How to advance equity in energy solutions in the COVID-19 era

July 6, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

How to advance equity in energy solutions in the COVID-19 era Daphany Rose Sanchez Mon, 07/06/2020 – 02:01 During the day I work in the energy sector supporting government and utilities design programs to perform outreach to and educate low-income and diverse communities. At night, I go back into my neighborhood, one thriving with diverse residents. Sitting on both sides of the table, I’d like to share what you need to pay attention to in order to be part of the solution on the interconnected fronts of energy efficiency and social justice. If 2020 has shown residents in the United States something, it’s the dire need to understand historical barriers, immediately stop our current way of working and deliver energy solutions. As a New York City resident, director of an energy consulting organization, an advocate of energy equity and a third-generation resident of public housing, I have a unique view of the structural barriers we must break down to solve the global climate crisis. As energy consultants developing energy solutions, it may feel difficult to look away from the bombardment of messaging about death and economic downfall, and videos of divisiveness and hatred. More than 122,000 U.S. residents — our neighbors, friends and family members — have died from COVID-19. Witnessing a family member or a friend die so suddenly is new to most of us. It may feel difficult to look away from the bombardment of messaging about death and economic downfall, and videos of divisiveness and hatred. But the worst part is that our country has had not one pandemic, but two rising. We are seeing on social media people of color — specifically, Black people — murdered time and time again. As with COVID-19, families are worried about how many times they have to see a son, daughter, nephew or friend die so suddenly. They’re also the target of hatred from people they’ve never met, feeling the pain, worry and stress of being judged by their skin color. Communities in the crosshairs Meanwhile, COVID-19, just like other structural inequalities, has had the most profound impact on communities of color. Low-income Black and Latinx folks already quarantined within disinvested neighborhoods are seeing rampant infection and death. They’re vexed with the choice of working as essential workers, risking getting sick or dying, versus losing income and risking eviction from an already overpriced apartment. But this isn’t new. Black, Latinx, Indigenous and other marginalized communities have long been resilient against natural disasters, racism, environmental toxicities and gentrification. What should energy professionals who care about these interconnected crises and operate in historically underserved communities do? What’s the best way to look at COVID and racial injustice, and focus the negative emotions and stress onto positive, equitable energy solutions towards climate change? You can start with the following steps: Understand the connections and empathize I have had conversations with many among the majority of people who live outside of yet sympathize with marginalized communities, and with others who demand justice but have a hard time understanding the relationship between equity and race. I’ve heard and seen the juxtaposition, and the idea that climate and racial justice are two separate issues. Others are aware of what actions are required but fearful of losing power obtained through an “injustice” system. Americans are divided on how antiracist measures are critical to dismantling structural barriers, just as they are divided on the urgency to fix our planet in a way that minimizes the collateral damage of leaving the few behind for the greater good. The worst part is that our country has had not one pandemic, but two rising. To those of you who have a hard time understanding what we fight for or why we are so loud about climate justice and racial equity, think about how you feel during the rise of COVID: trapped at home, worried about your future. You’re frustrated, angry, depressed, stressed out. You want life to return to normal. That’s how many of us feel who were raised as “different” races, ethnicities, cultures and identities. If we’re born in subsidized housing, others see us as less than human. It is a quarantined site whose children go to schools that receive less funding. We’re worried we won’t be able to make rent because we earn less. We’re afraid we can’t exercise outside for being mislabeled as a criminal and even killed. We’re worried our parents and grandparents will fall sick without a place for us to take care of them. We’re concerned about our future. We walk a thin line — between being the person our employer wants (providing ideas only when asked) and being the person our parents raised us to be (outspoken, providing perspective based on our diverse understanding and experiences). Listening and empathizing will bring you closer to understanding a community’s needs. Assess the situation Next, assess how you have engaged in the community. Assess who you are in relation to it. What has been done to support the local economy?  Have you or your company accelerated injustice? If so, how do you stop and promote equity within your organization? How do you resist selfishness and step down when someone else with a necessary perspective can be elevated? How do you release your power to support a cause? Self-change and organizational change is the first step to address inequity within the workplace. Let communities lead To assess low-income communities, examine what organizations already exist there. What type of outreach have they done, and how can you provide fiscal resources and collaborate with them on programming? Nonprofits, unions and coalitions within those communities have decades of experience engaging and communicating successfully with their neighbors. They have built trust and know what works and what does not. They are familiar with how to tailor government programming specifically for groups with different cultural backgrounds and energy-use needs. Nonprofits, unions and coalitions within those communities have decades of experience engaging and communicating successfully with their neighbors. To all energy firms: Actively investigate how you are supporting these organizations. Consider mandating a percentage of community representatives on all committee programming boards, regardless of technical expertise, developing materials that are culturally and linguistically representative of the community. Eliminate the transactional relationship with the community. Develop a communal process where you are supporting participants with their mission, helping them build wealth and create a sustainable future for their neighborhoods. Developing long-term community relationships can help us collectively tackle climate change. Evaluate information access Energy consulting firms are also evaluating methods of operation and delivery of energy outreach programming and design. The first thing that comes to everyone’s mind in light of COVID-19 work-from-home quarantine is virtual access as in-person meetings, audits and processes move online. Just as equitable engagement begins with collaborating across sectors to achieve an overarching goal, the clean energy sector must think about collaborating with internet providers while developing outreach and incentive programs that advocate for equipment that requires WiFi. If your energy program incorporates such incentives, think about the additional burden to low-income customers. How can your funding expand to provide an internet connection to residents? At Kinetic Communities Consulting, our projects have shown that if you provide a separate incentive that improves qualify of life, people are more inclined to pursue energy efficiency. Providing internet at a low or no cost with a solar or air source heat pump project provides a quality-of-life improvement. How can your funding expand to provide an internet connection to residents? Roughly three in 10 adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year (29 percent) don’t own a smartphone, and more than four in 10 don’t have home broadband services (44 percent) or a traditional computer (46 percent). And a majority of lower-income Americans are not tablet owners. Collaboration with local internet providers, nonprofits supporting low-income Americans and local government can help close the communication gap. Partnerships with internet providers removes one barrier to energy efficiency programs invested in installing new climate-friendly technologies. Using community aggregation engagement also provides customers the opportunity to obtain a lower internet bill cost and entice customers to complete projects. It gives residents a platform to learn more about their utility usage and lifts a concern of access and awareness. Consider equitable hiring and training COVID has exposed how people of the global majority — that is, people of color — are the first to be laid off, as the latest U.S. employment numbers bear out. Black and Latinx workers are hit the hardest in clean energy, with Latinx workers comprising 14 percent of the industry but 25 percent of its job losses. For energy consultants, the automation of audits and processes can further exacerbate layoffs. When energy consulting firms develop automated methods to accelerate energy outreach and program development; they must consider equitable hiring and training practices. Think about what you have learned in your own position — the relationship of your skillsets and a job’s requirements — to be mindful of whom you are rehiring and who your job postings reach. Consider developing gender-neutral job postings and removing a candidate’s education to avoid unconscious bias. Not only is hiring and training critical, but understanding the work culture you have created can nudge diverse candidates either to grow within or leave your organization. An equitable path forward allows the energy industry community to become more robust and unified. These types of efforts pay off.  Companies with the most diverse executive teams were 21 percent more likely than others to enjoy above-average profitability, according to a 2018 study by McKinsey & Company. For executive teams with ethnic and cultural diversity, this likelihood rose to 33 percent. A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that revenue tied to innovation, in terms of products and services launched in the past three years, was 19 percent higher for companies with above-average diversity in management. Spend time creating and maintaining professional development opportunities for staff to learn and grow within the industry. Be mindful of who you believe should be in the position and be open to the skillsets people have, regardless of the industry standards. Educate yourself Below are some amazing people of color/people of the global majority articles you can read to understand the importance of the intersection in energy and social justice:  •     Black environmentalists talk about climate and antiracism •    Climate activists: Here’s why your work depends on ending police violence •     Why every environmentalist should be antiracist •    How racism manifests in clean energy •     The climate movement’s silence •    How to help Black employees •     Felecia Hatcher: Tech community must do more than tweet support. It needs to invest •    I’m a black climate expert. Racism derails our efforts to save the planet •    Hold my earrings: Black women lead on systemic solutions in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond People are dying, and some may not psychically see it, unlike hurricanes or wildfires. U.S. society is in a state of shock and feels a sensation of dystopian reality. An equitable path forward allows the energy industry community to become more robust and unified, giving people who are hit the hardest the opportunity to engage, participate and create a unified solution for a climate-resilient future. The first step is to become aware, and the next step is action. Pull Quote It may feel difficult to look away from the bombardment of messaging about death and economic downfall, and videos of divisiveness and hatred. The worst part is that our country has had not one pandemic, but two rising. Nonprofits, unions and coalitions within those communities have decades of experience engaging and communicating successfully with their neighbors. How can your funding expand to provide an internet connection to residents? An equitable path forward allows the energy industry community to become more robust and unified. Topics Social Responsibility Cities & Communities Environmental Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Lady Liberty and New York City at sunset. Shutterstock rudall30 Close Authorship

