An airy multigenerational home shows adaptive reuse done right

April 12, 2021 by  
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Vienna-based architecture firm OEOOO has transformed and expanded a disused farmhouse into the Hehl Tenne House, a warm and inviting multigenerational home wrapped in timber inside and out. Located in the rural outskirts of the Lower Bregenzerwald (Bregenz Forest) village of Lingenau, the original agricultural building had sat empty after the family farm shut down decades ago. The adaptive reuse project presented the perfect opportunity to not only revive the underutilized site for the next generation but also celebrate the region’s agricultural history. Designed as a home for living and working, the Hehl Tenne House has repurposed the ground floor of the former barn into a joint workshop that shares space with the building service equipment. Work areas are also integrated into the other parts of the home, from the first-floor living/dining area to the sleeping zones on the top floor. The common areas, located where hay was once stored, feature tall ceilings and seamlessly connect to the outdoors via a covered terrace to the southwest. Related: An old farmhouse becomes a hotel focused on indoor-outdoor living “The aim was to take up the unused spatial qualities of the former economic tract of a typical Bregenzerwald farmhouse and to identify the building in the sense of a multi-generational house,” the architects explained in a project statement. “In the generous cubature of the former threshing floor of the house, a compact, comfortable living space was created by means of replacement construction, which is closely related to the exterior space and the local building tradition.” The “replacement construction” was built with a single-shell exposed concrete base and timber-frame construction insulated with wood wool . The environmental footprint of the home is reduced with the use of a wood log heating system that heats the entire home and is supplied with timber felled on the property. The roof is equipped with a solar hot water system. + OEOOO Photography by Lukas Gaechter Photography via OEOOO

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An airy multigenerational home shows adaptive reuse done right

