Is your team embedding equity considerations into its carbon removal projects?

January 18, 2021 by  
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Is your team embedding equity considerations into its carbon removal projects? Gloria Oladipo Mon, 01/18/2021 – 01:15 With carbon emissions expected to rebound this year, 2021 presents another opportunity for companies to invest in climate-saving initiatives that move the corporate world closer to a net-zero future, especially carbon removal projects . While some companies already have started investing in these solutions on a larger scale, questions remain about how to conduct the process equitably. In other words, what environmental justice considerations should companies evaluate when investing in these opportunities? There’s a good reason to ask. Historically, carbon removal projects have a legacy of potentially reifying inequality; projects in the Global South become responsible for hosting said projects and their associated consequences while countries (and companies) in the Global North use these initiatives to meet their carbon reduction targets. Examples of this dynamic include projects such as a hydroelectric plant in Guatemala ( later linked to egregious human rights abuse ) and forest preservation projects in Brazil ; both offered Western companies opportunities to gain carbon offset credits, but the reality of their impact from a human rights standpoint was less understood.  Ugbaad Kozar, senior policy advisor at Carbon180, discussed these disparities and the power imbalance associated with carbon removal measures. “There’s a long history of Global South countries inheriting the burden of hosting projects that have benefited wealthier countries in reaching their climate targets,” Kozar said. “These projects can lead to inadequate payments, loss of local control over natural resources, loss of ability to use their land for other livelihood purposes.” A number of safeguards developed by NGOs can aid companies deciding whose carbon removal projects to invest in, Kozar said.  Carbon removal is still relatively nascent, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape how, where and which solutions will be deployed. For example, in 2005, the “Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhancement of carbon stocks” (REDD+) system was created as a social and biodiversity safeguard to make sure carbon removal efforts didn’t harm biodiversity and that its benefits were given to local communities. Elsewhere, the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance , a partnership spanning several international environmental NGOs, created “Climate, Community and Biodiversity” standards to ensure land-based projects respected community stakeholders and their cultures, and nurtured biodiversity, among other goals.   However, as argued by Holly Buck, assistant professor of environment and sustainability at the University at Buffalo, these safeguards have not been carried out without issues. REDD+ social safeguards have had mixed results ; the impact of the safeguards sometimes have been difficult to monitor and interventions made based on the safeguards had mixed results, she noted. Looking forward, that means companies have an opportunity to be even more progressive in establishing their own standards for equity considerations related to carbon removal, according to Kozar and Buck.  “Companies are even poised to play a role in having even more ambitious standards because some of those safeguards haven’t always been working out as well as intended … [companies can make] sure that theoretical co-benefits are actually delivered upon and [pay] more attention to who reaps the benefits from these projects,” Buck said.  Where to start? Before analyzing equity considerations related to their external carbon removal work, companies should first ensure they cultivate a workplace culture of justice within their organizations, Buck and Kozar said. This type of internal work is not only critical to unseeding racism in general (demonstrated as more carbon capture companies focus on making meaningful contributions to environmental justice ). Among other things, the Clean Air Task Force  also is following projects in California and Texas to determine how carbon capture technology might play a role in reducing local air pollution, with a view to releasing its research after this year to front-line communities. it’s an important first step for companies hoping to address oppression in their environmental work.   “It is so important for companies to start by looking internally and meaningfully begin anti-oppression work and diversification of the workforce. Doing so allows for opportunities to refute and rethink contextual perspectives and to understand the drivers of inequity and injustice,” Kozar said.  It is so important for companies to start by looking internally and meaningfully begin anti-oppression work and diversification of the workforce … In addition to creating equity within the workplace, companies investing in carbon removal projects must be committed to transparency about the process itself, all associated data, community involvement and an equitable distribution of resources. Carbon removal projects can be an opaque process, shrouded in litigation and inaccessible information; community members where carbon removal projects are located should be made aware of the process and included in the discussion of the project’s effects. “With industrial removal, some of the questions at the project site are: Are people happy with the industrial facility? Is it impacting them? … Are they seeing any benefit from it or just having to live next to a waste disposal site?” Buck said.   Most important, benefits need to be equitably distributed, ideally problem-solving for legacy effects of climate change that often occur in marginalized communities. For instance, a strategy of planting trees not only could address removing emissions but also help cool neighborhoods, reduce pollution, provide shade and have other benefits, an example Kozar provided.  Buck also cited the importance of government involvement to help ensure benefits are given equally. She noted how the California government helps redistribute funds from the state’s cap-and-trade program to vulnerable communities.  Overall, while the increase in companies investing in carbon removal programs signals a positive shift in more climate-friendly thinking, it’s critical to participate in these solutions in a way that centers and benefits oppressed communities, Buck and Kozar advised.  “Carbon removal is still relatively nascent, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape how, where and whi ch solutions will be deployed. As the industry emerges and scales, key players need to prioritize transparency and accountability, ensuring they do not ignore legacy pollution that harms marginalized communities,” Kozar said.  Pull Quote Carbon removal is still relatively nascent, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape how, where and which solutions will be deployed. It is so important for companies to start by looking internally and meaningfully begin anti-oppression work and diversification of the workforce … Topics Carbon Removal Social Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Climeworks’ technology captures atmospheric carbon by drawing in air and binding the CO2 using a filter. The filter is heated to release the concentrated gas, which can be used in industrial applications, such as a source of carbonization for the food and beverage industry. Courtesy of Julia Dunlop/Climeworks Close Authorship

