Paris proof: a road map to sustainability

Windfarm, Friesland, the Netherlands. Photo: Pxfuel

As stakeholders ponder the different ways to achieve the aims of the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement, an innovative approach has been taken by the Dutch Green Building Council (DGBC) in the Netherlands. The goal? The creation of a Paris Proof built environment by 2040.

What does Paris Proof mean? A two thirds reduction of energy consumption in comparison to the current average. This is significantly more than what was required in 2016, which was a reduction of one fifth, and therefore represents one of the more ambitious nationally determined contributions (NDCs) from any country.

This multi-year sustainability programme requires an array of route maps across a range of sectors, which will sit under the umbrella of the Delta Plan for Sustainable Renovation. It will require a range of approaches, dependent on the size of the sector in question. For the six largest ones (healthcare, offices, retails, housing, logistics and education), the DGBC has partnered with working groups to push the best sustainability model. This involves, not surprisingly, buildings being tested for their current consumption levels. That’s the first step of the Delta Plan.

How will this work in practice for an organisation? There are six steps along the road:

  1. A portfolio inventory
  2. An analysis
  3. A sustainability plan
  4. Financing the operation
  5. Realising it
  6. Monitoring it

What are the targets? An office building must only use 50 kWh per square meter per year. By 2050, a care building with overnight accommodation will be allowed 80 kWh per square meter. For supermarkets, the number is larger: 150 kWh per square meter per year will still be available by that time. This will hit the two-thirds reduction target.

Of course, there is a bigger picture here than how much energy a given building must be using by 2050. That is the amount of energy that will be available by then. The Netherlands is committed to producing all energy sustainably – by wind, or solar power, for example – by that year, with the result that there will be less energy available; in short, one third of the current amount, with none of it producing CO₂ emissions. Therefore, the overall amount of energy that will be available perfectly aligns with the target for reduction. The detailed figures can be found here.

Participants at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Photo: wikimedia commons

Paris Proof will allow organisations to hit targets 10 years earlier, at a point where the amount of energy available will still be more than the required use under the model. This will obviously aid in future proofing the Netherlands for the new world of 2050.

How was this plan realised? An important step was the Paris Proof working conference that took place in The Hague on June 13th 2019 comprising DGBC participants, members of the Paris Proof working groups and any other stakeholders. This half-day event saw the DGBC present their road maps, with the idea of encouraging businesses to make their own personal versions that are pertinent to their buildings and organisation.

In order to push their plan and encourage its take-up in other countries, the DGBC is hosting the Paris Proof Congress on May 28th this year. Let us hope it’s well attended, encouraging other countries to push aspirational NDCs. This will a huge help in giving the Paris Climate Agreement the best chance of success.

Upcycled breakfast waste: Throw Away IPA, Cast off Pale Ale and Sling it out Stout

Throw Away IPA. Photo: Seven Bro7ers

I bet you didn’t think your leftover breakfast could be recycled into something you enjoy in the evening, and with such snappy monikers, too? Well, Seven Bro7hers, a family-run brewery (the clue’s in the name) based in Salford, has gone into partnership with Kellogg’s to make it happen, producing three distinct beers:

  • Throw Away IPA: made with Corn Flakes
  • Cast off Pale Ale: made with Rice Krispies
  • Sling it out Stout: made with Coco Pops

Here’s how it works.

Some cornflakes, rice crispies and coco pops don’t make the cut; perhaps because they’re a little overdone or the wrong size or colour. However, they’re obviously edible, taste fine and still have value. These ones formed the basis for Seven Bro7hers’ beer-making experiment. Handily, after they’d been playing around with this idea, Kellogg’s moved their HQ to Media City in Salford, and were approached by the brothers.

It turned out that Kellogg’s were sending over 500 tonnes a year of unused Corn Flakes to be used as animal feed. Kellogg’s as a company are very keen to push a sustainability agenda and are investing in it, so the idea of turning waste into beer sat very well with them, as you’d imagine. They now send a percentage of their unused cereal to Seven Bro7hers.

