Google’s plastic-free packaging and Greece’s coal phase-out: The sustainability success stories of the week

Published every week, this series charts how businesses and sustainability professionals are working to achieve their ‘Mission Possible’ across the campaign’s five key pillars – energy, resources, infrastructure, mobility and sustainability leadership.

Across the UK and across the world, leading businesses, cities, states and regions are turning environmental ambitions into action. Here, we round up five positive sustainability stories from this week.

ENERGY: Greece accelerates coal phase-out plans


Coal was once Greece’s main source of electricity, but it has been slowly declining and the Government has set aside $5bn to support affected communities through a just transition.

Greece’s government has confirmed that coal output hit an all-time low last month, while renewables exceeded 50% of the national electricity generation mix.

The figures came shortly after the state-owned Public Power Corporation, which operates all of the nation’s coal capacity, announced plans to cease coal operations by 2026 – two years sooner than the Government’s pledge.

Beyond Fossil Fuels campaigner Alexandru Mustata said: “To maintain and make the most of this impressive momentum, we encourage the Greek government to prioritise flexibility solutions such as storage and grid enhancements.”

RESOURCES: Google publishes guidance on transitioning to plastic-free packaging


Google confirmed this week that it will offer a 100% plastic-free packaging portfolio by 2025. It has been working to identify and implement alternatives which maintain product protection standards and improve useability.

Google’s learnings from this process are being shared in an open-source format – a 69-page document badged as a packaging design guide.

Google’s global sustainability reporting lead Laura Franceschini said: “We believe that innovation in sustainability should be collaborative.” The guide elaborates: “If all companies have to solve similar problems independently, then our collective progress will be slower”.

The design guide covers the practicalities of implementing a range of plastic-free packaging options including moulded fibre, greyboard and paper. It states that paper and card-based materials “offer a compelling alternative to conventional plastics”.

Also this week, HP has pledged to reduce polyethelene use in its all-in-one PC packaging by 98%.

MOBILITY: Venice and Toyota host sustainable mobility innovation challenge


Image: eCity/Solaris Bus

Many working on sustainability will have their minds on Italy this week, as G7 leaders are meeting there for this year’s annual summit.

It is timely, then, that Venice has partnered with the Toyota Mobility Foundation, Challenge Works and the World Resources Institute to launch a call for low and zero-carbon transport solutions for this unique city. The premise is that while more sustainable transport options do exist and are growing, many people opt instead to use petrol and diesel vehicles out of habit.

A total of $3m is up for grabs for projects that could motivate local residents and commuters to utilise options like car and bike-sharing schemes, or electric buses or trains. The competition is open internationally and applications must be made by 30 September.

Paola Ravenna, who heads the European Policies Department at the City of Venice, said: “We understand the importance of making our city sustainable and have invested in a range of low-carbon transport systems for the people of Venice. However, we recognise that these changes cannot just come from building new infrastructure or creating policy alone. We need to find solutions that really respond to the needs of our residents and that is why we are excited to be part of the Sustainable Cities Challenge.”

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: Ground broken at low-carbon timber housing project in Copenhagen


By some estimates, substituting standard materials such as steel for timber frames could reduce emissions by 69%.

This week, Nordic real estate investor Nrep confirmed that ground has been broken at the site of a new six-storey timber housing block in Copenhagen. The ‘Nordhavn’ block’s embodied carbon footprint is stated to be just 5kg of CO2e per square metre. It will comprise 115 apartments and two commercial units.

Nrep has worked with architects at Henning Larsen, consultants at Soren Jensen and contractors at 5E to enable the use of timber for load-bearing structures, walls, stair cores, elevator shafts and some of the facades. The building has been designed for disassembly and recycling. Construction will take place under a covering to keep the wood dry.

From the start of July 2025, multi-storey apartment buildings in Denmark will need to be delivered with an embodied carbon footprint of 9kg per square metre maximum. A maximum of 1.5kg can be attributable to construction.

Nrep investment developer Nicole van der Star said: “The project will be an open-source project, and we will share the both blueprint and construction plans so that others can freely copy or be inspired by the project.”

SUSTAINABILITY LEADERSHIP: Formula E hosts green education scheme for children


Image: LAT Images/FIA Formula E

With the UEFA European Football Championship (commonly just referred to as ‘the Euros’) beginning this week, many are pondering the environmental impact of international sporting events – and theorising on how they could be a force for good.

Formula E is striving to achieve this positive impact. The sport has launched a new sustainability education programme for children aged eight to 12, which will be offered across the local communities in which races are hosted. Locations include London, Berlin, Sao Paolo and Mexico City.

The education programme, called ‘Driving Force’, includes a mix of online content for independent learning as well as lesson plans for teachers and educational groups. It will cover topics including renewable energy, the circular economy, air pollution and diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI). The tone, Formula E has stated, is one of optimism and action.

The launch of Driving Force follows on from the creation of a €100,000 fund for local community projects earlier this year, which will be expanded in 2025.

Formula E’s VP for sustainability Julia Palle said: “Only by looking after and educating our younger communities can we ensure they better look after the planet and each other.”

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