Google and WeWork are building workplaces of the future

August 19, 2019 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. This episode: How to preserve meaningful human connections in tech-infused workplaces of the future.

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Google and WeWork are building workplaces of the future

Google promises carbon neutral shipping and recycled plastic products

August 6, 2019 by  
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In an attempt to keep up with customer demands and industry competitors, Google announced a loose plan to reach carbon neutral shipping and incorporate more recycled plastics into their Made by Google products. These gadgets include Pixel phones and Pixelbooks as well as Google Home speakers, phone cases and charging devices. Google did not give a specific timeline for carbon neutral delivery but plans to increase their use of cargo ships instead of air vessels. The company committed to include recycled plastic in 100 percent of their devices by 2022. Related: Athlete and activist runs across the US to raise awareness of plastic pollution Apple and Samsung are out-competing Google for sustainability pledges. Apple, for example, has at least 50% recycled plastic in some of their gadgets and at least 11 products with recycled aluminum. Samsung also recently pledged to increase their use of sustainable packaging. According to Anna Meegan, head of sustainability for Google, the company’s transportation-related carbon emissions decreased by 40% between 2017 and 2018. Google also promised to purchase carbon offsets for the emissions that they will not be able to reduce through strategies such as using more ships. “We are fundamentally looking to build sustainability into everything we do. It’s going to take us time to demonstrate progress,” said Meegan. Since cargo ships take longer than planes, Google will need to find ways to streamline their development and production processes so they do not lose customers due to longer wait times. Currently, only a third of all google products with public material disclosures contain recycled plastic. For example, Google Home speakers contain approximately 20 to 40% recycled plastic in their casing. Google also has a Recycling Partnership program where they provide a free shipping label to previous customers who have devices they no longer use. Google is able to collect and recycle components of the devices for future gadgets. Interested customers can check out the Partnership information here . Via CNBC Image via Andres Urena

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Google promises carbon neutral shipping and recycled plastic products

