ATHENRY, Ireland, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Scientists are combing Ireland’s west coast for seaweed to feed to cattle and sheep after research showed it could stop them breathing out so much climate-warming methane.
The project, coordinated by a state agriculture body, is tapping into the country’s growing seaweed harvesting industry, which is seeking new markets as it revives centuries-old traditions.
But some are sceptical that the seaweed feed additives – or any quick technological fix – can sidestep the need to reverse a surge in Irish cattle numbers if the country is to reduce Europe’s largest per capita methane output by 2030.
Around 20 species of seaweed, most from Ireland’s windswept Atlantic coast, have been tested by researchers while dozens more have been collected by the project’s partners in Norway, Canada, Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Scientists in the United States and Australia have already demonstrated dramatic methane-reducing qualities from one seaweed type – Asparagopsis – when small quantities are added to feedstock.
But they have not yet managed to scale up production of the seaweed, which is not easy to grow in Northwest Europe.
The Irish project aims to find abundant native seaweeds to use instead, even though the researchers admit they are unlikely to match the reduction in emissions of over 80% shown with Asparagopsis.
“We have identified some brown seaweeds that are very positive and they’re producing results,” said Maria Hayes, Project Lead of the SeaSolutions project, whose team has achieved methane reductions of between 11% and 20% in early trials.
“The reductions aren’t going to be a silver bullet … but it can significantly reduce emissions,” said Hayes, who works for Teagasc, Ireland’s Agriculture and Food Development Authority.
Researchers are also working on how to integrate the feed additives into Ireland’s predominantly grass-based cattle farming system.
On a farm outside Hillsborough, southwest of Belfast, researchers use treats to coax cows to poke their heads into a solar-powered machine that measures the level of methane on their breath.
They will test them again using seaweed additives, said Sharon Huws, Professor of Animal Science and Microbiology at Queen’s University Belfast.
“The levels that are used to feed ruminants are very, very small so you don’t need to get a lot of it in order to get an impact,” she said.
The technology has caught the imagination of farming groups and politicians, who insist that stringent targets for cutting greenhouse gases like methane should not mean a reduction in the size of the Irish farming sector.
After growth of over 10% in the past 10 years, Ireland has 7.4 million cattle and is one of the largest exporters of beef and dairy in Europe.
Its per capita output of methane – which has a higher heat-trapping potential than CO2 – is by far the highest in the European Union, according to the Climate Watch database.
The colourless and odourless gas leaks from waste dumps, oil and gas infrastructure and the digestive systems of cattle and sheep.
At the COP26 U.N. Climate Change conference in Glasgow this month, Ireland signed up to a pledge to cut global output of methane by 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels.
But government ministers insist that will mostly be achieved through a 50% cut in non-agricultural methane, with a reduction of just 10% in agricultural methane by 2030.
They point to seaweed feed additives as a way to curb emissions without downsizing the herd – with a reduction in the average age of slaughter of beef cattle and genetics research as other possible solutions.
Chemicals company Royal DSM (DSMN.AS) says a rival food additive it produces can cut methane output by around 30%. The company said it had received regulatory approval in Brazil and Chile and is seeking approval in the European Union.
But not everyone is convinced the technology can meet the target.
“Scaling up these solutions takes time. We don’t have time,” said Sadhbh O’Neill, lecturer in climate policy and environmental politics at Dublin City University, a vocal critic of industry attempts to rely on technology rather than address the sustainability Ireland’s agriculture model.
The Irish researchers have tapped into a network of seaweed harvesters who are reviving a tradition mentioned in monastic writings as far back as the 5th century.
But they do not yet have a plan to scale up production if tests are successful.
Some harvesters, who serve organic food and cosmetic markets, doubt the feed additives will be sufficiently lucrative with plenty of opportunities elsewhere.
“It’s a huge market at the moment, seaweed is really thriving,” said Evan Talty, managing director at Wild Irish Seaweeds, who has revived harvesting techniques used by his grandfather and focuses on food and skin care products. The methane additive market is “not on our radar”, he said.
Others are more hopeful.
“Everyone keeps an eye on it,” said Jenny O’Halloran of Bláth na Mara, a small-scale hand harvester on Inis Mór island off Ireland’s west coast.
“Maybe the future of that is actually farming seaweed, which I think has to be part of the conversation when it comes to the future of seaweed in Ireland,” she said.
Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Giles Elgood
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Sustainable Workplaces – A Prerequisite for the Future
By Thirumala Arohi, Senior Vice President and Head of Education, Training & Assessments, Infosys
In the last few decades, there is growing awareness about the dangers of climate change caused by the rising levels of greenhouse gases. As a result, enterprises are including sustainability best practices in their operations. Creating workplaces that meet sustainability goals can go a long way in achieving a carbon-neutral future.
Enterprises at large are contributing to workplace sustainability by ensuring eco-friendly campuses and buildings. But sustainability can be achieved at a much larger scale when every single contributor to a business’s ecosystem makes sustainability practices a way of life. This shift in the way we approach sustainability can be defined as workplace sustainability.
The three pillars of workforce sustainability include the organization, the business eco-system, and most importantly, its people.
Organizations use technology to meet their sustainability goals
Most if not all sustainability changes are driven by technology. For example, in Europe, steel and chemical industries are using smart technology to monitor their energy use and use the data to optimize their production processes. Innovative mobility solutions are being developed for cleaner modes of transport. At Infosys, we have switched over to electric buses for our employee transportation.
Summarizing the role of technology in sustainability, Glickman and Kavanaugh in their book,
` Practical Sustainability’ say, with the explosion of new digital technologies such as big data and machine learning, the scope to solve environmental problems becomes much larger. The book recommends a framework that focuses on building a regenerative future and a circular commerce. It recommends employing technology to understand and contextualize the world through data-driven insights and finally to ensure that the sustainability initiatives are focused on elevating the human experience.
Business Eco-System as a Sustainability Driver
Committed enterprises are actively practising sustainability by extending expectations to their eco-system of customers, vendors, and partners. To take Apple’s example again, it commits to be 100 percent carbon neutral for its supply chain and products by 2030.Technology enterprises such as Infosys have outlined sustainability best practices and tailored learning programs on sustainability for vendors and partners.
Workforce Integral to Sustainability
The central force in sustainability practices is people because technology is only a tool in the hands of people, and when the workforce uses it effectively it results in dramatic changes.
To ensure that workforce sustainability is not just a high-level vision, but a practical approach to business processes, the workforce requires to be trained and made aware of the need for sustainability. This is where the learning department plays a crucial role.
Why Learning & Development is Crucial to Sustainability
Sustainability should be an integral element of all training – whether it is related to technology skills, professional skills, or leadership development. Every leader in the organization must be trained to imbibe the value of practical sustainability in their daily work and people interaction. The learning department can create campaigns and act as a powerful influencer in driving behavioural change in employees to align better to sustainability practices. Leaders can be trained to act as change managers to lead the shift to new sustainability-centric processes and best practices.
People, be it employees, customers, suppliers, or business partners can play an influential role in making a shift from performance to fulfilment. A change from generic learning to personalized learning can go a long way in helping employees understand the various elements of a sustainable organization. Keeping pace with the work from anytime, anywhere model that the pandemic brought about, the function of learning also has moved beyond the physical classroom to anytime, anywhere hybrid learning which is helping reduce carbon emits.
The learning and development teams are investing in technologies and creating smart eco-systems, making sure that the learning offerings are tailored to each role. The training is to enable employees to spot those areas of improvement or change that they can bring in their jobs to align with the broader organizational goal for sustainability.
For example, a well-trained engineer will learn how to optimize and reduce the number of lines of code to reduce power wastage required to run longer processes. Operations teams could learn how to leverage or reuse existing assets rather than build new assets. Designers and developers could create sustainability solutions using AR, VR, and digital twins that reduces the use of scarce physical resources.
The learning and development function can also champion and implement knowledge management practices in an organization. We are doing it at Infosys by identifying internal best-practices and creating micro or nano learnings out of them. Creating a knowledge eco-system can encourage employees to share and learn from colleagues on new ways of being more eco-friendly.
Organizations must provide learning and development not just to employees but all the stakeholders who have a role to play that impacts the environment. At Infosys, we have created the Infosys Wingspan, which is a versatile cloud-based learning solution that helps us provide training to our employees, suppliers, and partners. This helps spread the sustainability best practices among our clients too.
Digital transformation has enabled democratization of technology, where employees have access to IT systems to create new solutions and drive values. Their actions influence the environment. With learning and development, employees can be more aware of their responsibilities towards the organization and the world at large.
