US solar panels may be partially produced via slave labor

January 19, 2021 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

In his first few months in office, President-elect Joe Biden will need to choose between working with Chinese companies on developing affordable solar energy solutions for the U.S. or ditching the possibly “dirty” solar for an expensive alternative back home. This follows reports that Chinese companies responsible for producing polysilicon and other solar panel components for the U.S. could be using slave labor. Most of the solar energy products from China are manufactured in the Xinjiang region, which has become synonymous with detention centers and forced labor. Over the past four years, China has established a network of detention facilities in the region, most of which contain factories. These detention centers are used to hold Muslim minorities, who are believed to be forced to provide labor for solar factories. Related: The afterlife of solar panels Unfortunately, the U.S., like many other countries, relies on China for solar panel parts. These materials are imported from Xinjiang and other areas under heavy government surveillance, where external observers do not have access. China became the dominant supplier of polysilicon in the world, following the 2014 tariff war with the U.S. In retaliation to U.S.-imposed tariffs, China imposed tariffs on companies in the U.S., South Korea and the EU and ventured into producing polysilicon and other materials. With that said, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the legal authority to stop the importation of parts if it finds proof of slave labor in the manufacturing. In July 2020, the agency stopped a shipment of human hair extensions, based on reports that the products were made using  child labor . In December 2020, CBP also seized shipments of cotton and computer parts from the Xinjiang region that were also believed to have been made by  prison labor . “It’s quite possible solar companies could be scrutinized by CBP regarding Xinjiang-related forced labor risks in their supply chains even if there is no regional ban because this issue is getting more attention,” said Amy Lehr, director of the human rights program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and the lead author of a report on forced labor in Xinjiang. At this time, the Solar Energies Industry Association is recommending that U.S. solar companies move their supply chains away from this region. John Smirnow, general counsel of the association, said, “We have no indication that solar is being directly implicated, but given reports, we want to ensure forced labor is never a part of the solar supply chain.” Via Buzzfeed News Image via Chuttersnap

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US solar panels may be partially produced via slave labor

Bro.do x Mylea Better Shoes are made from mushroom leather

January 15, 2021 by  
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As the fashion world looks for alternatives to plastic and leather, mycelium is rising to the top of the material supply chain. Derived from fungi, including mushrooms, mycelium is actually the underground network of filaments called hyphae. Mycelium has been under the microscope as an option for sustainable construction, but one company is now focusing on it as the answer to replace leather in fashion. In a busy first year, Indonesian startup MYCL set a plan into motion, earned B Corp Certification and launched a series of products made from its signature mycelium-based product Mylea. Most of the collection promptly sold out, but products include a watch strap, card tabs, a wallet, a lampshade and sandals. The newest product in the lineup is the Bro.do x Mylea Better Shoes, vegan leather sneakers made in a collaboration with a variety of fashion brands. Related: World’s first “living coffin” made of mycelium is used in a burial Naturally, the sneakers are in response to the notoriously dirty and wasteful fashion industry, so the new shoes speak to the statements on the website, “We are the future, We are the genuine, We are the essential, We are the sustainable.” Not only does leather come at the physical expense of animals, but livestock produces harmful methane emissions, uses excessive amounts of water and requires large sections of land. As for the manufacturing process, leather production has been associated with unsafe working conditions and toxic chemicals being released into nearby groundwater.  Innovative material development advancements such as Mylea offer durable, attractive and ethical options that preserve the planet’s resources and avoid the slaughtering of animals. The company said, “Future technology should be the technology that will make sure that there is a future for next generations. Our innovation offers that.” MYCL is just getting started. As a lab and material development company, its goal is to continue collaborating with existing industry leaders to provide a wider breadth of useful, fashionable and sustainable products. The technology is here; now the question is, where will it go next? + MYCL Images via mycl.bio

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Bro.do x Mylea Better Shoes are made from mushroom leather

