By Martin Kuebler
The global coronavirus pandemic has thrown our daily routine into disarray. Billions are housebound, social contact is off-limits and an invisible virus makes up look at the outside world with suspicion. No surprise, then, that sustainability and the climate movement aren't exactly a priority for many these days.
We don't have to abandon our green habits during the crisis, but some might have to be adapted for the foreseeable future as we continue to learn about COVID-19 and how this new disease spreads.
The following, while not official medical advice, is based on the latest information from health authorities in Germany, the United States, the European Union and the World Health Organization.
It should be considered along with the official recommendations that have stressed the importance of maintaining distance and staying home, if possible — and, of course, proper hand-washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Are foods wrapped in plastic safer?
People tend to view packaged foods as being cleaner and safer to consume, and research firm BloombergNEF pointed out in a mid-March report that "concerns around food hygiene due to COVID-19 could increase plastic packaging intensity." After all, much of the materials used in hospitals are made of single-use plastic, so shouldn't we apply the same standards to our food?
"Plastic does not inherently make something clean and safe," said Ivy Schlegel, a research specialist for Greenpeace USA, in a recent report from the environmental group. Schlegel pointed out that a number of studies, including one published March 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that "the virus will persist on plastic longer than almost any material examined [up to three days in laboratory conditions — editor's note], which could call into question the safety of the majority of plastic-packaged items in supermarkets.
"While stores are wiping down and disinfecting surfaces like door handles, shopping carts and checkout card terminals, it's highly unlikely that employees have time to clean every package of pasta or can of beans. Bottled water isn't necessary, either: the European Food Information Council has pointed out that although the "virus can remain active in water for a short period of time," tap water is filtered and disinfected before it reaches the home, "which would inactivate the COVID-19 virus."
That means we can still choose glass or cardboard packaging over plastic. Purchased products can also be left in a separate box in an out-of-the-way place for three days, to allow any traces of the virus to die off. Fresh produce that will be eaten raw can be scrubbed with a vegetable brush and plenty of water; according to Mike Kortsch at Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), that's enough to ensure it's safe to eat, even unpeeled.
Do reusable bags and containers spread the virus?
Amid the outbreak, many businesses have temporarily banned the use of reusable containers and other items — most notably Starbucks, where, until recently, customers with a reusable cup could enjoy a discounted coffee. Some grocery stores have also sidelined reusable cloth bags and containers, over fears these items could spread the virus to other customers and store employees. Some communities are even reversing existing plastic bag bans or postponing their start.
What are the eco-friendly options? Where cloth bags are still allowed, it's probably fine to keep using them. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, based on current research, that it "may be possible" to be infected with COVID-19 from a surface or object with the virus on it, but "this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads."
That appears to be especially true for porous or fibrous surfaces, like cardboard or cloth. But to err on the side of caution, bags should be washed after every use and kept in a separate place at home once groceries have been unloaded.
If forced to choose between paper or plastic, try to go for bags made from recycled materials. Both kinds have their disadvantages — plastic is most often made from fossil fuels or biofuels, while the production of paper bags uses up lots of water and virgin wood — but at least the paper versions will biodegrade.
Should we avoid grocery stores? Is takeout food safe to eat?
With restaurants closed and so many people stuck at home, the takeout business is booming. It's still a reliable option — the European Food Safety Authority has said there is "currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission" of COVID-19. Heat from cooking kills off the virus, deliveries can be paid for in advance and dropped off at the door, and the risk from packaging is low.
But what about all those plastic containers and pizza boxes? They add up, even if they're made from recycled material. Another way to avoid the problem of packaging and plastic bags — and the anxiety that comes with shopping during the COVID-19 outbreak — is to stay away from grocery stores altogether.
In some areas, for example, local organic farmers and food cooperatives are still delivering.
Vegetarian meals will also reduce the number of trips to the supermarket to buy fresh meat, for those without a freezer, and are better for the climate. Vegetarian and vegan diets generally have a lower carbon footprint than those that favor meat.
Another way to reduce our reliance on the grocery store is to grow food at home. Certain vegetables and sprouts — herbs, radishes, lettuce and microgreens, for example — can be grown quickly and easily in a small garden or on a balcony or window ledge. Compost scraps from veggies like carrots and leeks, among others, can also be used to regrow sprouts.
Does laundry need to be treated differently and disinfected?
Keeping things clean is an important way to stop the spread of the virus; the CDC has recommended that we wash clothing "using the warmest appropriate water setting … and dry items completely." But the additional use of very hot water and electric dryers will increase energy consumption.
"In normal everyday life, people in private households can wash their laundry as usual," said Germany's BfR. And we don't have to resort to harsh, polluting chemicals, since all soaps and detergents can help eliminate the virus. BfR does, however, advise that we treat clothing and other textiles from sick people differently, washing these items "at a temperature of at least 60° Celsius [140 Fahrenheit] with a heavy-duty detergent" and not shaking them out.
We can continue to hang clothes to air dry on a sunny day. Though sunlight can be used to kill off pathogens, according to the WHO, it hasn't been proven effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. But the virus will find it harder to survive on dry surfaces.
To cut back on laundry, consider keeping a set of clothes to wear outside the house for trips to the grocery store or pharmacy. Once back at home, they should be removed immediately and stored in a closed bag, to give the virus time to die off. And if using a public laundromat, remember to disinfect laundry baskets and washing machines.
Reposted with permission from DW.
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Several New York City Starbucks exposed customers to a potentially deadly pesticide, two lawsuits filed Tuesday allege.
The first claims that the coffee chain exposed customers over the last three years to Dichlorvos, or DDVP, a toxic ingredient in Hot Shot No-Pest Strips used against recommendations in Manhattan stores. In the second, a former employee and two pest control contractors say they were retaliated against for raising concerns about the use of the strips, NBC News reported.
"New Yorkers deserve to know what they are putting in their bodies and we call upon Starbucks to explain, as we allege in the complaint, its failure to take appropriate care for its customers' well-being," Douglas H. Wigdor, who filed the first complaint in New York State Supreme Court, said in a statement reported by Gothamist.
DDVP exposure can cause loss of bladder control, weakness, nausea, trouble breathing, paralysis, coma and death, the lawsuit states, according to NBC News. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says DDVP should only be used to control pests in enclosed spaces where people are either not present or are provided with a respirator.
Hot Shot advises that its strips should not be used in restaurants or anywhere food is served. But photos included in the suit show the strips near air vents, bagels and food preparation equipment.
"Starbucks stores throughout Manhattan have for many years been permeated with a toxic pesticide called Dichlorvos, which is highly poisonous and completely unfit for use in proximity to food, beverages and people," the suit said, as NBC News reported.
