An Easy Guide to Make Your Business Sustainable

The adoption of sustainable practices is an opportunity for growth, but it also presents a challenge. Though you’ll eventually enjoy the economic and environmental benefits of your changes, implementing them takes commitment. You need to approach the transition with subtlety.

So what are the main points to keep in mind as you continue? What are practical strategies to reduce carbon emissions and excessive commercial waste? We’ll answer those questions and others like them, providing an easy guide for professionals who want to improve their standard of sustainability.

1. Assign a Sustainability Team Lead

One of the key factors in your success is communication. You need every employee to understand and accept your proposed changes, and that coordination is no small responsibility. If you’re going to increase sustainability in your workplace, you’ll need the assistance of a sustainability team lead.

Their role is to share your objectives with other employees and encourage them to adapt their behavior. They serve as an advocate for your new policies, putting them into action and helping others do the same. In short, your sustainability team lead will facilitate cooperation.

2. Invest in Practical Adjustments

When you’re operating a business, your bottom line is your top priority. You can’t afford to make changes if they compromise your profitability. Fortunately, you don’t need to make that kind of sacrifice, as certain practices are beneficial for both the environment and your expenses.

As an example, you can digitize documents to limit paper waste and lower the costs of printing and ink. You can also connect a group of devices to a single power strip, then turn it off when you leave the office. It’s a simple adjustment which will increase the lifespan of your devices and reduce e-waste.

3. Maintain Careful Record-Keeping

Over the past two years, many companies have engaged in the practice of sustainability reporting. Investors are starting to ask for this type of report, and if business owners are unable to provide it, they may encounter issues. Naturally, you need to give thought to record-keeping.

Are you documenting your changes? Do you have the necessary information from project and property managers? Investors need more than a promise to feel secure in your company’s improvements, and you can instill confidence when you offer reports with the relevant data.

4. Work With Similar Companies

Many companies have made it their goal to “go green,” and you should seek their support. Check for a list of green vendors in your area, and when you find one that meets your needs, reach out. You’ll come across sustainable alternatives for many products and services you currently depend on.

You may benefit from an eco-friendly cleaning service if your present service isn’t adequate. On a smaller scale, you can purchase business cards from a company that uses recycled materials. The point remains the same: You have options, and you should explore them.

5. Keep Convenience in Mind

As you modify your office, consider the convenience of your changes. An employee is far more likely to recycle paper and plastic products when they can easily access a recycling bin. If you’ve placed the bin in a location that doesn’t see much foot traffic, you’re not going to get the results you want.

Naturally, the ideal place for a recycling bin is the lunchroom or a similar area where your employees tend to congregate. The choice to recycle shouldn’t take more effort than the choice to use a conventional bin. Make both bins available to employees and trust them to make the correct decision.

6. Start Planning Today

Sustainability isn’t as simple as it first seems. A business owner may have good intentions, but unless they take time to prepare, their initiative won’t yield the desired results. With that in mind, review the steps in this guide and start planning your sustainability program today.

Why We Need to Take Climate Change Seriously

Climate change involves and impacts every system within the planet, from ecosystems to fresh water distribution. It’s infinitely complex. But while many causes are still unknown, we do know that the earth’s temperature is rising and that human activity is contributing to the temperature spike noted since with the Industrial Revolution.

While common climate change culprits include increased use of fossil fuels and rising levels of CO2, other causes are lesser known. For example, methane gas from biodegradable waste is a major greenhouse gas. Scientists now say biodegradable waste in dumpsites is contributing more methane to the atmosphere than they thought. Identifying contributors like this helps us make smart choices when it comes to things like waste management.

With that in mind, here are some other causes and implications of climate change that make it something we should take seriously.

Overpopulation is a Bigger Cause Than You Think

It’s been found that human overpopulation and climate change are scientifically linked. As the influential political economist Robert Malthus noted, “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.” In other words, it’s much easier to make new humans than it is to support them. The increase in population brings more demand for natural resources, more land dedicated to farming, more deforestation, and elevated carbon emissions. Population growth and climate change are a perfect feedback loop.

