Why agtech is critical for regenerative agriculture

September 17, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Why agtech is critical for regenerative agriculture Heather Clancy Thu, 09/17/2020 – 01:30 Early this month, McDonald’s made headlines when it teamed with Cargill, Target and The Nature Conservancy to put $8.5 million toward helping Nebraska farmers cultivate regenerative agriculture practices over the next five years. The initiative, like others emerging in the past several years from Cargill , General Mills, Danone and other big companies in the food system, is aimed at promoting natural carbon sequestration practices — and it is piloting ways farmers can be rewarded for embracing them. As much as I’m encouraged by these efforts, I’ve often wondered: What metrics are being used to evaluate them? What does success look like? What will it take to scale these pilots? And how on earth is this all being measured? A new relationship between Microsoft and Land O’Lakes points to part of the answer. The multiyear alliance centers on the farmer cooperative’s agtech software portfolio, including its Winfield United forecasting tools and Truterra , a platform developed to manage sustainability programs such as no-till cultivation, precision nutrient management and cover crop planting. The deal calls for the Land O’Lakes apps to become part of Microsoft’s burgeoning cloud service focused on agriculture, Azure FarmBeats ; the two companies are developing a resource specifically for serving dairy farmers and are collaborating to deploy broadband in rural communities to help make the connections. It turns out that grain silos and elevators are pretty good hosts for wireless antennae. We’re moving away from intuition-based decisions. Your cost might stay the same, but your output will go up. … And food companies can trace it back to certain practices. What is particularly intriguing to me is the future of an app called Data Silo, which captures historical data. Microsoft and Land O’Lakes plan to create a cloud service that combines that data with artificial intelligence and other data streams, such as weather forecasts, to suggest better management practices. Considering more than 150 million acres of cropland are in the Land O’Lakes network — nearly half of the 349 million acres under crop production in the United States — that’s pretty valuable information. “We’re moving away from intuition-based decisions,” Teddy Bekele, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Land O’Lakes, told me when we spoke about the deal this summer. “Your cost might stay the same, but your output will go up. … And food companies can trace it back to certain practices.” One organization that’s already gathering this sort of insight is the U.S. division of Tate & Lyle, the 160-year-old U.K. food and beverage ingredients company. Two years ago, Tate & Lyle began enrolling corn suppliers in a sustainability program focused on emissions reductions, soil wellness and water conservation. The initiative covers 1.5 million acres of sustainably grown corn, which represents the yield Tate & Lyle buys globally on an annual basis, according to information it has published about the results . Corn was chosen because this crop represents the majority of the company’s emissions in the U.S. Using Truterra, the company has gathered some compelling insights from 148,000 acres it has been tracking since 2018, noted Anna Pierce, director of sustainability for Tate & Lyle. Among the 100 data points it is measuring are fertilizer applications, pest management practice, nitrogen levels, the use of cover crops and other practices advocated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Here are four specific results for those fields: 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions 38 percent increase in nitrogen efficiency (applications are more targeted) 6 percent reduction in sheet and topsoil erosion 4 percent improvement in the “soil conditioning” index, which is an indicator of how well soil can absorb carbon dioxide Pierce took pains to note that Tate & Lyle doesn’t dictate what farmers should be doing on their land. “They match the right practice to the field,” she told me. But Tate & Lyle has signaled it intends to refine its procurement policies around certain priority ingredients as part of its science-based Scope 3 commitment to reduce absolute CO2 emissions in its supply chain by 15 percent by 2030. And it is sharing this information with its own customers, which could become a point of differentiation. “We provide environmental impact data to those customers who opt into the program equating to acres used to produce the ingredients they procure from Tate & Lyle,” she noted. Among the ingredients that will receive particular attention are corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and palm oil. Tate & Lyle is not paying farmers for participation; rather, the focus is on illustrating the linkage between certain soil wellness practices and their crop yields. “They’ve never connected some of this data before,” Pierce said. As the focus on regenerative ag scales, data will be central. Multiple projects for farm management software suggest a big increase in adoption by 2025, with Grand View Research projecting $4.2 billion in sales that year — in large part because of concerns over sustainability of the farm system. What makes the Microsoft-Truterra combination so compelling is that the data is being considered from the farmer’s point of view, not someone trying to sell seeds, fertilizer or farm equipment. You should also keep your eye on upstarts such as OpenTEAM, an open-source resource that Stonyfield Farm is championing, and Farmers Business Network , which raised $250 million in venture funding in August. It represents 12,000 members who farm 40 million acres in the U.S. and Canada. Tell me more about the other organizations I should track by emailing heather@greenbiz.com . Pull Quote We’re moving away from intuition-based decisions. Your cost might stay the same, but your output will go up. … And food companies can trace it back to certain practices. Topics Food & Agriculture Information Technology Agtech Climate Tech Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Why agtech is critical for regenerative agriculture

