Villa in Vietnam prioritizes natural light and green space

July 1, 2020 by  
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Step into K-Villa+, located in C?n Th?, Vietnam. Finished in 2020, this villa maximizes open spaces for natural light and prioritizes environmentally-inclusive design with a  green roof  and tropical-style garden. The villa is located near the Mekong River in the center of H?ng Phú, a newly-established residential area close to public transportation. Designed by Space + Architecture, the roughly 19,375-square-foot villa boasts a low building density, a green roof and a rainwater collection system. K-Villa+ is one of few private residences in the country to be certified by the Vietnam Green Building Council. The garden space incorporates a variety of  trees  native to the local area, including mango, palm, milkfruit, bougainvillea and plumeria. An ecological fish pond on the property features aquatic plants such as lotus, water lily and centella. Related: A rich vegetable garden grows atop a unique home in Vietnam Going with the overall eco-friendly theme, the designers paid specific attention to  natural ventilation  for the project. This area of Vietnam experiences a typical monsoon season with natural circulating air, which the designers worked with, using wide-open spaces, breeze block walls and a specific door layout to maximize airflow. Controlled air flows into the building to help keep the interior cool, and the green roof helps reduce thermal radiation. Additionally, the tropical weather in the region presents excellent opportunities for  natural light . Large windows and openings work harmoniously for regulated airflow and light, along with an indoor garden and skylight. An artfully-designed spiral staircase exposes the interior to even more light, while the property fence is made of a combination of cut out steel and glass. At nighttime, occupants can switch to an automatic lighting system and energy-efficient LED lights. The villa employs a  rain reuse system  to help irrigate its many plants, with plans to turn the system into a drinking water source. The gardens are landscaped with grasscrete brick to reduce concrete surfaces, increase natural plant composition and help to drain rainwater. Eco-friendly materials such as un-baked brick and certified-sustainable wood were painted with non-VOC paint to avoid harmful emissions. + Space + Architecture Via Archdaily Images via Space + Architecture

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Villa in Vietnam prioritizes natural light and green space

We Earthlings: Local Produce = More Jobs

June 23, 2020 by  
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We Earthlings: Local Produce = More Jobs

We Earthlings: Local Produce = More Jobs

June 23, 2020 by  
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Reduced carbon emissions from food transport is not the only … The post We Earthlings: Local Produce = More Jobs appeared first on Earth911.com.

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We Earthlings: Local Produce = More Jobs

Discover the powers of nature in Denmarks newly opened NATURKRAFT exploratorium

June 17, 2020 by  
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Last week, Denmark’s NATURKRAFT officially opened to offer the public a new space for experiencing the “physical and aesthetic powers of nature.” Designed by Thøgersen & Stouby and SLA , the new landmark at the western coastal town of Ringkøbing is a 50-acre exploratorium showcasing the importance of environmental stewardship. The project, which was funded by private equity and the Municipality of Ringkøbing-Skjern, cost 300 million Danish kroner ($45,329,550) and is expected to attract 280,000 visitors annually. Naturkraft — Danish for “Nature Power” — consists of three connected zones that are separately guided by the themes of observation, participation and understanding. The first “observation” zone is marked by a 600-meter-long ring was that rises to a height of 12 meters and provides views of the Ringkøbing Fjord and the flat surrounding landscape. The second zone, which focuses on “participation,” comprises an inner nature and adventure park with playful installations and a 17-kilometer-long “cross section” of the local biotopes throughout the western Jutland of Denmark . Eight specially designed nature typologies are represented, from the sand dune and the heathland to the marsh and the carbon forest. Related: Climate-adaptive park in Copenhagen wins Arne of the Year Award The theme of “understanding” guided the creation of a 5,500-square-meter building for exhibitions. Located on the highest point of the ring wall, the building features a tent-like translucent facade constructed from lightweight ETFE to emphasize a constant connection to the outdoors. The inner nature arena also includes “dissemination installations” for furthering conversations on the importance of nature for humans. “Naturkraft is both about the visible nature powers that humans experience and use in nature, and about the deep-seated aesthetic sense of nature that nature phenomena awaken in us,” said Stig L. Andersson, design director and founding partner of SLA. “Nature is what allows us humans to live good and meaningful lives. For both survival and living. In Naturkraft we show how the use of natural processes can shape our future cities and communities. Not by hitherto destroying existing nature , but by learning from nature and living with and not against it.” + SLA Photography by Torben Petersen and Thøgersen&Stouby via SLA