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How to advance equity in energy solutions in the COVID-19 era

Labels: Disdain them — except one

July 6, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Green

Labels: Disdain them — except one Bob Langert Mon, 07/06/2020 – 01:45 A longtime friend told me he was Christian and couldn’t support Democrats because it violated his principles. Then I heard a news update that Republicans were trying to ax Obamacare. I think I’m an Independent.  I’ve been spending more time contemplating the racial problems our country faces. I admire the friends and family that have posted Black Lives Matter signs. I just read “White Fragility,” and it infused me with thoughts that challenged my privileged white life. I hadn’t thought I was a racist, but I now realize I am because I’m part of a systemic white-dominant society by default. Truly. And it’s got to change, including me. I’ve thought of myself as young. But now I get up in the morning and hobble about until I’ve warmed up my body to stand straight. Labels. Can’t stand them. Listening to the radio the other day I heard an ad that said, “All of us use social media way too much.” How do they know that about me? I’m not too married to Twitter. I self-label myself as “athletic.” Yet I played a bocce match the other day against an 80-year-old woman who’d recently had surgery on her arm and had to toss the bocce ball with her odd hand. I lost. By a lot. There is one label I genuinely like and admire: ‘I’m a seasoned corporate sustainability leader.’ Another good friend of mine told me on the phone that he never thought I was a radical, “so liberal,” after reading my book about corporate sustainability (“The Battle to Do Good”). I don’t think of myself as liberal, but I’m finding in my daily conversations with friends that maybe I really am. Just yesterday, a good friend of mine said he doesn’t like the politics of Starbucks. And I’m thinking, “This is a company that is really trying to do good.” I passed on a very interesting New York Times article about health care to a buddy. He told me the article was narrow-minded and wrong because — well, it’s from the New York Times. He gets his news from Fox. We’re still buddies, although sometimes I wonder where to draw the line on sharing similar values. He said I’m a CNN person. I do watch/listen to it the most. I find myself labeling others and am ashamed that I do. He is a bully. She is slovenly. And I thought I was a good Catholic. There is one label I genuinely like and admire: “I’m a seasoned corporate sustainability leader.” I started this work by addressing the Big Mac polystyrene clamshell some 32 years ago. Finding the good intersection of business and society has grabbed my heart and mind ever since. But now I am mostly retired. It’s yet another label I disdain. If anything, I feel like I’m accelerating, not stepping back. Even though I made the choice to wind down my sustainability career, I have lots yet to give to my family, friends, neighbors and community. The couple of Myers-Briggs tests I’ve taken have labeled me an introvert working in an extroverted field. My safe haven is to be alone. But what I find I miss the most about working in the day-to-day of corporate sustainability is the gobs of good people I got to know, share, laugh, commiserate with and share a passion to change the world for the better. You are my good friends. I like being with you. Which brings me to my very least favorite label: “Retired from GreenBiz.” My regular writing for GreenBiz has seen its better days. I love writing about sustainability, but now that I’m not in the frontlines, I find I have little to write about. So this is my final column. I love the GreenBiz community, starting with Joel Makower, who I met 30 years ago when I bought a bunch of his books for McDonald’s people. His integrity and caring attitude permeate the whole organization. John Davies is full of bright insight and even better wit. Twenty-four hours at a GreenBiz Executive Network meeting was like filling up the tank with high-octane gas. I was ready to rock and roll after every meeting I attended. Everyone I meet at GreenBiz is an awesome person. How do you do it, GreenBiz? Thank you for the opportunity to write a column with my thoughts for the past five years. As you can tell, I’m not one for being labeled. It irks me. But you can label me a “big sap” for how much I care about the entire sustainability movement — and the special people that make it happen. Pull Quote There is one label I genuinely like and admire: ‘I’m a seasoned corporate sustainability leader.’ Topics Leadership State of the Profession Featured Column The Inside View Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage

