Apple Hotel gains a green-roofed wellness center in South Tyrol

August 11, 2020 by  
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Bolzano-based architecture practice noa* (network of architecture) has recently completed the latest stage of expansion for Apfelhotel (Apple Hotel), a nature-focused retreat tucked away in the village of Saltaus in northern Italy. The recently completed phase includes 18 new guest suites and a green-roofed wellness facility that serves as the hotel’s centerpiece. Covered with a layer of earth and plants, the curved spa appears to blend seamlessly into a grassy hillside on one side and opens up to views of the landscape and apple fields on the other. In 2014, noa* won a design competition to expand on Apfelhotel’s historic structure and, in 2016, completed the expansion of the grounds, a renovation of the main building and restaurant as well as the addition of the Apfelsauna (Apple Sauna). Earlier this year, the architects added a wellness facility and 18 new suites on the hotel’s east-facing side that have been carefully crafted to complement the rural landscape and the existing renovated farmhouse . The guest rooms are spread out across three floors in three independent buildings, each wrapped in a wooden rhombus-pattered facade that pays homage to the traditional vernacular while appearing distinctively contemporary.  Related: A historic hotel is sustainably revamped into a charming “alpine village” getaway The new wellness facility — known as the Brunnenhaus (Water Well House) — forms the “green heart” of the hotel campus. The entrance to the green-roofed spa was built from a curved, semi-exposed concrete shell embedded into a grassy hill and punctuated with a door fabricated from old timber. The interior houses an adults-only upper level with a sauna , lounge, relaxation room, Finnish spa with panoramic outdoor views, a cave-like steam bath and an adjacent terrace fitted with an outdoor shower.  “The entire Apfelhotel project reflects the nature and passion of its family-owners, whose aim is to make people feel truly at home, rather than like a hotel guest,” the architects explained. “Together with noa*, the architecture was created with a great sense of integrity towards this special place, which becomes a unit with nature, ties in with its history, and maintains its own identity through applied design — where occasionally, glimpses of the apple can be seen in the surrounding nature and design.” + noa* Photography by Alex Filz via noa*

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Apple Hotel gains a green-roofed wellness center in South Tyrol