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Discover the powers of nature in Denmarks newly opened NATURKRAFT exploratorium

How to have an eco-friendly picnic

June 17, 2020 by  
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Summer is just around the corner, and that means it’s picnic season. But a picnic with juice boxes and individually wrapped treats creates a lot of waste that only contributes to the growing plastic crisis. Have an eco-friendly picnic this summer instead and spend time enjoying and protecting the environment around you in real ways that you can be proud of. Eliminating waste Paper plates, paper napkins and plastic cutlery mean lots of waste for any picnic. Eliminate all of that by using cloth napkins and serving foods that don’t need extra plates. Items that can be eaten by hand don’t require forks and spoons. Sandwiches, vegetable slices, crackers, rolls, wraps — the list of great finger foods goes on and on. Related: How to replace single-use and plastic items in the kitchen Bring reusable cups and napkins on the picnic and take them with you when you leave. That means don’t bring any plastic straws or juice boxes, either.  Preparing the food Support the local community and small farmers by buying local when you’re shopping for ingredients. Go to a farmers market to get fresh, local ingredients. If possible, ride a bike over to the market and back so you aren’t adding any carbon emissions to the atmosphere when you do your shopping. Pack your food in silicone bags or glass containers instead of plastic containers to be even more green. Consider a meal that doesn’t include any beef. Environmentalists warn that beef production on a massive scale creates numerous risks to the planet, from the methane generated on cattle farms to the energy it takes to transport the beef. Opt for vegetarian and vegan options at the picnic to be as eco-friendly as possible. Related: Cool vegan recipes for a hot summer If you do end up with orange peels, wrappers and other waste at the end of the picnic, pick up all of these items instead of leaving them behind. Some food remains, like rinds and peels, can be added to the compost pile. Recycle or wash and reuse everything else that you possibly can. Grilling If you plan to grill for your picnic, plan ahead with the planet in mind. Grilling can release a lot of carbon emissions into the air; however, when done properly, grilling can be better for the environment than cooking in the kitchen. Solar cookers are a great option, but you’ll have to bring your cooker with you to the picnic and you need the weather to be in your favor for it to work. If you can’t use a solar cooker, you can use natural lump charcoal. Rather than lighter fluid, use a charcoal chimney. This is a green alternative to standard grilling. If you’re having a picnic in the park, there will be plenty of community grills available for use. Remember to take any aluminum foil and other waste with you when you leave the picnic area for proper disposal. Playing games It won’t do much good to prepare an eco-friendly meal and then play picnic games that create a lot of waste. A flying disc is a great option. Jump ropes can be folded and packed away easily, so this is another item to bring for some fun picnic activities. A simple rubber ball can be used to play kickball, dodge ball or any number of other sports. Keep eco-friendly games in mind when you’re thinking about picnic recreation. Choose activities that leave no waste behind and don’t alter the environment in any way. Keeping insects away Using bug sprays isn’t the best choice for an eco-friendly picnic. Stick to natural ways to keep bugs away, such as crushed lavender flowers or citronella to repel mosquitoes. Lavender oil is effective at keeping a number of insects away, including mosquitoes. You can also mix garlic and lemon to keep insects and even some animals away from your picnic area, although the smell that drives them away can be unpleasant for people, too. Related: 4 DIY herbal remedies that take the sting out of pesky bug bites Applying sunscreen Be sure to keep a reef-safe sunscreen on hand, and for added protection, pack a big straw hat. Don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen, too, to prevent harmful sunburn. Traveling If possible, bike or walk to your picnic location to reduce emissions . If that’s not an option, carpool or ride public transit to the picnic spot to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. All those little changes really do add up to be a big help to the environment. Images via Kate Hliznitsova , Toa Heftiba , Yaroslav Verstiuk and Antonio Gabola

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How sustainability professionals can uplift the black community

