The top 2020 trends in sustainability, according to GreenBiz readers

December 28, 2020 by  
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The top 2020 trends in sustainability, according to GreenBiz readers Holly Secon Mon, 12/28/2020 – 01:30 At GreenBiz, we’ve been reporting on the world of sustainable business for over two decades, but this year has been unlike any other. From an unprecedented pandemic to a global economic downturn to the intensifying impacts of climate change, we can’t say we’ll miss 2020. But there were many valuable lessons learned over the past 12 months.  Some of those can be found in the top GreenBiz stories of the year, as “measured” by reader traffic. While COVID-19 cut through almost all of our coverage — just like it cut through our everyday lives this year — other hopeful stories shined through. GreenBiz readers got excited about climate change solutions that ranged from the new, from the emerging potential of hydrogen as an energy source to changes in plastics manufacturing, to the ancient, such as planting trees. Readers also sought glimmers of hope in this year; you were drawn to stories about COVID-19’s positive impact on air pollution and what the sustainability field can do to be more actively anti-racist and pro-diversity. Without further ado, here are the top 10 most widely read stories and reports from the past 12 months, brought to you by our analysts, editors and other members of the GreenBiz community. And as we look forward to next year, do you have any notes on our coverage — things you want to see more or less of in the upcoming year? Feel free to shoot us an email at editor@greenbiz.com ; we greatly appreciate any and all feedback. 1. Transportation habits are changing drastically. Fleet electrification strategies gained steam throughout the year, with all-electric heavy-duty big rigs, semi-trucks, box trucks, delivery vans and more in the spotlight. Daimler, the largest truck maker in the world, expects to have the 250-mile-range Freightliner eCascadia model in production during 2021. The hottest trend of the year was the electrification of transportation, which is on the precipice of a major upswing: Less than 1 percent of fleet vehicles were electric at the beginning of the year, but that number is expected to grow to 12 percent by 2030.  We named eight of the biggest players in the space so sustainability professionals know what and who to watch out for. From relative giants such as Tesla to newcomers like startup Rivian and Chanje, we stand by this list. READ THE FULL STORY: 8 electric truck and van companies to watch in 2020 .  2. The pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders had an unintentionally positive and significant initial impact on air pollution. Over 45 states were under stay-at-home orders at one point in the spring due to the COVID-19 crisis. A resulting drop in regional traffic, along with reduced industrial and commercial activity, led to a significant drop in air-polluting emissions.   These emissions reductions are obviously short-term, unintended consequences of the pandemic. But they show that just as human activities have caused our changing climate and the impacts we’re experiencing today, human activities can also slow and reverse the phenomenon. READ THE FULL STORY: The stunning impact of COVID-19 social distancing on air pollution & To make offices safe during COVID-19, buildings need a breath of fresh air & How coronavirus will affect 4 key environmental issues 3. Clean beauty and fashion are trendy. But the industries need to push beyond recycling. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Lush Close Authorship Some of the biggest contributors to the plastic crisis are the cosmetics and fashion industries.  In the $500 billion-per-year cosmetics space, small-scale packaging leads to large-scale single-use plastic waste. But solutions exist, and we wrote about them. At beauty and hygiene products company Lush, for example, working to implement zero-waste when possible has led to innovation across the board In fashion, similarly, going the extra mile takes an innovative approach. A new technology of this sort, chemical garment-to-garment recycling, was one of your favorite stories of the year.  Investors such as H&M are already forging ahead. READ THE FULL STORY: How cosmetics retailer Lush is making purposeful profit through circular processes & Fashion’s latest trend? Why H&M, other big brands are investing in garment recycling 4. What’s next for the chemicals industry amid a growing public backlash against plastics? New types of manufacturing processes with the promise to infinitely reuse plastics. Tupperware’s portable, reusable Tupperware Eco Straw and a new drinking tumbler are both made from a lightweight, phthalate-free circular PP polymer from SABIC. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship SABIC Close Authorship Our story with an inside look into Eastman Chemical’s factory was a hit earlier this year. Eastman is one of the largest U.S. chemical companies, and it has faced criticism in the past few years along with other chemical companies as plastics have grown as an issue in the public’s consciousnesses.  But it claims to have a response to these concerns. That includes two new technologies. Carbon renewal technology, or CRT, breaks down waste plastic feedstocks to the molecular level before using them as building blocks to produce a wide range of materials and packaging. Polyester renewal technology, or PRT, involves taking waste polyesters from landfills and other waste streams and transforming them back into a raw material that the company claims is indistinguishable from polyester produced from fossil-fuel feedstocks. In addition, other stories on plastic production piqued readers’ interest. A story about Tupperware’s new sustainable production processes, for example, was one of our most-read articles. Any and all new solutions to the plastics crisis will be welcome in 2021, given that this year has seen record new plastic production thanks to the pandemic. READ THE FULL STORY: Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics & Tupperware inches toward circular processes, one plastic container at a time 5. Planes remain among the most polluting means of transport. Is there a way to reduce their emissions? The largest all-electric plane has just completed a half an hour flight in the United States. Media Authorship MagniX Close Authorship Readers devoured GreenBiz stories on the emerging technologies powering electric aviation and the companies behind them. Though the technology isn’t quite there yet, the certification process is long and the process is expensive, the electric aviation industry is still taking off. That’s because flights under 500 miles are within the range of an electric motor. R oughly 45 percent of all global flights meet this standard — presenting a massive opportunity.  READ THE FULL STORY: 6 electric aviation companies to watch & 7 urban air mobility companies to watch 6. Humanity’s destruction of biodiversity fosters the conditions for emerging diseases such as COVID-19. Media Source Shutterstock Media Authorship Mathisa Close Authorship If this year has shown us anything, it’s that the health of our planet and the health of humans are inextricably linked.  Research suggests that outbreaks of animal-borne and other infectious diseases such as Ebola, SARS, bird flu and COVID-19, caused by a novel coronavirus, are on the rise. Meanwhile, humans have continued destructive practices such as deforestation and agricultural expansion. Case in point: The world has lost 60 percent of all wildlife in the last 50 years while the number of new infectious diseases has quadrupled in the last 60 years. These stories hit home with readers this year, and we’ll continue to cover stories in this vein, because we expect to see more events like this in the future. READ THE FULL STORY: Biodiversity, pandemics and the circle of life & Destroying habitats has opened a Pandora’s box for new diseases to emerge 7. Coal-fired power plants are closing, and those economic and social ecosystems are collapsing around the country. A just transition to renewable sources such as hydrogen could ease the pain . Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Burbank Water & Power Close Authorship Hydrogen is still an emerging source of renewable energy. But it’s a massive opportunity: It’s the most abundant element in the universe, and capturing hydrogen is simple, in theory. Old coal plants could be easily transformed into new hydrogen plants to produce GHG-free energy, according to some industry insiders, while providing good jobs for hard-hit communities. READ THE FULL STORY: You say old coal plant, I say new green hydrogen facility 8. Agriculture as a climate change solution rather than a cause of climate change Media Source Shutterstock Media Authorship l i g h t p o e t Close Authorship We all want an agricultural system that can enough food for the growing global population sustainably. But certain agricultural practices that aim to increase crop yields such as clear-cutting release greenhouse gases that had been trapped in the soils into the atmosphere. The practices of “regenerative agriculture” promise to do the opposite: these farming and grazing practices rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity, resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle. Our stories on the topic struck a chord with you this year.  In 2020, food companies delved even deeper into how agricultural practices can sequester carbon in the land rather than release it. Two of the world’s largest food companies, General Mills and Danone North America, have set specific targets and worked to extend their support to farmers in their supply chains that are picking up these practices this year. These new programs have already been implemented for oats and wheat farmers who want to participate across a range of experience, ages and farm sizes. READ THE FULL STORY: General Mills, Danone dig deeper into regenerative agriculture with incentives, funding 9. Planting trees isn’t exactly the next big thing — or is it? Companies are investing in nature-based climate change solutions such as planting trees to draw down carbon. Media Source Shutterstock Media Authorship dennis_wegewijs Close Authorship Our inside look at two exciting tree-planting initiatives resonated with you this year. One is a hot new tree-planting startup whose investors include an Uber founder and whose buyers include Microsoft and Shopify resonated with you this year.  The startup, Pachama, has a unique value proposition: it offers a verified marketplace for carbon credits. That’s crucial for companies who want to buy credits after committing to going carbon neutral and even carbon-negative. Pachama both sells carbon credits by working with land managers who are using carbon-sequestering practices, and verifies the quantity of carbon they’re storing via a unique combination of satellite images, LiDAR and machine learning. Still, “if the planet continues waking up to the reality of climate change and the urgency of action, we believe that carbon markets will continue to expand,” Diego Saez-Gil, the founder of Pachama, said. Meanwhile, SilviaTerra, another cleantech startup, has been able to create a “basemap” of  every acre of forest in North America, down to the species and size of every single tree. To do this, SilviaTerra used machine learning to build the map, based on satellite and sensor data from sources such as NASA. It lays critical groundwork for landowners to participate in markets for carbon storage and other ecosystem benefits.  Companies like these will be crucial to watch in the next year, as carbon credit markets continue to grow. READ THE FULL STORY: Why Silicon Valley is taking a big interest in trees   10. Proponents of the Black Lives Matter movement that surged into the public eye this summer took on the sustainability space. Shutterstock This summer, the U.S. experienced a long-overdue racial reckoning. Following the death of unarmed Black man George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, white America received a reality check about the racism and discrimination happening in this country. The worlds of clean energy, corporate sustainability and cleantech were not spared. Some key themes that emerged among the GreenBiz readership this year included solidarity and environmental justice, the movement that advocates that low-income and marginalized communities and populations should not be disproportionately exposed to adverse environmental impacts.  READ THE FULL STORY: How racism manifests in clean energy & How sustainability professionals can uplift the Black community Topics Leadership Corporate Strategy Social Justice Carbon Removal COVID-19 Transportation & Mobility Plastic Carbon Pricing Aviation Food & Agriculture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The top stories of the year ranged from the pandemic to the Black Lives Matter Movement to new renewable energies. GreenBiz collage. Close Authorship

