This waterproof outwear is made with fishing nets and nylon waste

November 11, 2020 by  
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Sisters Marta and Lucia Scarampi have always focused on slow fashion by making each item in the Marta Scarampi clothing line on-demand as orders are received. This avoids excess waste and unnecessary inventory. Additionally, the company uses every scrap from the cutting room floor to make hair scrunchies, headbands and masks. Now, the brand’s newest line, The Greta Collection, makes use of waste like fishing nets to create sustainable, durable outerwear. The newest collection continues the trend of avoiding waste during the manufacturing process but also reduces waste already in the environment by relying on ECONYL, a fiber made in Italy. ECONYL is generated from used carpets, old fishing nets and other fabric scraps. In addition to the recycling involved at the origin, the materials are endlessly recyclable at the end of the garments’ lifecycles, too. Related: Second Nature transforms abandoned fishing nets into 3D-printed seashells and bowls Marta Scarampi’s investment in ECONYL for circular fashion is referred to as The Re-Waste Project, and the initial release is the capsule The Greta Collection. It includes six pieces that can be worn for work or play. “With most of us working from home now, we shifted the focus to casual wear to match this modern lifestyle,” Marta said. “We imagine you wanting to be comfortable when you’re out on the weekends, running errands, riding your bike, and really just enjoying the present, and being you.” The capsule collection offers interchangeable options that include a parka, cape, jacket, detachable hood, belt bag and, of course, the latest universally necessary accessory, a face mask. The material for all of the products is waterproof, machine-washable and durable. If at some point you want to part with your coat or accessory, it can go back into the recycling process, directly contributing to the reduction of pollution at every stage of the cycle. Lucia said, “Even when you one day decide to discard the reusable face masks we make, the best part is knowing that it can eventually be recycled, and turned into new ECONYL® fibre again.” + Marta Scarampi Images via Marta Scarampi

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This waterproof outwear is made with fishing nets and nylon waste