But the implications of maintaining this system are disastrous for the planet and human civilizations. The demand for natural resources to support 7.5 billion people already exceeds what the planet can provide. Experts estimate that humans currently use the equivalent of 1.7 earths worth of resources. That means it takes 18 months for the planet to regenerate 12 months worth of resources. This situation is untenable.

And the challenges to population control are staggering. Most industrialized nations like the U.S. balk at the idea of implementing population controls. But allowing numbers to grow will only meet an inevitable confrontation with fewer resources. Without addressing overpopulation, climate change will continue. And with it, we will see an increase in migration, war, displacement, crime, poverty, disease, and shorter life expectancy.

Climate Warming is Changing Our Oceans

Oceans are big regulators of the planet’s temperature. They absorb and trap heat from the atmosphere — acting like a giant sponge that protects the planet from overheating. The oceans’ layers heat at different rates, with the top layer being the warmest. But over the last 50 years, climate change has increased the temperature of our oceans by 0.3°F. And the ocean’s top layer is now warming at a rate of .2°F per decade.

But what happens when our oceans get too warm? Well, quite a bit. For one, warming oceans increase the rate of melting glaciers and ice sheets. The runoff contributes to rising sea levels, which is already making the consistent flooding of coastal cities and towns a new normal for residents. Less habitable coastal land will bring massive property losses and increased migration by displaced people.

Warming oceans also threaten critical ecosystems like coral reefs, which provide habitats for millions of the world’s aquatic life. The Great Barrier Reef of Australia is already seeing massive “bleaching” effects from warming oceans. And experts predict coral reefs may become all but extinct by 2050 if current trends continue.

Another climate change threat to our planet’s oceans is from increased “acidification” — the rise in acidity from dissolved carbon dioxide. Like heat, oceans also absorb CO2 from our atmosphere and produce half of the oxygen we breathe. Since the Industrial Revolution, increased CO2 emissions have raised the levels of ocean acidification by 30%. Higher acid levels affect calcified shellfish like clams, oysters, and corals by eating away at their protective layers. Any threat to these aquatic species could destroy the entire ecosystem — a system that supplies 15% of the protein intake for 4.3 billion people.

Climate Change is Affecting Your Health

Climate change brings an increase in the severity and frequency of climate events. More flooding, stronger hurricanes, longer heat waves, and rising pollution are a few consequences of a warming planet. These heightened weather phenomena also raise the risks to public health in the following ways:

Less freshwater supplies

A warmer climate means melting glaciers. The roughly 150,000 glaciers around the world store about three-quarters of our freshwater supply. As more glaciers near the earth’s poles retreat, their abundance of fresh water runs into the oceans, becoming undrinkable salt water.

Less freshwater will lead to contaminated water supplies and waterborne diseases like cholera and dysentery (already responsible for 3.4 million deaths each year). Rising sea levels will cause sewage backups and water contamination for coastal cities, exacerbating the situation.

A rise in disease-carrying insects

While warming climates will devastate some species like polar bears, it will be a boon for others like mosquitoes, ticks, and crop pests. Stagnant water and growing populations of insects will spread more mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria and the Zika virus. And more insects means hardier diseases that mutate to become resistant to treatment.

More drowning deaths

Larger and more frequent flooding events will lead to higher losses of life via drowning. Floods are the leading cause of death among all weather-related disasters that happen in the U.S. Drowning while driving is a big problem, specifically for flash floods. People desperate to make it home or to safety too often take the chance to cross flooded areas in their cars. But it only takes 18 inches of water to lift a vehicle, roll it over, and trap the victims inside. Flash floods will be a hallmark of climate change, as sudden and violent downpours will inundate populated areas near river valleys and coastlines.

There are many things you can do to help combat and adapt to climate change. Take part in recycling campaigns, use public transportation, turn off your electronics when you’re not using them, and eat less meat. But one of the most effective things you can do is share what you know. Find reputable information and spread the word to your family, friends, and anyone who will listen.

Renewable Energy in Refugee Camps

dabaab-refugee-campAccess to clean and affordable energy is a prerequisite for sustainable development of mankind, and refugees are no exception. Refugee camps across the world house more than 65 million people, and almost all refugee camps are plagued by fuel poverty. Needless to say, urgent measure are required to make camps livable and sustainable.

