In a Victory for the Environment Germany Bans Single-Use Plastic and Styrofoam

Germany is making major strides towards trying to practice what she preaches in terms of environmentalism.

The country announcement yesterday that it will be implementing a ban on the sale of a multitude of single-use and disposable items in a bid to reduce the amount of plastic and polystyrene waste in the environment.

This includes things like plastic straws, polystyrene cups and boxes (think Cup-O-Noodles), single-use cutlery, plates, and stirring sticks.

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German Environmental Minister Schulze said the move was part of an effort to move away from “throw-away culture,” according to AP.

The government’s ban will go into effect next year on July 3, 2021.

The new plan also legislates the closure by 2022 of eight brown-coal operations—mostly located in economically depressed regions—as the number of jobs in renewable energy, which already generates 50% of Germany’s power, increase in those regions.

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(Photo by Swansea University)

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Tiny Forests Are Springing Up All Around Europe, Inspired By Japan, to Help Restore Biodiversity

Using the methods of Japan’s most famous botanist, European countries are beginning to dot their urban landscapes with tiny forests, as productive and biodiverse as any in wilderness areas, yet sometimes only as big as a tennis court.

The idea is that volunteers can plant densely-packed clusters of seedlings from indigenous plants to create a small functional ecosystem that can restore soil, protect resources like water and air quality, and act as a biodiversity hotspot that can have a measurable effect on both the local and regional environment.

Akira Miyawaki was the botanist who in 1970 observed that trees around Japan’s Shinto and Buddhist shrines tended to be native species, well-adapted to the soil and climate of the islands of Japan.

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He later found that only 0.06% of contemporary Japanese forests were indigenous forests, with the sizable remainder populated by non-native tree species, or planted in unnatural ways.

He pioneered a method of restoring indigenous forests on degraded or deforested land which had been devoid of humus. It came to be known as the Miyawaki method. Using this formula he created over 1,700 forests throughout Asia, 96.7% of which developed into a resilient ecosystem within ten years.

Miyawaki in Europe

Growing more than 10x faster, and possessing up to 20x more biodiversity potential than contemporary forests, the Miyawaki method is perfect for organizations like Urban Forests in France and Belgium, and the Tiny Forest initiative in Holland, with their strong desire to prevent the worst of climate change upon their nations’ relatively small landmass.

Urban Forest in Belgium – Instagram @urbanforestsbelgium

On March 2nd Urban Forests finished a 22-species, 1,200-tree Miyawaki forest in Toulouse, France, planted on 400 square meters—the first such forest in Toulouse.

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“The plantations are made in a very dense way, in order to favor the cooperation between the species,” Audrey, one of Urban Forests’ volunteers explained to Actu Toulouse. “It captures more CO2 and trees grow up to ten times faster than in a conventional forest.”

It’s just one of many Urban Forests’ projects, and the fifth that the nonprofit has completed this year. In total their Miyawaki forests across Belgium and France consist of 21,000 trees over 7,000 square meters.

The Tiny Forest Initiative started in 2015 in the Dutch city of Zaandam by the Institute for Nature Education and Sustainability (IVN), has created 100 Miyawaki forests across the country, and had planned an additional 30 for the first three months of 2020.

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In 2017, ecologists at Wageningen University in Holland examined the newly planted mini-forests and concluded that tiny forests “increase the biodiversity compared to the nearby forest. Both the number of species groups and the number of individuals is generally higher than in the reference forests.”

They also found that biodiversity was improved because sunlight was able to reach more species of local plants known to local pollinators. The forests also provided “more variety in food and shelter for a higher diversity of animals like insects, snails, butterflies, amphibians, bugs, grasshoppers.”

“This is a great thing to do,” said wildlife researcher Eric Dinerstein in a recent scientific publication. “So this could be another aspect for suburban and urban areas, to create wildlife corridors through contiguous ribbons of mini-forest.”

