A new LEED Gold civic center will reinvigorate downtown Long Beach

January 19, 2021 by  
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As part of Long Beach’s largest public-private partnership effort to date, international architecture firm SOM has helped inject new life into the downtown area with the Long Beach Civic Center Master Plan. This 22-acre project celebrated its grand unveiling of multiple LEED-targeted civic buildings late last year. The Long Beach Civic Center Master Plan, which has redesigned the downtown as a new and vibrant mixed-use district, targets New Development LEED Gold certification. Launched in 2015, the Long Beach Civic Center Master Plan provides a new heart for public life in the City of Long Beach. The LEED Gold-targeted, 270,000-square-foot City Hall and LEED Platinum -targeted, 232,000-square-foot Port Headquarters buildings, both completed in July 2019, are designed with energy-efficient, under-floor air conditioning systems and an abundance of natural light. The solar-powered, 93,500-square-foot Billie Jean King Main Library that opened to the public later that fall is also designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification. Related: SOM designs a low-carbon waterfront community for China’s “most livable city” The masterplan includes design guidelines for the development of 800 residential units and 50,000 square feet of commercial development. A regional bicycle network, buses and the Metro Blue Line have been woven into the design to promote a pedestrian-friendly environment. The historic Lincoln Park has been revitalized as well to better engage a greater cross-section of the city’s population. “Targeting New Development LEED ® Gold certification, the new Civic Center plan optimizes operations and maintenance, maximizes street parking, introduces plazas and promenades, and expands bike infrastructure to create a hierarchy and quality of place,” SOM explained in a project description. “The proposed sidewalk configurations, along with the scale and density of tree planting, create not only a welcoming and walkable environment, but a differentiated sense of place — one that befits the city’s dynamic center for culture, recreation, education, and government.” + SOM Images via SOM | Fotoworks/Benny Chan, 2020

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A new LEED Gold civic center will reinvigorate downtown Long Beach

Could contraception for pigeons be a humane option for population control?