Gothamist published photos included in the suit taken by former Pest Control Technician Paul D'Auria that show the strips were being used to fight "disgusting conditions," such as a buildup of flies, cockroaches, maggots and silverfish.
NYC Starbucks Used Toxic Pesticide In Losing Battle Against Maggots & Other Pests, Lawsuit Alleges… https://t.co/haLtIEeKKA— Gothamist (@Gothamist)1558468734.0
The second complaint was brought by the Filosa Graff firm in the Financial District, NY1 reported. It alleges that one employee was fired in February 2018 after raising alarm about the use of the strips. A pest control technician and their supervisor also had their contract terminated in June 2018 after the technician made "repeated reports and complaints about the foregoing risks to health and safety," the suit said, according to NBC News.
Starbucks spokesperson Katie Rodihan told Gothamist that, upon learning the strips were being "misused," the company had "directed local leadership to remove these devices from all stores." She also said an independent health expert had "confirmed the pest strips did not put anyone at a health risk," though she did not name the expert or say whether they had visited the New York stores.
In a statement reported by NY1, the company also said it does not "take action or retaliate" against employees or contractors for voicing concerns. It is not known which Manhattan locations are included in the suit.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Aaron Mok
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has upended nearly every aspect of modern society, but especially the food system. Farmers are being forced to discard unprecedented amounts of food surplus because of the closure of schools, restaurants, and hotels. And, because of the complex logistics of the food supply chain, diverting food supply away from wholesalers directly into the hands of consumers can be costly. Experts like Dana Gunders from ReFED are concerned that more food waste will be produced in 2020 than in previous years.
Despite these challenges, organizations around the world are working to reduce food waste. In honor of Stop Food Waste Day on the 29th of April, Food Tank is highlighting 23 organizations and companies trying to eliminate pandemic-fueled food waste.
1. AgriMax (Europe)
Funded by the European Union, AgriMax is a food waste recovery project that converts crop and food processing waste into organic compounds through biorefinery. These compounds can be used in food packaging, food ingredients, and agricultural chemicals. Additionally, AgriMax recently launched an online platform that connects crop producers to biorefineries in Spain and Italy to generate profits from waste. AgriMax also promotes educational webinars on the bioeconomy, and offers tips to help people recycle household food waste.
2. Binghamton Food Rescue (BFR) (United States)
Binghamton Food Rescue (BFR) collects perishable food waste and redistributes it as packaged meals and groceries to food-insecure communities in the city of Binghamton, New York. Over 21,319 kilograms (47,000 pounds) of food have been rescued since the organization's inception. The organization is encouraging community members to report local food waste so they can pick up and re-purpose it. BFR also collects food donations and delivers them to around 100 households per week.
3. Brothers Produce (United States)
Brothers Produce is the largest Texas-based food and beverage distributor, supplying goods to retailers in Texas and Louisiana. In response to the pandemic, Brothers Produce has developed a new business model where boxes of fresh produce are sold directly to customers instead of companies. This ensures that food surplus that would otherwise be thrown away is redistributed and helps to keep the business afloat.
4. City Harvest (United States)
As the world's first food rescue program, New York-based City Harvest is responding to COVID-19 by rescuing perishable produce. The organization aims to feed New York City's food insecure communities by redistributing food waste and providing educational programming. Despite the closure of over 85 of its food programs, City Harvest is still committed to feeding those in need. The organization has opened seven emergency relief sites for New York's food insecure communities, and 22 more relief sites are on their way.
5. Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and Farmers Guild (United States)
Based in California, The Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and Farmers Guild is a nonprofit striving to build a more sustainable food system. To do so, they engage in political advocacy and develop grassroots programs to empower farmers and local communities. To eliminate the food surplus in California's food system, CAFF works with farmers to redirect their food supply away from their usual commercial customers and into the hands of consumers. Additionally, CAFF created a spreadsheet designed to connect the state's food surplus to consumers.
6. Compass Group (United Kingdom)
Operating in over 50 countries, Compass Group is the biggest food service company globally. In response to COVID-19, Compass Group UK partnered with food recovery organizations and food safety experts to create a plan to distribute food surplus to nonprofit organizations across the United Kingdom. Within 3 weeks of the plan's inception, around 60,000 meals were donated to more than 30 national nonprofits and local relief organizations.
7. Divert (United States)
Divert is a technology company that uses data to inform solutions to minimize food waste from the retail supply chain. Divert currently partners with supermarket chain Giant to recycle perishable foods. Perishable food is removed from the supply chain and repurposed to generate clean energy. Divert also recycles all food waste that cannot go to food banks.
8. Edible York: The Abundance Project (United Kingdom)
Located in the United Kingdom, Edible York is an NGO that aims to build a healthier York community through edible gardening and horticultural workshops. The organization runs a program titled "Abundance" that collects surplus fruit that would inevitably end up in a landfill. Volunteers then redistribute the fruit to the York community. Volunteers also rescue potatoes and deliver them to the most vulnerable people and families impacted by pandemic. Additionally, Edible York is providing information on farms that have remained open for business.
9. The Felix Project (United Kingdom)
Based in London, The Felix Project is a nonprofit that collects fresh food thrown away by wholesalers, and delivers it to charities and schools. As the pandemic creates a spike in the demand from food banks in London, The Felix Project is expanding their deliveries to emergency food hubs, homeless shelters, churches and hospitals. Through these steps, they ensure that London's most vulnerable communities are fed.
10. Food Aid Foundation (Malaysia)
Malaysia-based food recovery nonprofit Food Aid Foundation distributes supply chain food surplus among the country's most vulnerable populations. They have carried out emergency food relief efforts in Malaysian neighborhoods such as Alor, Setar, Ipoh, and Penang. The organization receives donations from renowned Asian chefs such as Alex Chong, and partners with major food conglomerates like Captain Oats and Indofood to fund their initiatives.
11. Food for Soul (Italy)
Based in Italy, Food for Soul is a self-proclaimed cultural project that recovers imperfect foods from landfills in countries ranging from France to Brazil, and repurposes them into meals for the homeless, refugees, and other vulnerable communities. Seeking creative ways to encourage food waste reduction, Founder and Italian chef Massimo Bottura hosts a family-friendly Instagram cooking show that teaches viewers how to repurpose household food waste into meals.
12. Food Recovery Network (FRN) (United States)
Food Recovery Network (FRN) is a nonprofit led by college students who collect campus food waste and donate it to local nonprofits, churches, and other community organizations. FRN operates on 230 college campuses across America. Despite mass college campus closures, over 30 student chapters continue to rescue food waste. And since the beginning of the pandemic, several companies have donated their food surplus left by business closures and event cancellations. FRN also created a logistical resource guide that includes information on ways individuals and businesses can reduce their food waste.