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Labels: Disdain them — except one

How 5 communities across the US are seeking environmental justice

July 6, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

How 5 communities across the US are seeking environmental justice Kristoffer Tigue Mon, 07/06/2020 – 01:00 This story originally appeared in InsideClimate News and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story. In many ways, Maleta Kimmons defines her neighborhood by what it lacks. Several houses near her home remain vacant. Last week, she had to drive seven miles just to buy groceries. And two weeks ago, at the height of the Minneapolis protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a police officer May 25, looters broke into the only pharmacy in the area, forcing the store to close and leaving many in the neighborhood without easy access to life-saving medication such as insulin or inhalers for asthma. Kimmons, who prefers to go by the name Queen, said what her neighborhood doesn’t lack is pollution. Near North, where Queen lives, is one of several neighborhoods that make up north Minneapolis, a  predominately Black area surrounded by a large number of polluting facilities and infrastructure, including roofing manufacturers, a trash incinerator, a metal recycling plant and several major interstate highways. The ZIP code that covers much of north Minneapolis has the highest hospitalization rates for asthma in Minnesota, according to Minnesota Public Radio . It’s also home to the highest rates of lead poisoning among children in the city. Add the ongoing coronavirus pandemic on top of these factors, and her neighborhood is in a “horrific” situation, said Queen, who is Black. “Where are you going to get an asthma pump when Walgreens is closed?” she said. “I know a lot of people that have asthma, particularly in North.” Queen moved to Minnesota from Chicago in 1974 at the age of 10, first living in what used to be St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood —  a once-thriving African American hub before it was cut in half by the construction of Interstate 94 in the late ’50s. Her family, she said, was “looking for a better life, where there would be more resources, education, housing.” You’ve got to have ownership. … It’s race, class, money and politics. That is the narrative. That is the story. Eventually, Queen’s family moved to south Minneapolis. But in the 1990s, she said, the area became gentrified and too expensive, so she left for the city’s cheaper north side. Queen attributes the issues that north Minneapolis faces today — the vacant homes, the poor access to medicine and food, the proximity to industrial pollution — to a lack of Black ownership and the political power that accompanies wealth. “Right now, over in North, you can’t name 10 Black businesses — they ain’t there,” she said. “If you don’t own anything, you’re not changing nothing.” In 2018, the median household income in Queen’s neighborhood was about $39,000 , compared to the state average of more than $70,300 . As protests raged across much of south Minneapolis, destroying several blocks of Lake Street — another historic city business corridor —  Queen helped rally residents on the north side to protect the few Black-owned stores that do exist along Broadway Avenue from more looting. (Much of the looting came from out-of-towners, Queen said.) The destruction she witnessed reminded her of the stories she had heard of the 1967 riots, which also destroyed parts of north Minneapolis . And it reminded her of seeing her first limousine in 1974 outside of a black-owned pool hall in St. Paul. She remembers her Black neighbors inside the stretched-out sedan, a symbol of wealth, celebrating in their “loud colors,” their button-up shirts and their hard shoes. She remembers just years later, many of the Black-owned businesses shuttering their doors along Rondo’s Selby Avenue — today, an upscale food co-op stands where the pool hall used to be. “You’ve got to have ownership,” Queen said. “It’s race, class, money and politics. That is the narrative. That is the story.” St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana: ‘We’ve already been written off’ Reserve, Louisiana, had an agrarian economy when Robert Taylor was born. His parents worked at a local sugar refinery. “I’m a lifelong resident,” he said. “I was born here in 1940, so I’ve seen some changes.” When he was a boy, he said, “I could just walk out my house and go out my backyard and I was in a sugar cane field.” By the time he was a young man, the petrochemical industry was moving in. He bought a plot of land on the edge of town and built a home, finished by the time his fourth child was born, he said. “I went and got my wife from the hospital and brought her with our child to our new home.” Around the same time, he said, DuPont began operating a new chemical plant less than a thousand yards from the home. St. John the Baptist Parish, which includes Reserve, lies within Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley,” a stretch along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that is cluttered with petrochemical development and the pollution it brings. The Environmental Protection Agency’s National Air Toxics Assessment, which uses emissions estimates to model health risks, estimates that the risk of developing cancer in Reserve is 50 times the national average, and that the five census tracts with the highest risk are all in the area. But as Taylor watched the development spring up around him, he didn’t know any of that. All he knew was that a lot of people seemed to be getting sick. Several family members have died of cancer, he said, while his wife is a cancer survivor. It wasn’t until four years ago that Taylor began to connect what he saw with the industry that had developed around him. The risk of developing cancer in Reserve is 50 times the national average, and the five census tracts with the highest risk are all in the area. “I came home one night and my wife was so sick, and the odor was so horrible coming from the plant, that I called 911,” he said. “And the emergency personnel, they were taken aback by the odor. Of course, all of them was white, none of them lived in the community I lived in,” he said. Almost two-thirds of Reserve’s residents are Black. It never occurred to him that other parts of the parish didn’t have it as bad. And soon after that incident, the EPA arrived and began monitoring for a chemical, chloroprene, that is used in the nearby plant and is considered by the agency to be a “likely carcinogen.” “I got the first results of the monitoring; it scared the heck out of me,” he said. When the EPA found high levels of the chemical in the air near a school, “that’s really what sparked the people to join me and we formed this Concerned Citizens of St. John.” His group has been trying ever since to get Denka Corporation, which bought the plant from DuPont in 2015, to limit emissions. Denka did not reply to requests for comment from InsideClimate News, but a company website says it has voluntarily reduced emissions and that “there is no evidence to suggest Denka’s operations are harmful to local residents.” Taylor’s wife now lives in California, to be away from the pollution. Some of his children have moved out of the parish, too. His great-granddaughter was born recently nearby, “and she has no future here,” he said.  But he feels trapped with his home. Beyond the low value of the property, Taylor said, he wouldn’t feel right selling to another family, only to have them live with the same burden. “We’ve already been written off. We’re walking dead people,” he said. “We’ve been sacrificed.” Bears Ears National Monument, Utah: Trump ended tribal governance Alfred Lomahquahu helped build the five-tribe coalition that proposed the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. The land might seem remote, but the struggle against racial and environmental injustice has been no different for the indigenous people of the Southwest than for those protesting on the streets of the world’s cities. “People are actually getting united,” said Lomahquahu, a Hopi. “That’s the main thing that the government is afraid of, that’s why they don’t want these protests going on.” The coalition’s work focused on protecting red rock canyons and pinion-dotted desert containing hundreds of thousands of archaeological sites and areas of deep cultural significance to the Hopi Nation, Zuni Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Utes. “We started speaking with [President Barack] Obama on a one-to-one, government-to-government basis,” said Lomahquahu, now community administrator in the Hopi village of Baqavi in northern Arizona. “Part of our strategy was that we were going to work side by side with [the U.S. Bureau of Land Management] and all these other government entities as part of the planning for the whole monument.” The Obama administration embraced the idea, establishing and empowering a Bears Ears Commission when it created the monument. Lomahquahu