Seaweed Pods, Anyone? Marathons Get Creative to Stop Littering the Streets

Written by Sarah Mervosh, originally published on New York Times on 30 April 2019.

 

Months of training. Miles upon miles of pounding the pavement. A careful calibration of diet, sleep and the perfect running gear.

It all ends with one race day. And so much waste.

Marathons and other high-profile running events often leave behind vast trails of trash, with plastic water bottles scattered in the streets and mounds of clothing left behind at the starting line. It can be an ugly sight, and over the weekend, the London Marathon made headlines for trying to address the problem by handing out biodegradable, liquid-filled seaweed capsules at one of its mile markers.

But as more and more marathons take steps to reduce their environmental footprint, you may be surprised to learn that the waste you see on the streets after races is not necessarily the biggest problem.

Here’s a look at how marathons are trying to shrink their environmental impact, and what runners and spectators can do to help.

 

While the bottles and cups that athletes toss in the streets during marathons seem like a problem, most races do a good job of collecting and recycling that litter, according to the Council for Responsible Sport, which evaluates the environmental and social effects of sporting events around the world and offers certification for those that adhere to best practices.

“No one likes to see a street full of single-use plastic bottles, but as long as that’s getting cleaned up and recycled, what makes that any different from you doing that in your home?” said Shelley Villalobos, the group’s managing director.

Recycling is a strong option, she said, and reducing the amount used is even better. Some marathons have gotten creative to try to limit their single-use plastic and other trash.

This year’s London Marathon, for example, reduced the number of plastic bottles by more than 215,000 compared with last year, by cutting the number of drink stations on the course to 19 from 26.

It was one of several steps the marathon took this year as part of a goal to send zero waste to landfills by 2020, and the marathon was still evaluating whether the pods were effective, according to the event director, Hugh Brasher.

In Connecticut, the Hartford Marathon Foundation worked with an engineering company to create a 40-foot-long drinking fountain for the finish line of its race. The contraption, known as the Bubbler, allows multiple people to drink at the same time and is estimated to have saved about 85,000 plastic bottles and wax cups since 2007, according to the foundation.

Some races also collect tossed clothing for donation and offer composting for bananas, apples and other post-race recovery food.

And what about those metallic blankets that runners wear at the end of races? Those can also be recycled. Heatsheets, a popular brand of the blankets, has a program to donate the used blankets to a company that makes wood-alternative decks and railings.

 

While N.F.L. games and other popular sporting events create enormous amounts of waste, marathons that snake through neighborhoods and past people’s homes are an in-your-face reminder of human consumption. “It brings it out onto the streets, literally,” Ms. Villalobos said. But perhaps their biggest environmental harm is something you can’t readily see: carbon footprint.

For one thing, races give away thousands of T-shirts and medals, which take up materials and energy to make and ship. “If they are over-ordered, that’s wasteful demand,” Ms. Villalobos said. “Is that any better or worse than having single-use plastic bottles and then recycling them?”

The Chicago Marathon, which is the only one of the world’s six major marathons that has been certified by the Council for Responsible Sport, offers participant shirts that are made from recycled material. The ribbon on the finisher medal can also be recycled, said the race director, Carey Pinkowski.

And the marathon starts and finishes in the same park, which reduces the need for driving on the day of the race. “The majority of our participants can walk from their hotel room,” Mr. Pinkowski said.

But there is still another problem: All the people traveling to the marathon. The world’s biggest marathons, including Chicago, New York and London, have upward of 40,000 runners, and many of them and their loved ones fly or drive to get there.

Climate Neutral Group, which helps organizations limit and offset their emissions, found that 97 percent of emissions from the Cape Town Marathon came from participants’ air or road travel. The marathon invested in local projects to offset those emissions and has been designated as “climate neutral” since 2014, according to the group.

One of the most effective things you can do to make a marathon more eco-friendly is to offset your own travel, Ms. Villalobos said. Some events, including a 10-mile race in Washington, D.C. that is scheduled for around when the cherry blossoms bloom each spring, offer the chance to buy carbon offsets during race registration.

Some airlines, including United and Delta, also offer options to donate money or miles to offset the greenhouse gas emissions from your travel.

“If they are coming from out of town and they are not planning on planting a few trees while they are in town, I’d say that’s probably the best thing they could do,” Ms. Villalobos said.

Climate Neutral Group can assist in making your event carbon neutral. Contact us on info@climateneutralgroup.co.za

Comply or pay?

