The circular economy shows its human side

March 29, 2021 by  
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The circular economy shows its human side Lauren Phipps Mon, 03/29/2021 – 01:30 This article originally appeared in the State of Green Business 2021. You can download the entire report here . As the circular economy ramps up, we’ve seen impressive innovation in materials, products, models and processes — but innovation on how we treat people has been notably absent. However, as companies, cities and countries alike adopt a more holistic lens and embrace circular principles, they are recognizing the opportunity to drive social change in lockstep with an economic transformation that puts people at the center.  In the context of sourcing and supply chains, we’ve seen this movie before. Facing legal pressure from governments, reputational risk from consumers and pushback from NGOs, the past two decades have seen a dramatic shift in sourcing protocols and upstream supplier engagement in an attempt to eradicate forced and child labor, conflict minerals and other human rights violations in supply chains. Yet, these efforts traditionally have acknowledged only one phase of a material’s life. In a circular supply chain, sourcing no longer focuses exclusively on virgin materials. As companies take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products, hazardous conditions in which a child disassembles a smartphone is as problematic as cobalt sourced using forced child labor in a conflict zone to make the smartphone in the first place. While the Basel Convention criminalized transboundary movement of hazardous waste (of which most electronics are classified) to limit some human health implications of electronics waste streams, plastic waste is another story, only recently having been included in the convention. In the absence of formal materials management infrastructure, waste collectors — skilled entrepreneurs in the informal economy that gather, sort and sell used bottles, caps and other valuable materials, sometimes culling them from landfills — have filled in a necessary gap to slow the leakage of plastic waste into waterways and through coastal communities. And as a growing number of companies commit to recycled plastics targets and circular plastics aspirations, the opportunity and necessity of partnering with these communities is becoming increasingly clear. Companies are beginning to expand the scope of sourcing considerations, deploying what they have learned in sourcing virgin materials to sourcing from previously used products and materials and applying these learnings downstream. HP Inc. offers a now-iconic example of meaningful downstream collaboration in Haiti, having partnered with waste-collection communities with the help of First Mile Coalition, an initiative of the nonprofit organization Work, to support the social infrastructure of plastic waste as well as the physical infrastructure of materials recovery. In 2019, HP invested $2 million in a new plastics washing line in Port-au-Prince to support the collection of ocean-bound plastic in the community, which the company buys from a local business to use in its laptops and ink cartridges. The effort not only has provided HP with a reliable supply of post-consumer recycled plastics to slowly wean itself off virgin materials, it’s also created more than 1,000 new jobs in Haiti by expanding the region’s recycling capacity. HP’s investment is an example of how capital is being deployed differently in the fight against plastic waste, focusing on community leadership rather than solely a technical, infrastructure development intervention. We’re seeing a similar, holistic approach to capital deployment to address the plastic waste crisis globally, including the Alliance to End Plastic Waste’s stated commitment to community engagement. Just as companies have prioritized transparency and traceability in upstream operations to address human rights, a circular supply chain calls for the same level of scrutiny downstream. Companies are beginning to expand the scope of sourcing considerations, deploying what they have learned in sourcing virgin materials to sourcing from previously used products and materials and applying these learnings downstream. But the opportunity for economic improvement isn’t limited to efforts in the Global South, and currently national governments are leading the way in a human-centered circular economy transition.  At the forefront is Europe’s Green Deal, the policy framework intended to bring the European Union to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 while decoupling economic growth from resource extraction and leaving no person or place behind. The aim is not one or the other, but rather an integrated approach to resource stewardship, responsibility and climate mitigation. The European Commission’s associated Circular Economy Action Plan emphasizes the opportunity for social and economic development through circular value chains — to the tune of 700,000 new employment opportunities by 2030 in Europe alone. Circular business models require a suite of new expertise, from repair and refurbishment to disassembly, recovery and recycling, making way for a new class of sustainable and dignified jobs. One U.S.-based example is Homeboy Electronics Recycling, a social enterprise offering e-waste management and IT disposal while providing employment and training to people who face systemic barriers to work. A human-centered circular economy can’t focus solely on jobs and material management, but also must ensure access to the benefits of these new models. Consider the benefit to consumers of saving money by buying in bulk: Whether you’re buying dog food, rice or ibuprofen, buying more than a single serving upfront saves money and packaging. But without the cash to invest upfront, low-resource communities are burdened with a poverty tax in the form of a markup — up to 50 percent — for buying food and other necessities in small formats rather than in bulk. Chilean startup Algramo aims to address this by offering consumers the ability to buy the exact quantity they need but allowing them to pay the bulk price. Algramo partnered with consumer goods companies, including Colgate-Palmolive, Nestlé, Clorox and Unilever, to make heir products and reusable packaging formats available and accessible to everyone. The circular economy is a means, not an end, offering strategies and frameworks to create economic flows on top of material flows in support of a more sustainable, resilient and prosperous system. It works only if it can transform systems, not reinforce existing ones.  As human rights, economic inclusion and social equity come into focus within circular initiatives, the opportunity for a holistic understanding of what circular economies can enable is becoming increasingly clear. Pull Quote Companies are beginning to expand the scope of sourcing considerations, deploying what they have learned in sourcing virgin materials to sourcing from previously used products and materials and applying these learnings downstream. Topics Circular Economy State of Green Business Report Human Rights Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A child picks up recyclable waste in a landfill. Shutterstock Tinnakorn jorruang Close Authorship

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Introducing GreenBiz.org, a new nonprofit for BIPOC professionals

