U.S. contributes 5 times more ocean plastic than previous estimates

November 3, 2020 by  
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The U.S. is contributing up to five times more plastic pollution to the oceans than previously thought, according to a follow-up study published in Science Advances . The study was a sequel to 2015 research, which had given a rough estimate of the waste contribution by the U.S. The new study has now revealed that Americans contributed between 1.1 and 2.2 million metric tons of plastic to the oceans in 2016. This figure is almost double the higher end of the estimates from 2015 and five times more than the lowest estimates in the earlier predictions. The study has revealed that Americans are using more plastic than ever before. The data included American waste exports that were not accounted for in their previous studies. About 88% of the country’s waste exports goes to countries with poor recycling infrastructure. Recent developments have shown that much of the plastic waste that is exported does not go through recycling systems and ends up in the oceans. Related: Flow of plastic waste in the ocean could triple by 2040 “When you consider how much of our plastic waste isn’t actually recyclable because it is low-value, contaminated, or difficult to process, it’s not surprising that a lot of it ends up polluting the environment,” said Kara Lavender Law, lead author and research professor of oceanography at the Sea Education Association. Data analysis is an important aspect that must be employed in the management of plastic waste . According to Tony Walker, an associate professor at the Dalhousie University School for Resource and Environmental Studies, there is a lack of data standards across municipalities. The researchers are now emphasizing the need to get accurate information when it comes to plastic pollution. As reported by The New York Times , only 9% of the country’s total waste goes into the recycling system. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that such waste will actually be made into new items. Plastic recycling has proven to be quite expensive, making it unrealistic for plastic manufactures to use recycled plastic. + Science Advances Via The New York Times Image via Brian Yurasits

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Arkansas schools save millions by adopting solar power

October 22, 2020 by  
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Schools in the U.S. are using solar energy to cut down on expensive electricity bills. With funds freed up, schools can then improve the quality of education. As a  report by Generation180  shows, over 7,300 schools use the solar power approach to save on utility bills.  Generation180 is a non-profit organization that champions green energy . The group’s 2019 report indicates that about 16% of U.S. school districts had installed solar panels with a capacity to generate 1,337 megawatts of power.  One little-known Arkansas school district leads the way in adopting green energy. Once a cash-strapped area, the district has been able to generate surplus income by using solar energy. Batesville School District includes six schools that serve about 3,200 students. Just a few years ago, the school district struggled to retain its teachers due to high power bills. In 2017, the schools faced a possible shutdown due to an annual power bill of over $600,000. However, the school district managed to overturn its fortunes by adopting a solar power project.  After conducting an audit, the district realized it could save up to $2.4 million in 20 years if they installed 1,400 solar panels and energy-efficient lights/gadgets. According to Superintendant Michael Hester, the district chose this approach in a bid to increase teachers’ salaries. “Let’s use that money to start pumping up teachers’ salaries,” Hester said “It’s the way we’re going to attract and retain staff. And it’s the way we’re going to attract and retain students in this day and age of school choice.” Adopting the new initiative allowed the schools to transform their $250,000 annual deficit to a $1.8 million annual surplus. As a result, teachers’ salaries have increased by $2000 to $3000. According to Generation180, if all public schools in the U.S. adopted green solar energy, the education sector could reduce emissions equivalent to that produced by 18 coal power plants. However, many factors stand in the way of such a feat. Some factors that make the process complicated include lack of proper policy and financing. In some cases, the problem comes from communities reluctant to take steps in adopting non-conventional energy sources.  + Generation180 Via Energy News Image via Pixabay

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Wisdom is replacing plastic with zero-waste school supplies

