Guinness Is Doing Away With Its Plastic Packaging

iStock.com/sasar
iStock.com/sasar

The parent company that makes Guinness, Harp, and Smithwick's beer has announced it will start phasing out plastic packaging this summer, according to Food and Wine. In an attempt to reduce waste and introduce more sustainable products, Diageo said in a statement that it will replace its plastic ring carriers and shrink wrap with "100 percent recyclable and biodegradable cardboard."

Diageo, which bills itself as the world's largest producer of spirits, said this measure is the equivalent of "removing 40 million 50cl [nearly 17-ounce] plastic bottles from the world which, if laid out in a row, would reach from London to Beijing."

After rolling out the new packaging in Ireland this August, the company will introduce the cardboard packs to Great Britain and other international markets beginning in the summer of 2020. Though the company doesn't plan to completely eliminate plastics, it says it will ensure that 100 percent of its plastic use is recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025.

Diageo is the latest brewing company to take a stand against plastic packaging. In 2016, the Florida-based Salt Water Brewery introduced compostable six pack rings made from by-products of the brewing process, including wheat and barley, on some of their products. Carlsberg also announced last September that it would start using glue (instead of plastic rings) to hold its cans together, and Corona started experimenting with plastic-free rings last November.

These plastic rings can be harmful for marine habitats because wildlife can become ensnared in them. According to the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup report from 2011, birds are the animal most likely to become stuck in a six-pack holder, followed by fish and invertebrates [PDF]. However, fishing lines and nets were identified as far greater sources of entanglement, and cigarettes were the greatest source of ocean pollution overall.

Beyond the effect on marine habitats, single-use plastics are also problematic because the U.S. recycles just 9 percent of its plastic waste. The problem has been compounded by China’s decision last year to stop accepting certain kinds of waste from western countries. Instead, some cities have been incinerating or stockpiling their recyclables as a stop-gap measure.

[h/t Food and Wine]

The Tree That Inspired Dr. Seuss's The Lorax Has Fallen Over

Rhododendrites, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0
Rhododendrites, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

The Truffula trees at the center of The Lorax may have been a product of Dr. Seuss's imagination, but it's believed they were inspired by a real-life tree in La Jolla, California. Nearly 50 years after the environmental parable was published, Smithsonian reports that the iconic Monterey cypress has fallen.

The tree had grown for 80 to 100 years in what is today Ellen Browning Scripps Park in Southern California. It was clearly visible from the observation tower where Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, lived in La Jolla following World War II.

While the children's book author and illustrator never stated that the tree inspired his work, locals started referring to it as "The Lorax Tree." The resemblance it bears to Seuss's Truffula is undeniable: Both have skinny trunks with whimsical curves and thick, fluffy canopies of foliage concentrated at the top.

In The Lorax, the Truffula trees are threatened by the Once-ler, who wants to chop them down and turn them into garments called Thneeds. The title character "speaks for the trees" and conveys the book's environmentalist message.

Unlike the Truffula, La Jolla's Monterey cypress appeared to be in no danger until it recently toppled over. Arborists aren't sure what caused the collapse, as they hadn't noticed any prior health issues with the tree except for some termites. The past year's uncharacteristically wet winter and the effect it had on the surrounding soil may have played a role, so experts are looking into that possibility.

Most of the tree has been removed from the area, and the city plans to plant another tree in its place. There are also plans to salvage and repurpose the trunk from the fallen tree, though they haven't been made official.

[h/t Smithsonian]

Tourists Are Picking Apart Britain's Oldest Tree

Paul Hermans, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The Fortingall Yew in the Fortingall churchyard in Perthshire, Scotland has seen a lot. Since it started growing at least 2000 years ago, it's been present for the Roman settlement of Scotland, the shift from paganism to Christianity, and the country's induction into the United Kingdom. But after standing for millennia, the ancient tree is facing its greatest threat yet. Tourists are removing twigs and branches from the tree to take home as souvenirs, and the tree is under so much stress that it's spontaneously changing sexes, Atlas Obscura reports.

Because of how the tree grows, it's hard to date the Fortingall Yew precisely. It comprises several separate trunks that have hollowed out over the years, making it easier for the tree to support itself in its old age. Based on historical measurements and 19th-century ring counts, the yew has been around for at least two millennia, but it could date back as far as 5000 years. That makes it the oldest tree in Britain and one of the oldest living things in Europe.

That impressive title means the tree gets a lot of visitors, not all of whom are concerned with extending its lifespan even longer. A stone and iron wall built in the Victorian era encloses the tree, but that hasn't stopped people from climbing over it to break off pieces or leave behind keepsakes like beads and ribbons.

As the abuse adds up, the tree has responded in concerning ways. It sprouted red berries this spring, a sign that the tree is transitioning to a different sex for the first time in its life. Yew trees are either male or female, and sex changes among the species are incredibly rare and misunderstood. Some botanists believe it's a reaction to stress. The change may be a survival mechanism intended to increase the specimen's chances of reproducing.

Scientists aren't sure why this particular yew, which was formerly male, sprouted berries on its upper branches, an exclusively female characteristic, but they've collected the berries to study them. The seeds from the berries will be preserved as part of a project to protect the genetic diversity of yew trees across the globe.

In the mean time, caretakers of the Fortingall Yew are imploring visitors to be respectful of the tree and keep their hands to themselves.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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