ESG in 20 Questions: A Practical Guide that Goes Beyond the Letters

October 5, 2021 by  
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As the pressure increases to address the most critical challenges of our time – climate change, water scarcity, social injustice, corporate responsibility – it is easy for organizations to feel overwhelmed when trying to make a real impact. When done well, better Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) management can reduce an organization’s ecological footprint, improve efficiency, and unearth new market opportunities, all while reducing risk and building resiliency. The benefits are real, but exploring ESG frameworks, standards, and solutions can be overwhelming. How does an organization achieve ESG excellence? Where can they start? Asking the right questions is the key to understanding, and positively changing, the way an organization impacts the world around it. Developed by FigBytes, the leading ESG platform, ESG in 20 Questions is a practical guide that helps organizations explore the four Pillars of ESG Management:  Strategy Data Reporting Engagement FigBytes has been helping future-focused organizations ask the right questions and make positive changes throughout their sustainability journeys since 2014. Download the guide today to develop, strengthen, or realign your ESG efforts. Build your strategy, align your data, tell the world. 

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ESG in 20 Questions: A Practical Guide that Goes Beyond the Letters

How many trees are needed to offset a city’s carbon emissions?

August 26, 2021 by  
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Trees are nature’s lungs. While we enjoy their beauty, shade and fruits of their existence, they are silently working to clean the air. The natural process of all plants taking in carbon and releasing oxygen not only gives us clean air to breathe but also stores carbon that otherwise contributes to global warming . Countries around the world are in a race to find solutions for these types of greenhouse gases, which are a result of human activities like driving cars and manufacturing goods. While the push for electric vehicles and renewable energy through  solar panels , wind power and hydroelectricity takes the spotlight, another part of the solution equation is growing all around us in the form of trees. Related: Three Americans’ lifetime emissions enough to kill one person The simple fact is, planting trees is an exceptional tool in the fight against climate change. With this in mind,  Compare The Market  has presented its most recent research on the number of trees capital cities around the world would need to plant annually to offset the carbon emissions they contribute to the atmosphere. The study is based on information available through the Global Carbon Atlas Global City Emissions dataset, which measures emissions levels. While major cities work to reverse, slow down and stop the creation of these carbon emissions, what is the estimated number of trees it would take to counterbalance them? Which countries are the highest contributors and which have the lowest  environmental  impact? According to the data, Asia has some work to do. Five of the ten top carbon-emitting capital cities are in Asia. Note that for comparative purposes, the dataset measures transport, industrial,  waste  and local power plants emissions within city boundaries. The report combined data to show the total amount of carbon produced alongside the number of trees it would take to offset it. For example, the five cities in Asia, which include Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul, release a combined 219,506,539 tCO2 annually. The cities would have to plant 43,901,308 trees each year to offset those emissions. Individually, Beijing would need to plant 15,020,976 trees, followed by Singapore with 9,366,336 and Hong Kong with 8,975,292. Tokyo needs a 5,522,200-plant offset and Seoul 5,016,504. Other cities in the top 10 were Istanbul, Lagos, Santiago, London and Mexico City.  An energy spokesperson at Compare The Market comments, “Becoming carbon neutral is an essential goal for countries around the world, and as pledges roll in to reach this target by 2050 and beyond, immediate action is needed. One way we have studied is to offset emissions by planting trees which is great for absorbing CO2, with added benefits of supporting the ecosystem and  wildlife .” The tree offset calculation is based on information sourced from Carbonify.com’s carbon dioxide emissions calculator. The estimates are based on the assumption that five  trees  planted can clean up each ton of carbon dioxide produced.  The study stated, “A tree planted in the humid tropics absorbs on average 50 pounds (22 kg) of carbon dioxide annually over 40 years – each tree will absorb 1 ton of CO2 over its lifetime; but as trees grow, they compete for resources and some may die or be destroyed – not all will achieve their full carbon sequestration potential.” On the other end of the data spectrum are the countries performing better in the battle of low carbon emissions. For these results, a few substitutions were made in the face of missing data. Toronto, Milan and Basel were substituted to include Canada, Italy and Switzerland in the study. Reykjavik, Iceland was the least carbon-emitting capital in the study with total emissions of 346,630 tCO2 per year. The city would still have some work to do, planting 69,326 trees annually to offset its footprint. Of all the cities in the study, Reykjavik was the only one to come in below the 500,000 tCO2-produced mark. Even though nearly 70,000 is still a lot of trees, it was also the only city to have an estimate below 100,000 trees per year to offset carbon emissions. New Zealand took second place for carbon control with annual emissions of 621,179 tCO2. For Wellington to neutralize this, it will have to plant 124,236 trees a year. Basel, Switzerland, had the third-lowest number to plant at 156,786 trees to offset its 783,932 tCO2 footprint. Every other city in the study came in at over 200,000 trees a year. The study provides one tool in an array of options to reduce carbon release. Planting trees alone isn’t a sustainable solution, but neither is focusing solely on renewable energy or  recycling . To achieve goals set by world leaders, it will take a combination of actions across a range of environmental fields.  “The number of trees required may seem very high in cities like Beijing which would need to plant over 15 million trees, but this is if we only used plant power alone. There are many other initiatives and technologies in place, like the government incentives, which present lots of opportunities to offset carbon emissions on a small and large scale,” the spokesman said. + Compare The Market Images via Pixabay

