The ‘S’ in ESG gains currency

February 8, 2021 by  
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The ‘S’ in ESG gains currency Manjit Jus Mon, 02/08/2021 – 01:00 This article originally appeared in the State of Green Business 2021. You can download the entire report here . We have seen a rising emphasis on ESG issues in recent years, as customers, investors and other stakeholders look for more transparency on corporate strategies and their impact on society. Companies are making progress in disclosing their environmental impact and governance standards, but social factors have not been given the same attention — until now. Social factors include how a company manages relationships with its workforce, the communities in which it operates and the geopolitical environment. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed “S” into the spotlight by highlighting a range of problematic societal issues as millions of people around the world found themselves suddenly out of work with little protection. There are a lot of nuances with data on social issues, such as gender equality, human rights and labor standards. According to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment, “The social element of ESG issues can be the most difficult for investors to assess. Unlike environmental and governance issues, which are more easily defined, have an established track record of market data, and are often accompanied by robust regulation, social issues are less tangible, with less mature data to show how they can impact a company’s performance.” Social sustainability factors are material issues for many industries, however, and their management is directly linked to a company’s reputation and brand equity. Companies are showing a growing awareness that good social performance can translate into improved business performance and better relationships with customers and local communities. The S in ESG is definitely gaining currency. Two important areas are gender equality and human rights. Gender diversity enhances corporate governance, talent attraction and human capital development — all important factors driving long-term competitiveness . Corporate policies promoting gender diversity are a reflection of a well-managed company that realizes diversity’s value in stimulating creativity and increasing productivity, in tandem with employee well-being. While progress is being made on diversity, we are not seeing enough equality in the ranks. According to the International Monetary Fund, women earn 63 percent less than men, and the resulting loss of economic output is staggering. It ranges from 10 percent of GDP in advanced economies to more than 30 percent in South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa.  The latest data from S&P Global’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) underscores the fact that gender pay gaps are more pronounced in some regions and in some industries, and at different levels of hierarchy within organizations. Companies are showing a growing awareness that good social performance can translate into improved business performance and better relationships with customers and local communities. The CSA is an annual evaluation of companies’ sustainability practices, focusing on criteria that are both industry-specific and financially material. For the CSA, gender equality means not only equal pay for equal work and equal gender ratios, but also equal access and equal treatment for career-advancing opportunities and corporate support systems. This includes flexible work arrangements and parental leave policies that go beyond legal minimum requirements. Companies are asked a number of questions about their gender equality policies and practices in the annual survey. Findings suggest that companies with a more diverse and equal workforce are indeed better positioned to outperform. Additional research by S&P Global Market Intelligence pointed to evidence of the outperformance of female executives relative to their male peers. Results showed that female CEOs drove more value appreciation (defined as a decrease in the book-to-market multiple relative to the sector average) and improved stock price momentum for their firms. In addition, female CFOs drove more value appreciation, defended profitability moats better and delivered excess risk-adjusted returns for their firms. Clearly, an increased focus on both diversity and equality will be needed going forward. The social factor in ESG is also heavily populated with human rights-related elements. Drivers include internationally recognized standards, such as the U.N.’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), as well as the growing interest of asset owners and managers in the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. As part of their responsibility to implement the UNGPs, companies must have systems and practices in place enabling them to know and show that they respect human rights. Crucially, this includes an ongoing risk-management process to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how a company addresses any adverse human rights impacts. This human rights due diligence HRDD) includes four key steps: assessing actual and potential human rights impacts; integrating and acting on the findings; tracking responses; and communicating about how impacts are addressed. The CSA extended the human rights criterion by adding a section on HRDD. Since then, results have shown a growing interest by participants in tackling human rights issues, reflected in improved average scores for this criterion across all industries and regions. Based on CSA results over the past several years, companies are expected to continue to report more extensively on their human rights due diligence going forward. Greater transparency in this regard will provide important information for their corporate decision-making. The coronavirus pandemic has caused stakeholders around the world to take a closer look at how businesses handle human capital and related issues. There likely will be growing pressure on companies to consider social factors in their longer-term plans and goals for senior management and to disclose how they are performing year over year. As interest in ESG funds continues to grow, companies will need to be firing on all three cylinders to attract capital: E, G plus S. Pull Quote Companies are showing a growing awareness that good social performance can translate into improved business performance and better relationships with customers and local communities. Topics State of Green Business Report Social Justice ESG 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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The ‘S’ in ESG gains currency

New global bee map gives scientists a conservation baseline

November 24, 2020 by  
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Bees are crucial pollinators for crops that humans consume, but their populations are on the decline. Now, a new, global bee map is tracking more than 20,000 bee species on Earth to help aid in their conservation. Many scientists worked together on the map, including John Ascher of the National University of Singapore, who compiled a checklist of all known bee species. He and other researchers cross-referenced several datasets about bee life on every continent except Antarctica, which doesn’t support bee life. Related: New solar farm in Indiana boosts local pollinators The study concluded that bees are more prevalent in dry, temperate areas away from the equator. More bees make their home in the Northern Hemisphere than the Southern Hemisphere. The U.S., Africa and Middle East are popular with bees. These creatures prefer deserts to forests, since trees don’t offer as many food sources. “People think of bees as just honey bees, bumble bees, and maybe a few others, but there are more species of bees than of birds and mammals combined,” Ascher said. “The United States has by far the most species of bees, but there are also vast areas of the African continent and the Middle East which have high levels of undiscovered diversity, more than in tropical areas.” Honeybees have been well studied, but scientists have little information on more than 96% of bee species. While bee colonies are famous, many people might be surprised that some types of bees are solitary insects. “Many crops, especially in developing countries, rely on native bee species, not honey bees,” said study researcher Alice Hughes of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Yunnan. “There isn’t nearly enough data out there about them, and providing a sensible baseline and analyzing it in a sensible way is essential if we’re going to maintain both biodiversity and also the services these species provide in the future.” The study’s authors hope that combining all of this bee data will be an important step toward conservation. + Science Daily Via BBC Image via Rebekka D

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New global bee map gives scientists a conservation baseline

Could green hydrogen be key to a carbon-free economy?