The second deadline for reporting your greenhouse gas emissions is steadily approaching (31 March 2019). Why wait until the beginning of the new year with collating your data? Why not put measures in place now? So that you can capture ánd manage the data required for your emissions reporting requirements.

But more importantly, why not ensure compliance nów and mitigate the risk of facing a R5 million penalty due to failing submission of information required by the National Greenhouse Gas Emission Reporting Regulations, that were promulgated on 3 April 2017.

The most important aspect of the Reporting Regulations is to assess whether or not the regulations are applicable to your business. This is determined by the capacity of your company to generate greenhouse gas emissions.

Should the outcome be that the Reporting Regulations are applicable to your company, a number of requirements must be met:

  • Firstly, you must ensure that your company, including all facilities where ‘listed activities’ are exceeding a pre-defined capacity threshold level, are registered within 30 days after the promulgation of these regulations (i.e. before 3 May 2017). If the regulations are applicable to your business and you have not submitted the required information to the Department of Environmental Affairs, you are committing an offence in terms of regulation 16 of the Reporting Regulations and could therefore face a 5 million penalty.
  • Secondly, relevant activity data must be collated for the reporting period (1 January up and until 31 December) to enable quantification of greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the “Technical Guidelines for Monitoring, Reporting, Verification and Validation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Industry”.
  • Finally, you must submit the calculated quantities and activity data for all relevant facilities to the competent authority within the Department of Environmental Affairs before 31 March following the reporting year.

Climate Neutral Group is here to help you assess your reporting obligations and ensure compliance with the regulations. For more information visit our website, or contact me at 010 300 6015 or at silvana.claassen@climateneutralgroup.com.

The Race to Net Zero

While many of the top 100 companies listed on JSE Limited are currently calculating their carbon footprints, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Before long, most companies will need to calculate, reduce and disclose their environmental impact as a regulatory requirement. – and not just as part of an energy audit. This will likely lead to organisations requiring a team of carbon footprint reduction champions.

It is ironic that technical people are mostly responsible for calculating carbon footprints, while commerce people are responsible for doing the audits. If we do not find a way to establish a common ground for those calculating the footprints and those checking them, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

The 11th annual Green Building Convention is one of the key annual events that is organised by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) that acts as a check in and building of common ground for all major market players and advocates of the green building movement. This year the convention theme is: THE RACE TO ZERO. The focus will be on buildings that achieve net zero carbon emissions, as well as building with net-zero water, waste and ecological impact.

This is in line with one of the latest and most exiting initiatives of the GBCSA: the ‘Net Zero’ Programme. Imagine a world where the built environment does not simply minimize its impact, but achieves neutrality or positive carbon emissions (i.e. a building that absorbs more greenhouse gas pollution compared to what it generates)?
A Net Zero/Net Positive carbon building is a radical idea and is defined by the GBCSA as “Highly energy-efficient buildings, with remaining energy demand supplied by on-site and/or off-site renewable sources, or through offsets”.

However, the GBCSA’s Net Zero Certification Scheme goes one step further by rewarding projects for completely neutralising (Net Zero) or positively addressing (Net Positive) their environmental impacts. This is not only for carbon, but also for water, waste and ecology. Net Zero certification is awarded over and above any project’s Green Star certification.

Should a project make use of carbon offsets to help achieve net zero or net positive status, then only African offset projects that are registered under one of the international carbon standards, the Gold Standard (GS) or the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) are be eligible. A building project and/or property developer that make use of offsets would also be able to strengthen its CSI mandate, depending on the type of offset project it supports.Just imagine the build environment and world that awaits us!

For help along your climate journey, get in touch or speak with us at the Green Building Convention, 3 – 5 October 2018 at the Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town.

Franz Rentel
Country Director – South Africa at Climate Neutral Group
Franz.Rentel@climateneutralgroup.com

Dr Marco Lotz
Nedbank Sustainability Carbon Specialist
marcol@nedbank.co.za

CNG partners with Confronting Climate Change

Working together to make agricultural value chains climate neutral

Climate Neutral Group (CNG) and Confronting Climate Change (CCC) have joined hands to assist South African fruit and wine farmers towards achieving climate neutrality for their products, including climate neutral wine. Through this collaboration, CNG and CCC offer a turnkey approach that turns challenges associated with climate change into opportunities for their clients.

