4 sustainability opportunities in the banking sector

February 12, 2018 by  
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Banks play a major role in our economy, yet only 27 percent of Americans trust them. Here’s how the financial services sector can win back public trust.

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4 sustainability opportunities in the banking sector

Rethinking carbon for the new economy

February 12, 2018 by  
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The collision of low carbon and big data will transform a range of sectors.

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Rethinking carbon for the new economy

Bill McDonough: We are here to make goods, not ‘bads’

February 7, 2018 by  
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The legendary designer says it’s time to view the economy from the perspective of how much we can give for all we get.

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Bill McDonough: We are here to make goods, not ‘bads’

Fact-checking Trump’s State of the Union speech on energy and climate change

January 31, 2018 by  
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Last night, President Donald Trump took to the podium to address a nation historically divided, framing his speech as a call for unity. Despite an advertised unified front, the specific details of Trump’s speech hewed closely to the partisan positions of the Republican Party while his trademark loose relationship with facts and truth revealed itself throughout the address. Trump focused his speech on the economy, energy, and immigration, with a brief shout-out to his long-promised, still-undeveloped infrastructure plan. Read on to learn more about what was said and left unsaid (like how climate change is impacting the US) in the President’s speech. Trump’s economy – and reputation – took a hit from the devastating hurricane and wildfire season in 2017. “To everyone still recovering in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, California, and everywhere else — we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together,” said Trump on the same day that his Administration announced that it is ending food and water aid to Puerto Rico. “If we’re giving free water and food, that means that families are not going to supermarkets to buy,” FEMA’s director in Puerto Rico Alejandro De La Campa told NPR . “It is affecting the economy of Puerto Rico.” Still, some communities do not feel ready to go without FEMA food and water aid. “There are some municipalities that may not need the help anymore, because they’ve got nearly 100 percent of their energy and water back,” Morovis Mayor Carmen Maldonado told NPR . “Ours is not so lucky.” Related: Trump bewilders scientists, says ice caps are “setting records” While it is not possible to say with any certainty that any particular extreme weather event is caused by climate change, the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is precisely what scientists expect in a rapidly warming world. The historic flooding in Houston during Hurricane Harvey broke the all-time record daily rainfall accumulations on both August 26 and 27. It seems likely that this record will be broken soon enough as the planet’s climate continues to be drastically altered. To avoid the worst, the United States must rapidly transition to a clean energy economy. Unfortunately, Trump infamously withdrew the United States from the landmark Paris agreement, an international effort spearheaded by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, and has pursued anti-environmentalist policies at seemingly every turn. Related: Trump’s 30% solar tariffs could kill thousands of jobs and harm industry growth Trump became President in part because of his economic call to arms to defend manufacturing workers and coal miners. “Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States — something we have not seen for decades,” said Trump, disregarding the fact that automotive employment is actually lower than it was a year ago . “We have ended the war on American energy — and we have ended the war on beautiful, clean coal,” Trump boasted. “We are now very proudly an exporter of energy to the world.” Related: US CO2 emissions declined during Trump’s first year as president In fact, the United States still is a net importer of energy, though it is expected to become a net exporter in the 2020s as a result of long-term trends that, you guessed it, developed under President Barack Obama. More importantly, coal is not clean. Efficient clean-coal technology has not yet been developed, though the fossil fuel seems likely to fade away anyways as competition from natural gas and renewable energy becomes more pronounced. Meanwhile, coal miner deaths in the United States nearly doubled in Trump’s first year in office. Related: Ai Weiwei to build 100 fences in NYC to shed light on immigration issues Trump at times seemed to be describing a very different country than the one he now leads. “A new tide of optimism was already sweeping across our land,” said Trump, reflecting on the early days of his presidency. Optimistic we are not. As of early January 2018, 69% of Americans believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction. Although this is consistent with numbers seen during the second Obama Administration and earlier in the Trump Administration, it is a far cry from widespread optimism. This strong pessimism regarding the country’s future comes at a time when a majority of Americans are now optimistic about the economy. Related: $30M contract canceled by FEMA after supplies to Puerto Rico fail to arrive Finally, Trump spoke about the hottest issue on Capitol Hill right now: immigration. When the President explained his plans to limit legal immigration to the United States, he was greeted with boos and hisses. Immigration to the United States has proven to be an important ingredient in the country’s economic success. More than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants to the United States. Studies have shown that immigration has resulted in a net positive economic impact in the United States, with negative impacts of immigration most felt by native-born adults without a high school education. In light of Trump’s push to limit legal immigration and deport Dreamers (undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children), business and tech interests have responded with opposition. It remains to be seen whether industry opposition can persuade Congress to protect their Dreamer employees. Absent from Trump’s speech: any mention of the sprawling Trump-Russia investigation which has consumed his presidency. At least Trump did not mimic Nixon, who urged the nation to end the Watergate investigation during his 1974 State of the Union Address . Seven months later, President Nixon resigned from the office in shame. + The White House

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Fact-checking Trump’s State of the Union speech on energy and climate change

Businesses must evolve along with global climate policy

November 21, 2017 by  
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If businesses prepare for new post-Paris Agreement climate regulations, the economy could reap $10 trillion annually by 2050.

