United Nations (UN) define hunger as “an uncomfortable or painful physical sensation caused by insufficient consumption of dietary energy” . The UN reported that in 2021 as many as 828 million people were affected by hunger in the year 2021, which represents an increase of 46 million since 2020 and 150 million more since 2019 .
Physical effects of hunger include, but are not limited to :
Muscle and organ malfunction
Weight loss due to depletion of fat and muscle mass
The main causes of hunger in the world are lack of money, access to food difficulties and food production decline due to climate change. Extreme heat, drought and severe weather are some examples of climate change effects that affect crops growth worldwide and that could lead to a decline of about 30 percent of global yields. Climate and social inequity can lead to hunger; herewith, hunger can also cause conflicts because of the lack of availability of food or food insecurity, water and etc. For example, in Haiti, violence escalated through 2019, and by the beginning of 2021, after COVID-19 erupted, the percentage of Haitians without adequate food rose to 20% . The World Food Program warned hunger is likely to increase in Haiti as the war in Ukraine caused the price of imported wheat to rise.
From these statistics, it could be inferred that Sustainable Development Goal 2 to achieve Zero hunger by 2030 could not be met.
How can AI help to combat hunger?
From a global perspective, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already part of our reality. AI methods and tools such as machine learning, artificial neural networks and deep learning are affecting the way we produce and buy goods, the way we learn, the way we perceive reality, and the way we live. Researchers around the world are studying the effect of AI on every Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), and although it is not a simple task to achieve in a short time, there are already insightful results that help us visualize the future of AI and Sustainability .
In 2015 a team of Machine Learning and Social Science Researchers in the US and Europe founded “AI for Good Foundation”, an international network driving forward technological solutions that measure and advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals . AI for Good is committed to creating impact opportunities to combat hunger and achieve SDG 2 by supporting small-scale and local farming solutions that help empower local communities, improve food security, and reduce poverty.
Artificial Intelligence areas of intervention to fulfil SDG can cover food production, distribution, and consumption:
AI techniques can help identify weather patterns like floods and droughts: The Mexican start-up KYSO uses AI technology to automate irrigation systems capable of responding to changes in weather conditions by using metadata analysis of the temperature, humidity, and pH levels of soils .
AI techniques can help to optimize food distribution strategies: in the United States, approximately 80 tons of food were lost during the year 2019. A San Francisco-based company, Replate, “collects surplus food from vendors and delivers it to non-profits in a strategic, data-driven format” . This also avoids unnecessary transportation by first identifying the correct match between the food and the organisation that needs it.
AI techniques can enhance a better interaction with the ones in hunger: Capgemini Australia developed a platform that uses AI and Machine Learning (ML) to improve food distribution across schools: Yum-Yum. The platform can monitor need for food in real time and addresses all roles – from students to welfare officers- to ensure solutions for food distribution success.
AI is capable of helping achieve the Zero Hunger goal; at the same time, it promotes Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG12), reducing food waste and helping to close the loop in the production sector. With the latter two, SDGs – No Poverty and Good and Well-Being, respectively – are also influenced by the initiatives that were presented here, and we can therefore continue creating strategies to achieve a world with ZERO HUNGER.
AI has a very high potential to accelerate the progress of the SDGs and help to reach them by 2030. However, many different challenges need to be taken into account in order to make this transformation more fluent, transparent and less harmful for small players in the agriculture sector and the countries which struggle with social responsibility issues or geopolitical conflicts.
Written by Alexandra Alonso Soto, Kaunas University of Technology
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The digitalisation of education was accelerated by the recent COVID-19 pandemic (OECD, 2021). This increased the discussion on the design of quality online education and, for example, the use of pedagogical models instead of the of digital platforms (Adedoyin & Soykan, 2020). The need for integration of sustainable education into the design of digital education was identified already before the pandemic (see e.g. Wiek et al., 2016; Findler et al., 2019). In Finland, sustainable development should be integrated into all higher education degree programmes (Arene, 2021; Unifi, 2021).
The importance of collaboration in the integration of sustainable design (SD) in the design of digital education is highlighted in a recent study about the design of online degree programmes in higher education (Joshi, 2022). Online degree programmes refer to HE study programmes where education is interactive, guided and includes synchronous elements (Joshi et al., 2020).
The design of online degree programmes for national cross-studies
The design-based research (DBR) study examined the integration of SD into the holistic design of online degree programmes (ODP). The design context was national cross-studies offered on the national digital platform CampusOnline of universities of applied sciences (UAS) created in the ministry-funded eAMK project (eAMK, n.d.). The data subjects were the online degree working group who were involved in the development of ODPs for the national cross-studies as part of the project. The study comprised four phases: the first one prioritized the important features for national collaboration, the second one was a participatory design of ODP elements, and the third one was an interview that focused on the integration of SD in the design of ODPs. In the final phase, the results were compared to the combined sustainability competencies to make connections between ODP design and SD integration.
Results highlight the importance of collaboration
According to the results of Phase 1, the two most important factors for designing national ODPs are external collaboration and management support. In Phase 2, collaboration was added as an element to the feature tree. In Phase 3, most of the answers focused on cooperation and communication competencies, highlighting the importance of collaboration. The interview results revealed e.g., the importance of accessible online education, increased possibilities for SD learning opportunities through national collaboration, and future foresight in designing new ways to implement ODPs.
In Phase 4, the results highlighted the importance of collaboration, which supports earlier findings by Leal Filho et al. (2020), who suggest that partnerships are needed in successful SD initiatives. Strategic action and systemic approach were the second most common category in Phase 4, indicating the national-level strategic guidance of integrating SD into HE degrees and creating more accessible ODP and SD education through a systemic approach. The development of students’ SD competence and their well-being was seen as an important target for collaboration, and the development of curricula showed many opportunities for a systemic thinking approach. Aspects of digital environments or technologies, nor specific pedagogical approaches, related to SD integration were not revealed by the results.