February 16, 2021 by  
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Introducing GreenBiz.org, a new nonprofit for BIPOC professionals Joel Makower Tue, 02/16/2021 – 02:11 Last week, during GreenBiz 21, Jarami Bond — a new colleague but an old friend — announced the launch of a new nonprofit “that exists solely to nurture and empower BIPOC professionals to accelerate a just transition to a clean economy,” as he described it. It was a moment of deep pride for all of us. The nonprofit, spun out of the for-profit GreenBiz Group as an independent entity, was born of our longstanding efforts to counter the overwhelming whiteness of the sustainable business profession — and sustainability overall — but was energized by the events of last summer, as the topic of racial justice burst from the margins to the mainstream across the United States and beyond. GreenBiz.org is the response to a range of confounding challenges so many of us have voiced in both public and private settings. Among them: Why aren’t there more Black, Indigenous and people of color — BIPOC, in today’s argot — working in sustainability? Speaking on behalf of the predominantly white corporate sustainability movement, how can we, individually and collectively, better engage, serve and learn from communities of color, the tens of millions of our fellow humans who may not look like us? Where are the opportunities to lift BIPOC voices, to elevate and amplify the ideas and proven solutions from communities outside our sphere? Perhaps we need to create a bigger sphere. I believe that in light of the empathy that exists at the core of our work, we as sustainability professionals must continue to be linked arm-in-arm with BIPOC communities. I’ll let Bond describe the purpose of this new organization, pulling from his moving and passionate presentation at GreenBiz 21. (You can watch his entire 10-minute talk here . Click on the Tuesday keynote, starting at 41:00 on the video.) Bond began by sharing his own story, as his childhood love for the environment turned into a career path, starting at Interface, the iconic flooring company. Along the way, he said: I recognized that something huge was missing, something that I felt was integral to our field accomplishing the big, bold goals it was chasing after. And that missing link was people that looked like me, Black- and Brown-melanated souls. Throughout his time in both college and Corporate America, Bond said, “I grew used to being the only Black person in my class or on my team — the face of the race, navigating microaggressions and flagrant assumptions, wrestling with double consciousness, challenging those who wanted me to conform to majority culture, and trying to posture myself constantly to defy the stereotypes, even challenging those who tried to suppress my blackness to make themselves more comfortable, or make a caricature of it for their own entertainment.” Jarami Bond speaking to the GreenBiz 21 audience. Amid his personal struggles, Bond saw an opportunity to align his profession with his passion: I believe that in light of the empathy that exists at the core of our work, we as sustainability professionals must continue to be linked arm-in-arm with BIPOC communities, with the stakeholders at the front of the march advocating for equity and justice. We need all hands on deck. In parallel, as my colleagues and I at GreenBiz Group began to sketch out the vision for a new nonprofit, I knew exactly who to enlist to help. As a strategic adviser to GreenBiz.org, Bond is leading the efforts to stand up this organization and to articulate its purpose, as he did so eloquently last week: We envision a vibrant ecosystem of individuals, organizations and communities working symbiotically to transform our field culturally and dismantle environmental injustice. We will convene companies, nonprofits, activists and community stakeholders to bolster the resilience of disadvantaged and marginalized communities. We will foster belonging and support the career development of BIPOC sustainability professionals. We will help fund BIPOC social entrepreneurs spearheading startups and small businesses focused on innovating toward a clean economy through an intersectional lens. We will support creators of color telling stories about the emerging clean economy through that same intersectional lens. We will also create spaces for BIPOC sustainability professionals to build community fostering deeper connection and support. He concluded, as he began, on a personal note: “I am over-the-moon excited because I’ve been working to create what I and so many in our space have been dreaming of for so long. … I truly believe that our field will be different because this nonprofit exists.” We are over-the-moon excited, too — about the potential for this new organization to open the sustainability tent far wider than before to include voices and faces not traditionally heard and seen within the mainstream business community. And to — finally — harness a far broader swath of knowledge, wisdom and experience about what it means to live in a sustainable world. And how we can all get there together. Much more to come as GreenBiz.org takes wing. For now, we welcome interested parties: funders; strategic partners; and professionals excited about the new entity’s vision and goals. Sign up for updates here , or email Bond directly: jarami@greenbiz.org . I invite you to follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz , and listen to GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote I believe that in light of the empathy that exists at the core of our work, we as sustainability professionals must continue to be linked arm-in-arm with BIPOC communities. Topics Social Justice State of the Profession Featured Column Two Steps Forward 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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SteelZero commitments represent a new era in heavy manufacturing production

