‘Floating’ Kayak Point makes a home in the trees

June 22, 2020 by  
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Sometimes architecture means not building, or at least not in the traditional sense. Presented with logistical challenges, the team at Christopher Wright Architecture used innovation and creativity to create Kayak Point, a house perched in the trees along the Puget Sound coastline in Washington state. The clients, one of whom is originally from Switzerland , came to the architects with an idea in mind. They wanted a house that combined Swiss design elements with modern touches all nestled within a wooded coastal lot. With a focus on craftsmanship and attention to detail, they developed a plan for a strong yet environmentally-sensitive home with the smallest footprint available . Portions of the home don’t sit on the ground at all. Suspended slightly above ground, support beams run across the bottom of the home’s center to provide the needed structure. Related: Hawk Nest House combines rammed earth and local stone As with most architectural design, the plan changed and evolved as the team studied the available land. Construction only being allowed on a small portion of the property meant finding ways to work around the challenge. The single-story structure presented an even larger challenge in the form of massive cedar trees that the clients wanted to be kept intact. With such a small available building area, the home had to be situated directly in those trees, but digging a traditional foundation would have endangered the tree roots below ground. To avoid this, the entire center of the house was elevated instead.  “We wanted to create a home that seems to belong where it is–as if it could have always been there–but does not necessarily blend or disappear. Here, I like the strength of the simple form set against the natural landscape,” said architect Christopher Wright. To further this goal, cedar clads the entire structure, both inside and out. An outdoor space connects the expansive views to the function of the interior. For interior design, Kayak Point encompasses natural elements combined with a streamlined, cozy vibe that invites the owners to relax and enjoy the view. The architects catered to requests for a TV viewing area, fireplace and large European -style kitchen, each focusing on dynamic lighting and deliberate lines for a finished home cemented into refined tranquility. + Christopher Wright Architecture Photography by Anna Spencer and Ben Benschneider  

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‘Floating’ Kayak Point makes a home in the trees

Environmental racism in America

June 22, 2020 by  
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The stretch of land along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is riddled with petrochemical plants spewing smoke into the air. Huge pipes pump chemicals above and below the highway to load boats in the river. This former plantation land’s modern nicknames are Cancer Alley and Death Alley because of the pollution-induced illness rife in the riverside communities. People familiar with environmental racism won’t be surprised to learn that Saint James Parish, in the heart of this area, is predominately Black. This is some of America’s most polluted air, with eight major industrial plants in 103 square miles and a new, enormous plastic project on the horizon. The cancer rate here is 700 times the national average. All around the country — and, in fact, the world — toxic plants are placed by the least affluent and most vulnerable populations, most of whom are people of color. These low-income communities tend to have the least political power to keep pollution generators out of their backyards. The term environmental racism Environmental racism is not a new concept. But with the Black Lives Matter movement thrusting all forms of racial inequity into the public eye, it’s time to take a look at what it means and how we can create change. Related: Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harm’s way Benjamin F. Chavis, Junior, former president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), defined the term in his 1983 work, “ Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States .” The NNPA is an association for Black-owned newspaper publishers. Chavis described environmental racism as deliberately targeting communities of color for siting toxic waste facilities that expose people to life-threatening pollutants and poisons. Chavis acknowledged different types of racism, but noted, “environmental racism is a particularly insidious and intentional form of racism that negatively affects millions of Black, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans, as well as people of color around the world.” Environmental racism means that people of color feel a disproportionate impact from things like toxic waste dumps, pollution and chemical plants that expose them to pollutants, known carcinogens and contaminated water at a much higher rate than more affluent White neighborhoods. The problem is intensified by officials failing to enforce environmental laws, for example, the thousands of Black children exposed to lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan in the last decade while officials assured everybody the water was safe. Types of environmental threats that communities of color face Whether they are threats to the water , air or land, people of color face them all. According to a 2012 NAACP study , communities of color breathe in 40% more polluted air than White neighborhoods. Much of this is from coal plants. While only 13% of the U.S. population is Black, 68% live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. That’s 12% higher than for White people. Associated problems include higher risks of birth defects, heart attacks and asthma. Black communities suffer from unusually high levels of asthma. Black women are 20% likelier to have asthma than non-Hispanic White people, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health website. In 2014, Black people were almost three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than White people. Children are hit especially hard, with a much higher rate of asthma-related hospitalization and death. In addition to coal plants, low-income Black communities are disproportionately located near other types of toxic sites. In rural areas, this could be farm runoff. “Swine CAFOs are disproportionately located in black and brown communities and regions of poverty,” stated a study by researchers at School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, are an innocuous-sounding euphemism for animals packed tightly together, living sad and squalid lives around enormous manure lagoons. People who live near these air- and water-polluting operations often suffer from eye, nose and throat irritation, depression, stress and decreased quality of life. In North Carolina, CAFOs center on pigs. In California’s San Joaquin Valley, dairy farm waste, including pesticides , has upped the asthma rates in Black and Brown communities. Environmental racism and COVID-19 The novel coronavirus has preyed especially hard on people of color. Patients with underlying conditions are up to 12 times as likely to die of COVID-19 than those that were healthy before contracting the novel coronavirus. A CDC report released June 15 cited heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease as the most common underlying conditions contributing to COVID-19 deaths. Black communities have a much higher rate of many conditions that predispose people to dying of COVID-19. These include diabetes, asthma, tobacco exposure, strokes, high blood pressure and cancer. Racism leads to and aggravates all of these conditions, from breathing in more pollution and experiencing more stress in the first place, to having less access to healthcare for early diagnosis and treatment of illness. Via Food is Power and The Guardian Images via Pixabay

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Climate change, deforestation lead to younger, shorter trees