National-level collaboration is important in the integration of SD into online higher education degrees. The key sustainability competency of cooperation and communication are central to the integration of SD in the holistic design of ODPs. Collaboration can enhance accessibility and multidisciplinary approach and support the national SD goals set in for the HE organizations. Also, national collaboration in the design of ODPs can develop students’ SD competencies through professional development. Students’ well-being can be supported by creating access to online communities and developing curricula in national collaboration. Following future foresight signals and developing new initiatives through national collaboration is important. Overall, a holistic approach to SD integration into ODPs seems suitable.
Educators and managers should consider the possibilities that national collaboration can bring in the integration of SD into the design of online education. It is important that online education can be seen as a platform for providing students access to communities and competencies that can further aid the national SD goals in higher education and the wider society.
Findler, F., Schönherr, N., Lozano, R., Reider, D., & Martinuzzi, A. (2019). The impacts of higher education institutions on sustainable development: A review and conceptualization. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 20(1), 23–38. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-07-2017-0114
Joshi, M. (2022). Sustainable development in the design of online degree programmes for national cross-studies. Ammattikasvatuksen Aikakauskirja, 23(4), 12–33. https://doi.org/10.54329/akakk.113318
Joshi, M., Könni, P., Mäenpää, K., Mäkinen, L., Pilli-Sihvola, M., Rautiainen, T., Timonen, P., & Valkki, O. (2020). Verkkotutkinnot. Turku University of Applied Sciences Reports 269. Turun ammattikorkeakoulu. http://julkaisut.turkuamk.fi/isbn9789522167682.pdf
Leal Filho, W., Eustachio, J. H. P. P., Caldana, A. C. F., Will, M., Lange Salvia, A., Rampasso, I. S., Anholon, R., & Kovaleva, M. (2020). Sustainability leadership in higher education institutions: An overview of challenges. Sustainability, 12(9), 3761. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/su12093761
Wiek, A., Bernstein, M., Foley, R., Cohen, M., Forrest, N., Kuzdas, C., Kay, B., & Withycombe Keeler, L. (2016). Operationalising competencies in higher education for sustainable development. In M. Barth, G. Michelsen, M. Rieckmann, & I. Thomas (Eds.), Handbook of higher education for sustainable development (pp. 241–260). Routledge.
The world has never witnessed an age where the demand for energy production showed a negative trend. This ever-increasing need for energy directly conflicts with the need to combat climate change. It’s a problem that the governments, industries, NGOs, academia and the general public have been debating for years. To solve these crucial sustainability-related challenges, there are a growing number of new devices. While digital transformation continues to be a trend that provides many such devices, we are also at an age where the transformation extends further. In the process of digital transformation, businesses have realized that sustainability has to be a core part of digital transformation. With the proliferation of AI, it is just a matter of time when Digital Transformation becomes only a small cog in the larger machinery of AI. We may need to wait to see how AI evolves, but for now, we focus on software approaches to digital technologies helping in tackling the energy demand.
In this blog, we attempt to highlight a) the software approach taken in various industries and how cooperation between companies and regulators can help, and b) some of the tools that could be of help to sustainability enthusiasts that could solve not just some aspects of energy consumption but also other areas of sustainability.
One direct way of visualizing how digital technology addresses energy demand is by leveraging data and software that makes energy usage more efficient. This utilizes the underlying data and allows companies to reinvent their processes in a way that is more energy efficient. Here are some highlights of how digital transformation resulted in and can further result in energy efficiency across sectors as per the research report by the International Energy Agency (Digitalization and Energy, 2017):
The oil and gas companies, which are the core energy sectors, deployed digital technologies starting much earlier from the point of view of automation, safety and efficiency. Some with the objective of energy efficiency also. This has resulted in companies reducing energy and water consumption in their businesses (e.g. hydration control in the precast industry).
Exploration and production, which are the most profitable parts of the oil and gas sector, is where digital technologies tend to have a larger impact. The underlying software analyses and processes extremely large datasets that helps remote operations maximize oil and gas recovery. In future, usage of such data could also be extended to reduce delays in operations.
The sector lends itself to challenges while implementing digital technologies. The approach had always been risk-averse and delayed adopting digital technologies. The capital-intensive nature of the industry could have contributed to the risk aversion. The industry is yet to find management approaches that can enable faster adoption of digital technologies.
The transport sector, which accounts for 28% of the global demand for energy, by implementing automated, connected, electric and shared (ACES) shapes the future energy consumption pattern of the overall transport sector. The flip side is, the increased energy efficiency and reduced energy consumption brought by automation increases activity levels, which offsets all the gains.
From the future point of view, there are some barriers and risks the government and regulators need to address. Initiatives such as the European union’s cooperation with member states, automakers, telecom companies to permit cross-border travel of automated vehicles will ensure interoperability. In road freight, the government can promote the reporting of aggregated information by sharing the data of assets and services across the supply chain, which will improve freight logistics.
In buildings, smart energy management systems can reduce overall energy use, by consuming energy only when required, by implementing digital solutions. Such solutions can predict user behaviour and can auto program heating and cooling systems, reduce peak loads, shed loads, store energy on a real-time basis. Measuring and monitoring real-time energy performance allows the prediction and identification of maintenance requirements. Homes have become smarter by connecting household items to devices that save energy.
While the potentials and opportunities are immense, there are also obstacles in the path to realising the benefits of digital transformation in buildings. Much needed is the cooperation between the policymakers and companies to allow interoperability across technologies, which is to enable sharing of information through open source and compatible software. Innovative tariffs can be devised that could motivate end users to adopt digital technologies. Combined effort by the government and private to communicate the benefits of digitalization in comfort and cost savings.
In the power sector, given the increasing role of renewable energy, the deployment of digital technologies will increase the share of various renewables. The potential benefits of digitalization is by exploiting data that is already being collected through various sensors. Such digital data analytics can reduce power system costs by reducing operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, improving plant network efficiency, reducing downtime & outages and increasing asset operational lifetime.
