This industrial complex has a facade made from its own construction waste

September 18, 2020 by  
Filed under Green, Recycle

Located in the North India city of Kishangarh, this innovative industrial complex for Stonex India and designed by Deli-based Urbanscape Architects revolves around sustainable construction. The building features sunken courtyards with earth-cooled floors and a stone screen facade made from the complex’s own construction waste. As the main site for Stonex India, one of the country’s top marble manufacturers and suppliers, the architecture of Stonex Kishangarh had to implement stone into its design. Additionally, the company’s respect for its surroundings and for nature, as well as its central ethos — strength and perfection — had to be put on display as well. The result certainly implements all of these concepts, especially in its inspiring stone facade . Related: Award-winning Fly-Ash chair uses recycled coal byproduct The stone screen is fabricated using a combination of leftover stone from a nearby rock quarry and actual stone wastage generated from the building site itself. The screen not only provides solar shading from the southeastern and western glares but also presents a sustainable alternative to wasting stone scraps. Throughout the rest of the complex, spaces are used thoughtfully and allow for maximum potential for green covering and horticulture landscaping. Finished in 2019, the industrial complex stands at about 215,278 square feet in size. What’s more, the orientation and design of the building itself does its part to facilitate climate responsiveness through the concept of earth berming, namely the idea of building a wall of earth around the outside of a structure to achieve passive cooling. Part of the structure is sunken into the ground, combating the hot and dry regional climate to stay cool in the warmer summer months and warm during the winter. Indoor temperatures and floor slabs are regulated with radiant cooling, which allow for 60% efficiency in the structure’s running costs, according to the architects. This model has also led to HVAC load cutting by nearly 40%. + Urbanscape Architects Images via Urbanscape Architects

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This industrial complex has a facade made from its own construction waste

Oil and plastic industry spent millions to mislead the public about plastic recycling

September 16, 2020 by  
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A new investigation by  NPR  and  PBS Frontline  reveals that for decades, executives in the oil and plastic industries invested millions of U.S. dollars into misleading the public about the recycling of plastics . As a good citizen, you sort your trash, thinking that the plastic will be recycled to reduce pollution. Unfortunately, all that effort might be in vain.  According to the information published by NPR, oil industry operators misled the public into believing that single-use plastic can be recycled. These operators managed to lobby all states into placing a recycling logo on single-use plastic products. This helped convince many members of the public that these products are recyclable when, in reality, the necessary recycling process proves impractical. Increasing plastic pollution in landfills and oceans has little to do with public responsibility. The recent investigation reveals that leading oil and plastic companies sold the public an individual responsibility narrative that they knew was unrealistic. This investigation, which dug into records dating back five decades, noted that oil and plastic industry players chose to sell this narrative despite issues being raised at the time. In a bid to discover the root of this fallacy, NPR conducted interviews with various stakeholders in the industry, including retired members of plastic and oil corporations . Larry Thomas, the former president of the Society of the Plastics Industry (currently called the Plastics Industry Association), said that they had to distract the attention of the public. “If the public thinks that recycling is working, then they are not going to be as concerned about the environment,” Thomas said in an interview with NPR.  The investigation has unearthed documents dating to the 1970s showing that industry executives knew what they were doing. Most of these documents are housed in libraries and universities across the country. For example, at Syracuse University, investigators found a pile of files from a former industry consultant. The files contain a 1973 report by scientists that explicitly told the executives that it was not viable to recycle plastic on a large scale. While some plastics are recycled, they only account for about 10% of all plastics used at home. This is because the cost of recycling single-use plastics is too high. Further, most industry members prefer making new plastics from fracking by-products, which is cheaper and offers higher quality products. + NPR Image via Pexels

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Oil and plastic industry spent millions to mislead the public about plastic recycling

Valani launches debut collection of biodegradable clothing

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

New fashion house Valani has launched its debut collection of biodegradable separates and dresses inspired by “light living.” These sustainable clothes are made from materials like classic hemp fiber, antibacterial Tencel and banana silk for wardrobe staples that are just as comfortable and eco-friendly as they are stylish. The fashion brand has designed its pieces to reflect sustainability, with soft styles that can be worn throughout the year — regardless of season. Founder Vanni Leung is driven by the interconnectedness of the planet, animals and humankind as well as the recognition that love for the planet and love for ourselves are intertwined. She is a lifelong vegan, breathwork practitioner, a believer in the mind-body balance and an ally for female empowerment. Related: Seaweed Girl explores seaweed as an eco-textile for sustainable fashion Valani uses hemp, Tencel and banana silk in its designs. Hemp makes for a soft and flowy fabric that is hypoallergenic; it is also a carbon-negative crop, uses less water in production and is naturally resistant to bacteria growth. Tencel is made from sustainably managed eucalyptus trees and produced using a closed loop method that reuses 99% of solvents and water. The banana silk is made from a byproduct of agriculture waste; discarded banana stems are harvested to make way for new tree growth and then upcycled into this sustainable silk alternative. Prices for the new collection range from $98 to $398, so adding Valani to your wardrobe will certainly be an investment. However, the clothing is built to last, and your money goes much further than just the garment. Valani offers no-cost breathwork sessions online to its customers and plants a tree for every piece of clothing purchased. The sustainable company has also pledged to donate 10% of its profits to conservation, animal welfare and female empowerment organizations. As an additional sustainability feature, Valani uses recycled materials as well as straw, hemp and jute for its packaging. Pattern designs are strategically created to minimize fabric waste, and any scraps are used for scrunchies, crafts, training purposes or as filling for toys and pillows. Some of the most notable pieces include the faux wrap Sitha Top ($148), the cropped double puff sleeved Sineth Top ($168), the mid-rise pull-on Petra Pant ($188) and the asymmetrical, one-shoulder Sokha Banana Dress ($398). Sizes run from 0 to 12. + Valani Images via Valani