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The top 2020 trends in sustainability, according to GreenBiz readers

WSLA, GreenBiz team on Women in Sustainability Leadership Awards

December 9, 2020 by  
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WSLA, GreenBiz team on Women in Sustainability Leadership Awards Heather Clancy Wed, 12/09/2020 – 00:00 I’m excited to share that GreenBiz Group is teaming up with the newly formed WSLA Alumnae Group, which acquired the Women in Sustainability Leadership Awards (WSLA) from gb&d magazine in August. We’ll be acting as the organization’s media partner to build awareness for the next edition of its awards program. Composed of previous WSLA award recipients (there are 87 honorees), the alumnae group’s membership includes the most dedicated sustainability professionals in the field who have made significant positive changes to the planet, demonstrating bravery in the workplace and mentoring the next group of female leaders. The group’s summits, service activities and mentorship opportunities are paving the way in sustainability and for future leaders in the field. As media partner, GreenBiz will develop and execute an editorial and communications plan to increase awareness and traction for the WSLA Alumnae Group and the virtual awards program, taking place in April. The call for entries will be announced in January, with GreenBiz participating in the judging and selection of the 2021 winners. I’m honored to say that I’ll be personally serving on the WSLA Alumnae Group board of directors. The organization’s mission aligns well with GreenBiz’s values of championing corporate climate action that is informed by diverse communities and recognizes the intersection between climate change and racial justice. As more businesses embrace the “social” issues associated with environmental, social and governance strategies, it’s especially important to include, highlight and celebrate successful women and people of color. “There was no other organization that we considered for our media partner because GreenBiz has a world-class team of communicators and their dedication to both sustainability and transparency mirrors that of the alums. We are truly delighted to be working with this incredible group of people and welcome Heather Clancy as a board member,” said Rochelle Routman, president and chairman of the WSLA Alumnae Group.  Routman, chief sustainability and quality officer for flooring company HTMX Industries, also announced the organization’s new board and officers ahead of its general meeting this week. All (except for me) are past WSLA honorees. Aside from Routman, here’s the complete list with officers listed first and the remainder listed alphabetically: Lisa Colicchio, sustainability director, Metrolink (Vice President) Heather White, president & CEO, Heather White Strategies, LLC (Secretary) Sandra Leibowitz, managing principal, Sustainable Design Consulting, LLC (Treasurer) Ranae Anderson, global sustainability leader, Universal Fibers Jennifer Berthelot-Jelovic, president and CEO, A SustainAble Production, LLC (ASAP) Heather Clancy, editorial director, GreenBiz Daniele Horton, founder and president, Verdani Partners Janice Lao, ESG director, Helen of Troy Alicia Silva, director and founder, Revitaliza Consultores Kathleen Smith, director, technical support services, International Living Future Institute “I’m very excited about working with these new officers and the new board. Each of them brings a diverse perspective and valuable experience necessary to launch this new organization into a truly viable and influential force,” Routman said. “We want to take the organization further, particularly by mentoring other equally dedicated women in the field., which will result in greater positive change on a global scale in both the environmental and social realms.” Stay tuned for information about the 2021 call for entries in January. Topics Careers Women 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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WSLA, GreenBiz team on Women in Sustainability Leadership Awards

Nestlé digs deeper into regenerative ag, puts $3.6B behind net-zero plan

December 7, 2020 by  
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Nestlé digs deeper into regenerative ag, puts $3.6B behind net-zero plan Heather Clancy Mon, 12/07/2020 – 02:00 The world’s largest food company, Nestlé, last week said it plans to spend roughly $3.6 billion over the next five years to meet its net-zero by 2050 aspirations. But CEO Mark Schneider took pains to position this investment as one that will be “earnings-neutral.” Speaking during a virtual media briefing detailing its ambitious new climate plan — which includes an interim goal of halving its baseline of 92 million metric tons in annual greenhouse gas emission by 2030 — Schneider said many of its investments would be offset by operational and structural efficiencies. Nestlé will discuss its climate-related progress and investments on an ongoing basis, with the long-term view in mind. Schneider noted that at least 50 percent of the company’s shareholders have owned their positions for more than four years. “It’s not only about the next quarter, it’s about what’s happening down the road,” he said. That said, “all of this should never be an excuse for a short-term miss.” Currently, some of Nestlé’s managers have incentives aligned to meeting climate actions as part of their compensation. Moving forward, the entire executive team will have part of their pay tied to these metrics to ensure that “they have teeth,” Schneider said. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship GreenBiz Close Authorship Almost one-third of the money that Nestlé intends to invest will be dedicated to cultivating regenerative agricultural practices that improve soil health and reduce dependence on synthetic fertilizer across 500,000-plus farms from which Nestlé sources ingredients. Nestle intends to pay those farmers, as well as 150,000 other ingredient suppliers, a premium for adopting these techniques in a verifiable way. “Our actions will boost demand,” Schneider said during the briefing. “We will create the market for these ingredients.” The remaining money will be used to support the company’s goal of planting 20 million trees per year over the next decade in areas where it sources its ingredients and in completing the company’s transition to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2025. Nestlé has pledged that its sources of “key” commodities, including palm and soy, will be deforestation-free by 2022. (It’s at 90 percent currently.) During the briefing, Schneider and several other executives underscored the weight of consumers’ increasing expectation that brands work to reduce the carbon footprint of their products. In the short term, this might be a differentiator but over time “all companies and brands are heading in this direction,” said Nestlé global CMO Aude Gandon. That said, Nestlé is aggressively expanding its plant-based product portfolio — it has 300 scientists working on dairy alternatives alone — with brands such as Garden Gourmet (burger and sausage alternatives), Sweet Earth Foods (burritos and breakfast sandwiches) and Sensational Vuna (its first fish alternative).  Here are three other noteworthy components of Nestlé’s evolving strategy, formulated to support the company’s commitment to the United Nations “Business Ambition for 1.5 Degrees C” pledge in September 2019: A plan to switch the company’s entire global vehicle fleet to “lower emission options” by 2022. A deeper commitment to biodiversity, through a multicropping initiative and the use of more grain varieties (such as spelt and oats) in its recipes. A pledge to pay more for recycled “food grade” plastic in order to help stimulate demand. (It actually made this commitment back in January to source up to 2 million tons by 2025, and allocated $2.24 billion to support those intentions.)  Cornell economics and management professor Chris Barrett predicted that Nestlé’s new strategy — as well as moves announced earlier this year by Unilever — would have a ripple effect among suppliers and competitors across the food system. “The actions of big firms carry disproportionate importance,” Barrett said in a statement. “Their multi-billion-dollar investments are significant in their own right. But those actions especially matter because market leaders compel other firms to follow suit. The contractual terms they set for their suppliers and the expectations they raise among consumers will impact other food manufacturers, retailers and restaurant chains.” Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems Regenerative Agriculture Renewable Energy Procurement Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Pictures of a recipes made with the Sensational Burger from Garden Gourmet. Courtesy of Nestlé Close Authorship

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Nestlé digs deeper into regenerative ag, puts $3.6B behind net-zero plan