While barriers are fewer in the power sector, it still needs closer attention. The regulated markets provide financial incentives, but only for the investment in physical assets. Investment in digital technologies is not incentivized. The sector representatives working closer with the regulators will help remove such barriers.
The information and communication technologies (ICT) sector has emerged as one of the largest consumers of energy. This comprises data centers, data networks and connected devices. Data centers and data networks account for 2% (as of 2014) of global energy demand. With more than 20 billion devices connected through the Internet of Things (IoT) and another 6 billion smartphones connected online, the energy consumption of devices is underestimated. Similar to the transport sector, energy efficiency is offset by increasing levels of activity and adding more devices to the sector. Interesting enough, the solutions to the energy demands in the ICT industry are not software-driven but policy-driven.
From the futuristic point of view, government policies can play a role in, a) regulations to ensure more efficient devices, b) incentives for more efficient and sustainable manufacturing practices, data center operations, data transfer networks, and c) improved central data systems.
Similar examples of digital solutions driven through software approaches can be outlined for many other sectors. However, the above examples give us an indication of the extent of what is possible through a software approach and what more can be done with continuing cooperation between the government and the private.
Taking a cue from Digital Transformation Network’s report, some measures to achieve the ambitious goals could be closing the software job gaps and modernizing government IT and digitizing public services in order to have an extended impact on energy consumption.
Close the software jobs gap. More software professionals are trained to design and run transformative software-enabled tools, such as a) power the energy grids, b) data analytics in the power sector, c) ACES in the transportation sector and so on. Specific suggestions such as upgrading the outdated (electric) grids would have direct benefits for the power sector. However, integrating aspects of transformation through a software approach across industries is what is of interest to this article. Hence, closing the gap in software jobs between professionals trained to design and run transformative software-enabled tools, plays a key role.
Modernize government IT and digitize public services. One of the consistent barriers that we noticed across all sectors while analysing the approach to better uptake of digital solutions is the need for regulatory reforms. Such reforms need central data systems with the Government and cross-border cooperation. This is where governments need modernizing. The need for the IT backbone and digitalized public services is essential for fast and informed decision-making. What is already implemented in the private sector is not widely adapted and implemented by government enterprises. Such implementation needs to be accelerated.
Other sustainability tools for the economy, energy, environment
As a closing thought, we refer to some specific tools compiled by the United States Environment Protection Agency, which could be of use while implementing digital solutions to tackle energy demands. This agency has listed more than 60 tools and resources to help various stakeholders, which are grouped into 10 different categories. The various groups are, i) Sustainable Manufacturing, ii) Lifecycle Assessment, iii) Energy Efficiency, iv) Carbon Footprint, v) Materials Management, vi) Community Development, vii) Worker Safety, viii) Workforce Development, ix) Manufacturing Industry and x) Funding & other tools.
With the ever-increasing emphasis on sustainability, the voices are growing louder to fast-track solutions that can minimize the negative impacts. Digital solutions with a software approach may not have been the most intuitive way to combat the crisis of climate, but we can witness from the use cases that many inroads have been made. Also, we could see the potential for improvement, furthermore. The impact will be visible when the government, companies and the general public also integrate seamlessly with the digital transformation.
Climate change is a global concern; hence it affects all countries and regions, however, with different magnitudes and rates . The biggest driving force influencing climate change is fossil fuels, which include coal, oil and gas, contributing more than 75% of all greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions, including almost 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions . The transport sector, especially road transport, accounts for around a quarter of global energy use and related GHGs. To keep the long-term increase in the global mean temperature below 2°C, it has been suggested that reductions in global GHGs emissions of 50% to 85% from levels noted in 2000 must be made by 2050 .
However, how to achieve this result since it is estimated that by 2050 the number of cars will double?
High potential in GHGs emission reduction is associated with electric vehicles (EVs). New gasoline and diesel vehicle sales were prohibited beginning in 2040, according to announcements made in the summer of 2017 by the UK and France. This restriction has already been advanced until 2030 by the UK. Therefore, it is already possible that internal combustion engines will no longer be used for personal transportation. This summer, Volvo, a Chinese-owned automaker, announced starting in 2019, all of its vehicles will be either electric or petrol hybrid driven. By 2025, Volvo’s Chinese owners, Geely, hope to sell one million EVs . It would be a huge success, considering that in 2021 Volvo sold 698 700 cars, of which 56 883 were electric cars (both plug-in and fully electric) .
EV is not a new invention. The technology has been developing for a long time; the first attempt to create an EV was made in 1832 by Robert Anderson . The biggest advantage of modern EVs is energy efficiency; 75-95% of the available energy is converted into motion. While internal combustion cars can only put up to 30% of the energy contained in its fuel into motion, the rest is lost in heat and friction .
EVs are considered cars that produce no pollutants and no hazardous gases. Is that fully true?
The manufacturing process of EVs releases a similar amount of CO2 as the production of internal combustion cars, but only when battery manufacturing is excluded from the calculations. Production of batteries requires large quantities of rare metals lithium, cobalt and nickel . Their mining is labour-intensive and necessitates chemical input and large quantities of water, frequently from water-scarce regions. What is more, it can produce toxic waste and impurities . Additionally, the cost and the difficulty of recycling processes causes that lithium-ion battery recycling is still very low, at less than 5%, the rest ends in landfills . Regulations are predicted to play a significant part in this process since recycling play a crucial role in the future of the industry because it helps to increase sustainability and lessen resource scarcity.
