Climate change increases pollen and worsens allergies

February 11, 2021 by  
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If you feel like you’re going through hankies faster than ever, you’re not just imagining it. Climate change is making allergy season even worse, according to a new study. Researchers concluded that pollen and planetary warming are closely tied in a study published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . Allergy season is both beginning sooner and generating more pollen overall, thanks to a sneeze-inducing mixture of warmer air and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The study’s authors found that pollen season in North America now starts about 20 days earlier than it did in 1990 and produces about 21% more pollen. Research predicts that this trend will accelerate. Related: Avoid allergies this spring with these 7 natural remedies The study used attribution science techniques to estimate the degree to which wildfires, rainfall during hurricanes, and other extreme weather events are worse than they’d be if the planet wasn’t getting toastier. “It’s a great piece of work,” Kristie Ebi of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington said of the study. “There has been very little research on the application of detection and attribution analysis to the health risks of a changing climate.” By examining data from 60 pollen-monitoring stations around the U.S., the researchers found the runniest noses and most watery eyes in Texas, the Southeast and the Midwest. Less pollen-driven mucous production was happening in the northern states. The greatest increase in pollen is coming from trees, not the more traditional culprits of grasses and weeds. While a runny nose is annoying enough, allergies can have serious effects on public health. Asthma and respiratory diseases are life-threatening and can increase the severity of respiratory viruses like COVID-19 . + PNAS Via The New York Times Image via Magda Pawluczuk

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From raising cows to growing veggies: ranchers go vegan

February 11, 2021 by  
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Richard and Cindy Traylor are part of a growing number of ranchers who have made the surprising switch to plant-based agriculture . In 2018, Honey, Cindy’s favorite cow, was injured. Cindy had become so attached to Honey that she didn’t want the cow to go to a slaughterhouse. She got in touch with Renee King-Sonnen of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary , who introduced the Traylors to a whole new way of living. The Traylors shared their experiences with Inhabitat about making the change to a vegan diet and livelihood on their Huntsville, Texas ranch. Related: Why American ranchers are feeding Skittles to their cattle Inhabitat: What have been the reactions of neighbors, family members and others in your life to halting ranching and switching to veganism? Cindy: Everyone we have talked to has been supportive. When we explain that we now eat vegan and how good we feel, they seem curious; however, so far we have not heard that anyone has tried to change their diet. We do have a young friend who was wowed when he sat and ate spaghetti and “meatballs.” Richard: When I was first confronted with veganism, I get the same ignorant response from others, which is “I’m carnivorous. I’m a meat eater. I need the protein. I’m healthy enough. It doesn’t hurt the environment that bad. There are other things that hurt the environment just as bad.” Inhabitat: Tell us a little bit about why Honey the cow was so special to you. Cindy: Honey was my “baby.” She would eat out of my hand and was a really gentle creature. When she gave birth, she immediately would let me know and show me her calf . I would ooh and ahh and tell her what a beautiful baby she had. She was the youngest of the mothers and she would let the other calves nurse off her. Our connection was really deep, and I hated to see her hurt! Richard: When she was a little over a year, I built a five-strand barb wire fence, one strand at a time, from the bottom up. In essence, I taught her, albeit accidentally, how to jump the fence. Each strand I put up, I thought would be the last one she would jump. The top strand, the fifth strand, she would still jump it. I have never seen a cow that could jump fences like her. She did that for several years. Inhabitat: What have been the best benefits to going vegan? Cindy: Personally, I had wanted to go vegan in my twenties. I asked my doctor, who immediately told me that I couldn’t. You see, I have Crohn’s and for decades, I was back and forth to the hospital. Now, I jumped at the chance. Not only to see how it may help me health -wise, but to do my part in ending cruelty to animals. I cannot remember feeling this good! It has really helped me with Crohn’s symptoms and my arthritis doesn’t hurt anymore. I have neuropathy in my feet, and now I don’t have that tingling all the time…it is gone! I love creating meals — everything is delicious. Richard: I don’t have knee or back pain, I have more energy that individuals half my age envy. The first thing I tell people is how good I feel! I have no muscle cramps from working and sweating. Inhabitat: What are the hardest things about going vegan? Cindy: I had been dairy-free for decades, because I have a milk intolerance, so that was not a problem for me and Richard followed suit, because I do the cooking! There were a couple of things for me that were difficult. First, it was putting together enough recipes and understanding what veggies provide essential vitamins, minerals and protein. Then, it was finding a substitute for eggs! Baking without eggs kind of stumped me at first. Then, as I read more, I found several products to solve that problem. We now use for breakfast, Just Egg and Just Fold, which we love! Another problem for Richard, was thinking that veganism was boring, tasteless and bland. He soon realized that spices can do wonders! We both wish we had pursued this decades ago. The amazing thing now is that there are so many new plant-based products in the grocery stores and in the fast-food markets. Inhabitat: Tell us a little bit about what the RAP Summit is and your involvement in it. Cindy: Well, we attended the first Summit in November, as ranchers in transition. Right now, we do not have our cattle on our property, so in order to have an agriculture exemption, we need to find our “niche” for the future. There are a lot of options, and our state is specific as to what we can grow. The Rancher Advocacy Program (RAP) is helping us find our way. Renee and Tommy [Sonnen] are there to help us with any questions and find experts in whatever direction we choose to go. We have held Zoom meetings with everyone to brainstorm and talk about what we need to do. Renee and Tommy have been incredibly supportive. Inhabitat: What are some of the new uses you’re considering for your land? Cindy: Right now, we have several ideas: growing hemp for CBD oil, peas and fava beans for protein sources (this was something that vegan cheesemaker Miyoko Schinner mentioned at the Summit), as we want to produce a product that will be marketable and beneficial for the environment. Bamboo is another option we have been considering; however, this may not be doable for us at this time. Inhabitat: How do animal and plant-based agriculture compare as far as making a living? Cindy: Well, animal agriculture is less intensive during the warm months, as the pastures provide most of the cattle’s feed. We have two ponds for drinking, so that is also taken care of. There is fencing to repair, cattle to take to the market (which I always hated!), hay to buy and store. Plant-based agriculture will be more work-intensive. Irrigation, picking the produce, weeding, marketing, packaging, talking to vendors. The list goes on and on. However, it will be more fulfilling to know that we are not sending an animal to market to get slaughtered. And we are helping the environment. For example, peas and fava beans give back nitrogen to the soil. Other plants will be rotated to put back other nutrients into the soil. That way, less fertilizers are needed. Richard: We hope to give back to the soil , rather than take from the soil, which we have done for decades. We want to have a healthy environment for the future. Inhabitat: What else should others know about transitioning from raising cows to plants? Cindy: There are lots of people out there who are knowledgeable and willing to be mentors to help ranchers transition to another industry. I can attest that changing over to plants is emotionally freeing, because I used to dread when the calves got to a certain age/weight. I don’t think anyone “likes” to have their animals slaughtered. Richard: The environment is most important to protect our planet. The entire process of methane gases causing rising temperatures, growing hay, grasses equals less trees and less oxygen, the runoff of the fertilizers that end up in the creeks, bayous, rivers and oceans is poisoning the planet. + Cindy and Richard Traylor Images via Adobe Stock

