Let’s rid our work environments of the toxic smoke of dysfunction

January 25, 2021 by  
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Let’s rid our work environments of the toxic smoke of dysfunction Chris Gaither Mon, 01/25/2021 – 01:30 Before he saw the smoke, he felt it in his throat. It tasted foul. It curled into his nose, his mouth, his lungs. He looked up from his computer. His colleagues were tapping at their keyboards. The smoke hovered around them. He walked to his manager’s door. “This office is filled with toxic smoke,” he said. “Yes,” she said. “Don’t worry. We have a plan.” “What will you do?” he asked. “Install new ventilation? Move us to another space?” “No,” she said. “We’ve hired you an executive coach to help you develop strategies for dealing with the toxic smoke.” “But I don’t want to deal with the toxic smoke,” he said. “I want to get rid of it.” “Work with the coach,” she said. “Leave a few minutes early today. Get a massage. You’ll be okay.” We must approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. I heard this parable last year, before the pandemic, from a fellow executive coach. It lodged in my gut. I realized that so many of my coaching clients — in big corporations and small nonprofits, sustainability teams and sales departments — were asking me for help dealing with the stress and dysfunction of their organizations. They were breathing the same toxic smoke as everyone around them. Sometimes they were, themselves, pumping that toxic smoke into their work environments. Yet they were suffering alone, trying to solve it alone. Just as I did during my hectic career leading teams at the Los Angeles Times, Google and Apple. If anything, the pandemic has increased the pressure on us to deal with this suffering in isolation. But here’s the thing: Avoiding burnout is not simply a matter of individual responsibility. It’s a leadership challenge, and we are all leaders. Throughout this Sustainable You series for GreenBiz, I have encouraged you to tend to your personal sustainability so you can do great work on behalf of the planet. This kind of self-care remains critical. But it’s insufficient. As environmental sustainability leaders, you are, by nature, systems thinkers. You identify root causes. You craft upstream solutions. You see the forests, not just the trees, and work to improve the ecosystems so the individuals in them can thrive. So, let’s approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. To get to the root cause of the smoke, we need to think bigger. “You can’t expect people to adopt healthy lifestyles when their work environments reinforce or even cause poor habits,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer, an organizational-behavior professor at Stanford University. Pfeffer is the author of the 2018 book, “Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance — and What We Can Do About It.” He writes that companies have created elaborate systems for tracking their progress on environmental sustainability, but they seem to have forgotten to measure the human sustainability of their own employees. Current management practices harm employee engagement and job performance, Pfeffer says, and they increase employee turnover and healthcare costs. There’s even more at stake. To solve global, complex challenges like the climate emergency, racial injustice and species extinction, we must be adaptive leaders. We need to be mindful. Creative. Intuitive. Curious. Willing to experiment, learn and redesign. Open-minded and open-hearted. That’s so hard to do when we’re burned out. Organizational culture is a living, breathing thing. We draw from it, and we feed into it. We’re constantly creating it together. So, when everyone around us is stressed out, exhausted and closed off, it’s easy to shift into that same mode. Our mirror neurons, those evolutionary tools that help us build nourishing social connections, pick up on those signals and encourage us to be like the others. To suffer with the rest. I know this feeling well. I have held, deep in my body, the physical and emotional distress that burnout carries. We can work this way for a while, but eventually we deplete our energy and fall apart. As an executive leadership coach, I have supported many individuals to the other side of this burnout, where they’ve refilled their energy reserves and brought their creativity back to life. I’ve also followed my intuition upstream, seeking the origins of the toxic smoke. I work with full teams and their leaders to help them shift organizational culture: to slow down, reflect on what really matters, call out harmful behaviors, give themselves permission to embrace a more wholesome way of working. Healthy people, healthy planet A healthy earth depends on healthy people. To heal the planet, we must first heal ourselves. So, my fellow leaders, let’s set an intention to cultivate human sustainability in our organizations — for the sake of our employees and the communities and natural habitats they’re working to protect. Let’s look for the toxic smoke curling through our Zoom meetings, our email inboxes and Slack channels. Let’s name it, get curious about where it came from, chase it down to its source. Let’s pay close attention to the tone we are setting for our teams. The moods we are carrying into our interactions. The behaviors we are modeling. The harmful ways of being that we are introducing or accepting. Let’s check in on each other. Let’s work to understand how others in our groups are experiencing the world, how they might be suffering differently from us, and offer them support. Let’s talk about burnout and wellness — with our team members, fellow leaders, bosses, even our boards of directors. Let’s gather our teams. Let’s come up with, say, 50 things we could do to improve our health and happiness at work. Then let’s commit to new ways of being together. Let’s craft agreements and hold each other accountable. Instead of trying to manage the toxic smoke in our work environments, let’s get rid of it. Because only when we can breathe can we truly do this critical planetary work. Pull Quote We must approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. Topics Leadership Health & Well-being Featured Column Sustainable You Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Let’s rid our work environments of the toxic smoke of dysfunction

