Bill McDonough at 70: A look back … and ahead

February 22, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

Bill McDonough at 70: A look back … and ahead Joel Makower Mon, 02/22/2021 – 02:11 Architect, designer and author William McDonough is well-known to many in sustainability — as a pioneer in green building; as the erstwhile “green dean” of architecture; as co-author of the seminal 2002 book “Cradle to Cradle”; as a designer of breakthrough buildings and materials; as a deep thinker about how design relates to a healthy and abundant future; and as an enthusiastic framer of the concepts and language that have become part of the sustainability lexicon. On the occasion of his 70th birthday this month, I caught up with McDonough to discuss his journey and some seminal moments in his life and career, and how they influenced his work. And to take a peek into where he may be headed next. The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length. Joel Makower: Well, Bill, first of all, happy birthday. Are you excited to be 70? Bill McDonough: Well, it is very exciting. There is so much going on, and I have so many things to do. And I expect to continue to be hyperactive for another 20 years. For me, it is one of those moments to stop and think, and celebrate all my friends and all the wonderful things that I have had a chance to participate in. So, it just feels like a great moment to reflect. And then get back to work. Makower: Let’s talk a bit about how you got here. I am sure there are some pivotal moments when you think about your journey to today. When you speak, you often start off talking about growing up in Tokyo. Tell me why that feels like such an important part of who you became. McDonough: My parents were in Japan, both speaking Japanese, because my father was a Japanese language officer for Gen. Douglas MacArthur and my mother was also trained in Japanese by the U.S. Army. They were one of 200 couples sent into Japan after the war to wage peace. My mother was in the first group of American civilian women off the boat. They were sent into the villages everywhere to meet with the Japanese people in villages — no uniforms, no weapons, no paperwork, no marked Jeeps. It felt so natural when I was a child there to be part of this amazing place and to wage peace. James and Sara McDonough visit K?toku-in, a Buddhist temple in Kamakura, Japan, 1951. All photos courtesy of William McDonough I will never forget seeing Hiroshima and saying, “Oh, my God. We had a war. What is it about people that they would try and kill each other? How could we invent something so astonishing as a device that can destroy cities in seconds?” And watching my mother do flower arranging and say, “Oh, Mom, that is beautiful.” And she says, “Yes, this is the Ma.” “What is the Ma?” “The Ma is the space between the flowers.” Makower: I can start to see how some of that connects — the space between the flowers, the idea of waging peace. Where did that take you? McDonough: Last year, I opened the G20 in two tracks: climate and energy. I did four speeches. What we were looking at was how do we look at carbon in this circular economy? How do we look at carbon itself as an element, which is both an energy source and a material? How do we really start to think about how we manage it by intention? So we created a protocol about that. I am cataloging various things that are accruing into who I am, and the title of it is, ‘Waging Peace Through Commerce by Design.’ I do a little portfolio every six months about what I am working on or what I have done, and I am cataloging various things that are accruing into who I am, and the title of it is, “Waging Peace Through Commerce by Design.” Every act can be an act of waging peace. And so, for example, the end of all the sessions for the G20, when the leaders adopted this protocol we had put forward, the message that came with it was, “Let us all put down all sharp instruments now. We are not here to complain about how you are doing something or how you are using the wrong word or this or that. It does not matter. There is only one question: How can I help you?” That is it. All of us help each other and get this done. Makower: Your family moved from Tokyo to Hong Kong to Canada and then ultimately to Connecticut, and you attended Dartmouth. I imagine that that was a critical piece of how you got into design and architecture as a profession. McDonough: Dartmouth was magnificent for me because here I am, I am 18, and my two abiding questions from childhood were “Why do people fight with each other and destroy each other?” and “How can you make something so destructive that you can make a city disappear?” So, I started studying international relations, thinking I could be an ambassador someday. But all of the international relations courses that I could enter were around détente and about mutually assured destruction. That was so depressing that I thought, “I cannot spend my whole life arguing about mutually assured destruction.” At Dartmouth, 1972 I was doing photography and I got to work with Walker Evans — who is, I think, one of the greatest photographers of all time. And I was standing with him one day and I had an 8×10 view camera. He was using an SX-70 Polaroid. And I said, “Mr. Evans, you are the greatest black-and-white photographer of all time. I would be happy to carry your camera around.” He said, “No, no. You do not understand, Bill. You are 21. I am 71. When I was your age, I could lug around 40 pounds of equipment. But then, when the 4×5 Super Graphics came along, I could go to the factories. And then, when the Rolleiflex came around, I could go into the factories. And then when the Leica silent 35mm came along, I could go into the subways in New York. And now look what I can do. [Makes whirring sound.] Here. Portrait of William McDonough by Walker Evans.” And I remember thinking, “Oh, my goodness.” And he said, “What I am trying to teach you is that every 10 years, put down your tools.” So, if I was still walking around with an 8×10 view camera, I would only have one life. And so, every 10 years, stop, reflect and take the new tools. Makower: So, what was the path from there to sustainable design? McDonough: I was at Yale, and we had the energy crisis in 1973. I decided to build a solar-heated house. And I decided to go back to my ancestors’ place to do it, which would be Ireland, so I could understand the ancients; I could understand what it is like to be humble in a place, and then what it would be like to build a solar-powered house in Ireland. So, I just started building an experimental house there by hand. And I worked on that during the whole time I was at Yale and a year after. I got to think about these things deeply because I lived it. I was freezing, and I had no money. And building was hard, and I did not know what I was doing. I graduated from Yale and came back to New York. I worked at a big firm and did a lot of competitions, and it was really fun and we were really good. Then, when I started my own firm, my first client had a ranch in Utah, so I got to go out there and work around Zion National Park designing 13,000 acres. It was pretty fabulous — bridges and buildings. At the opening of his architecture firm in New York, 1981 Then I got hired by the Environmental Defense Fund to do their national headquarters in New York. It became known as the first green office in New York City, which we did in 1984. We were looking at the lighting for the right kind of colors. We looked at the carpets — we wanted to get all the toxins out of the carpet glues. It was the beginning of the green office and the green building movement. There were a bunch of us in the States, and we slowly coalesced into a Committee on the Environment within the American Institute of Architects. One of my contractors started the U.S. Green Building Council after building a project for me in Washington. That was David Gottfried. And it just kept going. Makower: What was it about green architecture that made you realize you needed to be doing this for the rest of your career? McDonough: To me it was just obvious. This is how we can be. It literally felt natural. Why would we not want to save healthy things? Why would we want to destroy the world at