The first of the beers to be born was Throw Away IPA in November 2018, available on draught or in cans. The brothers discovered that if they replaced 80kg of the malted barley in their already existing stout and pale ale with Coco Pops and Rice Krispies respectively, they had two more cereal beers, giving them a mini-range. It was a case of getting right the ratio of cereal to the existing grain mix; once that was achieved, the brothers say that it’s much the same as making any other beer. It is, but other beers, either those made in small craft breweries or by the giants of the industry, aren’t doing their bit for sustainability.

Food waste in a landfill. Photo: USEPA

As a New York Times article from this July suggests, this is not just a commercial venture: it’s a genuine attempt to contribute to arresting food waste, which as we know plays such a role in climate change. Why? Because a third of the world’s food lies unused, or is wasted or lost. It then goes to landfills, where it decomposes, and releases methane gas into the atmosphere.

Next time you have a drink, think about this, and consider a pint (or can) of one of these beers, particularly if you love the taste of cereal (and don’t we all?) It’s nice to think that every glass you sink is contributing in a small way to the fight against climate change, isn’t it?

New Guidance from BREEAM

YMCA Lakeside

In advance of a 3 year strategy to be announced in early 2020, BREEAM has written to all its assessors to inform them of a new Customer Service Charter and Code of Practice. The message is that there have been improvements in timescales and services but clients should be assured of their ongoing commitment to enhancement, with a particular focus on improving turnaround times for resubmitted assessments as well as assessments requiring translation. Included within the Charter is a set of newly defined Quality Assurance Principles, which describe the themes and behaviours by which their auditors will be guided when conducting technical reviews of assessments. There are three areas:

Communication: To work in partnership with assessors to deliver effectively for them and their client

Trust in Assessors: To recognise the professional competence, reputation and quality of assessors and their work

Confidence in QA: To inspire assessor and end-client confidence in BREEAM, their schemes and certification

Furthermore, the Charter commits BREEAM to delivering outstanding customer service through the motivation of their people to serve customers’ needs in a professional manner. They recognise that their role is to support assessors and their clients via transparent, quality-assured standards, procedures and outcomes that provide value and confidence.

To that end, they have published service level standards for QA audits and new guidance for certification application requests that provide a transparent timeline for audit, feedback and certification. At the assessor’s request, this information can be sent directly to a client. New guidance for registration and licence applications is also in the Charter, with attendant timescales. Guidance for Green Specification ratings is included, with a Green Guide Calculator to enable assessors to quickly and efficiently generate Green Guide ratings.

The Code of Practice aims to promote:

  • the best standards of practice and professional behaviour by Assessors
  •  confidence in the integrity of the Scheme, Assessors, Assessment Services and Certification

Assessors must ensure that they understand and comply with this Code and any accompanying guidance. They must adhere to the Code of Practice and meet its requirements in the following areas:

  • Personal and professional standards
  • Skills and ability
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Marketing
  • Information for the client

The Code of Practice will be rolled-out as part of assessors’ annual licence renewal over the next 12 months (or as part of any new licence application from 2nd January 2020).

Better Buildings Partnership – bridging the performance gap in UK offices

In terms of energy efficiency in UK buildings, a performance gap exists between what was intended at the design stage and what actually happens at the use stage. Better Buildings Partnership’s (BBP) Design for Performance (DfP) initiative has been designed to fix this.

This new approach being pushed by the BBP is predicated upon measurable performance outcomes and is based upon a 3-year review of the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) Energy Rating & Commitment Agreement.  Sarah Ratcliffe, chair of the DfP executive board, and programme director at the BBP, explained the proposed change of approach like this:

The UK property industry desperately needs verification and disclosure of performance in use because, without these, the market cannot drive improvements in performance.