Rapid advancements in renewable energy technologies have made it possible to deploy such systems on various scales.  The scalability potential of renewable energy systems makes them well-suited for refugee camps, especially in conflict-afflicted areas of the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Renewable energy in refugee camps can be made available in the form of solar energy, biomass energy and wind energy. Solar panels, solar cooking units, solar lanterns, biomass cookstoves and biogas plants are some of the popular renewable energy technologies that can improve living standards in refugee camps. It is important to focus on specific needs of refugees and customization of technology towards local conditions. For example, solar technologies are better understood than biogas systems in Jordan.

Solar Energy

Solar energy can provide long-term resilience to people living in refugee camps. With many camps effectively transformed into full-fledged towns and cities, it is essential to harness the power of sun to run these camps smoothly. Solar cookers, solar lanterns and solar water heaters are already being used in several refugee camps, and focus has now shifted to grid-connected solar power projects.

The 5MW Azraq solar project is the world’s first grid-connected renewable energy project to be established in a refugee camp. The project is being funded entirely by Ikea through the Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign. The program, now in its third year, seeks to improve the lives of refugees around the world by providing access to sustainable energy supplies.

Biomass Energy

Due to lack of land and resources, refugee camps puts tremendous pressure on natural vegetation, especially supply of fuel wood to camp-dwellers. Replacement of traditional stoves with efficient biomass-fired cook stoves can save as much as 80% of cooking fuel.

Instead of wood, it would be also be a good option to use agricultural wastes, like husk and straw. Another interesting proposition for refugee camps is to set up small-scale DIY biogas plants, based on human wastes and food residuals. The biogas produced can be used as a cooking medium as well as for power/heat generation.

Wind Energy

Small wind turbines can also play a key role in providing energy to dwellers of refugee camps. Such turbines are used for micro-generation and can provide power from 1kW to 300kW. Majority of small wind turbines are traditional horizontal axis wind turbines but vertical axis wind turbines are a growing type of wind turbine in the small wind market. Small wind turbines are usually mounted on a tower to raise them above any nearby obstacles, and can sited in refugee camps experiencing wind speeds of 4m/s or more.

Solar lights in Azraq Refugee Camp (Jordan)

Solar lights in Azraq Refugee Camp (Jordan)

Conclusions

Renewable energy systems have the potential to improve living standards in refugee camps and ease the sufferings of displaced and impoverished communities. Solar panels, biogas system, biomass stoves and micro wind turbines are some of the renewable energy systems that can be customized for refugee camps and transform them into a less harsh place for displaced people.

Waste Management Challenges in Developing Nations

Waste is the result of collective failure from public, legislative rules, lack of funds and technical support. Public awareness and proper knowledge of waste management and end use of different types of waste, health effects, environmental problems and economic issues that are related to waste management is very important for successful execution of any waste management related practices. Everyone needs to get better knowledge, proper understanding of waste management issues and their practices to curb it. Basic training needs to be initiated from governments in this regard, which can be very effective. Poor knowledge can make the best planned technique questionable.

The increasing cost of waste disposal is a cause of major concern in developing nations

In developing countries, participation level of most citizens in waste management is very low, with residents in urban areas are not actively involved in the process of waste management. Even though it’s low, but very beneficial for future prospect and for more meaningful involvement of majority of public in waste management practices.

People should be educated about sorting out waste based on their type e.g. recyclable waste, hazardous waste, green waste etc. Majority of people across the world are not aware of waste as recycling material, amazingly most of them think plastic is recyclable waste. Involving people who are unaware of waste management practice is extremely difficult.

In developing countries, practices of waste management are usually carried by poor, for their survival. It has been estimated that 2% of population in Asia, Latin America and Africa are dependent on waste for their livelihood. Family organized, or individual manual scavengers are often involved with waste management practices with very limited supportive network and facilities with increased risk of health effects. Also, this practice prevents their children from further education.

iraq-wastes

Despite the bad consequences, it should be kept in mind that this practice keeps them employed and provide livelihood in countries with high unemployed population. But measure need to be taken to provide their better lifestyles, social behaviour towards people involved in waste management practices, provide them with facilities to reduce their health-related risk and increase their working efficiency.

