Kiribati Floating Houses address rising waters and land limitations

March 25, 2021 by  
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Architectural design takes all forms, with a focus from the ground up. But UOOU, an Amsterdam- and London-based design practice, came up with an architectural proposal that doesn’t consider the ground at all. Instead, the team focused on creating a housing solution for a group of atolls floating in the South Pacific Ocean, somewhere between Hawaii and Australia. Gianluca Santosuosso and Eri Pontikopoulou, with consultation from Matthias Kimmel, came up with the sustainable urban planning concept, which addresses the need for controlled growth over time. The area is known as the Republic of Kiribati. The problem is rising waters and limited landmass; the solution is floating structures. Related: Sneci houseboat leaves no footprint while floating on Lake Tisza The overall blueprint for the community resembles a tree, with the town center being the trunk while the housing units make up the branches. These units are focused on not only providing shelter but communing with the surrounding elements of nature. The designers kept the division between outdoors and inside thin, with openings to enjoy sunlight, the sky and the view of the Pacific Ocean from inside. Locally sourced, natural materials , particularly wood, are used to honor the culture and the oceanscape. In the center of each housing pod group is a versatile, open-air space for meeting the needs of the community. The land on an otherwise floating structure can house gardens, animals or pools for fish farming. The area offers protection from the corrosive effects of the surrounding waters while providing the opportunity to grow food and raise animals that are essential to the residents. The primary source of electricity comes from photovoltaic panels placed on slanted roofs of the homes. In addition to harvesting energy from the sun, the tilted roofs act as a source of rainwater collection. The water runs through enclosed pipes for maximum collection efficiency and is then stored in tanks below the homes. Although the floating houses would be connected to a larger community, the solar and water systems allow them to be more self-sufficient and even contribute to the neighbors as needed.  The Kiribati Floating Houses concept is presented by UOOU Studio, which said, “Our work focuses on architecture that connects man-made environments with nature, putting eco- and human-oriented design at the core of our mission.” + UOOU Studio Images via UOOU Studio

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Kiribati Floating Houses address rising waters and land limitations

Diversity, equity and inclusion: Incremental reform or systemic change?