What switching to satellite offices could mean for sustainability

August 10, 2020 by  
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What switching to satellite offices could mean for sustainability Jesse Klein Mon, 08/10/2020 – 01:45 When the coronavirus pandemic started in March, many of America’s major cities experienced a mass exodus of people in search of places with more living space for home offices and outdoor areas for easier social distancing. And as many tech companies extend their work from home policies indefinitely , such as Google , which recently announced it will allow employees to work from home until July 2021, this migration could become permanent.  “There is this phenomenon that we know is happening around people leaving the major cities and going to smaller places,” said Lindsay Baker , former first chief sustainability officer at WeWork and founder of space use software app company Comfy . “People sometimes don’t choose to live in cities. They live there because they work there.”   And as employees move away, many companies are starting to reevaluate the necessity of maintaining their large corporate offices or complexes in congested, expensive places with prestigious addresses. In June, a San Franciscan tweeted a photo of three moving trucks on the edge of the city’s financial district near Chinatown and commented that he has seen over 30 in the area. At least anecdotally, both people and companies are leaving town. They are moving out of office buildings because they don’t need them.  But even if remote work becomes the long-term norm for every company post-pandemic, humans still like to work together. There’s still a part of us that wants to physically come together to collaborate and connect. So real estate strategies may turn towards smaller neighborhood satellite offices in multiple suburban locations, instead of one massive complex that serves an entire region or, in some cases, an entire state.  These smaller satellite hubs could allow employees to come together a few times a week and supply high-speed internet and better backgrounds than a kitchen table for important meetings, while also being less crowded for social distancing concerns, giving employees shorter commutes and allowing for a quieter, more accessible outdoor environments than a typical bustling financial district location.  But what will this possible transition to smaller hubs mean for the sustainability of office buildings where building designers and office managers have spent the last decade making every last inch of a multistory building as energy- and waste-efficient as possible? Large complexes have sustainabilities of scale When an influential company builds an HQ, it becomes iconic and synonymous with the company’s brand and image. The most well-known ones become part of the pop culture ethos and get nicknames: The Apple Spaceship, The GooglePlex, The Salesforce Tower, The Amazon Biodomes, The Hearst Tower, The Bank of China Tower, Lloyd’s “Inside-Out Building.” That notoriety incentivizes the company to commit to sustainable designs, technologies and programs for the highly scrutinized building. But the tenants couldn’t heavily invest in those projects without the massive number of people each building serves. And the bigger buildings could have sustainability of scale that smaller offices can’t provide. “I think to an extent you could make a claim that a larger campus or a larger building would be more sustainable [than a smaller office] for the simple fact that you can implement different technologies that have a better ROI,” said Kyle Goehring, executive vice president of clean energy solutions at JLL.  Media Authorship Salesforce Close Authorship These technologies can be as mundane as better, more energy-efficient boilers, lights, heaters, filters and air conditioners or as radical as the Salesforce Tower’s in-building blackwater treatment equipment.  “When you’ve got big buildings, you’ve got more complex, robust mechanical systems,” said Sean McCrady, vice president of Healthy Buildings, recently acquired by UL. And larger, more complex buildings are usually staffed with teams of specialists to run them. They notice when something isn’t running efficiently and work to find solutions. Just having people around in charge of sustainability to notice when the lights on the sixth floor keep getting left on is important. There are other sustainabilities of scale that large campus’ offer that smaller ones can’t. The Google Cafeteria, for example, works on a scale that allows for extremely sustainable operations. It uses ugly fruit , has a food waste reduction program and can serve on and wash real plates instead of using disposable ones. “Even if I bought a Tupperware full of whatever food I had to my office, took it home and washed it in my residential dishwasher, it would have been more consumptive than what Google does,” Baker said. “Because it’s at scale.” According to Baker, tech perks aren’t going away. Even in the time of the pandemic, employees still expect some of the same benefits they enjoyed at their large complexes. But instead of a buffet-style with real plates and a full kitchen in the complex, companies will deliver servings in disposable containers to the smaller hub locations. And with the virus still on everyone’s mind, instead of bulk ordering trail mix, nuts and candy for a bin with scope, single-serving chip bags and cookie packages will feel necessary. Sustainable cafeterias might be replaced with high-waste food delivery services.  Another factor that contributes to more sustainability investment on large corporate campuses is that they are either owned by the company or are in long-term lease agreements, sometimes up to 20 years. Both these situations give the company much more control over building decisions.  “Real estate owners will often say that the stability of long term and big leases help them to be able to make some of these sustainability improvements,” Baker said.  Almost every building expert interviewed for this story mentioned that companies and landlords are more willing to make changes if they have a steady partner to help carry the costs. There’s no point making a bunch of sustainable changes if the company plans to abandon that location in two years. Shifting to a smaller corporate office model with many businesses in each building and each company dealing with many landlords could threaten a company’s ability to influence a sustainable agenda. Smaller satellites could shift incentives  If post-pandemic, companies decided that instead of 100,000 to 1 million square feet organized into a complex, they need 10,000 square feet in 10 separate hub locations, there are a lot more decision-makers at the table, and a lot more split incentives.  “In America, buildings are owned by one entity, managed by a different entity and occupied by another entity,” Baker said. “All of these things getting disrupted means that there’s a little bit of mayhem going on for most buildings.” Essentially, there are more renters, more landlords, more operators and less control for any individual party, making getting anything done more difficult.   Each entity has different incentives that affect the feasibility of sustainable improvements. For example, where a tenant might see a huge advantage in installing solar panels to decrease the utility bill, the owner of the building who passes the electricity bill onto the renter doesn’t have any reason to pay for the solar infrastructure.  “Oftentimes, it’s the owner who’s really in a position of power,” Baker said. “When you have more tenants and shorter terms, split incentives become a much bigger problem, and it’s harder to get an owner to spend the money.” Goehring agreed. “A larger site campus may be able to put in more technologies because you have greater control over that property,” he said. “Whereas if you’re in much smaller sites and you have multiple tenants, you may not be able to implement an on-site renewable or energy-efficient solution because you’re sharing the asset with multiple parties. You may not be able to get agreement.” Essentially, there are more renters, more landlords, more operators and less control for any individual party, making getting anything done more difficult. Adobe already has encountered this problem with its satellite offices across the globe.  “If we have a small office somewhere that we rent, we have no local control,” said Vince Digneo, sustainability strategist for Adobe. “We’re working on strategies for being able to work with landlords.” On the other hand, the fact that the satellite offices are not as tightly controlled also could help green initiatives get off the ground. According to Baker, there’s less bureaucracy, and it could be easier to get decisions made. Moreover, in a smaller office, the people in charge might be more willing to take a chance on a change at a smaller scale. Even overhauling something simple could be a massive undertaking at a huge headquarters.  “Sometimes the best sustainability performance actually happens in the satellite offices of these big companies,” Baker said. “They were able to break down more silos faster. That stuff is sort of the bread and butter of sustainability work.” Sustainability could thrive in a market of flexibility, pressure and competition As corporations need less space, they have more potential locations available to hold them. According to the commercial building experts, fewer constraints, along with the pandemic exodus has created a renter’s market, forcing landlords to be more flexible to compete. To attract companies with sustainability commitments, smaller landlords that didn’t have to think about solar or efficient heating before will hopefully start making changes.  “You can influence the people who own the assets to implement solutions because if they don’t, you are going to go lease a different property or you’re going to relocate elsewhere,” Goehring said.  Baker hopes that the changing market will develop a sense of competition between landlords to be the most sustainable and be in line with the sustainable values and goals of larger companies. That means there’s an opportunity for the massive companies that need space in many places to turn up the heat on more buildings, more regulators and more landlords in more places. With satellite offices, companies could influence sustainable policies and access to renewable energy in many areas, instead of just focusing on the one that is home to the large base.  With Adobe’s many satellite locations, it is able to put pressure on regulators in states outside of its headquarters in California. According to Digneo, Adobe was able to work with local utilities such as Portland General Electric to get renewable energy to its sites in Hillsboro, Oregon, and later in Utah.  We are still far from the end of this pandemic, and we don’t know what the long-term ramifications for our office lives will be. But the private sector is usually quick to adapt and take advantage of a changing market, and the hope is those adaptations will include more sustainable offices, whatever the size.  Pull Quote Essentially, there are more renters, more landlords, more operators and less control for any individual party, making getting anything done more difficult. Topics Buildings Built Environment Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A rendering of Apple’s spaceship-like headquarters in Cupertino.