June 4, 2020 by  
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Recently published research in  Science  magazine warns that older, taller  trees  are quickly becoming a thing of the past, consequently leaving forests in disarray. Forest dynamics being disrupted like this spells trouble for ecosystem equilibrium and  biodiversity .  While natural disturbances —  flooding , landslides, insect infestations, fungi, vine overgrowth, disease, wildfire and even wind damage — negatively impact  forests , they do not compare with the magnitude of harm humans have precipitated. Consider how over-harvesting trees for more land use has altered forest landscapes. The felling of numerous tree stands has severely dwindled the carbon sinks required to fix excess atmospheric carbon resultant from human-induced  greenhouse gas emissions .  Related:  What’s causing the decline in monarch butterfly populations? Without the necessary  carbon  storage from forest trees, global temperatures will continue to rise and intensify consequent climate change damage.  Climate change  exacerbates conditions through insect and pathogen outbreaks that further compromise tree health and development. In fact,  research  has shown that annual “carbon storage lost to insects” equals “the amount of carbon emitted by 5 million vehicles.” This illustrates how substantial tree decline due to insects can be.  Why are biologists worried about the adversely shifting forest dynamics? As the  U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)  explained, “Wood harvests alone have had a huge impact on the shift of global forests towards younger ages or towards non-forest land, reducing the amount of forests, and old-growth forests, globally. Where forests are re-established on harvested land, the trees are smaller and  biomass  is reduced.”  Conservationists  subsequently admonish that continuing with business as usual will only worsen the conditions that increase tree mortality rates and the accompanying biodiversity crisis. As  NPR  reported, “Researchers found that the world lost roughly one-third of its old growth forest between 1900 and 2015. In North America and Europe , where more data was available, they found that tree mortality has doubled in the past 40 years.” It is believed these worrying trends will persist unless changes are made and new protection policies enacted.  Research team lead, Nate McDowell of PNNL, realized there was a major problem as he studied how global temperature rise affected tree growth and the changes occurring within a forest. Satellite imagery and modeling data unveiled a comprehensive view of the state of global forests and their shifts from older, taller trees to younger, shorter ones. The overall picture is of extensive loss. “I would recommend that people try to visit places with big trees now, while they can, with their kids,” McDowell advised. “Because there’s some significant threat, that might not be possible sometime in the future.” McDowell’s research ties in closely with last summer’s study from  National Science Review , which showcased how exposure to both rising temperatures and extreme temperature ranges have decreased  vegetation  growth throughout the northern hemisphere. The finding upended previous beliefs that  global warming  would increase vegetation photosynthesis and extend the photosynthetic growing season. Instead, global warming was seen to increase the chances of  drought  and wildfire, which reduced water availability and therefore distressed forest vegetation. + Science Via NPR and PNNL

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Italy’s Relaunch Decree helps homeowners install solar photovoltaic systems for free

May 27, 2020 by  
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Italy has been hit hard by COVID-19 and is attempting to jump-start its economy through the Relaunch Decree, a revitalization package of 55 billion euros ($60 billion) that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and his cabinet passed earlier this month. The stimulus includes tax breaks for clean energy projects and renovations; Italian homeowners are offered free rooftop installations of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems through the Relaunch Decree. To help Italy recover from the coronavirus-induced recession, incentives — like tax credits for homeowners pivoting toward energy efficient home improvement projects — are offered. According to Ernst & Young’s Global Tax News , “Individuals can offset 110% of qualified building renovation and energy efficiency costs incurred between 1 July 2020 and 31 December 2021 against their tax liabilities in five equal installments (up to certain thresholds).” Related: First home solar pavement installed on a driveway PV Magazine explained that the bonus is “for building-renovation projects from 65% to 110% and a jump in support for PV installations and storage systems associated with such renovation projects, from 50% of costs to 110%.” Any solar photovoltaic installations for the next year-and-a-half will be subsidized. Only a few weeks ago, Green Tech Media warned that Italy’s subsidy-free solar sector had stalled due to the pandemic, placing many projects on hold. While the solar industry is no stranger to vicissitude cycles, the pandemic added unexpected variables. “For the sector, the Relaunch Decree is certainly a great opportunity for the spread of photovoltaics on the roofs of Italian homes,” said Paolo Rocco Viscontini, president of PV association Italia Solare. Italy’s investment incentives for solar should come as no surprise, since Statista describes Italy as “the leading country worldwide for electricity consumption covered by solar PV.” Since the early 2000s, Italy has been a strong proponent of solar installations. In 2017, it unveiled its National Energy Strategy — a 10-year plan to decarbonize, expand renewable energy and promote energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. As of early 2020, Italy is second only to Germany in the photovoltaic sector, with solar power as the country’s preferred renewable energy source. In 2019, Italy had a 69% increase in solar photovoltaic installations compared to 2018. That growth was deemed “the most substantial recorded in Italy” by PV Europe with a grand total of 56,590 new solar power system installations in 2019, of which 50,653 were residential. While COVID-19 dampened photovoltaic growth for Italy’s first quarter of 2020, many nonetheless hope that the Relaunch Decree’s incentives can support a swift restart of the solar PV sector. Tom Heggarty, principal solar analyst for global energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said , “Solar [projects are] pretty quick to develop and construct. So once we start to see restrictions lifted, the industry should, theoretically, be in a good place to bounce back quite quickly.” Via EY Global Tax News , PV Magazine , Green Tech Media , Statista and PV Europe Image via Giorgio Trovato

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An abandoned Chinese village is reborn as an interactive art destination

May 27, 2020 by  
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With 1 billion people estimated to be living in Chinese cities in 2050, China is seeing hundreds of thousands of its rural villages abandoned. In a bid to bring renewed life to one of its 102 abandoned villages, the Government of Jinxi tapped Dutch firm NEXT Architects to sustainably revitalize the ancient village of Dafang. Created in collaboration with IVEM (Dutch Institute for Cultural Heritage and Marketing), Smartland (landscape design), Total Design (graphic design) and numerous Dutch and Chinese artists, the recently completed Holland-Dafang Creative Village transformed a dilapidated village into a new hub for the arts. Spanning an area of 43,000 square meters, the Holland-Dafang Creative Village serves as an inspiring model of rural revitalization achieved by a multidisciplinary team of Chinese and Dutch architects. Led by the design strategy “adapt to newness,” the entire village of Dafang has been renewed with three main strategies: thoughtful restoration of the architecture and landscape; the construction of new public facilities; and the re-programming of spaces through art and activity. Related: MAD reactivates an abandoned Japanese tunnel using surreal immersive art Although Dafang has over 900 years of history, years of neglect has led to its deterioration. The architects restored the historical architecture with new materials, such as the use of glass roof tiles on the roofs of old houses and the resurrection of an ancient irrigation system with a new, natural helophyte filter for water purification . New construction was also added, including a sculptural watchtower — a throwback to the defense structure popularly used in ancient times — with a twisting form loosely resembling a giant Chinese “dragon column”. The team also included a new camphor tree-inspired public hall set on the former site of a courtyard building that had been destroyed in the Cultural Revolution. The designers also gave the restored landscape and architecture new purposes, from rehabbing old buildings into a new village museum to the creation of a library and artist studios. “Rural revitalization is one of China’s key future developments,” said John van de Water, partner of NEXT Architects in Beijing. “We believe this asks for the design of balance between old and new, living and visiting, history and future.”  + NEXT Architects Images via NEXT Architects

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Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics

May 11, 2020 by  
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Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics Joel Makower Mon, 05/11/2020 – 00:44 At first glance, the sprawling industrial site, covering roughly 900 acres in Kingsport, Tennessee, appears to be just another chemical manufacturing facility. There are hundreds of buildings and countless miles of pipes, conveyors, distillers, cooling towers, valves, pumps, compressors and controls. It doesn’t exactly look or feel particularly noteworthy. But something extraordinary is going on at this Eastman chemical plant: two breakthrough processes to turn waste plastics of all kinds back into new plastics, continuously, with no loss of quality. Last year, the company announced two major initiatives: Carbon renewal technology , or CRT, which breaks down waste plastic feedstocks to the molecular level before using them as building blocks to produce a wide range of materials and packaging. The company claims this enables waste plastics to be recycled an infinite number of times without degradation of quality. Polyester renewal technology , or PRT, which involves taking waste polyesters from landfills and other waste streams and transforming them back into a raw material that the company claims is indistinguishable from polyester produced from fossil-fuel feedstocks. With both CRT and PRT, hard-to-recycle plastics can be recycled an infinite number of times, says Eastman, creating products that can claim high levels of certified recycled content — a true closed loop. Both technologies are or will be hitting the market, so it is too soon to call them a success. Still, they represent a story about a legacy industrial company seeking to reinvent itself by simultaneously addressing the climate crisis, the scourge of plastic waste and the need to accelerate resource efficiency to meet the material needs of 10 billion people by mid-century. If it works, this old-line corporate icon could find itself a leading light in the emerging circular economy . Chemical reaction Eastman, celebrating its centennial this year, was founded by George Eastman, the entrepreneur who, in the late 1880s, started the Eastman Kodak Company. (“Kodak” was a made-up word he appended to his last name.) Along the way, he nearly singlehandedly democratized photography (and spawned countless “Kodak moments” ) through the company’s production of cameras, film, processing chemicals and related goods and services. In 1920, in the wake of World War I, Eastman’s company was suffering a scarcity of raw materials, including photographic paper, optical glass and gelatin, and many chemicals — such as methanol, acetic acid and acetone — needed to produce and process film stock and prints. He determined that ensuring his company’s future would require self-reliance. He set out to find a suitable location for a Kodak-owned and operated chemical production facility. If it works, this old-line corporate icon could find itself a leading light in the emerging circular economy. Kingsport proved to be the right spot, situated in what is known as the Mountain Empire, which spans a portion of southwest Virginia and the mountainous counties in northeastern Tennessee. It had ready access to two key commodities vital to Kodak: wood fiber to make cellulose, the key material in photographic film; and coal, which powered its boilers to make steam and electricity, and later would be used to produce synthetic gas — syngas — to create the acetyl chemicals needed to make films, plastics and textiles. From those two feedstocks, Eastman Chemical, a subsidiary of Kodak, grew to become an economic powerhouse in the Mountain Empire, expanding into its own empire of more than 50 manufacturing sites worldwide. The company adapted to, and prospered from, the changing times. By the late 1920s, for example, the demand for home movie film and the growing need for X-ray film led Eastman Chemical to produce acetic anhydride, the base material for photographic emulsions. In the 1930s, the company turned to producing cellulose acetate to make textile fibers. The automobile boom of the 1940s and 1950s led Eastman to produce chemicals and materials critical to automotive design and production. During World War II, the Kingsport site infamously was used to make RDX, a powerful explosive — a million and a half pounds a day, at its peak. By the end of World War II, Eastman was managing a project to produce enriched uranium for the Manhattan Project. After the war, polyester fibers for textiles and other products became, and remain, a significant line of business. George Eastman didn’t live to see much of the success he catalyzed. He died in 1932 by suicide, a single bullet to the heart. In the 1990s, Kodak’s photography business darkened with the advent of digital cameras — the company was slow to adapt and got run over by more nimble competitors — and the company spun off its chemical division in 1994 to help pay down debt. (Eastman, the company, has dropped “chemical” from its branding, although not from its legally incorporated name.) Eastman’s latest innovations, as well as its pivot to make sustainability core to its strategy, has been energized by its current chairman and CEO, Mark Costa. A former management consultant — Eastman was one of his clients — and brandishing degrees from both Berkeley and Harvard, Costa joined the company in 2006 to lead strategy, marketing and business development before ascending to the corner office in 2014. Under his leadership, the company has accelerated its transformation from chemicals to specialty materials. “When we came out of the great recession in 2009 and were starting to think about our innovation portfolio, we were already thinking about sustainability in a very serious way,” Costa told me over lunch in his office in early March, with a sweeping view of a nature preserve and park deeded by Eastman to the city of Kingsport. “We knew that the circular economy and being a lot more efficient with carbon was a good idea.” Media Authorship Mark Costa, Courtesy of Eastman Close Authorship Eastman CEO Mark Costa (Photo courtesy of Eastman) “This idea of circularity isn’t new to us,” he added. “In all of our innovation — I had the responsibility for the innovation portfolio since 2009 — we required everything that we did be tied to a sustainability driver. All the way back then.” Plastic to plastic Eastman’s two new “renewal” technologies are, to some degree, natural extensions of products and services that have long been part of Eastman’s toolkit. Now, repurposed and modified for an era of sustainability and circularity, they position the company to address one of the holy grails of the circular economy: turning waste plastic back into new plastic with the same performance and quality characteristics. The rising attention being paid to the global plastic waste problem has illuminated many serious challenges of collecting, sorting and recycling plastic back into new plastic in a continuously closed loop.  For starters, only a couple kinds of plastics are being regularly collected and recycled, based on available infrastructure and market demand: PET and HDPE — Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the SPI resin identification codes developed in the late 1980s by the Society of the Plastics Industry. Most of the others — SPI Nos. 3 through 7 — are technically possible to recycle but lack both infrastructure and markets in most places. Worst of all is the growing mountain of packaging that is multi-material — layers upon layers of mixed polymers, papers, laminates and foils — in the form of juice boxes, ketchup packets, toothpaste tubes and countless other things. These Franken-materials are a nonstarter for most modern recycling systems. The best one can hope is that they be downcycled into some durable product — say, artificial turf, plastic furniture or an automobile fan blade — which itself will wear out eventually, ending up as nonrecyclable waste in a landfill. But only a tiny fraction of these plastics ever escape landfills as their final resting place. Eastman’s ability to turn all plastics back into their constituent molecules is a potential game-changer. Sorting all these plastics is another issue. Even if plastics 3 through 7 were readily recyclable, keeping various polymer types separate from one another is a highly labor-intensive task, assuming the infrastructure was even there to handle it. And given the historically low price of oil, even before the recent market crash, recycled plastic remains uncompetitive to virgin for many applications. Those petrochemicals are just too darn cheap. So, Eastman’s ability to turn all waste plastics back into their constituent molecules and back into productive use is a potential game-changer. A primer There are two basic ways to recycle plastics: mechanical and chemical. The former is most commonly used with soda bottles (PET) and milk jugs (HDPE) — plastics 1 and 2, respectively. It involves grinding, washing, separating, drying, regranulating and compounding waste plastic to create new raw materials. Mechanical recycling can be cost-effective but has limits and disadvantages: The process is heat-intensive — and, therefore, energy- and carbon-intensive — and produces air pollutants. Contamination by food and other foreign materials is another problem that literally gums up the works. And after plastic has been mechanically recycled once, it’s rarely suitable for another round of recycling. This means that the recycled material eventually will end up in waste streams. And there are physical limits to how recycled plastics produced through mechanical methods can be used in manufacturing. “You can only get up to maybe 50 percent recycled content in a bottle with mechanical, where you really start getting a pretty ugly product and all kinds of other performance issues,” Costa said. “So, there’s going to be sort of a quality performance limitation.” An alternative is chemical recycling, a technology that has been around since the 1950s but has become the focus of growing investment and innovation as the circular economy has gained steam. Plastic makers including BP and Dow, and consumer packaged goods companies such as Coca-Cola, Danone and Unilever, are testing or investing tens of millions of dollars in the technology, according to the Wall Street Journal . In chemical recycling, depolymerization breaks down plastics into their raw materials for conversion back into new polymers. Pyrolysis — heating of an organic material in the absence of oxygen — can turn mixed plastic waste into naphtha, which can be transformed back into petrochemicals and plastics. With only about 9 percent of the more than 400 million tons of plastic waste produced globally each year currently being recycled, according to U.N. Environment , that leaves the other 90 percent or so as potential feedstock.  