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Studio Jencquel weaves reclaimed natural materials into a dreamy Balinese villa

February 11, 2021 by  
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In the riverside village of Sayan, Bali, local architecture firm Studio Jencquel has crafted the Umah Hati — Indonesian for “Tranquil Heart” — a private villa that embraces its lush, jungle environment in more ways than one. Inspired by the Balinese vernacular, the luxury villa is a hybrid of Western and Eastern design influences and features modern amenities side by side with local craftsmanship. A natural materials palette, modest proportions and large openings throughout the building help blend the villa into the landscape. Completed in approximately a year and a half, the Umah Hati villa is a 400-square-meter, L-shaped, single-story structure that comprises three bedrooms with en suite baths, a living room, a dining area, a kitchen, a powder room and staff quarters. The home sits on a spacious, 4,000-square-meter lot and is oriented toward the palm tree-filled jungle and the Ayung River gorge. Related: Villa CasaBlanca is an earthen home made from clay found onsite Traditional Balinese architecture not only informed the indoor/outdoor living experience of the villa, which opens up to nature in multiple directions, but also the exquisite roof design built with reclaimed Indonesian ironwood. The roof is supported by Bankirai timber rafters bound with Japanese joining techniques, while woven rattan sourced from Sulawesi lines the underside. Durable ironwood shingles top the roof and provide a dark contrast to the soft volcanic Para stone — sourced from an Ubud river — that clads the exterior walls. Inside, Indonesian teak is used for the interior walls, bedroom floors, windows and doors, which are all complemented by Asian and Italian marble surfaces. The architects also repurposed a century-old teak log into a stunning vanity in the primary bathroom. As the architects explained, “Using high-quality materials and sophisticated craftsmanship, Umah Hati makes the most of its setting and context, emanating tranquility from the heart of the house to its surroundings.” + Studio Jencquel Photography by Tommaso Riva Studio Jencquel

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Studio Jencquel weaves reclaimed natural materials into a dreamy Balinese villa

Air pollution caused by fossil fuels kills millions

February 10, 2021 by  
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New research has revealed that fossil fuel pollution caused approximately 8.7 million deaths in 2018. The study, published in the journal Environmental Research , was a collaboration by scientists at Harvard University, the University of Leicester, the University of Birmingham and University College London. Experts found that countries that burn fossil fuels heavily for manufacturing and transport are the most affected. Countries such as the U.S. and many developed countries in Europe recorded 1 of every 10 deaths due to air pollution. The total was also higher than global deaths caused by tobacco and malaria combined. “We were initially very hesitant when we obtained the results because they are astounding, but we are discovering more and more about the impact of this pollution,” said Eloise Marais, study author and geographer at University College London. “It’s pervasive. The more we look for impacts, the more we find.” Related: Air pollution could increase risk of irreversible blindness The researchers have also established that the rate of deaths due to pollution is significantly lower in Africa and South America. They found that there are direct links between air pollution from burning fossil fuels and ailments such as heart disease, loss of eyesight and respiratory ailments.  According to Karn Vohra, a graduate student at the University of Birmingham and one of the researchers, the focus was on discovering the impact of pollution on specific populations. They looked at specific regions and used 3D modeling of pollution data to get more precise results. “Rather than rely on averages spread across large regions, we wanted to map where the pollution is and where people live, so we could know more exactly what people are breathing,” Vohra explained. This is not the first study to link loss of life or disease with air pollution. According to a recent academic  publication , the average global life expectancy would increase by more than a year without fossil fuels . A 2019 study by Lancet estimated that 4.2 million people die annually due to air pollution. The new findings place the figure much higher than previous studies, and some experts believe that the impact might even be worse than that presented by the latest report. + Environmental Research Via The Guardian and CNN Image via Juniper Photon