Right to repair is on the way

April 5, 2021 by  
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Right to repair is on the way Suz Okie Mon, 04/05/2021 – 00:40 In the waning months of 2020, the European Union took ambitious steps to address the more than 12 million tons of electronic waste the bloc produces annually. Acknowledging that “Europe is living well beyond planetary boundaries,” a European Parliamen vote called for mandatory repairability scores for consumer electronics, amongst a host of other initiatives intended to extend products’ life spans. Wasting no time, several European nations jumped in on the (repair) action — the U.K. agreed to enforce EU repair rules, France launched a repairability index for select electronics and Austria  reduced taxes on small repairs.  While some feel these efforts don’t go far enough , they’re all seen as a huge win for the right to repair movement — an activist-led fight to give consumers (or third-party repair shops of their choosing) the legally protected freedom to fix and modify the products they own. What’s in a movement From tractors to TVs, when everyday products break they are difficult, if not impossible, to fix. Replacement parts and repair manuals are hard to come by; complex designs make disassembly unmanageable; and legal hurdles have been erected in the name of IP and consumer data protection, amongst other arguments. In many cases, it is easier to replace than it is to repair, and the activists behind the right to repair movement want this to change. Beyond enshrining consumer rights, the right to repair could combat planned obsolescence and a throwaway culture that has turned e-waste into the fastest growing waste stream around the globe. All things considered, their arguments are pretty compelling. Beyond enshrining consumer rights, the right to repair could combat planned obsolescence and a throwaway culture that has turned e-waste into the fastest growing waste stream around the globe — weighing in at more than 50 million metric tons annually. Within that stream — of which less than 20 percent is recycled — it’s estimated that we’re tossing $57 billion in precious metals and raw materials annually, not to mention the emissions that went towards material extraction, manufacturing and shipping. In a PC’s lifespan, upwards of 70 percent of the associated carbon emissions occur during manufacturing — and it’s estimated that by 2025, 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions will come from manufacturing smartphones, computers and TVs alone.  With all that embedded value and emissions, it makes good sense to keep products in use as long as possible. Extending the lifespan of American cell phones by just one year would be the carbon-reducing equivalent to taking 636,000 cars off the road .  Additionally, repair could collectively save American households $40 billion annually, and fixing easily repairable electronics could create 345,000 stable, local jobs . Most important — and perhaps most top of mind — repair can save lives. When the pandemic struck and the need for ventilators skyrocketed, financial, legal and training limitations set forth by manufacturers were restricting the repair of these devices , thus delaying life-saving treatment.  Movement in America Perhaps we can thank COVID-19 for shining a light on the lifesaving magic of the right to repair — according to recent coverage, the movement is “poised to explode.” While this momentum is evident in recent European legislation, across the pond the U.S. is experiencing traction of its own.  In August, the Critical Medical Infrastructure Right-to-Repair Act of 2020 marked the first time in U.S. history that a right to repair bill was proposed on the national level. Another notable moment was the inclusion of the right to repair agriculture equipment in the Democratic Party platform . Since then, more than half the states in the union have introduced right to repair bills that call for equal access to things such as replacement parts, training manuals and tools. While these bills are often limited to a specific industry — targeting electronics, appliances, automobiles, farming or medical equipment — the passage of just one could have ripple effects across the nation.  In November, Massachusetts passed a resolution to bolster its 2012 automotive right to repair law — the first and only right to repair law on the books in the U.S. The resolution expands the data and diagnostic information automakers are required to provide, thus enabling third-party repairs. Despite its limited scope, the 2012 law led to a national standard for automakers and the recent resolution is expected to have similar effects. “I feel excited about the level of momentum that is growing for right to repair,” Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the Repair Association , recently shared with me. “It’s hard to predict which of the many bills that are being considered will clear all the hurdles — but with more bills the odds are better than ever.” Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit and another vocal repair proponent, also shared feeling hopeful: “The growing number [of bills] shows an increasing groundswell. People want this to happen.” So, what’s the holdup? According to Gordon-Byrne and Wiens, the biggest barrier to sweeping right to repair legislation is clear: manufacturer opposition.  With arguments ranging from consumer protection to safety concerns to quality control and beyond, manufacturers from diverse industries have fought right to repair bills, in some cases aggressively. “In New York state, there is $2.5 trillion in market cap registered to lobby against the right to repair bill,” Wiens noted. According to Gordon-Byrne, their motivations are somewhat singular: “Manufacturers are enjoying the benefits of monopolized repair.” There’s a huge opportunity to build a thriving ecosystem around your products, and monetize them over the long run. In spite of opposition, there’s a huge opportunity for manufacturers to throw their hat into a more inclusive repair ring. Robust repair offerings can generate new revenue streams, strengthen customer relationships, and revamp traditional business models , not to mention bolster a company’s sustainability chops.  “There’s a huge opportunity to build a thriving ecosystem around your products, and monetize them over the long run. Build a model making money selling parts, or licensing models for 3D printed parts,” Wiens suggested. “Manufacturer service networks can be hugely lucrative, as we see in the medical device arena.”  A call to action From where I’m sitting, the value (and need) to scale repair is evident. So I’ll leave you readers with a few requests.  For manufacturers: Reap the financial, reputational and environmental benefits of repair by researching and investing in repairability programs. Not sure where to start? Fret not, GreenBiz has a framework for you.  For employees: “Work inside your companies to get them to take a public stance on this issue … [If policy teams within the most vocal opponents] drop their opposition, then these bills would pass quickly,” prompted Wiens.  For the rest of us: Visit the Repair Association’s Stand Up page to contact your legislator and voice your support. As Gordon-Byrne’s noted, “[It’s] free, super easy and — believe me — powerful. Every individual can make a difference.” Pull Quote Beyond enshrining consumer rights, the right to repair could combat planned obsolescence and a throwaway culture that has turned e-waste into the fastest growing waste stream around the globe. There’s a huge opportunity to build a thriving ecosystem around your products, and monetize them over the long run. Topics Circular Economy E-Waste Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Vlad Teodor Close Authorship

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Realizing the full potential of stakeholder capitalism