The problems pertaining to the current system are well-known:

  • Failing regulations
  • Current voluntary schemes check design intent, but seldom inspect whether this translates into better performing buildings 
  • Operational data is hard to get
  • Operational performance is not reported upon and is therefore invisible to investors, occupiers and the market in general

A picture has formed of a market that is operating blind, with no reliable way of ascertaining which buildings are performing well and which are not. In Australia, on the other hand, operational ratings are required, rather than the theoretical ones that form the basis of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), which were introduced into the UK following a European Union directive in 2007. A recent article about EPCs for ScienceDirect outlines a further aspect of the problem:

The performance gap, i.e. the difference between estimated and actual energy performance…, may be preventing adoption of bottom-up energy efficiency measures.

This intimates that EPCs may be not only doing the job they were created to do, but that 12 years on from their introduction, may actually be part of the problem. In that context, moving away from the current design-for-compliance model to one that can insert measurable performance outcomes at the brief stage makes sense.

What testing has taken place and is the plan achievable?

The DfP team and the BBP have run pilots and feasibility studies throughout the last 7 years. Initial findings clarified that NABERS could not be used accurately on existing schemes, as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) energy use could not be considered discretely from tenants’ other energy uses. Therefore, DfP decided to concentrate on developing the scheme solely for new buildings. Following this, a 2015 feasibility study in conjunction with Australian experts and pilots undertaken in the last 2 years tested the scheme in actual office developments. This has convinced the DfP that a national scheme equivalent to NABERS has legs in the UK. Moreover, the myriad failings of the current design-for-compliance process were writ large in the pilot studies, as Robert Cohen, technical lead at DfP, states:

The current system of applying energy efficiency requirements based on a theoretical model – the results of which are never, and can never be, verified by measurements – is so fundamentally flawed it is remarkable it’s continued for so long.

Of course, the success of this project will not just be based on its technical capacity to measure accurately and deliver the required ratings: it will also need industry buy-in, upskilling, engagement, training and a recognised accreditation scheme. Furthermore, it is important to leave scope for future transformation, as alluded to by one expert in the sector: “developers need to be mindful not to lock in the energy profile of a building, as the future may bring new efficiency measures and a rise or fall in energy demands.”

How will the benefits be obtained?

The aim is to achieve total market transformation. A key part of that is advanced modelling, which is standard in Australia and not part of the thinking in the UK. Virtual running of buildings before construction utilising software common in Australia will enable this to be done quite easily. Advanced simulation requires HVAC modelling and gives a much greater level of precision, with defined control systems that are written into the draft operations and then used by the engineers when designing the controls. This means the real building ends up being controlled in much the same way as its virtual version did at the modelling stage.

NABERS began as a voluntary scheme, and became mandatory throughout the market via the size of asset requiring disclosure slowly shrinking over time. The DfP believes this can be achieved in the UK in a much shorter period of time; as well as clearly making sense for creating environmentally sounder buildings, it adds a layer to the engineers’ jobs that make them more exciting. This can be used by firms to attract the best people and increase their retention once they’re on board. A win-win, then, for assets, the environment and engineering? Here are some headline statistics from Australia:

  • 870 million dollars in energy bills saved by users since 1999
  • 6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions saved – enough to power 93,430 homes for 1 year (based on Office Energy ratings only)
  • 78 percent of Australia’s office space is rated with NABERS

There is a difference worth pointing out, though: NABERS is a government programme and as such has state backing and buy-in. The BBP, on the other hand, is an umbrella for a number of companies from the private sector, who all have very good reasons, both commercial and environmental, to push the adoption in the UK of an equivalent scheme to NABERS. What remains to be seen is whether it can obtain the necessary government buy-in to roll this out across the sector. Will the move from voluntary to mandatory be more difficult in the UK? Only time will tell.