January 19, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

City-dwellers often complain about pigeons, calling them “rats with wings” and condemning them as noisy, messy, disease-carrying feces machines. But they’re really pretty benign. Much of the problem is that pigeons aren’t afraid to colonize areas that people think of as theirs. So can we really justify the usual methods of pigeon control: trapping, shooting or poisoning? Erick Wolf, CEO of Innolytics, thinks not. For 15 years, he’s been developing birth control for pigeons and other birds that people deem pests. OvoControl is the official brand name, though Wolf sometimes calls his business model “Planned Pigeonhood.” The way it works is that a contraceptive chemical called nicarbazin is put into an automatic feeder and set out where a flock of pigeons live. Every morning at the same time, the feeder dumps the feed, and the pigeons flap around, gobbling it up in minutes. Related: Birds are dying mid-air possibly due to climate crisis effects The U.S. Humane Society recommends OvoControl as a kinder alternative to poisoning, and the EPA approved it back in 2010. Wolf spoke with Inhabitat about how he got in the family planning business for birds. [Note: This interview has been edited for space.] Inhabitat: How did you come up with this idea? Wolf: The active ingredient in this stuff, the chemical that interferes with egg fertilization in birds, has been around for 65 years. It was originally developed by Merck for use in chickens . The utility in chickens has nothing to do with egg hatchability, it has something to do with coccidiosis, an enteric disease that chickens get. But it’s got this one unwanted side effect in that it interferes with egg hatchability when fed to the wrong chicken. So we were sitting around the table having a couple of beers one day and said, “If it’s so good for preventing egg hatchability in chickens, why don’t you just feed it to pigeons?” Inhabitat: What’s wrong with the usual ways to control pigeons? Wolf:  The conventional methods for pigeon control is trap, shoot or poison , none of which is very humane. What they’re using in the U.S. to poison the birds is really horrible. You would think that a poison that’s used to kill an animal like that would be fast-acting, you’d give it to them, they’d drop over dead. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. So this stuff that they use commercially takes 20 minutes to 2 hours for the bird to basically convulse to death. It’s awful. If you go out and kill animals like that, you end up with more of them a few months later. You’ve got a site with 100 pigeons at it and you go in and you trap or you shoot or you poison 50 of them, within a few weeks, a few months at the very latest, you have more than 100 pigeons again. They just breed back. So unless you stop the breeding, there’s no point. They’re just coming back. Inhabitat: How do OvoControl’s results compare? Wolf:  It works great, but it’s not an overnight success. It takes time, because you have to wait for the attrition of the population. Pigeons die every day. They die of disease, they die of nutrition, they die of predation. Some of them freeze to death in the winter, some of them roast in the summer. But there’s this constant replenishment going on. Unless you stop that, you’re going to live with the pigeons forever. These are pigeons, so they’re breeding every 6 weeks, two eggs per clutch. So five mating pairs of pigeons will make 400 birds in 2 years. So that’s what you’re up against. I have talked with customers that have killed 10,000 pigeons . They only had 3,000 to begin with. They’re harvesting birds.   People that call us are not ones that have a few pigeons around. I have conversations with people that have thousands of pigeons. And it seems like the more pigeons they’ve got, the more likely they are going to be to try to kill more of them. The more they get, the more they want to murder them. Inhabitat: So your method takes patience? Wolf: We’ll get customers that use it for a month and say, “I didn’t see anything happen.” I say, “You’re not supposed to see anything happen.” Pigeons die every day. But the only way to kill them with OvoControl is to just drop a 30-pound bag of it on them. Then the pigeon’s dead. But other than that, you’re not going to kill any pigeons. So get used to it. We have customers that have been using this stuff for years. After a couple, three years, the management will turn over or something and I stop getting orders. It’s usually about 2 or 3 years later, I’ll get an email: “Send us 10 bags.” (laughs) If you stop, they start breeding again. Inhabitat: Who are your customers? Wolf: Who’s going to pay for it? People have talked to us and they say, “Oh my gosh, cities must be great customers. They’ve got so many pigeons.” And I say yes and no. They’ve got a lot of pigeons but they’re not so interested in putting them on birth control. There’s not a budget in the city maintenance for birth control for birds. The low-hanging fruit for the business is pretty much large industrial sites. Power plants, oil refineries, steel mills, pulp and paper, glass foundries, ports. Not necessarily airports, but seaports. Big places. Places where you can’t stretch a net to keep the pigeons out. Any kind of manufacturing facility that’s got open doors. Hospitals are good. What a hospital has very typically are parking garages and lots of places for pigeons to find cubbies. There’s a lot of heat being produced there. College campuses are good because they’re multi-structure. At a multi-structure facility, the guy will come in there and say, “We’re going to net the physics building because it’s got all the pigeons on it.” So they net the physics building and all the pigeons go over to the chemistry building. They’re resident birds. They’re not leaving campus. That’s where they found food. That’s where their nests are. That’s where they’re going to stay. Inhabitat: Are your clients international? Wolf:  We have registrations now in Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan. We have one pending that looks very promising in Australia , and pending in New Zealand as well. Here in the home market, the U.S., it continues to be a really long, uphill battle. People want tangible and immediate results. When you tell them you’re going to lose half your birds over a year, and then another half over the next year and so on and so forth, the pest controller will say, “Forget it. My customer wants the birds gone today.” + OvoControl Images via Pixabay

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Could contraception for pigeons be a humane option for population control?

LEED Gold-targeted Knight Campus advances scientific innovation

January 13, 2021 by  
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The University of Oregon recently welcomed the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, a 160,000-square-foot campus built to accelerate groundbreaking scientific discovery and development in a collaborative multidisciplinary environment. Designed by New York-based  Ennead Architects  and Portland-based Bora Architecture & Interiors, the Knight Campus raises the bar for research facilities with its human-centered design that prioritizes wellness and socialization as well as energy efficiency. The eco-conscious campus features high-performance glazing as well as cross-laminated timber materials and is on track to achieve LEED Gold certification.  Named after benefactors Penny and Phil Knight who contributed a $500 million lead gift, the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact comprises a pair of L-shaped towers that frame an elevated terrace and courtyard at the heart of the campus. Transparency is emphasized throughout the design from the glass bridge that connects the two towers to the large expanses of glazing that make up the buildings’ unique  double-skin facade  and put the interior lab and office spaces on display. “So much of research is about improving the human condition,” said Todd Schliemann, Design Partner at Ennead Architects. “Our goal for the Knight Campus was the creation of a humanistic research machine – one that supports practical needs and aesthetic aspirations, but more importantly, one that inspires the people who work in it, those that move through it and those that simply pass by, and that contributes to the  university  community and the greater context.” Related: Oregon Ducks hit a home run with über-green Jane Sanders Stadium The campus was designed with input from University of Oregon faculty and staff, who helped inform the building’s open workspaces of varied sizes and highly adaptive spaces that give researchers the freedom to change their lab spaces to nimbly work across fields as needed. The new labs also boast cutting-edge technologies, such as  3D-printing  and rapid prototyping, to speed up the process of taking scientific discovery to market.  + Ennead Architects Images via Ennead Architects

