What happened in GAP-mission related news in January

Climate change, biodiversity and globalisation

2017: Sustainability best bits

What were the funniest moments in sustainability of 2017, you ask? Here’s a roundup, including an unlikely video by the UN trying to make SDGs ‘go viral’.

Impact of fracking on baby birth weight 

A study in Pennsylvania has found that babies born closest to ‘fracking’ sites have lower birth weights than those born even a few kilometres further away, pinpointing for the first time the potential negative health impacts of fracking.

Olympic medals to be made from electronics waste

Last year, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic organising committee announced that the 5,000 gold, silver and bronze medals at the games would be made from recycled metals sourced from electronics waste. To do so, they would need to be able to recycle enough e-waste to yield eight tonnes each of gold, silver and copper (main component of bronze), which shouldn’t be too tricky given Japan’s electronics account for 16% of the world's gold and 22% of its silver.

Why is this important for our mission? This is a memorable example of a large-scale circular economy action on e-waste that shows there are really palpable benefits to repurposing and recycling electronics.

Scots are shrinking their carbon footprint

Scottish households have shrunk their carbon footprint by 25% since 2009. The Scottish Government passed climate change legislation then that has helped people switch to renewable energy and make their homes more energy efficient.

US: Plan to subsidise coal and nuclear plants rejected

The Trump administration’s proposal to subsidise dying coal and nuclear plants in the US has been rejected by the Republican-controlled Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In the UK, coal makes up 7% of the country’s energy, a much smaller percentage than even 5 years ago when it was closer to 45% of our energy.

Forest planted in North of England

A new patch of forest is going to be planted along the M62 motorway in the north of England to boost tourism, jobs, property prices, clean the air and reduce carbon emissions starting from March this year.

Bitcoin: an energy vacuum

Not hearing enough about bitcoin at the moment? Well, good news for you, here’s a bitcoin story for you: the energy needed to mine bitcoin could be more than is used by the entire country of Argentina or electronic vehicle use in 2018, according to a Morgan Stanley report. Read more about that, here.

Counting the UK's consumption emissions 

UK territorial climate targets underestimate the UK’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, because they don’t account for consumption-based emissions. A majority (55%) of UK consumption emissions to 2050 could be emitted abroad. So by using a consumption-based, rather than production-based, approach, we account for emissions at the point where goods and services are consumed regardless of where they were produced. This method of accounting allocates the responsibility for emissions to the consumer. Read a recent academic discussion paper on this topic here.

Why is this important for GAP's mission? While it is unlikely that consumption-based emissions reporting will become the go-to model for governments or international committees, it may be a useful measure for us to capture the extent to which buying less stuff has a positive environmental impact.

What's the Earth's ideal temperature?

This month, the US Environmental Protection Administrator Scott Pruitt asked: “The climate is changing. That’s not the debate. The debate is how do we know what the ideal surface temperature is in 2100?” Read what climate scientists have to say in response.


You guessed it: climate change-themed emoji!

Inspiring climate action with arts and culture

Julie’s Bicycle, environmental arts NGO has released a collection of case studies from cities around the world on using arts and culture to raise awareness and inspire climate action. This may provide some ideas for future projects. From the report:
“…not many [cities] have begun integrating culture in practical ways that support and generate creative action on the environment. This is a missed opportunity: across the world there is an infinitely rich and growing cultural movement acting on climate change which reflects local cultural diversity and environmental contexts[…] that can create a framework for action.”

Taking on the big greenhouse gas emitters

Interested in what legal cases have been put forward against big greenhouse gas emitters? From the Peruvian farmer suing German energy giant RWE, to children versus the US government, read 4 awe-inspiring cases here.

Guy Callendar's discovery

Who is this guy called Guy Callendar, and what does he have to do with climate change? Find out here.

Consumption, trends and buying behaviour

Harnessing materialism to do good..?

Materialism’s bad press? This article by a Lecturer in Marketing at Lancaster Uni describes how, instead of fighting materialism, we should harness it to do good. Controversial!

The 'evil' of consumerism

Johnathan Porritt’s university talk explores the ‘evil’ of consumerism and what we need to do to get away from the universally accepted norm that consuming = prosperity. Really relevant to our mission; not to mention that Porritt helped establish GAP way back when!