March 23, 2021 by  
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Diversity, equity and inclusion: Incremental reform or systemic change? Terry F. Yosie Tue, 03/23/2021 – 01:11 Unresolved debates about the past frame choices about who owns the future. America has arrived, once again, at another momentous inflection point to try and resolve some of the most contentious issues the nation has faced and largely failed to resolve — the narrative of American history and culture, the persistence of systemic racism, and continuing debates over women’s empowerment, personal freedom and sexual orientation. The ability to reconcile these significant challenges into a workable and equitable societal consensus will require many additional decades, but many institutions and individuals are implementing partial solutions. Among the most prominent are initiatives to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. Diversity is expressed through a variety of identities such as age, race, religion, sexual orientation and disability. Equity aims to provide everyone with access to opportunities and recognizes that advantages and barriers exist, while making commitments to address this imbalance. Inclusion results in individuals (and groups) with different identities feeling respected, accepted and valued. For many organizations, a direct DEI connection to their mission has not been made by leadership whose inattentiveness or nonreceptivity cascades downwards into the culture. In recent years, DEI has emerged as a distinctive field in governance and public policy that provides a key set of performance measures for economic and social progress. While originally separate from environmental sustainability, they now share common values to applying human capital towards resolving society’s most vexing inter-generational challenges, including access to health care, educational opportunities, and protection from toxic exposures and climate change. Evaluating DEI practices and performance Author Pamela Newkirk, in her comprehensive analysis “Diversity, Inc.,” has identified a core set of best practices within and beyond the workplace. They include: expanding recruitment through international outreach; identifying and removing hiring and promotion barriers; strengthening professional development opportunities; providing fair and equitable compensation; building an inclusive climate and culture; and applying business practices and accountability. Many companies already have grasped the significance of integrating DEI within their business strategies, governance, employee relations, operations, customer relations and engagement with external stakeholders. The range of their programs and initiatives vary considerably, a reflection of their market sectors but also of variable leadership commitments and inconsistent performance metrics. Leaders (as measured by Forbes and other surveys) currently include BlackRock, Duke University, HP, L’Oreal, Novartis, SAP and a variety of banking and healthcare companies. Even more striking than examples of corporate DEI leadership is information from lagging and failing companies and business sectors. The Wall Street Journal reviewed more than 160 annual reports filed by S&P companies for 2020. Only a third provided diversity disclosures. More specifically, GE reported that approximately 76 percent of its U.S. workforce was white as was 81 percent of its leadership. PwC declared that 60 percent of its employees were white. Sectors that are particular DEI laggards include academia, environmental organizations, fashion, journalism, museums, professional football and technology companies. Why has so little progress been achieved despite decades of implementing civil rights legislation, philanthropic activities, and more than $20 billion spent each year on DEI programs, conferences, consultants, surveys and training sessions? For many organizations, a direct DEI connection to their mission has not been made by leadership whose inattentiveness or nonreceptivity cascades downwards into the culture. Workforce composition may be insufficiently diverse to respond to DEI dynamics, thus limiting bottom-up pressures upon management (in contrast to much stronger employee engagement in environmental sustainability). Across many institutions, the motivation for maintaining even modest DEI activities stems from a desire to avoid legal risk from potential discrimination cases, or to communicate that “we care” about the issue. Beyond the issue of leaders and laggards remains the question of whether DEI, as presently designed and implemented, significantly advances racial and social justice. Dennis Kennedy, founder and CEO of the National Diversity Council, argues that the current focus of many DEI initiatives is unlikely to yield comprehensive commitments to social justice. His argument is that: DEI as presently constituted does not sufficiently explore the roots and explanations of systemic and institutional racism; bias training, diversity consulting and other initiatives were purposely implemented to avoid legal risk and public scrutiny and not to achieve social change; and DEI was introduced within public, private and non-profit institutions that provided limited authority, resources and power to effectuate change. Expanding the boundaries Through the political process, the marketplace and social dynamics, several factors have converged to motivate greater awareness and scope of DEI activities going