October 7, 2020 by  
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“Waste is a design flaw.” That’s a quote from a start-up company in California that believes as guardians of the planet, it’s never too soon to take action nor too thoughtful to consider how our actions affect the environment our children will inherit. Wisdom Supply Company , a women-owned B-Corp based out of San Francisco, consists of two activists who found a way to take action against plastic waste by creating environmentally friendly supplies for the classroom. As students head back to school in whatever form 2020 brings, this duo has released a completely zero-waste solution to the typical pile of plastic and vinyl folders, binders and pencil boxes that are produced, used and tossed across the country each year. How it all began Seeing the amount of debris that cluttered the waste stream as school let out for summer, founder Heather Itzla took action by donating waste-free supplies to her local school. Knowing one school was merely a hatch mark on the long trail of establishments that rely on standard-yet-wasteful products, the self-proclaimed plastic waste activist started a business, “for the sole purpose of stopping the insane amount of plastic and vinyl waste coming out of schools every year.” Related: A guide to going green for the back-to-school season Itzla’s co-founder and fellow environmentalist Nicole Kozlowski was eager to jump on board with the idea after committing to protect “the ocean and wilderness by addressing disposable culture.” Kozlowski was already taking action as an ocean advocate by participating in ocean pollution events, where she continuously crossed paths with Itzla. Seeing their common passion unfold, the pair launched Wisdom with a focus on setting a good example for the very children that will inherit the current plastic pollution crisis without education, action and change around the topic. They hope to show the upcoming generation that there are alternatives to standardized and mass-produced plastic. Sustainable school supplies Plastic has, in fact, been an exponentially growing problem across the planet, with debris making its way into nearly every corner of the environment, including the oceans, where it is ingested by marine life. This is not only unhealthy for the animals but comes full circle in animals we rely on as food, like fish. With this in mind, Wisdom’s mission is to “disrupt what we call the shelf-to-shore pipeline” by eliminating the waste where it begins. The Wisdom Supply Co. products are all conscientiously made, packaged and shipped. Examples include cardboard binders that can be replaced for a few bucks, allowing you to reuse the metal pieces from the inside, an action that merely requires a screwdriver and a few minutes of time. This is more than a product, it’s a mindset, and one example of how a single act can significantly reduce the amount of supply waste. Other products available are plastic-free folders, paper-only planners, colored and unpainted pencils and a yellow highlighter. The company also provides a recyclable aluminum pencil tin set lined with wool that includes a pencil, metal sharpener, highlighter and natural rubber eraser. Some products are still working toward 100% plastic-free , like the Stabilo markers, which act as a regular marker, dry erase marker and watercolor all in one. The down side, as the company points out with its petition to the manufacturer, Staedtler, is a small amount of plastic film on the top of the marker as well as a plastic sharpener that, so far, is the most effective tool for the job. In addition, Wisdom Supply Co. has put together two zero-waste kits for easy shopping. One targets the elementary-age classroom and the other is appropriate through college or even the adult home office. The kits make a great end-of-year teacher’s gift, too. By signing up for the rewards program, your gift purchases will pay you back. For every $25 minimum purchase made using the shared link, you’ll earn $5 toward a future purchase, and you can redeem multiple rewards within the same purchase to earn free items. A certified B-Corp Making wise choices is only part of the reason for the company name, Wisdom Supply Co. The primary inspiration actually came from the animal world, appropriately. In 1951, a wild female Laysan albatross hatched. Five years later, she was tagged for study and released back into the wild. According the the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Wisdom is the oldest wild bird ever recorded. Even more astonishing is her consistent hatching of eggs, even at the ripe age of 69. Nearly every species of albatross is listed as threatened, making Wisdom the ideal mascot for a company dedicated to improving animal habitats. Wisdom Supply Co.’s commitment to all things environmental has earned it the coveted B-Corp certification, a designation gained by only around 3,000 companies worldwide. In addition, Itzla and Kozlowski have been acknowledged as a Best For the World honoree in recognition of their environmental performance and sustainable business practices. This places them in the top 10% of all B-Corps globally in the “Environment” category. We put Wisdom Supply Co. to the test The team at Wisdom reached out to offer a zero-waste kit for me to enjoy and review. It’s always easier to write about products I can touch and feel, and these are samples I’m proud to have in my home. There’s no greenwashing here. The tin pencil box is everything it needs to be: solid, durable, sturdy but still easy to open and close. The yellow highlighter/marker is nothing short of impressive. No plastic in sight and sans the cringe-inducing squeak from typical highlighters. I’m ridiculously excited about the metal pencil sharpener, because the electric one I used to have no longer has a cord. It’s a welcome replacement to the box knives I’ve been using as a pencil sharpener. The binder is easy to put together and will be fun to personalize with stickers or markers. Ditto for the recycled and recyclable folders. They are thick enough that you don’t have to worry about tearing with regular use.  The 2021 planner is full-size with adequate space to put multiple appointments on each date. Plus, it includes a calendar in the front for easy reference. It’s made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials, is FSC-certified and is chlorine- and ink-free. While the thoughtful products and packaging are a breath of fresh air, what I love most about this company is the transparency. It is upfront about where product(s) fall short on the 100% plastic-free pledge and educate about companies it does business with. I love that the founders have taken action to solve a problem by implementing a viable, long-term solution. They’ve removed the design flaw. That’s Wisdom. + Wisdom Supply Co. Images via Wisdom and Dawn Hammon / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Wisdom Supply Co. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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Girl Scouts Camp Trivera combines STEM and sustainable architecture