Engineers and scientists are trying to find different solutions for gathering energy, like sand batteries, which seem to be a promising technology. Sand, when heated to 600℃, can become a battery and, with the application of thick insulation, can keep the temperature inside even when it is freezing outside. Not only does sand have a much lower environmental impact than lithium, but it also does not involve any chemical reactions and does not degrade like lithium-ion batteries. The drawback of this technology is that sand batteries can store 5 to 10 times less energy than chemical batteries. However, the generation of 8 MWh of heat energy by sand battery costs $200 000 while the generation of the same amount of energy by lithium-ion battery costs $1 600 000. The main question is whether it is possible to scale up this technology to produce a considerable amount of electricity in addition to heat .
Indirect pollution is related to the type of electricity grid used to charge batteries. A gas-fired power plant emits 350–400 grams of CO2 per kWh, but a coal-fired power station releases ~650 grams of CO2 per kWh. When considering the emissions produced during the manufacturing process of renewable energy sources like solar panels or wind turbines, the emissions produced per kWh are approximately 36g CO2 . Research demonstrates that even after accounting for these electricity-related emissions, an EV often emits fewer GHGs than the typical new gasoline vehicle. However, the overall GHGs associated with EVs might be significantly lower if more renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, are employed to produce electricity .
Another important aspect is related to the pollution emitted from tires. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, tires are one of the main sources of microplastic pollution in oceans . Because of the use of battery power, electric cars are much heavier than combustion engine cars and, together with the instant acceleration and, therefore, instant torque, because more stress is put on the tyres. Engineers are trying to capture the pollution from tires into the boxes placed above the tire, which on the way of electrostatic forces, could collect shed tire particles. However, until now, it is at the prototype stage . Moreover, manufacturers of tires are trying to improve tire quality to increase their longevity and reduce the amount of noise and pollution emissions.
Personal transport is one thing, but a reliable freight transportation infrastructure that can move goods effectively, safely, and sustainably is an essential component of a sustainable society. Diesel trucks have only a 4% share of the total road transport. However, they are responsible for almost half of the transportation sector’s smog-forming pollution and a quarter of all climate emissions . There are some attempts made to change internal combustion heavy trucks into electrical ones. Volvo started series production of electrified truck Volvo FM, FMX, and FH series, that could operate at a combined weight of 44 metric tons . Nevertheless, it should be noticed that the kilometres range of an electric truck is equal to 380 km, then it needs to be charged, while an internal combustion truck can be driven over 2000 km using only one tank of 630 L. Although EVs seem to be the right step towards sustainability and GHGs reduction, challenges still remain.
Written by Magdalena Fabjanowicz, Gdańsk University of Technology
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Digital and green transitions have been on Europe’s top agenda as solutions for the biggest challenges the world is experiencing today, ranging from climate change to food security. While these two processes are distinct and require unique actions and steps to their end, they can also reinforce each other in fulfilling the EU Green Deal and global sustainable development goals.
Twin transition refers to the interplay between digital and green transitions: If properly used and managed, digital technologies can help economies become (more) resource efficient, circular and climate neutral. Similarly, green transition in energy and industry sectors can help meet the growing energy needs and reduce the environmental footprint of the digital sector.
For twin transitions to be successful and inclusive, understanding the synergies between digital and green transitions, and implementing proactive and inclusive policies and management mechanisms are needed. Promotion of twin transitions, therefore, requires engagement of players from all sectors: Thanks to its economic share, the private sector will have a big role in implementing twin transitions. However, to boost the benefits and minimize the negative side-effects in digitalization and greening processes as much as possible, engagement of the public and civil society sectors will also be needed.
Indeed, the JRC report on ‘Towards a green & digital future’, published earlier this year emphasizes the importance of “successfully managing the green and digital ‘twin’ transitions” for “delivering a sustainable, fair, and competitive future”. The comprehensive study analyzes the green and digital technologies in the context of twin transitions and shows how they can reinforce each other. This is done in reference to five industries (namely: agriculture, building and construction, transport and mobility, energy, and energy-intensive industries) and by giving concrete case study examples.
For instance, in the agriculture industry, “with environmental monitoring and tracking, digital tools can help gather knowledge of areas such as biodiversity deficits and prioritize actions to preserve it” (p. 25). In the energy industry, for example, “Simulation and forecasting using digital technologies can speed up research and development cycles for new materials, products, processes, or business models in areas where zero-carbon and green technologies are not yet competitive” (p. 44).
The report also presents the social, economic and political factors that influence the twin transitions, by referring to the recent crisis we have been experiencing, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war. Finally, it presents the main challenges against successful twin transitions in social, technological, environmental, economic and political contexts, and discusses what can be done to cope with these challenges. For example, “ensuring ethical use of technology” is critical for addressing concerns related to data protection and surveillance. Similarly, “ensuring diversity of market players” is important to cope with capacity- or market-entry-barriers, especially for smaller organizations (p. 75) [Read More: Towards a green and digital future].
It is well known that innovation is indispensable in finding solutions to the sustainability-related challenges we experience today. Coupling the design and implementation of digital technologies with sustainability initiatives, in other words twin transitions, can contribute to solving these challenges. It is therefore important that the concept is well understood and accepted by actors from public, private and social sectors; and promoted by higher education institutions through (further) research and training offers in the field.
TOO4TO project aims at supporting students and professionals in expanding their knowledge and skills in topics related to sustainability and sustainable management. The link between emerging digital technologies and sustainability is one of the topics that has been addressed in the TOO4TO training curriculum and e-learning modules. Follow our project and its outputs to learn more about sustainability-specific topics.
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The textile and apparel sector is of high importance and complexity. The transition to more sustainable and circular textile systems affects various stakeholders through the whole value chain and life cycle of the product. The EU is concerned about those challenges, and therefore the corresponding strategies and regulations are developed in order to guide the stakeholders. This paper is oriented to light upon the reuse as an option of the extension of the life cycle of the products. What kind of transformations are needed in order to make it effective and scalable as a promising tool for the circularity of the sector?