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EU Plans to Raise $22 Billion Annually to Protect 30% of Land and Oceans for Biodiversity

The European Commission (EC) has made a concrete pledge to enshrine 30% of the EU’s land and oceans as protected zones by 2030. To reach this end they plan to raise 20 billion euro ($22 billion) every year for the next 10 years from private and public sources—both the EU climate fund and national budgets.

The EC believes that recovery from COVID-19 with biodiversity in mind will be key to restoring the health of both the environment and the economy.

The proposed strategy focuses on establishing binding targets to restore damaged ecosystems and rivers and bringing back pollinators to agricultural land, while reducing pollution, greening its cities, enhancing organic and biodiverse farming.

In its effort to improve forest health, part of the plan is to implement stricter protections and restoration projects for the remaining primary and old growth forests of Europe as early as next year.

This is especially important when researchers suggest that 60% of species assessed on the continent are in decline.

Farming for the Future

Biodiversity will receive another boost as the EC proposes changes to the agricultural landscape of Europe in a way that supports wildlife and pollinators. Such changes would include creating “high-diversity landscapes” in 10% of Europe’s farming acreage by hosting features like ponds, hedgerows, buffer strips between fields, and fallow land.

SEE: Farming in the Forest – A Chance to Reverse 1,000 Years of Destructive Land-Use Practices

Some experts are skeptical, but hopeful, the changes are implemented.

“It’s a big if, but then you are starting to look at healthy agriculture that can provide habitats for farmland birds and butterflies but also agriculture that can actually provide food at the end of the century,” Ariel Brunner, senior head of policy at Brussel’s BirdLife International said to the Guardian.

Wildlife in France, by Martina Misar-Tummeltshammer

The 2030 strategy would reinforce Europe’s natural resilience by dealing with agriculture and fisheries using the Farm to Fork strategy.

“The strategy sets concrete targets to transform the EUs food system, including a reduction by 50% of the use and risk of pesticides, a reduction by at least 20% of the use of fertilizers, a reduction by 50% in sales of antimicrobials used for farmed animals and aquaculture, and reaching 25% of agricultural land under organic farming,” reads the report.

The European Commission, which possesses authority to enforce European law, concludes finishes by calling on the European Parliament and Council to adopt the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity measures by 2021.

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Portugal Preparing Several Billion-dollar Clean Energy Projects for Post-Coronavirus Future

Spared from the ravages of COVID-19 suffered by her neighbor Spain, Portugal is aiming to leap, rather than tip-toe, out of their lockdown initiatives by launching a series of clean energy projects that could generate 5.5 billion euro in European energy investment.

The new solar-powered hydrogen plant near the port of Sines is a modern “green” hydro-electric project that generates electricity through a process called electrolysis, and it could contribute 1 gigawatt of power by 2023 if investment arrives.

“The economy cannot grow along the lines of the past and our post-coronavirus vision is to create wealth from projects that reduce carbon emissions and promote energy transition and sustainable mobility,” Portugal’s Minister of Environment and Energy Transition, Joao Matos Fernandes, told Reuters.

Fernandes detailed that both Portuguese energy firms, and Dutch firms are already showing interest in the hydrogen plant, and it is shaping up to be one of the biggest industrial projects and opportunities in the country.

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Matos also said that Portugal will be launching a solar energy licensing auction, where international energy firms will have a chance to bid for prime solar real estate, as Portugal is one of Europe’s sunniest nations.

Initially scheduled to kick off in April, the auctions were delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has taken the lives of fewer than 1,000 Portuguese, out of 24,500 confirmed cases according to Reuters. Up for bidding are 16 sites worth a combined total of 700 megawatts of solar capacity in the southern regions of Algarve and Alentejo.

Portugal has had previous success with energy licensing auctions before, like last June when she sold 1,150 MW of solar energy capacity at a record-low price of 14.8 megawatts per hour—mainly to international energy investors from Britain, Spain, France, and Germany.

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Already in 2016, 28% of nationwide power came from renewables. During that year they set a European record for entirely powering the country with renewables for four straight days.

