Arctic National Wildlife Refuge lease sale attracts few bidders

January 8, 2021 by  
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The Trump administration has suffered a major blow to its environmental policy rollbacks. On Wednesday, the open bid for oil companies to drill in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge came to an end, without any big oil companies placing a bid. Interestingly, only three bidders expressed interest in the leases, one of the bidders being the state of Alaska. The other two bidders were small companies based in Alaska . Nine of the coastal plane land parcels issued for lease did not receive any bidders, except for a state-owned economic development corporation. By the end of the bidding period on Wednesday, almost half of the land issued had not received a single bid. Related: Trump administration furthers Arctic drilling plan “They held the lease in ANWR — that is history-making. That will be recorded in the history books and people will talk about it,” said Larry Persily, an observer of the fossil fuels industry. “But no one showed up.” Most oil experts believe that the slow uptake of the parcels can be attributed to the global recession, a drop in oil prices and the continued pressure by environmental groups against drilling. Persily explained that even though politicians may be interested in pursuing oil in reserved areas, many oil companies are no longer interested in such a risky business. At the conclusion of the bid, the lease had raised $14.4 million. Half of all the bids came from the economic development corporation, which does not participate in oil drilling . The company has never been involved in the oil exploration business. “I laughed out loud. It was a joke. A joke to the American people,” said Desirée Sorenson-Groves, director of the Arctic Refuge Defense Campaign. “I’ll tell you, I have a message to those who bid today, there were only three. But here’s the message: ‘You will never ever drill in the Arctic Refuge. We’ll stop you.’” Via NPR Image via Alexis Bonogofsky / USFWS

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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge lease sale attracts few bidders

Climate change doubles natural disaster costs in the US

January 8, 2021 by  
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If you think that investing in solar panels and a sustainable wardrobe instead of fast fashion are expensive, take a look at how climate change is escalating the cost of repairing disasters. The U.S. spent $95 billion on fixing damage caused by natural disasters last year, which was almost twice the 2019 costs. These figures come from Munich Re, a German company that provides insurance to other insurance companies and is an expert in insurance-related risks. Last year was one of the warmest on record. In the U.S., people suffered from hurricanes in the south and east as well as massive wildfires in the west. “ Climate change plays a role in this upward trend of losses,” said Ernst Rauch, chief climate scientist at Munich Re, in an interview with The New York Times . Related: Wildfires have burned 2.3M acres across California this year Hurricane Laura, which hit southwestern Louisiana in August, was the costliest U.S. catastrophe in 2020, causing $13 billion in damage. But Hurrican Laura was only one of 30 named storms last year, 12 of which made landfall. Together they cost $43 billion in losses, accounting for nearly half the 2020 U.S. disaster total. Once hurricanes hit the land, climate change makes them likelier to stall, pummeling areas with wind and rain for more extended periods than usual, Rauch explained. Other types of costly storm activity in 2020 included tornadoes, hailstorms and derechos, a type of long-lived windstorm. An August derecho in Iowa and other parts of the Midwest decimated soybeans and cornfields and caused nearly $7 billion in damage. Insurers are worried. New buildings need to stand up better to natural disasters. “We can’t, as an industry, continue to just collect more and more money, and rebuild and rebuild and rebuild in the same way,” said Donald L. Griffin, a vice president at the American Property Casualty Insurance Association. “We’ve got to place an emphasis on preventing and reducing loss.” Of course, the U.S. isn’t the only country to be ravaged by the effects of climate change. Internationally, last year saw summer flooding in China, with only 2% of losses insured, and Cyclone Amphan, which hit Bangladesh and India, in May. Very few of Cyclone Amphan’s victims were insured. According to Munich Re, only $3 billion out of a total of $67 billion in natural disaster damage across Asia was covered last year. Via The New York Times Image via NOAA

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What 8 indoor farming companies plan for 2021

