Bond Pet Foods develops slaughter-free chicken for sustainable pet food

September 3, 2020 by  
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It’s an ethical conundrum vegetarian pet owners frequently face — isn’t it hypocritical to eschew meat consumption yourself while still supporting animal slaughter by purchasing pet food? Those days of having to choose Fluffy over a nameless abattoir victim may be coming to an end as Bond Pet Foods improves a new lab-grown chicken protein technology. The Boulder, Colorado-based biotech company has figured out how to crack the genetic code of a chicken and replicate it in a lab. In this case, Inga, a farm-dwelling heritage hen from Lindsborg, Kansas, was the blood donor. Food chemists combine the genetic code in a fermentation tank with food-grade yeast, and voilà, they’ve created something identical to animal meat. The fermentation process is similar to one commonly used to make enzymes for cheese. Related: 7 ways to be an eco-friendly pet owner “A new wave of responsible food production is emerging, working with the best that nature and science has to offer, and our team is leading this wave in Pet,” said Rich Kelleman, co-founder and CEO of Bond Pet Foods. “Our team’s continued developments are laying the foundation to bring high-value meat protein and nutrition to dogs and cats, while removing farm animals from the equation.” Don’t race to your local pet food store just yet. Bond aims to have the slaughter-free pet food on shelves by 2023 with support from seed investors. In the meantime, an early test of a dog treat made from the cultured chicken protein was a success with canine consumers. “Our initial tests with dog volunteers have been very promising, and its nutritionals, palatability and digestibility will only improve on our path to commercialization,” said Pernilla Audibert, co-founder and CTO of Bond Pet Foods. “The science team at Bond is also working on production of other cultured meat proteins made through a similar fermentation process. The successful chicken prototype is a demonstration of our technology’s potential to create a complete portfolio of animal proteins for pet consumption, and beyond.” + Bond Pet Foods Via VegNews Image via Bond Pet Foods

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Bond Pet Foods develops slaughter-free chicken for sustainable pet food

Modern passive house is carbon-negative and energy-positive

August 26, 2020 by  
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Designed by McLean Quinlan Architects, the Devon Passivhaus combines contemporary architecture with a rustic outdoor setting. The modern passive house uses a minimalist-yet-elegant brick wall as its facade, with a discreet doorway carved into the front and a simple oriel glass window to peek inside at the stunning interiors. The brick design is modeled after an existing garden wall that connects the property, while the front door mimics the style of an old gate that would have accompanied such a wall in the past. The original garden and footprint inspired the design of the home, while the historic brick paths leading up to the property were restored as well. The house is certified Passive and includes eco-friendly features such as air source heating, MVHR, solar power , battery storage, super-insulation and triple-glazing in order to sustain over 100% of its required energy. Related: Local earth bricks form this inspiring co-working space in Ouagadougou Past the initial brick and into the interior of the home, a glass roofed courtyard with a winter garden is located in the center, helping to channel natural light to the inside. Natural and repurposed materials, including reclaimed terracotta, sawn oak wood and clay plaster, are found throughout the home in order to connect it with the outdoors. The clients are also avid art collectors, so the designers were sure to include spaces to display and curate their many pieces of pottery and paintings. The project leaders decided to aim toward passive capability after achieving planning under the open countryside house route. “We’d always aimed to make the house high performing, but having a benchmark to aim for and test against enabled the whole project team to get behind the ambition,” said Fiona McLean of McLean and Quinlan Architects. “The wall panels, 4Wall fromTribus, were an innovative product. A ‘hyperSIP’ panel constructed using steel framing and magnesium oxide boards sandwiching PIR insulation. Their benefits were excellent airtightness, waterproof, minimal thermal bridging, good core strength and low U-Values.” According to the clients, they’ve become carbon-negative and energy-positive by 40% thanks to the clever design. In the sunny summer months, the house generates 3,500kwh of electricity while only using 60kwh, with remaining power stored in the grid. + McLean and Quinlan Photography by Jim Stephenson via McLean and Quinlan

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Modern passive house is carbon-negative and energy-positive

The prefab Tiny Tetra House in Bali is made of recycled waste

August 24, 2020 by  
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Launched by Stilt Studios, the Tiny Tetra House in Bali is a small, prefabricated home that makes use of recycled waste materials, wood and glass for construction plus an elevated base for minimal site impact. Tiny Tetra House has 688 square feet of space with a diagonally oriented floor plan. It is elevated 40 centimeters off the ground via point foundations in order to help blend the structure into the surroundings. There is a bedroom, en suite bathroom, open kitchen, living room and outdoor terraces. Apart from the sustainable advantages of the recycled elements used in construction, the materials also act as an artistic reflective agent. Related: The FLEXSE tiny house module is built from 100% recyclable materials “At Stilt Studios, we believe we have the responsibility for both creating unique designs and reducing the environmental impact of our buildings,” said Alexis Dornier, co-founder and chief designer at Stilt Studios. “How about if we could not only reduce total material used and the footprint, but be a part of the circular economy by the choice of material used.” Bali’s waste recycling problem is similar to many places around the world, as most of what gets thrown away doesn’t end up getting recycled. The studio hopes to use this project as an example of contributing positively to the local community and the circular economy. The roof and walls of Tiny Tetra House are made of recycled Tetra Pak beverage cartons, with panels made of 25% plastic and aluminum provided by Eco Bali Recycle. This aluminum layer ensures 100% waterproofing and is proven to be more insulating and noise-reducing than common tin sheets. The contemporary sloping design of the roof helps channel rainwater to be stored for garden irrigation, and facade panels provide cross-ventilation for natural temperature regulation. The first prototype is set to be built this August, with sales starting to open up by October. Those interested can check out the project’s Kickstarter page, which Stilt Studios is using to increase community feedback. Supporters of the project can purchase a voucher to stay at the Tiny Tetra House in Bali once it is built. + Stilt Studios Images via Stilt Studios