Startup tackles decarbonizing industrial heat processes

September 16, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Startup tackles decarbonizing industrial heat processes Myisha Majumder Wed, 09/16/2020 – 01:30 Skyven Technologies, founded in 2013, is a company with a unique proposition for companies in the industrial sector — a way to save money through decarbonizing. Skyven CEO Arun Gupta said the idea came when he applied the thinking behind his Ph.D. dissertation in microelectronics to an entirely different field: climate change. “I was able to figure out how to apply the technological concepts of the work that I was doing for Texas Instruments for a partial solution for climate change, and that inspired me to start working on is basically a technology that captures heat from the sun and uses that heat to reduce fuel consumption,” he said. The component of the industry sector emissions Skyven seeks to decarbonize is process heat — such as the creation of steam — which accounts for a large component of the emissions from the industry sector. In order to manufacture products, companies in the industry sector must burn fuel, typically natural gas, to create heat. Technologies such as geothermal, biomass and solar, which Skyven initially focused on, can provide an alternative to natural gas to generate heat for industrial processes. This is particularly relevant in the sectors Skyven works in: the food and beverage manufacturing industry; pulp and paper; chemicals; pharmaceutical manufacturing; textiles; and primary metals and lumbers. Rather than trying to fit one technology or one solution into every plant, we found that the plants are all unique and they have unique needs. In 2018, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the three largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions were transportation (28 percent), electricity (27 percent), and industry (22 percent). Even with decarbonizing the electric and transportation sector, to reach long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, the United States would need an 80 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide emissions by 2050. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions found five core imperatives to reaching climate neutrality, including electrifying or switching to low-carbon fuels in the industry sector. While providing an alternative using solar technology was the original technological goal for Skyven, the company has evolved significantly, adapting to the individual needs of different companies in the industrial sector, Gupta said. Rather than focusing solely on deploying the company’s initial in-house solar technology, Skyven transformed quickly into a company offering a multipronged approach for decarbonizing the industrial sector. “The need for decarbonization in the industrial sector spans far beyond solar. Rather than trying to fit one technology or one solution into every plant, we found that the plants are all unique and they have unique needs,” Gupta said. “It makes a lot more sense to meet those unique needs with unique solutions.” Typically, in order to determine these needs and gauge applicable solutions, Skyven employs a four-step procedure: initial plant analysis; addressing and mitigating concerns about potential solutions; deployment and implementation of solution; and operations and maintenance (O&M). This highly customizable procedure allows Skyven to determine the best fit solution company-to-company, and within that company, plant-to-plant, rather than deploying a general technology. As part of this process, Skyven’s team completes a thorough initial analysis using its custom platform, asking the customer specific questions and collecting data about where in the plant thermal energy is consumed. From there, Skyven identifies where there are opportunities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, reduce fuel consumption and save money. Interacting with the customer is especially important for the manufacturing industry, where production is profit, Gupta said. Using that analysis, Skyven implements the technologies best suited for the plant, which can include Skyven’s solar technology, but does not always. Because of this, Skyven frequently partners with other startups and technology manufacturers. When the new system is in place, Skyven hires a third-party maintenance contractor with extensive experience with industrial hardware. Typically, Skyven pays for everything involved in the process — from initial analysis to equipment and to O&M, Gupta said. The only cost to the customer is a newly lowered fuel cost amount, he said. These payments cover more cost-efficient and sustainable thermal energy at a cost that is less than the customer otherwise would have paid for fossil fuel, according to the company. While Gupta did not communicate the names of Skyven’s current customers, citing sensitivity around publicly disclosing information about manufacturers, he discussed recent press coverage around the Copses Dairy Farms in New York state.

