A tightrope walk ahead for corporate sustainability managers

June 3, 2020 by  
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A tightrope walk ahead for corporate sustainability managers Rajat Panwar Wed, 06/03/2020 – 00:00 Amidst numerous uncertainties surrounding post-COVID corporate climate, one thing is certain: Sustainability managers will face multifaceted challenges.  Many could face budget cuts, even as their stakeholders expect them to ramp up sustainability efforts and seize this unique “opportunity” to initiate fundamental corporate transformations. Many may find their companies’ post COVID-19 business strategies are no longer aligned with ongoing or planned sustainability programs. The job of a sustainability manager never has been easy, it will become even more challenging during economically turbulent times.  After the 2008 economic recession, I led a study to show that companies generally scaled down sustainability programs during periods of lowered financial performance, but they did so rather selectively. This study also shows that the extent of scaling down is contingent upon the level of economic turbulence. The latter issue is especially critical in the current context because the COVID-19 has inflicted turbulence on economic systems at a deeper level and more pervasive scale than previous downturns have, at least in the recent history.  I believe that this is a time for sustainability managers to act with foresight. They should not only concern themselves with broad sustainability goals, but they also should be active partners in helping their companies recover from economic hardships.  Sustainability managers should also be active partners in helping their companies recover from economic hardships.  This ambidextrous approach will help them garner more trust for sustainability units within their companies, which in turn will enhance internal support for corporate sustainability programs in the long term. Here are five ways (call them 5Cs) that together can help sustainability managers act ambidextrously:  1. Focus on communities These are times of community-level distress, manifesting in multiple ways. Community well-being is the most salient of all concerns that companies must attend to as part of their sustainability programs. Many companies are doing it through corporate philanthropy; but engaging in community-oriented projects more directly would provide companies with visibility, goodwill, improved employees pride and enhanced societal trust.  Community involvement will be the yardstick with which stakeholders will measure companies’ sustainability and social responsibility performance in the post COVID-19 recovery period and well beyond it.  2. Develop coalitions with other businesses This may be a promising approach for companies to engage in community-oriented projects. A critical part of community involvement should be the support for small and micro businesses in the area.  Initiatives taken by grocery chains, such as Publix, can play a critical role in providing much-needed support to save farmer markets and small farmers throughout the world. Local sourcing and purchasing can help revitalize small businesses and are well aligned with broad sustainability goals. Indeed, local sourcing also can uniquely demonstrate companies’ commitments to foster circular economies.  3. Display creativity This is truer than ever. As goes the adage, “If you want creativity, take a zero off your budget. If you want sustainability, take off two zeroes.”  The COVID-19 outbreak has removed those two zeroes for many companies. Sustainability managers could draw on such concepts as frugal innovation to spur outside-the-box thinking and to develop and execute sustainability programs that actually help in cutting cost, reducing waste and projecting companies as originators of cool, simple solutions to complex problems.  