November 19, 2020 by  
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Could green hydrogen be key to a carbon-free economy? Jim Robbins Thu, 11/19/2020 – 01:30 This article originally was published on Yale Environment 360 . Saudi Arabia is constructing a futuristic city in the desert on the Red Sea called Neom. The $500 billion city — complete with flying taxis and robotic domestic help — is being built from scratch and will be home to a million people. And what energy product will be used both to power this city and sell to the world? Not oil. The Saudis are going big on something called green hydrogen — a carbon-free fuel made from water by using renewably produced electricity to split hydrogen molecules from oxygen molecules. This summer, a large U.S. gas company, Air Products & Chemicals, announced that as part of Neom it has been building a green hydrogen plant in Saudi Arabia for the last four years. The plant is powered by 4 gigawatts from wind and solar projects that sprawl across the desert. It claims to be the world’s largest green hydrogen project — and more Saudi plants are on the drawing board. Green hydrogen? The Saudis aren’t alone in believing it’s the next big thing in the energy future. While the fuel is barely on the radar in the United States, around the world a green hydrogen rush is underway, and many companies, investors, governments and environmentalists believe it is an energy source that could help end the reign of fossil fuels and slow the world’s warming trajectory. “It is very promising,” said Rachel Fakhry, an energy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Experts such as Fakhry say that while wind and solar energy can provide the electricity to power homes and electric cars, green hydrogen could be an ideal power source for energy-intensive industries such as concrete and steel manufacturing, as well as parts of the transportation sector that are more difficult to electrify. “The last 15 percent of the economy is hard to clean up — aviation, shipping, manufacturing, long-distance trucking,” Fakhry said in an interview. “Green hydrogen can do that.” Europe, which has an economy saddled with high energy prices and is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas, is embracing green hydrogen by providing funding for construction of electrolysis plants and other hydrogen infrastructure. Germany has allocated the largest share of its clean energy stimulus funds to green hydrogen. “It is the missing part of the puzzle to a fully decarbonized economy,” the European Commission wrote in a July strategy document. Germany has allocated the largest share of its clean energy stimulus funds to green hydrogen. Hydrogen’s potential as a fuel source has been touted for decades, but the technology never has gotten off the ground on a sizeable scale — and with good reason, according to skeptics. They argue that widespread adoption of green hydrogen technologies has faced serious obstacles, most notably that hydrogen fuels need renewable energy to be green, which will require a massive expansion of renewable generation to power the electrolysis plants that split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Green hydrogen is also hard to store and transport without a pipeline. And right now in some places, such as the U.S., hydrogen is a lot more expensive than other fuels such as natural gas. While it has advantages, said Michael Liebreich, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst in the United Kingdom and a green hydrogen skeptic, “it displays an equally impressive list of disadvantages.” “It does not occur in nature so it requires energy to separate,” Liebreich wrote in a pair of recent essays for BloombergNEF. “Its storage requires compression to 700 times atmospheric pressure, refrigeration to 253 degrees Celsius… It carries one quarter the energy per unit volume of natural gas… It can embrittle metal; it escapes through the tiniest leaks and yes, it really is explosive.” In spite of these problems, Liebreich wrote, green hydrogen still “holds a vice-like grip over the imaginations of techno-optimists.” Ben Gallagher, an energy analyst at Wood McKenzie who studies green hydrogen, said the fuel is so new that its future remains unclear. “No one has any true idea what is going on here,” he said. “It’s speculation at this point. Right now it’s difficult to view this as the new oil. However, it could make up an important part of the overall fuel mix.” Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical in the universe. Two atoms of hydrogen paired with an atom of oxygen creates water. Alone, though, hydrogen is an odorless and tasteless gas, and highly combustible. Hydrogen derived from methane — usually from natural gas, but also coal and biomass — was pioneered in World War II by Germany, which has no petroleum deposits. But CO2 is emitted in manufacturing hydrogen from methane and so it’s not climate friendly; hydrogen manufactured this way is known as gray hydrogen. Green is the new kid on the hydrogen block, and because it’s manufactured with renewable energy, it’s CO2-free. Moreover, using renewable energy to create the fuel can help solve the problem of intermittency that plagues wind and solar power, and so it is essentially efficient storage. When demand for renewables is low, during the spring and fall, excess electricity can be used to power the electrolysis needed to split hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Then the hydrogen can be stored or sent down a pipeline. The last 15 percent of the economy is hard to clean up — aviation, shipping, manufacturing, long-distance trucking. Green hydrogen can do that. Such advantages are fueling growing interest in global green hydrogen. Across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, more countries and companies are embracing this high-quality fuel. The U.S. lags behind because other forms of energy, such as natural gas, are much cheaper, but several new projects are underway, including a green hydrogen power plant in Utah that will replace two aging coal-fired plants and produce electricity for southern California. In Japan, a new green hydrogen plant, one of the world’s largest, just opened near Fukishima — an intentionally symbolic location given the plant’s proximity to the site of the 2011 