Surprising ways seaweed benefits the environment

August 19, 2020 by  
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While the news often mentions the terrible things in the sea, such as gyres of plastic and other trash, the oceans also hold an extremely valuable resource: seaweed. This renewable and easily harvestable organism is used for everything from food to spa treatments to a possible  COVID-19 medicine. This eco-friendly ingredient also features in many common products, including paint, toothpaste, ice cream and beer. Farming seaweed People collect seaweed both wild and cultivated from seaweed  farms . Wild picking involves either wading into the seawater to gather the slippery crop or picking it up off the shoreline. Especially abundant harvests usually come post-storm when seaweed washes onshore. For centuries, people gathered seaweed using this traditional method. Nowadays, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 96% of global seaweed production comes from farms instead of wild gathering. Depending on the type of seaweed grown, farming may involve attaching the seaweed to rope lines suspended in the sea just off the coast, or growing the seaweed in nets. Seaweed farming in Japan started in the 1600s, and the practice may date back to the 15th century in Korea. Other parts of Asia, including  China , Indonesia and the Philippines, also produce seaweed for food and other products. In the Philippines alone, about 40,000 people made their living from seaweed production in the late 90s. When it’s time to harvest seaweed, people in most seaweed-growing countries use boats and machinery like rakes or trawlers. While easier than hand collection, harvesting with these tools can adversely affect habitats and wreck sea animals’ homes. To combat this, farmers in Norway devised a rake method that only removes the floating top canopy of seaweed, this avoiding seabed disruption. Seaweed helping the environment Farming seaweed might even improve the sea’s health, according to findings from Chinese researchers in a 2019 issue of  Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment . Research found that seaweed aquaculture can help combat eutrophication, the process whereby water becomes so overly enriched with nutrients that it causes excessive algae growth and oxygen depletion. The study discovered that seaweed aquaculture removed more than 75,000 metric tons of nitrogen and more than 9,500 metric tons of phosphate from coastal waters. Seaweed aquaculture also sequestered and absorbed a large amount of CO2 and released more than a million metric tons of oxygen. As a natural filter, seaweed helps remove pollutants from the environment; this does mean people should eat seaweed in moderation, though, as it can contain high levels of metals and iodine. In addition to keeping oceans healthy, seaweed also helps terrestrial farmers. When used as fertilizer, seaweed helps farmers avoid using nearly 30,000 tons of chemical fertilizers. Summarizing these benefits, the seaweed study’s authors wrote, “These results demonstrate that Chinese seaweed aquaculture has turned the  pollutants  that cause eutrophication into nutrients, which generates considerable environmental benefits as well as socio-economic values.” Seaweed in cosmetics and medicine Diverse parts of the world use seaweed in  cosmetics , too. Many Tanzanian women farm seaweed for export to China, Korea, Vietnam and other countries that use it as an ingredient in cosmetics and skincare products.  Even Ireland has harvested seaweed for hundreds of years. A 12th-century poem recounts how monks distributed edible seaweed to hungry poor people. In the early 20th century, the Irish coast housed nearly 300 seaweed bathhouses. You can still find some places in County Sligo to take a traditional seaweed bath. “This is our traditional spa treatment,” said Neil Walton, owner of Voya Seaweed Baths in the town of Strandhill. Scientists continue searching for more health benefits from  seaweed . The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York has even explored using seaweed extract to treat COVID-19. This extract contains variations of heparin, a common anticoagulant. Though heparin usually comes from animal tissue, this seaweed alternative may become popular. If so, this could lower costs for seaweed as a biofuel resource. Seaweed as biofuel Seaweed aquaculture may also increase the use of biomass as  renewable energy . In 2015, biomass-derived energy accounted for about 5% of U.S. energy use . Biomass energy encompasses plant and animal-derived energy, such as food crop waste, animal farming, human sewage, wood or forest residue and horticultural byproducts. So far, seaweed as biofuel has garnered little commercial interest, and the market remains mostly unexplored. But the industry holds great potential. According to Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a United States government agency that funds and promotes research and development of energy technologies, U.S. seaweed cultivation could reach 500 million tons and provide more energy than 23 billion gallons of gasoline. Seaweed farming paired with other industries Seaweed farming can also work with other industries, such as fish farming. Some environmental experts worry that open-sea fisheries negatively impact ecosystems due to the excess fish feed and fish feces floating in the water. Integrating seaweed production into fish farms could help reduce nitrogen  emissions  and break down other pollutants. A seaweed farm could also pair well with an offshore  wind farm . The first such operation is being built by Belgian-Dutch consortium Wier & Wind this year. The company plans to grow patches of seaweed for biofuel between large turbines 23 km off Zeebrugge in Belgium. This combination may lead to a genius symbiotic relationship. Seaweed production would make use of large open spaces between turbines, and the turbines would prevent ships from running over floating seaweed. Images via Pixabay,  Rich Brooks ,  Ronald Tagra  and  Gregg Gorman

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Trump administration furthers Arctic drilling plan

