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Article for University of Wales

The University of Wales are pushing the boundaries, integrating sustainability into all of their teaching, so it was a privilege to be interviewed for the magazine that goes out to their 23000 students. Here it is.


Sustainable Innovation Lab.

35 sustainablility leaders are gathered today in Southampton, hosted by Ordnance Survey.

Notes from speakers and discussions follow:

First up: Ben Ferrari, The Climate Group

Nobody in this space seriously thinks that climate is going stay below 2 degrees. Let’s be honest with each other. The world is going to be different, and how it looks depends on how we innovate and what we do next.

 The business models are so often the missing piece of the jigsaw.

The Climate Group ran an Earth Hack in 2013; one outcome was a platform called marblar; crowd sourcing may have real limitations in terms of outputs, but the energy, excitement and groundswell of conversation that arises may be worth it by itself.

Complex stakeholder and system issues, communication and advocacy will be key.

Climate Group give leaders the information that they need to take bold action. It’s our job to make sure that they are never left exposed.

We've seen rock start CSOs emerge, but we've seen many more sustainability functions be reduced - fewer people, smaller budgets. This isn;t across the board, byt it is happening.

We've seen how sub-national, ambitious climate work in e.g. Sao Paulo, can hold the space for national government to find the evidence of what works. 

In working on LED lighting, it was important to understand real and perceived issues, and the barrier that the 'dream of the fully smart city' presents in finding a reason to delay action. The vision of fully integrated smart systems creates complications and a sense of expense that might not be the case. We're asking 'what's smart enough' - bearing in mind the systems issues of suppliers, customers, citizens that need to be managed. Some of the figures that get banded around obscure the real potential. The way that pilots are procured and designed is key in determining the transferability of learning.

Corporates are putting less effort into selling into cities, and it's too expensive for SMEs, so real innovation and reconnection is needed to make the connections work.

Looking at China, is there a point at which too much government intervention can be a bad thing - is China actually heading towards being an innovative economy, but is it happening now in a way that will truly embed sustainability or just hit targets.

Examples - BT's Net Good goal is to help customers reduce CO2 emissions by at least three times the end to end carbon impact of our business".

Crowd sourcing may be ineffective to date in it's return of real impact, but the energy, excitement and groundswell of awareness that it creates.

It is key that we do sell the climate benefits that come with e.g. better health, reading, safety that might come with using LEDs.

At our workshop in New York next week, we're going to fill our stage with Republicans who understand climate science - the farming unions, the evangelical movement, the unusual suspects - and supply them with robust, pithy information that they can use.

The next couple of years are critical - we absolutely know that we will ahve to make huge changes in the way that we relate to this world.


Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones at the Hay Festival 2013

The Sustainability Bill

Hay Festival 2013, Saturday 25 May 2013, 7pm

The Welsh Government’s First Minister discusses how the groundbreaking Sustainability Bill, due to be ratified later this year, will affect both the public and private sectors in Wales. How will the high-level policies filter down to the day-to-day activities such as procurement and infrastructure? He talks to The Telegraph’s Environment Editor, Geoffrey Lean


Organisations changing the world of food

Via Food Tank

1. Al Maha Desert Resort (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) –In an effort to attract clients, many hotels and restaurants tempt guests with access to a wide range of elaborate–and often large–meal options. To prevent waste, the Al Maha resort incorporates uneaten items into later meals – for example, serving breakfast pastries as lunchtime desserts.


2. City of Austin’s Zero Waste Initiative (Texas, United States) – In April, the Austin City Council voted unanimously in support of a city ordinance to require all restaurants over 460 square meters (5,000 square feet) to separate all compostable materials from other waste by 2016. Smaller restaurants will have to undertake the initiative by 2017. This is part of Austin’s goal to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by 90 percent by 2040.


3. Culinary Misfits (Berlin, Germany) –Started by two friends, Culinary Misfits seeks out the ugly vegetables at grocery stores, farmers markets, and restaurants and turns them into delectable dishes at the events they cater in the city.


4. DC Central Kitchen (District of Columbia, United States) – From the 370,131 kilograms (816,000 pounds) of food it recovered in 2011, DC Central Kitchen provided almost 2 million meals to those in need in the DC area.  In addition to recovering food from organizations and restaurants, DC Central also offers local farmers fair prices for their produce, helping to contribute to the local economy.


5. Dickinson College Campus Farm (Pennsylvania, United States) – This student-run farm composts daily deliveries of salad bar scraps from the cafeteria. In 2005, Dickinson expanded the compost program into a campus-wide initiative with student farm workers, partnering with facilities management to ensure that campus food waste is composted.


6. Feeding the 5000 (United Kingdom/International) – Tristram Stuart’s initiative is organizing the world to prevent "wonky" fruits, vegetables, and other food from being wasted. Feeding the 5000 encourages farmers to participate in the “gleaning movement” – where volunteers collect unattractive produce that would otherwise be wasted.