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Air pollution could increase risk of irreversible blindness

January 27, 2021 by  
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A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology has revealed that exposure to air pollution increases the risk of blindness in older adults. The study found that small increases in air pollution contribute to the occurrence of age-related muscular degeneration (AMD), a condition that causes irreversible blindness. The study, conducted in the U.K. with data of more than 115,000 participants, shows that tiny pollution particles increase the risk of AMD by 8%, while changes in large particle pollution increase the risk by 12%. “There is an enormously high flow of blood [to the retina] and we think that as a consequence of that the distribution of pollutants is greater to the eye than to other places,” said Paul Foster, professor at the University College London and a researcher behind the study. “Proportionately, air pollution is going to become a bigger risk factor as other risk factors are brought under control.” Related: How clean is your indoor air? Today, AMD is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in developed countries. The disease mainly affects people above the age of 50 but may also affect younger individuals. Over 200 million people around the world have been diagnosed with AMD. In the U.K. alone, about 5% of people over the age of 65 have AMD. Although air pollution is not among the biggest risk factors for this condition, worsening air quality might make things worse in the future. Currently, the biggest risk factors include poor physical health , particularly smoking. “It’s important to keep things in context — people shouldn’t be looking outside their door and thinking: ‘I can’t go out because it is polluted out there,’” Foster said. “The study gives people information that they can use to alter their lifestyle choices. For example, it may be another reason why we might consider going for an electric car , instead of buying a diesel.” The researchers are planning to conduct another study that will determine the impact of indoor air pollution on eye health. + British Journal of Ophthalmology Via The Guardian Image via Cristi Goia

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JUSU turns juicing by-products into all-natural home and body care items

January 25, 2021 by  
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Anyone invested in healthy living knows unwanted chemicals are prolific in foods, cleaners and personal care products. However, it’s not always easy to find all-natural products void of the greenwashing that makes them look more wholesome than they are. Canada-based innovator and entrepreneur Bruce Mullen decided to tackle this problem by producing a safe and effective line of products, made from by-products of his existing business, a juice bar. Mullen first became focused on cutting the chemicals from every corner of his house when his wife was battling breast cancer. Following her passing, Mullen wanted to create a reliable product line for the sake of his family and everyone else on the planet.  Related: ESW Beauty makes eco-friendly sheet masks your skin will love “I created JUSU because I was not satisfied with the products that were available on the market,” Mullen said. “I wanted to be able to provide my family with natural products that are safe and effective. That mission was at the core of everything we developed.” JUSU began as a single juice bar, located in Victoria, Canada. Through the running of the business, Mullen began to wonder if there was a way to use the by-products from juicing. While composting was an option, the company committed to producing all-natural, healthy products from the rinds and peels instead while also working toward a zero-waste goal. The first products comprised the JUSU Body line, which include lotion, bar and liquid soaps, deodorant and lip balm. Subsequently, the company invested in technology that allowed it to develop face care, natural hair putty and a honey-shea hair treatment. There is also a baby shampoo and wash, aromatherapy products and a variety of household cleaners. Bundles provide customers the chance to sample a range of goods. The company also recently announced that it has expanded its cold-press juice availability, now delivering JUSU to Calgary through an online store. The past year proved to be another notable one for the company as it was sold to Better Plant Sciences, Inc., a Canadian health , wellness and lifestyle brand. “The Better Plant Sciences team is exactly the kind of partner that I have been looking for. Their team has the knowledge, drive, and experience to take what I have built with JUSU to the next level,” Mullen said. The deal will allow Better Plant Sciences, Inc. to further expand on the 300 plant-based products made up of whole-food vitamins, minerals and enzymes and create competition within industries historically associated with fillers, chemicals, carcinogens, irritants and allergens. Bruce believes these ingredients get absorbed into the body with toxic results. “All of the products we use, in one way or another, come in contact with our bodies,” Mullen explained. “Whether you are using something on your skin or on the surfaces in your home, it has a way of making its way into our bodies, affecting our health in uncertain and often detrimental ways.” Our JUSU review The company reached out with an offer to send some sample products, which arrived quickly in plastic-free packaging. I received five products. The first is the Eucalyptus Mint Lip Balm. In short, I love it. I’m a bit of a lip balm addict — as in there are tubes in multiple locations throughout my house and vehicle. This lip balm is an experience. It’s not subtle in its mintiness — a characteristic I adore. The texture is luxurious, nurturing and long-lasting. My husband also described it as nourishing and picked up on the eucalyptus immediately. The first ingredient is cacao seed butter. Although the second ingredient is beeswax, we discussed how it doesn’t have a waxy feel at all. This is something I look for in lip balm, especially during the cold, winter months.  The second gift was the plant-based soap. Labeled, “Good for you, Good for your Family, Good for your Earth,” it immediately made me question some of the other personal hygiene products I use. The soap was also the eucalyptus mint scent, which I found to be very mild. It did not leave a scent on my hands after use. The bar is a standard 4.8-oz size and is appealing with a natural color woven throughout. I would describe the feel as slippery in a way that is thinner than typical soap. It makes a nice foam during use and rinses easily. Next up was the Belly Butter with Sweet Orange and Vanilla. Although it was formulated with growing pregnant bellies in mind, it’s a lotion , and a very nice one at that. The texture is ultra-creamy, with an almost whipped appearance. My husband and I challenged each other to identify the scent before looking. I picked up on the vanilla and something that reminded me of marzipan or almond. It’s not sweet as the name might imply, but pleasantly subtle. I am ultra-sensitive to scents, so most of my lotions end up going to my daughter. This one will stay on my shelf. In addition to the satisfying scent, the application was delightful. The Belly Butter absorbed quickly with zero greasy feeling. There’s just nothing worse than a lotion that stays on your hands instead of inside your skin. It left a soft, supple feel to my skin for many hours after application. There is a long list of ingredients, mostly oils and extracts coming from an impressive array of plants such as elderberry, sunflower, grapeseed, coconut and lavender.  The fourth item was the all-purpose cleaner. This stuff exceeded my expectations. The smell is discreet yet distinctive. It’s labeled cinnamon orange, and I agree with that scent profile, although it’s very faint. I used it on a bar with sticky candy cane residue, let it sit a few seconds, and wiped it away. It worked great. The ingredients are all non-toxic — welcome news for food prep surfaces yet strong enough to tackle the bathroom, too. The only upgrade I would like to see is moving away from the plastic spray bottle. Finally, I tried out the Dishwashing Soap. The scent is natural-smelling. I know that may not be a scent, but it just kept coming to mind as I cleared the sink. It’s blended with lemongrass and sweet basil. Although I might lean a bit more toward a pine description, I could sense a bit of basil. Regardless, it performed well. It’s a concentrate, so a little goes a long way; this is especially nice if you do dishes by the sink-full. I really put it to the test in a container that literally held grease and it was just okay. Although it didn’t blow my socks off with that level of grease-cutting performance, it is a pleasant product for everyday washing, and I love that I don’t have to worry about chemicals left behind on my dishware. While I often end up re-gifting review samples, I’ll be keeping all of these items for myself. Since I recently moved to a home with a septic, I’m looking into some of their other natural home care products from JUSU as well. + JUSU Images via JUSU and Dawn Hammon / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by JUSU. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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JUSU turns juicing by-products into all-natural home and body care items