January 27, 2021 by  
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SteelZero commitments represent a new era in heavy manufacturing production Jesse Klein Wed, 01/27/2021 – 00:30 Decarbonizing steel has a chicken or the egg problem. Industry experts say current processes for doing it are so extremely expensive that few manufacturers have the financial ability. And right now, there isn’t enough demand for decarbonized steel for manufacturers to justify investing several millions of dollars into lower-carbon steel facilities. But there has been little demand because the end product is so expensive. “Can we borrow $100 million or $200 million to make something more expensive than our competitors is a hard business case?” said Matthew Wenban-Smith, policy and standards director for the nonprofit standards and certification organization, ResponsibleSteel.  A new initiative called SteelZero , created by The Climate Group in partnership with ResponsibleSteel , hope to break the cycle on the demand side. The program brings together the top steel buyers across the globe — including construction companies, real estate groups and property developers — and challenges them to commit to procuring 100 percent net-zero emissions steel by 2050. Members include Lendlease, Mace Group, Multiplex Construction Europe and WSP UK. Most of the carbon footprint for steel companies comes from Scope 3 emissions, emissions from suppliers downstream, as is the case with many businesses. According to Joshua Davies, sustainability manager for Multiplex Europe, 42 percent of his company’s overall 2019 footprint came from embodied carbon from its suppliers. Multiplex already has sustainability commitments written into contracts with its suppliers and subcontractors including committing to the responsible sourcing of steel, having science-based carbon reduction targets for 2023 at the latest and providing low carbon alternative materials during the build process. But there’s only so much it can do on its own. The hope is collective action can spur faster change, Davies said. If we don’t take some of these actions now, we won’t be a business around in five years. “We’re really wanting to show a commitment directly to steel producers that the buyers are ready,” said Jim Norris, the senior project manager for SteelZero. “It’s up to steel producers and policymakers to step up to market and really accelerate the decarbonization of steel production.” Last year saw a huge jump forward in green steel technology. Sweden saw the first hydrogen powered commercial steel production . According to the Rocky Mountain Institute , last year, Swedish steel maker SSAB working with iron ore producer LKAB and utility Vattenfall, created a pilot plant for hydrogen-based primary steel. By using hydrogen instead of coal in blast furnaces, they were able to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Traditional furnaces generate a minimum of 1.8 metric tons of CO2 per metric ton of finished product, while burning hydrogen produces only water. In Germany, the steel production company ArcelorMittal is reducing its carbon emissions by using hydrogen for iron ore reduction, reported by the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association .  According to a 2019 Rocky Mountain Institute report, full-scale hydrogen-based steel production would cost 20 to 30 percent more than conventional steel-making processes. That increase comes mostly from the energy source and doesn’t take into account the costs of building new hydrogen facilities, a huge hurdle for manufacturers, according to the RMI analysis.  Steel, like most industries, follows the money. Norris’ goal is to use the steel industry’s collective buying power to shift market forces towards lower-carbon technologies for production. By driving demand for net-zero steel, the hope is to signal to the steel producers that they can invest in creating the supply.  22 Bishopsgate in London is another of Multiplex’s skyscrapers that was built with sustainability in mind.//Courtesy of Multiplex “It requires people to change the way we think,” said Diego Padilla Phillips, associate director of Structures at WSP UK. “For many years, our brains have been wired to focus on constructability or reducing cost programs. And to make that shift towards reducing carbon, it requires a conscious effort.”  Sustainability managers of the member organizations said they aren’t afraid to cut ties with steel manufacturers that don’t follow the trends to meet their 2050 targets. But it would be a huge loss, and members would rather help their suppliers and business partners along in the decarbonization journey.  “There’s not a lot of different subcontractors out there who do steelwork,” Davies said. “So considering that, we can’t just completely say we’re not going to work with you again. What we will probably do is make it more uncompetitive, so they will have to come along with us.”  SteelZero also will be a working group where competitors and companies up and down the supply chain can work together to innovate solutions and break down the obstacles to decarbonization, according to Norris. “It’s about scalability,” said Catherine Heil, head of sustainability at LendLease. “Acknowledging the fact that LendLease can’t do it on our own. We need to find commercially viable solutions and dig into some of the pain points around why the sector is still slowly, slowly transitioning.”  By working collectively, the group can create a roadmap to decarbonize because the steps to getting there are not clearly defined. But SteelZero has set up at least one. By 2030, each member needs 50 percent of its steel demand to come from steel producers that have committed to an approved science-based emissions reduction target, have a ResponsibleSteel Certification or have a low embodied carbon steel profile by recycling end-of-life scrap steel.  “This is critical to the future business resilience and the way we move forward,” Davies said. “If we don’t take some of these actions now, we won’t be a business around in five years.”  Pull Quote If we don’t take some of these actions now, we won’t be a business around in five years. Topics Emissions Reduction Advanced Materials Energy & Climate Manufacturing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Skyscrapers such as Multiplex’s White Collar Factory in London are erected using thousands of tons of steel. //Courtesy of Mutliplex 

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SteelZero commitments represent a new era in heavy manufacturing production

Nonprofit Washed Ashore crafts art and jewelry from ocean plastic

January 12, 2021 by  
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Washed Ashore is an environmental nonprofit that spreads the message about ocean pollution using the visual appeal of art. The giant animals created from marine debris have appeared at various events, both locally and as a traveling exhibit, since the organization’s inception in 2010. Now, the company is pivoting to also make jewelry from ocean plastic. Living in a coastal town provides a front-row view of the powerful ocean and the crippling consequences of plastics that get washed out to the waters, where they are ingested by marine animals or washed back up on the beach. While some people scour the beach for shells, Angela Haseltine Pozzi, founder and artistic director of Washed Ashore, instead searched for trash , starting in her small town of Bandon, Oregon. A long time artist and educator, she launched Washed Ashore in alignment with her lofty goals to clean the ocean and educate the local and global community about ocean pollution. Related: The Ocean Cleanup launches sunglasses made from ocean plastic The resulting 75+ art pieces each take shape as a large animal and incorporate plastic found during cleanup efforts. To date, more than 10,000 volunteers have collected and processed over 20 tons of debris. The team is growing alongside the mission to eradicate plastics from the ocean; as Pozzi summarized, “Until we run out of plastic on the beach, we will keep doing our work.” Now, for Washed Ashore’s 10-year anniversary, the nonprofit is offering specially crafted avant-garde jewelry pieces for sale to the community. Each creation is one-of-a-kind, from the marine debris necklaces to a recycled plastic anglerfish lamp. In addition to offering a new way to continue the conversation about ocean plastic, the proceeds will help cover operational costs for the organization, including beach cleanups. These pieces are currently for sale through Etsy . In maintaining its primary mission of educating about plastic pollution , each piece of artwork comes with literature about Washed Ashore and pointers on how to continue the conversation about the effects of our actions on marine life and ocean pollution. + Washed Ashore Design Images via Washed Ashore Design

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Nonprofit Washed Ashore crafts art and jewelry from ocean plastic