HSBC invests in world’s first ‘reef credit’ system

December 7, 2020 by  
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HSBC invests in world’s first ‘reef credit’ system Jesse Klein Mon, 12/07/2020 – 01:45 Traditionally, offset markets have been focused on credits for atmospheric carbon sequestration or restoration projects. But there are many other ways industrial and agricultural operations harm the planet. Australian-based environmental project developer GreenCollar decided to tackle one problem by creating a new type of credit to address an environmental issue very close to its country’s heart: the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef. Behind climate change, the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef is poor water quality. Agricultural runoff from The Great Barrier Reef Catchments, a rural area covering 163,700 square miles of coastal Queensland that drains directly onto the reef, causes high levels of nitrogen and sediment to seep into the ocean and damage the reef ecosystem.  GreenCollar’s new system creates a marketplace for “reef credits” aimed at mitigating those practices. Similar to carbon credits, these reef credits are sold by farmers or project developers to organizations and companies looking to offset their environmental footprints. Those sales help fund improved land management practices. But instead of removing or avoiding carbon in the atmosphere, reef credits go toward helping improve water quality in this very specific area to protect the reef.  One reef credit in the GreenCollar system is equivalent to one kilogram of nitrogen, or 538 kilograms of sediment avoided from the ocean. Unlike carbon credits, which are focused on helping companies or individuals make removal claims, reef credits are about the abatement of pollution at the edge of the system. There is no scheme for removing nitrogen currently in the water system. Behind climate change, the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef is poor water quality. GreenCollar said it worked with farmers and verification auditors, including the Reef Credit Secretariat and EcoMarkets Australia , as well as the Queensland government and private sector buyers. including financial services giant HSBC, to develop, authorize and sell these new credits. “It was really important that the farmers were part of building the process itself,” said Carole Sweatman, general manager of water quality at GreenCollar. “No point in building this beautifully shiny architecture if you roll it out on the ground and find out people just can’t use it or it just doesn’t make sense to them.” The thousands of farmers in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments use fertilizer to grow sugar cane, bananas, avocados, mangos and tomatoes. But the high degree of rainfall in the area produces intense agricultural runoff into the ocean near the reef. Selling the reef credits funds investments in more efficient fertilizer practices such as matching the application to the needs of specific crops and removing compact soil to decrease excess runoff, according to GreenCollar. “Sometimes that means restructuring your whole farm,” Sweatman said. “Buying new equipment, installing GPS. Those kinds of things can add considerable costs.” In the grazing and ranching areas near the wetlands, erosion and gullies have allowed nitrogen and sediment to bypass the wetlands drainage system and enter directly into the sea. The revenue from the reef credits will help repair the landscape, manage drainage systems and combat cattle overgrazing to protect these areas, GreenCollar said.  GreenCollar created the credit architecture, including a standard set of rules for the credits and three approved methodologies vetted by the audit firms. To ensure the standard meets goals for additionality, ensuring that the credits lead to pollution mitigation that would not have happened without the money from selling the credits; and leakage, the unintended consequences that could lead to higher pollution by shifting demand from a protected area to an unprotected area, GreenCollar said it worked with third parties to create the verification system. The goal is to create a system that makes a real and significant impact on the reef while creating a marketplace for corporations, farmers and environmental achievements to intersect. I think people were skeptical that we’d actually bring corporates in. Any of those pessimistic views we’ve been able to dispel quite quickly. “The auditors themselves draw up the framework that they utilize to undertake the audit,” Sweatman said. “We’ve shared our own technical work, but they have to create their own templates and run that [verification] process.”  For example, leakage is a big concern for GreenCollar. While a farmer is making improvements in some areas on the land, it is possible for reverse outcomes to occur on the rest of the property. According to Sweatman, GreenCollar requires farmers to record information across the entire property so auditors know what is happening all over the farm. GreenCollar is working with 50 farmers and hopes to increase that to 180 over the next three years This is the first credit system created specifically to protect a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and understanding how farming practices can affect the health of the reef isn’t always straightforward, according to GreenCollar. “People are used to forest-type credits,” Sweatman said. “You can go out and count trees or use aerial photography to really understand what the potential is in a landscape and then just go and physically count things. In the nitrogen space, it’s not countable in that sense.” Similar to the marketplaces that support soil carbon credits, the GreenCollar reef credits rely on farmers sharing the personal records of practices on their properties, including how much fertilizer they apply and the systems they use to calculate that fertilizer amount.   GreenCollar also is faced with educating buyers about this new concept, not a simple feat when you consider that the traditional carbon credit market is already extremely confusing to potential buyers.  “I think people were skeptical that we’d actually bring corporates in,” Sweatman said. “Any of those pessimistic views we’ve been able to dispel quite quickly.” The first corporation GreenCollar brought in as a buyer was HSBC. The financial services firm recently completed the purchase of the first tranche of reef credits and plans to continue buying them as part of its net-zero commitment. HSBC is targeting net-zero in operations and supply chain by 2030; it also seeks to align its portfolio of investments with the Paris Agreement goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. According to Greencollar and investment of $4 billion Australian is required to meet water quality targets for the Great Barrier Reef. “These nature-based solutions are going to become increasingly important,” said Hamish Kelly, managing director of global banking, Australia at HSBC. “We feel that these sorts of schemes are very clear demonstrations that nature-based solutions can support communities, and also facilitate the transition to net-zero carbon. And for us in Australia, what’s more, iconic than the Great Barrier Reef.” HSBC’s climate commitments include investing at least $750 billion in sustainable financing over the next 10 years. HSBC paid $36.40 per credit, and GreenCollar estimates that the market for reef credits could be worth over 6 million credits by 2030.  Pull Quote Behind climate change, the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef is poor water quality. I think people were skeptical that we’d actually bring corporates in. Any of those pessimistic views we’ve been able to dispel quite quickly. Topics Pollution Prevention Regenerative Agriculture Water Conservation Farmers Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A new reef credit marketplace hopes to save the Great Barrier Reef with corporate and government investment.// Courtesy of GreenCollar.

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HSBC invests in world’s first ‘reef credit’ system

Climate measures to watch for on the ballot

October 29, 2020 by  
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Based on the final presidential debate and the conversations that have been going in the media, this year’s presidential elections will be largely influenced by climate change . While the presidential candidates alone may not give you a clear picture of where the nation stands on clean energy and climate change, keeping your eyes on local ballot measures will. From Alaska’s oil tax to Denver’s climate tax, these measures will show us what the American people think about climate change. Unfortunately, the measures representing climate issues have fallen short this year, owing to the strain caused by the pandemic. For example, in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo pulled a $3 billion emissions bond off the ballot, saying that it is not the right time. “The financial situation is unstable. I don’t think it would be financially prudent to do it at this time.” Cuomo told reporters. Related: Biden vs Trump on environmental issues and climate change Even though some critical measures have been left off of ballots in 2020, there are still several that stand out and are worth keeping an eye on. In Alaska, Measure 1 on the ballot could quadruple the taxes collected from oil companies if passed. In Denver, Colorado, Measure 2A seeks to raise local sales taxes and redirect the funds to greenhouse gas reduction programs. Similar to Denver, Long Beach, California has introduced Measure US, which would increase the tax on local oil production with the aim of raising $1.6 million annually. The money would be channeled to youth programs and a climate action plan . California has other climate-related measures on the ballot, including Berkeley’s Measure HH, which targets a 2.5% gas and electricity utility tax increase. The money would go toward combating carbon emissions . Another, Measure DD in Albany, California, also proposes an increase in electricity and gas utility taxes, with the funds going toward reducing pollution. Other issues showing up on ballots include the Columbus, Ohio Issue 1 and the Nevada Question 6. Issue 1 would “establish an Electric Aggregation Program, which would allow the city to aggregate the retail electrical load of customers within the city’s boundaries, and allowing customers to opt-out of the program.” On the other hand, Question 6 asks voters whether the state should provide half their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The outcome of these issues will be vital in indicating the thoughts of Americans about climate change and defining our collective response to the climate crisis. Keep an eye out for the results on these proposed measures, and if you haven’t already — vote! Via Grist Image via Tiffany Tertipes

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Climate measures to watch for on the ballot