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Startup tackles decarbonizing industrial heat processes

Global investment managers say no to carbon

September 11, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

A European group of global investment managers and pension funds has devised an ambitious plan to cut their portfolios down to net-zero carbon . The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change includes more than 1,200 members in 16 countries. Together, they control over $40 trillion in assets. The group distributes its recommended measures to asset managers to help them reach the European Union’s goal to be climate -neutral by 2050. Its policies are based on a framework developed with more than 70 funds around the world. Related: Critics question Amazon’s sustainability amidst Bezos Earth Fund launch As investors focus more on sustainability, especially since the Paris Climate Agreement, they’ve begun to pressure their asset managers to cut the carbon in their portfolios. “Countries, cities and companies around the globe are committing to achieve the goal of net-zero emissions and investors need to show similar leadership,” Stephanie Pfeifer, IIGCC’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. IIGCC’s agenda is lengthy. A few points include analyzing the latest policy developments for members, developing policy positions, collaborating with like-minded global and European bodies, and facilitating workshops and roundtables with peers. Decarbonizing the world’s economy is an overwhelming task. Before a slight pandemic-related blip downward, global coal demand was at an all-time high. With a projected 9.7 billion people by 2050, it will take a lot of money, education and commitment to meet the ever-increasing appetite for electricity with renewable sources. Oil use currently averages more than 90 million barrels per day, and 70% of this is used for transportation. To reach net-zero carbon goals, these diesel- and gasoline-chugging vehicles will need to be switched out for electric vehicles charged with renewable energy sources. On the plus side, the world spends more than $5 trillion on fossil fuel subsidies, which would go a long way in funding renewable energy instead. We might also see a big drop in healthcare costs if people were no longer exposed to the detrimental effects of burning coal for fuel. + Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change Via Forbes Image via Pixabay

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Global investment managers say no to carbon

Episode 236: Banking for the planet and behind the scenes of Generation Green New Deal

September 11, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

Episode 236: Banking for the planet and behind the scenes of Generation Green New Deal Deonna Anderson Fri, 09/11/2020 – 09:21 Week in Review Stories discussed this week (9:30). Why every C-suite officer should care about plastic waste To reduce deforestation, we must get serious about environmental crime Why “regeneration” is generating business buzz Features Bank of the West’s checking account for climate (23:40)   In July, Bank of the West, part of BNP Paribas, announced a partnership with 1% for the Planet to launch a checking account designed for climate action. Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor at GreenBiz, speaks with Ben Stuart, Bank of the West’s chief marketing officer, about how the account works and the company’s motivations and goals for the effort. Behind the scenes of Generation Green New Deal (32:35) The upcoming feature documentary Generation Green New Deal tells the story of how young people are pushing climate change to the center of American politics. Julian Brave NoiseCat, vice president of policy and strategy for Data for Progress, is one of the young people who has played a critical role in shaping the Green New Deal. Shana Rappaport, vice president and executive director of VERGE at GreenBiz, sat down with NoiseCat. They discussed the biggest misunderstandings about the Green New Deal that are important to demystify and role companies can play in taking climate action. You can read a longer excerpt from their conversation here . *Music in this episode: “Curiousity” by Lee Rosevere;  “Guitalele’s Happy Place” and “Arc de Triomphe” by Stefan Kartenberg; “Two Guitars” and “Confederation Line” by AdmiralBob77 Resources galore ESG values and a sustainable future.  Why placing environment, social and governance principles at the center of COVID-19 recovery places makes sense for resilience and the bottom line. Sign up for the interactive session at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 15. Action plus ambition. How leading companies, including Microsoft, approach audacious sustainability goals. Register for the discussion at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 17.  Safety and performance in recycled plastics. UL and HP Inc. share strategies and insights in this conversation at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 22. Inside The Climate Pledge. Senior executives from Amazon, Global Optimism and Verizon share insights on why collaborative corporate action on the climate crisis is more critical than ever. Join us during Climate Week at noon EDT Sept. 24. Clean air in California?  It’s easier than you think. Hear from the California Air Resources Board, the city of Oakland and Neste in this session at 1 p.m. EDT Oct. 1. State of the Profession. Our sixth report examining the evolving role of corporate sustainability leaders. Download it here . The State of Green Business 2020. Our 13th annual analysis of key metrics and trends published here . Do we have a newsletter for you! We produce six weekly newsletters: GreenBuzz by Executive Editor Joel Makower (Monday); Transport Weekly by Senior Writer and Analyst Katie Fehrenbacher (Tuesday); VERGE Weekly by Executive Director Shana Rappaport and Editorial Director Heather Clancy (Wednesday); Energy Weekly by Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden (Thursday); Food Weekly by Carbon and Food Analyst Jim Giles (Thursday); and Circular Weekly by Director and Senior Analyst Lauren Phipps (Friday). You must subscribe to each newsletter in order to receive it. Please visit this page to choose which you want to receive. The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here . Enrolling is free and should take two minutes. Stay connected To make sure you don’t miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes . Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at 350@greenbiz.com . Contributors Joel Makower Shana Rappaport Topics Podcast Banking Green New Deal Plastic Waste Deforestation Collective Insight GreenBiz 350 Podcast Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 38:36 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Close Authorship