nuclear disaster. It will be used to power fuel cells, both in vehicles and at stationary sites. An energy consortium in Australia just announced plans to build a project called the Asian Renewable Energy Hub in Pilbara that would use 1,743 large wind turbines and 30 square miles of solar panels to run a 26-gigawatt electrolysis factory that would create green hydrogen to send to Singapore. As Europe intensifies its decarbonization drive, it, too, is betting big on the fuel. The European Union just drafted a strategy for a large-scale green hydrogen expansion, although it hasn’t been officially adopted yet. But in its $550-billion clean energy plan, the EU is including funds for new green hydrogen electrolyzers and transport and storage technology for the fuel. “Large-scale deployment of clean hydrogen at a fast pace is key for the EU to achieve its high climate ambitions,” the European Commission wrote. The Middle East, which has the world’s cheapest wind and solar power, is angling to be a major player in green hydrogen. “Saudi Arabia has ridiculously low-cost renewable power,” said Thomas Koch Blank, leader of the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Breakthrough Technology Program. “The sun is shining pretty reliably every day and the wind is blowing pretty reliably every night. It’s hard to beat.” BloombergNEF estimates that to generate enough green hydrogen to meet a quarter of the world’s energy needs would take more electricity than the world generates now from all sources and an investment of $11 trillion in production and storage. That’s why the focus for now is on the 15 percent of the economy with energy needs not easily supplied by wind and solar power, such as heavy manufacturing, long-distance trucking and fuel for cargo ships and aircraft. The Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R), a green hydrogen facility that can generate as much as 1,200 normal meter cubed (Nm3) of hydrogen per hour, opened in Japan in March. Source:  TOSHIBA ESS The energy density of green hydrogen is three times that of jet fuel, making it a promising zero-emissions technology for aircraft. But Airbus, the European airplane manufacturer, recently released a statement saying that significant problems need to be overcome, including safely storing hydrogen on aircraft, the lack of a hydrogen infrastructure at airports, and cost. Experts say that new technologies will be needed to solve these problems. Nevertheless, Airbus believes green hydrogen will play an important role in decarbonizing air transport. “Cost-competitive green hydrogen and cross-industry partnerships will be mandatory to bring zero-emission flying to reality,” said Glen Llewellyn, vice president of Zero Emission Aircraft for Airbus. Hydrogen-powered aircraft could be flying by 2035, he said. In the U.S., where energy prices are low, green hydrogen costs about three times as much as natural gas, although that price doesn’t factor in the environmental damage caused by fossil fuels. The price of green hydrogen is falling, however. In 10 years, green hydrogen is expected to be comparable in cost to natural gas in the United States. A major driver of green hydrogen development in the U.S. is California’s aggressive push toward a carbon-neutral future. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, for example, is helping fund the construction of the green hydrogen-fueled power plant in Utah. It’s scheduled to go online in 2025. A company called SGH2 recently announced it would build a large facility to produce green hydrogen in southern California. Instead of using electrolysis, though, it will use waste gasification, which heats many types of waste to high temperatures that reduce them to their molecular compounds. Those molecules then bind with hydrogen, and SGH2 claims it can make green hydrogen more cheaply than using electrolysis. California officials also see green hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels for diesel vehicles. The state passed a Low Carbon Fuel Standard in 2009 to promote electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles. Last month, a group of heavy-duty vehicle and energy industry officials formed the Western States Hydrogen Alliance o press for rapid deployment of hydrogen fuel cell technology and infrastructure to replace diesel trucks, buses, locomotives and aircraft. The price of green hydrogen is falling. In 10 years, green hydrogen is expected to be comparable in cost to natural gas in the United States. “Hydrogen fuel cells will power the future of zero-emission mobility in these heavy-duty, hard-to-electrify sectors,” said Roxana Bekemohammadi, executive director of the Western States Hydrogen Alliance. “That fact is indisputable. This new alliance exists to ensure government and industry can work efficiently together to accelerate the coming of this revolution.” Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $100 million investment to help develop large, affordable electrolyzers and to create new fuel cell technologies for long-haul trucks. In Australia, the University of New South Wales, in partnership with a global engineering firm, GHD, has created a home-based system called LAVO that uses solar energy to generate and store green hydrogen in home systems. The hydrogen is converted back into electricity as needed. All these developments, said Blank of the Rocky Mountain Institute, are “really good news. Green hydrogen has high potential to address many of the things that keep people awake at night because the climate change problem seems unsolvable.” Pull Quote Germany has allocated the largest share of its clean energy stimulus funds to green hydrogen. The last 15 percent of the economy is hard to clean up — aviation, shipping, manufacturing, long-distance trucking. Green hydrogen can do that. The price of green hydrogen is falling. In 10 years, green hydrogen is expected to be comparable in cost to natural gas in the United States. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Wind Power Solar Hydrogen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Hydrogen’s potential as a fuel source has been touted for decades, but the technology has never gotten off the ground on a sizeable scale — and with good reason, according to skeptics. Photo by petrmalinak on Shutterstock.