In the future, it isn’t the largest or the fastest organizations that will succeed, it will be those who are continuously adapting to change that will be able to thrive and contribute to a sustainable world.
Is now the perfect time to install a heat pump?
With homeowners increasingly looking for new ways to minimise their energy use and lower utility bills, we spoke with Jordan Brompton, co-founder and CMO of myenergi, to discuss whether or not heat pumps are the answer.
At a time of volatile energy prices and deepened environmental awareness, keeping a close eye on clever ways to maximise energy efficiency has become essential. Domestic solar panels have historically been the go-to energy-saving technology of choice, but in recent years the popularity of heat pumps have soared.
Offering numerous advantages and high availability, both air- and ground-source heat pumps provide a low-carbon alternative to more traditional heating solutions. Across Europe, there are now 19.3 million heat pumps installed, with figures rising 11% year-on-year – driven, in part, by increasing policy support and incentives.
It comes as disappointing reading, therefore, that the UK is falling far behind many of its European neighbours. Around 55,000 heat pumps were sold in the UK in 2022 – that’s fewer installations than 21 other countries in Europe, such as Norway, where two thirds of all homes are fitted with heat pumps.
But while the picture may seem bleak, change is coming. Indeed, in a bid to accelerate heat pump adoption to 600,000 installations per year by 2028, the UK government recently increased the grants available for both air- and ground-source heat pumps installations to £7,500 – presenting homeowners with the perfect excuse to finally take the plunge.
But what exactly is a heat pump, and how can it contribute to both energy savings and a lower carbon footprint?
A quick guide to heat pumps
Heat pumps are flexible climate-control devices that function as both heating and cooling units, dependent on the ambient temperature. Unlike traditional heating and cooling systems, such as gas boilers or air conditioning, heat pumps have the function of two-way heat transfer, with the ability to direct heat energy between indoor and outdoor environments. This allows for more effective and consistent temperature control with greater energy efficiency than many heating systems.
Heat pumps work by circulating refrigerant through a cycle of evaporation and condensation. On hot summer days, heat is removed from the house and transferred to the outside air, whereas during the cold winter, the little heat available is taken from the chilly air outside (good heat pumps still work in ambient temperatures of around -15°C) and transferred into the home. This cycle makes heat pumps extremely effective at regulating indoor temperatures year-round.
A big advantage of heat pumps is their passive nature, meaning they are much more efficient than their traditional counterparts. The end result is a noticeably cheaper energy bill and around a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions when compared to a gas boiler – a highly attractive solution for domestic temperature control.
But as efficient as modern heat pumps are, they still need electricity to run. This reliance on mains electricity can possibly be seen as counterintuitive when looking to curb carbon emissions, but fortunately there’s a solution.
Eco-smart home solutions are key
As home energy and heating technologies evolve, we’re seeing a growing demand for tech which synchronises devices that generate, store, and use electricity, as well as smart home devices that offer a simple way to make home energy systems greater than the sum of their parts.[EW1]
Innovative power diverter technologies, such as myenergi’s eddi, are proving hugely popular with homeowners, and the best ones one the market are even compatible with both air- and ground-source heat pumps.
Rather than exporting surplus self-generated electricity back to the grid, a good power diverter redirects energy to a designated heating appliance, such as a heat pump or an immersion heater, to other devices, or into energy storage if heating and cooling are not needed at that time. They can even be configured to send energy to multiple heating appliances in sequence, automatically switching between them to provide the greatest energy efficiency.
While it’s not a necessity for households to utilise solar PV to power their heat pumps, for households with both technologies, a power diverter from a trusted manufacturer is invaluable. When PV is generating low volumes, such as on a cloudy day, the tech can automatically ‘trickle charge’ energy to heat water when their water heater is inactive – offsetting the need for power from the grid. Once panels reach a higher load, power can be diverted directly to the heat pump. With the ability to make intelligent decisions every second, the best power diverters can help homeowners maximise the value of their self-generated renewables.
The future of domestic heating
As we continue to target net zero and cut bills, innovative energy technologies like heat pumps will be crucial. Not only do they reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but they also help slash rising energy costs while delivering year-round temperature control. When integrated with technologies like solar power and eco-smart devices, homeowners can boost efficiency from their self-generated renewables, maximising energy savings while minimising their carbon footprint.
