This moment: An open letter to the GreenBiz community

June 2, 2020 by  
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This moment: An open letter to the GreenBiz community Joel Makower Tue, 06/02/2020 – 02:11 In the wee hours of Nov. 9, 2016, shortly after Donald Trump was declared the 45th president of the United States, I sat down and penned a note to the GreenBiz community. A lot of us were shocked, confused, depressed and angry that this vulgar man, who saw climate change as a hoax and “beautiful clean coal” as our savior, would be setting the national agenda at such a critical time. It was “a stunning and devastating indictment of decency, fairness and inclusion,” I wrote that morning. And: It will be critically important, for both our individual sanity and our collective future, that we stay the course, double down, make every program, project, partnership and product count. That was then. The past few days, in the wake of the national upheaval over the death of yet another black man at the hands of yet another white police officer, have been similarly filled with angst and anger within the sustainability community. “What do we do?” we’ve asked one another. Should we simply stay the course, doubling down on our work on climate and the clean economy, which is growing more urgent by the day? Or do we stop, take stock and rethink what we do? Today, I’m not sure that staying the course is, in and of itself, what’s needed. It may be time for a radical rethink: Given all that’s changing, what does the world need of us now? Whether you come from privilege or poverty, whether your education comes from the best schools or the streets, whatever your politics or identity, this is a brutally tough moment. The coronavirus and economic crash already had laid bare the inequity and disparity among the classes and races: those who have a job and those who don’t; those who are able to earn a living at home versus those who must risk going to an employer’s workplace during a pandemic; those who are able to afford food, shelter and healthcare, even amid economic upheaval, and those who can’t; those who feel comfortable walking or driving or just being outside their home, and those who fear that any moment could lead to their becoming the next George Floyd, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice or Sandra Bland. Now, all of those inequities and disparities have been cast into the open. To the extent they existed in the shadows — festering societal problems to which those with power and privilege largely threw up their hands — they are now center stage. To the extent these problems could be ignored — that one could live life without having to reckon with race, poverty and inequality — they have been thrust onto our individual and collective doorsteps. To the extent they were topics relegated to hushed, private conversations — well, those conversations are full-throated, 24/7 and inescapable. To the extent these problems could be ignored — that one could live life without having to reckon with race, poverty and inequality — they have been thrust onto our individual and collective doorsteps. The calamities of 2020 — the physical, economic, social and psychological crises we’d already been confronting these past few months — have contributed to this raw moment, the culmination of centuries of systemic oppression and institutionalized racism. Words of comfort, of healing and hope, aren’t cutting it, and they shouldn’t. For those of us working in sustainability, it raises some fundamental questions. Among them: What led you to this work in the first place? Was it to protect the unprotected? To ensure the well-being of future generations? To engender community resilience? To create solutions to big, seemingly intractable problems? Or maybe, simply, “to make the world a better place”? If so, then this is the moment to live up to those lofty goals — fully and, most likely, uncomfortably. That means having difficult conversations with family, colleagues, friends and peers. It means recognizing — really, truly recognizing, not just mouthing the words — that nothing is sustainable if people are in pain. It matters little how much renewable energy is generated, how many circular supply chains are created, how much organic or regenerative food is produced if our fellow citizens are being exploited, discriminated against, threatened and worse. This is what ‘sustainability’ should be about — the security and well-being of all species. This is what “sustainability” should be about — the security and well-being of all species, including humans — and it no doubt will provoke nodding heads among many of you. But nodding heads aren’t enough. They never were and certainly aren’t now. This is a moment for the private sector to step up. Not just in helping to calm and heal, although that will be a critical task in the coming days and weeks, but also to lobby for justice: economic justice, racial justice, criminal justice, climate justice. And to deeply understand what these terms even mean, and how they relate to creating the societal value that is the beating heart of business.  This is a seminal moment that is testing all of us — those in sustainability, certainly, along with most everyone else. And as we work on or support societal solutions — and countless ideas are likely to come out of this, from every conceivable source — it’s important to ask some simple but profound questions: Who’s setting the rules? Who’s calling the shots? Who’s being heard? Who’s left out? Who’s benefiting from the status quo and from the proposed solutions? Does it empower the marginalized or merely placate the restless? These are the kinds of questions that have been woefully absent in the past. And we are living with the result. If we are to change the course, not simply aim to get back to some elusive “normal,” these questions will need to be asked and answered. Failure to do that will lead us right back to where we are. I’d like to end on a positive, hopeful note, much as I tried to do back in November 2016. But hope and positivity are in short supply right now. So I’ll just say this: Don’t underestimate your power in this moment. You may not feel powerful, particularly in light of the deafening voices screaming in the streets and on our screens. But there is power in us all: to care for those around us, to contribute time and resources at the community and national levels, to take the time to truly comprehend the issues before us and to understand that silence is complicity. Pull Quote To the extent these problems could be ignored — that one could live life without having to reckon with race, poverty and inequality — they have been thrust onto our individual and collective doorsteps. This is what ‘sustainability’ should be about — the security and well-being of all species. Topics Policy & Politics Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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This moment: An open letter to the GreenBiz community

Do people in tiny houses live more sustainably?