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Could green hydrogen be key to a carbon-free economy?

New leaders at Patagonia, McDonald’s, Netflix

October 7, 2020 by  
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New leaders at Patagonia, McDonald’s, Netflix Elsa Wenzel Wed, 10/07/2020 – 02:01 Heading into fall, this batch of career updates from the worlds of sustainability and business is somewhat top-heavy. It’s not necessarily that the game of musical chairs has intensified in the C-suite, but you’ll note major executive moves at big apparel, food, energy, finance and technology corporations, some of which have enlisted a chief sustainability officer (CSO) or equivalent for the first time. Amid myriad social, health and political crises, business sustainability is alive and well and living the Paris Agreement. Who’s news McDonald’s has formed a Global Impact Team to be overseen by EVP and Global Impact Officer Katie Beirne Fallon , who is departing Hilton Worldwide as EVP and head of corporate affairs. Fallon served President Barack Obama as director of legislative affairs and senior advisor. Emma Stewart , recently with Engie Impact and WRI, was named Netflix’s first sustainability officer. The streaming media giant just started reporting on its renewable energy usage last winter. Stewart is known for her longtime service to Autodesk, whose first Sustainability Solutions product group she founded. Stewart also launched and ran research and development at BSR. At Ventura, California-based Patagonia, Ryan Gellert is stepping into the shoes of longtime CEO Rose Marcario , who departed in June after leaving a high water mark for corporate activism. He’s at the helm of Patagonia Works, the parent company. From Amsterdam, Gellert oversaw the company in Europe, Africa and the Middle East for nearly six years, working before that at outdoor gear maker Black Diamond. That brings former VP  Jenna Johnson up to CEO of Patagonia, Inc. Lisa Williams , former chief product officer, becomes head of innovation, design and merchandising. HP Inc. has a new chief sustainability and social impact officer, Ellen Jackowski , who has led there for 12 years as global head of sustainability strategy and innovation. Jeffrey Hogue is slipping into the CSO role at Levi Strauss, moving from the same role at C&A, where he was involved with the launch of the world’s first Cradle to Cradle T-shirt . In addition to his circular economy efforts in apparel, he has been McDonald’s senior director of global CSR. Meanwhile, Michael Kobori left Levi Strauss at the start of the year to become CSO at Starbucks.  Mattel appointed Pamela Gill-Alabaster as head of global sustainability. She brings more than two decades of sustainability expertise honed at Centric Brands, L’Oréal, Estée Lauder Companies and Revlon. Katherine Neebe is the new president of the Duke Energy Foundation, as well as CSO and VP of national engagement and strategy at Duke Energy Corporation. Prior to this, she led ESG and sustainability stakeholder engagement at Walmart, after having spent six years with WWF on a partnership with Coca-Cola. Jeanne-Mey Sun is NRG Energy’s new CSO, joining from Baker Hughes, where she led the oil field services company’s clean energy transition strategy. Applied Materials hired Chris Librie as director of ESG, corporate sustainability and reporting. He held the same title at Samsung Semiconductor, after leading ESG and sustainability at eBay and HP Inc. Green chemistry pioneer John Warner , president of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, joined the biomanufacturing startup Zymergen as a distinguished research fellow. He’s also co-founder of Beyond Benign , an effort to integrate sustainability principles into K-12 chemistry education. Chantelle Ludski is serving as the North America and Asia Pacific COO for the Anthesis Group sustainability consultancy. Previously she served as chief administrative officer for the Americas at Renewable Energy Systems, and global chief risk officer at engineering consultancy Arcadis. Former JetBlue CSO Sophia Mendelsohn is the new chief sustainability officer and global head of ESG at IT services company Cognizant. Richard Threlfall , a 17-year veteran of the Big Four firm KPMG, is now global head of KPMG IMPACT in addition to partner and head of infrastructure. Former Microsoft sustainability director Josh Henretig became VP of global partnerships at Higg Co, known for the Higg Index for apparel. Edelman named Heidi DuBois as special ESG adviser, coming from the Society for Corporate Governance via BNY Mellon and PepsiCo. Former CEO of the Tides Foundation Kriss Deiglmeier just made a move to become chief of social impact at Splunk for Good, billed as a “data for everything” platform. BNP Paribas is enlisting Christina Cho , in her 13th year at the bank, as co-head with Anne van Riel of Sustainable Finance Capital Markets Americas. Jennifer Silberman has joined the hip cooler maker Yeti as VP of ESG, bringing her corporate responsibility background earned at Target , Hilton and BeyondBrands. Former Sephora Director of Sustainability Alison Colwell moved to Novi , a safer chemistry-AI startup, as VP of business development and partnerships. Kabira Stokes became CEO of circular economy startup Retrievr after nine years as co-founder and CEO of Homeboy Recycling. Tod Durst advanced to president from EVP at PolyQuest, which manufactures rPET, recycled plastic resins. Founder and former EVP John Marinelli is serving as CEO and chairman. Advocating The Institute for Sustainable Communities , which advances equitable community solutions to climate change, has appointed Deeohn Ferris as president and CEO. The environmental lawyer leaves the Audubon Society, where she was VP of equity, diversity and inclusion. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) welcomes Managing Director for Climate and Energy Claire O’Neill . The former U.K. Energy and Clean Growth minister also served as COP President for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference. B-Lab co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert is the new co-chair of the new Imperative 21 campaign to “reset capitalism.” Cortney Worrall is the new president and CEO of the nonprofit Waterfront Alliance , which pushes for resilience along the New York and New Jersey coasts. She comes to the organization as former National Parks Conservation Association northeast regional director. Former Energy UK Chief Executive Lawrence Slade is the new CEO of the Global Infrastructure Investor Association . The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) brought on Nora Wang Esram from the Pacific Northwest Laboratory as senior director for research, and promoted Lauren Ross to senior director for policy from local policy director. The roles were previously held by Neal Elliott , now director emeritus, and Maggie Molina , who joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a branch chief. Andrew Howley , a longtime National Geographic director, joined the Biomimicry Institute as chief editor of its AskNature resource of biomimetic solutions. Thought for Food announced Melissa Ong as its Southeast Asia CEO. On the move Energy equipment maker GreenGen added its first director of healthy buildings, Dominic Ramos-Ruiz , who comes from the International Well Building Institute (WELL). Global asset management firm Neuberger Berman brought on Caitlin McSherry as its ESG Investing Team director of stewardships. She’s a former VP and ESG analyst at State Street. The Walton Family Foundation named its new environment program director, Moira Mcdonald , a freshwater conservation program officer there for a decade. She spent 12 years as a senior advisor with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Jenna Jambeck, known for advancing an understanding of marine plastic waste, has been named Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor in Environmental Engineering at the University of Georgia. She’s associate director of the university’s New Materials Institute and directs its Center for Circular Materials Management. Pax Momentum startup accelerator brought on Senseware co-founder and CEO Serene Al-Momen as a professor. Nikki Kapp came to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as a research analyst, leaving Circularity Capital. Radha Friedman is now a senior adviser with the Uplift Agency, a woman-led social impact agency specializing in marginalized populations. She brings experience as a former Weber Shandwick VP of social impact and director of programs at the World Justice Project. The experimental Ray Highway in Georgia, named for Interface carpet’s late sustainability hero Ray Anderson, has brought on Matthew Quirey as landscape design and research fellow. Clare Castleman , a 2018 GreenBiz 30U30 honore, formerly of Eaton, has moved up at Self-Help Credit Union to small business support associate from clean energy intern. Mike Pratl became market leader for KAI Design’s Civic and Municipal market in St. Louis. On board General Mills Foundation Executive Director Nicola Dixon is ReFED’s new board chair, succeeding co-founder Jesse Fink , who remains on the board. Stacey Greene-Koehnke , COO at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, also joined the board of the food waste think tank, while Circularity Capital Founder and CEO Rob Kaplan , moving to Singapore, has left. The board of directors of the Green Seal product certification nonprofit brought on former U.S. EPA Assistant Administrator Jim Jones and Edward Hubbard Jr. , general counsel for the Renewable Fuels Association. Mike Werner , Google’s circular economy lead and Veena Singla , senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), joined the board of the Healthy Building Network . CHEMForward pulled Kimberly Shenk , CEO of Novi, into its advisory board. Forest carbon credit company Pachama formed an advisory board, bringing on Josh Henretig ; forest scientist and Old-Growth Forest Network Founder Joan Maloof ; and Scott Harrison , founder of Charity:Water. Tom Popple , senior manager at Natural Capital Partners, is now a steering committee member of the Irish Forum on Natural Capital. All in the GreenBiz family Former GreenBiz Senior Editor Lauren Hepler has joined CalMatters as economy reporter. Keith Larsen , who worked under Hepler as a GreenBiz reporter , now reports on New York real estate for the Real Deal. Former GreenBiz Senior Account Manager Shaandiin Cedar brought her New Zealand adventure to GreenBiz readers this summer. Topics Leadership Collective Insight Names in the News Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Clockwise, from top left: Deeohn Ferris, ISD; Ryan Gellert, Patagonia; Jennifer Silberman, YETI; Dominic Ramos-Ruiz, GreenGen; Jeff Hogue, Levi Strauss; Veena Singla, NRDC; Chris Librie, Applied Materials; Katie Beirne Fallon, McDonald’s; Jeanne-Mey Sun, NRG Energy; John Warner, Warner Babcock Institute.