Let’s rid our work environments of the toxic smoke of dysfunction

January 25, 2021 by  
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Let’s rid our work environments of the toxic smoke of dysfunction Chris Gaither Mon, 01/25/2021 – 01:30 Before he saw the smoke, he felt it in his throat. It tasted foul. It curled into his nose, his mouth, his lungs. He looked up from his computer. His colleagues were tapping at their keyboards. The smoke hovered around them. He walked to his manager’s door. “This office is filled with toxic smoke,” he said. “Yes,” she said. “Don’t worry. We have a plan.” “What will you do?” he asked. “Install new ventilation? Move us to another space?” “No,” she said. “We’ve hired you an executive coach to help you develop strategies for dealing with the toxic smoke.” “But I don’t want to deal with the toxic smoke,” he said. “I want to get rid of it.” “Work with the coach,” she said. “Leave a few minutes early today. Get a massage. You’ll be okay.” We must approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. I heard this parable last year, before the pandemic, from a fellow executive coach. It lodged in my gut. I realized that so many of my coaching clients — in big corporations and small nonprofits, sustainability teams and sales departments — were asking me for help dealing with the stress and dysfunction of their organizations. They were breathing the same toxic smoke as everyone around them. Sometimes they were, themselves, pumping that toxic smoke into their work environments. Yet they were suffering alone, trying to solve it alone. Just as I did during my hectic career leading teams at the Los Angeles Times, Google and Apple. If anything, the pandemic has increased the pressure on us to deal with this suffering in isolation. But here’s the thing: Avoiding burnout is not simply a matter of individual responsibility. It’s a leadership challenge, and we are all leaders. Throughout this Sustainable You series for GreenBiz, I have encouraged you to tend to your personal sustainability so you can do great work on behalf of the planet. This kind of self-care remains critical. But it’s insufficient. As environmental sustainability leaders, you are, by nature, systems thinkers. You identify root causes. You craft upstream solutions. You see the forests, not just the trees, and work to improve the ecosystems so the individuals in them can thrive. So, let’s approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. To get to the root cause of the smoke, we need to think bigger. “You can’t expect people to adopt healthy lifestyles when their work environments reinforce or even cause poor habits,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer, an organizational-behavior professor at Stanford University. Pfeffer is the author of the 2018 book, “Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance — and What We Can Do About It.” He writes that companies have created elaborate systems for tracking their progress on environmental sustainability, but they seem to have forgotten to measure the human sustainability of their own employees. Current management practices harm employee engagement and job performance, Pfeffer says, and they increase employee turnover and healthcare costs. There’s even more at stake. To solve global, complex challenges like the climate emergency, racial injustice and species extinction, we must be adaptive leaders. We need to be mindful. Creative. Intuitive. Curious. Willing to experiment, learn and redesign. Open-minded and open-hearted. That’s so hard to do when we’re burned out. Organizational culture is a living, breathing thing. We draw from it, and we feed into it. We’re constantly creating it together. So, when everyone around us is stressed out, exhausted and closed off, it’s easy to shift into that same mode. Our mirror neurons, those evolutionary tools that help us build nourishing social connections, pick up on those signals and encourage us to be like the others. To suffer with the rest. I know this feeling well. I have held, deep in my body, the physical and emotional distress that burnout carries. We can work this way for a while, but eventually we deplete our energy and fall apart. As an executive leadership coach, I have supported many individuals to the other side of this burnout, where they’ve refilled their energy reserves and brought their creativity back to life. I’ve also followed my intuition upstream, seeking the origins of the toxic smoke. I work with full teams and their leaders to help them shift organizational culture: to slow down, reflect on what really matters, call out harmful behaviors, give themselves permission to embrace a more wholesome way of working. Healthy people, healthy planet A healthy earth depends on healthy people. To heal the planet, we must first heal ourselves. So, my fellow leaders, let’s set an intention to cultivate human sustainability in our organizations — for the sake of our employees and the communities and natural habitats they’re working to protect. Let’s look for the toxic smoke curling through our Zoom meetings, our email inboxes and Slack channels. Let’s name it, get curious about where it came from, chase it down to its source. Let’s pay close attention to the tone we are setting for our teams. The moods we are carrying into our interactions. The behaviors we are modeling. The harmful ways of being that we are introducing or accepting. Let’s check in on each other. Let’s work to understand how others in our groups are experiencing the world, how they might be suffering differently from us, and offer them support. Let’s talk about burnout and wellness — with our team members, fellow leaders, bosses, even our boards of directors. Let’s gather our teams. Let’s come up with, say, 50 things we could do to improve our health and happiness at work. Then let’s commit to new ways of being together. Let’s craft agreements and hold each other accountable. Instead of trying to manage the toxic smoke in our work environments, let’s get rid of it. Because only when we can breathe can we truly do this critical planetary work. Pull Quote We must approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. Topics Leadership Health & Well-being Featured Column Sustainable You Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021