Trump administration opens 3.4M acres of owl habitat to loggers

January 15, 2021 by  
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The Trump administration has once again rolled back an important policy regarding the protection of birds . Only about a week ago, the administration stripped protections of migratory birds from accidental deaths by oil companies. This week, it has removed over 3 million acres of Pacific Northwest land from northern spotted owl protected habitat. This means that the land will now be opened to loggers, a situation that exposes the owl to more threats. The decision is the latest in a series of environmental rollbacks by the Trump administration. The  decision , which has been made public by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was born out of a 2013 case challenging the protection of 9.5 million acres for the owls. The case was filled by a lumber association, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to loosen its grip on part of the protected land . Initially, the agency had proposed to release about 200,000 acres from protection; however, in a recent turn of events, it has opted to release a whopping 3.4 million acres from protection. Related: US and Canada in drastic crisis with 3 billion birds lost since 1970 “These common-sense revisions ensure we are continuing to recover the northern spotted owl while being a good neighbor to rural communities within the critical habitat ,” Aurelia Skipwith, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement. The decision by the agency to release such a huge amount of the habitat from protection has raised an uproar from wildlife conservation groups. According to Susan Jane Brown, an environmental lawyer at Western Environmental Law Center, conservationists are protesting the move and have vowed to sue the agency. “I’ve gotten several calls from wildlife biologists who are in tears who said, ‘Did you know this is happening? The bird won’t survive this,’” Brown said. Data provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service itself is contradictory to the move. Its own research shows that the northern spotted owls are on the decline, despite having a designated habitat. Although they have been protected since 1990, the owls have been declining at a rate of 4% per year. Via The New York Times Photography by Shane Jeffries / USFWS

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Trump administration opens 3.4M acres of owl habitat to loggers

New sparks for the electric vehicle industry

August 25, 2020 by  
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New sparks for the electric vehicle industry Zoé Bezpalko Tue, 08/25/2020 – 01:45 Thinking back to the beginning of 2020 can seem like a lifetime ago. Before the pandemic took root on a global level, the transportation industry was already in the midst of a great and exciting transition. The move to electric vehicles (EVs) was intensifying.  Take General Motors, for example. In early March, the company announced it would have 20 new EVs by 2023. It also is tackling ambitious innovations with its Ultium battery and propulsion system that could enable a GM-estimated range up to 400 miles or more on a full charge with 0 to 60 mile-per-hour acceleration as low as three seconds.  And then COVID-19 hit. Sales for all vehicles plummeted. But new consumer revelations were (and are) occurring on a daily basis — and it is good news for the EV market. People are appreciating how skies can be clearer and bluer with fewer cars on the road. We’re learning the value of our time and resources with lessons in how to shop more efficiently with fewer trips. With a growing unease in taking public transportation, the demand for electric bikes and cars is also skyrocketing.  While governmental incentives for the EV market in the United States are minimal, the private sector is jumping on board to continue the momentum and meet the new consumer demand.  In June, Lyft announced that every vehicle on its platform will be electric by 2030. Despite a setback in the construction of its factory during the shutdown, Rivian will debut its electric pickup truck and electric SUV next summer. The company is also on track to manufacture more than 100,000 electric vans for Amazon. And GM isn’t shying away from its announcement and commitment to EVs, stating in May that it is continuing at full speed. But there is still much more that needs to change and be done. The present and future opportunities for EVs What can be done to propel the EV industry even further despite the current global climate with COVID-19? Like anything in today’s landscape, it’s complicated — but it’s possible to achieve new inroads. Let’s be honest. EV design and manufacturing comes with an entirely different set of challenges, even without a global pandemic as a backdrop. From EV design to manufacturing and battery optimization and production, we must address needed changes head-on for a radical, new approach to design and manufacturing. Battery changes Of course, not every company can be GM and create its own battery system. That’s why there is a need for greater openness in battery design and production — and what is actually inside the “black box” battery pack provided by manufacturers. If we can tap into the battery itself, we can further innovate for more efficiency. Battery packs contain components such as cooling, sensors and battery management systems that, if more open, could allow engineers and designers to optimize storage and layout for energy efficiency. With the development of integrated digital design tools, the hope is that addressing both the battery and the car’s geometry in one combined design process will lead to greater efficiency for both.  Manufacturing changes Even before COVID-19, automotive manufacturers and suppliers already were looking at new ways to modernize factories for better performance and reduced energy consumption. Last fall, Porsche opened a new, innovative factory to manufacture its first fully electric sports car, the Taycan. The zero-impact facility is the largest built since the company was founded 70 years ago, and it is also one of the first in the world to begin use of driverless transport systems within the factory. It’s a great example of not only the acceleration of EV availability in the market, but a better way to approach manufacturing, too. COVID-19 and its disruptive impacts on the global supply chain have accelerated how manufacturers and OEMs are looking at their production for more resilience. When factories shut down, it was a chance to step back and think of embedding sustainability throughout operations, in the factory layout itself, or leveraging more additive and local manufacturing. That also means greater opportunity to bring EV manufacturing and production more into the fold and mainstream. EV design changes On the vehicle design side, there are still untapped opportunities to improve battery range, especially through lightweighting and friction reduction. Frictions can be reduced by employing computational fluid dynamics software for simulation. And using generative design , designers can look at an incredible array of options to reduce the overall weight of the car.  Imagine taking an EV design and inputting the parameters to optimize such as geometry, materials, mechanical properties or even the manufacturing process. With generative design, the design team can explore the generated solutions and prioritize and choose what is most important for their goals. What’s more, the power of generative design truly shines when coupled with additive manufacturing to reduce waste in production. It even can solve some supply chain challenges for parts availability. GM has been putting generative design to the test, especially for lightweighting. Its very first proof-of-concept project was for a small, yet important, component — the seat bracket where seat belts are fastened. With parameters based on required connection points, strength and mass, the software returned more than 150 valid design options. The team quickly identified the new seat bracket with a unique, unimaginable style, which is 40 percent lighter, 20 percent stronger and consolidates eight components into one 3D-printed part.  Driving forward If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are all much more resilient than we thought possible. This global pandemic is offering us an opportunity to reflect on a future we want — one that is not only more sustainable, but also more equitable for all. We are embracing change as never before. As we all adapt to our new reality, industries also follow suit. Change and adaptability always has been endemic to the EV industry. We have made huge strides already. Now it’s time to keep driving forward. Pull Quote EV design and manufacturing comes with an entirely different set of challenges, even without a global pandemic as a backdrop. Topics Transportation & Mobility Design & Packaging COVID-19 Electric Vehicles Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Porsche’s zero-impact factory designed to manufacture electric vehicles. Image courtesy of Porsche.

