Mount Rushmore fireworks display sparks concerns

June 30, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Despite a decade-long ban on fireworks at Mount Rushmore on environmental and public health grounds, President Trump is planning a fireworks show at the famous site on July 3. Critics are worried about the threat of wildfire and the spread of coronavirus . The National Park Service halted fireworks displays at Mount Rushmore in 2010 to avoid wildfires accelerated by drought conditions. The monument is famous for its four presidential faces — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln — but also includes 1,200 acres of forest and is close to Black Hills National Forest’s Black Elk Wilderness. Related: Crowds fill national park for Yellowstone reopening With a high temperature of 80 degrees predicted for the Fourth of July weekend paired with moderate drought conditions, not everybody is cheering for fireworks. “It’s a bad idea based on the wildland fire risk, the impact to the water quality of the memorial, the fact that it is going to occur during a pandemic without social distancing guidelines and the emergency evacuation issues,” Cheryl Schreier, who was superintendent at Mount Rushmore National Park from 2010-2019, told The Washington Post . Trump has yearned to see fireworks over Mount Rushmore for years and has downplayed the wildfire risk. “What can burn? It’s stone,” he said in January, according to Popular Mechanics . The 7,500 people who won tickets to the event in an online lottery will be urged to wear face coverings if they’re unable to social distance. South Dakota has so far escaped the worst of coronavirus. According to CDC statistics , at the time of writing this article, the state had 6,626 confirmed cases and 91 deaths. A fireworks display over Mount Rushmore is especially symbolic at a time when protesters seeking an end to racial discrimination are tearing down monuments. Statues of Jefferson and Washington have elsewhere been removed by people decrying the former presidents as slave owners. Mount Rushmore has an especially troubled history. The Lakota Sioux hold the Black Hills sacred. Having the faces of their European conquerors immortalized on stolen stone is viewed as the ultimate desecration. Via PBS , Ecowatch and Weather Channel Image via Pixabay

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Mount Rushmore fireworks display sparks concerns

Can manufacturing green sand beaches save our planet?

June 30, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

It sounds too good to be true — spread some rocks on a beach and the ocean will do the work to remove carbon dioxide from the air, reversing global warming. But that’s a very simplified explanation of what Project Vesta hopes to accomplish. The idea is to accelerate a natural process. When rain falls on volcanic rocks, it weathers them down, then flows into the ocean. There, oceans further break down the rocks. Carbon dioxide removed from the air becomes bicarbonate, which helps grow the shells of marine organisms and is stored in limestone on the ocean floor. Project Vesta wants to speed up this process by grinding up olivine — a common, gray-green silicate that weathers quickly — and spreading it on beaches and in shallow shelf seas around the world. It has worked in a lab, but will it work in the real world? We’re about to find out, as Project Vesta is now preparing a pilot beach in the Caribbean. Related: Demand for sand — the largest mining industry no one talks about Origins of Project Vesta Project Vesta has rounded up an international crew of scientists, environmentalists, futurists and financial experts since its founding on Earth Day 2019. The not-for-profit organization sprang from a think tank called Climitigation , Project Vesta executive director Tom Green told Inhabitat. “It’s very clear at this point that in order to avoid the worst effects of global warming, reducing emissions will not be enough,” Green said. “Maybe 20 years ago that would have been a viable path. But at this point, even though we should reduce emissions , that on its own will not be enough to avoid the worst scenario.” Climitigation examined different ways to reverse global warming , prioritizing them according to their viability. The idea of coastal weathering came to the top, Green said, “as being potentially very, very cheap, very scalable, a permanent carbon catcher, with relatively little attention that had been paid to it so far. So Project Vesta was founded out of that think tank, and we exist to further the science of enhanced weathering ultimately to galvanize global deployment that will help reverse climate change.” The idea of coastal weathering has 30 years of academic research in the fields of biology and geochemistry behind it. But it had stalled out, unable to cross the financial chasm from academic to mainstream, said Green, who trained as a biologist before spending 20 years in business at various tech companies. “Nobody had come along and said, ‘Okay, I’m going to push this forward.’ That’s what we’re here to do.” The pilot beach Scientists at Project Vesta had a set of criteria for finding the right pilot beach. “We scoured the world for an ideal site,” Green said. “This initial site that we found is great for our pilot beach site. It’s a fairly enclosed cove, which means the water has a pretty low refresh rate. Which means that as the chemical reaction happens, there’s enough time for the biogeochemical indicators to change before the water gets washed away into ocean.” In a few months, after thoroughly measuring the test cove, Project Vesta will cover the pilot beach with ground olivine. Then comes the monitoring phase. Scientists will sample water and sand, measuring indicators like DIC, or dissolved inorganic carbon , which directly measures the amount of carbon in the water. “These indicators are designed to measure the speed of the reaction that’s happening and actually look at the carbon as it is being removed from the atmosphere,” Green explained. “On the biological side, we’ll also be measuring the prevalence of various species that are there, both macroscopic and microscopic species, and looking at any changes in that as the experiment proceeds.” A nearly identical cove less than a quarter mile away will serve as a control cove. One concern is whether olivine could release nickel or other heavy metals into the water. Green told Fast Company that this nickel won’t be bioavailable, so it won’t harm marine species. But the pilot study will monitor metal concentrations to assess the real life impact to sand , water and local marine organisms. In addition to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, Project Vesta hopes that more green beaches will reverse the ocean’s rising acidity. “The reaction that happens when olivine dissolves actually makes the ocean less acidic,” Green said. “ Ocean acidification is a major problem and is causing problems for a lot of species. It’s very clear that doing this will reduce acidity at the site where it’s done. And then there’s a hypothesis that that will actually be beneficial for local marine ecosystems. But we don’t know that yet for sure. We need to test it out.” Green beaches could also be a tourism draw. Papakolea on Hawaii’s Big Island is the world’s most famous green sand beach. It does more than alright for itself, tourist-wise. Future green beaches The Project Vesta folks hope that they’ll see a positive impact on their pilot beach within a year. If it’s successful, they’ll work with interested governments to expand the project. Green anticipates that members of the V20 — countries especially susceptible to climate change — may be especially receptive to green sand beaches. Island nations with lots of shoreline will be top candidates. If all went perfectly, how long would it take for green sand beaches to reverse climate change? Project Vesta scientists estimate they’ll need to dump ground olivine in 2% of the world’s shelf seas — the shallow coastal waters surrounding every continent — for the plan to work. “The scale of the problem is so big that any solution will also be largescale,” Green said. Project Vesta plans to find local or nearby sources of olivine to save financial and carbon costs of transporting the green rock. Even when factoring in the mining and transportation, the project claims it can capture 20 times the carbon it takes to make a green sand beach. Moving all these rocks will cost money. The credit card processing company Stripe is one of the project’s backers, in keeping with its pledge to spend $1 million a year on carbon removal technologies . Individuals can make donations of any size on Project Vesta’s website or support the project by buying a Grain of Hope necklace for $25. Fittingly, the jewelry sports a single grain of olivine suspended in a sand timer vial, symbolizing that time is running out on reversing climate change. + Project Vesta Images via Project Vesta

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Can manufacturing green sand beaches save our planet?