forward. They include activities of: Government. At the national level, the Biden administration has expanded the scope of DEI initiatives: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced on February 24 that it will review public companies’ disclosure requirements on race and gender diversity and strengthen guidance on boardroom diversity. The acting chair noted that the results of the SEC’s voluntary program for companies to submit diversity self-assessments were “disappointing.” This follows an August 2020 SEC mandate that requires companies to begin disclosing information about their “human capital resources” that includes employee turnover rates and training programs. Companies already privately report diversity data to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and are under increasing pressure to make such information public. The White House has announced that disadvantaged communities will receive 40 percent of overall benefits from public investments in clean energy and infrastructure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking added funding for environmental justice initiatives to reduce the high exposure to unsafe drinking water supplies, toxic air pollution and hazardous waste from industrial facilities to low income communities and indigenous peoples. Investor community. Some trading houses and institutional investors are advocating that companies provide better information on workforce diversity, and they’re beginning to include such data in their assessments and rankings. Prominent examples include: On December 1, Nasdaq filed a proposal with the SEC to implement new rules that would require all listed companies to publicly disclose consistent, transparent data that measure board gender and racial diversity. It would require companies to have two diverse directors (including a female or one who self-identifies as LGBTQ+), or explain why this rule is not attainable. On December 20, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm, announced that, beginning in 2021, it will seek expanded ethnic and gender diversity data for company boards and workforces. BlackRock stated that it will vote against company directors that fail to adequately respond to this expectation. State Street Global Advisors and Goldman Sachs also announced diversity measures for their clients. Talent recruitment and retention. Millennials and Generation Z employees and job seekers are increasingly utilizing Glassdoor (a leading social media platform about jobs and companies) and LinkedIn to evaluate current and prospective employers on their DEI performance. In September 2020, a Glassdoor survey reported that 76 percent of employees and those looking for jobs said a diverse workforce was important to their evaluation of companies and employment offers. Nearly half of Black and Hispanic workers and job seekers said they had quit a company after witnessing or experiencing discrimination at the work place. The bigger questions By 2045, white Americans are projected to comprise less than 50 percent of the population, and the labor force will become more diverse and older than at any other time in the nation’s history. These anticipated facts alone have intensified the “fear of losing advantage” for an already existing movement of hard core white nationalists and others sympathetic to their cause. In its present form, DEI represents a set of modest efforts for legal and institutional reforms but nothing close to a mass movement capable of resolving the widening crevices of American society and politics. Some major unresolved challenges for DEI proponents and all citizens and civil society institutions include: Will leaders across the spectrum of American institutions collaborate with the commitment, urgency and scale necessary to preserve the American democratic experiment in the coming decades? Do companies operating in America believe that a dysfunctional democracy and growing societal disharmony can provide clear and consistent rules necessary for their economic success? Can they become engines of egalitarianism and more equitable social mobility rather than of inequality? xCan public policy develop remedies to systemic racism that have historically impeded access to educational opportunity, environmental protection, health care, unbiased law enforcement, living wages and resource allocations for lower-income populations? Can white Americans be reassured that their constitutional freedoms will be preserved even as their relative size and influence diminishes in a growing multiracial, multigender society? Absent an ability to act with confidence and sustained urgency to achieve demonstrable progress in the next few decades, America will become increasingly bewildered about its own purpose and values. It will begin to hear, once again, the “fire bell in the night” that awakened and terrorized Thomas Jefferson early in the 19th century as he feared for the preservation of the Union. Pull Quote For many organizations, a direct DEI connection to their mission has not been made by leadership whose inattentiveness or nonreceptivity cascades downwards into the culture. Topics Leadership Diversity and Inclusion Featured Column Values Proposition 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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Diversity, equity and inclusion: Incremental reform or systemic change?

Diversity, equity and inclusion: Incremental reform or systemic change?