To clarify, it is not time to stall climate initiatives; but it is time to more vigorously engage with stakeholders who have urgent claims.   Workplace risk mitigation will be a priority for companies as economic reopening starts. Innovation in this area is already happening — combining smart scanning technologies , drone-enabled deliveries and artificial intelligence — but such high tech-high cost innovations will not be accessible to all companies.  Frugal yet effective sanitization, I believe, is the most important area in which sustainability experts can provide critical input. Keeping sanitization costs low while ensuring the safety of customers and employees alike is indeed a litmus test for creativity and innovation: Backed with expertise in design thinking, safety norms and customer expectations, sustainability managers are among the best positioned to advise companies on how to effectively handle sanitization in the most frugal way. 4. Show genuine concern A core tenet of sustainability is a concern for all. These are periods of immense hardships. Indeed, bigger threats of climate change loom at us, and sustainability managers ought to not take eyes off that big issue. Yet the open wounds need urgent treatment. It is exactly the time for sustainability managers to display concern for all and live up to their own ideals. Sustainability entails integrated thinking: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are interlinked , after all.  It is an immense opportunity for sustainability managers to institutionalize integrative thinking in their companies and cultivate fraternity across functional units. By showing empathy for communities, employees and customers, sustainability managers will further ingrain stakeholder orientation within their companies.  To clarify, it is not time to stall climate initiatives; but it is time to more vigorously engage with stakeholders who have urgent claims and earn their trust and support for future sustainability initiatives that they may not otherwise support.  5. Get everyone on board with the changes Finally, sustainability managers will need to make their co-workers on sustainability teams comfortable with the adjustments in their corporate sustainability programs. Co-workers’ discomfort may emanate from their fearing job loss as they might perceive adjustments as curtailments. This discomfort also may emanate from a perceived value-misalignment as some co-workers simply may not value new approaches to sustainability.  Keeping up the spirits of team members and instilling in them the confidence that theirs is a critical role in helping the company recover from financial hardships is a new and important task for sustainability managers. Sharing with sustainability co-workers a short-, medium- and long-term vision of strategy will help sustainability managers keep co-workers motivated and creative.  Clearly, times are difficult. But these are exactly the times when the relevance of sustainability thinking will be put to test. After all, sustainability is about resilience and adaptation: Sustainability managers will have to show both in the coming months.  Pull Quote Sustainability managers should also be active partners in helping their companies recover from economic hardships.  To clarify, it is not time to stall climate initiatives; but it is time to more vigorously engage with stakeholders who have urgent claims. Topics Corporate Strategy 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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A tightrope walk ahead for corporate sustainability managers