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New leaders at Patagonia, McDonald’s, Netflix

The connection between coronavirus and wildlife exploitation

April 6, 2020 by  
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With the constant string of coronavirus coverage seizing social media, news outlets and pretty much every aspect of everyday life, citizens around the world are turning to the experts for information. While many Americans are focused on the future, whether it be economically, socially or medically, there are experts and scientists behind the scenes looking to the past. Finding the source of this virus will help ensure that another outbreak of this magnitude does not happen again, and many experts are investigating wildlife exploitation as a possible cause. The beginning of COVID-19 When the Chinese government first alerted the World Health Organization about the virus on December 31, 2019, a wet market in Wuhan was quickly identified as the likely source. Out of the first 41 initial patients reported with the disease, 27 had been either inside or exposed to the market. The world had already seen something similar in 2002, when the virus causing the SARS disease had its origin linked to a similar market in Southern China, eventually spreading to 29 countries and killing about 800 people. The SARS outbreak began when bats were linked to the spread of a virus in civet cats transferred to humans by consumption. Similarly, the MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2017 spread from bats to camels to humans. Related: Coronavirus and its impact on carbon emissions The wildlife trade in Asia often includes the selling and transporting of animals while they are still alive, making it particularly risky to human health. Legalization of the wildlife farming industry in China to help curb the poverty levels decades ago meant that smaller farms that caught and sold wildlife, such as turtles and snakes, were growing in operation and eventually selling their animals at the same wet markets along with conventional livestock , such as pigs and chickens. Eventually, endangered animals began showing up in markets illegally, leading to even more exotic animal interactions with humans. Finding the source of this coronavirus According to the CDC, the exact source of the COVID-19 virus remains unknown, though they suspect it was caused by an animal virus that mutated and adapted to infect and spread between humans. “Public health officials and partners are working hard to identify the source of COVID-19,” the CDC reported. “The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person to person. The coronavirus most similar to the virus causing COVID-19 is the one that causes SARS.” When the virus was first detected, DNA experts suggested that the origin of COVID-19 was likely related to bats, specifically, as was the case with SARS. A Nature study published in early February 2020 pointed to these winged animals as the most likely indirect source of the new coronavirus, which at that time had only been confirmed in about 10 countries. New evidence has suggested that it may have spread from a pangolin, the most heavily trafficked animal in the world, after a virus sickening Malayan pangolins was found to be almost identical to the coronavirus detected in sick humans. Dr. Kristian Anderson of the Scripps Research Institute told the New York Times that while none of her data suggested that pangolins served as an intermediate host, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. “Dr. Andersen said there are several paths the new virus could have taken. Assuming that it began with a bat virus, it could have jumped directly to humans, although that didn’t happen in the other coronavirus outbreaks of SARS and MERS,” the New York Times reported . “Or it could have passed from a bat to another animal, one of the many that humans hunt, raise for food and sell in markets.” What makes COVID-19 different Dr. Fauci told PBS that animal viruses mutate all the time , though they rarely have any significant impact on humans. Sometimes the mutations allow for single “dead-end” transmissions to individuals without the ability to spread from human to human directly, as was the case with the H5N1 and H7N9 influenzas (also known as the “bird flu”). “But rarely, animal viruses mutate and the mutation allows them not only to jump species to humans, but to also efficiently spread from human to human,” Dr. Fauci explained. “That is what we saw in SARS and now we see this with 2019-nCoV, which seems to have adapted itself very well to human to human transmission, as per what is happening in China.” Wildlife connection In an interview with Vox , EcoHealth Alliance veterinarian and epidemiologist Jonathan Epstein said that learning more about the connection between zoonotic (meaning the disease originated in animals) pathogens in humans is instrumental in ensuring that outbreaks like this one don’t occur in the future. He was involved in finding the animal source for the SARS outbreak back in 2002. “Right now, we have a lot of attention focused on containing this outbreak, which is spreading from person to person, but a critical question we still need to understand is, ‘How did the first person get infected with this?’” he told Vox. “Because that’s where we need to focus efforts to make sure that that doesn’t happen again.” According to Epstein, about half of known human pathogens are zoonotic. Even more concerning, three-quarters of emerging diseases are zoonotic, and most of those come from wild animals. There are also a number of experts who suggest that humanity’s destruction of animal habitats is partly to blame. Back in 2008, a team led by chair of ecology and biodiversity at UCL Kate Jones found that 60% of the 335 diseases identified between 1960 and 2004 came from animals. Jones linked these zoonotic diseases to both environmental changes and human behaviors. Ecological disruption, urbanization and population growth were all driving factors bringing humans and livestock closer and closer to the types of wild animals that they had never been exposed to before. Looking toward the future When the latest coronavirus outbreak began, the central government in Beijing issued a temporary ban on wild animal trading, but the ban was only designed to stay in effect until the epidemic situation was lifted globally. The London-based nonprofit group Environmental Investigation Agency has even found evidence that online sellers in Asia were attempting to sell illegal medicines containing wild animal parts as cures for COVID-19. Clearly, this is not the first virus to be linked to wildlife , and conservationists and scientists around the world are calling for a permanent end to the global wildlife trade in order to stop the next epidemic before it begins. Others are supporting monitoring captive breeding of certain species or, at the very least, a trade ban on specific high-risk animals. For many experts who specialize in animal welfare, the issue has superseded mere conservation and transformed into an issue of public health and biosafety. According to a statement released in February 2020 by the National People’s Congress, officials in Beijing have already drafted legislation to ban wildlife trade and consumption in China. Images via CDC and João Manuel Lemos Lima

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The connection between coronavirus and wildlife exploitation

KALOs PVC Bench is made from plastic waste and wood scraps

March 4, 2020 by  
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This stylish piece of minimalist furniture is made out of recycled materials and fit for two. The special project was designed and constructed by the multiple award-winning design and architect firm, KALO. It uses a combination of upcycled, crushed PVC pipe sold as post-consumer scrap as well as discarded wood from the designer’s other projects. The piece, simply titled “PVC Bench,” consists of four different components. Broken and discarded plastic pipes make up the top part of the seat, while the remaining legs and seat support were constructed using off-cuts of walnut that KALO had left over from a prior design. Besides the wood scraps and the recycled plastic pipes, the only other material used was resin, which is typically non-toxic and water-based. Related: 14 green furniture designs using reclaimed, recycled or rapidly renewable materials KALO created the bench using a combination of digital fabrication techniques and conventional tools, which resulted in a modern yet organic appearance. The wooden legs of the bench give off a more subtle and soft effect, which complements the top of the bench that reflects the scattered wooden fragments — somehow fitting together flawlessly in a distinctive pattern suspended in tinted resin. Bee’ah, one of the Middle East’s leading waste management companies based in the United Arab Emirates, is the design commissioner. The PVC Bench was part of the company’s ongoing project of turning waste into functional objects. KALO is lead by designer and architect Ammar Kalo , who also serves as the director of CAAD Labs and an assistant professor at the American University of Sharjah (Kalo’s alma mater). Like PVC Bench, Kalo’s previous work examines the delicate relationship between advanced technology and traditional artistry. The designer’s style blends conventional with advanced, using material processes and digital fabrication methods in harmony to create unique pieces. + KALO