all? Why would we do that? Why would we do it to each other? We are waging peace. We are not here to poison you with carpets. We are not here to make your day miserable because the light frequencies are sending you into strange sleeping patterns. We are here to make your life better, not worse. So, it just seemed natural. It just seemed obvious and normal to me. Makower: At some point you realized that buildings were only part of it. The materials themselves — not just building materials but materials in general — were another big opportunity that needed to be addressed. How did you get to that particular pivot? McDonough: I had two things occur simultaneously in 1989. One is that I won a competition in Germany for a daycare center and my proposal was called a low-entropy building. In other words, a building that is organized instead of chaotic. I designed a daycare center that was solar-powered. It had a laundry for the parents so they could wait for the kids. Purified water. It grew food. It had shutters and skylights operated by children so they could let the sun in, keep the sun out, put them to bed at night, that kind of thing. And I just thought a building as an organism operated by children would be so much fun. With Michael Braungart, 2013 While they were having that conversation I was looking at the children and they were eating the building and the furniture. They had their mouths on everything. Chew, chew, chew. I was thinking, “What are they eating?” I realized I had to get together with an ecotoxicologist and find out what all this stuff we were using was made out of, down to the molecule. That is what ultimately led me to Michael Braungart, because Michael had been the head of Greenpeace Chemistry, worrying about exactly that kind of thing. The other thing that happened, I won a competition in Warsaw for a skyscraper right before the change of government; I had designed a building. The developer said, “You win.” And I said, “Just one thing. You have to plant 10 square miles of trees to go with the building,” because I calculated how much carbon would be released from the coal to build the building and how much would be needed to operate it. It was about five square miles of trees’ worth of oxygen production or carbon sequestration required to set up one building. And so, I said, “That is part of the building. The 10 square miles of trees go with it.” With a model of the Warsaw Tower, 1980s They priced it, and it was $150,000.00. Amazing. In Poland. That 10 square miles of tree planting was one-tenth of the advertising budget. It was such a strange thing to tell the developer to do that it ended up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. And they said, “We will plant a forest to satisfy an architect who loves clean air.” Makower: Talk a little bit about the Hannover Principles . First of all, what they are, for people who do not know or remember them, and how those came to be. McDonough: I was in Hannover, working there with Michael. Hannover had just won the World’s Fair for 2000, and they wanted to do sustainability as the theme. They asked me to write the design principles for that World’s Fair based on our work in sustainability. We wrote them from New York. Nine design principles . I still use them. And then, later that year, in June 1992, the German government decided to give the Hannover Principles as a gift to the Earth Summit. Makower: What has happened with them since? Are they still referred to? Have they propagated in any way? McDonough: I see them referred to all the time. We did not make any big program out of it or anything. They are just there. And you can find them, and people render them and make posters out of them and call and ask me to explain them. Makower: The ’90s was in many ways a golden decade for you. You became dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia. You designed a building-like-a-tree structure at Oberlin. You designed a building for Herman Miller . You designed  Nike’s European headquarters . You got a Presidential award, I think from Bill Clinton. Then, all of a sudden you seemed to be all about China. What happened? McDonough: Well, President Clinton, after they had a visit by Zhu Rongji in the White House —I think it was around ’98 — it was the first Chinese leader to visit the U.S. since the revolution, and they wanted to exchange gifts. And they had to be careful when exchanging gifts, obviously. So, they decided the exchange would be sustainable development. Let us share information about that. Because the politicians did not know what it was. So, we created the China-U.S. Center for Sustainable Development, based out of Portland. They looked for a U.S. chair, and they proposed governors and they proposed senators, and the Chinese kept saying, “No. No. No. We are looking for a long-term relationship. Four years is not enough.” With Madame Deng Nan, 1999 So, finally they decided “What about Bill?” because I had won that award at the White House for sustainable development and I am an academic to them, which they respect. And I know a lot of commercial people because all my clients are CEOs and chairs, essentially. And so they said, “You can represent the U.S.” And so I did. For 10 years I was the U.S. chair, with Madame Deng Nan, Deng Xiaoping’s daughter, in China. Makower: What did you learn? McDonough: When we set up the circular economy, the first version for the 12th five-year plan, which came along later, it was interpreted really as “Please recycle.” It had no depth. The second five-year plan, the 13th, became “Implement the circular economy.” So, we started putting guidelines in it. We had “Cradle to Cradle” translated into Chinese by a poet. In China, it was called “The Design of the Circular Economy.” But it is hard to make these kinds of changes. It is really hard. What we were doing was creating a de facto standard of good behavior. But we were not required to by law. We were just doing it. That is the part I really learned, is that you start with inspiration, then you move to creative work, and then you start to execute against it. And once you have executed it and it can stand on its own two feet, well then it is a reference point for people, so it can actually become a standard. The government was not involved in any of this. We just did it. A lot of the things we were working on way back then are now becoming regulations. And I am seeing really good regulation in China over the quality of packaging based on our biological and technical nutrient conversations with them. It is coming to pass. And even watching the Chinese put up the green fence on our recycling, they said, “We are just going to have to say no to all of this because they are sending us the worst of it.” Those kinds of things were people paying attention to issues of human health and dignity and trade and quality. It is slow but worthwhile. With Susan Sarandon and Meryl Streep at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute gala, 2012 Makower: A lot of people, when they think of Bill McDonough, immediately go to ” Cradle to Cradle .” Even more so than the Hannover principles, that feels like your legacy. How do you feel about where that has gone? McDonough: I am just so happy that it is meant so much to so many people. I mean, it is the core of the circular economy. I was able to chair the circular economy at the World Economic Forum and we used that as the basis. I have been able to share it with lots of people. Ellen MacArthur has adopted biological, technical, restorative, regenerative. And “product as a service,” I thought, was a really important idea we put forward that has been taken up pretty vigorously. When we first did it, people were saying we were communists because we did not believe in ownership. And we were saying, “Well, what you want from a washing machine is clean clothing, not the ownership of metals, rubber and glass.” So, there is a whole way to think about these things. And modern society has caught up with that, of course. Philips still owns the indium and the gallium and the rare earths and the aluminum from its products. That is the stuff of their business and they still have it on their books. How exciting. Those elements of “Cradle to Cradle” have been widely adopted and in all kinds of forums and programs. So I am really pleased about that. The key thing, though, is that it is really about ecological health down to the molecule. So, even though it became the basis for the circular economy, which we are happy about, at the same time we say “safe and circular.” Safe, then circular. Because a lot of people are saying, “Circular everything.” Well, some of it is toxic and if you have a circular economy, that is bad instead of good. Makower: Where do you see the biggest untapped opportunity for the circular economy? McDonough: I think the largest untapped opportunity is the way we design for the circular economy. We still have people saying, “I am designing for end-of-life,” and that term is actually referencing a scientific protocol known as life-cycle assessment or life-cycle analysis, but it is still a human projection. The idea that these inanimate objects have a life is a bit odd when you think about it. They are not biological items. They are metals and plastics or whatever. We like to say, ‘Do not say end-of-life because it scares children.’ We like to say, “Do not say end-of-life because it scares children.” We know that you are referring to sourcing and disposition, which is a good thing. But let us not say to the children, “We are designing for end-of-life.” So, we say “design for end-of-use.” And once you say “design for end-of-use” it makes you stop. Then you say, “Well, what is the next use?” because that is the obvious next question. So, then you design for next use. So, when you asked, “What is the next big opportunity?” it is design. It is design for next use in the circular economy. But safe and circular. That is somewhere we are working right now, with all kinds of tools — AI, blockchain, what we call material passports and buildings as material banks — we coined terms for all this. These things are all being held for future generations in trust and made available to them. Makower: One of the things that you have started talking about in the last couple of years is carbon — circular carbon and various types of carbon, and that not all carbon is equal. Why is carbon the next interesting place for you? McDonough: I have been involved with renewables forever, but I did not get into the carbon per se issue because there were so many people involved who were so articulate and so engaged and knowledgeable. But all of a sudden one day it occurred to me that carbon had become the enemy. And for a person who works with materials, this is really sad. Demonizing carbon? We are carbon. This is not a good message for the children. “Carbon is the enemy.” “Bad carbon.” So, it is because we worry about the climate and we worry about combustion and we say carbon is a problem and “Carbon-negative is a positive.” It is confusing. This is like saying “less bad,” as we pointed out a long time ago. “Less” is a numerical relationship. “Bad” is a human value. So what I am trying to do is bring values to value. So, the values are “good” and “bad,” “right” and “wrong,” “moral/immoral,” “ethical/unethical.” Plato, and then Aristotle, his student, talked about what he called practical wisdom. Aristotle was looking for truth in science and numbers. Smart. Plato is looking for truth in meaning. Wise. So, I prefer wise buildings to smart buildings because we can go beyond statistical significance into a natural intelligence. The idea of looking at carbon and saying it is bad — carbon is an innocent element, a magnificent thing because it is a core of life. I thought, what if we redefine our way of dealing with it and what if we had new language for carbon that does not demonize it? I wrote a paper in Nature , and it has had a wonderful effect. I am delighted that the terms get used. And it basically said we have living carbon, which we can celebrate and we should in every which way we can. The sun shines on the Earth. The carbon obviously becomes photosynthetically engaged and off to the races and we have living things. Biomass. Beautiful. And then we have durable carbon, which is carbon sitting still in a mountain or it might be a beam in a building for a thousand years. And that is what I call the technosphere. A wood beam can be in the technosphere because it is an object of human intention and use, and it is durable. That would include plastics that are recyclable. So, it is durable and it is in our technical system. I thought we needed a new language for carbon. Fugitive carbon, no. Durable carbon, careful. Living carbon, celebrate. And then there is the third kind of carbon, which is fugitive. So, let us just call it for what is. Fugitive carbon at this point in history is a toxin because a toxin in the United States is defined by dose and duration. And so, what is the dose, what is the duration? The dose in the atmosphere is way overloaded and the duration is way too long. We have turned carbon into a toxin for the atmosphere. That is why I thought we needed a new language for carbon. Fugitive carbon, no. Durable carbon, careful. Living carbon, celebrate. Makower: It strikes me that as a design guy, as a visual thinker, that you care a lot about words and language. “Less bad” is not the same as “good.” Carbon is not the enemy. And so many other things — not to mention words and phrases you have either coined or popularized. What is it about language that you see as so critical when so much of the world is a design problem? McDonough: The great thing about being a human is that we get to communicate with each other. And we use words. So if we can embed meaning and spirit and accuracy into our language, we can start to get clarity. So, I just see the obvious, like when I first said “waste equals food.” That is the clearest way I could say it. And “Carbon is not the enemy.” “What? Oh.” And so on. I just love the language. I found out that my writings are being used in a famous English university in a course on rhetoric in the English department. When I asked the professor, “Why are you using my writing?” he said, “You have a weird way of discovering the obvious. And you read your stuff and you go ‘Wait a minute’ at the end of it. ‘That was obvious.’ And then you realize it was not obvious at all before you read it. Which means you made your argument. Which is rhetoric. That is why we do it.” I like that. We all search for words that have meaning and it becomes obvious upon reflection. Makower: You talk a lot about the children. That seems to be a passion, maybe even an obsession for you. Of course, you have kids of your own. But what else is that about? I mean, obviously that we want to make the best world for future generations. Why have children become such a part of your approach? Teaching a group of sixth graders about systems design, 2011 McDonough: I always start designing with a question: “How do we love all the children of all species for all time?” I think that is a really important question because it puts us in the context of something we all share everywhere as living things. And having traveled a lot as a child — my mother called me when I was 40 and said, “I just went through your box of all your report cards. Did you know you went to 19 different schools before college in lots of countries?” — I think I got the chance to see a lot of people and say, “I wonder how I can help them.” I mean, when we had cholera in Hong Kong and all the refugees came, we all went out with our water buckets. And during the dry season, we only had four hours of water every fourth day but we would all stand in line together and we would all help each other. And we would make visits to the refugees to bring them things and try and help them. That is the way it was. We are here to help each other. It needs to be understood by the children — that it is honest, that it is pure at its core. That is why I am interested. Pull Quote I am cataloging various things that are accruing into who I am, and the title of it is, ‘Waging Peace Through Commerce by Design.’ We like to say, ‘Do not say end-of-life because it scares children.’ I thought we needed a new language for carbon. Fugitive carbon, no. Durable carbon, careful. Living carbon, celebrate. Topics Circular Economy Leadership Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off DuHun Photography