March 23, 2021 by  
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Diversity, equity and inclusion: Incremental reform or systemic change? Terry F. Yosie Tue, 03/23/2021 – 01:11 Unresolved debates about the past frame choices about who owns the future. America has arrived, once again, at another momentous inflection point to try and resolve some of the most contentious issues the nation has faced and largely failed to resolve — the narrative of American history and culture, the persistence of systemic racism, and continuing debates over women’s empowerment, personal freedom and sexual orientation. The ability to reconcile these significant challenges into a workable and equitable societal consensus will require many additional decades, but many institutions and individuals are implementing partial solutions. Among the most prominent are initiatives to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. Diversity is expressed through a variety of identities such as age, race, religion, sexual orientation and disability. Equity aims to provide everyone with access to opportunities and recognizes that advantages and barriers exist, while making commitments to address this imbalance. Inclusion results in individuals (and groups) with different identities feeling respected, accepted and valued. For many organizations, a direct DEI connection to their mission has not been made by leadership whose inattentiveness or nonreceptivity cascades downwards into the culture. In recent years, DEI has emerged as a distinctive field in governance and public policy that provides a key set of performance measures for economic and social progress. While originally separate from environmental sustainability, they now share common values to applying human capital towards resolving society’s most vexing inter-generational challenges, including access to health care, educational opportunities, and protection from toxic exposures and climate change. Evaluating DEI practices and performance Author Pamela Newkirk, in her comprehensive analysis “Diversity, Inc.,” has identified a core set of best practices within and beyond the workplace. They include: expanding recruitment through international outreach; identifying and removing hiring and promotion barriers; strengthening professional development opportunities; providing fair and equitable compensation; building an inclusive climate and culture; and applying business practices and accountability. Many companies already have grasped the significance of integrating DEI within their business strategies, governance, employee relations, operations, customer relations and engagement with external stakeholders. The range of their programs and initiatives vary considerably, a reflection of their market sectors but also of variable leadership commitments and inconsistent performance metrics. Leaders (as measured by Forbes and other surveys) currently include BlackRock, Duke University, HP, L’Oreal, Novartis, SAP and a variety of banking and healthcare companies. Even more striking than examples of corporate DEI leadership is information from lagging and failing companies and business sectors. The Wall Street Journal reviewed more than 160 annual reports filed by S&P companies for 2020. Only a third provided diversity disclosures. More specifically, GE reported that approximately 76 percent of its U.S. workforce was white as was 81 percent of its leadership. PwC declared that 60 percent of its employees were white. Sectors that are particular DEI laggards include academia, environmental organizations, fashion, journalism, museums, professional football and technology companies. Why has so little progress been achieved despite decades of implementing civil rights legislation, philanthropic activities, and more than $20 billion spent each year on DEI programs, conferences, consultants, surveys and training sessions? For many organizations, a direct DEI connection to their mission has not been made by leadership whose inattentiveness or nonreceptivity cascades downwards into the culture. Workforce composition may be insufficiently diverse to respond to DEI dynamics, thus limiting bottom-up pressures upon management (in contrast to much stronger employee engagement in environmental sustainability). Across many institutions, the motivation for maintaining even modest DEI activities stems from a desire to avoid legal risk from potential discrimination cases, or to communicate that “we care” about the issue. Beyond the issue of leaders and laggards remains the question of whether DEI, as presently designed and implemented, significantly advances racial and social justice. Dennis Kennedy, founder and CEO of the National Diversity Council, argues that the current focus of many DEI initiatives is unlikely to yield comprehensive commitments to social justice. His argument is that: DEI as presently constituted does not sufficiently explore the roots and explanations of systemic and institutional racism; bias training, diversity consulting and other initiatives were purposely implemented to avoid legal risk and public scrutiny and not to achieve social change; and DEI was introduced within public, private and non-profit institutions that provided limited authority, resources and power to effectuate change. Expanding the boundaries Through the political process, the marketplace and social dynamics, several factors have converged to motivate greater awareness and scope of DEI activities going forward. They include activities of: Government. At the national level, the Biden administration has expanded the scope of DEI initiatives: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced on February 24 that it will review public companies’ disclosure requirements on race and gender diversity and strengthen guidance on boardroom diversity. The acting chair noted that the results of the SEC’s voluntary program for companies to submit diversity self-assessments were “disappointing.” This follows an August 2020 SEC mandate that requires companies to begin disclosing information about their “human capital resources” that includes employee turnover rates and training programs. Companies already privately report diversity data to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and are under increasing pressure to make such information public. The White House has announced that disadvantaged communities will receive 40 percent of overall benefits from public investments in clean energy and infrastructure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking added funding for environmental justice initiatives to reduce the high exposure to unsafe drinking water supplies, toxic air pollution and hazardous waste from industrial facilities to low income communities and indigenous peoples. Investor community. Some trading houses and institutional investors are advocating that companies provide better information on workforce diversity, and they’re beginning to include such data in their assessments and rankings. Prominent examples include: On December 1, Nasdaq filed a proposal with the SEC to implement new rules that would require all listed companies to publicly disclose consistent, transparent data that measure board gender and racial diversity. It would require companies to have two diverse directors (including a female or one who self-identifies as LGBTQ+), or explain why this rule is not attainable. On December 20, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm, announced that, beginning in 2021, it will seek expanded ethnic and gender diversity data for company boards and workforces. BlackRock stated that it will vote against company directors that fail to adequately respond to this expectation. State Street Global Advisors and Goldman Sachs also announced diversity measures for their clients. Talent recruitment and retention. Millennials and Generation Z employees and job seekers are increasingly utilizing Glassdoor (a leading social media platform about jobs and companies) and LinkedIn to evaluate current and prospective employers on their DEI performance. In September 2020, a Glassdoor survey reported that 76 percent of employees and those looking for jobs said a diverse workforce was important to their evaluation of companies and employment offers. Nearly half of Black and Hispanic workers and job seekers said they had quit a company after witnessing or experiencing discrimination at the work place. The bigger questions By 2045, white Americans are projected to comprise less than 50 percent of the population, and the labor force will become more diverse and older than at any other time in the nation’s history. These anticipated facts alone have intensified the “fear of losing advantage” for an already existing movement of hard core white nationalists and others sympathetic to their cause. In its present form, DEI represents a set of modest efforts for legal and institutional reforms but nothing close to a mass movement capable of resolving the widening crevices of American society and politics. Some major unresolved challenges for DEI proponents and all citizens and civil society institutions include: Will leaders across the spectrum of American institutions collaborate with the commitment, urgency and scale necessary to preserve the American democratic experiment in the coming decades? Do companies operating in America believe that a dysfunctional democracy and growing societal disharmony can provide clear and consistent rules necessary for their economic success? Can they become engines of egalitarianism and more equitable social mobility rather than of inequality? xCan public policy develop remedies to systemic racism that have historically impeded access to educational opportunity, environmental protection, health care, unbiased law enforcement, living wages and resource allocations for lower-income populations? Can white Americans be reassured that their constitutional freedoms will be preserved even as their relative size and influence diminishes in a growing multiracial, multigender society? Absent an ability to act with confidence and sustained urgency to achieve demonstrable progress in the next few decades, America will become increasingly bewildered about its own purpose and values. It will begin to hear, once again, the “fire bell in the night” that awakened and terrorized Thomas Jefferson early in the 19th century as he feared for the preservation of the Union. Pull Quote For many organizations, a direct DEI connection to their mission has not been made by leadership whose inattentiveness or nonreceptivity cascades downwards into the culture. Topics Leadership Diversity and Inclusion Featured Column Values Proposition 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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Diversity, equity and inclusion: Incremental reform or systemic change?