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How many trees are needed to offset a city’s carbon emissions?

Fine particulate air pollution linked to increased dementia risk

August 9, 2021 by  
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Researchers at the University of Washington have found a relationship between increased levels of fine particle pollution and the risk of dementia. In a  study  that borrowed data from two long-running studies in the Seattle area, researchers established that high levels of particulate matter in the environment corresponded with a greater risk of dementia. The data used was borrowed from a study that has measured air pollution in the Puget Sound region since the 1970s and a study researching risk factors for dementia since 1994. While analyzing the data, the researchers found a link between dementia and increased rates of pollution. Related: Air pollution from US meat production causes 16,000 deaths annually “We found that an increase of 1 microgram per cubic meter of exposure corresponded to a 16% greater hazard of all-cause dementia. There was a similar association for Alzheimer’s-type dementia,” said lead author Rachel Shaffer. More than 4,000 Seattle area residents were enrolled for the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) Study run by the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in conjunction with the University of Washington. Of the 4,000 participants, 1,000 were diagnosed with dementia at some point since the ACT study began in 1994. “The ACT Study is committed to advancing dementia research by sharing its data and resources, and we’re grateful to the ACT volunteers who have devoted years of their lives to supporting our efforts, including their enthusiastic participation in this important research on air pollution ,” said Dr. Eric Larson, ACT’s founding principal investigator. In their analysis, the researchers found that just one microgram per cubic meter difference in PM2.5 pollution (particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or smaller) between residences correlates to a 16% higher incidence of dementia. While the research shows a relationship between rates of dementia and particulate matter pollution, the researchers say that many other factors have to be factored in, given the long time it takes for dementia to develop. “We know dementia develops over a long period of time. It takes years – eve ndecades – for these pathologies to develop in the brain , and so we needed to look at exposures that covered that extended period,” Shaffer said. Via NewsWise Lead image via Pixabay

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Fine particulate air pollution linked to increased dementia risk

Earth Overshoot Day 2021 has arrived. What does it mean for the planet?