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Valani launches debut collection of biodegradable clothing

Girl Scouts Camp Trivera combines STEM and sustainable architecture

September 9, 2020 by  
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Focusing on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education , with an architectural emphasis on integral sustainability, Camp Trivera is the first Girl Scouts campground of its kind. The space will serve as an educational and community center for the future female leaders of tomorrow in an outdoor setting. Inhabitat caught up with Shannon Evers, the CEO of Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma, to learn more about Camp Trivera. The facility is set to open in September 2020 in Oklahoma City. Inhabitat: This project has $12.7 million and three years of planning behind it. Can you speak a little bit about the inspiration behind it and how it came to be? Evers: Our mission: Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma is proud to lead the way within our community and for the broader network of Girl Scouts throughout the country. Camp Trivera is a space dedicated to progress as a green oasis in the heart of Oklahoma City and a site for girls to pursue STEM education. Related: Girl Scouts introduces 30 new badges with emphasis on the environment and STEM Girl Scouts have been involved since the very beginning of the design process for Camp Trivera. When municipal planning for a new turnpike prompted the closure of a previous campsite, Girl Scouts hosted girls of all ages to discuss a dilemma — part of Camp Cookieland and area homes would be destroyed to make way or Camp Cookieland could be sold to provide land for the project. After a weekend of group discussions, the Girl Scouts’ vote was unanimous to sell Camp Cookieland, and we began the process of envisioning a new camp together. Our goals were to:  • Offer a centralized location in Oklahoma City where residents of surrounding communities could come together,  • Leverage partnerships that would heighten learning opportunities for girls, • Provide a comfortable space for girls and adults that are new to experiencing the outdoors while also providing progression for everyone to learn new skills along the way, and • Influence the next generation of STEM leaders by using the property to inspire girls to learn about science, technology, engineering and math. The new camp will be located east of the Oklahoma City Zoo and Myriad Botanical Gardens in the heart of Oklahoma City’s Adventure District. Our vision has come to life at Camp Trivera, and every time I walk the site, I see the elements our girls have selected. The site features three treehouses , a sleeping porch for hammocks and a zipline spanning four city blocks, which provides unique access into the Oklahoma City Zoo. There are also outdoor campsites where girls can stargaze and dream under the night canopy. Outdoor areas encourage independence and an appreciation of nature while indoor activities teach campers by allowing them to observe nature — even though we’re technically located in a big city. Camp Trivera’s STEM focus centers on the anticipated demand for future STEM professionals. Nationally, Girl Scouts of the USA is committed to helping 2.5 million girls find their place in the pipeline for STEM careers by 2025. Sparking girls’ interest in STEM from an early age with expert guidance is key. We look forward to providing the next generation of female leaders with the tools they need to consider a STEM career. Inhabitat: How will the camp function as a green space? Evers: Camp Trivera will utilize about half of a designated 40-acre parcel near downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma’s capital. Master gardening techniques will be taught on-site, along with lessons in conservation and how to take care of the space. Outdoor camping also gives participants a chance to be independent and learn how to take care of themselves in nature. Hiking , canoeing and archery will be just some of the activities offered in addition to a zipline that stretches more than four city blocks into the Oklahoma City Zoo’s Sanctuary Asia elephant enclosure, which is located just across the camp’s lake. Varied Girl Scout programs will also teach girls about the natural environment around them, including programs around everything from astronomy and animal habitats to swimming and rock climbing. Weddings, private events and community celebrations will also take place at Trivera, with intentional green space and minimal environmental impact as part of the amenities offered. Inhabitat: What are some of the sustainability design aspects of this project? How will it limit environmental impact? Evers: The site was designed with conservation in mind, and we used it as an opportunity to teach girls about conservation. Several efforts can be found throughout the site. All outdoor lighting is Dark Sky Rated to help minimize light pollution and allow girls to see the stars. Plumbing elements help reduce water use by 30%, and a rainwater harvesting system collects water from the rooftops to feed plants surrounding the building. Related: Girl Scouts build bee hotels to help save wild bees Girl Scouts worked with an arborist during construction to determine which trees could be removed and which trees would be preserved to minimize impact on the existing landscape. Girls also added a butterfly garden to restore natural habitats that were affected by construction. We have also identified several 100- to 200-year-old trees on the property that will be tagged and protected as a learning opportunity for girls. We used windows as a design feature to maximize natural light and also allow girls to see the outside from key program spaces. We incorporated and reused historical picnic benches that were already onsite to provide gathering spaces throughout the property.  Daily operations also focus on sustainability and environmental stewardship. From recycling and encouraging reusable water bottles to teaching “leave no trace” principles and harvesting invasive plant species to feed to the elephants at the zoo, these best practices are sure to influence future generations’ outdoor habits. Curriculum lessons also include information about soil contamination, agriculture, global warming and noise pollution, in addition to other topics. Inhabitat: How important is it for you to be able to show girls real-life applications for STEM outside of classroom settings? Evers: To be competitive in the global market, over the next decade the U.S. will need an astounding 1 million more STEM professionals than it’s on track to produce. In fact, reports show that STEM occupations are growing at double the rate of other professions. At Girl Scouts, we’re committed to filling the STEM workforce pipeline by launching a multi-year initiative to engage girls in hands-on STEM programs that will inspire our future leaders. But it’s easier said than done. By the time most girls are in third grade, they’ve already formed their STEM identity and have decided if STEM is something they are good at or not. Our goal at Girl Scouts is to provide girls with unique experiences to try new things in a safe space so by the time they are in class, they already have knowledge and expertise that set them up for success and give them confidence to speak up.  STEM will be an integral part of Camp Trivera, where we will show Girl Scouts real-world applications for STEM outside the classroom . Our STEM focus goes beyond textbooks. Camp Trivera will allow us to offer after-school learning and badge-earning opportunities influenced by former Girl Scouts who are leaders in their respective fields. A NASA-certified instructor will lead designated courses in astronomy. With nearly every female astronaut having been a Girl Scout, the possibilities are endless. From space travel to medicine and more, the camp will host the next generation of female leaders following in the footsteps of Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space and a Girl Scout alumna. Programming was incorporated into the buildings’ intentional design. For example, the ceiling in our STEM lab was left exposed to show engineering principles at work through air ducts, waterlines and other building systems. A teaching kitchen demonstrates the science of cooking, along with math elements like temperature conversions, weights and measures and how cooking times affect an outcome. The practical application of these school subjects is immediately visible through cause and effect for Girl Scouts when they see how those factors impact things we use every day. Inhabitat: Why is it important to combine these more contemporary elements of STEM education with traditional outdoor activities, like camping? Evers: Early childhood and mid-level education studies consistently demonstrate the value of hands-on activities as a primary teaching tool. Working through problems in a real-world setting can help girls excel as problem-solvers. Camp Trivera offers various levels of camping, from traditional campsites to indoor sleeping rooms with domestic amenities. Girls can slowly be introduced to camping where they are most comfortable. Combining outdoor experiences with STEM also makes it more fun. For instance, our zipline, ‘The Monarch Flyway’, will zip girls across the Zoo Lake while they also learn about butterflies and the science of flight. Our rock wall also serves a dual purpose and teaches girls about geology, fossils and time. Inhabitat: Are there any other unique architectural or conceptual aspects that set this project apart from other Girl Scout camps? Evers: Camp Trivera is unlike any other Girl Scout camp in the U.S. With a STEM surprise around every corner, Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma has taken traditional camp activities and turned them into fun, STEM learning opportunities. Its unique features include a replica of the 2020 night sky permanently incorporated into its constellation-filled ceiling. A Wall of Women showcases more than 100 outstanding local and national female STEM leaders, a pully system in the stairway teaches girls about simple machines, and a technology and art installation in the bathrooms teaches guests about conservation. The camp’s sleeping options are varied too. Girls will have the ability to sleep in a treehouse, hammock or quadruple bunk-bed. Even seemingly small details are significant and part of the site’s intentional design. Floor-to-ceiling windows bring the outdoors inside as much as possible, and the varied colors of the brick used on our walls plus an indoor rock wall represent the earth’s strata and the varied geology found in nature. Camp Trivera is a legacy project that will serve generations of Girl Scouts from across the country, the communities they represent and our own community in Oklahoma City. + Camp Trivera Images via Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma

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Girl Scouts Camp Trivera combines STEM and sustainable architecture

Palau is pioneering a new model of sustainable tourism

September 4, 2020 by  
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In partnership with Sustainable Travel International and Slow Food , the Palau Bureau of Tourism has launched a new project aimed at mitigating its tourism-based carbon footprint. The project’s long-term goal is to establish the island country as the world’s first official carbon-neutral tourism destination. With a focus on specific approaches to sustainable tourism , such as promoting local food production and developing a transparent carbon management plan, the project is sure to serve as an inspiration to other countries. Palau is a Pacific Island nation that is world-renowned for its natural beauty and considered one of the top marine tourism destinations in the world. The archipelago is made up of about 200 natural limestone and lush volcanic islands surrounded by crystal-clear lagoons. Unsurprisingly, scuba diving and snorkeling are some of the most popular tourist activities in Palau, thanks to the pristine coral reefs and an abundance of sea creatures. Jellyfish Lake, part of the island chain’s famous Rock Islands and connected to the ocean through a series of tunnels, is home to millions of jellyfish that migrate across the lake every day. The therapeutic clay of the “Milky Way” lagoon is said to contain age-rejuvenating components that attract locals and tourists alike. Related: 7 sustainable travel experiences to have this summer as an ecotourist In 2019, there were over 89,000 international tourists who visited the islands. This is considerable, seeing as the small country only has a population of just under 22,000. With such massive visitor numbers compared to permanent residents, the tourism industry is the main source of economic income and employment on the islands by far. “If the current COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it’s that we must strengthen our nation’s resilience to external threats — the greatest of which is climate change ,” said Kevin Mesebeluu, director of the Palau Bureau of Tourism. “Palau is blessed with some of the world’s most pristine natural resources, inherited through culture and tradition, and placed in our trust for the future generation. We must work to actively protect them, while also investing in our people. Palau embraces sustainable tourism as the only path forward in the new era of travel, and we believe that our destination can and must be carbon neutral.” Palau’s precious marine resources, small size and dependence on tourism make it extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The dangers of rising sea temperatures threaten the country’s marine ecosystems, coastal communities and important tourism industry. As is the unfortunate case with many vulnerable travel destinations, the large-scale tourist industry — despite providing the main source of livelihood for its residents — is also responsible for a portion of its carbon emissions and threats to local heritage sites. The remote island nation has relied heavily on imported food from overseas as well as carbon-heavy airline travel and activities in the past, habits that the new sustainable travel project plans to address. Palau has since taken extensive measures to protect its environment and promote responsible tourism. Once such a measure, deemed the “Palau Pledge,” became the world’s first mandatory visitor eco-pledge. Upon entry, all tourists are required to sign a pledge promising to act in an environmentally conscious and overall sustainable manner during their travels in order to protect the islands for future generations to come. Tourists risk a fine if they’re found engaging in activities like collecting marine life souvenirs, feeding fish or sharks , touching or stepping on coral, littering and disrespecting local culture. The program also bans tour operators from using single-use plastics and implements the world’s strictest national reef-safe sunscreen standard . Initiatives that increase local food sourcing reduce the country’s carbon footprint and set the destination up for food security success in the event of natural or economic disasters. This section of the project is imperative to showcasing the islands’ culinary heritage and building up the local income opportunities of Palau fishers and farmers. Even better, the program will put a specific emphasis on sustainable agricultural products and female-owned businesses. “The rapid growth of an unsustainable tourist industry based on broken food systems has been a key driver of the climate crisis and ecosystem destruction,” said Paolo di Croce, general secretary of Slow Food International. “This project represents the antithesis, a solution that strives to strengthen and restore value to local food systems, reduce the cultural and environmental damage caused by food imports, and improve the livelihoods of food producers both in Palau and beyond.” Becoming carbon-conscious doesn’t end with reducing carbon emissions; the tourism industry as it is will always have unavoidable carbon emissions from things like transportation and outdoor activities. To compensate, Palau has implemented an online carbon management platform for its visitors. The program will allow tourists to calculate a personal carbon footprint associated with their trip and provide offsetting opportunities that are in line with the country’s marine conservation and environmental restoration goals. Sustainable Travel International estimates that the platform has the potential to raise over $1 million per year for carbon-reducing initiatives. “This project has enormous potential to transform the traditional tourism model and is a notable step toward lessening the industry’s climate impact,” said Paloma Zapata, CEO of Sustainable Travel International. “Destinations around the world face these same challenges of balancing tourism growth with environmental protection. Carbon neutrality is the future of tourism and the direction that all destinations must head as they recover from COVID-19. We commend Palau for their continued leadership, and hope this inspires other destinations to strengthen their own climate resilience strategies.” + Sustainable Travel International Images via Sustainable Travel International

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Palau is pioneering a new model of sustainable tourism

Gardenhouse in Beverly Hills boasts one of the nations largest green walls

September 4, 2020 by  
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International architectural practice MAD Architects has completed the Gardenhouse, a mixed-use development in Beverly Hills that is the firm’s first project in the U.S. and hosts one of the largest living green walls in the country. Designed to mimic the neighborhood’s lush and hilly landscape, Gardenhouse combines ground-floor commercial space with 18 above-ground residential units that appear to “grow” out of the building’s living green wall. Inspired by a “hillside village,” the residential units appear as a cluster of white gabled structures of varying sizes for an eye-catching and playful look. Located at 8600 Wilshire Boulevard on a prominent corner lot, the 48,000-square-foot Gardenhouse immediately draws the eye with its massive, two-story green wall covered in lush plantings of native , drought-tolerant succulents and vines selected for minimal maintenance and irrigation. True to the design’s image of a “hillside village,” the building offers a variety of housing typologies including two studios, eight condominiums, three townhouses and five villas. Each unit is defined by a pitched-roof volume and comes with an independent entry and exit circulation route as well as access to underground parking. Related: MAD brings a surreal sports campus that mimics a green, martian landscape to China At the heart of the cluster of white gabled “houses” is a private, second-floor landscaped courtyard that the architects have dubbed a surprising “secret garden” in an urban environment. Each home is also equipped with a balcony for overlooking the shared courtyard.  “ Los Angeles and Beverly Hills are highly modernized and developed,” said Ma Yansong, founder of MAD Architects. “Their residences on the hills seemingly coexist with the urban environment. However, they also see enclosed movement at their core. The commune connection between the urban environment and nature is isolated. What new perspectives, and new value, can we bring to Los Angeles? Perhaps, we can create a hill in the urban context, so people can live on it and make it a village. This place will be half urban, half nature. This can offer an interesting response to Beverly Hills: a neighborhood which is often carefully organized and maintained, now with a witty, playful new resident.” + MAD Architects Photography by Nic Lehoux and Darren Bradley via MAD Architects

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Gardenhouse in Beverly Hills boasts one of the nations largest green walls

