We are the world’s leading independent conservation organisation. We’re determined to ensure that people and nature can thrive together, for generations to come.Our mission is Safeguarding the natural world, tackling the global threat of climate change, and helping people to change the way they live to ease pressure on natural resources.
Wales is surrounded by sea on three sides and its beaches are among the cleanest and safest in Britain. Currently celebrating Year of the Sea, our small nation is proud to have been awarded more Blue Flag beaches per mile than anywhere else in the UK, which indicates high environmental and quality standards.
Despite these accolades, seaside residents still have their work cut out for them fighting marine plastic pollution. Tides often bring in plastic straws, bottles and caps, coffee cups, wet wipes, cotton bud sticks, toothbrushes, balloons and plastic bags. Fortunately, communities across Wales are taking action against plastic pollution and their local accomplishments are getting noticed around the globe.
Sian Sykes, an Anglesey local, has just completed the first circumnavigation of Wales on a stand-up paddleboard. She completed this trip without using any single-use plastic, to highlight that what gets dropped on a canal or in a river ends up floating out to sea. She took food in biodegradable bags, toothpaste in glass jars and sun cream in a tin, shampoo and deodorant in bars and a toothbrush made from bamboo. Sian says that if she can live single-use plastic free on a two month adventure, people can do it at home. She also believes that everyone should fight for #PlasticFreeCoastlines; this could be pledging against daily single-use plastic consumption, doing a mini litter pick or adopting a section of river, canal, footpath or beach.
Sian kick-started Plastic Free Anglesey earlier this year in the hope that Anglesey can become the first local authority in Wales to achieve official ‘plastic free’ status. The campaign has been backed by the island’s county council and they are working with local businesses, organisations, individuals and clubs to eradicate single-use plastic and safeguard Anglesey’s wildlife and stunning beaches.
Plastic Free Aberporth
Gail Tudor took part in a sea voyage last summer which trawled for plastic and micro plastics in the seas around Britain. Having witnessed first-hand the scale of the problem, she returned home inspired to create change, founding Plastic Free Aberporth with a group of interested locals.
The beautiful village on the Ceredigion Heritage Coast may not look like it has a problem with plastic. But look closer and you will find micro plastic everywhere, often washed in with the tide. The locals take pride in their beaches by regularly picking up litter, but Gail was convinced they could go one step further. Using the Surfers Against Sewage ‘Plastic Free Coastlines‘ community toolkit as a guide, Plastic Free Aberporth were able to start changing minds and habits in their village. They asked local businesses to remove or replace at least three items of single-use plastic. Examples of this include the village shop which returned to selling milk in reusable glass bottles and the pub which stopped serving drinks with plastic straws.
In January, Aberporth became the first village in Wales to gain ‘Plastic Free’ status and third in the whole of the UK. Their next goal is to educate summer tourists and help other towns and villages to follow suit.
Plastic Free Penarth
Anthony Slaughter is a member of Gwyrddio Penarth Greening (GPG), a community-based organisation raising awareness around climate change and environmental issues. They lead practical projects that help Penarth to become a more sustainable and resilient town. These include planting a community orchard, organising the annual local food festival and running the Shop Penarth loyalty card scheme to support independent businesses.
Inspired by Aberporth’s success, GPG signed up to the Plastic Free Coastlines campaign. Working with other local groups such as the Penarth Beach Wardens, they are hoping to achieve Plastic Free Penarth status in the coming months. In addition to getting local businesses on board, GPG is encouraging individuals to examine their own use of single-use plastics and providing information about suitable replacements.
Anthony believes many people feel powerless in the face of such a serious global problem, but that individual action at a local level does make a difference.
Reuse. Recycle. Reduce your use. If you’re looking for plastic-free alternatives, ensure they’re fully sustainable and FSC certified.
Together, we can turn the tide on plastic, but we need all the voices we can get. Join our fight against plastic pollution to be the first to hear what you can do to help and to receive tips on how to reduce plastic waste in your own life.
This woman has the most beautiful giggle I’ve ever heard. It bubbles out of her like water.
Her name is Jitani. She runs a homestay business in a village called Dalla in the south west of Nepal.
With her is Niru, her daughter. The two of them run their homestay together, sharing their hospitality and the traditional Tharu way of life with their guests. Jitani also works on a neighbour’s farm for extra money, but the homestay is her main source of income.
