of our greatest problems truly begin to take root. Watch our animation The Story of Solutions to learn more about real solutions and how to change systems so that they work better for us, and not corporations like Nestlé.
Nestlé's Plastic Initiative Called 'Greenwashing' by Greenpeace https://t.co/iARQUzXHQv @Greenpeace… https://t.co/9bk6jNNeNO— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1523457310.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Story of Stuff.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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