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A New Year’s resolution for Bill Gates

January 18, 2021 by  
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A New Year’s resolution for Bill Gates John Elkington Mon, 01/18/2021 – 00:45 Bill Gates has a new book in the pipeline, ” How to Avoid a Climate Disaster .” Vital reading, particularly in a year that should see Glasgow hosting the COP26 climate summit. But if I could propose one additional New Year’s resolution for Gates, it would be to send another book to all COP26 delegates: Kim Stanley Robinson’s ” The Ministry for the Future .” Sci-fi fans know Robinson as a giant in his field, but I literally stumbled across his work. I had acquired a second-hand copy of his 2017 novel “New York 2140,” coverless and so somewhat unappetizing. I was using it as a doorstop, hence the stumbles. At 600-plus pages it loomed like the Eiger, but once in I was unstoppable. Wanting more, I ordered “The Ministry of the Future,” clocking in at a more modest 564 pages. If I had to give a prize for the best writing, it would go to “New York,” but if the prize was for giving readers confidence that we can crack the climate challenge, I would choose “The Ministry.” True, some early sections read like novelized versions of an MBA course on sustainable development, but stick with it. “The Ministry” is set in the time of COP58, a world where our worst climate nightmares are materializing. Indeed, the book opens with a disaster leaving perhaps 20 million Indians dead. It’s fascinating how tomorrow interferes with today. Science fiction, if you think about it, is all about perspective. In that vein, when I was trying to creep up on companies back in the 1970s, I pictured myself using a periscope. Later, when we had breached the corporate gates, even finding our way into boardrooms, it felt as though we were putting corporations — their leaders, cultures, technologies, business models and supply chains — under the microscope. We still do that sort of work but reaching for our telescopes — to track the trajectories of entire constellations of economic actors, with an eye to spurring systemic change. Still, alongside those different lenses and optics, I have long ached for some form of kaleidoscope — a compound lens delivering more information the more it is shaken, whether by the user or by reality. Decades ago, creeping up on the future, I began to stalk sci-fi authors. I had a fascinating early exchange with John Brunner, author of “Jagged Orbit” and “Stand on Zanzibar.” When I complimented him on the dystopian vision in the second book, which seemed to be increasingly realistic, he replied, uncomfortably, that he had hoped that the terrifying vision would wake people up in time. A later thrill involved interviewing Frank Herbert back in 1983. Denis Villeneuve’s film of Herbert’s magnificent “Dune,” perhaps the best sci-fi novel I have read, is due out in October. I genuinely can’t wait. Meanwhile, one thing Herbert told me stuck in my mind: “If you’re managing and fixing, you’re locking down today, you’re not getting into tomorrow. You’re preventing tomorrow.” A linked idea that has been rattling around my brain recently features an A.I.-enabled resource pooling all key solutions proposed in sci-fi novels — to tap into the collective creativity of some of the brightest minds of all time.  That idea, in turn, had me stumbling across an experiment launched by David Brin, another of my favorite sci-fi authors since I read his novel “Earth” in 1990, when he already was talking about the possibility of bringing mammoths back from extinction. Like it or not, such ideas are bounding forward, as I learned when talking to people such as Ryan Phelan of Revive & Restore a couple of years ago. Another case of fiction teetering on the edge of science fact .  It’s fascinating how tomorrow interferes with today. For a couple of decades, William Gibson has been my favorite contemporary sci-fi author, with the impossibly distant future of his early book “Neuromancer” gradually hauling back in later novels until it eerily mutates today’s realities. Or, as Gibson famously put it in the last century, “The future’s already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.” To which I often add, “Yet.” Someone else who achieves this trick is Ramez Naam — whose “Nexus Trilogy” I strongly recommend. As it happens, I met Naam — in his role as a radical energy analyst — at a VERGE event in San Jose, California, in 2016.  Now, with China looming, I have been reading sci-fi (in translation) by such authors as Liu Cixin . It’s fascinating how as cultures rise, technologically and economically, some begin to produce world-class sci-fi. Europe did it with authors such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, America with everyone from Isaac Asimov to Kurt Vonnegut.  New Year’s resolutions are an attempt to shape the future. I don’t do them, but if I did one candidate for 2021 would be to pour myself heart and soul into a new Volans project, the Green Swans Observatory . The idea here is to turn every lens we have — periscopes, microscopes, telescopes — onto the emerging regenerative economy. Scanning for what’s working, what isn’t (yet) and what needs to be tried next. Once again, I’m pondering where the sci-fi kaleidoscope fits in. So I called David Brin, inspired by his TASAT database — the acronym standing for “There’s A Story About That.” The idea, the website explains, involves: “Accessing more than a hundred years of science fiction thought experiments, TASAT taps into a passionate, global community of writers, scholars, librarians and fans. We aim to curate a reading list applicable to problems and possibilities of tomorrow.” A fantastic experiment, TASAT, although when you search the database for terms that feature routinely in The Ministry for the Future they rarely show up. Yet. True, the “Dune” series of novels focuses on the regeneration of planets such as Arrakis, but can TASAT-style initiatives help us all boldly go toward a truly regenerative future? Perhaps that’s one more resolution for Gates, or for another future-oriented billionaire or foundation: to help turn TASAT into a globally accessible portal to the ever-expanding universe of sci-fi wisdom. At a time when every second business book seems to include words such as “reimagining,” “reinventing” or “resetting,” we will need all the help we can get. Pull Quote It’s fascinating how tomorrow interferes with today. Topics Innovation Leadership Books Featured Column The Elkington Report Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Credit: gatesnotes.com

