Plastic-free flights and blockchain offsets: 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 the completion of a large-scale community solar project in the US, to a carbon-neutral construction project in Greece, each of these projects and initiatives is empowering businesses, local authorities and governments to achieve a sustainable future, today.

ENERGY: Large-scale community solar project comes online in New York


Although 2019 is just a few days old, the year is already proving to be filled with positive headlines about Europe’s renewable energy sector. The latest Government figures have confirmed that renewable power accounted for a record proportion – 33.1% – of UK energy generation last July, while green electricity this week overtook coal as Germany’s main energy source for the first time. 

Across the Atlantic, a further success story comes from New York, where a 1.2MW community solar array was completed on Wednesday (2 January). Funded by the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) and developed by Daroga Solar, the 3,300-panel rooftop facility will provide 160 homes and 40 SMEs across Brooklyn with green electricity. Overall, the array is expected to reduce the district’s annual carbon footprint by 740 tonnes.

The installation of the array forms the first step in NYSERDA’s ongoing plan to bring community-owned solar to 10,000 New York residents, which was made under its $1bn NY-Sun program. The scheme is set to facilitate the installation of eight more arrays across the state before the end of 2019, reaching 7,000 low-income residents.

RESOURCES: Hi Fly completes its first plastic-free flight


Portuguese airline Hi Fly this week became the latest high-profile brand in the transport sector to implement a ban on single-use plastic items, following similar moves from the likes of Heathrow Airport, Thomas Cook and Virgin Australia.

The Beja-based company ran what it claims was the first plastic-free in-flight service in more than a decade last Thursday (27 December 2018) during a journey from Portugal to Brazil. During the 10-hour trip, passengers and staff were prohibited from using single-use plastic items such as carrier bags, disposable cutlery and sick bags, with bamboo and paper alternatives being made available.

Hi Fly has been publicly lobbying against plastic pollution for the past few years. In 2017, the company sponsored the Turn The Tide on Plastic yacht during Volvo’s Ocean Race sailing event. Last July, it unveiled a new aircraft with the message “save the coral reefs” emblazoned on the fuselage, after pledging to become a plastic-free business within 12 months.

Hi Fly president Paulo Mirpuri said the flight would help the airline to trial a range of bio-based plastic alternatives, before rolling them out across its fleet later this year.

MOBILITY: Medellin to host Latin America’s largest e-bus fleet


The electric vehicle (EV) revolution continues to gather pace, with sales of EVs widely expected to account for more than half of all new car sales globally by 2040, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). But as carmakers move at a pace to electrify their portfolios, BNEF has predicted that the advance of e-buses will be even more rapid than that of electric cars, with 84% of new buses sold worldwide set to be electric by 2030.

An early sign of this trend can be seen in Medellin, Colombia, where the city council has placed an order for 64 fully-electric buses. The authority this week confirmed the order with Chinese automaker BYD, putting it on track to launch the buses during the latter half of 2019. Once the buses are launched in August, the city will play home to the largest e-bus fleet in the country – and the largest fully-electric bus fleet in Latin America.

According to BYD, the buses will each seat 80 passengers and have a charge time of two hours. The 64 buses are anticipated to travel more than 180 miles each day collectively, and to cost the city 75% less in maintenance costs than diesel alternatives by 2025.

“We will turn Medellin into the capital of electric mobility in Latin America – the tender for electric buses is ready for Metroplus and the city,” Medellin Mayor Federico Gutiérrez said.

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: Athens to offset emissions generated during Olympic park restoration scheme


As the fruits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution continue to change how businesses operate within society, businesses are beginning to use blockchain to spur all manner of sustainability progress, in areas ranging from green energy to supply chain tracking.

A further success story in this field comes from investment and infrastructure strategy firm Redstone, which has committed to offsetting the emissions generated through its $1.7bn restoration project at Athens’ former Olympic site via a blockchain platform.

Developed by non-profit Poseidon Foundation, the platform, called reduce, will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to track the project’s carbon footprint in real-time, instantly purchasing the correct amount of carbon credits needed to offset it in full. The carbon credits will be used to fund reforestation initiatives across the globe.

“We only have 12 years to effectively address the threat of global warming, at which point we will be facing runaway climate change – but If we act now, we can still preserve an environment that is able to support human life,” Poseidon Foundation founder Laszlo Giricz said.

“Redstone and the Athens Alive consortium are taking the immediate threat of climate change seriously and this project stands as a leading example to businesses around the world.”

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: British universities top global list of ‘greenest’ education facilities


The UK’s higher education community has long been seen as a leader in facilitating positive environmental change, with British academics having collectively taken more than 200,000 positive actions for the climate during 2018 and several institutions having lobbied for divestment from coal.

The scale of leadership was highlighted once again this week, with four British universities being named among the ten “greenest” in the world by researchers at the University of Indonesia. The University’s Green Metric ranking table lists the University of Nottingham as the second most eco-friendly facility of its kind in the world behind Wageningen University & Research and awards Oxford University with a fourth-place accolade.

Nottingham Trent University takes fifth place in the rankings, while Bangor University comes in at eighth. When calculating the rankings, researchers took six factors into account – green infrastructure, energy and climate change efforts, waste footprint, water footprint, transportation and research into sustainability.

“We are proud of our world-class campuses complete with green spaces, sustainable buildings and transport infrastructure,” Nottingham University’s director of sustainability Andy Nolan said.

Sarah George

Comments (1)

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