Supporting multimodal public transit in a post-pandemic future

March 30, 2021 by  
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Supporting multimodal public transit in a post-pandemic future Shin-pei Tsay Tue, 03/30/2021 – 01:45 This article first appeared on Meeting of the Minds. Cities have been severely impacted by COVID-19 on a number of fronts, and it has laid bare the severe disparities that result from ever-dwindling budgets. The pandemic has also dramatically changed how we experience the urban environment and required us to re-envision how people navigate and interact with their locales. On a regional basis, commutes to central business districts have dropped dramatically, while surrounding town centers, however small they may be, have gained more activity. For the privileged, who have the ability to shelter-in-place and are supported by flexible work-from-home policies, trips have become more concentrated near their homes and rarely reach beyond neighborhood amenities. As a result, open-street networks have blossomed to allow more space for walking and biking, and cities have pivoted to allow restaurants to expand outdoor dining and retail areas into the public right-of-way (ROW). As a fundamental public service, public transit should be conceived as a scalable, resilient and adaptive system … A map released by Lime , a scooter-share company, showed that over the summer, trips have become more concentrated within neighborhoods, rather than sprawling across the city. Meanwhile, Apple Mobility Data showed that private driving returned to pre-COVID levels, after a brief reprieve in April 2020, while transit ridership is still well below normal. It is clear that this crisis has affected communities in different ways. While central business district commutes might have fallen during the pandemic, cross-town trips persisted, and these are more representative of essential workers’ routes. Cities have adjusted their transit systems, cutting some routes in order to ensure more resources for higher volume routes or contracting out late night or expanded service areas in order to ensure that all customers can be continuously served. These changes in transportation patterns should inform how we analyze and address old problems. A longstanding challenge has been how to meet the growing transportation demand across an entire region and during traditionally off-peak times, while also ensuring that neighborhoods, town centers and other nodes outside of the central business district can be supported with sustainable mobility options. Historically, and more than ever today, the most convenient way to travel within a region is by private car. But, as we look forward to a post-pandemic public realm, could emerging mobility technologies help? More than ever, urban transit services are in need of sustainable and affordable solutions to better serve all members of our diverse communities, not least among them those that are traditionally car-dependent. New mobility technologies can be a potential resource for local transit agencies to augment multi-modal connectivity across existing transit infrastructures. As we all witnessed in the last decade, technological innovation (such as transportation network companies and micro-mobility) has triggered a profound transformation of the urban mobility ecosystem, enabling new shared, on-demand and multi-modal transportation options. By being open to new technologies in the realms of both operations and vehicles, transit agencies can establish a more resilient and sustainable urban mobility ecosystem and even remove some friction in payment and trip-planning. We envision a new decentralized and distributed model that provides multi-modal access through nimble and flexible multi-modal Transit Districts, rather than through traditional, centralized and often too expensive Multi-modal Transit Hubs. Working in collaboration with existing agencies, new micro-mobility technologies could provide greater and seamless access to existing transit infrastructure, while maximizing the potential of the public realm, creating an experience that many could enjoy beyond just catching the next bus or finding a scooter. So how would we go about it? Step 1: Identify an area of the city with the highest concentration of transit services (local bus stops, light rail, etc.). For many communities, multi-modal transit services, when provided, come in the form of uncoordinated schedules, infrequent service, and physically disjointed and often unsafe stops located across multiple city blocks. While such areas are served by a certain level of multi-modal transit, the physical conditions in these public realms make the user experience unappealing for most, which results in low transit ridership, a deserted public realm and an increase car traffic (along with attendant pollution). Step 2: Define the most convenient path to access each transit mode available within walking or biking distance. What are the most trafficked and convenient routes to get from one mode to another for a local transit rider? Can we determine an area within walking or biking distance that includes the most comprehensive range of local transit options available? And are there specific landmarks, destinations and ground floor activities that could enhance these commutes? Step 3: Provide the glue. Provide micro-mobility services and enhanced public realm solutions that enable easier, more convenient and more desirable access to local transit. Imagine an open-air concourse: an area of the city geared to best serve pedestrians and transit commuters alike, where wider sidewalks clearly and intuitively lead you from one transit mode to another; where shared bicycle and e-scooter services are readily accessible near each local transit stop and have safe and dedicated lanes. This would be an area of the city with existing landmark destinations, active ground floors and tailored wayfinding strategies are all coordinated to support a convenient and attractive mode transfer; where each single strategy that best serves the commuter also has positive outcomes for local residents and businesses by way of providing a more vibrant, pedestrian-oriented and safe public realm. The measures listed above range from low-cost, temporary solutions to permanent, long-term investments, and this range is key to a step-by-step implementation approach that should benefit communities with limited financial resources. To start, temporary parklets, paired with shared bike and e-scooter docking stations, could be next to key local transit stops, serving commuters and providing opportunities to engage with existing ground-floor businesses. An easily identifiable network of paths comprised of easy to deploy low-tech way-finding solutions and dedicated micro-mobility lanes could allow commuters to intuitively find their way to the next stop. Tactical urbanism strategies, many of which we have seen deployed in cities as a response to the current health crisis, have demonstrated how big changes can happen with small budgets when there is the will and the support of local communities. In the long term, access to efficient multi-modal services and the resulting vibrant public realm could represent a catalyst for new urban development infill to support long term capital investments.   As the network expands beyond the central district, there are opportunities to meet demand more easily, particularly through the use of on-demand, shared transportation that is integrated with fixed route transit. Beyond the initial identification of one area that has a concentration of transit and micro-mobility, there may be several nodes throughout a region that have been reinvigorated post-COVID, and thus could benefit from the distributed transit network model as well. This coincides with shifts away from traditional “hub-and-spoke” transit models and towards an approach that allows greater lateral movement outside the city center. Imagine regions that are no longer concentrated around a single anchor of the central business district, but that have multiple anchor districts that connect to one another. And within those nodes, many points of connection could allow people to move around freely along an enhanced public realm. Crises expose and deepen underlying societal inequity. Urban residents are more than ever relying on the public realm to access jobs and services, conduct a healthy lifestyle and nurture social relations. The current crisis is causing us to reconsider both the nature of transit and the role of the public realm. As a fundamental public service, public transit should be conceived as a scalable, resilient and adaptive system that helps communities where they are, from large cities to small towns; a system that relies on affordable and easy to deploy solutions that is at the foundation of more equitable and thriving urban communities. Pull Quote As a fundamental public service, public transit should be conceived as a scalable, resilient and adaptive system … Contributors Luca Giaramidaro Gerry Tierney Topics Transportation & Mobility Cities Infrastructure COVID-19 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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Supporting multimodal public transit in a post-pandemic future

