Remembering Flex exec Bruce Klafter

July 27, 2020 by  
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Remembering Flex exec Bruce Klafter pete may Mon, 07/27/2020 – 01:45 Longtime GreenBiz friend Bruce Klafter died July 18 after a short and intense bout of pancreatic cancer. Bruce most recently was a vice president of sustainability strategy and outreach at Flex in Silicon Valley. GreenBiz co-founder and President Pete May reflects on his interaction with Bruce over the years. And below, we provide memories of Bruce from many of his friends and collaborators in the sustainability community. In the course of a business career, you meet colleagues who are smart, or kind, or just really good at what they do. Bruce Klafter was all of those things.  I first met Bruce in 2007. Joel Makower and I had just founded GreenBiz Group (then called Greener World Media). I was very actively getting out to meet practitioners in what was then the emerging field of sustainable business. Bruce at that time was managing director, corporate responsibility and sustainability at Applied Materials — then and now a massive player in materials engineering for the semiconductor and solar photovoltaic industries. Bruce was engaging, warm, thoughtful and way farther along the journey in sustainability and environmental, health and safety issues than most people I spoke with back then. ( Read his 2013 interview , when he “retired” from Applied Materials, in which he recounts his professional journey to that point.) Over the years, I got to know Bruce and I considered him a friend. We even got together to play tennis once and he roundly thrashed me. He was in good shape but, more tellingly, he was strategic in how he played — just as he was in his day job. In typical Bruce fashion, he offered no trash-talking after; he instead commended me on my game and noted what I needed to work on.  Bruce left his handprints all over the industry, a hand that was always advancing good. Bruce was always a big fan of GreenBiz — our website, our team and our events. He was always diplomatic but he didn’t shrink from giving detailed, measured and constructive feedback. I can still hear him, with his Chicago accent, saying, “Yeah, that article on LCA was good, but I think you could have gone deeper on …” Or “I thought the conference was good this year, and your team always does a professional job, but I thought the mainstage speakers could have been better.” Or without arrogance, “I thought some of the sessions were too 101.” Feedback from Bruce was always valuable, never trite, never superficial and never a stroke to one’s ego. I always walked away thinking “Yeah, we can really improve in this or that area.” Engaging with and giving back to the community always came easily for Bruce. He was present at most every sustainability gathering in the San Francisco Bay Area and often farther afield — as a speaker or just an attendee. He lectured at the Presidio School of Management and was integrally involved with Acterra, SASB, GRI and other sustainability leadership organizations. Bruce was present at leading conferences such as GreenBiz, VERGE and BSR. He always had time for early career professionals who sought his advice.  In 2013, Bruce joined Flex, the giant multinational electronics contract manufacturer, where he most recently was vice president of sustainability strategy and outreach. Over the years, we would meet up regularly at Flex headquarters in San Jose, where Bruce would share insights about the company and the industry. When I saw him in January, we spent some time in the cafeteria. We talked about work and he gave me advice on how GreenBiz should deal with Flex. When I asked him about his family, he lit up, speaking so proudly of his kids.  By that time Bruce was dealing with a challenge way bigger than any challenge in his career: pancreatic cancer. And he was doing it with courage, in his own quiet measured way,  Bruce attended our GreenBiz 20 in Phoenix in February. He later confided in me that that was where the cancer treatments really started to affect him. I last saw him at our VERGE Host Committee meeting at Cisco Systems in late February, just weeks before the world shut down for COVID-19. He participated actively, passionately describing Flex’s work in the circular economy and other topics. During a break, he expressed a quiet confidence in how he was dealing with his illness.  From the calm way he described it, I never imagined that was the last time I would see him. But it was. And that hurts.  Bruce was personally warm and engaging, intelligent, blessed with a sense of humor and dedicated to the work of building bridges and bringing change. On July 21, his family held a beautiful and moving ceremony. With more than 200 friends and colleagues tuning in by Zoom, the officiating rabbi, along with Bruce’s spouse, son and daughter, described a caring father and husband known for his humble, caring and unassuming manner.  Cancer is cruel. It often takes the best among us. Like Bruce Klafter.  Bruce, you were loved and will be sorely missed by the team at GreenBiz Group, and by the sustainability community all around us.   