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Bill McDonough at 70: A look back … and ahead

Harder but not impossible: COVID-19 and the Sustainable Development Goals

February 22, 2021 by  
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Harder but not impossible: COVID-19 and the Sustainable Development Goals Alan AtKisson Mon, 02/22/2021 – 01:00 In 2015, the world, acting through the United Nations, set in place a system of 17 very ambitious goals to guide humanity’s development toward sustainability through 2030. Now it is 2021. Neither nature nor global politics has been especially kind to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the Global Goals, over the past few years. Nature’s complex mechanisms have served up a global pandemic caused (apparently) by a cross-species virus together with intensifying fires and storms that can be credibly attributed to climate change; and the global political arena has mightily distracted us with assaults on democracy and global solidarity as well as chronic conflict along multiple fronts. There are no silver linings in a global pandemic. But there are unexpected things to observe and to learn from. COVID-19 gets the lion’s share of the blame, of course, for our current troubles. In too many places and across too many dimensions of sustainable development, the pandemic has turned hard-won progress into a backslide whose momentum must first be stopped and reversed before development can again take on the shape of positive transformation. I am thinking especially of global poverty, hunger, health and education — SDGs 1 through 4 — where the latest figures from the World Bank and other centers of analysis paint a bleak picture of years lost and lives threatened. But the analysis does not stop there. The SDGs are treated as an interlinked system of goals because that is how the world actually works. I won’t bore you with the relevant SDG numbers, but you can easily build your own mental systems map from the following: Girls not getting opportunities to educate themselves contributes to reversals in gender equality, which in turn affects the quest for long-term economic prosperity, which makes it harder for girls to get educated. People who had climbed up over the poverty line, but are now falling back under it, are mostly doing so in the cities, which hardly contributes to making those cities more sustainable. Plane traffic may be reduced, which is indisputably good for the climate, but reduced as well are the investments into the greener economies of tomorrow that can prevent climate change, rescue biodiversity and create good jobs for a sea of unemployed people, especially youth. Virtuous cycles can turn vicious. That is an undeniably dismal state of affairs for those of us whose professional lives revolve around trying to help the world achieve these universally acclaimed goals (which also inform the more specific development goals set for Sida, the Swedish agency where I work, by Sweden’s government). How is it possible not to succumb to an erosion of hope? As always: by looking at the big picture, taking the long view and continuing to seek more effective levers of change. There are no silver linings in a global pandemic. But there are unexpected things to observe and to learn from — such as the dramatic acceleration of digitalization. Profound changes in working methods and styles have been reported wherever decent internet is to be had. Suddenly, meetings and conferences that previously “had to be” held in physical, face-to-face settings are working just fine on screen. Maybe better: You can include more people, under roughly equal conditions, when you don’t have to fly them around and put them up in hotels of varying fanciness. Necessity has mothered digital invention together with rapid learning advances that have proved to us that we can change must faster than our most ambitious management plans assumed was possible. Thanks to these advances, work on sustainable development has not stopped. In fact, in some critical areas, it has intensified. Consider finance. In the past year major investment leaders at the global level have pushed themselves and others to take stronger stands (and produced better measurable results) on climate change, diversity, gender equity and corporate responsibility generally. Investment levels in developing countries may be down, but new vehicles for that investment are being innovated and designed, so that when the money flow eventually accelerates again it will have more and potentially more effective places to go. It is not my purpose here to paint a rosy picture of the future with these short syntheses and personal impressions gleaned from dozens of recent digital meetings, reports, dialogs and conferences. As a world, we have a tough road ahead. People living in rising poverty and oppression have it toughest of all, and I challenge everyone reading this to keep that reality in the forefront of their minds as we continue down that road. But it is important also to bear in mind that COVID-19 has not made the achievement of sustainable development impossible. It has, of course, made achieving those goals by 2030 a whole lot harder (and it was already very hard). Yet it has also shown us that even in the midst of serious global calamity, when the goalposts are still shifting away from us, we can (and must) keep pressing forward. Working to prevent greater damage where we have to. Making positive change where we can. Believing that the tide eventually will turn again in our favor. Because that is what will make it turn. Pull Quote There are no silver linings in a global pandemic. But there are unexpected things to observe and to learn from. Topics COVID-19 Sustainable Development Goals / SDGs Featured Column North Star Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Harder but not impossible: COVID-19 and the Sustainable Development Goals

LEGO Botanical Collection includes plant-based plastic blocks

February 10, 2021 by  
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Everyone is looking for a creative way to relax these days. Whether it’s discovering adult coloring books or baking fresh bread, people around the world have picked up creative hobbies inside the comfort of their own homes. Just last month, LEGO introduced its new Botanical Collection to help give both children and adults a touch of nature inside the home with a mindful project attached. Even better, the blocks are produced using plant-based plastic. The Botanical Collection includes a bonsai tree model and a flower bouquet model. The collection comes at the heels of a study conducted by LEGO that included 18,117 parents and 12,591 children aged 5 to 12 from 18 different countries. The research found that 81% of adults across the world found that play helps them to relax or destress, while 73% of adults look for unique ways to destress weekly. The Botanical Collection presents a creative opportunity to reduce stress by building customizable, natural-looking pieces that will stay vibrant for years to come. Related: LEGO responds to kids’ worries about single-use plastics The LEGO Flower Bouquet ($49.99) is a 756-piece set with adjustable flower stems to accommodate different types of displays, such as glass vases. A combination of artificial snapdragons, roses, poppies, asters, daisies and grass, the bouquet can be arranged into various shapes, heights (up to 14 inches) and color palettes depending on the builder. Similarly, the 878-piece LEGO Bonsai Tree ($49.99) set gives users a choice between pink cherry blossoms or green leaves. The Bonsai model is about 7 inches in height, including the stand and the base, perfect for office desk decor . “As adults look for new ways to switch off and relax, we’re delighted to be able to help them seek solace from their busy everyday lives as they immerse themselves in creating these beautiful botanical builds,” said Jamie Berard, design lead at LEGO Group. “The customizable elements and mindful building experience will hopefully help them express their personality as their creativity blossoms.” According to the company, the plant-based plastic elements are made using sustainably sourced sugarcane . + LEGO Images via LEGO

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LEGO Botanical Collection includes plant-based plastic blocks