Taking 100% responsibility

CCC helps South African fruit and wine farmers calculate and understand the carbon footprints of their operations and value chains by calculating the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions they generate per year and identifying key emissions sources. Typical GHG sources within agriculture include the use of agrochemicals, cooling, packaging, and freight as well as fuel consumption.

Through the implementation of new technologies and operational strategies, farmers are working hard at reducing the carbon footprints of their operations and/or products. Inevitably, some elements of a product’s carbon footprint are incredibly difficult and costly to eliminate. From here, the best and most cost-effective option is to offset these unavoidable emissions through the purchase of carbon credits from verified carbon offset projects. This allows farmers to take 100% responsibility for their environmental impact whilst labelling their product “climate neutral”

Climate Neutral Guaranteed

Gaining momentum across Europe’s food and beverages sector, Climate Neutral Group’s Climate Neutral Guaranteed standard and associated climate neutral logo ensure that the steps taken by businesses towards climate neutrality have been tested against strict international criteria.

The Climate Neutral Guaranteed standard helps businesses to efficiently and clearly communicate their climate leadership role to consumers, suppliers, partners, and other stakeholders. This is critical in fostering a new generation of socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable businesses.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FACTSHEET ABOUT OUR EXCITING PARTNERSHIP!

Please contact Anel Blignaut (Blue North Sustainability) or Franz Rentel (CNG) for more information.

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The Maslow Hotel partners with GreenDreams

The Maslow Sandton has partnered with GreenDreams – developed by Climate Neutral Group to help hotels take action on climate change – as part of its efforts in optimising the eco-friendliness and resource efficiency of its conferencing facilities and achieving its green goal to be carbon neutral.

The Maslow hotel will offset the carbon emissions generated by the use of their meeting rooms and conference facilities by investing in carbon offsets which will be used to fund the Wonderbag Project. Certified under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), the project provides communities with access to greener, safer and more reliable energy to cook their everyday meals.

“The Maslow Sandton cares about the environment and takes to heart its obligation to operate in a sustainable manner. As the need for lighting, catering, heating and cooling in conferencing venues contributes to the generation of greenhouse gas emissions, we wanted to limit the impact of these operations on the environment, with the goal to make our venues carbon neutral,” says Ashwin Jose, general manager at The Maslow.

Boosting resource efficiency

The Wonderbag, developed in South Africa, is an innovative cooker that relies on the age-old concept of heat retention cooking to reduce energy needs. Once food has been brought to the boil using a heat source, the warm pot containing the food is placed immediately in the Wonderbag and the food slowly cooks without using any additional energy. A Wonderbag can be used to cost-effectively prepare a wide range of one-pot dishes, casseroles, curries, cooked salads, and more. The Wonderbag also saves water (due to less evaporation), with one bag saving as much as 150 litres per year.

“Both business and leisure travellers are becoming more responsible about their travel choices, and are looking for convenient ways to green their travelling as much as they can. Also, an increasing number of companies are looking for conference venues that are carbon neutral. We are excited that the Maslow Hotel Sandton has joined an ever-increasing number of hotel chains across the world that are taking action against climate change,” says Nishanthi Lambrichs, Programme Manager for GreenDreams.

“We have various initiatives underway to improve the resource efficiency of our operations and we are also pursuing carbon offsetting. By offsetting the carbon emissions generated by our meeting rooms and conference facilities with the Wonderbag project, we are making strides towards being carbon neutral while supporting a sustainable project that is aimed at improving the quality of life of people in our local communities. About 22,485 people have been reached with clean cooking thanks to The Maslow’s contribution in carbon offsets,” says Jose.

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Canon SA on its way towards climate neutrality

For the third consecutive year, our client Canon South Africa has reached its target to offset its carbon footprint by a minimum of 365 tons of CO2e. Now well on its way to becoming a climate neutral business, Canon South Africa offset over 365 tonnes of emissions, equaling 19,34% of its carbon footprint, in 2017. This is buoyed by the 23,11% and 15,03% the company offset in 2016 and 2015 respectively.

“Canon South Africa is on the road to climate neutrality,” says Iza Daly, sustainability manager and EMEA internal environment auditor. “This is a goal close to our heart. We have several optimisation programmes in place to improve the resource and energy efficiency of our operations.”

Greener business through offsetting

“Carbon offsetting is aligned with these initiatives to make our business greener. Carbon offsetting allows us to reduce our carbon footprint while supporting sustainable projects that are aimed at improving the quality of life of people threatened by the impact of climate change,” she said, not9ng that Canon South Africa is working with Climate Neutral Group to offset its carbon emissions by supporting carbon reduction projects.