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Episode 236: Banking for the planet and behind the scenes of Generation Green New Deal

LeSportsac’s ReCycled collection uses recycled water bottles

September 11, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

In 1974, LeSportsac opened its doors for business in New York City. Much has changed since then, but not the company’s focus on creating innovative, colorful and useful bags that encourage an on-the-go lifestyle. With the modern-day zeitgeist squarely aimed at improving sustainable practices, both in the private and business world, LeSportsac’s most recent release removes plastic from the waste stream while encouraging fans to continue their LeSportsac journey. Called ReCycled, the new bags come in three prints, each making a statement about green developments in production and packaging. LeSportsac’s effort to improve its products through sustainable practices has led to a reduced carbon footprint by utilizing post-consumer water bottles in the fabric. In fact, every yard of fabric equals nine recycled bottles, and each product lists the actual equivalent number of water bottles used. Related: This versatile, waterproof parka is made with recycled PET bottles Fortunately for the environment, many companies have adopted the advancing technology of turning  post-consumer plastic  into usable fabric. The process involves collecting, cleaning and shredding plastic into small chips. Subsequently, the chips are spun into yarn for the fabric.  Small and large cosmetic, cross-body, hobo and weekender bags make up the collection in all three prints. Eco Iris Garden features tones of blue and purple with the telltale yellow color punch of an iris in bloom. Eco Rose Garden offers a colorful and classically feminine floral motif. Eco Black delivers the same travel bag options in a more subdued color offering.  LeSportsac has even transformed its old logo to accommodate the recycled logo. The LeSportsac Fall 2020 ReCycled Collection debuted in-store and online mid-August 2020, and each component of the capsule collection is now ready for purchase. After more than four decades in the industry , LeSportsac aims to continue providing the bags consumers need for an active lifestyle while simultaneously focusing on sustainable, eco-friendly development. + LeSportsac Images via LeSportsac

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LeSportsac’s ReCycled collection uses recycled water bottles

Scaling Composting Infrastructure in North America

September 11, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Scaling Composting Infrastructure in North America What will it take to build robust composting infrastructure at scale in the United States? Composting should be a win-win. In theory, corporations and cities could divert food waste from landfills and create a valuable agricultural product in the process. Yet examples of large-scale composting infrastructure are hard to find in the United States. According to the most recent EPA data, less than 10 percent of food waste finds its way into composting systems. Contamination of waste streams, haulage costs and “compostable” materials that don’t actually biodegrade are all part of the problem. Meet the entrepreneurs, city officials and corporate leaders who are turning things around. Speakers share details of successful composting businesses, systems for scaling up food waste collection and strategies for diverting corporate food waste into composting systems. Speakers Alexa Kielty, Residential Zero Waste and Special Projects Assistant, San Francisco Department of the Environment Kevin Quandt, Vice President of Supply Chain & Sustainability, sweetgreen Jim Giles, Food and Carbon Analyst, GreenBiz Group  Holly Secon Thu, 09/10/2020 – 20:34 Featured Off

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Scaling Composting Infrastructure in North America

Carbon ‘rainbow’: Unilever pledges $1.2B to scrub fossil fuels from cleaning products