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The prefab Tiny Tetra House in Bali is made of recycled waste

There’s a big appetite for farm-to-consumer shopping

August 21, 2020 by  
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There’s a big appetite for farm-to-consumer shopping Jim Giles Fri, 08/21/2020 – 01:45 Avrom Farm sits in the hills above Green Lake in central Wisconsin. With 5,000 chickens, 200 pigs and six acres of vegetables, it’s a minnow in an industry dominated by an increasingly small number of producers and processors.  In March, a stay-at-home order hit the region. In just a week, the restaurants the farm sold to shut up shop, and local farmers’ markets closed. That might have been the end for Avrom. But then something interesting happened. Owner Hayden Holbert cleared space in a corner of his barn and created a tiny fulfillment center, the back-end operation for an online store and delivery service that he had quickly set up. Then he added products from nearby farms to the site.  Soon his digital business outgrew the barn and had to be moved into a newly constructed hoop house. In a few weeks, business online had pretty much compensated for the losses from restaurants and markets. Now Holbert is raising money to outfit an even larger space nearby, complete with a retail store, which will allow him to sell direct to local people year round. Stories such as Holbert’s have popped up repeatedly in the five months since the coronavirus pandemic forced the United States into varying degrees of lockdown. “There’s been a big uptick in demand — probably 3X,” Joe Heitzeberg, CEO of Crowd Cow , which connects consumers with small producers, told me this week. The demand to buy direct from producers existed before COVID. Consumers like to connect directly with farmers and to feel more confident about what they’re buying. But a combination of broken supply chains, reluctance to visit supermarkets and more time spent cooking at home has accelerated this trend.   This won’t go away any time soon. It’s really entrenched. “The consumer during COVID has been willing to explore the fastest way to secure healthy, fresh food in their home,” said Anne Greven , head of food and ag innovation at Rabobank, which highlighted the rise of farm-to-consumer channels in its latest trends report . “This won’t go away any time soon. It’s really entrenched.” I get this. One of the delights of summer here in San Francisco is my local farmers market, where the peaches and plums and kale taste so much better than supermarket options, which often arrive via lengthy supply chains. It’s also great to see new ways for farms to prosper. Yet I think that we should be careful not to assume that farm-to-consumer channels are clearly better than alternatives.  Price is one issue. A whole organic free range chicken on Crowd Cow costs $5 per pound; the equivalent non-organic product in Safeway goes for $1.49 per pound. Don’t get me wrong: I know there are multiple good reasons for this difference, including animal welfare standards. My point isn’t to question the value of organic methods. I’m raising the issue of price to note that low-income families can’t necessarily participate in this trend. It goes back to something I raised a few weeks back in the context of race : We all agree that we need a better food system, but we don’t always ask for whom it’s better. (To be fair to Heitzeberg, he was well aware of this issue and said he was working hard to reduce the price of everyday essentials. Crowd Cow prices for some products, such as ground beef, come closer to those at Whole Foods and other premium supermarkets.)  There’s a second question about sustainability. How do you know your local small-scale producer has a lower environmental impact than a distant mega-farm? As I noted last week, our intuitions about the industrialization of food aren’t necessarily correct. We need to consider the amount of land required for production, the methods used on the farms and the transport costs. It’s a complicated comparison to make, and we urgently need more data to guide us. The good news is that progress is being made on both fronts. On the equity side, the pandemic has promoted companies and nonprofits to partner on projects that provide farm produce directly to food-insecure communities . Several research groups are looking at scale and sustainability in food systems, including one major think tank, whose report I hope to write about soon. I’ll close with an intriguing aside about Hayden Holbert and Avrom Farm. I came across his story via Steward, an investment platform that lets regular people — not just well-heeled, accredited investors — put money into sustainable agriculture projects. This means that you and anyone else can help Holbert build out his new business, and earn a projected 6 to 8 percent return in the process. (You know the drill: Projections are not guarantees of future results.) More details at Steward . This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote This won’t go away any time soon. It’s really entrenched. Topics Food & Agriculture Social Justice Farmers Food & Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Avrom Farm owner Hayden Holbert cleared space in a corner of his barn and created a tiny fulfillment center, the back-end operation for an online store and delivery service. He quickly outgrew that space. Courtesy of Avrom Farm Close Authorship

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There’s a big appetite for farm-to-consumer shopping