Rethinking the role of sustainability reports

October 20, 2020 by  
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Rethinking the role of sustainability reports Mike Hower Tue, 10/20/2020 – 01:00 Corporate sustainability has a reporting problem — it always has. Companies typically don’t enjoy creating them and investors, customers, employees and most other stakeholders don’t revel in reading them. Yet, with investors more interested in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues than ever before, this long-standing problem has become an immediate liability for companies looking to maximize shared value. Today, some 90 percent of companies in the S&P 500 produc e corporate sustainability reports, and the practice has become so ingrained in corporate sustainability culture that few question its purpose or efficacy. Reporting has risen to prominence for good reason — there never has been a more critical time for companies to communicate their strategies and actions for corporate sustainability. Many investors evaluate nonfinancial performance based on corporate disclosures, with most finding value in assurance of the strength of an organization’s planning for climate and other ESG risks. Meanwhile, consumers increasingly are demanding responsible products, and attention to sustainability issues has become an employee expectation. But something isn’t right with the status quo of reporting. “By trying to meet the demands of multiple stakeholders, sustainability reports have become bloated, overly complex and expensive to produce,” said Nathan Sanfacon, an ESG expert at thinkPARALLAX , a sustainability strategy and communication agency. “This results in companies spending scarce resources on a report that doesn’t quite satisfy the needs of any stakeholder group.” To be more effective at engaging investors and other critical audiences on ESG, companies ought to shift towards communicating relevant data in a more agile and real-time format. This is particularly problematic for large, publicly traded companies seeking to attract and retain institutional investors. “To be more effective at engaging investors and other critical audiences on ESG, companies ought to shift towards communicating relevant data in a more agile and real-time format,” Sanfacon said. Addressing this disconnect is at the core of the new thinkPARALLAX white paper, ” The New Era of Reporting: How to Engage Investors on ESG ,” which examines the pitfalls of sustainability reporting in the past and present and offers a better way forward for corporate sustainability practitioners. A short history of sustainability reporting While reporting might seem a recent phenomenon, its origins go back nearly half a century — emerging first in Europe in the 1960s and later in the United States in the 1970s after the first Earth Day launched the modern environmental movement. Many of the earliest reports were strictly environmental and more about addressing public image problems than communicating anything that might resemble a proactive sustainability strategy. What we might call the modern era of sustainability reporting began in 1997 when public outcry over the environmental damage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill compelled Ceres and the Tellus Institute to create the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) . The aim was to create the first accountability mechanism to ensure companies adhere to responsible environmental conduct principles, which was then broadened to include social, economic and governance issues, GRI says on its website. “Prior to GRI, there was no framework to ensure that reporting was consistent or reflective of stakeholder needs,” said Eric Hespenheide, chairman of GRI, in an email. “First through versions of the GRI Guidelines and since 2016, the GRI Standards, we have been furthering our mission to use the power of transparency, as envisaged by effective disclosure, to bring about change.” Since then, multiple other reporting frameworks have emerged to cater to the ever-growing list of corporate sustainability stakeholders, such as the investor-focused Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) . “While sustainability reporting has come a long way, a lack of standardization means that there is a disconnect between what investors are looking for and what companies are communicating,” Sanfacon said. Giving investors what they want Here’s a billion-dollar question: What do investors look for when evaluating companies on ESG? The simple answer: data; data; and more data. “Investors tell us they’re looking for raw ESG data that is consistent, comparable and reliable — data that is focused on the subset of ESG issues most closely linked to a company’s ability to create long-term value,” Katie Schmitz Eulitt, director of investor outreach at SASB, wrote in an email. Schmitz Eulitt regularly engages with the investment community on disclosure quality, including with members of SASB’s 50-plus member Investor Advisory Group, who collectively manage more than $40 trillion in assets. “When companies more explicitly connect the dots between how they manage sustainability-related risks and opportunities and their financial outcomes, it’s both an opportunity to enhance transparency and strengthen performance,” Schmitz Eulitt added. When companies more explicitly connect the dots between how they manage sustainability-related risks and opportunities and their financial outcomes, it’s both an opportunity to enhance transparency and strengthen performance. But this is easier said than done because corporate leaders, investors and other stakeholders must work with two separate and disjointed reporting systems: one for financial and the other for ESG performance. “Companies can be screened in or out using various criteria, but there is no way to integrate the data into earnings projections or valuation analysis,” wrote Mark Kramer et al. in a recent piece in Institutional Investor. “The result is two separate narratives, one telling how profitable a company is, the other highlighting whether it is good for people and the planet.” The new era of reporting Investors, of course, aren’t the end all, be all of corporate sustainability communication — companies also want to reach customers, consumers, regulators and employees, among others. But limited time and money often results in corporate sustainability practitioners attempting to use annual or bi-annual reports as a one-size-fits all solution. More often than not, these reports are heavy on human-centric stories and light on quantitative information. While non-investor stakeholders tend to appreciate the human stories, they also typically aren’t taking the time to download and devour a portly PDF. Meanwhile, while investors are people too and can enjoy a good human story, they ultimately aren’t getting enough of the hard data they desire. In the new whitepaper, thinkPARALLAX proposes addressing this problem by dividing sustainability communication into two drivers — demonstrating performance and building reputation — so that companies can better invest time and resources to better engage investors and other stakeholders. Demonstrating performance involves conveying the effectiveness of a company’s sustainability strategy and management of material ESG issues, such as disclosing data around carbon emissions or diversity and inclusion through a digital reporting hub. Building reputation focuses on showing that a company is acting responsibly, limiting its environmental impact and delivering societal benefits. This could take the form of communications activities such as social media campaigns, microsites, videos, speaking or op-eds, among others.  “Companies most interested in engaging investors should focus more on demonstrating performance by communicating the hard ESG data they are looking for, as opposed to human interest stories,” Sanfacon said. “But if non-investor stakeholders like consumers, employees or customers are a primary audience, the company should invest more in building reputation by bringing the data to life through inspiring stories.” While this won’t single-handedly solve corporate sustainability’s reporting problem, it’s a start. As companies shift away from massive PDF reports and toward more targeted, real-time investor communication, they’ll free up time and resources to better engage consumers, employees and other key stakeholders on corporate sustainability. Pull Quote To be more effective at engaging investors and other critical audiences on ESG, companies ought to shift towards communicating relevant data in a more agile and real-time format. When companies more explicitly connect the dots between how they manage sustainability-related risks and opportunities and their financial outcomes, it’s both an opportunity to enhance transparency and strengthen performance. Topics Reporting ESG Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Kan Chana Close Authorship

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Rethinking the role of sustainability reports

