Trevor Mueller, our sustainability intern, visited the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow a few weeks back.For nearly three decades the UN has been bringing together almost every country on earth for global climate summits – called COPs – which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. In that time climate change has gone from being a fringe issue to a global priority. This year was the 26th annual summit. Below, Trevor details his experience and learnings.
The side events are where it’s at. Sure, you can go sit in the main debate or speech rooms and hear heads of state and important diplomats argue over the placement of a comma. But, if you’re looking to grow your own knowledge and really meet people doing forward climate-related things, head over to the pavilions. It’s almost a full square mile of every country and climate interest group under the sun with their own presentation space and talks. From solar cooking to Denmark’s wind programs, collapsing ice sheets to compost infrastructure, the side pavilions had it all.
At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties meeting 26 (UNFCCC COP26, a mouthful I know) global representation agreed that we need to do much, much more when it comes to fighting climate change. At the highest level, language was set in place for the phase down of coal, framework for carbon markets, and pledges from many countries to do more. These negotiations are what the news articles follow. Like everything climate related, these talks were a crucial step forward but still not enough.
Outside the highest level (read, at the side pavilion) the focus was broad and encompassing. I attended talks about financing offshore wind farms, talks from activists and scientists, and talks on ice and geothermal feedback loops. I spent a lot of time at the United States pavilion, which had an amazing lineup. I talked to my governor (Jay Inslee) about passing a bottle bill. I talked to AOC about the new Build Back Better bill. I even saw Obama, but from a distance.
Despite all of these pavilions with such a wide range of focus, one subject seemed too quiet: waste management and the circular economy.
Circular economics is the idea that there’s more value left in basically everything we discard. It’s basically recycling– we need to move away from purely extractive economies and find new sources for our material. This is especially true for a number of products that are hard to dispose of, including rare minerals from electronics and long-lasting single-use products (plastic). Right now according to National Geographic a whopping 91% of all plastic isn’t recycled. Not only are these plastics feeding our landfills (in the process destroying natural habitats) they also degrade into smaller ‘microplastics’ which have terrible impacts on human health in ways we don’t even fully understand yet.
Circular economics goes beyond just recycling. Perhaps the best example of the circular economy is one that nature has already given us – compost. Just by taking leftover, degradable food scraps and effectively letting them rot, nature gives us gorgeous and nutritious soil for plants. It’s happened in the forest for years! Moving past the dirt, a particularly interesting talk at the Denmark pavilion talked about the circularity of the construction industry. If we are to build more sustainably, buildings could be treated as a store of value just like the land it sits on top of. From reusable components to carbon-neutral sourcing, Denmark is taking amazing steps forward. Almost all of Europe has now composted for years, and their climate discussion goes well beyond what we talk about here in the United States.
You’ve participated in the circular economy if you have ever gone shopping at a thrift store. The concept has been around for ages, and the obsession with everything needing to be ‘new’ is a relatively recent phenomenon.
The circular economy is also closely connected to the right to repair movement. Right to repair is looking to grow consumer protections around fixing, rather than just throwing out, things that are no longer functioning. Think of the proprietary protections around fixing the iPhone– even the most basic of maintenance can expose you to hundreds of dollars of fines. Technology companies have tried to stifle secondary markets and lower the expected life of their products for decades now. Circularity means fixing these items instead of throwing them out, buying used computers, and finding new purposes for the technology that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
That’s why I say talk on the circular economy was too quiet at COP 26. We can’t continue to sweep waste under the rug and leave it for other generations to deal with. Dealing with the climate crisis means dealing with the waste crisis. The waste crisis is a land use problem (who wants to live next to landfills?), a pollution problem (there’s so much seepage), and a consumption problem (the globe can’t all live like the US currently does).
Because of all these reasons and more, it’s essential that Daily Crunch Snacks take whatever steps we can to mitigate our footprint on the environment.
Our farming practices have been as sustainable as possible from the very beginning, with our almond farm (Treehouse Almonds) implementing energy and water saving techniques, land preservation, and bee-friendly practices. All of our sourcing comes from well-established and self-sustaining farms with sustainable infrastructure already tightly in place.
As the sustainability intern for Daily Crunch Snacks, thinking about these things are what I do. When I came onto the team, they were already looking at plastic neutral certifications as a start. We’re looking to offset our plastic footprint going into 2022, which is a huge step forward! However, just offsetting this waste is not the same as truly being zero waste. Going forward, we want to offset our carbon footprint from shipping and change our packaging to something recyclable (or compostable!). From milk cartons to recyclable pouches, we’re looking into it all! Because this is a big transition, it’s something that will probably take longer.