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The electronic waste collection conundrum

July 16, 2020 by  
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The electronic waste collection conundrum Heather Clancy Thu, 07/16/2020 – 01:15 The primary reason I started covering the business of sustainability during the 2008 financial crisis wasn’t just because I was laid off from my position as editor of a technology trade publication. Quite simply, I had become obsessed with the tech industry’s then-blasé attitude about the seemingly intractable problem of electronic waste.  A dozen years later, it’s still a massive problem — although data released this week by Morgan Stanley suggest that shifting consumer mindsets about electronics recycling, refurbishment, repair and trade-in programs could be a catalyst for change. First, some stats. According to a December report by the United Nations Environment Program, roughly 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste is produced globally on an annual basis. By weight, that’s more than all of the commercial airliners ever manufactured, and only 20 percent of the stuff is formally recycled. (The operative word being formally, because a lot of it gets handled in informal ways that can inflict serious human and environmental damage. But that’s a subject for another essay.) The numbers will never scale until collection is scaled. When I started mining some of my stories from a year ago, those figures were eerily familiar. The amount of e-stuff collected and processed for some useful end — either mined for metals and rare earths or refurbished for a second life — definitely has been growing, thanks to companies such as Apple, Dell, HP Inc. and Samsung. But not nearly enough when you think of all the gadgets that have made it into the world’s hands over the past 10 years.  Interest in seeing that change is growing among consumers — at least before the pandemic really set in — according to research fielded in February by Morgan Stanley. More than half the individuals the financial services company surveyed — 10,000 people from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, China and India — said they recycle old electronics devices. That’s up from 24 percent just two years ago. Close to half of them, 45 percent, said electronics recycling should be handled by the manufacturer. Furthermore, close to 80 percent of the respondents reported that they repaired a device — or planned to repair — at least one gadget; 70 percent had bought or planned on buying a refurbished one. “As advanced robotics technology becomes more accessible, repairs and chip-set upgrades could become a more compelling method in making devices more ‘sustainable,’” Morgan Stanley noted in its report. Great idea, but how does all this stuff get to a location where it can be repaired, refurbished or recycling? “The numbers will never scale until collection is scaled,” long-time electronics recycling executive Kabira Stokes told me when I chatted with her earlier this week. Stokes founded her first electronics recycling organization in 2011 as a social purpose corporation and later sold Homeboy Industries. Homeboy Recycling, where she’s a board member, handles recycling for companies, notably HP — it has raised oodles of press for its workforce development program, which creates jobs for formerly incarcerated individuals. She’s hoping to bring the same ethos as CEO of one-year-old Retrievr , which is (you guessed it) focusing on solving the collection problem. The company’s first market is Philadelphia, where it has contracted with the city and more than 80 nearby municipalities to pick up unwanted clothing and electronics that otherwise might wind up in places where we really don’t want it. Retrievr’s lead investor is Closed Loop Partners and it is advised by execs from Accenture and Google. “This is a way to reach into people’s houses. In my mind, it’s the only way to move the needle,” Stokes said. While Retrievr isn’t ready to talk about its partners in fashion and technology, it’s shopping the software behind its collection system as a way to help product makers get stuff back more easily, Stokes told me. Historically speaking, many makers of stuff haven’t taken responsibility for its end of life. That’s changing as more explore circular production methods. Morgan Stanley’s analysis notes that consumers are particularly interested in trade-in options, with more than three-quarters of those surveyed hoping to participate in such a program by 2022. This isn’t just a matter of sustainability, it’s a matter of competitive advantage. The firm figures of the value of Apple iPhones that could be traded toward new devices is somewhere around $147 billion, an amount that could fund roughly 30 percent of new iPhone purchases over the next three years. “We believe that now is the opportune time for manufacturers to invest more aggressively in infrastructure to support these types of programs,” the Morgan Stanley analysis notes. Of course, it’s possible that if this same survey were fielded today, fewer consumers would be interested in repairs or refurbished devices or in trading the old for new. During a pandemic, things previously owned by others don’t have quite the same cachet. One big wildcard is how the COVID-19 economic crisis — and potentially permanent new habits in remote working and education — might affect demand for personal computers and tablets. Think of how many households with multiple children have had to invest in additional devices in order to keep everyone online. Just last week, research firm IDC reported that second quarter PC shipments grew by double digits compared with a year ago. It could be exactly the right time to change the model. This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe  here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Pull Quote The numbers will never scale until collection is scaled. Topics Information Technology Circular Economy E-Waste Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Could trash-to-energy technology feed hydrogen demand?