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Businesses must evolve along with global climate policy

Study finds pollution is more deadly than war, natural disasters, and disease

October 23, 2017 by  
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Environmental pollution isn’t just inconvenient, it’s also deadly. Every year, more people are killed by pollutants — from toxic air to contaminated water — than by all war and violence. Pollution is also responsible for more deaths than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. This disturbing revelation was revealed in a new study published in the Lancet medical journal. Scientists determined that one out of every six premature deaths (about 9 million in 2015) results from pollution; and while life is more important than money, these deaths cause $4.6 trillion in annual losses or about 6.2 percent of the world’s economy. Epidemiologist Philip Landrigan, lead author and Dean of global health at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, said, “There’s been a lot of study of pollution, but it’s never received the resources or level of attention as, say, AIDS or climate change. ” Landrigan added that pollution is a “massive problem” few truly comprehend, as what they’re witnessing are “scattered bits of it.” This is the first study of its kind to take into account data on all diseases and death caused by pollution combined. According to the study , developing countries — primarily in Asia and Africa — are putting the most people at risk due to a lack of air and soil pollution monitoring systems. In 2015, one out of four (2.5 million) premature deaths in India and one out of five (1.8 million) premature deaths in China were caused by pollution-related illness. “In the West, we got the lead out of the gasoline, so we thought lead was handled. We got rid of the burning rivers, cleaned up the worst of the toxic sites. And then all of those discussions went into the background,” said Richard Fuller, head of the Pure Earth and one of the 47 scientists who contributed to the report. In Bangladesh , Pakistan, North Korea, South Sudan and Haiti, nearly one-fifth of premature deaths are pollution-related. Based on this information, it should not come as a surprise that the poorest suffer most from pollution-related illness. 92 percent of sickness related to environmental toxicity occurs in low- or middle-income countries. Phys reports, “Environmental regulations in those countries tend to be weaker, and industries lean on outdated technologies and dirtier fuels.” Fuller noted that this safety of the public is being compromised for industrial growth, which has negative repercussions. He said, “What people don’t realize is that pollution does damage to economies . People who are sick or dead cannot contribute to the economy. They need to be looked after.” To determine the global impact of pollution , the study’s authors used methods outlined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for assessing field data from soil tests, in addition to air and water pollution data from the Global Burden of Disease. Though 9 million pollution-related deaths is a “conservative” estimate, it is still 15 times the number of people killed in war or other forms of violence, and six times the number killed in road accidents . Ernesto Sanchez-Triana, the lead environmental specialist at the World Bank, said, “The relationship between pollution and poverty is very clear. And controlling pollution would help us address many other problems, from climate change to malnutrition . The linkages can’t be ignored.” + Lancet Via Phys Images via Pixabay

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Study finds pollution is more deadly than war, natural disasters, and disease

Snhetta designs Europes first underwater restaurant

October 23, 2017 by  
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Europe’s first underwater restaurant offshore of Norway will put a new spin on the meaning of “dining with a view.” Snøhetta just unveiled designs for “Under,” a submerged restaurant that will offer spectacular views of the seabed and double as a research center for marine life. Advanced heating pump technology that taps into the seabed’s thermal mass will maintain the restaurant’s comfortable interior temperatures year-round. Under—which translates to “wonder” in Norwegian—will be housed in a monolithic concrete shell that appears to have sunk halfway into the sea. Located by the village of Båly at the southernmost point of the Norwegian coast, the building will rest directly on the seabed five meters below the water’s surface, where it will become an artificial mussel reef as a water-purifying mollusk community attaches to the building’s coarse surface. Meter-thick concrete walls will protect the structure from pressure and shock in the sea, while an 11-by-4-meter panoramic acrylic window frames views of the seabed and wild fauna. Related: Snøhetta unveils spectacular makeover for nation’s second-largest waterfall Visitors to Under will enjoy locally sourced seafood fare prepared by Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen as well as an educational journey thanks to informational plaques mounted along the trail to the restaurant entrance. The interior is fitted out in locally sourced materials and a warm-toned, natural materials palette, as well as muted lighting, to keep the emphasis on underwater views. The restaurant, which seats 80 to 100 guests, will be used as a marine biology research center on its off-hours. Snøhetta writes: “Through its architecture, menu and mission of informing the public about the biodiversity of the sea, Under will provide an under-water experience inspiring a sense of awe and delight, activating all the senses – both physical and intellectual.” + Snøhetta

