A bamboo meditation center overlooks sunset views in Chiang Mai

January 14, 2021 by  
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Locally sourced bamboo and adobe bricks make up the new Meditation Cathedral & Sunset Sala, a cluster of organically shaped buildings on top of a hill in northern Chiang Mai. Commissioned by Khunying Noi, a member of the Thai royal family, the net-zero carbon project provides the client with a space to enjoy the sunset with loved ones as well as a meditation cathedral for the Buddhist community. Chiangmai Life Architects designed the mountain-inspired buildings with construction carried out by Chiangmai Life Construction craftspeople who mainly comprise locals as well as Thai Yai who fled the Burmese army’s minority prosecution campaigns. Completed in 2018 in the small town of Mae Rim, the Meditation Cathedral & Sunset Sala was initially planned as a simple ‘sala’ — a type of open pavilion in Thai architecture — for enjoying the sunset from a hilltop location. Because Khunying Noi is a practicing Buddhist and active member in the Buddhist community, she later asked the architects to add a dedicated meditation space along with a freestanding bathroom area. This area includes showers and toilets; the architects also inserted a smaller, mushroom-shaped structure to house the mechanical and electrical systems, including a water tank. Related: Giant bamboo arches shield Haduwa Arts & Culture Institute from the sun “The design of all buildings emulates the mountain range and the rolling hills,” said the architects, who constructed the project with adobe walls and bamboo roofs. “Thus, the buildings mold into the scenery as if they grew there themselves.” The Buddhist meditation space features lofty arched ceilings built of bundled bamboo to mimic the domes of Roman or Gothic cathedrals. The architects mainly used bamboo of the Thyrsostachus genus along with Dendrocalamus asper and Bambusa spp species. The bamboo stalks were selected by age and then preserved with a borax/boric acid solution. Once treated, the bamboo is left to dry and cure to ensure long-term durability as a construction material. + Chiangmai Life Architects Photography by Markus Roselieb via Chiangmai Life Architects

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A bamboo meditation center overlooks sunset views in Chiang Mai

Adidas Outdoor line furthers brand’s push for sustainability

January 14, 2021 by  
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While many big businesses and brands cause overwhelming environmental problems, Adidas works to clean up its act. In a bold move last January, Adidas acknowledged its contribution to plastic waste, noting the waste’s negative impacts on the world’s oceans. The brand followed up this acknowledgment with plans to move forward with the environment in mind. Adidas’s new Outdoor line stays true to this environmental commitment with clear sustainable features. The Outdoor line includes shirts, pants, jackets, shoes and, of course, face masks. You can wear head to toe Adidas while still dressing sustainably. Adidas accomplishes this by using recycled materials and PRIMEGREEN technology. The company describes PRIMEGREEN as a “performance fabric” containing absolutely no virgin plastic. This fabric looks and feels good, all while helping Adidas work toward its goal to end plastic waste. But if the fabric contains no virgin plastic, what exactly is it made of? Hitting on the third R in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” trifecta, PRIMEGREEN contains 100% recycled polyester. Related: Adidas unveils lightweight hiking shoe made from ocean plastic Several products in the Outdoor line use these sustainable materials, but one that stands out is the MyShelter Parley RAIN.RDY Jacket. Using 100% recycled polyester and Parley Ocean Plastic made from recycled marine plastic waste, the MyShelter Parley RAIN.RDY Jacket exemplifies Adidas’s efforts to reduce plastic waste. You can grab this eco-friendly jacket along with vests, parkas and insulated hooded jackets in both men’s and women’s styles on Adidas’s  website . This line serves as just part of Adidas’s sustainability work. While the use of recycled polyester demonstrates Adidas’s work toward its commitment to shift to recycled polyester in all products by 2024, the brand has additional environmental goals in sight. As stated in an  article  from January 2020, Adidas plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 30% by 2030 and be climate neutral by 2050. An influential brand like Adidas making such strong strides toward sustainability encourages competitors to adopt green initiatives, too. Hopefully, this green trend can make a real impact on the world’s plastic waste problem. + Adidas Images via Adidas

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What 8 indoor farming companies plan for 2021