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A New Year’s resolution for Bill Gates

Want to switch to reusable cups? Here’s how to get started 

January 18, 2021 by  
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Want to switch to reusable cups? Here’s how to get started  Lauren Phipps Mon, 01/18/2021 – 00:15 By now, you know the problem: Nearly 250 billion single-use cups are used globally every year — most of which end up in a landfill — and the environmental, economic and social costs are mounting. And that’s just cups. You also know the solution: In addition to recyclable and compostable alternatives, reuse models are quickly emerging as a fundamentally better alternative to single-use ones, not to mention that converting 20 percent of the world’s disposable plastic packaging into reusables is a $10 billion opportunity.  So…now what?  If only this were just a matter of procurement. Far more complex are the systems surrounding cups and other disposables: platform design; customer adoption; retail implementation; collection; sanitation; end-of-life management; and, of course, selecting the right cup itself. That’s before you get to sustainable materials and production methods. Thanks to a new report by Closed Loop Partners, the path from conception to pilot and scale for a reusable and refillable packaging model — in this case the cup — has been spelled out to help you get started. It’s not a blueprint per se, but rather a collection of insights and learnings from the NextGen Consortium’s initial pilots with Starbucks and McDonald’s, done in collaboration with the design firm IDEO.  Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind when designing a new reuse system:  Design: Convenience, integration into existing systems and environmental impact must be aligned from the start, at the design phase. Consider the cup’s journey from sign-up and point of sale, to use at retail, customer handoff, point of return, washing and sanitizing, pickup and delivery. In-store inventory management (display and stackability of bulkier cups, storage, accessibility) — all will need to be designed into the system. Environmental impact is based on materials sourcing and manufacturing, the number of uses before a cup is decommissioned, and its end-of-life plan, so each element must be considered.  Collaboration: Engage baristas, staff and other key stakeholders who don’t often play a role in corporate decision-making processes. The employee buy-in and ease of integration into existing cafe workflows can make or break the success of a system. Determining the appropriate logistics partners also will be crucial at every step of a cup’s existence. Be sure to engage with local policymakers as well to ensure your program’s adherence to health and safety codes, and to help shape future policy to enable reuse models.  Implementation: Systems will need to be flexible to adapt to unique cafe environments, market needs and cultural considerations. Incentives and fee structures will need to adapt to the particular policy environment in which a cafe sits, which will likely change over time.  Adoption: When considering the overall cost of new systems, account for an investment in education, storytelling and customer acquisition. This will take time. Consider the motivations of customers and design the system accordingly, all while ensuring a seamless customer experience. Evaluate and adjust along the way.  “We are on the cusp of a reuse revolution,” says Bridget Croke, managing director of Closed Loop Partners, in the report. “Reuse will be a growing part of the plastic solution portfolio used by brands and retailers. It’s certainly not going to solve the whole plastic waste challenge, but as more of these models come to market, we are excited to see new solutions that collectively build reuse back into our cultural and behavioral norms.” Sure, many headlines about reuse are still in pilot phase, but brands and retailers have to start somewhere. On top of designing a workable system — one that considers consumer demand and readiness, cultural differences and financial barriers — it’s important to remember that the humble cup is a primary touchpoint for brand engagement. For most consumers that don’t (yet) bring their own cup to a Starbucks, for example, a change to the design and user experience could have negative visceral, emotional and Instagrammable implications.  Pilots are a great place to begin, so long as they are just the start.  Topics Circular Economy Circular Packaging Featured Column In the Loop Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Six of the cups tested as part of the NextGen Cup Challenge. Image courtesy of NextGen Consortium

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Why collaboration is the missing ingredient in food system reform