Ocean-based sequestration heats ups

February 1, 2021 by  
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Ocean-based sequestration heats ups Jim Giles Mon, 02/01/2021 – 00:30 This article originally appeared in the State of Green Business 2021. You can download the entire report here . Over the past few years, as companies have come under steadily increasing pressure to tackle climate change, nature-based solutions have emerged as a particularly exciting method for shrinking corporate carbon footprints. Investing in forests can be a win-win that both sequesters carbon and regenerates nature. That’s why one recent survey recorded almost $160 million spent on forest offsets in 2019. And a newer option, soil carbon, also is generating investment from multiple corporate sectors . Yet another natural sink absorbs about as much carbon dioxide as our planet’s soils and forests combined: the world’s coastal and ocean waters. Until recently, ocean sequestration, also known as blue carbon, attracted little attention outside academic and think-tank circles. We might be at a turning point, however, because a handful of forward-looking corporations, conservation organizations and startups recently have accelerated efforts to store carbon in marine systems. Thanks to their work, companies of all sizes soon may be able invest in ocean sequestration. One pioneer in this area is Shopify, an e-commerce company that has committed to spending $5 million annually on innovative clean technologies. Shopify’s first round of investments , announced in September, includes Running Tide, a company based on the coast of Maine. Running Tide’s core business is oyster farming, but CEO Marty Odlin is planning on a new revenue stream: growing kelp and sinking his crop in the deep ocean.  “Once it goes down below 1,000 meters, it’s not coming back up, because the pressures are so great,” Odlin told Fast Company . “So you can get at least 1,000 years of sequestration. More likely, it will turn into oil or sediment and be sequestered on the geologic timescale — millions of years.” Once it goes down below 1,000 meters, it’s not coming back up, because the pressures are so great. At Running Tide, engineers will use the Shopify investment to build kelp-growing platforms, which they will launch into ocean current systems selected as having the right temperature and nutrients to support kelp growth. The platforms will be kept afloat by buoys designed to biodegrade once they reach the deep ocean, at which point the kelp will fall to the ocean floor, taking its carbon with it. Running Tide will measure the carbon sequestered in the process and sell credits on the carbon markets. Shopify also made a bet on Planetary Hydrogen , a startup that aims to produce “green hydrogen” while simultaneously capturing carbon and healing the ocean. The process begins with a twist on existing green hydrogen technology, in which renewable energy is used to power the production of hydrogen from water, a reaction that produces no carbon. The Planetary Hydrogen team adds a mineral salt to the process, leading to the creation of a waste product — a mineral hydroxide — that binds with atmospheric carbon dioxide. The final step involves adding the bicarbonate compound that results from this reaction to the ocean, where, because the substance is alkaline, it helps counter climate-caused ocean acidification. According to the company’s calculations, the process can capture and store 40 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every kilogram of hydrogen produced. “Our fuel may be the greenest on Earth,” boasted Greg Rau, Planetary Hydrogen’s chief technology officer, at GreenBiz Group’s VERGE Carbon conference last fall.  The catch? Let’s start with costs. Green hydrogen costs two to three times as much as the conventional alternative, and Planetary Hydrogen’s fuel is even more expensive. In most markets that probably would be the end of the story, but the carbon-negative status of Planet Hydrogen’s product means that it could earn credits from schemes such as California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard — enough credits, Rau believes, to make it a cheaper option than other forms of hydrogen. Before that happens, his team will have to scale up the technology, which it plans to do using Shopify’s investment. A pilot plant should come online in 2022, according to Rau. Another challenge facing both Planetary Hydrogen and Running Tide is the issue of permanence. For a credit to be traded on carbon markets, an established certification body — Verra and Gold Standard are two leading examples — needs to sign off on the process used to store the carbon. Among other things, the certifier would assess how long the carbon is likely to stay sequestered. The biology and chemistry of the deep oceans suggest that kelp and bicarbonate could offer a better guarantee of long-term storage than, say, forests. But collecting the data needed to demonstrate that will be challenging given the vastness of the oceans and the fact that this is a new frontier for certification bodies. “We need to rethink the basis for calculating the carbon benefits of these projects,” Carlos Duarte, an expert in marine ecosystems at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, said at VERGE Carbon. Given the uncertainties, many companies will wait before investing in emerging ocean projects. But there are more established blue carbon options that are better understood. In 2018, for instance, Apple announced that it would back a project to protect and restore 27,000 acres of mangrove forest on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. According to Conservation International, one of the NGOs behind the project, mangroves and other coastal wetlands can store up to 10 times more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests. Apple will purchase carbon credits generated by the project, generating a new income stream for the 12,000 local people whose livelihoods depend on the mangroves. Pull Quote Once it goes down below 1,000 meters, it’s not coming back up, because the pressures are so great. Topics State of Green Business Report Oceans & Fisheries Carbon Removal Nature Based Solutions Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Forests of giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, commonly grow in the cold waters along the coast of California. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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Ocean-based sequestration heats ups