A tightrope walk ahead for corporate sustainability managers

June 3, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

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A tightrope walk ahead for corporate sustainability managers Rajat Panwar Wed, 06/03/2020 – 00:00 Amidst numerous uncertainties surrounding post-COVID corporate climate, one thing is certain: Sustainability managers will face multifaceted challenges.  Many could face budget cuts, even as their stakeholders expect them to ramp up sustainability efforts and seize this unique “opportunity” to initiate fundamental corporate transformations. Many may find their companies’ post COVID-19 business strategies are no longer aligned with ongoing or planned sustainability programs. The job of a sustainability manager never has been easy, it will become even more challenging during economically turbulent times.  After the 2008 economic recession, I led a study to show that companies generally scaled down sustainability programs during periods of lowered financial performance, but they did so rather selectively. This study also shows that the extent of scaling down is contingent upon the level of economic turbulence. The latter issue is especially critical in the current context because the COVID-19 has inflicted turbulence on economic systems at a deeper level and more pervasive scale than previous downturns have, at least in the recent history.  I believe that this is a time for sustainability managers to act with foresight. They should not only concern themselves with broad sustainability goals, but they also should be active partners in helping their companies recover from economic hardships.  Sustainability managers should also be active partners in helping their companies recover from economic hardships.  This ambidextrous approach will help them garner more trust for sustainability units within their companies, which in turn will enhance internal support for corporate sustainability programs in the long term. Here are five ways (call them 5Cs) that together can help sustainability managers act ambidextrously:  1. Focus on communities These are times of community-level distress, manifesting in multiple ways. Community well-being is the most salient of all concerns that companies must attend to as part of their sustainability programs. Many companies are doing it through corporate philanthropy; but engaging in community-oriented projects more directly would provide companies with visibility, goodwill, improved employees pride and enhanced societal trust.  Community involvement will be the yardstick with which stakeholders will measure companies’ sustainability and social responsibility performance in the post COVID-19 recovery period and well beyond it.  2. Develop coalitions with other businesses This may be a promising approach for companies to engage in community-oriented projects. A critical part of community involvement should be the support for small and micro businesses in the area.  Initiatives taken by grocery chains, such as Publix, can play a critical role in providing much-needed support to save farmer markets and small farmers throughout the world. Local sourcing and purchasing can help revitalize small businesses and are well aligned with broad sustainability goals. Indeed, local sourcing also can uniquely demonstrate companies’ commitments to foster circular economies.  3. Display creativity This is truer than ever. As goes the adage, “If you want creativity, take a zero off your budget. If you want sustainability, take off two zeroes.”  The COVID-19 outbreak has removed those two zeroes for many companies. Sustainability managers could draw on such concepts as frugal innovation to spur outside-the-box thinking and to develop and execute sustainability programs that actually help in cutting cost, reducing waste and projecting companies as originators of cool, simple solutions to complex problems.  To clarify, it is not time to stall climate initiatives; but it is time to more vigorously engage with stakeholders who have urgent claims.   Workplace risk mitigation will be a priority for companies as economic reopening starts. Innovation in this area is already happening — combining smart scanning technologies , drone-enabled deliveries and artificial intelligence — but such high tech-high cost innovations will not be accessible to all companies.  Frugal yet effective sanitization, I believe, is the most important area in which sustainability experts can provide critical input. Keeping sanitization costs low while ensuring the safety of customers and employees alike is indeed a litmus test for creativity and innovation: Backed with expertise in design thinking, safety norms and customer expectations, sustainability managers are among the best positioned to advise companies on how to effectively handle sanitization in the most frugal way. 4. Show genuine concern A core tenet of sustainability is a concern for all. These are periods of immense hardships. Indeed, bigger threats of climate change loom at us, and sustainability managers ought to not take eyes off that big issue. Yet the open wounds need urgent treatment. It is exactly the time for sustainability managers to display concern for all and live up to their own ideals. Sustainability entails integrated thinking: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are interlinked , after all.  It is an immense opportunity for sustainability managers to institutionalize integrative thinking in their companies and cultivate fraternity across functional units. By showing empathy for communities, employees and customers, sustainability managers will further ingrain stakeholder orientation within their companies.  To clarify, it is not time to stall climate initiatives; but it is time to more vigorously engage with stakeholders who have urgent claims and earn their trust and support for future sustainability initiatives that they may not otherwise support.  5. Get everyone on board with the changes Finally, sustainability managers will need to make their co-workers on sustainability teams comfortable with the adjustments in their corporate sustainability programs. Co-workers’ discomfort may emanate from their fearing job loss as they might perceive adjustments as curtailments. This discomfort also may emanate from a perceived value-misalignment as some co-workers simply may not value new approaches to sustainability.  Keeping up the spirits of team members and instilling in them the confidence that theirs is a critical role in helping the company recover from financial hardships is a new and important task for sustainability managers. Sharing with sustainability co-workers a short-, medium- and long-term vision of strategy will help sustainability managers keep co-workers motivated and creative.  Clearly, times are difficult. But these are exactly the times when the relevance of sustainability thinking will be put to test. After all, sustainability is about resilience and adaptation: Sustainability managers will have to show both in the coming months.  Pull Quote Sustainability managers should also be active partners in helping their companies recover from economic hardships.  To clarify, it is not time to stall climate initiatives; but it is time to more vigorously engage with stakeholders who have urgent claims. Topics Corporate Strategy 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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A tightrope walk ahead for corporate sustainability managers