Though just 11 years ago, Portugal was generating more CO2 than Bangladesh, despite having one-sixteenth the population density, their plans for 2030 are to be producing 7,000 MW per hour of clean energy and close to all their remaining coal plants.

Meanwhile, in Germany a string of recent sunny days in April led to record-setting clean-energy production. The solar power was generating around 40% nationwide, with all their renewables together accounting for a whopping 78%—while coal and nuclear less than a quarter.

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Lithuania Allows Restaurant Seating to Expand Into Streets and Plazas to Safely Reopen its Vibrant Old Town Cafes

The Lithuanian capital of Vilnius is supporting its vibrant café and restaurant culture through the coronavirus pandemic by designating all public spaces as open air cafés, allowing restaurants to stay open and serve customers while observing physical distancing guidelines.

With just over 1,000 cases and 44 deaths from COVID-19, the Baltic nation is staging a tiered exit from its lockdown by allowing restaurants with outdoor seating, hair salons, and most small retail stores to reopen.

Social distancing is still in full effect, but that’s no problem for the intrepid restauranteurs, baristas, and bar owners in Vilnius’ old town of Senamiestis, because they can place their tables as far apart as they care to do, utilizing the narrow streets and small plazas.

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“Plazas, squares, streets… Nearby cafes will be allowed to set up outdoor tables free of charge this season and thus conduct their activities during quarantine,” said Remigijus Šimašius, the mayor of this charming town, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

According to The Guardian, over 160 restaurant, café, and bar owners have signed up for the program that has opened 18 spacious public areas for outdoor seating, promising to add more spaces to the list as the summer progresses and the exit from the lockdown continues.

“It came just in time,” Evalda Šiškauskienė of the Lithuanian Association of Hotels and Restaurants told The Guardian, who added that it would help “accommodate more visitors and bring life back to the city streets, but without violating security requirements.”

Vilnius by Victor Malyushev

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Another ray of good news sunshine in Vilnius came when public health workers were recently rewarded with food and drink vouchers for city restaurants (€400,000 in total) as a gesture of gratitude for their hard work and public service in the face of COVID-19.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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Record-Breaking Amounts of Solar Electricity Generated in Germany After String of Sunny Days

Good News Network recently explained how traditional consumer-driven supply and demand market forces are pushing coal further and further to the edge of the bed (and economic ruin), like a sprawling spouse kicking the blankets toward the cold tile floor.

A recent string of cloudless days in Germany saw the country’s solar energy production climb above 32,000 megawatts in a single day last week—smashing the previous record set on March 23rd, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

The sunny days are slated to continue, according to the German weather service DWD.

These sunny days mean that solar power is generating around 40% of the total baseline in Germany, with all their renewables together accounted for 78%, while coal and nuclear power trailed behind with only 22%.

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By 2038, renewables are predicted by the German government to make up 80% of total grid production. And owners of coal plants understand that it could become completely unsustainable to continue financing operations many years before that milestone is achieved.

A Death Rattle for Coal

In Europe, it’s already 100% more expensive to finance, supply, staff, and operate a coal-fired power plant compared to a renewable facility, while in historically coal-glutted nations like the U.S., India, and China, it’s already 50-60% more costly.

The recent lockdown orders for COVID-19 in Germany could have had a measurable effect on the sunny days as well, as the reduction in air pollution from things like car exhaust has already been recorded as significant in countries like India, where residents have been able able to see the Himalayas on the horizon for the first time in 30 years.

File photo by Nathan Dumlao, CC

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Not only are the shutdowns rewarding the solar market with clearer skies, but the already lagging coal market is taking further body blows as demand plummets from the shutdown of stores and office buildings. In Germany, renewable sources are the first to enter grid circulation, and since the decrease in energy demand, consumers are actually using less power than is available, meaning the electricity generated from a coal plant might be not only unutilized—but unpaid for.

The services desired by consumers are simply being fulfilled by those most readily capable of fulfilling them.

