How Avangard Innovative is working to scale post-consumer resin recycling

September 11, 2020 by  
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How Avangard Innovative is working to scale post-consumer resin recycling Since Avangard Innovative came onto the recycling scene 30 years ago, the company has expanded its presence to 11 countries. Its goal is to lower waste costs and what’s going into a landfill, said Rick Perez, chairman and CEO of the company.  Perez noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the work Avangard Innovative does. “At the end of the day, you have to pivot your business. You have to find a way to make it more valuable,” said Perez, adding that the demand for post-consumer resin is still present. Avangard Innovative has piloted and is now scaling its recycling work by building post-consumer resin facilities in Houston, New Mexico and Nevada. Heather Clancy, editorial director at GreenBiz, interviewed Rick Perez, chairman and CEO at Avangard Innovative, during Circularity 20, which took place on August 25-27, 2020. View archived videos from the conference here . Deonna Anderson Fri, 09/11/2020 – 15:16 Featured Off

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Applying rock dust to farms could boost carbon sequestration

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

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Natural pink walls make up this eco-friendly hotel in Oaxaca

July 7, 2020 by  
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Designed by studios Taller Lu’um and At-te, the Monte Uzulu boutique hotel in Oaxaca, Mexico has doors made from  local wood  and walls crafted with a combination of concrete, earth and natural lime. The name comes from the word gusulú, meaning “beginning” in the region’s indigenous Zapotec language. As the hotel resides in the small fishing village of San Agustinillo, the designers wanted to honor the land surrounding the site by modeling the hotel to be close to nature. The  Pacific Ocean  can be found just a short walk away from the property, and construction kept as many trees as possible intact to make less of an environmental impact. According to the architectural team, a roughly 1,000-year-old jungle surrounds the hotel, so respecting the trees became a pivotal part of the design plan. Related: Ancient Mayan-inspired Casa Merida operates off the grid in Mexico Monte Uzulu’s balance with nature shows in its construction materials, which include natural elements such as locally-sourced wood,  soil  and dried palm leaves. A pink rendering of earth, lime and natural pigment covers the concrete walls, applied by hand and palette knife. The open-sided structure, moveable wood walls and thatched roof are modeled after the palapa design that is native to this part of western  Mexico . This design promotes natural ventilation and less sun exposure, making it perfect for the area’s hot weather. Six rectangular structures with gabled roofs connect with a series of stairs, making up 11 guest suites and about 7,782 square feet of total area. Each room has a terrace overlooking the jungle and ocean, with interior  concrete  walls left exposed to match the concrete floors and fixtures. Local artisans crafted the furniture, such as shelves and bed frames, using local wood. Sustainability measures, including a  rainwater collection system , water recycling system, natural water pools and a biodigester to convert organic waste, are implemented to reduce the hotel’s environmental impact even further. + Monte Uzulu Via Dezeen

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Natural pink walls make up this eco-friendly hotel in Oaxaca