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LEED Gold-targeted Knight Campus advances scientific innovation

GM’s electric delivery foray, plus other mobility trends headlining CES

January 13, 2021 by  
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GM’s electric delivery foray, plus other mobility trends headlining CES Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 01/13/2021 – 01:30 For the first time in its 54-year history, the world’s largest tech show — the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) — kicked off this week as an all-virtual event, cramming a week of keynotes, press conferences and over 1,000 exhibitor booths onto the screens of our laptops and from the comfort of our homes.  As a recovering tech reporter, who for years traversed the football field-sized ballrooms in Las Vegas to check out the latest and weirdest gadgets, I, for one, am glad not to be stuck in the scene of long taxi lines, awkward parties and rampant consumerism.  But virtual or not, CES continues to highlight what some of the biggest tech and retail companies in the world are prioritizing and building. And in recent years it has emerged as a place for automotive and mobility companies to make announcements, launch products and get attention. 2021 was no different in that respect.  Here are five mobility tech themes from the show to keep an eye on this year: Electric delivery:  The biggest mobility newsmaker from the show was General Motors , whose CEO, Mary Barra, delivered an hour-long keynote (check out our list of 20 C-suite sustainability champions such as Barra). GM announced it’s launching a new business unit called BrightDrop that will seek to electrify the goods delivery market. GM showed off images of an electric delivery vehicle called the EV600, as well as a pallet system called the EP1. FedEx Express announced it will be the first customer of BrightDrop. It will be the first company to receive the EV600s, which will have a 250-mile range, can carry 200 pounds of payload and will have 23 cubic feet of cargo space. GM’s logistics news comes amidst a massive growth in e-commerce during the pandemic. A couple of months ago, Ford, too, announced it plans to launch an electric delivery vehicle called the e-Transit, based on its popular Transit commercial vehicle.  GM is making a huge $27 billion push to electrify its product lines. GM also showed off a new electric Cadillac luxury vehicle and more details about its next-gen battery technology.  Of course, GM wasn’t the only automotive player that emphasized the electric transition at CES. Panasonic touted a new battery containing less than 5 percent cobalt that it’s working on, while LG and auto parts maker Magna provided more details of their joint venture to sell electric vehicle power trains. Mercedes-Benz showed off a sleek curved vehicle screen that will debut in one of its luxury electric vehicles.  The state of autonomous:  Due to the ever-present hype cycle and over-ambitious promises, autonomous vehicles have under-delivered on expectations. But make no mistake, they’re just around the corner. The CEO of Mobileye (owned by Intel), Amnon Shashua, did a long-ranging interview about the state of AVs, predicting robotaxis will be the first commercial application for true AVs, followed by consumer vehicles in 2025.  The commercial sector is already tapping into autonomous tech for business. Caterpillar highlighted at CES how it’s using autonomous vehicles in its mining vehicles on a mining site to save customers’ money and time.  Decarbonizing systems:  Sustainability doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with a huge convention hawking the latest ephemeral gadgets. But auto parts company Bosch used the digital CES to tout that the company has gone carbon-neutral this year, and now plans to go carbon-neutral across its supply chain, a particularly more difficult task. GM, likewise, emphasized the climate aspect of its electrification commitments. Data-driven user experience design: CES has long been the place for companies to emphasize their design and data-driven work on consumer experience and personalized experiences, whether that’s in-vehicle systems, gaming headsets or mobile screens. Of particular interest to Transport Weekly readers will be that a handful of companies such as Mercedes-Benz , Panasonic Automotive , mapping company HERE and Bosch also highlighted how data and design can be used to make the electric vehicle driving and charging experience better. 5G for connected cities:  The telcos always use CES to try to create buzz around their latest network investments. And a digital 2021 CES was no different. Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg delivered a keynote that listed a series of new applications and experiences that 5G could help deliver. One of the most interesting was increased connectivity in cities that could lead to things such as reduced traffic. Meanwhile, UPS and Verizon announced that the companies are collaborating on testing drone delivery using 5G to a retirement community in Florida.  Beyond mobility trends, CES touted two major things you’d expect in a pandemic. First, technologies that make being stuck in your home easier, more fun and more comfortable. Think bigger screens, home robots, faster WiFi. Second: tools that can protect your health, such as over-engineered connected masks and air purifiers.  Sign up for Katie Fehrenbacher’s newsletter, Transport Weekly, at this link . Follow her on Twitter. Topics Transportation & Mobility Electric Vehicles Autonomous Vehicles Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off General Motors has created a new commercial business unit, called BrightDrop, with new electric vehicles to help businesses deliver goods efficiently. Courtesy of General Motors Close Authorship