January 8, 2021 by  
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Why collaboration is the missing ingredient in food system reform Jim Giles Fri, 01/08/2021 – 01:30 One of the most exciting things about food and ag right now is the potential for change. The industry’s environmental problems — waste, greenhouse gases, biodiversity loss — are real. But so are the solutions. Multiple studies have shown that new farming techniques, low-carbon foods and other advances can create a radically more sustainable food system. As we kick off 2021 and await a new U.S. administration, I’m wondering how — or if — one of these possible futures can become an actual future. The ingredients for new food systems have been rigorously detailed in reports from the World Resources Institute , the EAT-Lancet Commission and others. But building futures is a far more messy business than identifying solutions.  “These reports treat these systems as something we can program,” said Chris Barrett, an applied economist at Cornell University, when we talked this week. “As opposed to massive systems of billions of people that make decisions that none of us can control.” I’d called Barrett and his colleague, plant scientist Rebecca Nelson, to talk about a report from the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and the journal Nature Sustainability, which they and others published last month . Yes, another report. But this one is different, because it examines the messy problem of turning potential into reality. This intrinsically social process, the authors conclude, “demands cooperation that is in shorter supply than are brilliant scientific insights.” To see what the authors mean, let’s go back to an earlier problem in food. The early 1970s saw increasing consumer interest in healthy food, but packaged food sold in the United States didn’t then include reliable nutrition information. Through a collaborative process involving the Food and Drug Administration, food companies and later the United Nations, industry and regulators developed the nutrition facts labels that we’re familiar with today — and that are mandatory in 58 countries. This kind of collaboration just isn’t a feature of U.S. food policy. These kinds of processes aren’t pretty. They involve countless meetings and technical reports and lobbying and conflict. But they can result in trusted systems that underpin structural change. We almost certainly need more of them if we’re to fully realize the potential of regenerative agriculture, alternative proteins and other promising technologies in food and agriculture. Let’s go back to labeling for an example. Last year, Unilever committed to adding emissions information to each of 400 brands, which reach 2.5 billion people every day. Other companies are pursuing similar goals. This could lead to competing emissions labels that confuse consumers and blunt the ability of food companies to translate emissions reductions into higher sales. A collaborative process involving the private sector, regulators, scientists and others could produce a unified, trusted label that would drive real change. There’s another great example in Barrett and Nelson’s report: China’s Science and Technology Backyard program . In 2009, scientists at the China Agricultural University moved their research to a village in Hebei province. Working from a local backyard, they spread the results of their research by working with the local farming community. Farmers who participate in the Backyards program, which has expanded to include other villages, local government and private companies, have increased yields while reducing environmental impact. It’s no coincidence that these examples come from another time and another country. This kind of collaboration just isn’t a feature of U.S. food policy. The closest the country has to the Backyards program, for instance, might be the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The service helped U.S. farmers recover from the Dust Bowl, but its ranks have been depleted in recent decades. That’s just one reason why I hope the ag experts on Joe Biden’s team have read the Cornell report. Pull Quote This kind of collaboration just isn’t a feature of U.S. food policy. Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems Public-Private Partnerships Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Sustainable interior design trends for 2021

January 4, 2021 by  
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While 2020 was defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us were grateful for the extra time spent with families inside the home. As 2021 approaches, it is looking like that home-bound time will continue well into the new year, which stands to influence how interior design will trend in the future. With most Americans spending more time at home in 2020, design trends for next year are focused on creating ample space utilization, plenty of greenery to maintain connections to nature, and sustainable (and budget-friendly) features — just to name a few. Inhabitat rounded up some of the most sustainable interior design trends predicted for 2021 so you can stay ahead of the curve. Repurposed décor Kelly Hoppen, one of the world’s top interior designers, told Homes and Gardens Magazine that the pandemic caused many people to look at design in a different way this year. More of us focused on reusing and repurposing things like furniture and accessories, and that trend will likely continue into the new year. This goes along with longevity, either by investing in higher quality pieces that may cost more but will last longer, or by spending more time shopping at thrift stores to save money. There’s also something extra special about finding a unique item, whether it’s vintage or simply recycled , that makes it one of the most rewarding and easiest ways to design sustainably. Natural elements Staying indoors for longer periods of time throughout 2020 left many of us yearning for a deeper connection to the elements of nature we’ve always relied upon. It’s no surprise that more people started turning to gardening and indoor plants as a new hobby during the pandemic. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is with an interior garden or by using more organic materials in your design. Even better, adding a few plants to your place aids in better air quality and may even help brighten your mood. Related: The top 10 houseplants of 2020 and what’s trending for 2021 Energy efficiency This is an easy one, because incorporating more energy-efficient appliances can appeal to a wide range of designers. While they may be more of an investment in certain situations, appliances with high energy efficiency usually lower utility costs and can even pay for themselves in a short period of time. Not to mention, they are better for the environment as well, something that has been on everyone’s radar due to the global climate crisis. Sustainable building materials Australian-based Kibo Construction Company says that organic options like wood, wool and stone are great choices, but being mindful of where our building and design materials come from is something that is becoming more important. This is partly because it has become much easier to access fair-trade materials and find out if they were extracted with minimal environmental impact. It’s also important to be aware of legitimate certifications, like FSC-certified wood from sustainable forests, for building materials to avoid potential greenwashing. Modular spaces It’s no secret that we are big fans of modular design at Inhabitat, so we’re definitely hoping to see more throughout 2021 . Modular spaces have the ability to create a fully hybrid experience in a smaller area, but it also has environmental benefits in terms of construction as well. Incorporating modular design into your home is an amazing space-saving technique, meaning you can do more with less space. Minimalism Modular spaces and objects also promote minimalism , a movement that is gaining more and more popularity each year as the earth’s resources continue to dwindle. The idea of only purchasing what you absolutely need and minimizing single-use purchases is one of the best ways to live sustainably. “Luxury Minimal Design is a top inspiration,” according to Trend Book . “The clear spaces are becoming more desirable for decor enthusiasts. Spaces with few pieces of furniture are the inspiration for 2021.” Minimal furniture and accessories, especially those made by hand or with natural materials, can add a touch of luxury to any space. Smart tech According to Ben Wu, winner of the International Interior Designer of the Year Award 2020, smart tech that makes the home more eco-friendly will be another big trend going into 2021. “Diversity and globalization will go hand in hand,” he told Homes and Gardens . “Future technology like 5G will take place more and more in the home design.” Smart home technology is already on the rise with popularity gaining for gadgets that connect to your smart phone such as the self-learning Google Nest and smart doorbell cameras. It makes sense that that trend will continue. Images via Press Loft and Unsplash