March 22, 2021 by  
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Realizing the full potential of stakeholder capitalism Michael Wilkins Mon, 03/22/2021 – 00:30 Under the traditional capitalist model, financial performance for shareholders has been the primary measure of the success of a business. However, a growing awareness of ESG trends has given rise to the concept of “stakeholder value,” whereby the focus is on long-term value creation for customers, employees, society and the environment rather than just short-term value for shareholders. The pandemic has sharpened this focus by highlighting the importance of metrics such as employee health and well-being, safety protocols, cybersecurity and business continuity, to name a few. While undoubtedly beneficial in theory, the pursuit of stakeholder capitalism comes with a number of practical challenges. How do businesses measure the value created by stakeholder capitalism? How do they balance stakeholder and shareholder interests? And where does all this leave fiduciary duty? These questions are difficult to answer, and the solutions may not be immediately evident. But one thing is clear: If businesses want to achieve long-term sustainability, they must work to overcome these obstacles. Aligning stakeholder interests The interests of shareholders and other stakeholders often conflict. Although it is no simple task, businesses must find a way to reconcile clashing priorities if a true stakeholder capitalism model is to be reached. Often, the answers lie in understanding the nuances between (and, sometimes, within) each stakeholder group. The allocation of voting powers between majority and minority shareholders, for instance, is one significant area of debate. Should one share equal one vote or should long-term shareholders be granted additional voting rights? Businesses must decide whose interests should be prioritized, and to what extent. Once such priorities are established, determining the framework through which the value created should be measured further complicates the issue. The race among AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer to develop a COVID-19 vaccine perfectly exemplifies the difficulty of satisfying the needs of each stakeholder group simultaneously. Should one share equal one vote or should long-term shareholders be granted additional voting rights? AstraZeneca, for instance, prioritized wider societal needs by pricing its vaccine lower than any of the others — thereby providing the greatest long-term “value” to its recipients. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, however, delivered greater relative value to shareholders, by reason of the higher price.  This begs the question: Can the interests of shareholders and stakeholders ever be reconciled? Critics of the stakeholder capitalism model argue they cannot — believing that the quest for such a reconciliation is not just a fundamental limitation, but a potentially insurmountable weakness for addressing today’s global challenges. Indeed, Eugene F. Fama, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2013, goes as far as arguing stakeholder capitalism is “indefinite and ineffective,” for this very reason. Measuring success The “value” created by stakeholder capitalism is difficult to measure, and this could limit its operational effectiveness. The solution to this is perhaps more transparency and accountability — which can be achieved only through enhanced, standardized, non-financial disclosure metrics, as well as the acknowledgement and management of externalities, such as global warming, increasing social fragmentation and unrest. The drive to improve disclosure around such metrics is ongoing. In September, for instance, the World Economic Forum (WEF) released guidance in collaboration with the big four global accountancy firms on measuring stakeholder capitalism. In its report, the WEF suggested companies track their shared value contribution by defining metrics organized into four categories — Principles of Governance, Planet, People and Prosperity — in order to increase the comparability of sustainability reporting. While this was a step in the right direction, many believe we are still some way away from standardized reporting. To make matters more challenging, for many companies, it remains unclear what they are being asked to disclose or how to disclose. Often, this means publicly disclosed data is insufficient to perform detailed, comparable and up-to-date analysis and benchmarking of sustainability performance — a key requirement to determine value creation for stakeholders. There has been some movement in the right direction, however, and a number of high-profile institutions responsible for global reporting standards have begun addressing this issue. The IFRS Foundation, for example, recently consulted on the establishment of a Sustainability Standards Board and looks set to pursue its establishment. The new board would operate alongside the International Accounting Standards Board under the same three-tier governance structure, build on existing developments, and collaborate with other bodies and initiatives in sustainability, focusing initially on climate-related matters. The hope is that the emergence of such initiatives will make the transition to stakeholder capitalism quicker and more straightforward for businesses. Redefining fiduciary duty Under corporate law, fiduciary duty requires a corporation to act in the best interest of its shareholders, rather than serving its own interests, recognizing loyalty and prudence as the most important duties. The traditional interpretation of this has been to pursue optimal profit margins. Stakeholder capitalism, however, challenges this view and suggests directors should expand their definition of fiduciary duty, by considering the impact of board decisions on all stakeholders — both internal and external — despite there currently being no legal requirement to do so. The ‘value’ created by stakeholder capitalism is difficult to measure, and this could limit its operational effectiveness. Already, a number of initiatives, such as the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and the U.N. Environment Program Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), have highlighted the importance of redefining fiduciary duty, in order to stimulate long-term sustainable growth and the economic health of companies. Indeed, sustainable finance veteran Paul Watchman (an advisor to UNEP FI) argues “the concept of fiduciary duty is organic, not static. It will continue to evolve as society changes, not least in response to the urgent need for us to move towards an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable financial system.” We have certainly seen this to be the case in the last two decades. Future-proofing: The potential of stakeholder capitalism Despite the challenges associated with implementing stakeholder capitalism, empirical evidence reveals that companies focusing on sustainability issues achieve lower costs, enhance employee productivity, mitigate risk and generate new growth opportunities. In fact, research from Bank of America Merrill Lynch suggests integrating greater stakeholder engagement and ESG initiatives in corporate strategy could help prevent around 90 percent of bankruptcies. While this wider shift toward stakeholder capitalism has been ongoing for some time, it has been catalyzed by the COVID-19 crisis, which has reaffirmed the materiality of sustainability-related risks, and the deep links between businesses and their stakeholders across the value chains. In today’s world of deepening socioeconomic challenges, effective stakeholder management will become critical for companies looking to continue operating successfully. Pull Quote Should one share equal one vote or should long-term shareholders be granted additional voting rights? The ‘value’ created by stakeholder capitalism is difficult to measure, and this could limit its operational effectiveness. Topics Finance & Investing ESG Stakeholder Engagement Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An Earth-Strike demonstration in Austria in 2019. Image by Shutterstock/Stefan Rotter