January 25, 2021 by  
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How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021 Ben Ratner Mon, 01/25/2021 – 01:00 This year, financial institutions must make a significant leap forward on climate — from pledges to progress. Even amidst a global pandemic, 2020 proved climate finance and a focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are more than passing fads, with net-zero financed emissions commitments from Morgan Stanley , JP Morgan  and a group of 30 international asset managers —  Net Zero Asset Management Initiative   — with $9 trillion in assets under management. At the start of 2021, leading investors openly recognize that climate change presents a massive systemic risk and a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity. But for the vast majority of firms, the real work of implementing climate and ESG integration is ahead. With increasing public, government and shareholder attention on climate, here are three ways sustainable finance leaders will emerge in 2021. 1. Integrate climate into core business A 2050 net-zero vision may be an inspiration, but it is not a plan. To realize its ambitions, Wall Street must integrate climate into its core business, evolving its approach to capital allocation and changing its relationships with carbon-intensive industries. Asset owners will demand no less of asset managers. This transition will require a far sharper focus on short-term, sector-specific benchmarks tied to decarbonization pathways — starting with the high-impact industries that matter most for solving the climate crisis.  For example, in the oil and gas sector, investors can assess progress and pace toward net-zero by monitoring companies’ methane emissions, flaring intensity, capital expenditures, lobbying and governance. Concentrating on five key metrics over a five-year period will allow investors to distinguish climate leaders from laggards. As with other core financial issues, monitoring metrics is just the start. To advance their climate commitments, investors should pair metrics with accountability. For asset managers, corporate climate performance should strongly inform investment stewardship, proxy voting and fund construction. For banks, climate benchmarks should influence loan eligibility, interest rates and debt covenants. Wall Street knows how to set quantitative targets and factor corporate performance and risk into financial decisions — now climate must become part of the new business as usual. 2. Align proxy voting with climate goals Advancing sustainable investing in 2021 will also necessitate a shift in proxy voting among the world’s largest asset managers. Last year, BlackRock and Vanguard voted against the vast majority of climate-related shareholder proposals filed with S&P 500 companies. BlackRock opposed 10 of 12 resolutions endorsed by the Climate Action 100+ , a coalition it joined last January, and later signaled an intention to support more climate votes in future years. There’s a better way. Both PIMCO and Legal and General Investment Management supported 100 percent of climate-related proposals filed with S&P 500 firms during last year’s proxy season, sending a powerful message to CEOs about the materiality of climate risk. As asset managers around the world unveil new ESG products and brand themselves as sustainability pioneers, proxy voting will become the litmus test for climate authenticity in finance for 2021.   3. Support regulations and policies required to decarbonize While the finance community has traditionally taken a hands-off approach to public policy advocacy, industry norms are changing . Investors understand that scaling the climate finance market depends on Paris-aligned government action, and some have proven willing to engage on issues ranging from carbon pricing to methane standards . With the incoming Biden administration prioritizing climate, investors should double down on climate-friendly advocacy , supporting both financial regulations and regulations of carbon-intensive sectors consistent with a 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario. As BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has emphasized, updated regulation of the financial system is needed to help monitor and manage economy-wide climate risks. As linchpins of capital markets, banks and asset managers have a crucial role to play in pushing federal agencies to safeguard the economy from climate-related shocks. For example, supporting rigorous mandatory climate risk disclosure from the SEC and appropriate ESG rulemaking from the Department of Labor can help investors build Paris-aligned portfolios. However, investor-led policy advocacy cannot end with financial regulation. As the Global Financial Markets Association noted , reaching net-zero by 2050 involves both financial regulation and environmental regulation of carbon-intensive sectors. The right mix of emission standards and incentives can slash pollution, drive technological innovation and improve the economics of low carbon investments. Given the rise of passive index investing, supporting government action in carbon-intensive sectors is essential, as leading financial firms favor continued investment over sector level divestment. In particular, policies and regulations to cut methane emissions and flaring, to accelerate vehicle electrification and to clean up the electric grid should be top priorities in 2021. Contributors Gabe Malek Topics Finance & Investing GreenFin Investing 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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How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021