Ocean-based sequestration heats up

February 1, 2021 by  
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Ocean-based sequestration heats up Jim Giles Mon, 02/01/2021 – 00:30 This article originally appeared in the State of Green Business 2021. You can download the entire report here . Over the past few years, as companies have come under steadily increasing pressure to tackle climate change, nature-based solutions have emerged as a particularly exciting method for shrinking corporate carbon footprints. Investing in forests can be a win-win that both sequesters carbon and regenerates nature. That’s why one recent survey recorded almost $160 million spent on forest offsets in 2019. And a newer option, soil carbon, also is generating investment from multiple corporate sectors . Yet another natural sink absorbs about as much carbon dioxide as our planet’s soils and forests combined: the world’s coastal and ocean waters. Until recently, ocean sequestration, also known as blue carbon, attracted little attention outside academic and think-tank circles. We might be at a turning point, however, because a handful of forward-looking corporations, conservation organizations and startups recently have accelerated efforts to store carbon in marine systems. Thanks to their work, companies of all sizes soon may be able invest in ocean sequestration. One pioneer in this area is Shopify, an e-commerce company that has committed to spending $5 million annually on innovative clean technologies. Shopify’s first round of investments , announced in September, includes Running Tide, a company based on the coast of Maine. Running Tide’s core business is oyster farming, but CEO Marty Odlin is planning on a new revenue stream: growing kelp and sinking his crop in the deep ocean.  “Once it goes down below 1,000 meters, it’s not coming back up, because the pressures are so great,” Odlin told Fast Company . “So you can get at least 1,000 years of sequestration. More likely, it will turn into oil or sediment and be sequestered on the geologic timescale — millions of years.” Once it goes down below 1,000 meters, it’s not coming back up, because the pressures are so great. At Running Tide, engineers will use the Shopify investment to build kelp-growing platforms, which they will launch into ocean current systems selected as having the right temperature and nutrients to support kelp growth. The platforms will be kept afloat by buoys designed to biodegrade once they reach the deep ocean, at which point the kelp will fall to the ocean floor, taking its carbon with it. Running Tide will measure the carbon sequestered in the process and sell credits on the carbon markets. Shopify also made a bet on Planetary Hydrogen , a startup that aims to produce “green hydrogen” while simultaneously capturing carbon and healing the ocean. The process begins with a twist on existing green hydrogen technology, in which renewable energy is used to power the production of hydrogen from water, a reaction that produces no carbon. The Planetary Hydrogen team adds a mineral salt to the process, leading to the creation of a waste product — a mineral hydroxide — that binds with atmospheric carbon dioxide. The final step involves adding the bicarbonate compound that results from this reaction to the ocean, where, because the substance is alkaline, it helps counter climate-caused ocean acidification. According to the company’s calculations, the process can capture and store 40 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every kilogram of hydrogen produced. “Our fuel may be the greenest on Earth,” boasted Greg Rau, Planetary Hydrogen’s chief technology officer, at GreenBiz Group’s VERGE Carbon conference last fall.  The catch? Let’s start with costs. Green hydrogen costs two to three times as much as the conventional alternative, and Planetary Hydrogen’s fuel is even more expensive. In most markets that probably would be the end of the story, but the carbon-negative status of Planet Hydrogen’s product means that it could earn credits from schemes such as California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard — enough credits, Rau believes, to make it a cheaper option than other forms of hydrogen. Before that happens, his team will have to scale up the technology, which it plans to do using Shopify’s investment. A pilot plant should come online in 2022, according to Rau. Another challenge facing both Planetary Hydrogen and Running Tide is the issue of permanence. For a credit to be traded on carbon markets, an established certification body — Verra and Gold Standard are two leading examples — needs to sign off on the process used to store the carbon. Among other things, the certifier would assess how long the carbon is likely to stay sequestered. The biology and chemistry of the deep oceans suggest that kelp and bicarbonate could offer a better guarantee of long-term storage than, say, forests. But collecting the data needed to demonstrate that will be challenging given the vastness of the oceans and the fact that this is a new frontier for certification bodies. “We need to rethink the basis for calculating the carbon benefits of these projects,” Carlos Duarte, an expert in marine ecosystems at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, said at VERGE Carbon. Given the uncertainties, many companies will wait before investing in emerging ocean projects. But there are more established blue carbon options that are better understood. In 2018, for instance, Apple announced that it would back a project to protect and restore 27,000 acres of mangrove forest on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. According to Conservation International, one of the NGOs behind the project, mangroves and other coastal wetlands can store up to 10 times more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests. Apple will purchase carbon credits generated by the project, generating a new income stream for the 12,000 local people whose livelihoods depend on the mangroves. Pull Quote Once it goes down below 1,000 meters, it’s not coming back up, because the pressures are so great. Topics State of Green Business Report Oceans & Fisheries Carbon Removal Nature Based Solutions Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Forests of giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, commonly grow in the cold waters along the coast of California. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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How the EU’s new ‘toxic-free’ vision could shape your safer chemicals strategy