January 6, 2021 by  
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What 8 indoor farming companies plan for 2021 Jesse Klein Wed, 01/06/2021 – 01:30 When the pandemic exposed major issues with our lengthy food supply chain — in the form of shipment delays and inadequate demand forecasting — local vertical farms and indoor growing organizations were called upon to fill in the gaps in a way that was unprecedented. With 2020 in the history books and hopes for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic rising, these companies seek to build on their newfound momentum in 2021. With revenue for vertical farming alone estimated at just $212.4 million in 2019, one forecast calls for the industry to hit $1.38 billion by 2027, a compound annual growth rate of 26.2 percent from 2021 to 2027. Here are what eight indoor-growing leaders are planning in the year ahead. The list is presented alphabetically and represents a slice of the marketplace activity cropping up in late 2020. AeroFarms The Aerofarms facility in Jersey City, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Aerofarms AeroFarms’ four New Jersey vertical farms produced 2 million pounds of produce in 2020. And this year that number likely will skyrocket with the company’s April announcement of construction on a 90,000-square-foot indoor vertical farm in Abu Dhabi, the world’s largest vertical farm. In 2021, Aerofarms is taking on the issue of food waste more explicitly. It invested in Precision Indoor Plants (PIP) to help understand and prevent lettuce discoloration, experiment with ways to increase lettuce yield and level up leaf quality. AppHarvest  AppHarvest’s farm in Morehead, Kentucky. Photo courtesy of AppHarvest Appalachian company AppHarvest has launched three indoor farms in Kentucky. It chose the state specifically because it’s within a day’s drive of 70 percent of the U.S. population. In early 2021, AppHarvest will harvest its first crop of tomatoes, a move meant to help reduce reliance and emissions from imported tomatoes. In 2019, 60 percent of America’s tomatoes were imported. The farms use a closed-loop system that runs entirely off recycled rainwater to eliminate agricultural runoff and reduce water usage. Bowery Farming Bowery Farming’s second farm in Kearny, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Bowery Farming Bowery Farming, based in New York City, plans to invest its 600 percent increase in sales last year into a new vertical farm in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 2021. By working with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and the Governor’s Action Team, Bowery is turning an arid industrial site into 8.7 acres of modern farmland that also should help the economic recovery of the area. Bethlehem once was a thriving steel town with Bethlehem Steel Corporation once employing around 60 percent of the local workforce at its peak before shutting down in 1998 . Since then, the city has had to transition into different sectors. Bowery Farming hopes to be part of that evolution. Its farm will create 70 jobs and feature LED lighting, recapture water from the plants using a water transpiration system and collect data on a massive scale to inform future farming choices.  BrightFarms This BrightFarms greenhouse produces more than two million pounds of leafy salad greens per year. Photo courtesy of BrightFarms With $100 million in new funding raised in 2020, BrightFarms plans to construct indoor farms in every major market by 2025. This year marks the start of that journey with the construction of two new facilities in North Carolina and Massachusetts.  Both farms will be six to seven acres, or almost double the company’s current facilities in Ohio, Illinois and Virginia. In 2021, BrightFarm, which makes its headquarters in Irvington, New York, also plans to roll out its proprietary AI System, Bright OS, which will use machine learning and analytics to make operations from seed to shelf more efficient.   Gotham Greens Gotham Greens operates a network of greenhouses across the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New England, Mountain West and beyond. Photo courtesy of Gotham Greens Gotham Greens has been at the forefront of urban farming for over a decade. After starting in New York and expanding across the northeast, 2021 will be the year Gotham tries to take over the rest of the country. As the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered so many businesses, Gotham Greens was able to expand into Aurora, Colorado , just outside of Denver. The Colorado location is Gotham’s eighth indoor farm. It also expanded to Baltimore. Finally, in December, the company announced an $87 million funding round. The funding will support Gotham Greens products in Whole Foods Market, Albertsons Companies, Meijer, Target, King Soopers, Harris Teeter, ShopRite and Sprouts. Infarm An Infarm installation at French retailer, Metro. Photo courtesy of Infarm In 2021, Infarm is hopping on a hot industry trend — bringing the vertical farm to the grocery store. In late December, the Berlin-based company announced a partnership with Sumitomo, a Japanese company that owns Summit Store, one of Tokyo’s leading supermarket chains. The partnership will bring Infarm’s modular vertical farm directly to grocery stores. With this move, Infarm is expanding on its in-store strategy first experimented with Kroger in Berlin in 2020. Brick Street Farms also partnered last year with Publix to bring its vertical farms closer to the consumer. Infarm will install its first farm at Summit’s Gotanno location and products are scheduled to be ready for sale at the end of January. Kalera Kalera’s new farm in Houston will be the largest such facility in Texas. Photo courtesy of Kalera Kalera also plans a rapid expansion in 2021. The Orlando-based vertical farm company is pushing into Atlanta , Denver and Houston this year. This will be the company’s third, fourth and fifth farms and the first ones outside Florida. The Houston facilities will be the largest vertical farm in Texas while the Atlanta location will be the highest production volume vertical farm in the Southeast. The Atlanta one will be more than double the size of the company’s Orlando facilities — able to produce 11 million heads of lettuce. And in December Kalera announced it is expanding into the Pacific Northwest in Seattle. These new facilities will help Kalera support partnerships with grocers and restaurants in the area. Plenty Most vertical farms, including Plenty, have initially focused on leafy greens like kale. Photo courtesy of Plenty Plenty , based in San Francisco, had an eventful final quarter of 2020 and is riding that momentum into 2021. In August, the indoor farming company announced a partnership with Albertsons to expand into more than 430 stores in Southern California. It followed up that move in October with a $140 million funding round led by Softbank and a historic partnership with Driscoll’s to give consumers fresh sweet strawberries year round. This year, Plenty plans to begin construction on the world largest output vertical farm in Compton, California. Upon completion, the farm will be the size of a big box retail store and will grow over 700 acres of leafy green crops. Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems 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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A new Swedish iron processing project could disrupt the global steel industry