Why the District of Columbia is a leader in energy efficiency

August 19, 2020 by  
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Why the District of Columbia is a leader in energy efficiency Catherine Nabukalu Wed, 08/19/2020 – 01:30 One of my favorite sessions from VERGE 2019 was a presentation by Amory Lovins on the expanding energy efficiency cornucopia . Among several things, he discussed the vital benefit of energy efficiency in working toward environmental sustainability through emissions reductions without harming or slowing economic growth.  In various international climate plans, energy efficiency is increasingly prominent . In fact, more cities and the private sector are tapping into its direct economic benefits, such as job creation and its potential to improve people’s livelihoods. The technical fixes register considerable energy savings, prevent energy waste and demonstrate there is still so much we can do to reduce pollution, especially within old existing infrastructure, such as data centers, commercial real estate and transportation systems. In the 2019 scorecard by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Washington, D.C., was named as one of the best cities for energy efficiency and for scaling up local generation of clean energy in the country. As a project coordinator, my day-to-day work at the District of Columbia’s Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) involves supporting energy projects around the city.  Here is my take on why the district consistently has been a leader in this domain, and what other cities can learn from it as they prioritize commitments to reserve energy for the tasks it is most needed for with the aim of attaining more — as Lovins would say — “negawatts.” 1. There’s a strong focus on buildings Buildings are a major aspect of energy conservation because they consume nearly three-quarters of the electricity in the U.S. and represent over a third of greenhouse gas emissions . Besides the strong commitment to increasing localized generation of renewable energy from solar for the local real estate, the Clean Energy Act ( CEDC ) of 2018 has prioritized energy efficiency in the U.S. capital’s buildings.  To work towards this goal, the act contains a Building Energy Performance Standard (BEPS) for commercial and multifamily buildings. Most real estate has been stratified based on a range of unique factors, such as square footage and their purpose, as these determine occupancy and energy use. Prescriptive guidelines to reduce energy use resulting from energy audits will be shared with building operators, with requirements to improve energy performance over five years, based on localized historical baselines. Moreover, all buildings 50,000 square feet and above will need to benchmark and meet minimum efficiency standards in the first phase of new guidelines published in January. More buildings in Washington are attaining retrofits even before these regulations take effect because operators are realizing the benefits of energy efficiency. This year, I visited the headquarters of the American Geophysical Union, one of the city’s remarkable sites for transformative energy management. It is the first to attain the net-zero standard as a retrofit building in the city.  All components from its demolition were recycled and reclaimed as construction materials on the site. The building also generates solar from over 700 panels on-site, and its windows calibrate to let in natural light, reflect heat while keeping the indoors cool. This building is replicable model for existing building owners to close the loop on building materials while incorporating new technologies to conserve energy. A green wall in the American Geophysical Union lobby. Photo courtesy of Beth Bagley/AGU 2. Energy efficiency programs are designed with people in mind The programs in Washington have an intense focus on people’s well-being. For instance, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Income Qualified Efficiency Funds (IQEF) initiative are both specifically designed to upgrade energy equipment for single and multifamily buildings occupied by low-income residents.  This is important because besides the greater comfort from improved HVAC systems and better security from improved exterior lighting, the projects reduce household energy expenditures, leaving people with more money to spend on what it more important to them.  In healthcare facilities, where operating hours are long, the technical fixes improve air quality and create a healthier environment for patients. The George Washington University Hospital for example, has retrofitted a wide range of its buildings, by installing LED lighting, occupancy sensors through the Eco-Building Program in a multi-year Climate Action Plan . The Sibley Memorial Hospital’s recent expansion is also designed to meet LEED Silver standards, including 23,000 square feet of green roofs and ” healing gardens .” 3. Washington is making it easier to quantify benefits  The benefits of energy efficiency are often hard to quantify. Perhaps because its very nature is counterfactual — how does one measure “savings” that one never used? Nonetheless, while many of energy efficiency’s rewards are intangible, customers, regulators and the local utilities mostly know they exist, and they want these efforts to succeed.  Some benefits can be estimated over time, as baselines are reviewed to evaluate energy consumption in buildings before and after installation of new equipment. In more prescriptive programs involving particular technical upgrades, standard rebates are derived for customers depending on the technology and the quantity of upgrades done to switch.  4. Everyone contributes to financing efficiency Under CEDC, all of Washington’s local rate payers contribute through a surcharge per energy billing cycle, on electricity and natural gas consumption. This fee goes into the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund (SETF) and the Energy Assistance Trust Fund (EATF), a financial reserve to facilitate energy efficiency projects around the city through rebates. Most recently, the Green Bank and the DC Property Assessed Clean Energy ( PACE ) program were launched to leverage long term private investments and lower upfront costs of adopting energy efficiency and distributed energy projects using public funds. While many of energy efficiency’s rewards are intangible, customers, regulators and the local utilities mostly know they exist, and they want these efforts to succeed. The funds, around $20 million annually, are disbursed to the DCSEU to provide energy efficiency services and reduce per-capita energy consumption, ensure low peak electricity demand and reduce energy demand from the largest energy users (such as public transportation systems). Beyond energy efficiency, the trust funds play a major role in financing the addition of distributed energy resources, such as community solar projects, in the city. 5. There’s transparency about the future of energy efficiency Perhaps one of the most important outcomes of energy efficiency in the city is the steady effort to phase out inefficient equipment locally.  The standards are higher for newer buildings to improve design. Construction codes from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) have set new standards for what constitutes net-zero in buildings. This helps developers calculate estimated maximums Energy Use Indexes and determine combinations of prescriptive energy measures while projects are still being developed. Lessons for other cities Energy efficiency truly represents one of the best ways to reduce emissions in concert with other measures. Often, the technical upgrades can be achieved at low cost to consumers, yet the benefits of reducing the energy footprint of cities is worthwhile for climate action. Cities will have more inhabitants in the future. While more economic development and increasing population in cities may mean more energy demand, energy efficiency meastures demonstrate that growth can continue while (and where) energy is saved. Moreover, energy efficiency mitigates the need to build more capital-intensive infrastructure to supply energy. Lastly, energy efficiency initiatives offer direct benefits that can improve people’s quality of life. Pull Quote While many of energy efficiency’s rewards are intangible, customers, regulators and the local utilities mostly know they exist, and they want these efforts to succeed. Topics Energy & Climate Energy Efficiency 30 Under 30 Collective Insight 30 Under 30 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Beth Bagley/AGU Close Authorship

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Why the District of Columbia is a leader in energy efficiency