Green design and history meld at unique Delas Frres Winery

May 29, 2020 by  
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A recent passion project with a dedication to earth-friendly practices resulted in the conversion of a historical landscape into the Delas Frères Winery in the Rhone Valley, France. Farming in the area is almost as old as the land itself. In fact, the terraced hills above Tain l’Hermitage have been cultivated since Roman times. However, the modern setting is more urban than rustic, making it an unlikely choice for a winery. But architect Carl Fredrik Svenstedt rose above the challenges, melding the old with new. The result is a renovated manor house and surrounding walled garden. The main house, now called the guest house, offers overnight visitors bedrooms, a restaurant and a tasting room. A new wine cellar and shop were thoughtfully constructed to frame the existing building. Ramps connect areas of the winery, allowing visitors to enjoy expansive views from the upper level or observe the wine-making process. Using solid structural stone leaves a lower carbon footprint compared to steel or concrete, and the materials were locally sourced from a nearby quarry so transport emissions were low. Although sustainability was at the forefront of the design, the stone also marries well with the needs of the facility by providing thermal cooling to moderate the temperatures for the wine during production and storage. Controlling the natural light is another aspect of the architecture that effectively lowers lighting costs. Skylights stream sunlight into common visitor areas while the placement of the stone walls reflects light that would be detrimental to the wine tanks and barrels. A high groundwater level means the building can only be partly sunk below grade, but provides for the geothermal system that aids in the buildings’ climate control. The walls of the winery invite touch. They speak of the history of the area with Estaillade stone from down the river. The main wall measures 80 meters long and 7 meters high and is made from blocks individually carved by a robot. According to a statement from the winery and Svenstedt Architects, “Intelligent machining reduces waste, while the resulting gravel is reused to pave the garden. Despite the unique technicity of the wall, the blocks are mounted traditionally by a two-man father and son team of stonemasons.” Delas Frères Winery was the winner of the AMP award for sustainability in 2019. Images by Dan Glasser

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Green design and history meld at unique Delas Frres Winery

How to celebrate World Environment Day

June 5, 2019 by  
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Today, June 5, is World Environment Day! There are many ways that you can celebrate today, and you can use the celebration as a start to building more healthy, environmentally friendly habits. Here are some suggestions for fun activities and behavior changes to consider today and every day. Group activities for World Environment Day Plan a clean-up Get together with friends and neighbors for a clean-up activity in your area, such as at a beach, park or river. Get outside Getting outside doesn’t necessarily help nature , but taking the time to enjoy it and remember why it is essential to protect in the first place is a great way to honor the environment. Find a local hiking group or coordinate a picnic in the park. If your friends aren’t as excited about outdoor activities as you are, search for outdoorsy MeetUp groups in your area and meet some new, like-minded friends. Write to your senators What environmental issues are important to you and your family? This year, the theme of World Environment Day is “Air Pollution.” Find out what your local government is doing to protect the air quality in your area and write to your senator or representatives about your concerns. Healthy personal habits you can start now Use less water Small changes in how you use water at home can add up to a significant difference and conserve a lot of water in the long run. Turn off your tap when you are brushing your teeth. Be mindful of how long your shower is. When washing dishes, fill up a pot or large mixing bowl with warm water and dish soap. Use that water to scrub all of your dishes at once, and then turn on the tap only to rinse. Do not keep the tap running the whole time to wash and rinse each dish individually. Walk more You’ve heard it a million times, but have you implemented more walking in your own life? Consider the places you go often, like work, and figure out if there are ways that you can walk — even if it is only once or twice a week. Walking is great for your health, cuts down on transportation-related carbon emissions and allows you to get to know your neighborhood in a completely different way. Carpool Take the time to discuss with friends, family and coworkers before an event or activity and find out how you can cut down on the number of cars. For places that you go frequently — like work — get to know who lives near you and decide if you can agree on a schedule to carpool. Switch your light bulbs Every time a light bulb burns out in your house, switch to a long-lasting LED bulb . These light bulbs reduce your energy consumption and last a very long time. Buy energy-efficient appliances When possible, choose ENERGY STAR-rated appliances. It is an extra cost upfront, but it will significantly reduce your energy bill long into the future. Related: 10 money-saving tips for a green home Keep fridge coils and AC vents clean If the coils on your refrigerator and the vents on your air conditioner are kept clean, they won’t need to use up additional energy just to cool to the regular temperature. Recycle e-waste When your cellphone or laptop breaks, bring it to an e-waste recycle facility rather than letting it sit around your house or tossing it into the trash. Shut off your devices When you are finished using it, turn off your computer and monitor. Avoid overcharging your cellphone or leaving it to charge overnight. Ideally, shut off your TV and other appliances through the main switch or outlet, not just the remote, so that you break the circuit and save energy . Switch to sustainable products Consider the products you use at home, like cleaning supplies and toothpaste . Switch to something more eco-friendly, ideally made from natural, biodegradable materials in plastic-free or fully recyclable packaging. Via News 18 Images via Riccardo Chiarini , Brian Yurasits and Arek Adeoye