13. FruPro (United Kingdom)
Launched in response to the pandemic, FruPro is a London-based online platform that connects major foodservice and catering suppliers to independent retailers to eliminate losses in the food supply chain. Since FruPro's launch, 36,741 packages of fresh produce have been delivered, feeding around 500,000 people. FruPro is also developing a plan to distribute food to local nonprofits and food banks.
14. The Harvard Law School Food Law And Policy Clinic (FLPC) (United States)
Directed by Emily Broad Lieb, Harvard Law Schools' Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) is leading an emergency COVID-19 response effort to inform the public the pandemic's impact on food systems. The response includes informational resources analyzing opportunities for low-cost home food delivery. It also includes policy briefings urging Congress and the USDA to take legislative action to mitigate the pandemic's burden on the food system and its workers.
15. Imperfect Foods (United States)
Operating in 43 states, the San-Francisco based company, Imperfect Foods, aims to eliminate food waste by collecting blemished food rejected by grocery stores. They then redistribute it in customizable boxes to customers. As a result of COVID-19, delivery services face delays due to an increase in demand and a decrease in staff. Nonetheless, Imperfect Foods' Twitter offers daily tips on how to lower household food waste.
16. Mesa Brasil SESC (Brazil)
Mesa Brasil SESC is a Brazilian food bank network whose objective is to reduce national food waste by redistributing food surplus to food insecure Brazilian communities. Mesa Brasil's network contains over 1100 companies that include supermarkets, restaurants, and food service distributors. According to their Facebook page, "Mesa Brazil is acting with full force to combat the effects of the pandemic among the most vulnerable populations." As of April 1st, they had donated over 23,500 kilograms (52,000 pounds) of food to 148 charity organizations across the country.
17. Move for Hunger (United States)
If food is discarded during one's relocation process, Move for Hunger is available to collect and donate it to food banks. The organization connects people who are moving with a moving company to coordinate a pick up time for non-perishable food items. The service operates across the United States and parts of Canada. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Move for Hunger has expanded its operational efforts, delivering food to food banks faster than ever before.
18. Planet Food: The Real Junk Food Project York (United Kingdom)
Based in the United Kingdom, Planet Food York is a nonprofit that recovers food that would end up in a landfill. The food is then sold at their "pay-as-you-feel" food store. In the face of COVID-19, Planet Food York is partnering with local churches and food banks to deliver bags of food to the community. The food ranges from fresh produce to chocolate Easter eggs.
19. ReFED (United States)
ReFED is a U.S.- based consortium that seeks to discover policy solutions to end food waste. The organization has published numerous educational resources on the ways people can get involved to combat food waste. ReFED also hosts a weekly interactive webinar series titled "Better Together: Food System Best Practices for Navigating COVID-19" every Wednesday at 3PM EST which focuses on specific food system challenges and potential solutions.
20. Replate (United States)
Operating in more than 300 U.S. cities, Replate is a nonprofit comprised of professional drivers known as "food rescuers" who collect surplus meals from businesses and distribute them to vulnerable communities. By partnering with Beyond Meat and DoorDash during the pandemic, Replate is able to provide fresh, nutritious meals to frontline workers and food insecure communities.
21. Rock and Wrap It Up (United States)
Rock and Wrap It Up is a New York-based anti-poverty organization that works to divert excess food from stadiums, companies, and other commercial enterprises towards food banks and veterans. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Rock and Wrap it Up has collected thousands of pounds worth of food from Madison Square Garden and MetLife Stadium. As of early April, film and TV partners have donated over 2,000 additional pounds of food.
22. Second Harvest (Canada)
Second Harvest is Canada's largest food rescue organization. Second Harvest recently committed CAD$4.5 million dollars (USD $3.2 million) towards local charities and nonprofits that distribute surplus food to food insecure Canadians. The organization currently accepts food donations from companies such as Loblaw, Starbucks, and Sysco, and is working to partner with farms and smaller community stores
23. Winnow (United Kingdom)
Winnow is a technology company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce food waste in commercial kitchens. Winnow's Waste Monitor System, a food waste tracker, is used by chefs in more than 40 countries. Additionally, Winnow Vision is a system of cameras pointed at garbage bins that collects data on food waste. Through AI, Winnow has saved over USD $42 million dollars in food purchasing costs.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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Did Brazil's 'Dirty List' Prompt Starbucks and Nespresso to Stop Sourcing Coffee From Farm Caught With Slave-Like Conditions?
By Daniel Camargos
Eight months after slave labor was discovered at the Cedro II farm in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, Starbucks and Nestlé-controlled brand Nespresso — both of whom had quality certified the farm — said they would stop sourcing coffee there.
The decision by the two transnational companies came after the publication of the government's April "Dirty List" of employers — those caught with labor conditions analogous to slavery. The "Dirty List" is released biannually by what was previously the Ministry of Labor, now part of the Ministry of Economy, and the the first update under President Jair Bolsonaro.
The April 'Dirty List' includes 48 new employers. One of them is coffee producer Helvécio Sebastião Batista, who had been certified with Nespresso and Starbucks quality seals and used to provide coffee for both brands.
Nespresso responded: "In the light of the last report of the Ministry of Labor, we immediately suspended business with the producer in question and we will investigate the case. Farms providing coffee to the company are rigorously evaluated and inspected every year to meet the program's criteria. We will not accept otherwise and there will be no exception."
Starbucks responded, saying it will look into the incident and that it has suspended the farm from its supplier list because of the charges. The company, which boasts the world's largest chain of coffee shops, says the farm's practices previously complied with the C.A.F.E. certification seal, which follows "ethical and sustainable standards" developed in partnership with Conservation International and overseen by SCS Global Services. The next evaluation of the farm included in the "Dirty List" is expected to take place in September 2019.
A worker rakes coffee beans on a Brazilian plantation.
Marcel Gomes / Repórter Brasil
This wasn't the first time that auditors found slave labor at a Starbucks-certified coffee farm. In August of 2018, Repórter Brasil reported that 18 workers had been found in conditions similar to slavery at the Córrego das Almas farm, also known as Fartura. In September, Mongabay co-published that story.
The operation carried out by labor inspectors at the Cedro II farm in July 2018 found six employees in dire working conditions. Some were forced to work 17-hour shifts, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., and slept in substandard unhygienic housing, according to the government inspectors who rescued them.
Cedro II farm owner and manager, Helvécio Sebastião Batista, claims the charges filed against him are unfounded. "I'll do what I have to do. I filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, and I paid no fine," Batista said regarding his intention to appeal the Ministry's decision through the judicial system. A writ of mandamus is an order seeking to remedy defects of justice.