EU consumption of textiles is mostly based on imports. It has a significant negative environmental impact: the 4th on climate change and the 3rd on water and land use from a life-cycle perspective (EEA, 2022). 5.8 million tons of textiles are discarded in the EU each year, approximately 11 kg per person per year (EEA, 2019). Landfilled or incinerated textile results in huge losses of textile primary resources. It also leads to losses related to production processes because of the usage of millions of tons of water and kilowatts of energy, and work hours (Aus et al., 2021). In solving the problems of the waste sector, the EU has determined that every member state must introduce a separate collection system for textiles from January 1, 2025 (2008/98/EC, 2018), in order to reduce the amount of textiles to be landfilled as waste and promote their recycling and reuse rates.
Up to 2.1 million tons of second-hand clothing and textiles are collected separately for recycling or reuse in the EU each year, representing around 38% of all textiles placed on the EU market (JRC 2021). It varies considerably in the EU member states, e. g. 5% of used textiles are collected in Latvia, respectively 11% in Lithuania and Italy, 30% in Estonia, 40% in Norway, 42% in Denmark and 70% in Germany. The rest of the textile products are discarded as mixed municipal waste for landfilling and/or incinerated (Nordic, 2020; Sandin & Peters, 2018).
However, the collection of used textiles (as waste) separately does not ensure higher recoverability or lower environmental impact. Organizations operating in the used textile collection sector report that there is a small share of textile products suitable for the reuse market. Meanwhile, there is a huge lack of recycling technologies and a market for low-quality textiles (Nordic, 2020). The development of recycling technologies and the implementation of national or international systems is a long-lasting process. Therefore the life cycle extension strategies are getting more and more relevant in the EU market in order to foster the transition towards circular textile systems.
According to the (WRAP, 2017) report, the reuse of textile is the most popular in Denmark, where 17% of the population try out second-hand market options before buying new clothes. However, the EU Waste Prevention Report (EEA, 2018) shows that the average reuse rate is below 9% in Denmark and below 5% in other EU countries.
The European Commission adopted the EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles (Strategy) in March 2022, addressing environmental, waste and social challenges in this sector and opportunities for more sustainable development. The Strategy recognizes that extension of the textile lifetime is the most effective way to significantly reduce its negative impact (EC, 2022). The strategy seeks to solve the current situation of consumption patterns: consumerism and decreased quality of apparel. The main reasons why consumers discard textiles are the low quality of clothes and short usability. The fast fashion trend includes mass production of garments, quickly responding to the latest fashion trends and enticing consumers to keep buying at low prices.
As indicated in the strategy and proved by the researchers, the most important instrument for the extension of textile products’ lifetime (fig. 1) is prevention based on the Eco-design Regulation for Sustainable Products (Regulation). The design of product determines up to 80% of its life-cycle environmental impact (Commission et al., 2014) and based on the following regulation requirements products will be more sustainable, reliable, reusable, upgradeable, repairable, maintainable, refurbishable, recyclable and energy, resource and socially efficient (European Commission, 2022b).
The production, consumption and extension of the life cycle of sustainable textiles will gain meaningful benefits through the whole value chain of textile products by the introduction of a digital product passport. The main aim of it is to collect and provide valuable data on a product’s environmental performance and its suitability for reuse, repair, recycling and other circular options. Application of the extended producer responsibility (EPR) principle expected in the Strategy would oblige producers and suppliers to the EU market to take responsibility for the textile waste they generate, resulting in an additional need on the part of the producer to find solutions for sustainable product design, new recycling technologies and wider reuse activities, thus ensuring the prevention of textile waste and the longest possible use of textiles as products. EPR systems for textiles are active in two EU Member States: France (since 2008) and Sweden (since the beginning of 2022). EPR for textiles will start in the Netherlands in 2023. However, the EU is supposed to provide consolidated guidelines for all of the EU.
The Textile Strategy also focuses on strengthening responsible consumption and awareness among consumers so that the demand for sustainable textiles would increase not only from the political strategies and regulations but also from the consumers’ “bottom-up” intentions. The Strategy facilitates the development of responsible consumption behaviour by implementing the following measures: manufacturers publicly disclose information on how they dispose the unsold or returned textiles; using only credible eco-claims and correct eco-labelling and considering the introduction of a digital label; the provision of information to the consumer at the point of sale on the products’ commercial durability guarantee, reparability level, etc.
Although the Strategy was adopted on March 30, 2022, the transition towards a sustainable textile economy has already begun quite efficiently. 12.5% of the fashion industry is committed to circular fashion, and many leading retailers have set bold targets and increased consumers’ awareness about fashion’s environmental impact (Global Fashion Agenda, 2018). Thus, the decoupling is on the process in different stages of the value chains: starting from the resources’ use when the textile industry is looking for solutions for new-garment designs, sustainable materials, and advanced recycling technologies, but also implementing new circular business models that are reuse-oriented (Fashion for Good & Accenture., 2019) (figure 2). The circular business models (renting, end-of-life collection services, second-hand clothing collections, resale, repair, remaking, etc.) aim to optimize the life cycle stage of usage and provide more opportunities for textile products to be reused after the primary use phase (UNEP, 2020).
A study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2021) found that the global value of reuse businesses in 2019 was 73 billion USD (figure 3), and it represented 3.5% of the global fashion market revenues. It was estimated that the share of the reuse market could increase up to 23% of the fashion market (USD 700 billion) by 2030. It would lead to a 16% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The study estimates that these business models will grow faster in Europe and North America and could account for around 43% of total fashion market revenue in Europe by 2030.
After a brief overview of textile waste prevention in the context of reuse, the Textile Strategy will be one of the key documents guiding the direction and means of building a sustainable and circular textile economy. Inspired by eco-design requirements and the application of producer responsibility, the textile industry will stimulate and influence the search for innovative alternatives to prolong the product life cycle, which will allow the expansion of existing textile reuse models and the creation of new ones. Reuse is a much more promising strategy, which will be supported by the EU and national institutions. Therefore, investing in the textile service and reverse logistics activities is an opportunity for the various stakeholders within the value chain and their cooperation. The consumers and environment will gain many positive effects out of this transformation from fast fashion towards the extension of the usage of higher quality textile products and services.