July 15, 2020 by  
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Could trash-to-energy technology feed hydrogen demand? Arlene Karidis Wed, 07/15/2020 – 01:00 One novel spin on emerging hydrogen fuel options is “clean hydrogen” made from trash.  Early pioneers of these hydrogen-from-waste technologies such as Ways2H, SGH2 Energy (SGH2) and Standard Hydrogen say not only are they making carbon-free, energy-rich fuel, their approaches also will divert mountains of trash from landfills and waterways, cutting greenhouse gas emissions.   Green hydrogen — made by splitting water’s hydrogen and oxygen using electricity produced by renewable sources — is a small fish in the “energies pond.” Today, more than 95 percent of hydrogen is fossil-based and does not rely on renewables. Other technologies are in the mix, such as battery electric vehicles. Hydrogen from waste is an even smaller fish than hydrogen from renewable energy. There are only a few waste-to-hydrogen projects, most which are in early stages and relatively small scale. Still, there is potential for clean — low- or zero-carbon — hydrogen to take off, energy experts believe. It is energy-efficient, abundant and an environmentally friendly alternative to natural gas. Clean hydrogen could cut greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel by up to 34 percent, reported Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  Deployed at scale, hydrogen from all sources could account for almost 20 percent of energy consumed by 2050, projects the Hydrogen Council . The annual demand could reach 19,120,458,891 tons by then, representing a tenfold increase from 2015 to 2050.  When we began marketing our services, we expected most of the interest to center around our hydrogen production capabilities, but most inquiries have centered around waste consumption.   Looking specifically at hydrogen from renewable energy, Bloomberg calculates that if the cost for the technology to produce it continues its current downward curve, renewable hydrogen could be competitive with natural gas in several countries before 2050. And it could be cheaper than producing hydrogen from natural gas. Combined with a push for decarbonization, these economics could drive demand, project energy experts.  A few tech companies are working to grow clean hydrogen in Europe and Asia and, lately, California. As the state weighs hydrogen as a possible path to its goal of carbon neutrality by midcentury, California’s policy makers are following emerging research, including a recent report from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory looking specifically at converting hydrogen from waste. It concluded this approach could be a cost-effective way to actually achieve negative emissions. One company hoping to capitalize is Ways2H , which has a thermal process to convert municipal solid waste, medical waste, plastics and sewage sludge into renewable hydrogen. With four pilots under its belt, the company soon plans to launch a commercial project in Tokyo. It will start by making transportation fuel from wastewater sludge, then add plastics, according to the company.  Later this year, the developer intends to build a plant in California to make hydrogen from waste for transportation fuel or for the power grid; it is negotiating with a healthcare provider to supply the trash. The plan is to build more plants in California and other U.S. locations in 2021. Above photo courtesy of Ways2H Ways2H CEO Jean-Louis Kindler believes he’s found a promising niche. “As we see more hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, beginning with public transportation applications … that are happening worldwide, and as more utilities adopt hydrogen as a power generation fuel, producing renewable hydrogen from waste will be an important source of supply to meet growing clean hydrogen demand,” he said.  Is this the best second life for trash? Energy Transitions Commission, a global coalition of leaders across the energy landscape, is exploring low-carbon energy systems — including different ways to make hydrogen. The commission’s stance is that leveraging biomass to make hydrogen fuel is not putting waste as feedstock to its best use. “We try to understand bioresource demand and to prioritize its use, using it as a resource where there are no other low-carbon options. There are other ways to make hydrogen. Meanwhile, there are applications with few low-carbon options that need the biomass more, such as biofuels for aviation,” said Meera Atreya, Energy Transitions Commission Bioeconomy lead. That hasn’t dissuaded Ways2H and others from forging ahead.  SGH2 , for example, is producing hydrogen from mixed paper, which is fed into a gasifier that operates at very high heat generated by oxygen and plasma torches. The heat breaks down waste’s hydrocarbons into a synthetic gas; hydrogen is then separated and purified to 99.9999 percent.   Its first plant will be able to generate 3,800 tons of green hydrogen a year from waste supplied by the city of Lancaster in California, which will co-own the facility according to a memorandum of understanding, according to the SGH2 web site. The image above describes SGH2’s process. SGH2 is negotiating with fueling stations interested in the Lancaster plant’s output. SGH2 CEO Robert Do, whose background is in physics, medicine and business, can’t name companies yet but said, “We have also had enormous interest from other buyers in California and globally. We are in talks with utilities, cement companies, and hydrogen bus manufacturers, among others.”  A preliminary lifecycle analysis indicates that for every ton of hydrogen produced, SGH2’s process displaces 13 to 19 tons more CO2 than processes using electrolysis to split water’s hydrogen and oxygen. Do said his production costs are lower, averaging $2 per kg.  “We can do it cheaper because our fuel is free, in exchange for offering disposal services at no cost to generators. And we can run the plant year-round while electrolysis depends on availability of solar and wind,” he said. A 2020 Hydrogen Council report states that renewable hydrogen produced via electrolysis is about $6/kg hydrogen; although costs have been declining, and it projects they will continue to drop.  Another pioneer in the waste-to-hydrogen movement is Standard Hydrogen Company , which is converting waste to hydrogen sulfide, then splitting it into hydrogen and sulfur to make fuel from the hydrogen. Like SGH2, the company says its process is cheaper than electrolysis because it is less energy-intensive and involves no water. Standard Hydrogen CEO Alan Mintzer hopes to close on his first joint venture this summer with a consortium of North American utilities and multinational corporations that will provide feedstock and purchase the hydrogen. He is targeting pricing of $4/kg wholesale and $5/kg retail.   “When we began marketing our services, we expected most of the interest to center around our hydrogen production capabilities, but most inquiries have centered around waste consumption. Not only will we clean the landfills and plastic and tire dumps, but our process provides an incentive to go to the floating garbage islands out in the oceans, and convert them into hydrogen,” Mintzer said.  The California Energy Commission (CEC) and other agencies in that state have funded research on hydrogen transportation fuel, including potentially sourced from waste.  “As the state moves to deep decarbonization, we’re exploring all options — including hydrogen as a clean energy carrier — in order to identify the most cost-effective pathways to reduce carbon emissions and protect public health,” says Laurie ten Hope, deputy director for Energy Research and Development at the California Energy Commission.  Technology & Investment Solutions is among those doing research for California. Its project is in collaboration with the University of Southern California (USC) and entails converting organic waste to biogas through anaerobic digestion and uses USC’s catalytic reformer to convert the methane to hydrogen for potential use as vehicle fuel.  Still, the process of making hydrogen fuel from any source has a way to go before it has firm footing, even in a state committed to decarbonization.  While California is mandated to bring 100 hydrogen refueling stations on line by 2025, and is looking to add more, it currently has just over 6,000 hydrogen vehicles on the road, compared to nearly 700,000 electric vehicles, noted a CEC spokeswoman. She added, “So while the state has invested in hydrogen technologies, today there is far less adoption of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles than electric ones.” Through their growing pains, developers working on hydrogen from waste are onto something, speculated Keith D. Patch, an energy and technology consultant. Not only are other clean technologies such as electrolysis expensive, they require enormous energy and don’t address the waste problem that waste conversion technologies could, he points out. But what are the hurdles?  “The biggest barrier has been overly optimistic predictions by waste conversion companies, primarily around technical maturity and commercial economics. But once commercial readiness is validated by robust subscale testing, the industry should be primed for takeoff,” Patch said. Pull Quote When we began marketing our services, we expected most of the interest to center around our hydrogen production capabilities, but most inquiries have centered around waste consumption. The biggest barrier has been overly optimistic predictions by waste conversion companies, primarily around technical maturity and commercial economics. Topics Energy & Climate Circular Economy Hydrogen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Standard Hydrogen Close Authorship

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Are you up for the Plastic Free July challenge?