Tiny living helps this family cut costs and find balance

June 30, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

When one tiny house is just a bit too tiny, why not get two? One single mom who flipped houses for a living decided to do just that, choosing not one but two tiny homes that she placed side-by-side to provide room for herself and her two daughters. This is an elegant solution for those who want to try tiny living on a slightly larger scale. One tiny home houses mom Amanda Lee’s bedroom, along with the living room, kitchen and bathroom. The second tiny home is split in half to house a bedroom and wardrobe area for each of Lee’s daughters. The homes are 168 and 219 square feet and connected with a large, covered porch . The porch increases the overall living space. Thanks to her two tiny homes, Lee is totally debt-free. Since she opted to live almost completely off-grid , her utility bills stay low. Thanks to her reduced living expenses, Lee bought herself plenty of time to spend with her children. She now works from her tiny home at her consulting business. Lee’s tiny homes were created by Aussie Tiny Houses, a company that specializes in creating beautiful, yet practical, tiny homes. The company’s website showcases several models, including designs that can sleep up to four people. The website also offers a few buying options. Homebuyers can opt for a lock-up, a shell or a turn-key tiny home that’s ready to be lived in. The design Lee chose is the gorgeous Casuarina 8.4. This tiny home is 26 feet long, 7.8 feet wide and 14 feet high. Casuarina’s features include stunning cathedral ceilings, full-height pantry storage in the kitchen and space for a washing machine. There’s also a full-height fridge in the kitchen and a bathroom with a storage loft. Casuarina’s design includes a steel frame, aluminum windows, insulated SMART glass , recessed LED lighting, USB charging points and waterproof vinyl floorboards. Buyers can also opt for various upgrades, including light dimmer switches, built-in Bluetooth ceiling speakers, skylights , external storage boxes and different kitchen appliance options. The tiny house movement has caught fire all over the world, as more people learn that they can make do with less living space. This approach certainly worked for Lee, whose smart solution gives her the freedom to work from home and focus on family. + Aussie Tiny Houses Via Tiny House Talk Images via Aussie Tiny Houses

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Newly renovated Seventh Generation HQ focuses on sustainability

June 30, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

Seventh Generation, the company famous for its eco-friendly and bio-based home and personal care products, recently unveiled its renovated headquarters in Burlington, Vermont. Finished in January 2020, the $3.5 million project focused on aligning employee experience with the company’s social mission and values by transitioning the global headquarters into a fully agile workplace. An agile work environment traditionally utilizes strategies meant to optimize the use of space and promote creativity through features such as comfortable seating areas, quiet reflective spaces, outdoor workspaces and standing desks. Green-minded businesses often promote agile work spaces in order to reduce environmental footprints. Related: The Nature Conservancy’s Oregon HQ gets a green renovation Seventh Generation took this opportunity to add free address workstations, shared community tables and individual storage lockers for its employees. There are now enclosed huddle rooms, phone booths and open scrum areas on each floor to promote flexibility and collaboration among departments, and the central atrium has been renovated to open up to adjacent workspaces on each floor. To inspire healthier eating habits, there is an onsite garden to provide vegetables for the company cafeterias. Each floor is assigned its own unique color that connects it to one of the company’s core values: nurture nature, enhance health, transform commerce and build communities. The project is currently pending for LEED Gold Certification for Commercial Interiors due to its focus on sustainability. Over 90% of the construction waste from the renovation has been either recycled or diverted from landfill. The building uses 45% less than the baseline annual water use of a similarly-coded office space, and it boasts energy-efficient LED lighting and a green cleaning products policy to spare the office from harmful contaminants. Biophilic elements (designs choices meant to connect building occupants to nature) can be found throughout the office as well. Quality ventilation, custom planters and open workspaces integrated with greenery improve interior air quality and reflect the core ethics of the environment-focused company. Seventh Generation also tests indoor air quality regularly to ensure that employees aren’t being exposed to chemical, biological or particulate contaminants. The project was led by architect and interior design firm, TruexCullins. + TruexCullins Images via TruexCullins

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Newly renovated Seventh Generation HQ focuses on sustainability