Written by Agnė Jučienė, Inga Gurauskienė, Institute of Environmental Engineering, KTU, Lithuania
2008/98/EC. (2018). Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of November 19, 2008 on waste and repealing certain Directives (Text with EEA relevance). https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32008L0098
Aus, R., Moora, H., Vihma, M., Hunt, R., Kiisa, M., & Kapur, S. (2021). Designing for circular fashion: integrating upcycling into conventional garment manufacturing processes. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40691-021-00262-9
Commission, E., Energy, D.-G. for, & Industry, D.-G. for E. and. (2014). Ecodesign your future: how ecodesign can help the environment by making products smarter. European Commission. https://doi.org/doi/10.2769/38512
EEA. (2018). Waste prevention in Europe — policies, status and trends in reuse in 2017. https://doi.org/doi:10.2800/15583
EEA. (2019). Textiles and the environment in a circular economy.
EEA. (2022). Textiles and the environment: the role of design in Europe’s circular economy. https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/textiles-and-the-environment-the
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2021). Circular business models: Rethinking business models for a thriving fashion industry. https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/fashion-business-models/overview
European Commission. (2022a). EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles. COM (2022) 141 Final. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52022DC0141
European Commission. (2022b). On making sustainable products the norm COM (2022) 140 final. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52022DC0140
Fashion for Good & Accenture. (2019). Driving circular business models in fashion. https://fashionforgood.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/The-Future-of-Circular-Fashion-Report.pdf
Global Fashion Agenda. (2018). 2020 Commitments. https://www2.globalfashionagenda.com/commitment/#
Nordic. (2020). Post-consumer textile circularity in the Baltic countries: current status and recommendations for the future.
Sandin, G., & Peters, G. M. (2018). Environmental impact of textile reuse and recycling – A review [Article]. Journal of Cleaner Production, 184, 353–365. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.02.266
UNEP. (2020). Sustainability and Circularity in the Textile Value Chain: Global Stocktaking. https://wedocs.unep.org/20.500.11822/34184
WRAP. (2017). Mapping clothing impacts on Europe: the environmental cost. http://www.ecap.eu.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Mapping-clothing-impacts-in-Europe.pdf
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Today, almost every organization operates in virtual and even more complex environments. The Sustainable Management: Tools for Tomorrow (TOO4TO) project has addressed this challenge and contributes to the goal of better and more sustainable virtual leadership by integrating the development of virtual team leadership and sustainable leadership skills in a sustainable management e-learning course. In addition, the project promised to develop learners’ skills needed in virtual teamwork.
TOO4TO course provides learners an opportunity to form multidisciplinary and multicultural virtual teams and work on an authentic real-life sustainable management case. Pedagogical approaches are applied in these authentic learning activities and environments (e.g., Lakkala & al. 2015). However, we know that it is quite common that in a project-based course like this, the student teams have strong task orientation and focus heavily on the final output (see Jaime & al. 2019). This usually lowers the importance of developing sustainable team working and leadership skills (soft skills). The risk of low importance on developing teamwork and leadership skills risk can be reduced by using reflections as tools as part of learning activities. Both individual level and team level reflections are included because virtual collaboration is seen as a team construct, consisting of the individual members’ thoughts and experiences of working in a team (Liao 2017).
To enhance project-based learning experiences in the TOO4TO-course, the reflection of learning is knotted into the learning process.
Every student is encouraged to post an individual learning reflection diary to the eLearning environment. Individual reflections impact learning and help learners to learn by
increasing the depth of knowledge,
identifying the areas that need improvement,
personalizing knowledge, and
helping learners see the structural connections in knowledge and creating social connections among them. (Chang 2019).
In the learning diaries students explain e.g., their knowledge of the course content, attitudes, feelings and learning strategies as well as connections and cooperation with other students.
It helps to describe one’s own experience, which supports personal growth and helps to identify weaknesses and strengths related to learning (Humak 2022).
Every team will also reflect their teamwork at the team level. Team level reflections keep the teams on course, strengthen team members´ abilities, and use problem-solving to examine teamwork. Teams also need rules and procedures as well as skills to identify and overcome interpersonal conflicts, deal with failures, and celebrate success as they work together. Team level reflections lead to
collective orientation toward the task,
close relationships within the team,
However, it is good to note that students and student teams also need support in understanding the importance and technique of reflection (see Köpeczi-Bócz 2020).
To sum up,
both individual reflections and team level reflections are necessary for learning
reflections support students and student teams in transition from passive learners to active learners
reflections enable the teachers to follow the student teams´ progress and intervene in a timely manner if necessary.
Of course, the use of reflections as a tool is not only limited to education and training but is also a useful tool in working life. Virtual team members need routines like time set aside for teams to reflect together on what they are learning and what they might do differently (Dixon 2017). Applying reflections already in educational settings encourages students to continue their learning journey in real-life virtual projects leading to lifelong learning as one aspect of sustainable learning (Graham & al. 2015).
Written by Mervi Varhelahti, Marjatta Rännäli & Susanna Saari, Turku University of Applied Sciences
Chang, B. (2019). Reflection in learning. Online Learning, 23(1), 95-110.
Lakkala, M., Toom, A., Ilomäki, L. & Muukkonen, H. (2015). Re-designing university courses to support collaborative knowledge creation practices. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 31(5), 521-536. https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.2526
Liao, C. (2017). Leadership in virtual teams: A multilevel perspective. Human Resource Management Review, 27(4), 648-659
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When we discuss sustainability, our focus is usually on corporations and governments; how they can decrease their negative impact on the environment / society and boost sustainable development and transformation. As single individuals, our environmental footprint may be quite low compared to those of institutions (such as companies); however, we can still make contributions in change towards a more sustainable future by making adaptations in our lifestyles and leading a (more) sustainable living.