In developing countries, where government support for waste management is scarce, people need to come strongly against their local municipal office or government if they see things are not changing and stacks of waste are piling up. They should protest to protect their environment, health and keep living secure and healthy for their children.

Solid Waste Management – India’s Burning Issue

For the first time in the history of India, the year 2012 saw several public protests against improper solid waste management all across India – from the northernmost state Jammu and Kashmir to the southernmost Tamil Nadu. A fight for the right to clean environment and environmental justice led the people to large scale demonstrations, including an indefinite hunger strike and blocking roads leading to local waste handling facilities. Improper waste management has also caused a Dengue Fever outbreak and threatens other epidemics. In recent years, waste management has been the only other unifying factor leading to public demonstrations all across India, after corruption and fuel prices. Public agitation resulted in some judicial action and the government’s remedial response, but the waste management problems are still unsolved and might lead to a crisis if this continues for too long without any long term planning and policy reforms.

Hunger Strike in Kerala

The President of Vilappilsala Village Panchayat went on a hunger strike recently, against her counterpart, the Mayor of Thiruvananthapuram. Thiruvananthapuram is the state capital of Kerala, and Vilappilsala is a village 22 km away. Since July 2000, about 80% of the waste generated in Thiruvananthapuram is being transported to a waste composting plant and a dumpsite in Vilappilsala village. Since the same month, respiratory illnesses reported in Vilappil Primary Health Center increased by 10 times from an average of 450 to 5,000 cases per month. People who used to regularly swim in the village’s aquifer started contracting infections; swarms of flies have ever since been pervasive; and a stigma of filth affected households throughout the community. This was a source of frustration as locals who, as Indians, prize the opportunity to feed and host guests, found them unwilling to even drink a glass of water in their homes. Currently, there is not a single household which has not experienced respiratory illnesses due to the waste processing plant and the adjoining dumpsite.

On the other hand, Thiruvananthapuram’s residents had to sneak out at night with plastic bags full of trash to dispose them behind bushes, on streets or in water bodies, and had to openly burn heaps of trash every morning for months. This was because the waste generated was not being collected by the City as it could not force open the composting plant and dumpsite against large scale protests by Vilappilsala’s residents. This is why in August – 2012, about 2,500 police personnel had to accompany trucks to the waste treatment plant as they were being blocked by local residents lying down on the road, and by some, including the village’s President, by going on an indefinite hunger strike.

Municipal Commissioner Replaced in Karnataka

In response to a similar situation in Bengaluru, the state capital of Karnataka, where the streets were rotting with piles of garbage for months, the municipal commissioner of the city was replaced to specifically address the waste management situation. Against the will of local residents, a landfill which was closed following the orders issued by the state’s pollution control board in response to public agitation had to be reopened soon after its closure as the city could not find a new landfill site.

Mavallipura landfill in Bangalore

Population density and the scale of increasing urban sprawl in India make finding new landfill sites around cities nearly impossible due to the sheer lack of space for Locally Unwanted Land Uses (LULUs) like waste management.

Dengue Outbreak in West Bengal

Even if partially because of improper waste management, Kolkata, state capital of West Bengal and the third biggest city in India experienced a Dengue Fever outbreak with 550 confirmed cases and 60 deaths. This outbreak coincides with a 600% increase in dengue cases in India and 71% increase in malarial cases in Mumbai in the last five years. Accumulation of rain water in non biodegradable waste littered around a city act as a major breeding environment for mosquitoes, thus increasing the density of mosquito population and making the transmission of mosquito related diseases like dengue, yellow fever and malaria easier.

Rabies in Srinagar

Rabies due to stray dog bites already kills more than 20,000 people in India every year. Improper waste management has caused a 1:13 stray dog to human ratio in Srinagar (compared to 1 per 31 people in Mumbai and 1 per 100 in Chennai), where 54,000 people were bitten by stray dogs in a span of 3.5 years. Municipal waste on streets and at the dumpsite is an important source of food for stray dogs. The ultimate solution to controlling stray dogs is proper waste management. The public has been protesting about this stray dog menace for months now with no waste management solutions in sight, but only partial short term measures like dog sterilization.

