Mushrooms might not seem so special — something that you put in your soup or grow on your lawn. But the applications for using mushrooms to solve sustainability challenges seem almost magical. While scientists have identified around 75,000 species of fungi, there could be as many as a million fungal species yet to be identified. Given their many uses, innovators around the world are finding exciting new ways to create value from mushrooms, from replacing plastics to creating biofuel.
Looking back, 2016 was a year marked by unprecedented social, political and environmental happenings. And change in the political winds in Washington created new barriers for those engaged in environmental sustainability. Meanwhile, climate change continued to rear its ugly head — 2016 was the hottest year on record, according to NASA.
As we move into 2017, we wanted to take a look ahead at what already is shaping up to be a wildly unique year. While things aren’t looking so good for the environmental movement politically at the national level, we see some developments at the international and subnational levels, which give us reason to hope. Meanwhile, businesses and consumers increasingly are recognizing the dual challenge and opportunity waste poses.
Just over a year ago, the world came together at COP21 in Paris to forge a landmark climate change agreement to take collective action to halt climate change. The resulting Paris Agreement pledged to cut global greenhouse gas emissions enough to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels — the threshold scientists say we mustn’t breach if we hope to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. In September, the United States and China finally committed to the climate deal, which was reaffirmed by the global community at COP22 in Marrakesh.
But while much of the focus has been on how we will transition to a low-carbon economy through renewable energy, energy efficiency and even fighting deforestation, one of the largest drivers of climate change has largely been ignored by the headlines: global food waste. With around 1.3 billion tons of food being wasted each year, according to the the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), this spews 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And it’s worth worth nearly $1 trillion at retail prices.