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New sparks for the electric vehicle industry

New sparks for the electric vehicle industry

August 25, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Comments Off on New sparks for the electric vehicle industry

New sparks for the electric vehicle industry Zoé Bezpalko Tue, 08/25/2020 – 01:45 Thinking back to the beginning of 2020 can seem like a lifetime ago. Before the pandemic took root on a global level, the transportation industry was already in the midst of a great and exciting transition. The move to electric vehicles (EVs) was intensifying.  Take General Motors, for example. In early March, the company announced it would have 20 new EVs by 2023. It also is tackling ambitious innovations with its Ultium battery and propulsion system that could enable a GM-estimated range up to 400 miles or more on a full charge with 0 to 60 mile-per-hour acceleration as low as three seconds.  And then COVID-19 hit. Sales for all vehicles plummeted. But new consumer revelations were (and are) occurring on a daily basis — and it is good news for the EV market. People are appreciating how skies can be clearer and bluer with fewer cars on the road. We’re learning the value of our time and resources with lessons in how to shop more efficiently with fewer trips. With a growing unease in taking public transportation, the demand for electric bikes and cars is also skyrocketing.  While governmental incentives for the EV market in the United States are minimal, the private sector is jumping on board to continue the momentum and meet the new consumer demand.  In June, Lyft announced that every vehicle on its platform will be electric by 2030. Despite a setback in the construction of its factory during the shutdown, Rivian will debut its electric pickup truck and electric SUV next summer. The company is also on track to manufacture more than 100,000 electric vans for Amazon. And GM isn’t shying away from its announcement and commitment to EVs, stating in May that it is continuing at full speed. But there is still much more that needs to change and be done. The present and future opportunities for EVs What can be done to propel the EV industry even further despite the current global climate with COVID-19? Like anything in today’s landscape, it’s complicated — but it’s possible to achieve new inroads. Let’s be honest. EV design and manufacturing comes with an entirely different set of challenges, even without a global pandemic as a backdrop. From EV design to manufacturing and battery optimization and production, we must address needed changes head-on for a radical, new approach to design and manufacturing. Battery changes Of course, not every company can be GM and create its own battery system. That’s why there is a need for greater openness in battery design and production — and what is actually inside the “black box” battery pack provided by manufacturers. If we can tap into the battery itself, we can further innovate for more efficiency. Battery packs contain components such as cooling, sensors and battery management systems that, if more open, could allow engineers and designers to optimize storage and layout for energy efficiency. With the development of integrated digital design tools, the hope is that addressing both the battery and the car’s geometry in one combined design process will lead to greater efficiency for both.  Manufacturing changes Even before COVID-19, automotive manufacturers and suppliers already were looking at new ways to modernize factories for better performance and reduced energy consumption. Last fall, Porsche opened a new, innovative factory to manufacture its first fully electric sports car, the Taycan. The zero-impact facility is the largest built since the company was founded 70 years ago, and it is also one of the first in the world to begin use of driverless transport systems within the factory. It’s a great example of not only the acceleration of EV availability in the market, but a better way to approach manufacturing, too. COVID-19 and its disruptive impacts on the global supply chain have accelerated how manufacturers and OEMs are looking at their production for more resilience. When factories shut down, it was a chance to step back and think of embedding sustainability throughout operations, in the factory layout itself, or leveraging more additive and local manufacturing. That also means greater opportunity to bring EV manufacturing and production more into the fold and mainstream. EV design changes On the vehicle design side, there are still untapped opportunities to improve battery range, especially through lightweighting and friction reduction. Frictions can be reduced by employing computational fluid dynamics software for simulation. And using generative design , designers can look at an incredible array of options to reduce the overall weight of the car.  Imagine taking an EV design and inputting the parameters to optimize such as geometry, materials, mechanical properties or even the manufacturing process. With generative design, the design team can explore the generated solutions and prioritize and choose what is most important for their goals. What’s more, the power of generative design truly shines when coupled with additive manufacturing to reduce waste in production. It even can solve some supply chain challenges for parts availability. GM has been putting generative design to the test, especially for lightweighting. Its very first proof-of-concept project was for a small, yet important, component — the seat bracket where seat belts are fastened. With parameters based on required connection points, strength and mass, the software returned more than 150 valid design options. The team quickly identified the new seat bracket with a unique, unimaginable style, which is 40 percent lighter, 20 percent stronger and consolidates eight components into one 3D-printed part.  Driving forward If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are all much more resilient than we thought possible. This global pandemic is offering us an opportunity to reflect on a future we want — one that is not only more sustainable, but also more equitable for all. We are embracing change as never before. As we all adapt to our new reality, industries also follow suit. Change and adaptability always has been endemic to the EV industry. We have made huge strides already. Now it’s time to keep driving forward. Pull Quote EV design and manufacturing comes with an entirely different set of challenges, even without a global pandemic as a backdrop. Topics Transportation & Mobility Design & Packaging COVID-19 Electric Vehicles Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Porsche’s zero-impact factory designed to manufacture electric vehicles. Image courtesy of Porsche.