The Klafter family has requested that any donations in his name go to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network , dedicated to fighting the world’s toughest cancer. Below are a handful of memories from members of the sustainability community who Bruce touched. Eric Austermann, Vice President, Social and Environmental Responsibility, Jabil Deepest condolences to Bruce’s family. I’ve known Bruce since the early beginnings of the Responsible Business Alliance (EICC when we first connected). Bruce was an outstanding person, with contagious impact. Bruce left his handprints all over the industry, a hand that was always advancing good.  Evident by our respective companies, Bruce and I were direct competitors. Bruce’s intellect, gentle (but very effective) passion and overall leadership at Flex inspired a healthy competitiveness that, frankly, raised the bar for all.  Peggy Brannigan, Global Senior Program Manager, Environmental Sustainability, LinkedIn I also want to share my appreciation for Bruce. I worked with him on the Acterra Business Environmental Awards program, and from the first time we met, I benefited from his generous welcoming spirit and his kindness. He was purposeful and had a big impact but always sensitive to taking good care of the relationships with people. Bruce Hartsough, former director of sustainability, Intuit; Board Chair, Bay Nature I was deeply saddened to hear that Bruce Klafter had passed. I met him when we were both members of the GreenBiz Executive Network (GBEN) at the time that he was leading Sustainability at Applied Materials while I was doing likewise for Intuit. Bruce was personally warm and engaging, intelligent, blessed with a sense of humor and dedicated to the work of building bridges and bringing change. He was one of the nicest people that I met during that time, and afterwards I was always glad to catch up with him at some of the nonprofit events that we were both involved in. I’m truly sorry that he has left us. In a situation where some would resort to divisiveness, aggression, preconceived opinions or determination to outshine all others, Bruce did none of those things. Ellen Jackowski, Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer, HP Inc. Bruce was one of the best in our business and his legacy will live on for generations. He contributed to so many solutions, co-developed important pathways forward and did everything with such intention and openness to create change within our industry. I will miss Bruce’s friendship, and will never forget him or his passion to create a better world. Cecily Joseph, Board Chair Net Impact; former vice president, Corporate Responsibility, Symantec My heart aches for Bruce’s family. Bruce was a mentor and friend to many in the sustainability space including me. He was always so kind and gracious. When we last met, I recall him speaking so very proudly of his children. He will be missed. Mike Mielke, Senior Vice President, Environment and Energy, Silicon Valley Leadership Group Bruce was my first professional mentor upon my arrival in Silicon Valley. I had heard so much about him before our meeting, and I was nervous that first time. Bruce, although he offered me some really helpful and point-blank advice, did so with such insight, thoughtfulness and kindness, that I knew right there and then I wanted to work however and whenever I could with this sharp, experienced, kind and witty man. I must confess I was overcome with grief when I learned of his passing. But I am comforted by the knowledge that Bruce positively touched and affected the lives of so many people — more than he could possibly know. Life is short and precious, and we should try our best to take advantage of the time we have to make a real difference however we can. That is what he taught me, and I believe Bruce tried to live every day that way. Adam Stern, former director, Acterra Many people talk about corporate environmental sustainability. Bruce lived and breathed it and made it happen. He was a brilliant strategist and an inspiring leader for all of us in the field. May his memory be a blessing. Kathrin Winkler, former chief sustainability officer, EMC; Editor-at-Large, GreenBiz In a situation where some would resort to divisiveness, aggression, preconceived opinions or determination to outshine all others, Bruce did none of those things. He was thoughtful, kind, open to others’ perspectives, willing to listen and with his calm demeanor, able to bring peace.  Pull Quote Bruce was personally warm and engaging, intelligent, blessed with a sense of humor and dedicated to the work of building bridges and bringing change. Bruce left his handprints all over the industry, a hand that was always advancing good. In a situation where some would resort to divisiveness, aggression, preconceived opinions or determination to outshine all others, Bruce did none of those things. Topics Corporate Strategy Leadership GreenBiz Executive Network 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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Remembering Flex exec Bruce Klafter