December 17, 2020 by  
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A new Swedish iron processing project could disrupt the global steel industry Thomas Koch Blank Thu, 12/17/2020 – 00:20 A recent announcement by Europe’s largest iron ore producer, LKAB, may seem like a technical detail only relevant for metallurgists and steel nerds. However, the company’s plan to invest up to $46 billion over the next 15–20 years to expand into an emissions-free iron process being piloted in Northern Sweden is big news for Sweden, the global steel industry and future generations around the world. From a climate change perspective, steelmaking is considered one of the “hard-to-abate” sectors. Given that the industry contributes directly to 7 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions, it is impossible to ignore it. But in contrast to other areas of our society — such as automobiles or power generation — technical solutions to replace conventional methods have seemed either quite expensive or simply unknown. However, this view has rapidly changed over the course of only a few years, and Swedish industry has played a pivotal role in this shift. The steel industry contributes directly to 7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2016, the  HYBRIT project  was launched as a joint venture between utility  Vattenfall , iron ore producer  LKAB  and steelmaker  SSAB . Both Vattenfall and LKAB are owned by the Swedish state, while SSAB was privatized in 1994. And with the political backing and de-risking of the early stage of the HYBRIT project, it can be argued that HYBRIT is the outcome of a long-standing political intent to ensure a competitive basic industry sector in Sweden. Looking forward, with customers, investors and policymakers increasing pressure to adhere to the Paris Agreement, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a critical element of maintaining competitiveness. The process that HYBRIT is currently piloting in  Luleå , a small town in northern Sweden, holds the key to unlocking dramatic CO2-emissions reduction for steelmaking. By using hydrogen instead of coal as a “reduction agent” — to remove the oxygen from the iron in iron ore — the most critical step in the steel value chain becomes virtually free of carbon emissions. These steel plants can replace polluting blast furnaces with a process that emits water vapor instead of CO2. On Nov. 23, LKAB announced that it intends to integrate forward in the steel supply chain and start producing “sponge iron” as a value-added product from its current pellet product, using the HYBRIT process. This pivot in business strategy has major significance for the global steel industry. Steel plants can replace polluting blast furnaces with a process that emits water vapor instead of CO2. There are three reasons LKAB’s announcement is big news for the global steel industry as well as the economy at large: LKAB will single-handedly contribute to greenhouse gas reductions corresponding to more than 50 percent of Sweden’s total footprint by obviating the need for blast furnaces — many of which are in other nations The hydrogen required will significantly contribute to bringing down the cost of this zero-carbon fuel, which in turn can help the economy to address emissions from other sectors such as aviation or shipping While the process trials are still ongoing (the pilot plant is producing sponge iron, but its scaffolding has hardly been taken down) the confidence demonstrated by this announcement clears up any questions as to whether this technology will be commercially scalable   Implications for the global steel industry Sweden is a small economy that already has comparatively clean energy supply. However, LKAB’s stated strategy to over time integrate forward into primary steelmaking not only enables thousands of jobs with strengthened long-term competitiveness, it also reduces disproportionate amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. This will enable Sweden to punch significantly above its weight class. LKAB’s total production of 27 million tons of iron ore products corresponds to 18 million tons of crude steel. If that steel were produced in conventional blast furnaces, it would lead to emissions of 28 million tons of CO2 — more than 50 percent of Sweden’s total footprint of 52 million tons of CO2 equivalents. Steel production is only one of many potential uses for hydrogen. Indeed, other sectors that are technically challenged to reduce emissions likely will have to rely on cheap hydrogen. Today the cost of hydrogen for fuel cell trucks or buses, as well as using hydrogen (or ammonia) as an aviation or maritime fuel, is prohibitively high. Yet costs are expected to come down as the technology is deployed at scale. The sponge iron capacity that LKAB could build out corresponds to half a million large fuel cell vehicles, a significant step towards the “hydrogen economy” envisioned by the European Commission. The production of the hydrogen could require as much as 10 GW worth of electrolyzer capacity, a quarter of the total  EU target for 2030 . LKAB’s ambition to build a sponge iron plant as early as 2027, just one year after SSAB plans to retire its blast furnace in  Oxelösund , speaks volumes in terms of the technology confidence the joint venture already has established. LKAB is also setting itself up as a single company to grow its DRI capacity by 30% per year over 20 years. Furthermore, Göran Persson, chairman of the board and former prime minister of Sweden, claims that the investments shall be made without any government support, expecting it to be competitive without subsidies beyond the EU carbon price. LKAB is also setting itself up as a single company to grow its DRI capacity by 30 percent per year over 20 years, diminishing any doubt that the technology can be scaled fast. In the big picture, while this constitutes a significant step towards a decarbonized steel industry, the impact corresponds to less than 1 percent of the emissions from the global steel industry. But even though it’s unrealistic to expect that the whole steel industry will turn upside down to adopt this new technology given the scale of investment in existing blast furnaces, other iron ore companies can of course replicate LKAB’s forward integration. The main iron ore sources in the world, in Australia, South Africa and Latin America, have access to drastically cheaper renewable energy than Sweden. This makes for an even more competitive product using this highly electrified process. Indeed, in these locations  zero-carbon steel can be competitive with blast furnaces completely without subsidies . New challenges, new opportunities The leadership demonstrated by LKAB serves as a role model for the kind of outside-the-box and whole-systems thinking required for the global economy to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. Change requires exploration of new concepts and solutions. Bold action both creates new opportunities and surfaces new underlying challenges. For example, adding 10 gigawatts (GW) of load, given Sweden’s current total installed generation capacity of 40 GW, will require significant investments in both renewable generation capacity and grid infrastructure. But for utilities, this opportunity is providing a much-needed headwind to achieve a zero-emission power system, as investing in a growing market is significantly easier than with stagnant demand. The fact that the impact on global emissions will not be credited to Sweden in the political protocols negotiated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change underscores the value of corporate action. The private sector remains the most reliable engine for innovation in our economy. Graphic: Auke Hoekstra, TU Eindhoven. Technology disruption is by definition challenging to forecast. In the solar industry, the International Energy Agency (IEA) consistently has underestimated both near- and long-term capacity additions to an almost comical degree. Yet the private sector has managed to out-perform expectations, and this is true for LKAB and the HYBRIT team just as it has been for the solar industry. In comparison, the official position of  Jernkontoret, the Swedish Steel Association , that it will take “20-30 years until this technology can be introduced into large-scale industrial production” is conservative, to say the least. The  World Steel Association  is almost completely silent about the opportunity of both hydrogen-based reduction and other alternative technologies.  The association’s 2020 positioning paper  maintains a narrative around need for long-term R&D rather than rapid deployment support. But regardless whether the industry associations are acknowledging it, the snowball has started to roll down the slopes of the  Luossavaara  and  Kirunavaara  mountains (the L and K in LKAB) and the avalanche will hit the global steel industry within this decade. Survivors of the impact will re-emerge to ski in clean powder snow. Casualties will be buried under the masses, anchored down by strategically untimely investments in CO2-intensive technology. Pull Quote The steel industry contributes directly to 7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Steel plants can replace polluting blast furnaces with a process that emits water vapor instead of CO2. LKAB is also setting itself up as a single company to grow its DRI capacity by 30% per year over 20 years. Topics Emissions Reduction Chemicals & Toxics Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A view of the blast furnace of an old steel refinery in  Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, Duisburg, Germany . Photo by Aranka Sinnema on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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Nike ACG collection gives traction to eco-friendly apparel

December 7, 2020 by  
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With its newest release, Nike focuses on respecting the outdoors from start to finish. This effort shows, with 85% of the pieces in the latest Nike ACG apparel collection containing more than 90%  recycled content . Plus, each item is geared towards outdoor wear for use while hiking, backpacking and participating in other sports.  The collection serves as a capsule of sorts, with the essential waterproof, windproof and breathable Nike ACG Misery Ridge GORE-TEX Jacket at the core, made from 100% recycled polyester on two of the three layers. The mid-layer Nike ACG Rope De Dope Jacket is a packable and portable puffer jacket. Another option, the Nike ACG Polartec Wolf Tree Hoodie fleece, uses 100% recycled materials. The collection also features a women’s vest, crew and pants. Related: Nike reveals Space Hippie — sustainable sneakers made from waste “That balance between performance and sustainability is key to Nike ACG,” said Nur Abbas, Nike Design Director, ACG Apparel. “ Sustainability was our first filter for materials used in this collection, but we didn’t compromise the identity of ACG style and attitude; wearers can continue to be protected from the elements when exploring awe-inspiring nature, or even wear the apparel beyond a weekend in the outdoors.” In addition to the clothing options, two shoe styles tread onto the scene. The new Nike ACG Mountain Fly GORE-TEX is built for rocky terrain, and the Nike ACG Air Nasu GORE-TEX gets a cool winter colorway update. Smith Rock, a monolith in central Oregon , a few hours from the Nike headquarters, inspired the entire ACG collection. Each product is named after one of the trails in Smith Rock Park, as a nod to one of nature’s many wonders. The program aligns with a long-term Nike goal labeled Move to Zero, which outlines a future of zero carbon and  zero waste  in the supply chain, manufacturing, and waste reduction. Currently, Nike diverts around 1 billion plastic bottles from landfills per year by turning them into yarns, jerseys and uppers for shoes. The brand has eliminated single-use plastic from all campuses worldwide and diverts 99% of footwear manufacturing waste from landfills too. Nike plans to power facilities with 100% renewable energy by 2025 and cut carbon emissions by 30% by 2030, in alignment with the Paris Agreement of 2015. + Nike Images via Nike