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Realizing the full potential of stakeholder capitalism

Bitcoin uses more energy than all of Argentina

February 12, 2021 by  
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Bitcoin is a huge energy hog. And  Tesla’s  recent announcement that it had bought $1.5 billion bitcoin — and will soon accept the cryptocurrency as payment for its cars — will only encourage more energy usage. Inhabitat reported on Bitcoin’s out-of-control energy use in 2018. Back then, we noted that  Bitcoin  was on track to use as much energy as Austria by the end of the year. In 2021, Bitcoin has already surpassed Argentina’s energy use, according to a Cambridge University study. To put this growth into perspective, the population of Austria is about 9 million, while Argentina has approximately 45 million residents. Related: Bitcoin is expected to consume enough energy to power Austria by the end of 2018 Since the Tesla announcement, Bitcoin has hit a record high in value. More value means more high-powered computers sucking up energy to power the Bitcoin machine. “It is really by design that Bitcoin consumes that much  electricity ,” Michel Rauchs, a researcher at The Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, said in BBC’s Tech Tent podcast. “This is not something that will change in the future unless the Bitcoin price is going to significantly go down.”  Rauchs co-created the online tool that estimates Bitcoin’s energy use. At 121.36 terawatt-hours (TWh) a year, the tool showed that Bitcoin has surpassed the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Argentina, in energy use and may soon edge out Norway. To contextualize this, the Cambridge study noted that this is enough energy to power every kettle in the U.K. for 27 years. “Elon Musk has thrown away a lot of Tesla’s good work promoting energy transition,” said David Gerard, author of “Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain,” as reported by BBC. “This is very bad… I don’t know how he can walk this back effectively.” Gerard suggested that a carbon tax on cryptocurrencies could perhaps balance out some of the impact of the giant  computers  that work 24/7 solving puzzles to verifying transactions. Via BBC Image via Pexels

