Climate Joy Week #36: John Kerry and Arnold Schwarzenegger Team Up to Fight Climate Change, Air New Zealand Trials Edible Coffee Cups and more…

Climate Joy Week #36: John Kerry and Arnold Schwarzenegger Team Up to Fight Climate Change, Air New Zealand Trials Edible Coffee Cups and more…

This week’s edition of Climate Joy is proudly brought to you by our sponsor Australian Ethical:

EWP x Australian Ethical Superannuation

Welcome to yet another edition of our Climate Joy series. Regardless of the fact that this year is steadily drawing to a close, efforts to preserve earth as our communal heritage is still underway.

Now without further ado on the subject, let’s jump right into the positive climate news we’re celebrating this week:

1. Scientists engineer bacteria that eats CO2

Scientists at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science have engineered for the first time a form of E. coli that can consume carbon dioxide. This follows a decade-long study of the subject. This means that bacteria commonly used in the biotech industry could soon feed on CO2 instead of sugar, turning climate pollution into carbon-neutral biofuels or even food.

While many people might know E.coli for causing food poisoning, it is commonly used in the biotech industry for production of such things as insulin. This is done by adding the gene for producing human insulin is to the bacteria, which then pumps out the drug inside its cells. But the process normally involves feeding the bacteria sugar as it grows. What the researchers have done is to  tweak the bacteria so that it could eat CO2 instead of sugar, using both genetic engineering and “assisted evolution” in the lab.

This breakthrough means that that it could become easier to make more products from the world’s most significant greenhouse gas.

2. John Kerry and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up to fight climate change

Former US Secretary of State John Kerry and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have declared war on climate change. The duo have launched a new coalition of powerbrokers, including top politicians, military leaders, and Hollywood celebrities, to use their influence to help in the fight for climate action. The initiative called World War Zero, aims to get individuals, businesses, and governments to drastically slash greenhouse gas emissions and to convince people that rapid action is required to halt carbon emissions within 30 years.

Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and co-founder of World War Zero. Photo: Gage Skidmore.

This name of the coalition ‘World War Zero’, is in reference to the national security danger presented by global warming – and the form of mobilisation that the founders believe is needed to face the threat. 

The bipartisan bloc includes Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, and celebrities such as Sting, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Ashton Kutcher are among the some 60 original members. Participants might favor particular policy approaches to cutting emissions – such as a carbon dioxide tax or federal environmental programs – but the group is not touting any specific initiative.

3. Air New Zealand trials edible coffee cups

The New Zealand national carrier, Air New Zealand has commenced serving drinks in edible cups in an attempt to further reduce waste produced on board. To accomplish this, the airline collaborated with New Zealand-based company Twiice, a small New Zealand startup dedicated to making “delicious” edible plant-based cups. The cups currently being rolled out on Air New Zealand flights are vanilla-flavored and can withstand the heat of coffee without melting.

Photo: Air New Zealand.

According to Air New Zealand customer experience manager Niki Chave, the airline serves eight million cups of coffee on board its planes annually. And so far, the customers who have tested out the Twiice cups have given the taste a thumbs-up, she adds. Although the airline had already made the big switch to biodegradable cups both on planes and in their branded lounges, they began looking into even more eco-friendly options.

This isn’t the only move Air New Zealand has made to go greener in the skies. In July 2019 the airline announced that condiments like salad dressing and soy sauce would be served in small reusable bowls instead of individual plastic packets.

4. Ford seeks help from McDonald’s to transform coffee waste to car parts

Automobile giant Ford has sought to connect with the suppliers of fast food giant McDonald’s to turn coffee waste to car parts. Starting this year, Ford is incorporating coffee chaff — coffee bean skin that comes off during the roasting process — into the plastic headlamp housing used in some cars. It’s asked McDonald’s, which doesn’t roast its own coffee, to connect it with suppliers.

Traditionally, Ford uses plastic and talc to make its headlamp housing, explained Debbie Miewelski, senior technical leader of materials sustainability for Ford. The coffee version is more sustainable because it’s lighter and doesn’t use the talc which, as a mineral, isn’t renewable. Coffee chaff, on the other hand, is widely available, Miewelski said, and much of it goes to waste.

Ford hopes to eventually incorporate the material into more cars and use it for more parts.


5. Two American public universities pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030

Two American universities,  the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary have pledged to team up on projects to reduce fossil fuel consumption and limit greenhouse gas emissions. This is in a united effort to make their operations “carbon neutral” by 2030. The two public universities plan to share information and resources as they pursue carbon neutrality. That goal requires limiting emissions of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds. Carbon that is produced would be offset with initiatives to remove an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.

William & Mary officials say the 8,800-student school produces an estimated 63,000 metric tons a year of carbon dioxide equivalents, most of it through electricity and natural gas consumption. While U-Va., with more than 24,000 students, has an estimated annual carbon footprint of  250,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents.

The schools won’t be able to eliminate all of that, but administrators want to reduce it and then offset what they can’t eliminate. To achieve their target, the schools will be exploring a power purchase deal that could meet as much as 60% of William & Mary’s electricity needs through solar farms. Also in the works are reduction strategies such as heat recovery technology, renewable energy and a “sustainable” transportation plan.

And that’s a wrap for this week’s edition of our Climate Joy series. Have a wonderful week and make sure to spread the positive news by sharing this post!

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Feature image by Center for American Progress via Flickr.

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