The many faces of energy resilience

August 17, 2020 by  
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The many faces of energy resilience Michelle Moore Mon, 08/17/2020 – 00:30 This series explores how clean energy can deliver on finance and corporate social and governance goals alongside climate and environmental benefits. “Resilience” is a powerful word in 2020. Fires, floods, pestilence, pandemic — I don’t know about you all, but I was raised in a fundamentalist Southern Baptist Church and my Revelations bingo card is just about full. Thinking about the idea of resilience as it relates to equity and energy systems merely as the ability to keep the lights on, however, is missing a powerful opportunity to right the scales of justice. Large corporate energy buyers and utilities, in particular, hold the opportunity to build better and make things right. On resilience The term “resilience” can be applied to a vast array of natural, built and social systems and refers to the ability to recover function following a significant, potentially unpredictable disruption. As it relates to energy, moving away from long transmission lines and centralized power plants burning extracted, polluting fuels and towards a distributed system that combines local energy storage with renewables improves resilience — consistent with the principles of biomimicry. That’s the vision. But how is that vision valued? Resilient energy systems combining renewables, microgrids and energy storage are being deployed by corporations and other institutions that can assign an economic value to resilience as a service, by residential customers who can afford it and by utilities that benefit from the resulting infrastructure and other cost reductions. If we define the value of resilience in such narrow economic terms, however, we will build a clean energy dystopia. But we can choose a better way. Do justice Our energy systems, like most legacy systems, are infused with racial injustices that do particular harm to Black communities, families and individuals because many of our laws and institutions were designed for that purpose. Systems produce outcomes according to the values on which they are founded, and the outcomes are clear. As the NAACP has highlighted , 68 percent of Black and African-American individuals live within 30 miles of a coal plant and are twice as likely to die from asthma than white Americans. Only 1.1 percent of those employed in the energy industry are Black, while Black households comprise more than half of those paying 10 percent or more of their entire income to keep the lights on. Moreover, Black and Latino households pay almost three times as much for energy as higher income and white households.  If we define the value of resilience in such narrow economic terms, we will build a clean energy dystopia. But we can choose a better way. Just because you didn’t write the rules that made things so broken doesn’t absolve you of accountability to fix them. As my colleague Chandra Farley, Just Energy Director with Partnership for Southern Equity, has pointedly noted, Black people, communities of color and low-income communities are resilient because they have endured hundreds of years of systemic racism and disinvestment. Recognizing this, every decision maker leading an energy storage project can choose to do justice by understanding the value of resilience as encompassing more than the money. Here are four examples of how to begin. Communities can define their own resilient energy futures , anchored by colleges and universities. In service to the Atlanta University Center Consortium , Groundswell is supporting the design and development of an innovative Resilience Hub that celebrates the leadership of Atlanta’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Partnership for Southern Equity is on the team to ensure that the voice and vision of the surrounding neighborhoods, among the most energy-burdened in the city, are the priority. Enabled through NREL’s Solar Energy Innovation Network, this project is tackling how to deploy community-led energy resilience in a regulated, utility-driven energy market. Large corporate energy buyers can share resilience as a service to the communities surrounding their facilities and installations. Doing so in a way that aligns with local community needs and values requires building relationships with local communities and listening to and meeting their needs. John Kliem, formerly the head of the U.S. Navy’s Resilient Energy Program Office, oversaw an early example of this approach in collaboration with the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative in Hawaii. The resulting solar-plus-storage facility, recognized b y a 2019 U.S. Department of Energy award, improves energy security for the local Naval facility while supporting local goals. Kliem, who now leads federal energy strategy for Johnson Controls, also has identified co-location of energy storage facilities to share resilience with critical infrastructure such as hospitals and municipal water pumping stations as opportunities. Cities, municipalities and other jurisdictions can use their planning authority to embed community-driven resilience at the building level. The city of Baltimore is helping to lead the way. Funded through a Maryland Energy Administration Grant, Baltimore is working with Groundswell and energy storage innovators A.F. Mensah to identify and develop up to 20 local Resilience Hubs across the city that will host solar and energy storage installations and provide refuge for local community members in case of extreme weather or other events. Importantly, funded collaborations such as this support critical place-based R&D into optimal approaches to financing larger scale deployment while navigating local, state and regional regulations that impact siting, interconnection and access to revenue opportunities such as selling stored power back to the grid at peak.   Rural electric cooperatives are demonstrating how utilities can deploy energy storage that reduces electric costs for their member customers. Curtis Wynn, CEO of the Roanoke Electric Cooperative and president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, is studying offering energy storage as a service to industrial customers and sharing the resulting cost reductions from reducing peak demand with his residential customers, who are largely low- and moderate-income households. Using smart hot water heaters for energy storage offers similar potential benefits to lower income customers, which is just one of the innovative ideas being advanced by the Beneficial Electrification League . Towards regeneration Building energy resilience can do more than keep the lights on for those who can pay for it. Resilience can be reparative, and the resulting investments can support the regeneration of communities that have been held back by institutionalized systems of oppression. We have a corporate as well as an individual responsibility to do justice. We are called to advocate for and share what we have with others so that everyone is treated equally and with dignity, and it’s the privilege of our generation to be alive at a time when we can make things right. Pull Quote If we define the value of resilience in such narrow economic terms, we will build a clean energy dystopia. But we can choose a better way. Topics Energy & Climate Social Justice Community Resilience Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage, via Shutterstock

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Reusable packaging provides untapped payoffs for business