Where Unilever’s product labeling initiative could have a huge impact

June 26, 2020 by  
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Where Unilever’s product labeling initiative could have a huge impact Jim Giles Fri, 06/26/2020 – 01:00 One of the most significant projects in sustainable food in 2020 was unveiled last week. The news is important partly because of the company involved: CPG behemoth Unilever, which reaches 2.5 billion consumers every day through 400 brands, which range from Ben & Jerry’s to Hellmann’s and appear on shelves in 190 countries.  The other reason is that the plan is genuinely ambitious . The company is committing to net-zero emissions from all products by 2039, spending $1 billion on climate and nature projects over 10 years, and planning on labeling each of its products with information about the carbon emitted in the product’s creation. This last point is particularly significant. Consumers, especially younger adults, consistently say that climate concerns influence their purchasing. Yet this influence is diluted because most people have little insight into the emissions linked to specific products. Clearly communicating emissions on every product could leverage those concerns in a scalable way, boosting sales of low-carbon products and punishing emissions-heavy options. So will Unilever’s labeling decision change the way people shop? We can’t say for sure, because most consumers have never seen a carbon label. But there’s evidence for optimism. Clearly communicating emissions on every product could leverage those concerns in a scalable way, boosting sales of low-carbon products and punishing emissions-heavy options. There’s data on the impact of other kinds of labels, for instance. Over the past five years, several countries, including Chile, Mexico and Israel, have attached health warnings to sodas and other sugary beverages. A meta-analysis of 23 studies of these initiatives , released last month, showed the labels work: Consumers who see them are less likely to purchase high-sugar drinks. When carbon labels have been deployed, usually in small experiments, they also seem to work. Researchers at Chalmers Technological University in Sweden, for example, looked at the impact of emissions information on meal choices at their institution’s cafeteria. Sales of high-carbon meat dishes fell by almost 5 percent — a modest drop, but significant for an initial experiment based on a simple intervention.  A final reason for optimism is that while Unilever is by far the biggest food company to roll out carbon labels, it is not alone. Oatly and Quorn recently announced plans to start displaying carbon footprint data on products. Twelve food and beverage brands also have earned the new Climate Neutral certification and began displaying the associated label. Put all that together, and it looks like Unilever’s move could trigger structural change. But before I get carried away, let’s look at two factors that could undermine its impact. First up is the label itself. In an email, Rebecca Marmot, Unilever’s CSO, told me that her company is focusing on collecting footprint data and will turn to the labels once that’s in place. How Unilever eventually communicates carbon levels will be critical. How big will the label be? Where will it appear? Will consumers be able to make sense of it? It won’t be an easy challenge. Space on food packaging is extremely tight, and consumers are already exposed to multiple labels relating to sustainability. (457, by one count ). The second issue is cost. Of those 457 labels, organic is probably the most well known. Demand for organic food has shown double-digit growth in many recent years, yet it still accounts for around only 5 percent of U.S. food sales and less than 1 percent of planted acreage. Cost is critical here: Surveys show that organic food has a 7.5 percent premium, with some goods, including milk, eggs and bread, costing close to twice as much.  This is a reminder that for many consumers, cost trumps environmental concerns. In a way, though, that’s what makes the Unilever announcement so exciting. We’re talking here about the company behind Knorr, Lipton and Magnum. These are not niche brands targeted at affluent, sustainability-minded consumers willing to pay more. By introducing carbon labeling into everyday products found in the biggest chains and the smallest corner stores, Unilever is testing whether environmental concerns resonate with a much, much larger segment of consumers. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote Clearly communicating emissions on every product could leverage those concerns in a scalable way, boosting sales of low-carbon products and punishing emissions-heavy options. Topics Food & Agriculture Marketing & Communication Food & Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Where Unilever’s product labeling initiative could have a huge impact