June 8, 2020 by  
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How sustainability professionals can uplift the black community Jarami Bond Mon, 06/08/2020 – 02:11 Dear Sustainability Community, I come to you again. It’s been three years since writing my first article for GreenBiz, ” Why diversity is the key to unlocking sustainability .” I provided a quick glimpse of the anxiety and pain that the black community feels daily and actionable steps that the sustainability community could take to advocate for diversity and stimulate unprecedented change. I write to you again today with heavy grief and a set of earnest pleas: As sustainability professionals, we must lead the cultivation of a more inclusive, equitable and safe world for all. We not only must steward the environment, but also explore ways to meet the needs of the vulnerable and create healthy platforms for people of all backgrounds to embrace commonalities, celebrate differences and heal tensions. If not us, then who? Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Say their names. These are just a few of many precious lives ended tragically and prematurely by people sickened by the venom of racism. The victims were not dangerous. They were not threats. They were unarmed. In their final seconds, they were powerless and vulnerable, diminished to a point where a cry for mother was the only hope. If you really want to be a part of the change, it’s time to get uncomfortable. Please know that these narratives are not new. They are just now being videotaped and disseminated globally across social media platforms. These narratives leave me and so many in my community numb, angry, speechless, depressed, traumatized, exhausted, afraid, emboldened and so on, all simultaneously. We have been crying out for centuries, for generations. We continue even today. My good friend Joel Makower asked some poignant questions in his recent open letter . Among them: What led you to this work in the first place? Was it to protect the unprotected? To ensure the well-being of future generations? To engender community resilience? To create solutions to big, seemingly intractable problems? Or maybe, simply, to make the world a better place? I ask you to reflect with honesty on your answers to these questions. If you really want to be a part of the change, it’s time to get uncomfortable. It’s time to expand your social and professional circles. It’s time to listen. It’s time to ask questions. It’s time to engage with empathy. It’s time to study how our nation has systemically oppressed, crippled and stolen from the black community. It’s time to explore the part you have played. As you shift your posture toward this crisis, your friends, family and colleagues may look at you funny. You may have to swim upstream. I acknowledge the looming tension you may be anticipating in this polarizing moment, but I promise you that it is miniscule juxtaposed to the generational anguish through which our community continues to persevere. However, I do promise that you would not be alone in your newfound, countercultural advocacy. If you care — if you want to see justice, equity and restoration for my community, here are some actions you can take. Believe me. I encourage you to begin by picking one, two or more items from this list and leaning in wholeheartedly. Donate to your local  NAACP chapter, Black Lives Matter and the United Negro College Fund . Before voting, understand politicians’ positions on environmental and social justice as well as criminal justice reform. Hold elected officials accountable once in office. Fight against voter suppression and gerrymandering. Find and support black-owned businesses Push for your company to hire people of color. Ask your company’s HR department to hire more people of color in leadership positions. Call out workplace bias and discrimination when it happens. Promote truly inclusive workplaces. Watch movies and read books that can help educate you on the black experience and race in America. Do research to better understand and process your own biases and privilege. Learn the difference between  equality and equity . Stop appropriation . Many non-black people enjoy the social currency and financial profit derived from embracing elements of our culture, while simultaneously devaluing our very lives. Remember that silence is deadly. Address friends and family who spread ideals laced with racism and discrimination, no matter how subtle. If you witness racism and violence against, record and share the incident. Digital evidence can help protect us against people such as Amy Cooper who weaponize racism, putting innocent black lives at risk. I hope this list gives you actionable ways to get the ball rolling. Your voice and support hold weight and can go a long way in changing the narrative for my community. Don’t let the overwhelming number of ways to get involved hinder you from taking that first step toward real action. For more ways to get involved, I encourage you to explore this robust article, “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice,” written by Corinne Shutack on Medium. In closing, I believe in us. As a community of purpose-driven professionals, we have an opportunity to help lead the conversation and lean into actions that provide hope for a better future. I would love to hear from you. You can find me at @jarami_bond on Instagram , Twitter and LinkedIn . Pull Quote If you really want to be a part of the change, it’s time to get uncomfortable. Topics Social Responsibility Environmental Justice 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 Photo by Jarami Bond

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How the Navajo got their day in the sun