August 13, 2020 by  
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Reusable packaging provides untapped payoffs for business Joana Kleine Jäger Thu, 08/13/2020 – 01:45 Remember the time when milk was delivered to your door in reusable glass bottles? If not, you were probably born during the plastics-era, which began about 50 years ago. Until the 1980s, glass or cotton bags were the go-to packaging materials for many products, such as milk and flour. Today, plastic has taken over. In 2018, 40 percent of the 360 million tonnes of plastics produced globally were converted to packaging. Prized for its durability and ultimate convenience, the plastic addiction from business to consumer is proving hard to shift. But the increasing presence of post-consumer plastic littering the natural environment is a sobering reminder of the extent of damage our love affair with plastic has delivered. Ultimately, we cannot fix this with recycling alone. Alternative materials and models such as bio-based packaging and reuse offer a prime opportunity to extend the lifetime of valuable materials and deliver financial savings to businesses. The case for reusable packaging If we succeed in building and scaling reuse systems, they will outperform single-use systems. This not only benefits the environment but also businesses. About 95 percent of the value of plastic packaging material ($83 to $124 billion annually) is lost to the economy after a very short first-use cycle. Most of it ends up in our environment. The retailer also needs to invest in marketing the benefits and exciting consumers about the opportunity to change to a circular packaging model. In contrast, research and on-the ground experiences with reusable packaging by Searious Business, a solution provider for zero plastic waste practices, show yearly financial savings of up to 30 percent compared to throw-away versions. Thus, reusable packaging is not only key to achieving a circular economy and solving the plastic pollution problem, but also equally presents untapped business potential. To grasp this potential, business must explore collaborations and capacity sharing to achieve wide-scale success and profit. Benefits of teaming up Only when key stakeholders align their efforts can the industry change towards a paradigm of reuse. Replacing single-use with reusable packaging may seem straightforward — technically speaking. Most reuse concepts, such as “bring your own” are rather simple. However, our current packaging system is geared toward single-use packaging. Take the food sector, for example. In today’s fast-paced world, ready-made meals are the preferred option for many consumers. Producers parcel ready-made food in small portions in thoughtfully designed packaging, which ends up in the bin soon after consumption. Reusable packaging provides an environmentally friendlier, financially viable alternative: Together with three major retailers, Searious Business has identified opportunities to reduce carbon footprint by 43 tonnes per year through reusable food containers. Financial pay-offs have appeared within eight months. Only when key stakeholders align their efforts can the industry change towards a paradigm of reuse. However, these results cannot be achieved alone. They require close collaboration with waste management players, cleaning facilities and logistics companies. Where the packaging was previously disposed of, the retailer needs to arrange collection points, ensure timely collection by the cleaners and likewise timely return so that the packing can be reused. The retailer also needs to invest in marketing the benefits and exciting consumers about the opportunity to change to a circular packaging model, so that the system is well used and adequate scale can be realized to make a successful change. Numerous stakeholders need to engage in coordinated actions to reduce plastic waste and gain financial benefit for all parties involved. For reuse platforms to be financially viable and make an impact, scale up through collaboration and capacity sharing is inevitable. How to get started As the above example demonstrates, collaborations are crucial for reuse endeavors. But how can a business get started? Circle Economy’s guide for collaborations in a circular economy directs businesses through the process of identifying attractive partners and establishing successful partnerships. The impact organization found that in scoping a potential new collaboration, businesses first need to understand the local context, market and material flows. This includes relevant legislation, consumption habits, the distance to sourcing and the existing reuse infrastructure, which can vastly differ between locations. Choosing the right partner to implement reuse packaging systems further depends on the company vision. Once a business has a clear vision for the future, it needs to assess which capabilities and resources are needed to reach this vision and what can be filled internally. Gaps identified can be filled by partners. Crucial roles a partner can take Based on the gaps identified, businesses can determine which type of collaboration they need to make the circular transition happen. To illustrate this process, we identify three major roles that a reusable packaging partner can take on, as well as five significant characteristics. 1. When McDonald’s and Burger King joined food delivery platform Deliveroo, they did not only want to meet evolving consumer demands for mobile ordering. They also recognized the benefits of serving as each other’s impact extenders. When competitors collaborate to reach common goals, they can learn together, overcome hurdles, increase volume and scale, share investments or establish standardization of packaging. Such “coopetition” is often pooled under reuse platforms such as Deliveroo. 2. Businesses looking to introduce reusable packaging also can partner with companies that serve as promoters, and help to make reusable packaging accepted and ordinary (again) — or even desirable — through marketing campaigns. Social enterprise Dopper, known for its reusable water bottles, has collaborated with the Amsterdam-based Van Gogh museum to create a Special Edition of their bottles with prints of the famous painter’s works. 3. Returnable packaging schemes such as BarePack meal containers in Singapore and RePack packages in Europe work much in the same way that library books are borrowed, enjoyed and returned. With both consumers and businesses recognizing their environmental and financial benefits, these schemes are gaining market share and increasingly becoming part of our daily lives. Here, we see how businesses tapping into the potential of product-service-systems and product-life-extension business models can serve as use-phase-supporters or businesses seeking to introduce reusable packaging. As reuse system operators, BarePack and RePack support businesses with elements such as (reverse) logistics, cleaning and refilling. What makes a winning partner Deciphering the gaps that your business needs filled is the first step, but the nitty-gritty is crucial too: certain characteristics that can amplify your partnership also should be on your radar. Partnering companies should aim to find a strategic fit: your vision on circularity aligns and your market, context and geographical fit. While knowledge exchange collaborations might operate globally, geographical proximity is needed to ensure resource efficiency and profitability when implementing reusable packaging on the ground. Reusable packaging is a playground for innovation, so creativity is a desirable characteristic: out-of-the-box thinking and novel business models. Open communication and collaborative learning are also important as they can enable joint progress towards successful reuse models and uncertainties can be reduced. Partners should also show alignment with the mission. Being on the same page in terms of sharing interests and benefits will result in flexibility. Finally, circular economy collaborations are characterized by mutual dependence and long-term goals. Therefore, a partner should show commitment in terms of wanting the change and investing resources. Pull Quote The retailer also needs to invest in marketing the benefits and exciting consumers about the opportunity to change to a circular packaging model. Only when key stakeholders align their efforts can the industry change towards a paradigm of reuse. Choosing the right partner to implement reuse packaging systems further depends on the company vision. Contributors Willemijn Peeters Topics Design & Packaging Circular Economy Plastic Circle Economy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Reusable packaging comes in many forms. Shutterstock Oleksandra Naumenko Close Authorship

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Reusable packaging provides untapped payoffs for business

