Sustainability Summarised - March Edition

Spring is on the way, the sun has made a fleeting return and we’re welcoming the season of growth and new life. With nature springing into new life, it’s an apt time to check in with the latest environmental news. 

So, we’ve shared our favourite eco stories for the month!

Oceans of opportunity: How seaweed can help fight climate change

Seaweed has many benefits - it’s a food source, it can be used as a replacement for plastic and it even has medicinal properties. But, did you know it could be a weapon against climate change?

Philippe Potin, a marine biologist and researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, and Vincent Doumeizel, a senior advisor and food expert for the United Nations Global Compact, spoke to FRANCE 24 about what they hoped to achieve through the 2022 One Ocean Summit

A point they agreed on unanimously was the need to invest in marine algae.

Potin said: "The reality is that these plants play a vital role for our planet… They're also the lungs of the planet. Thanks to their photosynthesizing, they absorb CO2 and emit oxygen," 

He continues, "Alone, they are responsible for half of all of Earth's renewal of oxygen. They are hugely helpful for the climate."

Two new species of see-through frog named in Ecuador

Firstly, some positive news. In Ecuador, not one, but two new species of amphibian have been uncovered. In the face of environmental threats, and many species on the endangered list, this discovery gives us hope. 

Found in the Ecuadorian wildlife, sheltered by the Andes, the two new species are neighbours, in fact. Discovered just 13 miles apart are two undiscovered species of glass frogs. One of them, Hyalinobatrachium mashpi, lives on the southern side of the river, whereas the other species, Hyalinobatrachium nouns, can be found in the northern flank of the valley. 

Although the two neighbouring species look identical, they are genetically diverse. 

This is known by scientists as cryptic diversity, which means the characteristics that differentiate a species are not visible to the naked eye. 

How Sri Lanka makes paper out of elephant poo

Sri Lanka, also known as the Pear of the Indian Ocean, is renowned for its pristine beaches, turtle hatcheries and wildlife safaris. But, it’s also home to one of the more unusual conservation efforts

Sri Lanka is one of a few countries home to wild Indian elephants, making it a popular destination for tourists to go to spot these majestic giants. Each of these elephants defecates 16 to 18 times a day, producing over 200lbs of manure - it would be a shame for this to go to waste. 

Luckily, Thusitha Ranasinghe launched his faecal factory in 1997, which turns elephant poop into paper. Today, this paper is used to make stationary and souvenirs that are sold worldwide. 

Compared to the conventional wood-based process, it uses 44% less energy, produces 38% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, 41% fewer particulate emissions, 50% less wastewater, 49% less solid waste, and 100% less forest destruction.

Indian Elephant in water

Study shows that without tropical forests, global temperatures would be 1°C warmer

It seems we owe a lot to tropical forests, according to a new study. The study is the first of its kind to offer such comprehensive evidence into the roles forests play in managing the climate, both globally and locally. It found that the entire world benefits from the band of tropical rainforests in Latin America, Central Africa and Southeast Asia.

In fact, collectively, forests keep the planet at least half of a degree Celsius cooler. In the tropics alone planetary cooling of one-third of a degree Celsius is delivered, but when combined with the carbon dioxide, this rises to a cooling effect of over 1 degree Celsius.

Microplastics are confirmed in human blood for the first time

In more concerning news,  scientists have detected tiny particles of microplastics in human blood in nearly 80% of participants for the first time. The study, published in the journal Environmental International found these tiny particles can move freely throughout the body, and become stuck in organs — which could cause significant health issues. 

PET plastic, which was found in half of the samples taken, is typically found in drinking bottles. Another third of the participants' bodies contained polystyrene, which is used to package food and other materials. One-quarter of the blood samples had polyethylene, which is the primary material of plastic carrier bags. 

But most shocking of all, baby faeces has 10 times the microplastic levels of adults. Scientists believe that the unusually high levels found in babies' faeces could be the result of feeding babies with plastic bottles, allowing them to swallow millions of microplastic particles every day.

Have you seen any other stories about sustainability and environmental news and issues that you think we should include? Let us know!

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