January 6, 2021 by  
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What 8 indoor farming companies plan for 2021 Jesse Klein Wed, 01/06/2021 – 01:30 When the pandemic exposed major issues with our lengthy food supply chain — in the form of shipment delays and inadequate demand forecasting — local vertical farms and indoor growing organizations were called upon to fill in the gaps in a way that was unprecedented. With 2020 in the history books and hopes for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic rising, these companies seek to build on their newfound momentum in 2021. With revenue for vertical farming alone estimated at just $212.4 million in 2019, one forecast calls for the industry to hit $1.38 billion by 2027, a compound annual growth rate of 26.2 percent from 2021 to 2027. Here are what eight indoor-growing leaders are planning in the year ahead. The list is presented alphabetically and represents a slice of the marketplace activity cropping up in late 2020. AeroFarms The Aerofarms facility in Jersey City, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Aerofarms AeroFarms’ four New Jersey vertical farms produced 2 million pounds of produce in 2020. And this year that number likely will skyrocket with the company’s April announcement of construction on a 90,000-square-foot indoor vertical farm in Abu Dhabi, the world’s largest vertical farm. In 2021, Aerofarms is taking on the issue of food waste more explicitly. It invested in Precision Indoor Plants (PIP) to help understand and prevent lettuce discoloration, experiment with ways to increase lettuce yield and level up leaf quality. AppHarvest  AppHarvest’s farm in Morehead, Kentucky. Photo courtesy of AppHarvest Appalachian company AppHarvest has launched three indoor farms in Kentucky. It chose the state specifically because it’s within a day’s drive of 70 percent of the U.S. population. In early 2021, AppHarvest will harvest its first crop of tomatoes, a move meant to help reduce reliance and emissions from imported tomatoes. In 2019, 60 percent of America’s tomatoes were imported. The farms use a closed-loop system that runs entirely off recycled rainwater to eliminate agricultural runoff and reduce water usage. Bowery Farming Bowery Farming’s second farm in Kearny, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Bowery Farming Bowery Farming, based in New York City, plans to invest its 600 percent increase in sales last year into a new vertical farm in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 2021. By working with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and the Governor’s Action Team, Bowery is turning an arid industrial site into 8.7 acres of modern farmland that also should help the economic recovery of the area. Bethlehem once was a thriving steel town with Bethlehem Steel Corporation once employing around 60 percent of the local workforce at its peak before shutting down in 1998 . Since then, the city has had to transition into different sectors. Bowery Farming hopes to be part of that evolution. Its farm will create 70 jobs and feature LED lighting, recapture water from the plants using a water transpiration system and collect data on a massive scale to inform future farming choices.  BrightFarms This BrightFarms greenhouse produces more than two million pounds of leafy salad greens per year. Photo courtesy of BrightFarms With $100 million in new funding raised in 2020, BrightFarms plans to construct indoor farms in every major market by 2025. This year marks the start of that journey with the construction of two new facilities in North Carolina and Massachusetts.  Both farms will be six to seven acres, or almost double the company’s current facilities in Ohio, Illinois and Virginia. In 2021, BrightFarm, which makes its headquarters in Irvington, New York, also plans to roll out its proprietary AI System, Bright OS, which will use machine learning and analytics to make operations from seed to shelf more efficient.   Gotham Greens Gotham Greens operates a network of greenhouses across the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New England, Mountain West and beyond. Photo courtesy of Gotham Greens Gotham Greens has been at the forefront of urban farming for over a decade. After starting in New York and expanding across the northeast, 2021 will be the year Gotham tries to take over the rest of the country. As the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered so many businesses, Gotham Greens was able to expand into Aurora, Colorado , just outside of Denver. The Colorado location is Gotham’s eighth indoor farm. It also expanded to Baltimore. Finally, in December, the company announced an $87 million funding round. The funding will support Gotham Greens products in Whole Foods Market, Albertsons Companies, Meijer, Target, King Soopers, Harris Teeter, ShopRite and Sprouts. Infarm An Infarm installation at French retailer, Metro. Photo courtesy of Infarm In 2021, Infarm is hopping on a hot industry trend — bringing the vertical farm to the grocery store. In late December, the Berlin-based company announced a partnership with Sumitomo, a Japanese company that owns Summit Store, one of Tokyo’s leading supermarket chains. The partnership will bring Infarm’s modular vertical farm directly to grocery stores. With this move, Infarm is expanding on its in-store strategy first experimented with Kroger in Berlin in 2020. Brick Street Farms also partnered last year with Publix to bring its vertical farms closer to the consumer. Infarm will install its first farm at Summit’s Gotanno location and products are scheduled to be ready for sale at the end of January. Kalera Kalera’s new farm in Houston will be the largest such facility in Texas. Photo courtesy of Kalera Kalera also plans a rapid expansion in 2021. The Orlando-based vertical farm company is pushing into Atlanta , Denver and Houston this year. This will be the company’s third, fourth and fifth farms and the first ones outside Florida. The Houston facilities will be the largest vertical farm in Texas while the Atlanta location will be the highest production volume vertical farm in the Southeast. The Atlanta one will be more than double the size of the company’s Orlando facilities — able to produce 11 million heads of lettuce. And in December Kalera announced it is expanding into the Pacific Northwest in Seattle. These new facilities will help Kalera support partnerships with grocers and restaurants in the area. Plenty Most vertical farms, including Plenty, have initially focused on leafy greens like kale. Photo courtesy of Plenty Plenty , based in San Francisco, had an eventful final quarter of 2020 and is riding that momentum into 2021. In August, the indoor farming company announced a partnership with Albertsons to expand into more than 430 stores in Southern California. It followed up that move in October with a $140 million funding round led by Softbank and a historic partnership with Driscoll’s to give consumers fresh sweet strawberries year round. This year, Plenty plans to begin construction on the world largest output vertical farm in Compton, California. Upon completion, the farm will be the size of a big box retail store and will grow over 700 acres of leafy green crops. Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems 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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What 8 indoor farming companies plan for 2021