AirBird alerts users to open windows when CO2 is too high

January 12, 2021 by  
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Air pollution is a widely reported contributor to poor health conditions worldwide. While outdoor air quality is regularly monitored for dangerous levels of toxins, indoor air is often overlooked. But most of the developed world spends up to 90% of their time indoors. With this in mind, AirBird has taken flight as a product that measures and reports on the air quality indoors. Designed in Denmark and made in the EU, AirBird is a canary-yellow unit that measures true CO2, along with temperature and relative humidity. Syncing with the air every few minutes, the device then monitors air quality over time, culminating information on current and long-term conditions.  Related: Sead Pod offers grassroots solution to air pollution and global warming It takes just a few minutes to set up and is easy to use. Once in place, AirBird will provide an alert when CO2 levels become too high, a common result of insufficient ventilation, especially when people are gathered into the same space. With a chirp or a flashing light (or both), the device reminds users to open a window to improve circulation or move to another space. Although the AirBird doesn’t directly fix air quality , it provides information and encouragement to direct attention to air quality concerns. For example, the AirBird was tested in a Danish public school for more than a year in order to provide useful information when planning an upcoming renovation. Representative Vinay Venkatraman said, “The AirBird enables healthy living spaces by bringing good design, high technology and behaviour change in a simple to use product.” Study after study shows that air quality can affect concentration levels and sleep. It’s also a contributing factor toward asthma and allergies. As such, the AirBird technology is inspired by the canary. Many decades ago, miners used bright yellow canaries in the coal mines to warn workers of carbon monoxide and other toxic gases. The birds would react to the poor air elements , which alerted workers to leave the mine before becoming sick. This clever indoor climate sensor can be used in children’s bedrooms, schools and childcare facilities to provide peace of mind to parents and caregivers who often have windows closed off due to safety concerns. It’s equally effective in boardrooms or basement offices. At home, it can be relied on during social gatherings when the carbon dioxide level may rise. Used in conjunction with practices such as proper cleaning and handwashing, AirBird can contribute to a healthier overall space. “The AirBird helps families to develop clean air habits — which is as important as other healthy habits like regular exercise and eating healthy,” Venkatraman said. The premium model provides the ability to monitor air in several different spaces within the home, such as the baby’s room, the living room and the basement using a smartphone app. + AirBird Via Dezeen   Images via AirBird 

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AirBird alerts users to open windows when CO2 is too high