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Take your sustainable lifestyle to the next level in 2021

January 1, 2021 by  
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Are you already recycling? Carrying around a refillable water bottle rather than contributing to the ocean-bound plastic problem? Composting your food scraps? That’s all commendable, but there’s more to be done to achieve a net-zero lifestyle. If you’re ready to up your environmental commitment this year (and hold larger entities accountable along the way), here are a few ideas — some more dramatic than others — for sustainable resolutions in 2021. Get rid of your car If you have a car , sell or donate it. Once you’ve unloaded the gas guzzler, do your errands on foot or by bike. If you don’t have your own bike, join your city’s bike-share program. With proper COVID-19 precautions, take public transportation for longer distances. Related: The pros and cons of electromobility Ditch the plastic liners Do you know how long those kitchen trash bags take to decompose? Anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years. Instead, go au naturel and regularly clean your trash, recycling and compost containers. Change your laundering style Did you know that most of the energy it takes to run a washing machine comes from heating the water? Only 10% of energy is for working the machine, so switch to cold-water washing . Once your clothes are clean, hang them to dry. If you live somewhere sunny and have space for a clothesline, this won’t be too hard. If you live somewhere cold and rainy, see if you can hang an inside clothesline or set up a drying rack. But if this is impractical and you must run the dryer, make sure it’s fairly full so you make the most of the energy. Dryers are the third-biggest energy hogs in the average house, after the refrigerator and washer. Forget the lawn Lawns are a huge waste of space and resources. In the U.S., people spray about 3 trillion gallons of water on them every year, use 800 million gallons of gas in their lawnmowers and treat them with nearly 80 million pounds of pesticides . But who are we trying to impress with this golf course-looking terrain around our homes? Instead, go with xeriscaping or planting vegetables. Let clover take over, or fill your yard with pollinator-friendly plants. Control your climate Invest in ways to weatherize your home and lifestyle year-round. If you have the money and own a home, a heat pump can cut your energy use in half. Try low-tech solutions like wearing thicker socks and a fleece bathrobe over your clothes so that you don’t need to turn the heater up as much in winter. Add an extra blanket to the bed, and turn your thermostat down at least seven degrees at night. You use about 1% less energy per eight hours for every degree you turn it down. In summer, air conditioning is a massive energy hog. Three-quarters of U.S. homes have air conditioners, which use 6% of the total electricity produced in the nation, according to Energy Saver . Annual cost? About $29 billion dollars and 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide released. If you must use AC, don’t set it so low. Add insulation to your house. Wear a bikini. Eat more ice pops. Sweat a little, it won’t hurt you. Go vegan Yes, Meatless Mondays are a terrific start. But this year, try adding Tuesday. And Wednesday. Et cetera. A University of Oxford study concluded that cutting out meat and dairy could reduce your carbon footprint by 73%. “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said lead author Joseph Poore, as reported by The Independent . Boycott new One way to stop supporting the constant addition to more junk in the waste stream is to boycott buying anything new (excluding food, prescriptions or emergency items). Perhaps you already enjoy thrifting and flea markets. If so, committing to buying nothing new might be a fun challenge. Make 2021 your year of browsing the free libraries, finding your new look at a garage sale and swapping useful items with other folks in your neighborhood. Set up regular donations to environmental organizations Just about every organization needs your help right now. Whether you prefer whales or bats, oceans or rivers, an environmental charity exists that would greatly appreciate your recurring donation, even if it’s just five bucks a month. Control your food waste The U.S. is one of the top countries for food waste in the world, tossing almost 40 million tons annually. Most of this food goes to landfills. In fact, food waste is the second-largest component of the average American landfill behind paper. This year, commit to only buy what you’ll eat and to eat what you buy. If you don’t already compost, get yourself a compost bin and throw in all your banana peels, coffee grounds, etc. Get political On the most basic level, vote. Beyond that, support causes you believe in by writing letters to your politicians or boycotting companies that are contributing to the global climate crisis. Attend town hall meetings with your local or state representatives. If you have the time, energy, resources and moxie, run for office. Images via Adobe Stock

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Take your sustainable lifestyle to the next level in 2021