September 8, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

Carbon ‘rainbow’: Unilever pledges $1.2B to scrub fossil fuels from cleaning products Cecilia Keating Tue, 09/08/2020 – 00:15 Unilever last week revealed plans to funnel close to $1.2 billion over the next 10 years into initiatives that will allow it to replace chemicals in its cleaning products made from fossil fuel feedstocks with greener alternatives — an investment it described as critical to meeting its aim of achieving net-zero emissions from its products by 2039. The new program, Clean Future, is largely focused on identifying and commercializing alternative sources of carbon for surfactants, the petrochemical molecules found in cleaning products that help remove grease from fabrics and surfaces. More than 46 percent of Unilever’s cleaning and laundry products’ carbon footprint is incurred by chemicals made from fossil fuel-produced carbon, most of which are used in surfactants.  However, the firm now intends to explore, invest and ramp up carbon capture and use technologies that will eliminate the need for fresh carbon feedstocks and instead allow it to tap recycled carbon already on or above ground, for example, through captured carbon dioxide or carbon captured from waste materials. Peter Styring, professor of chemical engineering and chemistry at the University of Sheffield, who has partnered with Unilever on the initiative, explained to BusinessGreen that Unilever’s investment could help catalyze a transition away from fossil fuel-derived petrochemicals, a lesser understood but necessary element of the move towards a net-zero emissions economy. “The move from fossil fuel is mainly associated with an energy transition. but similarly we need to look at a transition away from fossil fuel-derived petrochemicals,” he said. “The work we are doing is to try and replace existing chemicals within the supply chain, with not necessarily new chemicals but chemicals derived from a different supply.” Through a strategic partnership with Unilever, Styring’s team at the University of Sheffield is working to identity and develop the technologies that will allow the firm to divorce itself from chemicals made from fossil fuel feedstocks, a transition the multinational anticipates will reduce the carbon footprint of its laundry and cleaning products by as much as 20 percent. In an attempt to help consumers, competitors and partners understand its plans and the production processes behind the technologies it plans to explore, Unilever has devised a “carbon rainbow” model that outlines the alternatives to fossil fuel-produced carbon. On the carbon rainbow, carbon produced through captured carbon dioxide is dubbed “purple carbon”; plants and biological-sourced carbon is labeled “green carbon”; marine-sourced carbon is branded “blue carbon”; and waste material-sourced carbon is denoted as “grey carbon.” Conventional fossil fuel-derived carbon is simply known as “black carbon.” Unilever’s “carbon rainbow” classification system. Styring, a carbon capture and use expert, suggested that eliminating petrochemicals across industry will require active pursuit of all “shades” of the rainbow. “There is no silver bullet; nothing is going to cure the climate issue on its own,” he said. “There has to be a cooperative effect between different technologies. I would love to say purple carbon will be the No. 1 technology, but I can’t because at this stage I don’t know. It really will be a balance and the other shades on the rainbow have to be taken into account.” Unilever’s Clean Future program specifically will focus on funding biotechnology research, CO2 use and low-carbon chemistry, as well as biodegradable and water-efficient product formulations. It already supports a number of initiatives that aim to slash the environmental impact of the firm’s cleaning and laundry products. For example, in Slovakia, the company is working with biotechnology company Evonik Industries to develop the production of rhamnolipids, a renewable and biodegradable surfactant used in its Sunlight dishwashing liquid in Chile and Vietnam. And in Southern India, Unilever is sourcing soda ash — an ingredient in laundry powders — from CO2 capture technology. The firm expects to scale up the use of both technologies over the years to come. Meanwhile, liquid detergent made by Persil — one of Unilever’s largest and most popular brands in the United Kingdom — has been reformulated to rely on plant-based stain removers, with the new line expected to reach British supermarkets later this month. However, beyond the impact on Unilever’s product lines, Styring is hopeful Unilever’s commitment to pour $1.2 billion over 10 years into purging fossil fuel-derived chemicals from its laundry and cleaning products will have a major impact on improving public understanding of the role of environmentally damaging petrochemical feedstocks. “The carbon dioxide utilization industry is developing, and