How to Incorporate Sustainability into Your Business

Since catapulting to the frontlines of news headlines and global consciousness, climate change is one of the most talked about and concerning topics of the modern age. Fortunately with this shift in cognition, manufacturers all across the globe have banded together to create green products in hopes of a more eco-friendly future. It’s these very products that can transform any business from a wasteful guzzler to a green success. With this guide, we’ll walk you through how you can incorporate sustainability into your daily business practice.

Switch out the incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs for a longer-lasting and more energy-efficient brilliance. Compact-fluorescent (CFL) and LED light bulbs tend to carry higher price tags than the average fluorescent bulb, however they offer a far more attractive projected lifespan than typical fluorescent bulbs which tend to offer 1,200 hours of  light.

LED bulbs, on average, cost around $5 and offer 25,000 hours of light, while CFL light bulbs cost about $2 and offer 10,000 hours of projected lifespan. Not only are CFL and LED lights more practical from a sustainability standpoint, but they will also save you thousands on your business’s electric bill.

Using biodegradable kitchen supplies to save on plastic waste. Unless your office is the type of place where employees keep personal dishes in the kitchen cupboard, you will likely need to keep a stash of utensils, cups, and plates on deck for any catered lunches or work parties. Instead of giving into the cheap prices of eco-unfriendly plastic ware, invest in biodegradable kitchen packaging for a greener feast. With fewer resource requirements, these biodegradable forks, spoons, and knives will leave your business with a reduced carbon footprint.

Green SMEs

Recycling ink cartridges is a great practice to put in place for businesses equipped with a number of printers. Believe it or not, the vast majority of discarded ink cartridges end up in harmful, toxic landfills that eventually end up in our oceans. Ink cartridge recycling is the most eco-friendly solution to this preventable problem. There are a number of simple ways to take those empty cartridges off your hands and into the hands of a trusted recycler:

  • Find a local recycling facility: You may not even know where your local recycle center is located. Luckily Earth911 can guide you to the nearest location for easy cartridge recycling.
  • Find a local office supply store: Did you know most office supply stores offer recycle programs? Check online or call in to see if they accept ink cartridges.
  • Consider refilling original cartridges: Do a bit of research on the brand of your empty ink cartridge. You may find that they are able to refill your cartridge and you won’t ever have to worry about tossing them!

Opening up windows is an easy solution to a stuffy, warm office. When people are packed like sardines into their tiny cubicles, the air can quickly become stale and stifling. Instead of wasting money and energy on air conditioning, open a few windows to let fresh air flow in. Air conditioners put hydrofluorocarbons, a type of greenhouse gas emission, into the environment—so while you may feel refreshed, the earth is further harmed. Reduce your business’ contribution by saving the AC for the more-unbearable summer days.

Invest in renewable energy sources for a long-term, energy-efficient, and eco-friendly power solution. Every year, we see more and more solar panels sitting atop rooftops, which means the time to invest in solar panels is now. By converting sunlight into a sustainable power source, solar panels are the greenest source of energy on the planet today. Solar energy can be used heat buildings and provide energy to power lights on.

Turning to post-consumer waste to escape the cycle of high-volume paper waste is an exceptional solution for any company that uses a lot of paper. PCW paper is paper re-made at recycling facilities. According to the Environmental Paper Network Paper Calculator, PCW paper saves on

  • 5,610 gallons of water
  • 5,000,000 BTU of energy
  • 376 pounds of solid waste
  • 1,035 pounds of CO2 greenhouse gas emissions

In 2019, there are no more excuses for why a business is stuck in the past. The future can be a bright one if we all put our best foot forward and make the effort to make our spaces greener!

Manage Trees With Sustainability In Mind

There is growing concern as forest land outside of conservation areas is steadily decreasing. There has been a disturbing reduction in primary forests of 40 million hectares in the last decade. The total area of forest within protected areas has increased by 94 million hectares in the past two decades and now accounts for 13% of the total of forests globally.

Tree healthcare for humans

Trees are well known for providing oxygen as a result of their photosynthesis process.  It is in fact the carbon dioxide (CO2) that is removed during this process therefore helping to mitigate the negative effects of burning fossil fuels ie. CO2 production.  The benefits to the world of this process make the existence and importance of the Amazon rainforest especially significant.