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Subway commuters are exposed to dangerous amounts of air pollution

February 12, 2021 by  
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Millions of commuters who use underground subway systems in the U.S. are exposed to dangerous rates of air pollution , according to a recent study. The study, which sampled air quality in 71 underground stations across the U.S., has revealed air pollution during the morning and evening rush is nothing short of disastrous. The cities that are most affected include New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C. The researchers focused on measuring the level of PM2.5 within these underground transit systems. The recommended safe level of PM2.5 in the air is 35 micrograms per cubic meter. In the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) system, the researchers recorded 251 micrograms per cubic meter. The Washington, D.C. system was another highly contaminated train service, recording 145 micrograms per cubic meter. Related: Air pollution caused by fossil fuels kills millions The worst-case scenario was recorded at Christopher Street station in Manhattan. The station helps connect New York and New Jersey with its rapid trains. But, unfortunately, at a rate of 1,499 micrograms per cubic meter, the station’s pollution was found to be 77 times that of the air outside. According to Terry Gordon, professor at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, the amount of pollution in New York is the most alarming. “It was the worst pollution ever measured in a subway station, higher than some of the worst days in Beijing or Delhi,” Gordon said of Christopher Street station. “New Yorkers, in particular, should be concerned about the toxins they are inhaling.” The study’s researchers said that a person commuting daily on these systems is exposed to a higher risk of certain health conditions. They noted that a daily commuter at Christopher Street has a 10% higher risk of cardiovascular disease. After analyzing the collected samples, researchers realized that the particles contain iron and organic carbon . The carbon is mainly produced from the breakdown of fossil fuels and is linked to respiratory conditions when inhaled. “This is an important contribution, especially to our understanding of the disproportionate burden of air pollution faced by low-income communities and communities of color,” said Gretchen Goldman, research director of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “As the scientific community works to better understand exposure and potential health effects of air pollution in the urban environment, I hope local decision makers use this valuable work to inform the best ways to address the known racial and socioeconomic inequities in air pollution exposure in U.S. cities.” Via The Guardian Image via Wes Hicks

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Top cities and countries for vegans

January 11, 2021 by  
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If you’re already vegan — or you love Veganuary so much you decide come February to move to a more veg-friendly locale — here are the top places in the country and the world to live. Every year, the website Chef’s Pencil uses Google search statistics to rank the best cities and countries in the world for vegans. The site, which covers industry trends and news as well as recipes , calculates values on a 0-100 scale, with 100 being the place to go if you’re in the mood for jackfruit tostadas or vegan pho. Note that Chef’s Pencil only included cities with a population of more than 100,000 in the study. Portland , Oregon reclaimed its top spot after being knocked off the list for two years by Bristol, which has fallen from vegan grace this year and didn’t even make the top 15. Portland is a great city for vegans, because there are more than 10 places that make their own vegan ice cream, plus hard-to-find specialty restaurants for items like vegan Israeli food and vegan Sri Lankan dishes. Related: Fun, eco-friendly things to do in Portland Edinburgh, Scotland took the No. 2 spot with a score of 94. Next up, Germany aced the vegan test with third, fourth and a tie for fifth place —Hamburg, Berlin and Leipzig, respectively. Amsterdam tied for fifth. Vancouver, Manchester, London and Seattle rounded out the top 10. If you’re contemplating a diet-based international move, the U.K. took top honors for vegan-friendly countries for the third year in a row with a perfect 100. In the past four years, U.K. Google searches for vegan restaurants have tripled, and demand for vegan cheese is through the roof. Google searches also reveal that people in the U.K. are keen on vegan perfume, makeup , shoes and bags. Australia came in second with a score of 88. Meat consumption has been decreasing in Australia, but the country still has a higher-than-average rate of meat eating, and only 1% of the population identifies as vegan. Israel, which took third place on the international list, scored two points below Australia with 86 but has a much larger dedicated vegan community of 5% of the population. With 85 points, New Zealand came in a close fourth, followed by Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada and Ireland. The U.S. didn’t make the top 10 list, but it ranked number 12 with a score of 57. + Chef’s Pencil Image via Chris Kr