May 28, 2020 by  
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How the Navajo got their day in the sun Danny Kennedy Thu, 05/28/2020 – 02:00 In late March, during the early hours of the COVID-19 crisis, just as New Yorkers were realizing how many might die, a small solar development company closed a $4 million financing deal. “Closing” is never easy, but getting a half-dozen high-net-worth individuals, family offices and foundations to pony up as the world’s finance markets crashed around them was a triumph.  Getting the deal done was impressive in its own right, given that private equity had all but frozen in the weeks before and most venture-backed startups were running on fumes, telling their angel investors and anyone who’d listen that they had three months’ financial runway, or less. It seems even more important now, given the terrible toll COVID-19 is having right where the solar is planned: the Navajo Nation. A young team saddled with ambition and support from their tribal government, this largely native-owned company, Navajo Power , was getting ready to build a major solar project in one of the poorest communities in America.  “We are working hard to create jobs and build resilient infrastructure for our Nation and for the greater western region,” explained Brett Isaac, founder and CEO. “Navajo has perhaps the highest unemployment in the country at 65 percent — that’s pre-COVID. It is clearly going up, due to the virus. We need to put people back to work in creating the clean energy future. Developing some of the biggest projects in the world and maximizing the benefits for our communities can provide the resources needed to fund a wave of local infrastructure and community economic development initiatives. Clean energy can be our bridge.” A company to watch, and learn from Navajo Power was co-founded by Isaac and his old friend Dan Rosen, a college dropout from New Jersey. Rosen was adopted by Navajo artist Shonto Begay in his teens and went on to start one of the U.S.’s largest solar loan business, Mosaic. These two and their partners are leading the charge for the Navajo Nation’s just transition, from coal dependence to clean energy superpower. This movement one day will be studied in colleges around the world; justice can be done. Such drama around Navajo is justified. This is the largest indigenous community in the United States, with 250,000 people and a land base the size of West Virginia. There is a sordid history of “divide and conquer,” involving everyone from Kit Carson to the Sierra Club. The wealth of energy resources on Navajo land invited exploitation throughout the 20th century. Uranium was mined there. And coal. Lots of coal. Mined and burned to provide power for Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Tucson and Phoenix.  The wealth of energy resources on Navajo land invited exploitation throughout the 20th century. Uranium was mined there. And coal. Lots of coal. Despite hosting centuries of extraction and decades of power generation, in 2020, more than 15,000 families on Navajo land lack electricity or running water. And surprise, surprise: the local community saw only a pittance for the years that King Coal ravaged its ancestral homeland. According to one local leader of the governing “chapter” responsible for running services, his entire community of 1,200 people received about $250,000 per year in royalties from the coal mining operation on their land. This community spent 50 years suffering from the toxic emissions spewing out of the coal-burning 1.2 gigawatt Navajo Generating Station nearby. This plant powered Los Angeles and points west — but not their own towns and settlements. All they got was the pollution, and almost enough money to pay for the salary of one public health worker and overhead. An utter disgrace. By contrast, Navajo Power’s solar projects will pay millions of dollars upfront and fair market value per year for the life of the project, while ensuring that the local community is compensated in addition to the central government. The solar plant will sit on the ground, leave resources in the ground, burn nothing and can be removed afterwards. The chapter can invest the revenue generated by this plant in public health, workforce development, job creation efforts such as ecotourism and high-value agriculture. Business unusual Solar is a strategy that will uplift this community. But unlike the similar promise of coal, solar power will not desecrate the Navajo’s sacred land, pollute their skies or poison their children. And the Navajo Power deal ensures this power will be owned and controlled by Navajo, not outsiders.  It was not only a coup to pull off any investment of this magnitude in the midst of the COVID crisis — there’s more business unusual in the deal. Baked into the financial structure is an expected rate of return for the investors. If and when this rate is achieved, any further returns will be distributed to the communities hosting the solar projects on their land. This financing design, with a “mission delta” built-in between the concessionary rate that investors are taking and a more market rate, will become an innovative benchmark for similarly well-intentioned companies in the future. Additional covenants include 10 percent of company ownership being held in a Turquoise Share, which funds community benefits in the event of profit distributions or sale of the company. Eighty percent of the profits must go toward solar projects or community investments. And executive compensation is capped relative to the lowest-paid employee.  