Episode 250: Sustainability leaders greet 2021 with conviction, renewed purpose

January 8, 2021 by  
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Episode 250: Sustainability leaders greet 2021 with conviction, renewed purpose Heather Clancy Fri, 01/08/2021 – 02:00 Week in Review Stories discussed this week (5:35). Big in 2021: American jobs created by EV companies 5 sustainable packaging developments to watch in 2021 2020 was a breakthrough year for climate tech, and there’s more to come in 2021 Features ‘The right to flush and forget’ (16:15)   Outtakes from this week’s interview with Catherine Coleman Flowers, who has dedicated her career and voice to the lack of water and sanitation infrastructure in rural American communities.  2021 reflections from sustainability leaders (22″45)   We feature the voices of our vibrant community in this episode. Sustainability professionals considered this question: What’s the most significant way that the events of 2020 changed your job or perspective as a sustainability professional? What’s your priority for 2021, as a result? Here are responses, many of them from our GreenBiz Executive Network. For revelations from 30 Under 30 honorees, listen to Episode 249 . Page Motes, strategy leader for sustainability, Dell (23:10) Jill Kolling, vice president of global sustainability, Cargill (25:12) Emilio Tenuta, chief sustainability officer, Ecolab (26:50) Margot Lyons, product and sustainability manager, Coyuchi (29:00) Clay Nesler, vice president of global energy and sustainability, Johnson Controls (30:55) Alice Steenland, chief sustainability officer, Dassault Systems (32:50) Jim Andrews, chief sustainability officer, PepsiCo (34:12) Suzanne Fallender, director of corporate responsibility, Intel (36:30) *Music in this episode by Lee Rosevere: “Waiting for the Moment That Never Comes,” “Decompress,” “Not My Problem,” “I Bet You Wonder Why,” “More on That Later,” “Everywhere,” “Start the Day,” “Looking Back,” All the Answers” and “As I Was Saying” Stay connected To make sure you don’t miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes . Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at 350@greenbiz.com . Contributors Joel Makower Deonna Anderson Topics Corporate Strategy Infrastructure Podcast Sustainability Water Recycling Environmental Justice Collective Insight GreenBiz 350 Podcast Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 39:23 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Close Authorship

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Episode 250: Sustainability leaders greet 2021 with conviction, renewed purpose