July 1, 2020 by  
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How hard would it be to say no to single-use plastics for an entire month? People who sign up for Plastic Free July are about to find out. The global movement is asking people around the world to be part of the plastic pollution solution. Plastic Free July started back in 2011. Last year, about 250 million people from 177 countries took part in the movement. A survey about Plastic Free July found that participants reduced their household waste about 5% per year and made changes that became long-term habits. Related: How to replace single-use and plastic items in the kitchen Brought to you by the Plastic Free Foundation Rebecca Prince-Ruiz founded the Plastic Free Foundation as a not-for-profit in 2017 along with a team of committed folks in Western Australia. Now, the organization promotes Plastic Free July. The foundation’s ambassador, musician Jack Johnson, is instrumental in spreading the word. “Plastic Free July inspires me to step up my commitment to reducing single-use plastic in my daily life and on tour,” he said on the organization’s website. “A great first step is to commit to using reusable water bottles . I’m also working with the music industry (artists, venues, festivals and fans) to reduce plastic waste through the BYOBottle campaign.” The foundation’s website is its most accessible resource for people around the world. It inspires visitors with stories about ordinary people trying to escape the siren song of convenient plastic. A section called “What others do” features — and invites readers to submit — their stories about alternatives to plastics they use in their everyday life. For example, a mother of two in New Zealand has found strategies for working toward a zero-waste household, and another woman managed to talk her hospital coworkers out of using 70,000 single-use cups each year. You can download posters from the website urging people to avoid single-use straws , takeout containers, plastic bags and other pitfalls of modern life. The posters are suitable for hanging at work, school or local businesses. Ways to avoid single-use plastic People who take the Plastic Free July pledge probably figure they can do without straws for a month or more and remember to bring their reusable cloth bags to the market. But some plastic products are harder to avoid. The web page called “What you can do” provides solutions to many of these problems. For many people, menstruation seems to bring an unfair burden: cramps, moodiness and the responsibility for plastic tampon applicators and used sanitary napkins piling up in landfills or blocking sewage pipes and even causing ingestion issues for marine animals. Instead, the Plastic Free Foundation recommends using menstrual cups, period underwear or reusable pads. Worldwide, people struggle with what to do about bin liners. While putting a plastic bag in your trash can is exceedingly convenient, plastic stays in the landfill forever, eventually breaking down into microplastics that can harm animals. Instead, you can line your bin with newspaper, or let your bin go “naked” and wash it frequently. Of course, composting all your food scraps will cut down on the bin’s ickiest contents. Audit your bin Before you can improve, you need to know how bad the problem is. The Plastic Free Foundation recommends auditing your bin. Doing a bin audit will help you understand what kind of waste you’re creating and how you can minimize it. You can do a bin audit at home or in your workplace. Try to get your family or coworkers onboard to help with the audit and to implement changes based on your findings. Choose an auspicious day for the bin audit. This should be long enough after trash day so that some stuff has accumulated in your bin but not long enough for it to stink. Find a sheltered outdoor place with good airflow. Spread a tarp on the ground and dump your bin. Separate your trash into categories, such as paper , food, cans, batteries, plastics, etc. Estimate the volume and percentage of each category and write it down in a notebook. Later, after cleaning up, you can assess your findings. Some things will be obvious, like if you’ve been too lazy to carry your apple cores and potato peels to the compost and have been chucking them in the bin instead. Or maybe you’ll notice lots of food packaging and realize you could be buying more of those items in bulk instead. Focus on one or two behaviors that will be the easiest to change. Do another bin audit about six months later, check your improvement and pick a new goal. Take the plastic-free challenge Ready for a meaningful sustainability challenge? You can sign up on the Plastic Free July website. The web form asks for your name, email address, country and post code. You’ll get weekly motivational emails in your inbox with tips for avoiding plastic and news on the global movement. The form also gives you choices about the level of your participation. You can commit to going plastic-free for a day, a week, the whole month of July or indefinitely. You can also select whether you’re taking part in the challenge in your workplace, at your school or at home. + Plastic Free July Images via Laura Mitulla , Volodymyr Hryshchenko , Jasmin Sessler ( 1 , 2 ) and Good Soul Shop

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Are you up for the Plastic Free July challenge?

Gardens grow on all floors of Saint-Gobains crystalline HQ

July 1, 2020 by  
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On the outskirts of Paris, French architecture firm Valode & Pistre has completed a new headquarters — a crystalline tower wrapped in low-emission glass — for Saint-Gobain, a multinational building materials company. Designed to emphasize urban integration, energy performance and user comfort, the skyscraper features wind-sheltered gardens accessible from every floor, an abundance of natural light and stunning panoramic views. The building, known as Tour Saint-Gobain, was completed in 2019 in the business district of La Défense. Selected as the winning entry in an international architecture competition, Valode & Pistre’s design for Tour Saint-Gobain references Saint-Gobain’s leading role in construction material distribution — particularly with glass — with its crystalline architecture. The new company headquarters is divided into three distinct parts that are likened to the head, body and feet of a person: the lower floor, or “feet”, contain the open access areas and showroom; the main “body” comprises flexible office spaces; and the highest floors at the “head” houses reception areas, meeting places and the “espace plein ciel”, a stunning gathering space with panoramic views. Related: Dramatic crystalline concert hall boasts a gorgeous prismatic interior in Poland “A tower, more than any other building, is about people and how it affects them,” the architecture firm explained in a press release. “Emotions are expected to be felt at the sight of such a building and the architect should strive to bring about these feelings and this excitement. The dynamic silhouette of the building, through the assembly of three oblique prisms that, in an anthropomorphic way, resemble a head, a body and a foot, allows it to interact with the surrounding towers. The tower thus becomes a figure turning its head and slightly stooping as a sign of warm welcome.” At 165 meters tall, Tour Saint-Gobain spans 44 floors and encompasses 49,900 square meters of floor space. High-performance glass ensures optimal user comfort for occupants, who not only enjoy panoramic views but also direct access to indoor gardens from all of the office spaces. + Valode & Pistre Photography by Sergio Grazia via Valode & Pistre