Sustainability leaders must celebrate the work of female mayors on racial equity

August 17, 2020 by  
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Sustainability leaders must celebrate the work of female mayors on racial equity Kimberly Lewis Mon, 08/17/2020 – 01:00 Sustainability leaders are architects, designers, city planners, engineers, scientists, energy experts, lawyers, nonprofit leaders and business owners. The United Nations defines “sustainability” as meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs of the next generation to meet their own needs. In practice, much of our work centers around developing global climate change solutions to save the planet. The Black Lives Matter movement has cast a bright light on what we’ve all known for a long time: We cannot do this work effectively without fighting against white supremacy and putting racial justice at the center of sustainability.  Sustainability also relies on local government. Despite the pain and heartbreak across the country, we have seen leaders — especially female mayors and local officials such as mayors Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, Vi Lyles of Charlotte, North Carolina, Libby Schaaf of Oakland, California and Jenny Durkan of Seattle — working in their communities to create powerful dialogues and meaningful policy action. In June, Ferguson, Missouri elected its first Black mayor, Ella Jones.  As sustainability leaders, we must partner with these mayors to implement an anti-racist future. Whether it be renaming Black Lives Matter Plaza on 16th Street NW in Washington, D.C., or urging protestors and police to congregate peacefully, these leaders are working hard to take action on systemic racism. Sustainability must put people at the center. But what does this actually mean? As Bowser stated in a recent interview , her actions on 16th Street were to “send a unifying and affirming message about what this time and the reaction to the killing of George Floyd means in our country.” The image of Bowser next to the late Congressman John Lewis is a powerful testament to change, progress and hope.  Like these other mayors, Bowser has pushed for a green and sustainable vision for her city . In 2019, Lance Bottoms and Lyles testified before Congress on Atlanta’s and Charlotte’s steps to create a more climate resilient city. Lightfoot , Schaff and Durkan also fight for sustainability in their cities daily. From the carbon footprint of city buildings and housing to energy policy, mayors are on the front lines of sustainability. These leaders — many of whom are Black women — are standing up and also listening, and doing all they can to create a brighter future. Yes, reforming policing is first and foremost right now. But the larger discussions about dismantling systemic racism are about how we will invest in people and communities. Sustainability is part of that necessary community investment. Equal access to clean air, clean water, clean energy, green space and a healthy built environment is the heart of sustainability. Yet, environmental racism is real. A recent literature review published in the Journal of American Medical Association found a statistically significant correlation between low birth rate and miscarriage in Black communities with higher temperatures from global warming and climate. Environmental justice leaders have shown time and time again the disproportionate impact of citing toxic manufacturing plants and landfill in Black, Indigeneous and people of color communities along with the devastating impacts to public health. Putting racial justice at the center of our conversations on climate solutions and design is essential.  Sustainability is often stated as rethinking profit, people and planet. Sustainability must put people at the center. But what does this actually mean? Designers must think about the impact of design, not just the intent. We must not only ask for feedback from communities where we work, but we need to take the feedback and change design based on their needs. Using design thinking, we must separate our intent from our impact. We also must create opportunities for BIPOC individuals to provide input and solutions for sustainability. That means investing in people — specifically, creating job opportunities for BIPOC leaders in creating solutions for a healthier, greener planet. We can’t safeguard the planet if we can’t protect, respect and support each other. It starts with equality, and it leads to the health and resilience of people and the planet. The bold leadership of these women mayors is inspiring. It’s time for the sustainability community to honor their bravery with bold, inclusive action to create a greener and more equitable planet.  Editor’s Note: The authors are past national winners of the Women in Sustainability Leadership Award . Their view is that the role of these local female civic leaders in sustainability and racial equity has been overlooked and that the sustainability community should embrace their efforts. Kimberly Lewis is writing in her personal capacity. Pull Quote Sustainability must put people at the center. But what does this actually mean? Contributors Heather White Topics Social Justice Cities Corporate Strategy Racial Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Protesters looking at the new mural on 16th Street at newly dedicated Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C., on June 5, 2020. 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Sustainability leaders must celebrate the work of female mayors on racial equity

New local campaigns can bring cheaper and cleaner rooftop solar to communities of color