Inside their home is a stove that runs on biogas, from a scheme subsidised by WWF, as is the homestay itself. It’s part of a project to help people conserve the natural environment in this breathtakingly beautiful country. The biogas system means that they don’t have to take firewood from the slowly recovering forests; the homestay gives them a source of income that makes it easier to live alongside the wildlife here.
In the yard three goats are tied up under a shelter, a couple of kids bouncing nearby. Chickens scratch about too, and bony-ribbed oxen are standing quietly.
It’s peaceful now, but it’s not always this way. This village is in a corridor of land between two national parks, and it’s one of those places where human and wild worlds meet. Leopards come to these houses and snatch the goats. Elephants raid crops during the harvest season, and sometimes kill people who get in the way.
The biggest predator in these parts is the tiger. It doesn’t often venture out of the forests, and its increasing population is one reason for leopards coming into the villages: tigers don’t like to share their habitat.
Jitani has seen a tiger once in her life. She was out in the forest gathering firewood, in the days before her biogas stove, when she saw something moving. She gestures to show the distance – it’s not far at all. She was so shocked that she just stood there, until the tiger turned and disappeared back into the forest. It doesn’t sound like an experience she wants to repeat.
Not everyone is so lucky. Bhadai Tharu, the chairperson of a community forest users group here, lost his eye to a tiger. He was in an area of tall grass when he almost ran into one. Startled, it swiped at him with its paw, catching his face. His companion fainted in shock when he saw the injury, but Bhadai was eventually found and taken to hospital. It took him a long time to stop being angry, he says.
Now, you can see none of that anger. He looks almost gleeful as he repeats his often-told story – how he pushed the tiger back with his elbow, and told it to get away.
Now, Bhadai’s something of a celebrity. His story’s been covered by all the Nepalese papers, and some international too. He clearly enjoys telling it – you can see him settling back into his ‘once upon a time’ – but that doesn’t diminish his heroism. How many people could go from feeling such rage at a life-changing injury to protecting the animal that caused it?
Bhadai says he gradually came to realise that he had been in the tiger’s territory, not the other way round. It was his fault. Still, I can’t help thinking it’s pretty big of him.
It’s attitudes like Bhadai’s that we need, if conservation is to continue successfully. Nepal is an exemplar when it comes to conservation, and wildlife populations are steadily increasing. But more wildlife in these edge-lands near human habitation is bound to mean more conflict.
The stories are heart-breaking. Last year a fourteen-year-old boy was killed by an elephant on his way to school. Hemant Acharya, chairman of one of the community-based anti-poaching units here, lost his father when he was twenty-one, also to an elephant.
Besides, Nepal is still suffering from the earthquake that hit in 2015. 9,000 people were killed, and still the evidence is everywhere. Over Kathmandu, the dust hangs in a heavy smog that obscures the mountains completely. Nepali people, I can’t help feeling, could be forgiven for thinking that there might be more important things than conservation. But, somehow, an intense national pride in the natural beauty of this little Himalayan country persists.
I can certainly share in a healthy dose of fear for the huge fauna of Nepal. It’s something I think we don’t appreciate in a country where most people are unlikely to encounter anything more dangerous than a wasp. In Bardia National Park, a tourist hotspot but also a hub of wildlife conservation, we went looking for tigers.
We spent three hours of one afternoon watching the banks of a river where a tiger had been seen. Nothing. The next morning we went out early, and waited for another three hours.
We’d been trying to sit unobtrusively, keeping still and talking in whispers. When the tiger did appear all that was abandoned. Shouts of ‘Bagh! Bagh!’ – ‘Tiger! Tiger!’ – rang out across the river, and there was a great deal of rushing about. The tiger was a long way away, and she ignored us. Still, it was electrifying. Seeing her fresh markings in the earth not far from our viewing spot later that day was a reminder that this was her home, and she could come and go as she pleased.
Bardia is a conservation success story. Tiger numbers have increased here – the 18 estimated in 2009 rose to 50 in 2013 – and WWF has been a huge part of that. Critical to the success has been the recognition of how important local communities are – people like Jitani who have these animals for neighbours. Without them on-side, it’s clear that none of this would have been possible. Visiting the villages with the team, I can appreciate how hard they’ve worked to build these relationships and make this a partnership that works for everyone.