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Taking stock of Chase, HSBC, and Morgan Stanley’s recent climate commitments

November 24, 2020 by  
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Taking stock of Chase, HSBC, and Morgan Stanley’s recent climate commitments Whitney Mann Tue, 11/24/2020 – 00:40 Recent months have seen major moves on climate action by some of the world’s largest private banks, including JPMorgan Chase, HSBC and Morgan Stanley. What sets this latest wave of climate pledges by financial institutions apart from past announcements? Building on previous commitments that increase green investments or restrict financing to certain high-emitting activities, recent pledges add to growing evidence that banks are taking a more holistic approach to the climate emergency. Looking across their investments in different sectors and regions, more banks are considering how to reduce the carbon intensity of entire portfolios over time. After all, through their product offerings, lending activities and client engagement, financial institutions can play a key role in influencing the transformation necessary for a net-zero emissions economy. What we have given the market is an ambition that our total financing by 2050 will be net zero. That is a far bigger prize or goal than picking a sub-segment of our portfolio and saying ‘I am not going to bank you’ because that’s not what the world needs. That industry or that customer may then just go to Bank X, Bank Y, or Bank Z. They won’t have changed their business model. — Noel Quinn, CEO, HSBC, in an interview with Reuters on Oct. 9, 2020. While recent commitments signal increased ambition, they vary in content and structure across institutions. RMI established our Center for Climate-Aligned Finance in July to support financial institutions — as well as their stakeholders and shareholders — in overcoming practical challenges to align portfolios and investment decisions with a 1.5 degree Celsius world. As part of this work, the center seeks to bring transparency to the new landscape of climate commitments — discerning barriers to success and pinpointing opportunities to ensure measurable impact from this promising momentum. Climate commitments across institutions may have similar bumper stickers — Paris Alignment, climate alignment, or net zero by 2050 — but what’s under the hood? Unpacking commitments October announcements by JPMorgan Chase and HSBC outline their intended contribution to the low-carbon transition over a given time. Specifically, JPMorgan Chase announced in October that it would shape its financing portfolio in three key sectors to align with the Paris Agreement; three days later, HSBC announced its statement of net-zero ambition . This past year has seen a slew of similar statements, including from Barclays in May — making it one of the first banks to announce ambition to go net zero by 2050 — and then from Morgan Stanley in September. While this blog focuses on a subset of global banks, their commitments are part of a larger movement across the financial sector that includes institutional investors and broader coalitions. Climate commitments across institutions may have similar bumper stickers — Paris Alignment, climate alignment or net zero by 2050 — but what’s under the hood? Below, we identify signposts to help pick apart the differences between similar-sounding commitments. These categories represent critical questions facing a financial institution that has committed or may be looking to commit its portfolio to alignment with a climate goal. Coverage Coverage refers to the business units and financial products included in the commitment to measure, manage and reduce emissions. For instance, several banks have committed to align their lending portfolios. Barclays’ accounting additionally covers the capital markets activity it supports. Coverage also often can be delineated by sectors, such as BNP Paribas’s decision to prioritize decarbonization within its power portfolio, or ING’s inclusion of nine sectors in its annual Terra Report . ING has iterated further by indicating which part of the sectoral value chain is included in the scope (upstream oil and gas rather than trading, midstream, storage or downstream). JPMorgan Chase has committed to a sector-specific approach that will seek to address all emissions, including scope 3 emissions in their priority sectors. Targets and pathways For the designated coverage, commitments are further distinguished by targets (what will portfolio emissions be reduced to and by when?) and pathways (what trajectory will portfolio emissions take over time toward the specified target?). Pathways incorporate technology roadmaps based on a set of assumptions about what the world will look like over time. The extent of decarbonization achievable over time depends on which low-carbon technologies will be available when — projections that hinge on assumptions about investment rates, policies, demographic shifts and beyond. BNP Paribas and Barclays are among the institutions that will use the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) to guide their energy and power commitments, but many other pathways exist. RMI’s Charting the Course highlights that selecting a pathway from the nearly limitless options presents a key challenge to financial institutions taking meaningful steps toward alignment. Tools for analysis Many analysis tools, methodologies, models and platforms exist to support institutions in understanding where their emissions are today, and how they can transition their portfolios over time. For instance, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Citi recently announced their participation in the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF)  — a coalition working on measuring financed emissions and improving transparency through disclosure. Other tools are more forward looking to support investing that steers portfolios in line with climate commitments over time. For instance, 17 global banks recently piloted PACTA for Banks to analyze their corporate loan books with different climate scenarios and inform future decision-making. And 58 financial institutions have committed to SBTi’s financial sector framework , which helps financial institutions “set science-based targets to align their lending and investment activities with the Paris Agreement.” Disclosure and reporting Disclosure in line with The Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure recommendations, much like other financial risk disclosure obligations, is critical for transparency and accountability, and to ensure risks are accurately priced in financial markets. There are currently many voluntary standards and frameworks for reporting material factors across sectors, creating a complex landscape and motivating five standard-setting groups — Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, Global Reporting Initiative, Climate Disclosure Standards Board, International Integrated Reporting Council and CDP — to collaborate toward a commonly accepted reporting framework. These existing standards ultimately could inform what disclosure and reporting mandates from forward-looking regulators might look like in the future. Implementation actions How do banks turn statements of ambition into progress along their pathway and, in turn, measurable impact in the real economy? When investing in a world believed to be on track to warm to 4 degrees Celsius, increasing the volume of green finance is essential. However, it cannot in and of itself create the low-carbon world and attendant investment opportunities needed for banks to achieve their climate alignment commitments. Rather, by influencing the availability and cost of capital, banks can more strategically and actively shape the real economy. When investing in a world currently believed to be on track to warm to 4C, increasing the volume of green finance is essential. ” Breaking the Code ,” RMI’s August survey of climate action efforts in the financial sector, outlines different influence levers financial institutions possess. These levers range from designing products to support the transition of high-emitting assets to offering services to support their clients’ transitions. These levers can and should be employed in unique ways across business units and asset classes based on an institution’s particular commitments and individual context. Organizational approach Finally, banks are adopting different organizational responses to support implementation of new products, offerings and services stemming from commitments. One such approach reflects an “embedded” model, wherein responsibility is dispersed across existing business verticals by, for instance, placing a climate expert within a bank’s asset management team. Alternately, banks may opt for a more “centralized” model involving some sort of systemic re-organization around their commitment. A centralized model may involve creating new business units with a dedicated remit spanning the institution. JPMorgan Chase, for example, is launching its Center for Carbon Transition , which will provide clients with centralized access to sustainability-focused financing, offer research and advisory solutions and engage clients on their long-term business strategies and related carbon disclosures. Of course, significant variation exists. Notably, Credit Suisse has adopted a somewhat hybrid approach involving elements of both a centralized and embedded model. JPMorgan Chase has put partnering with its clients in carbon-intensive industries at the center of its new commitment. — Paul Bodnar, Chair, Center for Climate-Aligned Finance JPMorgan Chase is one of the center’s founding partners , alongside Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America. Next steps The landscape of climate commitments by financial institutions is changing rapidly. At the center, we expect our analysis to broaden and deepen as we work with this sector to first crystallize and then actualize commitments toward climate alignment. Innovation is at the heart of competition among financial institutions, and actions advancing climate alignment should be no different. We expect future analysis to focus on frameworks for enabling comparability across institutions. Our goal is to broaden the path forged by these alignment pioneers, reinforcing their efforts to accelerate change at the scale demanded to meet the challenge of climate change. Pull Quote Climate commitments across institutions may have similar bumper stickers — Paris Alignment, climate alignment, or net zero by 2050 — but what’s under the hood? When investing in a world currently believed to be on track to warm to 4C, increasing the volume of green finance is essential. Contributors Shravan Bhat Brian O’Hanlon Topics Corporate Strategy Finance Banking Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by  wutzkohphoto  on Shutterstock