Funding climate tech and entrepreneurs of color should go hand in hand

June 11, 2020 by  
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Funding climate tech and entrepreneurs of color should go hand in hand Heather Clancy Thu, 06/11/2020 – 01:00 Not-so-news flash: The venture capital community has an abysmal track record when it comes to funding entrepreneurs of color.  Here’s the backstory in numbers. According to the nonprofit investor network BLCK VC, just 1 percent of venture-funded startup founders are black (that data comes from the Harvard Business School). Just as shocking, although maybe not surprising given the tech industry’s troubled past on diversity writ large, 80 percent of VC firms don’t have a single black investor on their staff.  Over the past week, big-name firms SoftBank and Andreessen Horowitz took baby steps toward addressing this, but far more needs to be done — especially when it comes to finding and funding climate tech. The specifics: SoftBank has created a separate $100 million fund specifically dedicated to people of color: Cool, but that amount is minuscule alongside the $100 billion in the SoftBank Vision Fund.  The new Andreessen Horowitz effort is a donor-advised fund launched with $2.2 million (and growing) from the firm’s partners with a focus on early-stage entrepreneurs “who did not have access to the fast track in life but who have great potential.”  Let’s cut to the chase. These are well-intentioned gestures, but they don’t even begin to address the bias that pervades the VC system, at least the one that exists in the United States. “Black entrepreneurs don’t need a separate water fountain,” observed Monique Woodard, a two-time entrepreneur and former partner at 500 Startups who backs early-stage investors, during a BLCK VC webcast last week that was livestreamed to more than 3,000 people. (She wasn’t specifically addressing the two funds.) “You have to fix the systemic issues in your funds that keep black founders out and keep you from delivering better returns.” What’s wrong with “the system”? Where do I begin? One black venture capitalist on the webcast, Drive Capital partner Van Jones, likened getting involved in the VC community to a track race in which you’ve been seeded in lane eight and handicapped with a weight vest and cement boots. “There is no reason we should be having the conversation today that we had in the 1960s,” he said during his remarks.  Elise Smith, CEO of Praxis Labs, a startup that develops virtual reality software for diversity and inclusion training, tells of putting on “armor” to engage with the predominantly white ecosystem supporting entrepreneurs — where her experience has been questioned repeatedly and her mission described as niche or as a passing fad.  Smith says one of the biggest issues faced by black founders: the inability of many investors to recognize problems faced by communities of color. “What happens when the problem you want to solve isn’t one that is faced by the people who make decisions about what is funded?” Or, as Garry Cooper, co-founder and CEO of circular economy startup Rheaply. puts it: “I have to overachieve to achieve.” He adds: “You are running a race twice as hard as your white counterparts.” He knows firsthand. Rheaply, which makes software that helps organizations share underused assets, raised $2.5 million in seed funding disclosed in March from a group led by Hyde Park Angels. Cooper started speaking with potential investors more than a year ago and was struck by how difficult it was for him even to score an introduction. While he has praise for his “committed” funding partners, Cooper is the only black founder represented in his lead investor’s portfolio. “It’s shameful that I know all the black VC founders in Chicago,” he said.   Along with some of his allies, Cooper is sketching out what he describes as a “pledge” intended to help expose this issue more visibly. The idea is to encourage hot startups — regardless of the race or gender of the founders — not to seek funding from firms that don’t represent the black community on their team of investors or within their portfolio. Stay tuned for more details as they are finalized, but Cooper says the response to this idea so far has been gratifying. As a climate tech startup founder, Cooper agreed with my personal conviction that any VC firm funding solutions to address climate-related technology solutions must pay particular attention to the issues of equity and inclusion. And yet, when I’ve asked well-known VCs about their strategy for this, none has offered specific strategies for recognizing the needs of people of color in the ideas they consider. I must admit: I never have asked any of them specifically about their strategies for funding entrepreneurs of color. But this is something I’m going to change. “The problems are so enormous, we need every brilliant committed mind thinking about this,” Cooper said.  That sentiment is echoed by Ramez Naam, futurist and board member with the E8 angel investor network, which recently launched the Decarbon-8 fund dedicated to supporting climate tech. Naam said investors funding climate tech startups must recognize the intersection between the climate crisis and the crisis of racial justice. That’s why Decarbon-8 will be intentional about seeking entrepreneurs of color. “We think that means it also makes sense to find entrepreneurs and teams who are minorities that are in the groups that are most impacted themselves. Because if we are going to help some people build companies in this, and they’re going to profit, as the entrepreneurs should, we’d like some of that to go back into those people, in those communities.”  Truth. This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Topics Finance & Investing Climate Tech Environmental Justice Diversity Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Rheaply founder and CEO Garry Cooper.