was the commission’s co-chair until it was abolished when the Trump administration downsized the monument by 85 percent not quite a year later. Some people are privileged more than others and willing to use that privilege to help everyone get back on their feet. Trump administration officials rebuffed commissioners and other monument supporters, he said. “But we already knew at that point that everything that we achieved was going to go down the drain — and for every other minority, too.” Yet, the experience also showed the tribes, historically at odds with one another, the power of working together, he added. Later, conservation groups, professional societies, recreation groups and even large companies such as Patagonia joined the tribes’ campaign to protect the land from mining and pollution. “Some people are going to use their privilege in order to help others that aren’t privileged,” Lomahquhu said. “I think that’s something that you really need to look at now. … Some people are privileged more than others and willing to use that privilege to help everyone get back on their feet.” New uranium mining, coal-fired power and oil and gas development in the region are other threats that the Four Corners region has faced. More recently, Indian Country communities have united against COVID-19. “We’re just waiting for Trump to leave office,” Lomahquhu said, “so we can get back in there and regroup again and bring all entities back together.” The Rockaways, Queens, N.Y.: Young leaders of color building resilient communities Milan Taylor was 21 when he founded the Rockaway Youth Task Force in 2011, to sponsor community clean-ups and encourage voter registration in this outlying neighborhood on a barrier island in Queens. A year later, after Hurricane Sandy left homes four to 10 feet underwater and knocked out power for days, Taylor found himself helping to lead rescue and relief efforts in a neighborhood that was 60 percent African American and Hispanic and the poverty line was 20 percent higher than the state average. He mobilized hundreds of volunteers in a widespread effort to assess the needs and deliver food and medications to hundreds of home-bound community members, including elderly and disabled residents. As they meticulously canvassed high-rise apartment buildings, the major relief organizations and the NYPD seemed strangely missing in action. “Sandy gave us the exposure that [the Rockaway Youth Task Force] needed to grow,” said Taylor, now 31 and the group’s executive director.  And a good thing that is, with climate scientists predicting sea level rise of at least a foot by 2050, which will make the Rockaways more prone to climate change-fueled flooding and storm surges than they already are.   “What we’re trying to accomplish as an organization is to build more resilient communities,” Taylor said, “We want to be there, whether it’s a disaster brought about by climate change or even human disasters” — a reference to the ongoing protests for racial justice and an end to police violence.  The conversation of Black lives mattering isn’t just limited to police violence … It also extends to climate justice. Taylor said that it is important for the task force, made up largely of young people of color, to be “led by our own constituency, meaning that those who are directly impacted decide which direction and which campaigns we take on as an organization.”  Despite being told after Sandy that his organization couldn’t grow, he said, “We’re still here … still doing work, still helping our communities and still training the next generation of leaders.” He noted that one former RYTF organizer, Khaleel Anderson, is running for the New York State Assembly.  In the future, Taylor said, he hopes the broader climate movement embraces his work with the task force, which recognizes how race, gender and socioeconomic factors contribute to environmental injustice. “The conversation of Black lives mattering isn’t just limited to police violence,” Taylor said. “It also extends to climate justice.” Los Angeles: Latino children in Boyle Heights play in lead-contaminated soil Idalmis Vaquero sees such joy in the exuberance of a neighborhood boy named R.J. The 6-year-old runs to her to show off his newest feat — a backflip — on the dusty patch of grass outside of their aging apartment complex owned by the Los Angeles Housing Authority. Yet there is a dark contradiction between the glee of this boy and the reality of life in the shadow of a lead recycling plant that has poisoned the ground that dirties R.J.’s bare feet. The boy, like so many other children and families living in this neighborhood, is exposed every day to the high concentrations of lead that have contaminated this mostly Latino community just southeast of downtown Los Angeles. The Exide Technologies recycling plant and its predecessors emitted lead, arsenic and other dangerous pollutants, leaving homes, apartments, schools, parks and day care centers with dangerously high levels of lead-contaminated soil. Vaquero, 26, a third-year student at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, grew up in public housing in the Boyle Heights neighborhood, where she still lives and where her parents settled after emigrating from Mexico nearly 30 years ago. There has been little change in her neighborhood since she was a child. Factories, smoke stacks and exhaust-belching diesel trucks define the community more than grassy parks and welcoming recreation centers. So she worries about the future of R.J. and other children. “Living here will have an impact on the quality of life for the rest of their lives,” she said. “It makes me mad that our lives are not considered equal when it comes to addressing environmental hardships.” As many as 250,000 residents, mostly working-class Latinos, face a chronic health hazard from exposure to airborne lead and arsenic that subsequently settled into the soil from the recycling plant, according to a 2013 health risk assessment by the South Coast Air Quality Management District . The health of these communities need to be prioritized and protected from any more pollution from Exide and other environmental injustices. Lead contamination has been found in children growing up in neighborhoods surrounding the now-shuttered Exide battery plant, a University of Southern California study found . Lead is a neurotoxin, and there is no level that is considered safe in humans. The 15-acre recycling facility operated in the industrial city of Vernon for decades with minimal regulatory oversight. It churned out poisonous pollution around the clock seven days a week as the lead from 25,000 old car batteries was melted down every day for use in producing new batteries. The facility received more than 100 environmental violations for such things as lead and acid leaks and maintaining an overflowing pond of toxic sludge. The Exide plant was shut down in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Justice, which also ordered the company to pay $50 million to clean up the site and nearby neighborhoods. The state later pledged $75 million for the ongoing cleanup, overseen by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control . The cleanup has been painfully slow, which Vaquero takes as yet another signal that her neighborhood and neighbors are just a forgotten footnote in a city defined by the glitz of Hollywood and Beverly Hills.  Vaquero majored in environmental studies at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, where she made the decision to stand up for her community and others like hers. She described the environmental injustices in her community in a 2016 thesis : “The health of these communities need to be prioritized and protected from any more pollution from Exide and other environmental injustices,” she wrote. “The community’s power and resilience will prevail and environmental justice will be served to Southeast Los Angeles.” Pull Quote You’ve got to have ownership. … It’s race, class, money and politics. That is the narrative. That is the story. The risk of developing cancer in Reserve is 50 times the national average, and the five census tracts with the highest risk are all in the area. Some people are privileged more than others and willing to use that privilege to help everyone get back on their feet. The conversation of Black lives mattering isn’t just limited to police violence … It also extends to climate justice. The health of these communities need to be prioritized and protected from any more pollution from Exide and other environmental injustices. Contributors Nicholas Kusnetz Judy Fahys Ilana Cohen David Hasemyer Topics Climate Change Environmental Justice California Policy & Politics Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off People march in St. James, Louisiana, a small Black community at the end of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, to demand a safe and open evacuation route. Given the level of toxicity in this parish, it has earn the name of Cancer Alley. Credit:  Fernando Lopez for Survival Media Agency

