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Target Launches Initiative to Increase Product Sustainability
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Target has a new initiative to encourage its manufacturers to make their products more sustainable.
The company announced that it will start using the Target Sustainable Product Standard this month to "help establish a common language, definition and process for qualifying what makes a product more sustainable."
Target spent two years developing the standard, working with vendors like Seventh Generation and non-governmental organizations like Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition. Target will use GoodGuide's UL Transparency Platform and vendor assessments to evaluate 7,500 household, personal, beauty and baby care products.
Target will assign as many as 100 points to products, based on the sustainability, transparency and environmental impact of its ingredients.
“Currently, there is no widely accepted industry standard by which vendors and retailers can judge the environmental impact and sustainability of products,” GoodGuide co-founder and chief sustainability officer Dara O’Rourke said. "Target will help push the industry toward consensus on what sustainable standards should be and create incentives for innovation in this highly competitive space, ultimately broadening the sustainable product selection for their guests.”
Target's standard is, in part, a response to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families' "Mind the Store" challenge, in which consumers encouraged the nation's largest retailers to become serious about selling products with fewer toxic chemicals. A coalition blog post approves of Target's list of 1,000 chemicals that manufacturers can't use if they want to earn points in the ingredients category. All of those chemicals are also on the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families' Hazardous 100 list.
"We are pleased to see that half of the score for the product ranking focuses on the ingredients used," the post reads. " In addition, we’re also pleased to see Target describe this as a 'first step.'"
The coalition admonished that Target will wait until 2014 to use a similar standard for cosmetics. While Target said the standard will lead to more transparency and better inform its merchandising, the scores will not be made public, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families pointed out. However, those that get high scores will likely publicize them and influence consumer decisions.
"We know more and more Target guests want greater transparency about the ingredients in the products that they’re purchasing," Seventh Generation President and CEO John Replogle said. "This tool will help us showcase the authenticity of our products while pushing for industry-wide clarity around what really makes a product sustainable.”
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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Ivory Coast's rainforests have been decimated by cocoa production and what is left is put in peril by a new law that will remove legal protections for thousands of square miles of forests, according to The Guardian.
By Karin Kirk
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By Kerstin Palme
Creepy-crawlies are among the oldest life forms on this planet. Before dinosaurs ever walked the earth, insects were certainly already there. Some estimates date their origins to 400 million years ago. They're also extremely successful. Of the 7 to 8 million species documented on Earth, around three quarters are likely bugs.
But several insect species could disappear for good in the next few decades and that would have serious consequences for humans.
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