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Funding climate tech and entrepreneurs of color should go hand in hand

Migrating monarch butterflies get the right-of-way in new agreement

May 22, 2020 by  
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A new nationwide right-of-way agreement aims to protect migrating monarch butterflies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) signed the agreement, which involves more than 45 transportation and energy companies and many private landowners in creating protected corridors across the country. These promised lands are mostly along roadsides and utility corridors. The agreement allows participants to dedicate parts of their land as monarch conservation management areas. In exchange, the USFW assures landowners that they won’t have to take additional conservation measures on the rest of their land if the monarch butterfly later is listed as endangered. This change in status could happen as soon as December 2020, when the USFWS plans to decide whether the monarch meets criteria for being listed as an endangered species . Related: What’s causing the decline in monarch butterfly populations? “Some companies wanted to wait to see how the listing would play out,” Iris Caldwell, a program manager at the Energy Resources Center at UIC and part of the Rights-of-Way as Habitat Working Group , told Mongabay . “But if you are following what’s happening with the butterflies , you know we really can’t wait. We need to be creating habitat on a variety of different landscapes, as much as we can.” The working group included 200 energy, transportation, government and nonprofits who tried to determine a win-win solution for butterflies and landowners. “How can you incentivize a regulated entity or a utility to do this voluntary proactive work,” Caldwell asked, “and still give them kind of the flexibility and the certainty that they need and be able to, in fact, invest in that work without kind of a fear of repercussion?” Under the new agreement, landowners may alter some of their practices, including timing mowing to avoid times when monarch larvae are developing, not using herbicides on the conservation corridors, replanting if the land is disturbed by construction and planting more beneficial native plants the butterflies will enjoy. UIC’s role will be to coordinate efforts between all partners and to be an intermediary between the USFWS and landowners. Monarchs are one of the most popular and recognizable butterflies on Earth, with their bright orange wings, black lines and white dots. Every year, millions of these butterflies migrate from the northern and eastern U.S. and Canada to spend winter in southern California and Mexico. Monarch butterflies are native to North and South America, although they’re no longer found south of Mexico. They’ve followed milkweed to expand their range as far as Portugal, Spain, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand. In the continental U.S., they fall into two categories: western monarchs — which are found west of the Rockies and spend winter in southern California — and eastern monarchs, whose breeding grounds are Canada and the Great Plains and who migrate to Mexico in the winter. Both populations have plummeted more than 80% in the last 10 years. Via Mongabay and National Geographic Image via Jessica Bolser / USFWS

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Migrating monarch butterflies get the right-of-way in new agreement