August 19, 2020 by  
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The Trump administration’s environmental protection rollbacks seem to now come daily. Today’s bad news? A plan to allow  oil  and gas companies to drill in Alaska’s so-far pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In 2017, a Republican tax bill opened part of the refuge to gas and oil leasing. Monday’s development pushed the plan further, aiming to sell the first drilling leases by the end of 2020. Many Republicans back the plan, despite opposition from environmental groups and Alaska’s Indigenous communities. Related: EPA loosens restrictions on methane emissions The over 19 million-acre refuge has long remained off-limits to development. Managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, most of the refuge is true wilderness, free from roads, trails and facilities, and open to the public for exploration. The few travelers who visit access the refuge by private planes and air taxis. Visitors may witness the Polar and grizzly bears , wolves, wolverines, caribou, beluga whales, musk oxen and walruses that call this area home. Though wildlife outnumbers people here, both the Gwich’in and Iñupiat people reside on and live off resources from the land.  Sometimes calling themselves “caribou people,” the Gwich’in have based their culture around these reindeer for centuries. The Gwich’in live in 15 villages across northeast  Alaska  and northwest Canada and have actively fought against gas and oil leasing. David Smith, a Gwich’in leader in Arctic Village, worries that the industries will harm caribou and change his nation’s way of life. “I would say this is like no other place on earth, so we shouldn’t be treated like any other place on earth,” Smith said in an interview with  Alaska Public Media . “I can drive in any direction and  hunt  freely. I can drive in any direction and go trapping.” Despite the recent news, the fight to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge continues. Still, environmental groups say that once companies buy drilling rights, it will be harder for future presidents to stop  Arctic  drilling. “The Trump administration never stops pushing to drill in the Arctic Refuge — and we will never stop suing them,” said Gina McCarthy, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “America has safeguarded the refuge for decades, and we will not allow the administration to strip that protection away now.” Via Thomson Reuters Foundation Image via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters

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Trump administration furthers Arctic drilling plan

Coconut oil production is a danger to vulnerable species

July 29, 2020 by  
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Coconut oil has been in the spotlight for a while now as a superstar for personal care and healthier eating. It might seem like a miracle product, but a new study is highlighting the negative impacts of coconut oil that lurk in the shadows. Other oils, mainly palm oil , have made headlines for years. Grown in tropical areas, palm oil harvested from trees is widely acknowledged as a threat to the habitats of endangered species. Related: Dutch designer creates leather alternative from palm leaves For the discerning consumer, it can be difficult to gather information about how products you purchase are made. But the truth is all consumable products have an impact on the planet, including coconut oil, a trendy health food and personal care product. A team of researchers wanted to provide more information regarding the harvest of coconuts to consumers, but even they were surprised by the results of their study. Lead author Erik Meijaard has worked in tropical conservation for nearly three decades, so he’s familiar with the frequent publication of information about palm oil and the lack of information around other similar plants. “Both of them are tropical plants that are occupying large areas that previously would have been covered in natural forest,” he said. “Why does one end up being evil and the other one being wonderful?” The cultivation of coconut oil has been detrimental to ecosystems and is even expected to be responsible for the extinction of some animals, including the Marianne white eye, a tiny bird, and the feared-to-be-extinct Ontong Java flying fox, found only on the Solomon Islands. Other species currently threatened by coconut production are the endangered Sangihe tarsier, a small primate native to the Sangihe island of Indonesia, and the Balabac mouse-deer, which is only found on three islands in the Philippines. According to the study , now in several publications, the production of coconut oil is a danger to 20 threatened species per million liters of oil produced, the standard measurement used in establishing the level of destruction caused by production. Comparatively, palm oil measures in at 3.8 species per million liters, and soybean oil impacts 1.3 species per million liters. Another interesting tidbit from the study shows that coconut farms actually cover significantly less land space than other oil crops. For example, compared to the estimated 30.4 million acres for coconut palms, oil palms cover 46.7 million acres. The overall impact is higher, however, based on the IUCN’s Red List. The study reports that coconut plantations affect 66 species on the list, including 29 vertebrates, seven arthropods, two mollusks and 28 plants. Although this revelation on coconut oil might be shocking, it’s intended to be informative for consumers. “We want to be very careful not to say that coconut is actually a greater problem than palm oil,” Meijaard said. The study goes on to report that coconut isn’t the only culprit, and we need to maintain a wider lens when it comes to oil production. For example, the machines that harvest olive oil are blamed for the death of over 2.5 million birds each year. The researchers felt it was important to dig into the effects of oil production in products typically seen as healthy and low-impact environmentally, because these types of oils seem to benefit from a pass by the critical eye of the media and environmentalists. “What we’re really trying to say, and trying to get the public to understand, is that all agricultural commodities have their own issues,” Meijaard explained. Co-author Jesse F. Abrams added, “When making decisions about what we buy, we need to be aware of our cultural biases and examine the problem from a lens that is not only based on Western perspectives to avoid dangerous double standards.” Overall, the goal of the study wasn’t to target coconut oil production but to bring awareness to the need for more information about all consumer purchasing decisions. “At the moment, we’re simply not there yet,” Meijaard said. “We can pick any crop , and there are huge holes in our understanding and knowledge about their impact, so it’s a call from us for scientists, politicians, and the public to demand better information about commodities.” Douglas Sheil, co-author of the study, added, “Consumers need to realize that all our agricultural commodities, and not just tropical crops, have negative environmental impacts. We need to provide consumers with sound information to guide their choices.” + Coconut Oil, Conservation and the Conscientious Consumer Via Mongabay Images via Ogutier , Marie Osaki and Monicore