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How to celebrate World Environment Day

Here’s how you can recycle and upcycle your yogurt containers

June 4, 2019 by  
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We all want to do the right thing when it comes to recycling. After all, it makes us feel good to know we’re diverting materials from the already-overflowing landfills . But sometimes we inadvertently cause more problems than we solve when we toss items into recycling that contaminate the rest of the goods in the bin. For example, when a material that has come into contact with food rolls down the conveyor belt at the recycling plant, workers have to pull other perfectly acceptable recyclable items from the line simply due to cross-contamination. Yogurt containers are one such item that leave us feeling a little helpless in our efforts to do the right thing. While they do come into contact with food, they may still be recyclable. Then again, they may not. Even if you understand the policy regarding single-use food containers in your area, you have the added ongoing conflict surrounding those little numbers on the bottom of plastic containers. Can you recycle a number 4? Are the containers of one yogurt brand recyclable while others are not? The answer is not black and white. In fact, almost no two recycling centers have the same standards when it comes to what they will or will not accept. The good news is that you can erase the question mark regarding the best way to deal with yogurt containers in your area. Related: DIY: Make delicious homemade yogurt in your slow cooker Step 1. Know your plastic The first step in the process is to investigate the identifying number on the bottom of your container. Yes, these are likely different from one brand to another. Beyond that even, some brands have more than one plastic type for different products. Numbers one and two are commonly recyclable. Number three is rarely recyclable. Number four is commonly recyclable, but perhaps not via curbside pickup. Number five is hit and miss for mainstream recyclability. Number six is rarely recyclable or recycled and is bad for the environment . Finally, number seven is a mixture of plastics that is rarely recyclable. Yogurt containers are most commonly number 5 or 6 plastic, which does nothing to answer the question as to whether you can recycle it or not. Step 2. Contact your recycle center The most accurate answer to your query will come directly from your local curbside recycling provider. While some will accept packaging labeled one to seven, some will only take non-food plastic . Yet, others only commit to the cleaner numbers one or two. Check out the website or send them an email. You can also give them a call, but note that many times the centralized call center won’t have reliable information about the recycling in your area. Facilities vary widely from one location to the next. Plus, protocol is constantly changing based on many factors, most recently the limitations implemented by China. Step 3. Alternatives The short answer here is that there is no easy answer, and it depends on both the capabilities of the facility and the plastic used in the production of the yogurt container. If your curbside service doesn’t allow it, look for a local facility that does accept lower grade plastic. If you have a Whole Foods in your area, look for Gimme 5 drop boxes near the front of the store or mail your clean, empty yogurt cups back to Preserve . Step 4. Other alternatives If you don’t find a viable way to recycle your plastic yogurt containers, it might be time to switch to a brand that serves it up in glass instead. Alternately, you can easily make your own yogurt with recipes that allow it to sit in the oven overnight. Or you can rely on a yogurt maker or Insta-pot for the same effect. Of course, yogurt containers can be useful around the house, too. Here are just a few ways you can put them to work: If they have a lid, use them to store paper clips, thumb tacks, hair bands, buttons, cotton balls, jewelry when you travel and any number of other small items throughout the house and garage. Used yogurt containers can also be used for other food items. Pack your nuts, berries or Goldfish in them, or take your dressings, sauces and dips on the road. Due to the size and shape of yogurt containers, they’re great for pantry items like flour and also cleaning products like the bucket of Oxy-clean or dishwasher detergent . For gardening , poke a few holes in the bottom, fill with soil and add seeds. Yogurt cups make a great small and available planter when you’re starting out plants prior to transplant. If you have children, yogurt containers might be the only bath toy you need. Prepare for endless filling and dumping or drill holes in the bottom so your child can watch it run through. They are also great in the sandbox when building a castle or just watching the sand cascade to the earth. Crafting— yogurt containers can reign in small supplies like tiny clips, stickers or googly eyes. Plus, they make great containers for Play-doh or fingerpainting when the kids are looking for an artsy outlet. Even without a clear cut answer as to whether your yogurt containers are recyclable, you can have a plan to make conscientious purchases (avoid number 6 and buy glass if you can), locate more information about local recycling resources and find ways to upcycle your containers to provide more than a single use. Via Preserve , LifeHacker Images via Shutterstock