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Snhetta designs Europes first underwater restaurant

Rainwater-harvesting pavilions mimic a lush rainforest at the Indianapolis Zoo

October 23, 2017 by  
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Artful rainwater design has taken root at the Indianapolis Zoo. RATIO Architects recently completed the Bicentennial Pavilion, an open-air events space modeled after a lush rainforest with 11 steel-framed “tree canopies.” Built primarily from natural materials, the pavilion is a beautiful example of multifunctional and sustainable design that provides 40,000 square feet of weather-protected events space while collecting and filtering 100% of its stormwater runoff. The Indianapolis Zoo Bicentennial Pavilion and Promenade was made possible by a $10 million grant provided by the Lilly Endowment in 2015. The money came with the requirement that the zoo “implement a game-changing initiative that benefits the community institution’s long-term sustainability.” To satisfy the zoo’s needs to expand visitor infrastructure and the Lilly Endowment’s condition, RATIO Architects designed an open-air multifunctional facility that could be used year-round and replace the zoo’s former 400-person events tent tucked into the back-of-house areas. The sustainability angle came from the use of natural materials —each tree-like column is built of 63 individual timber beams, while a hearth of rough-back quarry block limestone rests beneath the canopy—and stormwater management . The pavilion canopy funnels rainwater down the tree-like column’s laser-cut weathered steel rain screens and into planting beds, where it then percolates through a water quality unit and is held in a 14-foot deep water detention bed designed to accommodate 100-year flood events. The angled pavilion canopy is built of translucent roofing materials to let filtered light shine through, just as in a real rainforest canopy. Related: Stunning solar Butterfly House masters resource conservation in California The Bicentennial Pavilion is split up into two main event areas, each of which accommodate up to 400 guests. The pavilion can also be converted into one large event space for up to 800 guests. The pavilion’s north side is designed for the new bird exhibition, Magnificent Macaws, with a custom-designed stage and perch to showcase the birds on their twice-daily flight through the Pavilion. + RATIO Architects Via ArchDaily Images © Susan Fleck

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Rainwater-harvesting pavilions mimic a lush rainforest at the Indianapolis Zoo

BREAKING: Scotland bans fracking indefinitely

October 3, 2017 by  
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Go, Scotland! After hearing an overwhelming response from the public on the process of fracking , the country’s government put an “effective ban” on the controversial technique. Scotland’s energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, told MSPs that the practice “cannot and will not take place in Scotland .” Wheelhouse said there is little economic justification for fracking, and that the ban would deeply cut Scotland’s climate emissions. Over 65,000 people showed up to the public consultation on fracking; reportedly, 99 percent opposed the process. The energy minister said allowing fracking would cause “Long-lasting negative impacts on communities,” as well as impact Scotland’s public health and the environment. As a result, the moratorium which was put in place since 2015 would continue “indefinitely.” He said, ”The decision I am announcing today means that fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland.” In 2015, the country banned fracking and underground coal gasification. This development followed a series of reports on the potential health, environmental and economic effects of allowing the technique. Once Wheelhouse saw that 99 percent of the public opposed fracking, he realized “there is no social licence for unconventional oil and gas to be taken forward at this time”. Related: Ireland set to ban fracking after both houses of Parliament pass bill Environmentalists are celebrating the move. WWF Scotland official Sam Gardner said it was “excellent news.” He said, “the climate science is clear” that dirty fuels should be “left in the ground.” However, some are saying the move did not go far enough. Labour MSP Claudia Beamish, for instance, argued that the ministers were “merely extending” the existing moratorium which “could be overturned at any point at the whim of a minister.” The Scottish Green agrees that a permanent ban needs to be instated. Mary Church, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said ministers should “go further than relying on planning powers” and “instead commit to passing a law to ban the fracking industry for good.” Not everyone is in favor of the move. Scottish Conservatives say Scotland will miss out on a “much-needed economic boost” and high-skilled jobs. Tory MSP Dean Lockhart commented that ministers had “ignored scientific and economic evidence to take a “short-sighted and economically damaging decision which is nothing more than a bid to appease the green elements of the pro-independence movement.” According to Wheelhouse, MSPs will be given a vote on the issue later this year before a final decision is made. The BBC reports that because only Conservatives oppose the ban, the vote is likely to be a formality and nothing more. Via BBC , The Guardian Images via  Claudia Beamish MSP , Pixabay,   Wikimedia Commons  and DepositPhotos

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BREAKING: Scotland bans fracking indefinitely

Clean energy buyers team up to reshape policy landscape

September 14, 2017 by  
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Amazon, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Salesforce and Walmart flex muscle in the new Advanced Energy Economy trade group.

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Clean energy buyers team up to reshape policy landscape

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