Can Shell help pilot a new era of sustainable aviation?

December 14, 2020 by  
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Can Shell help pilot a new era of sustainable aviation? Joel Makower Mon, 12/14/2020 – 02:11 One of the world’s largest oil and gas companies is betting that the future of flying is carbon-neutral. That may seem an audacious notion from a company whose business model for well over a century has centered around bringing fossil fuels to market — and is banking on petroleum being a key, albeit declining, fuel for decades to come. And it may seem unlikely that an industry as carbon-intensive as aviation — a hard-to-abate sector, in the argot of the climate policy crowd — might somehow emerge with its green credentials flying high in a climate-constrained world. But we’re collectively traversing uncharted territory during unprecedented times, creating unparalleled opportunities to transform some of our most unsustainable systems. Over the past year, I’ve been working with Royal Dutch Shell’s aviation division — a relatively small slice of the $344 billion (2019 revenue) energy behemoth — to develop a series of video interviews focusing on what it will take to make aviation sustainable. (I was paid by Shell for this work but not to write this article, which has not been reviewed by the company.) Along the way, I’ve spoken with airline consultants, fuel producers, carbon offset experts and industry critics, as well as with Shell executives, to understand the technologies and market drivers that could, over time, enable aviation to align with other industries in meeting the terms of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. While I’m not yet convinced aviation can become truly sustainable, I’m encouraged that there is at least a flight path pointed toward that destination. It’s been a fascinating journey. And while I’m not yet convinced aviation can become truly sustainable, I’m encouraged that there is at least a flight path pointed toward that destination. In some respects, this couldn’t have been a worse time for these conversations. Although it certainly wasn’t planned, the interviews I conducted during 2020 largely coincided with the aviation sector’s worst downturn in history . The global industry has been losing tens of millions of dollars a day and has shed hundreds of thousands of jobs. Passenger volumes took a nosedive, down precipitously from 2019 levels. The global market for business travel is projected to decline 54 percent during 2020, according to data by ResearchAndMarkets.com, which predicts a robust recovery for the industry — by 2027. Leisure travel was down even more . Only the air cargo business is up. And yet the conversation about sustainable aviation continues to maintain altitude. Some of that is driven by CORSIA, the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, a 2016 agreement governing international flights, developed by the 191-nation International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations body. CORSIA applies only to international flights, which account for the majority of aviation’s carbon footprint and around 1.3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to ICAO. The goal was to have carbon-neutral growth beginning next year — that is, to decouple greenhouse gas emissions from increases in air travel. Thanks to the pandemic, ICAO changed the baseline of CORSIA to include only 2019’s emissions, as opposed to the original plan to use an average of the sector’s emissions during 2019 and 2020, which would have set the emissions cap much lower due to the 2020 downturn. Fuels rush in CORSIA has helped catalyze a new generation of biofuels and carbon offsets, the two primary tools for reducing the aviation industry’s contribution to climate change. Shell, which has been in both the biofuels and offsets business for years, saw an opening. Its aviation division — which has provided fuel and lubricants for airports and airlines almost since the dawn of commercial aviation, and today serves about 900 airports in 60 countries — began a concerted effort to seize the moment. The push to become a sustainable aviation solutions supplier also aligned with the company’s ambition, announced to investors in April , to become a net-zero-emissions energy business by 2050. Shell is just one of several oil companies eyeing new business opportunities in sustainable aviation, particularly at a time of flat or declining outlooks for petroleum-based fuels. In addition to Shell, oil majors including BP, Chevron, Eni, Neste, Phillips and Total are vying for a piece of the action in sustainable aviation, often in partnership with smaller renewable fuel producers, including Aemetis, Fulcrum BioEnergy, SkyNRG, Sundrop Fuels, Velocys and World Energy. “We have been focusing with the industry to make sure we are ready when our customers need us and we can go back and fly again,” Anna Mascolo, president of global aviation at Shell, told me. “At the same time, what is also becoming very clear is that society, individuals and companies also feel an obligation to make sure that we look at long-term targets and ambitions like sustainability.”   Part of Shell’s quest is to become a leading purveyor of sustainable aviation fuel — SAF, for short — that is slowly but surely making its way into the airplane-fueling pipeline. SAF can be made from a variety of materials and byproducts, from agricultural waste and specially grown crops to used oils, inedible fats and everyday household trash. SAF is what’s called a drop-in fuel, meaning it can substitute one-to-one for traditional, kerosene-based jet fuel, known as Jet A, though current technologies limit the percentage of SAF to no more than about 50 percent on a given flight. That’s a largely theoretical limit. Because of SAF’s higher price and limited availability, most planes currently flying with SAF operate with a blend of less than 1 percent SAF — barely enough to justify bragging rights. Most SAF is deployed in Europe and in California, where policy initiatives provide incentives for SAF and other low-carbon fuels. Supply, meet demand Even with incentives, SAF can be a tough sell. “Historically, what CEOs and aviation companies have done is send demand signals through their willingness to enter into offtake contracts with potential producers,” explained Bryan Sherbacow , chief commercial officer at World Energy, which produces SAF at a facility about 15 miles east of Los Angeles International Airport. “The issue,” he said, “is that the price sensitivity within those contracts is such that they’re saying, ‘If you can produce it at a price that’s comparable to my current opportunity, then we’ll buy as much as you can produce.’ So, while the demand is there, if we can’t drop the price to be competitive with existing fuels today, that demand diminishes.” The “price sensitivity” Sherbacow speaks of is no small thing. A gallon of SAF can cost up to five times that of Jet A, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics , and it’s unlikely that market forces alone can bring that down to the point where the demand for SAF could justify dramatically scaling up production. Given that fuel is an airline’s second-biggest expense after labor, SAF’s price premium is pretty much a show-stopper, at least without incentives. Incentives notwithstanding, getting the price down will take the engagement of Big Oil, Sherbacow told me — “an incumbent industry that has entrenched relationships, entrenched cost structures, entrenched incentives.” World Energy has become a key partner of Shell Aviation. Earlier this year, the two companies signed a multiyear agreement to develop a scalable supply of SAF. It’s one of several partnerships in which both companies have participated. In November, for example, Shell, World Energy and Amsterdam-based SkyNRG announced they would partner with aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce to test the potential for using 100 percent SAF in future engines. There is no shortage of collaborations seeking to jumpstart markets for SAF. There is no shortage of such collaborations seeking to jumpstart markets for SAF. For example, there’s the well-pedigreed Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition , with the goal “to align on a transition to sustainable aviation fuels.” It is led by the World Economic Forum, Rocky Mountain Institute and the Energy Transitions Commission, along with industry players Airbus, Boeing, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Amsterdam’s Airport Schiphol, London’s Heathrow Airport, Shell, SkyNRG and SpiceJet. There’s also the Jet Zero Council , a UK government initiative led by Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Shell “to fast-track zero-emission flight.” “Collaboration is really going to be key,” Mascolo said. That applies to more than passenger airlines. Another significant Shell partnership is with Amazon. In July, the logistics and retail giant announced plans to buy 6 million gallons of SAF from Shell over 12 months. The fuel will be produced by World Energy and made from agricultural waste fats and oils, such as used cooking oil and inedible fats from beef processing. “As our operation continues to expand and continues to become more visible — whether that’s with trucks on the road, vans on the road or with aircraft — our carbon footprint is becoming more visible,” Raoul Sreenivasan, director of planning and performance at Amazon Air, explained during a panel at the VERGE 20 conference in October. “And our research does tell us that for customers, specifically in the U.S. and in Europe, this is a top-of-mind issue.” Amazon’s two biggest U.S. competitors, UPS and Fedex, are similarly ramping up SAF for their cargo planes. Amazon’s SAF purchase is likely a drop in the bucket of its overall aviation fuel spend — the company doesn’t disclose its annual fuel consumption — but these types of demand signals are critical in creating long-term markets for SAF. Going neutral, naturally Fuel is only part of the sustainable aviation equation, especially in the short to mid term. “The technologies and the fuels are not available in quantity today to enable the airlines to get immediately on the trajectory of transforming to net-zero,” explained Annie Petsonk , international counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, who focuses on aviation issues. “So, you need offsets as a bridge to help them to get to that trajectory. But the offsets have to meet rigorous quality standards. Otherwise, they won’t actually be helping the planet.” The technologies and the fuels are not available in quantity today to enable the airlines to get immediately on the trajectory of transforming to net-zero. The demand for high-quality carbon offsets has been growing steadily in recent years, thanks in part to the spate of net-zero commitments put forth by companies, industries, cities and nations. And that’s just for voluntary offsets. There’s a much larger compliance market, where utilities and other regulated entities buy and “retire” offsets to meet certain mandatory caps. The most active compliance program is the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism, the source of offsets for Kyoto Protocol signatory nations, as well as buyers in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme. Nearly 20 years ago, in 2001, Shell set out to become a player here, too, establishing a network of offset trading desks around the world. “My day starts in the New Zealand market,” Bill McGrath, general manager of global environmental products at Shell, explained to me recently from his base in London. He oversees the company’s offset trading operations, which are housed in London, Shanghai, Singapore and San Diego. Traders follow the sun, making deals during the business day in Australia, Korea, China, Europe, South Africa and, finally, the Americas. One of the main drivers for all this activity is Shell’s own global operations, many of which sit within jurisdictions that are part of emissions trading schemes. To meet its obligations in those places, Shell needs access to tens of millions of tons of offsets annually. “We have refineries that are emitting five or six million tons of carbon dioxide per annum, and we have to manage the allowance system around that and trade with other entities to ensure that we can comply with the requirements of those systems,” David Hone , Shell’s chief climate change adviser, explained. “It’s quite a big business.” The central focus of Shell’s offsets are what’s known as nature-based solutions — afforestation, reforestation and various other ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using natural processes, Hone said. “We are channeling something like $300 million of investment into our own forestry projects and turning that into units that we can provide to the aviation industry to offset their emissions.” Offset prices are all over the map, from $3 per ton to $40 or more, with the price often, but not always, synonymous with quality. And while there are organizations setting de facto global standards for offset quality, they are not yet universal. Both price and quality issues have hindered the market uptake of offsets, though that’s changing. As the market for voluntary offsets ramps up, McGrath believes price and quality will become more predictable. “One of the things that spurs developers is getting clarity about what the forward price and forward volume of demand is. When that arises, investment flows. So, one of the things that may emerge by 2025 is far greater clarity about the volume and price that offsetting commands on the buy side, so that the supply side can respond.” Carbon offsets