January 14, 2021 by  
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How the EU’s new ‘toxic-free’ vision could shape your safer chemicals strategy Bob Kerr Thu, 01/14/2021 – 01:00 For the last two decades, the European Union has played a leadership role in tackling the risks hazardous chemicals pose to our health and environment. It has now proposed a new vision for a “toxic-free environment” and published a strategy for moving the EU towards that goal. Just as its current policies have inspired imitation, it’s likely that these new policies will drive significant changes in the U.S. and elsewhere. While EU chemical restrictions have gained limited traction in U.S. federal statutes and regulations, many state laws increasingly rely on the chemical hazard criteria and analyses from REACH (the principal European chemical regulation) and other EU laws and regulations. California legislation, for example, prohibits sale of electronic products that would be subject to the EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive if amounts of cadmium, lead, mercury or hexavalent chrome in those products exceed EU RoHS limits . Many U.S. companies base their restrictions on hazardous chemicals on EU lists or restrictions such as the Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) under REACH — even where unregulated in the U.S. The EU plans to promote safer substitutes or eliminate the need for chemical additives in some products altogether, so they do not end up being circulated indefinitely in commerce. The EU chemical regulation footprint is also strong in the rest of the world. Several countries in Asia, including China, the world’s largest chemical producer, have developed national chemical regulatory programs strongly influenced by the EU’s design. As the EU moves toward adopting specific legal and regulatory measures to begin to realize its vision, government agencies in the U.S. will look closely at the potential for adopting elements of the new EU programs. Beyond the regulatory world, many leading companies already at the forefront of looking to provide safer chemicals — including Walmart , Apple and Ahold Delhaize USA  — are likely to move toward adoption of components of the new EU policies, with ramifications for supply chains and potential competitive benefits in the consumer marketplace. EU’s new chemical policy vision Despite the successes of its current regulatory framework, the European Commission has found that “the existing EU chemicals policy must evolve and respond more rapidly and effectively to the challenges posed by hazardous chemicals.” In October, the commission published ” Chemical Strategy for Sustainability: Towards a Toxic-Free Environment .” To meet that vision, the EU plans a fundamental change in how chemical regulations manage the production and use of chemicals.  As explained by Frans Timmermans, commission vice president responsible for EU’s Green Deal, the EU intends to move away from an approach to chemical regulation that depends primarily on tracking down substances that are hazardous only after they’re already being used in products, even when similar to previously restricted substances. Rather, it will focus on prohibiting their use in the first place: One of the first actions we will take is to ensure that the most harmful chemicals no longer find their way into consumer products. In most cases, we now assess these chemicals one-by-one — and remove them when we find out that they are unsafe. We will just flip this logic on its head. Instead of reacting, we want to prevent. As a rule, the use of the most harmful substances will be prohibited in consumer products. Further, the new EU chemical strategy identifies a wide array of initiatives for realizing its goal of a toxic-free environment. Some are specific to the EU, including EU support for development of innovative green chemistry materials. Others are measures with general applicability for government regulatory agencies or company sustainable chemistry initiatives. Among the key measures are: Extending hazard-based approach to risk management for consumer products: The goal is to ensure consumer products, such as toys, cosmetics, cleaning products, children’s care products and food contact materials, do not contain chemicals that may cause cancer, gene mutations, neurological or respiratory damage or that may interfere with endocrine or reproductive systems. Grouping of chemicals for assessment of hazards and restrictions: Under most regulations, both in the EU and U.S., chemicals are usually assessed and regulated one-by-one. The European Commission plans to address PFAS and other chemicals of concern with a group approach. New hazard categories: The commission plans to finalize a legally binding hazard definition of endocrine disruptors and, to address classes of chemicals recognized as posing serious environmental risks, introduce two new categories of substances of very high concern (SVHCs): persistent; mobile and toxic (PMT); and very persistent and very mobile (vPvM) substances. Accounting for combinative impacts of multiple chemicals on health: Increasing evidence points to the risks from simultaneous exposure to multiple chemicals. The commission plans to integrate requirements for information on the impacts of chemical mixtures more formally into chemical risk assessment requirements. These above approaches are in some leading corporate safer chemical programs and, with clarity from the EU, they should be considered by more companies. IKEA , for example, bans use in its products of some chemical groups (PFAS, organic brominated flame retardants) and hazard classes of chemicals (carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins and any REACH SVHCs). Beyond its direct effects on protecting health of consumers and reducing toxic chemicals in the environment, the chemical strategy is a key component in the EU’s path towards a circular economy that conserves materials and reduces waste. A critical barrier to circular production models for many products and materials is contamination with hazardous chemicals — either inadvertently added during sourcing and processing or intentionally added to change the product. Through the chemical strategy, the EU plans to promote safer substitutes (the replacement of ortho-phthalates with non-hazardous plasticizers) or eliminate the need for chemical additives in some products altogether, so they do not end up being circulated indefinitely in commerce.  The EU has outlined a leading safer chemicals strategy that companies can begin to apply to their own operations. Tools such as the Chemical Footprint Project survey and other benchmarking tools can help support these initiatives. Companies that take the lead in adapting their planning to the EU strategy will be ahead of EU requirements, mitigate future supply chain and product risks and operate in the best interest of consumers and the environment. Pull Quote The EU plans to promote safer substitutes or eliminate the need for chemical additives in some products altogether, so they do not end up being circulated indefinitely in commerce. Topics Chemicals & Toxics Circular Economy Policy & Politics European Union Collective Insight The Right Chemistry 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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2020 was the year that…