I came away from Nepal feeling a huge sense of admiration for what’s been achieved here. To restore forests as they’ve done, to see such great increases in the numbers of tigers – key indicators of the health of the whole ecosystem – is evidence of the years of hard work that have gone into restoring Nepal’s natural wealth.
Jitani’s giggle will stay with me – and the dust, and the friendly people, and that faraway tiger – for a long time.
Plastic waste is one of the biggest threats to wildlife and our natural environment, not to mention the health concerns. We all have our part to play, as individuals and in our communities. WWF want a UK ban on avoidable single use plastics by 2025 and Welsh Government will need to play its part, delivering on its unique sustainability law. Below we’ve highlighted just a few of the many Welsh businesses joining the fight against plastic pollution, by offering customers ‘zero waste shopping.’
Chloe and Robin have a passion for our natural world and believe it should be easy for consumers to shop sustainably. Natural Weigh in Crickhowell, which they opened in March this year, offers customers a chance go plastic free while doing their regular shop. Natural Weigh sells organic, additive free food from hoppers straight to the customer’s own containers. Chloe and Robin have been overwhelmed with the positive response from the local community and are proud to enable people to live a more sustainable life.
During Earth Hour this year, Natural Weigh made a #PromiseForThePlanet to tackle plastic waste in their supply chain. So far they’re making good on their Promise by switching cleaning product supplier, allowing them to take back and refill the 15L containers. They’ve also switched suppliers for their food products, which allows them to return the plastic pallet wrap, meaning the wrap can be collected in bulk is much more cost effective to recycle.
Robin and Chloe look forward to a day when everyone has easy access to plastic free food and are happy to provide information to people thinking about setting up their own zero waste shop.
SUSSED (a Sustainable Wales project) is a community run shop in Porthcawl specialising in ethical and environmentally-friendly products. They have a dedicated team of volunteers who work in shifts, run events, a pop-up cafe and workshops.
SUSSED sells a number of innovative products that challenge the culture of disposables. One such item is an indoor/outdoor rug which looks and feels like wool but is crafted by weaving together strands of up to 3000 recycled plastic bottles! The rugs are stain resistant, sunlight fading resistant and can be cleaned with a hosepipe and dry in minutes. SUSSED operates by a mantra of reduce and reuse – a circular economy.
In addition to these quirky products, customers can refill their own containers with biodegradable washing up and laundry liquids.
SUSSED believe that by promoting the sale of biodegradable, recycled and organic goods, they can safeguard the environment without compromising on quality.
Born and bred in Cardiff, Sophie Rae moved away after university to live in London. Upon returning to her hometown she was shocked at the lack of stores which could support her new-found eco habits. So, she decided to open her own!
Ripple will be a zero waste store, offering plastic-free alternatives to mainstream packaging – dried groceries will be available to buy in bulk, and customers will be encouraged to bring their own containers. This method of shopping is cost effective as consumers won’t pay for pointless packaging and dramatically reduces their plastic footprint. Ripple will also stock a range of natural beauty products that have minimal or zero plastic packaging.
Sophie’s aim is to ensure Cardiff can hold its own as a ‘green city’ and live up to the praise of being Wales’ capital. She also wants to remind consumers that buying power can have a huge impact – the ripple effect. If every person makes just one small change to the way they consume, that could create waves of change.
How you can help
We all have an important role to play in fighting back against plastic pollution – individuals, businesses and governments. If we don’t take urgent action, there could be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050.
Did you know there are around 10 times more trees on our planet than stars in our galaxy? But we should not take that fact for granted. We are still losing 10 billion trees every year. That is why WWF is working with our partners to inspire the world to better protect and restore a trillion trees by 2050. It is terrific to have champions for our work like Professor Jonathan Drori who has produced a wonderful new celebration of trees. Read on to find out more!
The first time I saw my father cry was when a magnificent Cedar of Lebanon in Richmond Park was struck by lightning and had to be felled. I was just a child, and until then I’d thought my father was all-powerful and would be able to protect such a valuable thing. Pondering on that experience, I’ve often thought that a measure of the strength and stability of a society is reflected in the way it values and protects its wild trees.