Meanwhile, at Cedro II and other properties managed by Batista, labor inspectors have found 19 more workers in slavery-like conditions, in addition to the six that caused his property's inclusion on the "Dirty List." Those properties lacked proper toilets and had no kitchen facilities. The workers also reported working exhaustive hours, in some cases until 11 p.m., often without their mandatory weekly day off.
In addition to holding Nespresso and Starbucks seals of good practice, Batista said that his farm was certified by Rainforest Alliance, which in turn informed Repórter Brasil that it would suspend its certification.
Cases of labor conditions analogous to slavery on coffee farms are recurrent. In 2018 alone, 210 workers were found in such conditions by inspectors. The number of workers toiling in slave-like working conditions in Brazil's coffee industry is now at the highest level in 15 years, according to Ministry of Labor statistics.
More About the "Dirty List"
With its new additions, the "Dirty List" now includes 187 employers caught exploiting labor in conditions similar to slavery. According to Article 149 of Brazil's Criminal Code, four elements define contemporary slavery: forced labor (which involves restricting freedom of movement); debt bondage (captivity linked to debts, often fraudulent ones); degrading conditions (work that denies human dignity, endangering a worker's health, safety and life); or exhausting working hours (leading workers to total exhaustion as a result of extreme exploitation of labor, also endangering their health, safety and lives).
The 48 companies newly included on the April 2019 "Dirty List" were monitored between 2014 and 2018. Before being added to the list, employers have a right to defend themselves with the Ministry of Economy.
Employers whose appeals fail remain on the list for two years. When they strike deals with the government, employer names are placed on a "watch list," and they may be excluded altogether after a year if they honor their commitments.
Investors, along with public and private banks, use the "Dirty List" to conduct risk analyses. Some Brazilian and international companies choose to avoid doing business with listed firms.
This story was produced via a co-publishing partnership between Mongabay and Repórter Brasil; a version in Portuguese can be read here.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
By Courtney Lindwall
President Trump says fulfilling the country's commitment to the Paris climate agreement would be bad news for the U.S. economy, but the growing tally of business leaders pledging to take action anyway suggests otherwise. These businesspeople understand that while climate action costs money, climate change costs far more.
More than 2,200 businesses and investors have signed on to the "We Are Still In" pledge — even as Trump moves ever-closer to official U.S. withdrawal. The group standing behind the 2015 climate deal represents a whopping 70 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), and thousands more have joined other corporate climate and sustainability programs, such as the We Mean Business coalition and the Science-Based Targets Initiatives.
And while many corporations are still contending with their own outsize roles in creating the climate crisis (along with other environmental and social woes), many are already on their way to implementing the changes necessary to meet their carbon emissions targets.
Tech superpower Apple, for instance, is now running all of its facilities in 43 countries on 100 percent clean energy — in some cases sending surplus energy from its solar farms back to the local grid. Apple is also securing commitments from its suppliers to switch to renewables. Over in the fashion industry, sneaker giant Nike has committed to diverting 99 percent of its footwear manufacturing waste from landfills, making certain products with recycled plastic bottles, and reducing carbon emissions across its global supply chain by 30 percent by 2030.
Such commitments multiply daily, even as the Trump administration's rollbacks of the most important federal climate policies continue try to steer America in a different direction: backwards. Here are just a few of the reasons companies are opting to move forward instead.
Trump often says that the Paris Agreement "punishes" the U.S., particularly its businesses, but he outright ignores the far more destructive economic force of climate change. According to a recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, a business-as-usual high-emissions scenario (like the one Trump touts) could result in a 7.2 percent drop in GDP per capita worldwide by the end of the century. Disruptions to global supply chains are already upon us, and as carbon pollution continues to collect in our atmosphere, more will come. Experts predict far-reaching impacts to the infrastructure that supports nearly all businesses, such as extreme weather affecting the transportation of raw goods and rising sea levels swamping the fiber-optic cables essential to the internet.
Of course, climate change will also jeopardize specific industries, such as winter sports (see: decreases in snowfall), and products, like your morning cup of coffee. In fact, it's little wonder that Starbucks has also signed on to We Are Still In. Climate change may bring increasingly irregular growing seasons (and skyrocketing prices) for coffee beans on top of increased sick days for field workers exposed to extreme heat. Such concerns would apply to almost any business dependent on either agriculture or a global workforce, or both. According to a 2011 National Academy of Sciences report, for every additional degree Celsius that the planet warms, we can expect a 5 to 15 percent reduction in total crop yield.
While many corporations have spewed more than their fair share of carbon pollution, several are now taking the opportunity to have a supersize impact on emissions reductions. Look at the world's two biggest retailers: Amazon and Walmart. Amazon says it will go carbon neutral by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris goals, and recently made moves to start transitioning its fleet of delivery trucks to electric vehicles. Soon after Trump took office, Walmart announced its Project Gigaton initiative, which set the ambitious goal of lowering the company's global carbon emissions — by pressing for action on the part of its suppliers — by one billion metric tons before 2030. Walmart has since reported that it's on track to meet its goal, which is no small feat: the entire U.S. emitted 6.5 billion metric tons of carbon in 2017.
Climate action is no longer seen as the enemy of economic progress. While the clean energy industry has known this for a while, the notion is (finally) catching on in other corners of the economy — and most excitingly it's creating opportunities for market-disrupting innovation.
Take electric vehicles (EVs). While Trump fights the auto industry's progress in manufacturing cleaner cars and trucks, countries such as China are investing in zero-emission vehicle technology at warp speed. According to a recent report by JP Morgan Research, China is expected to account for nearly 60 percent of all global EV sales by next year, and many Chinese businesses (the ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing, for example) are eager to profit while they help the world progress. The same goes for the folks behind other innovations — like plant-based faux meats, and energy-efficient fabrics made from coffee grounds, and petroleum-free plastics, and delivery vans fueled by food waste and ... you get the idea. A poll by the data firm Nielsen showed that 81 percent of consumers feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment. The sustainability economy is booming — and climate-conscious Gen Z'ers and millennials are ready to buy accordingly.
At their best, corporate climate pledges open business practices up to public accountability and mark a first step toward real-life emissions cuts. At their worst, they provide a greenwashed shield behind which polluting companies can hide their status quo behaviors. Procter & Gamble, for one, boasts about the forest-friendly sourcing and certifications of its Charmin toilet paper (the company has no climate pledges to speak of). But in practice, P&G has been clear-cutting one of the world's most important carbon sinks, Canada's boreal forest, in the name of softer TP.
We are all in this climate crisis together, which is why it's crucial to make sure our leaders and retailers keep their promises. Presidents have power, but so do corporations. Corporations have power, but so do consumers.
Reposted with permission from onEarth.
Coca-Cola was found to be the most polluted brand in the world for the second year in a row, according to a global audit of collected plastic trash conducted by the Break Free From Plastic global movement, as The Intercept reported.