How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021

January 25, 2021 by  
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How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021 Ben Ratner Mon, 01/25/2021 – 01:00 This year, financial institutions must make a significant leap forward on climate — from pledges to progress. Even amidst a global pandemic, 2020 proved climate finance and a focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are more than passing fads, with net-zero financed emissions commitments from Morgan Stanley , JP Morgan  and a group of 30 international asset managers —  Net Zero Asset Management Initiative   — with $9 trillion in assets under management. At the start of 2021, leading investors openly recognize that climate change presents a massive systemic risk and a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity. But for the vast majority of firms, the real work of implementing climate and ESG integration is ahead. With increasing public, government and shareholder attention on climate, here are three ways sustainable finance leaders will emerge in 2021. 1. Integrate climate into core business A 2050 net-zero vision may be an inspiration, but it is not a plan. To realize its ambitions, Wall Street must integrate climate into its core business, evolving its approach to capital allocation and changing its relationships with carbon-intensive industries. Asset owners will demand no less of asset managers. This transition will require a far sharper focus on short-term, sector-specific benchmarks tied to decarbonization pathways — starting with the high-impact industries that matter most for solving the climate crisis.  For example, in the oil and gas sector, investors can assess progress and pace toward net-zero by monitoring companies’ methane emissions, flaring intensity, capital expenditures, lobbying and governance. Concentrating on five key metrics over a five-year period will allow investors to distinguish climate leaders from laggards. As with other core financial issues, monitoring metrics is just the start. To advance their climate commitments, investors should pair metrics with accountability. For asset managers, corporate climate performance should strongly inform investment stewardship, proxy voting and fund construction. For banks, climate benchmarks should influence loan eligibility, interest rates and debt covenants. Wall Street knows how to set quantitative targets and factor corporate performance and risk into financial decisions — now climate must become part of the new business as usual. 2. Align proxy voting with climate goals Advancing sustainable investing in 2021 will also necessitate a shift in proxy voting among the world’s largest asset managers. Last year, BlackRock and Vanguard voted against the vast majority of climate-related shareholder proposals filed with S&P 500 companies. BlackRock opposed 10 of 12 resolutions endorsed by the Climate Action 100+ , a coalition it joined last January, and later signaled an intention to support more climate votes in future years. There’s a better way. Both PIMCO and Legal and General Investment Management supported 100 percent of climate-related proposals filed with S&P 500 firms during last year’s proxy season, sending a powerful message to CEOs about the materiality of climate risk. As asset managers around the world unveil new ESG products and brand themselves as sustainability pioneers, proxy voting will become the litmus test for climate authenticity in finance for 2021.   3. Support regulations and policies required to decarbonize While the finance community has traditionally taken a hands-off approach to public policy advocacy, industry norms are changing . Investors understand that scaling the climate finance market depends on Paris-aligned government action, and some have proven willing to engage on issues ranging from carbon pricing to methane standards . With the incoming Biden administration prioritizing climate, investors should double down on climate-friendly advocacy , supporting both financial regulations and regulations of carbon-intensive sectors consistent with a 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario. As BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has emphasized, updated regulation of the financial system is needed to help monitor and manage economy-wide climate risks. As linchpins of capital markets, banks and asset managers have a crucial role to play in pushing federal agencies to safeguard the economy from climate-related shocks. For example, supporting rigorous mandatory climate risk disclosure from the SEC and appropriate ESG rulemaking from the Department of Labor can help investors build Paris-aligned portfolios. However, investor-led policy advocacy cannot end with financial regulation. As the Global Financial Markets Association noted , reaching net-zero by 2050 involves both financial regulation and environmental regulation of carbon-intensive sectors. The right mix of emission standards and incentives can slash pollution, drive technological innovation and improve the economics of low carbon investments. Given the rise of passive index investing, supporting government action in carbon-intensive sectors is essential, as leading financial firms favor continued investment over sector level divestment. In particular, policies and regulations to cut methane emissions and flaring, to accelerate vehicle electrification and to clean up the electric grid should be top priorities in 2021. Contributors Gabe Malek Topics Finance & Investing GreenFin Investing 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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How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021