U.S. rabbit populations contend with lethal virus, RHDV2

May 22, 2020 by  
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Wildlife  officials recently announced outbreaks of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2 (RHDV2) ravaging Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and California. The  U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)  deems RHDV2 as seriously contagious and nearly always fatal amongst domestic and wild rabbit species and their close relatives, hares and pikas. RHDV2 is not zoonotic, so it won’t infect livestock, pets or humans, asserts the  California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) . Still,  Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPW)  advise against pets consuming rabbit carcasses. Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) is the viral agent causing rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD).  Science Direct  says RHDV belongs in the calicivirus family, which infects many  animals  including pigs, cattle, cats and even humans. Norovirus, for example, is a human calicivirus. But humans seem unaffected by RHDV.  Related:  What’s causing the decline in monarch butterfly populations? There are two worrisome strains of RHDV — RHDV1 and RHDV2.  House Rabbit Society ,  Veterinary Practice , as well as both the Vaccine and Veterinary Research  journals document RHDV1 as first emerging in China back in 1984, when, in just one year, 140 million rabbits were decimated. China claims that the outbreak started in Angora rabbits imported from Europe. Eventually, RHDV1 spread to over 40 countries and hit the U.S. in 2000. Given its estimated 95% mortality rate, Australia and New Zealand notoriously introduced RHDV1 into their wild rabbit populations as pest biocontrol. RHDV1 mutated, begetting RHDV2, which was first identified in 2010 when domesticated rabbits in France showed clinical signs of RHD despite being already vaccinated against RHDV1. By September 2018, RHDV2 reached the U.S., manifesting among domestic rabbits in a rural Ohio farm, documents the  Veterinary Information Network (VIN) News Service . The USDA considers both RHDV1 and RHDV2 invasive pathogens, as they are not native to North America. A  joint paper  put forth by the Center for Food Security & Public Health , Institute for International Cooperation in Animal Biologics, Iowa State University, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the USDA revealed RHD can be difficult to eradicate. Not only can the virus strains survive over seven months on rabbit carcasses, but they also withstand temperatures below freezing and above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  House Rabbit Society  cites several differences between RHDV1 and RHDV2. Incubation is two to 10 days for RHDV1, but three to nine days for RHDV2. Rabbits with RHDV2 can be asymptomatic yet spread the virus for up to two months. There is no known cure for either strain. While a vaccine exists for RHDV1, there are currently no USDA -licensed vaccines for RHDV2. That RHDV2 can “potentially surviv[e] more than 3 months without a host” has prompted some U.S. veterinarians to import RHDV2 vaccines despite a convoluted process. The  USDA  and  VIN News Service  warn RHD is highly contagious, spreading easily by direct contact with rabbit excretions and secretions — saliva, sweat and biowaste. Sharing food, water, bedding, fomites and vehicles spreads RHD. Other vectors are infected rabbit meat, pelts, even insects. Besides farmers and pet owners, biologists and  conservationists  are worried about this virus. As declining rabbit populations have repercussions in  habitat  food chains, RHDV2 could cause severe consequences down the line. + Veterinary Information Network (VIN) News Service Via USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and House Rabbit Society Images via Pexels

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U.S. rabbit populations contend with lethal virus, RHDV2

Ancient Mayan-inspired Casa Merida operates off the grid in Mexico

May 22, 2020 by  
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In the hot and humid Yucatán capital of Mérida, blasting air conditioning all day is commonly regarded as a necessity of life. But Mexico City-based Ludwig Godefroy Architecture has rebelled against this belief with its design of Casa Merida, a self-sufficient dwelling that uses passive solar principles to stay naturally cool. Sustainable in both energy use and design, the contemporary, solar-powered home draws references from traditional Mayan architecture and uses locally produced materials wherever possible. Built primarily of board-formed concrete, Casa Merida is organized as a series of “broken” volumes that reads as an 80-meter-long rectangle with 8-meter-wide sections. This lane-like form was created to follow traditional airflow cooling concepts and to evoke the ancient Mayan sacbé , a term that translates to “white path” and describes stone walkways covered in white limestone. All parts of the home open up to the outdoors via large wooden louver doors that let in cooling breezes, natural light and views of green courtyards interspersed throughout the property. Related: This modular, off-grid design can adapt to any landscape The indoor-outdoor connection is key in the design of the home, which was crafted to feel completely disconnected from the city. This is achieved by placing the communal areas — including the living room, kitchen and swimming pool — at the far end and quietest part of the property instead of placing them near the backyard. The backyard is used as a buffer zone from the urban environment. To help the home meet goals of self sufficiency, the architects installed rainwater collection systems with sculptural water collectors that add to the beauty of the residence. A biodigester is used to treat blackwater, which is then used to irrigate the garden. Heating and all of the home’s electricity needs are provided for via solar hot water heaters and solar panels. “The construction is reaching a 90% made on-site, with local materials and built exclusively by Yucatec masons and carpenters, a sort of modern reinterpretation of what could mean vernacular architecture,” the architects said. “Made of massive materials that do not require special treatments or maintenance, accepting aging and time as part of the architecture process, the house has been conceptualized to end up one day covered by a new coat of materiality: a layer of patina.” + Ludwig Godefroy Architecture Photography by Rory Gardiner via Ludwig Godefroy Architecture

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Ancient Mayan-inspired Casa Merida operates off the grid in Mexico

Gore, Gates funds lead $80M round for protein startup born in Yellowstone hot springs

March 24, 2020 by  
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Nature’s Fynd, formerly Sustainable Bioproducts, started as a NASA research project. It begins production this month at a facility in Chicago’s old stockyard district.