While Nestle, Pepsi and snack-maker Mondelez followed Coca-Cola, the Atlanta-based beverage giant was responsible for more plastic litter than the other three combined, according to the report called BRANDED Volume II: Identifying the World's Top Corporate Plastic Polluters.
The plastic was counted during "brand audits" where Break Free From Plastic counted plastic litter collected in 484 cleanups in more than 50 countries on six continents in September, as Vice reported.
To undertake such a large project, Break Free From Plastic enlisted more than 72,000 volunteers who scoured beaches, waterways and streets. The volunteers collected bottles, cups, wrappers, bags and scraps during World Clean Up Day on Sept. 21. After sorting through the collected debris, the researchers identified 50 different types of waste traced back to nearly 8,000 different brands. Coke was the most counted product at 11,372 identifiable pieces of plastic litter in 37 countries, according to the report, as The Intercept reported.
The numbers for Coke, PepsiCo, Mondelez International and Unilever were probably low, since more than half of the plastic had eroded to the point where it was impossible to identify which brand it belonged to. The volunteers collected 476,423 pieces of plastic waste, but only 43 percent were marked with a clear consumer brand, according to the report.
Coke was the top source of branded plastic collected in Africa and Europe. It was the second largest in Asia and South America, but fifth in North America. In North America, the most collected plastic litter was produced by Nestle, followed by the Solo Cup Company, and Starbucks, according to the The Intercept.
"This report provides more evidence that corporations urgently need to do more to address the plastic pollution crisis they've created," said Von Hernandez, global coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic movement. "Their continued reliance on single-use plastic packaging translates to pumping more throwaway plastic into the environment. Recycling is not going to solve this problem."
Recent investigations have found that only 9 percent of all plastic is recycled. Most ends up in landfills, burned in incinerators or it is dumped in the ocean. The collected litter has spurred Break Free From Plastic to urge companies to eliminate their production of single-use plastic packaging and to instead find innovative solutions, according to Vice.
The report suggested that cities adapt a zero-waste lifestyle. It also suggested brands set up a delivery system for refills, that people use traditional packaging like banana leaves, and that consumers to use their own reusable materials, as Vice reported.
Coca-Cola has recently introduced Dasani water in aluminum cans and a plastic bottle made of marine waste. Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have pledged to package their products in fully recyclable, reusable or compostable containers by 2025. However, Break Free From Plastic and Greenpeace balk at the beverage manufacturers actions.
"Recent commitments by corporations like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo to address the crisis unfortunately continue to rely on false solutions like replacing plastic with paper or bioplastics and relying more heavily on a broken global recycling system," said Abigail Aguilar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia plastic campaign coordinator, in a statement. "These strategies largely protect the outdated throwaway business model that caused the plastic pollution crisis, and will do nothing to prevent these brands from being named the top polluters again in the future."
Coca-Cola responded to questions from The Intercept with an emailed statement: "Any time our packaging ends up in our oceans — or anywhere that it doesn't belong — is unacceptable to us. In partnership with others, we are working to address this critical global issue, both to help turn off the tap in terms of plastic waste entering our oceans and to help clean up the existing pollution."
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By Tara Lohan
Prigi Arisandi, who founded the environmental group Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation, picks through a heap of worn plastic packaging in Mojokerto, Indonesia. Reading the labels, he calls out where the trash originated: the United States, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada. The logos range from Nestlé to Bob's Red Mill, Starbucks to Dunkin Donuts.
The trash of rich nations has become the burden of poorer countries.
It's one of dozens of moving scenes in a new feature-length documentary called The Story of Plastic, directed by Deia Schlosberg and presented by The Story Of Stuff Project, the organization first known for its punchy digital shorts about consumption and environmental issues.
We all know by now that plastic waste is a problem — it's washing ashore on beaches, swirling in giant ocean eddies, gumming up the insides of whales and seabirds, and embedding itself in the farthest reaches of the planet. But most media coverage focuses on the end of the line — where plastics end up — and not where they came from or why.
The Story of Plastic fills that void.
The film, which made its world premiere on Sunday, takes viewers on a global journey to Pennsylvania, Texas, California, the Philippines, Indonesia, China and India, among other places. It's a trek through the supply chain that begins with fracked natural gas in the United States and ends with literal mountains of plastic waste on the other side of the world.
"I don't think most people know that if you want it to stop plastic from going into the ocean in Indonesia you need to ban fracking in the Ohio River valley," Stiv Wilson, the film's executive producer, told The Revelator in an interview earlier this year. "So our intention with the film is to show the entire system of plastic and that includes every stage and also that upstream the human health concerns are way more significant than eating fish that's eaten plastic — living next to a refinery for plastics is going to be far more dangerous."
The film exposes the flawed and failed prophecy of recycling, which works well for glass and metals but fails miserably at dealing with plastics. Only 14 percent of plastics are recycled and only 2 percent effectively, the film explains. Most plastics degrade when recycled and don't end up made into something as useful the second time around.
Heaps of useless plastic are then shipped abroad to countries like China, Indonesia and India, where much of it ends up polluting waterways and endangering drinking water and wildlife. Or it's burned next to communities and farms. Local people are left to deal with the health implications — respiratory problems, skin rashes, shorter life expectancy, cancer.
All of that makes it a "life and death issue for most people — at least in this part of the world," said Von Hernandez in the film. He works with the global collective Break Free From Plastic in the Philippines, where a local fisherman reports that these days, plastic makes up 40 percent of his catch.
As the film hops around the globe it relies on the voices of people working in their communities toward solutions to the plastic pollution problem. Shibu K. Nair, a zero-waste champion in India, has one of the most poignant lines. The "entire economy we have around recycling is possible because we have poverty," he says. Waste pickers, mostly marginalized women, work for low cost.
But even this exploitative economy is starting to unravel as more and more countries follow China's lead in refusing to take the waste of wealthier nations, and as more and more local groups unite internationally to tackle the problem at the source.
One of the key narratives of The Story of Plastic is tracking the timeline and talking points of the petrochemical industry, which produces some 400 million metric tons of plastic each year. And since 99 percent of plastic is fossil fuels, the folks behind plastics are the same as those digging for oil and gas: Exxon, Shell, Conoco Philipps, Dow Dupont.
We see how they cleverly market their products, push for personal responsibility in the face of corporate malfeasance, cheerlead for doomed taxpayer-funded recycling programs, and dole out piddling contributions for beach cleanups. All the while, they're distracting the public from the true answer: the fact that we don't need so much plastic crap.
While the industry pushes its plastic products as lifesaving (like medical devices and bike helmets), the bulk of it is stuff we didn't have a few decades ago and don't need now — things like plastic straws and single-serving packets of soy sauce. "We only use them once and they stay forever," Tiza Mafira, a policy expert and lawyer in Jakarta, said in the film. "They're not something that we need as an essential part of our lives and yet here we are — stuck with it."