This not only applies to Jane and John Smith turning on the lights in their house, but buyers and sellers in the energy sector. The simple explanation is as follows. Johan runs an energy investment firm, and when looking to buy shares of a power producer, his maximum price for carbon-based power is 5,000 euro per share, and for renewable power, 8,000 euro per share. He can afford to pay more for renewables because he stands to make more money from those shares.

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Jurgen, who runs a carbon-based power source, can only afford to sell at 10,000 euro per share, because of current market demands for renewables. This difference of valuation of 5,000 euro between Jurgen and Johan prevent a sale from being made, and so Jurgen must either find a willing buyer, a way to reduce operating costs, or another energy project.

Whether catalyzed from climate activism, science, or whichever technology costs the least to operate, these simple supply and demand forces are causing people to put their money in renewables—and money-talks.

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In Groundbreaking Vote for Sustainability, EU Moves to Approve Insects for Human Consumption

As famed adventure television host, world record holder, former British Special Forces operator, and all around feel-good motivational guy Bear Grylls repeatedly reminded us on his television programs Man vs Wild and Running Wild, insects have more protein than beef or fish—sometimes as much as 8x more, if measured pound for pound.

After a long television career of pounding back worms, grubs, spiders, crickets, and ants for our amusement, Grylls would certainly be applauding the new proposed European Union legislation that would allow for mealworms, lesser mealworms, crickets, and locusts to be sold as “novel food sources,” pumping life into an industry that, while small, produces 500 tons of food annually according to The Guardian.

The products include things like cricket protein bars, locust aperitif, or mealworm burgers, and the new regulations from the European Food Safety Authority are likely to open the floodgates for insect food to flow from countries where they are made like Holland, the UK, Denmark, Belgium, and Finland, into countries where they are banned, such as Italy, France, and Spain.

“We reckon these authorizations will be a breakthrough for the sector,” Christophe Derrien, secretary general of the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed, added.

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“They are taking the necessary time, they are very demanding on information, which is not bad. But we believe that once we have the first novel food given a green light from EFSA that will have a snowball effect.”

Companies in the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Spain are all preparing to ramp up operations to prepare for the demand, perceiving through market signals that people actually want insect food.

Chirps Chips submitted

An Obvious Solution

Insects have been part of the staple diet of many world cultures, even now in modern times. They represent a rich source of animal protein that is practically immune to extinction, and just like traditionally harvested animals are perfectly safe to eat if you can control the conditions in which they live.

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With some of the most basic brain functions of anything in kingdom Animalia, insects are also less-likely to offend the sensibilities of vegetarians who, being more likely to be vitamin B12 deficient than omnivores, might be able to utilize the occasional cricket bar as a means of supplementing their plant based diet with bioavailable and dietary sources of B12 which can’t be made by plants, coming only from bacteria which live on plants.

Furthermore, unlike hoofed mammals, the process of enteric fermentation which, using the United States as an example, accounts for a small percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions (about 2.5% in the U.S.) is absent in insect agriculture, and so there’s a small potential reduction in GHG emissions to be gained from a switch.

Lastly trillions of insects are killed every year both by combine-harvesters and pesticides to protect major crops like wheat, rice, soya, corn, and cotton, representing millions of tons of lost nutrients. And, in a world where many communities are protein-deficient, insect products might never be more needed.

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These Optimistic COVID-19 Updates Give Us the Evidence We Need for Hope in April

This week’s news headlines from around the world have brought together another batch of COVID-19 updates that are both positive and noteworthy.

For starters, the number of novel coronavirus deaths in Spain dropped for the fourth consecutive day in a row, which has inspired hope that the nation is now past the peak of their outbreak—especially since the decline marked the lowest recorded number of deaths in two weeks.

Spain has experienced the most recorded cases of the virus in Europe, although other European nations have reported some hopeful trends of their own.

In France, the number of COVID-19 fatalities and new daily cases fell by more than 50% over the weekend, according to datasets from Worldometer.