Take your sustainable lifestyle to the next level in 2021

January 1, 2021 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

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Are you already recycling? Carrying around a refillable water bottle rather than contributing to the ocean-bound plastic problem? Composting your food scraps? That’s all commendable, but there’s more to be done to achieve a net-zero lifestyle. If you’re ready to up your environmental commitment this year (and hold larger entities accountable along the way), here are a few ideas — some more dramatic than others — for sustainable resolutions in 2021. Get rid of your car If you have a car , sell or donate it. Once you’ve unloaded the gas guzzler, do your errands on foot or by bike. If you don’t have your own bike, join your city’s bike-share program. With proper COVID-19 precautions, take public transportation for longer distances. Related: The pros and cons of electromobility Ditch the plastic liners Do you know how long those kitchen trash bags take to decompose? Anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years. Instead, go au naturel and regularly clean your trash, recycling and compost containers. Change your laundering style Did you know that most of the energy it takes to run a washing machine comes from heating the water? Only 10% of energy is for working the machine, so switch to cold-water washing . Once your clothes are clean, hang them to dry. If you live somewhere sunny and have space for a clothesline, this won’t be too hard. If you live somewhere cold and rainy, see if you can hang an inside clothesline or set up a drying rack. But if this is impractical and you must run the dryer, make sure it’s fairly full so you make the most of the energy. Dryers are the third-biggest energy hogs in the average house, after the refrigerator and washer. Forget the lawn Lawns are a huge waste of space and resources. In the U.S., people spray about 3 trillion gallons of water on them every year, use 800 million gallons of gas in their lawnmowers and treat them with nearly 80 million pounds of pesticides . But who are we trying to impress with this golf course-looking terrain around our homes? Instead, go with xeriscaping or planting vegetables. Let clover take over, or fill your yard with pollinator-friendly plants. Control your climate Invest in ways to weatherize your home and lifestyle year-round. If you have the money and own a home, a heat pump can cut your energy use in half. Try low-tech solutions like wearing thicker socks and a fleece bathrobe over your clothes so that you don’t need to turn the heater up as much in winter. Add an extra blanket to the bed, and turn your thermostat down at least seven degrees at night. You use about 1% less energy per eight hours for every degree you turn it down. In summer, air conditioning is a massive energy hog. Three-quarters of U.S. homes have air conditioners, which use 6% of the total electricity produced in the nation, according to Energy Saver . Annual cost? About $29 billion dollars and 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide released. If you must use AC, don’t set it so low. Add insulation to your house. Wear a bikini. Eat more ice pops. Sweat a little, it won’t hurt you. Go vegan Yes, Meatless Mondays are a terrific start. But this year, try adding Tuesday. And Wednesday. Et cetera. A University of Oxford study concluded that cutting out meat and dairy could reduce your carbon footprint by 73%. “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said lead author Joseph Poore, as reported by The Independent . Boycott new One way to stop supporting the constant addition to more junk in the waste stream is to boycott buying anything new (excluding food, prescriptions or emergency items). Perhaps you already enjoy thrifting and flea markets. If so, committing to buying nothing new might be a fun challenge. Make 2021 your year of browsing the free libraries, finding your new look at a garage sale and swapping useful items with other folks in your neighborhood. Set up regular donations to environmental organizations Just about every organization needs your help right now. Whether you prefer whales or bats, oceans or rivers, an environmental charity exists that would greatly appreciate your recurring donation, even if it’s just five bucks a month. Control your food waste The U.S. is one of the top countries for food waste in the world, tossing almost 40 million tons annually. Most of this food goes to landfills. In fact, food waste is the second-largest component of the average American landfill behind paper. This year, commit to only buy what you’ll eat and to eat what you buy. If you don’t already compost, get yourself a compost bin and throw in all your banana peels, coffee grounds, etc. Get political On the most basic level, vote. Beyond that, support causes you believe in by writing letters to your politicians or boycotting companies that are contributing to the global climate crisis. Attend town hall meetings with your local or state representatives. If you have the time, energy, resources and moxie, run for office. Images via Adobe Stock

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Take your sustainable lifestyle to the next level in 2021

Maven Moment: A New Slow Cooker

December 30, 2020 by  
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The New Year is a good time to try something … The post Maven Moment: A New Slow Cooker appeared first on Earth 911.

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Maven Moment: A New Slow Cooker