Waste: an environmental justice issue we should be talking about

January 6, 2021 by  
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Waste: an environmental justice issue we should be talking about Deonna Anderson Wed, 01/06/2021 – 01:30 Remember when Flint, Michigan garnered international attention because water in the city was making people sick ? Well, there are communities like that around the country and the world. And while Flint gained attention because of its failing infrastructure, there are places where water and sewage infrastructure is absent. “Too many Americans live without any affordable means of cleanly disposing of the waste from their toilets, and must live with the resulting filth,” writes Catherine Coleman Flowers, an environmental health advocate, in her book “Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret,” published by The New Press in November. (Read an excerpt here .) “They lack what most Americans take for granted: the right to flush and forget,” Flowers continues. For nearly two decades, Flowers, a recent awardee of the MacArthur Foundation “genius grant ,” has been bringing attention to failing water and waste sanitation infrastructure in rural areas. I spoke with Flowers in mid-December over Skype. Below is a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for clarity. Deonna Anderson: You are the woman mentioned in the title of your book, which chronicles your life and also your work as an environmental justice champion. For those who have not read the book, can you give an overview of what the “dirty secret” is in the title? Catherine Coleman Flowers: The dirty secret is that there are many Americans living with waste that comes from their toilets, whether it is through straight piping , in which [waste from] the toilets comes straight out on top of the ground or into a pit, or whether it is through a failing septic system, which means that when it fails, there’s sewage from their homes, usually from their toilets, of course. I just want to be graphic because that’s what it is.  And it ends up either out on top of the ground or comes back into the home, sometimes into their bathtubs. Or they’re part of these community systems that are supposed to be managed but were built in a way in which they were not sustainable. And consequently, people have sewage coming back into their homes or into their yards. Anderson: Throughout “Waste,” you write about the tours that you take people on to see all the waste and the lack of infrastructure in Lowndes County, Alabama. And that’s where you grew up. First, how many people have you taken on these tours over the years? Flowers: That’s a good question… In some cases, it would be one or two people and in other cases, there may be groups. So I would say on the small number, maybe close to 100 people, at least, that I’ve actually taken around to see this firsthand over the years, because I’ve been doing this since 2002. Catherine Coleman Flowers guides Senator Cory Booker through Lowndes County, Alabama, as part of his 2017 environmental justice tour.  Photo courtesy of Catherine Coleman Flowers.   Anderson: What has been the tangible impact of people going to see what happens in Lowndes County? Flowers: Well, first of all, this is not on a lot of people’s radar. When I wanted to talk about this before, I couldn’t get media interest. I was told that this was not sexy, nobody would be interested in it. But since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to speak before Congress, active members of Congress, the Senate, who’ve actually come to Lowndes County to see for themselves and have been working on policies to try to address this issue in rural communities. I had the opportunity to visit Geneva, because the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty came to Lowndes County and made it a major global issue. The first real coverage we get from it from a newspaper actually came from The Guardian . So now there are other people that are interested as well. And the fact that I can even write a book about it. … I’m thankful to The New Press for giving me an opportunity to tell this story. I’m excited that we have seen and have heard from people from around the country that are indeed interested in knowing about this, and also people that are interested in what the potential solutions are. Anderson: That’s actually a really good segue to my next question. Towards the end of the book, you talk about how solutions haven’t really come fast enough. And I’m curious if there’s anything that you hope happens in the next year or so, to address the sanitation issue in rural communities all over the country? Flowers: I think the first thing that should happen within the next year is to find out how many people are impacted, because we’re not going to have any real solutions until we really know how many people are impacted by this. Because I think for some people, a solution is to go to a place like Lowndes County, put in a few septic systems and say, “Problem solved.” The problem is not solved. And whatever systems are put in place have to be monitored — because of climate change, a lot of them simply are not working. And then we’re going to see what we’ve already seen: the failing septic systems, which exist around U.S. It’s not just in in Lowndes County. We could develop a vaccine for the coronavirus in less than a year. Just imagine what we could do if we put that same type of know-how and ingenuity behind coming up with some real wastewater solutions. The first thing is trying to quantify how many people are impacted by this and where they’re located. So when we talk about solutions, we’re talking about getting solutions to all the people that are impacted by it. Then the second thing that I’d like to see within the next year, is to actually to have the work on the type of innovation that’s needed to have long-term solutions to this problem, because obviously, it doesn’t exist. If it existed, everybody would have it, or they could go buy it and it’s not available. So we need to find something that’s sustainable, that takes into account climate change, and also is affordable so that we can that people could maintain it if they have to. What I envision is within the next five years coming up with a system that treats wastewater to drinking water quality that can be done on a household level. Because we’re going to have to talk about how we rebuild differently, and how we build differently. And as people have to move away from the coasts, and they move into these unincorporated areas, or they move into these areas where they don’t have big pipe systems, or have systems that are failing, we have to have something to be able to address that. And I think in terms of being forward thinking, we have to start working on that technology now. And I believe that it’s possible because we could develop a vaccine for the coronavirus in less than a year. Just imagine what we could do if we put that same type of know-how and ingenuity behind coming up with some real wastewater solutions that reuse and reclaim. Anderson: A few weeks ago, you were in conversation with Khaliah Ali Wertheimer . During your conversation, you mentioned how you would love for more rural communities to be included in conversations related to the Green New Deal. And I’m curious if you can share why it’s an important thing to include rural communities in these conversations? Flowers: I think oftentimes what we do — and it’s unintentional — is we frame our solutions or our conversations with an urban perspective that inadvertently is biased against rural communities. It leaves them out, when in fact, people in rural communities probably saw climate change before the people in the cities did, and may also have some type of knowledge about the solutions, and especially if we’re going to talk about agricultural solutions, solutions around soil. People in rural communities, especially [those] living in these agricultural communities that are very close to the soil, have some understanding that a lot of people don’t have because they have to pay attention to the natural elements in order to be successful in those environments. And I think, also, there are some common sense solutions that can come from rural communities. When we talk about green infrastructure, of course, we talk rightfully so about transportation systems that will move large amounts of people from one place to the other. And we talk about the grid and how the grid could connect cities. What I envision is within the next 5 years coming up with a system that treats wastewater to drinking water quality that can be done on a household level. But we need to connect those places in between as well, because even right now, a lot of people don’t have access to broadband and internet services. There are some parts of the country, especially in rural communities, where people’s cell phones might not work, because there aren’t cell towers nearby. So all of these kinds of things that we just assume that everybody has is not true. That’s why I believe that people from rural communities should be part of any discussion that we have about a Green New Deal and green infrastructure. They can also inform that conversation and how we get [resources] to those areas that have been left behind from what we currently have. We don’t need to keep skipping over these communities. Anderson: I’m curious if there has been any legislation over the years that has really helped improve the lives of rural communities that you can think of. And can you paint the picture of what the ideal would be when it comes to making sure that rural communities are thought about in conversations about climate change? Flowers: I haven’t really done a deep dive search but with the legislation that I have seen, I haven’t seen what I think is the model yet. I think in order to have a model, it would involve going into these communities and having people that are experiencing these problems sitting at the table and helping to draft the legislation because oftentimes, people are well intentioned and want to do it, and I applaud them for that, but you can’t do that by just visiting for a day and thinking you have the answer.  It’s unintentional — we frame our solutions or we frame our conversations with an urban perspective that inadvertently is biased against rural communities. Using the principles of environmental justice, that means having the people in the community sitting at the table — not having a top-down approach. The top-down approaches, as we know, have failed. That’s why we have this problem. That’s why we’re having this discussion. The model includes using the principles of environmental justice — and letting the people in the community be part of designing the policy to address these issues — because sometimes even the language in the policies get in the way — for example, language such as “town,” when a lot of these areas are unincorporated. There are no towns. Or putting in a limit or a minimum of 500 or more people. What does that do? Exclude the smaller towns or the smaller communities who may not be part of the town. And I think that’s one of the reasons that we have the problem that we have.  It’s something that I call a rural lexicon and what the rural lexicon is is understanding the language of rural communities, so that when we write policy, it is not always written from an urban perspective. I’m not saying that urban communities should not have access to services. They should, but we should all have access to services, whether rural or urban. Anderson: When I was listening to you talk, it reminded me that when solutions to issues are dreamed up and implemented, the people doing the work need to be deeply embedded with the communities in which they’re working in order to really understand and make sure that everyone is included. With that in mind and because the GreenBiz audience is mostly corporate sustainability people, I’m curious about how companies can help rural communities and support organizations like yours. Flowers: Companies come with expertise that we don’t have and they can also help expand our capacity — and they can contribute to organizations like ours, so that we can do the work. Some of them can serve as board members; some can serve as advisers. They can host seminars to educate their staff about these issues. Some of them could also visit as well, when it’s feasible to visit again. And certainly there are services that they offer that people in rural communities want as well.  In some cases, some of these smaller areas cannot have sustainability offices. Wouldn’t it be great if some of these companies will partner with communities that don’t have that? They can actually go in and help them develop more sustainable practices in those communities. There are lots of things that can be done and I’m sure if you talk to somebody else from a rural community, that they would have other ideas. I used to teach social studies so I remember teaching state and local government and history, and we know that there are three branches of government. We know that there are some other unofficial branches of government like the media, but I think the business community plays a key role as well. And the business community can be very helpful in states and pushing for the state governments to not leave out rural communities and to make sure that there’s infrastructure in place for these rural communities. Companies come with expertise that we don’t have and they can also help expand our capacity — and they can contribute to organizations like ours, so that we can do the work. When I was an economic development coordinator, I couldn’t recruit a lot of businesses to Lowndes County because they require certain things that we did not have in terms of just basic infrastructure. By pushing for those things to happen, and pushing for states to provide the infrastructure, not just in the places that already have it but also in places that need it, that can go a long way. Anderson: Now that your book is out in the world, what is the life you hope the book has? What do you hope the people who read the book take away from it and put to action? Flowers: The first thing I want them to do is to read the book. And then the second thing I want them to do is not just look at Lowndes County. Look in their own communities, look in their own states. Throughout the United States, there’s this problem — United States and U.S. territories. So look at those areas and help us to identify where those areas are and what those problems are so together we can come up with a solution.  That’s what I’m asking people to do because a lot of people want to come to Lowndes County. You’re passing by situations in your own state and that’s not helpful. What we need to do is make sure that everybody gets help, and that people are not left behind. I ultimately hope that what will come of this book, or at least writing and telling the story, is that we’ll be able to look back and say this was the impetus to end this problem in the United States of America, and potentially globally. Pull Quote We could develop a vaccine for the coronavirus in less than a year. Just imagine what we could do if we put that same type of know-how and ingenuity behind coming up with some real wastewater solutions. What I envision is within the next 5 years coming up with a system that treats wastewater to drinking water quality that can be done on a household level. It’s unintentional — we frame our solutions or we frame our conversations with an urban perspective that inadvertently is biased against rural communities. Companies come with expertise that we don’t have and they can also help expand our capacity — and they can contribute to organizations like ours, so that we can do the work. What we need to do is make sure that everybody gets help, and that people are not left behind. Topics Social Justice Environmental Justice Waste Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Catherine Coleman Flowers, author of “Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret,” speaks at a Fire Drill Friday protest in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of Catherine Coleman Flowers.