The top 25 most sustainable fleets

October 26, 2020 by  
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The top 25 most sustainable fleets Katie Fehrenbacher Mon, 10/26/2020 – 02:00 However you look at it, 2020 is a turning point for fleets.  Thanks to converging forces — including supportive policies, dropping battery costs and aggressive climate goals — transportation leaders at large and small organizations are increasingly turning to new zero-emission and low-carbon options that decarbonize fleets and in some cases save money. Fleets are often the workhorses that toil behind the scenes: the garbage trucks that pick up your trash before dawn; the long-haul semi-trucks that move goods from the port; the bucket trucks that utilities use to fix power lines and keep your lights on; the delivery vans that drop off your packages and help you stay safe inside your homes. The definition of fleet is evolving. Ride-hailing companies such as Lyft own vehicles, but they’re also working to help drivers that own their own vehicles move into EVs. The young e-scooter companies also own large “fleets,” although not in the traditional sense .  Fleet leaders are also facing increasing pressure. Policies such as California’s Advanced Clean Truck rule are forcing organizations in the state to phase in zero-emission trucks and phase out fossil fuel-based ones. Progressive cities, many in Europe, are building zones in downtown centers that are banning fossil-fuel vehicles and incentivizing zero-emission models. A global company that wants to deliver goods to residents in cities such as London, Paris, Madrid and soon Santa Monica , California, will need zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) fleets or it will lose business. ZEVs are also an opportunity for fleets. Certain types of vehicles — including transit and school buses, delivery vans and light-duty cars — can save fleet owners considerable money when they’re switched to electric. Other types of fleets such as long-haul trucks will take a lot& longer to go electric.  One of the biggest concerns for fleet leaders is how to design, plan, deploy and manage the complicated infrastructure that sometimes can be required to charge or fuel various types of fleets. Investments in software and data, as well as building deep relationships with utilities, will be key to helping fleets navigate this daunting ecosystem. Another chief concern is a lack of electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicle models from major OEMs in the U.S. that fit fleets’ needs. Time and again, fleet leaders say there just aren’t enough ZEV vehicles available for them to buy, and the ones that are available are just too expensive without incentives right now. The pandemic has created unique challenges for fleets, including safety concerns for drivers, additional vehicle cleaning costs and the need to redesign operations around social distancing measures. But the pandemic also has shone a spotlight on just how important many of these fleets are — in midst of the most aggressive lockdowns, trucks were running lifesaving groceries and personal protective equipment to communities and hospitals across the U.S. So here’s our list, in alphabetical order, of 25 organizations taking important steps to decarbonize their fleets, buying (or planning to buy) new zero-emission vehicles and making the still-difficult choice to be an early adopter. The list includes public agencies, big corporations, small companies, school districts, utilities — it runs the gamut.  To hear from some of these fleet leaders — including Seattle’s Philip Saunders, Port Authority NY and NJ’s Christine Weydig, Anheuser-Busch’s Angie Slaughter, Walmart’s Zach Freeze, Amazon’s Ross Rachey, IKEA’s Angela Hultberg, FedEx’s Russ Musgrove, Genentech’s Andy Jefferson and Lime’s Andrew Savage — tune into VERGE 20 across the next five days. The keynotes are free, but you’ll need to buy a pass for the transportation deep-dive sessions .  Media Authorship Amazon Close Authorship Amazon Amazon’s domination of commerce and delivery means it’s got a lot of emissions from the vehicles that deliver orders to our doorsteps every day. But in early 2019, Amazon announced an industry-first for a delivery company: It pledged that half of all of its shipments would be net-zero carbon by 2030. The entire company (including transportation) will be net-zero carbon by 2040. In true Amazon form, the company has written its own vehicle playbook and disrupted the status quo. While many fleet managers are challenged to find vehicles available that they can buy, Amazon routed around that problem by investing in — and planning to buy — 100,000 electric trucks from startup Rivian. Will Rivian eventually be a division of Amazon? Maybe: It would make sense for Amazon to bring vehicle production in-house in its constant bid for vertical integration. But Amazon is also buying electric versions of the Mercedes-Benz sprinter van that dominates delivery markets. For now, we’re eagerly watching and waiting for more details about Amazon’s growing zero-emission and low-carbon vehicle fleet. Media Authorship Anheuser-Busch Close Authorship Anheuser-Busch Beer giant Anheuser-Busch, the U.S. subsidiary of AB InBev, delivers about a million shipments of its beer per year, largely in trucks carrying beers such as Budweiser and Stella Artois to grocery stores and bars around the U.S. Of course, all that trucking delivers a big greenhouse gas footprint: 10 percent of Anheuser-Busch’s carbon emissions come from transportation. But the beverage maker has a big sustainability plan and is taking a first-mover approach to decarbonizing its dedicated fleet of around 1,600 vehicles. The company has an order to buy up to 800 of Nikola Motor’s hydrogen-powered fuel cell trucks and 40 Tesla Semi trucks. It could be one of the first fleets in the country to get long-haul zero-emission vehicles, and it has a plan to convert its entire long-haul dedicated fleet to ZEVs by 2025. At the same time, it’s already adopting renewable natural gas to power its natural gas trucks in its short-haul fleet.  Overall, Anheuser-Busch has a goal to slash carbon emissions by a quarter across its entire supply chain by 2025. Just a short five years away. An Antelope Valley Transit Authority bus on the road. Media Source Flickr Media Authorship Hiveminer Close Authorship Antelope Valley Transit Authority This summer, the Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) — a transit organization that serves the Southern California cities of Lancaster and Palmdale — hit a milestone : 3 million miles of zero-emission bus operation. The group’s fleet consists of 93 buses, 61 of which are zero-emission buses, and the majority of those are BYD-made electric models. The transit authority was one of the first in the U.S. to make a major commitment to electric buses four years ago, partly thanks to its close proximity to the American headquarters of BYD in Lancaster. A former BYD exec even joined AVTA as its CEO and has helped lead the e-bus transition. AVTA says in addition to slashed carbon emissions and local air pollution, it’s been able to save 769,231 gallons of diesel fuel, the equivalent of more than $1 million in fuel cost savings.  Denver International Airport If you’ve ever flown through Denver’s International Airport, you know the city prides itself on its innovative design and customer-friendly amenities. But it’s also been aggressively adopting zero- and low-emission vehicles.  Our friends at 100 Best Fleets named Denver International Airport the second greenest fleet in America. It’s got close to 300 alternative-fueled vehicles, including electric, hybrid and natural gas buses, sweepers and light-duty vehicles. The airport also incentivizes hybrid taxis and vans by reducing their access fees to the airport. Airport shuttle buses are a key area where electric vehicles will be able to make a dent, given their dedicated and short routes. States such as California are mandating that its 13 largest airports move their shuttle buses to zero-emission operations by 2035. Media Authorship Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com Close Authorship Facebook Facebook might not be thought of as a fleet leader, but two years ago Facebook acquired 43 BYD-made electric on-campus shuttles that can carry employees across its sprawling complex. At the time, the social media giant leveraged a unique financing deal led by Generate Capital to lease the vehicles , lowering the upfront costs. Facebook says it’s investigating how it can electrify its commuter shuttle buses. Facebook started testing out a double-decker electric commuter shuttle bus last year and had planned to test more out this year. However, the pandemic and remote work has thrown a wrench into many companies’ commuter ZEV bus plans. An Earthsmart FedEx zero-emission all-electrical truck in Lower Manhattan on July 17, 2014.  FedEx Delivery trucks are a key type of vehicle ready for electrification. Bloomberg New Energy Finance earlier this year declared delivery trucks to be the “next segment to cross the tipping point” and an electric “killer app.”  FedEx, which has more than 100,000 vehicles in its Express division across the world, has been working on its zero-emission and low-carbon vehicle program for a couple of years. Two years ago, FedEx announced a partnership with startup Chanje to add 1,000 Chanje electric delivery vehicles to its fleet: 100 bought outright and 900 leased through Ryder. Chanje is also supplying FedEx with EV charging infrastructure  FedEx recently told the New York Times that it added close to 400 electric vehicles in its fleet internationally last year, which brought its total EVs to close to 3,000, including forklifts and airport ground service equipment.   One of Genentech’s electric buses, made by BYD. Media Authorship Genentech Close Authorship Genentech Biotech giant Genentech is a surprising fleet leader: It’s got the most aggressive electric commuter bus programs around, in addition to its other EV fleet goals. Two years ago, the company started running electric BYD-made commuter buses to move its employees across the sprawling San Francisco Bay Area — from as far north as Vacaville to as far south as San Jose — to its headquarters in South San Francisco. While many companies are hesitant to rely on EVs for such long routes, Genentech took the plunge. And the company says it is happy with the results. Today, Genentech is in the process of converting close to half of its 60 buses on batteries.  In addition to its electric commuter buses, Genentech has committed to converting its entire light-duty sales fleet of 1,200 cars to electric or plug-in hybrid by 2030. IKEA is using an electric truck fleet in Shanghai to deliver its products to customers. Media Authorship IKEA Close Authorship Ingka Group (IKEA) Inkga Group, aka IKEA, has its own unique take on a ZEV fleet. The company doesn’t own its own vehicles, but its products are delivered via 10,000 vehicles globally, owned by delivery companies such as DHL and UPS. As a result, IKEA is using its large footprint to partner, push and pull its partners into ZEVs. IKEA says by 2025 all last-mile delivery of its goods will be done in electric vehicles. And by the end of this year (yes, 2020), IKEA says it will electrify its last-mile delivery in Shanghai, Paris, Los Angeles, New York and Amsterdam. It’s already happened in Shanghai and other cities are well underway. Los Angeles is proving a little more challenging, IKEA Chief Sustainability Officer Pia Heidenmark Cook said recently during a session at Climate Week. But if companies don’t push themselves, they won’t make progress. LeasePlan Netherlands-based LeasePlan is a large fleet management company that mostly operates in Europe but also has a solid presence in the U.S. We’re including the company because it was a founding member of the Climate Group’s EV100 Program and because of its first-of-its-kind ZEV fleet commitment.  The company has pledged to zero out its emissions for all of its customers’ fleets — at a whopping 1.8 million vehicles — by 2030. What’s more, it also plans to electrify its own employee fleet by 2021. These kinds of commitments are still unheard of broadly in the U.S. Europe is moving at a much faster trajectory toward electric vehicles than the U.S., despite the U.S.’s being the birthplace to EV leader Tesla. Many European countries and cities are committing to provide incentives for electric vehicles and banning fossil-fuel ones from city centers. Lime’s 3.0 scooter. Media Authorship Lime Close Authorship Lime Lime is our wildcard on the top fleets list. The electric scooter company operates a fleet of well over 100,000 electric scooters, as well as owned and leased trucks and vans that the company uses to move around its scooters.  Earlier this year, Lime pledged  — as part of the EV100 — to transition its entire fleet of vehicles to electric by 2030. It’s already powering its scooters and operations with clean energy as well as buying carbon offsets to neutralize emissions. Recently Lime also announced a partnership with the World Wildlife Foundation, which include programs around education, advocacy and carbon innovation. Next up for Lime? The scooter company is looking at new warehouse space where it can optimize charging infrastructure for an electric fleet. It’s also partnered with Ceres to help advocate for policies that will support a transition to electric fleets. Electrify America and Lyft partnered to bring chargers to Lyft EV drivers in Denver. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Electrify America Close Authorship Lyft Electrifying ride-hailing will be tricky, given most ride-hailing drivers own their own vehicles. But this summer, ride-hailing giant Lyft announced it plans to transition to 100 percent electric vehicles — both for the vehicles it owns and driver-owned vehicles — by 2030. It’ll take a big lift, a lot of outside-the-box thinking and major policy support to get there. But the time is now, and Uber set a similar goal after Lyft. Some policies are moving the ride-hailing giants in that direction. Cities, many of them in Europe, are setting incentives and mandates to ban fossil-fuel vehicles and transition to zero-emission vehicles in city centers. States such as California are setting specific rules for the ride-hailing companies to track and reduce their emissions. City of Oakland The city of Oakland in California has a long history of setting climate and sustainability goals, and in 2003 adopted a green fleet policy. As a result of a holistic and innovative approach, the city — which uses 1,500 types of vehicles — no longer uses diesel-powered vehicles and is using a combination of low-carbon fuels, compressed natural gas and electric vehicles. Its circular renewable diesel fueling system is unique in the country. It takes waste grease and oils from local businesses and its partner Neste converts them to renewable diesel, which then powers many of Oakland’s trucks. Richard Battersby, assistant director at Oakland Public Works, is a leader in the green fleet space for his work on Oakland’s fleet. This summer, Oakland adopted an equitable climate plan with ambitious targets for 2030, calling for a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gases relative to 2005 levels. The end goal is carbon neutrality.  PG&E Northern California’s Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has spent the last few years building out an electric fleet of 1,360 electric vehicles to add to the thousands of other vehicles in its low-carbon fleet that use sources such as natural gas and biodiesel. The company uses vehicles such as pickup trucks, bucket trucks and light-duty vehicles for various operations. PG&E’s goal is to electrify 100 percent of its light-duty vehicles, 10 percent of its medium-duty vehicles and 5 percent of its heavy-duty vehicles. There are particular challenges with battery range when it comes to electrifying heavy-duty emergency response vehicles and other work vehicles that don’t have unpredictable and lengthy routes. In addition to transforming its own fleet, PG&E is supporting the uptake of EVs for its 23,000 employees and has installed more than 1,230 charging stations at its facilities. It makes sense for utilities to be early adopters of fleet electrification, given they are helping their customers make a similar transition and need to learn their customers’ experience. PepsiCo Global beverage behemoth PepsiCo has an overarching goal to reduce its total greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2030. It’s got a lot of work to do across packaging, water, the sources for its products and — its fleet. The company runs vehicles such as long-haul trucks, yard trucks and forklifts to move its various products — from soft drinks to snacks to bottled water — across the globe. PepsiCo is building out a pilot facility with various low-carbon and electric vehicles at its Frito Lay campus in Modesto, California. The site, leveraging state incentives, will use 15 electric Tesla Semi Trucks, six electric Peterbilt e220 straight trucks, three BYD electric yard trucks, 12 BYD electric forklifts and 38 Volvo natural gas trucks fueled by renewable natural gas. The facility also will deploy charging and fueling infrastructure as well as solar and onsite battery storage. Media Source Flickr Media Authorship PGE Close Authorship Portland General Electric In September, Portland-based utility Portland General Electric announced that it plans to electrify large portions of its 1,167 vehicles. It already has 91 EVs in use, but the new commitment will deploy 600 electric vehicles and retire 600 fossil fuel-burning vehicles over the next 10 years. The goal is for its fleet to be 61 percent electric within a decade. Like with Pacific Gas & Electric, the really heavy-duty trucks — bucket trucks and dump trucks — will be the hardest to electrify, and Portland General Electric plans to transition 30 percent of those. Beyond fleet electrification, Portland General Electric has been a leader when it comes to trying to proactively find ways to enable the EVs on its network to be a net benefit. It’s been building out smart grid tech and testing out a virtual power plant . The company’s electric vehicles go hand-in-hand with its clean energy goals, and Portland General Electric expects to serve half of its customers with renewable-generated electricity by 2022.  Port Authority New York and New Jersey Port Authority New York and New Jersey has the largest electric bus fleet on the East Coast, including 36 buses and 19 chargers, at the region’s three biggest airports. The organization recently said it had reached its goal to have a 100 percent electric bus fleet by the end of this year (close to three months early). Beyond the bus fleet, 130 of the organization’s light-duty vehicles, used by employees and police officers, are electric. By 2023, Port Authority says over 600 — or 50 percent of its light-duty fleet — will be electric.  Port Authority’s fleet goals are all part of its overarching plan to reach a 35 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Salt River Project Tempe, Arizona-based Salt River Project (SRP) provides electricity and power to 1 million residents in central Arizona. The company has spent the past six years investigating and piloting electric vehicle tech for its employees, its fleet and its customers.  Today, SRP uses close to 200 electric vehicles, both on-road and offroad, including light-duty vehicles, bucket trucks, forklifts and utility carts. The organization also has the largest workplace EV charging program in Arizona, with close to 200 employees driving plug-in vehicles to SRP’s facility. SRP says this program is expected to grow to 450 employees (or 7 percent of its workforce) over the next five years. Down the road, SRP’s goals are to electrify 100 percent of its sedan fleet by the end of 2021 and reduce 30 percent of its fleet emissions by 2035. In addition, SRP expects 500,000 customers using EVs by 2035, and it will build plans and programs to help charge 90 percent of those customers’ EV loads.  Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority The Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority, which provides buses, light rail, paratransit and BART stations for greater Silicon Valley, has been an early transit group to codify sustainability goals, to implement clean energy technologies and, two years ago, to deploy electric buses.  In 2018, VTA put its first five electric buses , built by Proterra and using DC fast charging infrastructure made by Chargepoint, into service. The company has plans to procure 35 more electric buses over the next several years, on its way to meeting California’s mandate that says all transit buses must be zero-emission by 2040. VTA closely tracks its energy use for its fleet. Its goals are to reduce its fleet’s energy consumption by 35 percent below 2009 levels by 2025 and 60 percent by 2040.  Schneider Electric Earlier this year, energy company Schneider Electric announced that it’s joining the Climate Group’s EV100 program and will transition its entire 14,000 vehicle fleet to electric by 2030. The company is based in France but has operations across the globe. The company sells EV charging equipment and software, among many other energy and grid products, so it makes sense for it to use this huge commitment to learn more about what its customers are experiencing. Schneider Electric is also installing EV charging equipment at its facilities for its employees.            City of Seattle Over the last decade, the greater Puget Sound region has been looking to reduce its carbon emissions from transportation, which accounts for 60 percent of its total emissions. Alongside that regional issue, the city of Seattle has an aggressive and multi-pronged green fleet strategy for its over 6,000 vehicles, across departments such as police, fire and utilities.  Seattle’s future fleet goals include cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2025 and using only fossil-fuel-free vehicles by 2030. The fleet team, led by Philip Saunders, is looking to rapidly electrify, build out EV charging infrastructure, aggressively reduce fuel use, swap in low-carbon fuels for certain types of vehicles and pilot technologies that are not yet cost-effective or widely available. The company uses a wide range of technologies including renewable diesel, biodiesel, propane and EVs.  Twin Rivers School District Three years ago, Twin Rivers School District in California became one of the first school districts in the U.S. to deploy electric school buses. Today the organization operates 35 electric school buses, and over the next three years it plans to convert the bulk of its fleet, or 91 school buses, to electric. In the interim, Twin Rivers has natural gas buses, some of which run on renewable natural gas, and is running all of its diesel buses on renewable diesel from Neste . Following the switch to renewable diesel, it’s entire fleet is fossil-fuel-free.  Twin Rivers Director of Transportation Tim Shannon told GreenBiz in an interview earlier this year that the organization is already using the electric buses to pilot the vehicle-to-grid technology with Sacramento Municipal Utility District. It’s not just about cool tech, though. Shannon explains: “Our green bus program is taking an area that is highly densely populated, we’re transporting a lot of kids, we’re a disadvantaged community and a high rate of air pollution. We’re lowering all that, and we’re making it an eco-friendly place to live.” Look how happy everyone is in this Uber! Uber Following Lyft’s announcement, Uber revealed that it, too, plans to transition to an all zero-emission fleet. Uber says it will reach that goal by 2040. First, it will have 100 percent of its rides in the U.S., Canada and Europe, be electric by 2030.  Uber already has made progress in cities such as London, where it’s moving to an all-electric fleet. Uber says it will commit $800 million to help drivers on its platform move to EVs by 2025. The company also operates scooters and bikes, and its app encourages riders to use public transit.  The ride-hailing giants need to move to ZEV as cities and states pressure them with mandates. The California Air Resources Board recently found that the carbon emissions of Uber and Lyft’s vehicle fleet per passenger mile is over 50 percent higher than regular cars driving on the roads.  Unilever The consumer product company, based in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, says it will commit its entire global fleet of 11,000 vehicles to electric by 2030 as part of the Climate Group’s EV100 program. Its interim goals are 25 percent EV or hybrid by 2020, and 50 percent by 2025. Unilever has broader sustainability goals beyond its fleet, which include becoming “carbon positive” in its operations by 2030; 100 percent of its energy will come from renewables.  The UPS Rolling Laboratory of about 9,300 alternative vehicles includes more than 1,000 electric and hybrid electric delivery trucks in cities worldwide. Source: UPS UPS For several years UPS has been operating its “rolling laboratory” approach to piloting and deploying low-carbon and electric vehicles. Of its fleet of 125,000 package vans, trucks, motorcycles and tractors, UPS has 10,300 alternative-fuels vehicles, and it’s done a substantial project in London with smart grid tech and EVs. Earlier this year, UPS kicked its EV plans into overdrive. UPS announced it plans to buy 10,000 electric vehicles from partner Arrival, purpose-built for UPS. At the same time, UPS made an investment in the startup through its venture arm, UPS Ventures.  The strategy is similar to Amazon’s move with Rivian. The OEMs haven’t been producing the vehicles that these large fleets want and need, so the biggest companies are diving into the supply chain to help create their own. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Walmart Close Authorship Walmart Walmart is just starting its green fleet journey but kicked off the move with a bang by announcing in late 2020 hat it would transition its entire fleet to zero emissions by 2040, including its long-haul trucks. Up until now, much of Walmart’s strategy has been around piloting technology, adopting some zero-emission vehicles at its Canadian facility and aggressively adopting fuel-efficiency measures. Walmart has a fleet of over 10,000 vehicles including 6,500 semi-trucks and 4,000 passenger vehicles. Walmart’s senior director of strategic initiatives and sustainability at Walmart, Zach Freeze, told GreenBiz that “more needs to be done,” and Walmart wants to set the ambitious goal of zero-emission across the company. “In order to get to zero, we need to transition the fleet,” Freeze said.  Topics Transportation & Mobility Fleet Management Shipping & Logistics VERGE 20 Clean Fleets Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Earth911 Reader: Recycling Evolution, Plastic Consequences, and Packaging Progress