Why Google, BASF and Sephora are coming together on safer chemistry

October 28, 2020 by  
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Why Google, BASF and Sephora are coming together on safer chemistry Elsa Wenzel Wed, 10/28/2020 – 02:02 It’s probably fair to say that nobody expressly set out to devise a sunscreen to bleach coral reefs or a yoga mat to emit carcinogens. Yet toxic substances circulate in waterways and bloodstreams, leached out from all the consumables of everyday life. Shortsightedness and paltry data in the cycles of product design and engineering are partly to blame for this collateral damage of modern chemistry. Most product designers are unlettered in chemistry, and the practice of green chemistry remains in its early years. Even a basic count of all the industrial chemicals in use is scarce — somewhere over 80,000 , according to the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act Inventory, although the EPA total for recent output is less than 9,000 . It’s simply asking too much of most people formulating a consumer product only to include ingredients that are proven not to harm living systems. But what if design teams seeking safer ingredients didn’t have to know much about the molecules that comprise the stuff they’re making? What if they had a handy menu that graded each chemical? In theory, picking a less-toxic choice could be as simple as shunning an “F” or “C” ingredient for an “A” or a “B” on the list. We really saw this as a key to unlock in order to improve safe and circular chemistry. That’s the vision being advanced by ChemFORWARD, a mission-driven nonprofit backed by leading corporations with serious ambitions to accelerate safer chemistry. The effort is attracting pioneers in green chemistry, design and data to build a first-of-its-kind clearinghouse to help design teams and supply chains ditch hazardous chemicals for good. Leaders on board “We really saw this as a key to unlock in order to improve safe and circular chemistry,” said Mike Werner, circular economy lead at Google, who serves on the nonprofit’s advisory board. The search giant pushes for safer chemistry and a circular economy on myriad levels , including within its office spaces, at its data centers and inside the devices it sells. “ChemFORWARD fits [into] this really big important puzzle toward making materials healthy and safe.” Google is among ChemFORWARD’s roster of “co-design” partners that includes Sephora, Target, Levi’s, HP, Levi Strauss, H&M, Nike, Steelcase and Method, each recognized for various leadership efforts toward safer chemistry. Last year, for example, Sephora became the first major cosmetics retailer to broadcast its policy on chemicals. Target’s Sustainable Product Standard came on the scene in 2013. Nike has its own Chemistry Playbook . Levi’s innovations include its recyclable Wellthread denim line. Other ChemFORWARD partners include the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals.  ChemFORWARD’s technical advisory board is led by Art Fong, Apple’s green chemistry lead. Corporate scientists and chemists also come together via ChemFORWARD for regular meetings and peer reviews with third-party toxicology firms. The nonprofit is betting that teaming up with such pathfinders will help spark lasting industry innovation via its tool, in the process lowering the cost for even small companies to find safer chemical alternatives for their products. “Our intention is to reverse decades of negative impacts from the inundation of toxic chemicals that we find in our products, our economy, our environment and our bodies,” said ChemFORWARD Executive Director Stacy Glass, who has led the effort from a project within the  Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute to its current iteration, housed within the Washington, D.C.-based Healthy Building Network , a nonprofit that advocates for sustainable building materials. “We need new solutions, new ways of thinking about things to have safe, circular products.” We are fundamentally changing the way that chemical hazard data is created, maintained, distributed and financed. ChemFORWARD seeks not only to display what chemicals not to use, but also what’s available instead. This aim progresses away from the longtime industry reliance on restricted substances lists that can leave product makers empty-handed, while liberating data that until recently has been trapped in various PDF reports or proprietary databases. ChemFORWARD seeks to stand apart from other data plays by building bridges in the supply chain with its “collaborative, harmonized” approach. “We are fundamentally changing the way that chemical hazard data is created, maintained, distributed and financed,” Glass said. What’s inside However, ChemFORWARD is entering an area that’s already seeing a lot of activity. Multiple hazards assessment standards are available in increasingly usable formats to help companies identify problematic chemicals. The for-profit firm Scivera , launched in 2008 in Charlottesville, Virginia, offers a subscription database SciveraLENS, with color-coded grades for chemicals based on their inherent hazards. ChemFORWARD’s web-based software pools together data from some of the best-known chemicals assessment methodologies. A color-coded letter grade rolls up information from the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification , Cradle to Cradle (on material health) and the EPA SaferChoice Safer Chemical Ingredients List . That results in offering users more than 50 pieces of interpretation and over 20 human and environmental endpoints, such as around neurotoxicity or aquatic toxicity, for each chemical. A view inside a ChemFORWARD display of dimethyl phthalate, used in plastics. “The work that ChemFORWARD is doing and proposes to do will provide important additional information to a community of organizations seeking real-world data to better understand the safety implications of their materials choices,” said green chemistry trailblazer John C. Warner, a distinguished research fellow at synthetic biology startup Zymergen. Think of nearly any consumer-product chemical villain that’s dominated recent headlines for disrupting ecosystems or being linked to cancer or hormonal havoc. Chances are ChemFORWARD is building a collection of alternatives to it. These include ortho-phthalate plasticizers found in flexible toys, UV-blocking oxybenzone in sunscreens and halogenated flame retardants in electronics. ChemFORWARD has portfolios of alternative cleaning solvents , cosmetics preservatives and fragrance fixatives. The goal is for ChemFORWARD to scale up from about 200 to 2,000 safer chemicals in 2021. “The more technical person can see the technical data they need,” Glass said. “But most companies need, ‘Can I use it [or] can I not use it?’ for an answer.” More than skin deep ChemFORWARD is building clearinghouses for electronics and food packaging, but one of its earliest repositories coalesces data in beauty and personal care, with hundreds of safer alternatives. Someone shopping around to include a safer surfactant in a skin cleanser or an emollient in a moisturizing lotion can consult the tool for the green “A” or “B” options. Sephora, which is mindful of its many eco-conscious young customers and became a co-design partner with ChemFORWARD in March, recently took steps to advance beyond its restricted substances list. The company says 94 percent of all the products it sells eliminate potentially negative “high-priority” chemicals. The Clean at Sephora label for sustainable beauty care products in its catalog features goods from more than five dozen smaller companies, including BeautyCounter . “We knew the importance of creating a baseline expectation for all brands in terms of safety and the environment,” Carley Klekas, Sephora’s senior manager of product sustainability, said. “Sephora already had rigorous requirements in place, specifically with our in-house brand, Sephora Collection, that goes beyond EU regulations, but we also wanted to expand this even more across the brands we carry.” These chemicals used in cosmetics display letter grades according to safety. It teamed up with ChemFORWARD and EDF on a research project that prioritized four chemical categories common within beauty and personal care: preservatives; benzophenones; silicones; and ethanolamines. Sephora then sponsored chemical hazard assessments for the alternative ingredients named in the research. As a result of the partnership, safer alternatives have been assessed for 73 percent of Sephora’s high-priority chemicals — and made available to industry via ChemFORWARD. “We needed a credible and innovative resource