aren’t universally loved, and the markets can be complicated and unnecessarily opaque . And they may not be needed to make aviation sustainable as much as some people think. Last week, United Airlines committed to zero out its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 — without using offsets. (The company also announced that it holds more than half of all “publicly announced future purchase commitments to using SAF.”) Still, offset markets will become an increasing fact of life for more and more industries and companies that set their sights on net-zero emissions. That’s especially true for those seeking to offset aviation emissions — from fuel providers to airlines to the flying public. Just the ticket Which brings us to another important piece to the sustainable aviation puzzle: passengers. It wasn’t lost on pretty much everyone I interviewed that the flying public will need to begin doing its part to help make aviation sustainable. “Our research indicates that consumers would prefer to fly on airlines that are actually investing in high-quality offsets, and that are delivering real climate and social and health benefits in local communities,” EDF’s Petsonk said. “They’re willing to pay more for that air ticket if they’re convinced that the airline is serious about making the investment.” Airlines for years have offered ticket buyers the ability to offset the emissions from their flight, with minimal customer uptake — single-digit percentages, by most estimates. And in an era when some airlines nickel and dime passengers for just about everything, it’s understandable that chipping in for offsets won’t likely be high on most flyers’ list — at least, not voluntarily. There’s a role here for travel aggregators — the Orbitzes and Expedias and Kayaks of the world — which can help make offsetting a flight an opt-out exercise instead of opt-in. Also, travel influencers — people with an online presence who encourage their followers to travel to particular places or on particular airlines. “The Instagrammers, the people who have large followings in the leisure travel community, they can be enormously influential as they become more aware of the need to protect the beautiful places that they’re encouraging people to travel to and to protect the climate in order to save those beautiful places,” Petonk said. The Instagrammers can be enormously influential as they become more aware of the need to protect the beautiful places that they’re encouraging people to travel to. Of course, there’s also a significant role for corporate travel buyers. “Companies are starting to ask airlines, ‘How are you going to help me reduce my Scope 3 travel-related carbon emissions?’,” said Angela Foster-Rice, senior vice president at Everland , which markets and sells forestry-based offsets, and who previously spent 16 years in environmental and sustainability roles at United Airlines. While at United, Foster-Rice spoke to a number of key corporate customers. “That was a few years ago, and we were already seeing demands by customers: ‘I see that you’re engaging in great, long-term innovations to decarbonize, but what can you do for me today? How can I compare airlines? How can you help me have a lower footprint?’ There’s a growing demand and interest — particularly by business customers, but also with general consumers — around airlines needing to reduce their footprint in order to help passengers reduce their footprint.” Technology, policy, finance If aviation offsets don’t get sufficient uptake voluntarily, perhaps they will be forced on flyers. One recent proponent of such measures is John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport: Passengers should pay higher flight taxes if their plane uses traditional fuel instead of SAF, he said . Levying a passenger fee is just one of many measures that could provide favorable tailwinds for sustainable aviation initiatives. “The biggest piece that we need is policy,” Foster-Rice said. “Because the technology exists. There’s a real demand by airlines to have SAF, but the costs are just too high. And in order to address that, this is still a very fledgling industry. And the only way to really get there is to have the right policies in place.” Annie Petonk agrees: “What we think is needed is a joint effort involving governments, the airlines and their largest customers to develop innovative financial instruments and government support to bridge the gap between conventional jet fuel and sustainable aviation fuel, provided that that sustainable aviation fuel meets very rigorous quality standards.” That sentiment was another through line among nearly all of the interviews I conducted. Bryan Sherbacow: “We’ve had significant interest, and we have access to capital. The issue is that to deploy that capital, investors want to have security into the future of consistent policy that’s going to support our activity and the return on their investment. Today, we don’t have that. It’s uneven with regard to what types of fuels are being incentivized. It’s also uneven as to whether they’re going to be able to rely upon that policy on a consistent basis into the future sufficient enough for investors to feel comfortable.” Even with policy incentives, an arguably tougher challenge in transitioning aviation toward carbon neutrality is lining up the various parts of the aviation ecosystem — including both the fueling and the offset value chains — within the industry’s complex web of interests. Anna Mascolo feels that Shell has a key role to play in this regard beyond merely selling sustainable aviation fuels and offsets. “I think the role that we can play is actually a really good role. It’s not an easy one, and it’s one where we will have to maybe step out a little bit of our comfort zone. We need to look at the whole ecosystem. We need to look at airlines. We need to look at producers. We need to look at logistics providers. We need to look at manufacturers. We need to look at airports. We need to look at government regulators. Everybody needs to play a role, because the challenge is too big to be tackled by one single company on its own.” 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 While I’m not yet convinced aviation can become truly sustainable, I’m encouraged that there is at least a flight path pointed toward that destination. There is no shortage of collaborations seeking to jumpstart markets for SAF. The technologies and the fuels are not available in quantity today to enable the airlines to get immediately on the trajectory of transforming to net-zero. The Instagrammers can be enormously influential as they become more aware of the need to protect the beautiful places that they’re encouraging people to travel to. Topics Transportation & Mobility Energy & Climate Aviation Biofuels Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage

