The coronavirus crisis causes the biggest drop in carbon emissions in history as Facebook powers 7,000 homes with excess heat from its data centre. Meanwhile, millions of Brits say they can’t afford a more sustainable lifestyle, McDonald’s opens a flagship Net Zero restaurant in Florida’s Disney World, and Aldi commits to halving its plastic packaging by 2025. It’s the Good With Money weekly news brief.
Lockdowns lead to largest drop in carbon emissions in history
The coronavirus pandemic has sparked the biggest drop in carbon emissions in human history, according to a new study.
Lockdowns, travel bans and closed manufacturing sites have caused global emissions to drop by 4.6 per cent, according to a University of Sydney review of 38 regions and 26 sectors published in the journal Plos One.
Fine particle pollution fell by 3.8 per cent and two other types of air pollution – sulfur dioxide, which is linked to a number of respiratory issues, and nitrogen oxide, which leads to smog – declined 2.9 per cent.
The largest emissions drops occurred in the United States and China, mostly due to grounded air travel and a decrease in power, water and gas use.
The dramatic decline in carbon emissions still falls short of the efforts needed to limit global heating to 1.5C by 2050, however. Even if global greenhouse gas emissions were to sustain the 4.6 per cent decline each year, emissions would need to drop another 3 per cent every year between 2020 and 2030 to be on track to limit global warming and avoid the most extreme outcomes of the climate crisis.
Facebook data centre powers 7,000 homes
Facebook’s data centre in Denmark is donating its excess heat to warm 7,000 nearby homes.
The tech company says that using the 100,000 MWh of waste heat generated by its wind-powered facility in Odense to power homes will help the city to dramatically cut its carbon emissions.
Data centres are home to tens of thousands of computer servers. They are networked together and then linked to the outside world, storing all the information a website needs to operate.
For Facebook, data is being processed and stored by these servers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These warehouses filled with computers generate a considerable amount of excess heat. Cooling data centres has long proved an environmental challenge, with some opting for radical solutions like building them underwater or inside the Arctic Circle.
An environmentally-friendly solution is to simply recycle the heat. Facebook says that although none of the technology is new, the combination of heat pumps and recycled data centre energy will help the city with its goal to phase out the use of coal by 2023. It estimates that the data centre will reduce Odense’s demand for coal by up to 25 per cent.
Brits ‘can’t afford’ to go green
Millions of Brits say they cannot afford to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, according to a new survey.
The poll of 2,000 adults by Nationwide Building Society found that over half (59 per cent) feel they haven’t got the budget to make any eco-friendly changes to their current lifestyle at all.
The average person has just £159 disposable income per month, but seven in 10 of those questions said they wished they had more to allow them to live a greener lifestyle.
Organic food, electric cars, energy-saving bulbs for the home and double glazing were just some of the green items people would love to buy, but simply cannot afford. An overwhelming eight in 10 adults said the government should do more to incentivise home owners to help save the planet. It comes as chancellor Rishi Sunak announced last week that households will be offered up to £5,000 for energy-saving home improvements, with the government meeting two thirds of the cost.
Claire Tracey, Chief Strategy and Sustainability Officer for Nationwide Building Society, said: “Financial constraints shouldn’t hold people back from being able to be more eco-friendly. We welcome the government making up to £5,000 available to homeowners to retrofit their homes.”
McDonald’s goes Net Zero at Disney World
McDonald’s is to open a first-of-its-kind Net Zero restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
The ‘global flagship restaurant’ is designed to create enough renewable energy on-site to cover 100 per cent of its energy needs on a net annual basis. It will act as a learning hub for McDonald’s to test solutions for reducing energy and water use as it works to slash emissions from its operations around the world.
Located on Buena Vista Drive near the All-Star Resorts, the recently re-modelled restaurant is now open for take-away, Drive Thru, and delivery service with social distancing measures in places.
The restaurant features a solar-paneled roof, with photovoltaic glass panels integrated throughout the building, and solar parking lot lights on the property’s exterior.
Meanwhile, an automated energy system and passive ventilation dining-room circulates air and regulates temperature, without the need for energy-hungry cooling systems.
Aldi to halve plastic packaging use in the UK by 2025
Aldi UK and Ireland has pledged to halve the amount of plastic packaging it uses annually by 2025.
The new commitment will see 2.2 billion pieces of plastic removed from the supermarket’s product lines over the next five years, most of which will be single-use. This is equivalent to 74,000 tonnes in weight.
Plastic wrapping on toilet rolls, for example, will be replaced with a paper alternative, and double lids will be removed from cream and yoghurts.
Aldi UK will also continue its phase-out of plastic trays on steak lines, replacing them with cardboard alternatives.
Since launching its updated plastics strategy in 2018, Aldi has removed more than 6,000 tonnes of plastic packaging from products, including flexible sleeves on multipack tins, expanded polystyrene pizza bases and fruit and vegetable multipacks. The new target aims to accelerate this progress and builds on a previous commitment to reduce plastic packaging volumes by 25 per cent by 2023.