Green groups urge UN to raise climate ambition on global shipping

October 20, 2020 by  
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Green groups urge UN to raise climate ambition on global shipping Cecilia Keating Tue, 10/20/2020 – 00:15 The global shipping industry’s decarbonization efforts once again face stormy seas. Ahead of the latest crucial round of talks this week at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), green groups are warning proposals are “an empty shell” that will have a negligible impact on the sector’s emissions. Seasoned observers fear that growing calls for a bolder and more ambitious global policy framework are continuing to founder on the rocks of vested interests and short-term cost concerns.  IMO member states are meeting this week for critical talks to discuss how the carbon-intensive shipping industry can be regulated to meet its 2030 climate target of reducing its carbon emissions intensity by 40 percent compared to 2008 levels. While the target was set two years ago, the latest talks are where the member states are expected to agree on how to enforce it, before the proposals are moved forward to committee stage in November. A joint proposal from 15 major shipping nations and influential industry group the International Chamber of Shipping is to form the basis of the discussions, yet green groups have slammed the proposals as a “low ambition” plan that could have disastrous implications for the sector’s chances of falling into line with the overarching global goals set out in the Paris Agreement. The frontrunning proposal, sponsored by France, Germany and Japan, has come under fire due to a recommendation that stringent enforcement of operational efficiency regulations is introduced no earlier than 2029. And despite warnings from climate scientists that the IMO’s 2030 carbon-intensity target is insufficient to meet global climate goals — it has been rated by Climate Action Tracker as “critically insufficient” and aligned with a potentially devastating global temperature rise of 4 degrees Celsius — the plan does not recommend the industry aim for sharper emissions reductions. Faïg Abbasov, head of shipping at campaign group Transport & Environment, told BusinessGreen the proposal was “essentially an empty shell.” “To achieve 1.5 degrees [of warming] we need to decarbonize by the mid-2030s,” he explained. “To achieve 2 degrees we need to decarbonize by mid-century. This proposal goes nowhere near that level.” To achieve 1.5 degrees [of warming] we need to decarbonize by the mid-2030s. To achieve 2 degrees we need to decarbonize by mid-century. This proposal goes nowhere near that level. While green groups contend that the proposed plan in fact will undermine the shipping sector’s already-weak climate targets, the joint proposal’s sponsors argue the agreement represents a major step forward for a historically fractured industry that has spent much of the past decade delaying and diluting more ambitious proposals. BusinessGreen understands that advocates of the plan will argue that it balances the need to act fast to reduce the sector’s climate impact and the need to give industry time to adjust as regulators work out how to calculate and regulate operational efficiency, a measurement that is more difficult to define than a ship’s technical efficiency due to its being affected by weather conditions. The dispute is the latest in a long history of quarrels between environmentalists and the IMO, the United Nations agency charged with the regulation of a global shipping industry that operates largely outside and between national jurisdictions. With many nation states choosing to keep international shipping outside their domestic climate targets, the onus falls on the London-based agency to set the pace and direction of decarbonization efforts. But while a growing number of nations and shipping operators have stepped up calls for a more ambitious global policy regime, any attempts to introduce robust new regulations through the IMO have tended to be thwarted by those countries that fear the financial impact on their shipping industry from new emissions standards or carbon pricing regimes. It is a dynamic that has left environmental campaigners increasingly frustrated.  Last week, Transport & Environment’s Abbasov warned that the regulatory framework set to be discussed this week could perhaps “bend” growth of carbon emissions in the shipping sector by mid-century but would “not be able to stop it.” Transport & Environment is one of a number of green groups, including Carbon Market Watch, Seas at Risk and Ocean Conservancy, to have written to the Secretary General of the United Nations in early October to warn of the short-term policy measures being cooked up by member states ahead of the meeting. “It is not the job of the United Nations to protect vested fossil fuel interests,” they wrote in a letter seen by BusinessGreen. “It is the job of the United Nations to protect people and planet from the ravages of runaway global heating.” The NGOs, united as the Clean Shipping Coalition, warned that if robust enforcement of operational emissions standards is delayed to 2029, the IMO will fail to meet a number of the stated aims contained in its own landmark 2018 greenhouse gas reduction strategy, namely to achieve significant additional CO2 reductions “before 2023,” ensure emissions emissions peak “as soon as possible” and deliver a carbon dioxide reduction pathway in line with the Paris goals. Furthermore, they stressed that civil society organizations had not been invited to the private meetings where member states and the shipping industry had hashed out the plan, and that a separate proposal submitted by green groups earlier this year which set out how the industry could reach a more ambitious 80 percent reduction in carbon intensity emissions by 2030 had been omitted from the document. Campaigners maintain that stronger ambition is required given that the 2030 target the IMO is working towards — a 40 percent reduction in carbon-intensity emissions — is not aligned with the Paris Agreement in the first place. They argue that, with the existing 2030 commitment already three-quarters met purely through the trend for slower speeds and bigger ships, there is a huge opportunity for the industry to raise its ambition at the informal meetings take place next week. But industry players counter that the current proposals are plenty robust enough, pointing out that under the proposals new technical efficiency standards for ships will be enforced immediately, as will plans to introduce a new mandatory operational efficiency rating system, where ships are rated on an A to E grading system that should subject poor-efficiency ships to the power of the market. “The fact that we are so close to a consensus among IMO members states is a huge step in the right direction,” Simon Bennett, deputy secretary general at the International Chamber of Shipping, told BusinessGreen.   