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Can Shell help pilot a new era of sustainable aviation?

1% of global population causes 50% of all carbon pollution emitted by the aviation industry

November 20, 2020 by  
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Recent research published in  Global Environmental Change  has revealed that only 1% of people cause half of all aviation pollution globally. According to the study, regular “super emitters” are polluting the environment at the expense of millions of people who do not fly.  The study, conducted through analysis of aviation data, revealed that large populations across all countries did not fly at all in the years observed. For instance, about 53% of Americans did not fly in 2018, yet the U.S. ranked as the leading aviation emission contributor globally. In Germany, 65% of people did not fly, in Taiwan 66%, and in the U.K. about 48% of the population did not fly abroad in the same period.  These findings suggest that the bulk of pollution caused by the aviation industry comes from the actions of very few people. Further supporting this point, the study revealed that only 11% of the global population flew in 2018, while only 4% flew abroad. Comparing these numbers to the level of emission aviation causes indicates that the rich few in society fuel this pollution the most. Meanwhile, marginalized communities will likely face the harshest consequences of this pollution . In 2018, airlines produced a billion tons of CO2. Even worse, the same airlines benefited from a $100 billion subsidy by not paying for the climate change caused. The U.S. tops the list of leading aviation emitter countries, contributing more CO2 to the environment than the next 10 countries on the list. This means that the U.S. alone contributes more aviation-based CO2 than the U.K., Germany, Japan and Australia combined.  Research also indicates that global aviation’s contribution to the climate crisis continues to increase. Before the coronavirus pandemic, emissions caused by flights had grown by 32% between 2013 and 2018. If there are no measures put in place to curb the pollution, these rates will likely continue skyrocketing post-pandemic.  Stefan Gössling of Linnaeus University in Sweden, the study’s lead author, says that the only way of dealing with the issue is by redesigning the aviation industry. “If you want to resolve climate change and we need to redesign [aviation], then we should start at the top, where a few ‘super emitters’ contribute massively to global warming ,” said Gössling. “The rich have had far too much freedom to design the planet according to their wishes. We should see the crisis as an opportunity to slim the air transport system.” + The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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1% of global population causes 50% of all carbon pollution emitted by the aviation industry