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How 5 communities across the US are seeking environmental justice

These funky sandals upcycle fabric from the cutting room floor

June 26, 2020 by  
Filed under Green, Recycle

The fashion industry deserves a harsh slap on the wrist for how its manufacturing impacts the environment . From the overconsumption of resources to water pollution to material waste, it’s refreshing when companies take corporate responsibility and show concern for nature. Native Shoes is one such company, with a history of making a light footprint in the production of their footwear. The company’s newest release, Davis Repurposed, is a slight variation from their already popular Davis collection. Related: Native Shoes’ Bloom collection is made of repurposed algae The ‘repurposed’ portion reflects that these shoes use scraps of leftover material that would otherwise go to waste. By being repurposed for these bright, bold and fun sandals, the colorful fabric stays out of landfills. Featuring two-straps, adjustable buckles, an EVA midsole and a contoured footbed, Davis Repurposed serves as a versatile shoe option for day trips, hiking excursions, beach walks or backyard celebrations. The line carries adult, junior and child sizes for all genders, with the addition of a thoughtful stretchy heel strap for the toddler set. Each pair retails for $55 CAD (child), $61 CAD (junior) and $75 CAD (adult). Native is not new to the sustainable manufacturing effort, with a history of innovative research and design. For example, its Plant Shoe uses only natural glues and a  plant-based, biodegradable template . The company manufactures its Bloom collection with repurposed algae using Rise by Bloom technology. Each of these examples serves Native’s mission statement: “Our goal by 2023, is for each and every pair of Natives Shoes to be 100% life cycle managed.” Native’s Remix Project aims to provide a return method for all Native-produced shoes so consumers can easily send them back to the company, where they are then recycled into other products for the community. According to the initiative, “The unique composition of Native Shoes can be reground into versatile material that is useful in the creation of seating, playground flooring, insulation and more. Leveraging a proprietary regrind process, we are able to break down the materials found in every style of Native Shoes including sandals, slip-ons, knit sneakers and boots. From that point – there’s no telling where your soles could turn up!” + Native Shoes Images via Native Shoes

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These funky sandals upcycle fabric from the cutting room floor