to help us assess alternatives to chemicals within our policy, to ensure they were safe, and that we were avoiding regrettable substitution,” Klekas said. “We know this is important work to be done and will ultimately help showcase that there are safer alternatives to the high-priority chemicals we seek to reduce in our assortment, while also help the industry identify gaps where more innovation is needed.” The innovation puzzle Glass sees ChemFORWARD’s highest mission as its potential for furthering innovation. But that requires buy-in not only from retailers and product manufacturers, but also from the chemical producers themselves. The process of making chemical substitutions is only one step along the path to optimizing shiny, new, safer chemicals, which Glass hopes to help propel. Enter Pat Harmon, industry manager at chemicals powerhouse BASF. He’s been involved with ChemFORWARD for many years after meeting Lauren Heine through a Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (G3C) event. Heine was then executive director of the nonprofit Northwest Green Chemistry and had just joined MaterialWise, the early iteration of ChemFORWARD, where she’s now director of safer materials and data integrity. BASF’s sustainability strategy hinges upon developing chemicals that advance sustainability, called “accelerators,” which account for more than 25 percent of its sales. Ninety-five percent of BASF’s products have been evaluated for potential sustainability contributions. BASF has a history of involvement in collaborative assessments, and it quantifies the sustainability benefits of its products through life-cycle assessments and its Sustainable Solutions Steering methodology. It’s really powerful in terms of thinking about moving to green chemistry. Harmon aligned with Heine on the need for better third-party assessments for alternatives to troublesome ortho-phthalates, which are tied to multiple health problems. He also liked what she described of how the fledgling nonprofit chemical clearinghouse might lower the cost to companies of chemical assessments while moving away from “negative lists.” ChemFORWARD’s involvement with leadership brands and retailers, which are ultimately BASF’s downstream customers, also helped to elevate the case for BASF getting involved.  Eventually, BASF shared details for ChemFORWARD about several of its plasticizer accelerators, including its ortho-phthalate alternatives Hexamoll DINCH and Palatinol DOTP . These are used in flexible PVC and in a broad range of applications including children’s toys, yoga mats, wiring cable, vinyl flooring and automotive interiors. A bridge? “Now, chemical suppliers have the option to market their safer alternatives and to validate their low-hazard claims through an independent, trusted platform,” Glass said. “In this way, we create a bridge between chemical suppliers, their customers and prospective customers with data that has been traditionally hard to come by, difficult to interpret and sometimes hard to trust.” Harmon sees ChemFORWARD as a useful tool for companies that ultimately use BASF’s chemicals as well as a resource that can help move safer chemistry forward in industry, demonstrating for BASF’s customers the value of the safer decisions behind their product formulations. And the involvement with CHEMForward may help BASF to identify potential market gaps in areas where the number of attractive chemical alternatives is slim.  “This is why the ChemFORWARD project is so important,” Harmon said. “It’s one of the ways to help understand that you’re making the right decisions to move to new substances. I would really like to see this approach be used more and more.” For example, what if ChemFORWARD could grow to include the broader area of plastics additives in addition to plasticizers, such as flame retardants and light stabilizers? That could bring more of the plastic industry onboard, he added. “If you make it broader for the whole plastics industry, then you have a lot of people who would have interest in using this type of tool,” Harmon said, optimistic that ChemFORWARD may help to advance plastics circularity longer term. For example, if it identifies safer plastics used, say, in medical equipment that’s currently discarded, then more IV bags or other consumables finally might be recycled without the possibility of circulating harmful chemicals into the marketplace and the environment, Harmon said.   Here’s a view of inherent hazards for benzophenone, known to damage coral reefs. It has been banned in sunscreens in Hawaii. ChemFORWARD’s small team hopes to encourage more chemical suppliers to get involved by providing them a means to bring forth their safer chemicals in a way that’s trustworthy, verified and peer-reviewed by a third party, also broadening the availability of their chemicals for certifications and reporting. Companies can use this information for marketing purposes, including for consumer labels, but it’s also critical for risk management and verifying internal claims about a product. “As we get more and more eyes on our platform, we’ll be able to make that case even more strongly that: ‘Hey, chemical suppliers, if you have good stuff and you want to verify those claims, this is a great place to do it,'” Glass said. “We feel a tremendous sense of urgency to not only stop unknowing toxic chemical exposure, but to empower those who are working to create a safe and circular future for all.” Data driven Glass spent a decade in green building, serving as VP for the built environment at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute , which shaped in 2016 the earliest version of ChemFORWARD. Research across industries, up and down supply chains, found that companies lacked information to use better chemistry. Good attempts by other nonprofits had failed to gain traction. Recognizing a larger industry need, the institute spun out the effort, which currently counts less than 10 staff members distributed across the U.S. and a network of toxicologists. I realized this was a data organization problem, our not knowing what was in our stuff and what we’re exposed to. “I realized this was a data organization problem, our not knowing what was in our stuff and what we’re exposed to, and the incredible tax this exposure is causing to society,” Glass said. “I’m not a chemist, I’m not a toxicologist — I said, we can fix this. I see the solution clearly. I’ll take any data solution, any scalable solution, that will get this information into the hands of designers and formulators so (they) can make safer decisions.” It’s possible ChemFORWARD ultimately could feed data into life-cycle analysis or supply chain management tools. It can’t hurt to have Google as a partner, and it’s worth noting that the advisory board’s latest addition is Kimberly Shenk, co-founder of the AI-driven supply chain transparency startup Novi. The movement, however, has a long road ahead. It’s still relatively cheap for companies to crank out new molecules, and the chemicals industry is a powerful economic engine and lobbying force. Nevertheless, ChemFORWARD and others pivoting away from the conventional focus in managing chemical risks and instead toward making decisions based on inherent toxicity is a huge paradigm shift, said Mark Rossi, executive director of Clean Production Action, who also created the GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals hazard assessment method with Heine. “It’s really powerful in terms of thinking about moving to green chemistry,” he said. “All chemistry should be green chemistry, and how do you get there? This is all part of that movement toward making choices based on hazards.” Pull Quote We really saw this as a key to unlock in order to improve safe and circular chemistry. We are fundamentally changing the way that chemical hazard data is created, maintained, distributed and financed. It’s really powerful in terms of thinking about moving to green chemistry. I realized this was a data organization problem, our not knowing what was in our stuff and what we’re exposed to. We create a bridge between chemical suppliers, their customers and prospective customers with data that has been traditionally hard to come by, difficult to interpret and sometimes hard to trust. Hey, chemical suppliers, if you have good stuff and you want to verify those claims, this is a great place to do it. Topics Chemicals & Toxics Data Eco-Design BASF Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Industrial chemicals have proliferated exponentially since the time of this antique medical cabinet, and new ways of organizing them are sorely needed. Shutterstock Triff Close Authorship