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KALOs PVC Bench is made from plastic waste and wood scraps

An eco-travel guide to Bend, Oregon

January 7, 2020 by  
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Bend, Oregon is a sunny spot in a state known for rain. This area of central Oregon is the fourth fastest growing region in the country. About nine people move there daily, often because they want a healthy outdoor lifestyle and a smaller town. Tourists love this town of 81,000, too. If you’re venturing that way, leash up Fido; Dog Fancy magazine once nicknamed it Dog Town, USA. Bend outdoors Start your Bend adventure with an easy walk around downtown. Incorporated in 1905, Bend has many attractive, century-old buildings that now serve as cafes and boutiques. Crow’s Feet Commons is a must-visit for outdoorsy types who stop in for ski boot fitting, bike shopping and Oregon craft beers. If you’re ready to pick up the pace, check out Bend’s 51 miles of in-town trails. For a short run, the 3-mile Deschutes River Trail loop is very pretty, and you don’t even have to leave town to enjoy it. Visiting runners can pick up trail maps and connect with locals at FootZone , a running shoe store that sponsors running events. Bend is probably best known as a magnet for rock climbers. About 25 minutes outside of Bend, the 651-acre Smith Rock State Park attracts climbers from around the world. It offers challenges for all levels, from newbies taking their first lessons with local climbing schools to pros ready to tackle the 500-foot volcanic rock walls. If you prefer to keep your feet firmly planted on a trail, the park also offers a lovely, flat trail along Crooked River and a steep climb to the tops of cliffs. Seventy miles southeast of Bend, the Fort Rock State Natural Area makes for a geologically intriguing day trip. Fort Rock is a volcanic tuff ring that rises 325 feet above the surrounding high desert plain. This is a magical, quiet place, with soft, sandy trails, scrubby bushes and orange and chartreuse lichen coating the rocks. The nearby Homestead Village Museum is an interesting collection of old buildings, including a small church and a one-room schoolhouse. Did you bring Fido? After a day of exploring Bend and environs, stop by Pine Nursery Park so he can cool off on the seasonal splash pad. Join a canine-friendly canoe adventure with local outfitter Wanderlust Tours . Don’t forget a doggy life jacket made by the Bend-based company Ruff Wear. Bend wellness Jinsei Spa is a local favorite for facials, massages and body treatments using natural and organic ingredients. Namaspa Yoga Community offers public yoga classes in the Baptiste power and yin styles, as well as yoga for groups such as seniors, people in recovery and inmates at the local jail. They also provide Reiki, massage, cupping and energetic healing. Those who like to drink while doing yoga will enjoy Bend Beer Yoga . While these teachers usually hold classes in craft breweries, they may also add the odd cocktail, cider or glass of wine . Plant-based restaurants in Bend For vegan burgers, milkshakes and fries, visit the original location of the Bend-based chain Next Level Burger . Its house-made burger patties feature combinations of quinoa, mushrooms, beans, chia seeds and other nutritious ingredients. Taj Palace has an excellent lunch buffet with several vegan dishes. In addition to curries, Taj Palace also serves South Indian specialties like idlis, vadas and dosas. The cheery interior and friendly staff make it an extra nice place for a meal. Bethlyn’s Global Fusion is a cute cafe with a wide-ranging menu. Vegan choices include a Thai coconut curry bowl or a Vietnamese lettuce wrap. Lots of menu items can be made vegan upon request. For a fancier night out, Joolz is a Mediterranean-themed restaurant that uses the tag line “where the Middle East meets the Wild West.” Delicious menu items include dukkah nuts, an appetizer of toasted bread, olive oil and crushed mixed nuts flavored with coriander and cumin. The vegetarian platter provides a good variety of Mediterranean foods, such as tiny stuffed grape leaves, garbanzo beans and roasted cauliflower. Ice cream-lovers flock to Bonta Natural Artisan Gelato . The shop crafts inventive flavors, including a few sorbets and coconut-based ice creams for those avoiding dairy. Bend’s public transit While a car is very convenient for traveling outside Bend to places like Smith Rock, it’s possible to fly into Bend and get around town without driving. Cascades East Transit provides bus service in Bend and to nearby towns. It also operates recreation-based shuttles, including the Ride the River bus during the summer for folks floating the Deschutes River and the Mt. Bachelor shuttle in winter for skiers . The Ride Bend shuttle cruises around downtown and the Old Mill District during summer. There’s also a bike share program run by Oregon State University – Cascades. It’s open to the public as well as students. Uber and Lyft operate in Bend, too. Sustainable hotels in Bend The Oxford Hotel in downtown Bend is especially known as a chic, boutique eco-hotel. It was built with sustainable materials and operates on 100 percent renewable energy . The Riverhouse on the Deschutes is Oregon’s only LEED Silver hotel and convention center, featuring high-efficiency HVAC and renewable energy. If you want to go for LEED Gold, the Helios Eco-House is available as a vacation rental. The McMenamins Old Saint Francis School is a 1936 schoolhouse that was turned into a hotel . Highlights include a movie theater and an extensive collection of works by local artists . Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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An eco-travel guide to Bend, Oregon