December 28, 2020 by  
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2020 was the year that… Joel Makower Mon, 12/28/2020 – 02:11 It was a very long year. True, just 366 days (it was a leap year, after all), each one, I’m told, containing only the standard 24 hours. But it was much, much longer than that. Remember 2019? Neither do I. To recall some of the key developments, as I have done each December for more than a decade, I’ve plumbed the nearly 1,300 stories, columns and analyses we’ve published on GreenBiz.com since the dawn of 2020 — a.k.a. the beforetime — accentuating the positive, seeking signs of progress and hope. We need such reminders to get us through these challenging times. Here, in no particular order, are five storylines that I found encouraging during the 12 months just ending. And, perhaps, to set us on a more bullish course for 2021. Here, in no particular order, are five storylines that I found encouraging during the 12 months just ending. (All links are to stories published on GreenBiz.com during 2020.) What would you add to the list? 1. Companies accelerated the route to sustainable mobility The rise of electric vehicles has been a perennial story for nearly a decade, but 2020 saw the pace of change accelerate. Indeed, in January, my colleague Katie Fehrenbacher predicted that 2020 would be a key year for EVs. She was right. Both the private and public sectors delivered big wins for the electrification of transportation. California’s governor signed a history-making executive order , banning sales of new gas-powered cars within 15 years. Britain upped the ante , with a similar ban but within a decade, helped by McDonald’s plan to install EV chargers at its UK drive-thru restaurants. On the supply side, General Motors and Volkswagen planned major EV rollouts. Ultimately, how fast these markets rev up depends on demand from fleet buyers. Amazon continued its aggressive EV buying plans , as did both Walmart and IKEA . One reason for all this: Batteries continue their journey down the price-experience curve, where increased demand lowers prices, further pumping up demand. New technologies are helping, many still in early stages . Some are specifically geared toward truck and bus fleets , an indication that the markets for medium- and heavy-duty EVs are about to kick into high gear . 2. Sustainable fashion became material Fashion is another long-simmering environmental story that has finally reached a boiling point. The issues are many, from the resources needed to grow cotton or produce synthetic fabrics, usually from petroleum feedstocks, to the waste that ends up in landfills, especially for inexpensive and trendy clothing items that often have a short useful life. In 2020, several new developments help put sustainability in fashion. For example, the nonprofit Textile Exchange  launched a Material Change Index , enabling manufacturers to integrate a preferred fiber and materials strategy into their products. It also  launched a Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark to help the fashion and textile industry take action on biodiversity. Circular models made the rounds, starting with the design department, where a lot of negative environmental and social impacts are baked into garments, usually unwittingly. Adidas and H&M Group  teamed up for a project to recycle old garments and fibers into new items for major brands. German sportswear company adidas committed to using only recycled polyester across its supply chain by 2024. Markets for secondhand clothing racked up sales, including recommerce , where companies sell their own reclaimed and refurbished goods back to customers. In the wings:  startups touting a new generation of textiles, production methods and business models, suggesting there are a lot more innovations in store. 3. Forestry took root on the balance sheet Saving and planting trees has been a cornerstone of environmental action pretty much since Day One. (Hence, the often-epithetic moniker “treehugger.”) And pressing companies to eliminate deforestation in their supply chains has long been an activist focus. Now, companies themselves are seeing the business benefits of proactive forestry policies. First, there’s risk mitigation — ensuring “a company’s ability to sell products into a global supply chain,” as a BlackRock executive put it . It’s not just the climate impacts of concern to investors. Deforestation and human rights abuses often go hand-in-hand — “there’s almost a direct correlation,” said another investor — an additional layer of risk for companies from neglecting forests and those who live and work there. And then there’s the opportunity for companies to offset their emissions, since trees are a natural climate solution that can help draw down greenhouse gases, especially firms adopting net-zero commitments (see below). Microsoft , JetBlue and Royal Dutch Shell are among those seeking to offset a portion of their carbon footprint by investing in forest protection and reforestation. Finally, there are the innovators — entrepreneurs who see gold in all that green. Silicon Valley venture capitalists are beginning to branch out into forestry-related startups — companies such as SilviaTerra and Pachama that provide enabling technologies to facilitate forestry projects. These entrepreneurs likely saw opportunity in the Trillion Trees initiative launched in early 2020. Of course, success requires stopping deforestation in the first place, especially in tropical rainforests. And that remains a problem. Half of the companies most reliant on key commodities that have a negative impact on forests — palm oil, soy, beef, leather, timber, and pulp and paper — don’t have a publicly stated policy on deforestation, according to one report . Still, some firms are making progress. Mars, for example, announced that its palm oil — used in food and pet care products — is now deforestation-free after shrinking the number of mills it works with from 1,500 to a few hundred, a clear-cut sign that progress is possible. 4. Food equity showed up on the menu For all the talk about Big Ag and Big Food, there’s a growing recognition of the smaller players in the food chain, from farmers and producers to those who prepare and serve meals. And, of course, the 821 million or so humans who face food insecurity, according to the United Nations. And that stat was from 2018, long before this year’s pandemic and global recession created millions more hungry bellies. With restaurants closed and other foodservice operations curtailed, one lingering question is what the world’s largest food companies are doing to help their suppliers and other partners. “Retailers and brands are recognizing that if they don’t step in to help their producers and distributors, the links holding together those supply chains may crack in ways that aren’t easily repaired,” my colleague Elsa Wenzel reported back in June. Collecting uneaten food or unsellable produce for distribution to those in need is one activity that accelerated during the pandemic . A newish concept, “upcycled food” — goods that “use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment” — is being promoted by a nonprofit consortium called the Upcycled Food Association. Increased concern for farmers is also on the menu. Fair Trade certified crops continue to rise , ensuring a living wage for many smallholder farmers, and there’s growing interest in supporting Indigenous farmers , who have long practiced regenerative techniques. The Regenerative Organic Alliance developed a standard to support farmers who promote soil health. All this will require making capital and assistance available to growers around the world, including the data and analytics that increasingly are core to 21st-century farming. And to do this quickly, before the ravages of a changing climate create further hardships for both food producers and consumers around the world. 5. Net-zero commitments found infinite potential And finally, zero — perhaps a fitting coda to a year that boasts two of them in its name. What began just a couple years ago blossomed into a full-on movement as the number of net-zero commitments doubled in less than a year . The list of companies making such commitments cut across sectors and international borders, among them BP , Delta , Facebook , HSBC , Nestlé , Walmart , even Rolls Royce . Verizon, Indian IT services giant Infosys and British consumer goods brand Reckitt Benckiser became the first global companies to join Amazon’s Climate Pledge initiative , committing to reach “carbon neutrality” by 2040. Some went further. Microsoft said it would become “carbon negative” within a decade , with a stretch goal to remove all the carbon it has emitted since it was founded in 1975. The travel-intensive strategy firm BCG said it aspires to be “climate positive” by removing more carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere than it emits. But getting to zero — or neutral or positive or some other goal — is not without controversy. As one report noted , net-zero commitments vary widely in terms of their metrics and transparency, among other things. That is, no single standard governs the way net-zero is defined or measured, or how it should be communicated. As such, net-zero could soon be in the crosshairs of activists eager to point out corporate greenwash. Help could be on the way. In September, the Science Based Targets initiative unveiled plans to develop a global standard for corporate net-zero goals, including the role of carbon offsets, a practice whose massive expansion is itself problematic and controversial . How it gets resolved will be an enduring storyline for 2021 and beyond. There’s more Those were hardly the only 2020 storylines of note. There was a significant uptick of Wall Street interest in  environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting … a surge of attention by companies to  environmental justice … the continued rise and empowerment of  corporate sustainability professionals . Oh, and the advent of a new U.S. presidential administration that  promises to reengage with business and the global community on addressing the climate crisis. That is to say, 2020 wasn’t all about the pandemic, recession and you-know-who. If that’s not enough, here — in alphabetical order by company — are a baker’s dozen other hopeful headlines from the past 12 months: How Apple aims to lead on environment and equity Bank of America CEO: Each public company needs to reach carbon zero BP announces net-zero by 2050 ambition Delta lifts off with $1 billion pledge to become carbon neutral Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics General Mills, Danone dig deeper into regenerative agriculture with incentives, funding HSBC invests in world’s first ‘reef credit’ system IKEA will buy back used furniture in stand against ‘excessive consumption’ Microsoft is building a ‘Planetary Computer’ to protect biodiversity Morgan Stanley will measure CO2 impact of loans and investments How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop Unilever unveils climate and nature fund worth more than $1 billion Walmart drives toward zero-emission goal for its entire fleet by 2040 I invite you to  follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter,  GreenBuzz , and listen to  GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote Here, in no particular order, are five storylines that I found encouraging during the 12 months just ending. Topics Leadership Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Group