Watching The Story of Plastic is liable to make you take a (likely shameful) look at the ubiquitous presence of plastic in your own life. But the film's message isn't for each of us to ditch straws — the problem is far too systemic for that. Rather it's a call for producer responsibility. Ramping up fossil fuel production, as the petrochemical industry's doing right now, is the last thing we need as we attempt to manage our climate crisis. Companies instead need to design their products with a plan for how they will be reused, composted or effectively recycled. And we need to focus way more on reducing and reusing.
"The industry is out there pushing the idea that this is all because of bad management — that the waste is here because the government isn't putting enough funding into proper waste management," said Mafira. "But they're distracting from the truth, which is that there's no way you can manage this waste — it's not meant to be managed."
She added, "I think we should ban together and have a serious discussion on a global scale because these companies are operating on a global scale."
The Story of Plastic is currently making its way to film festivals around the country. Find a local screening and more information about the movie and its messages here.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
By Sally Ho
Climate events will not just be felt through more frequent natural disasters and extreme temperatures, but they will soon have a daily impact on our lives in the way of food. Believe it or not, we may no longer be able to enjoy many of our favorite foods in the next few years due to a whole host of climate-related reasons, from drought to rising temperatures.
Some crops could be wiped out completely while others will become scarce and expensive. We shouldn't need another reason to act now and try to prevent climate change from worsening, but rescuing some of your pantry staples from extinction is a pretty good one.
1. Ciao Chocolate
We all love chocolate, don't we? Sadly, due to climate change, the cacao plant used to make chocolate could be completely wiped out by 2050. Currently, over 50% of the world's chocolate is sourced from two countries: Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana. The plant is notoriously sensitive to environmental changes, which explains why it can only be found in areas close to the equator. But due to more extreme weather patterns that will raise temperatures, and alter rainfall, humidity and sunshine, growing cacao beans is becoming increasingly difficult. The threat of climate change to chocolate is so serious that even confectionary giant Mars, who are famous for their chocolate caramel bars, have partnered up with scientists at the University of California to develop technology to help cacao survive. Without urgent action, we might really be looking at a chocolate-less future, as Mars's chief sustainability officer Barry Parkin told Business Insider that "frankly, we don't think we're getting there fast enough collectively."
2. Bye Bye Bananas
Another crop likely to be badly affected by climate change is your go-to smoothie ingredient – the humble banana. In a recent study by the University of Exeter, bananas could be eliminated by adverse climate conditions in 10 countries by 2050. Although yields of the fruit have increased since 1961 due to higher temperatures and better production methods, global warming and frequent floods and droughts will threaten banana production. And bananas won't just be threatened in South America, but also at our doorstep in Asia: India, which is the world's largest producer and consumer, as well as the Philippines, are projected to suffer marked drops in banana yields in the coming decades.
3. Rice Reduction
Our very own Asian staple – rice – is also vulnerable. According to a Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, increasing temperatures, rising sea levels and changes in rain patterns because of global climate change will make water and land resources scarce, which will substantially impact rice cultivation. This will especially impact Asia, where the viability of land to grow rice crops could decline by more than 50% within the next century.
4. Coffee Crisis
Another food commodity in danger of extinction is coffee. The morning stimulant is set to disappear as 50% of the land used to grow coffee will not be arable by 2100. In a landmark IPCC report, the body warned of the urgent need to tackle land management, with topsoil erosion happening at faster rates than ever before, threatening irreversible ecosystem loss. A study published in the journal Science Advances stated that popular coffee species are under threat, including Arabica, which takes up 60% of global production.
While global demand continues to drive more coffee plantations around the world, leading to further land-clearing deforestation and fertilizer use, wild mountain coffee plants are dying because they require natural shade and a cooler temperature range. Coffee is also facing the dual threat of diseases, like the fungus called coffee rust, which thrive in higher temperatures brought on by global warming.
Pricing will be a huge issue too and it's already started. Commodity analysts recently polled by Reuters said that arabica beans prices could rise by 25% by the end of this year. As Starbucks founder Howard Shultz recently told TIME, "Make no mistake, climate change is going to play a bigger role in affecting the quality and integrity of coffee."
5. Potato Famine
We might have to bid goodbye to delicious Indian aloo gobi and Thai massaman curry, because climate change. Climate change is a serious threat to potato cultivation, with rising temperatures accompanying sea levels pushing potato farmers to move to higher altitudes in Peru, Latin America's biggest potato producer. But even this is not a long-term solution, as the germplasm curator of International Potato Center (CIP) Rene Gómez told the IPS that she "estimate[s] in 40 years there will be nowhere left to plant potatoes" in the region.
This story originally appeared in Green Queen. It is republished here as part of EcoWatch's partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.
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The campaign to re-elect President Donald Trump has found a new way to troll liberals and sea turtles.
"Liberal paper straws don't work. STAND WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP and buy your pack of recyclable straws today," the straws' description reads.
Making Straws Great Again #Trump2020 https://t.co/kHXWaUnKt6— Brad Parscale (@Brad Parscale)1563488068.0
Parscale further promoted the straws in an email Friday titled "Make Straws Great Again," NPR reported.
"I'm so over paper straws, and I'm sure you are too. Much like most liberal ideas, paper straws don't work and they fall apart instantly. That's why we just launched our latest product—Official Trump Straws," Parscale wrote. "Now you can finally be free from liberal paper straws that fall apart within minutes and ruin your drink."
Calls to ban plastic straws increased after a video of a turtle with a straw stuck up its nose went viral. Cities like Seattle have passed restrictions, and companies including Starbucks have vowed to phase them out. California became the first state to ban them in sit-down restaurants last September.
But conservatives aren't the only ones who have expressed frustration with the paper alternatives, which tend to become unusable as the liquid permeates them, NPR pointed out. Journalists across the political spectrum have complained about them on social media. For some people with disabilities, the flexibility and heat resistance of plastic straws are more than just a convenience: They enable people with mobility issues to hydrate on their own and drink independently when dining out.
me trying to use a paper straw, every single time https://t.co/W0lBCmE8Vt— Mark Berman (@Mark Berman)1562876108.0
When asked about straw bans on Friday, Trump gave an answer that was "oddly reasonable," according to The Guardian.
"I do think we have bigger problems than plastic straws," Trump answered. "You know, it's interesting about plastic straws: so, you have a little straw, but what about the plates, the wrappers, and everything else that are much bigger and they're made of the same material? So, the straws are interesting. Everybody focuses on the straws. There's a lot of other things to focus on. But it's an–it's an interesting question."