August 29, 2020 by  
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Earth911 Reader: Recycling Evolution, Plastic Consequences, and Packaging Progress

What switching to satellite offices could mean for sustainability

August 10, 2020 by  
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What switching to satellite offices could mean for sustainability Jesse Klein Mon, 08/10/2020 – 01:45 When the coronavirus pandemic started in March, many of America’s major cities experienced a mass exodus of people in search of places with more living space for home offices and outdoor areas for easier social distancing. And as many tech companies extend their work from home policies indefinitely , such as Google , which recently announced it will allow employees to work from home until July 2021, this migration could become permanent.  “There is this phenomenon that we know is happening around people leaving the major cities and going to smaller places,” said Lindsay Baker , former first chief sustainability officer at WeWork and founder of space use software app company Comfy . “People sometimes don’t choose to live in cities. They live there because they work there.”   And as employees move away, many companies are starting to reevaluate the necessity of maintaining their large corporate offices or complexes in congested, expensive places with prestigious addresses. In June, a San Franciscan tweeted a photo of three moving trucks on the edge of the city’s financial district near Chinatown and commented that he has seen over 30 in the area. At least anecdotally, both people and companies are leaving town. They are moving out of office buildings because they don’t need them.  But even if remote work becomes the long-term norm for every company post-pandemic, humans still like to work together. There’s still a part of us that wants to physically come together to collaborate and connect. So real estate strategies may turn towards smaller neighborhood satellite offices in multiple suburban locations, instead of one massive complex that serves an entire region or, in some cases, an entire state.  These smaller satellite hubs could allow employees to come together a few times a week and supply high-speed internet and better backgrounds than a kitchen table for important meetings, while also being less crowded for social distancing concerns, giving employees shorter commutes and allowing for a quieter, more accessible outdoor environments than a typical bustling financial district location.  But what will this possible transition to smaller hubs mean for the sustainability of office buildings where building designers and office managers have spent the last decade making every last inch of a multistory building as energy- and waste-efficient as possible? Large complexes have sustainabilities of scale When an influential company builds an HQ, it becomes iconic and synonymous with the company’s brand and image. The most well-known ones become part of the pop culture ethos and get nicknames: The Apple Spaceship, The GooglePlex, The Salesforce Tower, The Amazon Biodomes, The Hearst Tower, The Bank of China Tower, Lloyd’s “Inside-Out Building.” That notoriety incentivizes the company to commit to sustainable designs, technologies and programs for the highly scrutinized building. But the tenants couldn’t heavily invest in those projects without the massive number of people each building serves. And the bigger buildings could have sustainability of scale that smaller offices can’t provide. “I think to an extent you could make a claim that a larger campus or a larger building would be more sustainable [than a smaller office] for the simple fact that you can implement different technologies that have a better ROI,” said Kyle Goehring, executive vice president of clean energy solutions at JLL.  Media Authorship Salesforce Close Authorship These technologies can be as mundane as better, more energy-efficient boilers, lights, heaters, filters and air conditioners or as radical as the Salesforce Tower’s in-building blackwater treatment equipment.  “When you’ve got big buildings, you’ve got more complex, robust mechanical systems,” said Sean McCrady, vice president of Healthy Buildings, recently acquired by UL. And larger, more complex buildings are usually staffed with teams of specialists to run them. They notice when something isn’t running efficiently and work to find solutions. Just having people around in charge of sustainability to notice when the lights on the sixth floor keep getting left on is important. There are other sustainabilities of scale that large campus’ offer that smaller ones can’t. The Google Cafeteria, for example, works on a scale that allows for extremely sustainable operations. It uses ugly fruit , has a food waste reduction program and can serve on and wash real plates instead of using disposable ones. “Even if I bought a Tupperware full of whatever food I had to my office, took it home and washed it in my residential dishwasher, it would have been more consumptive than what Google does,” Baker said. “Because it’s at scale.” According to Baker, tech perks aren’t going away. Even in the time of the pandemic, employees still expect some of the same benefits they enjoyed at their large complexes. But instead of a buffet-style with real plates and a full kitchen in the complex, companies will deliver servings in disposable containers to the smaller hub locations. And with the virus still on everyone’s mind, instead of bulk ordering trail mix, nuts and candy for a bin with scope, single-serving chip bags and cookie packages will feel necessary. Sustainable cafeterias might be replaced with high-waste food delivery services.  Another factor that contributes to more sustainability investment on large corporate campuses is that they are either owned by the company or are in long-term lease agreements, sometimes up to 20 years. Both these situations give the company much more control over building decisions.  “Real estate owners will often say that the stability of long term and big leases help them to be able to make some of these sustainability improvements,” Baker said.  Almost every building expert interviewed for this story mentioned that companies and landlords are more willing to make changes if they have a steady partner to help carry the costs. There’s no point making a bunch of sustainable changes if the company plans to abandon that location in two years. Shifting to a smaller corporate office model with many businesses in each building and each company dealing with many landlords could threaten a company’s ability to influence a sustainable agenda. Smaller satellites could shift incentives  If post-pandemic, companies decided that instead of 100,000 to 1 million square feet organized into a complex, they need 10,000 square feet in 10 separate hub locations, there are a lot more decision-makers at the table, and a lot more split incentives.  “In America, buildings are owned by one entity, managed by a different entity and occupied by another entity,” Baker said. “All of these things getting disrupted means that there’s a little bit of mayhem going on for most buildings.” Essentially, there are more renters, more landlords, more operators and less control for any individual party, making getting anything done more difficult.   Each entity has different incentives that affect the feasibility of sustainable improvements. For example, where a tenant might see a huge advantage in installing solar panels to decrease the utility bill, the owner of the building who passes the electricity bill onto the renter doesn’t have any reason to pay for the solar infrastructure.  “Oftentimes, it’s the owner who’s really in a position of power,” Baker said. “When you have more tenants and shorter terms, split incentives become a much bigger problem, and it’s harder to get an owner to spend the money.” Goehring agreed. “A larger site campus may be able to put in more technologies because you have greater control over that property,” he said. “Whereas if you’re in much smaller sites and you have multiple tenants, you may not be able to implement an on-site renewable or energy-efficient solution because you’re sharing the asset with multiple parties. You may not be able to get agreement.” Essentially, there are more renters, more landlords, more operators and less control for any individual party, making getting anything done more difficult. Adobe already has encountered this problem with its satellite offices across the globe.  “If we have a small office somewhere that we rent, we have no local control,” said Vince Digneo, sustainability strategist for Adobe. “We’re working on strategies for being able to work with landlords.” On the other hand, the fact that the satellite offices are not as tightly controlled also could help green initiatives get off the ground. According to Baker, there’s less bureaucracy, and it could be easier to get decisions made. Moreover, in a smaller office, the people in charge might be more willing to take a chance on a change at a smaller scale. Even overhauling something simple could be a massive undertaking at a huge headquarters.  “Sometimes the best sustainability performance actually happens in the satellite offices of these big companies,” Baker said. “They were able to break down more silos faster. That stuff is sort of the bread and butter of sustainability work.” Sustainability could thrive in a market of flexibility, pressure and competition As corporations need less space, they have more potential locations available to hold them. According to the commercial building experts, fewer constraints, along with the pandemic exodus has created a renter’s market, forcing landlords to be more flexible to compete. To attract companies with sustainability commitments, smaller landlords that didn’t have to think about solar or efficient heating before will hopefully start making changes.  “You can influence the people who own the assets to implement solutions because if they don’t, you are going to go lease a different property or you’re going to relocate elsewhere,” Goehring said.  Baker hopes that the changing market will develop a sense of competition between landlords to be the most sustainable and be in line with the sustainable values and goals of larger companies. That means there’s an opportunity for the massive companies that need space in many places to turn up the heat on more buildings, more regulators and more landlords in more places. With satellite offices, companies could influence sustainable policies and access to renewable energy in many areas, instead of just focusing on the one that is home to the large base.  With Adobe’s many satellite locations, it is able to put pressure on regulators in states outside of its headquarters in California. According to Digneo, Adobe was able to work with local utilities such as Portland General Electric to get renewable energy to its sites in Hillsboro, Oregon, and later in Utah.  We are still far from the end of this pandemic, and we don’t know what the long-term ramifications for our office lives will be. But the private sector is usually quick to adapt and take advantage of a changing market, and the hope is those adaptations will include more sustainable offices, whatever the size.  Pull Quote Essentially, there are more renters, more landlords, more operators and less control for any individual party, making getting anything done more difficult. Topics Buildings Built Environment Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A rendering of Apple’s spaceship-like headquarters in Cupertino.