Your customers say there is a climate emergency and want you to act

March 23, 2021 by  
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Your customers say there is a climate emergency and want you to act Diane Osgood Tue, 03/23/2021 – 01:00 The largest opinion poll on climate change found two-thirds of people around the world believe we are in a “global emergency.” Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between what people believe and what they do. As explored in this series of blogs, the intention-action gap creates an opportunity for brands and sustainability professionals to act. Here are some insights from the UN Development Program (UNDP) poll of 1.2 million people in 50 countries, representing more than half of the world’s population. The survey was conducted between October and December. (See graph below.) Strikingly, the study found that in every country surveyed, most people are very concerned about climate change. The U.K. and Italy came in at the top with 81 percent, the U.S. and Russia in the middle with 65 percent. Only one country scored below 55 percent: Moldova, with 50 percent. The intention-action gap gives rise to the opportunity for brands to step up and help their customers do better. The key finding is that the belief we’re in a climate emergency holds true across all countries: during the pandemic, across generations globally, and most strongly for individuals with post-secondary education. The poll results show that a generational divide exists, but it isn’t large. Younger people showed the greatest concern, with 69 percent of those aged 14 to 18 saying there is a climate emergency, while 58 percent of those over 60 agreed. A person’s level of education is the single most profound socio-demographic driver of belief in the climate emergency and need for climate action. Young or old, if your target market has post-secondary education, the majority seek climate action. I compared the UNDP findings to those of a just-released study in the U.S. by Brands for Good and the Harris Poll . While the two studies have different objectives, comparing the results provides useful insights. The UNDP study seeks public opinion on climate change and policy solutions. The study asked about specific potential government policies, not about what individuals do in their day-to-day lives. The Brands for Good–Harris Poll survey seeks to understand consumer intentions and actions towards sustainable lifestyles. It looks at nine indicators for sustainable living. It asked respondents specifically about the frequency of actions individuals take, rather than the level of their concern. Looking at the two survey results, the first thing that is obvious is that actions lag concern. UNDP found that 65 percent of Americans say we’re in a climate crisis, yet Brands for Good/Harris Poll found only 29 percent to 45 percent, depending on age range, saying they always or often try to behave in ways that protect the planet, its people and its resources. Clearly this large concern-action gap needs to be closed. How? By increasing the likelihood of citizens taking regular actions for a more sustainable, climate-friendly lifestyle. The comparison of the two polls shows that education is a key variable. UNDP found the respondent’s level of education to be the most profound driver of public opinion on climate change. In the U.S., the UNDP study found that 66 percent of people with post-high school education think we’re in a climate crisis. Brands for Good/Harris Poll determined that 42 percent of respondents with a four-year college degree will act more frequently in ways that “protect the planet, its people and its resources.” This compares with 34 percent of respondents who have a high school degree or less. The two studies also compared age ranges. Brands for Good/Harris Poll found the most responsive age for taking action is 25 to 44, whereas UNDP found their younger peers are slightly more concerned. Mind the gap The two studies confirm that citizens around the world share a strong interest in addressing climate change. But at least in the U.S., there is a major disconnect between concern and action. Looking at the U.S. data, UNDP found 65 percent of Americans saying they are very concerned about climate change, yet Brands for Good and Harris Poll found only 34 percent to 45 percent of most age groups regularly take action. Furthermore, Brands for Good and Harris Poll found gaps between respondents’ intentions and actions across all nine indicators. This means that an average of 20 percent to 30 percent of Americans are concerned we’re in a climate crisis but not actively addressing climate change and sustainability concerns in their daily lives. This supports results from earlier survey work we’ve undertaken and covered in this blog series. This gap gives rise to the opportunity for brands to step up and help their customers do better. Here are three examples of how brands help close the action gap. 1. Design low-carbon products and communicate clearly about what actions your brand is taking. Sneakers are a good example, with many brands making low-carbon shoes. For example, Ecoalf , Spain’s first B-Corp fashion brand, proudly uses recycled plastic and nylon in almost all of its designs and tells the customer exactly what goes into each product. Ecoalf reminds the wearer with a subtle stamp on the shoes and T-shirts, “Because There Is No Planet B.” At a slightly larger scale, Nike invites customers to follow its journey, step by step, towards net-zero emissions. Nike brings home the message by eloquently linking sports and climate change , enabling its customers to see themselves in the climate change equation. Evocative, smart, effective. 2. Help your customers use your products and services in the most energy-efficient, material-minimizing way as possible. Often, the largest part of a product’s carbon footprint occurs post-sale. It’s how customers use the product that matters. This is not a new approach. For example, 19 years ago Levi’s launched its “Care Tag for Our Planet” campaign, which included changing the care instructions to recommend cold wash, promote line drying and donate garments when they are no longer needed. The Care Tag saved unimaginable amounts of energy to heat water. Other clothing brands followed Levi’s lead. 3. Show your customers the carbon footprint of the product. With this information, customers can make better decisions. For example, at the retail level COOP DK, the Danish cooperative grocery chain, provides customers with carbon estimates for their purchase as a way to help nudge better decisions. COOP DK is no small fry in Denmark — it represents a third of the nation’s grocery market. At the product level, forerunner Oatly applies a carbon label as part of its brand positioning . Leon Restaurants announced a carbon-neutral veggie burger. They’ll soon be joined by Unilever, which committed to carbon labeling all 70,000 of its products. Carbon footprint labels are relatively new, and too few products carry such footprint information to enable apples-to-apples comparisons. It is too soon to know how much disclosing product-level information will affect consumer decision-making. I expect more brands will embrace product carbon labeling. I look forward to testing the effectiveness of this disclosure in changing consumer behaviors. What can your brand do? Join me in the conversation, in the comments below or at diane@osgood.com . Pull Quote The intention-action gap gives rise to the opportunity for brands to step up and help their customers do better. Topics Consumer Trends Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage

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5 opportunities of a circular economy

March 5, 2021 by  
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5 opportunities of a circular economy David McGinty Fri, 03/05/2021 – 00:12 More than 100 billion tons of resources enter the economy every year — everything from metals, minerals and fossil fuels to organic materials from plants and animals. Just 8.6 percent gets recycled and used again. Use of resources has tripled (automatic PDF download) since 1970 and could double again by 2050 if business continues as usual. We would need 1.5 Earths to sustainably support our current resource use. This rampant consumption has devastating effects for humans, wildlife and the planet. It is more urgent than ever to shift from linear, use-it-up-and-throw-it-away models to a circular economy: where waste and pollution are designed out, products and materials are kept in use for longer, and natural systems can regenerate. A circular economy isn’t just about fixing environmental wrongs, though: Evidence shows it can bring big opportunities and positive impacts across industries, sectors and lives. A growing number of businesses, governments and civil society organizations are coming together to drive the change through the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) . More than 200 experts from 100 organizations helped develop the Circular Economy Action Agenda , a set of publications that analyze the potential impact and call for action across five key sectors: plastics, textiles, electronics, food and capital equipment (machinery and large tools such as medical scanners, agricultural equipment and manufacturing infrastructure). The Action Agenda demonstrates five opportunities associated with the shift to a circular economy: 1. Make better use of finite resources The circular economy concept is all about making better use of natural resources such as forests, soil, water, air, metals and minerals. Take the textiles industry. Each year, huge quantities of fossil fuels are used to produce clothes from synthetic fibers each year. Textile production (including cotton farming) uses almost 100 billion cubic meters of water per year, about 4 percent of global freshwater withdrawal. At the same time, people throw away still-wearable clothes worth an estimated $460 billion each year. Creating a circular economy for textiles means shifting to recycled and recyclable materials in order to reduce the amount of land, water and fossil fuels used to produce new clothes. It means changing consumption patterns to reduce new purchases and keep clothes in use for longer, for instance by developing the second-hand and rental markets as well as changing the culture of fast fashion. Research suggests that the purchase of 100 second-hand garments can displace the production of 85 new garments. And finally, it means ensuring that clothes at the end of their life are collected and recycled or repurposed into new clothes, further reducing resource use. 2. Reduce emissions About 45 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from product use and manufacturing, as well as food production. Circular economy strategies that reduce our use of resources can cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 39 percent (22.8 billion tons) and play a crucial role in averting the dangerous impacts of climate change. For example, shifting towards recycled materials would alleviate the need to produce virgin plastics and synthetic fibers, which would significantly reduce fossil fuel use and associated emissions. Changing consumption patterns is also crucial: For example, if the average number of times a garment is worn were doubled, greenhouse gas emissions from the textiles industry would be 44 percent lower. The world produces around 300 million tons of plastic waste every year, nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population. Creating a circular economy for food by reducing loss and waste is particularly crucial to lowering emissions: If food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter after the United States and China. 3. Protect human health and biodiversity Every year, more than 9 million deaths occur due to air, water and soil pollution. This pollution also threatens biodiversity . Working towards a circular economy helps protect human health and biodiversity in many ways, including by making better use of natural resources (protecting water and land), and by mitigating the climate crisis. One of the clearest and most direct impacts of the shift to a circular economy will come from how we deal with products at the end of their life. The world produces around 300 million tons of plastic waste every year, nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population. This is on top of 54 million tons of electronic waste (e-waste), of which just 17.4 percent gets collected and recycled. This waste becomes hazardous for human health and for biodiversity when it is mismanaged, either leaking into the natural environment or disposed of through open burning, landfills or substandard recycling. Designing products to be kept in use for longer reduces the amount of waste produced. Creating proper collection and processing systems protects workers and the environment from hazardous materials. For instance, using existing solutions such as replacing plastic other materials, designing plastics so that they can be more easily recycled and scaling up collection and recycling could reduce the flow of plastic waste into the ocean by 80 percent in 20 years — a shift that would be enormously beneficial for human health and biodiversity. 4. Boost economies Research shows that the circular economy offers a $4.5 trillion economic opportunity by reducing waste, stimulating innovation and creating employment. New business models focused on reuse, repair, remanufacturing and sharing models offer significant innovation opportunities. For example, a circular economy for plastics offers considerable economic benefits. Less plastic waste in the ocean would benefit industries such as fishing and tourism, as plastic pollution leads to $13 billion in costs and economic losses per year. Reducing the pollution and toxic emissions that come from the open burning of plastic waste would lower healthcare costs, while reducing fossil fuel use for plastic production would help mitigate climate change and its associated costs. Many of these economic benefits and opportunities are long-term, indirect and require significant investment; a long-term view is key, as are short-term incentives to drive the change. This can include policies that create more immediate financial incentives for businesses to develop innovative new business models and enable the efficient flow of reused and recycled materials across global value chains. 5. Create more and better jobs Transitioning to a circular economy could create a net increase of 6 million jobs by 2030 . Making the most of this opportunity will require a clear focus on social and environmental justice. Jobs may be lost in more linear businesses; however, new jobs will be created in fields such as recycling, services such as repair and rental, or in new enterprises that spring up to make innovative use of secondary materials. These new jobs cannot be considered direct replacements, as they may be in different locations and require different skills. For instance, we must consider the millions of garment workers — mostly women — whose employment depends on the continuation of the fast fashion industry. Investing in a just transition via social dialogue, social protection and reskilling programs is key. While a net increase in jobs is important, another value-add of circularity is the opportunity to provide formal work and improved working conditions for informal laborers. Around 15 million people worldwide work as “waste pickers,” salvaging reusable or recyclable materials from garbage. Bringing these informal waste pickers into formal work in collection or recycling is a major opportunity to offer safer, more secure employment. Maximizing the impact of the circular economy Of course, there are always trade-offs to be considered and managed when working towards large-scale, systemic change. For example, shifting to bio-based plastics and natural, recyclable textiles such as cotton will use less fossil fuels than traditional plastics or synthetic fibers, but may increase demands for land and water to grow such materials. Shifting to natural materials is a crucial part of the solution, but only if those materials are produced in a sustainable way — and only if consumption habits change, too. A long-term view is key, as are short-term incentives to drive the change. It’s also important to recognize the interconnected nature of the global economy. Many minerals and metals used in electronics are byproducts from the mining of aluminum, copper, lead and zinc, which are used across industries. Going circular in the electronics industry alone would not do much to reduce dependence on these resources. Multiple industries must shift to create systemic change. Finally, it will be crucial to keep social well-being and equity top-of-mind. For example, moving to a circular economy can shift investment and employment away from production and manufacturing (which tends to happen in lower-income countries) and towards later stages of the value chain, such as repair, resale, sorting and recycling (often concentrated in wealthier countries). We’ll need to ensure that economic benefits are equitably distributed to maximize the opportunity of a circular economy. A role for everyone The above five impact areas exhibit some of the social, environmental and economic benefits of a circular economy, but realizing these benefits will require ambitious action. Governments, businesses, civil society, finance institutions, research organizations — everyone has a role to play. The new Circular Economy Action Agenda is a good place to start. Pull Quote The world produces around 300 million tons of plastic waste every year, nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population. A long-term view is key, as are short-term incentives to drive the change. Topics Circular Economy WRI Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Treating finite resources wisely is part of the picture. Shutterstock Hyper Story Close Authorship

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A bamboo meditation center overlooks sunset views in Chiang Mai