Mainer Associates can assist with a variety of services aimed at closing the performance gap including, occupation phase energy modelling (TM54), soft landings procedures, Post Occupancy Evaluation, energy monitoring strategies and BREEAM In-Use. Please contact us at

2030 Climate Challenge: RIBA sets out its stall

Photo: Architects Assembly organised by ACAN. instagram: @vanlophoto

As climate change continues to dominate discussion across a variety of sectors, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has followed up joining the June declaration of an environment and climate emergency by launching a climate change campaign initiative, in consultation with the Green Construction Board and the Committee on Climate Change. The summer announcement made it clear that the profession understands the size of the challenge. This campaign, seen alongside representatives from across the construction industry joining the recent Global Climate Strike, sends out a message that they’re serious about doing something about it.

The aim is to get all architects to meet a minimum of net zero whole life carbon for new and retrofitted buildings by 2030. This is running hand in hand with a campaign to lobby the government to set new regulatory standards.

This is to be achieved by the setting of targets in four designated areas:

  • operational energy: reduce by at least 75%, before UK offsetting
  • embodied carbon: reduce by at least 50-70%, before UK offsetting
  • potable water: reduce by 40%
  • health and wellbeing: achieve all core targets

The idea is that where RIBA goes, the wider construction industry will follow. It needs to, as RIBA President Alan Jones explains:

“Given the built environment is responsible for around 40% of our carbon footprint, the way we design and deliver, run and maintain buildings must transform if we are to effectively tackle climate change. Architects have the knowledge, skills and experience to take the lead. I encourage all RIBA Chartered Practices to demonstrate their commitment and sign up to the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge. This is an emergency and we must all take action, without delay.”

This suggests that architecture and the built environment need to be in the vanguard of climate change initiatives, so the campaign is a significant part of RIBA’s aim to ensure that this is the case.

RIBA CEO, Alan Vallance, added this:

“The RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge sets the targets we, alongside other expert bodies, believe are vital to encourage the construction industry to deliver the necessary change.”

The complementary and integrated approach being pushed by Mr. Vallance should be seen in the context of parallel campaigning currently being undertaken throughout the industry. For example, Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) held its first Architects Assembly on the 22nd October. One of the key takeaways from the day was that the road to #NetZero 2030 starts now. With professional bodies, industry professionals and activists on board, sharing resources and building knowledge, it appears that the campaign has every chance of success.

Furthermore, RIBA will shortly be publishing its Plan of Work 2019. This includes updated guidance regarding sustainability, as well as a sustainable outcomes guide. These documents will aid members and practices in developing and implementing transparent, measurable and achievable goals that will ensure their projects meet the 2030 Climate Challenge targets.

The industry should see the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge targets as an opportunity for all 3688 RIBA Chartered Practices to play their part in fighting this global crisis.

You can find out more here.

The Reusables: Replace Everyday Essentials to Improve Your Sustainability

No, this isn’t a new channel 4 programme for you to binge watch, although it would be a good one!

Have you ever given thought to how many of your everyday essentials are bought, consumed and disposed, sometimes in a matter of minutes! The circular economy has gathered momentum in recent years amongst academics, private sector professionals and government policy. But how does this translate to us and our everyday lives and consumer habits? – One of the main trends at the moment is RE-USE.

Our current economic model is linear and underpinned by energy from finite resources,

This clearly isn’t sustainable.

Consider the number of consumer items you use only once and then dispose of throughout a single day… now think how many of those could be replaced with something that can be used over and over again.

Re-use is a central component to a circular system and economic model, we reconfigure the TAKE-MAKE-DISPOSE, to MAKE(from returned or re-manufactured stocks)-USE-RETURN.

The Circular Economy is multi-faceted with many interesting components to consider, further information can be found here.

Here, we’ll look at five wonderful, and at first maybe a bit weird ways, to swap out everyday disposables for reusable alternatives.

  1. Baby Wipes

In 2017 almost 700,000 babies were born in England and Wales. Baby wipes or any kind of cosmetic wipe create huge problems for the UK’s sewerage networks. In London alone,  Thames Water removes 30 tonnes of wet wipes and sanitary towels everyday day, costing Thames Water £12million a year!