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Sustainable shopping is healthy, even amid a pandemic

December 15, 2020 by  
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Sustainable shopping is healthy, even amid a pandemic Diane Osgood Tue, 12/15/2020 – 01:45 As sustainability professionals, we’ve been talking for years about how consumers are increasingly influenced by values and sustainability.  We search the data for proof points that people would prefer to buy from a more sustainable company. Indeed, even when we find the proof points, we also find a large action gap  between what people say and what they do. We think the action gap is about to get smaller, due to a set of trends and the context of the pandemic. The pandemic has shaken the mental health and emotional well-being of people everywhere. It also has caused many people to consider more carefully what they value most: family; friends; health — and savings, if possible. As a result, consumers are paying increased attention to  companies that treated their customers and employees well during the pandemic . Against the backdrop of the pandemic,  we see important trends. Values matter, even now The importance people place on values in purchasing has increased. Even a global pandemic and economic trouble couldn’t push values out of people’s minds. As the pandemic surged around the world, stock-art giant Getty Images wanted to know whether it rendered everything else irrelevant. It  combed  its own vast customer database of more than a billion image searches, then commissioned a third-party survey of more than 10,000 people across 25 countries, conducted in more than a dozen languages. If sustainability’s importance to consumers and purchasers didn’t go away in the midst of a global pandemic, will it ever? Getty found that months into the pandemic, consumers still had attention for other issues, represented by four basic categories: sustainability; wellness; “realness” (authenticity); and technology. Sustainability was, they learned, trending upwards ” quite against expectation .” And for those respondents who are passionate about sustainability, they said they were willing to pay 10 to 15 percent more for products or services from companies that: use sustainable practices; are aligned with their values; have transparent business practices; and care about the well-being, safety and security of customers. In other words, even in times of enormous upheaval, people still have, and act on, personal values. Shoppers’ behaviors continue to change What’s more, it’s not all just happy talk. We have seen this in shoppers’ actual purchasing behavior during the pandemic. Evidence? NYU Stern Business School’s 2020 Sustainable Share Market Index shows shares of sustainability-marketed products grew significantly during the week of March 15, and continued to maintain that increased share through mid-June. We have to wait until the researchers release the data analysis for the second half of 2020 to see if the trend held. However, the period of March to June clearly indicates consumers were more frequently putting their money where their mouth is on sustainability. The same study found that sustainability-marketed products are responsible for more than half of the growth in consumer-packaged goods from 2015 to 2019. Businesses are changing, too What’s changed is not just consumers but also business purchasing. We see evidence of business-to-business purchasing teams applying sustainability criteria to supplier expectations. The biggest driver seems to be net-zero ambitions. Any company that has taken on net-zero commitments will be looking at its supply-chain partners to reduce its carbon emissions and switch to renewables in the next few years. Indeed, Apple already has set the bar for its major suppliers such as Foxconn. Foxconn committed to supply Apple’s iPhones from factories run on 100 percent renewable energy.  Other companies, such as IKEA, BT, Unilever, Ericsson and Telia, have launched a new net-zero initiative aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions across their supply chains. The trend in B2B spending strikes us as an important lever to accelerate even more sustainable production. New cross-sector efforts to address corporate supply chains and purchasing will further expedite effective approaches. If sustainability’s importance to consumers and purchasers didn’t go away in the midst of a global pandemic, will it ever? Remember when U.S. automakers thought customers weren’t that concerned about quality because they bought largely based on style? One day, we’ll look back at the belief that sustainability doesn’t matter to customers, shaking our heads the same way. Pull Quote If sustainability’s importance to consumers and purchasers didn’t go away in the midst of a global pandemic, will it ever? Contributors Daniel Aronson Topics Consumer Trends Marketing & Communication Consumer Products Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Sustainable shopping is healthy, even amid a pandemic