August 6, 2020 by  
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New local campaigns can bring cheaper and cleaner rooftop solar to communities of color Lacey Shaver Thu, 08/06/2020 – 00:20 There is a new urgency across the United States to address structural and systemic racial inequities in criminal justice , wealth and housing , employment , health care and education . These disparities are also pervasive in energy. One common measure of this is “energy burden,” or the share of take-home income spent on energy bills. Communities of color have been shown to have a 24–27 percent higher energy burden than White Americans when controlling across income levels, and low-income residents experience an energy burden up to three times higher than high-income residents. Rooftop solar has the potential to reduce energy burden in communities of color, but it has not yet lived up to its potential due to systemic barriers: lack of solar education and outreach; financial challenges such as lower income and access to credit; and issues related to home ownership, such as lower ownership rates or roof condition. Rooftop solar has the potential to reduce energy burden in communities of color, but it has not yet lived up to its potential due to systemic barriers. Local governments can play a pivotal role in expanding access to solar for these communities by developing programs that address these systemic barriers and helping to bring the benefits of clean energy to the communities that need them the most. One useful program that local governments can consider is a “Solarize,” or community bulk-purchasing, campaign, which has been shown to reduce solar costs and address marketing and outreach barriers to solar. Cities can take these programs to a new level by partnering with community groups to focus outreach in communities of color and collaborating with financial institutions to develop solutions for low-and moderate-income (LMI) residents. Solar can help relieve energy burden, but has not yet reached communities of color With a simple payback of less than the 25-year life of solar photovoltaics in all 50 states and less than half that time in most states, rooftop solar has reduced energy costs for residents throughout the country. However, these cost savings have mostly benefited White residents. A 2019 report indicated that in census tracks with the same median household income, Black- and Hispanic-majority neighborhoods have 69 percent and 30 percent less rooftop solar installed, respectively, than neighborhoods without a racial majority (versus 21 percent more solar in majority White communities). This is not just because of differences in homeownership. When controlling for ownership, majority Black and Hispanic communities still had 61 percent less and 45 percent less solar installed, respectively, than neighborhoods with no racial majority (versus 37 percent more in majority White neighborhoods). As a result, nearly half of Black majority communities in the United States do not have a single solar system installed. One thing is fairly certain: It is not because communities of color don’t care about reducing their environmental footprint. Recent polls have indicated that Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely, at 57 percent and 69 percent, respectively, to be concerned or alarmed about climate change than White Americans, at 49 percent. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. These frontline communities are disproportionately exposed to higher rates of pollution and climate change impacts from a long history of systemic inequities. Marketing and education through ‘Solarize’ campaigns Solar marketing and education provide essential exposure to the many benefits of solar and are necessary for increased and persistent solar adoption in any community. Unfortunately, this outreach and local solar education have not reached all communities equally. Marketing may not be reaching communities of color as effectively due to the solar industry’s focus on profitable and affluent areas, as well as its lack of diversity at the decision-making level. With nearly 70 percent of small-scale solar concentrated in just five of the most profitable states, most of which offer solar incentives and are highly affluent , large swaths of the country and communities of color have been left out of the solar industry’s marketing. Marketing may not be reaching communities of color as effectively due to the solar industry’s focus on profitable and affluent areas, as well as its lack of diversity at the decision-making level. Furthermore, the lack of persons of color represented in solar companies — almost 90 percent of solar senior executives are White and only 2 percent Black and 6 percent Hispanic —  likely affects which communities are predominantly targeted through marketing campaigns and the effectiveness of those campaigns. The significant lack of solar in communities of color also has resulted in a lack of general knowledge of how to access and benefit from solar. These communities have not fully benefited from the ” solar contagion effect ,” in which residents who see solar being installed in their neighborhood are more likely to install their own solar systems. This is no surprise considering residents are significantly more trusting of their neighbor’s opinions of solar than information communicated by the solar industry. In fact, SolarCity released a report indicating one-third of solar customers were referred by a neighbor and another study suggests that the presence of two to three solar installations in a neighborhood results in one additional installation. Notably, this contagion effect has been shown to be highest in communities of color but has not yet realized its full potential. Community purchasing campaigns can help fill this void if they focus outreach to specific underserved communities. Long the target of scams and predatory lending , communities of color may be more skeptical of solar product offerings that sound too good to be true. Community purchasing campaigns can help fill this void if they focus outreach to specific underserved communities. However, partnering with a trusted local community