What 8 indoor ag companies plan for 2021

January 6, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

What 8 indoor ag companies plan for 2021 Jesse Klein Wed, 01/06/2021 – 01:30 When the pandemic exposed major issues with our lengthy food supply chain — in the form of shipment delays and inadequate demand forecasting — local vertical farms and indoor growing operations (aka controlled environment greenhouses in urban or rural locations) were called upon to fill in the gaps in a way that was unprecedented. With 2020 in the history books and hopes for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic rising, these companies seek to build on their newfound momentum in 2021. With revenue for vertical farming alone estimated at just $212.4 million in 2019, one forecast calls for the industry to hit $1.38 billion by 2027, a compound annual growth rate of 26.2 percent from 2021 to 2027. Here are what eight leaders in vertical farming and controlled environment agriculture are planning in the year ahead. The list is presented alphabetically and represents a slice of the marketplace activity cropping up in late 2020. AeroFarms The Aerofarms facility in Jersey City, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Aerofarms AeroFarms’ four New Jersey vertical farms produced 2 million pounds of produce in 2020. And this year that number likely will skyrocket with the company’s April announcement of construction on a 90,000-square-foot indoor vertical farm in Abu Dhabi, the world’s largest vertical farm. In 2021, Aerofarms is taking on the issue of food waste more explicitly. It invested in Precision Indoor Plants (PIP) to help understand and prevent lettuce discoloration, experiment with ways to increase lettuce yield and level up leaf quality. AppHarvest  AppHarvest’s farm in Morehead, Kentucky. Photo courtesy of AppHarvest Appalachian company AppHarvest has launched three controlled environment greenhouses in Kentucky. It chose the state specifically because it’s within a day’s drive of 70 percent of the U.S. population. In early 2021, AppHarvest will harvest its first crop of tomatoes, a move meant to help reduce reliance and emissions from imported tomatoes. In 2019, 60 percent of America’s tomatoes were imported. The facilities use a closed-loop system that runs entirely off recycled rainwater to eliminate agricultural runoff and reduce water usage. Bowery Farming Bowery Farming’s second farm in Kearny, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Bowery Farming Bowery Farming, based in New York City, plans to invest its 600 percent increase in sales last year into a new vertical farm in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 2021. By working with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and the Governor’s Action Team, Bowery is turning an arid industrial site into 8.7 acres of modern farmland that also should help the economic recovery of the area. Bethlehem once was a thriving steel town with Bethlehem Steel Corporation once employing around 60 percent of the local workforce at its peak before shutting down in 1998 . Since then, the city has had to transition into different sectors. Bowery Farming hopes to be part of that evolution. Its farm will create 70 jobs and feature LED lighting, recapture water from the plants using a water transpiration system and collect data on a massive scale to inform future farming choices.  BrightFarms This BrightFarms greenhouse produces more than two million pounds of leafy salad greens per year. Photo courtesy of BrightFarms With $100 million in new funding raised in 2020, BrightFarms plans to construct greenhouses in every major market by 2025. This year marks the start of that journey with the construction of two new facilities in North Carolina and Massachusetts.  Both farms will be six to seven acres, or almost double the company’s current facilities in Ohio, Illinois and Virginia. In 2021, BrightFarm, which makes its headquarters in Irvington, New York, also plans to roll out its proprietary AI System, Bright OS, which will use machine learning and analytics to make operations from seed to shelf more efficient.   Gotham Greens Gotham Greens operates a network of greenhouses across the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New England, Mountain West and beyond. Photo courtesy of Gotham Greens Gotham Greens has been at the forefront of urban farming for over a decade. After starting in New York and expanding across the northeast, 2021 will be the year Gotham tries to take over the rest of the country. As the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered so many businesses, Gotham Greens was able to expand into Aurora, Colorado , just outside of Denver. The Colorado location is Gotham’s eighth greenhouse. It also expanded to Baltimore. Finally, in December, the company announced an $87 million funding round. The funding will support Gotham Greens products in Whole Foods Market, Albertsons Companies, Meijer, Target, King Soopers, Harris Teeter, ShopRite and Sprouts. Infarm An Infarm installation at French retailer, Metro. Photo courtesy of Infarm In 2021, Infarm is hopping on a hot industry trend — bringing the vertical farm to the grocery store. In late December, the Berlin-based company announced a partnership with Sumitomo, a Japanese company that owns Summit Store, one of Tokyo’s leading supermarket chains. The partnership will bring Infarm’s modular vertical farm directly to grocery stores. With this move, Infarm is expanding on its in-store strategy first experimented with Kroger in Berlin in 2020. Brick Street Farms also partnered last year with Publix to bring its vertical farms closer to the consumer. Infarm will install its first farm at Summit’s Gotanno location and products are scheduled to be ready for sale at the end of January. Kalera Kalera’s new farm in Houston will be the largest such facility in Texas. Photo courtesy of Kalera Kalera also plans a rapid expansion in 2021. The Orlando-based vertical farm company is pushing into Atlanta , Denver and Houston this year. This will be the company’s third, fourth and fifth farms and the first ones outside Florida. The Houston facilities will be the largest vertical farm in Texas while the Atlanta location will be the highest production volume vertical farm in the Southeast. The Atlanta one will be more than double the size of the company’s Orlando facilities — able to produce 11 million heads of lettuce. And in December Kalera announced it is expanding into the Pacific Northwest in Seattle. These new facilities will help Kalera support partnerships with grocers and restaurants in the area. Plenty Most vertical farms, including Plenty, have initially focused on leafy greens like kale. Photo courtesy of Plenty Plenty , based in San Francisco, had an eventful final quarter of 2020 and is riding that momentum into 2021. In August, the indoor farming company announced a partnership with Albertsons to expand into more than 430 stores in Southern California. It followed up that move in October with a $140 million funding round led by Softbank and a historic partnership with Driscoll’s to give consumers fresh sweet strawberries year-round. This year, Plenty plans to begin construction on the world largest output vertical farm in Compton, California. Upon completion, the farm will be the size of a big box retail store and will grow over 700 acres of leafy green crops. Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems 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 7 amazing tiny homes weve seen this year