Solar-powered bungalow in Australia promotes indoor-outdoor living

June 24, 2020 by  
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This bungalow-style home combines a thermal chimney system with solar power to improve energy efficiency. The young family who bought the original home wanted to present the rest of their community with a welcomed sense of connection through indoor-outdoor living, multiple entryways and a large-scale colorful mural on the side of the house. The two-level project in Melbourne, Australia was led by Gardiner Architects and completed in 2018. The thermal chimney effect is achieved by having the two stories spaced around the home’s stairwell, so that cool air is drawn from below and exhausted at the top. Sheet metal and shiplap cover the exterior. There are also solar panels fitted to the roof and a skylight to bring natural light inside. The brick wall, which runs down the middle of the building, works thermally as a heat sink and cool sink, while the concrete floor and efficient insulation provides additional assistance in thermal regulation. Despite only having ceiling fans and no air conditioning, the temperature inside remains comfortable throughout the year, even during the summer months. Related: Solar-powered home embraces tree canopy views in all directions The home incorporates three different zones: the children’s bedroom upstairs, the adult bedroom downstairs and the living spaces toward the back. A main, informal living space and sporadic communal spaces provide plenty of opportunities for activities, and an additional ground-level common area has the flexibility to be used as a study, homework room or space for long-term projects, such as artwork or puzzles. This concept adds to the sustainability elements of the home, as the designers are able to provide more amenities in a smaller footprint. As with most homes with young children, the clients wanted a house that would help center the family around the kitchen. Because the family enjoys gardening with herbs and vegetables, making kombucha, bee keeping and preserving fruit, they wanted a large, open kitchen that connected to the dining and living spaces and also the backyard. A sizable kitchen window opens to a butler’s pantry, and large glass doors open to the deck. Windows in the living room are designed to fold back, allowing inside activities to merge with outdoor ones with ease and creating the ability to connect larger gatherings of neighbors or family. A green roof was incorporated as an extension of garden space and a spot for the family to keep their bees. + Gardiner Architects Via Houzz Photography by Rory Gardiner via Gardiner Architects

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Solar-powered bungalow in Australia promotes indoor-outdoor living

Plastic rain is contaminating protected habitats

June 24, 2020 by  
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The term “pristine” environment is no longer applicable even to the most remote locations on Earth. Recent research has established that plastic rain is now pouring in the most protected areas in the western U.S. The research, which was published in the journal Science , reveals that 11 protected areas in the western U.S. receive rain that is contaminated with plastic microparticles. Over a period of 14 months, the researchers collected rainwater samples across 11 areas that are known to have the most pristine environments. The rainwater in these protected areas was found to be highly contaminated with plastic particles. The researchers revealed that the 11 protected areas receive over 1,000 metric tons of microplastic each year. Related: Record high amount of microplastic found on seafloors Research director and environmental scientist Janice Brahney of Utah University said, “We just did that for the area of protected areas in the West, which is only 6 percent of the total U.S. area.” Brahney’s comments indicate that plastic rain might be a much bigger problem in areas that are not protected. This research confirms a situation that is already spreading around the world. In recent years, several studies have found increasing amounts of microplastics in rainwater, especially in protected habitats, like the French Pyrenees and the Arctic . When microplastics mix with rain, they freely flow into rivers and oceans. Consequently, they affect the natural environment and the lifespan of many species. Scientists are now saying that plastic rain is a much more complex problem than acid rain. In the past few decades, the increase in the amount of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere resulted in acid rain in many parts of the world. Thankfully, efforts to control the emission of these gases have reduced acid rain significantly. Unfortunately, the microplastic problem is not one that can be solved overnight. We do not have a proper mechanism to trap the microplastics in the atmosphere. Even stopping the production of plastic today will only be half of the solution. To worsen the situation, the world still produces and uses plastics in large amounts. A Consultancy McKinsey publication reports that plastic waste is expected to rise from 260 million tons in 2020 to about 460 million tons in 2030. Although the research on plastic rain was only conducted in a handful of locations, it shows the gravity of the situation. If action is not taken to control the production and use of plastics, we are looking at a future where both water and air will be full of microplastics. + Science Via Wired Image via Dennis Kleine

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Environmental racism in America

June 22, 2020 by  
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The stretch of land along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is riddled with petrochemical plants spewing smoke into the air. Huge pipes pump chemicals above and below the highway to load boats in the river. This former plantation land’s modern nicknames are Cancer Alley and Death Alley because of the pollution-induced illness rife in the riverside communities. People familiar with environmental racism won’t be surprised to learn that Saint James Parish, in the heart of this area, is predominately Black. This is some of America’s most polluted air, with eight major industrial plants in 103 square miles and a new, enormous plastic project on the horizon. The cancer rate here is 700 times the national average. All around the country — and, in fact, the world — toxic plants are placed by the least affluent and most vulnerable populations, most of whom are people of color. These low-income communities tend to have the least political power to keep pollution generators out of their backyards. The term environmental racism Environmental racism is not a new concept. But with the Black Lives Matter movement thrusting all forms of racial inequity into the public eye, it’s time to take a look at what it means and how we can create change. Related: Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harm’s way Benjamin F. Chavis, Junior, former president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), defined the term in his 1983 work, “ Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States .” The NNPA is an association for Black-owned newspaper publishers. Chavis described environmental racism as deliberately targeting communities of color for siting toxic waste facilities that expose people to life-threatening pollutants and poisons. Chavis acknowledged different types of racism, but noted, “environmental racism is a particularly insidious and intentional form of racism that negatively affects millions of Black, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans, as well as people of color around the world.” Environmental racism means that people of color feel a disproportionate impact from things like toxic waste dumps, pollution and chemical plants that expose them to pollutants, known carcinogens and contaminated water at a much higher rate than more affluent White neighborhoods. The problem is intensified by officials failing to enforce environmental laws, for example, the thousands of Black children exposed to lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan in the last decade while officials assured everybody the water was safe. Types of environmental threats that communities of color face Whether they are threats to the water , air or land, people of color face them all. According to a 2012 NAACP study , communities of color breathe in 40% more polluted air than White neighborhoods. Much of this is from coal plants. While only 13% of the U.S. population is Black, 68% live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. That’s 12% higher than for White people. Associated problems include higher risks of birth defects, heart attacks and asthma. Black communities suffer from unusually high levels of asthma. Black women are 20% likelier to have asthma than non-Hispanic White people, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health website. In 2014, Black people were almost three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than White people. Children are hit especially hard, with a much higher rate of asthma-related hospitalization and death. In addition to coal plants, low-income Black communities are disproportionately located near other types of toxic sites. In rural areas, this could be farm runoff. “Swine CAFOs are disproportionately located in black and brown communities and regions of poverty,” stated a study by researchers at School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, are an innocuous-sounding euphemism for animals packed tightly together, living sad and squalid lives around enormous manure lagoons. People who live near these air- and water-polluting operations often suffer from eye, nose and throat irritation, depression, stress and decreased quality of life. In North Carolina, CAFOs center on pigs. In California’s San Joaquin Valley, dairy farm waste, including pesticides , has upped the asthma rates in Black and Brown communities. Environmental racism and COVID-19 The novel coronavirus has preyed especially hard on people of color. Patients with underlying conditions are up to 12 times as likely to die of COVID-19 than those that were healthy before contracting the novel coronavirus. A CDC report released June 15 cited heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease as the most common underlying conditions contributing to COVID-19 deaths. Black communities have a much higher rate of many conditions that predispose people to dying of COVID-19. These include diabetes, asthma, tobacco exposure, strokes, high blood pressure and cancer. Racism leads to and aggravates all of these conditions, from breathing in more pollution and experiencing more stress in the first place, to having less access to healthcare for early diagnosis and treatment of illness. Via Food is Power and The Guardian Images via Pixabay