organization that understands the community dynamics can build trust and enable solar education to come through community leaders, newsletters and events. These sources have shown to be most effective for increasing solar uptake in low-income and communities of color . For communities with minimal solar exposure (again, nearly 50 percent of Black communities have zero solar), these campaigns provide the essential education to drive community-wide solar adoption. Bringing down solar costs and — in some cases — reducing credit barriers The top barrier to installing residential solar is typically financial, regardless of income or race. Solarize campaigns have shown to help lessen these financial barriers by reducing solar costs by about 20 percent . These cost savings result from removing solar company costs for customer marketing and using economies of scale. The cost and time savings with this simplified process can be even more prevalent in jurisdictions that streamline solar permitting given the high volume of installations that come with Solarize campaigns. While this discount has been shown to be a leading factor to participate in Solarize campaigns at every income level, these savings alone do not solve the compounding issues of overall cost and creditworthiness facing communities of color. First, Black and Hispanic families have significantly lower median household incomes, 41 percent and 27 percent lower than White families, and therefore additional incentives beyond Solarize may be necessary to enable participation. Second, they are more likely to have lower credit scores that can result in challenges in obtaining a loan to pay the upfront cost ($16,500 for the typical 5 kW system) or meeting the credit requirements for a solar power purchase agreement or lease . This situation can lead to higher interest rates and make solar less economic or uneconomic for these community members. To make Solarize campaigns work for LMI residents, cities can develop partnerships with local green lending institutions (a Green Bank, community development financial institution or local credit union) to address cost and credit barriers. Connecticut’s version of Solarize, the Solar for All Campaign , offers a great example of using a financial partnership to expand the reach of a typical Solarize campaign to LMI residents. To make Solarize campaigns work for LMI residents, cities can develop partnerships with local green lending institutions to address cost and credit barriers. After realizing that business as usual wasn’t spurring solar uptake in low-income communities, the Connecticut Green Bank created new incentives specifically for LMI residents, paired solar with energy efficiency upgrades, instituted “no money down, no credit required” Solarize offerings and recruited contractors with experience reaching underserved markets. In three years, this multifaceted approach increased solar penetration in Connecticut’s low-income communities by 188 percent, and helped over 900 low-income households go solar. Pairing Solarize with community solar to bring solar to renters Lack of home ownership is a major barrier to solar in communities of color due to a long history of discriminatory housing policies. Black and Hispanic households are less likely to own their homes, at 43 percent and 46 percent, respectively, versus 72 percent of White households . With a higher percentage of renters, it is much more difficult for communities of color to access residential solar due to a split incentive between the landlord, who typically decides whether to pursue capital improvements, and the renter, who pay the utility bills. Further, for people of color that do own their home, many live in older homes that need significant roof or structural repairs to support a solar system. One successful way that cities are expanding solar access to renters is through community solar projects, which enable participants to subscribe to a local clean energy project and receive the associated credits on their electricity bill. Combining marketing and outreach on parallel Solarize campaigns and community solar projects can leverage limited local government resources and more effectively reach both renters and homeowners. This has been an effective strategy for NY-Sun’s community solar Solarize option and Denver’s parallel Solarize and community solar campaigns . Take action today to implement a Solarize campaign The American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator , co-led by Rocky Mountain Institute and World Resources Institute, is launching a residential solar cohort this summer to help local governments implement Solarize campaigns and accelerate residential solar adoption in their community, with a particular focus on historically marginalized communities. If your local government is interested in learning how a community purchasing campaign can help expand solar access in your community, please reach out to Ryan Shea at rshea@rmi.org to learn more. Pull Quote Rooftop solar has the potential to reduce energy burden in communities of color, but it has not yet lived up to its potential due to systemic barriers. Marketing may not be reaching communities of color as effectively due to the solar industry’s focus on profitable and affluent areas, as well as its lack of diversity at the decision-making level. Community purchasing campaigns can help fill this void if they focus outreach to specific underserved communities. To make Solarize campaigns work for LMI residents, cities can develop partnerships with local green lending institutions to address cost and credit barriers. Contributors Ryan Shea Topics Energy & Climate Cities Finance & Investing Social Justice Solar Community Energy Equity & Inclusion Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute RMI Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off NREL researchers work on a photovoltaic dual-use research project at the UMass Crop Animal Research and Education Center in South Deerfield, MA. Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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New local campaigns can bring cheaper and cleaner rooftop solar to communities of color