I’ve been researching for my new project, Around the World in 80 Trees, a book which I hope is a surprising and enjoyable global tour of tree species, some seemingly well-known, some obscure, and the way that human history and folklore are intertwined with plant science. As I unearthed fascinating stories and examined the latest research, I noticed a common and unsettling theme of unsustainable exploitation.
If we don’t overdo it, trees give us all sorts of valuable things (fruit, nuts, resin, latex…) without us necessarily incurring intolerable damage. Living trees happily hold soils together and slow down racing rainwater. They shade us and purify our air and spark pleasant memories as well as poignant ones. And then there’s timber. I’m all for planting forests (not monocultures please!) to provide building materials and paper. There are arguments for woodchip boilers too. If we use truly sustainable approaches we can provide a renewable resource for our many needs while maintaining habitats for precious wildlife.
At the core of this challenge is meeting the needs of today without harming the prospects of the future. In developing countries such as Haiti, landscapes have been denuded and the soils impoverished by citizens desperate for firewood and with no alternative. Rosewood (Dalbergia) is being systematically smuggled out of Madagascar’s dwindling forests, mainly for a ravenous Chinese market. The Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) – there were huge forests of it in South West Australia – was exported all the way to London at the end of the 19th century, to make wooden paving for the capital’s swankiest streets. Whoever could chop fastest and export the most made the biggest profits. The Brazilwood (Paubrasilia echinata) that gave its name to the country, was a valuable source of red dye in renaissance times and more recently the source of the world’s best cello and violin bows. Uncontrolled extraction has put the species at risk. The solution to this ‘race to the bottom’ is often to provide viable economic alternatives for those in poverty and in need of income, timber or fuel – and WWF helps communities to find these alternatives in many corners of the world.
The very land on which trees grow is often under pressure for other uses – for agriculture, for building development, for roads and for golf courses. Mangroves (Rhizophora), which can only grow at the water’s edge, are threatened by encroaching fish-farms and by sea-level rise as a result of climate change. Vast areas of the Amazon and other rainforests have been lost to industrialised farming; and in Sheffield, England, the local government has used puzzling short-term financial arguments to justify the butchery of health-giving street-trees. Arguably these are not signs of strength and stability. A truly strong society helps to sustain biodiversity, knowing that biodiversity underpins future stability for us all.
I hope that the stories in Around the World in 80 Trees might encourage more people to appreciate and enjoy trees and therefore put them higher up their list of things to hang on to.
Find out more here, and follow #80Trees where I’ll be posting weird and wonderful things I discover about trees. Proceeds from the book will go to various UK environmental charities, including WWF.
Survey results released this week have revealed that the number of mountain gorillas in the Virunga Massif have increased to a minimum of 604. This brings the total wild population of mountain gorillas to more than 1,000 and makes it the only great ape in the world that is believed to be increasing. But there’s so much more to this story than ‘just’ a number…
Mountain gorillas are only found in two isolated populations in Africa. One population lives in the Virunga Massif – an area comprised of three national parks, spanning the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The other population lives in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, which is connected with DRC’s Sarambwe Nature Reserve.
Map showing the two mountain gorilla populations
The best monitored ape subspecies
There have been surveys of mountain gorilla numbers every 5-10 years since 1971. Separate surveys are conducted in the two areas where mountain gorillas live, and together the results give us a global estimate of mountain gorilla numbers. The most recent survey was of the Virunga Massif.
No mean feat
Data collection involved twelve teams of six people, plus extra guards – a total of 78 people from more than 10 different institutions. Each team is comprised of a team leader, an assistant leader, two gorilla trackers, a ranger, and a cook. Importantly, each team included representation from each of the three countries involved, which is important for strengthening relationships and ensuring collective ownership. Throughout the survey, at any one time, half of the teams were in the forest, whilst the over half would be resting and restocking equipment and supplies. Every two weeks they would swap over. Together, the teams systematically covered more than 2,000 km of difficult forested terrain in the Virunga Massif. Check out this interview with Joseph Arinaitwe who shares his experiences as a census team leader:
A day in the life of a mountain gorilla census team leader - YouTube
A census, but not as we know it
Counting mountain gorillas doesn’t actually involve counting gorillas. Some mountain gorillas have been habituated to the presence of people for the purpose of tourism or research. Those gorillas are monitored on a pretty much daily basis and it would be possible to literally count them. But crucially, the census also tells us information about unhabituated gorillas – those that aren’t regularly monitored – and it would be impossible to directly count those gorillas. The survey teams instead search for signs of mountain gorillas, such as trails and footprints, and use these to locate gorilla nest sites, where they can collect faecal (poo!) samples for genetic analysis.