Bennett also argued the total decarbonization of the shipping sector ultimately would rely on technological innovation. “These measures will be legally binding and an important step towards our goal of full decarbonization of the shipping sector,” he said. “We know more can be done and what we do must work in practice as well as in writing. If we’re to achieve a truly global solution to the total decarbonization of world shipping, then radical, innovative technological solutions must be found over the next decade.” But Transport & Environment’s Abbasov warned that a low-ambition regulatory framework agreed on this week could have negative implications for shipping policy for decades to come. “It will set a wrong precedent that adopting cosmetic measures or low-ambition measures are okay, and anything in the future will probably forward the same path,” he stressed. “It will set a domino effect that is extremely, extremely dangerous.” While the final shape of the proposals to be agreed by member states remains to be seen, Abbasov and ICS agreed that it was likely to not stray far from scenarios contained in the draft document. As such, attention is likely to quickly turn to alternative avenues for accelerating the development and adoption of the lower-carbon shipping technologies and practices that remain in the pipeline. As Abbasov argues, if IMO member states decide to endorse the current proposal and send it to the committee stage, then the onus will fall more than ever on regional national governments to set regulatory standards that catalyse decarbonization progress across shipping sector. With more than one quarter of the global economy committed to achieving net-zero emissions over the coming decades, it follows that the shipping sector will be under increased pressure from governments and private players to clean up its act. In some quarters, these dynamics already seem to be at work, with oil major Shell calling on the IMO last month to adopt more ambitious climate targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050 as it published its new sustainable shipping strategy. However, the IMO always has been the subject of fierce lobbying from the shipping and other industry bodies, and it is unclear to what extent corporate net zero commitments are being matched by behind-the-scenes advocacy arguing against more ambitious rules and regulations. Reports from InfluenceMap and Transparency International have explored how some industry groups historically have lobbied to obstruct meaningful climate change action in the shipping sector, and green groups have alleged that vested fossil fuel interests continue to play an oversized role in IMO negotiations.  That said, there is growing evidence that some businesses are looking to provide a counterweight to those lobbyists pushing for a more relaxed regulatory regime. When asked by BusinessGreen about what outcome they would hope to see out of the latest round of talks and whether they would support more ambitious targets from the IMO, representatives from businesses with high profile net-zero commitments emphasized the need to decarbonize their supply chains, even if they largely declined to comment on the agency’s specific plans. If we’re to achieve a truly global solution to the total decarbonization of world shipping, then radical, innovative technological solutions must be found over the next decade. A spokesperson from IKEA stressed that ocean shipping made up 40 percent of the carbon footprint of its supply chain operations and therefore the company’s pledge to reduce the carbon footprint of all transport by an average of 70 percent by 2030 compared to 2017 was a “huge ambition.” Meanwhile, Apple said it planned to reduce its carbon impact from shipping by leveraging fleet improvements, sustainable fuels and supply chain efficiencies, while explaining that it planned to prioritize shipping over aviation as a low-carbon form of product transport as it worked to meet a net-zero supply chain commitment. A statement provided by Shell welcomed signs that some form of new regulatory regime was on the way. “Achieving net-zero emissions shipping by 2050 is vitally important — and that means ambitious regulation coming into effect in 2023 will be required,” said Grahaeme Henderson, Shell’s global head of shipping and maritime. “It is encouraging to see a consolidated proposal on carbon intensity and energy-efficiency measures on the agenda for IMO discussions next week to progress towards that goal.” As the U.K. government gears up to host critical COP26 climate talks in Glasgow in 2021 and repeatedly asserts its world-leading climate reputation as it attempts to steer a green recovery from the coronavirus, it could be argued that the U.K. has a role to play in pushing for the highest possible ambition at this week’s talks. When questioned about what outcome the U.K. would support from the talks, a spokesperson from the Department for Transport emphasized the government was committed to delivering a decarbonized shipping sector. “Shipping emissions require a global solution, and we will work with our international partners through the IMO to achieve a greener, zero emissions future for the shipping sector,” they said. The U.K. government has broadly committed to working with other IMO member states to “raise the ambition” of the IMO’s climate targets at a five-year review of the original 2018 IMO GHG strategy planned for 2023. It is also working to introduce net-zero emissions ships in U.K. waters by 2025 as it works to make domestic shipping net-zero by mid-century. But despite positive noises from the government, Transport & Environment’s Abbasov stressed the U.K. was a relatively small player at the IMO. “The DfT has been genuinely helpful — maybe not always vocal — but genuinely helpful behind the scenes in giving the right feedback and at least recognizing that what was being discussed and agreed is nonsense,” he reflected. “But we should not overestimate the U.K.’s power in international negotiations. The U.K. is one country out of 190, and secondly it’s not even the most powerful shipping nation. Power has really moved to Panama… The U.K. is no match to those countries. Even Malta and Greece are more powerful than the U.K. when it comes to shipping.” Optimists remain confident emerging hydrogen, battery and biofuel technologies coupled with new ship designs could yet deliver a net-zero-emission fleets by 2050. But with vested interests once again locked in a standoff with environmental campaigners and those corporates that want to build a net-zero economy, it looks as if the voyage to deliver a low-emission global fleet is proving to be as tumultuous as ever.  Pull Quote To achieve 1.5 degrees [of warming] we need to decarbonize by the mid-2030s. To achieve 2 degrees we need to decarbonize by mid-century. This proposal goes nowhere near that level. If we’re to achieve a truly global solution to the total decarbonization of world shipping, then radical, innovative technological solutions must be found over the next decade. Topics Shipping & Logistics Climate Change Corporate Strategy Sustainable Shipping BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Avigator Fortuner Close Authorship