Where are they now? Catch up with 30 Under 30 alumni

June 29, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Where are they now? Catch up with 30 Under 30 alumni Heather Clancy Mon, 06/29/2020 – 02:30 June 22 marked the publication of the fifth annual GreenBiz 30 Under 30 , our report celebrating rising young professionals in the field of corporate sustainability.  What’s up in the worlds of the 120 alumni from past lists? We reached out this spring to check in, asking those inclined to weigh in on how current events have changed their world views. We asked them to consider two questions: With the world turned upside down, what is your focus at work? Do you think the COVID-19 crisis marks a turning point for the sustainability movement?  Following are some of their responses, lightly edited, representing perspective from all four past cohorts. We did not specifically ask the alumni to consider the broader question of systemic racism, as our outreach was completed prior to the national protests triggered by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But look for future updates and essays on this topic, such as the one digitally penned recently by Jarami Bond (named in 2017). One final note: Be sure to check the end of this article for quick job updates from others who responded to our outreach but chose not to comment on the two questions. Without further ado, here’s what’s up with members of past GreenBiz 30 Under 30 cohorts. And, if you want to consult those lists in their entirety, here are the links: 2016 , 2017 , 2018 and 2019 . Jessica Artioli Centurião ( 2018 ) Digital Innovation Manager, BASF; Sao Paulo, Brazil COVID-19 will definitely change the world, and I truly hope that this will bring a new priority for sustainability topics. We as human beings and our planet are all connected. That’s why I hope that after COVID-19 we will be more human and environmental-driven than money-driven. If our environmental is suffering, we will suffer at some point. We cannot forget that a better future is 100 percent in our hands, because WE, and only WE, have the power and the resources to make better decisions, to be more conscious. Sustainability must be a must have and not a nice to have. We are constantly looking for innovation and solutions that can help us in this new way of remote work, to improve our interactions to our customers and to be more emphatic than ever. We don’t need outstanding experiences now; we need to shelter our customers, our people, our environment.  Holly Beale (2019) Program Manager, Datacenter Environmental Sustainability, Microsoft; Seattle My environmental work in Microsoft’s datacenter communities has certainly been disrupted by the global crisis. Plans for tree-planting programs have been postponed; workshops for sustainability employment training are on hold; and community gatherings for local environmental projects are on hiatus.  As I get the chance to meet in virtual roundtables with community members, it can easily get pretty discouraging. However, right now I’m focusing on two main things: Focus on being flexible and understanding the unpredictability our community groups are facing; being sympathetic and supportive in the ways they need, even if this differs from our original approach. And turning towards smaller-scale, grassroots engagement. We’ve been able to shift many environmental projects’ approaches to the home-scale, like home gardens, yard tree plantings and home recycling campaigns.  As we emerge, we are learning how to build the capability to truly understand, qualitatively and quantitatively, our communities’ vulnerabilities against a much broader set of scenarios. In a way, we are seeing this crisis as an illustration of how expensive the failure to build resiliency can ultimately prove. As we are learning, in climate change as in pandemics, the costs of a global crisis are bound to vastly exceed those of its prevention. We’re understanding that the seeds we sew today will grow our shade for the future, and without rolling up our sleeves now and getting dirty, the future will force our path in a direction we do not desire.  Can I talk about one trend that’s emerging which is giving me incredible hope? The shift towards plant-based protein has been a movement I’ve been following closely, with baited (tempeh) breath. We know that animal agriculture is now recognized as a leading cause of global warming. According to Project Drawdown, eating a plant-based diet is “the most important contribution every individual can make to reversing global warming.” But even in parts of the population unconcerned with the devastating environmental effects, this virus’s life disruption is forcing our awareness of meat farms being a “breeding ground for pandemics.” Issues of health, the working poor and racial justice are making people uncomfortable, and with the supply chain disruption with the closing of meatpacking cesspools, Jonathan Safran Foer writes, “Our hand has been reaching for the doorknob for the last few years. COVID-19 has kicked open the door.” And it’s really happening. Earlier in May, sales of alternative meat products in grocery stores went up 264 percent! I’ll certainly be watching this trend, and I’m more hopeful for it than I’ve been about any singular issue in a long time. John Bello (2018) Project Manager, Skanska; Portland, Oregon After doing some research in Prague on carbon negative building materials, I have relocated to Portland and am currently working as a project manager/sustainability lead on the PDX Airport Terminal Core Redevelopment (TCORE) Project. We are using the newly developed Embodied Carbon for Construction Calculator (EC3) to support low-carbon procurement on structural steel, piles, rebar and concrete. We are also working directly with Pacific Northwest lumber suppliers to procure sustainably harvested glulam beams for the airport’s new undulating roof structure. Fortunately, we have been able to continue construction during the pandemic and have made several changes to our operations to promote social distancing, hand washing and face coverings. Despite the crisis, I am pleased to see that we have not wavered on our approach towards sustainable procurement and low-carbon development.   Sara Bogdan (formerly Lindenfeld) (2016) Manager Sustainability and ESG, JetBlue; New York  My job is typically one where I am frequently traveling and in the operation. My favorite part of my work has always been implementing emissions and waste reduction projects, allowing me to visit airports and meet crew members all across our network.  But now, being “grounded” along with everyone else, of course my day-to-day has shifted. We are inventing new ways of coordinating sustainability programs from afar. Our priority and resolve hasn’t changed. For JetBlue and my team, COVID-19’s massive impact to our business and way of life has only reinforced the importance of smart, sustained ESG risk management. Our industry was, of course, abruptly and majorly changed by the global pandemic. For us, this only bolsters the imperative of thinking through how we can mitigate additional ESG risk factors that may present themselves next — such as those associated with a warming climate. I am proud that we have already made industry-changing moves to set JetBlue up for success, including the first U.S. airline to announce a carbon-neutral domestic operation, purchasing sustainable aviation fuel and rolling out fleets of airport electric ground vehicles, to name a few. Willemijn Brouwer (2018) Lead, Internal Engagement for Sustainability, DSM; Heerlen, Holland While the dystopic headlines made me temporally get rid of my news apps, I now truly believe we can seize this global crisis as a tremendous opportunity. Albeit the virus bringing terrible consequences for the vulnerable in our society, it has demonstrated to be very inclusive and diverse in who it has hit. In other words, all countries and all people are experiencing the consequences. It’s a truly global challenge, but that also ignites a global awareness we have to build back better. In my own job at RoyalDSM, I was afraid my co-workers couldn’t be bothered less with my projects around sustainability ambassadorship. And I couldn’t be more wrong! There is a genuine and collective interest how we as a company and as individuals can contribute to the sustainable future of society at large. The past months have shown me that together we stand strong and we can achieve a lot — faster and more determined than ever. Devin Carsdale (formerly Kleinfield-Hayes) (2017) Sustainability Compliance Auditor, Inter IKEA Group; Philadelphia I do think this crisis will force business to rethink its many assumptions about how it has conducted itself up until now. I traveled quite extensively for my job, securing IKEA’s supply chain throughout the Americas and meeting with suppliers to advise or verify the compliance of its many social, labor and environmental requirements. This situation has forced our team to do all of those activities virtually; some of which have the potential of staying that way permanently and others that may still need our attention in person. I have heard IKEA leadership referring to coming back stronger than ever and there is no question that its 2030 strategy is at the heart of it; with product circularity, renewable energy investment and taking care of workers as some of the key tenants, IKEA’s stewardship continues to be part of its core business model. My hope is that customers will reward companies that prioritize workers and the environment and have their precious purchasing power signal to the markets that “sustainable” business is the only kind of business here to stay. HY William Chan (2019) Urban Designer and Planner; Sydney, Australia We won’t have business as usual again, and we shouldn’t want it. Business as usual wasn’t working. We can evolve business (and cities, governance and individuals) to be and do better. The time is now to flatten the climate change curve. My focus is on “unlearning” the urban systems that we had taken for granted, the city challenges that were hidden until now, and shifting that paradigm long term. This includes a radical redesign of sustainable high density living, the development of better public spaces that support sustainable, personal active transport of walking and cycling, and to address gaps in food supply by innovating for more localized urban “farm to fork” approaches. I see these urban challenges as long-term opportunities in sustainability, catalyzed by what we have experienced together during the pandemic. Alexandra Criscuolo (2019) Environmental Sustainability Manager, New York Road Runners; New York As New York Road Runners’ Environmental Sustainability Manager, I have been tasked with developing and driving the execution of NYRR’s organization-wide sustainability strategy, which includes improving the sustainability of the TCS New York City Marathon, NYRR’s weekly running races, and our facilities.  Just prior to the pandemic, we wrapped up measuring our sustainability baseline with Waste Management Sustainability Services, and I was developing our detailed plan for the year ahead. As our programs and offerings began to shift and events were canceled as a result of the pandemic, we pivoted to donate unused equipment and other items to help frontline medical workers and others in need. I organized virtual meetings with stakeholders across the organization to determine a plan to keep the items from the landfill and give them another life. I am optimistic and believe this major disruption of our “business as usual” will allow us to rebuild a more sustainable future. A future that is more regenerative, circular and healthy for humans and the planet we call home. While operations have come to a halt, the climate crisis has not, and this pandemic can certainly be a turning point for the sustainability movement. We are focusing on two major goals: Planning for future events to be as sustainable — and safe — as possible while also using this time to enhance our sustainability data gathering process to make it as smooth as possible for the time when we return to operating races. Joseph Gale (2018) Environmental Specialist, RS&H; San Francisco RS&H Practices and Resource Groups are pushing forward to meet the ever-changing needs of our clients, as well as are furthering internal initiatives and external growth strategies. I am pleased to announce that in May, I received the approval to initiate an enterprise approach to corporate sustainability. Through collaboration with an internal cross-practice committee, this two-year effort achieved success with development of a business case, scope of services, and presentation to the company CEO in October. The Corporate Sustainability Team will be working with our CEO and executive team to implement new initiatives as they relate to sustainability and operational resilience. Alison Humphrey (formerly Larkins) (2019) Director, ESG, TPG Capital; San Francisco The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled world leaders, companies, communities and individuals to take urgent, collective action to confront a critical issue risking harm to people across the globe. It also illuminated challenges and opportunities previously obscured in the blurred corners of complex and interconnected global supply chains. My hope is that we can harness this energy and approach to address the climate crisis. In this spirit, I’m hearing from many companies that they are seizing this opportunity to reset, reassess and consider how we enhance and “rebuild” business and civic processes through an ESG and climate lens. From where I sit, I don’t see us losing momentum. Certainly, we’ll need hold ourselves and each other accountable, but I think ruthless optimism and hard work are ultimately what will get us to where we need to go. Kamillah Knight (2019) Diversity and Inclusion Lead, Unilever; Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey My focus at work has been providing tools, trainings and resources for all of Unilever’s employees in North America, focusing primarily on parents, women and our POC talent. My goal is to continue to create new and innovative ways to engage people both during and outside of their workday to ensure that they can show up as their best self no matter what. I do believe that the COVID-19 marks a turning point in the sustainability movement. We have seen countless reports during this time that make mention and provide facts around the decrease of pollution and harmful effects on the environment as a result of everyone being quarantined. This has led many people to say that they think it should be required for people to stay home for a certain amount of days in the year to give the environment a “break.” This time has not only changed the way that we see the environment and how it should be (without pollution), but it has also changed the way that people view other people and their needs given the huge disparities that exist in different communities, in addition to the value that people bring in the work that they do. The needs and diversity of communities is a huge component of achieving the SDGs and/pushing forward the sustainability movement. With the change in thought I am confident that we will see more people that will lean into sustainability than ever before. Just look at how companies are even responding. The most pressing issue on my mind right now is using the time that I am privileged to have right now to build stronger relationships and connections with my loved ones and to do the things that I didn’t have time to before. This is time that we will never get back in the same capacity. I am grateful and I know how I use this time will be reflected in how I “re-enter” the world once things open back up. Media Authorship UN Global Compact, Arlene Thompson Close Authorship Jillian Lennartz (2016) Manager, Sustainability Reporting, Teck Resources; Vancouver, British Columbia The COVID-19 pandemic has hit at a particularly interesting time for me. I moved from the U.S. to Canada in mid-February without any inkling that the border would snap shut behind me and the job market would suddenly all but dry up. Being a new immigrant looking for a job while there is a global health and economic crisis is not a situation I anticipated being in when I made plans to move. However, I was fortunate to have landed in an area with a few exciting roles that remained open despite the shutdowns. I’m beyond ecstatic to have started in a role with Teck Resources. I’ll be standing in for a fellow 30 Under 30 honoree (Katie Fedosenko, 2017 cohort) who will be going on a year of parental leave. She has built an impressive ESG program, which I anticipate will further evolve as the current global crisis plays out. SARS-COV-2 has noticeably impacted the entire process of interviewing and on-boarding. I have yet to step foot in Teck’s headquarters. Every interview, meeting and training has been remote, which has been an adjustment for both myself and the teams with Teck. Fortunately, I come from a generation and a culture that’s already very accustomed to using technology to its fullest; I believe we may have been the first generation to be referred to as “digital natives.” It therefore hasn’t been an entirely foreign experience to have meetings over teleconference and use cloud-based file sharing for collaboration. Especially as sustainability practitioners we have worked with stakeholders around the globe and formed relationships with site representatives we may never meet in person. I feel that as a profession we’re well-situated to continue our work as uninterrupted as possible. Ding Li (2018) Partner Business Development Manager, CLP Innovation; Hong Kong Ever since the COVID-19 crisis started in January in Hong Kong, I have been working from home and minimizing contact with people. As an extrovert, I have a strong need to be surrounded by people. I remember the first week of staying at home, I felt really bad. Boredom turned into negative thoughts, and negative thoughts turned into depressing thoughts. At the end of the week, I almost vomited because mentally I felt really sick.  