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Green-roofed home embraces valley views and daylight

January 7, 2021 by  
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On the steep banks of the Dyje River in the Czech town of Znojmo, Brno-based architecture firm Kuba & Pila? architekti has completed the Family House in the River Valley, a contemporary, geothermal-powered home topped with a lush green roof. Set on a narrow, rectangular plot, the waterfront home complements its neighbors with its simple form, yet it stands out with a modern materials palette that includes a structure of reinforced concrete and steel clad in black aluminum sheets. Access to natural light and views toward the slope and the river largely dictated the design of the home. Completed after 9 years of design and construction, the Family House in the River Valley comprises three floors that face the Dyje River and one floor that faces the slope. The north-facing side of the home is topped with a sharply angled green roof that feels like an extension of the steep, grassy slope and culminates into a rising garden above the home. Related: Modular home in Delft boasts low-carbon timber build and a green roof Unlike the layout of a conventional home, the Family House in the River Valley places the living areas on the top floor and the bedrooms down below. “The living space benefits from the absence of partition, which creates two advantages,” the architects explained. “One, the sunlight floods the room from the southern side, from the garden through the glass wall in the dining area. Two, to the north, it offers impressive views of the valley. It is the beautiful views of the Dyje River valley and the opposite rocky slopes with important historical monuments of Znojmo that are the main strengths of this site.” The interior is kept minimalist so as not to detract from the beautiful landscape views. Large, aluminum-framed windows usher in these vistas and natural light. To create an indoor-outdoor experience, the architects connected the living space to an outdoor terrace and the garden on the south side, which can also be accessed via an outdoor staircase. + Kuba & Pila? architekti Photography by BoysPlayNice

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Green-roofed home embraces valley views and daylight

Rolloe is a bike wheel that filters outdoor air while you cycle

January 5, 2021 by  
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While ‘rolling’ through the streets of London, Design Innovation in Plastics (DIP) 2020 award winner Kristen Tapping came up with the idea for Rolloe, a bicycle wheel that filters outdoor air pollution . With an understanding that the motion of bike wheels creates kinetic energy, Tapping , a third-year product design student from London South Bank University, began developing a prototype out of cardboard cutouts. Using smoke from incense and a basic fan, she sampled myriad variations. Related: Blix Packa, the electric bike that wants to replace your car Although the idea is scalable to a number of applications, Tapping started with bike wheels because they are similar to the existing technology in air filters . To avoid “recreating the wheel,” Tapping experimented with a variety of techniques to produce the vacuum and expulsion required to pull the dirty air into the device and release the filtered air out through the other side. The clean air stream is directed toward the rider’s face and surrounding area. With the final design structure in place, Tapping fitted loofah, HEPA and activated carbon filters to capture large and small particulates as well as noxious gases from the air. From there, the concept is simple. While in motion, the fins pull air through four layers of filtration, cleaning the air while the rider cycles through the country or polluted city. While anyone can use Rolloe, the main target market is currently bike commuters and community bike share applications. As an added incentive to help improve air quality , Rolloe will connect to an app that allows riders to share distance information and set goals. Participants can then be rewarded with credits to local businesses based on the amount of miles they peddle. According to Tapping, “If 10% of all London cyclists had one Rolloe installed on their bike, they would filter approximately 266,865m³ of air — 20 times the size of Trafalgar Square.” The filters can be cleaned and reused. The parts are also designed to be easily taken apart for assembly or disassembly and recycling at the end of their lifespan. Rolloe is currently in development and aims to be commercially available by early 2022. The final product will be made from recycled plastic materials using injection molding. Tapping also has plans to create a rear-wheel Rolloe for twice the filtering power per ride. + Rolloe Images via Kristen Tapping