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

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Girl Scouts Camp Trivera combines STEM and sustainable architecture

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

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

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Educational center in Russia has a wind turbine and rooftop solar panels

July 30, 2020 by  
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Located in the Russian village of Khryug in southern Dagestan, the Luminary Inspiration Center is a welcomed educational experience in a small town of just 2,000 residents. The idea for an interactive creative center was born thanks to a local charity foundation, which delivered computers to the village schools in an effort to bring the area up to national internet communication standards. The center has been open since mid-2018 and has always remained free-of-charge for kids between the ages of 10 and 17. By 2020, there were about 120 children regularly studying in the center, half from Khryug and the rest from neighboring villages. Related: Locally crafted children’s learning center doubles as an emergency shelter in the Philippines One of the most compelling aspects of Luminary is its architecture, which is unlike anything else in the immediate region. Most of the children who frequent the center have never been outside of their villages, nor have they experienced anything outside of their own neighborhood’s common architecture. Luminary offers a chance for them to see mosaics of different styles and epochs as well as the combination of the traditional architecture of the area with contemporary black metal and glass elements. The educational center is located within a 2,500-square-meter property inside of an apple garden and includes a lecture hall designed with panoramic glass walls and an outdoor amphitheater for fresh-air learning during favorable weather. Inside, there is a wide range of educational spaces including an observatory, robotics and VR laboratories, a virtual planetarium, a cinema, a library and an artistic workshop. A peaceful, modern interior creates the perfect learning environment for studying and creative thinking. Sunlight-harvesting rooftop solar panels assist with the frequent power outages, so if the internet is lost at any time, it only takes 0.025 seconds for the solar battery to kick in. A large wind turbine in the garden powers the water fountain and provides a working example for a favorite student project — assembling a working wind turbine and solar power station in Luminary’s technological laboratory. + Archiproba Studios Photography by Alexei Kalabin via Archiproba Studios

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Educational center in Russia has a wind turbine and rooftop solar panels

Retired USPS van is converted into a mobile community center

July 20, 2020 by  
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Known as the Chicago Mobile Makerspace, this renovated United States Postal Service delivery van has been given a second life as a mobile community center and classroom. Completed in June 2020, the converted van has everything necessary for use as a classroom, tool shop, design studio, gallery or general meeting space. There is ample storage for power and hand tools, art materials, laptops and even larger machinery, such as laser cutters and 3D printers. Thanks to an efficient electrical system that includes four rooftop solar panels , the sustainable community-center-on-wheels has the capacity to power tools or charge devices. The van also has a wind-powered ventilator, and the floors are fitted with Marmoleum — a sustainable flooring made from natural materials . Related: Go off the grid with a Tesla-powered adventure vehicle by Ready.Set.Van. An interior with light birch plywood cabinets, a custom pegboard, magnetic whiteboards, seating and a desk allows students and community members to hold meetings and workshops with ease. Large windows and a warm color scheme give the 108-square-foot converted van a more spacious feel, while the design features a hinged door that allows students to easily spill outside while continuing to interact with the inside. The bright, patterned exterior helps the van stand out on the street, attracting passersby to interact with this community space. Behind the $21,000-project is Chicago Mobile Makers, a nonprofit organization that offers free and low-cost youth workshops on problem-solving, design, architecture, digital fabrication and construction throughout Chicago. The workshops encourage local youth to inspire change in their own communities through design and skill-building. In 2019, the nonprofit engaged more than 670 youths, held over 150 workshops and served 11 different neighborhoods. Now, with the addition of the redesigned van, kids in Chicago will be able to get the same unique educational experience in virtually any location within the city, from an empty lot to a summer street festival. + Chicago Mobile Makers Images via Chicago Mobile Makers