I realized this is a problem and I have to fix it — I started to schedule virtual coffee meetings with friends in the sustainability industry. They shared with me how COVID-19 has impacted their organizations, their job roles and their personal life. Facility managers say they have discovered energy use issues in their buildings — buildings are not able to adjust loading with the decrease in occupancy; sustainability managers shifted their focuses from environmental issues to community engagement; and others say they spent more time with their family and experienced work-life balance for the first time. They have taken advantage of the situation and used it to enhance their companies’ sustainability strategy and their own personal goals. It is a rare opportunity for me to engage people who I know professionally in a personal way. It helped me to cope with the difficult self-isolation situation and allowed me and my friends to be united in this crazy time.  Meanwhile, I built an office space at my rooftop, which helps me to stay focused and separate work from personal life. I have cooked more healthy meals and now I am enjoying my time at home. If not because of COVID-19, I would not know how resilient and adaptive everyone can be.  We would not have imagined millions of people could stay at home to avoid a pandemic, just like we would not have imagined countries and businesses could truly collaborate and build a zero-carbon economy.  I am proud of what humanity has accomplished so far when facing the challenge of COVID-19, and I believe this gives us a reason to be optimistic when facing the climate crisis. We are more resilient and adaptive than we think. When there is a will, there is a way! Idicula Mathew (2019) Founder and CEO, Hera Health Solutions; Memphis Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our team at Hera Health Solutions has been closely interacting with leaders in the industry to build strategies and innovations that will outlast to redefine the new normal in healthcare. As a startup that is an innovator in pharmaceutical devices, Hera Health Solutions is now looking forward to help shape the future of sustainable long acting medications. Since my being featured in GreenBiz 30 Under 30 in 2019, Hera Health Solutions has closed a more than $1.25 million investment round led by leaders in healthcare venture capital firms and impact organizations. With the new funding, the Hera Health Solutions team has grown. Now even more notably, Hera Health Solutions has kickstarted new R&D for its proprietary implantables for areas of other extended release medication potentials including vaccinations. On the other side of this global pandemic is a new normal that we will establish together. And while there is an undeniable number of uncertainties, one thing for sure is that the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry has now changed. The world had to witness the sudden and overnight decline of hospital and physician resources. The new demand in contactless and physically distant healthcare has now become a precedent for the future. Now more than ever, the need for more effective and sustainable long acting medications to patients and users is highlighted more than ever.  Ana Sophia Mifsud (2019) Senior Associate, Rocky Mountain Institute; New York Life in New York has certainly felt intense over the last couple of months. In the midst of all the chaos, my work has never felt so important. Since my 30 Under 30 nomination, I have shifted roles and am now working on deep decarbonization a little closer to home. I have joined RMI’s Building Electrification program, which is focused on eliminating fossil fuels in buildings. What many don’t realize is that roughly 70 million homes and businesses directly burn fossil fuels for heating and cooking. In addition to contributing to almost 10 percent of the U.S.’s climate impact, these emissions lead to unhealthy living situations. Even before the pandemic hit, on average, Americans spent about 90 percent of their time in buildings. Yet, indoor air quality has remained largely unregulated, leading to disproportionate health impacts, particularly in already vulnerable populations.  While our work is more important than ever, we’ve had to make some adjustments in order to continue convening and strategizing virtually. I’ve developed some best practices to help guide this recalibration and am putting them in practice while facilitating an eLab accelerator team focused on decarbonizing affordable multi-family housing in Chicago. In this decisive decade of climate action, I feel fortunate to be working on developing solutions that create sustainable jobs, reduce our climate impact and create healthier places for us all to live and work.  With regards to whether the COVID-19 crisis marks a turning point for the sustainability movement, I’m not sure. But I firmly believe we should all act in the spirit of applied hope . The type of hope that catalyzes action out of the belief that we can create the type of future we deserve. Catherine Queen (2017) Senior Manager, Sustainable Development and B Corp, Danone; Broomfield, Colorado As a sustainability professional, and a stubborn climate activist, I see the stark parallels between the pandemic and climate change. Climate change is unseen in our daily lives — until it isn’t — much like this virus. Those impacted the hardest are vulnerable populations.  Amid the uncertainty, my specific focus at work has not shifted. After leading Danone North America to become the world’s largest Certified B Corporation, I continue to work to integrate the environmental and social mission into how we run our business — inspiring and engaging teams to take action every day to balance short-term profits and results for long-term social and environmental implications, including and especially during a pandemic.  While the pandemic has shown how interconnected we all are, and I have seen many inspiring examples of our shared humanity, it is devastating to see continued areas of grave disconnectedness with ongoing inequality and inequity. Our collective response to the pandemic has also shown what we can do, as a company and as a society, when we use our collective voices and action. I hope next year when these updates are requested, we will have globally proven that collectively we made a difference, to create a better and more equitable for us all.  Similar to the mission of the B Corp Movement, this year is illustrating the importance of being bold and taking a leadership stance — even when you don’t have all the answers. We can’t address crisis on our own and my hope is this time serves as a call to action — to join together to solve the issues of our times.  Alexis Rocamora (2019) Senior Sustainability Consultant, EY Japan My focus since last year has been to help companies in Japan integrate sustainability into their supply chain management. I do so by helping them adopt supplier policies and by conducting due diligence processes to verify suppliers’ compliance with sustainability obligations (environment, health and safety, labor and human rights).  