What’s in a number?
So, we know now there are 604 mountain gorillas in the Virunga Massif – right? Well, sort of. What we’re certain of is the number of known individuals based on the DNA samples that were collected – that’s 604. But even with the enormous effort that was put in, it’s very unlikely that we got faecal samples from every gorilla in the landscape. That means that the ‘number of known individuals’ is a minimum count and a conservative estimate of the population. But there are ways to calculate a more representative estimate and we’re working on those.
The latest survey of the gorillas in the Virunga Massif involved two entire ‘sweeps’ of the landscape – in other words, the teams covered the entire area and then a few months later they covered it again. During each sweep, faecal samples were collected and, through DNA analysis in a laboratory, individual gorillas were identified. By comparing those individuals that were identified in the first sweep with those that were identified in the second sweep and applying some clever statistics, we can get a sense of the amount of gorillas we missed in the survey. We use that information to come up with a more accurate overall estimate, which will be a range of values within which we are sure the true value lies. We’ll release those estimates later in the year.
Undertaking two sweeps during the survey is part of technique known as “capture-mark-recapture”. One of the fundamental assumptions of the capture-mark-recapture method is that each individual in a population has an equal chance of being ‘detected’ – in the case of the mountain gorilla survey, by ‘detected’ we mean their poo is collected. For mountain gorillas, that assumption isn’t entirely valid; gorillas live in social groups so if you ‘detect’ (find the poo of) one individual in a group you’re more likely to ‘detect’ (find the poo of) the other members of that group too because they will be nearby. Going forward, we’re going to try and apply some more clever statistics to address this challenge.
We’re getting better and better at estimating mountain gorilla population numbers. That’s absolutely a good thing, but it complicates our ability to compare the most recent survey results with previous counts. The last census of the Virunga Massif was in 2010 and that identified an estimated gorilla population of 480. But that estimate was based on only one sweep of the landscape, and included an estimated correction for unknown infants. And so we can’t directly compare the results without acknowledging that the different methodologies may have had some impact.
Only (approximately) half of the story
As these results from the Virunga Massif survey are released, teams in Uganda are recovering from the first sweep of the survey of the gorilla population in the Bwindi-Sarambwe landscape. Sweep two of that landscape will be carried out later in the year and then, once the genetic analysis is done, we’ll be able to update the estimate for that population. Fingers crossed we see an increase there too!
Together we can do so much
The positive survey results are testament to the extraordinary efforts made by rangers, communities, governments and NGOs. People are, quite literally, risking their lives to protect mountain gorillas. Their dedication cannot be overstated. Today is a day for celebration, undoubtedly. But the work to protect this incredible species and its habitat isn’t yet done. The threats to mountain gorillas haven’t disappeared – in many cases they are increasing.
We’re committed to doing everything we can to build on today’s survey results and secure a future for the mountain gorilla. Are you with us?
The Virunga Massif mountain gorilla census was conducted by the Protected Area Authorities in the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda (l’Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, the Rwanda Development Board and the Uganda Wildlife Authority) under the transboundary framework of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration.
The census was supported by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (a coalition of Fauna & Flora International and WWF), Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation, Gorilla Doctors, and North Carolina Zoo.
The census was funded by Fauna & Flora International, WWF, and Partners in Conservation at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium. Additional financial support to the census science committee was provided by Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe.
Plastic is one of the most ubiquitous manmade compounds on earth. Since large-scale production of the synthetic materials began in the early 1950s to 2015, humans have created more than 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics. Alarmingly, more than half of that plastic was produced in the last 13 years. Unless something drastic is done, that trend is set to increase further in the future. It’s estimated that at least 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the oceans every year with detrimental impacts on species, habitat and people. This World Turtle Day, I want to explain why it’s so very important that we all take action to reduce our plastic use.