2020 was the year that…

December 28, 2020 by  
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2020 was the year that… Joel Makower Mon, 12/28/2020 – 02:11 It was a very long year. True, just 366 days (it was a leap year, after all), each one, I’m told, containing only the standard 24 hours. But it was much, much longer than that. Remember 2019? Neither do I. To recall some of the key developments, as I have done each December for more than a decade, I’ve plumbed the nearly 1,300 stories, columns and analyses we’ve published on GreenBiz.com since the dawn of 2020 — a.k.a. the beforetime — accentuating the positive, seeking signs of progress and hope. We need such reminders to get us through these challenging times. Here, in no particular order, are five storylines that I found encouraging during the 12 months just ending. And, perhaps, to set us on a more bullish course for 2021. Here, in no particular order, are five storylines that I found encouraging during the 12 months just ending. (All links are to stories published on GreenBiz.com during 2020.) What would you add to the list? 1. Companies accelerated the route to sustainable mobility The rise of electric vehicles has been a perennial story for nearly a decade, but 2020 saw the pace of change accelerate. Indeed, in January, my colleague Katie Fehrenbacher predicted that 2020 would be a key year for EVs. She was right. Both the private and public sectors delivered big wins for the electrification of transportation. California’s governor signed a history-making executive order , banning sales of new gas-powered cars within 15 years. Britain upped the ante , with a similar ban but within a decade, helped by McDonald’s plan to install EV chargers at its UK drive-thru restaurants. On the supply side, General Motors and Volkswagen planned major EV rollouts. Ultimately, how fast these markets rev up depends on demand from fleet buyers. Amazon continued its aggressive EV buying plans , as did both Walmart and IKEA . One reason for all this: Batteries continue their journey down the price-experience curve, where increased demand lowers prices, further pumping up demand. New technologies are helping, many still in early stages . Some are specifically geared toward truck and bus fleets , an indication that the markets for medium- and heavy-duty EVs are about to kick into high gear . 2. Sustainable fashion became material Fashion is another long-simmering environmental story that has finally reached a boiling point. The issues are many, from the resources needed to grow cotton or produce synthetic fabrics, usually from petroleum feedstocks, to the waste that ends up in landfills, especially for inexpensive and trendy clothing items that often have a short useful life. In 2020, several new developments help put sustainability in fashion. For example, the nonprofit Textile Exchange  launched a Material Change Index , enabling manufacturers to integrate a preferred fiber and materials strategy into their products. It also  launched a Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark to help the fashion and textile industry take action on biodiversity. Circular models made the rounds, starting with the design department, where a lot of negative environmental and social impacts are baked into garments, usually unwittingly. Adidas and H&M Group  teamed up for a project to recycle old garments and fibers into new items for major brands. German sportswear company adidas committed to using only recycled polyester across its supply chain by 2024. Markets for secondhand clothing racked up sales, including recommerce , where companies sell their own reclaimed and refurbished goods back to customers. In the wings:  startups touting a new generation of textiles, production methods and business models, suggesting there are a lot more innovations in store. 3. Forestry took root on the balance sheet Saving and planting trees has been a cornerstone of environmental action pretty much since Day One. (Hence, the often-epithetic moniker “treehugger.”) And pressing companies to eliminate deforestation in their supply chains has long been an activist focus. Now, companies themselves are seeing the business benefits of proactive forestry policies. First, there’s risk mitigation — ensuring “a company’s ability to sell products into a global supply chain,” as a BlackRock executive put it . It’s not just the climate impacts of concern to investors. Deforestation and human rights abuses often go hand-in-hand — “there’s almost a direct correlation,” said another investor — an additional layer of risk for companies from neglecting forests and those who live and work there. And then there’s the opportunity for companies to offset their emissions, since trees are a natural climate solution that can help draw down greenhouse gases, especially firms adopting net-zero commitments (see below). Microsoft , JetBlue and Royal Dutch Shell are among those seeking to offset a portion of their carbon footprint by investing in forest protection and reforestation. Finally, there are the innovators — entrepreneurs who see gold in all that green. Silicon Valley venture capitalists are beginning to branch out into forestry-related startups — companies such as SilviaTerra and Pachama that provide enabling technologies to facilitate forestry projects. These entrepreneurs likely saw opportunity in the Trillion Trees initiative launched in early 2020. Of course, success requires stopping deforestation in the first place, especially in tropical rainforests. And that remains a problem. Half of the companies most reliant on key commodities that have a negative impact on forests — palm oil, soy, beef, leather, timber, and pulp and paper — don’t have a publicly stated policy on deforestation, according to one report . Still, some firms are making progress. Mars, for example, announced that its palm oil — used in food and pet care products — is now deforestation-free after shrinking the number of mills it works with from 1,500 to a few hundred, a clear-cut sign that progress is possible. 