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Green groups urge UN to raise climate ambition on global shipping

Early learning center sustainably embraces rural New Zealand

September 10, 2020 by  
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In the rural New Zealand haven of Dairy Flat, U.K.-based architecture firm Collingridge and Smith Architects has recently completed the Fantails Estate, an early learning center for 154 babies and preschoolers. Designed to sit sensitively within its rural context, the modern building is built primarily of timber and opens up to the outdoors with large windows and areas for outdoor play. Sustainability has also been naturally woven into the design, which includes a rainwater harvesting system, onsite blackwater treatment, a high-insulated building envelope and passive solar principles. Set over 3.5 hectares of land, the Fantails Estate was conceived as a unique “luxury lodge” for children. The center features a radial plan with six individual blocks fanned out around a geometric timber canopy and centrally located car park. The six blocks comprise five individual classrooms as well as a private staff block housing the kitchen, laundry and administrative spaces.  Related: Chrysalis Childcare Centre uses existing trees as symbolic centerpieces Each classroom opens up to a shaded, north-facing terrace that connects to a large playground and countryside views. The integration of all-weather play spaces provides children with seven times the minimum area for outdoor play, with each child allotted approximately 52 square meters of individual play space, according to the architects. The sizing and orientation of the blocks are also optimized for indoor access to natural light and ventilation. Low-E glazed sliding doors emphasize the indoor/outdoor connection. A warm, natural materials palette defines both the exterior and interior, the latter of which is fitted with custom-designed cabinetry and play equipment for a cohesive feel. Steel beams and posts were minimally incorporated into the building’s timber envelope so as to minimize the center’s overall carbon footprint. In addition to a high-performance envelope that minimizes heat loss, the architects oriented the building for solar gains in winter and natural shading and thermal mass cooling in summer. + Collingridge and Smith Architects Photography by Mark Scowen via Collingridge and Smith Architects

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Early learning center sustainably embraces rural New Zealand

Cargotecture: Another Future Path for Modern Architecture

September 7, 2020 by  
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The world is heading towards sustainability, which includes making the … The post Cargotecture: Another Future Path for Modern Architecture appeared first on Earth 911.