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Why Google, BASF and Sephora are coming together on safer chemistry

From golf to gardens: Houston’s new botanical garden opens

September 23, 2020 by  
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It’s a loss for golfers but a big win for  plant  lovers. After decades in the planning stage, the  Houston Botanic Garden  finally opened September 18 on the former Glenbrook Golf Course in southeast Houston. The garden serves as yet another draw for locals and visitors to explore Sims Bayou, a watershed area near Hobby Airport that already includes miles of walking and biking trails and countless places to launch canoes. “The  garden  will showcase international and native plant collections, educational classes for children and adults, and provide engaging programming that will embrace the garden and natural settings,” said Justin Lacey, director of communications and community engagement at Houston Botanic Garden. The international firm West 8 designed and managed the overall garden project, with Harvey Cleary Builders as the general contractor. Houston’s Clark Condon designed the garden’s planting and soil, with installation by Landscape Art. Related: Failed Palm Springs golf course is being repurposed Building a garden By the time Nancy Thomas, past president of the Garden Club of America, and the late Kay Crooker formed the nonprofit  Houston  Botanic Garden in 2002, they’d already been talking about it for years. The two women dreamed of a massive botanic garden that would rival those of other metropolitan cities. But like all massive projects, the garden took a lot of planning and plenty of  money . It wasn’t until 2015 that the Houston City Council unanimously approved a plan for the garden to take a 30-year lease on Glenbrook Golf Course. Garden supporters had to raise $20 million by the end of 2017 to claim the city-owned property. The garden has been built from the ground up. First, the garden team analyzed how long-term golfing had impacted the soil. Maintaining perfect-looking greens meant decades of intensive mowing and regularly applying  pesticides  and herbicides. In 2018, the horticulture staff quit applying chemicals to the golf course and cut the Bermuda turf very short. They tilled to a depth of about six inches, added compost, and seeded the land with cover crops like tillage radish and white clover. In 2019, gardeners worked on the drainage system and specially blended  soils  for the garden’s different areas. Planning for tropical, sub-tropical and arid plants, the gardeners sought the right mix to keep all the flora happy. The staff’s 30-year master plan includes conserving water, promoting biodiversity and providing habitat for butterflies, birds and other wildlife. Garden designers integrated the plans into the surrounding Sims Bayou, allowing for the flooding and intense weather events so prevalent in Houston. Themed gardens The botanic garden will be organized into smaller themed gardens. Landscape architects picked about 85% of the plants showcased because they grow easily in Houston. The architects hope that this may inspire visitors to up their home  gardening  efforts. “In one area, we are assessing the rate of success for simply spreading seed, versus spreading seed and  compost ,” Joy Columbus, the garden’s vice president for horticulture, wrote in an article about the garden’s opening. “In another, we are spreading seed, compost, and a liquid biological amendment. Our goal is to provide home gardeners with a menu of choices – including the cost, both monetary and in sweat equity – and the opportunity to see the results for themselves on our property.” Visitors will drive over a bridge crossing Sims Bayou then cruise down tree-lined Botanic Boulevard to enter the garden. Once inside, they can explore rare species from the Houston region and around the world in the Global Collection Garden, learn about practical uses for plants in the Edible & Medicinal Garden and gain knowledge of water purification and flood control in the Stormwater Wetlands Garden. The Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden features forests, floating gardens, a play area, a picnic grove and the chance to get close to aquatic and carnivorous plants (but not too close). A one-acre Culinary Garden will thrill both gardeners and chefs. For those who lack the yard space at home, the botanic garden plans to have room for about 100 raised  vegetable  beds in a community garden. Events in the garden One of the botanic garden’s goals is to connect Houstonians across different cultures and ethnicities. The events schedule reflects this aim. For example, Celebrating Latin America on the opening weekend will include demonstrations of uses of cacti and succulents in  Mexican  culture, a mariachi performance and a talk on the aesthetic aspects of Latin American cooking by Adán Medrano, author of the cookbook “Don’t Count The Tortillas: The Art Of Texas Mexican Cooking.” In October, the Celebrating Asia event will feature an outdoor educational demonstration on ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arrangement, a virtual lecture on Vietnamese gardens in Houston and performances by Dance of Asian America. What about golf? But what about the  golf course? Americans aren’t as keen on golf as they used to be. Since 2007, golf courses have closed faster than new ones have opened. Theories about golf’s decline in popularity vary, but the sport doesn’t seem to have caught on with millennials, who might be put off by the sport’s exclusive reputation. Or maybe it’s because Americans work longer hours than workers in many other countries, according to  The Center for American Progress . This leaves Americans with significantly less time for lengthy rounds of golf. But botanic garden visitors will probably be too busy learning about plants or sampling a cooking demo to bemoan golf’s demise. Instead, they will happily enjoy the course formerly known as Glenbrook’s 132 acres of rolling hills and draping Spanish  moss . + Houston Botanic Garden Photography by Michael Tims Photography

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From golf to gardens: Houston’s new botanical garden opens

The open source movement takes on climate data

September 3, 2020 by  
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The open source movement takes on climate data Heather Clancy Thu, 09/03/2020 – 00:15 As GreenBiz co-founder and Executive Editor Joel Makower wrote earlier this week, many companies are moving to disclose ” climate risk ,” although far fewer are moving to actually minimize it. And as those tasked with preparing those reports can attest, the process of gathering the data for them is frustrating and complex, especially as the level of detail desired and required by investors becomes deeper. That pain point was the inspiration for a new climate data project launched this week that will be spearheaded by the Linux Foundation, the nonprofit host organization for thousands of the most influential open source software and data initiatives in the world such as GitHub. The foundation is central to the evolution of the Linux software that runs in the back offices of most major financial services firms.  There are four powerful founding members for the new group, the LF Climate Finance Foundation (LFCF): Insurance and asset management company Allianz, cloud software giants Amazon and Microsoft, and data intelligence powerhouse S&P Global. The foundation’s “planning team” includes World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Ceres and the Sustainability Account Standards Board (SASB). The group’s intention is to collaborate on an open source project called the OS-Climate platform, which will include economic and physical risk scenarios that investors, regulators, companies, financial analysts and others can use for their analysis.  The idea is to create a “public service utility” where certain types of climate data can be accessed easily, then combined with other, more proprietary information that someone might be using for risk analysis, according to Truman Semans, CEO of OS-Climate, who was instrumental in getting the effort off the ground. “There are a whole lot of initiatives out there that address pieces of the puzzle, but no unified platform to allow those to interoperate,” he told me.  There are a whole lot of initiatives out there that address pieces of the puzzle, but no unified platform to allow those to interoperate. Why does this matter? It helps to understand the history of open source software, which was once a thing that many powerful software companies, notably Microsoft, abhorred because they were worried about the financial hit on their intellectual property. Flash forward to today and the open source software movement, “staffed” by literally millions of software developers, is credited with accelerating the creation of common system-level elements so that companies can focus their own resources on solving problems directly related to their business. In short, this budding effort could make the right data available more quickly, so that businesses — particularly financial institutions — can make better informed decisions. Or, as Microsoft’s chief intellectual property counsel, Jennifer Yokoyama, observed in the announcement press release: “Addressing climate issues in a meaningful way requires people and organizations to have access to data to better understand the impact of their actions. Opening up and sharing our contribution of significant and relevant sustainability data through the LF Climate Finance Foundation will help advance the financial modeling and understanding of climate change impact — an important step in affecting political change. We’re excited to collaborate with the other founding members and hope additional organizations will join.” An investor might use the platform, for example, to run projections focus on portfolios or specific investment opportunities. Governments might consult the resource while evaluating resilient infrastructure projects and policies. The main buckets of historical and forward-looking information that the LFCF group hopes to make available include research and development spending, policy response scenarios, or historical data about fires, floods and droughts. One example of a tool that data hounds will find there is a Finance Tool related to the Science-Based Targets Initiative. There also will be industry-specific data, likely starting with the energy, transport and industrial sectors, Semans said. Early beta versions of various pieces of the platform will be available this fall, with certain elements of the data commons available first, followed by modeling and analytics resources. Just because the data is “open” doesn’t mean it’s entirely free. Companies need to be a member of the foundation to participate in the governance process (although there will be seats on the board for non-fee paying members from academia, NGOs and intergovernmental organizations). Talk to your CIO about the power of open source, and consider this your call to action. Pull Quote There are a whole lot of initiatives out there that address pieces of the puzzle, but no unified platform to allow those to interoperate. 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Mysterious dolphin deaths linked to oil spill in Mauritius