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Built on a budget, this elegant Dock Building glows like a lantern in Vancouver

June 20, 2018 by  
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Tight budgets typically pose one of the biggest challenges in design projects. But as Michael Green, CEO and President of Michael Green Architecture , shows in his firm’s recently completed Dock Building, beautiful architecture is “always possible regardless of budget.” Built for the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, the building melds modern and industrial influences in a sleek and sculptural volume that appears to glow like a lantern at night. Located on Jericho Beach in Vancouver , British Columbia, the Dock Building for the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club serves a large marine of sailboats. The facility consists of offices for the Harbor Master; educational spaces for children; a variety of workshops for maintaining boats, sails and gear; as well as bathrooms and showers. The modern yet simple design is made up of two intersecting wedge-shaped volumes created in reference to the cannery and the industrial waterfront building that once defined the site. “The design team at MGA aimed to demonstrate that all projects, from working industrial buildings to boutique museums , can and should be realized with grace and architectural dignity. Throughout, the details are modest and practical to work with the limited project budget,” said the Vancouver-based architecture firm in a project statement, adding that nearly half of the budget went to the foundation and piles. “The Dock Building exemplifies what a creative team, an ambitious client and a big vision can produce.” Related: Aperture-like windows maximize shading in this stunning Vancouver residence The Dock Building’s lantern-like effect can be enjoyed from the land and the sea. A glulam and translucent polycarbonate wall was installed on the side facing the land. The translucent facade glows at night and lets natural light into the workshop spaces during the day. On the side facing the sea and the marina are a row of garage doors and a glazed office frontage. The structure was built from glulam posts and beams with light timber infill decking and walls. White standing seam panels clad the exterior to mimic the color of nearby boats. The interior is predominately finished in construction-grade plywood. + Michael Green Architecture Images by Ema Peter

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Built on a budget, this elegant Dock Building glows like a lantern in Vancouver