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Gardens grow on all floors of Saint-Gobains crystalline HQ

How the Navajo got their day in the sun

May 28, 2020 by  
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How the Navajo got their day in the sun Danny Kennedy Thu, 05/28/2020 – 02:00 In late March, during the early hours of the COVID-19 crisis, just as New Yorkers were realizing how many might die, a small solar development company closed a $4 million financing deal. “Closing” is never easy, but getting a half-dozen high-net-worth individuals, family offices and foundations to pony up as the world’s finance markets crashed around them was a triumph.  Getting the deal done was impressive in its own right, given that private equity had all but frozen in the weeks before and most venture-backed startups were running on fumes, telling their angel investors and anyone who’d listen that they had three months’ financial runway, or less. It seems even more important now, given the terrible toll COVID-19 is having right where the solar is planned: the Navajo Nation. A young team saddled with ambition and support from their tribal government, this largely native-owned company, Navajo Power , was getting ready to build a major solar project in one of the poorest communities in America.  “We are working hard to create jobs and build resilient infrastructure for our Nation and for the greater western region,” explained Brett Isaac, founder and CEO. “Navajo has perhaps the highest unemployment in the country at 65 percent — that’s pre-COVID. It is clearly going up, due to the virus. We need to put people back to work in creating the clean energy future. Developing some of the biggest projects in the world and maximizing the benefits for our communities can provide the resources needed to fund a wave of local infrastructure and community economic development initiatives. Clean energy can be our bridge.” A company to watch, and learn from Navajo Power was co-founded by Isaac and his old friend Dan Rosen, a college dropout from New Jersey. Rosen was adopted by Navajo artist Shonto Begay in his teens and went on to start one of the U.S.’s largest solar loan business, Mosaic. These two and their partners are leading the charge for the Navajo Nation’s just transition, from coal dependence to clean energy superpower. This movement one day will be studied in colleges around the world; justice can be done. Such drama around Navajo is justified. This is the largest indigenous community in the United States, with 250,000 people and a land base the size of West Virginia. There is a sordid history of “divide and conquer,” involving everyone from Kit Carson to the Sierra Club. The wealth of energy resources on Navajo land invited exploitation throughout the 20th century. Uranium was mined there. And coal. Lots of coal. Mined and burned to provide power for Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Tucson and Phoenix.  The wealth of energy resources on Navajo land invited exploitation throughout the 20th century. Uranium was mined there. And coal. Lots of coal. Despite hosting centuries of extraction and decades of power generation, in 2020, more than 15,000 families on Navajo land lack electricity or running water. And surprise, surprise: the local community saw only a pittance for the years that King Coal ravaged its ancestral homeland. According to one local leader of the governing “chapter” responsible for running services, his entire community of 1,200 people received about $250,000 per year in royalties from the coal mining operation on their land. This community spent 50 years suffering from the toxic emissions spewing out of the coal-burning 1.2 gigawatt Navajo Generating Station nearby. This plant powered Los Angeles and points west — but not their own towns and settlements. All they got was the pollution, and almost enough money to pay for the salary of one public health worker and overhead. An utter disgrace. By contrast, Navajo Power’s solar projects will pay millions of dollars upfront and fair market value per year for the life of the project, while ensuring that the local community is compensated in addition to the central government. The solar plant will sit on the ground, leave resources in the ground, burn nothing and can be removed afterwards. The chapter can invest the revenue generated by this plant in public health, workforce development, job creation efforts such as ecotourism and high-value agriculture. Business unusual Solar is a strategy that will uplift this community. But unlike the similar promise of coal, solar power will not desecrate the Navajo’s sacred land, pollute their skies or poison their children. And the Navajo Power deal ensures this power will be owned and controlled by Navajo, not outsiders.  It was not only a coup to pull off any investment of this magnitude in the midst of the COVID crisis — there’s more business unusual in the deal. Baked into the financial structure is an expected rate of return for the investors. If and when this rate is achieved, any further returns will be distributed to the communities hosting the solar projects on their land. This financing design, with a “mission delta” built-in between the concessionary rate that investors are taking and a more market rate, will become an innovative benchmark for similarly well-intentioned companies in the future. Additional covenants include 10 percent of company ownership being held in a Turquoise Share, which funds community benefits in the event of profit distributions or sale of the company. Eighty percent of the profits must go toward solar projects or community investments. And executive compensation is capped relative to the lowest-paid employee.  Morgan Simon, CEO of the Candide Group, explained, “Navajo Power is creating a new kind of economic development model for communities through leveraging the revenues of utility-scale clean energy development. That’s what drew us to their work and why we led this investment.” This model is a stark contrast to the hundreds of years of exploitative fossil-fuel ventures that have taken place on the territories of native peoples.  Navajo Power, as you probably can tell, is not a typical company. It is a registered Public Benefit Corporation; a company with a core goal of public benefits on par with profit maximization. And for the power sector, it is innovative from woe to go. It is mostly owned by Navajo and committed, by its mission and business model, to maximize benefits for the community partners hosting the solar projects on their land. The company provides culturally appropriate technical assistance to communities as they go through the development process.  The backstory The political and historical context surrounding this momentous deal is worth understanding. During Donald Trump’s reign, U.S. coal plants have closed faster than during the Obama administration. We can thank the markets for coal’s loss of steam; wind in the Midwest and solar in the Southwest can produce cheaper electricity. This phenomenon has reached the reservation. After decades of hosting some of the nation’s largest coal mines and coal-fired power plants, including the Navajo Generating Station, San Juan, Cholla and the Four Corners Plant, these plants are finished. The first to fall, Navajo Generating Station, closed in November after a last-ditch effort by the Trump administration to “save it” with subsidies. Early this year, the San Juan plant on the New Mexico side of Navajo announced it will shutter within three years. Cholla will stop one of three units this year and the rest by 2025. And Arizona Public Service, which operates Four Corners, recently announced it is moving up the retirement of that facility to 2031. Given the increasing loss-making economics, my bet is 2031 is a longshot. The Navajo entrepreneurs saw the vacuum left by falling coal plants as an opportunity for themselves, their reservation and the broader United States. The key insight is that the coal operations built on their land give the Navajo exceptional access to regional energy markets through the high-voltage transmission lines connecting them to major electrical demand centers across the West.  