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Solar-powered dome in the Texas desert is the perfect place to go off the grid

August 18, 2020 by  
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The Terluna off-grid adobe dome home is located in a remote part of the Texas desert near Big Bend National Park, inside one of the country’s few remaining dark sky ordinance territories. Along with the opportunity to completely cut yourself off from the modern world, the dome’s setting offers incredible views of the night sky along with unobstructed access to the desert horizon. The dome is an earthen structure, built with an adobe barrier, that provides shelter from the elements. In this part of the state, those elements can range from extreme heat and wind to cold and rain. All power comes directly from an installed solar energy system, with just enough energy to also power phones, laptops and lights. Related: Spectacular rammed-earth dome home is tucked deep into a Costa Rican jungle Terluna is isolated, but because the entrance to Big Bend National Park is just a 25-minute drive away, it is easily accessible for those who want to do some exploring. For history buffs, the historic Terlingua Ghost Town can be found about 25 minutes away as well. Wi-Fi is also available in the dome for those who aren’t quite ready to go fully off the grid just yet. Fans of HGTV’s “Mighty Tiny Houses” may recognize the Terluna, as it has been featured on the show in the past. The dome home includes a kitchen with a two-burner propane stove, an oven and a refrigerator. The kitchen sinks get water from a small rain collection tank; guests are recommended to bring their own drinking water. There is space for two people to sleep comfortably, and linens, pillows and blankets are included. Additional space on the pallet couch allows for a third guest. A no-flush, composting toilet can be found in a separate, private outhouse next to the main structure, and guests will have to utilize a nearby coin shower if they want to wash up. The off-grid nature of this space means that occupants will have to sacrifice AC, but the Airbnb stay does have a fan and plenty of windows. + Airbnb Images via Airbnb

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Solar-powered dome in the Texas desert is the perfect place to go off the grid

Are we on the cusp of the ‘Age of Freedom’?

July 23, 2020 by  
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Are we on the cusp of the ‘Age of Freedom’? Shana Rappaport Thu, 07/23/2020 – 01:00 Anything with “technology convergence” and “climate change” in the same sentence captures my attention. Contextualize it in the “making or breaking of human civilization as we know it” and I’m hooked — and admittedly a tad skeptical. That’s why I buckled up and dug into the recent 90-page report put forth by think tank RethinkX , co-founded by internationally recognized technologists and futurists Tony Seba and James Arbib. ” Rethinking Humanity ” makes the case that the convergence of key technologies is about to disrupt the five foundational sectors that underpin the global economy, and with them every major industry in the world.  Super heady stuff, to be sure. The vision Seba and Arbib detail reads somewhat like a distant techno-utopia. But the vision they lay out isn’t all that far off: Climate change solved and poverty eradicated within the next 15 years? Got my attention. Given that Seba and Arbib have been impressively accurate over the past decade in predicting the speed and scale of technological disruption, I figured it was worth giving the analysis a closer look.  From extraction to creation  Focusing on the disruptive potential of emerging technologies in the information, energy, transportation, food and materials sectors, the report predicts that across all five — and within the next 10 years — we could see costs of key technologies fall by 10 times or more, production processes become 10 times more efficient, all while using 90 percent fewer natural resources and producing up to 100 times less waste. What Seba and Arbib are calling the “fastest, deepest, most consequential transformation of human civilization in history” isn’t just a reframe of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which we know is underway and being enabled by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and 3D printing. Indeed, many of their predictions will sound familiar to those conversant in technological change. But it’s not just the march of progress of individual technologies that will save us. The report does not introduce this alluring vision as an absolute — quite the contrary. Therein lies one big variable: Humans need to make it happen, and fast.   Instead, the report posits that we are on the cusp of the third age of humankind — what they describe as “The Age of Freedom.” This new era will be defined by a shift away from models of centralized extraction to localized creation; ones built, they say, not on coal, oil, steel, livestock and concrete, but on photons, electrons, DNA, molecules and qbits (a unit of quantum information).  They predict, for example, that the combination of cheap solar and grid storage will transform energy systems into entirely distributed models of self-generation in which electrons are virtually free. And that as the widespread adoption of autonomous electric vehicles replaces car ownership with on-demand ride sharing, we’ll completely reimagine and redesign our roads, infrastructure and cityscapes. Their vision for the future of food, outlined in greater detail in another report last year, predicts that traditional agriculture soon will be replaced by industrial-scale brewing of single-celled organisms, genetically modified to produce all the nutrients we need ( say what? ). Similar processes, combined with additive manufacturing and nanotechnologies, will allow us to create all the materials necessary to build infrastructure for the modern world from the molecule up, rather than by continuing to extract scarce and depleting natural resources.  These transformations mirror, in many ways, what we’ve seen already in the information sector — in which the decentralization enabled by the internet has reduced barriers to communication and knowledge in ways unimaginable 25 years ago.  What may sound like a pipe dream is what Seba and Arbib claim could be a lifestyle akin to the “American Dream” — in terms of energy consumption, transport needs, nutritional value, housing and education — accessible to anyone for as little as $250 a month by 2030. Humanity at a crossroads  To be clear, the report does not introduce this alluring vision of The Age of Freedom as an absolute — quite the contrary. Therein lies one big variable: Humans need to make it happen, and fast. Will the public embrace self-driving cars and genetically modified foods, among other innovations? Futurists have been wrong before about such things. (Weren’t we all supposed to be getting around in flying cars by now?) “We can use the upcoming convergence of technology disruptions to solve the greatest challenges of humankind — inequality, poverty, environmental destruction if, and only if, we learn from history, recognize what is happening, understand the implications and make critical choices now; because these very same technologies that hold such promise are also accelerating civilization’s collapse,” Seba said. We can use the upcoming convergence of technology disruptions to solve the greatest challenges of humankind — inequality, poverty, environmental destruction if, and only if, we learn from history …   Indeed, we face an epic choice. But, are utopia or dystopia really our only options? Is framing the path forward in a binary win-or-lose scenario actually accurate, let alone helpful for the business leaders, policy makers and citizens in whose hands such a complex set of decisions rest today? And what about the millions of people without access to jobs, food, housing or healthcare right now? Where do they fit into this grand, seemingly idyllic plan? The report outlines a set of recommendations which, in many ways, seem as unlikely as the vision they’re intended to enable. Giving individuals ownership of data rights, scaling new models for community ownership of energy and transportation networks, and allowing states and cities autonomy on policies such as immigration, taxation and public expenditure, for example, take time. The rapid reimagining and restructuring of what they call our society’s fundamental “Organizing System” is no small feat. And the report seems to gloss over many messy realities of how social change actually occurs. Still, there’s something compelling here. Regardless whether Seba and Arbib’s techno-utopian dream materializes in the ways they’ve outlined, the report offers compelling ideas for building a more robust, resilient and equitable society than we’ve ever seen. It’s certainly good fodder as we enter a decade that will, without question, be defined by great disruption — and already is. Pull Quote The report does not introduce this alluring vision as an absolute — quite the contrary. Therein lies one big variable: Humans need to make it happen, and fast. We can use the upcoming convergence of technology disruptions to solve the greatest challenges of humankind — inequality, poverty, environmental destruction if, and only if, we learn from history … Topics Innovation Information Technology Corporate Social Responsibility Clean Economy Corporate Social Responsibility Featured Column On the VERGE 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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Are we on the cusp of the ‘Age of Freedom’?