Fear not,  there are now all-in-one kits for reusable wipes that use essential oil blends to clean used wipes. The kits eradicate single-use cosmetic wipes, reduce pollutants entering our water systems, reduce cost to infrastructure, and save you money!

2. Beeswax Wraps

Are you always throwing away mouldy food from the back of the fridge? Cotton cloths impregnated with beeswax allow you to wrap up food items using the same piece of material over and over again. You not only prolong the shelf life of your food and reduce your food waste, but also remove the need for plastic cling film or containers.

WRAP states household food waste is at 7.1million tonnes per annum.

3. The Contactless Cup

Re-usable coffee cups have been available a while now. But many people still don’t use them. Could this be the answer to increasing their uptake? A major coffee retailer has now designed a re-usable coffee cup that integrates contactless payment technology. This is a fantastic example of how to make re-usable products more approachable to consumers and how we can integrate them into current systems and everyday lives!

4. Wool Dryer Balls

Do you use a dryer to dry your laundry? You can reduce the time required to mechanically dry your clothes and the number of dryer sheets you use with new wool dryer balls. Dryer sheets can only be used once, wool dryer balls can be used 1000 times and absorb water. You’ll spend less money on dryer sheets, use less energy, and spend less time on laundry. No one likes laundry!

5. The Classics  

There are of course the everyday classics that often we need reminding of. Reusable coffee cups and water bottles are the main players. Although now quite mainstream and widely used, single-use plastic and unrecyclable coffee cups are still a problem for us as consumers to tackle. Did you know Glastonbury Festival went zero plastic this year and prevented almost 1 million single use plastic bottles from being consumed!

However, we shouldn’t stop at products we drink! Shops and supermarkets are now making it far easier to make use of reusable containers. The main ones are grain products, stored in large containers that you dispense into your own ones to take home.

There are some smaller retailers where you can now even reuse tubs/bottles for washing up liquid and toothpaste!       

Environmental Social Governance: The Changing Attitudes of Investment Funds


Environmental Social Governance (ESG) Investing has shifted from a bit part player in investment screening to mainstream practice for investment decisions.  The influence of activists, NGOs and media campaigns on the environmental scandals of large corporations has meant corporates can no longer avoid adhering to ESG principles, and in particular, addressing climate change. The actions of NGOs create public attention and deliberately expose the biggest players.

Plastics is the perfect example, their inherent potential to pollute the earth has been known for decades, yet the pressure for corporations to change their production and business models has only become prevalent in recent years. This is largely down to NGO campaigns and media coverage. (The same has happened on plant-based diets – check out our article on planetary health diets here).

However, pressure for companies to implement ESG into their business practices and models is now being applied from the other side of the coin. Investors and investment funds are increasingly integrating ESG into their investment screening and decisions. A company implementing and championing ESG principles indicates less risk, and therefore presents itself as a much more viable investment.

Visual example of how one investment fund, Hermes, determines how companies manage ESG risk.

Visual example of how one investment fund, Hermes, determines how companies manage ESG risk.

It indicates to investors a company is less likely to commit environmental and social mal-practice throughout their supply chains and operations, meanwhile upholding ethical governance policies and practices both within their internal structures (e.g. whistleblowing, executive pay, shareholder rights) and external behaviours (e.g. bribery, illegal practices).

It is undeniable NGOs set the tone on ESG, but investors now influence demand for sustainable and ethical business practices.

Why is this ?

There are two main reasons.

In summary, companies with good social and governance characteristics and strong track records of actions to mitigate their impact on climate change, generally outperform others based on ‘basis points’ (bps). This is a common unit of measure for investment returns and growth rates and therefore suggests to an investor a more profitable investment.

However, investment managers with ethical investment criteria will inherently look to ensure a company meets their specific criteria for an ethical investment. This underpins the investment decisions instead of basis points and investment returns. This is the major shift.