Sustainable living can be defined as “understanding how our lifestyle choices impact the world around us and finding ways for everyone to live better and lighter.” . It is an approach to decrease one’s demand on natural resources by, for example, stopping to use a certain product or service that is produced and delivered through unsustainable ways and have a huge negative impact on our planet; or by making behavioral changes in one’s everyday life to decrease one’s ecological footprint.
Sustainable living is closely related to the concept of sustainable consumption, which means “the use of goods and services that respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life, while minimizing the use of natural resources, toxic materials and emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle, so as not to jeopardize the needs of future generations.” 
The importance of sustainable consumption in achieving sustainable development is so important that it also appears in one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations (UN). SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production pursues “ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns” and “doing more and better with less”. 
According to a few facts presented by the UN;
“Each year, an estimated one-third of all food produced – equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes worth around $1 trillion – ends up rotting in the bins of consumers and retailers, or spoiling due to poor transportation and harvesting practices.
If people worldwide switched to energy-efficient light bulbs the world would save US$120 billion annually.
Should the global population reach 9.6 billion by 2050, the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles.” 
A simple online research on ‘how to lead a more sustainable life’ gives various ideas for small lifestyle changes that can change one’s impact on the planet for the better.
One example would be to decrease the consumption of animal-based products in one’s diet, which would not only boost one’s own health, but also that of the planet.
According to Dr. Michael Greger’s videos on Which Foods Have the Lowest Carbon Footprint? and Diet and Climate Change: Cooking Up a Storm “In California, including more animal products in your diet requires an additional 10,000 quarts of water a week. That’s like taking 150 more showers each week. Instead of eating meat every day, if you skip meat on weekdays, you could conserve thousands of gallons of water a week and cut your daily carbon footprint and total ecological footprint by about 40 percent.”  “The foods that create the most greenhouse gasses appear to be the same ones that contribute to many of our chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.” 
Another example would be to stop contributing to the growth of the fast-fashion industry and shopping for what is really needed and going for sustainable brands or second-hand clothes. The fashion industry is indeed known as one of the main pollutants of our planet. According to the Deutsche Welle Documentary on Fast fashion – The shady world of cheap clothing, “Our planet is being swamped in clothes with some 56 million tons sold every year. The number sold in Europe has doubled since the turn of the millennium”. 
According to Prof. Nikolay Anguelov, who presents interesting facts in the documentary, it is estimated that “by 2030 the industry will expand by an additional 60 percent”, which is very worrying considering, among many other issues, the amount of dumped clothes every year. Indeed, as Prof. Anguelov puts it, “Fast fashion is the commerce of very inexpensive clothing that you are expected, or you are ready to replace very rapidly. It’s very typical for the fashion forward buyer to never wear an outfit that they purchased. You will wear something once or twice or maybe never.” 
It is important that each individual is aware that one’s actions and choices do have an impact on climate change -among many other social and environmental challenges we experience today- and gets informed about the small changes he/she can make for a more sustainable lifestyle. To start with, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) presents a footprint-calculator, a questionnaire through which one can calculate his/her individual ecological impact and makes the first step towards a more sustainable living.
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The consumption of wine has a great economic and cultural significance. According to The Food and Agriculture Organization statistics from 2016, the grape is the most widely cultivated fruit crop . The biggest grape producers in 2018 were: China (11.7 million tons), Italy (8.6 million tons), the USA (6.9 million tons), Spain (6.9 million tons), and France (6.2 million tons) . Among the others, grape crops are used for fresh fruit, dried fruit and juice production. However, the majority of production is focused on wine . In 2019, the world wine production reached 292 million hectoliters from 77.8 million tons of grape crops. It is assumed that 30% of the total amount of vinified grapes are by-products during the wine production, including pomace – skin and seed as well as rachis and lees, as shown in Figure 1 .
In 2018 alone, vitiviniculture generated around 23 million tons of waste. Moreover, most of them were discarded without any treatment, causing an environmental and economic load. Biowaste generated during the winemaking process has one significant feature making them difficult to dispose of. They are rich in phenolic compounds, which decrease the pH and increase resistance to biological degradation .
Shouldthey be considered waste?
Growing people’s interest in sustainability and circular economy is a driving force for the wine industry to look for innovation and an alternative way of winery biowaste utilisation. Winery by-products, especially grape pomace, present a rich source of essential compounds such as antioxidants, dietary fibres, polyphenols, flavonoids, essential minerals, showing health-promoting properties. It is documented that these bioactive compounds possess antibacterial, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effects preventing chronic diseases. Thus, they are highly interested in the food, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical industry . More and more literature evidence shows an increasing number of possible reusing and recycling of winery biowaste. The extract of grape pomace can be used in various industries like:
the food industry, where it can be added to prevent food products against oxidation and lipid peroxidation, to limit colour deterioration and prevent against the antimicrobial activity, thus food spoilage;
the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry, because of significant polyphenols content it could be a new, cost-effective source in the cosmetic sector due to their anti-ageing properties or dietary supplement rich in antioxidants;
agroindustry as soil conditioner once the grape pomace is composted or it can be reused in animal feeding .
Instead of being disposed of away, winery by-products can be used as a fuel (biomass) to generate methane gas, which can then generate electricity . Moreover, grape stalks can be used in wastewater treatment to remove heavy metals, including Cd, Cu, Cr, Ni, Hg, Pb .
The discussed number of wine pomace applications demonstrates the significant potential of winery by-product valorisation in various industries. The results of the research are very promising; however, still, there is a long way to go until all of these residues have proven recovery pathways. This is a huge challenge for the future, to make the wine production process more sustainable, to change the wine waste chain in order to recover as much as possible and turn it into valuable products.
“Who will be the first to benefit from exploring the opportunities?”