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GALERIE.LA curates sustainable "Fashion With Integrity"

June 18, 2020 by  
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Again and again the headlines emphasize the dirty world of fashion . Polluting waterways, consuming materials and creating trendy fast fashion pieces that lead to massive landfill waste are all part of the process. So one company in Los Angeles called GALERIE.LA decided to track down the most sustainable clothing and fashion accessories it could find, bringing them together in one place for in-person or online shopping convenience. GALERIE.LA promotes a simple concept — fashion can be sustainable. From lipstick to shoes, the storefront at 767 South Alameda St. #192 in Los Angeles curates ethical options from head to toe. In store and online, each product features extensive traceability, so the consumer can easily make purchases based on what they believe defines a sustainable purchase. Related: Olli Ella releases capsule wardrobe made with organic cotton Dechel Mckillian, a celebrity stylist passionate about sustainable, conscientious fashion, is the founder of GALERIE.LA. After more than 10 years in the fashion industry, Mckillian saw an opportunity to connect people to their clothing, showing how meaningful it can be to shop for items that match one’s values. The company answers many questions about fashion. Who made this? Is it supporting my community? Were any animals harmed? What’s the environmental impact? To make the inventory easy to navigate, each item is tagged, either physically or virtually, with a variety of labels aimed at providing answers to these questions. Using these labels, shoppers can sort items by whether they meet the vegan criteria or are made using recycled materials . Another label identifies whether the product was sourced and produced within the same region. Other labels show if a product meets ethical manufacturing practices, such as fair wages and safe working conditions for employees, or if an item is made by an artisan and represents culture and tradition. Products in the store and online include clothing, accessories, home goods , beauty and self care, each carefully selected with the same goal in mind. “To have a positive environmental and social impact that is not at the expense of style and design is key,” the company said. “Our team is committed to scouting the most intriguing designers who use sustainable production methods to reduce their environmental footprint while taking the ethical business practices necessary to benefit people and communities.” + GALERIE.LA Images via GALERIE.LA

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How sustainability professionals can uplift the black community

June 8, 2020 by  
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How sustainability professionals can uplift the black community Jarami Bond Mon, 06/08/2020 – 02:11 Dear Sustainability Community, I come to you again. It’s been three years since writing my first article for GreenBiz, ” Why diversity is the key to unlocking sustainability .” I provided a quick glimpse of the anxiety and pain that the black community feels daily and actionable steps that the sustainability community could take to advocate for diversity and stimulate unprecedented change. I write to you again today with heavy grief and a set of earnest pleas: As sustainability professionals, we must lead the cultivation of a more inclusive, equitable and safe world for all. We not only must steward the environment, but also explore ways to meet the needs of the vulnerable and create healthy platforms for people of all backgrounds to embrace commonalities, celebrate differences and heal tensions. If not us, then who? Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Say their names. These are just a few of many precious lives ended tragically and prematurely by people sickened by the venom of racism. The victims were not dangerous. They were not threats. They were unarmed. In their final seconds, they were powerless and vulnerable, diminished to a point where a cry for mother was the only hope. If you really want to be a part of the change, it’s time to get uncomfortable. Please know that these narratives are not new. They are just now being videotaped and disseminated globally across social media platforms. These narratives leave me and so many in my community numb, angry, speechless, depressed, traumatized, exhausted, afraid, emboldened and so on, all simultaneously. We have been crying out for centuries, for generations. We continue even today. My good friend Joel Makower asked some poignant questions in his recent open letter . Among them: What led you to this work in the first place? Was it to protect the unprotected? To ensure the well-being of future generations? To engender community resilience? To create solutions to big, seemingly intractable problems? Or maybe, simply, to make the world a better place? I ask you to reflect with honesty on your answers to these questions. If you really want to be a part of the change, it’s time to get uncomfortable. It’s time to expand your social and professional circles. It’s time to listen. It’s time to ask questions. It’s time to engage with empathy. It’s time to study how our nation has systemically oppressed, crippled and stolen from the black community. It’s time to explore the part you have played. As you shift your posture toward this crisis, your friends, family and colleagues may look at you funny. You may have to swim upstream. I acknowledge the looming tension you may be anticipating in this polarizing moment, but I promise you that it is miniscule juxtaposed to the generational anguish through which our community continues to persevere. However, I do promise that you would not be alone in your newfound, countercultural advocacy. If you care — if you want to see justice, equity and restoration for my community, here are some actions you can take. Believe me. I encourage you to begin by picking one, two or more items from this list and leaning in wholeheartedly. Donate to your local  NAACP chapter, Black Lives Matter and the United Negro College Fund . Before voting, understand politicians’ positions on environmental and social justice as well as criminal justice reform. Hold elected officials accountable once in office. Fight against voter suppression and gerrymandering. Find and support black-owned businesses Push for your company to hire people of color. Ask your company’s HR department to hire more people of color in leadership positions. Call out workplace bias and discrimination when it happens. Promote truly inclusive workplaces. Watch movies and read books that can help educate you on the black experience and race in America. Do research to better understand and process your own biases and privilege. Learn the difference between  equality and equity . Stop appropriation . Many non-black people enjoy the social currency and financial profit derived from embracing elements of our culture, while simultaneously devaluing our very lives. Remember that silence is deadly. Address friends and family who spread ideals laced with racism and discrimination, no matter how subtle. If you witness racism and violence against, record and share the incident. Digital evidence can help protect us against people such as Amy Cooper who weaponize racism, putting innocent black lives at risk. I hope this list gives you actionable ways to get the ball rolling. Your voice and support hold weight and can go a long way in changing the narrative for my community. Don’t let the overwhelming number of ways to get involved hinder you from taking that first step toward real action. For more ways to get involved, I encourage you to explore this robust article, “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice,” written by Corinne Shutack on Medium. In closing, I believe in us. As a community of purpose-driven professionals, we have an opportunity to help lead the conversation and lean into actions that provide hope for a better future. I would love to hear from you. You can find me at @jarami_bond on Instagram , Twitter and LinkedIn . Pull Quote If you really want to be a part of the change, it’s time to get uncomfortable. Topics Social Responsibility Environmental Justice 30 Under 30 Collective Insight 30 Under 30 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by Jarami Bond