How the EU’s new ‘toxic-free’ vision could shape your safer chemicals strategy

January 14, 2021 by  
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How the EU’s new ‘toxic-free’ vision could shape your safer chemicals strategy Bob Kerr Thu, 01/14/2021 – 01:00 For the last two decades, the European Union has played a leadership role in tackling the risks hazardous chemicals pose to our health and environment. It has now proposed a new vision for a “toxic-free environment” and published a strategy for moving the EU towards that goal. Just as its current policies have inspired imitation, it’s likely that these new policies will drive significant changes in the U.S. and elsewhere. While EU chemical restrictions have gained limited traction in U.S. federal statutes and regulations, many state laws increasingly rely on the chemical hazard criteria and analyses from REACH (the principal European chemical regulation) and other EU laws and regulations. California legislation, for example, prohibits sale of electronic products that would be subject to the EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive if amounts of cadmium, lead, mercury or hexavalent chrome in those products exceed EU RoHS limits . Many U.S. companies base their restrictions on hazardous chemicals on EU lists or restrictions such as the Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) under REACH — even where unregulated in the U.S. The EU plans to promote safer substitutes or eliminate the need for chemical additives in some products altogether, so they do not end up being circulated indefinitely in commerce. The EU chemical regulation footprint is also strong in the rest of the world. Several countries in Asia, including China, the world’s largest chemical producer, have developed national chemical regulatory programs strongly influenced by the EU’s design. As the EU moves toward adopting specific legal and regulatory measures to begin to realize its vision, government agencies in the U.S. will look closely at the potential for adopting elements of the new EU programs. Beyond the regulatory world, many leading companies already at the forefront of looking to provide safer chemicals — including Walmart , Apple and Ahold Delhaize USA  — are likely to move toward adoption of components of the new EU policies, with ramifications for supply chains and potential competitive benefits in the consumer marketplace. EU’s new chemical policy vision Despite the successes of its current regulatory framework, the European Commission has found that “the existing EU chemicals policy must evolve and respond more rapidly and effectively to the challenges posed by hazardous chemicals.” In October, the commission published ” Chemical Strategy for Sustainability: Towards a Toxic-Free Environment .” To meet that vision, the EU plans a fundamental change in how chemical regulations manage the production and use of chemicals.  As explained by Frans Timmermans, commission vice president responsible for EU’s Green Deal, the EU intends to move away from an approach to chemical regulation that depends primarily on tracking down substances that are hazardous only after they’re already being used in products, even when similar to previously restricted substances. Rather, it will focus on prohibiting their use in the first place: One of the first actions we will take is to ensure that the most harmful chemicals no longer find their way into consumer products. In most cases, we now assess these chemicals one-by-one — and remove them when we find out that they are unsafe. We will just flip this logic on its head. Instead of reacting, we want to prevent. As a rule, the use of the most harmful substances will be prohibited in consumer products. Further, the new EU chemical strategy identifies a wide array of initiatives for realizing its goal of a toxic-free environment. Some are specific to the EU, including EU support for development of innovative green chemistry materials. Others are measures with general applicability for government regulatory agencies or company sustainable chemistry initiatives. Among the key measures are: Extending hazard-based approach to risk management for consumer products: The goal is to ensure consumer products, such as toys, cosmetics, cleaning products, children’s care products and food contact materials, do not contain chemicals that may cause cancer, gene mutations, neurological or respiratory damage or that may interfere with endocrine or reproductive systems. Grouping of chemicals for assessment of hazards and restrictions: Under most regulations, both in the EU and U.S., chemicals are usually assessed and regulated one-by-one. The European Commission plans to address PFAS and other chemicals of concern with a group approach. New hazard categories: The commission plans to finalize a legally binding hazard definition of endocrine disruptors and, to address classes of chemicals recognized as posing serious environmental risks, introduce two new categories of substances of very high concern (SVHCs): persistent; mobile and toxic (PMT); and very persistent and very mobile (vPvM) substances. Accounting for combinative impacts of multiple chemicals on health: Increasing evidence points to the risks from simultaneous exposure to multiple chemicals. The commission plans to integrate requirements for information on the impacts of chemical mixtures more formally into chemical risk assessment requirements. These above approaches are in some leading corporate safer chemical programs and, with clarity from the EU, they should be considered by more companies. IKEA , for example, bans use in its products of some chemical groups (PFAS, organic brominated flame retardants) and hazard classes of chemicals (carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins and any REACH SVHCs). Beyond its direct effects on protecting health of consumers and reducing toxic chemicals in the environment, the chemical strategy is a key component in the EU’s path towards a circular economy that conserves materials and reduces waste. A critical barrier to circular production models for many products and materials is contamination with hazardous chemicals — either inadvertently added during sourcing and processing or intentionally added to change the product. Through the chemical strategy, the EU plans to promote safer substitutes (the replacement of ortho-phthalates with non-hazardous plasticizers) or eliminate the need for chemical additives in some products altogether, so they do not end up being circulated indefinitely in commerce.  The EU has outlined a leading safer chemicals strategy that companies can begin to apply to their own operations. Tools such as the Chemical Footprint Project survey and other benchmarking tools can help support these initiatives. Companies that take the lead in adapting their planning to the EU strategy will be ahead of EU requirements, mitigate future supply chain and product risks and operate in the best interest of consumers and the environment. Pull Quote The EU plans to promote safer substitutes or eliminate the need for chemical additives in some products altogether, so they do not end up being circulated indefinitely in commerce. Topics Chemicals & Toxics Circular Economy Policy & Politics European Union Collective Insight The Right Chemistry 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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The top 2020 trends in sustainability, according to GreenBiz readers