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Gore, Gates funds lead $80M round for protein startup born in Yellowstone hot springs

In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the Avant Cycle Cafe builds community

February 6, 2020 by  
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It all started with a flat tire. A man cycling through Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was charmed by the historic town but really wished it had a bike shop to fix his flat. This cycling mishap has morphed into Avant Cycle Cafe , a community hub that combines a full-service bike shop with excellent coffee and pastries. “Cyclists have a natural inclination to coffee,” managers Ann Esarco and Andrew Gruber told Inhabitat. “When the two worlds came together, it was just a natural fit.” The city of Lake Geneva sits 10 miles north of the Illinois state line in southeastern Wisconsin. Its population of about 7,700 swells in summer, when droves of people from Chicago come for boating and other warm-weather sports. The architecture is another draw. The area saw an upsurge in construction at the end of the 19th century, and many Victorian mansions still stand. This makes the town and environs a compelling place to explore on foot or by bike. Local sourcing at Avant Cycle Cafe The cafe’s menu focuses on hot drinks and treats. Avant Cycle Cafe serves cider made from locally grown apples and has a case full of baked goods. Don’t expect to just order a regular coffee. You can choose from drip, pour over or French press, plus the full range of espresso drinks. You might also be surprised to find that a cafe in a small town in the famous dairy state of Wisconsin offers almond, soy, oat and coconut milk alternatives . Related: San Francisco bike shop lets you trade in car for e-bike This is no ordinary coffee, either. Avant Cycle Cafe sources its beans from Lake Geneva Coffee Roastery . Owner Jeremiah Fox started roasting his own coffee on his stovetop in 2012. Now, the coffee entrepreneur, who is visually impaired, uses his other senses — hearing, taste and smell — to fine-tune his commercial roast profiles. Talking timers and special tactile points on the controls of his machinery allow him to adjust the air flow and temperature for his small-batch coffee. Fox uses electricity for a clean air process, versus roasting with gas, which pollutes both the beans and the air with hydrogen sulfide. According to Fox, his process also makes for coffee that’s easier on customers’ stomachs. Building a cycling community Tourism is seasonal. While some people do visit in winter, summer is high season for Lake Geneva. Avant Cycle Cafe values its summer customers and is happy when they return for more coffee and another bike rental. Both tourists and locals join a series of summer Sunday breakfast rides, where groups pedal together to area restaurants, diners and cafes . The rides are casual with a no-drop policy, meaning nobody gets left behind. Once, the group rode out to see Fox’s coffee roasting operation in the nearby town of Elkhorn. The rides are usually 12 to 15 miles each way. Avant Cycle Cafe believes in cultivating local community year-round, not just when the sun is shining and tourists fill hotel beds. “Our locals are fantastic,” Esarco and Gruber said. They even have one customer who comes in three times a day. In addition to the cafe and bike shop, an upstairs area called The Loft is a rustic, bright and cozy room open to customers for studying and relaxing. It can also be reserved for private events like engagement parties, bridal showers and youth group meetings. This year, Avant Cycle Cafe is hosting a weekly Tuesday night program called 13 Weeks of Winter. “It’s an effort to engage the community in providing entertaining and enriching activities when most people aren’t even thinking of cycling,” Esarco and Gruber explained. While some topics are very on-point, such as a talk by cycling icon Lon Haldeman, an intro to bike maintenance and learning opportunities about the history of coffee, others draw on the community’s wider expertise. Local art gallery ReVive Studio will lead a mosaic pendant class in March. Another night, people can come for Reiki healing. The Chili for Charity contest brought together 10 local restaurants and recently raised more than $1,000 for local organizations. As Esarco and Gruber put it, “Cycling and coffee is just the meeting ground. The community expands out from there.” What’s next for biking in Lake Geneva? Workers at Avant Cycle Cafe are actively making Lake Geneva a better biking town. They’ve begun working with the national Rails to Trails Conservancy, which takes disused railroad tracks and converts them to multi-use trails for hiking and cycling. They are also lobbying elected officials to incorporate bikes into urban planning . “Our aim is to include a marked bike lane on the renovations to Highway 120 from just outside Lake Geneva to the White River State Trail ,” Esarco and Gruber said. This 19-mile trail follows a former rail corridor and is only a few miles from Lake Geneva, so a marked bike lane would greatly improve safe access. Avant Cycle Cafe just started selling and servicing e-bikes , which could give some would-be cyclists an extra boost of confidence. This summer, the cafe will also be offering private, guided tours around the lake. “It’s been wonderful to be in a position to get more people on bikes, having fun and riding around beautiful Lake Geneva,” Esarco and Gruber said. “We want to make Lake Geneva the place to be for cyclists.” + Avant Cycle Cafe Photography by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the Avant Cycle Cafe builds community