Morgan Simon, CEO of the Candide Group, explained, “Navajo Power is creating a new kind of economic development model for communities through leveraging the revenues of utility-scale clean energy development. That’s what drew us to their work and why we led this investment.” This model is a stark contrast to the hundreds of years of exploitative fossil-fuel ventures that have taken place on the territories of native peoples.  Navajo Power, as you probably can tell, is not a typical company. It is a registered Public Benefit Corporation; a company with a core goal of public benefits on par with profit maximization. And for the power sector, it is innovative from woe to go. It is mostly owned by Navajo and committed, by its mission and business model, to maximize benefits for the community partners hosting the solar projects on their land. The company provides culturally appropriate technical assistance to communities as they go through the development process.  The backstory The political and historical context surrounding this momentous deal is worth understanding. During Donald Trump’s reign, U.S. coal plants have closed faster than during the Obama administration. We can thank the markets for coal’s loss of steam; wind in the Midwest and solar in the Southwest can produce cheaper electricity. This phenomenon has reached the reservation. After decades of hosting some of the nation’s largest coal mines and coal-fired power plants, including the Navajo Generating Station, San Juan, Cholla and the Four Corners Plant, these plants are finished. The first to fall, Navajo Generating Station, closed in November after a last-ditch effort by the Trump administration to “save it” with subsidies. Early this year, the San Juan plant on the New Mexico side of Navajo announced it will shutter within three years. Cholla will stop one of three units this year and the rest by 2025. And Arizona Public Service, which operates Four Corners, recently announced it is moving up the retirement of that facility to 2031. Given the increasing loss-making economics, my bet is 2031 is a longshot. The Navajo entrepreneurs saw the vacuum left by falling coal plants as an opportunity for themselves, their reservation and the broader United States. The key insight is that the coal operations built on their land give the Navajo exceptional access to regional energy markets through the high-voltage transmission lines connecting them to major electrical demand centers across the West.  Based on research, Navajo Nation has the potential for more than 10 GW of solar power — more than a one-to-one replacement for every lost megawatt of coal power — plus at least one gigawatt of wind. Their high altitude, blue skies and dry land base is ideal for hosting solar farms. It also could prove an ideal location for hosting long-duration batteries for grid services that provide reliability and resilience. Research and development on solutions such as hydrogen gas from electrolysis powered by inexpensive solar is another potential product of this endeavor. The Navajo are riding the perfect storm: better economics; natural and unnatural competitive advantages; and the disruption of energy technologies to position this previously overlooked community at the center of the U.S. energy future. A change of heart In March 2019, Navajo Power organized an Energy Roundtable that involved Navajo leadership and some big hitters in energy from the American West. These included David Hochschild, chair of the California Energy Commission, and Angelina Galiteva, a member of the Board of Governors of the California Independent System Operator, which runs the California electricity grid. California is the fifth-largest economy in the world. So, when the governor’s energy czar and manager of the grid were present at the roundtable, people listened. And they both had the same message: We won’t buy dirty power from Navajo. The previous year, California passed SB100, a law that requires the Golden State to be 100 percent powered with renewable electricity by 2045. California is a huge market, a kind of nation-state unto itself, with a distinct grid and an increasingly wealthy population of 40 million. When California adopted the 100 percent standard, other states followed suit. This included New Mexico, which has a long history with the neighboring Navajo Nation dating to colonial times. These energy players surrounded the nation — both figuratively and geographically — with 100 percent clean energy commitments. The conversation at the roundtable was focused on how none of these states wanted to buy coal-fired power for much longer. After 50 years of being forced by various means to allow coal extraction and combustion on its territory, the Navajo leadership was told that the world is going in a new direction. For the Resource Committee that was gathered, including Vice President Myron Lizer, this was news. But it was heard. It was hard to ignore Navajo’s biggest customer of coal power for last half century saying, “We won’t be allowed, by law, to buy it any longer.”  