See the forest for more than the trees why reforestation isn’t working

August 6, 2019 by  
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We can all agree planting a tree is good for the environment — right? According to a recent study in Nature , the global crusade for reforestation as a remedy for climate change is largely missing the mark. So where did it go wrong? The new evidence reveals that most of the countries with large-scale tree-planting programs are actually developing tree plantations, which might help the economy but fail to sequester the carbon that the countries originally pledged to. The Bonn Challenge promises 350 million hectares of trees In 2011, the international Bonn Challenge was announced as an ambitious plan to plant 150 million hectares of trees by 2020. In 2014, more than 100 nations signed on under the New York Declaration of Forests, increasing the target to 350 million hectares by 2030. Unlike many lofty development goals, most countries are actually on track to exceed their promises, at least at first glance. In fact, the world actually has more forest cover now than it did in 1982. So, what’s the problem? Related: The ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ is transforming northwestern Pakistan Well, the majority of countries have been using the incentives and global momentum to back monoculture farms and counting trees that will be logged within years in their Bonn Challenge totals. According to the assessment, 45 percent of trees planted were species that will be quickly harvested for paper production. Another 21 percent were tree farm species, like fruits, nuts and cocoa . Only 34 percent of trees planted were part of so-called “natural forest,” even though the original intention of the Bonn Challenge was that all hectares planted should be natural forest. “Policymakers are misinterpreting the term forest restoration [and] misleading the public,” argued the study authors, Simon Lewis of Leeds University and Charlotte Wheeler from Edinburgh University. While agroforestry trees do provide important benefits to the environment and economy, monoculture plantations (especially when farmers clear natural forests for crops) fail to provide anywhere close to the same benefit in terms of sequestration and biodiversity . The value of natural forest A general definition of a natural forest is a “multilayered vegetation unit dominated by trees, whose combined strata have overlapping crowns, and where grasses are generally rare.” In general, a natural forest will store up to 40 times more carbon than a plantation that is harvested every decade. Related: How forest bathing can profoundly improve your health and well-being More than just trees , forests are important and intricate ecosystems. They are home to incredible biodiversity and provide sanctuary and habitat for thousands of species. They are also critical to the climate, because forests maintain rainfall and prevent desertification. Because clouds accumulate over forests, places that have destroyed all of their major forests often experience low rainfall, drought, desertification and other climate-related issues. Reforestation pledges around the world Even before the Bonn Challenge, China launched a massive reforestation program in response to flooding along the Yangtze River. Despite over two decades of reforestation, the report claims that 99 percent of all trees planted have been within monoculture plantations. Related: Philippine students must plant 10 trees to graduate, new law says In Niger, after years of complying with foreign and government extension officers who advised farmers to remove trees, farmers have finally argued that native trees serve an important purpose right where they are. Trees stabilize soil, produce nitrogen, buffer strong wind and improve organic matter in the soil. As a result of the farmers’ knowledge, deforestation has decreased, although the majority of farmers now wisely plant trees that will supplement their incomes rather than simply sequester seemingly abstract carbon. Yale Environment 360 reported that in Brazil, up to 82 percent of the forest restoration work is developing monoculture plantations and not natural forests. How to plant a forest? “Get out of the way.” According to National Geographic’s investigative article, “ How to regrow a forest: Get out of the way ,” even specific efforts by the U.S. Forest Department to plant natural forests have not worked the way they were intended to. For ease of planting and eventual use as lumber, the Forestry Department had a long-term tradition of planting native trees in neat rows at 12-foot gaps. Though the majority of trees were then left to develop into natural forests, the meticulous spacing has since exacerbated fire risk. The Department now opts for more irregular spacing and species biodiversity. Although it is more time- and cost-intensive, it ends up saving the department in firefighting costs later. Similarly, in Canada, a study found that a government campaign to drain wetlands thought to be smothering spruce trees caused a fire that destroyed 2,400 homes in 2016. Under the pretense of growing larger trees to store more carbon, peatlands were systematically destroyed. However, it is now recognized that peatlands ultimately store enormous amounts of carbon naturally and were more resilient to fires. “If you take the perspective that no matter what, more trees are better, that’s going to have unintended consequences,” said Sofia Faruqi from the World Resource Institute. “In the case of the West Coast, restoration may mean removing trees from the landscape.” Turning over a new leaf on reforestation pledges According to Faruqi, policies must acknowledge both what kind of tree is planted and how the tree “jibes with the larger health of the forest, the amount of water available or the needs of local people.” As we approach the start of the United Nation’s declared Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, many forestry experts agree that reforestation solutions must be localized — both at a national level and at the individual forest level. While the need for income, especially sustainably sourced income, is paramount, cash crop trees should be planted in addition to the 350 million acres of natural forest. Tropical forests are particularly important, because they have the potential to capture more carbon than any other forest type in the world. In many equatorial regions, where there are large amounts of land available and a high need for economic stimulation, healthy tropical forests can provide jobs, support indigenous traditions and capture an estimated 3 billion tons of carbon annually. That’s the equivalent of taking 2 billion cars off the road every year. Blanket pledges of specific tree planting targets have not worked and leave the door open for damaging misinterpretation. More research and awareness is needed to understand the importance of different ecosystems and more priority given to protecting and keeping natural ecosystems intact. The idea that any tree planted helps is simply outdated and misleading. A quote by American poet, environmentalist and farmer Wendell Berry sums it up nicely: “Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest.” + Nature Via Yale Environment 360 and National Geographic Images via Michael Benz , Marc Pell , Jesse Gardner , Janusz Maniak , Steven Kamenar and Zoer Ng

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See the forest for more than the trees why reforestation isn’t working