August 2, 2019 by  
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Minimalist living is as old as time, but the tiny house trend sweeping across North America and Europe has influenced many people to downsize, declutter and live simply. A new investigation into the habits of tiny house residents reveals that living in smaller houses encourages people to adopt more sustainable habits across the board. What are tiny houses? The unofficial definition of a tiny house is typically any single housing unit under 500 square feet. Many tiny houses are on wheels to get around state and federal government laws that limit the minimum habitable dwelling size. Because of this restriction, tiny house owners often own the transportable housing unit but not necessarily the land that it is on. Related: Is a tiny home right for you? The media and tiny house designers market the micro-dwellings as environmentally friendly alternatives to large family homes. Sellers encourage prospective buyers to downsize their possessions and kiss their mortgages goodbye in exchange for experiential riches like travel and financial freedom. Though they take up less space and store less junk, few studies exist that actually prove that living in tiny houses is more sustainable. Little house habits Maria Saxton, an environmental design and planning PhD candidate, studied the impact that downsizing into a tiny house had on inhabitants’ sustainable behaviors. She conducted surveys and in-depth interviews of 80 downsizers who had been living in their new tiny homes for at least a year. She calculated their individual ecological footprints before and after the move and examined which behaviors changed for the better and which changed for the worse. Her research discovered that on average, residents reduced their individual footprints by 45 percent after they settled into a tiny home, which is a huge reduction. She also found that the move and new lifestyle impacted other aspects and behaviors even without the inhabitants realizing it. Ecological footprint is usually calculated by determining the amount of land that it would take every year to support an individual’s consumption. The average American’s footprint is 8.4 hectares per person per year. That’s about the equivalent of eight football fields per person. Among those who downsized to tiny houses, the average footprint was approximately 3.87 hectares per person compared to a per-person average of 7 hectares before the move. How tiny houses encourage sustainable living Remarkably, housing-related behaviors and consumption patterns weren’t the only changes that the residents experienced. Of more than 100 individual behaviors examined, about 86 percent changed to become more environmentally friendly. For example, tiny house residents tended to shop and buy significantly less than the average American and less than they themselves did previously. Without room to store additional items, tiny house inhabitants simply could not support their old consumption habits. While 86 percent of behaviors changed for the better, about 13 percent changed for the worse. For example, tiny house residents tended to eat out more to avoid the frustration of cooking in a cramped kitchen. These residents recycled less because they had limited space for sorting and storing recyclable materials. They also tended to travel more, including both adventure trips and traveling further for basic items, likely because many tiny houses are located in more rural areas than where the owners previously lived. According to a separate investigation into the habits and motivations of tiny house dwellers, the majority of downsizers simply kept a storage unit. So, while they had fewer items within an arm’s reach, they hadn’t really committed to a minimalist lifestyle, and they could still support the overflow of their overconsumption. Smarter designs to support sustainability According to Saxton, the results of this study are critical for tiny house designers as well as to influence archaic laws that restrict tiny houses. If tiny house inhabitants truly do live more sustainably, towns and cities should be encouraging residents to make the move. Related: 7 tips for decorating a tiny home Architects and designers of the little abodes can also use the results of the research to integrate designs that address the prohibitive factors causing that 13 percent shift to less sustainable behaviors. For example — how can the kitchens be larger and more functional? How can trash and recycling storage be expanded to accommodate proper sorting of recyclable materials? Despite the tiny trend, housing is growing in size and destruction In 1973, the average house was 1,660 square feet, but by 2017, the average house sold was 2,631 square feet . This represents a 63 percent increase in the average size of a house in just 45 years. Although the tiny house trend skyrocketed among a niche corner of the population in over-industrialized countries, the majority of people still think bigger is better, which comes at a cost to the environment . The construction of oversized houses means loss of natural habitat and biodiversity , including the fragmentation of ecosystems to clear the way for new housing developments. In addition, the carbon footprint of the materials and construction industry is enormous. Commercial and residential buildings together contribute 39 percent of the U.S.’s total carbon emissions. This includes the transportation and sourcing of the building materials, the energy needed for construction and the environmental cost of maintenance. Maybe they are just another trend, but maybe tiny houses can be a small solution to global warming on an individual and community level. At the very least, the research concludes that cities and towns should re-examine existing laws that discourage tiny house dwellers from owning land or remove the wheels to at least allow residents to feel a sense of permanence. One town, Spur, Texas, adjusted its laws and sells itself as the first tiny home town in America. As the trend continues, other towns and cities would be wise to follow suit. Via The Conversation Images via Paul VanDerWerf , Christoph Scholz and Nicolás Boullosa ( 1 , 2 )

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Do people in tiny houses live more sustainably?

Empowering community farmers to be the catalyst for change in sustainable agriculture

June 6, 2018 by  
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Sponsored: Supporting local farmers can lead to lasting change for both the individual and the environment as a whole.

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Circulating Zero Waste? This Newspaper Facility Delivers.