Based on research, Navajo Nation has the potential for more than 10 GW of solar power — more than a one-to-one replacement for every lost megawatt of coal power — plus at least one gigawatt of wind. Their high altitude, blue skies and dry land base is ideal for hosting solar farms. It also could prove an ideal location for hosting long-duration batteries for grid services that provide reliability and resilience. Research and development on solutions such as hydrogen gas from electrolysis powered by inexpensive solar is another potential product of this endeavor. The Navajo are riding the perfect storm: better economics; natural and unnatural competitive advantages; and the disruption of energy technologies to position this previously overlooked community at the center of the U.S. energy future. A change of heart In March 2019, Navajo Power organized an Energy Roundtable that involved Navajo leadership and some big hitters in energy from the American West. These included David Hochschild, chair of the California Energy Commission, and Angelina Galiteva, a member of the Board of Governors of the California Independent System Operator, which runs the California electricity grid. California is the fifth-largest economy in the world. So, when the governor’s energy czar and manager of the grid were present at the roundtable, people listened. And they both had the same message: We won’t buy dirty power from Navajo. The previous year, California passed SB100, a law that requires the Golden State to be 100 percent powered with renewable electricity by 2045. California is a huge market, a kind of nation-state unto itself, with a distinct grid and an increasingly wealthy population of 40 million. When California adopted the 100 percent standard, other states followed suit. This included New Mexico, which has a long history with the neighboring Navajo Nation dating to colonial times. These energy players surrounded the nation — both figuratively and geographically — with 100 percent clean energy commitments. The conversation at the roundtable was focused on how none of these states wanted to buy coal-fired power for much longer. After 50 years of being forced by various means to allow coal extraction and combustion on its territory, the Navajo leadership was told that the world is going in a new direction. For the Resource Committee that was gathered, including Vice President Myron Lizer, this was news. But it was heard. It was hard to ignore Navajo’s biggest customer of coal power for last half century saying, “We won’t be allowed, by law, to buy it any longer.”  Showdown at the summit Galiteva had run procurement for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power earlier in her career, so she knew all about contracting with Navajo power producers. She was well-versed on the transmission systems that carried electricity across the high desert and Sierras into the L.A. basin. There’s an interconnect at Glendale, just east of the city, a point in the grid where high-voltage transmission cables connect and the juice from big power plants is broken up before being distributed through the massive urban sprawl that is Los Angeles. Galiteva agreed that Navajo could take advantage of that transmission capacity — a huge multibillion-dollar sunk cost — to sell solar power for the next century. The Navajo’s competitive advantage of using transmission lines paid for by the coal industry to connect clean energy generation on their land to the big cities might be fleeting. Other carrots were offered in the room for the Navajo leadership to consider shifting from coal to solar. One came in the form of an energy procurement manager from Apple; the most valuable company in history at that time that recently had committed to 100 percent clean energy. While he could not commit to a specific contract with Navajo on the company’s behalf, he did indicate Apple’s interest in new sources of clean power. In the last few years, data centers such as those run by Apple, Google and Facebook have emerged as core business for energy generators with direct electricity contracts. If the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, a group of several dozen large corporations, were a country, it would be in the top 10 in terms of energy consumption and commitment to 100 percent clean energy purchasing. The signal was clear for the folks in the room — the times were a-changing and the Navajo needed to get with the program. The Navajo’s competitive advantage of using transmission lines paid for by the coal industry to connect clean energy generation on their land to the big cities might be fleeting. Developers elsewhere across the West are proposing massive wind and solar farms with transmission. These were big decisions and directional choices proposed to the committee at the summit. None of which had an easy solution because, at the same time the summit was happening, on the Arizona side of the reservation, lobbyists in Window Rock were trying to convince the president to use sovereign wealth funds to bail out the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station. The owners and major off-takers had proposed to shut it down that summer, which would mean hundreds of jobs going off the reservation — a place with few good, consistent employment opportunities.  At the time of the Navajo Power Summit, the nation was under considerable pressure to buy out the owners of the Navajo Generating Station to keep it going — even if It meant funding a loss-making enterprise. Various excuses and initiatives were announced to justify the nation’s digging into a hard-won, rainy-day fund it maintains from fines settled by the federal government for damage caused by uranium mine tailings on their land. The new president, Jonathan Nez, elected in November 2018, was looking down the barrel of 700 jobs going away at NGS and seriously considered spending $300 million to keep the coal power plant running. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis advised Nez that this may keep the plant going for a couple of years, but nothing could turn the tide against coal in the West with all neighboring states committing to 100 percent renewables in the foreseeable future. In other words, it would be buying a white elephant. In an act of bold political leadership, Nez decided against bailing out the coal plant. The nation broadened its vision. It saw that building large-scale solar farms with companies such as Navajo Power would tap the existing transmission lines to big cities and address the thousands of families on the reservation who do not have electricity. In a proclamation made in April 2019, called the Navajo Háyoo?káá? , the parties created “a new economic vision for the Navajo People, through healing the land, fostering clean energy development and providing leadership for the energy market.” This is “a big move for the nation,” said Nez. The plan is based on four principles:  1. A diverse energy portfolio, creating workforce development and job creation opportunities for the Navajo people.  2. Restoration of land and water after decades of uranium and coal mining.  3. Rural electrification of homes that lack access to electricity. 4. Utility-scale renewable energy development to supply Navajo Nation and the western United States.  The Navajo Sunrise Proclamation says, “Through the Diné teaching of ‘T’áá hwó’ ajít’éego’ and for the many who have called upon our Nation’s leaders to transition away from our overdependence on fossil fuels, the Navajo Nation will strive for a balanced energy portfolio and will pursue and prioritize clean renewable energy development for the long-term benefit of the Navajo People and our communities.” The benefits of such investments will go beyond jobs and revenue for the Navajo. There is a sense of pride in picking the path rather than having it foisted upon them, as coal power was 50 years ago. Self-determination is a big issue for indigenous peoples the world over. Overcoming the colonial domination that energy development has created is a major triumphsof the Navajo Sunrise Proclamation. It brings hope, not just to this sovereign nation, but to people everywhere that just transitions can be made. Pull Quote The wealth of energy resources on Navajo land invited exploitation throughout the 20th century. Uranium was mined there. And coal. Lots of coal. The Navajo’s competitive advantage of using transmission lines paid for by the coal industry to connect clean energy generation on their land to the big cities might be fleeting. Topics Renewable Energy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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How the Navajo got their day in the sun