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Italy, which has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, has now recorded three straight days of decline in new cases. Additional datasets from Worldometer show that yesterday marked the lowest number of new cases since March 17th—roughly half of the nation’s peak number of new cases which was recorded on March 21st. After several consecutive days of decline, April 5th also marked the lowest number of Italian deaths since March 19th.

Meanwhile, less than two weeks after New Zealand enacted strict nationwide lockdowns, the nation reports that they have not only flattened their curve of cases, they have “squashed it”.

On the US front, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says that the number of deaths statewide fell for the first time and remained flat for new days, raising hopes for a flattened curve. New hospital admissions also fell across the state from 1,427 on April 2nd to 358 on April 5th, according to Market Watch.

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Furthermore, Cuomo added that 75% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the state have been discharged.

Worldometer goes on to confirm that the number of collective new cases and deaths in the US have actually fallen since April 3rd which affirms evidence that social restrictions have been effective in curbing COVID-19.

Although national responders are still anxiously anticipating new problems posed by the pandemic during the coming weeks, the nation’s most influential statistical model has predicted that there may be fewer shortages of medical equipment—and fewer deaths—than we may have previously thought.

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While authorities remain vigilant in the face of cautious optimism, weather reports are showing positive environmental progress as well.

Following similar reports in China and the US, air pollution is continuing to plummet in countries with social restrictions, such as the UK and India. In New Delhi alone—which has some of the worst air pollution in the world—airborne particulates plunged by 71% in just one week.

Particle pollution in major UK cities have also dropped by as much as one-third—and the rates are expected to fall even further as lockdowns continue.

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“These are big changes—pollution levels are the equivalent at the moment of a holiday, say an Easter Sunday,” Professor James Lee from York University and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science told The Guardian about the data.
“And I think we will see an even starker drop off when the weather changes.”

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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In Just 2 Years, Lithuania Steals The Crown For Best European Recycler By Using an Innovative Return Program

The small country of Lithuania is making big strides towards creating a seamless circular economy where each and every water bottle and aluminum tuna can is recycled and turned into an identical successor.

And, in two years they already have a recycling rate for plastic packaging of 74%—the highest of any European country, and 44% higher than the EU average.

They also reached a milestone of 91.9% for all bottles and cans after the introduction of a deposit-refund scheme for plastic, aluminum, and glass food and beverage containers—and the program is remarkably simple.

When the consumer buys a product packaged in a returnable recyclable container, they pay a €0.10 tax which is held in trust until the consumer returns the packaging to a special reverse-vending machine, whereupon the ten cents is repaid.

Any store that chooses to sell grocery items in designated recyclable containers are provided with reverse vending machines to place either inside the store or outdoors. Consumers are paid in vouchers that can be redeemed in store as cash or credit toward their shopping bill, which brings additional foot traffic into stores.

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The return rate for beverage containers reached a whopping 91.9% by the end of 2017.

USAD, the Lithuanian non-profit that designed the system, set a goal for a 55% return rate in 2016 but managed to reach 74.3% by the end of only one year—and people were mostly pleased with the system by the closing of 2017.

According to the European Union’s Circular Economy platform, 97% of the country’s consumers were satisfied with the deposit-return system, which has since collected over 2 billion returns and 56,000 tons of material since its deployment in 2016, a figure of mass equal to 6 Eiffel Towers.

File photo by Mr. Tin DC, CC

“We feel an obligation to take care of our country, society and nature. That is why we wanted to design a deposit return system that would work as well as possible for citizens, producers, importers and traders,” states Saulius Galadauskas, Chairman of USAD as well as Head of the Lithuanian Brewers Association.

“We can be proud of our deposit return system, which brings us closer to the Lithuania we want to see—a cleaner, more beautiful and more modern country.”

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Scottish Government Scores Hole in One for Wildlife, Blocking Golf Course on Protected Coastline

On every continent, wildlife habitats of all kinds are threatened with development and construction, but perhaps none stand at greater risk than coastline ecosystems like estuaries, salt marshes, and coastal wetlands.