4. Food equity showed up on the menu For all the talk about Big Ag and Big Food, there’s a growing recognition of the smaller players in the food chain, from farmers and producers to those who prepare and serve meals. And, of course, the 821 million or so humans who face food insecurity, according to the United Nations. And that stat was from 2018, long before this year’s pandemic and global recession created millions more hungry bellies. With restaurants closed and other foodservice operations curtailed, one lingering question is what the world’s largest food companies are doing to help their suppliers and other partners. “Retailers and brands are recognizing that if they don’t step in to help their producers and distributors, the links holding together those supply chains may crack in ways that aren’t easily repaired,” my colleague Elsa Wenzel reported back in June. Collecting uneaten food or unsellable produce for distribution to those in need is one activity that accelerated during the pandemic . A newish concept, “upcycled food” — goods that “use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment” — is being promoted by a nonprofit consortium called the Upcycled Food Association. Increased concern for farmers is also on the menu. Fair Trade certified crops continue to rise , ensuring a living wage for many smallholder farmers, and there’s growing interest in supporting Indigenous farmers , who have long practiced regenerative techniques. The Regenerative Organic Alliance developed a standard to support farmers who promote soil health. All this will require making capital and assistance available to growers around the world, including the data and analytics that increasingly are core to 21st-century farming. And to do this quickly, before the ravages of a changing climate create further hardships for both food producers and consumers around the world. 5. Net-zero commitments found infinite potential And finally, zero — perhaps a fitting coda to a year that boasts two of them in its name. What began just a couple years ago blossomed into a full-on movement as the number of net-zero commitments doubled in less than a year . The list of companies making such commitments cut across sectors and international borders, among them BP , Delta , Facebook , HSBC , Nestlé , Walmart , even Rolls Royce . Verizon, Indian IT services giant Infosys and British consumer goods brand Reckitt Benckiser became the first global companies to join Amazon’s Climate Pledge initiative , committing to reach “carbon neutrality” by 2040. Some went further. Microsoft said it would become “carbon negative” within a decade , with a stretch goal to remove all the carbon it has emitted since it was founded in 1975. The travel-intensive strategy firm BCG said it aspires to be “climate positive” by removing more carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere than it emits. But getting to zero — or neutral or positive or some other goal — is not without controversy. As one report noted , net-zero commitments vary widely in terms of their metrics and transparency, among other things. That is, no single standard governs the way net-zero is defined or measured, or how it should be communicated. As such, net-zero could soon be in the crosshairs of activists eager to point out corporate greenwash. Help could be on the way. In September, the Science Based Targets initiative unveiled plans to develop a global standard for corporate net-zero goals, including the role of carbon offsets, a practice whose massive expansion is itself problematic and controversial . How it gets resolved will be an enduring storyline for 2021 and beyond. There’s more Those were hardly the only 2020 storylines of note. There was a significant uptick of Wall Street interest in  environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting … a surge of attention by companies to  environmental justice … the continued rise and empowerment of  corporate sustainability professionals . Oh, and the advent of a new U.S. presidential administration that  promises to reengage with business and the global community on addressing the climate crisis. That is to say, 2020 wasn’t all about the pandemic, recession and you-know-who. If that’s not enough, here — in alphabetical order by company — are a baker’s dozen other hopeful headlines from the past 12 months: How Apple aims to lead on environment and equity Bank of America CEO: Each public company needs to reach carbon zero BP announces net-zero by 2050 ambition Delta lifts off with $1 billion pledge to become carbon neutral Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics General Mills, Danone dig deeper into regenerative agriculture with incentives, funding HSBC invests in world’s first ‘reef credit’ system IKEA will buy back used furniture in stand against ‘excessive consumption’ Microsoft is building a ‘Planetary Computer’ to protect biodiversity Morgan Stanley will measure CO2 impact of loans and investments How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop Unilever unveils climate and nature fund worth more than $1 billion Walmart drives toward zero-emission goal for its entire fleet by 2040 I invite you to  follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter,  GreenBuzz , and listen to  GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote Here, in no particular order, are five storylines that I found encouraging during the 12 months just ending. Topics Leadership Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Group