Even before the COVID-19 crisis, companies were increasingly carrying out such assessments, for several reasons (rise in due diligence legislation, ethical concerns, willingness to limit corporate risks, etc.). However, as COVID-19 is amplifying inequalities worldwide, companies are realizing that knowing their suppliers is not merely about keeping the business as usual while applying green paint on the surface, or avoiding a few inconvenient headlines in the media. As it turns out, sustainability risks of suppliers act like a cascade effect on the most vulnerable in a time of crisis: Part-time workers are being laid off, foreign workers are forced to repatriate at their own expense, workplaces with poor health and hygiene measures become hot spots for the virus to spread.  So in the future, supply chain relocalization, full transparency and mandatory supplier due diligence might become mainstream, not (only) because it is the sustainable thing to do, but because businesses depend on it. Companies have a tendency to relegate sustainability to “non-financial” issues (which doesn’t matter much to shareholders, and thus to management). I have the feeling that this crisis will contribute to the realization that businesses actually depend more than they thought on real-world considerations, which are better embedded into sustainability factors than financial statements. This might lead to giving corporate sustainability a strategic and transformational role rather than a PR and risk management one.  I’ve been re-reading “This Changes Everything” from Naomi Klein recently. In the same way that she pointed out that the sustainability movement could have been successful if it had been put at the center of mass economic transformations (such as the spread of neoliberalization since the 1980’s or the economic stimulus granted to the banks after the financial crash of 2008), I believe that the economic crisis unleashed by COVID-19 should only be addressed by measures that aim to redefine our societies’ economic model towards a sustainable and equitable one.  Regarding adaptation to the situation, my company (even in Japan) has been promoting flexible working arrangements for a long time so the transition was rather easy. What I can tell about the situation here overall is that Japanese companies are known to have a conservative corporate culture with long working hours, mandatory drinking activities with teammates and an obsession for physical workplace attendance. COVID-19 has disturbed this prehistoric work culture by forcing even the most traditional companies to massively adopt flexible working arrangements (some are even in the process of ditching the mandatory use of the Japanese “seals,” used for hundreds of years to sign every official documents!) and I hope that these changes survive the pandemic.  Alejandra Sánchez Ayala (2019) Sustainability Leader, C&A Mexico; Guadalajara, Mexico My focus for the last 12 weeks has been to make sure my team is prepared for the new normal we will be facing in the short and medium term. We have been preparing strategies for adapted versions of our programs and revisiting the ideas of what makes sense in our supply chain. In Mexico, a lot of small business have been severely affected by the economic crisis linked to the lockdown, and we have a shared responsibility to take this into account for future decisions. I do believe that this crisis has arisen questions about the implications of the environmental challenges that we might face due to climate change and what role we play as society, consumers and professionals. We are facing challenges we never believed we’d have to face. I had a conversation with some colleagues about the almost apocalyptic sight of people wearing masks all the time. Now it’s about protecting ourselves from a virus, but what if this was linked to permanently poor air quality?  Sadly, I don’t think all governments are living up to the requirements of this crisis. For example, in Mexico, due to COVID-19, some highly questionable decisions have been made regarding environmental topics, which now seems to be even a lower priority than ever. Renewable energy projects have been threatened under the excuse of COVID-19, to favor fossil fuels, a strategy the government is pushing since last year. In this context, I believe that although consumers might be willing to engage in more conversations regarding sustainability (engrained in the core of business and not as a nice to have added value), this also requires participation from governments and private industry. But in the current landscape, I don’t believe that in the short term we will be seeing the turning point we wish regarding sustainability. Devan Tracy (2018) Smart Buildings and Energy Analytics Lead, Lockheed Martin; Washington, D.C. With the world turned upside down, I’ve noticed that data visualization has been used more frequently in mainstream media to depict COVID-19 spread projections, medical supply inventory or supply chain interrelationships. We are all becoming better data scientists as a result. In the smart buildings world, this is key. I’ve partnered with our data and analytics office to continuously optimize algorithms, explore anomalies, detect faults and jump on opportunities for our newly launched, large-scale smart buildings pilot. This pilot set the stage for an expansion of the program to 50,000 additional sensors across an additional 5.8 million square feet at Lockheed Martin this year. And the beauty of smart buildings is that they were designed from day one to support remote work. It is no longer a requirement to be onsite to operate and optimize a campus.  Powerful visualization underscores the importance of the effective translation of data, allowing us to address problems quicker than ever before — and helping everybody get to the future faster, together. Check out this quick video where I talk about our smart buildings program on the LM YouTube Channel “Talk Techy to Me” series.  We are all emerging from the crisis with a refined perspective. Now more than ever, dog barks and baby cries are welcome additions to conference calls. This is humanizing and reminds us that we are all multidimensional creatures. Colleagues are increasingly accommodating, and interactions more frequently extend beyond surface level chatter. These snapshots into our personal lives bring teams closer together and make us more cohesive teams. After all, we are human beings and not just human doings. Finally, here’s a list of other comings and goings among the 30 Under 30 (presented in alphabetical order): Kelly Elizabeth Behrend (2016) left New York City for San Salvador, El Salvador, to become director of sustainability at hugo, “the first Central American superapp.” Former Easton sustainability analyst Claire Castleman (2018) has started a new position as Small Business Support Program Associate at Self-Help Credit Union. James Connelly (2016) left the Living Future Institute after eight years to become CEO of My Green Lab, a nonprofit in the life science Industry.  Fifth Element Group partner Pratik Gauri (2019) is the India host of Fintech.TV, which produces a program on ESG investing and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. He’s also started a new blockchain venture and is a new global youth lead for innovation nonprofit Dream Tank .   I hear Lizzie Horvitz (2017) recently started a company (still in stealth) that helps incentivize consumers to make better purchasing decisions based on the greenhouse gas emissions associated with products.  Jeffrey Jennings (2016) in January started a new role as a senior supply chain sustainability process leader with Freeport-McMoran. He’s assisting with the development of a responsible sourcing program and assessment of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks in our supply chain.  Entrepreneur Andrew Krioukov (2016) has become an adviser to an early stage venture fund focus on artificial intelligence and internet of things, UNION Labs. His startup, Comfy, was acquired by Siemens two years ago.  Isabel Mogstad (2019) has left the Environmental Defense Fund to become director of U.S. policy and engagement at BP.  Former Sula Vineyards and PepsiCo sustainability team member Inesh Singh (2019) recently took over as manager of agro development at Anheuser-Busch InBev in India.  If you’re a GreenBiz 30 Under 30 honoree who’d love to engage — or contribute essays about the cause of corporate sustainability, environmental justice and the clean economy imperative — reach out to me by email at heather@greenbiz.com . Topics Careers COVID-19 Corporate Strategy Collective Insight 30 Under 30 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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Where are they now? Catch up with 30 Under 30 alumni