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Sustainable interior design trends for 2021

January 4, 2021 by  
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While 2020 was defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us were grateful for the extra time spent with families inside the home. As 2021 approaches, it is looking like that home-bound time will continue well into the new year, which stands to influence how interior design will trend in the future. With most Americans spending more time at home in 2020, design trends for next year are focused on creating ample space utilization, plenty of greenery to maintain connections to nature, and sustainable (and budget-friendly) features — just to name a few. Inhabitat rounded up some of the most sustainable interior design trends predicted for 2021 so you can stay ahead of the curve. Repurposed décor Kelly Hoppen, one of the world’s top interior designers, told Homes and Gardens Magazine that the pandemic caused many people to look at design in a different way this year. More of us focused on reusing and repurposing things like furniture and accessories, and that trend will likely continue into the new year. This goes along with longevity, either by investing in higher quality pieces that may cost more but will last longer, or by spending more time shopping at thrift stores to save money. There’s also something extra special about finding a unique item, whether it’s vintage or simply recycled , that makes it one of the most rewarding and easiest ways to design sustainably. Natural elements Staying indoors for longer periods of time throughout 2020 left many of us yearning for a deeper connection to the elements of nature we’ve always relied upon. It’s no surprise that more people started turning to gardening and indoor plants as a new hobby during the pandemic. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is with an interior garden or by using more organic materials in your design. Even better, adding a few plants to your place aids in better air quality and may even help brighten your mood. Related: The top 10 houseplants of 2020 and what’s trending for 2021 Energy efficiency This is an easy one, because incorporating more energy-efficient appliances can appeal to a wide range of designers. While they may be more of an investment in certain situations, appliances with high energy efficiency usually lower utility costs and can even pay for themselves in a short period of time. Not to mention, they are better for the environment as well, something that has been on everyone’s radar due to the global climate crisis. Sustainable building materials Australian-based Kibo Construction Company says that organic options like wood, wool and stone are great choices, but being mindful of where our building and design materials come from is something that is becoming more important. This is partly because it has become much easier to access fair-trade materials and find out if they were extracted with minimal environmental impact. It’s also important to be aware of legitimate certifications, like FSC-certified wood from sustainable forests, for building materials to avoid potential greenwashing. Modular spaces It’s no secret that we are big fans of modular design at Inhabitat, so we’re definitely hoping to see more throughout 2021 . Modular spaces have the ability to create a fully hybrid experience in a smaller area, but it also has environmental benefits in terms of construction as well. Incorporating modular design into your home is an amazing space-saving technique, meaning you can do more with less space. Minimalism Modular spaces and objects also promote minimalism , a movement that is gaining more and more popularity each year as the earth’s resources continue to dwindle. The idea of only purchasing what you absolutely need and minimizing single-use purchases is one of the best ways to live sustainably. “Luxury Minimal Design is a top inspiration,” according to Trend Book . “The clear spaces are becoming more desirable for decor enthusiasts. Spaces with few pieces of furniture are the inspiration for 2021.” Minimal furniture and accessories, especially those made by hand or with natural materials, can add a touch of luxury to any space. Smart tech According to Ben Wu, winner of the International Interior Designer of the Year Award 2020, smart tech that makes the home more eco-friendly will be another big trend going into 2021. “Diversity and globalization will go hand in hand,” he told Homes and Gardens . “Future technology like 5G will take place more and more in the home design.” Smart home technology is already on the rise with popularity gaining for gadgets that connect to your smart phone such as the self-learning Google Nest and smart doorbell cameras. It makes sense that that trend will continue. Images via Press Loft and Unsplash