Interestingly, it is now widely accepted social factors are now statistically significant in company performance and how ESG practices impact shareholder returns. Previously environmental and governance characteristics of a business were the key players for investors. A companies social ‘risks’ can be so significant that they offset sound environmental and governance practices all together. Social factors now highlight badly performing companies during investment screening.


A Move from Government

In July 2019 the UK government released their Green Finance Strategy which sets out their plans to ‘green’ finance. One of the main intentions of this new strategy is to make corporate disclosure of sustainability performance mandatory within the private sector. The government intends to develop clarity on what and how companies should report sustainability performance. This is to allow investors to make ESG-information led decisions on investments. Through this, the government believes they can restructure our financial systems whereby environmental, social and governance factors are centralised into financial risk assessment. They argue this would hugely assist with achieving the legally binding net-zero carbon target by 2050.

Have a further read on the Green Finance Strategy here.

UK Government Releases Green Finance Strategy

The UK government recently released the new Green Finance Strategy (GFS) with three main intentions:

Greening finance: Restructuring our financial systems to ensure environmental factors a fully integrated into mainstream financial decision making.

Financing Greening: Increased investment in green and low carbon technology through new policy frameworks and £3billion between 2015-2021.

Capturing Opportunity: Government to support the private sector tap in to the global market for low carbon financial services and ensure the UK is a hub for the global green finance market.

Click the image for a visual summary.

Green Finance Strategy Infographic


As a sustainability company offering Environmental Social Governance (ESG) consultancy, monitoring and auditing, Mainer Associates are particularly interested in point 1. Investors increasingly integrate ESG factors into their financial risk screening. The move from the Government to restructure our financial systems to make this mainstream, is a bold and positive move.


The UK is the first country in the world to set legally binding emission reduction targets. The big target that makes the headlines is net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.The government believes the GFS is one way to make sure the UK achieves this.

The argument is that meeting these objectives will require unprecedented levels of investment in green and low carbon technologies, services and infrastructure which will require sustainability performance to become central to investment decisions.

WHAT does this mean?

What we are seeing is a two-pronged approach – ‘greening’ the global financial system to ensure companies with reputable and verifiable sustainability credentials are favoured for investment, and, catalysing investment in technologies.

The transformation of the financial system must go beyond just funding green projects 

It will require fundamental changes in the way investment decisions are made across the economy. All finance will need to incorporate the financial risk of climate change.

But HOW will the Government do this?

The strategy focuses on 4 elements: establish shared understanding, clarify roles, foster transparency and develop a long-term approach, and build robust consistent green financial market frameworks.

The government intend to achieve this is by making the private sector companies implement the recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

The purpose of the TCFD is to develop consistent information on climate related financial risk disclosures for the use of companies in providing information to investors, lenders, insurers and other private or public stakeholders (TCFD).

There are a variety of ESG standards and frameworks to choose from. Due to ESG’s subjectivity from company to company, businesses can essentially select the areas of sustainability and climate change they excel in and address. The Task Force intends to provide clarity for businesses on what financial markets and investors want from disclosure of ESG performance in order to measure and respond to climate change risks, but also educate firms on how to align their disclosures with investors’ needs.


  • Government will expect all listed comps and large asset owners to disclose sustainability and climate change performance in accordance with the TCFD recommendations by 2022.
  • Work with regulators to implement requirements on mandatory reporting.
  • Develop a set of sustainable finance standards.
  • Increase market led action on enhancing nature-related financial disclosures.

The UK’s financial market and private sector need a shared understanding on environmental risks from both a sustainability, and now financial (investment) perspective.

One method is to price risk appropriately to inform efficient allocations of investment. This is only achieved with transparency, which requires standardised climate related data.


TCFD Recommendations


The government will be creating a task force with UK regulators to examine the most effective approach on disclosure, including exploring how appropriate it is to make reporting mandatory. Disclosure will only be useful if educates and clarifies financial decision making.