Marine turtles are long-lived, keystone species that utilise a wide range of marine habitats including beaches; near shore habitats of sea grass, corals and mangroves; the pelagic zone; and open ocean. Given the scale of the plastics problem and the marine turtle’s broad habitat use, it’s not surprising that turtles and plastics regularly come into contact. And that meeting is not a good one.
There has been considerable coverage of the problems associated with turtles swallowing plastics, but the problems start even before turtles are in the water. Beaches strewn with plastics make it difficult for nesting females to reach suitable nesting sites. Likewise, plastic debris can be a major obstacle for newly emerged hatchlings who are desperately trying to reach the sea. It’s estimated that out of about 1,000 turtles that hatch, only one will reach adulthood so anything that makes a hatchling’s life harder is a big problem. In addition to being physical barriers, the presence of plastic fragments can impact the permeability and temperature of sediments which can negatively impact sex ratios and hatchling success rates.
Once in the water, the problems continue. For example, plastic often gets entangled in “ghost” fishing gears (fishing gear that has been lost, dumped or abandoned) and this can easily cause injury to a turtle which can have detrimental impacts on a turtle’s ability to swim and feed. Plastic can also easily be mistaken for food and accidently swallowed by turtles, as well as a range of other marine animals – birds, for example, are often attracted to the smell of the algae that grows on floating plastic. Because it’s impossible to digest plastic, marine organisms develop infections and blockages of the digestive systems, often with devastating consequences.
So what are we doing about it? As I’m sure you will be aware, in the last few months there has been an incredible swell in global attention on plastics. We’re working hard to ensure that Kenya plays its role in the fight against plastics.
Education is key and we’re working with schools, the general public and policy makers to raise awareness and ultimately change behaviour when it comes to plastic use. At the same time, we’re piloting and implementing a range of initiatives focused on plastic production and waste management. In my earlier blogs, you may have read about our beach clean-up efforts. We’re also working with local women’s groups to find novel ways to turn plastic waste into a profitable business ventures, such as the ‘trash to cash initiative’ which recycles discarded flip-flops and other marine debris into products jewellery, accessories and one-off sculptures to be sold to tourists.
We know there’s a long way to go yet, but we know we have to do this for the good of our marine habitats and the species and communities that depend on them. This World Turtle Day, why don’t you make a promise to reduce your plastic use?
It’s National Vegetarian Week, a time to make vegetables and fruits the hero of our plates and an opportunity to make our diets more varied and fuller in fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s easy to take inspiration from China and Malaysia, where much of the food is plant-based, or look to the variety of salads, vegetable stews, pasta and rice dishes which form part of the Mediterranean diet.
The health benefits of moderating your meat and dairy intake and increasing the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables we eat include lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease. But these choices also go a step further and contribute towards the health of our planet.
Duncan Williamson, Food Policy Manager at WWF-UK, explains just some of the ways your food choices can positively impact on the environment and the future of our planet.
Local food for sale at a shop in Cley Next the Sea, Norfolk, UK.
Combat climate change
Food is currently responsible for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe alone, more than even the transport sector. Meat and livestock are the biggest contributor to this, with farming and feed production being major contributors.
By reducing meat consumption, and eating less dairy products, we can reduce the carbon footprint of our diets and help to tackle climate change in the process. And if we all adopted more sustainable diets, we’d be able to reduce the carbon emissions of our food system by 30% by 2030.
Agriculture is the biggest cause of forest loss, devastating forests worldwide that are home to some of our most vulnerable and precious wildlife species. In fact, the way we produce our food is actually leading to species extinctions, as we take their habitat and convert it to land for agriculture.
The largest impact actually comes from what we’re feeding our livestock – in particular poultry and pigs. The huge amount of land needed to produce protein-rich feeds such as soy is having severe effects on species and their habitats, especially in vulnerable areas such as the Amazon, the Brazilian Cerrado, the Congo Basin and the Himalayas. What’s more, using soy to feed livestock is inefficient: it takes half a kilogram of soy to produce just one kilogram of pork.
In the UK, we eat too much protein, and over a third of the protein we eat comes from animal sources. This affects our carbon and land footprint. In 2010, we used an area the size of Yorkshire to produce enough soy just to feed our livestock. If global demand grows as anticipated, we’d need to step up our feed production 80% by 2050, which just isn’t sustainable.