2020 was the year that…

December 28, 2020 by  
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2020 was the year that… Joel Makower Mon, 12/28/2020 – 02:11 It was a very long year. True, just 366 days (it was a leap year, after all), each one, I’m told, containing only the standard 24 hours. But it was much, much longer than that. Remember 2019? Neither do I. To recall some of the key developments, as I have done each December for more than a decade, I’ve plumbed the nearly 1,300 stories, columns and analyses we’ve published on GreenBiz.com since the dawn of 2020 — a.k.a. the beforetime — accentuating the positive, seeking signs of progress and hope. We need such reminders to get us through these challenging times. Here, in no particular order, are five storylines that I found encouraging during the 12 months just ending. And, perhaps, to set us on a more bullish course for 2021. Here, in no particular order, are five storylines that I found encouraging during the 12 months just ending. (All links are to stories published on GreenBiz.com during 2020.) What would you add to the list? 1. Companies accelerated the route to sustainable mobility The rise of electric vehicles has been a perennial story for nearly a decade, but 2020 saw the pace of change accelerate. Indeed, in January, my colleague Katie Fehrenbacher predicted that 2020 would be a key year for EVs. She was right. Both the private and public sectors delivered big wins for the electrification of transportation. California’s governor signed a history-making executive order , banning sales of new gas-powered cars within 15 years. Britain upped the ante , with a similar ban but within a decade, helped by McDonald’s plan to install EV chargers at its UK drive-thru restaurants. On the supply side, General Motors and Volkswagen planned major EV rollouts. Ultimately, how fast these markets rev up depends on demand from fleet buyers. Amazon continued its aggressive EV buying plans , as did both Walmart and IKEA . One reason for all this: Batteries continue their journey down the price-experience curve, where increased demand lowers prices, further pumping up demand. New technologies are helping, many still in early stages . Some are specifically geared toward truck and bus fleets , an indication that the markets for medium- and heavy-duty EVs are about to kick into high gear . 2. Sustainable fashion became material Fashion is another long-simmering environmental story that has finally reached a boiling point. The issues are many, from the resources needed to grow cotton or produce synthetic fabrics, usually from petroleum feedstocks, to the waste that ends up in landfills, especially for inexpensive and trendy clothing items that often have a short useful life. In 2020, several new developments help put sustainability in fashion. For example, the nonprofit Textile Exchange  launched a Material Change Index , enabling manufacturers to integrate a preferred fiber and materials strategy into their products. It also  launched a Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark to help the fashion and textile industry take action on biodiversity. Circular models made the rounds, starting with the design department, where a lot of negative environmental and social impacts are baked into garments, usually unwittingly. Adidas and H&M Group  teamed up for a project to recycle old garments and fibers into new items for major brands. German sportswear company adidas committed to using only recycled polyester across its supply chain by 2024. Markets for secondhand clothing racked up sales, including recommerce , where companies sell their own reclaimed and refurbished goods back to customers. In the wings:  startups touting a new generation of textiles, production methods and business models, suggesting there are a lot more innovations in store. 3. Forestry took root on the balance sheet Saving and planting trees has been a cornerstone of environmental action pretty much since Day One. (Hence, the often-epithetic moniker “treehugger.”) And pressing companies to eliminate deforestation in their supply chains has long been an activist focus. Now, companies themselves are seeing the business benefits of proactive forestry policies. First, there’s risk mitigation — ensuring “a company’s ability to sell products into a global supply chain,” as a BlackRock executive put it . It’s not just the climate impacts of concern to investors. Deforestation and human rights abuses often go hand-in-hand — “there’s almost a direct correlation,” said another investor — an additional layer of risk for companies from neglecting forests and those who live and work there. And then there’s the opportunity for companies to offset their emissions, since trees are a natural climate solution that can help draw down greenhouse gases, especially firms adopting net-zero commitments (see below). Microsoft , JetBlue and Royal Dutch Shell are among those seeking to offset a portion of their carbon footprint by investing in forest protection and reforestation. Finally, there are the innovators — entrepreneurs who see gold in all that green. Silicon Valley venture capitalists are beginning to branch out into forestry-related startups — companies such as SilviaTerra and Pachama that provide enabling technologies to facilitate forestry projects. These entrepreneurs likely saw opportunity in the Trillion Trees initiative launched in early 2020. Of course, success requires stopping deforestation in the first place, especially in tropical rainforests. And that remains a problem. Half of the companies most reliant on key commodities that have a negative impact on forests — palm oil, soy, beef, leather, timber, and pulp and paper — don’t have a publicly stated policy on deforestation, according to one report . Still, some firms are making progress. Mars, for example, announced that its palm oil — used in food and pet care products — is now deforestation-free after shrinking the number of mills it works with from 1,500 to a few hundred, a clear-cut sign that progress is possible. 4. Food equity showed up on the menu For all the talk about Big Ag and Big Food, there’s a growing recognition of the smaller players in the food chain, from farmers and producers to those who prepare and serve meals. And, of course, the 821 million or so humans who face food insecurity, according to the United Nations. And that stat was from 2018, long before this year’s pandemic and global recession created millions more hungry bellies. With restaurants closed and other foodservice operations curtailed, one lingering question is what the world’s largest food companies are doing to help their suppliers and other partners. “Retailers and brands are recognizing that if they don’t step in to help their producers and distributors, the links holding together those supply chains may crack in ways that aren’t easily repaired,” my colleague Elsa Wenzel reported back in June. Collecting uneaten food or unsellable produce for distribution to those in need is one activity that accelerated during the pandemic . A newish concept, “upcycled food” — goods that “use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment” — is being promoted by a nonprofit consortium called the Upcycled Food Association. Increased concern for farmers is also on the menu. Fair Trade certified crops continue to rise , ensuring a living wage for many smallholder farmers, and there’s growing interest in supporting Indigenous farmers , who have long practiced regenerative techniques. The Regenerative Organic Alliance developed a standard to support farmers who promote soil health. All this will require making capital and assistance available to growers around the world, including the data and analytics that increasingly are core to 21st-century farming. And to do this quickly, before the ravages of a changing climate create further hardships for both food producers and consumers around the world. 5. Net-zero commitments found infinite potential And finally, zero — perhaps a fitting coda to a year that boasts two of them in its name. What began just a couple years ago blossomed into a full-on movement as the number of net-zero commitments doubled in less than a year . The list of companies making such commitments cut across sectors and international borders, among them BP , Delta , Facebook , HSBC , Nestlé , Walmart , even Rolls Royce . Verizon, Indian IT services giant Infosys and British consumer goods brand Reckitt Benckiser became the first global companies to join Amazon’s Climate Pledge initiative , committing to reach “carbon neutrality” by 2040. Some went further. Microsoft said it would become “carbon negative” within a decade , with a stretch goal to remove all the carbon it has emitted since it was founded in 1975. The travel-intensive strategy firm BCG said it aspires to be “climate positive” by removing more carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere than it emits. But getting to zero — or neutral or positive or some other goal — is not without controversy. As one report noted , net-zero commitments vary widely in terms of their metrics and transparency, among other things. That is, no single standard governs the way net-zero is defined or measured, or how it should be communicated. As such, net-zero could soon be in the crosshairs of activists eager to point out corporate greenwash. Help could be on the way. In September, the Science Based Targets initiative unveiled plans to develop a global standard for corporate net-zero goals, including the role of carbon offsets, a practice whose massive expansion is itself problematic and controversial . How it gets resolved will be an enduring storyline for 2021 and beyond. There’s more Those were hardly the only 2020 storylines of note. There was a significant uptick of Wall Street interest in  environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting … a surge of attention by companies to  environmental justice … the continued rise and empowerment of  corporate sustainability professionals . Oh, and the advent of a new U.S. presidential administration that  promises to reengage with business and the global community on addressing the climate crisis. That is to say, 2020 wasn’t all about the pandemic, recession and you-know-who. If that’s not enough, here — in alphabetical order by company — are a baker’s dozen other hopeful headlines from the past 12 months: How Apple aims to lead on environment and equity Bank of America CEO: Each public company needs to reach carbon zero BP announces net-zero by 2050 ambition Delta lifts off with $1 billion pledge to become carbon neutral Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics General Mills, Danone dig deeper into regenerative agriculture with incentives, funding HSBC invests in world’s first ‘reef credit’ system IKEA will buy back used furniture in stand against ‘excessive consumption’ Microsoft is building a ‘Planetary Computer’ to protect biodiversity Morgan Stanley will measure CO2 impact of loans and investments How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop Unilever unveils climate and nature fund worth more than $1 billion Walmart drives toward zero-emission goal for its entire fleet by 2040 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 Here, in no particular order, are five storylines that I found encouraging during the 12 months just ending. Topics Leadership 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 Group