Trees benefit cities too

Not only are trees a beautiful addition to any city, they also serve a practical purpose by absorbing pollutants.  Their presence makes a city appear more vibrant and more friendly.  For example, San Francisco is home to 105,000 trees.  Tree planting should be kept in pace with tree mortality and removals.  A tree management plan is essential to ensure sustainability.

Tree management for woodland

Trees should be checked for health and also for the merchantability of the trees.  When areas of the woodland require thinning out it is useful to produce a product that has a commercial value.  This way waste management has been prioritized and has turned a Liability into an Asset.  The harvested wood/logs can be considered an asset and can be sold as fuel.  Always ensure trees are removed when over-crowding is an issue to allow for tree growth of the remaining trees.  The woodland is sustainable by including sufficient planting of new trees.

Maintaining the urban trees

Your arborist can advise you of local procedures and the law regarding your trees which if not properly managed can become a legal liability.  Some types of trees do not take well to heavy pruning, for example the Southern Live Oak is best not located in restricted areas where heavy pruning to clear avenues may be required.  It is better to grow it in a larger landscaped area where it can grow with minimal pruning.  They often reach 60 to 80 feet in height with a 60 to 100 foot spread.

The branches of Live Oak tend to droop as they grow so some careful pruning will be necessary especially as this type of growth can be a problem for vehicular or pedestrian clearance beneath.  Many trees are not permitted to be removed without obtaining a tree removal permit first.  This is good as it provides some protection for the trees.

Other tree varieties to grow with sustainability

The beautiful red maple is a great yard tree being very tolerant and is able to grow in nearly any conditions but especially in acid to neutral soils.  Plant away from paths etc as the roots can raise sidewalks if too close.  A good layer of organic mulch should be placed around the roots to feed and help retain moisture.

Presence of trees make a city appear more vibrant and eco-friendly

Another commonly found tree in the US is the Loblolly Pine.  When found in plantations it provides the perfect habitat for wildlife such as deer, squirrels making it a very sustainable choice.  Being a faster growing tree it requires more regular pruning.

Enjoy our future with sustainability for trees

Sustainability ensures we leave the world in a good state for future generations to enjoy, whilst still meeting the needs of the current population.  Keep your trees maintained moving forward and always pay attention to the type of tree and manage accordingly.  This way you can enjoy the many beautiful trees around you.

Sustainability Standards in Oil Palm Industry: An Overview

The palm oil industry is particularly involved in the development of sustainability standards. Driven by growing global demand, palm oil production has expanded rapidly in the last few years. Palm oil is the most widely consumed vegetable oil in the world, and its popularity has grown even more with the emergence of new market opportunities in the biofuels sector, in addition to its traditional food and oleochemical uses.

This strong growth has unquestionably contributed to the economic development of the main producer countries – Indonesia and Malaysia – which account for 87% of global production. Palm oil cultivation provides income for many smallholders, whose produce accounts for around 40% of world palm oil output.

Environmental and Socio-economic Concerns

However, the expansion of palm oil cultivation has also generated serious environmental concerns. It results in tropical deforestation and thus has a major impact on biodiversity loss, with the decline of emblematic species such as orangutan in Southeast Asia. It contributes to climate change through deforestation, but also through the conversion of peatlands, which are of vital importance in soil carbon sequestration.

The huge forest and bush fires in recent years in Indonesia which are associated with clearing lands for agricultural or forestry plantations caused severe air pollution and public health problems across the sub-region. In addition, industrial plantations are sometimes responsible for polluting waterways, into which chemical inputs and processing plant waste are dumped.

Moreover, this expansion has sometimes resulted in social abuses and human rights violations, in the form of land grabbing by plantation companies at the expense of local and indigenous communities or of the exploitation of plantation workers.

Sustainability Standards in Oil Palm Industry

Condemnation of these abuses by NGOs and growing consumer awareness of the adverse impacts of the expansion of palm oil plantation have driven the development of sustainability standards. Such standards are aimed at transforming production practices in order to mitigate their adverse environmental and social effects.

The expansion of palm oil cultivation in Southeast Asia has also generated serious environmental concerns.