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What switching to satellite offices could mean for sustainability

Investors say agroforestry isn’t just climate friendly — it’s profitable

August 10, 2020 by  
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Investors say agroforestry isn’t just climate friendly — it’s profitable Stephanie Hanes Mon, 08/10/2020 – 00:15 This story originally appeared in Mongabay and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story. In the latter part of 2016, Ethan Steinberg and two of his friends planned a driving tour across the United States to interview farmers. Their goal was to solve a riddle that had been bothering each of them for some time. Why was it, they wondered, that American agriculture basically ignored trees? This was no esoteric inquiry. According to a growing body of scientific research, incorporating trees into farmland benefits everything from soil health to crop production to the climate. Steinberg and his friends, Jeremy Kaufman and Harrison Greene, also suspected it might yield something else: money. “We had noticed there was a lot of discussion and movement of capital into holistic grazing, no till, cover cropping,” Steinberg recalls, referencing some land- and climate-friendly agricultural practices that have been garnering environmental and business attention recently. “We thought, what about trees? That’s when a lightbulb went off.” The trio created Propagate Ventures , a company that offers farmers software-based economic analysis, on-the-ground project management and investor financing to help add trees and tree crops to agricultural models. One of Propagate’s key goals, Steinberg explained, was to get capital from interested investors to the farmers who need it — something he saw as a longtime barrier to such tree-based agriculture. Propagate quickly started attracting attention. Over the past two years, the group, based in New York and Colorado, has expanded into eight states, primarily in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. It is working with 20 farms. In late May, it announced that it had received $1.5 million in seed funding from Boston-based Neglected Climate Opportunities, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust. Fruit nut alley cropping in New York. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Propagate Ventures Close Authorship “My hope is that they can help farmers diversify their production systems and sequester carbon,” says Eric Smith, investment officer for the trust. “In a perfect world, we’d have 10 to 20 percent of U.S. land production in agroforestry.” For the past few years, private sector interest in “sustainable” and “climate-friendly” efforts has skyrocketed. Haim Israel, Bank of America’s head of thematic investment, suggested at the World Economic Forum earlier this year that the climate solutions market could double from $1 trillion today to $2 trillion by 2025. Flows to sustainable funds in the U.S. have been increasing dramatically, setting records even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the financial services firm Morningstar. While agriculture investment is only a small subset of these numbers, there are signs that investments in “regenerative agriculture,” practices that improve rather degrade than the earth, are also increasing rapidly. In a 2019 report , the Croatan Institute, a research institute based in Durham, North Carolina, found some $47.5 billion worth of investment assets in the U.S. with regenerative agriculture criteria. “The capital landscape in the U.S. and globally is really shifting,” says David LeZaks, senior fellow at the Croatan Institute. “People are beginning to ask more questions about how their money is working for them as it relates to financial returns, or how it might be working against them in the creation of extractive economies, climate change or labor issues.” Agroforestry , the ancient practice of incorporating trees into farming, is just one subset of regenerative agriculture, which itself is a subset of the much larger ESG, or Environmental, Social and Governance, investment world. But according to Smith and Steinberg, along with a small but growing number of financiers, entrepreneurs and company executives, it is one particularly ripe for investment. Although relatively rare in the U.S., agroforestry is a widespread agricultural practice across the globe. Project Drawdown, a climate change mitigation think tank that ranks climate solutions, estimates that some 1.6 billion acres of land are in agroforestry systems; other groups put the number even higher. And the estimates for returns on those systems are also significant, according to proponents. Ernst Götsch, a leader in the regenerative agriculture world, estimates that agroforestry systems can create eight times more profit than conventional agriculture. Harry Assenmacher, founder of the German company Forest Finance, which connects investors to sustainable forestry and agroforestry projects, said in a 2019 interview that he expects between 4 percent and 7 percent return on investments at least; his company already had paid out $7.5 million in gains to investors, with more income expected to be generated later. This has led to a wide variety of for-profit interest in agroforestry. There are small startups, such as Propagate, and small farmers, such as Martin Anderton and Jono Neiger, who raise chickens alongside new chestnut trees on a swath of land in western Massachusetts. In Mexico, Ronnie Cummins, co-founder and international director of the Organic Consumers Association, is courting investors for funds to support a new agave agroforestry project. Small coffee companies, such as Dean’s Beans , are using the farming method, as are larger farms, such as former U.S. vice president Al Gore’s Caney Fork Farms. Some of the largest chocolate companies in the world are investing in agroforestry. “We are indeed seeing a growing interest from the private sector,” says Dietmar Stoian, lead scientist for value chains, private sector engagement and investments with the research group World Agroforestry (ICRAF). “And for some of them, the idea of agroforestry is quite new.” Part of this, he and others say, is growing awareness about agroforestry’s climate benefits. Gains for the climate, too According to Project Drawdown, agroforestry practices are some of the best natural methods to pull carbon out of the air. The group ranked silvopasture , a method that incorporates trees and livestock together, as the ninth most impactful climate change solution in the world, above rooftop solar power, electric vehicles and geothermal energy. If farmers increased silvopasture acreage from 1.36 billion acres to 1.9 billion acres by 2050, Drawdown estimated carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced over those 30 years by up to 42 gigatons — more than enough to offset all carbon dioxide emitted by humans globally in 2015, according to NOAA  — and could return $206 billion to $273 billion on investment. Part of the reason that agroforestry practices are so climate friendly (systems without livestock, or “normal” agroforestry such as shade grown coffee, for example, are also estimated by Drawdown to return well on investment, while sequestering 4.45 tons of carbon per hectare per year) is because of what they replace. Photo of silvopasture system by Sid Brantley. Image via U.S.  National Agroforestry Center . Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Sid Brantley/U.S. National Agroforestry Center Close Authorship Traditional livestock farming, for instance, is carbon intensive. Trees are cut down for pasture, fossil fuels are used as fertilizer for feed, and that feed is transported across borders, and sometimes the world, using even more fossil fuels. Livestock raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), produce more methane than cows that graze on grass. A silvopasture system, on the other hand, involves planting trees in pastures — or at least not cutting them down. Farmers rotate livestock from place to place, allowing soil to hold onto more carbon. There are similar benefits to other types of agroforestry practices. Forest farming, for instance, involves growing a variety of crops under a forest canopy — a process that can improve biodiversity and soil quality, and also support the root systems and carbon sequestration potential of farms. A changing debate Etelle Higonnet, senior campaign director at campaign group Mighty Earth, says a growing number of chocolate companies have expressed interest in incorporating agroforestry practices — a marked shift from when she first started advocating for that approach. “When we first started talking to chocolate companies and traders about agroforestry, pretty much everybody thought I was a nutter,” she says. “But fast forward three years on and pretty much every major chocolate company and cocoa trader is developing an agroforestry plan.” What that means on the ground, though, can vary widely, she says. Most of the time a company’s sustainability department is pushing for agroforestry investment, not the C-suite. Some companies have committed to sourcing 100 percent of their cacao from agroforestry systems. Others are content with 5 percent of their cacao coming from farms that use agroforestry. In a perfect world, we’d have 10 to 20 percent of U.S. land production in agroforestry. What a company considers “agroforestry” also can be squishy, she points out — a situation that makes her and other climate advocates worry about companies using the term to “greenwash,” or essentially pretend to be environmentally friendly without making substantive change. “What is agroforestry?” says Simon Konig, executive director of Climate Focus North America. “There is no clear definition. There’s an academic, philosophical definition, but there’s not a practical definition, nothing that says, ‘It includes this many species.’ Basically, agroforestry is anything you want it to be, and anything you want to write on your brochure.” He says he has seen cases in South America where people have worked to transform degraded cattle ranches into cocoa plantations. They have planted banana trees alongside cocoa, which needs shade when young. But when the cocoa is five years old and requires more sun, the farmers take out the bananas. “They say, ‘it’s agroforestry,’” Konig says. “So there are misunderstandings — there are different objectives and standards.” He has been working to produce a practical agroforestry guide for cocoa and chocolate companies. One of the guide’s main takeaways, he says, is that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to agroforestry. It depends on climate, objectives, markets and all sorts of other variables. This is one of the reasons that agroforestry has been slow to gain investor attention, says LeZaks of the Croatan Institute. “There really aren’t the technical resources — the infrastructure, the products — that work to support an agroforestry sector at the moment,” LeZaks says. While agroforestry is seen as having significant potential for the carbon offset market, its variability makes it a more complicated agricultural investment. Another challenge to agroforestry investment is time. Tree crops take years to produce nuts, berries or timber. This can be a barrier for farmers, who often do not have extra capital to tie up for years. It also can turn off investors. “People are bogged down by business as usual,” says Stoian from World Agroforestry. “They have to report to shareholders. Give regular reports. It’s almost contradictory to the long-term nature of agroforestry.” This is where Steinberg and Propagate Ventures come in. The first part of the company’s work is to fully analyze a farmer’s operation, Steinberg says. It evaluates business goals, uses geographic information system (GIS) components to map out land, and determines the trees most appropriate for the particular agricultural system. With software analytics, Propagate predicts long-term cost-to-revenue and yields, key information for both farmers and possible private investors. After the analysis phase, Propagate helps implement the agroforestry system. It also works to connect third-party investors with farmers, using a revenue-sharing model in which the investor takes a percentage of the profit from harvested tree crops and timber. Additionally, Propagate works to arrange commercial contracts with buyers who are interested in adding agroforestry-sourced products to their supply chains. “Here’s an opportunity to work with farmers to increase profitability by incorporating tree crops into their operations in a way that’s context specific,” Steinberg says. “And it also starts addressing the ecological challenge that we face in agriculture and beyond.” This report is part of Mongabay’s ongoing coverage of trends in global agroforestry. View the full series here . Pull Quote In a perfect world, we’d have 10 to 20 percent of U.S. land production in agroforestry. Topics Food & Agriculture Forestry Forestry Reforestation Regenerative Agriculture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of National Agroforestry Center Close Authorship