There’s big potential here, according to a 2019 report from the American Chemistry Council. It found that if widely adopted, chemical recycling — which it refers to as “advanced plastic recycling and recovery” — could create nearly 40,000 direct and indirect U.S. jobs, as much as $2.2 billion in annual payroll and $9.9 billion in direct and indirect economic output.  Calling on the carpet Eastman’s carbon renewal and polyester renewal technologies are forms of chemical recycling. But they aren’t intended simply to displace mechanical recycling. For PET and HDPE plastics, mechanical recycling already is reasonably efficient, creating recycled materials streams that have proven cost-competitive in many markets. “We don’t want to compete with that,” Costa said. “Frankly, the value of it is too high. From a sustainability point of view, you shouldn’t touch it.” Media Authorship Courtesy of Eastman Close Authorship Besides, there’s a much bigger opportunity. Eastman’s Polyester Renewal Technology is a chemical recycling process specifically for polyester waste, which produces virgin-like materials, even from colored PET, according to Eastman. The process involves using glycolysis — the breakdown of PET by ethylene glycol — to disassemble waste PET into its fundamental building blocks. Those building blocks then can be reassembled to produce new polyesters with high levels of recycled content. In its search for waste plastics, Eastman easily can forgo tapping into recycling markets for plastic water and soda bottles. There are plenty of other sources of waste polyester — from carpets, for example. In one recent initiative, Eastman partnered with Circular Polymers , a company that reclaims post-consumer products for recycling. Circular Polymers is collecting and densifying the PET it retrieves from waste carpeting. It then converts the PET waste into pellets, which are shipped by railroad from its plant in California to Eastman in Tennessee. Eastman uses its CRT process to turn the pellets into new materials with certified recycled content. Those materials end up in textiles, packaging for cosmetics and personal care products, and eyeglass frames. Costa says Eastman could divert millions of pounds of carpeting a year through partnerships such as this, although that’s still a mere fraction of the more than 3 billion pounds of carpet sent to landfills in 2018, just in the United States, according to Carpet America Recovery Effort , an industry group. And it’s not just polyester. Eastman sees potentially unlimited opportunity in all the other types of plastic waste — especially the stuff that’s hard to recycle, from a cost and logistics perspective, including those dreaded Franken-materials. The company’s goal is to extract the value of the carbon molecules contained in these waste materials and put them back into productive use as like-new plastics. Said Costa: “If there’s a way to bring carbon back in through products that’s better than the fossil-fuel approach of the linear economy, we should do that, right? I mean, this isn’t complicated.” Fashion forward Eastman’s goal is to substitute its “carbon renewal” materials for their virgin counterparts wherever they are economically viable. Beyond pure economics, Costa described to me Eastman’s three criteria for determining when it makes sense, from both a business and ecological perspective, to recycle waste plastic. First, the waste has to go back into products — not be incinerated or burned to make energy. Second, the carbon footprint of the recycled material must be better than its fossil-fuel equivalent, based on life-cycle analysis. And third, “Consumers shouldn’t give up a lot in their quality of life.” That is, few if any tradeoffs in price or performance. So far, CRT and PRT processes are finding their way into several of Eastman’s many brands of polymers, including Tr?va, a cellulose-based thermoplastic made from trees, used in automotive, packaging and electronics applications; CDA, a bio-derived material, used in injection-molded applications, such as ophthalmic frames and tool handles; Cristal, designed and engineered specifically for high-end cosmetics packaging applications; and Tritan, a durable clear plastic used to make Camelbak and Nalgene water bottles, and Rubbermaid food storage containers. And then there is Naia , a fiber made from certified sustainably managed pine and eucalyptus plantations, widely used in the fashion industry. It is essentially cellulose acetate, the same material used in photographic film, being made by Eastman in Kingsport for about 100 years. In this case, it is spun into a yarn that is used to make fabric. Naia is made in a closed-loop process, in which chemical inputs — acetic acid and acetone — are continuously recycled. Naia is made in a closed-loop process, in which chemical inputs — acetic acid and acetone — continuously are recycled. According to company marketing materials, it compares favorably to silk, cotton, viscose filaments and polyester in terms of environmental impacts — water usage, climate emissions, ecosystem disruption — and feel. Its yarn can be knitted or woven and easily blended with other fibers. Garments made with Naia are easy to home-launder compared with many fashion-forward fabrics, which require dry cleaning, says Eastman. The company claims that Naia produces no microfibers when washed. There’s one big challenge from a sustainability perspective, however: The fossil fuels used as a feedstock to produce the syngas to make one of the principal ingredients for Naia. Eastman’s Naia textile yarn for fashion. (Photo courtesy of Eastman) Eastman is developing the technology to eliminate the fossil fuels from Naia production, replacing them with gases derived from breaking down waste plastics, a process called reforming, a carbon renewal technology . The resulting product, Naia Renew, is being launched this fall. The company describes it as “a cellulosic yarn sourced from 100 percent circular content, produced from 60 percent certified wood fibers and 40 percent recycle waste plastics.” Used textiles are another potential feedstock for Naia, creating a virtuous cycle that turns no-longer-wearable garments back into new ones. Eastman is in discussions with leading fashion brands about the potential of take-back programs in the future, Steve Crawford, Eastman’s chief technology and sustainability officer, told me during my visit. “They could collect the garments, send them to us, and we could make them back into the same fiber to make new garments.” Mining landfills? There’s yet another disruptive opportunity here: mining landfills to cull plastic waste to be “renewed” through Eastman’s processes. The company says it is working closely with waste management companies to evaluate how to create the availability of such feedstock. “As part of our work, there’s a lot of focus on how we partner, how we collaborate with the parties in this space,” explained Cathy Combs, Eastman’s director of sustainability. “How do we create an infrastructure that will be able to supply chemical recycling?”  “We’ve demonstrated that the new Eastman recycling technologies are capable of utilizing a broad array of waste plastics, including plastics that aren’t currently utilized in mechanical recycling,” Crawford added. “But we’ll need to partner with key players in both the waste collection and waste management systems, and key end-use value chains. We also need brands to help create demand for these materials to become valuable sources of feedstocks for these new technologies.” Of course, all of this innovation is taking place amid a pandemic, not to mention what appears to be a global recession. The textiles sector, like most others, has taken a hit from COVID-19, with a dramatic slowdown in global retail sales resulting in global supply-chain disruption, furloughs throughout the value chain and mounting inventories and liquidity challenges. But industry participants and influencers believe the textiles industry will emerge with an increased emphasis on sustainability as the industry rebuilds, said Jon Woods, Eastman’s general manager of textiles and nonwovens. Mark Costa, for his part, remains bullish on the company’s future, including on the impact the company could have both locally and globally — particularly in the economic development that come from mining plastics from local waste streams. “I think there’s going to be real economic opportunity, and a lot of small-business job creation — which is great for this country as well as in Europe — who are going to jump into this,” he told me. “I mean, the waste management guys will do it, and they’ll be big and at scale. But there’s also a lot of opportunity for local, small businesses to work with municipalities on how to do that. And just like we saw with carpet and the way they densified it, people are going to get creative. Once there’s policy and economic incentive, that’s what America does great.” There’s going to be real economic opportunity, and a lot of small-business job creation — which is great for this country as well as in Europe — who are going to jump into this. Costa believes that technologies such as CRT and PRT can give new life to plastics recycling if they can dramatically improve its economics. “The aluminum guys would have never succeeded if they could only take 10 to 20 percent of the aluminum and had to throw away 80 percent. I doubt you’d have high aluminum recycling rates because you just couldn’t justify the effort.” And, he added, some of Eastman’s sustainability and circular ingenuity just might rub off on the beleaguered chemical sector. “Everyone wants to focus on the things that are negative about the chemical industry, and we have lots of room for improvement. So, how do we collaborate to take this seriously, which I think the industry very much does right now, and solve the next set of solutions to make the environment better at the same time as you’re improving quality of life? That’s our ultimate goal. That’s what we get up every day trying to focus on doing.” 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 If it works, this old-line corporate icon could find itself a leading light in the emerging circular economy. Eastman’s ability to turn all plastics back into their constituent molecules is a potential game-changer. Naia is made in a closed-loop process, in which chemical inputs — acetic acid and acetone — are continuously recycled. There’s going to be real economic opportunity, and a lot of small-business job creation — which is great for this country as well as in Europe — who are going to jump into this. Topics Circular Economy Leadership Plastic Waste Recycling 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 An aerial view of Eastman’s Kingsport, Tennessee headquarters facility. Courtesy Eastman Close Authorship