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2020 was the year that…

3 under-the-radar forces in food

December 18, 2020 by  
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3 under-the-radar forces in food Jim Giles Fri, 12/18/2020 – 01:00 Last week, I unpacked three hype-worthy trends shaping our food systems. Now I want to shine a light on three behind-the-scenes forces that aren’t generating headlines but should be. Let’s drive straight in. 1. Our two-tier food system The story: Online marketplaces that connect consumers with small-scale producers have boomed during the pandemic. Membership at Crowd Cow , a marketplace for craft meat and seafood, doubled in April alone. Thrive Market — tagline “healthy living made easy” — is closing in on 1 million members following a 50 percent jump this year . The backstory: This is good news from a sustainability perspective, because both companies provide additional sales channels for producers that practice organic and regenerative agriculture. They’re also using zero-waste commitments and new packaging technology to aggressively tackle the delivery sector’s waste problems. These achievements make me hope these companies prosper, but I’m unnerved at the fragmentation of food retail they represent. We’re seeing a surge in new sales channels that allow relatively wealthy consumers to make healthy and sustainable choices, but nothing like the same momentum elsewhere in the market. Convenience and dollar outlets remain the only food outlets in many low-income neighborhoods.  This is a (sadly familiar) failure of social justice. It’s also a problem for sustainability. We can’t create the food system we need — one that’s low-carbon and biodiversity-enhancing — if only one tier of that system delivers those benefits.  2. Ghost kitchens in the parking lot The story: Amazon disrupted retail by creating a marketplace for all sellers. Now something similar is happening in the restaurant industry, where a company named REEF is setting up and running kitchens in parking lots, which restaurants use to fulfill take-out orders. The restaurant specifies the recipe, REEF creates the dishes, and a delivery service (say DoorDash or Uber Eats) gets the meal to your maw. The backstory: This trend will bring changes both good and bad to the dining sector. I want to make the case that this consolidation of takeout infrastructure is also potentially a big deal for sustainability.  U.S. restaurants throw away more than 10 billion of tons of food every year, one reason why 6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food waste. One solution is to deploy a food waste tracking technology, such as Leanpath . That can be a challenge for small restaurants, but it makes more sense for a centralized operation such as REEF, which just raised $700 million . REEF’s hyper-local approach also lends itself to cargo bike deliveries. Although the company declined a request to discuss its broader sustainability strategy, it is experimenting with bikes: In May, it announced a pilot with delivery firm DHL that involves four electric bikes in the company’s hometown of Miami. 3. A rapid route to the right recipe The story: Kapor Capital and the Emerson Collective are among the funders behind Planet FWD, maker of Moonshot, a new climate-friendly snack brand . The backstory: Why have a bunch of well-known Silicon Valley investors backed a company that sells crackers? Well, Moonshot is a real product, but Planet FWD’s raison d’être is actually the software the company used to source ingredients for its snacks. The tool allows food brands to easily identify ingredients that meet key sustainability metrics, including low emissions. Rivals in this space include Latis and Journey Foods .  This kind of digital infrastructure is invisible to anyone outside of the food business, but until recently it’s been a missing piece of the sustainability jigsaw. Large retailers and brands can pressure suppliers to discuss environmental metrics, but smaller companies and startups don’t have the leverage. As a result, comparing the sustainability bona fides of different ingredients becomes very time-consuming. By solving this problem, services such as Planet FWD will act as an accelerant, allowing brands with ideas for new sustainable foods to get to market much quicker.  This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Topics Food & Agriculture Social Justice Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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