Companies must know what financial markets require from disclosure in order to respond to financial risks related to sustainability. This will also support financial institutions and policy makers to differentiate between companies and projects. This creates a cycle whereby the better performers are regularly preferred, thus raising standards for other companies to achieve if they want to gain investment.

We make decisions like this in our everyday lives on a small scale. From where to do our food shops, what make-up to buy, or even who to bank with. One supermarket might facilitate re-forestation projects, pay employees a living wage or have strong equal opportunity policies, whereas another may not. But how do we ACTUALLY know?

posted in News

Planetary Health Diets: The Answer to Sustainable Food Systems?

In the past decade, huge investments have been made in plant-based companies that produce meat and dairy alternatives. Such companies in America alone have had over £12billion pounds of investment in the last 10 years and of course coincides with a rise in the prevalence of vegan and vegetarian diets. But why?

The environmental impacts of the meat and diary industry have been rigorously reported in recent times with documentaries such as cowspiracy exposing the true environmental costs through global multimedia platforms such as Netflix. Previously, the negatives associates with food were dominantly discussed in isolation to health and nutrition, but we are now discussing them in relation to the health of our planet.

Food systems contribute almost 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and two thirds of these result from producing animal feed for livestock. With global population ever increasing, we must take stock of our food systems and extent of our demand for certain food groups. It is estimated between 1800 to 2500 gallons of water are required for one pound of beef. Of course, there are also negative externalities involved in establishing mono-culture crops for the purposes of plant-based substitutes which we also need to accept. However, it is widely accepted the intensity and pressure on our natural systems to produce livestock in comparison to plants is far greater.

The point here is to consider how we can make small changes to how and what we consume. The key challenge we are faced with is to provide an increasing global population with nutritional diets from sustainable food systems, it is too simplistic to focus on one food group, although reducing meat consumption will play a big role. A sustainable food system is not only one with plenty of supply, but one in balance with the ecosystems it operates within.

Our current systems make truly sustainable diets difficult to achieve. A new report from the LANCET Commission Food Planet Health released in 2019 put forwards their concept of planetary health diets, to guide international restructuring and decarbonising of food systems. A planetary health diet describes behaviours of food consumption that are both healthy and environmentally sustainable, measured using scientific targets for intakes of specific food groups. It essentially concerns the health of humans and the state of the natural systems on which the health depends on.

Some strategies to be implemented across the globes food systems at local, regional and international scales are:

  • Reduction in yield gaps – a crops ‘real’ yield is regularly far less than its actual potential yield. – sustainable intensification.
  • Educating farmers on the emissions embodied in different feeding regimes and feed production systems.
  • Realigning land management processes whereby reducing emissions is a central strategy.
  • International agreements on targets for healthy diets and sustainable production, based on unanimously accepted science.
  • Use of technology to optimise water and fertiliser usage.
  • Land use for agriculture to become a net sink of carbon instead of a net source.
  • Reduce food waste within production by 50%.
  • Improve information on plant-based food, reduce their costs and improve their accessibility.
  • Agricultural and marine policies on production should be orientated around nutrition rather than quantities.
  • Redistribution of global use of nitrogen and phosphorous.
  • Only use land already allocated to agricultural to meet demand from growing populations through zero-expansion policies at international and national scales.

Click on the Infographic for a closer look at how you could contribute through different consumption habits!

Infographic from LANCET suggesting the balance to a achieving a planetary health diet.

Infographic from LANCET suggesting the balance to a  achieving a planetary health diet.


Why this new approach ?

We should always consider different cultural context and give consideration to the role animal based foods have in people’s diets across local and regional geographies. It is therefore arguably impractical to target one food group, but instead far more pragmatic to improve food systems as a whole, albeit a significant task!

Commute to work

Leeds to Implement Clean Air Zone in 2020

Leeds City Council have made a bold and impressive move to implement an inner-city Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in January 2020. Mainer Associates have a healthy project base in Leeds and like to keep up-to-date with local policy and changes in sustainability governance. It is a fantastic move by the city and should tackle the critical issue of local air quality and pollution, head on.