over the last 10 years there have been a lot of development, but it tends to be in niche industries that the public don’t really see — the production of ethanol and methanol and various chemicals,” he explained. “This is a chemical — or a series of chemicals — that goes into households around the world. This will have a big impact.” Unilever has committed to spend a part of its $1.2 billion pot to support the development of “brand communications” that explain the various new technologies to customers. Perhaps even more crucially, Styring reckons the new investment has the potential to accelerate the commercialization of renewable and recycled carbon feedstock technologies that so far largely have been confined to research departments around the world. “What will happen with these strategic partnerships is that you can identify which tech are going to be world-leading, and you can put investment into these in a way that a research council can’t,” he predicted. “Because ultimately you are looking for a commercial success, a product that will give you a profit and at the same time reduce environmental impact. So I think the investment Unilever is making here will accelerate these technologies and allow them to move from small scale, bench scale and small laboratory scale and target a much better commercial operation.” His team, for example, will be working with Unilever to investigate how different technologies can be clustered together to form a local ecosystem that can produce alternatives to black carbon at scale. The move from fossil fuel is mainly associated with an energy transition. but similarly we need to look at a transition away from fossil fuel-derived petrochemicals. “At the moment, the emphasis will be location, location, location,” Styring said. “Have you got the energy to do the chemistry — energy in terms of renewables — do you have the carbon dioxide readily available, do you have hydrogen and water readily available, do you have the inorganics?” Carbon use can be developed at major existing sources of carbon dioxide such as power stations and heavy industrial plans, and could be ramped up within a “couple years,” Styring suggested. In contrast, more ambitious projects focused on direct air capture (DAC) could prove effective but will require much more time and money to reach commercial viability. That said, Styring is still enthusiastic about the long-term prospects for DAC as it is ramped up, predicting its impact could prove to be “phenomenal.” DAC technology also has one big potential advantage over conventional carbon capture systems: It is not tied to a particular location and as such would give operators the ability to tap carbon from the air for their products anywhere in the world, eliminating the need for complex and costly transportation infrastructure and supply chains to ferry the captured carbon to production sites. Styring is hopeful that Unilever’s commitment will encourage the government to throw its weight behind carbon capture and use, a field where he believes the U.K. could emerge as a world leader. “When you go to [carbon capture use] conferences, the U.K. is always the highest represented nation outside of the organizing nation,” he observed. “But the funding doesn’t reflect this, in terms of government funding. Germany is by far and away the biggest funder of this type of research. We have the opportunity to use the best British science and engineering, and psychology and supply chain management. … We have the opportunity to make Britain a leading force, but it needs that investment.” Styring said he has been pressing the government to divert a portion of the subsidies it funnels into oil and gas into carbon capture and use technology designed to produce petrochemicals and produce fuels. The government would argue that it has been listening and plans are progressing — albeit slower than campaigners would like — for new net-zero clusters that could deploy a range of carbon capture use and storage clusters at industrial sites across the U.K. The wide-ranging implications that would flow from such hubs could prove to be hugely significant, providing the fossil fuel industry with both a means to decarbonize and new markets for its capture carbon. At the same time, advances in green and blue carbon could slash demand for fossil fuels at a time when oil majors are betting on the petrochemicals market to pick up some of the slack as the transition to electric vehicles gathers pace. Unilever’s $1.2 billion investment could yet have a huge impact far beyond the consumer goods market. Pull Quote The move from fossil fuel is mainly associated with an energy transition. but similarly we need to look at a transition away from fossil fuel-derived petrochemicals. Topics Corporate Strategy Innovation Bio Economy BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The materials innovation laboratory at the University of Liverpool. Courtesy of Unilever Close Authorship