January 14, 2021 by  
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Locally sourced bamboo and adobe bricks make up the new Meditation Cathedral & Sunset Sala, a cluster of organically shaped buildings on top of a hill in northern Chiang Mai. Commissioned by Khunying Noi, a member of the Thai royal family, the net-zero carbon project provides the client with a space to enjoy the sunset with loved ones as well as a meditation cathedral for the Buddhist community. Chiangmai Life Architects designed the mountain-inspired buildings with construction carried out by Chiangmai Life Construction craftspeople who mainly comprise locals as well as Thai Yai who fled the Burmese army’s minority prosecution campaigns. Completed in 2018 in the small town of Mae Rim, the Meditation Cathedral & Sunset Sala was initially planned as a simple ‘sala’ — a type of open pavilion in Thai architecture — for enjoying the sunset from a hilltop location. Because Khunying Noi is a practicing Buddhist and active member in the Buddhist community, she later asked the architects to add a dedicated meditation space along with a freestanding bathroom area. This area includes showers and toilets; the architects also inserted a smaller, mushroom-shaped structure to house the mechanical and electrical systems, including a water tank. Related: Giant bamboo arches shield Haduwa Arts & Culture Institute from the sun “The design of all buildings emulates the mountain range and the rolling hills,” said the architects, who constructed the project with adobe walls and bamboo roofs. “Thus, the buildings mold into the scenery as if they grew there themselves.” The Buddhist meditation space features lofty arched ceilings built of bundled bamboo to mimic the domes of Roman or Gothic cathedrals. The architects mainly used bamboo of the Thyrsostachus genus along with Dendrocalamus asper and Bambusa spp species. The bamboo stalks were selected by age and then preserved with a borax/boric acid solution. Once treated, the bamboo is left to dry and cure to ensure long-term durability as a construction material. + Chiangmai Life Architects Photography by Markus Roselieb via Chiangmai Life Architects

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A bamboo meditation center overlooks sunset views in Chiang Mai

4 tips for changing consumer behavior

November 23, 2020 by  
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4 tips for changing consumer behavior Lauren Phipps Mon, 11/23/2020 – 01:00 When I cover solutions to the plastic waste crisis, I typically focus on infrastructure development and bringing recycling systems to scale, standardizing materials, inventing new ones and designing out unnecessary single-use items, and rethinking business models and supply chains. But once these structures are in place, they only work if consumers embrace new models and ensure that materials move through the system as planned. Otherwise, the entire system breaks down. And if you thought it was hard getting your colleagues to recycle rigid plastic or compost paper towels, or to stop wishcycling — that whatever they throw into the bin will, in fact, be recycled — think about the complexity of changing consumer behavior across a city, country or beyond.  During a recent webcast, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Natalie Hallinger, a behavioral scientist and behavior change adviser working to translate research on human motivation into real-world behavior change strategies.  Here are four tips Hallinger recommends for designing large-scale interventions:  Make it relatable: “People often think they need to force people to do something they don’t want to do,” Hallinger shared. But brute force is rarely the path of least resistance. “The easier route is to find a way to relate to them. What’s an intersection of a goal they already want that aligns with your goal?” For example, if your generic environmental appeal to an individual doesn’t resonate, perhaps an individual will relate more with a personal desire to visit a clean beach in the summer.  Make it desirable: Culture and social norms are strong drivers of consumer behavior. “The most desirable thing for humans is to fit in,” Hallinger explained. “If you design interventions that create community norms of waste reduction behavior, reusing and repairing, then everyone wants to be doing the same thing. You don’t want to stand out. You do it because of your desire to be part of the community.” Make it contextual: Behavior change interventions must be relevant and salient. Hallinger explained that if you’re engaging employees in a work context about actions they can take at home, it likely will go in one ear and out the other. Focus on actions that people can implement immediately.  Make it easy : The “right” choice from a sustainability perspective should also be the easy choice. “If you create the infrastructure and design built environments that make the behavior you want the default, then you have behavior without even needing to persuade the person.” To eliminate the guesswork that consumers face at the bin, Hallinger suggested that single-stream recycling with back-of-house sorting would design out confusion and contamination and lead to higher recycling rates in certain contexts.  I invite you to listen to the entire webcast here , which includes additional insights on behavior change from Jacob Duer, president and CEO of Alliance to End Plastic Waste; Jeff Kirschner, founder and CEO of Litterati; and John Warner, distinguished research fellow at Zymergen.  Topics Circular Economy Consumer Trends Featured Column In the Loop 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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SOM designs a low-carbon waterfront community for Chinas most livable city