Written by Magdalena Fabjanowicz, Gdańsk University of Technology
1. FAO-OIV FOCUS 2016 Statistical Report on Table and Dried Grapes. Available Online: (Accessed 16.03.2022); s.n.], 2016;
2. OIV, 2020 Statistical Report on World Vitiviniculture. Available Online: (Accessed 8.03.2022);
3. Bouquet, A.; Torregrosa, L.; Iocco, P.; Thomas, M.R. Grapevine (Vitis Vinifera L.). In Agrobacterium Protocols Volume 2; Humana Press: Totowa, NJ, 2006; pp. 273–285.
4. Melo, P.S.; Massarioli, A.P.; Denny, C.; dos Santos, L.F.; Franchin, M.; Pereira, G.E.; Vieira, T.M.F. de S.; Rosalen, P.L.; Alencar, S.M. de Winery By-Products: Extraction Optimisation, Phenolic Composition and Cytotoxic Evaluation to Act as a New Source of Scavenging of Reactive Oxygen Species. Food Chemistry 2015, 181, 160–169, doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2015.02.087.
5. Kalli, E.; Lappa, I.; Bouchagier, P.; Tarantilis, P.A.; Skotti, E. Novel Application and Industrial Exploitation of Winery By-Products. Bioresources and Bioprocessing 2018, 5, 46, doi:10.1186/s40643-018-0232-6.
6. Gerardi, C.; D’amico, L.; Migoni, D.; Santino, A.; Salomone, A.; Carluccio, M.A.; Giovinazzo, G. Strategies for Reuse of Skins Separated From Grape Pomace as Ingredient of Functional Beverages. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 2020, 8, doi:10.3389/fbioe.2020.00645.
7. Tripathi, A.; Rawat Ranjan, M. Heavy Metal Removal from Wastewater Using Low Cost Adsorbents. Journal of Bioremediation & Biodegradation 2015, 06, doi:10.4172/2155-6199.1000315.
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One part of Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is employee wellbeing that can be supported by leadership focusing on creating a motivated and open work culture at today´s workplaces. However, during the last two three years leadership has been challenged by the Covid 19 and its accompanying transformation of the work environment. Today, almost every organization operates in a virtual and in even more complex environments. The TOO4TO project has addressed this challenge and contributes to the goal of better and more sustainable virtual leadership by integrating the development of virtual team leadership and sustainable leadership skills in the e-learning course it will produce.
Virtual team leadership
Employees often work in small teams and the success of virtual teams depends among other things on the size and structure of the virtual team, as well as team composition meaning individual differences and team leadership. Virtual team leadership is not so different from the face-to-face leadership; however, certain practices are emphasized:
supporting open and regular communication,
being present to avoid social isolation,
giving feedback to maintain intrinsic motivation and
allowing autonomy to enable self-managing teams.
building trust to ensure knowledge sharing and creation
Working in virtual settings increases also the importance of sustainable leadership. Especially, in diverse virtual teams where the team members speak different languages, are of different ages and have different experiences, the team leader must ensure the wellbeing of the team members by leading in a sustainable way in the pursuit of trust.
How do we lead in a sustainable way in virtual settings?
The Sustainable Leadership Pyramid created by Avery and Bergsteiner (2011) (SLP) proposes a bundle of 23 integrated and mutually supportive leadership practices combined to enhancing performance outcomes by multiple measures (see fig.1). Key performance drivers refer to organizational behaviors, in other words – staff engagement, quality and innovation.
On the higher-level practices the focus is on the employees, and we can find corresponding practices that were mentioned being the most important in leading virtual teams. One of the most crucial practices is building trust. To be more precise, building both cognitive and affective trust, that correlates positively with the success of a virtual team.
It is said that trust is more difficult to establish and maintain in virtual teams (I.e., Sarker & al. 2011; Morrison-Smith & Ruiz 2020) and lack of trust is most pronounced during the initial stages of the virtual teamwork. Facilitating social exchanges early in the life of a project and creating opportunities also for informal interactions between the team members, can improve trust. In other words, the leader’s first responsibility is to build an employment relationship where team members are allowed to work freely and share their own expertise and knowledge with others. In this way, they feel a sense of belonging and make their best contribution to the success of the team. All these practices lead to increased trust between the team members and psychologically safe working environment.
In addition, to build trust in an international virtual team in the best possible way, the virtual team leader should strive to create an open discussion by choosing the right kind of technological tools and taking cultural differences into account. Also, the members of the virtual team must be aware of the communication rules and etiquette and of the norms and values of different cultures. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, the various stages of team development should be considered, most effort is needed at the initial stages of team development. Not only open communication and technology but also demonstrating appreciation and respect for the team members is beneficial. Unfortunately, trust is often seen as a sensitive resource because it is demanding and time-consuming to build, but it can be broken down easily and quickly.
Ways to develop sustainability and sustainable leadership skills virtually
The TOO4TO project online course offers an opportunity to conduct group assignments in virtual teams across national borders. The intention is to elevate the learners’ sustainable leadership skills, such as building trust, as well as adaptability to new situations in conjunction with studying sustainability, which as an approach, is unique to all project partners.
The project has also published a “How to lead virtual teams” guide to increase competence and skills in the area of sustainable leadership and multicultural virtual teamwork. The guide is available on the https://too4to.eu/ website.
While changes in the work environment are seen as challenges, they are also great opportunities to re-think ways of working and to develop as a sustainable virtual team leader. Despite the work environment, it is still about the welfare of the team members.
Written by Mervi Varhelahti, Marjatta Rännäli and Milka Leppäkoski, Turku University of Applied Sciences
Morrison-Smith, S. & Ruiz, J. (2020). Challenges and barriers in virtual teams: a literature review. SN Applied Sciences, 2(6), 1-33.
Suriyankietkaew, S. & Avery, G. (2016). Sustainable leadership practices driving financial performance: Empirical evidence from Thai SMEs. Sustainability, 8(4), 327.
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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This website and its whole content reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. PROJECT NUMBER 2020-1-PL01-KA203-082076