ICYMI: SxSWxSustainability, groceries' carbon footprint and more

ICYMI — "In Case You Missed It"  is a regular Friday feature recapping the news of the week.

Happy Ides of March, readers! I hope you won't feel like I've stabbed you in the back this week: It turns out that the usual fire hose of sustainability-related information was turned down from 11 to just five or six, giving us only a gusher of news instead of an overwhelming torrent.

Still, more than enough to keep us busy, so let's get cracking:

Notable Reports

• This week marked the release of the 12th annual Clean Energy Trends report from Clean Edge (a company co-founded by our own Joel Makower). The Clean Energy Trends 2013 report continues Clean Edge's work in both looking back at the state of cleantech in the past year, as well as looking forward to what's ahead.

This year's report includes five trends to watch, as well as the companies that best illustrate this trend:

  1. Smart Devices and Big Data Empower Customers, Open New Chapter in Energy Efficiency (Nest Labs)
  2. Distributed Solar Financing Comes of Age (Mosaic)
  3. Under the EV Radar, Microhybrid Technology Saves Big on Fuel Consumption (Johnson Controls)
  4. In the U.S. and Overseas, Geothermal Picks up Steam (Energy Development Corp.)
  5. Perfectly Natural: Biomimicry Makes its Mark on Clean Tech (Biomimicry 3.8)

• A new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance this week projects that cellulosic ethanol  a low-carbon fuel not made from potential food sources like corn  is going to reach cost competitiveness with corn ethanol by 2016. This is good news for people and the planet, as Jeff Spross at ThinkProgress points out:

The requirements set by both the United States and Europe that a certain portion of their fuel supply come from biofuels have so far resulted in a huge diversion of corn crops away from use as food and into biofuel production. The increased demand for biofuels also drives farmers to dedicate land that could be used for food to biofuel feedstock production. ... On top of all this, corn-based biofuel use drives the conversion of grasslands and forest into cropland, even though the former two actually do much more to reduce carbon in the atmosphere than the latter.

• Your groceries are a much bigger part of your personal carbon footprint than you think, and retailers are lining up to change that. A new report from the U.K.'s Waste Reduction Action Programme combs through 150 studies to identify the environmental impact of grocery products, finding "the production and sale of grocery products to contribute between 21 to 33 percent to household consumption GHG emissions." I wish you could see this graphic more clearly (click on the image for a slightly larger, slightly fuzzier version), but it's showing the annual carbon dioxide equivalents of the various categories of groceries:

In short, chilled and frozen foods are far and away the biggest carbon culprits in the supermarket. (Surprisingly, baked goods are slightly lower in carbon than fruits and vegetables combined — no doubt good news for all you cupcake addicts.)

In response to the report, three of the U.K.'s largest grocers, The Co-Operative Group, Nestlé and Sainsbury's, have joined a pilot project to reduce the cradle-to-retail footprint of some of these products.

Next page: SXSW as a green launchpad