In 2001, representatives of the food processing and distribution sector launched a dialogue with WWF and plantation companies, leading to the creation in 2004 of the first voluntary sustainability standard in the sector, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

There are now 2.41 million hectares of RSPO-certified plantations, while sustainable palm oil accounted for 20% of world trade in this product. Meanwhile, several other initiatives proposing a vision of palm oil sustainability have emerged, positioning themselves as either a complement or an alternative to RSPO.

New Challenges to Overcome

The development of these initiatives demonstrates the growing awareness among producers, the industry and the public authorities of the need to transform the sector to enable it to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But this proliferation of sustainability standards itself poses new challenges, even though the environmental and social problems that motivated their emergence remain unresolved.

At the institutional level, the proliferation of sustainability initiatives since the creation of RSPO reflects a real fragmentation of the regulatory framework. This proliferation also raises the question of the articulation of these voluntary standards with the public regulations and national sustainability standards that producer countries have adopted.

Finally, measures to ensure the sustainability of palm oil cultivation need to bolster their credibility by guaranteeing better inclusion of the millions of smallholders, and by contributing in an effective, measurable way to mitigating the adverse social and environmental impacts of growth in palm oil cultivation. In this field, the role of collaborative and multidisciplinary research in providing strong evidence-based impact evaluation of standards is crucial.

Note: This is an excerpt from the book Achieving Sustainable Cultivation of Oil Palm (Volume 2) published by Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing. You may buy the book from this link. Use code BIOEN10 to avail special discount.

7 Crop Health Metrics That Matter to Farmers

Crop health is of paramount importance to farmers; thus, careful and consistent monitoring of crop health is an absolute must. A recent study on coffee yield losses from 2013 to 2015 revealed that pests and diseases led to high primary (26%) and secondary (38%) yield losses in the researcher’s sampled area. This highlights the significance of closely paying attention to such detrimental factors in your crop’s environment. Doing so will ensure maximum yield and profit for farmers come harvest time.

To look at crop health monitoring as governed by just one or two aspects, however, is a serious mistake. Rather, a holistic approach must be adopted; in other words, more factors need to be monitored than just pestilence and disease.

Here are seven of the most important crop health metrics for farmers to monitor, based on the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Program’s guidelines.

1) Crop appearance

Perhaps the most obvious indicator of crop health is their general appearance. While not an all-in-one, foolproof method of gauging the current condition of a particular set of crops, a farmer possessing the right tools and knowledge can tell quite a lot from simply looking at the state of his or her plants.

Lightness or discoloration in foliage more often than not points to chlorosis, a state in which plants produce insufficient chlorophyll. Modern methods of crop health monitoring, including new technologies that utilize both near-infrared and visible light, allow farmers to actively and accurately monitor chlorophyll content.

2) Crop growth

Among the indicators of poor crop growth are short branches, sparse stand, and the rarity or absence of new shoots. This, of course, will inevitably affect your total yield in a negative way. Under ideal circumstances, there should be robust growth and dense, uniform stand in your crops.

3) Tolerance or resistance to stress

Simply put, crop stress is a decrease in crop production brought about by external factors. An example would be exposure to excess light and high temperatures, which may disrupt photosynthesis (known as photoinhibition). As a result, crops will have insufficient energy to bear fruit or grow, and may even sustain lasting damage to their membranes, chloroplasts, and cells. Healthy crops are stress-tolerant, and can easily bounce back after being exposed to stressors in their environment.

4) Occurrences of pests and/or diseases

An indicator that your crops are extremely susceptible to pests and diseases would be if over 50% of the population ends up getting damaged by said factors. Under the right circumstances, less than 20% of your crops would be negatively affected by any invasion of pests or spread of disease, allowing them to easily recuperate and increase in number once more.

Building crop resistance against harmful insects and diseases can be done in a number of ways, including improving crop diversity, crop rotation, using organic pesticides such as Himalayan salt spray and eucalyptus oil, and even genetic research and enhancement.

5) Weed competition and pressure

Apart from insects and plant diseases, weeds can also spell doom for your crops, if left unchecked. In the event that your farm becomes overpopulated with weeds that will steal the nutrients from your crops, you will certainly notice that your crops are steadily dwindling. Healthy crops, on the other hand, would eventually overwhelm the weed population and reclaim dominance over your field.