How cities can influence the energy system

August 12, 2020 by  
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How cities can influence the energy system Heather House Wed, 08/12/2020 – 00:45 As U.S. cities and counties transition to clean energy for their own operations and communities, many are finding that stakeholders and policies beyond their jurisdictions affect their ability to purchase clean energy. Policy and regulatory decisions made by states, utilities, public utilities commissions and wholesale market governing bodies determine the clean energy procurement options available to cities and counties. This can create challenges for meeting locally defined resolutions and commitments. To overcome these challenges and drive faster progress on renewables and carbon-free goals, local governments are starting to engage with old stakeholders in new ways to change the rules of the game. By removing regulatory and legislative obstacles, local governments are creating new pathways to access affordable, clean energy. To help cities and counties better understand potential high-impact engagement opportunities, the American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator released a new interactive tool, the Local Government Renewables Action Tracker . The tool highlights efforts by local governments to work directly with the institutions and decision-makers who influence their ability to access clean energy and control the broader electricity system. Here are four ways local governments are engaging with stakeholders to decarbonize their electricity supply: 1. Partnering with investor-owned utilities Cities and counties often are required by state law to buy electricity from a regulated investor-owned utility (IOU) and lack the ability to choose their electricity supplier or generation source. While some IOUs offer renewable energy programs, these options don’t always meet city needs. Worse still, some cities have no options for purchasing renewable electricity. To overcome these circumstances, some local governments are partnering with their utilities. For example, the city of Denver and Xcel Energy developed a partnership agreement in 2018 to define and collaborate on shared climate and energy goals. By removing regulatory and legislative obstacles, local governments are creating new pathways to access affordable, clean energy. These types of partnership agreements can lead to the creation of new renewables programs or custom utility solutions that enable local governments to purchase renewables on a large scale. In North Carolina, Duke Energy and the city of Charlotte signed an agreement that laid out the ways they could partner on clean energy work. One year later, Charlotte became the first city to sign a large-scale deal through Duke Energy’s new Green Source Advantage green tariff program. 2. Engaging in state-level regulatory proceedings Many key decisions around the implementation of state energy policies, including decisions that govern IOUs, are made by state public utility commissions (PUCs). PUCs allow stakeholders to voice their needs as electricity customers, which can be a good opportunity for local governments to advocate for more renewables. However, engaging in commission proceedings can be a time-consuming and cumbersome process for local governments with limited resources to navigate. Increasingly, cities and counties are asking for more renewables on the grid by commenting and providing testimony to their state PUC. This includes commenting on their utility’s integrated resource plans (IRPs), long-range plans that communicate how an electric utility intends to develop new generation assets over the next 10 to 20 years. In many states, utility IRPs are required by law and providing input on them can be an impactful way for local governments to influence their regional grid mix and increase renewable energy generation. During the Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) IRP process, the city of Indianapolis submitted a public letter to encourage IPL to explore a more aggressive retirement scenario for the Petersburg Coal Generating Station and increase renewable generation. Indianapolis cited an October report by Rocky Mountain Institute that found that clean energy portfolios declined in cost by 80 percent since 2010, are lower-cost than new gas plants and are projected to undercut the operating costs of existing gas plants within 10 to 20 years. In comments to the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), the city of Atlanta asked Georgia Power to expand residential energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, provide greater access to utility data to improve energy efficiency efforts, increase municipal access to renewable energy and build a new local microgrid to improve community resilience. In response to customer comments such as these, the PSC required Georgia Power to more than double solar energy procurement over the next five years from one gigawatt (GW) to 2.2 GW. Local governments are also increasingly advocating for alternative forms of utility regulation and business models. This includes performance-based regulation (PBR), a type of utility reform that incentivizes electric utilities to demonstrate performance on metrics such as greenhouse gas reduction, efficiency and customer service. This approach contrasts with traditional “cost-of-service” business models that incent utilities to build more physical assets, which generally result in new buildouts of gas power plants and pipelines, locking in emissions for years to come. The city and County of Honolulu and the County of Hawaii have been actively engaged in advancing PBR through workshops, working group meetings, filing written comments to Hawaii’s PUC and creating thoughtful proposals recommending new PBR mechanisms for their utility to adopt. 3. Influencing statewide energy policy When stakeholders come together to voice their needs to legislators, it has the potential to create large-scale change. Local governments are starting to get involved at the state level by calling for changes to state climate and clean energy legislation. There are a few high-impact policy pathways that cities can pursue: Removing barriers to solar Local governments are asking state policymakers to remove barriers that prevent renewable energy procurement. Stakeholder input recently helped pass the Virginia Clean Economy Act of 2020 , which created the state’s first clean energy standard and lifted constraints on existing state laws that limited access to third party financing options that can bring down the cost of renewables. Similarly, the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas, alongside other large customers and local governments, successfully called for increased access to third-party financing for renewables , which ultimately would make clean energy procurement more affordable for consumers. In Utah, local governments came together to ask the state to enable high-impact pathways for procuring renewables , leading to the ratification of the Community Renewable Energy Act of 2019. These local