7. Food Recovery Network (Maryland, United States) – A group of enterprising University of Maryland students decided to take action and launched this initiative with the goal of delivering cafeteria leftovers to local food shelters. It has since expanded to 11 chapters on campuses across the U.S. Students involved in the Food Recovery Network visit their campus dining halls nightly to rescue leftover food and deliver it to local shelters and food pantries. Close to 55,000 kilograms (121,000 pounds) of food have been rescued by the Network since 2011.


8. Food Waste Reduction Alliance Project (United States) – The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) have teamed up in this three-year initiative to reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfills and increase the amount of food donated to food banks. They also use waste for energy, compost, and animal feed.


9. FUSIONS (Food Use for Social Innovation by Optimising Waste Prevention Strategies) (European Union) – After recognizing that the European Union discards approximately 89 million tons of food every year, Brussels has pledged, through the FUSIONS program, to reduce that number by half by the year 2025. Currently in development, FUSIONS hopes to tackle the issue throughout the supply chain, working with farmers so that they don’t reject less-than-perfect-looking produce. And they work with grocery stores to offer discounts to consumers on products that are nearing their expiration dates.


10. Hands for Hunger (The Bahamas) – This organization is working to improve food security in the Bahamas while simultaneously reducing food waste. By mobilizing individuals and community organizations, Hands for Hunger gathers unused food from grocery stores, hotels, and other businesses, which is then distributed to low-income residents, including victims of abuse and psychiatric patients.


11. Last Minute Market (LMM) (Italy) – LMM works with farmers, processing centers, grocery stores, and other food sellers to reclaim food. Founded by BCFN adviser Andrea Segrè, LMM now runs food donation programs in more than 40 Italian communities.


12. Love Food, Hate Waste (United Kingdom) – This program teaches consumers about food waste and provides them with helpful portioning and planning tips, as well as an array of recipes to make sure food doesn't go to waste.


13. The Postharvest Education Foundation (Oregon, United States) – This organization offers training materials, e-learning programs, and mentoring opportunities that help farmers around the world prevent food loss. Their postharvest management guide is available in 10 languages, featuring topics such as how to choose the best time for harvest and the advantages of different transportation methods.


14. Sanford and Son (Illinois, United States) – Sanford and Son is a father-and-son company that works in the West Side of Chicago to repurpose food waste for urban farms. Ray Sanford and his son Nigel recycle food waste from restaurants and private homes and convert it into organic compost, which is then distributed to urban farms to use as fertilizer. They claim to save 226 kilograms (500 pounds) of organic waste for each family that uses their composting services.


15. Save Food from the Fridge (The Netherlands) – Jihyun Ryou, Korean designer and expert on food preservation, launched this project that attempts to prevent waste in homes. She outlines several ideas for keeping foods fresher longer without the use of modern kitchen technologies. In addition, she has also created a collaborative blog where anyone can submit their own innovative food storage ideas.


16. Society of Saint Andrew (United States) – This national network connects volunteers with farms to glean produce that has been left unpicked after a harvest. The Society distributes the gleaned produce to food banks and other organizations serving marginalized communities. In 2012, the Society gleaned 10.4 million kilograms (23.7 million pounds) of produce across the United States.


17. Songhai Centre (Sub-Saharan Africa) – The Songhai Centre is a sustainable development organization that, among other projects, teaches environmentally conscious farming practices in rural areas in Benin, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their agricultural education is based on a policy of production totale zéro déchet (zero waste total production) – in the organization’s own words, “the byproducts of one field are valuable raw materials for another.” 


18. Springboard Kitchens (Pennsylvania, United States) – This Pittsburgh organization, through a partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bankrescues 3,200- 4,500 kilograms (7,000 - 10,000 pounds) of fresh food that would have otherwise been thrown away and prepares approximately 4,000 meals per day.


19. Stop Spild Af Mad (Stop Wasting Food) (Denmark) – Danish food expert Selina Juul’s campaign inspired Danish supermarket Rema 1000 to replace buy-one-get-one-free and other quantity-based discounts with general discounts in all of its stores. Such discounts, frequently implemented by grocery stores to get produce off the shelves, often result in food being wasted at home.


20. Think.Eat.Save (International) – This initiative, launched by the U.N. Environment Programme and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, works to reverse food loss by providing consumers, retailers, leaders and the community with advice and ways to take action to reduce their yearly food waste.  The campaign aggregates and shares different methods of conserving food, including policy recommendations and steps that consumers and households can take on their own to prevent waste.


21. University of Cincinnati SolerCool (Ohio, United States) – Developed by MBA students at the University of Cincinnati, this solar-powered refrigerator runs on eight solar panels to keep food comfortably cool when it is being transported.