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Coconut oil production is a danger to vulnerable species

Could a private car ban make NYC more livable?

July 29, 2020 by  
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When COVID-19 brought New York City’s traffic to a shadow of itself, Vishaan Chakrabarti, former New York City urban-planning official and founder of Manhattan-based design firm Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) , drafted an ambitious plan for a car-free future. Dubbed N.Y.C. (“Not Your Car”) , the proposal calls for banning private cars to create a more livable city via cleaner air, fewer car deaths and greater space allocated to the pedestrian realm. PAU’s reimagined roadways would also bolster infrastructure for cycling, ride-sharing and public transportation.  According to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign , over half of New York CIty’s households do not own a car, and the majority of people who do own cars not use them for commuting. However, the amount of space that Manhattan devotes to cars adds up to nearly four times the size of Central Park, as seen in a diagram shared in The New York Times . PAU’s proposal asserts that banning private cars would not only reduce traffic but would also improve life for almost everyone who lives and works in dense American cities by freeing up space for new housing, parks and pedestrian promenades. Related: London creates massive car-free zones as the city reopens “In the case of New York City, the air in the Bronx and Queens, which are largely populated by immigrants and people of color, is more polluted than the other boroughs due to traffic sitting idle on the roads leading to Manhattan,” PAU explained. “Among other ailments, long-term exposure to polluted air is thought to increase the deadliness of COVID-19 , which is a direct result of structural racism in the city. By improving air quality, and thus reducing the health risks that invariably come along with it, the city can begin to tackle the environmental racism that plagues our communities.” The plan also offers suggestions for reengineering car-free roads with two-way bike lanes with protective barriers, dedicated bus lanes, larger dedicated trash areas to replace parking spaces, and additional crosswalks. Bridges would also be rethought; the seven-lane Manhattan Bridge, for instance, could replace four car lanes with bus lanes, paths for cyclists and a pedestrian promenade, while the remaining lanes would be used for taxis and ride-share vehicles. Local communities would also be encouraged to take part in deciding how to reclaim their car-free roads. + Practice for Architecture and Urbanism Images via Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

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Applying rock dust to farms could boost carbon sequestration

July 10, 2020 by  
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A report in the journal Nature has revealed that enhanced rock weathering (ERW) could help slow climate change by sucking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This process involves spreading rock dust on farmland to help absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide. When rocks, such as basalt and other silicates, are crushed and added to the soil, they dissolve and react with carbon dioxide, forming carbonates and lock carbon dioxide. Although this is the first time that scientists are proposing this approach in dealing with carbon dioxide, it is not a new concept. Normally, farmers use limestone dust on the soil to reduce acidification. The use of limestone in agriculture helps enhance yield. If the proposed enhanced rock weathering technique is adopted, farmers could incorporate other types of rock dust on their land. Related: Eos Bioreactor uses AI and algae to combat climate change According to the study, this approach could help capture up to 2 billion metric tons of CO2 each year. This is equal to the combined emissions of Germany and Japan. Interestingly, this technique is much cheaper than conventional methods of carbon capturing. The scientists behind the study say that the cost of capturing a ton of CO2 could be as low as $55 in countries such as India, China, Mexico, Indonesia and Brazil. For the U.S., Canada and Europe, the cost of capturing one metric ton of CO2 with ERW would be about $160. The scientists propose using basalt as the optimal rock for ERW. Given that basalt is already produced in most mines as a byproduct, adding it to farmland soils can easily be instituted. Further, the countries that contribute the highest amounts of carbon dioxide are the best candidates for the ERW technique. Countries such as China, India and the U.S. have large farmlands that can be used to capture excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Given that carbon emissions are a big problem for the entire world, this technique might just be the light at the end of the tunnel. The enhanced rock weathering technique is affordable and practical, making it a win-win. + Nature Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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3 keys for scaling nature-based solutions for climate adaptation