October 14, 2020 by  
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Global design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has unveiled designs for Jiuzhou Bay, a new 5.6 million-square-foot mixed-use neighborhood in coastal Zhuhai, which was recently named China’s most livable city by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Selected from a shortlist of 10 global design firms, SOM’s proposal targets a low-carbon scheme that makes use of the region’s abundant natural resources — the sea and the sun — to generate renewable energy and reduce the development’s environmental footprint. Located in China’s southern Guangdong province in the Pearl River Delta, Zhuhai is a burgeoning tech hub with a reputation that has been recently elevated by a connection to the international finance and tourism centers Hong Kong and Macau via the longest sea-crossing bridge in the world. The new development will be a beacon for sustainable growth in the tech-heavy region that the architects say may soon rival Silicon Valley. The proposed Jiuzhou Bay development will include state-of-the-art office spaces, residences, retail and infrastructure, such as a robust transportation hub that offers connections to land, sea and rail across more than 40 acres. Related: Historic Zhuhai sugar factory to be reborn as a low-carbon cultural hub The city’s maritime history has also greatly informed the architects’ design decisions, particularly with the five modular canopies that wrap around the three sides of a 1.8 million-square-foot port to form a series of covered pedestrian alleyways, a lively retail environment and interlinked courtyards along the waterfront. Solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems would be integrated into the canopies. The masterplan also includes a lighthouse-inspired skyscraper with offices, a 20-story Ritz Carlton hotel , a sky bar and an observation deck. “The forms of the canopies are inspired by the local legend of the Fisher Girl and reflect the fishing nets commonly seen on the coastline throughout the region,” said Sean Ragasa, design director at SOM. “We wanted our design to resonate with the culture and history of Zhuhai, and to evoke a story that’s familiar to everyone who lives there.” + SOM Images via SOM

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Trump administration furthers Arctic drilling plan

August 19, 2020 by  
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The Trump administration’s environmental protection rollbacks seem to now come daily. Today’s bad news? A plan to allow  oil  and gas companies to drill in Alaska’s so-far pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In 2017, a Republican tax bill opened part of the refuge to gas and oil leasing. Monday’s development pushed the plan further, aiming to sell the first drilling leases by the end of 2020. Many Republicans back the plan, despite opposition from environmental groups and Alaska’s Indigenous communities. Related: EPA loosens restrictions on methane emissions The over 19 million-acre refuge has long remained off-limits to development. Managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, most of the refuge is true wilderness, free from roads, trails and facilities, and open to the public for exploration. The few travelers who visit access the refuge by private planes and air taxis. Visitors may witness the Polar and grizzly bears , wolves, wolverines, caribou, beluga whales, musk oxen and walruses that call this area home. Though wildlife outnumbers people here, both the Gwich’in and Iñupiat people reside on and live off resources from the land.  Sometimes calling themselves “caribou people,” the Gwich’in have based their culture around these reindeer for centuries. The Gwich’in live in 15 villages across northeast  Alaska  and northwest Canada and have actively fought against gas and oil leasing. David Smith, a Gwich’in leader in Arctic Village, worries that the industries will harm caribou and change his nation’s way of life. “I would say this is like no other place on earth, so we shouldn’t be treated like any other place on earth,” Smith said in an interview with  Alaska Public Media . “I can drive in any direction and  hunt  freely. I can drive in any direction and go trapping.” Despite the recent news, the fight to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge continues. Still, environmental groups say that once companies buy drilling rights, it will be harder for future presidents to stop  Arctic  drilling. “The Trump administration never stops pushing to drill in the Arctic Refuge — and we will never stop suing them,” said Gina McCarthy, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “America has safeguarded the refuge for decades, and we will not allow the administration to strip that protection away now.” Via Thomson Reuters Foundation Image via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters

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Explore eerie wonders at the Museum of Underwater Art

June 16, 2020 by  
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Four years after its initial conception, Australia’s  Museum of Underwater Art  has finally opened to the public, becoming the first-ever underwater art museum in the Southern Hemisphere. Located off the coast of Townsville North Queensland in the central part of the Great Barrier Reef , the unique museum aims to strengthen the region’s position as a leader in reef conservation, restoration and education. World-famous underwater sculptor and environmentalist Jason deCaires Taylor conceptualized the first two installations — the Ocean Siren and Coral Greenhouse. As the inaugural sculpture of the Museum of Underwater Art, the Ocean Siren was conceived as an above-water beacon for raising awareness about  ocean conservation . The inspiration for the statue, as reported by CNBC, is 12-year-old Takoda Johnson, a “member of the local Wulgurukaba people, one of two traditional owners of the local land.” The sculpture reacts to live water temperature data from the Davies Reef weather station on the Great Barrier Reef by changing color depending on temperature variations.  Underwater and approximately 80 kilometers from shore, the John Brewer Reef “Coral Greenhouse” welcomes divers to the heart of the Greater Barrier Reef Marine Park with messages of reef conservation and restoration. The installation is the largest MOUA exhibit, weighing over 58 tons and filled with and surrounded by 20 “reef guardian” sculptures. All construction is made from stainless steel and pH-neutral materials to encourage  coral  growth. Related: This stunning underwater art museum is now open in the Maldives “MOUA offers a contemporary platform to share the stories of the reef, and the culture of its  First Nations  people, as well as spark a meaningful conversation and solution to reef conservation,” reads an MOUA press release emphasizing the museum’s many educational opportunities. The Ocean Siren and the Coral Greenhouse were completed as part of MOUA’s first phase; future installations include Palm Island and Magnetic Island. MOUA is estimated to generate over $42.1 million in annual economic output and create 182 jobs through the local tourism and conservation sectors. + Museum of Underwater Art Images via Jason deCaires Taylor

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