Abandoned fuel tanks retrofitted for new Shanghai art museum

April 7, 2020 by  
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On the banks of Shanghai’s Huangpu River, Beijing-based practice  OPEN Architecture  has transformed five giant aviation fuel tanks into Tank Shanghai, a new contemporary art museum and open park. Developed over six years, the adaptive reuse project not only creates a new cultural asset for the city, but also helps reconnect residents to the waterfront.  Located on an industrial site, the five decommissioned aviation fuel tanks had belonged to  Shanghai’s  former Longhua Airport. As part of a greater revitalization plan for the city’s southwest region, OPEN Architecture converted the waste containers into a vibrant community art center with each tank housing different programming. The surrounding landscape was redesigned with long, undulating lawns that emphasize connections with the once-inaccessible Huangpu riverfront and can accommodate a variety of outdoor events, from art festivals to book fairs. At the heart of the Tank Shanghai design is the introduction of a Z-shaped “Super-Surface”: a five-hectare zigzagging landscape of trees and grasses that weaves together the five tanks and slopes upward to become a green roof for a built structure below. Two tanks are located above the Super-Surface, while the other three are set slightly below. The tanks were  retrofitted  to include a two-story live-house and bar, a restaurant and art exhibition spaces. The architects preserved the tanks’ industrial exteriors and minimized changes to the facades. Curvilinear outdoor pathways complement the tanks’ rounded forms.  Related: 10 shipping containers make up this modern, mixed-use structure in Shanghai “Tank Shanghai represents a new type of urban art institution—one linking the past and the future, reconnecting people with the natural environment, and fusing art with nature,” explained the architects. “It is an  art center without boundaries, and as it continues to assimilate into the life of the city more largely, Tank Shanghai will continue to facilitate and inspire the creation of more inclusive and collective cultural spaces.” Tank Shanghai opened in March 2019. + OPEN Architecture Images by INSAW Image, WU Qingshan, and CHEN Hao