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Waste: an environmental justice issue we should be talking about

The top 10 houseplants of 2020 and what’s trending for 2021

November 23, 2020 by  
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Introducing just one plant to your home can improve the air quality and add a lovely touch of green. With so many people staying at home because of coronavirus, plants are becoming a popular and easy way to spruce up interior spaces, balconies, porches and outdoor living areas. But which plants are most popular? Research from Flowercard reveals 2020’s trendiest houseplants and what to expect in 2021. Cacti People love cacti . These low-maintenance plants offer an interesting look, especially with species like the Fishbone, Mistletoe or Bunny Ear Cactus. Popularity increases of 2280%, 1467% and 1985% respectively make these plants an especially trendy addition to any home. Just make sure to keep small children and pets away from these prickly plants. Blue Star Fern Blue Star Fern also saw a popularity spike over the last 10 years. Up by 1795%, these low-light houseplants offer a gorgeous green color. Blue Star Ferns love moist soil, making them very tolerant of over-watering. The flat, long leaves also spread out beautifully to add a lot of color to any area.  Velvet Calathea Velvet Calathea, also known as the peacock plant, is set to be one of 2021’s biggest stars, with a popularity increase of 1291%. Named for its velvety texture, this plant’s wide, two-tone green leaves feature a herringbone pattern that looks a little like feathers. Calathea plants thrive in shady, humid environments and don’t need a lot of water . Give them some indirect sunlight, and you can enjoy their eye-catching beauty. Snake Plant Snake Plant, scientifically known as Sansevieria Zeylanica, is low-maintenance but beautiful. Coming in third place as one of 2020’s most popular houseplants , the snake plant sports tall, thin leaves in multiple shades of green. This plant thrives with indirect light and little water, making it ideal for any home environment. String of Hearts With gorgeous, unique heart-shaped leaves, it’s no wonder the String of Hearts plant’s popularity has skyrocketed by 1057%. Classified as a semi-succulent, this plant not only tolerates dry soil but can actually rot in overly moist soil, so be careful when watering. Keep the soil just slightly moist through spring and summer, and don’t worry when the plant goes dormant in fall and winter . Your patience will be rewarded in spring and summer when the plant produces pretty purple flowers. Place your String of Hearts up high to allow the vines to trail down and show off their unique leaves. Happy Bean Plant The Happy Bean Plant is native to rainforests. Up 796% in popularity, this semi-succulent plant features peapod-shaped leaves that sprout along tall stems. Happy Bean Plants liven up any space; just make sure to train the plant to prevent the leaves from growing out twisted. Avoid overwatering these plants, and give them plenty of indirect sunlight. Keep them thriving in peat-based, well-draining soil .  Chinese Money Plant With a popularity increase of 668%, Chinese Money Plants rank in eighth place among the 10 houseplants seeing the biggest increases in popularity. This comes as no surprise considering the plant’s large, eye-catching leaves. Keep Chinese Money Plants happy with lots of bright, indirect sunlight and well-draining soil. You can give these plants a little shade to make the leaves grow larger and rotate the plant to keep it from getting lopsided. Droopy leaves are easily fixed with a little extra water. Peace Lily Peace Lilies, the fourth most popular plant of 2020, earn the nickname “closet plants” for being so low-maintenance. These beauties grow wide, pointed leaves in dark green with bright white flowers. At least, these look like flowers. These blooms are actually leaf bracts that resemble flower petals. Pretty cool, right? Give your Peace Lily medium to low light and make sure not to over-water. Water the lily when the soil is dry. Otherwise, just let it do its thing and this plant will stay beautiful for you. Lavender Lavender plants are also especially trendy right now, ranking second on the 2020 top 10 list of popular houseplants. Nearly 10 million total searches for lavender show that people are definitely interested in this fragrant herb. Who wouldn’t love this plant’s distinctive purple coloring and pleasant smell? Use lavender as a garnish, place sprigs of it around the house or use it as a jumping-off point to start an herb garden. Easy-to-grow herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano are great choices for a windowsill container garden. You can even experiment with cool ways to grow and display your herbs. Aloe Vera Earning the number one spot as 2020’s most popular houseplant, Aloe Vera earned a staggering 19,332,400 total searches. As attractive as it is useful, this plant’s thick, tall stems can be broken open to reveal juices that soothe rashes, burns and bug bites. As Flowercard puts it, “we love a plant that can multitask.” Planting Around the Home Houseplants help improve air quality and provide great-looking interior decor . Choose your plants wisely based on how easy they are to care for, how safe they are to have around and how they suit your personal tastes. Have fun with this green hobby, and play around with different plants. + Flowercard Images via Flowercard, Pixabay and Shutterstock

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The top 10 houseplants of 2020 and what’s trending for 2021

Engineering student turns food waste into renewable energy

November 23, 2020 by  
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What if those old carrots you never got around to eating could be a  renewable energy  source, rather than something messy you had to clean out of your refrigerator bin? That’s the basic idea — though on a much smaller scale — behind Carvey Maigue’s new AuREUS system. Maigue, a 27-year-old engineering student at Mapúa University in the Philippines, just won the James Dyson Award sustainability prize for his invention. “AuREUS is actually a material, or a technology, that allows other devices to harvest ultraviolet light and convert it into  electricity ,” Maigue explained in an interview on the James Dyson Award website. The green material looks like plastic and can be shaped into different forms. Related: Bioplastic made from fish scales wins international James Dyson Award “Organic luminescent compounds are derived from fruit and  vegetables ,” Maigue said in a video about his project. “These compounds turn high energy ultraviolet rays into visible light. I use solar panels and solar films to convert this light into electricity.” AuREUS can be integrated into many different parts of everyday life, such as clothes, cars and houses. One striking use could be attaching the material to skyscrapers. “We can use AuREUS instead of typical glass windows, so that whole buildings can become vertical solar energy farms.” The James Dyson Award is a prestigious international design award open to current and recent design engineering students. This year, the James Dyson Foundation received a record-breaking 1,800 entries. This year’s top winner was Judit Giró Benet for Blue Box, a home test for breast cancer. Benet is from Spain and studies at the University of California, Irvine. Maigue and Benet will each receive $40,000 in prize money. “It will be great to be able to buy some equipment that can be used to further the manufacturing process,” Maigue said. “Added to that, the money will mean I can finish my time at university!” + James Dyson Award Via  The Guardian Image via Mac321

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Engineering student turns food waste into renewable energy