Eco-group faces imprisonment after reviving an abandoned Spanish village

June 8, 2018 by  
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Like many countries around the world, Spain is struggling to address the problem of rural inhabitants abandoning villages to migrate to urban areas. However, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for Fraguas. Nearly 50 years after residents left the small area in northern Castilla-La Mancha, an eco-minded group of people decided to revitalize the village. Since 2013, the community has managed to breathe new life into Fraguas by rebuilding dilapidated homes, installing solar panels , planting vegetable gardens and restoring the area’s natural forest growth. By most accounts, it is a heart-warming story of the reformation of a once-beloved village — that is until the Spanish government decided to start legal proceedings to kick the new residents out of town. After decades of urban migration, the Iberia Peninsula is currently teeming with hundreds, if not thousands, of extinguished communities, many of them up for sale . While most of the villages were left abandoned, the previous residents of Fraguas were bought out by the government in the late 1960s to make way for a planned reforestation program . The village had only a handful of full-time inhabitants and became overgrown by nature’s creep. At one point, it was being used as a military training camp for Spanish soldiers, who took to blowing up the remaining buildings. Related: This revolutionary sustainable community in Atlanta is still thriving 15 years after its founding When the group arrived at the derelict site, they were set on bringing the land back to life through sustainable principles . The members began by clearing out the mass plant growth that had taken over the buildings and streets. Then, they started to reforest the area in and around the village, clear out roads and walking paths and plant orchards and large crops of vegetables. To restore the many dilapidated buildings and homes, the group researched as much as they could about the village’s original layout. As they created their master plan, the team started to draw up plans for installing various green technologies such as  solar panels and a communal gray water system. When the group began to revitalize as an eco-village , they met with various former residents, most of whom gave the group their blessings. One such supporter, Rafael Heras, was born in the village 71 years ago, but left at 19 to work in Madrid. Heras helped the team by describing life in what he calls a simple and self-sufficient area. “There was no electricity and no proper road; we used to keep it clear so that cars could come through,” he said. “It wasn’t a prosperous place, but I had a happy childhood here and people got by quite well.” Another former resident, Isidro Moreno, was also instrumental in the village’s rebirth by providing maps, plans and photos of the area as it was when he was growing up. In his guidebook, he addressed a heartfelt letter to the group. “To the new residents of Fraguas,” it reads. “Let’s see if you can recover this village’s history once more … I want to remind you to treat these stones with the love and respect they deserve, even if today they’re dead and lost among brambles and weeds. In another time, they were alive and were part of the story of the people who struggled so hard to live and who went through so many calamities.” Despite the support of many, there are some powerful adversaries that want to put a stop to the group’s hard work. The regional government recently said that the new residents can no longer stay in the village. In fact, not only is the government trying to evict the collective, but it is going through legal channels to punish the members for their “invasion” of the area. Currently, six members face more than four years imprisonment each along with a fine of up to $30,000 that will be used to demolish and destroy all of the effort that the group put into rebuilding the village over the last five years. According to  The Guardian , the regional government’s representative in Guadalajara Alberto Rojo has suggested that the group would had been better off rebuilding a village on the brink of extinction. He explained that there are more than 200 villages in the same area that have fewer than 50 inhabitants and would love to welcome new neighbors. “Of course we agree that there needs to be re-population initiatives in the province – and let’s hope there will be many – but only in the right kind of places,” he said, adding that the area of Fraguas is part of the Sierra Norte natural park, which is protected by law. Rojo also claimed that the village is in a danger zone for forest fires. Jaime Merino, one of the new residents, dismissed Rojo’s argument about the potential fire danger, insisting that the group has significantly reduced the risk of fire by cleaning up the overrun vegetation, and they have even offered to dig firebreaks around the village. He explained that the government says one thing, but does another. “There’s a certain resistance to this kind of project in this country,” Merino said. “They always say they’re going to take steps to tackle depopulation and find ways to get people back into rural areas, but this is an example of that. That’s the paradox: it’s Guadalajara’s department of agriculture, the environment and rural development that wants to demolish the village.” At this time, the Fraguas collective is going on the offensive to protect the home that they have spent years rebuilding. A Change.org petition has already attracted more than 76,000 signatures, and the group has launched an appeal for contributions on their website to fund legal bills. The group regularly posts updates on their Facebook page as well. + Fraguas Revive Via The Guardian Images via Fraguas Revive

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Eco-group faces imprisonment after reviving an abandoned Spanish village

