Biodiversity is the business

Biodiversity – the lastborn child that doesn’t get the right amount of attention

It’s amazing to see how many brands – young and old – are turning their attention to sustainability. From using surplus food to planting trees for every product sold. Consumers are demanding more from the companies they buy from and not a day goes by without press coverage on the impact of climate change. One area of sustainability which doesn’t get nearly as much ‘airtime’ as getting rid of plastic or reducing your carbon footprint is biodiversity.

Long standing concerns such as the the black rhino facing extinction are often in the press but the idea that the planet biodiversity is reducing?  It feels vague and difficult to quantify…. Is it really such a big deal and what exactly can we do to influence it while sipping on a glass of binary?

Biodiversity – the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat

The way we eat hinders rather than helps biodiversity

  1. We don’t eat a very broad range of foods – globally, 75% of world food consumption comes from only 12 plants and 5 animal species.   If we let that sink in for a minute…. we have enough fingers and toes to count the number of plant and animal species we consume. This results in large scale farming of only a few plants and animals to meet this demand. This ultimately comes at the expense of biodiversity. 
  2. We love dairy and meat – This lack of biodiversity is further exacerbated when you consider that farming for meat and dairy take up 83% of all farmland and produce 60% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Schematic of the lack of biodiversity in what we eat
The lack of biodiversity highlighted by what we eat

But does it really matter?

The obvious next question is ‘so what’? Does it really matter? We think so.   Unlike some of the other environmental challenges such as reducing carbon emissions and waste, once a plant or animal is extinct – there is no going back. Potential future innovation breakthroughs could reverse some of the environmental damage we see e.g. microorganisms that like to feast on plastic. Bringing back extinct plants and animals is a different matter and currently we have to watch Jurassic Park to appreciate this.

We also rely on plants and animals to drive medical breakthroughs. For example, researchers are studying the toxins on frogs in South America to see if they provide an alternative to antibiotics as super-resistant strains become more common. Only a small fraction of the frog species has been screened and protecting these biological ‘assets’ is key.

Panamanian frogs and their potential to replace antibiotics

So what can we do ?

  1. VOTE with your money –  Most environmental changes are being driven by consumers demanding more from the companies they buy from.  The power in numbers. So many of the great sustainability innovations we see are more expensive to buy. They are sub-scale and end up costing a lot more to make. If we want to see them get to scale we need to help nudge them there. Consider what has happened to the economics of renewable energy over the last few years.
  2. Eat less meat –If we only do one thing to support biodiversity is to eat less meat. Farming for meat production is a big driver of biodiversity loss in farming. No need to cut it out completely – simply eating it a bit less often and thinking of it as a treat helps a lot.
  3. Support local – not only does local normally mean smaller farms and less miles – it can also mean better farming practices. The differences between conventional farming and organic farming are pretty obvious when you look at the hop fields below (taken in adjacent organic and conventional fields at the same time of year).  We are not advocating a wholesale switch to organic farming but employing organic farming practices including the protection of biodiversity would go a long way.
Photo of organic vs. conventional hop farming in worcester
Conventional vs. organic hop farm – taken in Worcester

We are working at binary on how we can think about biodiversity in a simpler way and how best to support it. Buy a bee? Plant a wild flower? If you have any ideas we would love to know.



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