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Taking stock of Chase, HSBC, and Morgan Stanley’s recent climate commitments

Old bathhouses get new life via NPS adaptive reuse program

November 19, 2020 by  
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After Rose Schweikhart, an avid homebrewer, settled in Hot Springs,  Arkansas , she began to wonder if the mineral-rich hot spring water that made “Spa City” famous could be used to brew beer. Since the springs are government-owned as part of Hot Springs National Park, she called the park superintendent to ask permission to use the water. Next thing she knew, she was filling out the long application to be part of the National Park Service’s adaptive reuse program for the crumbling, once-opulent bathhouses that line the city’s main drag, aka Bathhouse Row. Now, the 9,000-square-foot  Superior Bathhouse  finds new life as a restaurant, event space and the world’s first microbrewery to use hot spring water for brewing beer. This project represents one of the success stories revitalizing both the town of Hot Springs and the overlapping national park. Water is the soul of Hot Springs As you could guess from its name, the town wouldn’t exist without its natural hot springs.  Hot Springs National Park  is tasked with protecting 47 springs in the downtown area. “We’re really strict about the park,” said park ranger Ashley Waymouth as she led a walking tour of Bathhouse Row. “We don’t use herbicides. We don’t use pesticides. We’re really conscientious about what we do. Because we know everything that goes on the ground ultimately makes its way into the  water .” Waymouth explained the long route the water takes, how time, depth and pressure heat the water for thousands of years before it bursts through a geologic fault line in the park. Rain from ancient Egyptian times now comes out of the hots springs 4,000 years later, Waymouth said. “It really instills in us long term thinking.” Keeping that water safe requires daily monitoring by a team of hydrogeologists. Archeological evidence shows that people used the springs here for thousands of years, and early inhabitants considered them a neutral ground and a place of healing. Many Americans first learned about the springs when President Jefferson sent the Hunter-Dunbar expedition to check out this part of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase in 1804. Explorers returned with news of the wonders of Hot Springs’ healing waters, which soon began to attract people from all over. In 1832, the U.S.  government  proclaimed the area a federal reserve. Related: These adaptive reuse hotel suites in Amsterdam are built inside old bridge houses By 1900, Hot Springs was a major  health  destination. In addition to bathing, some of the bathhouses offered gymnasiums, physical therapy and medical professionals who would prescribe hikes and other exercises. The surrounding area was cultivated as a beauty spot, with gardens in front of the bathhouses, a series of trails groomed on the hills behind and cute little parks dotting the town. The earliest bathhouses burnt in fires. Built between 1892 and 1923, the eight huge buildings standing today feature a mishmash of Spanish, Italian, Roman and Greek styles. The Fordyce, built for the town’s wealthiest visitors, features sea-colored stained  glass  and carved Neptune heads on its facade. The Ozark is mission style, in a possible nod to the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, who searched for the fountain of youth. Hot Springs accommodated a variety of people, though facilities often reflected issues of the time. While the town hosted a free government-run bathhouse, Black visitors could only use a segregated bathhouse until the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed. Of course, there were also upscale options for the rich and famous, especially those with an ailment they hoped to heal. Australian-born international opera star Marjorie Lawrence made  Hot Springs  her home after contracting polio. Gangster Al Capone also frequently visited, hoping to cure his syphilis. But over the course of the 20th century, enthusiasm for public bathing faded. By 1980, Americans preferred to relax in backyard hot tubs than public bathhouses. All bathhouses but the  Buckstaff  closed down, some remaining vacant for decades. Since Bathhouse Row is part of Hot Springs National Park, the Park Service had to figure out what to do about the empty buildings. On one hand, the buildings were historical, architectural and cultural treasures. On another, they were hulking behemoths ranging from 9,000 to nearly 30,000-square-feet inside — expensive to retrofit, heat and maintain. In 2004, the National Park Service devised an innovative adaptive  reuse  program that has preserved the bathhouses, drawn more visitors and enriched their experience, and reinvigorated downtown Hot Springs. Hospitality and adaptive reuse Of the eight bathhouses, only the Maurice remains empty. The Buckstaff has continuously operated since opening in 1912. The other six have either been repurposed by the  National Park  Service itself or entered into public/private partnerships. Fortunately, the park had the foresight to turn the opulent Fordyce into a bathhouse museum. The men’s wing is much grander than the women’s, with a stained-glass skylight featuring topless mermaids and a statue in the center of a kneeling Native woman presenting de Soto with a jug of water. The best part is all the weird and fascinating hydrotherapy equipment. While this equipment — such as steam cabinets where people sat with just their heads sticking out, and a hydroelectric tub that somehow combined electricity with water for stunning results — must have been cutting edge in its day, it now looks more like a  medical  torture chamber. At the Superior Bathhouse Brewery, Rose Schweikhart has worked wonders with both the old bathhouse and the water itself. Under the NPS adaptive reuse program, Schweikhart got a 55-year lease on the  building . Built in 1916, the Superior is the smallest bathhouse on the row, but it still has 9,000 square feet that had to be improved and now require maintenance. Currently, Schweikhart is saving for a new roof. Since the building is a historic structure in a national park and has the federal government as a landlord, Schweikhart needs approval before changing the structure. “Usually they say yes, because a vacant building isn’t doing anyone any good,” Schweikhart said. The building closed as a bathhouse in 1983 and sat empty for 30 years before Schweikhart gave it a new life. Still, the NPS drew the line at letting her install a roll-up door. This meant Schweikhart had to carefully bring all the brewery equipment through the front  window , the historic building’s largest opening. “I had to get the manufacturer to measure everything very carefully,” Schweikhart said. The water is piped in at about 144 degrees, then heated to 160 degrees to make the beer and sell it locally in growlers. It’s a bathhouse-centric operation with no canning, bottling or distribution. So, you’ll have to go to Hot Springs to experience the Superior’s Goat Rock Bock or Desoto’s Folly. Next door, Ellen and Pat McCabe repurposed the Hale Bathhouse into a nine-room boutique  hotel  with a beautiful dining room open to all. The duo incorporated touches that appeal to aficionados of historic buildings, such as exposed rough brick walls and the original pine floors. But the  Hotel Hale’s  modern touches make it a very comfortable place to stay — coffee service delivered to your door at your chosen time every morning, signature orange-vanilla scented toiletries made by a local soap maker and, best of all, hot spring water piped into your own private bathtub. Hotel Hale is also known for laying out a fabulous brunch. If you’re really lucky, the McCabes might unlock a door in the corner of the dining room and let you peek into the old natural steam room cut into the mountain. It’s hot, muddy and too much of an insurance liability for modern use, but is a fascinating glimpse back into Spa City’s history. The  Quapaw  reuse project remains truest to the original bathhouse spirit. Constructed in 1924, the 24,000-square-foot Spanish Colonial building is now a modern  spa . Its 2007 makeover earned a LEED Silver certification and won the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas’ 2009 Excellence in Preservation through Restoration Award. The Quapaw offers both private services like massages and facials and public bathing in a series of shared pools of different temperatures, ranging from comfortably warm to roasting. A visit to either the Quapaw or the even more historic Buckstaff baths is the closest visitors can get to the old days where everybody from movie stars to gangsters made healing pilgrimages to Hot Springs. Images via Teresa Bergen

