5/24 Climate News: EU directive, edible cups, forest fires
This week’s climate news: Regulating sustainability labels in the EU; eating your cups; and pointing the finger at forest fires. Read on for more!
By Ellie Kim Fromboluti
May 24, 2023
Travel the world with us this week for three pieces of climate news. In Europe, regulators are cracking down on consumer-goods sustainability claims. In Australia, one startup is crowdfunding a revolution via your morning cup of joe. And finally, we report on a new study that sheds light on corporate responsibility for forest fires in North America.
Let’s dig in.
Earlier this month, the European Parliament voted on a directive to ban corporate carbon neutral claims and increase the durability of consumer goods. The proposal was supported by an overwhelming majority – 544 votes in favor, 18 against and 17 abstentions.
The directive protects consumers from greenwashing by prohibiting companies from labeling products with vague or misleading claims of environmental friendliness. Instead, companies will be required to follow official certification schemes sanctioned by the government in labeling their products as sustainable. That means companies won’t be able to claim a product is “environmentally friendly” without the evidence to back it up – and the whole product has to meet that standard, not just one component.
According to EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders:
This proposal aims to strengthen the fight against greenwashing by banning practices that mislead consumers on the actual sustainability of products
Australian company Good-Edi has a solution for that overflowing trash can you pass every morning on the way to work: an edible coffee cup.
Their cup is made of oat bran and wheat flour (yum – fiber and vitamin B!), sustainably and locally sourced, of course. And it can hold your hot coffee for up to 40 minutes and a cold beverage for up to 8 hours without leaking.
Is eating our cups really necessary?
The world uses over 500 billion disposable cups each year, and that number is on the rise. Production of plastic cups is fossil-fuel intensive and disposal of single-use cups is complicated. Plastic cups, caps, and lids are amongst the top ten items littering the world’s beaches. The long-term impact of those cups is that they break down and live for a very long time as microplastics in our environment. Even single-use paper cups (which are often lined with a plastic coating) are a mixed bag.
Not into eating your cup? That’s ok. Even if you toss the cup, it may be a better choice than conventional disposable cups. Edible cups like the one offered by Good-Edi are generally compostable and will break down in only a few weeks. Edible cups may generate less CO2e across their life cycles than typical disposable cups (with some caveats – with proper recycling some compostable paper cups aren’t so bad, either). So don’t worry that these particular cups are only available in Australia at the moment (and – sorry Venti Macchiato drinkers – only in 6- and 8 oz sizes).
A recent study reveals that nearly 20 million acres worth of burned forest can be traced back to 88 of the largest industrial carbon producers. These include ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, and Shell – all big oil companies responsible for misleading consumers about the perils of fossil fuels – amongst others.
The authors of the study simulated two versions of the world: one including emissions from these top 88 producers, and one without. They then compared the amount of burned forest area estimated by the simulations to observed, real-world values of burned forest area. They found that emissions from these top producers accounted for 37% of the area burned by forest fires in the western United States and southwestern Canada between 1986 and 2021.
In a world without these 88 companies, according to this study, we could have 20 million more acres of forest (that’s about the size of the entire state of South Carolina!)
A 2019 study using similar methods to quantify how the 88 largest industrial carbon producers contributed to ocean acidification in the past ~100 years found that these 88 companies contributed to over 50% of decline in surface ocean pH in this period.
Thanks for reading!
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