How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice

June 26, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice Rachel Ramirez Fri, 06/26/2020 – 00:30 This story originally appeared in Grist;  and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story . “I can’t breathe.” These were among the final words that George Floyd and Eric Garner gasped before their deaths at the hands of white police officers. That plea has become part of the current rallying cry for racial justice and an end to police brutality in the United States. But for Black people living near industrial facilities, the phrase has an additional layer of meaning: a reminder of their disproportionate pollution burden. “While many in power seemed surprised that COVID-19 is killing twice as many Black Americans, those of us in the environmental justice movement know that the health impacts of cumulative and disproportionate levels of pollution in our communities have created underlying health conditions that contribute to our higher COVID-19 mortality rates,” said Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said at a virtual press conference in mid-June. Shepard is part of the National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN) , a national coalition of Black environmental justice groups and grassroots activists founded in 1991. Although the network took a hiatus in 2006 after executive director Damu Smith died , the network just announced that it’s making a comeback against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and renewed calls to fight racial injustice. We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries. The network’s mission sends a clear message: Environmental injustice is not a single issue. Rather, it’s a constellation of issues including discrimination in housing, jobs and healthcare. It’s impossible to untangle Black communities’ current risks from America’s long history of racist policies and practices. Discriminatory policies such as banks’ government-sanctioned refusal to approve home loans and insurance for people in communities of color, also known as redlining, forced Black families into neighborhoods more likely to be exposed to industrial pollution and extreme heat . Now these same communities face a surge in unemployment and poverty rates as a result of the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic, and they also are  disproportionately dying from the novel coronavirus as a result of a lack of health insurance, unequal access to test sites and higher workplace exposure via employment in essential services. As if that weren’t enough, a recent Harvard study also found a link between air pollution and death from COVID-19. Given the systemic conditions that disproportionately expose Black people to the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and other worsening crises, NBEJN members — including the network’s co-chairs, environmental justice pioneers Robert Bullard and Beverly Wright — say they are looking to bring in Black lawyers, engineers, leaders and other experts to join forces to help create an equitable green stimulus package, take on the fossil fuel industry and fight the Trump administration’s seemingly endless orders to weaken environmental protections . “We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries,” said Bullard, an author and professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University. “The NBEJN is about dismantling systemic racism, and we’re talking about turning the dominant paradigm on its head.” Network leaders say COVID-19 recovery legislation could be an opportunity for lawmakers to pass a robust green stimulus package that would focus on environmental justice. Such a green stimulus package, the coalition said, needs to address core issues of systemic racism by, for example, providing green jobs to communities of color. NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America. “Green stimulus packages often only look at protecting the world, but not protecting people like us,” said Wright, executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. “Any stimulus package dealing with transportation to housing or whatever they’re talking about doing will have to include us and need to be viewed with equity and justice lenses.” Even if an equitable green stimulus package makes it through Congress and the White House, there still will be a lot more work to be done. Bullard said that even if the Democratic party wins the presidential election or takes control of the Senate, it will take time to reverse Trump-era environmental policy damages, including the country’s withdrawal from the 2016 Paris Agreement. Even then, he added, policymakers will need to take additional steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions and center frontline communities. And NBEJN leaders say the network will stick around to make sure those steps are taken. “Racism is baked into America’s DNA,” Bullard said. “NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America.” Pull Quote We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries. NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America. Topics COVID-19 Policy & Politics Environmental Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Tverdokhlib Close Authorship

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How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice

WWF releases report on avoiding the next zoonotic disease pandemic

June 22, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Humans must address environmental issues now if they wish to avoid future pandemics, WWF International stated in a report released last week. Top drivers of new zoonotic diseases include wildlife trade and consumption, deforestation and loss of natural ecosystems to agriculture. COVID-19’s devastating costs include the lives of 370,000 people in over 200 countries between December 2019 and May 2020 and an economic impact in the trillions. People are still trying to pinpoint COVID-19’s exact origins, but scientists believe it is a zoonotic disease, meaning one that wildlife transmits to humans. Scientists have linked the novel coronavirus to a disease prevalent in horseshoe bats. Related: Orcas threatened by highly contagious respiratory virus, CeMV  “We must urgently recognize the links between the destruction of nature and human health, or we will soon see the next pandemic,” said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International. “We must curb the high risk trade and consumption of wildlife , halt deforestation and land conversion as well as manage food production sustainably.” This goes for the whole world, from pangolins in Asia to brown bears in the EU’s Carpathian Mountains. According to the report, COVID-19: Urgent Call to Protect People and Nature , new zoonotic diseases are emerging at a frightening rate. WWF calls on governments to halt the high-risk wildlife trade, introduce new policies to eliminate deforestation, protect food security in vulnerable communities, recognize Indigenous peoples’ land and water rights and commit enough dollars to implement the Convention on Biological Diversity’s post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework . The organization also urges governments to halve their production and consumption footprints and to adopt a One Health approach that acknowledges the links between the health of humans, animals and the environment we share. “Deforestation and ecosystem conversion are squeezing wildlife — and with it viruses — out of their natural habitats and closer to humans,” said Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhove, senior forest policy officer at WWF EU. “Forests can be our ‘antivirus,’ they protect us from pandemics and we need to protect them. New legislation should also protect human rights, especially those of Indigenous peoples and local communities.” + WWF Image via Volodymyr Hryshchenko

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WWF releases report on avoiding the next zoonotic disease pandemic

Award-winning passive tiny house is insulated to combat New Zealand’s weather

June 22, 2020 by  
Filed under Green

Completed in 2018, the Kirimoko tiny house was inspired by a minimalist cycling trip. After previously living out of his bicycle packs, the owner decided to downsize his living conditions by commissioning a 329-square-foot, one-bedroom tiny home in Wanaka, New Zealand. The design features a gabled form with a black rain screen, passive house measures and structural insulated panels. Thanks to the efficient insulation , the house requires virtually no additional energy to maintain comfortable temperatures, despite the New Zealand alpine climate. Related: Luxurious tiny home in New Zealand is off-grid and 100% self-sustaining Architect Barry Condon of Condon Scott Architects utilized each nook and cranny to get the most out of the minimal square footage without compromising scale, so no amount of space is wasted. A double-height volume and a glazed facade help make it feel more airy and spacious, as well. “At first I thought it was a bit ambitious — a 30-square-metre footprint isn’t very much space to fit a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping and living space,” Condon said. “I actually tried a few times to make it a little bit bigger, but the client would always push back and try to make it smaller, which was interesting for me because normally with clients I am the one trying to reduce size! Ultimately we landed on a happy medium.” The tiny home has a kitchen with a full-sized fridge, a bedroom and a separate living space with room for two large couches and a coffee table. Outside, larch weatherboards help to keep out moisture during heavy rains and asphalt shingles add to the functionality of the exterior. Natural ventilation is achieved through minimal openings on the eastern, southern and western sides of the home, and structural insulated panels were chosen for the roof and walls for their high insulation value. The client has reportedly only needed a ceiling fan and a small portable heater to regulate the temperature on extreme weather days. The home has received the NZIA 2019 Southern Architecture Award and a Bronze 2019 DINZ Award. + Condon Scott Architects Images via Condon Scott Architects

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Award-winning passive tiny house is insulated to combat New Zealand’s weather

Environmental racism in America

June 22, 2020 by  
Filed under Green

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

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How Perdue, Smithfield and Silver Fern Farms are reducing packaging waste