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New sparks for the electric vehicle industry

These recycled plastic tracksuits are naturally dyed with plants

April 3, 2020 by  
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Environmentally conscious clothing companies are few and far between, with the fashion industry as a whole being one of the top polluters on Earth. But with the planet in mind, PANGAIA (pronounced Pan-guy-ya) creates fabrics that are responsibly made to the benefit of the environment and your wardrobe. The newest addition to the PANGAIA lineup is the tracksuit collection consisting of hoodies and track pants. The 15 colors range from standard gray and off-white to strikingly bright shades of orange and green, each of which are naturally dyed with plant-derived colors. The non-toxic, natural dyes are made from food waste, plants, fruits and vegetables to achieve the richly toned hues. As an example, the pink track pants are colored with a natural dye extracted from roots and rhizomes of Rubia cordifolia . The Rennet yellow track pants and hoodies are colored with a natural dye extracted from Gall Nut of Quercus infectoria . Related: PANGAIA presents FLWRDWN, a down alternative made from biodegradable wildflowers According to the company, 100 billion articles of clothing and 500 billion plastic bottles are produced annually, with half ending up in landfills. Instead of contributing to the waste, PANGAIA turns discarded plastic, mostly from single-use water bottles, into yarn and then into long-lasting clothing. To add softness and comfort, it combines 45% recycled cotton with 55% organic cotton, grown without damaging pesticides and herbicides that pollute the soil and water. “The organic raw cotton we use holds the transaction certificate from the Control Union, meaning that the yarn is processed according to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS),” the company stated. “All trims, labels and threads are either recycled or responsibly sourced.” Additional consideration is taken for the product packaging, which is part bio-based and able to break down at a compost facility in 24 weeks. PANGAIA has a history of sustainable material development, with a variety of products made from plants. For example, it has produced a seaweed fiber that is naturally organic and easily biodegradable, and the company spent 10 years developing FLWRDWN, a goose and duck down alternative made from flowers. Similar products are available as part of the botanical dye T-shirt line, all of which are colored from dyes created from food waste and natural resources. For example, PANGAIA’s Sakura Tee is dyed from excess Japanese sakura cherry blossoms after they are collected for making tea. PANGAIA reports its “supplier dyes textiles in a way that uses less water, is non-toxic and biodegradable.” To ensure transparency throughout the manufacturing process, each garment tag includes blockchain technology that shows the full history of the garment. A blockchain cannot be altered and provides a record of each stage of the journey, with complete traceability and authenticity. The new tracksuits are made in Portugal. + PANGAIA Images via PANGAIA

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These recycled plastic tracksuits are naturally dyed with plants

Sound investments to decarbonize the world’s industries

March 11, 2020 by  
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As much as $21 trillion is needed through 2050 to fully decarbonize the ammonia, cement, ethylene and steel sectors.