June 17, 2020 by  
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3 keys for scaling nature-based solutions for climate adaptation Jonathan Cook Wed, 06/17/2020 – 00:30 This article originally was published in World Resources Institute . In Indonesia, climate change is already a pernicious threat. More than 30 million people across northern Java suffer from coastal flooding and erosion related to more severe storms and sea level rise. In some places, entire villages and more than a mile of coastline have been lost to the sea. The flooding and erosion are exacerbated by the destruction of natural mangrove forests. These forests absorb the brunt of waves’ impact, significantly reducing both the height and speed of waves reaching shore. And mature mangroves can store nearly 1,000 tons of carbon per hectare, thus mitigating climate change while also helping communities adapt. Without mangroves, 18 million more people worldwide would suffer from coastal flooding each year (an increase of 39 percent). That’s why in Demak, Java, a diverse group of residents, NGOs, universities and the Indonesian government are working together on the “Building with Nature” project to restore a 12-mile belt of mangroves . The project, managed by Wetlands International, already has improved the district’s climate resilience, protecting communities from coastal flooding and absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Countries around the world can harness the power of nature to adapt to climate impacts. Nature-based solutions are an underused climate adaptation strategy Java isn’t the only place where nature-based solutions can make a difference. Countries around the world can harness the power of nature to adapt to climate impacts. Coastal wetlands can defend communities from storm surge and sea level rise. Well-managed forests can protect water supplies, reduce wildfire risk and prevent landslides. Green space in cities can alleviate heat stress and reduce flooding. While we don’t yet have a full accounting of this potential, we do know that, for instance, wetland ecosystems cover about 8 percent of the planet’s land surface and the ecosystem services they provide — including flood protection, fisheries habitat and water purification — are worth up to $15 trillion . For example, offshore fisheries in areas with mangroves provide fishermen with an average of 271 pounds of fish (worth about $44) per hour, compared to an average of 40 pounds (only $2 to $3 per hour in places without mangroves). Yet despite nature’s ability to provide vast economic and climate resilience benefits, many countries are not fully using nature-based solutions for adaptation, according to research by the U.N. Environment Program World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) produced for the Global Commission on Adaptation. Of 167 Nationally Determined Contributions submitted under the Paris Agreement, just 70 include nature-based adaptation actions; the majority of those are in low-income countries. The Global Commission on Adaptation is working with leading organizations and countries, including the governments of Canada, Mexico and Peru, the Global Environment Facility and the U.N. Environment Program, to scale these approaches globally through its Nature-Based Solutions Action Track . According to the Commission’s Adapt Now report  — which builds on UNEP-WCMC’s research — three crucial steps are needed to make this happen: 1. Raise understanding of the value of nature Policymakers need to better understand the value of natural capital such as mangroves and other ecosystems that provide important benefits for communities. For example, it can be 2 to 5 times cheaper to restore coastal wetlands than to construct breakwaters ­— artificial barriers typically made out of granite — yet both protect coasts from the impact of waves. The median cost for mangrove restoration is about 1 cent per square foot. This is far less than the often prohibitive cost of most built infrastructure. Mangrove areas yield other benefits, too, as illustrated by the effect on fisheries. In fact, the commission found the total net benefits of protecting mangroves globally is $1 trillion by 2030. While some research of this kind exists, countries often need place-specific assessments to identify the best opportunities to use nature-based solutions for adaptation. Governments also should consider that local and indigenous communities often have ample understanding of nature’s value for people, and should seek out and include this knowledge in plans and policies. The success of the “Building with Nature” project, for example, relied on the full involvement of local residents. Policymakers need to better understand the value of natural capital such as mangroves and other ecosystems that provide important benefits for communities. 