Where Unilever’s product labeling initiative could have a huge impact

June 26, 2020 by  
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Where Unilever’s product labeling initiative could have a huge impact Jim Giles Fri, 06/26/2020 – 01:00 One of the most significant projects in sustainable food in 2020 was unveiled last week. The news is important partly because of the company involved: CPG behemoth Unilever, which reaches 2.5 billion consumers every day through 400 brands, which range from Ben & Jerry’s to Hellmann’s and appear on shelves in 190 countries.  The other reason is that the plan is genuinely ambitious . The company is committing to net-zero emissions from all products by 2039, spending $1 billion on climate and nature projects over 10 years, and planning on labeling each of its products with information about the carbon emitted in the product’s creation. This last point is particularly significant. Consumers, especially younger adults, consistently say that climate concerns influence their purchasing. Yet this influence is diluted because most people have little insight into the emissions linked to specific products. Clearly communicating emissions on every product could leverage those concerns in a scalable way, boosting sales of low-carbon products and punishing emissions-heavy options. So will Unilever’s labeling decision change the way people shop? We can’t say for sure, because most consumers have never seen a carbon label. But there’s evidence for optimism. Clearly communicating emissions on every product could leverage those concerns in a scalable way, boosting sales of low-carbon products and punishing emissions-heavy options. There’s data on the impact of other kinds of labels, for instance. Over the past five years, several countries, including Chile, Mexico and Israel, have attached health warnings to sodas and other sugary beverages. A meta-analysis of 23 studies of these initiatives , released last month, showed the labels work: Consumers who see them are less likely to purchase high-sugar drinks. When carbon labels have been deployed, usually in small experiments, they also seem to work. Researchers at Chalmers Technological University in Sweden, for example, looked at the impact of emissions information on meal choices at their institution’s cafeteria. Sales of high-carbon meat dishes fell by almost 5 percent — a modest drop, but significant for an initial experiment based on a simple intervention.  A final reason for optimism is that while Unilever is by far the biggest food company to roll out carbon labels, it is not alone. Oatly and Quorn recently announced plans to start displaying carbon footprint data on products. Twelve food and beverage brands also have earned the new Climate Neutral certification and began displaying the associated label. Put all that together, and it looks like Unilever’s move could trigger structural change. But before I get carried away, let’s look at two factors that could undermine its impact. First up is the label itself. In an email, Rebecca Marmot, Unilever’s CSO, told me that her company is focusing on collecting footprint data and will turn to the labels once that’s in place. How Unilever eventually communicates carbon levels will be critical. How big will the label be? Where will it appear? Will consumers be able to make sense of it? It won’t be an easy challenge. Space on food packaging is extremely tight, and consumers are already exposed to multiple labels relating to sustainability. (457, by one count ). The second issue is cost. Of those 457 labels, organic is probably the most well known. Demand for organic food has shown double-digit growth in many recent years, yet it still accounts for around only 5 percent of U.S. food sales and less than 1 percent of planted acreage. Cost is critical here: Surveys show that organic food has a 7.5 percent premium, with some goods, including milk, eggs and bread, costing close to twice as much.  This is a reminder that for many consumers, cost trumps environmental concerns. In a way, though, that’s what makes the Unilever announcement so exciting. We’re talking here about the company behind Knorr, Lipton and Magnum. These are not niche brands targeted at affluent, sustainability-minded consumers willing to pay more. By introducing carbon labeling into everyday products found in the biggest chains and the smallest corner stores, Unilever is testing whether environmental concerns resonate with a much, much larger segment of consumers. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote Clearly communicating emissions on every product could leverage those concerns in a scalable way, boosting sales of low-carbon products and punishing emissions-heavy options. Topics Food & Agriculture Marketing & Communication Food & Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice

June 26, 2020 by  
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How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice Rachel Ramirez Fri, 06/26/2020 – 00:30 This story originally appeared in Grist;  and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story . “I can’t breathe.” These were among the final words that George Floyd and Eric Garner gasped before their deaths at the hands of white police officers. That plea has become part of the current rallying cry for racial justice and an end to police brutality in the United States. But for Black people living near industrial facilities, the phrase has an additional layer of meaning: a reminder of their disproportionate pollution burden. “While many in power seemed surprised that COVID-19 is killing twice as many Black Americans, those of us in the environmental justice movement know that the health impacts of cumulative and disproportionate levels of pollution in our communities have created underlying health conditions that contribute to our higher COVID-19 mortality rates,” said Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said at a virtual press conference in mid-June. Shepard is part of the National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN) , a national coalition of Black environmental justice groups and grassroots activists founded in 1991. Although the network took a hiatus in 2006 after executive director Damu Smith died , the network just announced that it’s making a comeback against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and renewed calls to fight racial injustice. We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries. The network’s mission sends a clear message: Environmental injustice is not a single issue. Rather, it’s a constellation of issues including discrimination in housing, jobs and healthcare. It’s impossible to untangle Black communities’ current risks from America’s long history of racist policies and practices. Discriminatory policies such as banks’ government-sanctioned refusal to approve home loans and insurance for people in communities of color, also known as redlining, forced Black families into neighborhoods more likely to be exposed to industrial pollution and extreme heat . Now these same communities face a surge in unemployment and poverty rates as a result of the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic, and they also are  disproportionately dying from the novel coronavirus as a result of a lack of health insurance, unequal access to test sites and higher workplace exposure via employment in essential services. As if that weren’t enough, a recent Harvard study also found a link between air pollution and death from COVID-19. Given the systemic conditions that disproportionately expose Black people to the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and other worsening crises, NBEJN members — including the network’s co-chairs, environmental justice pioneers Robert Bullard and Beverly Wright — say they are looking to bring in Black lawyers, engineers, leaders and other experts to join forces to help create an equitable green stimulus package, take on the fossil fuel industry and fight the Trump administration’s seemingly endless orders to weaken environmental protections . “We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries,” said Bullard, an author and professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University. “The NBEJN is about dismantling systemic racism, and we’re talking about turning the dominant paradigm on its head.” Network leaders say COVID-19 recovery legislation could be an opportunity for lawmakers to pass a robust green stimulus package that would focus on environmental justice. Such a green stimulus package, the coalition said, needs to address core issues of systemic racism by, for example, providing green jobs to communities of color. NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America. “Green stimulus packages often only look at protecting the world, but not protecting people like us,” said Wright, executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. “Any stimulus package dealing with transportation to housing or whatever they’re talking about doing will have to include us and need to be viewed with equity and justice lenses.” Even if an equitable green stimulus package makes it through Congress and the White House, there still will be a lot more work to be done. Bullard said that even if the Democratic party wins the presidential election or takes control of the Senate, it will take time to reverse Trump-era environmental policy damages, including the country’s withdrawal from the 2016 Paris Agreement. Even then, he added, policymakers will need to take additional steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions and center frontline communities. And NBEJN leaders say the network will stick around to make sure those steps are taken. “Racism is baked into America’s DNA,” Bullard said. “NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America.” Pull Quote We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries. NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America. Topics COVID-19 Policy & Politics Environmental Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Tverdokhlib Close Authorship