Green Energy Legislation – How Your Business Can Keep Up
Britain’s commitment to its net zero targets has been called into jeopardy in recent weeks. Internal divisions within the Conservative party have seen Rishi Sunak look to weaken some of the nation’s commitments to reaching net zero emissions.
However, evidence shows that customers remain more environmentally conscious than ever. A Deloitte survey found that 35% of UK adults were more likely to trust a business with a transparent, accountable and socially and environmentally responsible supply chain.
So, what can your business do to maintain or grow its sustainability credentials whilst staying in line with green and traditional legislation?
Why operating sustainably is more important than ever
In spite of the Conservative party’s stance on the nation’s net zero targets, strong green credentials remain crucial for businesses to appeal to an increasingly eco-conscious public. 29% of UK adults are likely to prioritise a business with a strong public perception, record and reputation around climate change and sustainability over a business without.
It’s not just B2C businesses that have grounds to be concerned. UK companies operating internationally should also be watching the situation closely. The new proposal threatens to undermine UK investment from abroad and weaken our international standing with clients and business partners alike, leaving business leaders furious and investors ‘spooked’.
The EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism came into play in October 2023, creating a further divergence between the UK and Europe’s green legislation. EU companies are now responsible for compiling reports on the carbon emissions attached to certain goods, such as steel, aluminium and fertilisers.
So, though the British government may be content with relaxing our net zero commitments, UK businesses operating in Europe cannot be. The onus has been placed upon UK businesses to increase their sustainability credentials or risk being left behind.
Interrogate your operating practices
Companies looking to operate more sustainably are often faced with the initial challenge of identifying exactly where and how the company can become greener. Modern software solutions, however, are making this simpler.
Products such as Microsoft’s Sustainability Manager have given businesses the tools to interrogate their own working practices, acting as a hub for data intelligence from across the organisation. Allowing business owners to precisely calculate the sources of their emissions, this tool enables organisations to record, report and actively reduce their environmental impact.
This level of visibility is a huge benefit to businesses operating in a range of different countries. Even before the Prime Minister’s latest comments, concerns persisted about the UK’s failure to align its sustainability rules with the EU and US.
With the implementation of the EU green tax, international alignment of your business’s green policies is more important than ever. Sustainability Manager allows total visibility over emissions in an international supply chain, allowing your company to strengthen its foothold in the green economy.
Maximise your impact with collaboration – safely
This month, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) released new guidance to help businesses better understand how they can collaborate to meet sustainability goals without falling foul of competition law. The Green Agreements Guidance explains how competition law applies to sustainability agreements between firms operating at the same level of the supply chain.
Such examples might include farmers aiming to improve or protect biodiversity by reducing usage of pesticides, or fashion companies agreeing to stop using certain fabrics that contribute to microplastic pollution.
The impact that multiple businesses can have on the environment outranks that of a single business in isolation, so collaboration can be a strong route to improve sustainability practices – but it’s important to do so legally. The CMA has adopted an ‘open-door policy’ regarding business collaboration in the name of sustainability, so be sure to consult them before carrying out a project like this.’
Avoid greenwashing – or pay the price
There’s no substitute for real, meaningful change. Given the importance of sustainability to the consumer, some less scrupulous businesses have been caught out by greenwashing – using unproven environmental assertions to sell products or enhance their public perception.
Earlier in 2023, the CMA were given new powers to impose direct civil penalties on companies who have been making misleading environmental claims. Your business could face fines of up to 10% of global turnover for breaches of consumer law in this manner – so any claims related to your business’s sustainability credentials must be thoroughly investigated before going public.
Support the sustainability push with external funding
In many cases, making your business more sustainable is an endeavour which requires significant operational change – and implementing such change can be a costly investment. Businesses should not be afraid of utilising external facilities like green loans or bonds to realise these changes.
Green loans and bonds are subject to an international standard known as the Green Loan Principles, which ensure the transparency of your borrowing and the environmental impact of your changes. This can protect your business against accusations of greenwashing and keep you focused on the task at hand.
Global green finance increased tenfold between 2012 and 2022, indicating just how many businesses are utilising external funding to become more sustainable. Don’t be afraid to explore your options – improving your sustainability credentials could be more achievable than expected.
Charlotte Enright, Head of Renewables at Anglo Scottish, commented: “In light of these changes to the UK’s renewable commitments, it can be difficult for UK businesses to keep informed on their responsibilities. That’s why it’s more important than ever for these companies to be proactive and drive change from within.”