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Investors say agroforestry isn’t just climate friendly — it’s profitable

Lyft plans to electrify all of its cars by 2030

June 17, 2020 by  
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Lyft plans to electrify all of its cars by 2030 Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 06/17/2020 – 10:00 In an unprecedented move, the ride-hailing company Lyft revealed Wednesday it plans to electrify every car on its platform — those owned by Lyft and rented to drivers as well as cars owned by drivers — by 2030. The decade-long goal could result in millions of electric vehicles purchased for ride-hailing operations, encourage greater electric vehicle charging deployments and motivate stronger city, state and federal policies that could make EVs more economical. Lyft said its electric vehicle transition would remove more than 16 million tons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere by 2030, equivalent to taking 3 million traditional cars off the roads.  On a media call Wednesday, Lyft Chief Policy Officer Anthony Foxx (former Secretary of Transportation under President Barack Obama) described the announcement as “a big deal.” Lyft co-founder and President John Zimmer said, “It’s on us to lead. We’re looking at bold opportunities. We intend to push hard and lean into this.” Lyft has been exploring how to make its vehicle fleet more sustainable for a couple of years. But the new EV goal is a huge step for the company, which is in fierce competition with Uber and has been positioning itself as the friendlier ride-hailing choice.  Two years ago, Lyft launched a program to buy carbon offsets for all of the rides organized on its network. Lyft followed that up by launching “green mode” on its app. That feature lets riders in certain cities request a ride in an electric car, and drivers can rent electric vehicles through Lyft’s Express Drive program. In addition, Lyft operates bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters in certain regions and integrates its app with public transit data.  The new electric vehicle target, however, is a game-changing move that could transform the company and could provide environmental leadership to the rest of the ride-hailing industry. Lyft says in its release that “Lyft is willing to go first, but others need to follow if we want to hit mass-market electrification.” Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship GreenBiz Collage Close Authorship The move won’t be easy. Lyft recently announced a first-quarter loss of $85.2 million on quarterly revenue of $955.7 million, and said it plans to cut $300 million in expenses by the fourth quarter. While EVs can be cheaper to operate, compared to gasoline costs, high battery costs still can make many EVs more expensive than traditional cars. Many regions also still lack adequate public charging infrastructure. Shelter-in-place directives adopted to combat spread of the COVID-19 pandemic have battered ride-hailing companies as riders have stayed inside and avoided rides. But as states nationwide — and cities around the world — have started to open up for business, ride-hailing services have started to pick up.  Lyft says that the COVID-19 crisis forced the company to “rethink our priorities and focus on cost-effective investments. COVID-19 presented us with a choice to ‘hunker down or ‘grow back better’ by accelerating the transition to EVs. We are choosing to ‘grow back better’ by making sustainability an integral part of our path to profitability,” said the company in a statement. Light-duty electric vehicles, such as the General Motor’s Bolt or the Nissan LEAF, are being adopted by some public and commercial fleets for administrative work and are helping companies and cities cut fuel costs. These vehicles are particularly attractive in states such as California that have strong policies in place to incentivize EVs.  But ride-hailing companies face a unique challenge when it comes to electrifying their fleets. Most cars on their network are owned by drivers, many of whom already operate on low margins.  Lyft will need to take a systemic approach to try to make electric vehicles more attractive to its drivers, including influencing state policies, providing incentives and encouraging infrastructure providers to build out EV chargers for drivers.  All of the initial projects will be in the United States. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Lyft Close Authorship Charging networks could be the biggest hurdle for the EV goal. A couple of years back in Washington, D.C., a lack of charging infrastructure flummoxed taxi drivers that agreed to adopt electric taxis. Like taxi drivers, ride-hailing drivers will have various needs for when they’d want to charge a vehicle, whether at home or at a ride-hailing charging depot, depending on where they live and their preferred routes. While the pandemic and recession likely will dampen sales of passenger EVs in the short term, electric vehicles are still expected to grow substantially over the next two decades. The researchers at Bloomberg New Energy Finance predict there will be 500 models of EVs available by 2022, and 28 percent of new vehicle sales globally will be electric by 2030. That percentage is supposed to grow to 58 percent of new sales by 2040.  Aggressive policies around the world are helping spur this electric transition. California’s clean air regulators (the California Air Resources Board, or CARB) are in the process of implementing a first-of-its-kind clean miles standard that requires the ride-hailing companies to have a certain portion of the miles driven through their platforms be with zero-emission vehicles.  Under the bill SB 1014, Lyft and Uber are required to submit electrification plans at the beginning of 2022, with the program beginning in 2023. In the first phase of the legislation, CARB established that the carbon emissions of Lyft and Uber’s vehicle fleet per passenger mile are over 50 percent higher than regular cars that drive on the roads. That’s largely because ride-hailing drivers travel around looking for passengers (called dead-head miles) for about 40 percent of their time. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) put out a report earlier this year that found that ride-hailing trips are 69 percent more polluting than the trips they replace. UCS’s Don Anair, the lead author on the report, said in an interview with GreenBiz: “It’s very clear that steps need to be taken to reduce climate emissions from ride hailing. Electrification is one of the largest steps to address these emissions.” Lyft says it plans to join The Climate Group’s EV100 group, which asks members to make commitments to electrify 100 percent of their fleets. Lyft is already a member of the RE100 group, which has pledged to use 100 percent clean energy by 2030.  Updated: This article was updated June 17 with information from Lyft’s media call. Topics Transportation & Mobility Ride Hailing Electric Vehicles Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Electrify America and Lyft partnered to bring chargers to Lyft EV drivers in Denver. Courtesy of Electrify America Close Authorship

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