Scientists announce the Doomsday Clock is within 100 seconds to midnight

January 24, 2020 by  
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Since 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has been warning the public about how close humankind is to irreversible destruction. The nonprofit does this via its iconic indicator, the Doomsday Clock. Recently, the Doomsday Clock advanced one-third of a minute to now be within 100 seconds to midnight, with the midnight hour symbolizing our planet’s apocalyptic demise and humanity’s possible extinction . “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers — nuclear war and climate change — that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said in a statement. “The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.” Related: Immersive, dystopian exhibit shows what life could be like post-climate change The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is based at the University of Chicago and was founded in 1945 by Manhattan Project researchers, who developed and produced the world’s first atomic weapon. While the Doomsday Clock is a symbolic tool, it is nonetheless utilized as a means for raising awareness about the planet’s proximity to potential annihilation. Each year, the Bulletin ’s Board of Sponsors and its Science and Security Board assess the state of the planet to determine where the minute hand would rest on the Doomsday Clock. According to the Bulletin ’s website, the team evaluates three main focal points: nuclear risk , climate change and disruptive technologies. Because these major entanglements were initiated and heightened by humans, the nonprofit believes they can, with concerted international effort, be managed and possibly contained. Back in 1953, the Doomsday Clock was within two minutes of midnight when the first hydrogen bomb was tested. But international agreements to limit nuclear arms helped minimize the risks of global catastrophe, thus pushing the minute hand back. By the close of the Cold War in 1991, the Doomsday Clock was set back at 17 minutes to midnight. Unfortunately, the dawn of this new century has seen the minute hand creep ever-closer to midnight, mainly due to the growing climate crisis combined with geopolitical tensions exacerbating the threats of nuclear weapon misuse and the leveraging of cyberspace attacks to disrupt society. Rachel Bronson, the Bulletin’s current president and CEO, emphasized, “We now face a true emergency — an absolutely unacceptable state of world affairs that has eliminated any margin of error or further delay.” Similarly, former California Governor Jerry Brown, who is now the Bulletin’s executive chair, said, “Dangerous rivalry and hostility among the superpowers increases the likelihood of nuclear blunder. Climate change just compounds the crisis. If there’s ever a time to wake up, it’s now.” + Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Via University of Chicago News Image via Shutterstock

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Scientists announce the Doomsday Clock is within 100 seconds to midnight