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Niraamaya Retreat honors traditional design with local materials

November 19, 2020 by  
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Located in Vayitharamattom, Kumarakom in the lakefront region of Southern India, the Niraamaya Retreat is a haven for wellness and rejuvenation with sustainable design elements throughout. A product of Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd, an award-winning architectural practice based in India, the 65,000-square-foot retreat offers a contemporary feel while still honoring the traditional style of the region with locally sourced building materials. The boutique resort is spread across seven acres facing Lake Vembanad and includes 27 independent luxury villas, two restaurants, a health club, a wellness center and a spa. The spa features multiple treatment rooms, a pool and yoga pavilions, while the business center contains meeting rooms and an amphitheater. Related: These charming timber cabins in South India are a retreat for nature lovers What sets this stunning coastal escape apart from the rest are the nods to classical Kerala architecture, a design style that incorporates traditional elements like sloping roofs, Mogappus and Charupadi, a type of built-in, ventilated porch bench. Locally sourced materials such as clay tiles for the roofing, granite pavilions and dados, laterite and wood are featured in the construction work. According to the designers, one of the biggest challenges for the project came in the form of high rainfall and water stagnation due to the site’s unique contours. To combat this, they enabled a network of natural bodies of water to allow for smooth surface runoff , even in the event of heavy monsoon showers. The landscape can only be described as tropical yet well-groomed, with native trees and plants leading to the onsite river. The intimate villas are scattered thoughtfully about the property, connected with peaceful pathways that wind through the lush surroundings. Each villa is about 100 square meters in size and includes a private moot pond, an open shower, a portico and bed facing the lake as well as a semi-open private landscaped area. + Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd Images via Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd

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RBG left these 4 lessons for the climate fight