The digital divide worsens the inequitable impacts of the climate crisis

August 3, 2020 by  
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The digital divide worsens the inequitable impacts of the climate crisis Maddie Stone Mon, 08/03/2020 – 01:00 This story originally appeared in Grist and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story. One of the starkest inequalities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic is the difference between the digital haves and have-nots. Those with a fast internet connection are more able to work and learn remotely, stay in touch with loved ones and access critical services such as telemedicine. For the millions of Americans who live in an internet dead zone , fully participating in society in the age of social distancing has become difficult, if not impossible. But if the pandemic has laid bare America’s so-called “digital divide,” climate change will only worsen the inequality that stems from it. As the weather grows more extreme and unpredictable, wealthy urban communities with faster, more reliable internet access will have an easier time responding to and recovering from disasters, while rural and low-income Americans — already especially vulnerable to the impacts of a warming climate — could be left in the dark. Unless, that is, we can bring everyone’s internet up to speed, which is what Democratic lawmakers on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis are hoping to do. Buried in a sweeping, 538-page climate change plan the committee released last month is a call to expand and modernize the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure in order to prepare it, and vulnerable communities around the country, for future extreme weather events and climate disruptions. The plan calls for increasing broadband internet access nationwide with the goal of getting everyone connected, updating the country’s 911 emergency call systems and ensuring cellular communications providers are able to keep their networks up and running amid hurricane-force winds and raging wildfires. This plan isn’t the first to point out that America’s internet infrastructure is in dire need of an upgrade , but it is unusual to see lawmakers frame better internet access as an important step toward building climate resilience. While the internet is often described as a great equalizer, access to the web never has been equal.   To Jim Kessler , executive vice president for policy at the moderate public policy think tank Third Way, this framing makes perfect sense. “You’ve got to build resilience into communities but also people,” Kessler said. “And you can’t do this without people having broadband and being connected digitally.” While the internet is often described as a great equalizer , access to the web never has been equal. High-income people have faster internet access than low-income people, urban residents are more connected than rural ones, and whiter counties are more likely to have broadband than counties with more Black and Brown residents. We’re not just talking about a few digital stragglers being left behind: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that more than 18 million Americans lack access to fast broadband, which the agency defines as a 25 megabits per second download speed and 3 megabits per second upload speed. Monica Anderson , who studies the digital divide at Pew Research Center, says that many more Americans have broadband access in their area but don’t subscribe because it’s too expensive. “What we see time and again is the cost is prohibitive,” Anderson said. A lack of broadband reduces opportunities for people in the best of times, but it can be crippling in wake of a disaster, making it difficult or impossible to apply for aid or access recovery resources. Puerto Ricans experienced this in the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria, which battered the island’s telecommunications infrastructure and left many residents with terminally slow broadband more than a year after the storm had passed. Three years later, with a global pandemic moving vast swaths of the economy online for the foreseeable future, internet-impoverished communities around the country are feeling a similar strain . To some extent, mobile networks have helped bridge the broadband gap in recent years. More than 80 percent of Americans own a smartphone, with similar rates of ownership among Black, white and Hispanic Americans. Nearly 40 percent of Americans access the internet primarily from a phone. As far as disaster resilience goes, this surge in mobile adoption is good news: Our phones allow us to receive emergency alerts and evacuation orders quickly, and first responders rely on them to coordinate on the fly. Of the 240 million 911 calls made every year, more than 80 percent come from a wireless device, per the FCC . But in the age of climate change, mobile networks are becoming more vulnerable. The cell towers, cables and antennas underpinning them weren’t always built to withstand worsening fires and storms, a vulnerability that Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T have all acknowledged in recent climate change disclosures filed with the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project). And when these networks go down — as nearly 500 cell towers did during California’s Camp and Woolsey fires in 2018, according to the new House climate change plan — it can create huge challenges for emergency response. “Everything from search-and-rescue efforts to sending out warnings to getting people directions to shelters is facilitated through various telecommunications and internet,” said Samantha Montano , an assistant professor of emergency management at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. “We’re pretty reliant on them.” Democrats’ new climate plan seeks to address many problems created by unequal and unreliable internet access in order to build a more climate-hardy web and society. To help bring about universal broadband access, the plan recommends boosting investment in FCC programs such as the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund , a $20 billion fund earmarked for broadband infrastructure deployments across rural America. It also calls for increased investment in programs such as the FCC’s Lifeline , which offers government-subsidized broadband to low-income Americans, and it recommends mandating that internet service providers suspend service shutoffs for 60 days in the wake of declared emergencies. Broadband improvements should be prioritized in underserved communities “experiencing or are likely to experience disproportionate environmental and climate change impacts,” per the plan. As far as mobile networks go, House Democrats recommend that Congress authorize states to set disaster resilience requirements for wireless providers as part of their terms of service. They also recommend boosting federal investments in Next Generation 911 , a long-running effort to modernize America’s 911 emergency call systems and connect thousands of individually operating systems. Finally, the plan calls for the FCC to work with wireless providers to ensure their networks don’t go offline during disasters for reasons unrelated to equipment failure, citing Verizon’s infamous throttling of data to California firefighters as they were fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire in 2018. Kessler of Third Way said that Democrats’ climate plan lays out “the right ideas” for bridging the digital divide. “You want to be able to get the technology out there, the infrastructure out there, and you need to make sure people can pay for it,” he said. The call for hardening our internet infrastructure is especially salient to Paul Barford , a computer scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 2018, Barford and two colleagues published a study highlighting the vulnerability of America’s fiber cables to sea level rise, and he’s investigating how wildfires threaten mobile networks. In both cases, he says, it’s clear that the telecommunications infrastructure deployed today was designed with historical extreme conditions in mind — and that has to change. “We’re living in a world of climate change,” he said. “And if the intention is to make this new infrastructure that will serve the population for many years to come, then it is simply not feasible to deploy it without considering the potential effects of climate change, which include, of course, rising seas, severe weather, floods and wildfires.” Everything from search-and-rescue efforts to sending out warnings to getting people directions to shelters is facilitated through various telecommunications and internet.   Whether the House climate plan’s recommendations become law remains to be seen. Many specific ideas in the plan already have been introduced to Congress in various bills, including the LIFT America Act , which would infuse Next Generation 911 with an extra $12 billion in funding, and the WIRED Act , which would authorize states to regulate wireless companies’ infrastructure. Perhaps most significantly, House Democrats recently passed an infrastructure bill that would invest $80 billion in broadband deployment around the country overseen by a new Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth. The bill would mandate a minimum speed standard of 100/100 megabits per second for federally funded internet projects, a speed stipulation that can be met only with high-speed fiber optics, says Ernesto Omar Falcon , a senior legal counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties nonprofit. Currently, Falcon estimates that about a third of Americans have access to this advanced internet infrastructure, with a larger swath of the country accessing the web via older, slower, DSL copper or cable lines. “It would connect anyone who doesn’t have internet to a 21st century line,” Falcon said. “That’s a huge deal.” The infrastructure bill seems unlikely to move forward in a Republican-controlled Senate. But the urgency of getting everyone a fast, resilient internet connection isn’t going anywhere. In fact, the idea that internet access is a basic right seems to be gaining traction every day, even making an appearance last week in presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s new infrastructure plan . With the pandemic continuing to transform how we work, live and interact with one another, and with climate change necessitating even larger transformations in the future, our need to be connected digitally is only becoming greater. “I think every day the pressure mounts, because the problem is not going away,” Falcon said. “It’s really going to come down to what we want the recovery to look like. And which of the problems COVID-19 has presented us with do we want to solve.” Pull Quote While the internet is often described as a great equalizer, access to the web never has been equal. Everything from search-and-rescue efforts to sending out warnings to getting people directions to shelters is facilitated through various telecommunications and internet. Topics Climate Change Policy & Politics Social Justice Technology Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Worker on the site of an ecological disaster.