Renowned landscape architects unveil designs to save the Tidal Basin

November 20, 2020 by  
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The National Mall Tidal Basin — also known as “America’s front yard” — is home to some of the nation’s most iconic landmarks such as the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. But the beloved Washington, D.C. public space is under threat from daily flooding and is in urgent need of critical repairs and improvements. In a bid to save the celebrated landscape, five prestigious landscape architecture firms — DLANDstudio, GGN, Hood Design Studio, James Corner Field Operations and Reed Hilderbrand — have been tapped to reimagine the future of the Tidal Basin and National Mall. Keep reading for a preview of all the designs. In 2019, the National Trust for Historic Preservation banded together with the Trust for the National Mall, the National Parks Service, Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) and American Express to launch the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab , an initiative seeking proposals to save the 107-acre Tidal Basin site in Washington, D.C. After months of preparation, the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab recently unveiled visionary proposals from five award-winning landscape architecture firms including New York City-based DLANDstudio, Seattle-based GGN, Oakland-based Hood Design Studio, New York City-based James Corner Field Operations and Cambridge-based Reed Hilderbrand. Each proposal not only responds to the pressing issues plaguing the area’s infrastructure but also examines ways to heighten the visitor experience through improved environmental and cultural considerations. Due to the pandemic, the proposals are presented in an online-only, museum-quality exhibition co-curated by New York City curator of design Donald Albrecht and Thomas Mellins, an architectural historian and independent curator. The public is invited to learn about the Tidal Basin’s history, which was completed in 1887 as a major hydrological feat as well as the ongoing challenges and comprehensive proposals. The public will also be able to give feedback and offer ideas on saving the Tidal Basin. “As part of ‘America’s front yard’, the Tidal Basin is home to some of the most iconic landmarks and traditions in the nation’s capital,” said Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Yet current conditions do not do justice to a landscape of such significance. With this new digital exhibition, we are excited to share and engage the public with creative thinking from five of the best landscape architecture firms in the world. These ideas explore ways to sustain this cultural landscape and its richly layered meanings for generations to come. This isn’t preservation as usual: this is preservation as innovation.” Related: BIG unveils sweeping overhaul to Smithsonian Campus Master Plan True to its name, the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab will be focused on cultivating bold ideas and promoting dialogue between designers, stakeholders and the public rather than choosing a single winner as is typical in design competitions. The exhibition will supplement the National Park Service’s mandated environmental review of the Tidal Basin as well as master planning and detailed design, which have not yet been completed but are integral to securing funding for construction and implementation. All five creative concepts, revealed late last month, celebrate and raise awareness of the Tidal Basin’s long history and have reimagined the cultural landscape to better meet modern safety and accessibility needs while addressing critical infrastructure repairs and improvements. DLANDstudio’s proposal makes bold steps of introducing extensions to the landscape in both the Tidal Basin and the Potomac River to reorient circulation. A long land bridge would connect the Jefferson Memorial and the White House, while a new jetty to the west would branch off of the Lincoln Memorial to house the relocated memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. Flooding would be mitigated with sponge park wetlands , a reflective weir and a green security wall. GGN’s vision is an adaptive plan phased across three stages to conclude in 2090. The design uses ecological solutions to protect the landscape from forecasted sea level changes and also the potential adaptation and relocation of existing monuments. James Corner Field Operations has proposed three ideas for combating rising sea levels : Protect & Preserve, a scheme to keep the existing landscape intact with improved maintenance and engineering; Island Archipelago, in which flooding would be accepted as an inevitable reality and monuments would be elevated and treated as islands within the Tidal Basin; and Curate Entropy, another design where the site is allowed to flood and a careful balance is maintained between the Tidal Basin’s existing layout and the new landscape. Hood Design Studio focuses on reshaping the Tidal Basin with underrepresented narratives, from the stories of how wetlands were valued by Indigenous and enslaved peoples to promoting dialogue on rebuilding urban ecologies. Reed Hilderbrand’s design draws on the 1902 McMillan Plan, a comprehensive planning document that strongly influenced the urban planning and design of Washington, D.C., particularly with its proposal for a “Washington Commons,” a diverse and connected regional park system. The plan also encourages new interactions with the landscape with an uplands Cherry Walk, a Memorial Walk, a Marsh Walk and a new landform called Independence Rise that would accommodate rising water levels and connect back to the city with a pedestrian bridge. + Tidal Basin Ideas Lab Images via Tidal Basin Ideas Lab

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Renowned landscape architects unveil designs to save the Tidal Basin

Architects turn waste into trendy glamping shelters in Rotterdam

November 20, 2020 by  
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If you’ve ever looked at a dumpster and thought “with a little work, that could be a cool fort,” then you’ll certainly be interested in the ‘waste architecture’ in action at Culture Campsite. This is a campground in a parking lot in Rotterdam that is putting a whole new twist on camping while showing the world what waste architecture is and what it can do. Culture Campsite, located just 10 minutes from the heart of Rotterdam, doesn’t look like any other campground. There aren’t really tents here; you’ll find futuristic shelters made from recycled and repurposed items. Here, you can sleep in a feed silo, a calf shelter, an old delivery van and yes, even a dumpster. Each “tent” offers a totally unique camping experience. “At Culture Campsite, you’ll sleep in one of the different architectural objects made from upcycled and waste stream materials,” according to the property’s website. “They are smaller than a tiny house, more exciting than a tent and different from all glamping accommodations.” Related: This floating park in Rotterdam is made from recycled plastic waste If you’re hungry, go to the geodesic dome . This is where meals are served. There’s also a communal bathroom area for your other needs. The campground is full of plants and flowers, bright colors and lots of natural light, and the site is just a short walk to the city’s historic old harbor. It’s a lovely little oasis in an urban landscape. Many of the shelters at the campsite are designed by Mobile Urban Design (MUD). Boris Dujineveld, the founder of MUD said that the principle of waste architecture is “designing and sketching with the materials and objects that are available…playing with form, material and color leads to new insights and forms that cannot be imagined on a white sheet of paper.” Dujineveld is definitely right about that. Culture Campsite is like nowhere else on Earth … for now, at least. The concept of waste architecture looks pretty impressive here, and it’s only the beginning of how far this kind of upcycling in construction can go. The campsite sets a whole new bar for the concept of repurposing and shows the world how even a parking lot can transform into a vacation spot. Culture Campsite is currently closed for the season, but plans to reopen May 2021 with rates starting at $76 a night. + Culture Campsite Photography by Heeman-Fotografie via MUD

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Architects turn waste into trendy glamping shelters in Rotterdam