December 24, 2020 by  
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2020 was certainly one for the history books. But among all of the negativity in the news throughout this past year, there were also plenty of innovative and creative design solutions to the world’s problems shining through. While a large portion of Americans adjusted to life working remotely and others faced economic struggles due to the pandemic, tiny homes and inventive office spaces have never been so relevant. True to form, tiny luxury also flourished, with some of the best designs of the year combining space-saving minimalism with luxurious creature comforts despite small square footage. Read on to learn more about the top seven tiny homes we’ve seen this year here at Inhabitat. Canada Goose Brought to us by Mint Tiny Homes, the Canada Goose is a gorgeous, rustic tiny home on wheels that will make you feel like you’ve walked into a minimalist’s sustainable farmhouse . With a spacious kitchen and bathroom, an entire area dedicated to a living room, and a full-sized bedroom on the gooseneck hitch, it is clear that the designers at Mint put a lot of thought into space utilization. Plus, we can’t get enough of the reclaimed barn doors and the dark wood accents to complement the bright white interior. Available in 38 and 41 feet, the Canada Goose fits three beds and can house six to eight people comfortably. Related: Tiny House Sustainable Living blog documents life in an off-grid tiny home LaLa’s Seaesta This quirky tiny house located only blocks from the beach has a design that’s just as clever as its name. Texas-based Plum Construction uses every inch of the property’s small square footage with a cute dining nook that converts into a sleeping area and a secret, hidden patio underneath. Just 410 square feet of space with an additional 80-square-foot loft inside, the home’s gable decoration is constructed from reclaimed cypress wood from a local house dating back 120 years. We think the best part of this property is the hidden patio, which takes advantage of the space left clear from the home’s stilts and features a hammock, a bar and an outdoor shower. The patio’s ventilated, slatted walls allows the ocean breeze to flow in. The Natura It might be enough for some sustainable design companies that the Natura tiny house is powered by 1000W-2000W rooftop solar panels, but not for U.K.-based The Tiny Housing Company. The firm goes several steps further by using natural materials such as cork and wood for the construction, as well as adding a wood-burning stove connected to underfloor heating, clean water filtration from an under-sink system, energy-efficient appliances and rockwool insulation (a rock-based mineral fiber composed of volcanic basalt rock and recycled steel or copper byproduct). The Kirimoko Looking at the interior of the Kirimoko in New Zealand, one would never guess that Condon Scott Architects would be able to fit all those amenities into a 322-square-foot footprint. This passive house boasts high-efficiency structural insulated panels paired with larch weatherboards to help keep out moisture as well as asphalt shingles and natural ventilation. This means the tiny home requires virtually no additional energy to keep temperatures comfortable in an unforgiving Central Otago climate. Characterized by a gable form, a black rain screen and massive windows, there is an abundance of natural light that makes this home look exceptionally bright and airy. Denali XL Denali XL, which is a larger version of Alabama-based Timbercraft Tiny Homes’ popular Denali model, features 399 square feet of floor space and a 65-square-foot loft. This tiny home may look like a rustic cabin from the outside, but once you cross the threshold, you’ll find a king-sized loft bedroom with powered skylights that open automatically on a timer or rain sensor, a large walk in closet, a luxurious steam shower and quartz countertops. Additional sustainable elements such as a trash compactor, high efficiency insulation and an incinerating toilet help earn this tiny home a spot on the list. Oasis Tiny House It’s easy to see how the Oasis Tiny House got its name. This 260-square-foot tiny home is located on the Big Island of Hawaii and features several luxurious touches that highlight the tropical ambiance of the space. An outdoor bar, for example, can be found directly below the curly mango wood kitchen window, designed to allow food and drinks to be passed through with ease. There is also a skylight in the bathroom to give the feel of an outdoor shower thanks to the home’s verdant jungle surroundings. The Oasis Tiny House is the creation of the sister-brother duo at Paradise Tiny Homes. The Culp A spa-like, walk-in hot tub is not something you’d expect to see inside of a 500-square-foot tiny home, but that didn’t stop Florida-based Movable Roots tiny home design company. When the client requested room for a soaking tub, the designers rose to the occasion and even added an incinerating toilet for good measure. The tiny home also has a galley kitchen and a primary bedroom with storage stairs leading up to dual loft spaces, which are naturally lit and spacious enough to be used as guest rooms, offices or storage. Another feature we love inside The Culp is its low-maintenance, two-tone metal exterior and the cork plank flooring.

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New Urban Park in Portugal gets eco-conscious renovation

December 24, 2020 by  
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Community gathering spaces for indoor and outdoor use are central to the idea of shared land. As such, parks should be structured to maximize these benefits, though sometimes this comes at the cost of the surrounding landscape. However, the new Urban Park and Environmental Interpretation Center in construction for the Portuguese city of Oliveira de Azeméis offers over roughly 12 acres of public-use area designed with special consideration for the ecosystem.  The project began with the winning bid submitted anonymously to the city . A design by Ad Quadratum Arquitectos earned the support of decision-makers for its comprehensive and holistic outline. Related: French housing project “I Park” has a double-skinned green facade The first goal centers on creating a usable space for the community and its visitors. Citizens and tourists alike will enjoy the walkways and sitting areas scattered through the five hectares. Architects constructing the space aim to better the physical and mental health of the entire community . The outdoor arena will include a slide, tree-climbing structures, circuits and maintenance sports equipment, and rest areas, among many other recreational and leisure features. Additionally, the project will repurpose an existing building to  minimize site impact . When complete, the building, coupled with the surrounding infrastructure, will house the park café and café concert terrace, along with the provision of areas for the Interpretative Center and Pedagogical Center. The building renovation in the area commonly referred to as “old” Quinta dos Borges will also include restaurant spaces. Indoors and out, the project promises energy efficiency and environmental neutrality. Lead architect José António Lopes insists on respecting the history, culture, and materials by lifting the building up to new uses, rather than tearing it down. In addition to the preservation of the building, the team stresses the need to protect the surrounding ecosystem. They will retain as much of the existing  vegetation  as possible and also introduce new specimens to round out a self-sustaining ecosystem for long term success. + Ad Quadratum Arquitectos Images via Ad Quadratum Arquitectos

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New Urban Park in Portugal gets eco-conscious renovation