September 29, 2020 by  
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RBG left these 4 lessons for the climate fight Rushad Nanavatty Tue, 09/29/2020 – 01:30 Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a hero. The obituaries have focused on her legacy as a feminist icon, her singular determination, her deep humanity, and her profound common sense. These traits were exemplified by her famous dissents — equal parts restrained and biting — against a series of regressive Supreme Court majority decisions. We don’t immediately think of RBG as an environmental activist or climate champion ( Greta Thunberg fandom  notwithstanding). However, her life and career offer plenty of inspiration for our work at RMI — and for anyone concerned with preserving a livable planet. When I think about RBG, these are the lessons I take for the climate fight. 1. Climate action honors RBG’s legacy on equality RBG did more to advance the cause of equality than any justice since Thurgood Marshall. Her life and career were defined by it. As a schoolgirl in Brooklyn, she objected to the fact that the boys went to woodshop while the girls sewed. As co-founder of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, she convinced the Supreme Court to rule, for the first time, that gender discrimination was unconstitutional (despite being led by a Chief Justice who had  threatened to resign  if a woman were appointed to the court). As a member of the that court, she fought for voters’ rights (Shelby County v. Holder), comprehensive healthcare coverage (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby), and federalism (Bush v. Gore). She did it patiently and incisively, referring to her role in her ACLU cases as “a kind of a kindergarten teacher… because the judges didn’t think sex discrimination existed.” Showing how discrimination hurt men was often the tactic she used to generate empathy and understanding among the male judges she was dealing with. Climate action honors that legacy — because climate change is as stark an inequality issue as it gets and requires every bit as much doggedness to address. Climate action honors that legacy — because climate change is as stark an inequality issue as it gets and requires every bit as much doggedness to address. The impacts of global warming are deeply regressive, disproportionately hurting our poorest and most vulnerable communities. Black and Hispanic Americans are exposed to  63 percent and 56 percent  more pollution than they create. Our history of redlining has left low-income and minority communities  dangerously exposed to extreme heat . Americans are  far more vulnerable to climate disasters  if they are poor, elderly, disabled, don’t own a car, or can’t speak English. And during and after these events, the rich tend to leave and the poor tend to stay;  poverty rates can climb by a full percentage point  in areas hit by climate disasters. We’re seeing this starkly with our western wildfires — to which Native Americans are six times  more vulnerable  and Black and Hispanic Americans are 50 percent more vulnerable than Whites. And as Bill McKibben  points out , inaction on climate amounts to “generational aggression: it consigns the planet’s young people (and all future generations) to an ever-grimmer planet.” If anyone is inspired by RBG lifelong crusade as the “ Great Equalizer ,” then the climate fight is where it’s at. 2. If you fight well, a big loss can eventually turn into an even bigger win In 2007, Lily Ledbetter sued her employer, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, for years-long gender-based pay discrimination. A 5–4 court decision went in favor of Goodyear on procedural grounds (i.e., that Ledbetter hadn’t filed the charge early enough). RBG delivered her  dissent  from the bench — a rare open rebuke to her all-male colleagues’ “cramped” interpretation of the law: “The Court’s insistence on immediate contest overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination, [which] often occur, as they did in Ledbetter’s case, in small increments… Small initial discrepancies may not be seen as meet for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves… Pay disparities, of the kind Ledbetter experienced, have a closer kinship to hostile work environment claims than to charges of a single episode of discrimination. Ledbetter’s claim… rested not on one particular paycheck, but on ‘the cumulative effect of individual acts.’” Because the court got it wrong, Congress was inspired to step up and get it right. The  Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act  of 2009 was the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Obama. The clarity and conviction of RBGs’ effort in a losing cause was key to achieving the much bigger legislative win. Ledbetter credited RBG’s dissent for giving her “ the dignity to go on ” as she testified before Congress multiple times in the run up to the Act’s passage. We are yet to see comprehensive federal climate legislation in the United States. But a stalled effort is also an opportunity to gather energy. With each serious attempt at a nationwide climate action — the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, the Green New Deal resolution, the Smith-Lujan clean energy standard proposal — the people on the right side of history sharpen their arguments and strengthen their coalitions. As my colleague Wendy Jaglom has  pointed out : In three short years  [since President Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris agreement], the number of EVs on the road has doubled, 16 states have committed to phase down HFCs, the number of cities committed to 100 percent renewable electricity has quintupled, and seven states and 27 gas companies have committed to methane leak reduction. Today, one-third of all Americans live in a jurisdiction committed to 100 percent clean electricity, six million people live in cities committed to all-electric new building construction, and two-thirds of Americans support a 100 percent clean economy by 2050, a carbon tax, and stronger fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. If the administration’s rejection of the Paris agreement was the equivalent of a flawed interpretation of the law, our burgeoning trans-ideological climate movement may be the equivalent of changing the law itself — more consequential and more resilient. 3. “Speaking in a judicial voice” can help deliver outcomes we all want In a  1992 lecture , RBG talked about the importance of staying cordial and assuming good intentions even when voicing disagreement. In her own words (and quoting Roscoe Pound): “One must be sensitive to the sensibilities and mindsets of one’s colleagues, which may mean avoiding certain arguments and authorities, even certain words… I emphasize that dissents are not devoutly to be avoided. I question, however, resort to expressions that generate more heat than light… It is not good to burden an opinion with “intemperate denunciation of colleagues, violent invective, attributions of bad motives, and insinuations of incompetence, negligence, prejudice, or obtuseness.” The most effective dissent, I am convinced, spells out differences without jeopardizing collegiality or public respect for and confidence in the judiciary.” Given the state of Congress today, and our more general state of political polarization, it may be hard to resist the eye-roll — but resisting it is more important than ever. We need to suppress the friendly fire even within the climate action community. I’ve been in meetings on the Green New Deal where environmental justice groups automatically view all business and industry as evil — and in DC conference rooms where well-meaning business people and policy wonks dismiss those environmental justice groups as liberal “enviro” fantasists. RBG’s guidance echoes Amory Lovins’ longstanding philosophy: “If we  focus on outcomes, not motives , we can achieve results that we all want, but for different reasons… If we simply do what makes sense without having to agree on why it’s important, we and our planet will be better off.” This logic is profoundly applicable to the energy transition. Regardless of whether you care about jobs, industrial competitiveness, resilience, social equity, or simply not breaking the planet, the answer entails accelerating our movement away from fossil fuels and toward a combination of efficiency and renewables. 4. The cost of implementation is irrelevant when the cost of inaction is unthinkable Massachusetts v. EPA  was probably the most prominent environmental case handled during RBG’s time on the Supreme Court — with the court ruling that carbon dioxide is subject to regulation by the EPA under the Clean Air Act. But a more technical and obscure case may be more instructive in our current moment. The most effective dissent, I am convinced, spells out differences without jeopardizing collegiality or public respect for and confidence in the judiciary. In 2001’s  Whitman v. American Trucking Associations , the trucking industry argued that the EPA should consider implementation costs when setting  pollution limits . The court unanimously disagreed — because the statute contains several explicit “bright line” factors — without listing cost as one of them. If legislators wanted the EPA to consider cost, they would have said so; “Congress doesn’t hide elephants in mouseholes,” wrote RBG’s opera buddy, Antonin Scalia, on behalf of the court. Today, with a planet on fire, it is worth considering that principle. As we have written before, the cost of climate inaction  dwarfs  the cost of action to point that it renders the latter meaningless in comparison. There is over $5 trillion in value-at-risk to US assets under a middle-of-the-road global warming scenario—not including the cost of market volatility. Our country can clearly spend when it needs to (or Congress wants to); nearly $2.7 trillion in CARES Act funding approved within two weeks,  $2.4  trillion to $ 3 trillion  on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the annual $1 trillion a year that our fossil fuel-burning power plants cost America, based on the federal government’s base-case estimates on the social cost of carbon. The cost of greening our economy seems quaint in comparison;  $476 billion  for comprehensive grid modernization, for example, or $11 billion for a nationwide network of EV fast charging stations. A program to upgrade 120 million homes would cost  $3.6 trillion  — while generating  $1.4 trillion  in net value (energy cost savings minus retrofit costs). In the  Whitman  case ,  RBG and her colleagues ruled that implementation costs were irrelevant when stacked against the primary “requisite to protect the public health” with “an adequate margin of safety.” Replace “public health” with “planet,” and you have the argument for an ambitious green recovery and rebuilding program. — Losing a hero is hard. But it also creates the space — and the need — for others step off the sidelines and into the fray. Once we’re done mourning, we must get to work. Pull Quote Climate action honors that legacy — because climate change is as stark an inequality issue as it gets and requires every bit as much doggedness to address. The most effective dissent, I am convinced, spells out differences without jeopardizing collegiality or public respect for and confidence in the judiciary. Topics Climate Change Leadership Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has lunch with a group of Wake Forest law students in the Worrell Professional Center on Wednesday, September 28, 2005. Photo by Wake Forest University School of Law/Flickr