June 17, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

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How Perdue, Smithfield and Silver Fern Farms are reducing packaging waste Heather Clancy Wed, 06/17/2020 – 02:00 Food companies have a dual responsibility when it comes to waste reduction aspirations: optimizing their operations to minimize food waste while reducing the amount of other materials — especially the waste associated with packaging — sent to landfill. The aspiration for a growing number of them is “zero waste.” But meat companies that raise animals such as poultry, pigs, cattle and other livestock for protein also must take into account something else few widget, gadget or electronics makers need to worry about — how to manage water and materials contaminated by organic, biological waste. This work continues amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has rocked the meat supply chain and forced closures of facilities across the United States, according to the executives interviewed for this article. It also has complicated matters, as procedures around the expanded use of personal protective equipment were embraced to protect the health of workers and consumers. More precautions have meant more PPE, which usually has come in contact with biological matter that causes management challenges for recycling facilities. “The one thing that is difficult — and it’s difficult for all companies but especially, I think, in the protein industry — there’s just certain materials you can’t recycle or reuse,” said Steve Levitsky, vice president of sustainability for well-known chicken purveyor Perdue Farms. Another vivid example: plastic that has been used to wrap meat, which cannot be sent to traditional facilities without first being decontaminated. “That’s the one material that we have not found the perfect solution for at this point, whether it be at a plant or at your home,” he said. That’s why the recent GreenCircle zero waste certification for Perdue’s harvest operation (industry parlance for a slaughter and processing facility) in Lewiston, North Carolina is noteworthy. The designation indicates that 100 percent of the waste stream at the facility is reused, recycled or incinerated for energy. That includes packaging scraps, chicken litter (which includes bird excrement, feathers and materials used for bedding), oils and personal protective equipment worn by the workers. For this particular facility, that translated into 8.3 million pounds of waste diverted during 2019, according to the company’s press release about the achievement. The zero waste certifications granted by some other certification bodies allow for up to 10 percent of waste to go to landfill — and still earn that label, Levitsky said. “We wanted to make sure if we go through this process …  it’s rigorous enough and that people feel when we say ‘zero waste to landfill’ that we’re doing every effort to get to that higher standard,” he said.  Perdue’s corporate-level waste goal calls for it to divert 90 percent of solid waste from landfills by 2022; it plans to have five more facilities certified by the end of 2022 (of about 20 meat production operations in total). The one thing that is difficult — and it’s difficult for all companies but especially, I think, in the protein industry — there’s just certain materials you can’t recycle or reuse. Some measures Perdue uses to divert waste in Lewiston include composting for all the organic matter such as litter or shells from the hatchery and food waste from the cafeteria; refurbishing end-of-life equipment by sending things such as engines back to the original manufacturer; sorting of plastics, cardboard, metals and glass; turning spent grain into animal feed or feed additives; and sending some organic matter to an anaerobic digester for energy applications. A GreenCircle certification isn’t simply a matter of filling out a survey. It requires on-site auditing not just of the company hoping to earn the recognition but also of all third-party waste management organizations hired to reduce waste, said Tad Radzinski, certification officer at GreenCircle. (When GreenBiz spoke with him in early May, his team was sorting out how to accomplish this using virtual tools.) “The one thing we always do is push for continuous improvement,” he said. Perdue made changes over the past year about how to handle damage or broken pallets, based on information gathering during the GreenCircle auditing process, Levitsky said. Specifically, it discovered that the company it was sending them to wasn’t remanufacturing them as Perdue believed and instead was sending certain damaged ones to landfill. Using that knowledge, the Lewiston team now sorts those materials into its waste-to-energy dumpster. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Perdue Farms Close Authorship Generally speaking, zero waste strategies for animal protein companies don’t cover the meat, organs or bones of the slaughtered animals. Finding partners that can use those items is embedded into the core business strategy. Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor, for example, created the Smithfield BioScience division in 2017 to come up with solutions for using meat production by-products such as mucosa, glands and skin for medical applications.  From a corporate perspective, Smithfield’s commitment is to reduce overall solid waste sent to landfills by 75 percent by 2025. In the U.S., it plans to certify at least three-quarters of its facilities as zero waste by that time frame. (It has 35 of them.)  The designation calls for it to recycle or reuse at least 50 percent of the waste at a given facility. So far, Smithfield has certified 30 percent of its U.S. sites including its largest facility in Vernon, California, according to the company’s 2019 sustainability report released this week. The site required a proprietary solution for treating peptone waste associated with its production of heparin, used for pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and medical device applications. The packaging conundrum One of the most difficult processes for any animal protein company is reducing the impact of packaging while complying with health considerations and the requirements of recycling organizations.  “Packaging is one valuable component within our supply chain where we are focused on reducing waste,” said John Meyer, senior director of environmental affairs for Smithfield Farms, in responses emailed for this article. “Smithfield has partnered with packaging suppliers to ideate, research and test emerging recyclable and sustainable product materials for future development and implementation.” Three examples of ideas that already have found their way into practice:  It changed the packages for its Prime Fresh line of pre-sliced delicatessen meats to look like the bags a consumer would receive from someone cutting them on the spot; these packets use about 31 percent less plastic than traditional offerings. It’s using product trays for the Pure Frame plant-based products made from 50 percent recycled materials. Its Omaha facility moved away from paper labels to printed film, saving more than four tons of waste annually. Silver Fern Farms, a New Zealand meat purveyor that specializes in beef, lamb and venison, permanently has removed close to 80 tons of plastic from its supply chain annually through a combination of measures, according to Matt Luxton, director of U.S. sales for the company. Silver Fern is New Zealand’s largest red meat producer; it started exporting to supermarkets in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York in 2019.  One of the biggest changes was the shift to “consumer-ready” packaging that includes pre-trimmed portions, a process intended to help minimize food waste both at the retail point of sale (where meat is traditionally butchered and repackaged) and with consumers concerned about portion control.  “We have done a lot of research into what a consumer wants and what volume meals they are consuming,” Luxton said. Silver Fern is also using vacuum-sealed packaging that extends the shelf life of the meat for an additional 25 days, while maintaining health and hygiene standards, and it also has eliminated some plastic liners and opted for thinner gauge plastics for export. While the company is studying ways of using recycled plastics, it hasn’t been able to find a material that duplicates the shelf life it can achieve with options already available, Luxton said. Perdue also has been studying ways to package chicken in recyclable trays, an idea it borrowed from Coleman Natural, an organic meat company it acquired in 2011. While the idea works well for the organic brand, cost considerations kept the company from introducing it for the broader Perdue product lines.  “The problem with it is it’s more than double the cost of a foam tray,” Levitsky said. “And to put that cost into a conventional chicken product just would not be feasible … We’re trying to drive that cost down and are looking at other companies that can maybe produce that tray. But right now, the price is just so high for those recyclable trays that we have not done it.” Pull Quote The one thing that is difficult — and it’s difficult for all companies but especially, I think, in the protein industry — there’s just certain materials you can’t recycle or reuse. We have done a lot of research into what a consumer wants and what volume meals they are consuming. Topics Food Systems Circular Economy Packaging Zero Waste Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Smithfield Farms Close Authorship

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