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Sound investments to decarbonize the world’s industries

Capitalist businesses may have the model for democratic and effective economic planning

March 11, 2020 by  
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In public, CEOs defend the superiority of markets over planning. But inside their own corporations, where they could leave their various business units to compete with each other, they rely instead on comprehensive strategic planning.

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Capitalist businesses may have the model for democratic and effective economic planning

Marc Thorpe designs live/work buildings built from earth bricks

February 20, 2020 by  
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New York-based architecture studio Marc Thorpe Design has unveiled renderings for the Dakar Houses, a series of live/work spaces for the artisans of furniture brand Moroso, located on the outskirts of the Senegalese capital of Dakar. Designed with compressed earth bricks, a common building material in western Senegal, the multipurpose units take inspiration from the local architectural vernacular. The economical earth bricks also have the advantage of thermal mass to provide comfortable indoor temperatures without artificial heating or cooling.  Created to house Moroso’s Dakar-based artisans, the Dakar Houses will consist of two apartments that flank a central workshop for manufacturing the furniture brand’s decade-old line of handcrafted and brightly colored outdoor furnishings. In echoing the furniture line’s celebration of local craftsmanship, the Dakar Houses also pay homage to building materials and techniques common to the West African region.  Related: Ancient green building technique helps ease West Africa housing crisis “The intention was to create a work-based community allowing a village to develop around a central economic constituent,” Marc Thorpe Design explained. “The units are designed to house the workers as well as various parts of the manufacturing process of M’Afrique’s furniture , such as the handicraft work of welding and weaving. The apartments would be designed based on the required space for each individual family.” Each unit comprises three volumes — two apartments and a central workspace — that are staggered to create favorable solar shading conditions. Steeply pitched roofs top the minimalist units, which are left unadorned to emphasize the earth bricks. Made from local soil, the bricks are cured over several weeks. Next, they are soaked in water each morning, then baked in the sun beneath a tarp until they are ready for construction. During the day, the earthen walls absorb heat to provide a cool indoor environment; at night, that heat is slowly dissipated and warms the air.  + Marc Thorpe Design Images via Marc Thorpe Design

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Marc Thorpe designs live/work buildings built from earth bricks

This modern furniture collection is made from manufacturing waste

February 17, 2020 by  
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After doing some research, Byounghwi Jeon, founder of Studio Pesi, quickly noticed the massive amount of leftover materials going to waste in a furniture factory. After each tabletop was cut to size, much of the linoleum board and even solid oak that remained was not being used. Inspired to repurpose this manufacturing waste , Jeon designed a sleek, modern furniture line, called the DOT Collection, made with linoleum and oak that would otherwise be sent to the landfill. Studio Pesi was ready to give a new life to the wasted, yet completely usable, materials, all while creating something fashionable, minimal and highly functional. The resulting Dot Collection includes a chair, bench and side table, all of which would complement nearly any interior design scheme thanks to a minimalist aesthetic and solid, durable construction. Related: Designer Sophie Rowley creates marbled furniture from denim scraps The pieces in Dot Collection were made using solid wood cylinder and linoleum board leftovers, with the signature joints used to fashion together the two materials becoming the inspiration for the name. The collection comes in earthy colors that combine cool and warm tones for an overall organic look. The simple, contemporary design works well in any room, adding additional surface area or seating that is both stylish and functional. Studio Pesi is based in Seoul, South Korea. The name stands for “Possibility, Essential, Standpoint, Interpretation,” and was founded in 2015 by Jeon. The studio is also aimed toward “Vivid Industry,” delivering “sensitive and emotional experience through creative attempts based on industrial design process.” Other collections by Studio Pesi include a combination of a pet house and a shelving unit called Ground Floor; AA, a collection consisting of a shelf, hanger, bench and stool made from sustainable aluminum and ashwood; and Timber, a flat-pack, self-assembly side table crafted from processed cardboard and PVC. + Studio Pesi Via Yanko Design Images via Studio Pesi

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This modern furniture collection is made from manufacturing waste

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