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Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics

Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics

May 11, 2020 by  
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Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics Joel Makower Mon, 05/11/2020 – 00:44 At first glance, the sprawling industrial site, covering roughly 900 acres in Kingsport, Tennessee, appears to be just another chemical manufacturing facility. There are hundreds of buildings and countless miles of pipes, conveyors, distillers, cooling towers, valves, pumps, compressors and controls. It doesn’t exactly look or feel particularly noteworthy. But something extraordinary is going on at this Eastman chemical plant: two breakthrough processes to turn waste plastics of all kinds back into new plastics, continuously, with no loss of quality. Last year, the company announced two major initiatives: Carbon renewal technology , or CRT, which breaks down waste plastic feedstocks to the molecular level before using them as building blocks to produce a wide range of materials and packaging. The company claims this enables waste plastics to be recycled an infinite number of times without degradation of quality. Polyester renewal technology , or PRT, which involves taking waste polyesters from landfills and other waste streams and transforming them back into a raw material that the company claims is indistinguishable from polyester produced from fossil-fuel feedstocks. With both CRT and PRT, hard-to-recycle plastics can be recycled an infinite number of times, says Eastman, creating products that can claim high levels of certified recycled content — a true closed loop. Both technologies are or will be hitting the market, so it is too soon to call them a success. Still, they represent a story about a legacy industrial company seeking to reinvent itself by simultaneously addressing the climate crisis, the scourge of plastic waste and the need to accelerate resource efficiency to meet the material needs of 10 billion people by mid-century. If it works, this old-line corporate icon could find itself a leading light in the emerging circular economy . Chemical reaction Eastman, celebrating its centennial this year, was founded by George Eastman, the entrepreneur who, in the late 1880s, started the Eastman Kodak Company. (“Kodak” was a made-up word he appended to his last name.) Along the way, he nearly singlehandedly democratized photography (and spawned countless “Kodak moments” ) through the company’s production of cameras, film, processing chemicals and related goods and services. In 1920, in the wake of World War I, Eastman’s company was suffering a scarcity of raw materials, including photographic paper, optical glass and gelatin, and many chemicals — such as methanol, acetic acid and acetone — needed to produce and process film stock and prints. He determined that ensuring his company’s future would require self-reliance. He set out to find a suitable location for a Kodak-owned and operated chemical production facility. If it works, this old-line corporate icon could find itself a leading light in the emerging circular economy. Kingsport proved to be the right spot, situated in what is known as the Mountain Empire, which spans a portion of southwest Virginia and the mountainous counties in northeastern Tennessee. It had ready access to two key commodities vital to Kodak: wood fiber to make cellulose, the key material in photographic film; and coal, which powered its boilers to make steam and electricity, and later would be used to produce synthetic gas — syngas — to create the acetyl chemicals needed to make films, plastics and textiles. From those two feedstocks, Eastman Chemical, a subsidiary of Kodak, grew to become an economic powerhouse in the Mountain Empire, expanding into its own empire of more than 50 manufacturing sites worldwide. The company adapted to, and prospered from, the changing times. By the late 1920s, for example, the demand for home movie film and the growing need for X-ray film led Eastman Chemical to produce acetic anhydride, the base material for photographic emulsions. In the 1930s, the company turned to producing cellulose acetate to make textile fibers. The automobile boom of the 1940s and 1950s led Eastman to produce chemicals and materials critical to automotive design and production. During World War II, the Kingsport site infamously was used to make RDX, a powerful explosive — a million and a half pounds a day, at its peak. By the end of World War II, Eastman was managing a project to produce enriched uranium for the Manhattan Project. After the war, polyester fibers for textiles and other products became, and remain, a significant line of business. George Eastman didn’t live to see much of the success he catalyzed. He died in 1932 by suicide, a single bullet to the heart. In the 1990s, Kodak’s photography business darkened with the advent of digital cameras — the company was slow to adapt and got run over by more nimble competitors — and the company spun off its chemical division in 1994 to help pay down debt. (Eastman, the company, has dropped “chemical” from its branding, although not from its legally incorporated name.) Eastman’s latest innovations, as well as its pivot to make sustainability core to its strategy, has been energized by its current chairman and CEO, Mark Costa. A former management consultant — Eastman was one of his clients — and brandishing degrees from both Berkeley and Harvard, Costa joined the company in 2006 to lead strategy, marketing and business development before ascending to the corner office in 2014. Under his leadership, the company has accelerated its transformation from chemicals to specialty materials. “When we came out of the great recession in 2009 and were starting to think about our innovation portfolio, we were already thinking about sustainability in a very serious way,” Costa told me over lunch in his office in early March, with a sweeping view of a nature preserve and park deeded by Eastman to the city of Kingsport. “We knew that the circular economy and being a lot more efficient with carbon was a good idea.” Media Authorship Mark Costa, Courtesy of Eastman Close Authorship Eastman CEO Mark Costa (Photo courtesy of Eastman) “This idea of circularity isn’t new to us,” he added. “In all of our innovation — I had the responsibility for the innovation portfolio since 2009 — we required everything that we did be tied to a sustainability driver. All the way back then.” Plastic to plastic Eastman’s two new “renewal” technologies are, to some degree, natural extensions of products and services that have long been part of Eastman’s toolkit. Now, repurposed and modified for an era of sustainability and circularity, they position the company to address one of the holy grails of the circular economy: turning waste plastic back into new plastic with the same performance and quality characteristics. The rising attention being paid to the global plastic waste problem has illuminated many serious challenges of collecting, sorting and recycling plastic back into new plastic in a continuously closed loop.  