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RBG left these 4 lessons for the climate fight

This is the moment to reimagine public transportation

September 29, 2020 by  
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This is the moment to reimagine public transportation Amanda Eaken Tue, 09/29/2020 – 00:21 Back in April, the city of Seattle temporarily closed off nearly 20 miles of streets to most vehicular traffic in order to let residents bike, walk, jog and skate at a safe social distance during the height of the city’s COVID-19 pandemic. Seattle’s Stay Healthy Streets program was designed to encourage people to travel to essential services and small local businesses — or just to get outside for exercise or fun — at a time when many people felt anxious about doing so. While wildfires ravaging the West Coast and smoke clouding the air across Seattle create yet another barrier to getting outside, these hazy skies also underscore the importance of defending our air quality, right now and for years to come. Then, in early May, something unexpected happened: the temporary closure of these streets became permanent . Mayor Jenny Durkan — one of 25 mayors nationwide participating in the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge  — announced that the program’s popularity and success had convinced her to extend it beyond the end of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order. In explaining the rationale for the decision, the head of Seattle’s Department of Transportation described the impact of Stay Healthy Streets as “transformative,” adding that it had revealed a need “to continue to build out a transportation system that enables people of all ages and abilities to bike and walk across the city.”  If governments are serious about listening and responding to the needs of communities of color, they’ll make the improvement and expansion of our transit systems a top priority. These days, as wildfires ravage the West Coast and smoke clouds Seattle’s air, residents face yet another barrier to getting outside. These toxic, hazy skies underscore the importance of defending our air quality, right now and for years to come. And we’re not starting from scratch: For years, Seattle’s transportation department and others in city leadership have been working to reduce the health-harming pollution from cars, trucks and other sources. Seattle’s Stay Healthy Streets program is the latest in those efforts: In addition to being safe places to walk and ride, these streets are free of polluting cars. Beyond Seattle and wildfires in the west, the COVID-19 crisis has compelled cities all over the world to reconsider — and, in many cases, to reimagine — their previously held ideas about our transportation systems. First and foremost, it has forced them to acknowledge that bus drivers, subway conductors and other mass-transit personnel are essential workers , every bit as crucial to the continued functioning of society as the people who work at our hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants and pharmacies. Indeed, in New York City, public transportation is how most essential workers have been getting to their jobs during the pandemic. And for millions of residents who don’t have access to a car, including a disproportionate number of low-income people and people of color, it’s their primary means of getting around, pandemic or no pandemic. But our current crisis has forced us to admit something else, too: Transportation policy isn’t just about getting people from point A to point B. Rather, it’s inextricably connected to public health, racial and economic justice, climate action and civil society in ways that haven’t always been fully acknowledged, but that are becoming clearer every day. One surprising example? In San Francisco, a professional cellist gave impromptu performances from his doorstep, creating a magical experience for neighbors and people walking by — an experience that was only audible due to the reduction in car traffic.  Seattle’s decision to turn its streets into pedestrian- and bike-friendly zones is just one example of how cities are recognizing that transportation is about regional accessibility just as much if not more than mobility. In doing so, they’re putting themselves on a path towards a healthier, more equitable future. Here are three ways we can reimagine our city transportation systems.  1. Streets aren’t just for cars  Seattle was just one of many cities around the world to open up its streets as it (mostly) closed down for everyday business. From megacities such as London , Paris , and New York to Climate Challenge participants such as Austin and San Jose , officials have discovered the many and compounding benefits that come from redefining thoroughfares to promote walking, cycling and other emissions-free forms of transportation. Adding safe places to walk and bike to our urban landscapes invites people out of their automobiles, resulting in cleaner air and fewer planet-warming greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. But it does more than that: It improves public health by promoting exercise, and fosters community by beautifying our neighborhoods and making people excited to get out of the house and be around one another (while still practicing social distancing and mask-wearing, of course!). It also addresses inequities inherent in public safety: People of color and members of underserved communities are more likely to become victims of automobile traffic violence. In addition, “slow streets” programs in many cities are helping residents rethink what streets are for.  2. Our public transit infrastructure needs — and deserves — investment For decades, America’s public transit systems have languished in the shadow of a $98 billion backlog in deferred maintenance and replacement. These are the very same public transit systems that kept some of our biggest cities from collapsing entirely during the height of the COVID-19 crisis by transporting essential workers to their jobs and allowing people without access to a car to visit their doctors, buy food and obtain medicine. While we’re lauding efforts by cities to get more people moving around on foot or bicycles, we also should be pressuring local, state and national leaders to fill this backlog and update our mass transit infrastructure. And we need to be clear that “updating,” in this instance, doesn’t simply mean replacing the hardware — installing new tracks or buying new buses. Public officials must make investments that prioritize the needs of riders most affected by this crisis by reimagining public safety and promoting public health, affordable housing and economic opportunity in historically marginalized communities. COVID and post-COVID recovery plans need to make this a priority, and the congressional champions of infrastructure bills such as the INVEST in America Act and the Moving Forward Act need to fight hard for adequate funding and a holistic, equitable approach to spending. Which brings us to:  3. Access to safe, effective transit is very much a racial justice issue  Recent incidents of police brutality against people of color, and the mass protests that have occurred in their wake, have led to a long-overdue national discussion of how systemic racism and the legacy of white supremacy continue to permeate our public policy. For many Black and brown residents, transportation already means public transportation: the buses; subways; and light-rail lines on which they rely daily for getting to work, school or essential services. When we neglect these systems, we’re neglecting these communities and in our common humanity, neglecting ourselves. Any efforts to remedy and redress the inequities borne of institutional racism are incomplete if they don’t acknowledge that mobility is a right, and that hampering people’s mobility — be it direct through poor planning, gentrification, redlining or underfunding or indirect through an act of omission — is an unacceptable violation of that right. If governments are serious about listening and responding to the needs of communities of color, they’ll make the improvement and expansion of our transit systems a top priority. We’re living through several pivotal moments in American history at once. In responding to the simultaneous crises we currently face, we have a responsibility to not just return to the status quo, but to boldly and intentionally improve public health, racial equity and climate resiliency. Reimagining our transportation systems is the critical first step to shaping a more just future.  Pull Quote If governments are serious about listening and responding to the needs of communities of color, they’ll make the improvement and expansion of our transit systems a top priority. Topics Transportation & Mobility Equity & Inclusion NRDC Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off In May, some closures that started with Seattle Healthy Streets became permanent. Shutterstock VDB Photos Close Authorship

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