Oliver Co. makes vegan leather wallets from apple waste and wood

May 14, 2020 by  
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A new London-based company has created a sustainable line of wallets and cardholders made from a combination of vegan “apple leather” and “wood leather.” Oliver Co. puts a priority on sustainability by focusing on high-performance, eco-friendly fabrics for its products, moving away from the non-renewable resources that the world has come to expect out of fashion accessories. Matt Oliver, the 27-year-old product design graduate behind the company, understood the difficulties of finding sustainable fabrics that maintained the same quality and look of traditional materials, especially when it came to leather. He spent about two years looking for the right materials to fit his goals, working with Sustainable Angle, a nonprofit organization that connects small businesses with high-quality eco-textile suppliers. It was then that the vegan leather came to life. Related: These vegan “Star Wars” sneakers are made with discarded pineapple leaves The wood leather is made by bonding thin sheets of wood and fabric with a non-toxic adhesive. The wood fabric gets its soft, supple touch and pliability thanks to small micro-laser etchings to make it look and feel more like leather. All of the wood comes from FSC-approved forests, helping to reduce carbon emissions by about 60% when compared to traditional leather. The apple leather is created using a 50/50 combination of apple by-product and polyurethane coated onto a cotton polyester canvas. The company gets the apple waste from an apple-producing region of Bolzano that grows and processes a large number of apples each year and faces a significant amount of food waste . According to Oliver Co., the upcycled apple leather has a much lower impact than similar faux leathers on the market right now. Oliver Co. continues to work on innovative ways to incorporate sustainability into its business model. The company works closely with its suppliers to ensure high ethical standards in product manufacturing and full transparency for its product ingredients. Future collections of Oliver Co. accessories , such as clutch bags, pouches and laptop cases, will use the same unique vegan leather. + Oliver Co. Images via Oliver Co.

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Oliver Co. makes vegan leather wallets from apple waste and wood

Oliver Co. makes vegan leather wallets from apple waste and wood

May 14, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Comments Off on Oliver Co. makes vegan leather wallets from apple waste and wood

A new London-based company has created a sustainable line of wallets and cardholders made from a combination of vegan “apple leather” and “wood leather.” Oliver Co. puts a priority on sustainability by focusing on high-performance, eco-friendly fabrics for its products, moving away from the non-renewable resources that the world has come to expect out of fashion accessories. Matt Oliver, the 27-year-old product design graduate behind the company, understood the difficulties of finding sustainable fabrics that maintained the same quality and look of traditional materials, especially when it came to leather. He spent about two years looking for the right materials to fit his goals, working with Sustainable Angle, a nonprofit organization that connects small businesses with high-quality eco-textile suppliers. It was then that the vegan leather came to life. Related: These vegan “Star Wars” sneakers are made with discarded pineapple leaves The wood leather is made by bonding thin sheets of wood and fabric with a non-toxic adhesive. The wood fabric gets its soft, supple touch and pliability thanks to small micro-laser etchings to make it look and feel more like leather. All of the wood comes from FSC-approved forests, helping to reduce carbon emissions by about 60% when compared to traditional leather. The apple leather is created using a 50/50 combination of apple by-product and polyurethane coated onto a cotton polyester canvas. The company gets the apple waste from an apple-producing region of Bolzano that grows and processes a large number of apples each year and faces a significant amount of food waste . According to Oliver Co., the upcycled apple leather has a much lower impact than similar faux leathers on the market right now. Oliver Co. continues to work on innovative ways to incorporate sustainability into its business model. The company works closely with its suppliers to ensure high ethical standards in product manufacturing and full transparency for its product ingredients. Future collections of Oliver Co. accessories , such as clutch bags, pouches and laptop cases, will use the same unique vegan leather. + Oliver Co. Images via Oliver Co.

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Oliver Co. makes vegan leather wallets from apple waste and wood

Could Dubai’s $350 million sustainable supercity work in New York?

February 25, 2020 by  
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Dreaming of what’s possible in the Big Apple.

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Could Dubai’s $350 million sustainable supercity work in New York?

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