From design to recycling, opportunities abound to make solar more circular

November 6, 2020 by  
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From design to recycling, opportunities abound to make solar more circular Myisha Majumder Fri, 11/06/2020 – 02:00 Solar has become a staple of the U.S. power generation mix in the last decade. Now that the industry is maturing, it’s time to have a tough conversation: The solar industry needs to improve its circular practices. Like any industry, the solar industry has unique machinery and equipment; specifically, its photovoltaic (PV) cells have silicon, metal, glass and plastic components that are melded together in order to create a functioning solar panel. But these cells have a limited lifespan of about 25-30 years. Most of the component materials retain their value, however, and can be reused to participate in the circular economy, the economic system that aims to keep resources in use and eliminate waste. At GreenBiz Group’s virtual clean economy conference, VERGE 20 , last week, industry experts discussed the complexities of circularity in solar. The solar industry is still growing — the International Energy Agency predicts that total renewable based power capacity will grow by 50 percent between now and 2024, and 60 percent of that rise will be attributed to solar. Given this rapid increase and dependency on solar, Evelyn Butler of Solar Energy Industry Alliance (SEIA) emphasized that with increased capacity comes increased waste. The International Energy Agency predicts that total renewable based power capacity will grow by 50% between now and 2024, and 60% of that will be solar. “By 2030, with that much PV, there’s a potential of something like 8 million tons of potential PV waste,” Butler said. It’s also a global opportunity of about “$450 million in raw material recovery that could be leveraged for new industries or employment.” The challenge is making PV waste recycling and repurposing more efficient than it currently is in order to move towards a more circular economy. A more circular solar industry at the manufacturing level Some of these opportunities arise at the solar manufacturing level. As Andreas Wade of First Solar explained, the energy-resource nexus is a top priority at First Solar. The company works throughout the production, deployment and maintenance parts of the solar industry. Since 2005, First Solar has been a part of an established global recycling and take-back program for its panels since 2005. To Wade, a major area of development for circular economy practices in the solar industry is repurposing materials used to create solar cells, like crystalline silicon and aluminum. But designing products for end-of-life in a way that the materials can be reused or repurposed can be a challenge. Wade described the apparent conflict: “We want to deliver a solution to our customers, which is out there in the field for 25, 30, 35 or even 40 years or longer. So design for recycling means for us that we try to make sure that we hit the quality, reliability and longevity marks, as well as making sure that we can recover the materials encapsulated and embodied in our PV module at the end of life in a high volume fashion.” By considering circular economy practices from the onset of designing solar panels, materials can be more efficiently reused and recycled, rather than considered in hindsight at the end. A more circular solar industry at the recycling level For First Solar, material recovery goes beyond the traditional model of bulk recycling and recovering glass and aluminum, but also taking back the semiconductor system such that it can be reused in new panels. Wade claimed that First Solar is now able to recover 90 percent of its panel’s semiconductor functions. Butler echoed these challenges but said that manufacturers are beginning the process of overcoming them. In her experience so far at SEIA, Butler has mainly seen repurposing of solar materials that “have been damaged, either the weather events or logistics, or sometimes their installation”. This is in contrast to the traditional end-of-life planning First Solar is employing, but can still be a large number of materials that should be repurposed for sustainability. Other opportunities include companies standing as the middleman for selling excess modules from installers. Other opportunities also include companies standing as the middleman for selling excess modules from installers. Both Wade and Butler argued that such repurposing will only be optimized with outside pressure from the customers of such companies. Wade encouraged users to ask their providers questions like: “What are you doing about circularity? Do you offer a recycling program? What are your recovery rates?” He believes specifying such questions in RFPs can drive the industry to the next level. Tadas Radavicius of SoliTek added that there’s an opportunity for using circular economy principles for secondhand panels: “We see a growing market for secondhand panels just usually comes from utility-scale systems … you can look at the degradation rate, and you can identify for your potential client for how long these panels go, or how much the energy will be generated.” However, he explained that this is only feasible if there is clear communication about the history of the panels from one company to the next. In addition, Radavicius noted that pressure on the policy level from the European Commission to incorporate the solar industry into the circular economy. Because of the competitive market in Europe, solar companies are frequently battling for bids and need to set apart from others. Participating in the circular economy and presenting sustainable practices often gives these companies an edge. Radavicius also explained that increasing circular economy practices could enable Europe to function more independently in the industry. As Radavicus described: “If you could manage circularity in the rate that you can recover these materials, Europe can create its own local supply chain and can increase its supply of these materials, which usually comes from outside. The event highlighted key opportunities for the solar industry’s much-needed entrance into the circular economy. As Butler said, “There is a need to create the right infrastructure in order to realize that value creation, and to provide opportunities for materials to be recovered and re-utilized in some way, shape or form.” Pull Quote The International Energy Agency predicts that total renewable based power capacity will grow by 50% between now and 2024, and 60% of that will be solar. Other opportunities also include companies standing as the middleman for selling excess modules from installers. Topics Energy & Climate Circular Economy VERGE 20 Solar Recycling Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Employees work on panels that the Energy Department is using to leverage a Power Purchase Agreement with Sun Edison and Xcel Energy. Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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From design to recycling, opportunities abound to make solar more circular