UNStudio to transform Gyeongdo Island into a sustainable tourism destination

May 28, 2020 by  
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UNStudio has unveiled a masterplan to transform South Korea’s Gyeongdo Island into a new, 470,000-square-meter leisure destination that puts the spotlight on nature. The design celebrates the island’s natural beauty by orienting development around carefully framed landscape views — a design approach borrowed from ancient Korean garden design. The high-density development, which ranges from an affordable family resort to private villas, will follow passive solar and bio-design principles to minimize energy use. Commissioned by client YKDevelopment, the redevelopment of Gyeongdo is part of a plan to turn the island into “Asia’s number one marine and coastal tourism destination”. Located in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, Gyeongdo sits 2 kilometers southeast of the city of Yeosu, the main tourist hub in the Namhae region that is renowned for beautiful, green islands and ocean views. UNStudio’s masterplan aims to highlight the island’s rich biodiversity by creating three developments along the island, each informed by a distinct garden concept with different trees, flowers and other vegetation. Related: UNStudio installs new energy-generating facade for solar producer Hanwha’s HQ Built on either side of a “green backbone” for conservation, the three developments will be nestled within areas of reconstructed forest. The three neighborhoods include the Gyeongdo Gateway at the island’s main entrance; the Sunrise Waterfront on the east side of the island; and Sea Breeze Coast at the island’s southern point. Gyeongdo Gateway will house the main port, a cable car station, marina and bridge, an entertainment center, shopping mall and a waterside boardwalk. The quieter Sunrise Waterfront will serve as the island’s “leisure heart” and will include a four-star hotel and condos. The Sea Breeze Coast neighborhood is located in the most secluded part of the island and will offer a five-star hotel and a series of private villas. All of the buildings will be thoughtfully embedded into the landscape to follow the natural terrain and passive solar principles. Visitors and residents will have access to a seamless public transportation system to easily and sustainably move about the island. + UNStudio Images by Plomp (NL) and Flying Architecture (CZ) via UNStudio

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UNStudio to transform Gyeongdo Island into a sustainable tourism destination

A playful home built of recycled materials takes in sunrise views in Ecuador

August 19, 2019 by  
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Built largely from recycled materials, the home that architect Daniel Moreno Flores recently completed for an artistically inclined client in Ecuador oozes playfulness and creativity as well as a reduced environmental footprint. Located in the town of Pifo less than an hour’s drive east from Quito, the House of the Flying Tiles is strategically sited to embrace views. The house is named after its massive installation of hanging tiles — reclaimed and new — placed at the entrance to create visual interest and help shield the glass-walled home from unwanted solar heat gain. When deciding where to place the home, Flores began with a site study. Along with the client, he arrived early at the site to observe the direction of the sunrise and the best positions for framing landscape views. To make the home look “as if it had always been there,” Flores also let the site-specific placement of the home be informed by the existing trees and fauna. No trees were removed during the construction process. Related: This staggered, residential tower is draped with greenery in Quito “The house is oriented to the view, for the contemplation of the mountain, of the neighborhoods, and of all the plants and trees of the place,” Flores explained. “These spaces seek an intensification in the relationship with some externalities such as the mountain, the low vegetation, the sky and with the Guirachuro (a kind of bird of the place).” Using a mix of new materials and reclaimed wood and tiles from three houses in Quito , the architect created a 130-square-meter home with three main spaces: a double-height living area that opens up to an outdoor reading terrace and connects to a mezzanine office space; the bedroom area that overlooks mountain views; and the ground-floor bathroom that is built around an existing tree. The roofs of the structure are also designed to be accessible to create a variety of vantage points for enjoying the landscape. + Daniel Moreno Flores Photography by JAG Studio , Santiago Vaca Jaramillo and Daniel Moreno Flores

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A playful home built of recycled materials takes in sunrise views in Ecuador

Believed extinct for 38 years, the world’s largest bee has been found

February 22, 2019 by  
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Measuring in at four times the size of the average honeybee, Wallace’s giant bee has been on the endangered species radar for decades and was feared to be gone forever. But after 38 years of searching, scientists have confirmed that the world’s largest bee hasn’t gone extinct just yet. A team of scientists hailing from the United States and Australia discovered a female giant bee on the North Moluccas islands of Indonesia. The bee was uncovered in a termite nest, and the team was able to capture a series of photos of the massive insect, which has somehow evaded extinction all these years. Scientists have yet to determine how many giant bees are in the wild. Related: Bee Saving Paper “works like an energy drink for bees” “It was absolutely breathtaking to see this ‘flying bulldog’ of an insect that we weren’t sure existed anymore,” Clay Bolt , one of the team’s photographers, explained. According to The Guardian , Alfred Russel Wallace, a well-known naturalist and explorer from Britain, discovered the giant bee in 1858. Although it is the world’s largest bee , sightings of the flying insect have been rare, and scientists have had a difficult time unlocking its secrets. In fact, the giant bee stayed off the radar until 1981, when an American scientist named Adam Messer found three members of the species in Indonesia. The giant bee once again disappeared after Messer’s sightings, and scientists worried that the species had gone extinct. Fortunately, finding the living solo female proves that Wallace’s giant bee is still around, sparking hope that the species will continue to evade extinction in the years to come. The IUCN currently lists Wallace’s giant bee as vulnerable. Sadly, deforestation in the region is threatening the bee’s natural habitat. Collectors also seek out the giant bee because it is so rare, which has driven numbers down even more. Indonesia has yet to enact legislation that protects the bees from being targeted by humans. Scientists hope the new sighting will raise awareness about the giant bee and prompt lawmakers to take action to prevent the insect from becoming another  endangered species that goes extinct. Via The Guardian Images via Clay Bolt