DoneGood challenges Amazon Prime Days with rival discounts that help the planet

July 15, 2019 by  
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DoneGood, an e-commerce platform, is taking the ‘high road’ by offering exclusively ethical brands, but it isn’t above aiming to steal the loyalty of its competitor’s customers on the highly anticipated Amazon Prime Day. On July 15 and 16 — the same days that Amazon will offer major Prime discounts — DoneGood is hosting “Better Days.” According to DoneGood representatives, using this site instead of Amazon is a no-brainer. The sales are “better than Prime Day — you get great deals and create ‘Better Days’ for people and the planet.” DoneGood is an e-commerce platform that only includes socially responsible brands that have been vetted and tagged for searchable categories like environmentally friendly, vegan or women’s empowerment. The site conveniently knocks out hours of due diligence and research that well-intended customers have had to do in order to find eco-friendly brands that pay fair wages and treat workers with respect. The site contains hundreds of brands and a wide variety of projects, including sunglasses made from ocean plastic and candles that give refugees a fair wage. By contrast, workers at Amazon have filed lawsuits for mistreatment, including long hours and limited water breaks. Some Amazon workers are planning a strike during Amazon’s Prime Days. Related: Carbon footprint breakdown: Pros and cons of online versus in-store shopping DoneGood also offers a downloadable plugin that users can run simultaneously with their regular searches on Google, Amazon or other major retailer sites. The plugin will highlight the items within the user’s search that are approved as ethical, mission-driven items. “The dollars we all spend are the world’s most powerful force for change ,” Cullen Schwarz, founder of DoneGood, said. “Americans donated $400 billion to charity last year but spent $130 trillion buying stuff. If even a fraction of that spending is diverted to brands that are reducing poverty, protecting the environment, making the world better, the impact of that is huge.” + DoneGood Image via PhotoMix

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DoneGood challenges Amazon Prime Days with rival discounts that help the planet

Episode 177: Sounding off at Circularity 19

June 21, 2019 by  
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Highlights from keynotes by Google’s Kate Brandt, Ellen Macarthur Foundation’s Andrew Morlet, and Cradle to Cradle co-founder Bill McDonough. Plus, on-the-spot interviews with UL engineer Bill Hoffman, General Motors materials guru Lauren Smith and World Wildlife Fund research Erin Simon.

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Episode 177: Sounding off at Circularity 19

The circular designer’s secret weapon: policy

June 21, 2019 by  
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Smart policy can inspire better material choices, innovative business models and the continual circulation of value.

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The circular designer’s secret weapon: policy

A conversation with Google’s circularity maven, CSO Kate Brandt

June 10, 2019 by  
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A Q&A with Google’s resident circular economy expert and Circularity 19 advisor on how tech matters to new systems.

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A conversation with Google’s circularity maven, CSO Kate Brandt

Why the US-China trade war is leaving firms vulnerable to soy risk

June 10, 2019 by  
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China’s growing demand for soy is leaving billions of dollars of investments exposed to deforestation risks, CDP report finds.

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Why the US-China trade war is leaving firms vulnerable to soy risk