For starters, only a couple kinds of plastics are being regularly collected and recycled, based on available infrastructure and market demand: PET and HDPE — Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the SPI resin identification codes developed in the late 1980s by the Society of the Plastics Industry. Most of the others — SPI Nos. 3 through 7 — are technically possible to recycle but lack both infrastructure and markets in most places. Worst of all is the growing mountain of packaging that is multi-material — layers upon layers of mixed polymers, papers, laminates and foils — in the form of juice boxes, ketchup packets, toothpaste tubes and countless other things. These Franken-materials are a nonstarter for most modern recycling systems. The best one can hope is that they be downcycled into some durable product — say, artificial turf, plastic furniture or an automobile fan blade — which itself will wear out eventually, ending up as nonrecyclable waste in a landfill. But only a tiny fraction of these plastics ever escape landfills as their final resting place. Eastman’s ability to turn all plastics back into their constituent molecules is a potential game-changer. Sorting all these plastics is another issue. Even if plastics 3 through 7 were readily recyclable, keeping various polymer types separate from one another is a highly labor-intensive task, assuming the infrastructure was even there to handle it. And given the historically low price of oil, even before the recent market crash, recycled plastic remains uncompetitive to virgin for many applications. Those petrochemicals are just too darn cheap. So, Eastman’s ability to turn all waste plastics back into their constituent molecules and back into productive use is a potential game-changer. A primer There are two basic ways to recycle plastics: mechanical and chemical. The former is most commonly used with soda bottles (PET) and milk jugs (HDPE) — plastics 1 and 2, respectively. It involves grinding, washing, separating, drying, regranulating and compounding waste plastic to create new raw materials. Mechanical recycling can be cost-effective but has limits and disadvantages: The process is heat-intensive — and, therefore, energy- and carbon-intensive — and produces air pollutants. Contamination by food and other foreign materials is another problem that literally gums up the works. And after plastic has been mechanically recycled once, it’s rarely suitable for another round of recycling. This means that the recycled material eventually will end up in waste streams. And there are physical limits to how recycled plastics produced through mechanical methods can be used in manufacturing. “You can only get up to maybe 50 percent recycled content in a bottle with mechanical, where you really start getting a pretty ugly product and all kinds of other performance issues,” Costa said. “So, there’s going to be sort of a quality performance limitation.” An alternative is chemical recycling, a technology that has been around since the 1950s but has become the focus of growing investment and innovation as the circular economy has gained steam. Plastic makers including BP and Dow, and consumer packaged goods companies such as Coca-Cola, Danone and Unilever, are testing or investing tens of millions of dollars in the technology, according to the Wall Street Journal . In chemical recycling, depolymerization breaks down plastics into their raw materials for conversion back into new polymers. Pyrolysis — heating of an organic material in the absence of oxygen — can turn mixed plastic waste into naphtha, which can be transformed back into petrochemicals and plastics. With only about 9 percent of the more than 400 million tons of plastic waste produced globally each year currently being recycled, according to U.N. Environment , that leaves the other 90 percent or so as potential feedstock.  There’s big potential here, according to a 2019 report from the American Chemistry Council. It found that if widely adopted, chemical recycling — which it refers to as “advanced plastic recycling and recovery” — could create nearly 40,000 direct and indirect U.S. jobs, as much as $2.2 billion in annual payroll and $9.9 billion in direct and indirect economic output.  Calling on the carpet Eastman’s carbon renewal and polyester renewal technologies are forms of chemical recycling. But they aren’t intended simply to displace mechanical recycling. For PET and HDPE plastics, mechanical recycling already is reasonably efficient, creating recycled materials streams that have proven cost-competitive in many markets. “We don’t want to compete with that,” Costa said. “Frankly, the value of it is too high. From a sustainability point of view, you shouldn’t touch it.” Media Authorship Courtesy of Eastman Close Authorship Besides, there’s a much bigger opportunity. Eastman’s Polyester Renewal Technology is a chemical recycling process specifically for polyester waste, which produces virgin-like materials, even from colored PET, according to Eastman. The process involves using glycolysis — the breakdown of PET by ethylene glycol — to disassemble waste PET into its fundamental building blocks. Those building blocks then can be reassembled to produce new polyesters with high levels of recycled content. In its search for waste plastics, Eastman easily can forgo tapping into recycling markets for plastic water and soda bottles. There are plenty of other sources of waste polyester — from carpets, for example. In one recent initiative, Eastman partnered with Circular Polymers , a company that reclaims post-consumer products for recycling. Circular Polymers is collecting and densifying the PET it retrieves from waste carpeting. It then converts the PET waste into pellets, which are shipped by railroad from its plant in California to Eastman in Tennessee. Eastman uses its CRT process to turn the pellets into new materials with certified recycled content. Those materials end up in textiles, packaging for cosmetics and personal care products, and eyeglass frames. Costa says Eastman could divert millions of pounds of carpeting a year through partnerships such as this, although that’s still a mere fraction of the more than 3 billion pounds of carpet sent to landfills in 2018, just in the United States, according to Carpet America Recovery Effort , an industry group. And it’s not just polyester. Eastman sees potentially unlimited opportunity in all the other types of plastic waste — especially the stuff that’s hard to recycle, from a cost and logistics perspective, including those dreaded Franken-materials. The company’s goal is to extract the value of the carbon molecules contained in these waste materials and put them back into productive use as like-new plastics. Said Costa: “If there’s a way to bring carbon back in through products that’s better than the fossil-fuel approach of the linear economy, we should do that, right? I mean, this isn’t complicated.” Fashion forward Eastman’s goal is to substitute its “carbon renewal” materials for their virgin counterparts wherever they are economically viable. Beyond pure economics, Costa described to me Eastman’s three criteria for determining when it makes sense, from both a business and ecological perspective, to recycle waste plastic. First, the waste has to go back into products — not be incinerated or burned to make energy. Second, the carbon footprint of the recycled