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Believed extinct for 38 years, the world’s largest bee has been found

China closes Mount Everest base camp after overwhelming trash problem reports

February 22, 2019 by  
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China is taking steps to clean up Mount Everest amid growing concerns about trash accumulation. The base camp at the foot of the world’s tallest mountain is officially closed to tourists until further notice. The closure of the base camp comes after a surprising report from the Tibet Autonomous Region Sports Bureau, which claims it has picked up over 8 tons of trash from the site, including human waste and general garbage, last year alone. It is unclear when the base camp will open to tourists. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 “[N]o unit or individuals are allowed entry into the core area of the Mount Qomolangma National Nature Reserve,” local officials posted in Tibet . Qomolangma is what Tibetans call Everest. The notices were originally posted last December, though the closure is only now getting attention from media outlets around the world. Climbers can still gain access to Everest via China but not without a special permit. The country plans to issue around 300 permits in 2019. Tourists can also visit Everest, they just cannot reach the mountain through China. Anyone can still reach the north face of Everest via the Rongbuk Monastery, which is located around a mile from the main base camp. Trash buildup around the base of Everest has become a major issue over the past few years. China and Nepal have both initiated programs to deal with removing trash from the site, including encouraging climbers to take their garbage with them when they leave base camp. China, for example, has started to fine climbers who do not come off the mountain with their waste, while Nepal charges $4,000 for a refundable garbage deposit. Despite the efforts to curb trash accumulation, only about 50 percent of climbers came off the mountain with the minimum trash requirement. Although the majority of climbers reach Everest by way of Nepal, 40,000 visitors made their way to the Chinese base camp in 2015. China has not announced when it plans to reopen its base camp on the foot of Mount Everest. Via EcoWatch Image via Shutterstock

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China closes Mount Everest base camp after overwhelming trash problem reports

Uber inks deal to demonstrate on-demand flying taxis at the 2020 World Expo in Dubai

April 26, 2017 by  
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Getting from point A to point B in a car traveling on the ground is so 2017. Instead, Uber is working on a future where people will zip across cities in the sky. The company plans to test their on-demand flying car service, called Uber Elevate, in Dallas and Dubai by 2020. Uber wants customers to be able to press a button and summon a high-speed flying vehicle to transport them around a city through a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) network. They claim their zero-emissions vehicles will be electric and quiet, taking off and landing vertically – like a helicopter . Uber is developing the vehicles with five partners , including aviation companies like Bell Helicopter and Embraer . Related: Uber is working on flying electric cars to disrupt transportation again And they’ve already got a few cities on board. Uber has an agreement with Dubai Roads and Transport Authority, including a joint study into pricing, routes, and people movement. Uber aims to launch an Uber Elevate Network demonstration at the 2020 World Expo in Dubai. They also aim to initiate a pilot program in Dallas the same year before full-scale operations in Texas in 2023. Uber Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden said, “What started as a simple question: ‘Why can’t I push a button and get a ride?’ has turned, for Uber, into a passionate pursuit of the pinnacle of urban mobility – the reduction of congestion and pollution from transportation, giving people their time back, freeing up real estate dedicated to parking and providing access to mobility in all corners of a city.” The BBC noted the technology isn’t proven yet, but Uber thinks their flying car service could cost around the same as their car transportation system. Regulation and safety are two other major hurdles Uber must leap before their technology can take to the skies. Via the BBC and Phys.org Images via Uber ( 1 , 2 )

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Uber inks deal to demonstrate on-demand flying taxis at the 2020 World Expo in Dubai