2. Embed nature-based solutions into climate adaptation planning Nature-based solutions often work best when people use them at larger scales — across whole landscapes, ecosystems or cities. Governments are often best placed to plan climate adaptation at this scale given their access to resources and ability to make policy and coordinate among multiple actors. To be successful, they should include nature-based solutions in their adaptation planning from the start. Mexico’s approach to water management highlights how one way this can be achieved. Water supplies are especially vulnerable to climate change, as shifting rainfall patterns cause droughts in some places and floods in others. Mexico is proactively protecting its water on a national scale by designating water reserves in more than one-third of the country’s river basins. These protected areas and wetlands cover nearly 124 million acres and ensure a secure water supply for some 45 million people downstream. This approach can work in many other places. Research on cities’ water supplies shows that by conserving and restoring upstream forests, water utilities in the world’s 534 largest cities could better regulate water flows and collectively save $890 million in treatment costs each year. 3. Encourage investment in nature-based solutions Communities and countries often cite access to funding as a barrier to implementing nature-based solutions, and to climate adaptation efforts overall. But, as UNEP-WCMC highlights, governments can spur investment in these approaches by reorienting their policies, subsidies and public investments. They can also better incentivize private investors to finance adaptation projects. Many governments, private sector and philanthropic actors have funds that could be used for nature-based adaptation solutions — but a lack of awareness has hindered their widespread use. Part of the solution is helping communities and countries better understand what funding opportunities exist, learn from successful financing models and identify gaps that could be filled by interested donor countries, development institutions and private investors — an effort the commission is undertaking. The benefits of nature-based solutions go far beyond climate adaptation. From the heart of the city to vast forests and coastal wetlands, healthy ecosystems underpin societies and economies. Canada’s $1.6 billion Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund is one example of a public financing approach. This fund helps communities manage risks from floods, wildfires, droughts and other natural hazards by providing investments in both green (nature-based) and gray (built) infrastructure. Much like the mangroves in Indonesia, Canada has its own coastal wetlands that protect its coasts from sea level rise. The fund recently invested $20 million into a project that is restoring salt marshes and improving levees along the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. Once complete, the Bay of Fundy project will reduce coastal flooding that affects tens of thousands of residents, including indigenous communities, as well as World Heritage sites and more than 49,000 acres of farmland. Protecting nature protects people The benefits of nature-based solutions go far beyond climate adaptation. From the heart of the city to vast forests and coastal wetlands, healthy ecosystems underpin societies and economies. They provide food, fuel and livelihoods; sustain cultural traditions; and offer health and recreation benefits. Many of these solutions actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, serving as climate mitigation strategies as well . They also provide critical habitat for biodiversity. The Global Commission on Adaptation is establishing a group of frontrunner countries, cities and communities to highlight successes, stimulate greater commitments and increase attention to nature’s underappreciated role in climate adaptation. By taking these steps to scale up nature-based solutions, we can realize the potential of nature to advance climate adaptation and protect those most likely to be affected by climate change. Pull Quote Countries around the world can harness the power of nature to adapt to climate impacts. Policymakers need to better understand the value of natural capital such as mangroves and other ecosystems that provide important benefits for communities. The benefits of nature-based solutions go far beyond climate adaptation. From the heart of the city to vast forests and coastal wetlands, healthy ecosystems underpin societies and economies. Topics Risk & Resilience Risk Nature Based Solutions Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Scenic path on mangrove forest at Bama Beach in the Baluran National Park, a forest preservation area on the north coast of East Java, Indonesia Shutterstock Ivan Effendy Halim Close Authorship