Leeds currently has 6 air quality management areas (AQMAs). It is a statutory requirement for local councils to measure air quality within cities and declare AQMAs to national government. These are areas where emission levels are significantly dangerous to health. Local authorities and boroughs monitor air quality on, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and compare measurements to levels set by the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Where any measured pollutants breach certain levels, the area is automatically designated as an AQMA.


Why is air quality such a big issue?


Poor air quality has huge implications for society. Implications are environmental, social and economical. Pollution from development and transport in inner city areas increase emissions and directly influence  serious respiratory and health implications such as cardiovascular disease. This in turn creates significant cost and unnecessary strain on the UK’s National Health Service. Furthermore,  a city with a known reputation for bad air pollution and subsequent quality of life will discourage commerce, tourism and investment.

Image from to illustrate how different levels of air quality air considered in relation to health.

Image from to illustrate how different levels of air quality air considered in relation to health.

Air pollution is the greatest environmental threat to our health. It can cause and exacerbate many health problems. These include:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Chronic heart disease, and,
  • Strokes


Air pollution is also a transboundary and intergenerational problem. Public health England published the following infographic to illustrate the extent of these problems:


The extent of the air pollution problem.

The extent of the air pollution problem.

Do you know the emission levels and air quality of where you live? Or on your commute to work? Providing people with knowledge on air pollution is a great way to engage people to start addressing the issue, especially for something physically intangible in your day-to-day activities. Check out DEFRA’s database to find out emission levels in your local area


Why are Clean Air (Charging) Zones a Correct but Controversial step forward?


CAZs mainly focus on emissions from vehicles and aim to penalise high-polluting transport and restrict their mobility through certain parts of urban areas with poor air quality.

Despite the clear importance of good air quality, CAZs are not always well received from cohorts in the general public. They essentially either prohibit, monetise, and ‘tax’ vehicle movement through certain areas of city or town centres, and are deliberately more strenuous on high-polluting vehicles.

For the CAZ in Leeds, no vehicle will be banned from the zone, but if your vehicle does not meet the emission standards set out by the council you will be subject to a daily charge. You’ll be able to find out whether your vehicle is considered a high-polluter nearer the time when the council have finalised benchmarks.

Boundary map of the proposed clean air zone. Source Leeds City Council.

Boundary map of the proposed clean air zone. Source Leeds City Council.

It will be the biggest CAZ in the country and is a fantastic move from the local council to address a serious and topical issue.


What else can we do?


With air quality being such a pressing and contemporary issue it’s important governments, local councils and the private sector do not purely focus on one method to address the problem. CAZs in cities should implement a mix of initiatives to reduce emissions, from a variety of pollutant sources. Air pollution is a collective responsibility and strategies to address it should not simply be restricted to financial deterrents.

LCC’s fantastic initiative ‘clean air leeds’ are trialling and practising a number of strategies to ensure the cities inhabitants breathe clean air. These are:

  • The council are transitioning their fleet to LEV or ZEV.
  • Investment in upgrades to public transport and cycling infrastructure through the ‘connecting Leeds’ strategy.
  • All 4 major bus companies in Leeds have committed to ensuring their vehicles meet the latest emissions standard by 2020.
  • Pedestrianising more of the city to make use of public transport to get into the city more attractive.
  • Free parking for ULEVs at al council car parks
  • Smart city initiatives – to mitigate stop start driving and idling.
  • Collaboration with the private sector to conduct research into the ability for hybrid vehicles to have automatic switching to electric power when in an area of high pollution – cool!


Interestingly, the new BREEAM 2018 New Construction guidance aims to help developers and the construction industry tackle this issue from another angle. The new guidance requires you to confirm whether developments are located within a low or high pollution location, any development within an AQMA is automatically considered a high pollution location. BREEAM then sets out different emission benchmarks for NOx, VOCs and particulate matter depending on the developments location and the number of credits you want to achieve.