This National Vegetarian Week, take the opportunity to eat more fruit, vegetables, nuts and pulses. This doesn’t mean cutting out meat and dairy entirely – an omnivorous diet can be low carbon and healthy. In doing so, you could be opening yourself up to a whole new range of recipes and exciting, healthy food combinations.
The Ganges is one of the world’s iconic rivers, and its home to over 650 million people, making it the most populous river basin in the world. But it’s not just people who rely on this mighty river, it’s also home to a number of incredible species including Ganges river dolphins, gharials (a specialist fish-eating crocodile) the smooth coated otter, freshwater turtles and the golden mahseer. Sadly, the Ganges is in trouble; pollution is a huge concern with both domestic and industrial water use contributing to the issue. Read on to find out what we’re doing about it…
Back in 2016, the BBC produced a news piece on the impact the leather industry has on the Ganges River, and I wrote a blog outlining our plans to tackle the issue. A lot of the leather we buy in the UK is produced along the banks of the Ganges. You can find out more about India’s leather industry in our new infographic.
Today, we’re really excited to launch our Leather Buyers Platform, a group of UK fashion and equestrian businesses, who are working with us to improve the sustainability of leather production in India to protect this precious river.
Platform membership has grown since the work began in 2016 and it now includes well known fashion brands such as ASOS, John Lewis, Matalan and Next, equestrian companies including Shires Equestrian and Vale Brothers, and finance and trade associations including HSBC and the British Retail Consortium. The combined influence of these businesses and WWF is enabling us to take a number of actions to protect the Ganges including:
Developing a bespoke assessment for small tanneries to enable businesses to work with their smaller suppliers to understand how practices could be improved and benchmarking progress over time;
Assessing 40 tanneries in Kanpur (a regional leather cluster) for their clean technology and water management practices, then working with a subset of this group to support them to improve their practices;
As a group, meeting with the Indian Government to show support for sustainable leather production and advocate for improvements to policy and regulation to support improvements in the industry.
Following the assessment of 40 tanneries, we undertook some bespoke work with a group of 10 tanneries to support them to improve. Interim results have already shown promising impacts in terms of the tanneries environmental performance:
45% of tanneries had either achieved or had made substantial progress towards achievement of high priority actions (as opposed to 25% before intervention);
53% had achieved or made progress on medium priority actions (as opposed to 35% at the start of the initiative);
In one of the tanneries there was a 20% improvement in energy efficiency and 35% improvement in water efficiency achieved through the handholding intervention. Similar results are expected in the other tanneries.
When we started this project, our focus was on the Kanpur leather cluster. Now that we have developed our approach and been encouraged by its impact the Platform has set an ambition to scale up the work to cover other leather clusters in India. We’re really excited about the potential this has for supporting sustainable leather production nationally and protecting India’s precious freshwater environment and communities and businesses that rely on it.
No single business could have tackled this issue alone – it is simply too big a challenge and it requires a collective approach to implement solutions. We believe that by working together, we can make a real difference. Find out what some of the Platform members think in our new film, launching today:
Working with UK leather buyers to positively impact the Ganges - YouTube
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Platform, you can visit our website. We’d love to hear from businesses who are interested in joining us; you can get in touch with us by
Last week Scotland moved a step closer to becoming a nation where no one has to live in a cold home and where keeping warm no longer costs the earth. At the All Energy Conference, the First Minister launched a “route map” for an Energy Efficient Scotland – a new 20 year programme to transform the country’s building stock, saving tonnes of carbon emissions and tackling fuel poverty.
There’s a lot to welcome in the new plans. A proposal to ramp up ambition in social housing and plans to regulate for minimum energy efficiency standards in Scotland’s growing private rented sector will improve the lives of tens of thousands of tenants. Particularly welcome is the Government’s expectation that most homes will achieve an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of C by 2030. But this expectation is not a firm target. Instead, the route map’s target date to reach EPC C is a full decade later at 2040.
For several years WWF Scotland and many others have called for a target to get the vast majority of Scotland’s homes to an EPC rating of C by 2025. Doing so would make a significant dent in the number of people facing fuel poverty and could save as much as a million extra tonnes of CO2. There is also strong evidence that such an ambitious target could also save the NHS tens of millions of pounds a year and create thousands of jobs in communities across the country as well as boosting economic growth.