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Carbon ‘rainbow’: Unilever pledges $1.2B to scrub fossil fuels from cleaning products

Clean energy and markets are the solution (not scapegoat) for California’s blackouts

September 4, 2020 by  
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Clean energy and markets are the solution (not scapegoat) for California’s blackouts Bryn Baker Fri, 09/04/2020 – 01:00 On Aug. 14 and 15, the California electric grid operator made the incredibly rare decision to proactively shut off parts of the electricity grid, resulting in limited rolling blackouts affecting businesses and homes throughout the state. Forced outages are a tool of last resort, employed in circumstances of incredible stress to the grid and done to protect against more widespread outages. Record heat for several days across parts of the state strained the power grid so much that it started rationing electricity, for the first time in almost 20 years. Notably, temperatures reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley — the hottest recorded temperature on the planet in more than a century.  While the immediate cause is still being investigated, we do know that California’s grid was experiencing multiple, coincident stressors — high demand, generators not performing when called upon and energy imports not showing up. Rather than thinking of these events as a one-off stroke of bad luck, consider that this soon might be the new normal. And not just in California. Climate change is driving more extreme weather events, including heat waves, everywhere, all while the grid faces increasing demand from electrification of cars, buses, businesses and homes. How should businesses and other large customers be thinking about the increasing strains from climate change with an evolving energy resource mix? Some have suggested clean energy is the scapegoat for the recent blackouts. However, not only was clean energy not the source of the problem , it’s the solution. Clean and renewable energy is core to charting a path forward.  Time to ditch fossil fuels-centric planning In the last 30 years, about one-third of coastal Southern California homes added air conditioners. Higher temperatures put more stress on traditional fossil-fired electric generators, reducing plant efficiency and output, and even caused them to temporarily shut down. In fact, the heat wave last month shuttered a 500 megawatt natural gas unit and a 750 MW gas unit was unexpectedly out of service Aug. 14. Outages of dispatchable fossil generation paired with reduced output from renewables, such as the 1,000 MW reduction in available wind power Aug. 15, resulted in an electric grid unable to meet customer demand. The grid of the future should prioritize flexibility and nimbleness, and greater deployment of resources such as batteries and larger demand response programs. California is actively shifting from a fossil-generation-dependent grid to a system that seeks to eliminate carbon emissions by 2045 — an essential step to combat climate change. Corporate customers, cities and governments are lining up behind ambitious clean energy and climate goals. Technological innovation and rapidly declining costs in renewables, storage and other clean energy resources are enabling California’s evolution to a 21st-century reliable , clean energy grid. The state is a leader in solar power, meeting much of the demand during the sunny hours of the day. However, the grid of the future should prioritize flexibility and nimbleness, and greater deployment of resources such as batteries and larger demand response programs.  Despite the finger-pointing and calls to move back toward natural gas, including from business groups , the recent experience in California shows that the energy transition shouldn’t be abandoned in the name of reliability Rather smart policy, planning and market designs are critical so that utilities and customers can improve reliability through accelerated deployment of these advanced clean resources as fossil generators retire.  Markets and regional cooperation: Bigger is better California’s electric system is operated by an independent nonprofit organization — the California Independent System Operator ( CAISO ) — that uses competition among power producers to identify the lowest-cost generators that can be used to reliably meet demand. While recent events have been compared to events we saw 20 years ago in California, flaws and fraud responsible then in California’s market design have since been corrected. This time around, the experience suggests that fully expanding wholesale electricity markets throughout the West will be a critical tool to reliably and cost-effectively meet demand in the face of climate change and the energy transition. California may be tempted to go faster alone, but it could get there more reliably and affordably with other Western states.  California’s grid imports electricity from out of state generators, and California’s utilities plan in advance for energy imports that are complemented by in-state generators to meet demand on the hottest days. CAISO does not control the number of imports, which were affected by the recent heat wave that extended beyond California. A wider, better coordinated western electricity system could have more nimbly responded to large generators tripping offline and would have cost consumers less by reducing spikes in power costs and the need for backup generators. A wider, better coordinated western electricity system could have more nimbly responded to large generators tripping offline and would have cost consumers less by reducing spikes in power costs and the need for backup generators. Efforts are underway to expand the CAISO market through the Western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM), which allows coordinated real-time operation amongst a number of utilities and already has brought $1 billion in customer benefits, although this is a fraction of the benefits of a full competitive wholesale market. The type of grid event that occurred in August would be best solved by a western regional transmission organization that optimizes electricity generation and demand throughout the West, rationally manages shared operating reserves and plans/promotes interconnected transmission infrastructure. This type of system will be critical to lowering costs to all customers and keeping the lights on, while meeting the clean energy commitments by customers and states. Even CAISO and the California Public Utilities Commission agree that market improvements may well be needed. California’s approach to ensuring enough generation on the system to meet demand on the hottest days is fractured, complex and undergoing revision. As we chart a path forward, we need to embrace creative solutions and use the tools that we know can work. Businesses require reliable, affordable electricity. A growing number of businesses also know that transitioning the grid to clean energy can save money while continuing to provide expected reliability. Embracing innovation and new technology is in California’s DNA; it also could get by with a little help from its friends. By stitching together the West’s electricity system, reliability and a clean energy transition can work in tandem, most affordably for all customers. REBA is organizing related sessions on clean energy markets during VERGE 20. View more information here .  Pull Quote The grid of the future should prioritize flexibility and nimbleness, and greater deployment of resources such as batteries and larger demand response programs. A wider, better coordinated western electricity system could have more nimbly responded to large generators tripping offline and would have cost consumers less by reducing spikes in power costs and the need for backup generators. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Utilities California Electricity Grid 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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Clean energy and markets are the solution (not scapegoat) for California’s blackouts