material must be better than its fossil-fuel equivalent, based on life-cycle analysis. And third, “Consumers shouldn’t give up a lot in their quality of life.” That is, few if any tradeoffs in price or performance. So far, CRT and PRT processes are finding their way into several of Eastman’s many brands of polymers, including Tr?va, a cellulose-based thermoplastic made from trees, used in automotive, packaging and electronics applications; CDA, a bio-derived material, used in injection-molded applications, such as ophthalmic frames and tool handles; Cristal, designed and engineered specifically for high-end cosmetics packaging applications; and Tritan, a durable clear plastic used to make Camelbak and Nalgene water bottles, and Rubbermaid food storage containers. And then there is Naia , a fiber made from certified sustainably managed pine and eucalyptus plantations, widely used in the fashion industry. It is essentially cellulose acetate, the same material used in photographic film, being made by Eastman in Kingsport for about 100 years. In this case, it is spun into a yarn that is used to make fabric. Naia is made in a closed-loop process, in which chemical inputs — acetic acid and acetone — are continuously recycled. Naia is made in a closed-loop process, in which chemical inputs — acetic acid and acetone — continuously are recycled. According to company marketing materials, it compares favorably to silk, cotton, viscose filaments and polyester in terms of environmental impacts — water usage, climate emissions, ecosystem disruption — and feel. Its yarn can be knitted or woven and easily blended with other fibers. Garments made with Naia are easy to home-launder compared with many fashion-forward fabrics, which require dry cleaning, says Eastman. The company claims that Naia produces no microfibers when washed. There’s one big challenge from a sustainability perspective, however: The fossil fuels used as a feedstock to produce the syngas to make one of the principal ingredients for Naia. Eastman’s Naia textile yarn for fashion. (Photo courtesy of Eastman) Eastman is developing the technology to eliminate the fossil fuels from Naia production, replacing them with gases derived from breaking down waste plastics, a process called reforming, a carbon renewal technology . The resulting product, Naia Renew, is being launched this fall. The company describes it as “a cellulosic yarn sourced from 100 percent circular content, produced from 60 percent certified wood fibers and 40 percent recycle waste plastics.” Used textiles are another potential feedstock for Naia, creating a virtuous cycle that turns no-longer-wearable garments back into new ones. Eastman is in discussions with leading fashion brands about the potential of take-back programs in the future, Steve Crawford, Eastman’s chief technology and sustainability officer, told me during my visit. “They could collect the garments, send them to us, and we could make them back into the same fiber to make new garments.” Mining landfills? There’s yet another disruptive opportunity here: mining landfills to cull plastic waste to be “renewed” through Eastman’s processes. The company says it is working closely with waste management companies to evaluate how to create the availability of such feedstock. “As part of our work, there’s a lot of focus on how we partner, how we collaborate with the parties in this space,” explained Cathy Combs, Eastman’s director of sustainability. “How do we create an infrastructure that will be able to supply chemical recycling?”  “We’ve demonstrated that the new Eastman recycling technologies are capable of utilizing a broad array of waste plastics, including plastics that aren’t currently utilized in mechanical recycling,” Crawford added. “But we’ll need to partner with key players in both the waste collection and waste management systems, and key end-use value chains. We also need brands to help create demand for these materials to become valuable sources of feedstocks for these new technologies.” Of course, all of this innovation is taking place amid a pandemic, not to mention what appears to be a global recession. The textiles sector, like most others, has taken a hit from COVID-19, with a dramatic slowdown in global retail sales resulting in global supply-chain disruption, furloughs throughout the value chain and mounting inventories and liquidity challenges. But industry participants and influencers believe the textiles industry will emerge with an increased emphasis on sustainability as the industry rebuilds, said Jon Woods, Eastman’s general manager of textiles and nonwovens. Mark Costa, for his part, remains bullish on the company’s future, including on the impact the company could have both locally and globally — particularly in the economic development that come from mining plastics from local waste streams. “I think there’s going to be real economic opportunity, and a lot of small-business job creation — which is great for this country as well as in Europe — who are going to jump into this,” he told me. “I mean, the waste management guys will do it, and they’ll be big and at scale. But there’s also a lot of opportunity for local, small businesses to work with municipalities on how to do that. And just like we saw with carpet and the way they densified it, people are going to get creative. Once there’s policy and economic incentive, that’s what America does great.” There’s going to be real economic opportunity, and a lot of small-business job creation — which is great for this country as well as in Europe — who are going to jump into this. Costa believes that technologies such as CRT and PRT can give new life to plastics recycling if they can dramatically improve its economics. “The aluminum guys would have never succeeded if they could only take 10 to 20 percent of the aluminum and had to throw away 80 percent. I doubt you’d have high aluminum recycling rates because you just couldn’t justify the effort.” And, he added, some of Eastman’s sustainability and circular ingenuity just might rub off on the beleaguered chemical sector. “Everyone wants to focus on the things that are negative about the chemical industry, and we have lots of room for improvement. So, how do we collaborate to take this seriously, which I think the industry very much does right now, and solve the next set of solutions to make the environment better at the same time as you’re improving quality of life? That’s our ultimate goal. That’s what we get up every day trying to focus on doing.” 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 If it works, this old-line corporate icon could find itself a leading light in the emerging circular economy. Eastman’s ability to turn all plastics back into their constituent molecules is a potential game-changer. Naia is made in a closed-loop process, in which chemical inputs — acetic acid and acetone — are continuously recycled. There’s going to be real economic opportunity, and a lot of small-business job creation — which is great for this country as well as in Europe — who are going to jump into this. Topics Circular Economy Leadership Plastic Waste Recycling 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 An aerial view of Eastman’s Kingsport, Tennessee headquarters facility. Courtesy Eastman Close Authorship