August 31, 2020 by  
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Approximately 40  dolphins have been reported dead  in an area affected by an oil spill from a Japanese ship. The ship, MV Wakashio, ran aground on a coral reef on the southern tip of Mauritius in July. According to Nature , the ship was ferrying approximately 3,900 metric tons of oil, of which 1,000 metric tons spilled into the ocean. Officials in Mauritius have confirmed the death of 40 dolphins in the area at the time of writing. The deaths come just one month after the spill, sparking speculations that the dolphins have died because of the spill. Although there is no official evidence linking the deaths of the dolphins and the oil spill, several organizations are stepping in to ensure that there is transparency in analyzing the deaths. Related: Lapsed fishing moratorium endangers Amazon river dolphins Since the oil spill on August 6, there have been cleanup efforts in progress. Unfortunately, Mauritius was not prepared for such a catastrophe, and efforts to clean up the oil have been slow. According to Jacqueline Sauzier, president of the nonprofit Mauritius Marine Conservation Society in Phoenix, the organization has been helping with the cleanup in collaboration with other local organizations. On Monday, August 24, Greenpeace Africa and Japan joined a local organization, Dis Moi, in writing a joint letter to the Government of Mauritius calling for transparency. The organizations are urging the Mauritius government to speed up the process of analyzing the dead dolphins to determine their deaths. “The ocean is part of who we are. The whole country including coastal communities depend on its health,” said Vijay Naraidoo, co-directory of Dis Moi. “That is why many Mauritians woke up anguished and afraid that the oil spill may be killing it. Such biodiversity loss is an ominous development for what might come as a result of the oil spill.” As of Friday, August 28, Mauritius had reported that about 75% of the spill had been cleaned. The UN along with several countries, including France, Japan and the U.K, are offering Mauritius a helping hand to ensure that the spill is completely cleared out. + Nature + Greenpeace Via Reuters Image via Mokshanand Sunil Dowarkasing and Shav via Greenpeace

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Mysterious dolphin deaths linked to oil spill in Mauritius

Introducing Klima: the app on a mission to reduce carbon footprints

August 27, 2020 by  
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Released this month, Klima allows its users to take direct action against climate change with a simple and beautiful app. The user-friendly app quickly calculates your personal carbon footprint and finds ways to offset your emissions through an affordable monthly subscription that goes straight to carbon offsetting charities. Your carbon footprint is calculated through tailored lifestyle questions, including how many short or long flights you take per year, whether or not your home uses renewable energy, your eating habits and more. You can then see how your footprint compares to the national and global average. According to Klima, the national average is 16.5 tons of annual carbon emissions and the global average is 4.5 tons. Related: 14 apps to help you live a more sustainable lifestyle After the calculation is complete (it only takes a few seconds), Klima presents different subscription options that support nonprofit carbon offsetting programs based on your personal carbon footprint. Typically, this amount is less than $20 per month for the average American lifestyle. Causes range from reforestation programs in vulnerable places like Madagascar, Panama and Tanzania to solar power technology and research companies. Causes are fully transparent, with detailed project information and real-time impact data included. Klima only includes solutions that rank among the top 10 most effective ways to fight climate change worldwide, benefit the local communities and meet the highest international quality standards for certified carbon offsetting. Everything is verified through either the Verified Carbon Standard or the Gold Standard developed by WWF and similar NGOs. This way, users can support the nonprofits that they are most passionate about while creating their own carbon-neutral lifestyle, ensuring that their funds are going toward good causes. Best of all, Klima suggests specific tips that outline how much CO2 reduction a certain lifestyle change will result in, such as switching to green energy or going pescatarian. With every change you make to reduce your carbon footprint, the cost of your subscription decreases. The app itself has stunning graphics and contains a wealth of valuable information on carbon neutrality. The app and carbon calculator are both free to download, too, so you can still get started on your sustainable journey even if you’re not ready for a carbon offsetting commitment. + Klima Images via Klima

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Introducing Klima: the app on a mission to reduce carbon footprints

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