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Sustainable interior design trends for 2021

Artist Camille Walala envisions a carless Oxford Street for London

December 31, 2020 by  
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The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has been a lot of things, and one of them is an opportunity to delve into creative design. So when established artist and designer Camille Walala biked onto the typically bustling Oxford Street during the first lockdown in London, the creative juices started flowing. Seeing the empty street prompted Walala to imagine what the space could look like if it were permanently converted from a street to a pedestrian-only hub. Her trademark blocky and colorful architectural installments became a central element in the design, with bold elements that stand in steep contrast to the street’s current two-dimensional, monochromatic and car- polluting status. Related: Barcelona to transform Eixample streets into car-free zones Walala sees the project as an expression of love for a city she’s called home for 23 years — a city that has provided endless inspiration and opportunities throughout her career as an interior and street art designer. “I found myself with more and more opportunities to develop my practice and ideas — to play with pattern and colour at larger and larger scales,” Walala explained. “If I’d lived somewhere else, if I’d not been rooted in London’s creative scene, surrounded by the people I was, I don’t know if I’d even have become an artist.” The vision came during a bike ride with Walala’s partner, creative producer Julia Jomaa, and the event sparked an imaginative discussion about how the space could be used for public gathering along the lines of an agora in ancient Greece. The image for the space on Oxford Street, however, is not only functional but visually demanding with contrasting bright colors alongside black-and-white geometric patterns. A massive, centralized water fountain is surrounded by seemingly interlocking geometric blocks. It’s a little like a larger-than-life Lego installment. Striking planters curve throughout the area, providing seating and a space for interacting with nature. Although the design is an inspired vision of what the area could be, it’s also a potential realization of “a serious proposal for a new, more enriching urban landscape.” The discussion of creating a car-free capital isn’t a new one, but Walala’s dramatic and artistic spin may just be the inspiration the city needs to make the change toward a pedestrian-focused plaza for generations to come. After all, a pandemic is the perfect time to contemplate the future. “This project is my what-if portrait of the city of tomorrow, and my own projection of what the London I love might one day look like,” Walala said. + Camille Walala Via Dezeen Photography by Camille Walala with Omni Visual and Dunja Opalko

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Artist Camille Walala envisions a carless Oxford Street for London

Japan to develop wooden satellite in bid to curb space junk

December 31, 2020 by  
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Japanese company Sumitomo Forestry is collaborating with Kyoto University to develop the world’s first wooden satellite. The two entities have already started research to determine the possibility of using wood in space. This research will test tree growth and wood use in extreme environments on Earth. If these tests are successful, the project hopes to introduce the wood-inspired satellite by 2023. According to Sumitomo Forestry, wooden satellites provide an ideal solution for reducing space junk. Space experts have warned about increased space junk caused by satellites. The World Economic Forum estimates that about 6,000 satellites are circling Earth, of which 60% are defunct. Satellites often launch into space for different uses. Unfortunately, once the satellites serve their purpose, they remain in space. These satellites slowly disintegrate, leaving alumina particles or other metals in the upper atmosphere. These pieces may stay in the atmosphere for ages. Besides atmospheric pollution, the satellites themselves pose a potential risk should they fall to Earth. According to Kyoto University researchers, wood satellites can disintegrate in space without producing life-threatening junk. Once a satellite has served its purpose, it will slowly fall apart, thus avoiding the creation of additional space junk. Takao Doi, a professor at Kyoto University, says that if action is not taken about space junk now, it will eventually affect Earth’s environment. “We are very concerned with the fact that all the satellites which re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere burn and create tiny alumina particles which will float in the upper atmosphere for many years,” Professor Doi said in an interview. Regarding the project’s next steps, he added “The next stage will be developing the engineering model of the satellite, then we will manufacture the flight model.” Research firm Euroconsult predicts that if all factors remain constant, approximately 990 satellites will be launched into space each year throughout the next decade. This means that we could have about 15,000 satellites orbiting Earth by 2028. Today, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has already launched more than 900 Starlink satellites into space, and the company plans to deploy thousands more. Without sustainability plans, these endeavors will likely contribute to the space junk problem. + BBC Image via Pixabay

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2020 was the year that…

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

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