December 28, 2020 by  
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The top 2020 trends in sustainability, according to GreenBiz readers Holly Secon Mon, 12/28/2020 – 01:30 At GreenBiz, we’ve been reporting on the world of sustainable business for over two decades, but this year has been unlike any other. From an unprecedented pandemic to a global economic downturn to the intensifying impacts of climate change, we can’t say we’ll miss 2020. But there were many valuable lessons learned over the past 12 months.  Some of those can be found in the top GreenBiz stories of the year, as “measured” by reader traffic. While COVID-19 cut through almost all of our coverage — just like it cut through our everyday lives this year — other hopeful stories shined through. GreenBiz readers got excited about climate change solutions that ranged from the new, from the emerging potential of hydrogen as an energy source to changes in plastics manufacturing, to the ancient, such as planting trees. Readers also sought glimmers of hope in this year; you were drawn to stories about COVID-19’s positive impact on air pollution and what the sustainability field can do to be more actively anti-racist and pro-diversity. Without further ado, here are the top 10 most widely read stories and reports from the past 12 months, brought to you by our analysts, editors and other members of the GreenBiz community. And as we look forward to next year, do you have any notes on our coverage — things you want to see more or less of in the upcoming year? Feel free to shoot us an email at editor@greenbiz.com ; we greatly appreciate any and all feedback. 1. Transportation habits are changing drastically. Fleet electrification strategies gained steam throughout the year, with all-electric heavy-duty big rigs, semi-trucks, box trucks, delivery vans and more in the spotlight. Daimler, the largest truck maker in the world, expects to have the 250-mile-range Freightliner eCascadia model in production during 2021. The hottest trend of the year was the electrification of transportation, which is on the precipice of a major upswing: Less than 1 percent of fleet vehicles were electric at the beginning of the year, but that number is expected to grow to 12 percent by 2030.  We named eight of the biggest players in the space so sustainability professionals know what and who to watch out for. From relative giants such as Tesla to newcomers like startup Rivian and Chanje, we stand by this list. READ THE FULL STORY: 8 electric truck and van companies to watch in 2020 .  2. The pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders had an unintentionally positive and significant initial impact on air pollution. Over 45 states were under stay-at-home orders at one point in the spring due to the COVID-19 crisis. A resulting drop in regional traffic, along with reduced industrial and commercial activity, led to a significant drop in air-polluting emissions.   These emissions reductions are obviously short-term, unintended consequences of the pandemic. But they show that just as human activities have caused our changing climate and the impacts we’re experiencing today, human activities can also slow and reverse the phenomenon. READ THE FULL STORY: The stunning impact of COVID-19 social distancing on air pollution & To make offices safe during COVID-19, buildings need a breath of fresh air & How coronavirus will affect 4 key environmental issues 3. Clean beauty and fashion are trendy. But the industries need to push beyond recycling. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Lush Close Authorship Some of the biggest contributors to the plastic crisis are the cosmetics and fashion industries.  In the $500 billion-per-year cosmetics space, small-scale packaging leads to large-scale single-use plastic waste. But solutions exist, and we wrote about them. At beauty and hygiene products company Lush, for example, working to implement zero-waste when possible has led to innovation across the board In fashion, similarly, going the extra mile takes an innovative approach. A new technology of this sort, chemical garment-to-garment recycling, was one of your favorite stories of the year.  Investors such as H&M are already forging ahead. READ THE FULL STORY: How cosmetics retailer Lush is making purposeful profit through circular processes & Fashion’s latest trend? Why H&M, other big brands are investing in garment recycling 4. What’s next for the chemicals industry amid a growing public backlash against plastics? New types of manufacturing processes with the promise to infinitely reuse plastics. Tupperware’s portable, reusable Tupperware Eco Straw and a new drinking tumbler are both made from a lightweight, phthalate-free circular PP polymer from SABIC. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship SABIC Close Authorship Our story with an inside look into Eastman Chemical’s factory was a hit earlier this year. Eastman is one of the largest U.S. chemical companies, and it has faced criticism in the past few years along with other chemical companies as plastics have grown as an issue in the public’s consciousnesses.  But it claims to have a response to these concerns. That includes two new technologies. Carbon renewal technology, or CRT, breaks down waste plastic feedstocks to the molecular level before using them as building blocks to produce a wide range of materials and packaging. Polyester renewal technology, or PRT, involves taking waste polyesters from landfills and other waste streams and transforming them back into a raw material that the company claims is indistinguishable from polyester produced from fossil-fuel feedstocks. In addition, other stories on plastic production piqued readers’ interest. A story about Tupperware’s new sustainable production processes, for example, was one of our most-read articles. Any and all new solutions to the plastics crisis will be welcome in 2021, given that this year has seen record new plastic production thanks to the pandemic. READ THE FULL STORY: Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics & Tupperware inches toward circular processes, one plastic container at a time 5. Planes remain among the most polluting means of transport. Is there a way to reduce their emissions? The largest all-electric plane has just completed a half an hour flight in the United States. Media Authorship MagniX Close Authorship Readers devoured GreenBiz stories on the emerging technologies powering electric aviation and the companies behind them. Though the technology isn’t quite there yet, the certification process is long and the process is expensive, the electric aviation industry is still taking off. That’s because flights under 500 miles are within the range of an electric motor. R oughly 45 percent of all global flights meet this standard — presenting a massive opportunity.  