Showdown at the summit Galiteva had run procurement for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power earlier in her career, so she knew all about contracting with Navajo power producers. She was well-versed on the transmission systems that carried electricity across the high desert and Sierras into the L.A. basin. There’s an interconnect at Glendale, just east of the city, a point in the grid where high-voltage transmission cables connect and the juice from big power plants is broken up before being distributed through the massive urban sprawl that is Los Angeles. Galiteva agreed that Navajo could take advantage of that transmission capacity — a huge multibillion-dollar sunk cost — to sell solar power for the next century. The Navajo’s competitive advantage of using transmission lines paid for by the coal industry to connect clean energy generation on their land to the big cities might be fleeting. Other carrots were offered in the room for the Navajo leadership to consider shifting from coal to solar. One came in the form of an energy procurement manager from Apple; the most valuable company in history at that time that recently had committed to 100 percent clean energy. While he could not commit to a specific contract with Navajo on the company’s behalf, he did indicate Apple’s interest in new sources of clean power. In the last few years, data centers such as those run by Apple, Google and Facebook have emerged as core business for energy generators with direct electricity contracts. If the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, a group of several dozen large corporations, were a country, it would be in the top 10 in terms of energy consumption and commitment to 100 percent clean energy purchasing. The signal was clear for the folks in the room — the times were a-changing and the Navajo needed to get with the program. The Navajo’s competitive advantage of using transmission lines paid for by the coal industry to connect clean energy generation on their land to the big cities might be fleeting. Developers elsewhere across the West are proposing massive wind and solar farms with transmission. These were big decisions and directional choices proposed to the committee at the summit. None of which had an easy solution because, at the same time the summit was happening, on the Arizona side of the reservation, lobbyists in Window Rock were trying to convince the president to use sovereign wealth funds to bail out the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station. The owners and major off-takers had proposed to shut it down that summer, which would mean hundreds of jobs going off the reservation — a place with few good, consistent employment opportunities.  At the time of the Navajo Power Summit, the nation was under considerable pressure to buy out the owners of the Navajo Generating Station to keep it going — even if It meant funding a loss-making enterprise. Various excuses and initiatives were announced to justify the nation’s digging into a hard-won, rainy-day fund it maintains from fines settled by the federal government for damage caused by uranium mine tailings on their land. The new president, Jonathan Nez, elected in November 2018, was looking down the barrel of 700 jobs going away at NGS and seriously considered spending $300 million to keep the coal power plant running. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis advised Nez that this may keep the plant going for a couple of years, but nothing could turn the tide against coal in the West with all neighboring states committing to 100 percent renewables in the foreseeable future. In other words, it would be buying a white elephant. In an act of bold political leadership, Nez decided against bailing out the coal plant. The nation broadened its vision. It saw that building large-scale solar farms with companies such as Navajo Power would tap the existing transmission lines to big cities and address the thousands of families on the reservation who do not have electricity. In a proclamation made in April 2019, called the Navajo Háyoo?káá? , the parties created “a new economic vision for the Navajo People, through healing the land, fostering clean energy development and providing leadership for the energy market.” This is “a big move for the nation,” said Nez. The plan is based on four principles:  1. A diverse energy portfolio, creating workforce development and job creation opportunities for the Navajo people.  2. Restoration of land and water after decades of uranium and coal mining.  3. Rural electrification of homes that lack access to electricity. 4. Utility-scale renewable energy development to supply Navajo Nation and the western United States.  The Navajo Sunrise Proclamation says, “Through the Diné teaching of ‘T’áá hwó’ ajít’éego’ and for the many who have called upon our Nation’s leaders to transition away from our overdependence on fossil fuels, the Navajo Nation will strive for a balanced energy portfolio and will pursue and prioritize clean renewable energy development for the long-term benefit of the Navajo People and our communities.” The benefits of such investments will go beyond jobs and revenue for the Navajo. There is a sense of pride in picking the path rather than having it foisted upon them, as coal power was 50 years ago. Self-determination is a big issue for indigenous peoples the world over. Overcoming the colonial domination that energy development has created is a major triumphsof the Navajo Sunrise Proclamation. It brings hope, not just to this sovereign nation, but to people everywhere that just transitions can be made. Pull Quote The wealth of energy resources on Navajo land invited exploitation throughout the 20th century. Uranium was mined there. And coal. Lots of coal. The Navajo’s competitive advantage of using transmission lines paid for by the coal industry to connect clean energy generation on their land to the big cities might be fleeting. Topics Renewable Energy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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How the Navajo got their day in the sun