July 30, 2021 by  
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While the  pandemic  had humanity burning up the world’s resources more slowly than usual, the trend has reversed. Earth Overshoot Day, alas, arrived yesterday on July 29. If you’re not familiar with this day, it’s the date that humans’ use of ecological resources and services exceeds what  Earth  can regenerate in a year. Last year, thanks to global lockdowns, Earth Overshoot Day fell on August 22. Although the pandemic is still raging in many countries, the world has somehow crept back to where we were in 2019. Related: Earth Overshoot Day comes 3 weeks later this year “With almost half a year remaining, we will already have used up our quota of the Earth’s biological resources for 2021,” said Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, as reported by EcoWatch. “If we need reminding that we’re in the grip of a  climate  and ecological emergency, Earth Overshoot Day is it.” Another way to look at the data is that humanity is using  nature  up 1.7 times faster than Earth can regenerate its ecosystems. At this rate, we will need 1.7 planets to sustain our environmentally reckless lifestyle. Carbon  emissions  are still a little behind 2019 highs, but if you’ve been in a U.S. airport lately, you’ve probably noticed it looks as busy as before the pandemic. There’s a mood of wanting to get back to normal. And normal, for many people, means using a lot of resources. “Rather than recognize this as a reset moment,  governments  have been eager to get back to business-as-usual. Global emissions are already creeping back up to pre-pandemic levels,” said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity, as reported by EcoWatch. The National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts graph released by  Global Footprint Network  reveals the huge disparity in Earth Overshoot Day if you slice and dice data by country.  Qatar  overshoots on an astounding February 9, with the U.S. and Canada not too far behind on March 14. Countries that come closer to making their resources last a full year include Ecuador, which makes it to December 7, and Indonesia on December 18. Another of Global Footprint Network’s interesting charts asks how many Earths would we need if the world’s population lived like different countries. If everybody resource-partied like the U.S., we’d need five whole planets. But if everyone lived as people do in  India , we could survive on seven-tenths of Earth. Via EcoWatch Lead image via Pixabay

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Earth Overshoot Day 2021 has arrived. What does it mean for the planet?

This island home has a green roof seeded with native, drought-tolerant plants

July 30, 2021 by  
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Lone Madrone is a 1,600-square-foot vacation retreat located on a rocky, south-facing shoreline on Orcas Island, a horseshoe-shaped islet in the San Juan Islands archipelago off Washington state. The home’s green roof is landscaped with a variety of plants and vegetation that are both native and drought-tolerant, a feature that designers hoped would increase the biodiversity value of the area. The home, called Lone Madrone, is built for a family of four and is clad in wood . It utilizes a simple design to blend into its natural surroundings and mimic the hillside slope that hits behind it. What’s more, Lone Madrone is also tucked into a naturally forming depression in the shoreline landscape (known as “wedge shape geometry”) in order to diminish its visual impact and minimize exposure to the weather as well. Related: Kauhale Kai is a solar-powered, pavilion-style home on Hawaii’s Big Island Although the living spaces are completely open to gardens on the northern side and water on the southern side via a custom lift sliding door mechanism, the bedrooms are built with much more privacy in mind. The private rooms are located on the forested slopes to the west, while the kitchen opens to the east. All of the main openings are paired with rolling wall panels to both provide security and protect the house from winter storms, given the extreme weather exposure of the site. A variety of local woods were used during construction, including douglas fir for the floors and trim, western red cedar for the siding, walls and ceilings, and pacific madrone for the interior furniture. The site itself is part of the San Juan Islands National Monument, characterized by its sensitive shoreline and marine environments. As a result, the designers incorporated their understanding of near-shore ecology as part of the design with a garden roof. The green roof features native plants to provide habitats for coastal insects, which have become a critical food source for local endangered Chinook salmon. According to the designers, the roof helped replace 90% of the vegetative footprint lost to construction.  + Heliotrope Architects Photography by Sean Airhart via Heliotrope Architects

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This island home has a green roof seeded with native, drought-tolerant plants