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How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice

3 keys for scaling nature-based solutions for climate adaptation

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

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The farm-to-food-bank movement rescues pandemic-related food waste

May 18, 2020 by  
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Farmers are burying onions, destroying tomatoes and grinding up heads of lettuce to return to the soil. Dairy workers are dumping milk. These images of food destruction have horrified Americans during the pandemic . Farmers shouldn’t have to destroy the crops they’ve poured their money, energy, time and strength into. Hungry people shouldn’t witness the destruction of food that they could cook for their families. But farmers and organizations are working to save this food and bring it to those in need. COVID-19 has hurt people in many ways, but the food supply chain has been hit especially hard. Since restaurants, hotels, schools and cruise ships have shut down, farmers have lost about 40% of their customer base on average. Some farms have lost their main outlets. For example, RC Hatton Farms in Florida has had to disk — that is, grind up and recycle into the soil — hundreds of acres of cabbage since the crop has lost its future as KFC slaw. Related: How to volunteer during COVID-19 Meanwhile, with the U.S. unemployment rate stretching toward 15% , more Americans could make use of those crops. The question is, how can the food supply chains be rerouted before all of the vegetables and milk spoil? Worldwide food insecurity may double this year because of COVID-19. In relatively affluent America, people are waiting in line for hours to get to food pantries. Fortunately, the world is full of clever and helpful people. From individuals to large organizations, people are devising ways to redistribute food to those who need it. From farms to food banks Food banks are nonprofit organizations that store food donated from retailers, restaurants, grocery stores and individuals. This food is then distributed to food pantries, where people can take home food to eat. Food pantries provide millions of free meals per year. With their restaurant and institutional clients closed by COVID-19, more farmers are trying to donate crops straight to food banks. But donation doesn’t come free. While most farmers would vastly prefer to donate their vegetables than to let them rot in fields, those crops don’t harvest themselves. Nor do they pack themselves for shipping or drive to the nearest food bank. Some states are working hard to facilitate getting crops to the people. At the end of April, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $3.64 million expansion to the state’s Farm to Family program. By the end of the year, he expects this campaign to reach $15 million. The Farm to Family program is a partnership between the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Association of Food Banks. The USDA has approved redirecting $2 million in unused Specialty Crop Block Grant funds to the California Association of Food Banks. This will help cover costs of picking, packing and transporting the produce to food banks. “Putting food on the table during this pandemic is hard for families on the brink,” Newsom said in a press release. “It’s in that spirit that we’re expanding our Farm to Family program while also working to connect low-income families with vital resources and financial support. We thank our farmers for stepping up to donate fresh produce to our food banks . And we want families struggling to access food to know we have your backs.” In New Mexico, the state chapter of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) launched its own Farm to Foodbank program. The group will fund farmers to continue producing organic produce, which will be routed to food pantries. AFSC is also helping farmers buy supplies, such as seeds, masks, gloves and irrigation systems. In return, the farmers sign contracts promising produce to community members suffering from food insecurity. For example, farmers at Acoma Pueblo requested seeds and promised to donate a part of their crops to the senior center. Help from private companies Some companies are also assisting in moving surplus crops to food banks. Florida-based Publix Super Markets has long been donating food to Feeding America’s member food banks and other nonprofits. In the last 10 years, Publix has donated about $2 billion worth of food, or 480 million pounds. Now, the supermarket chain is stepping up its efforts and buying unsold fresh milk and produce from Florida and regional producers and donating these goods to Feeding America food banks. “As a food retailer, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the needs of families and farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” Todd Jones, chief executive officer of Publix, told NPR . Other supermarket chains have announced large monetary donations to food banks during the pandemic, including $50 million from Albertsons. Kroger Co. set up a $10 million Emergency COVID-19 Response Fund. To celebrate Earth Day , Natural Grocers donated $50,000 in gift cards to food banks. Individual giving Some farmers have taken direct action to get their crops to families. Idaho potato farmer Ryan Cranney invited the public to help themselves to his millions of unsold potatoes. “At first I thought we’d have maybe 20 people,” Cranney said in an interview . He was amazed when thousands of people drove to his town, with a population of 700, and hauled away potatoes. “We saw people from as far away as Las Vegas, which is an 8-hour drive from here,” he said. Of course, most of us don’t have millions of potatoes to spare. But we can still help food banks. In better times, food banks appreciate shelf-stable foods like peanut butter and tomato paste. But right now, the best thing you can do as an individual is to give money. Feeding America, the biggest hunger relief organization in the U.S, has about 200 member food banks. If you’re able to spare a few dollars, you can donate to its COVID-19 Response Fund . Via CBS 8 , Santa Fe New Mexican and Politico Images via Philippe Collard , Hai Nguyen , U.S. Department of Agriculture and Dennis Sparks