In Scotland one of the last remaining dune ecosystems of its kind in the entire country was just saved from an attempt to turn the unique sandy shore into a golf course.

The wetlands area known as Coul Links is a Ramsar site recognized by UNESCO, and part of the Dornoch Firth and Loch Fleet Special Protection Area.

After four years of campaigning by citizens and wildlife groups to preserve the coastline, home to over 1,200 species of plants and animals, some unique to Europe, Scottish ministers made their decision this week, refusing to allow the development to proceed.

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The Scottish Wildlife Trust, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the IUCN, and Scottish Natural Heritage cheered the news after the application was declined on the 21st of February. The groups had been arguing that there were golf courses already serving the area—one that was controversial for the same reasons (and in the news media because of its celebrity owner).

“Today’s decision demonstrates that individuals can make a real difference by taking the time to stand up for nature,” commented the Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive Jo Pike.

By Julian Paren / Geograph.org project, CC license

“Saving Coul Links from development is a strong sign that the Scottish Government is committed to protecting Scotland’s fantastic natural environment, and that it is prepared to make difficult decisions,” she added.

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The East Sutherland site is an important stopover refuge for migratory waterfowl and other rare aquatic bird species—and after the golf course at Aberdeenshire was built over a coastal ecosystem, it looked like development of Coul Links was to be par for the course of modern development. Luckily for the wild places of Scotland and their admirers, a government is willing to stand up for them.

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Apple and Pear Cores Turned Into Chemical-Free Sweetener as an Alternative to Artificial Sweeteners and Sugar

A Dutch company aptly-called Fooditive, is turning pear and apple cores, as well as bruised and discarded fruit from producers and suppliers into a chemical-free, calorie-free, sugar substitute.

Artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame, though legal for use in food and beverages for decades in the United States and elsewhere, are now not only emerging as a potential genotoxin (a poisonous substance which damages DNA), but also as an environmental pollutant since it is not entirely absorbed by our bodies and can travel all the way through our water treatment systems and back into groundwater sources.

Refined cane sugar has its own problems, playing a role in the global skyrocketing rates of diabetes and obesity since the 1950s. Sweeteners and syrups made from corn have much the same effect on our bodies, while also contributing massively to keeping afloat the problematic, uncompetitive American system of agriculture, farm subsidies, and lobbying.

Dutch food scientist Moayad Abushokhedim uses a natural fermentation process to extract fructose from third-rate fruits collected from suppliers and turns it into a calorie-free sweetener that contributes to Rotterdam’s goal of a circular economy by 2030.

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According to the company’s website where you can see a detailed ingredients list, he plans to make Fooditive Sweetners available in powder, liquid, and syrup forms. There is no information yet on how to purchase.

Apart from their sweetener, Fooditive also has a solution for artificial preservatives, creating natural ones from carrot waste, and he counters harmful emulsifiers with potato extracts.

Right now, the company is in the process of expanding their operations to try and get Fooditive products like their sweeteners and preservatives into commercial Dutch foodstuffs.

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“Our products really provide the food and beverage producers with the ability to have a clean label, a green label, and show people what’s in their food,” said Gijs Gieles, Fooditive spokesperson to Fast Company.

These kinds of recycling applications are becoming more and more common in Europe, especially since France passed a law in 2016 forcing supermarkets to recycle, compost, or donate as much of their outgoing or expired stock as possible. Other countries like Germany began to create similar legislation, and a German supermarket SirPlus Rescue Market specializes in discarded, expired, or unwanted packaged foods and produce.

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5 Years After Turning Disused Military Bases into Nature Reserves, Wolves Return and Use Bases as Havens

In a remarkable legislative move that increased the amount of protected areas for wildlife in Germany by 25%, the German government moved in 2015 to convert 62 disused Cold War-era military bases into wildlife refuges.

This added up to about 76,600 acres of additional protected land in the country, according to The Independent.

Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said at the time: “We are seizing a historic opportunity with this conversion — many areas that were once no-go zones are no longer needed for military purposes.”

“We are fortunate that we can now give these places back to nature,” Hendricks said.

During the 50-year-long dreary standoff at the Iron Curtain between East and West Germany, minimal human activity along the old Soviet/NATO border allowed the wildlife that had been chased out of other parts of Europe to recover in relative peace. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, scientists and voices for nature of all kinds realized that the lack of human activity had created natural sanctuaries for endangered European wildlife all along the international and ideological border.

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The 62 decommissioned German military bases were located on the West German side of the Iron Curtain, where they became a habitat for the middle-spotted woodpecker and lesser spotted eagle, as well as a top tier species that, like the last remains of the Old World shattered by World War II, was gone from Europe by the time the Iron Curtain descended across the continent—wolves.

Wolves at the Gate

Sport hunting competitions and the desire to protect livestock herds led to the regional  extermination of the wolf. Writing for Science Magazine, Erik Stokstad reported that the wolf has returned to parts of Germany, in large part due to the reformed military bases which proved to be perfect havens.

“In the late 1990s, wolves began to dart into Germany from the forests of Poland,” he wrote. “The first litter of pups in Germany was reported in 2001 in Saxony-Brandenburg. They’ve since spread westward into six more of Germany’s 16 federal states, and monitoring data show their numbers are rising.”

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Due to poaching, it was found that almost all wolf packs across Germany favored military bases over wildlife refuges, even though the refuges possessed fewer roads, and larger, denser sections of forest.

Guillaume Chapron, a wildlife ecologist at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, suggested that since deer populations on military bases aren’t managed by hunting, it means fewer poachers or hunters are coming in contact with wolves there.

Coupled with the lack of soldiers and wars, Chapron suggests that, like the 62 decommissioned sites in 2015, all military bases slated to be closed should be turned into nature reserves for this reason.

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Bases and military installations in other countries along the Iron Curtain were closed down and turned into wildlife refuges, thanks, in part, to the European Green Belt initiative led by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his grassroots nonprofit International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Today the backbone of green runs from the very northern tip of Finland down into Greece and eastward across the Carpathians before halting at the border with Turkey.

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Denmark Researchers Use Seaweed to Power a Car

Each year, 25 million tons of seaweed is harvested, most of which is in Asia and used for human consumption and cosmetics. But what about using it to power our vehicles?

Danish scientists recently announced they have used a seaweed fuel to power an automobile, achieving speeds of 50 mph (80 kph), using a biofuel created by a Dutch company.

“We’ve looked to see if seaweed fuel works in the same way as ordinary fuel and what its effect is on the motor,” Jaap van Hal, who led the research team, told Noordhollands Dagblad.

One of the largest sources of clean renewable energy used today is biofuels. Produced from garbage or the agricultural byproducts from growing crops like sugar, corn, and soya, it contributes to energy security while also reducing carbon emissions.

Within Europe’s transportation sector the vast majority of renewable energy-powered solutions utilize these land-based sources of biofuel. However it requires land, fertilizer, and irrigation resources to produce these biofuels, so Europe is looking largely towards ocean-based sources of biofuel—namely algae and seaweed, which need nothing more than saltwater and sun to grow incredibly fast.

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Dr. van Hal says learning to manage a 10-acre seaweed farm is similar to managing a 1,000-acre farm. To turn seaweed fuel into a reality, though, requires a supply on a “huge scale”. Even though one farm is currently a “dot on the horizon”, van Hal is nevertheless excited to move forward.

Van Hal is the scientific coordinator for EU-funded MacroFuels, aiming to create an entire industry around seaweed biofuels that includes cultivation and production and testing—specifically for heavy machinery like trucks and ships with diesel engines.

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Several other European firms are looking into increasing the proliferation of seaweed or algae biofuels for the EU energy sector.

Norway, for instance, is plotting a similar course, with a startup called Alginor planning the creation of a bio-refinery for seaweed and algae growing in the North Sea.

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