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Bamboo Compression Socks offer support via natural and recycled materials

December 22, 2020 by  
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Life is busy. Sometimes, it is so busy that it becomes difficult to take proper care of ourselves. One tool for handling long days on your feet or sitting at a computer is a trusty pair of compression socks. Now, Ostrichpillow offers the newly released Bamboo Compression Socks that are made to pamper and support your feet. Ostrichpillow has already made a name for itself as a self-care brand with carefully curated, high-quality products focused on improving sleep and offering pain relief. The latest addition to the product lineup, these compression socks aim to prevent problems like blood clots in the legs by improving circulation, even when you’re not moving. Related: These bamboo socks by Flyte are anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic Pablo Carrascal, CEO of Ostrichpillow said, “We noticed how today’s sedentary lifestyle lacks movement, especially for the legs. The recommendation is to walk about 10,000 steps a day, however, in the US that average is lower than 5,000. We spend so much time still: commuting, in front of the computer, the TV, the tablet… This negatively affects blood circulation, increasing foot and leg swelling, fatigue, and the pooling of blood. In the long term that can be a problem. We thought then of a product which could help to supply that lack of movement effortlessly.” The socks incorporate recycled and natural materials into an eco-fiber blend made up of 50% bamboo, 25% recycled polyester, 10% recycled nylon and 15% spandex. The product earned Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification, which means it is free from harmful levels of more than 100 substances known to be damaging to human health . The Ostrichpillow Bamboo Compression Socks are available in two sizes: S-M (shoe size 5-9) and L/XL (shoe size 9-14). They retail for $29.99 with two color options. Well, actually there are two color combination options, because each pair is intentionally mismatched. You can select from pairs of yellow and blue or red and olive green. Bamboo Compression Socks review The company provided a sample pair of compression socks for me to try at home. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I assumed they would be like other compression socks I’ve worn in the past. They’re not — in all the best ways. These socks feel amazing, like a giant hug of support up and down the leg. I’m fairly tactile-sensitive, so I was happy to find that the fabric felt good against my skin. While I wouldn’t describe it as soft, it certainly was less plastic-like than other compression socks I’ve put on. This is also true when crossing my ankles or otherwise rubbing the socks together. There was nothing abrasive in the contact. As for fit, the socks are much longer than I anticipated. For me (5’6” on a good day), they land a few inches above the knee. I thought that would be annoying, but the additional support throughout the knee region is welcome in alleviating the discomfort from joint issues. I appreciate that the fabric doesn’t bunch up behind the knee or crease when I bend the knee. The pressure is snug but not restrictive. This allows for easy movement without any sort of pinching. Although I didn’t hit the trails in them, I didn’t experience any slipping and never had to pull them up after putting them on for the day. I wore the socks on a fairly cold day, with outdoor temps around 36°F. They feel thick, although they are actually quite thin. I would say these bamboo compression socks are thicker than dress socks but not nearly as thick as winter wool socks. They are equivalent to or even a bit thinner than typical athletic socks. This makes them easy to wear with a variety of shoe options. Due to this thickness and coverage, I thought they would be hot. However, there is a noticeable breathable quality in the fabric, especially where the stripes