“Three years ago, we set our target to reduce our carbon footprint by offsetting a minimum of 365 tonnes of CO2e annually. We have managed to achieve this target every year since and we are steadfast in our commitment to do the same again in 2018. The more we are able to offset, the more we can help communities.”

Offsetting and the SA Carbon Tax

Carbon offsetting is achieved by taking responsibility for one’s carbon footprint by financing carbon reduction projects elsewhere. Carbon offsetting will ultimately see Canon South Africa reduce the amount it pays in carbon tax. Canon South Africa offsets its annual carbon emissions through the Wonderbag. Developed in South Africa, the Wonderbag is a cooker that relies on the age-old concept of heat retention to save on energy costs.

Once food has been brought to the boil using a conventional heat source, the warm pot containing the food is placed immediately in the Wonderbag which slowly cooks the food without using any additional energy. Wonderbags can be used to cost-effectively prepare a wide range of one pot dishes, casseroles, curries, cooked salads, and more.

The power of the Wonderbag

The Wonderbag also saves water (due to less evaporation), with one bag saving as much as 150 litres per year. So this means for every one ton of CO2 emissions that Canon South African helps to offset, it also enables three Wonderbags to be distributed, which in turn saves 450l water per year.

According to Franz Rentel from the Climate Neutral Group, by offsetting over 365 tons of CO2e in 2017, Canon South Africa helped to distribute 1095 Wonderbags.

“This contributed to water savings of around 160,000 liters per year. And remember a Wonderbag can last for up to 10 years, so the water savings will be higher over the lifespan of the bags,” Daly adds. “This is particularly significant in the Western Cape which is in the grips of a severe water shortage that has called everyone in the province to find more water-economical ways of living and working.”

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INVITE: Carbon Tax Essentials breakfast event

We invite you to our “Carbon Tax Essentials” business breakfast on 12 April 2018 (08:00-10:00) at The Maslow Hotel in Sandton.

The regulation of carbon emissions in South Africa is advancing rapidly and is becoming increasingly complex. This includes the publication of the GHG Reporting Regulations in April 2017, the publication of the Pollution Prevention Plans Regulations in July 2017, and more recently, the release of the Carbon Tax Bill in December 2017 which is set to come into effect 1 January 2019.

Comments from the public on the Draft Carbon Tax Bill included that it is complex and therefore it remains a challenge for organisations to assess the impact on their bottom-line. This interactive seminar will focus on assisting companies to understand the implications of South Africa’s proposed carbon tax and offset legislation.

Climate Neutral Group will host a breakfast-workshop at The Maslow Hotel in Sandton on 12 April (08:00-10:00) during which it will present all essential carbon tax elements companies and organisations should understand. Participants are then invited to engage in an informal discussion about the topic, allowing them to identify concerns and ask questions on carbon tax-related matters.

These essential topics include the various carbon tax allowances that exist, what companies must consider in order to benefit from the Carbon Tax, and what mechanisms exist to reduce their tax liability.

Other topics on the agenda include a brief analysis of the various financial and tax implications, which greenhouse gas-emitting activities result in carbon tax payments, and the relationship between the proposed carbon tax and the GHG Reporting Regulations. We will also have a closer look at how offsets can reduce a company’s carbon tax liability. Finally, we will demonstrate various ways on how companies can calculate their carbon tax obligation.

Speakers:
•    Franz Rentel, Country Director South Africa, Climate Neutral Group
•    Silvana Claassen, Senior Carbon Advisor, Climate Neutral Group

Date:      12 April 2018
Time:      08:00-10:00 (arrival 07:45 for 08:00)
Venue:    The Duke Room, The Maslow Hotel, Sandton, Johannesburg

* the conference facilities at The Maslow Hotel are climate neutral. All emissions generated by the venue have been offset with our Wonderbag carbon offset project

Please note: seating is limited to 20 people. Please RSVP early to avoid disappointment.
Cost: R350 (ex VAT) / person. CNG clients: Free.

REGISTER NOW

Media: please email us!

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Deadline GHG Emission Reporting: 31 March!

The National Greenhouse Gas Emission Reporting Regulations came into effect on 3 April 2017, with the first submission deadline being set for 31 March 2018. The purpose of these regulations is to allow the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to gather information from businesses to assist South Africa to update and maintain a National Greenhouse Gas Inventory. This is a requirement under the Paris Climate Agreement, which South Africa ratified in November 2016.