Google is celebrating Earth Day with a new addition to its interactive app

April 22, 2019 by  
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In an effort to create an entertaining, easy way to learn about eco-friendly living, Google paired up with the California Academy of Sciences and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to create Your Plan, Your Planet for Earth Day. Using interactive quizzes, tips and visual aids, Your Plan, Your Planet gives users a concise set of messages that will help anyone understand the simple ways they can do their part in helping save the planet’s precious resources. With a trusted name like Google behind Your Plan, Your Planet , you know it will be both accurate and user-friendly. For example, the water pillar explores all the ways, both obvious and not-so-obvious, that we waste water every day. The app gives specific, sourced facts for elements to consider all over the home, from how much water is wasted by having a drippy faucet each year to how much water can be saved from using a dishwasher instead of hand-washing. Related: Google Street View cars will map air pollution in cities worldwide The other pillars focus on two equally as important angles to help the environment: energy and food. Did you know that keeping your lights on for four hours per day in a two-bedroom home annually produces the CO2e (“carbon dioxide equivalent,” a unit for measuring carbon footprint ) as driving a car for 40 hours? The energy pillar lets you pinpoint exactly how many kilowatt hours of energy your own home produces in a year, and that is only one section of the pillar. Among other things, the food pillar shares helpful ways to store food properly to prevent wasted groceries (“Two-thirds of the food tossed out at home could have been eaten if it had been stored properly,” the app explains). Once you’ve reached the end of each pillar, a choice of pledges awaits with links to share on social media and a chance to add reminders of the pledge to your calendar. In order to unlock all the tips, you have to make it through the entire interactive program (it only takes a few minutes, and there is plenty of helpful advice along the way). Users can sign into their Google accounts to save their progress and track pledges. The original three pillars — water, food and energy — are now being joined by stuff on Earth Day 2019 to raise awareness of detrimental “ fast fashion ” as well as many people’s affinity to throw their stuff away without a second thought. These bad habits have lead to the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothing (2,625 kg) being burned or sent to the landfill every second, a fact revealed early on in the app. On average, a piece of clothing that is made poorly is tossed in the trash after being worn just seven or eight times. The pillar was designed to help users understand the circular economy — the system aimed at managing ways to minimize waste and find better ways to expend the earth’s resources. Instead of the former mindset of “make, use, dispose,” circular economy is designed to keep resources in use as long as possible, rather than just throwing things away after we’re done with them. The facts revealed throughout the app are based on extensive Ellen MacArthur studies, such as The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics & catalysing action and A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning fashion’s future . Some examples of the pledges on Your Plan, Your Planet include: “I pledge to take part in Fashion Friday — Every Friday pledge to wear clothing you haven’t worn in a while. After wearing it, decide whether to keep, resell, reuse or donate your clothing.” “I pledge to prevent single-use plastics — Pledge to limit the purchase of single-use plastics, invest in reusable shopping bags, water bottles and straws, and reuse your plastic to keep it in use.” A simple change in just one of these patterns can have a considerable impact on your carbon footprint and contribution to the decay of the planet’s environmental resources. Related: Google hits its incredible 100% renewable energy goal Some of our favorite tips? Get inventive when it comes to recycling ! “Donate extra toys to a daycare, drop off old hangers to your local dry cleaner or advertise items on your neighborhood social media channels.” These are just a few ways to cut out the middleman and make sure that the items you don’t need anymore wind up in the hands of someone who could really use them. Another good tip from the app: “Choose to buy from a company that takes your products back [after you’re done with them].” Doing a little extra research before making a purchase can be the difference between trash and treasure. It’s no secret that minimalism and environmental awareness is gaining popularity. Videos and articles on sustainable fashion and eco-friendly options for waste have been popping up more and more as the plight of the earth’s resources is worsening. The stuff pillar has been available for teachers to use as a lesson plan since April 15, but Google has now made it available to everyone to celebrate Earth Day. Your Plan, Your Planet is great for both adults and children and an excellent way to learn together! You can access the program via g.co/yourplanyourplanet . + Your Plan, Your Planet Images via Your Plan, Your Planet

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Google is celebrating Earth Day with a new addition to its interactive app

This futuristic, solar-powered travel trailer can be pulled by small cars

April 22, 2019 by  
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There’s no dispute that travel trailers are gaining popularity among those looking to get off the grid and use fewer natural resources, especially while enjoying activities such as camping and road tripping. At 760 pounds and just over 12 feet in length, the Polydrop trailer is an impressive option for your next adventure. Created by architectural designer Kyung-Hyun Lew, this travel trailer has a lightweight frame and sleeps two people comfortably. For the minimalist traveler, it has pretty much all the essentials. The 2017 prototype was so lightweight that the designer was able to travel for an entire year with the personal trailer hitched to a small 4-cylinder car. The attention gained from Lew’s initial 2017 trip influenced the newer 2019 version with improved parts. Inside the wooden cabin bolted to the aluminum frame, there is a three-quarter-sized mattress, three sections of storage cubbies, two USB outlets and a vented roof. The interior is lit with recessed  LED lighting , and thick insulation protects inhabitants from all sorts of weather while saving energy. Heating (controlled by a thermostat), lighting and the electronic system are all powered by a solar panel. Related: Lume Traveler offers panoramic sky views from an open roof There is also a kitchenette with cabinets for electric hookups as well as two storage drawers in the rear. Unlike other travel trailers , the Polydrop doesn’t leave much room for the kitchen space, but the makers insisted that it has all the essentials for a camping trip at a site with separate facilities, like restrooms and benches, available. This isn’t your grandfather’s travel trailer — the Polydrop makes use of a polygonized teardrop shape with a super modern design and a futuristic feel. Safety wise, Timbren Independent suspension and hydraulic disk brakes get the job done for safe driveability. For the unfussy traveler who just needs a place to rest and some storage, the Polydrop certainly offers a successful approach to camping and road-tripping. The simplicity with a sleek, modern design is perfect for those looking for something not quite as bulky as a traditional travel trailer but more comfortable than a tent. + Polydrop Via Curbed Images via Polydrop

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This futuristic, solar-powered travel trailer can be pulled by small cars

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