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Retired USPS van is converted into a mobile community center

Community collects locally sourced materials to construct a school in Vietnam

May 4, 2020 by  
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The Xuan Hoa commune in the Lao Cai province of northwest Vietnam is, like much of the surrounding area, a region that has suffered from economic hardships in the past. A large number of households in Xuan Hoa live in extreme poverty, including many of the school district’s 78 students aged 6 to 11 years old. The new Dao school by 1+1>2 Architects was completed in 2019 to provide provide education to the area’s children in first through fifth grades. All of the students are ethnic minorities from the Tay, Nung, Dao and Mong groups; this multicultural aspect was a strong motivating factor in the development of the project. A combination of shared open spaces and a school yard helps inspire students from different groups to interact. Related: A clean-energy school in southern France draws power from the sun The former school housed five classrooms, two of which were temporary structures for students from grade four and five, and was very vulnerable. The original structures were made of deteriorating wood and were close to collapse, damaged and fitted with years of poorly adapted repair jobs. The new school was developed by the Vietnam Sustainability Social Enterprise and coordinated, designed and constructed by 1+1>2 Architects. Vietnam-based Transsolar advised on the climate aspects of the project, which included an open-style concept to join bricks with a specified wall thickness of 15 centimeters for the main structure. This concept keeps the school interior at a comfortable temperature for the students and teachers by taking advantage of the daylight and wind to help cool down the building during the hot summer months. More than 3,000 bricks were crafted from local soil to build the school; over 4,000 dried leaves were collected by the community for the traditional thatched roof. + 1+1>2 Architects Via ArchDaily Photography by Son Vu via 1+1>2 Architects

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Community collects locally sourced materials to construct a school in Vietnam

Eco-friendly Fun, Education, & Advocacy While Staying Home

April 21, 2020 by  
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Responsibly social distancing yourself from others during the coronavirus pandemic … The post Eco-friendly Fun, Education, & Advocacy While Staying Home appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Eco-friendly Fun, Education, & Advocacy While Staying Home

Geothermal-powered education center anchors Louisvilles new Waterfront Botanical Gardens

February 26, 2020 by  
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A notorious old landfill in Louisville, Kentucky is being transformed into the new Waterfront Botanical Gardens, a verdant 23.5-acre site designed by architecture firm Perkins + Will . At the heart of the newly opened gardens is the 6,000-square-foot Graeser Family Education Center — also designed by Perkins + Will — that features an organic, sinuous form evocative of the nearby Ohio River. Engineered for a small environmental footprint, the energy-efficient building is powered with geothermal energy . Opened last fall as part of the first phase of the Waterfront Botanical Gardens, the Graeser Family Education Center doubles as an events venue that seamlessly connects to an outdoor landscaped plaza. Because the site was used as a landfill , massive concrete supports and concrete-filled steep pipes were put underground to secure the building. Above ground, the long spans of the horizontal building are supported by a continuous, ribbon-like beam propped up with 99 pine columns that alternate with glass windows around a 300-foot perimeter. The names of the $10,000 donors to the project have been added to each column. The wood will develop a natural patina over time. Related: Perkins + Will’s KTTC building blends beauty and sustainability in Ontario The long roof overhang mitigates unwanted solar gain while the glass walls let in ample natural light and continuous views of the gardens on all sides. The building functions as the heart of all educational programming at the Waterfront Botanical Gardens and includes a large, multifunctional space for activities as well as event space with seating for about 250 people. The education center has easy access to the outdoor plaza, which has been landscaped with edible gardens, native gardens and pollinator gardens , all of which are fully accessible to visitors and feature hands-on learning. The last part of phase one is set to open in 2020 and will include the Beargrass Creek Overlook and an immersive allée. Future phases include a visitors center, an entry garden, a water filtration garden, outdoor garden spaces and a glass conservatory. + Perkins + Will Photography by James Steinkamp Photography via Perkins + Will

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Geothermal-powered education center anchors Louisvilles new Waterfront Botanical Gardens

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