Plastic straws only account for about one percent of the plastic in the oceans, according to Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions co-director Jim Leape. The oft-cited statistic that Americans use 500 million straws a day was downgraded to between 170 - 390 million straws a day, according to market research firms cited in a New York Times article fact-checking the higher claim.
But Trump's uncharacteristically nuanced response seems to run against the tone his campaign manager was trying to set, The Guardian wrote, noting that Parscale was exploiting the straws' emerging position as a cultural-war battleground. Last summer, conservatives began taking defiant selfies of themselves drinking from plastic straws.
Mmmm yum 😋 #straw tastes good! https://t.co/mdilaSvJJW— Kaya Jones (@Kaya Jones)1533079323.0
Some have joked that the Trump campaign's latest attempt to "own the libs" has become something of a self-own. That's because the straws sold by the Trump campaign, which are recyclable, BPA-free, U.S. made and laser engraved, also cost $1.50 per straw. The Washington Post noted that they are much more expensive than other plastic straw options on the market. Even extra-thick, reusable straws sell on Amazon for around $8 per pack of 12 to 30.
"Paying $1.50 a straw to own the libs," ProPublica journalist Jessica Huseman tweeted, as USA Today reported.
Paying $1.50 a straw to own the libs https://t.co/AAAuF4mPOJ— Jessica Huseman (@Jessica Huseman)1563506154.0
Despite the cost, the straws proved popular with Trump supporters. Republican National Committee spokesperson Elizabeth Harrington tweeted Friday that they had sold out.
Trump Straws already SOLD OUT Should have stocked up while I had the chance! #BanLibPaperStraws https://t.co/GDhpKDX6qK— Elizabeth Harrington (@Elizabeth Harrington)1563564137.0
By Daniela Penha and Roberto Cataldo, Translator
This story was produced via a co-publishing partnership between Mongabay and Repórter Brasil and can be read in Portuguese here.
At first sight, the Córrego das Almas farm in Piumhi, in rural Minas Gerais state, seems to be a model property. "No slave or forced labor is allowed," reads one of several signs that display international certifications—including one linked to the U.S. based company Starbucks corporation.
But investigators have found that laborers on the farm's coffee plantations were working under degrading conditions and living in substandard housing without sewerage or drinking water. A Ministry of Labor team inspection conducted at the site rescued 18 rural workers in conditions analogous to slavery.
Ministry of Labor investigators rescued 18 workers laboring in conditions analogous to slavery on coffee farms in the state of Minas Gerais; one of those farms held international certifications. Adere
The farm, locally known as Fartura (Portuguese for Abundance), also boasts the UTZ seal—a Netherlands-based sustainable farming certificate considered one of the most prestigious in the coffee industry. That seal of approval was suspended after the certifier was questioned by Repórter Brasil about the case.
The farm also holds the C.A.F.E. Practices certification—owned by Starbucks in partnership with SCS Global Services. After hearing of the raid, the two companies responsible for issuing the seal said they would review the farm's quality certificate. The certifiers verify commodity supply chains in order to assure ethical purchases, good labor practices and other criteria required by Starbucks and other retailers.
Evidence found at Fartura shows that the farm's operating standards were far below those expected at a certified agricultural facility. "There were lots of bats and mice. We'd buy food and the mice would eat it. Then we had to buy it again," said one of the workers rescued.
"We weren't paid for holidays, Sundays, nothing. And we worked from Monday to Saturday with no record of the hours. During the week, we would start at 6 am and only stop at 5 pm," said another former employee rescued from the farm, where workers received payment according to the amount of coffee they picked.
The employees lived in collective lodgings without drinking water. According to the inspectors, sanitation was so precarious that it put workers' health at risk. The rescued group reported that dead bats were often found in the water tanks, which had no cover. This water was used for cooking and drinking.
In addition, the inspectors collected farm reports indicating that accounts payable were rigged. "We'd harvest and they'd leave it [the beans] there to be weighed the next day. When we arrived there, the coffee was gone. And then we were humiliated: we complained and they laughed in our faces," said one of the rescued workers.
"I've always harvested coffee, and I've never been through something like that in my life. I wasn't even able to send money home," added another.
It was also reported that, for workers to cash their pay checks or to buy food, they had to pay R$ 20 for a "clandestine bus"—in the words of one laborer—to go from the farm to the nearest town. "We had to pay in order to get paid," he explained.
UTZ said the seal's audit of the farm occurred in February 2018, and the certificate was issued in April. After Repórter Brasil questioned the organization, the certification was suspended and the group said their team would look into the conditions at the farm.
"Workers' rights and wellbeing are of the utmost importance and are an integral part of our standard. We take those issues very seriously because something like that would violate the UTZ standard. Whenever we receive reliable evidence of breaches on UTZ certified farms, we take immediate action, which includes conducting a thorough investigation," the organization said in a statement.
According to Starbucks, the Fartura farm has been certified since 2016, but the firm denied having "purchased or received any coffee from this farm in recent years. It said it is starting a process of investigation to re-evaluate the seal. "We are already investigating this matter and will continue to pay very close attention to issuances from the Ministry of [Brazilian] Labor and Employment and communicate expectations to our suppliers that no farm on the list may supply coffee to Starbucks," the statement said.
SCS, a Starbucks partner on the C.A.F.E. seal, reported that inspections and audits are conducted before certifications are granted and that no signs of slave labor were detected when the process was conducted at Fartura: "Forced labor is considered a point of zero tolerance, therefore farms with forced labor would not be eligible for the status in the program."
In addition to these two seals, another sign at Fartura suggests its certification by the 4C Association of the Coffee Assurance Services (CAS), a worldwide organization. However, the indications at the farm were that this seal was still under analysis, and "the final decision on the license has not yet been made."
The discovery of slavery-like conditions on this particular farm points to flaws likely to be present elsewhere in the coffee certification process: "This is not the first or second time, and it will not be the last time a certified farm is charged with employing slave labor and violating labor rights," said Jorge Ferreira dos Santos, who heads the Coordination of Rural Employers of Minas Gerais (Articulação dos Empregadores Rurais de Minas Gerais, Adere-MG) and who accompanied the Labor Ministry inspectors. The certification system is weak and not transparent, he added, and fails at "taking workers' views and reality into account."
The Fartura Farm is currently caring for 3 million coffee trees, while also raising so, and cattle; it has 151 employees. The property is leased and managed by Fabiana Soares. In a statement, her lawyer, Amanda Costa Ferreira, claimed that the property owner learned about the inspection "with shock" since slave labor is not the company's "work philosophy."
"Our farm has been operating in the coffee market for many years and has always sought to comply with all legal requirements, that includes obtaining all certifications, licenses and awards whose requirements are extremely strict," the statement read.