Crypto crowdfunding meets energy efficiency in Apple co-founder’s new venture

December 10, 2020 by  
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Crypto crowdfunding meets energy efficiency in Apple co-founder’s new venture Heather Clancy Thu, 12/10/2020 – 01:00 Did you know Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (aka Woz) has a cryptocurrency named after him? Here’s the backstory. A mere three years ago, my inbox was bloated with news about startups such as South Africa’s Sun Exchange or Estonia’s WePower or Australia’s Power Ledger focused on “democratizing” the ability of individual investors to back solar projects, often in emerging markets or communities off the grid or radar of traditional financers.  The common denominator underlying these ventures is blockchain, a digital ledger technology used for dozens of intriguing corporate applications intended to address climate change — from tracing ingredients across supply chains to verifying, purchasing and trading carbon credits.  And now you can add energy efficiency financing to the list of crypto-enabled crowdfunding opportunities, in the form of a new company co-founded by Wozniak.  The mission of Efforce , which has operations in Italy and Malta, is to raise capital for energy efficiency projects, one of the most potentially impactful ways for businesses to decarbonize their operations, if not quite as media-sexy as buying into solar or wind energy installations. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), more than $250 billion in financing went toward energy efficiency initiatives in 2019, but at least double that amount is needed by 2025 to keep the world progressing toward the mitigation goals of the Paris Agreement. This push can’t be a single person’s battle. It needs to come from all of us together to compound this effect in such a way that it becomes a reality over our lifespan. In most cases, the challenge is the upfront financing that energy services companies (ESCOs) typically need to get a project off the ground — the equipment alone to retrofit a building or industrial facility with power-sipping alternatives such as LED lighting, insulation or new manufacturing equipment easily can cost $200,000, according to Efforce’s estimates.  To help fund more projects, Efforce will use a web marketplace to verify and list proposals, and to create a performance contract used to track the results. Next, the opportunities will be listed and would-be backers can buy into them using Efforce’s currency, called the WOZX token. Over time, the project results will be measured through smart meters and project owners will receive energy credits (measured in megawatt-hours) that can be cashed out or traded. “This push can’t be a single person’s battle. It needs to come from all of us together to compound this effect in such a way that it becomes a reality over our lifespan,” says Woz in the marketing video on the Efforce website. “In these difficult times, many small companies are struggling,” said Efforce co-founder Jacopo Visetti, in a statement. “Efforce allows business owners to safely register their energy upgrade project on the web and secure funding from all types of investors around the world. The companies will then have more available cash to use for other critical projects such as infrastructure or hiring.” Visetti previously founded AitherCO2 , an energy services company in Italy, so I wasn’t really surprised to learn that Efforce plans to handle some of the initial projects itself before it opens things up to other partners.  Efforce’s official launch last week — the venture was rumored more than a year ago, but market turmoil delayed initial funding — created a stir: Even before listing a single project, the company’s tokens were trading at $1.55 Monday afternoons (up from 22 cents at its listing). The company has raised $18 million from private investors, at a valuation of $80 million. Given the relatively modest scale of this venture, it will take the creation of many, many more companies such as Efforce to address a gap of the size that the IEA has identified. What’s more, the appetite for investments of this nature in a COVID-19-ravaged economic climate with lots of empty commercial buildings is unclear. But the model it has set forth — sidestepping a massive upfront capital expense — is right for the times. Pull Quote This push can’t be a single person’s battle. It needs to come from all of us together to compound this effect in such a way that it becomes a reality over our lifespan. Topics Energy & Climate Information Technology Energy Efficiency Blockchain 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 Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak with fellow Efforce co-founder Jacopo Visetti. Courtesy of Luca Rossetti Close Authorship

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Crypto crowdfunding meets energy efficiency in Apple co-founder’s new venture