The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions companies report will be used as the basis for their carbon tax calculations. Companies, in control of certain GHG emitting activities and which exceed a predetermined threshold, will be required to submit GHG emission data in a format prescribed by the Regulations. The calculations of their emissions must be done in line with Technical Guidelines. These were published with the Regulations. Companies should note that the calculation methodologies in these Technical Guidelines differ from the conventional corporate calculation methodologies as GHG Protocol Corporate Standard and ISO14064.

STEPS YOUR COMPANY SHOULD TAKE NOW: 

  1. Determine whether it is in control of an activity listed in Annexure 1 of the Regulations,
  2. Determine whether the installed capacity, associated with that activity, exceeds the indicated threshold. If so, register your company and familiarise yourself with the NAEIS portal. Report your emissions by 31 March 2018 (as per the National Greenhouse Gas Emission Reporting Regulations). This is mandatory.
  3. The emissions reported to the Department of Environmental Affairs are the exact same emissions that will be subject to carbon tax payments. The carbon tax act should be effective from 1 January 2019. This means your company will pay carbon taxes to SARS over the emissions generated in the 2019 calendar year.
  4. Start planning now as to how to reduce your company’s possible future carbon tax exposure. You could look at ways to lower your operations’ GHG emissions through technological interventions. You could also think about offsetting, known as investing in carbon offsets.

Do you need more information? Please download our Mandatory GHG Reporting Factsheet!

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South Africa carbon tax date announced

22/2/18 (Ernst & Young) – In the 2018 Budget Speech, presented on 21 February 2018, South Africa’s Minister of Finance announced that the Carbon Tax Bill is expected to be enacted before the end of 2018. This means that Government proposes to implement the Carbon Tax from 1 January 2019 to meet its nationally determined contributions under the 2015 Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

National Treasury published the Second Draft Carbon Tax Bill in December 2017, inviting written comments to be submitted by close of business on 9 March 2018.

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Carbon Tax in SA: draft bill enters parliament

13/2/18 (Business Day) – The proposed South African Carbon Tax Bill has entered the parliamentary process after two years of extensive consultation on various drafts. The draft bill will be subjected to public hearings and further submissions before being revised into a final draft that is expected to be completed by mid-2018. The first draft of the bill was published for public comment in November 2015 but preparations started well before that in 2010.

Extensive consultations have already taken place with stakeholders across the spectrum of society and the Treasury has also invited further submissions until March 9.

In terms of the proposals, carbon emissions above a certain level will be taxed at a rate of R120 a tonne of carbon. The tax, which aims to reduce carbon emissions, will be phased in with adjustments being made to other taxes and provision made for tax incentives to ensure the tax is revenue neutral.

A basic tax-free threshold has been proposed for 60% of emissions, with additional allowances made for specific sectors as well. Up to 95% of emissions could be tax exempt. These exemptions could translate into an effective tax rate of R6-R48 a tonne of carbon emissions.

The first phase is expected to last for about four to five years after the implementation date.

The Department of Environmental Affairs’ chief director of climate change mitigation, Deborah Ramalope, and Treasury deputy director-general Ismail Momoniat briefed a joint meeting of Parliament’s two finance committees and its environmental affairs committee on the proposals on Tuesday.

No implementation date for the proposals has yet been set. This will be announced later by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, taking into consideration the state of the economy.

The aim of the carbon tax in South Africa, Ramalope said would be to incentivise large carbon emitters to take measures to reduce their emissions. This will assist SA to achieve its international commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change. In terms of these commitments, SA’s emissions will peak between 2020 and 2025, plateau for a 10-year period thereafter and decline from 2036 onwards.

“Pricing carbon is key to driving the transition to a green economy,” Ramalope told MPs. It will incentivise companies to change their carbon emission behaviour.

Momoniat noted that a carbon tax in South Africa bill gave effect to the polluter-pays principle and would help to ensure that firms and consumers took these costs into account in their future production, consumption and investment decisions.

The implementation of the carbon tax will be complemented in the first phase (up to 2022) by a package of tax incentives and revenue recycling measures to minimise the impact on the price of electricity and energy-intensive sectors such as mining and iron and steel. The impact of the tax in the first phase is designed to be revenue neutral.

The Treasury estimates that a carbon tax in South Africa will result in a decrease in emissions of between 13% and 14.5% by 2025 and 26% and 33% by 2035 compared with a business-as-usual approach.