Living conditions at the Córrego da Prata farm, where workers were rescued from illegal labor conditions. The farm belongs to the sister-in-law of state deputy Emidinho Madeira. Adere
Second Raid Rescues 15 Workers
Another inspection in Minas Gerais, in the town of Muzambinho, rescued 15 workers in conditions analogous to slavery from a farm owned by Maria Júlia Pereira, the sister-in-law of a state deputy, Emidinho Madeira. The workers there included a 17-year-old.
The laborers questioned reported that they were forced to buy their own equipment, so ended up owing the farm owner R$ 2,500-3,000 before even beginning harvesting. The group also told Repórter Brasil that they were required to work 90 days straight, without a single day off. Coffee harvesting only paused on rainy days, with work generally continuous from 6 am to 8 pm, one laborer said.
"And if we stopped, the boss got angry," added another. "It was exhausting."
Pereira was not charged, but the workers said that she paid severance. Her lawyer Thiago de Lima Dini, issued a statement explaining that Pereira acquired the farm at the end of 2016 and that she leased it to Elias Rodrigo de Almeida in December of the same year, "ignoring any procedures and occurrences on that property." The lawyer, who also represents Almeida, said that he "used subcontractors to hire workers" and that he is "a victim, just like other workers."
The Córrego da Prata Farm was cited for 34 violations and paid R$ 87,000 (US$ 20,000) to the workers in damages. The Fartura farm received 27 notifications and paid R$ 71,000 in severance.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
By Jordan Davidson
Guinness is joining the fight against single use plastic. The brewer has seen enough hapless turtles and marine life suffering from the scourge of plastic.
Guinness's parent company, Diageo, announced that the iconic Irish stout will no longer use plastic rings or shrink wrap. Instead, the company will invest $21 million to replace plastic with 100 percent recyclable and biodegradable cardboard, according to CNN Business. The change, which will be introduced in Ireland in August and the rest of the world by August 2020, also applies to Guinness's other products, Harp and Smithwick's.
"Great packaging is essential for our products," said David Cutter, Diageo's chief sustainability officer added, reported the The Telegraph. "Consumers expect our packs to look beautiful, be functional, and sustainable. I am proud to announce this investment, through which we have been able to combine all three. We have been working tirelessly to make our packaging more environmentally friendly."
Diageo estimates that its new initiative will be equivalent to removing 40 million 500 ml plastic bottles, which if laid out end-to-end, would reach from London to Beijing, or New York City to Honolulu, according to The Telegraph.
"We're continuously looking for ways to work with our suppliers, customers and consumers to make our packaging more sustainable and our targets ensure that 100% of plastics used are designed to be widely recyclable, or reusable/compostable," the company said in a statement, The Hill reported.
This piggybacks on Diageo's statement last year when it announced its intention to to ensure all plastics are widely recyclable or reusable by 2025.
"For 260 years Guinness has played a vital role in the communities around us. We already have one of the most sustainable breweries in the world at St. James's Gate and we are now leading the way in sustainable packaging," said Mark Sandys, global head of beer, Baileys and Smirnoff for Diageo, as reported by The Telegraph.
Guinness follows the footsteps of other brewers who have taken steps to reduce ocean plastic. In 2016, Salt Water Brewery announced all their six-packs of Screamin' Reels IPA would be packaged with E6PR (Eco Six Pack Ring), a compostable holder made with some brewing byproducts like spent wheat and barley, according to National Geographic.
"I can't speak to the nutrition of barley to sea turtles, but it does seem a lot more benign if ingested than traditional six-pack plastics," Nick Mallos, director of the Ocean Conservancy's Trash Free Seas program, told National Geographic in 2016
The Danish beer company, Carlsberg, announced last September that it would ditch plastic rings, according to CNN Business. Instead, Carlsberg will be packaged in a special glue that holds the cans together. The Danish brewer estimates that shifting to glue will reduce global waste by the equivalent of 60 million plastic bags.
Guinness and Carlsberg are the latest beverage companies to respond to the backlash against plastic around the world. Starbucks and Alaska Airlines will phase out plastic straws and stirrers. McDonalds will stop using plastic straws in the UK and Ireland. The Chicago White Sox became the first MLB team to ban plastic straws.
Starbucks announced Monday it would become the largest food and beverage retailer to phase out plastic straws, aiming to complete the process at locations worldwide by 2020, CNN Money reported. The decision will remove more than one billion straws from circulation annually, the company said.
Starbucks' decision comes little over a week after a ban on plastic straws in its birth city of Seattle went into effect July 1.
"For our partners and customers, this is a significant milestone to achieve our global aspiration of sustainable coffee, served to our customers in more sustainable ways," Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement reported by the Huffington Post.
Instead, the coffee company will roll out a recyclable strawless lid. It will still offer paper or compostable plastic straws with blended Frappuccino drinks or by customer request.
Eight million metric tons (approximately 8.2 million U.S. tons) of plastic a year end up in the world's oceans, Nicholas Mallos of the Ocean Conservancy told CNN Money. In its most recent count, the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup found that plastic straws and stirrers were number seven on its list of the 10 most collected types of beach trash.
Starbucks isn't the first company to announce a ban on plastic straws in reaction to growing global concern over the impact of ocean plastics on marine life. Hyatt also announced Monday that, starting Sept. 1, plastic straws and drink picks would only be available upon request, CNN Money reported. Alaska Airlines will stop distributing plastic stirring straws and drink picks July 16, and McDonald's announced in March it would stop using plastic straws in UK restaurants.
Environmental groups praised the coffee chain's decision.
"Plastic straws that end up in our oceans have a devastating effect on species," director of sustainability research & development and material science at World Wildlife Fund, U.S. Erin Simon said in a statement reported by CNN Money. "We hope others will follow in [Starbucks'] footsteps."
Starbucks will begin offering its strawless plastic lids in stores in Seattle and Vancouver this fall. Eight thousand stores n the U.S. and Canada already stock the lids, the Huffington Post reported.
Starbucks Global Research & Development engineer Emily Alexander, who originally designed the lid to showcase the company's Draft Nitro drink, was thrilled to learn of her design's wider rollout.
"I am really excited to have developed something that can be part of this big transformation of going strawless," she said in a Starbucks press release. "It was this very small thing and now it is so much bigger and more impactful."
A Starbucks spokeswoman said in an email to the Huffington Post that customers seemed to like the new lids.
"We've had great feedback from customers and partners (employees) so far, and we'll continue to take customer feedback and adjust as we move along," she wrote.
She also said the company would not raise prices because of the transition, saying the investment would have a "net-neutral impact for our business by 2020."
Seattle's Ban on Plastic Straws, Utensils Begins July 1 https://t.co/JcTmgkv4Ic @NRDC @PlasticPollutes @5gyres… https://t.co/etstaRQKJS— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1529504925.0
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