March 16, 2016 by  
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We often think of the concept of zero waste as it relates to the individual – trimming one’s life until the amount of waste generated is absolutely inconsequential (a year’s worth of might fill a jar or a small shopping bag, for example). The goal…

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Circulating Zero Waste? This Newspaper Facility Delivers.

Jungle Bar is a sustainable insect-infused protein bar

April 13, 2015 by  
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Icelandic startup  Crowbar Protein is crowdfunding sustainable protein bars made using edible insects. Jungle Bar is a protein bar made with dates, sesame, sunflower & pumpkin seeds, chocolate and cricket flour. The flour is made out of crickets that have been specially farmed for human consumption in a sustainable way, which are then dried and ground down to fine flour. Crowbar Protein co-founder Búi Aðalsteinsson created the Fly Factory last year and realized that there was a real demand for insect products. You can support Crowbar Protein‘s mission to create delicious food products made with edible insects and help educate people in western society about the individual and social benefits of eating edible insects by supporting their Kickstarter campaign here . + Crowbar Protein on Kickstarter The article above was submitted to us by an Inhabitat reader. Want to see your story on Inhabitat ? Send us a tip by following this link. Remember to follow our instructions carefully to boost your chances of being chosen for publishing! Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: cricket flour , Crowbar Protein , Crowbar Protein crickets , edible crickets , edible insect protein bar , edible insects , Jungle Bar , Jungle Bar protein , kickstarter campaigns , reader submission

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Jungle Bar is a sustainable insect-infused protein bar

The top 5 issues affecting interior design today

April 13, 2015 by  
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Interior design is undergoing its most drastic transformation since the sustainable design revolution of the 1990s . Advances made in creative methods, the application of data, neuroscience and health, and building performance are demanding new interior design leadership. Designers who have mastered the skills to create functional and beautiful spaces are reshaping the interior landscape, from historic preservation and adaptive re-use to innovation in newly constructed spaces to meet the needs of changing working-and-living prototypes. Design entrepreneurs have moved the delivery of their services into cyberspace and are practicing their profession in a mobile, connected community. Interior designers are doing “pretty good.” “I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.” – Steve Jobs So what’s next for interior design? Who will lead this change? Here is a list of the top 5 game-changing issues affecting the industry today. Read the rest of The top 5 issues affecting interior design today Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: 2014 Future Vision project , adaptive re-use , Boston Architectural College , Crandon Gustafson , Dean of the School of Interior Architecture at Boston Architectural College , Design for Health , Design for social justice , Experience Economy , future of interior design , green design , green interior design , healthy design , Interior architecture , interior design , Master of Science in Interior Architecture program , sustainable design , sustainable interior design

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This sweet animation aims to help save the British hedgehog

April 13, 2015 by  
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Once a common sight throughout Britain, hedgehogs are now disappearing at a startling rate. These iconic animals numbered close to 30 million back in the 1950s, and now, their numbers are estimated to hover somewhere around 1 million. Their numbers have dropped so dramatically thanks to suburban sprawl and human negligence, so Wildlife Aid UK , a non-profit organization, produced this animation in the hope of educating people about how they can help instead of harm. Help can come in a number of different ways, from crushing and recycling cans so the hedgehogs don’t get stuck inside, to avoiding pesticides and slug pellets in the garden, providing holes beneath chain-link fences, keeping covers on swimming pools (and providing escape options in ponds), and checking around the garden before mowing to avoid injuring or killing the little ones. Folks in the UK are encouraged to make their gardens as wildlife-friendly as possible to help prevent this adorable endangered species from disappearing. + Wildlife Aid UK The article above was submitted to us by an Inhabitat reader. Want to see your story on Inhabitat ? Send us a tip by following this link . Remember to follow our instructions carefully to boost your chances of being chosen for publishing! Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: British hedgehog , disappearing species , endangered animals , endangered hedgehogs , endangered species , European hedgehog , habitat loss , habitat replenishment , Hedgehog , hedgehog animation , hedgehog video , hedgehogs , help the hedgehogs , human negligence , saving animals , Wildlife Aid UK , Wildlife conservation

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This sweet animation aims to help save the British hedgehog

Guidacci develops unconventional Italian home addition out of sustainable zinc siding

April 13, 2015 by  
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Read the rest of Guidacci develops unconventional Italian home addition out of sustainable zinc siding Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Italian Architecture , Recycled Materials , rheinzink , riamondo guidance , Sustainable Building , Sustainable Materials , titanium zinc

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Guidacci develops unconventional Italian home addition out of sustainable zinc siding

20 Years of Eco-Surveys Show Americans Know More, Feel Less Empowered

October 6, 2011 by  
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Americans know more about the environment, but seem to doubt their individual ability to make a difference, according to a new S.C. Johnson study of consumer attitudes.

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Urban Orchard Slips Back into the Ground

September 17, 2010 by  
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Images by B. Alter We first visited the Union Street Urban Orchard when it opened, back at the end of June. It is an orchard of 85 fruit trees and more, created on an abandoned site in the east end of London.

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