Much of the news this year from a sustainability point of view has been doom and gloom. COP26 proved mostly ineffective, and the increase in single use plastic due to the pandemic has not been great for the planet. But we'd like to end the year on a happy note with some of the more positive sustainability news from the UK in 2021.
It might not sound the sexiest of restoration programmes, but it's increasingly evident that peat bogs are a vital resource for both plants and animals. They are also one of the biggest producers of carbon dioxide in the UK after energy.
Peat bogs (also known as wetlands) are areas of land that accumulate dead plant materials (often mosses) and store them as a Carbon Sink, ensuring they stop the decomposing plant materials from releasing carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. They are also vital in the filtration and control of water to prevent flooding. The peat found in peat bogs has been popular for centuries to burn in fires and for compost, and unfortunately this has led to significant damage to peat bog areas throughout the UK.
In 2021 a wildlife grant was agreed in the Southern Lake District with £2 million invested to repair a number of peat bogs that have been mined for compost. So far the project has successfully repaired 6 peat bogs including Brampton Common, where the project has restored a significant area of peat bogs resulting in an improvement in the quality of drinking water and reduced atmospheric carbon emissions in the local area.
Tebay in the Lake District is home to important areas for peat bogs, and at the beginning of the year many of these areas along Tebay Common were eroding fast. Thanks to the peatland restoration scheme they have been gullied, reducing erosion and providing better protection from flooding and pollution to the River Lune that stretches through the Southern Lakes right the way down to the North West of England.
2. B Corps
A B Corp is a business that has proved it gives as much consideration to its social and environmental impact as it does to its financial returns.
These are businesses that are focussed on community, customers, environment, government and their workers. In order to achieve B Corp status a business must comply with the B Corp certification's strict Code of Conduct that encompasses every part of a business, from the supply chain to who the business banks and invests with.
This year has seen a record number of businesses achieving B Corp status. There are now 4,000 B Corps worldwide, with a significant number of these based in the UK. Many of the brands we stock at 69b are now B Corps, including Toms, Ecoalf and Rifo. With many more businesses now at the auditing stage the certification is creating potential for a positive future.
3. Veggies & Vegans
We know that what we eat has a significant impact on the planet, with a meat-heavy diet generating significant greenhouse gases from the feeding and rearing of cattle. The popularity of vegetarianism and veganism in the UK is sky-rocketing. A report by Sainsbury’s this year has predicted that by 2025 vegans and vegetarians will make up a quarter of the British population.
A significant number of food trends in 2021 were vegan, including vegan sweets, new meat alternatives in supermarkets and large food chains such as wagamamas releasing 100% plant-based menus.
Global Good News
This year we have seen significant projects across the world that are helping to restore nature and save the planet, and there have been a number of positive news stories.
Renewable energy generation has hit an all-time high, with new solar installations and wind farms adding 290 gigawatts of renewable power production this year.
The holes in the ozone layer are healing, with full repair expected in the 2060s.
And giant pandas are no longer officially endangered thanks to conservation efforts in China.
But if we don't act soon to reduce our energy consumption we will be facing catastrophic consequences, including new pandemics and significant disruption to our weather systems that will change how we live forever. As we start the new year we all need to continue to make changes to the way in which we use the world to ensure its protection for future generations.