are located. The construction of the socks felt durable, with a cushioned sole and reinforced heel. The toe seam is often an issue for me if it rubs, pinches or sits off-kilter. This toe bed seems very roomy, perhaps in contrast to the snug fit of the rest of the sock. This allows for plenty of wiggle room for the toes. It will be fun to see if the company offers more color options for the stripes in the future. During my conversations with the company, Carrascal had remarked, “somehow they might remind [of] the kinesiological tapes.” That resonated with me, because they really do! Personally, I think the mismatched colors add character without being overly whimsical. However, the two-tone look might not appeal to some. Because I spend much of my day sitting in front of a computer, I expect to get a lot of use out of these bamboo compression socks. They would also be great for air travel and use in jobs that require long hours on your feet. I can’t personally imagine wearing these during exercise , although I can see how they could offer support and a layer of warmth during a morning fall run. Even if you do break them in with a good sweat, bamboo is naturally antimicrobial, which should keep away foot odor. If you decide to gift the Bamboo Compression Socks to the desk jockey, road warrior or respected elder, know the company responsibly packages shipments with recyclable paper . + Ostrichpillow Images via Ostrichpillow and Dawn Hammon / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Ostrichpillow. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own .

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Bamboo Compression Socks offer support via natural and recycled materials

You can help monitor Amazon deforestation from your couch

October 2, 2020 by  
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While many people around the world worry about deforestation in the Amazon rainforest , to most of us, it’s still remote. Most people have never visited the Amazon, and many have no idea what they can do about deforestation. But a new online tracking system relies on citizen scientists to help monitor the Amazon via satellite. “You don’t have to be a climate scientist, you don’t have to be a data scientist, you just have to be a citizen that is concerned about the issue of deforestation,” said Elliot Inman, a researcher at systems analysis company SAS, as reported in Huffington Post . SAS worked with Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis to create an app that depends on humans to look at images and help train artificial intelligence to spot deforestation. Related: These AI-powered cameras can sense poachers and save wildlife World Resources Institute oversees the resulting Global Forest Watch tracking system. First, a computer algorithm scans incoming images. When it identifies a place where trees have recently disappeared, it flags that image. Human eyes are needed to help discern what might have caused those missing trees. Volunteers scan the images for signs of human impact, such as roads, farm plots or tree lines that are suspiciously straight. This human input helps train the artificial intelligence , so that eventually the system will be able to digest images more quickly on its own. The system relies on consensus from multiple users. Sometimes it’s tricky to determine whether a brown patch on an image is due to humans burning trees to clear land for agriculture versus a natural forest fire . With a bit of training, citizen scientists are better able to notice small things that the computer might miss, such as a thin line that indicates a primitive road leading to the burned clearing. Data gathered by the system will help conservation organizations and governments identify when they should intervene to protect ecosystems. In the future, Global Forest Watch may even help predict where deforestation will happen next. All you need to help is an internet connection and a little bit of free time. + Global Forest Watch Via Huffington Post Image via Sentinel Hub