10 eco-friendly holiday gift ideas for friends

November 27, 2020 by  
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Too often, the giving season feels like a mad rush to check tasks off a list. It’s all too easy (and embarrassing) to wind up giving our friends and family junk gifts that we regret buying. Our  shopping  guide makes it simple to find sustainably made, easy-to-purchase presents that you can feel good about giving over the holidays. Spent grain pancakes Everybody has to eat, and anybody sane likes a good pancake. This  spent grain mix  is low carb, high  protein , contains lots of fiber and uses recycled grains. What?! That’s right, these pancakes are called “spent” because the barley flour comes from microbrewery castoffs. You and your pancake gift recipient will feel even better about breakfast knowing that Grain4Grain donates to a food bank every time somebody purchases a box. Related: How to make soy wax candles for a cozy, autumnal home Shoes by Allbirds Buying shoes can be intimate, so this one is for your close friends.  Allbirds , best known for its sneakers, also makes boat shoes, slip-ons and flats. Choose from shoes made from wool — supposedly these New Zealand sheep have a fabulous life — or, for your  vegan bestie, choose shoes made from responsibly sourced eucalyptus fiber. As a carbon-neutral company, Allbirds puts eco-thought into all aspects of business. The laces are made from recycled plastic bottles, the insoles use castor bean oil and even the shipping boxes are made from 90% recycled cardboard. Digital thrift store gift card Some friends are easier to shop for than others. For some particular people, it’s best to let them pick out their own  gifts . Help them shop sustainably with a digital thrift store gift card from Rent the Runway or thredUP. Upcycled clutch from Jungalow Jungalow  specializes in bright colors and bold botanical patterns. The company is the brainchild of  design  blogger Justina Blakeney. Now you can get Jungalow’s super lush upholstery fabrics in a clutch purse. These clutches use upholstery scraps that wound up on the cutting room floor. Your friend can carry it as a small purse, or keep important things organized inside the clutch while tossing it in a larger bag. Darling little tassels adorn the clutch’s zipper. Girlfriend Collective activewear Through  fashion  alchemy,  Girlfriend Collective  turns old fishing nets, plastic bottles and other trash into chic leggings, bras, socks, sweatsuits and shorts. The company has already sidetracked about 4.5 million plastic water bottles bound for a dubious fate. You can find clothing for all sizes, and even a maternity section on their website. Homemade sugar scrub For a low-cost yet personal gift with a sweet scent, make your friend a sugar scrub. All you need is  sugar , coconut oil (or similar) and a few drops of essential oil. Use the essential oil straight out of the bottle, or make a special blend for your friend. Scoop the scrub into a mason jar, tie a bow around it, and it’s ready to gift. Full details on making sugar scrubs are available at  The Simple Veganista . Malala Scrunchie With a  Malala scrunchi , your friend can secure her hair while simultaneously promoting  education  for girls. When you buy these hair holders, the money goes to the Malala Fund, named for the brave and beloved Pakistani heroine and kick-ass activist Malala Yousufzai. The scrunchies are made from sustainably sourced bamboo fabric and dyed with natural plant dyes, like turmeric for yellow, indigo for blue and madder root for pink. We like the pumpkin color for fall and winter. Cruelty-free, 10-free nail polish from Pear Nova Ten what? Bad ingredients: toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, DBP, xylene, parabens, camphor, fragrances, phthalates or animal ingredients. Not sure what all those ingredients are? The bottom line is you probably don’t want them on your nails.  Pear Nova  products are 10-free, designed in  Chicago  and look much more stylish than your average drugstore nail polish. The inventive colors have fun names, such as Cleo F*ckin Patra, Rub My Temples, It’s Summer Somewhere and Rooftop ‘Til You Drop. Wine barrel Apple Watch strap In another clever example of  upcycling ,  Uncommon Goods  offers an upgrade for your Apple Watch strap. Your oenophile friend will feel good knowing that her new watch strap was once a French oak wine barrel. These straps are made in Austria and compatible with Apple Watch Series 5, 4 and 3. Eco travel kit In this pandemic  holiday  season, everybody wants things to go back to normal ASAP. Give the gift of optimism with this  eco travel kit . Your friend will smell delightful with naturally flavored lip balm, deodorant, moisturizer and perfume in grapefruit, bergamot and rose scents. She’ll nap beneath a silky eye mask and wake to note her thoughts in an artisan-crafted kite notebook. The kits come in a vegan leather case and also include earplugs, q-tips, hair ties, disposable face masks and Emergen-Cs. You can upgrade and personalize the Aria Kit with extra add-ons. Images via Grain4Grain , Katherine Gallagher / Inhabitat, thredUP , Jungalow , Girlfriend , Pixabay, HARA , Pear Nova , Uncommon Goods , and Aria Kit

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10 eco-friendly holiday gift ideas for friends

Apple’s Lisa Jackson on the power of influence in addressing climate justice and equity

November 10, 2020 by  
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Apple’s Lisa Jackson on the power of influence in addressing climate justice and equity Since becoming Apple’s lead on environmental and social issues, Lisa Jackson has led the company to make bold commitments — not just in its own operations, but in those of its suppliers and partners. In this conversation, we’ll dive into the company’s wide-ranging initiatives, from low-carbon design to closing the materials loop to aligning entrepreneurship with social and environmental justice. This session was held at GreenBiz Group’s VERGE 20, October 26-30, 2020. Learn more about the event here: https://events.greenbiz.com/events/ve…   Watch our other must-see talks here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwW3…   OUR LINKS Website: https://www.greenbiz.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/greenbiz LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/gree… Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/greenbiz_group Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GreenBiz YanniGuo Mon, 11/09/2020 – 16:05 Featured Off

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Apple’s Lisa Jackson on the power of influence in addressing climate justice and equity

The world is on fire. What can pine cones teach us about how to respond?

November 9, 2020 by  
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The world is on fire. What can pine cones teach us about how to respond? GreenBiz Vice President and VERGE Executive Director, Shana Rappaport, welcomes participants to VERGE 20 with a clean economy call to action and a surprise musical performance.This World is on Fire” was written by Kiki Lipsett, with additional lyrics customized by Shana Rappaport for VERGE 20 (original song, “This Girl is on Fire,” by Alicia Keys). You can learn more about and connect with all the musical collaborators via their websites: Kiki Lipsett (songwriter, piano:  kikilipsett.com ), Liliana Urbain (drums:  lilianaurbain.com ), Jules Indelicato (sound producer:  facebook.com/soundbyjules ), and Shana Rappaport (lead singer,  theseastars.org ). This session was held at GreenBiz Group’s VERGE 20, October 26-30, 2020. Learn more about the event here:  https://events.greenbiz.com/events/ve…   Watch our other must-see talks here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwW3…   OUR LINKS Website: https://www.greenbiz.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/greenbiz LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/gree… Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/greenbiz_group Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GreenBiz SHOW LESS YanniGuo Mon, 11/09/2020 – 15:51 Featured Off

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The world is on fire. What can pine cones teach us about how to respond?

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