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Greenery envelopes a Snhetta-designed timber office in Austria

September 4, 2020 by  
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Snøhetta has recently completed the new head office for ASI Reisen, an international trekking and adventure travel company that sought a space reflective of its working culture and sustainable ethics. Crafted for low environmental impact, the four-story, timber-framed building minimizes its energy footprint with rooftop solar panels, energy monitoring and automation systems, a reversible air-water heat pump system, a rainwater harvesting system and a “green curtain” of climbing plants that envelopes the building facade and serves as a glare shield. Completed in 2019 in Natters, just south of Innsburck, Austria, ASI Reisen’s new head office takes inspiration from the symbiotic relationship between nature and humans for its reduced environmental impact and sustainable construction methods. The “green curtain” that grows on a suspended metal frame around the building, for instance, contributes to local biodiversity while helping to blend the building into its forested surroundings. The green wall comprises 17 different warm-weather and evergreen species that, together with the garden, count toward a total of 1,215 new plants and 73 local species. The 118 climbing plants in the “green curtain” change appearance throughout the year and are irrigated by rainwater collected from the roof. Related: Snøhetta completes stunning Norwegian cabins for glacier hikers In addition to a timber structure that rests on a basement and building core of reinforced concrete, the office is clad in a timber facade treated with the traditional Japanese method of wood preservation called yakisugi . The carbonized timber facade is waterproof, long-lasting and resistant to pests. Timber also appears in the interior in the form of light-colored wood surfaces that lend warmth and pair well with the abundance of indoor plants. An open-plan office layout was applied but can be flexibly adapted for future needs. “With its resource-saving timber construction and sophisticated sustainable energy concept, the new ASI headquarters marks an inspiration for responsibly constructing our homes and office spaces for the future,” explained Patrick Lüth, managing director of Snøhetta’s studio in Innsbruck. “At the same time, the new office space offers a pleasant and modern working atmosphere for its employees.” + Snøhetta Photography by Christian Flatscher via Snøhetta

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Burmese roofed turtle is rescued from extinction

September 4, 2020 by  
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The Burmese roofed turtle has been saved from the brink of extinction. The turtle had not been seen for over 20 years, leading many conservationists to assume that it was extinct . But in 2001, one Burmese roofed turtle was spotted in markets in Myanmar, sparking interest among scientists. From this point forward, efforts to save the endangered species were put in place by scientists in collaboration with the government of Myanmar. The efforts have paid off, with nearly 1,000 of these turtles existing today. The Burmese roofed turtle is a giant Asian river turtle that is characterized by its large eyes and small, natural smile. Since the sighting of a surviving turtle in Myanmar about 20 years ago, the population of the turtles has been increased to about 1,000, thanks to serious conservation efforts. Some of the turtles have already been released to the wild, while the others are still within captivity. Related: This turtle with a green mohawk is one of the most endangered reptiles in the world These turtles were once thriving around the mouth of the Irrawaddy river in Myanmar. But by the mid-20th century, fishing and overharvesting led to a significant drop in the number of turtles. For years, the state of the species was unknown, given that Myanmar had closed its borders. Scientists could not access the country and, as a result, could not make any efforts to save the turtles. By the time Myanmar reopened its borders in the 1990s, scientists could not find any Burmese roofed turtles and began to believe that they were extinct . “We came so close to losing them. If we didn’t intervene when we did, this turtle would have just been gone,” Steven Platt, a herpetologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, told The New York Times . Turtles and tortoises are among the most vulnerable species globally. About half of the planet’s turtle and tortoise species , a total of 360 living species, are threatened. The scenario is especially bad for species across Asia, where turtles and tortoises are affected by habitat loss, climate change and hunting for consumption. But the recent good news on the growing population of Burmese roofed turtles gives hope that concerted conservation efforts can continue to save more vulnerable species. Via The New York Times and Wildlife Conservation Society Image via Wildlife Conservation Society