The Scottish Government could reap all of these benefits if they were to set an earlier target date for EPC C and match the target with the necessary funding, incentives and regulation. That extra funding is essential for landlords, councils and housing associations, but also for homeowners.
Owner occupiers make up nearly two thirds of Scotland’s households so bringing their homes up to standard is essential in meeting the overall target of EPC C. Yet the new plans contain no new incentives like tax breaks, grants or loans to help people meet the costs of improvements and no clear plan for when or how any regulations would be introduced down the line.
Setting a plan now for regulation and incentives would give homeowners the certainty they need to invest and would send a strong signal to the energy efficiency industry that there is sufficient demand to create new jobs.
Energy-efficient homes use less fuel and save money
The planet simply cannot wait until 2040 for us to stop wasting energy through our leaky buildings, and a generation of tenants and homeowners cannot afford to face the consequences of fuel poverty for decades to come.
If Scotland is to reap the benefits of a low carbon future and tackle the scourge of fuel poverty, the Government’s plans for energy efficiency must be strengthened. MSPs have a chance to set stronger targets in the new Climate Change Bill and the upcoming Fuel Poverty (Scotland) Bill this year. For Scotland’s people and for the planet, I hope they do.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a farming system that, instead of being a driver of wildlife decline, actually started to put things back? That started to regenerate the soil naturally? That started to bring back birds, bees and butterflies? That made wonderful environments for farm animals and for our wildlife too? What if we had regenerative farming that combined food production with nature protection?
Well, the good news is that Brexit and the forthcoming Agriculture Bill presents us with a once in a generation opportunity for a fundamental redesign of the way we farm in the UK.
The Government has recognised that there is a need to move away from direct payments, based on the size of the land a particular farm covers, and in favour of ‘public goods’. This is a welcome first step. Now we must all work together and campaign for a reformulation of food and farming policy so that its core objective is to provide nutritious food produced to high environmental and animal welfare standards.
Farming can take place in harmony with nature. I’ve visited farmers, who are doing just that. Farmers like John and Guy Turner in Lincolnshire, who rear cattle to the standards of the Pasture Fed Livestock Association (PFLA). Their cows have the pick of the farm’s plantlife and move round the farm in rotation with the Turners’ crops. “By having grass and grazing animals on the farm, we’re putting fertility back into the soil”, John explains.
And the farm is home to wildlife too, “There’s been a massive increase in the amount of wildlife: butterflies, day moths, bees …kites, buzzards, kestrels, barn owls … in order for these to thrive and to stay on the farm, you’ve got to have the foodweb beneath them. You’ve got to have the small mammals, and for the small mammals to thrive, you’ve got to have the insects and worms and that sort of thing,” says John.
The Turners are part of a growing movement of farmers worldwide moving away from industrial farming in favour of a more compassionate, regenerative way of producing food.
Research by the PFLA in 2016 showed that pasture-fed livestock farmers like the Turners are able to make as much profit if not more than anyone else in the country. The reasons for this include the lower cost of feeding grass to animals when compared to grain. Costs are reduced still further by the effect of keeping animals in their natural environment: they tend to be healthier, so vets’ bills are lower.
When you close your eyes and imagine where the very best food comes from, what does it look like? In my experience people imagine fields, wildlife, swaying crops, the buzzing of bees, bird song. They think of diverse landscapes, the kind of place you’d like to visit: beautiful countryside.
Farming that combines protection of the environment and wildlife with food production means moving away from monocultures, creating space for nature, safeguarding landscapes and water supplies, reducing use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, introducing rotations to restore and maintain soil quality, looking after hedgerows and trees.
Transforming our farming and food systems will also mean redefining the role of livestock, so that they are primarily seen as converters of inedible materials into meat and milk. The UK could become a world leader in pasture-fed livestock and the skilful and sustainable management of such systems.
In my lifetime, Britain has lost 44 million birds; that’s one breeding pair gone every minute. Birds including turtle doves, grey partridges, corn buntings and tree sparrows have declined by 90 per cent or more over the last forty years.
I look forward to working with WWF and others to secure a strong Agriculture Bill that sets the right direction for our food, farming and our health. Changes for some farmers may be radical and support may well be needed. However, as WWF’s recent polling reveals, 91% of the UK public want the government to pay farmers to protect nature.