4 ways businesses can connect with their communities to create a clean economy

November 6, 2020 by  
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4 ways businesses can connect with their communities to create a clean economy Marian Jones Fri, 11/06/2020 – 01:00 Companies often struggle with building community trust as they navigate between profit-making and authentically engaging on climate change and environmental justice matters. Last week at GreenBiz Group’s virtual conference and expo on stimulating the clean economy, VERGE 20 , community leaders and businesses from across the country came together to network, share insights and explore solutions to these challenges. During the panel “Connecting Communities to the Clean Economy,” experts shared their experiences working with private companies, their fights for green jobs and why businesses need to think of themselves as part of the community. The talk featured two women of color and leaders within the environmental and economic justice movement: Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE (founded as the United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park); and Rahwa Ghirmatzion, executive director of PUSH Buffalo (People United for Sustainable Housing); with Heather Clancy, editorial director at GreenBiz, acting as moderator. PUSH Buffalo is a nonprofit grassroots community organization working to build and execute a comprehensive revitalization plan for West Buffalo’s West Side. This stimulus plan includes affordable housing rehabilitation, building weatherization and other green infrastructure projects. UPROSE is Brooklyn’s foremost Latinx community organization. Its work involves community organizing, supporting sustainable development and community-led climate adaptation in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Communicating genuinely and authentically listening are two key components. Panelists explained how their community organizations and business partners have successfully collaborated in the past. The conversation provided an insight into how companies can understand the communities they serve, the area they’re in and the people they employ. Communicating genuinely and authentically listening are two key components . Here are four key takeaways: 1. To build real, authentic community trust, businesses must be willing to listen to community concerns and respond with effective community-oriented solutions. Ghirmatzion talked about PUSH Buffalo’s work with a local hiring hall that connects New Yorkers to jobs. This initiative provides both hands-on training for people in the Buffalo area who have been underemployed for long periods of time and employment opportunities in renewable energy projects and green construction. According to Rahwa, at least “99.9 percent of them were folks of color.” For example, a few years ago, about 24 of PUSH’s trainees experienced racist harassment and open hostility from their white coworkers and supervisor. When PUSH brought their concerns to the company’s CEO, the organization investigated the matter and fired the supervisor. Workers and community members alike appreciated the company’s quick action and zero tolerance, Ghirmatzion said. Listening to the community and taking their issues seriously is crucial for building trust, she observed. 2. Private entities should think of themselves as community members and view local residents as political and economic partners. For Yeampierre of UPROSE, the most successful partnerships have been ones in which businesses joined local initiatives and shared the same political and environmental goals as the community. According to Yeampierre, UPROSE has had excellent relationships with some companies and terrible relationships with others. The excellent relationships have been with businesses that seek input from UPROSE on climate adaptation and embrace UPROSE’s best practices for environmental justice and community resiliency. Yeampierre cited two successful partnerships. Sims Recycling Solutions worked with UPROSE from the beginning to become a carbon-neutral state-of-the-art facility that would serve community needs but not be an eyesore or polluting facility on the industrial waterfront. Additionally, UPROSE has received support from Patagonia since 2011. In this mutually beneficial relationship, Patagonia also provides financial support for UPROSE’s environmental work. UPROSE has helped Patagonia have an office culture in which its employees join in UPROSE’s grass-roots organizing. As Yeampierre said, “Sometimes businesses don’t see themselves as part of the community, and see our community as a front for wealth for them.” She encouraged private businesses to view the community they operate in not as a resource but as a partner. 3. Businesses and developers need to embrace resilient thinking rather than viewing job creation and profit-making as their key goals. Yeampierre got a chance to provide a brief overview of UPROSE’s work to protect Sunset Park’s industrial waterfront from land speculation. UPROSE was at the center of a triumphant seven-year-long struggle against the rezoning of Industry City in Brooklyn. However, the rezoning would have created thousands of jobs. Developers viewed this project as a win-win, but activists and community leaders opposed it because the jobs would have been mostly low-paying. Plus, the influx of high-end retail and new office jobs would spur gentrification. Yeampierre argued that waterfronts such as Sunset Park are where we need to start building for “climate adaptation, mitigation and resilience.” “It’s what we call a green reindustrialization of our industrial waterfront,” she added. Businesses should avoid trying to fight long, drawn-out battles that ignore the wishes of the community. Making a resilient New York means investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency retrofits, construction, sustainable manufacturing and food security, all of which would create thousands of jobs. We need these things now, because as Yeampierre said, “We know that climate change is here.” The campaign to preserve the waterfront was a significant victory for industrial communities all over the U.S., who are told they ought to accept new jobs that rely on the extraction of fossil fuels and displacement. Sunset Park’s future could become a model for converting an industrial zone into an environmentally friendly infrastructure through green manufacturing. Businesses should avoid trying to fight long, drawn-out battles that ignore the wishes of the community. Instead, it’s vital to support community-led proposals consistent with a resilient green future from the beginning. 4. Companies can use their communications resources to showcase community climate activists’ voices and a voice in the fight for a just transition . Both UPROSE and PUSH Buffalo are a part of NY Renews, a coalition of over 140 community, labor and grassroots organizations working to end climate change in New York while safeguarding workers. Moderator Clancy asked how being members of this coalition amplifies their work. Both panelists agreed that the legislation NY Renews fights for, such as the Climate Mobilization Act, which passed last year, makes it easier for smaller social justice-based organizations to show their communities it’s possible to have a just transition. This legislation would generate thousands of jobs, lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower energy prices. Companies also can benefit from supporting the work of NY Renews because a just transition is an idea that appeals to workers and communities who fear that the process of reducing emissions could lead to a future with fewer jobs and more poverty. For UPROSE, being in NY Renews “helps us build locally, but it also helps us build the scale, and it helps us create the kind of regional impact that climate change demands. We need to be thinking big and locally,” Yeampierre declared. Supporting or doing similar work as NY Renews, creating green and decent jobs, can help private enterprises show that they want to support resiliency and want communities to thrive. In their closing remarks, both panelists reiterated their earlier comments on authenticity and seeking community input as soon as they start planning a project. Authentic was the word the panelists most used to describe the kind of relationship and behavior they would like to see from businesses. “Authentic” is the characteristic you should want the community to think of your company as, and you should meet that expectation, the tow community organizers observed. That is, authentic businesses genuinely communicate; they find out what their community wants and take the impact they have on the community seriously. People who live in the community can offer many solutions and critical perspectives because they’ve been working on these issues for generations, they concluded. Pull Quote Communicating genuinely and authentically listening are two key components. Businesses should avoid trying to fight long, drawn-out battles that ignore the wishes of the community. Topics Cities Social Justice Corporate Strategy VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A scene from a youth climate protest in San Francisco, California. Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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4 ways businesses can connect with their communities to create a clean economy

America is hungrier than ever for sustainable food systems. Can we build them?  