This sustainable lodge is in the worlds oldest living desert

January 24, 2020 by  
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It’s not often that hotels located in stunning landscapes come close to matching that natural beauty, but the &Beyond Sossuvlei Desert Lodge is no ordinary hotel. Located in the surreal desert landscape of the Namib Desert, the eco-hotel, which was designed by South African–based Fox Browne Creative , is the epitome of luxurious design mixed with innovative sustainability . Deep in the Namib, the world’s oldest living desert, the &Beyond’s Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is located in one of the world’s most surreal landscapes. Surrounded by miles and miles of rolling dunes, the surrounding terrain is otherworldly. And now, for those who’d like to explore this incredible area, the Sossusvlei lodge, which was originally built in the 1990’s, has been renovated to offer not only the perfect base to explore this stunning part of the world, but do it all while staying in a modern sustainable hotel that was designed to reduce its impact on its environment. Related: Gorgeous Belize eco-resort will offer 100% carbon neutral villas The hotel is comprised of ten individual stone and glass suites, which were laid out to provide each suite with a stunning view. There are various sizes on offer, but each unit offers a spacious living area with a fireplace, as well as a kitchen and dining room. In the bedroom, guests will enjoy the large retractable skylight above the bed for some prime stargazing before drifting off to sleep. Additionally, the master bedroom has a dreamy ensuite bathroom with a glass-encased rain shower that provides 180º desert views. From the living area, large floor-to-glass doors open out to a shaded veranda, some installed with a private plunge pool. Guests at the hotel will have the option of splitting their time enjoying their private suites, as well as taking time to explore the hotel grounds. The common area includes a comfortable sitting room with bar and interactive kitchen as well as another pool. There are numerous shaded lounges to enjoy, along with a gym and wellness center with full spa treatments. To top off the luxury, the hotel boasts a strong sustainable profile . From the beginning of the renovation process, the architecture and design team focused on three objectives, “to create an extraordinary experience for the visitor; design structures that are in harmony with their natural setting and minimize the human impact on this sensitive environment.” The first step was the repurposing of the original buildings to fit into a more sustainable model. The renovation process included using as many natural materials as possible, such as natural stone and locally-sourced furnishings. Throughout the hotel as a recycling program as well as an integral water recollection system to reuse rainwater. And finally, a massive amount of rooftop solar panels allows the hotel to generate all its energy, making the lodge 100% self-sustained. + Fox Browne Creative + &Beyond Sossuvlei Desert Lodge Via Wallpaper Photography via Dook Photography

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This sustainable lodge is in the worlds oldest living desert

Award-winning Owl Woods Passive House playfully mimics birdhouses in Australia

January 24, 2020 by  
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Australian design studio Talina Edwards Architecture recently completed the Owl Woods Passive House — the first certified Passivhaus project designed by a woman architect in Australia. Located in the Victorian town of Trentham, the sustainable home not only follows Passivhaus standards for an extremely energy-efficient build, but it also adheres to biophilic principles with its pitched roofs in the shape of unique “bird beaks” for solar shading. The project also won the Sustainability Medal at the 2019 Architeam Awards and was an official finalist in the New Home Category at the 2019 Sustainability Awards. As the 20th certified Passive House project in all of Australia, the Owl Woods Passive House is designed and constructed to meet strict Passivhaus standards that translate to an airtight building envelope for comfortable indoor temperatures year-round, energy efficiency, durability, controlled ventilation and adherence to passive solar design principles. Due to the building envelope specified for the site, the high-performance home is oriented slightly northwest but includes extended roofs along the western sides to protect the interiors from the afternoon summer sunlight. Related: This student housing is the largest Passive House-certified building in the Southern Hemisphere Inspired by the farmhouses of a Scottish village, where the clients previously lived, the home is organized into four interconnected gable-roofed pavilions. The easternmost wing houses two bedrooms and a shared bath. The central wing, which is topped with two pitched roofs, contains the open-plan living area and service rooms. The wing to the west comprises the master en suite with a sitting room. The home also includes an outdoor deck on the north side and is punctuated with large windows and glazed doors throughout for a constant visual and physical connection to nature and natural light. In addition to Passive House certification, the timber-framed project has also earned a NATHERS 7.4-star rating and is solar -ready. The interiors continue the exterior’s palette of natural materials and are finished with low-VOC paints for a healthy home environment. “The Owl Woods Passive House is a unique blend of biophilic design and Passivhaus standards of construction — a balance of creative design outcomes, which focus on how the occupants will feel in their home, along with the integration of building science, which delivers a high-performance home,” the architects explained. “In this aspect, it really is a pioneer project for Passivhaus homes in Australia.” + Talina Edwards Architecture Photography by Tatjana Plitt via Talina Edwards Architecture

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Award-winning Owl Woods Passive House playfully mimics birdhouses in Australia

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