Magnetic particles may be the future of data storage

October 24, 2017 by  
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Recently discovered magnetic behavior may have enormous potential to power the next generation of data storage technology , according to new research reported this week in the journal  Nature Nanotechnology.  The promise of data storage based on “skyrmions,” minuscule disturbances in magnetic orientation, offers a potential path to overcome fundamental limitations in computing technology that otherwise may have heralded the end of Moore’s Law, which holds that computing power doubles in strength roughly every two years. Skyrmions, the phenomenon on which this new data technology would be based, were only discovered in 2016 by a team led by MIT associate professor of materials science and engineering Geoffrey Beach. These magnetic particles occur between two thin metallic films from two different kinds of metal and can be wielded using electric fields, allowing long-term data storage without the need of additional energy. While the locations of these skyrmions were originally random, Beach and collaborators at MIT and in Germany  have since demonstrated an ability to purposefully create and harness these magnetic particles, opening the door to new technological possibilities. Related: Scientists turn eggshells into eco-friendly data-storage devices Because skyrmions are very stable in contrast to traditional magnetic storage devices , data could potentially be stored on a magnetic surface perhaps only a few atoms across. This feature is what allows the theoretical skyrmions-based storage devices overcome the physical limitations of traditional magnetic storage devices and continue the computing power expansion under Moore’s Law. The next step is to figure out an efficient way to read the data that has been written into the skyrmions. One solution is to add an additional layer of a different metal to the skyrmion sandwich and then use differences in the layer’s electrical resistance based on the presence of skyrmions to determine the encoded data. “There’s no question it would work,” said MIT postdoc and study co-author Felix Buettner, but further research and development is needed to determine how best to implement the idea. Via Futurism/MIT News Images via Moritz Eisebitt/MIT News and Depositphotos

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Magnetic particles may be the future of data storage

Biggest grid operator in US attacks Perry’s proposal to prop up coal

October 24, 2017 by  
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Energy Secretary Rick Perry is attempting to keep coal alive under the guise of grid resiliency , but the largest grid operator in the United States called on regulators to scrap the plan. PJM Interconnection CEO Andrew Ott called Perry’s pricing proposal unworkable and discriminatory, and even said it’s inconsistent with federal law. Multiple other grid operators have also called for its rejection. Perry has urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to alter how wholesale power markets price electricity – so some nuclear and coal generators can recover costs, according to Bloomberg. Perry’s plan would attempt to reward power plants able to store 90 days of fuel supplies onsite. Ott told reporters, “I don’t know how this proposal could be implemented without a detrimental impact on the market.” Related: Trump administration halts study on health risks of living near coal mining sites Ott said it seems the rule targets PJM – between 2011 and 2016, they retired over 19 gigawatts of coal-fired power, according to Bloomberg. But “the PJM market is more diverse and reliable today than we’ve seen,” Ott said. PJM serves over 65 million people in over a dozen states in the Midwest to Mid-Atlantic. Bloomberg said hundreds of energy companies commented on the proposal, with firms like ExxonMobil , Anadarko Petroleum , and Devon Energy pointing to the low cost and reliability of natural gas . The Solar Energy Industries Association said nuclear and coal plants aren’t invulnerable to outages. FirstEnergy supported Perry’s plan because they said the grid will be at risk if nuclear and coal plants are retired. They operate several coal plants in the PJM market. Grid operators like the New York Independent System Operator , the Midcontinent Independent System Operator , and ISO New England called for FERC to toss out Perry’s plan as part of a coalition that also included organizations the proposal wouldn’t impact, such as the California Independent System Operator , the Electric Reliability Council of Texas , and the Southwest Power Pool . Via Bloomberg Images via Pixabay and U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr

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Biggest grid operator in US attacks Perry’s proposal to prop up coal

Grass-fed beef may be even worse for the climate

October 10, 2017 by  
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Prepare to be cowed by the data.

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Grass-fed beef may be even worse for the climate

Is blockchain the singularity point for the environment?

October 10, 2017 by  
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Applying blockchain to carbon credits to create a “carbon currency” is the key to demystifying and consolidating the carbon market so it can scale up.

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Is blockchain the singularity point for the environment?

How Scott’s Miracle-Gro found value in vulnerability

October 10, 2017 by  
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In response to criticism about its fertilizers, the company sought to step forward as an environmental leader.

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