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To make offices safe during COVID-19, buildings need a breath of fresh air

June 15, 2020 by  
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To make offices safe during COVID-19, buildings need a breath of fresh air Jesse Klein Mon, 06/15/2020 – 02:00 The coronavirus thrives inside. A Hong Kong paper found that of over 7,000 COVID-19 cases, only one outbreak was contracted outdoors. In Seoul, an infection cluster was so concentrated that even on a 19-floor building, the outbreak was contained to just one floor, and almost entirely on one side of that floor. The data seems to indicate that infections occur in dense inside areas with shared airspace, compounded by recirculating that air — the definition of a modern office building.  Over the past decade, the density of office buildings has increased in a bid for ever-increasing efficiency. The move from cubicles to open planning drastically decreased the average space per employee in an office. The average cubicle is usually between 6 feet by 6 feet and 8 feet by 12 feet. A standard office desk for an open plan is almost half that, typically 5 feet wide and 2.5 feet deep . Another side effect of open planning was more people sharing the same air with fewer physical barriers.  To keep energy costs low, contractors worked to tightly seal buildings including designing windows that don’t open. Improvements in ventilation technology have decreased energy consumption by up to 30 percent. Better filtration systems including HEPA filters, ionization, ultraviolet lights and active carbon have increased the quality of recirculated air, without having to increase the amount of fresh air in the building.  These denser, more shared office buildings were considered more sustainable because they used less energy and contained more people on a smaller carbon footprint. But they also seem to have created the perfect breeding ground for infection.  Forcing some of the owners of these buildings just to fix some of their systems that have been broken for a long time is a step in the right direction. Corporate sustainability experts are hoping that as COVID-19 forces corporate office managers to reevaluate their current setups, it also will be an opportunity to create more sustainable ventilation systems.  Pre-pandemic, LEED and WELL standards helped offices create more environmentally friendly and healthier ventilation systems. But even if LEED-certified buildings have ventilation systems that are up to code, the facilities managers haven’t always been enforcing or maintaining them. According to Joe Snider, green architect and founder of Integrative Sustainability Solutions, these buildings might be up to LEED standards on paper but in reality, they aren’t operating that way. The coronavirus could be a driving force in changing that, he said.  “Forcing some of the owners of these buildings just to fix some of their systems that have been broken for a long time is a step in the right direction,” said Richard Kingston, vice president of sustainability at HPN Select, a building materials procurement business based in North Carolina.  Offices might have to look for tactics from other industries in order to bring workers back to the office. For example, conference rooms that squeeze a mass of people in a small closed-off space are unlikely to be desirable to employees for a long while. Facility managers might need to consider negative pressure systems that can expel all the air in the room, similar to how infectious patients are contained in hospitals, for this type of collaboration. Companies including the San Francisco-based vertical farm Plenty are already organizing workers in cohorts who come in on the same days so if an outbreak occurs, it will be contained to one set of workers. Managers of traditional office space might need to consider doing the same. But the ventilation itself also will need divisions to contain an outbreak within a cohort as much as possible. “You’ll need to divide systems up so that massive rooms are not ventilated by the same ventilator that then blows air across the room,” said Clinton Moloney, managing director of sustainability solutions at Engie Impact. “Because what you don’t want to do is blow a continuous infection across a large space.” According to Gensler technical director Ambrose Aliaga Kelly, we could see a new wave of underfloor ventilation common in upscale theaters and concert halls such as Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City. Workers will be very conscious of air being forced down onto them by overhead vents. Underfloor ventilation creates safer and better air quality with the added benefit of being more sustainable. The New York Times Building and the San Francisco Federal Building are just two examples of places that opted for this type of ventilation long before an infection started sweeping the globe. Concerning implications for energy consumption But some ways of mitigating virus transference indoors also could push employers in the opposite direction of energy efficiency.  As workers return to the offices, the amount of fresh air in a building could be one of the most drastic shifts facilities have to make. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers ( ASHRAE ) 62.1. Code an outdoor air minimum for healthy buildings of about 15 percent, according to Kelly. Most of what people breathe inside is recirculated air.  Architects predict that the amount of fresh air in buildings will skyrocket. Buildings might have to embrace windows that open, increase the fresh air take up and invest in outdoor workspaces. Brandywine Realty Trust , a commercial landlord in Philadelphia, already has adjusted its systems to maximize the amount of fresh outside air in its buildings. Along with hopefully mitigating coronavirus infections, studies have shown that increases in fresh air create more productive and healthier workers. The Centers for Disease Control released guidelines for businesses on ventilation during COVID-19 that recommend up to 100 percent outdoor air, if possible. But with more outdoor air, the energy to heat and cool that air also will increase.  Suddenly you’re having to condition all that [outdoor] air. And that’s where the energy bill can really spike. “That’s kind of the trade-off with better ventilation,” Snider said. “The system itself is not necessarily more expensive. Suddenly you’re having to condition all that [outdoor] air. And that’s where the energy bill can really spike.”  He believes there are opportunities beyond just defaulting to MAX ventilation that will push up energy consumption, such as being able to set ventilation systems in meeting rooms so while it is occupied the ventilation is high, continues to crank for a little while after people leave and then ramps down while the space is empty. If office buildings decide the energy emissions and costs are worth bringing people back to the office safely, Moloney expects an increased focus on renewable energy credits and offsets in order for companies to continue to meet its sustainability goals. According to a 2011 paper by researchers at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), strategies for better indoor air quality can exist in conjunction with energy efficiencies including envelope airtightness, heat recovery ventilation, demand-controlled ventilation and improved system maintenance. Facilities managers might become the new heroes of the office building. They will need to start stepping up into a more visible role as employees demand a better understanding of their office’s maintenance systems. A focus on better filters and, more important, remembering to replace those filters will move from a banal chore to a priority.  The changes in the density of the workplace also could push employers to invest in more sophisticated systems and sensors to increase energy efficiencies. As remote work continues and staggered shifts with fewer people in the office at one time become the norm, offices will need to adjust their ventilation systems. Executives won’t want to waste money and energy on a half-empty building. Demand control CO2 sensors measure the number of people in a room based on breath and can adjust the systems accordingly. And automatic thermometer and ventilation controls will help remove human error. “You’re eliminating the need for somebody to flip the switch,” Kingston said. “And if you can eliminate the need, you’re gonna save energy costs.”  The pandemic has shifted air quality from a side benefit of sustainable buildings to a prime objective of many construction projects, sustainable or not. Experts hope the crisis is the opportunity to turn every construction project into a sustainable one.  “Not only are we addressing what’s going on right now, but we’re putting in place things that are going to affect the workspace in the future,” Kingston said. “And those are all things that needed to change for a long time.” Pull Quote Forcing some of the owners of these buildings just to fix some of their systems that have been broken for a long time is a step in the right direction. Suddenly you’re having to condition all that [outdoor] air. And that’s where the energy bill can really spike. Topics COVID-19 Buildings Energy & Climate HVAC 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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Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production