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The digital divide worsens the inequitable impacts of the climate crisis

Rehabilitation Center of China is topped with a healing roof garden

July 21, 2020 by  
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Stefano Boeri Architetti’s Chinese office has won an international competition with its design for the Rehabilitation Center of China, a facility that is expected to be the largest and most innovative of its kind in the country. Located in Shenzhen’s Longhua district, the center will serve people with disabilities ages 16 to 60. Designed as a visual extension of the adjacent urban park, the building will be topped with landscaped terraces, including a therapeutic roof garden with native plant species as well as aromatic herbs and healing plants.  Slated for construction over the next three years, the Rehabilitation Center is a pilot project for China in exploring social inclusion and cohesion for people who have disabilities. The building will encompass a wide range of functions including rehabilitation, training, recreation, the arts, accommodation, education, office spaces and a museum. The facility will also host a sports center for competitions, individual and team training and a system of training courses aimed at rehabilitating various disabilities through physical, sensory, mental and other exercises. Related: NBBJ to design Tencent’s futuristic “Net City” in Shenzhen “Our project opens up a new perspective on the architecture of large rehabilitation centres,” Stefano Boeri said. “This is firstly because it perceives the concept of motor and/or cognitive disability not as an example of fragility suffered by a minority of people but as a condition that is common to us all, even if only during one phase of our life. Secondly, it offers an idea of total accessibility to spaces and rehabilitation services and thirdly because in recognizing the extraordinary therapeutic quality of greenery and nature, it offers an astonishing amount of accessible green and open spaces dedicated to all different styles of rehabilitation.” The building’s terraced design combined with its accessible, landscaped roofs will give it the appearance of small green mountain. In addition to the integration of accessible green spaces throughout, the eco-friendly building will feature advanced renewable energy production systems and rainwater collection.  + Stefano Boeri Architetti Images via Stefano Boeri Architetti

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