November 2, 2020 by  
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America is hungrier than ever for sustainable food systems. Can we build them?   Carol J. Clouse Mon, 11/02/2020 – 01:30 In the spring of 2020, many small farms across the U.S. found themselves in a bittersweet predicament. Restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus were forcing restaurants — major buyers for the local farms that serve urban areas — to shut down. The loss of these key customers might have wiped out many of these local growers, if not for another COVID-19-induced phenomenon: individual shoppers started calling — and calling — and calling. “The farms we work with are seeing a huge spike in demand [for direct sales],” Dan Miller, CEO and founder of the crowdfunding platform Steward , told me when we spoke by phone in early April. “But now they have to quickly switch their businesses to meet that demand.” So Miller, who launched the platform in the fall of 2019 to provide funding to small, sustainably run farms — operations often underserved by traditional finance — soon found himself expanding Steward’s services to help these same farmers shift their business model. Stories of small farms pivoting their operations on a dime were easy to find in the early months of the pandemic: these farmers worked overtime to meet customer demand, added services such as online ordering and home delivery, and jumped into action to prop up community food banks struggling to serve an influx of the newly unemployed. Compared to the industrialized and supersized food system most Americans live with — represented by rivers of wasted milk and COVID-19 outbreaks at meat-packing plants that killed more than 200 people — these distributed systems looked healthier, safer, and more environmentally sustainable than ever. They also looked more agile and resilient. Crises often present an opportunity to reimagine current systems, so I wondered: Would that happen here, with food? Would the food consumption trends driven by the pandemic wind up as a paragraph in the history books — like the ” victory gardens ” of World War II — or could it lead to lasting change? And how do we transform this moment of crisis into a more resilient, sustainable, healthy and just food system? Crises often present an opportunity to reimagine current systems. At GreenBiz Group’s virtual clean economy conference, VERGE 20 , last week, speakers and participants addressed questions such as these, discussed how to make sure that these changes stick and identified what challenges stand in the way. During a session delving into lessons from the pandemic, panelists agreed that the No. 1 barrier to changing the current food system is financing. “The financial services that are out there … are really not calibrated for the moment we’re in,” said Janie Hipp, CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund. “If we’re going to actually build an agile and resilient system going forward, then we have to invest in it.” One example of the financial challenges sustainable farms face comes in the form of crop insurance. If a farmer wants to transition a farm from conventional practices to organic or regenerative ones, costs are associated with that transition. However, insurance policies typically do not cover them, so the farmer is forced to take on the extra up-front costs and risk. The same holds true for traditional agriculture financing, developed for conventional farming. Loans are typically underwritten based on the equipment, inputs, volume, prices and insurance coverage of conventional growers. These factors are different for organic and regenerative farmers, so the numbers often don’t work, resulting in loans being denied or unaffordable. This increased access to capital could help scale the market, which hopefully would bring down the cost and make this more nutritious food more widely available, said Matthew Walker, managing director at S2G Ventures, a food systems-focused venture fund and mission investor. “There’s a lot of work to be done to provide affordable nutrition … and allow those who are seeking to grow organic, or use any tech enabled process that might be better for soil health, better for nutrition, to at least get started,” he said. This increased access to capital could help scale the market. Making healthy food available in disadvantaged neighborhoods, where affordable, fresh vegetables are hard to come by, is the mission of the Green Bronx Machine , but founder Stephen Ritz — a VERGE keynote speaker — didn’t wait for systems change. Established in 2012, the program uses hydroponic and vertical farming technology at its indoor teaching farm at a South Bronx school, where kids learn how to grow and cook vegetables themselves. Each week throughout the school year, the kids take home bags of groceries to their families. Green Bronx Machine also operates a “food for others” outdoor garden and summer youth employment program in the Bronx, which serves food-insecure families in the community. And it has various other partnerships and serves as a model for schools in other districts, including a program in more than 60 Chicago schools, sponsored by the foundation of Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews , who joined Ritz on VERGE’s Building a Better Food System for America’s Cities panel. Like the farmers who work with Steward, the Green Bronx Machine’s student farmers pivoted when the pandemic hit, Ritz said in his keynote. “As COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, it became the ultimate manifestation of three larger illnesses: racism; greed; and corruption,” Ritz said. “And we found new ways to secure and distribute food to those who needed it most.” This has included providing weekly grocery delivery for 26 food-insecure patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, who are recovering from cancer, and for 55 of the most vulnerable families in the Bronx, across a 26-mile route that includes walk-up buildings. “The truth is children want to be part of the conversation. The truth is children don’t let differences divide them. The truth is children are smarter than you think,” Ritz said. As COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, it became the ultimate manifestation of three larger illnesses: racism; greed; and corruption. When New York was the epicenter of the pandemic  — a place where by May, the virus had killed more than 20,000 people, primarily in under-privileged neighborhoods such as the South Bronx — food grown by a bunch of kids was delivered to families who may not have eaten otherwise. The Green Bronx Machine joined community farms, urban farms and small family farms in offering a lifeline to their communities. They proved themselves resilient in a crisis, and their numbers are growing, but they remain a teeny, tiny part of the gargantuan American food system. In 2017, there were 16,585 certified organic farms, a 17 percent increase from just a year earlier, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s latest Organic Survey , released this month. These farms accounted for 5.5 million certified organic acres, an increase of 9 percent over 2016. This impressive growth marks the continuation of a decade-long trend. And yet, certified organic acres still represent less than 1 percent of the total 911 million acres of American farmland. (Although I should add that the survey’s three-year lag does not provide an up-to-date picture, and farms that use organic or regenerative practices but have not been certified don’t get counted.) The main challenges for these farms is getting the infrastructure and operational capacity in place to support a growing customer base. Curious to see whether the direct sales demand Steward’s farmers saw in the spring was continuing to hold, I checked back in with Miller. By email, he told me that demand had held and offered an example from Fisheye Farms, an urban farm in Detroit. Fisheye, he reported, already has sold out their entire winter CSA and is fielding inquiries for spring. CSA stands for “community supported agriculture,” a system where customers buy “a share” of the farm. They pay a fixed rate to receive regular boxes of whatever’s in season. Every other week, from November through February, members of Fisheye’s winter CSA will receive spinach, kale, carrots, turnips, radishes, micro greens and more. The cost is $300, or about $38 a week. “The main challenges for these farms is getting the infrastructure and operational capacity in place to support a growing customer base,” Miller said in his email. “Even the farmers with the most demand still need capital to run better, as they can’t finance everything they need just on cash flow.” In other words, to replicate and scale what these farms do, and build distributed food systems that are resilient, sustainable, healthy and just, will take time, cooperation and a lot of green. Pull Quote Crises often present an opportunity to reimagine current systems. This increased access to capital could help scale the market. As COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, it became the ultimate manifestation of three larger illnesses: racism; greed; and corruption. The main challenges for these farms is getting the infrastructure and operational capacity in place to support a growing customer base. Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems Risk & Resilience Organics VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by Oleg Demakov on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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America is hungrier than ever for sustainable food systems. Can we build them?  