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Abandoned fuel tanks retrofitted for new Shanghai art museum

Solar-powered home in Maine stays warm with passive design

April 6, 2020 by  
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As one of the most beautiful states in the country, Maine offers an infinite number of advantages. But the state’s notoriously frigid winters often leave new residents desperate to find some respite from the long, cold months. After spending a few years in a drafty home where she and her family lived in multiple layers of clothing, author Jessica Kerwin Jenkins and her husband decided to build their own energy-efficient home. The result is an incredible barn-inspired structure that uses solar power and multiple passive features to keep the stunning interior living spaces warm and cozy throughout the year. Once they set out to build a new home, the couple researched passive house concepts that would suit their family’s needs, which included a comfortable living space where they wouldn’t have to dress in 10 layers of warm clothing for six months out of the year. With the help of a local architect, the couple set out to build an extremely airtight structure that used solar power and passive strategies to create an energy-efficient home with a minimal carbon footprint. Related: Beautiful Maine home uses passive solar principles to achieve near net-zero energy Located in the quaint community of Blue Hill, the beautiful home is tucked into an old blueberry field just minutes away from a secluded cove. The incredibly idyllic setting set the tone for the design, which focused on creating something that would fit the region’s style but also reap the benefits of modern sustainability. As for aesthetics, Jenkins explained that she and her husband were both intrigued by the traditional Japanese practice of shou sugi ban . But they ended up cladding the home in something that would pay homage to the local seaside community — pitch tar. Typically used to weatherproof ships’ masts, the material is durable, low-maintenance and highly insulative. Additionally, the jet-black exterior allows the home to both stand out and blend in with its natural surroundings. “We always wanted to do a black house, which seems really dramatic — but there are so many evergreens here that it disappears into the tree line,” Jenkins said. The house is topped with a 26-panel, 7.8 kW solar array on the pitched roof, generating more power than the home uses. The exterior is punctuated with an abundance of triple-paned windows that, thanks to the home’s southern orientation, provide optimal solar gain to keep the interiors warm. At 2,288 square feet, the four-bedroom home is quite spacious. Plentiful windows and high ceilings add to the modern feel of the living spaces. For an extra touch of warmth, the home is equipped with a radiant floor heating and an air exchanger that pulls in air from outside and passes it through a filter. This stunning, eco-friendly home set in an unbelievable location, not far from Acadia National Park, can be all yours for just $585,000 , as it is currently listed for sale. + Christopher Group Via Apartment Therapy Photography by Bruce Frame Photography via Christopher Group

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Solar-powered home in Maine stays warm with passive design

New electric car can be rented for just $22 a month

March 11, 2020 by  
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French automaker Citroën has unveiled the Ami — a one-of-a-kind tiny electric car made so accessible, it can be driven by anyone older than 14 years old, with or without a driving license. The two-seat vehicle is 100% electric and comes with a battery that can be powered from a standard electrical socket in just three hours. As part of the brand’s mission to “unleash urban mobility for all,” the Citroën Ami is affordably priced at just 6,000 euros (approximately $6,600) or the long-term rental price of 19.99 euros ($22) per month. Named after the French word for friend, Ami is classified as an electric quadricycle, a European Union vehicle category for microcars that can typically be driven by a teenager, even without a license. Lightweight and ultra-compact, the Citroën Ami measures just 2.41 meters (7.9 feet) in length and weighs 485 kilograms (1,069 pounds) with a 5.5 kWh battery and 6 kW engine. The microcar has a range of 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) on a single charge.  Related: Fisker debuts an electric luxury SUV for $37,500 at CES Despite its small size, the two-person interior looks surprisingly roomy thanks to expansive glazing that includes the windscreen, side windows, rear windows and panoramic roof, all of which bathe the car in natural light. As a car of the modern age, Ami can be seamlessly linked to a smartphone for easy access to essential information about the vehicle, from range and charge status to maintenance alerts and mileage. Ami is also available in seven different versions and provides a variety of customization and color options. “Ami – 100% ëlectric makes everyday city life easier by drawing inspiration from new consumption patterns,” the firm explained. “Beyond the innovative mobility object, Citroën adopts a disruptive strategy by offering an electric mobility solution at previously unheard price levels, through various offers tailored to the customer’s actual use.” Ami will be made available for long-term rental, car sharing or purchase. Sales will launch in France at the end of March and will be expanded to select European countries in the following months. + Citroën Photography by maison-vignaux at Continental Productions via Citroën

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New electric car can be rented for just $22 a month

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