June 10, 2020 by  
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Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production Dean Cycon Wed, 06/10/2020 – 01:00 When you sit back with a good cup of coffee, you will be engulfed in the warmth, aroma, taste, acidity and body of the brew. Yet, swirling beneath the surface all of the major issues of the 21st century — climate change, globalization, immigration, women’s rights and wealth inequity — are being played out in remote coffee villages around the world.  How companies behave in the coffee trade has a direct impact not only on the lives and livelihoods of 28 million coffee farming families but on the welfare of the planet itself. Coffee companies claiming to be “ethical” or “sustainable” that refuse to pay a living wage to the farmers are fueling this longstanding human and environmental crisis.  Changes in rainfall patterns and temperature weaken coffee plants and reduce yields. Climate-enhanced fungi and bacteria decimate coffee plants, leaving families with little or no income for the next five years until new trees can be planted and mature. Larger farm owners must deforest land and plant more coffee to make up for the historically low prices they are receiving from the market. This deforestation inhibits carbon sequestration, which leads to higher temperatures. The cycle is self-fulfilling.  As a result, coffee production will be greatly limited in medium and lower elevations by 2030 to 2050. When production is reduced, farmers may use more chemicals in the growing process, which harms the soil and water sources, further degrading the planet and human health. Coffee, poverty and migration are also connected. The largest single group of migrants trying to cross the southern border are from Guatemala, and most of them are from the coffee lands of Huehuetenango province. They are unemployed and landless coffee farming families hoping for a better life.  The price per pound paid to coffee farmers is based on the “New York C price,” a commodity system that operates much like a stock market. For several years, the C price for coffee has hovered around the farmer’s cost of production ($0.80-$1.10), which means no profit for the farmers. From a high in 2014, prices paid to farmers have plummeted by 70 percent and now dance around $1 per pound. Every pound a farmer sells, and every cup we drink, pushes a farmer deeper into poverty and despair.  If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. Companies are not required to base their payments to farmers on the C price, and many of us do not. Organic and Bird Friendly certifications offer a price premium to the farmer. Fair Trade provides a “living wage floor” and many committed Fair Traders pay substantially higher prices. The few real Direct Traders offer real price premiums for limited amounts of high-quality coffee. Many companies hide behind labels, such as Rainforest Alliance or Utz Kapeh, or self-created programs such as “Ethical Sourcing,” which sound good but do not guarantee higher prices.  Ironically, coffee company profits may be the highest in history. Companies such as Smuckers and Starbucks continue to raise their prices while their main cost of goods (buying coffee beans) has dropped considerably. According to the United Nations, the ratio between what the farmer was paid and what the companies sold their coffee for was 1:3 during the 1970s. Today, it is as high as 1:20, as many consumers are paying $20 a pound.  In 2012, Starbucks reported its average price for green beans was $2.56 per pound . However, that is the price it paid to the broker, not to the farmer. After backing out shipping, insurance, importer and exporter and mill costs, that price would be closer to $2.20 paid per pound to the farmer. By 2014, Starbucks was only paying $1.72 to the broker (maybe $1.36 to the farmer). By paying the lower amount, Starbucks took $387 million out of the farmers’ pockets. As green prices keep falling, Starbucks has continued to pay coffee farmers less, while charging consumers more.  So, who is winning this game? Not the farmers, not the public and not the environment. Instead of paying enough to support the farmers, large and small coffee companies contribute lesser amounts to nonprofits for clean water, health and environmental projects under the banner of “corporate sustainability.” If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. If Starbucks returned to its 2012 broker and farmer prices, it nearly would double family income on most small farms. To family farms in Nicaragua, Peru, Ethiopia and Indonesia, that $1,400 could pay for healthcare, children’s education, proper nutrition and technology to produce higher yields and reduce their need to clear land. Even a 25-cent increase in the price paid to farmers, which would get Starbucks closer to the prices paid by truly committed coffee companies, would bring $150 million back to the farms and its stock price would not even blink. As an industry, we have lived long and well by treating farmers just like coffee. We see them as fungible commodities instead of true partners in the success of our businesses who are integral to effective adaptation to climate change and other issues of the day. The days of maximizing profits without seriously incorporating farmers’ concerns that bind us all together are over. It is time to pay up. Pull Quote If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. Topics Food & Agriculture Equity & Inclusion Environmental Justice 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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Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production

Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production

June 10, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Green

Comments Off on Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production

Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production Dean Cycon Wed, 06/10/2020 – 01:00 When you sit back with a good cup of coffee, you will be engulfed in the warmth, aroma, taste, acidity and body of the brew. Yet, swirling beneath the surface all of the major issues of the 21st century — climate change, globalization, immigration, women’s rights and wealth inequity — are being played out in remote coffee villages around the world.  How companies behave in the coffee trade has a direct impact not only on the lives and livelihoods of 28 million coffee farming families but on the welfare of the planet itself. Coffee companies claiming to be “ethical” or “sustainable” that refuse to pay a living wage to the farmers are fueling this longstanding human and environmental crisis.  Changes in rainfall patterns and temperature weaken coffee plants and reduce yields. Climate-enhanced fungi and bacteria decimate coffee plants, leaving families with little or no income for the next five years until new trees can be planted and mature. Larger farm owners must deforest land and plant more coffee to make up for the historically low prices they are receiving from the market. This deforestation inhibits carbon sequestration, which leads to higher temperatures. The cycle is self-fulfilling.  As a result, coffee production will be greatly limited in medium and lower elevations by 2030 to 2050. When production is reduced, farmers may use more chemicals in the growing process, which harms the soil and water sources, further degrading the planet and human health. Coffee, poverty and migration are also connected. The largest single group of migrants trying to cross the southern border are from Guatemala, and most of them are from the coffee lands of Huehuetenango province. They are unemployed and landless coffee farming families hoping for a better life.  The price per pound paid to coffee farmers is based on the “New York C price,” a commodity system that operates much like a stock market. For several years, the C price for coffee has hovered around the farmer’s cost of production ($0.80-$1.10), which means no profit for the farmers. From a high in 2014, prices paid to farmers have plummeted by 70 percent and now dance around $1 per pound. Every pound a farmer sells, and every cup we drink, pushes a farmer deeper into poverty and despair.  If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. Companies are not required to base their payments to farmers on the C price, and many of us do not. Organic and Bird Friendly certifications offer a price premium to the farmer. Fair Trade provides a “living wage floor” and many committed Fair Traders pay substantially higher prices. The few real Direct Traders offer real price premiums for limited amounts of high-quality coffee. Many companies hide behind labels, such as Rainforest Alliance or Utz Kapeh, or self-created programs such as “Ethical Sourcing,” which sound good but do not guarantee higher prices.  Ironically, coffee company profits may be the highest in history. Companies such as Smuckers and Starbucks continue to raise their prices while their main cost of goods (buying coffee beans) has dropped considerably. According to the United Nations, the ratio between what the farmer was paid and what the companies sold their coffee for was 1:3 during the 1970s. Today, it is as high as 1:20, as many consumers are paying $20 a pound.  In 2012, Starbucks reported its average price for green beans was $2.56 per pound . However, that is the price it paid to the broker, not to the farmer. After backing out shipping, insurance, importer and exporter and mill costs, that price would be closer to $2.20 paid per pound to the farmer. By 2014, Starbucks was only paying $1.72 to the broker (maybe $1.36 to the farmer). By paying the lower amount, Starbucks took $387 million out of the farmers’ pockets. As green prices keep falling, Starbucks has continued to pay coffee farmers less, while charging consumers more.  So, who is winning this game? Not the farmers, not the public and not the environment. Instead of paying enough to support the farmers, large and small coffee companies contribute lesser amounts to nonprofits for clean water, health and environmental projects under the banner of “corporate sustainability.” If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. If Starbucks returned to its 2012 broker and farmer prices, it nearly would double family income on most small farms. To family farms in Nicaragua, Peru, Ethiopia and Indonesia, that $1,400 could pay for healthcare, children’s education, proper nutrition and technology to produce higher yields and reduce their need to clear land. Even a 25-cent increase in the price paid to farmers, which would get Starbucks closer to the prices paid by truly committed coffee companies, would bring $150 million back to the farms and its stock price would not even blink. As an industry, we have lived long and well by treating farmers just like coffee. We see them as fungible commodities instead of true partners in the success of our businesses who are integral to effective adaptation to climate change and other issues of the day. The days of maximizing profits without seriously incorporating farmers’ concerns that bind us all together are over. It is time to pay up. Pull Quote If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. Topics Food & Agriculture Equity & Inclusion Environmental Justice 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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Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production

Indonesian Microlibrary uses prefab FSC-certified timber

April 23, 2020 by  
Filed under Green, Recycle

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In the Indonesian city of Semarang, international architecture firm SHAU has completed Microlibrary Warak Kayu, an inspiring new public space that raises the bar for community design and sustainable architecture. Prefabricated with only FSC-certified timber, the new neighborhood icon is the fifth built project in the Microlibrary series, an initiative to encourage reading in low-income areas by creating “socially performative multifunctional community spaces with environmentally conscious designs and materials.” In addition to the exclusive use of sustainably grown and logged timbers, the project is the first library in Indonesia made entirely of FSC-certified wood. The Microlibrary Warak Kayu is also designed around passive solar principles so that no air conditioning is needed. Built for approximately $75,000, the Microlibrary Warak Kayu was made possible through a collaborative community, private sector and government partnership. As a gift from the Arkatama Isvara Foundation to the City of Semarang, the Microlibrary is free and open for public use. Inspired by traditional Indonesian architecture, the architects modeled the building after the ‘rumah panggung’ (house on stilts) and elevated the structure to create various spatial configurations. The diamond-shaped  brise soleil  that wraps around the building evokes the scales of the local mythical creature ‘Warak Ngendog.’ That likeness gave rise to the building’s name, Warak Kayu, which means Wooden Warak.  In addition to celebrating elements of local culture and architecture, the microlibrary serves as a living educational showcase for Indonesian engineered wood products and manufacturing capabilities. All the wooden materials were sustainably logged in Central Kalimantan and then shipped from Sampit over the Java Sea to the nearby Semarang factory, where PT Kayu Lapis Indonesia handled the  prefabrication  process. A variety of timbers were used, from the tropical hardwood Bangkirai for the main structural frame to different Meranti-based plywoods for the decking and the brise soleil.  Related: Microlibrary built with 2,000 recycled ice cream buckets tackles illiteracy in Indonesia Although temperatures in Semarang can rise into the 90s, the Microlibrary Warak Kayu stays naturally cool thanks to the implementation of passive climate principles. The brise soleil and deep roof overhangs protect the interior from unwanted solar gain, while openings promote  cross ventilation to cool the building. The natural breezes also help protect books from moisture damage caused by humidity.  + SHAU Images by KIE

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