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Will Mexico City’s massive new park be a climate adaptation paragon for other cities?

March 2, 2020 by  
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An architect and officials are hoping that a huge park in Mexico City can restore the water systems of the region and serve as a model for others around the world.

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Will Mexico City’s massive new park be a climate adaptation paragon for other cities?

Modular homes in Sweden are specially designed for solar panels

January 22, 2020 by  
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Swedish firm Street Monkey Architects has unveiled new solar-powered, prefabricated modular homes in Örebro, Sweden. The row-house project was based on a similar award-winning construction project near Stockholm that was built using passive house principles but designed to complement the urban setting. The single-family structures are designed with energy efficiency in mind to promote lifestyles with smaller carbon footprints. Each home is constructed using six factory-build prefab modules that arrive to the building site already complete with finished walls, bathrooms, kitchens and finishing materials. Onsite, the facade is assembled, and the seams between the modules are finished to remove any evidence of modular prefabrication. Related: Rural, modular home in Mexico allows for a wide variety of configurations The designers heightened the roof in order to better frame the street and allow the homes to stand up against some of the neighborhood’s taller buildings. The facades — which Street Monkey builds once the modular homes arrive to the site — are made from the same combination of wood, steel and plaster as the firm’s Stockholm project but with more exposed steel. The materials used in the facades depend on the orientation, meaning the ones facing east or west have white plaster and the ones facing the north or south are made of either dark silver steel or steel with wood lattice. As a result, the row of modular houses presents three different versions of the same 150-square-meter home and provides a sense of individuality for residents without losing the overall visual cohesiveness of the row. The highlight of the Örebro homes is the utilization of solar panels , the placement of which also depended on the particular house’s orientation. As the solar panels are designed to face south, the architects had to come up with a unique roof designed for both appearance and practicality. Houses that were east-west facing have sawtooth roofs with customized ridgelines and a 45-degree angle for the panels, while homes with north-south facades and east-west ridgelines have asymmetrical, mirrored roofs. + Street Monkey Architects Photography by Mattias Hamrén via Street Monkey Architects

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Modular homes in Sweden are specially designed for solar panels

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