Hydrogen delivery scooters and Olympic medals made from e-waste: The sustainability success stories of the week

This weekly round-up explores how businesses across the world are ramping up efforts across all areas of sustainable development

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

From Tokyo 2020’s plan to make closed-loop medals for its upcoming Olympic games, to The Home Depot’s moves to source more renewable energy, each of these projects and initiatives is empowering businesses, local authorities and governments to achieve a sustainable future, today.

ENERGY: The Home Depot unveils plans to expand wind power programme

It’s been a big week for corporate renewable energy developments, with carmaker Audi confirming plans to install a 12MW rooftop solar array across two of its logistics centres in Hungary and packaging manufacturer RETAL flicking the switch on its 1.4MW solar roof at its factory in Lentvaris, Lithuania.

Traction has also been increasing outside of Europe, with US-based home improvement retailer The Home Depot having this week announced plans to expand its wind power generation and sourcing programmes.

The company has signed a 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Pretty Prairie Wind Project – a 220MW onshore wind farm which is due to be completed in Kansas by the end of 2019. Under the agreement, The Home Depot will purchase 15MW of the facility’s capacity, which will be used to power 40 of its stores.

The move comes after The Home Depot began purchasing wind power for the first time in 2017, sourcing clean energy from two arrays in Mexico and one in Texas. It is expanding its low-carbon energy efforts as part of its science-based target to halve its overall carbon footprint by 2035, against a 2017 baseline.

RESOURCES: Tokyo 2020 reveals designs for recycled e-waste Olympic medals

he 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo have featured heavily in this series several times in the past – and for good reason. The event will play host to a fleet of innovative electric vehicles (EVs), be powered by 100% renewables and operate in line with the aims of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs).

After announcing that Team Japan’s uniforms would be made from post-consumer recycled clothing earlier this month, the event’s Committee has now confirmed that all medals distributed will be made using metals recovered from recycled e-waste.

To source the material, the body recently launched a technology take-back scheme across Japan, installing bins where consumers can deposit their old mobile phones, tablets, cameras, laptops and watches. Overall, the Committee is aiming to make 5,000 medals for the Olympic and Paralympic events using a majority percentage of recycled content – including a 100% recycled target for the gold variants.

The concept has been implemented in previous Olympics, most recently at Rio 2016, where an estimated 30% of the silver and bronze medals were wrought from recycled materials. However, the Tokyo project is the first scheme which has involved the general public with the collection of resource streams.

MOBILITY: South African Post Office orders hydrogen scooters

As the business community’s demand for low-carbon transport continues to grow, with leading companies across most sectors moving to electrify ever-greater portions of their fleets, logistics firms have continually stood out as leaders of the private sector’s electric vehicle (EV) transition.

UPS’s electric, natural gas, biofuel and hybrid delivery trucks collectively passed a milestone of collectively travelling one billion miles in 2016, for example, while Royal Mail’s sustainable transport actions saw it surpass its 20% carbon reduction target four years early.

Continuing this trend, the South African Post Office this week launched a three-month trial of electric delivery scooters fitted with hydrogen fuel cells. The technology works by feeding compressed hydrogen gas into hydrogen fuel cells where it is combined with oxygen from the air in a process that produces water as well as electricity to power the scooter.

At least three scooters will have the fuel cells installed as part of the pilot, and will be used to deliver light mail. The first scooter this week entered the performance testing scheme and is set to be deployed over the coming weeks.

“Battery electric scooters tend to encounter challenges associated with range limitations, particularly in areas where the terrain is bad,” the South African Post Office said in a statement.

“In such instances, hydrogen fuel cells could be used to extend the range of these scooters and increase productivity.”

BUILT ENVIRONMENT: Skanska begins work to expand LEED-certified office complex

After completing work on the initial phases of its flagship sustainable office complex, Northern Light, in 2016, Swedish developer Skanska this month began work on the third and final stage of the facility. The complex in Budapest, which plays host to a string big-name companies including Sony and Schneider Electric, was made using 10% recycled materials and includes a variety of built-in sustainability features, including passive daylighting, water-efficient fixtures and fittings and an emissions monitoring system.

The new phase of the development will see the addition of a 2,400 sqm fully garden, “extensive” bicycle storage facilities and a network of EV charging points. Skanska is aiming to have the new quadrant, which is set to be completed in 2020, certified as LEED Gold standard – an accolade it has received for phases one and two of the development.

The firm has also applied for the building to become the first in Hungary to receive the WELL building certification, which recognises workplaces as having strong positive impacts on the wellbeing of those who use them.

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: P&G partners with National Geographic to document the world’s biggest sustainability challenges

Shortly after launching a $1.5m (£1.1m) investment fund for plastic pollution solutions with broadcaster Sky, National Geographic this week announced that it had partnered with consumer goods giant Procter and Gamble (P&G) to develop a six-part documentary and digital storytelling tool which aim to highlight the scale of the world’s largest environmental and social issues.

Each episode of the documentary will explore a different issue connected to the root causes of extreme poverty, including unsustainable supply chains, water scarcity and a lack of education for women and girls. Called ACTIVATE, the series will air on National Geographic in 172 countries and 43 languages this autumn.

To help mobilise global citizens to drive meaningful and lasting change P&G and National Geographic have designed each episode to serve as a “rallying cry” which includes advice on how to turn intent into action.

“Brands affect nearly every person on the planet, every day, and can be agents of change – individually and collectively,” P&G’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard said

“We believe one of the best ways to solve the challenges facing our world is for brands to spark conversations that mobilise people to take action.”

Sarah George

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