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Sweden and Austria close their last coal plants

April 29, 2020 by  
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Europe just gained its second and third coal-free countries. Sweden and Austria have both shut their last coal-fired plants in late April, joining Belgium in going coal-free in favor of renewable energy sources. “With Sweden going coal-free in the same week as Austria, the downward trajectory of coal in Europe is clear,” Kathrin Gutmann, campaign director for Europe Beyond Coal, told PV Magazine . “Against the backdrop of the serious health challenges we are currently facing, leaving coal behind in exchange for renewables is the right decision and will repay us in kind with improved health, climate protection and more resilient economies.” Related: Britain celebrates first week without coal power since 1882 Sweden had originally planned on going coal-free in 2022, but it was able to achieve this goal two years early. A mild Swedish winter meant that energy utility Stockholm Exergi’s last coal-fired plant, located in Hjorthagen, eastern Stockholm, didn’t need to be used this year. The plant opened in 1989. In addition to environmental awareness that decreased the popularity of coal, market forces have driven the operational costs up. Statistics from the U.K.-based think-tank Carbon Tracker show that 40% of EU coal plants ran at a loss in 2017. In 2019, it cost almost 100% more to run a coal plant than to rely on renewable options. More European countries plan to join the coal-free future: France is aiming to be coal-free by 2022; Slovakia and Portugal by 2023; the U.K. by 2024; and Ireland and Italy by 2025. Stockholm Exergi CEO Anders Egelrud told PV Magazine he hopes the utility will eventually go carbon-negative. “Today we know that we must stop using all fossil fuels , therefore the coal needs to be phased out and we do so several years before the original plan,” Egelrud said, according to TheMayor.eu . “Since Stockholm was almost totally fossil-dependent 30-40 years ago, we have made enormous changes and now we are taking the step away from carbon dependence and continuing the journey towards an energy system entirely based on renewable and recycled energy.” Image via Steve Buissinne

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Germany to ban controversial weed-killer glyphosate by 2023

September 5, 2019 by  
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Reaching for the weed-killer glyphosate in Germany won’t be an option much longer. A primary component of Roundup, manufactured by Bayer-owned Monsanto , glyphosate’s critics believe it wipes out insect populations essential to ecosystems and the pollination of food crops. But the controversial chemical won’t have the chance to do either, as ministers have reported that the German government is banning the use of glyphosate when the EU’s approval period expires in 2023. “What we need is more humming and buzzing,” said environment minister Svenja Schulze to The Guardian . Schulze also added that “a world without insects is not worth living in.” Related: EPA backs the use of toxic herbicide chemical glyphosate Besides killing insects , there are other experts who believe glyphosate may cause cancer in people and needs to be banned as soon as possible “What harms insects also harms people,” Schulze said. First, glyphosate will be banned in city parks and private gardens in 2020, according to a policy plan. Additionally, using herbicides and insecticides will be restricted or banned in habitats such as grasslands, orchard fields and along the shores of Germany’s many rivers and lakes. Champions of the ban have been loud and clear about disapproval of the weed-killer, and in February, 1.75 million people in the German state of Bavaria voted for a referendum to “ save the bees .” They called for less chemical use and more organic farming and green areas. These environmentalists did face opposition from a regional agriculture association, who pushed the activists to “stop bashing farmers.” Others opposed to the ban include farmers and the chemical industry; both sectors want to keep using glyphosate . The manufacturer fought against the government’s ban, voicing its product could be used safely and was “an important tool for ensuring both the sustainability and productivity of agriculture.” It is not just Germany that is saying goodbye to glyphosate; in July, Austria was the first EU member to ban the weed killer. France has also decided to ban glyphosate by 2023. The chemical is scheduled to be re-evaluated in 2022 by EU authorities. Via The Guardian Image via Erich Westendarp

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Germany to ban controversial weed-killer glyphosate by 2023

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