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How sustainability professionals can uplift the black community

How sustainability professionals can uplift the black community

June 8, 2020 by  
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How sustainability professionals can uplift the black community Jarami Bond Mon, 06/08/2020 – 02:11 Dear Sustainability Community, I come to you again. It’s been three years since writing my first article for GreenBiz, ” Why diversity is the key to unlocking sustainability .” I provided a quick glimpse of the anxiety and pain that the black community feels daily and actionable steps that the sustainability community could take to advocate for diversity and stimulate unprecedented change. I write to you again today with heavy grief and a set of earnest pleas: As sustainability professionals, we must lead the cultivation of a more inclusive, equitable and safe world for all. We not only must steward the environment, but also explore ways to meet the needs of the vulnerable and create healthy platforms for people of all backgrounds to embrace commonalities, celebrate differences and heal tensions. If not us, then who? Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Say their names. These are just a few of many precious lives ended tragically and prematurely by people sickened by the venom of racism. The victims were not dangerous. They were not threats. They were unarmed. In their final seconds, they were powerless and vulnerable, diminished to a point where a cry for mother was the only hope. If you really want to be a part of the change, it’s time to get uncomfortable. Please know that these narratives are not new. They are just now being videotaped and disseminated globally across social media platforms. These narratives leave me and so many in my community numb, angry, speechless, depressed, traumatized, exhausted, afraid, emboldened and so on, all simultaneously. We have been crying out for centuries, for generations. We continue even today. My good friend Joel Makower asked some poignant questions in his recent open letter . Among them: What led you to this work in the first place? Was it to protect the unprotected? To ensure the well-being of future generations? To engender community resilience? To create solutions to big, seemingly intractable problems? Or maybe, simply, to make the world a better place? I ask you to reflect with honesty on your answers to these questions. If you really want to be a part of the change, it’s time to get uncomfortable. It’s time to expand your social and professional circles. It’s time to listen. It’s time to ask questions. It’s time to engage with empathy. It’s time to study how our nation has systemically oppressed, crippled and stolen from the black community. It’s time to explore the part you have played. As you shift your posture toward this crisis, your friends, family and colleagues may look at you funny. You may have to swim upstream. I acknowledge the looming tension you may be anticipating in this polarizing moment, but I promise you that it is miniscule juxtaposed to the generational anguish through which our community continues to persevere. However, I do promise that you would not be alone in your newfound, countercultural advocacy. If you care — if you want to see justice, equity and restoration for my community, here are some actions you can take. Believe me. I encourage you to begin by picking one, two or more items from this list and leaning in wholeheartedly. Donate to your local  NAACP chapter, Black Lives Matter and the United Negro College Fund . Before voting, understand politicians’ positions on environmental and social justice as well as criminal justice reform. Hold elected officials accountable once in office. Fight against voter suppression and gerrymandering. Find and support black-owned businesses Push for your company to hire people of color. Ask your company’s HR department to hire more people of color in leadership positions. Call out workplace bias and discrimination when it happens. Promote truly inclusive workplaces. Watch movies and read books that can help educate you on the black experience and race in America. Do research to better understand and process your own biases and privilege. Learn the difference between  equality and equity . Stop appropriation . Many non-black people enjoy the social currency and financial profit derived from embracing elements of our culture, while simultaneously devaluing our very lives. Remember that silence is deadly. Address friends and family who spread ideals laced with racism and discrimination, no matter how subtle. If you witness racism and violence against, record and share the incident. Digital evidence can help protect us against people such as Amy Cooper who weaponize racism, putting innocent black lives at risk. I hope this list gives you actionable ways to get the ball rolling. Your voice and support hold weight and can go a long way in changing the narrative for my community. Don’t let the overwhelming number of ways to get involved hinder you from taking that first step toward real action. For more ways to get involved, I encourage you to explore this robust article, “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice,” written by Corinne Shutack on Medium. In closing, I believe in us. As a community of purpose-driven professionals, we have an opportunity to help lead the conversation and lean into actions that provide hope for a better future. I would love to hear from you. You can find me at @jarami_bond on Instagram , Twitter and LinkedIn . Pull Quote If you really want to be a part of the change, it’s time to get uncomfortable. Topics Social Responsibility Environmental Justice 30 Under 30 Collective Insight 30 Under 30 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by Jarami Bond

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