governments are collaborating with the state’s electric utility, Rocky Mountain Power, to develop a utility program through which they can purchase 100 percent renewable energy. When stakeholders come together to voice their needs to legislators, it has the potential to create large-scale change. Phasing out fossil fuels Cities and counties are advocating to retire uneconomic fossil fuel power plants by enabling or expanding securitization legislation. Securitization can be used to allow utilities to issue bonds based on the guaranteed returns they are making from the uneconomic plants and use the proceeds to build or buy cheaper renewable energy. The shift to lower-cost generation allows utilities to both make more money and lower rates for their customers while phasing out fossil fuel power plants. Forming a coalition with other local governments can help amplify a city’s message to its state legislators. For example, Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA), a coalition that consists of 33 Colorado counties and municipalities, regularly advocates for state climate policy. Members of the coalition meet with legislators, provide testimony at state legislative sessions, write op-eds and coordinate strategy for local governments. CC4CA’s collective voice was a powerful lever that helped pass one of the strongest state climate bills to date, which includes both short-term and long-term clean energy targets for Colorado. Enabling or expanding community choice aggregation Community choice aggregation (CCA) allows local governments to have full control over their electricity supply, providing the ability to procure renewable energy for their municipal operations, residents and in some cases, small businesses. To make progress toward community-wide renewable energy targets, cities are starting to push for legislation to enable CCA or to expand renewable procurement through an existing CCA. CCA can be a key mechanism for achieving community-wide clean energy goals if a city’s electric utility does not offer the procurement pathways needed to achieve its renewable energy target. Cincinnati has signed the largest municipal renewable energy deal in U.S. history, in part because of the control the city had through its CCA program. Forming a coalition with other local governments can help amplify a city’s message to its state legislators. For example, Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA), a coalition that consists of 33 Colorado counties and municipalities, regularly advocates for state climate policy. Members of the coalition meet with legislators, provide testimony at state legislative sessions, write op-eds and coordinate strategy for local governments. CC4CA’s collective voice was a powerful lever that helped pass one of the strongest state climate bills to date, which includes both short-term and long-term clean energy targets for Colorado. 4. Getting involved in wholesale energy markets Rules made in wholesale markets can impact local government clean energy goals and present obstacles for clean energy procurement. Participation in market-level decisions and stakeholder processes traditionally has been dominated by utilities and generators, but that is starting to change. One recent decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could hamper the development of renewables in states that participate in the PJM wholesale electricity market . The decision directs PJM to implement a  minimum offer price rule for renewable generation resources supported by state policies such as renewable portfolio standards and zero emissions credits. This rule effectively would raise the minimum price of renewables and, ultimately, ratepayer costs across the board. Some states, including New Jersey and Virginia, are considering leaving the PJM capacity market to preserve their ability to offer incentives to develop renewable energy. The PJM Cities and Communities Coalition is the first ongoing collaborative effort for cities to address barriers in the PJM wholesale energy market. As part of the coalition, cities such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago are joining together to provide education to members on market issues, considering becoming formal voting members and identifying priority issues where cities can engage. One of the coalition’s early efforts was a public letter o the PJM Board of Managers during its search for a new CEO, urging the search committee to hire a candidate who could move the PJM market toward a clean energy future. Cities and counties have struggled to understand their energy policy context and opportunities; how and when to engage with utilities, regulators and legislative staff; and whether to involve other stakeholders. Identifying and replicating local clean energy successes Engaging with utilities, commissions, state policymakers and wholesale market governing bodies is new and unfamiliar territory for many local governments. Cities and counties have struggled to understand their energy policy context and opportunities; how and when to engage with utilities, regulators and legislative staff; and whether to involve other stakeholders. Once they decide to engage, local governments often struggle to dedicate the resources and funding necessary to participate in ongoing efforts. Regardless of the approach, collaborative efforts are key to overcoming these challenges and enabling more effective participation. This allows local governments to leverage limited local resources, reduce political risks and develop a strong collective voice. This collective voice, in particular, often can be more powerful than one local government acting alone. The Local Government Renewables Action Tracker is an important new resource cities and counties can use to see how other local governments are engaging with stakeholders and evaluate the options available for advancing their own clean energy projects and goals. As cities and counties continue to develop their voices as large energy consumers, we should expect to see them get more involved in state regulatory proceedings and legislative hearings, innovative city-utility partnerships and market decision-making processes. Local government engagement such as this has significant potential to accelerate decarbonization in the United States by dramatically expanding local access to renewables for city operations and communities alike. Pull Quote By removing regulatory and legislative obstacles, local governments are creating new pathways to access affordable, clean energy. When stakeholders come together to voice their needs to legislators, it has the potential to create large-scale change. Cities and counties have struggled to understand their energy policy context and opportunities; how and when to engage with utilities, regulators and legislative staff; and whether to involve other stakeholders. Contributors Lacey Shaver Topics Energy & Climate Cities Policy & Politics Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Power pylons at sunset. Photo by  Matthew Henry  on  Unsplash Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash Close Authorship