The broken system that sends most food waste and organic matter to landfills

September 4, 2020 by  
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The broken system that sends most food waste and organic matter to landfills Jim Giles Fri, 09/04/2020 – 00:15 How about this for a series of maddening statistics? Landfills in the United States generate 15 percent of the country’s emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas with a potential warming impact 34 times that of carbon dioxide. The single largest input into U.S. landfills is food waste, yard trimmings and other organic matter. Sending organic matter to composting facilities rather than landfills dramatically lowers emissions — in fact, expanding composting globally would avoid or capture the equivalent of around 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2050 . Only 4 percent of U.S. households are served by a municipal composting service.  Most commercial food waste is also dumped, meaning that just 6 percent of all U.S. food waste is diverted from landfill or combustion.  In summary: This is crazy. We’re dumping the feedstock for a valuable agricultural resource in landfills, where rather than fertilizing crops it generates emissions that accelerate the climate crisis. I wasn’t aware of quite how broken this system is until I moderated a panel on composting infrastructure at Circularity 20 last week. (Video of the panel soon will be online — sign up for Circularity updates to get notified when that happens.) Afterwards, I called up my fellow moderator Nora Goldstein, editor of Biocycle magazine , in search of solutions.  Goldstein explained that most waste management firms are compensated for every truckload of material they send to landfill. This locks them into the existing model. Some firms might want to move into composting, but doing so would cause a double financial hit: Reduced landfill fees plus upfront expenditures for creating new composting infrastructure. That’s not going to look good in the next quarterly earnings. What can the food industry do to help fix this? Structural change will require government action such as California’s SB 1383 , which commits the state to reducing organic waste by 75 percent by 2025. ( Climate Solution of the Year , according to one industry publication.) But that doesn’t mean the industry can’t take smaller steps without outside help. I heard a bunch of exciting ideas in the panel, during my conversation with Goldstein and in emails I received after the event. Here are a few: Food waste producers should discuss what’s possible with local waste operations, said panel member Alexa Kielty of the San Francisco Department of the Environment. Long-term collaboration between waste producers, local government and disposal companies enables the waste industry to invest in composting solutions. Do due diligence on contractors who offer organics disposal services, advised panel member Kevin Quandt of the Sweetgreen restaurant chain. To see why, read about Quandt’s tussles with less-than-honest contractors in this excellent Los Angeles Times story . Companies involved in the farming end of the food business should incorporate targets for compost use into their regenerative agriculture commitments, Goldstein suggested. Large composting facilities can take years to set up, but food waste producers can investigate smaller-scale options in the meantime, wrote Ben Parry, CEO of Compost Crew, an organics waste collector operating in the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia area.  Speaking of small-scale solutions that companies could collaborate with, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced funding for 13 pilot projects to “develop and test strategies for planning and implementing municipal compost plans and food waste reduction.”  I hope that list provides some ideas for how your organization can get involved in fixing this crazy problem. What did I miss? As always, I value your feedback. Email comments, critiques and complaints to jg@greenbiz.com .  Topics Food Systems Waste Management Waste Compost Featured Column Foodstuff 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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The broken system that sends most food waste and organic matter to landfills

Biomimicry Institute reveals 2020 Global Design Challenge finalists

September 3, 2020 by  
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The Biomimicry Institute has revealed this year’s 10 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge finalist teams, which have created innovative solutions for sustainably tackling global issues. The proposals, which all take inspiration from nature, address one or more of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The 10 finalists were selected from over 81 student teams as well as 26 teams of professionals from 17 countries in total. Of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, half of the 2020 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge submissions addressed “Sustainable Cities and Communities”, and over one-quarter addressed either “Good Health and Well-being”, “Climate Action”, “Life Below Water” and “Clean Water and Sanitation.” This year’s 10 finalist teams are from five different countries — including Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Taiwan and the United States — with the majority focused on Good Health and Well-being, Sustainable Cities and Communities and Climate Action. Related: NexLoop unveils water management system inspired by spiders, fungi, bees and plants The first five finalists in alphabetical order include A Sensitive Wall, a proposal for a dynamic green noise barrier for reducing the urban heat island effect and traffic noise. It takes inspiration from concave-eared torrent frogs, mimosa leaves and desert snails. BottleBricks is an interlocking bottle system for insulating refugee housing that mimics the air-trapping qualities found in the triangular, corrugated shape of Saharan silver ant hairs and the structure of silk cocoons. ELIGHTRA is a solar -powered lighting system for temporary settlements with hard outer shells like a ladybug’s elytra (wing cases). Methanolite is a methanotroph-inspired method for converting methane into methanol without carbon dioxide emissions. MyOak Public Market is an online platform to increase food access for vulnerable populations during times of crisis; the project takes cues from the Chesapeake Forest. Additional finalists include nutriBarrier, a woven barrier for reducing nutrient runoff inspired by the protective strategies of hagfish and frogs. The floral stamen-shaped air filtration system Pranavayu features the electrical and structural properties of a spiderweb. An air filter called RICOCHET mimics mantas. The SINC (Sustainable Ice Nucleation Contraption) outdoor water collection system improves access to clean drinking water with methods similar to the countercurrent heat exchange system found in trout. Tubes, Blades, Mesh, Oh My! is a seawall retrofit proposal that takes cues from seagrass and mangroves for greater coastal resiliency. + The Biomimicry Institute Images via The Biomimicry Institute

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Biomimicry Institute reveals 2020 Global Design Challenge finalists

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