6) Genetic diversity

To have only one dominant variety of crop in your farm is tantamount to putting your eggs in a single basket. For instance, you should consider the importance of having multiple disease-resistant crop varieties on your farm. Don’t fall prey to the temptation of replacing them entirely with a single, higher-yielding type.

It is essential to buil crop resistance against harmful insects and diseases

7) Plant diversity and population

In an ideal setting, there should be more than two species of plants in your field. Counting the actual number of trees or plants across your farm, as well as the naturally occurring vegetation on all sides of the area, can also give you a better perspective on your farm’s overall crop health.

Importance of crop management system

Some farmers become overly reliant on insecticides and other chemicals to eliminate their pest problems — a grievous error, as this will likely lead to even more serious problems. Even the indiscriminate application of mineral fertilizers may inadvertently boost pest populations by making conditions ideal for them to thrive.

Ultimately, a combination of the right knowledge and the proper technology is a must in measuring and monitoring crop health metrics. Farmers must always be aware of the current health of their crops, and must be prepared to address any problems with solutions that don’t end up causing more.

Use of Big Data in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals

Big data is everywhere, and all sorts of businesses, non-profits, governments and other groups use it to improve their understanding of certain topics and improve their practices. Big data is quite a buzzword, but its definition is relatively straightforward — it refers to any data that is high-volume, gets collected frequently or covers a wide variety of topics.

This kind of data when organized and analyzed adequately can be quite valuable. Marketing teams use it to learn more about their customer base, healthcare professionals can use it to calculate someone’s chance of contracting a given disease, and cities can use it to optimize traffic flow, and it can also help in saving wildlife.

Big data also has the potential to help significantly improve the quality of life for much of the world’s population. The United Nations, governments, not-for-profits and other groups are using big data to help achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals or SDGs — a set of 17 targets related to protecting the natural environment, reducing inequality, improving health outcomes and other things that will make life better around the world.

How Can We Use Big Data to Achieve SDGs?

There are many ways in which we could use data to improve our understanding of our progress towards the SDGs, determine how best to meet those targets and ensure accountability. The United Nations has set up a task team to explore how to use big data to help achieve the SDGs. A survey by the task team found that big data projects most frequently focused on the “no poverty” goal and that mobile phone data was the most common data source.

Pulse Lab Jakarta, a joint effort between the United Nations and the government of Indonesia, is working on various big data projects related to the SDGs. One of their projects is the Vulnerability Analysis Monitoring Platform for Impact of Regional Events (VAMPIRE) platform, which analyzes satellite imagery and creates maps that incorporate anomalies related to climate and rainfall to help track slow-onset climate changes.

Another project, the Manitoba Bioeconomy Atlas, comes from the International Institute for Sustainable Development and involves that creation of a web-based spatial inventory of biomass sources. Biomass producers can use the data to optimally locate biomass refineries, and biomass consumers can use it to source biomass and calculate costs.

There are many other potential uses for big data related to the SDGs. Mobile phone data, for instance, could be used to track the movement of populations, such as refugees, to improve preparations. Data analysis could help predict changes in food prices. The possibilities are virtually endless.

What Are the Challenges and Risks?

The opportunities related to big data are plentiful, but there are also numerous challenges and risks. Collecting, storing and analyzing large amounts of data is in itself challenging. It requires advanced technology and infrastructure, which can be expensive. This limits the access of less developed countries to this technology. In the survey by the UN’s bid data task team, the team received much higher response rates from high-income countries than lower-income ones.

Privacy is another significant concern. It’s essential that those processing respect the rights of those they collect data from. The fact that much data is collected passively can complicate this. Even removing sensitive information from data sets may not always be enough to guarantee privacy, since people could be identified by combining information from multiple data sets. Those handling personal data need to take steps to protect subjects’ privacy.

The UN, through several of its groups, has issued recommendations and guidelines for the use of big data related to SDGs. Among the goals of these guidelines is ensuring privacy and increasing access to data worldwide. The private and public sectors, as well as countries and organizations from around the world, will have to work together to accomplish the UN’s SDGs and to ensure that we can take full advantage of the benefits big data can provide related to achieving them.