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Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics

Greenhouse gas emissions expected to hit record decline

May 5, 2020 by  
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While your home energy bill may have increased while you shelter in place, the planet’s overall energy use has taken a significant downturn. According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) first quarter report, global carbon emissions could be down by 8% this year, the biggest drop the agency has ever seen. In the first quarter of 2020, global energy demand decreased by 3.8%, thanks in large part to lockdowns in Europe and North America. The report collected data for 30 countries from January 1 through April 14. The analysis concluded that countries in full lockdown averaged a 25% weekly decline in energy demand, while countries in partial lockdown averaged 18%. While your own energy bill probably won’t reflect this trend, reductions in energy use by industrial and commercial concerns far outweigh upticks in residential demand. “For weeks, the shape of demand resembled that of a prolonged Sunday,” the report said. In short, the longer and more stringent the lockdown, the better for Earth’s atmosphere. Related: 6 ways to save energy while sheltering in place “This is a historic shock to the entire energy world. Amid today’s unparalleled health and economic crises, the plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil and gas. Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard-of slump in electricity use,” Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, said in a press release. “It is still too early to determine the longer-term impacts, but the energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before.” Global coal demand fell by nearly 8% compared with 2019’s first quarter. Analysts attributed this to a mild winter, the growth in renewable energy sources and the pandemic’s hard hit on China’s coal-based economy. Oil demand was also down, falling nearly 5%. The extreme aviation slowdown accounted for much of the oil decline, paired with global road transport activity dropping by half. “Resulting from premature deaths and economic trauma around the world, the historic decline in global emissions is absolutely nothing to cheer,” Birol said. “And if the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis is anything to go by, we are likely to soon see a sharp rebound in emissions as economic conditions improve. But governments can learn from that experience by putting clean energy technologies — renewables, efficiency, batteries, hydrogen and carbon capture — at the heart of their plans for economic recovery. Investing in those areas can create jobs, make economies more competitive and steer the world towards a more resilient and cleaner energy future.” + International Energy Agency Image via Marcin Jozwiak

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Greenhouse gas emissions expected to hit record decline

Archivist releases shirts made from recycled hotel sheets

April 17, 2020 by  
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Sometimes, being disruptive is fashionable. As for Archivist, a sustainable clothing company, its business plan counts on being disruptive in the name of fashion and corporate responsibility. With this mission, Archivist has found a unique yet luxurious inspiration for a new line of tailored shirts — hotel sheets. The story begins with a query on what happens to hotel sheets once they are discarded. The answer inspired a campaign to turn used bedding into sustainable fashion. As such, Archivist is the brainchild of partners Eugenie Haitsma and Johannes Offerhaus, Dutch designers who reached out to European hotels and quickly received 200 kilos of fine Egyptian cotton sheets. Although they were worn enough to be pulled from the hotels, these high-quality sheets still has plenty of performance life left. Archivist moved quickly to disrupt the flow of hotel sheets to landfills, instead creating a men’s leisure shirt and a women’s work shirt, two initial releases in what the company hopes to be a growing line of sustainable clothing options. Related: This biodegradable T-shirt is made from trees and algae The duo is busy reaching out to additional luxury hotels across Europe in a plan that helps them source materials while also extending an eco-friendly way for the hotels to get rid of old sheets. Transport distances are short because the hotels, located across Europe, send linens directly to a workshop near Bucharest. There, a family-run atelier thoroughly washes, cuts and manufactures the material into shirts. While there may be minor defects in the fabric, the team aims to minimize cut-off waste. Equally important, the shirt designs are timeless, offering a long lifespan instead of the disposable nature of trendy items. The men’s leisure shirt, made from 100% upcycled hotel linens, is offered in three sizes, which the company describes as flowy and oversized. The women’s work shirt is also created from sheets, but the design incorporates a subtle stripe woven into the fabric for a classic look that can be paired with a suit, slacks or jeans. It is also available in three sizes. Both shirts ship free within the EU and are priced at 150 euros (about $164). If you happen to get a shirt with a defect, Archivist will happily send you free patches. + Archivist Photography by Arturo Bamboo via Archivist

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Archivist releases shirts made from recycled hotel sheets

Los Angeles air quality improves amid pandemic

April 10, 2020 by  
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There is one positive impact of the tragic coronavirus pandemic — Los Angeles is experiencing its longest stretch of good air quality since 1995. On April 7, Swiss air quality technology company IQAir cited LA as one of the cities with the cleanest air in the world. While the notoriously smoggy city is on lockdown, highway traffic has dropped 80% throughout the entire state of California, which probably accounts for much of the improvement. “With less cars on the road and less emissions coming from those tailpipes, it’s not surprising to see improvements in the air quality overall,” Yifang Zhu, professor of environmental health science at UCLA, told CNN. Zhu and her team of scientists measured a 20% overall improvement in southern California’s air quality between March 16 and April 6. They also recorded a 40% drop in PM 2.5 levels. This microscopic air pollutant is linked to both respiratory and cardiovascular problems, especially in the very young and very old. A recently released Harvard study linked PM 2.5 exposure to an increased likelihood of dying from COVID-19 . Related: Coronavirus and its impact on carbon emissions All over the world, scientists are noting that cleaner air is a side effect of the pandemic . Satellite images have revealed much lower concentrations of nitrogen dioxide over industrial areas of Europe and Asia in the past six weeks. The drops in nitrogen dioxide levels over Wuhan — a city of 11 million — and the factory-filled Po Valley of northern Italy are especially striking. “It’s quite unprecedented,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Service, told the Guardian. “In the past, we have seen big variations for a day or so because of weather. But no signal on emissions that has lasted so long.” Alas, when lockdowns lift and Angelenos return to the highways, the pollution will likely return. Zhu hopes that this glimpse of clear, blue skies will inspire people to work for better air quality post-pandemic. “From the society level, I think we need to think really hard about how to bring about a more sustainable world, where technologies and policies come together to bring us cleaner energy ,” she said. “So that the air that we’re breathing will stay as clean as what we’re breathing today.” Via CNN and The Guardian Image by Joseph Ngabo

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