Apple and the question of planned obsolescence

France has this week opened a case investigating Apple for purposefully designing its products to have a shortened lifespan. Under French law, companies risk fines of up to 5% of their annual sales for deliberately shortening the life of their products to prompt people to buy replacements.

Fancy a year without shopping?

Could you go a year without shopping? In an excellently written account, journalist Ann Pratchett lived frugally last year and documented her experience, while Michelle McGagh talks about her own experiment on TED here:

Why is this important for GAP's mission? As we explore how our consumption habits affect us, here are two examples of when imposing shopping limits can show us the disproportionate amount of time and resources we spend on activities that do not increase well-being, or undermine it. And what’s more powerful than a personal story to this end?

Selling fake fake fur

A few UK retailers have been found to be selling real fur advertised as fake fur, due to lax regulation on textile labelling.

The case for de-growth

A case for economic degrowth: why consuming better (choosing more sustainable options) isn’t enough of a behavioural shift to stop ecological collapse. From the article:
“…under a pro-growth scenario you can switch your environmentally damaging consumption for something else. There are two issues with this. The first is that every item of consumption has an environmental impact. Imagine that we don’t just reduce the most environmentally damaging forms of consumption, but also increase our consumption of less environmentally damaging goods. What happens is that we don’t get all the environmental savings we would have had if we’d just reduced consumption.”

Young People

Are millennials killing capitalism?

Millennials are killing materialism, according to the Director of the RSA in this article, due to the shift from acquiring stuff to acquiring experiences. He predicts 2018 to begin an era “of unprecedented human flourishing. Unlike money, possessions or power, I can have more love, friendship, caring and fun without you having less.”


China stops imports of the worst kinds of waste

For China, this month marks the end of accepting imports of 24 of the worst kinds of waste into the country. This is to curb pollution. With the UK shipping around 65% of the country’s plastic waste to China, this ban will be a major disruptor in terms of this country’s waste management, but an opportunity to embrace the circular economy in a big way here!

No more microbeads!

Microbeads in cosmetics no more! The UK joins a few other European countries, the US, New Zealand, and Canada in banning cosmetics and beauty products with microbeads in them from being manufactured and distributed past today.

Supermarkets and action on plastic waste

Since Theresa May’s announcement this month “to ban all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042”, there’s been some talk about what supermarkets can be doing to improve their plastic consumption and waste levels. This BBC article explores what the big supermarkets’ have been doing and what they have committed. Iceland, for one, is going plastic-free for its own range products by 2023.


Inequality in London

Inequality: a new Oxfam report has found that 1% of people hold 82% of global wealth, with last year producing more billionaires than ever before (one every 2 days). The London’s Poverty Profile report has provided borough by borough data about inequality in London. Unsurprisingly, it’s found wealth in the capital is distributed vastly unequally, with the top 10% of London’s population holding over half of London’s wealth. The borough where this divide is biggest is Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster. Places with higher inequality levels tend to score lower on subjective wellbeing indicators.

Voices against digital overexposure

Screen tech’s not all it’s cracked up to be, especially not for educating kids, according to this opinion piece from the Guardian. Relevant read, particularly as we start to explore the effects of extended screen time on health, wellbeing and materialism levels: from heightened anxiety and depression in children, to sleep deprivation, obesity, increased aggression and low self-esteem.

At Davos last week, George Soros gave a speech warning that American IT platforms’, like Google and Facebook, “days are numbered”, due to how these companies engineer addiction and direct users’ attention towards commercial purposes.

Apple has come under fire this week for not doing enough to help parents curtail their kids’ overuse of phones. In an open letter, two big investors asked the tech giant to address concerns that mental and physical health, education and sociology experts have been raising about the impact of children’s increasing screen time on their crucial brain development over the last decade. Social media sites, accessed through Apple products, are engineered to be time consuming and have features that induce dopamine hits to keep people hooked e.g. Facebook. Incidentally, Facebook announced last week that it is taking measures to improve its news feed to ensure people’s usage of the site isn’t negatively impacting public health and wellbeing.

Air Quality

London’s air quality has been the best so far this January than it has been for 10 years, according to City Hall. This may be due to the clean air initiatives that the London authority has put in place, but it is likelier due to the windier-than-normal weather conditions hitting the capital. In previous years, London has breached its yearly threshold of air pollution by the 6th of January. 

Green finance

Green cryptocurrency: what to watch out for in 2018. Make room for the revolutionary new way to finance.