READ THE FULL STORY: 6 electric aviation companies to watch & 7 urban air mobility companies to watch 6. Humanity’s destruction of biodiversity fosters the conditions for emerging diseases such as COVID-19. Media Source Shutterstock Media Authorship Mathisa Close Authorship If this year has shown us anything, it’s that the health of our planet and the health of humans are inextricably linked.  Research suggests that outbreaks of animal-borne and other infectious diseases such as Ebola, SARS, bird flu and COVID-19, caused by a novel coronavirus, are on the rise. Meanwhile, humans have continued destructive practices such as deforestation and agricultural expansion. Case in point: The world has lost 60 percent of all wildlife in the last 50 years while the number of new infectious diseases has quadrupled in the last 60 years. These stories hit home with readers this year, and we’ll continue to cover stories in this vein, because we expect to see more events like this in the future. READ THE FULL STORY: Biodiversity, pandemics and the circle of life & Destroying habitats has opened a Pandora’s box for new diseases to emerge 7. Coal-fired power plants are closing, and those economic and social ecosystems are collapsing around the country. A just transition to renewable sources such as hydrogen could ease the pain . Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Burbank Water & Power Close Authorship Hydrogen is still an emerging source of renewable energy. But it’s a massive opportunity: It’s the most abundant element in the universe, and capturing hydrogen is simple, in theory. Old coal plants could be easily transformed into new hydrogen plants to produce GHG-free energy, according to some industry insiders, while providing good jobs for hard-hit communities. READ THE FULL STORY: You say old coal plant, I say new green hydrogen facility 8. Agriculture as a climate change solution rather than a cause of climate change Media Source Shutterstock Media Authorship l i g h t p o e t Close Authorship We all want an agricultural system that can enough food for the growing global population sustainably. But certain agricultural practices that aim to increase crop yields such as clear-cutting release greenhouse gases that had been trapped in the soils into the atmosphere. The practices of “regenerative agriculture” promise to do the opposite: these farming and grazing practices rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity, resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle. Our stories on the topic struck a chord with you this year.  In 2020, food companies delved even deeper into how agricultural practices can sequester carbon in the land rather than release it. Two of the world’s largest food companies, General Mills and Danone North America, have set specific targets and worked to extend their support to farmers in their supply chains that are picking up these practices this year. These new programs have already been implemented for oats and wheat farmers who want to participate across a range of experience, ages and farm sizes. READ THE FULL STORY: General Mills, Danone dig deeper into regenerative agriculture with incentives, funding 9. Planting trees isn’t exactly the next big thing — or is it? Companies are investing in nature-based climate change solutions such as planting trees to draw down carbon. Media Source Shutterstock Media Authorship dennis_wegewijs Close Authorship Our inside look at two exciting tree-planting initiatives resonated with you this year. One is a hot new tree-planting startup whose investors include an Uber founder and whose buyers include Microsoft and Shopify resonated with you this year.  The startup, Pachama, has a unique value proposition: it offers a verified marketplace for carbon credits. That’s crucial for companies who want to buy credits after committing to going carbon neutral and even carbon-negative. Pachama both sells carbon credits by working with land managers who are using carbon-sequestering practices, and verifies the quantity of carbon they’re storing via a unique combination of satellite images, LiDAR and machine learning. Still, “if the planet continues waking up to the reality of climate change and the urgency of action, we believe that carbon markets will continue to expand,” Diego Saez-Gil, the founder of Pachama, said. Meanwhile, SilviaTerra, another cleantech startup, has been able to create a “basemap” of  every acre of forest in North America, down to the species and size of every single tree. To do this, SilviaTerra used machine learning to build the map, based on satellite and sensor data from sources such as NASA. It lays critical groundwork for landowners to participate in markets for carbon storage and other ecosystem benefits.  Companies like these will be crucial to watch in the next year, as carbon credit markets continue to grow. READ THE FULL STORY: Why Silicon Valley is taking a big interest in trees   10. Proponents of the Black Lives Matter movement that surged into the public eye this summer took on the sustainability space. Shutterstock This summer, the U.S. experienced a long-overdue racial reckoning. Following the death of unarmed Black man George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, white America received a reality check about the racism and discrimination happening in this country. The worlds of clean energy, corporate sustainability and cleantech were not spared. Some key themes that emerged among the GreenBiz readership this year included solidarity and environmental justice, the movement that advocates that low-income and marginalized communities and populations should not be disproportionately exposed to adverse environmental impacts.  READ THE FULL STORY: How racism manifests in clean energy & How sustainability professionals can uplift the Black community Topics Leadership Corporate Strategy Social Justice Carbon Removal COVID-19 Transportation & Mobility Plastic Carbon Pricing Aviation Food & Agriculture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The top stories of the year ranged from the pandemic to the Black Lives Matter Movement to new renewable energies. GreenBiz collage. Close Authorship

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The top 2020 trends in sustainability, according to GreenBiz readers

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