Crowds fill national park for Yellowstone reopening

May 21, 2020 by  
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As some of the biggest national parks start to reopen, visitors reassure themselves that it is safe to be outdoors. But unfortunately in places like the ever-popular Yellowstone National Park, everybody is crowding in to see Old Faithful. On May 18, cars with license plates from all over the country filled Yellowstone’s parking lots and hardly a mask was in sight as people crowded together to watch the park’s famous geysers. Locals worry this could spread the virus to their communities. For now, only Yellowstone’s Wyoming gates are open. The Montana entrances remain closed. Tour buses, overnight camping and park lodging aren’t allowed. The park’s official stance is to encourage the use of masks in high-density areas. Related: Best practices for outdoor exercise during COVID-19 “We checked the webcam at Old Faithful at about 3:30 p.m. yesterday,” Kristin Brengel, senior vice-president of government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association, told The Guardian . “Not much physical distancing happening and not a single mask in sight.” Cars from all over began lining up at 5:30 a.m. for Yellowstone’s noon reopening. Local Mark Segal said his was the only car he saw from Teton County. He worried about out-of-state visitors spreading the coronavirus to the local community. “What if everyone that leaves here goes and gets a bite in Jackson?” he asked. “This is exactly what we’re afraid of.” Montana and Wyoming have had fewer COVID-19 cases than surrounding states. Locals are divided on the issue, with some local business owners pressing the park to reopen and bring much needed tourism dollars, while others are more concerned about public health. Melissa Alder, co-owner of a coffee and outdoor store called Freeheel and Wheel in West Yellowstone, told NPR she’s feeling nervous. “We are fearful of the congregation of people that will come, and I don’t think we’re ready,” Alder said. “I mean, we don’t have a hospital. We don’t have a bed. We don’t even have a doctor full-time here in West Yellowstone.” Via The Guardian and NPR Image via NPS / Jacob W. Frank

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US renewables hit milestone in surpassing coal output

May 21, 2020 by  
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The  COVID-19  pandemic has disrupted nationwide  energy  supply-and-demand patterns. Stay-at-home social distancing measures have altered U.S. electricity consumption. Bulk electricity usage by commercial businesses and industrial manufacturing has given way to increased household electricity consumption as the general population isolates at home. In turn, this economic slowdown has shifted electricity generation to rely more on the renewable energy sector. Both the  US Energy Information Administration (EIA)  and the  Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA)  have revealed that, from March 25th through May 3rd, utility-scale solar, wind and hydropower collectively generated more electricity than coal! This record 40-day timespan has edged over 2019’s run of 38 days when U.S.  renewables  first beat coal last year. Last year marked the first time renewables outpaced coal-fired electricity generation. This led to  IEEFA forecasts  of renewables eclipsing coal by 2021. Unexpectedly, this year’s COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated  renewable energy ‘s first-quarter performance in producing electricity. Hence,  EIA forecasts  expect electric power generated by coal “will fall by 25% in 2020.” Related:  COVID-19 and its effects on the environment Interestingly,  Forbes  notes that “The electric power sector consistently sees its lowest  coal  demand in April,” owing to seasonal temperature adjustments when winter transitions into springtime. Because of the change in season,  natural gas  and coal generators often “schedule routine maintenance for the spring…and many coal plants spen[d] part of April offline for planned, temporary outages.” This illustrates why wind generation is typically relied upon most in springtime. As for  hydropower , snowmelt often feeds rivers, thus accounting for increased electricity generation downstream each spring as well, Forbes explains. Last year’s forecasts showed trends at play within the energy industry. Not only have upgrades expanded  solar , wind and hydro infrastructure capacities, but coal plant closures have likewise been commonplace, hinting at the changing energy landscape. Several factors have quickened the demise of coal reliance. As the  EIA  has shared, both investor-owned and publicly-owned municipal electric utilities began decommissioning coal-fired power plants a decade ago at the behest of local and state government public utilities commissions. Secondly, costs to construct  wind farms  have slid over 40%, whereas solar costs have sunk by over 80%, making both more appealing. Naturally, the decline of coal-fired power plants has positive implications for the environment and  climate , since coal produces excess  greenhouse gas emissions .  But another concern is alleviated, too. Back in 2008, a joint Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) and University of Minnesota  research report  raised alarms on critical infrastructure planning. This report warned that pandemics could adversely affect coal supply chains and thereby prompt shortages in generating electricity to the Midwest, a region that relied on coal for 75% of its power generation, as opposed to only 5% on the West Coast. Transitioning away from coal-generated electricity these past 12 years following this report has mitigated the risk of wide swathes of Middle America losing electricity during the 2020 pandemic. + US Energy Information Administration (EIA) + Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA) Images via Pexels

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US renewables hit milestone in surpassing coal output