Johnson & Johnson offers Acuvue contact recycling program

March 6, 2019 by  
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Figuring out what is or is not recyclable is an ongoing struggle with program availability differing from one location to another. On the other hand, we aren’t even aware of many recycling programs available for products we dispose of frequently. Contact lens wearers, for example, have had some return returnability in past years by finding specific drop locations or mail-back options for used contact lenses. Now, Johnson & Johnson has made the process easier for 3.7 million contact wearers in the U.K. The newly-launched ACUVUE Contact Lens Recycle Programme is the U.K.’s first free nationwide program that includes recycling options for both contact lenses and the blister and foil packaging they come in. Although offered by Johnson & Johnson Vision, the program accepts all soft contact lenses from any manufacturer. “Seventy-seven percent of British contact lens wearers said they would recycle their contact lenses if they could, and we share their interest in reducing the amount of plastics in the environment,” said Sandra Rasche, Area Vice President, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Vision Care, Johnson & Johnson Medical GmbH. “As a business, we are committed to doing our part to combat climate change , protect our planet’s natural resources and reduce waste, and this new U.K. recycling program represents the next step in our company’s sustainability commitment.” Related: This new initiative aims to sustainably recycle your old bras The company reported that currently, about 20 percent of customers say they flush used contacts down the toilet or sink. In conjunction with TerraCycle, a world leader in reusing post-consumer waste, Johnson & Johnson launched the program with the hope of reducing garbage in landfills and water sources. In addition, the collected lenses and packaging materials gain new life in the form of products like plastic lumber and outdoor furniture. Working with high street retailer Boots Opticians Ltd and independent retail optical providers across the country, Johnson & Johnson provides more than 1,000 locations for drop-off of used materials to be recycled. + Johnson & Johnson Images via Johnson & Johnson

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Green-roofed home in Atlanta offers a digital detox with lush nature views

March 6, 2019 by  
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Designed to focus on life in the outdoors, the Split Box House in Atlanta is a quiet, nature-inspired retreat for a family eager to escape from the distractions of the digital world. Designed by local architectural practice DiG Architects , the green-roofed home emphasizes both energy efficiency and indoor-outdoor living throughout. In addition to lush landscaped roofs that help mitigate stormwater runoff and energy consumption, massive low-E windows flood the interior with natural light to reduce dependence on artificial lighting. Covering an area of 2,646 square feet, the Split Box House was created for a busy working couple with three children who wanted a home refreshingly different from the “surrounding banal spec homes, each a louder spectacle than the next.” As a result, the architects focused on a simple and contemporary design that started as a long, 22-foot-wide rectangular volume — the width was based on the distance that a reasonably sized wood truss can span — that then morphed into two rotated and perpendicularly set L-shaped volumes, each roughly equivalent in size and housing the public and private spaces separately. “Arranged in an efficient pattern to eliminate waste, the primary exterior cladding of the box is a low-maintenance gray cement panel,” the architects said. “The panels, attached as an open joint ventilated rainscreen system, help manage moisture intrusion and reduce energy consumption. A complimentary warm ipe wood, alluding to the softer interiors of the house, clads the cuts. Comprised of the bedrooms upstairs and the guesthouse on the main level, the private functions bridge across a covered breezeway creating an outdoor room with a view corridor to the woods and access to the main and guest house entrances.” Related: Green-roofed home is built of waste bricks and wood in Poland The light-filled interiors are mostly dressed in white walls, timber surfaces and minimalist decor so as not to detract attention from the outdoors. A series of site walls were built to mitigate the steep property and form a terraced garden planted with long grasses that reinforces the geometric form of the house. + DiG Architects Via ArchDaily Photography by Alexander Herring via DiG Architects

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New hope for plastic recycling with IBM’s VolCat technology

March 6, 2019 by  
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Think how much more material would be reused if plastic recycling didn’t entail washing, sorting and individual processing. Now, IBM researchers have developed a new chemical process called VolatileCatalyst that eliminates these steps. VolCat recycling grinds up plastics, adds a chemical catalyst and cooks them at temperatures above 200 degrees Celsius. The chemicals eat through polymer strands, producing a fine white powder ready to be made into new containers. By heating PET with ethylene glycol and the catalyst, lab workers depolymerize plastic . After distillation, filtration, purification and cooling, scientists eventually recover usable matter called a monomer—in this case the white powder. This process digests and cleans the ground plastic, separating contaminants like dyes, glue and food residue. Related: 6 places to find the best recycled building materials PET is an abbreviation for polyethylene terephthalate, the chemical name for polyester. This type of plastic is used to manufacture containers for two-liter bottles of soft drinks, water bottles, salad dressings, cooking oil, shampoo, liquid hand soap and carry-out food containers. It’s even found in carpet, clothing and tennis balls. DuPont chemists first synthesized PET in the 1940s, probably never guessing that 70 years later between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic would wind up in the ocean each year. Humans have produced more than 8 billion metric tons of plastic since its invention. About half of new plastic becomes trash each year. By 2050, some scientists project there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean . VolCat developers hope to reverse this destructive trend. According to the researchers’ statement, “In the next five years, plastic recycling advancements like VolCat could be adopted around the globe to combat global plastic waste . People at the grocery store buying a bottle of soda or container of strawberries will know that the plastic they’ve purchased won’t end up in the ocean, but instead will be repurposed and put back on the shelf.” + IBM Images via Shutterstock

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New hope for plastic recycling with IBM’s VolCat technology

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