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Work from home in this minimalist, modular 15-sided cabin

July 6, 2020 by  
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As the newest member of the Hello Wood cabin family, the Workstation Cabin offers the perfect tranquil retreat designed specifically to inspire creativity. Described as “the future of meeting rooms,” this unique workspace has a modern interior made of Scots pine wood and complemented by large windows. Prefabricated using state-of-the-art technology, this  modular  cabin was designed on the computer and built using a computer numerical control machine. With 15 sides, the structure looks different from every angle. Insulation  protects the compact structure’s occupants from harsh weather and helps the cabin adapt to the changing seasons. The home also features designated spaces for built-in air conditioning, electrical outlets and wifi capabilities. While the unique cabin primarily functions as an  office space , it can also transform into a meeting area, children’s playroom or even a guest room. Related: Hello Wood unveils a tiny cabin that sleeps up to 8 people While each  minimalist  cabin is delivered turn-key and includes a built-in workbench and electrical outlet, Hello Wood also offers several customizable add-ons and services. Usual features include heating and air conditioning, but customers can also choose to incorporate mood lighting, a sound system or television inside. Outside the cabin, customers can even add landscaping and a terrace. The gross floor area measures about 107 square feet with an interior area of about 86 square feet, and the total height, including legs, measures in at just under 12 feet.  Thanks to the modular  prefab  design, installation only takes a few days. Potential owners need only have about 14.2 x 11.1 x 11.8 feet of space. Even better, any module can be easily replaced if necessary, meaning if one portion gets damaged, repairs can take place without demolition work affecting the rest of the structure. The cabin achieves its low environmental footprint through its small size and low energy consumption, as well as its use of renewable materials. + Hello Wood Photography by Zsuzsa Darab

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Work from home in this minimalist, modular 15-sided cabin

MIT moves toward greener, more sustainable artificial intelligence

May 15, 2020 by  
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While current  artificial intelligence  (AI) technology holds strategic and transformative potential, it isn’t always environmentally-friendly due to high energy consumption. To the rescue are researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) , who have devised a solution that not only lowers costs but, more importantly, reduces the AI model training’s carbon footprint. Back in June 2019, the  University of Massachusetts at Amherst revealed  that the amount of  energy  utilized in AI model training equaled 626,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. How so? Contemporary AI isn’t just run on a personal laptop or simple server. Rather, deep neural networks are deployed on diverse arrays of specialized hardware platforms. The level of energy consumption required to power such AI technologies is approximately five times the lifetime  carbon emissions  from an average American car, including its manufacturing.  Related:  This AI food truck could bring fresh produce directly to you Moreover, both  Analytics Insight  and  Kepler Lounge  warned that Google’s AlphaGo Zero — the  AI  that plays the game of Go against itself to self-learn — generated a massive 96 tons of  carbon dioxide  over 40 days of research training. That amount of carbon dioxide equals 1,000 hours of air travel as well as the annual  carbon footprint  of 23 American homes! The takeaway then? Numbers like these would make AI model deployment both unfeasible and unsustainable over time. MIT’s research team has devised a groundbreaking automated AI system, termed a once-for-all (OFA) network, described in  their paper here . This AI system — the OFA network — minimizes  energy consumption  by “decoupling training and search, to reduce the cost.” The OFA network was constructed based on automatic machine learning (AutoML) advancements.  Essentially, the OFA network functions as a ‘mother’ network to numerous subnetworks. As the ‘mother’ network, it feeds its knowledge and past experiences to all the subnetworks, training them to operate independently without the need for further retraining. This is unlike previous AI technology  that had to “repeat the network design process and retrain the designed network from scratch for each case. Their total cost gr[ew] linearly … as the number of deployment scenarios increase[d], which … result[ed] in excessive energy consumption and  CO2  emission.” In other words, with the OFA network in use, there is little need for additional retraining of subnetworks. This efficiency decreases costs, curtails carbon emissions and improves  sustainability . Assistant Professor Song Han, of MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, was the project’s lead researcher. He shared that, “Searching efficient neural network architectures has until now had a huge carbon footprint. But we reduced that footprint by orders of magnitude with these new methods.” Also of particular interest was Chuang Gan, co-author of the MIT research paper, who added, “The model is really compact. I am very excited to see OFA can keep pushing the boundary of efficient deep learning on edge devices.” Being compact means AI can progress towards miniaturization. That could spell next-generation advantages in green operations that improve environmental impact. + MIT News Images via Pexels and Pixabay