Bush Brothers counts on water reuse to reduce local impact of bean production

May 20, 2020 by  
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Bush Brothers counts on water reuse to reduce local impact of bean production Jesse Klein Wed, 05/20/2020 – 03:20 “There was nothing except a pipe going out the back of the plant.” This was how Rodney Aulick, president of integrated solutions and services at Evoqua Water Technologies, described the wastewater system at Bush Brothers and Company’s Tennessee plant, when it first engaged with the food company. Bush Brothers is the largest manufacturer of prepared beans in the United States, and its work with water treatment titan Evoqua resulted in massive improvements, Aulick said. The plant is now able to reuse much of its water, lowering the strain on the community system and environment as a whole. The company is also better equipped to tightly control its water usage, according to Evoqua.   Bush Brothers, a family-owned business, has been operating in the small community of Chestnut Hill, Tennessee, for over 110 years. The company keeps the community in mind when pushing for new production goals and system upgrades. In 2016, Bush Brothers began working with Evoqua to upgrade its wastewater system to reduce its reliance on public water sources and provide its facility with more capacity, flexibility and reliability. The project was completed in the fall of 2019. For companies such as Bush Brothers, investing in technology to improve the sustainability of its business processes is more than just a good PR move — it’s also a measure necessary to ensure plants can keep operating even through increasing periods of climate extremes. Water, specifically, stopped being an afterthought for Bush Brothers after the 2007 drought in Chestnut Hill. This was the wake-up call the executives needed to replace that pipe with something better.  “They wanted to use that precious water that was going out the back end of their plant, back into the front end,” Aulick said.  To do this, Evoqua and Bush Brothers built a wastewater treatment plant near one of its bean canneries at the Chestnut Hill property. According to Will Sarni, CEO of the Water Foundry, a hyperlocal water recycling plant such as this is still a rare project for U.S. businesses. Bush Brothers’ other facility in August, Wisconsin, has a biogas reuse program in place (as does Chestnut Hill) but the Tennessee facility represents the only water reuse system for the company. They wanted to use that precious water that was going out the back end of their plant, back into the front end. “I think in the U.S, it’s really just a few percentage points in terms of the volume of water,” Sarni said. “This is the exception, not the rule.” The Chestnut Hill facility uses a bioreactor to clean the water, which creates biogas for supplemental energy for the factory. Dissolved flotation and reverse osmosis are used to remove particulate matter from the water.  While the water is clean enough to be used in food processing, most of the recycled water is pumped into the heating and cooling systems, as these represent the largest uses of water in the plant, according to Evoqua. Up to 20 percent of the water Bush Brothers uses is from its reuse system. Terry Farris, director of engineering for Bush Brothers, wrote in an email that his company’s goals were to create redundancy while also making sure the new system would have the capability to accommodate additional flows and alternative waste systems in the future. Evoqua’s strategy when it comes to designing the recycle/reuse facility of an operating plant is to be extremely flexible and quickly adjustable, according to Aulick. That’s because what the plant is making on a morning shift can be vastly different from in 12 hours on a second shift, he said. The product being produced, the step in the process or even the season can drastically affect water usage. The waste plant needs to be ready for those changes, Aulick said. Evoqua noted that during harvest season for Bush Brothers, bean loads are large, which leads to an increase in water volume processing. During the canning season, water volume can be lower but the concentration of contaminants is higher, as the manufacturing is focused on adding spices and preservatives.  “You really have to plan a robust technology that can be adjusted for those unique events,” Aulick said. “You need to have a technology that you can adjust on the fly.” Aulick has seen companies such as Bush Brothers start to look 20 or 30 years into the future. Its leaders and engineers are beginning to address the big questions: Can my facility persevere through a drought? If the company can’t rely on the local government, does the plant have an alternative waste management system?  Farris told GreenBiz that the company knew there would be a high capital investment and operating costs to upgrade the wastewater treatment facility. But the ability to create value from a waste stream would offset the expense and the move toward more sustainable practices was worth the investment, he said. Bush Brothers declined to provide the exact cost of the investment. “It used to be that we drove a lot more of these projects through sales,” Aulick said. “We would help to identify the potential and convince [businesses] that it had a return. Today we see more and more customers on their own saying, ‘I have a sustainability goal.’ What we used to have to push for, we are now getting pulled into.” Pull Quote They wanted to use that precious water that was going out the back end of their plant, back into the front end. Topics Food & Agriculture Water Efficiency & Conservation Food & Agriculture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Bush Brothers installed Evoqua’s wastewater treatment system after experiencing the effects of a local drought in Tennessee.

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Bush Brothers counts on water reuse to reduce local impact of bean production

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