2017 Goldman Environmental Prize recognizes 6 activists who risk life and limb to protect the environment

April 26, 2017 by  
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The winners of the 2017 Goldman Environmental Prize show you don’t have to be a celebrity or politician to make a change. The award, commonly called the Nobel Prize for the environment , recently recognized six inspiring individuals, ranging in age from 32 to 83, who have labored for environmental justice in their various communities . Read their stories after the jump. Rodrigue Katembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the oldest national park in Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it’s still been targeted by oil companies. Central sector warden Rodrigue Katembo, 41, faced down threats when London-based SOCO International pursued oil drilling in Block V of the park. He worked to expose their illegal activities, amassing evidence over a three-year period; in the process he was arrested and tortured in 2013, two days after he refused to allow SOCO officials to work inside the park as they lacked legal authorization. He appeared in the 2014 documentary Virunga , which Leonardo DiCaprio executive produced and helped turn public opinion against SOCO. They were accused of funding violence and bribery and withdrew in late 2015; Katembo now fights illegal coltan extraction in Upemba National Park. Related: This courageous Baltimore teenager shut down America’s largest incinerator Uroš Macerl, Slovenia Uroš Macerl, 48, has been fighting air pollution in his town of Trbovlje, Slovenia for over a decade. He took over his family’s farm in his twenties, but due to environmental degradation couldn’t grow fruit on the land and raised sheep instead. Then French company Lafarge Cement (now Switzerland-based LafargeHolcim after a 2015 merger) took over a cement kiln in Trbovlje in 2002. Macerl began filing legal complaints after Lafarge applied to incinerate petcoke and industrial waste at their facilities, and found out the government had fast tracked Lafarge’s permits without environmental assessments. So he went to the European Commission. Around five years later the European Commission Inspectorate finally shuttered Lafarge’s activities in Trbvolje, but the fight isn’t over – the company keeps applying for permits and according to Goldman Environmental Prize Slovenian government members are trying to change laws to overlook environmental standards. Macerl continues the battle as president of community organization Eko Krog , or Eco Circle. Wendy Bowman, Australia 83-year-old Wendy Bowman is a sixth-generation farmer in New South Wales (NSW), Australia . Bowman has watched coal mining sprawl across the region, with the support of the NSW government, for decades. She began Minewatch NSW in the early 1990’s to gather information and put the government’s technical statements into understandable language. In 2010 Chinese company Yancoal aimed to expand a mine to Bowman’s 650-acre farm, and she said no. With the Hunter Environment Lobby, she filed a lawsuit and the court said Yancoal could move forward only if they owned the land. Yancoal continues to try and appeal. According to Goldman Environmental Prize, 16.5 million tons of coal have not been mined thanks to Bowman’s determination, and she continues to speak out against coal mining in her community. mark! Lopez, United States mark! Lopez, 32, earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz before returning to his hometown in East Los Angeles . There he fought against a neighborhood battery smelter which released arsenic and lead into the community. A 2016 analysis from California’s Department of Public Health found children living near the smelter, owned by Georgia-based Exide Technologies , had higher levels of lead in their blood than children who didn’t live nearby, as reported by The Los Angeles Times . And that’s after Exide finally closed the recycling plant in 2015. That small victory wasn’t enough for Lopez, who’d worked to mobilize the community with the East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ). He wanted Exide to pay for cleanup . Last year California Governor Jerry Brown approved $176 million for cleanup and further lead testing – Lopez thinks contamination could have crept further than the 1.7 mile radius tested. Now Executive Director at EYCEJ, Lopez continues to push for safe cleanup and justice. Rodrigo Tot, Guatemala The Q’eqchi people dwell in the Guatemalan highlands, but the land of the Agua Caliente community and other Q’eqchi communities is under threat from corporations who wish to expand the Fenix Project , a nickel mine. First owned by the government, the mine was sold to Canadian company HudBay Minerals , who later sold it to Switzerland-based Solway Investment Group . Security forces for the mine have attempted to evict people, burned houses, and raped women. Agua Caliente community leader Rodrigo Tot, 57, who has labored since 1972 to obtain land titles for his people, worked with the Indian Law Resource Center and Defensoría Q’eqchi in a legal battle to secure official recognition of Q’eqchi ownership, and the country’s highest court, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala, ruled in their favor in 2011. But the government hasn’t enforced the ruling. In 2012 one of Tot’s sons was killed and another injured in what looked like a staged robbery. Tot continues to fight for the health of his community with a watch group that has held back security forces. Mining has contaminated Lake Izabal, a source of water and food for locals, with toxic metals like cadmium and chromium. Prafulla Samantara, India In India , the Odisha State Mining Company (OMC) and London-based Vedanta Resources reached an agreement on a $2 billion bauxite mine in the Niyamgiri Hills. But they didn’t inform the indigenous Dongria Kondh people, who reside in the hills – along with many endangered species – and hold the land sacred. Odisha native and activist Prafulla Samantara, 65, found out about it. In the face of harassment from state police and Vedanta personnel, he organized the people in non-violent demonstrations and filed a petition with the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court. The legal battle went on for a dozen years, but in 2013 the Supreme Court determined Dongria Kondh village councils should make the decision about Niyamgiri Hills mining. Each of the 12 councils unanimously voted against the mine. OMC petitioned the outcome but the Supreme Court denied them in 2016. According to Goldman Environmental Prize, the case established a precedent in India that village councils should determine mining activities in their localities. + Goldman Environmental Prize Images courtesy of Goldman Environmental Prize

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2017 Goldman Environmental Prize recognizes 6 activists who risk life and limb to protect the environment

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