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Controversial climate change-inspired skyscraper could become Czech Republics tallest building

October 18, 2019 by  
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Inspired by the apocalyptic imagery from climate change projections, sculptor David ?erný and architect Tomáš Císa? from the studio Black n´ Arch have proposed a visually striking skyscraper that’s sparked controversy with its inclusion of an enormous shipwreck-like structure. Dubbed the TOP TOWER , the project proposed for Prague rises to a height of 450 feet, which means that if built, the tower would be the tallest building in the Czech Republic. The project is led by developer Trigema who aims to create a multifunctional, LEED Gold high-rise that includes rental apartments, a public observation area and commercial uses on the lower floors. TOP TOWER has been proposed to be located near the metro station Nové Butovice on the new nearly one-kilometer-long pedestrian zone in Prague. This location is outside of the protected urban conservation zone and would be far enough away from the city center that it would not disrupt the historic city skyline. Taking advantage of its height, the building would offer a public observation area at the highest point of the building where visitors can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of Prague .  Rental housing will make up the majority of the mixed-use TOP TOWER, while offices, retail and a multifunctional cultural center will be located on the lower levels. Parking will be tucked underground. The rusty shipwreck-like sculpture integrated into the building will offer opportunities for outdoor spaces and additional landscaping. Related: Computer modeling informed the whimsical design of this experimental home “We have been preparing the TOP TOWER project for more than two years and the final version was preceded by eight other alternative solutions. During this time, we have collected and are still collecting suggestions from experts, state and local authorities, and of course the local public, whose representatives have already been and will continue to hold a number of participatory meetings,” says Marcel Soural, Chairman of the Board of Trigema a.s. Trigema estimates that the construction for TOP TOWER will begin in 2021 and take less than three years complete.  + TOP TOWER Images via Trigema

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Controversial climate change-inspired skyscraper could become Czech Republics tallest building

Deforestation and climate change combined may split Amazon in two

June 27, 2019 by  
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Deforestation is a well-documented enemy in the Amazon, but new research suggests that the climate crisis , when coupled with the destruction of trees, could mean the end of the rainforest as we know it. The Amazon contains at least ten percent of the world’s biodiversity, but the synergistic impact of a changing climate and tree clearing could destroy up to 58 percent of the trees by 2050 and effectively split the forest in two. A new study, published in Nature Climate Change , developed and applied models of different climate scenarios to over 5,000 species of trees and layered that with possible deforestation scenarios. Related: Deforestation in tropical countries linked to European diets in new study For example, their computer program modeled scenarios where current rates of carbon emissions and deforestation remain constant and discovered that between 19 and 36 percent of trees would be lost to deforestation in addition to 31 to 37 percent from climate change. As if it weren’t enough, the loss of these species will be detrimental to other plants, animals and people who live within and depend upon the ecosystem. “The impacts of deforestation are local. We can see clearly the area we are impacting,” study author Vitor Gomes. “Climate change may impact the whole area. Climate will be changing all over the forest area.” The scientists’ models also indicated that given the current rate and location of deforestation activities, the Amazon might be split in two, with human settlements between the two disconnected sides. This ecosystem fragmentation is also devastating to animals, particularly migratory birds and wide-roaming species. In addition to policies that curb emissions and limit deforestation, the researchers suggest establishing more protected areas within the forest. Protected areas have been documented to retain more biodiversity and can be effectively managed and even sustainably harvested when under the control of local and indigenous groups. Via Earther , Nature Climate Change Image via Ibama

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Deforestation and climate change combined may split Amazon in two

How to celebrate World Environment Day

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

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How to celebrate World Environment Day

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