Carbon Engineering cuts cost of carbon capture to less than $100 per ton

June 8, 2018 by  
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Carbon Engineering, a British Columbia -based company that has the financial backing of Bill Gates, has released a peer-reviewed study that demonstrates how the company’s technology is capable of capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a cost of less than $100 per ton. This price represents a significant drop from current costs, which can run as high as $600 per ton. “This is a real step forward, and it’s not just our company saying it,” Carbon Engineering co-founder David Keith told BBC News . “I hope this changes views about this technology from being this thing which people think is a magic saviour which it isn’t, or that it is absurdly expensive which it isn’t, to an industrial technology that is do-able and can be developed in a useful way.” Rather than storing the captured carbon, Carbon Engineering uses it to create a synthetic fuel with hydrogen , which is pulled from water using renewable energy. “What Carbon Engineering is taking to market is first of all carbon neutral fuels, in that sense we are just another emissions-cutting technology, there is no net removal from the atmosphere,” said Keith. The company claims that its fuel has a major advantage over traditional sources of biofuel due to its far less intensive water and land production requirements. Related: Bio-inspired membrane captures 90% of CO2 in power plant emissions While Keith has admitted that there are “hundreds of ways in which we can fail,” the technology developments at Carbon Engineering are promising. “Although direct air capture cost of around $100 per ton is still somewhat steep, in our current situation where sticks and carrots for similar technologies are sorely lacking, the cost can only be brought down through further development and streamlining of individual technologies and conjugated processes,” Edda Sif Aradóttir, who has worked on a project in Iceland that turns captured carbon into rock, told BBC News . Carbon Engineering’s latest announcement is a reminder that the biggest obstacle to taking serious action against climate change is political. “The biggest challenge we are facing is, however, that the words agreed on in the Paris agreement must be followed by actions,” said Edda. The technical solutions to climate change are already available but national legislations do not provide enough incentive or obligations for them to be applied at a large scale. This must change quickly if we are to [fulfill] the Paris agreement.” Via BBC News Images via Depositphotos

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Carbon Engineering cuts cost of carbon capture to less than $100 per ton

Southern California is losing its clouds, increasing the risk of more intense wildfires

May 31, 2018 by  
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The elevated summer temperatures in California  are causing decreased levels of the low-atmosphere clouds that were once common throughout the southern coastal regions of the state. A new study has found that because these clouds are dissipating from the increased heat, the region is now facing an increased risk of wildfire . “Clouds that used to burn off by noon or 1 o’clock are now gone by 10 or 11, if they form at all,” bioclimatologist and study lead author Park Williams told Phys.org . Due to a warming climate and an expanding urban heat island, cloud cover is trapped in a positive feedback loop where less clouds mean higher temperatures, and higher temperatures mean less clouds. Published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters , the new study concludes that there has been a 25 to 50 percent decrease in low-lying summer clouds since the 1970s. “ Cloud cover is plummeting in southern coastal California,” said Williams, “and as clouds decrease, that increases the chance of bigger and more intense fires.” The low-lying stratus clouds in the area typically form in the early morning in a thin, wet layer of coastal air that exists between land and drier air masses. The increased heat from climate change and the urban heat island effect has caused the clouds to dissolve earlier in the day, leaving little cover during the hottest parts of the afternoon. Related: The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley To study the changes in cloud cover, Williams and his team analyzed hour-by-hour cloud data gathered by California airports over the past several decades. The data was then compared with vegetation moisture data from the U.S. Wildland Fire Assessment System. This comparison enabled the team to conclude that the decreased cloud cover has led to an increased wildfire risk. “Even though the danger has increased, people in these areas are very good at putting out fires, so the area burned hasn’t gone up,” Williams explained. “But the dice are now loaded, and in areas where clouds have decreased, the fires should be getting more intense and harder to contain. At some point, we’ll see if people can continue to keep up.” +  Geophysical Research Letters Via Phys.org Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Southern California is losing its clouds, increasing the risk of more intense wildfires

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects unveil a pedestrian-friendly masterplan for Oslo’s Eureka Kvarteret

December 15, 2015 by  
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Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects unveiled their winning competition proposal to design the area of Skøyen in central Oslo, Norway. The masterplan scheme aims to create a clear street network of main streets, internal passageways, shortcuts and promenades which will strengthen local engagement and link the area with major transportation hubs. Read the rest of Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects unveil a pedestrian-friendly masterplan for Oslo’s Eureka Kvarteret

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Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects unveil a pedestrian-friendly masterplan for Oslo’s Eureka Kvarteret

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