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Planting tiny urban forests can boost biodiversity and fight climate change

August 7, 2020 by  
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Planting tiny urban forests can boost biodiversity and fight climate change Alex Thornton Fri, 08/07/2020 – 00:30 How much space do you think you need to grow a forest? If your answer is bigger than a couple of tennis courts, think again. Miniature forests are springing up on patches of land in urban areas around the world, often planted by local community groups  using a method inspired by Japanese temples. The idea is simple — take brownfield sites, plant them densely with a wide variety of native seedlings and let them grow with minimal intervention. The result, according to the method’s proponents , is complex ecosystems perfectly suited to local conditions that improve biodiversity, grow quickly and absorb more carbon dioxide. The Miyawaki method The method is based on the work of Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki . He found that protected areas around temples, shrines and cemeteries in Japan contained a huge variety of native vegetation that co-existed to produce resilient and diverse ecosystems. This contrasted with the conifer forests — non-indigenous trees grown for timber — that dominated the landscape. Miyawaki forests can grow into mature ecosystems in just 20 years — astonishingly fast when compared to the 200 years it can take a forest to regenerate on its own. His work developed into the Miyawaki method — an approach that prioritizes the natural development of forests using native species. Miyawaki forests can grow into mature ecosystems in just 20 years — astonishingly fast when compared to the 200 years it can take a forest to regenerate on its own. They act as oases for biodiversity, supporting up to 20 times as many species as non-native, managed forests. Local pollinators such as butterflies and bees, beetles, snails and amphibians are among the animals that thrive with a greater diversity of food and shelter. Greening urban spaces worldwide The popularity of Miyawaki forests is growing, with initiatives in India , the Amazon and Europe. Projects such as Urban Forests in Belgium and France, and Tiny Forest in the Netherlands, are bringing together volunteers to transform small patches of wasteland. Urban forests bring many benefits to communities beyond their impact on biodiversity. Green spaces can help to improve people’s mental health , reduce the harmful effects of air pollution , and even counter the phenomenon of heat islands in cities, where expanses of concrete and asphalt raise temperatures unnaturally high. Carbon sinks The potential for helping to combat climate change makes Miyawaki forests a particularly attractive option for many environmentalists. Reforestation is a key part of strategies to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, with initiatives such as the Bonn Challenge , Trillion Trees Vision and the World Economic Forum’s 1t.org project setting ambitious targets. It’s estimated that new or restored forests could remove up to 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050. If you have a patch of wasteland in your local community that is sitting idle, a Miyawaki forest could be one way of doing your bit to help the environment. However, not all forests are equally effective in sequestering carbon. Mature forests of native trees soak up much more carbon dioxide than the monoculture plantations that make up many reforestation projects. As scientists learn more about the role of other factors, such as carbon in the soil , it is increasingly clear that planting the right kind of trees matters as much as the number. Conservation groups stress that Miyawaki forests should not be seen as an alternative to protecting existing native forests. Small, unconnected wooded areas never can replace the large tracts of forest that are vital to so many species — and that remain under threat from commercial plantations and slash-and-burn farming. But if you have a patch of wasteland in your local community that is sitting idle, a Miyawaki forest could be one way of doing your bit to help the environment. Pull Quote Miyawaki forests can grow into mature ecosystems in just 20 years — astonishingly fast when compared to the 200 years it can take a forest to regenerate on its own. If you have a patch of wasteland in your local community that is sitting idle, a Miyawaki forest could be one way of doing your bit to help the environment. Topics Forestry Cities World Economic Forum Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An urban forest in Shirakawa-Go, Japan. Photo by Rap Dela Rea on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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Planting tiny urban forests can boost biodiversity and fight climate change

Behind Microsoft’s bold plan to build social equity into clean energy buying

August 6, 2020 by  
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Behind Microsoft’s bold plan to build social equity into clean energy buying Heather Clancy Thu, 08/06/2020 – 00:45 There were plenty of juicy news tidbits in Microsoft’s recent progress report about its goal to become carbon negative over the next decade. But its new goal to link at least 500 megawatts of forthcoming solar energy contracts to environmental justice considerations is bold for many reasons.  For context, the total pledge amounts to about a quarter of the capacity that Microsoft already has signed (1.9 gigawatts) in solar and wind contracts. This is the largest commitment it has made to a single portfolio investment, so it isn’t some side project. Nor is this a reaction to the nationwide protests triggered by the death of George Floyd this spring — the active planning has been under way since December.  “We spend a lot of time talking about the energy transition needed if our society is going to transition to a net-zero economy by 2050,” Microsoft’s environment chief, Lucas Joppa, told me. “Microsoft’s position is that the transition has to be an inclusive and just one.” The arrangement, with project financer, investor and developer Sol Systems , will prioritize opportunities and investments in communities “disproportionately affected by environmental challenges.” What does that mean more specifically?  The installations could be in urban neighborhoods that haven’t typically had access to economically priced clean energy resources or that historically have been disproportionately affected by pollution. But they also might be sited in rural communities that have been negatively affected by job losses triggered by the closure of fossil fuels plants or extraction operations, notes Sol Systems co-founder and CEO Yuri Horwitz. “We think it’s equally important that we engage all segments of society,” he said.  As anyone responsible for renewable energy knows, it historically has been very difficult to build metrics around the social impacts of projects. The arrangement also will prioritize buying from minority and women-owned businesses. And it will provide at least $50 million in the form of grants to support educational programs, career training, habitat restoration and initiatives that provide low-income communities with access to clean energy and energy efficiency programs. “Solar is, and should be, an economic engine for everyone,” Horwitz added. To make this work, the two companies created a framework power purchase agreement to cover individual projects as they are identified with the intention of getting them validated and approved more quickly. Among the terms: A certain portion of the revenue that’s generated will be reinvested back into the community where a solar farm is located. “You can do this at scale and at a price point that is economically doable,” Joppa said. Microsoft will use third-party evaluators to help quantify and document both the social and environmental outcomes.  Lily Donge, a former principal in the energy practice at Rocky Mountain Institute and now director of corporate innovation for communities with Groundswell, believes Microsoft’s deal with Sol Systems is a sign of things to come. “We do not know whether the community process will be equitable, transparent or consultative,” she wrote on the community solar organization’s blog. “But this is a signal that a giant tech company is willing to understand the demands of the community, under-served customers and the public at large.” As anyone responsible for renewable energy knows, it historically has been very difficult to build metrics around the social impacts of projects, but Sol Systems has been focusing on methodologies for doing so for the past 12 years — it already has about 800 MW of similar projects in its portfolio , including deals it has done for Amazon and Under Armour . The latter project was built in Maryland on land that couldn’t be used for residential development; it will contribute about $1.4 million in tax revenue to the local community. Another Sol Systems ally is Nationwide Insurance, its financing partner . This isn’t the only relationship Microsoft will use to procure energy in the future, so it will be important to watch how that consideration bleeds into other contracts. I’ll definitely be asking. You should do so, too. This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe  here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Pull Quote As anyone responsible for renewable energy knows, it historically has been very difficult to build metrics around the social impacts of projects. Topics Social Justice Renewable Energy Corporate Procurement Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Sol’s 196-kilowatt solar installation at Christ Church apartments, a low-to-moderate income senior living facility located on the Baltimore Harbor.  Courtesy of Sol Systems Close Authorship

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Behind Microsoft’s bold plan to build social equity into clean energy buying

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