This is why investors want financial regulators to tackle climate risk

August 24, 2020 by  
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This is why investors want financial regulators to tackle climate risk Ravi Varghese Mon, 08/24/2020 – 01:15 To understand economic crises of the recent past, present and future, there may be no finer teacher than Michael Lewis. Many readers will be familiar with Lewis’s book “The Big Short,” which documented how excesses in global credit markets spawned a worldwide financial crisis. But a later book of his — “The Fifth Risk” — best explains why we were unprepared for the current pandemic and why we need a different approach to deal with threats such as climate change.  Lewis’s thesis is simple, but profound: Dealing with catastrophic risks is the purview of government. In particular, the U.S. government bears the unenviable burden of “the biggest portfolio of such risks ever managed by a single institution in the history of the world.” Some of these risks spring readily to mind — financial crises, hurricanes and terrorist threats, just to name a few. Others, such as a global pandemic, previously might have seemed too far-fetched to be worthy of serious consideration. Lewis warns that these risks are “like bombs with very long fuses that … might or might not explode” in the distant future. Climate change falls squarely in this category. It is far easier to mobilize resources and public support to combat a spreading virus than to make investments and formulate policy which might only reap rewards decades from now. It is even more challenging when multiple government agencies are involved, requiring the hard, thankless work of endless coordination. This was one lesson of the financial crisis: it wasn’t always easy to know which government entity had regulatory oversight of a complex cast of financial actors and a dizzying array of exotic instruments. Similarly, a threat such as climate change permeates so many elements of society and the economy that it’s hard to know who should do what. Thankfully, a timely new report from Ceres, a Boston-based sustainability organization, has eliminated some of that hard work. ” Addressing Climate as a Systemic Risk ,” produced by the Ceres Accelerator for Sustainable Capital Markets, exhorts U.S. financial regulators to take proactive steps to understand climate change. Appropriate oversight by financial regulators involves the collection of data, which can assist federal, state and municipal authorities in planning for a changing climate. The report offers 50 specific recommendations to seven federal financial regulatory agencies, as well as state and federal insurance regulators. Broadly speaking, Ceres calls for regulators to assess climate impact on financial market stability, increase oversight where climate change creates risk, and foster greater disclosure from companies and financial intermediaries.  Investors should cheer these ambitions. That’s why we joined more than 70 other signatories , including investment firms with more than $1 trillion of assets under management, in supporting a Ceres-led letter backing this initiative. As a signatory, we believe the logic is unshakable: Prudent regulation, enacted with a long-term perspective, can ensure that capital is funneled to sectors aligned with a future where global temperature rise is limited to 2 degrees Celsius. Investors are already concerned about stranded asset risk in large swathes of the economy, such as energy, utilities, transportation and infrastructure. To reduce this risk, regulators in the U.S. can benefit from joining their international peers in forward-thinking organizations such as the Network for Greening of the Financial System (NGFS).  Furthermore, appropriate oversight by financial regulators involves the collection of data, which can assist federal, state and municipal authorities in planning for a changing climate. Questions abound over the efficacy of stimulus spending in the ongoing pandemic. Long-term planning helps ensure that spending is implemented in a thoughtful manner, with maximum return wrung out of every dollar. The fiscal implications of climate change, meanwhile, are already appearing. As Ceres points out, recent research suggests private mortgage lenders are already shifting riskier mortgages to government-sponsored entities. Most investors surely will balk at the notion of privatized gains and socialized losses.  In “The Fifth Risk,” Lewis is unstintingly effusive about the dedication and caliber of government employees he encountered. But even if regulators were to adopt all of the Ceres recommendations, they would not make headlines for their actions. That, perhaps, makes their work all the more important. As Lewis reminds us, “it’s the places in our government where the cameras never roll that you have to worry about most.” Armed with this new report from Ceres, financial regulators can help investors worry a little bit less.  Pull Quote Appropriate oversight by financial regulators involves the collection of data, which can assist federal, state and municipal authorities in planning for a changing climate. Topics Finance & Investing GreenFin ESG 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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