Do Lectures 2013: Challenge Projects

The Do Lectures 2013 starts on Thursday. Six challengers have set project briefs to catalyse ideas, action and the creation or adaptation of businesses to meet the needs of the future. The projects are:

Dan Burgess, Swarm

Hi-tech Hi-nature: Using technology to help kids reconnect with nature and the outdoors

Time spent outside in nature increases happiness, health and wellbeing. Fact. Yet British (and beyond) kids have never been more disconnected from the natural world than they are today. Time playing outside during the week has halved in one generation. Roaming distances from home have shrunk by 90% in 30 years. Fewer than 1 in 10 kids regularly play in wild spaces. Most kids can identify more brand logos than flora or fauna

The consequences are terrifying. Obesity rates in children are on the up as are mental health issues and depression. And what might happen if a generation becomes completely disconnected from nature? Who will protect the natural world if there is no connection or love for it in the first place?

The barriers are systemic. Society is becoming more risk averse, anti bacterial hand gels and hi visibility jackets rule and unstructured play and opportunities for roaming ever decreasing. Streets full of cars and fear of stranger danger keeps parents freaked out. Commercialisation of play and entertainment and rampant adoption of screen-based technologies is keeping kids inside.

Technology however is here to stay. Always-on web connectivity, access to apps, games, content  and multiple screen ownership in the home means that tech is going nowhere in kids lives. So how might we use technology to encourage kids to reconnect with nature, the outdoors and non-human life?

Our Do Start-up challenge is to prototype new products and services which flourish at the edges of technology and nature. Ideas that need symbiosis, balance and hybrid of the two to develop and grow.

 How could we subvert/hack existing tech behaviours patterns and systems to get kids (and adults too) running for the door? What form of new enterprise could we create? How would it sustain itself?

In about 7 weeks time a feature length documentary called Project Wild Thing will launch at Sheffield Doc fest, in cinemas, community screenings and on TV. The film will fuel the conversation and increase awareness around this systemic issue. 


Tom Farrand, Swarm

Citizen Social Science: Tapping into the power of citizens to solve social problems

The UK has a population of just over 63 million people. Many of our systems are creaking under the weight of increasing demand, economic uncertainty and massive budget cuts. Think about health care, environmental conservation, local community issues, education, road congestion, crime prevention as startpoints. There just isn’t enough human resource or capacity to cope.

We’ve been piloting a citizen-science based approach that gets the public ‘swarming’ around social problems using web and mobile technology. The first pilot -  Cell Slider - has got ordinary folk accurately classifying over 1 million pieces of data on the web with virtually no marketing - saving pathologist time, money and helping people to fight cancer in a new way.

Our Do Start-Up challenge is about tipping mindless consumption into participation where folk become solvers of real-life problems. So, what other systemic social issues could we tackle collaboratively using a citizen-science ‘swarming’ approach?  Where’s the biggest potential? What idea(s) can we rapidly prototype?  How do we make the complex simple? What’s the business model that will encourage sustainable growth and participation?


Andy Middleton, TYF

Slipstream Wales

Wild geese save two thirds of their energy by flying in formation towards the same place. Business and government  could do the same to take innovation for sustainability to the scale that our communities children and nature need.

We're off the ground already, with half a dozen businesses on board. How do we blast through the sound barrier? What's are the patterns and connections we need to build? How do create opportunity for others as things change?

How do we take use Do Lectures talent and magic to pivot at country scale and use Wales as a prototype lab for the world? How do we make sure that whatever happens, we can say we did everything we could?


James Lynch, Fforest

Small town futures. 

There are three Cardigan crops: food, tourists, youth. Local kids grow up with the land, the sea and community. Riches. They love their place, but many leave to find a future, come back when they retire.  energy spent.

How can we combine food production, tourism services and technology to create a year round business that keeps the energy here?  A business that forms a new (and a bit old) template for rural communities in the beautiful places throughout the uk.


Mark Shayler, TicketyBoo

Developing a circular economy: reinventing manufacturing in Britain.

If we don’t have stuff we can’t make things. We have a linear economy. We take, make, use, and dispose. Only 19% of materials used in the UK are circular. Only 1% of materials used are still in use 6 months later. China owns the rights to 97% of the world’s rare earths. Key manufacturing skills are only 5 years from being lost from the UK. There will be 2 billion more middle class in the East by 2030. Why would the East sell the West anything when they have a big enough market at home?

Enough! How do we begin to manufacture in Britain again? What do we make? Who for? How?  What does a circular economy business model look like? How does it make money? How does it make brilliant products that people want?

We are going to start a circular economy business. We will design the product, source the product, pack the product, brand the product, identify the market, develop the brand (one that means something – no brand-bollocks here), and build the business plan. Any sector. Any product. Any place


Carlo Navato, Haxstead Estates

Housing a growing population in a sustainable way

There is a predicted shortfall of up to 1,100,000 homes in England by 2016;

the number of house constructions started in England in the year to March 2012 was 104,970 compared with the projected formation of 223,000 households a year. 7.4 million homes in England fail to meet the Government's Decent Homes Standard. In 2008/09, 654,000 households in England were overcrowded. The average age of a first-time buyer (unaided by money from relatives) has risen to 37. Every £1 invested in infrastructure generates £2.84 in total economic activity.

Given the deepening housing crisis across the UK, how do we transform housing delivery to ensure, in a way that is affordable to both society and to the environment,  that every household has a decent home?