Instagram data uncovers the world’s top #urbanjungles

June 12, 2020 by  
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Houseplants offer any number of benefits ranging from cleaner air to aesthetic appeal. Indoor plants brighten up a space and bring the natural world indoors, something that seems especially important during the 2020 COVID lockdowns. They make excellent gifts and enhance every photo opportunity within the home, whether it be a pre-prom photo or a snapshot of dinner. Love of houseplants  seems to be universal, but Budget Direct Home Insurance wanted to know specifically what areas of the world took the biggest interest in plant adoption and which plants people had the most passion for.  To figure this out, Budget Direct analyzed the most commonly used hashtags on Instagram to locate the top 10 plant-loving countries and which plants they are capturing for their feeds. After filtering the results of 200,000 Instagram posts and cleaning up the data by removing outliers and professional plant peddlers such as florists , Budget Direct put all its findings into an easy to comprehend map.  Related: 9 ways to add more houseplants to your home Results from the most common hashtag, #urbanjungle, show the United States as the top indoor plant hugging group with 7,592 posts. Brazil came in second, with half that number at 3,577. Europe is another plant-loving culture, with Germany posting 3,417 times and the U.K. showing a proud 2,323 posts. France followed at 1,673 posts, the Netherlands with 1,610, and Poland with 1,591 posts about appreciating indoor greenery. Rounding out the top 10 list was Italy with 1,405, pushing Europe’s total posts to over 17,000, then India with 1,327 and Canada with 1,288. The study breaks this information down further, looking at cities with the highest number of Instagram posts regarding indoor plants. NYC, London and Berlin, in that order, took the top three spots, followed by São Paulo, Paris, Los Angeles, Warsaw, Singapore, Amsterdam and Toronto. Representing an expansive geography, these posts make clear that houseplants are an essential part of  interior design  across various cultures.  While most people are familiar with product influencers on social media, you may not know about houseplant influencers. It makes sense when you think about it. You’re scrolling through Instagram, you like plants and you follow people who are knowledgeable, friendly and helpful so you can successfully grow and enjoy your indoor plants . By studying an assortment of popular hashtags such as #houseplants, #houseplantsofinstagram, #houseplantsmakemehappy and, of course, #urbanjungle, the researchers at Budget Direct Home Insurance created a top 10 list of houseplant influencers. In the results, the company stated, “According to our study, if you want to become an #urbanjungle influencer, you need a blend of houseplant knowledge, interior design flair, and friendliness.” If you’re looking for some inspiration or advice, here are a few of the houseplant influencers that made Budget Direct’s top 10 list. Coming in at number one is Canada-based Darryl Cheng ( @houseplantjournal ), author of “The New Plant Parent.” Following Cheng were U.S.-based creators The Potted Jungle ( @thepottedjungle ) and Hilton Carter ( @hiltoncarter ). Carter not only shares plant wisdom on Instagram, but also via weekly tips as the “Plant Doctor” for Apartment Therapy, plant propagating experiences on Airbnb and two books, “Wild Interiors” and “Wild at Home.” After pinpointing the most passionate Instagram plant owners and locations, the Budget Direct team took their research one step further to identify which plants are the most frequently captured on film. Greenery was identified by hashtags using proper botanical names, rather than common names. The results showed a combination of flowering indoor plants, succulents and foliage plants making up the top 10 most commonly posted varieties. Echeveria, a widely popular desert succulent, took the prize for the most photographed plant. Its striking blue-green rosette makes it a model for the camera. Plus, it is easy to grow and maintain. With 1,021,534 posts, Echeveria stands out as a clear favorite of plant lovers around the world. In second place with nearly half as many mentions (517,005) was the flowering crocus. Another easy-to-care-for succulent, Haworthia, settled into third place, likely due to its forgiving demeanor and eye-catching appeal. Indoor Fuschia and daffodils took over the fourth and fifth positions, showing that people love their flowering plants. The Swiss Cheese Plant, though many people may not recognize it by name, earned sixth place and is one of the most common houseplants in the world. The Dragon Wing Begonia, Living Stones, Freesia Flower and Chinese Money Plant round out the top 10 most frequently photographed and posted houseplants in the world. The results of this study are meant to be an enlightening report of who’s talking and what they’re talking about when it comes to houseplants. Still, Instagram may not be the best exclusive source of information considering it’s still not widely used in many areas. Instead of a comprehensive study, this data reflects overall  interior design  trends that suggest houseplants have a home anywhere around the world. + Budget Direct Home Insurance Images via Budget Direct Home Insurance 

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Instagram data uncovers the world’s top #urbanjungles

Rare blue bee spotted in Florida

May 20, 2020 by  
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While most Americans have been inside watching Netflix and cultivating sourdough starter, Chase Kimmel has scoured the Central Florida sand dunes for the blue calamintha bee . The rare bee hadn’t been spotted since 2016, but Kimmel’s diligence paid off. The postdoctoral researcher has caught and released a blue bee 17 times during its March-to-May flying season. Scientists think the bee lives only in the Lake Wales Ridge region, which is due east of Tampa in the “highlands” — about 300 feet above sea level. This biodiversity hotspot traces its geological history back to a time when most of Florida was underwater. The high sand dunes were like islands, each developing its own habitat. Unfortunately, this ecosystem is quickly disappearing. Related: UK bees and wildflowers thrive during lockdown “This is a highly specialized and localized bee,” Jaret Daniels, a curator and director at the Florida Museum of Natural History and Kimmel’s advisor, told the Tampa Bay Times . The bee pollinates Ashe’s calamint, a threatened perennial deciduous shrub with pale purple flowers. Scientists first described the blue calamintha bee in 2011, and some feared it had already gone extinct . It’s only been recorded in four locations within 16 square miles of Lake Wales Ridge. “I was open to the possibility that we may not find the bee at all so that first moment when we spotted it in the field was really exciting,” Kimmel said. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is funding Kimmel’s two-year study. Before the Ashe’s calamint began blooming this spring — and before the pandemic upended some of his research strategies — Kimmel and a volunteer positioned nesting boxes in promising areas of the ridge. After the flowers bloomed, he has continued to return and look for bees. When he sees what he thinks is a blue bee, he tries to catch it in a net and puts the bee in a plastic bag. Then, he cuts a hole in the corner of the bag and entices the bee to stick its head out so he can look at it with a hand lens. After photographing the bees, he releases them. Kimmel says their stings aren’t too bad. + Florida Museum Photography by Chase Kimmel via Florida Museum

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Rare blue bee spotted in Florida

Maven Moment: Flowers for Your Soul

April 29, 2020 by  
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For the first time in a long time, I am … The post Maven Moment: Flowers for Your Soul appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Maven Moment: Flowers for Your Soul

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