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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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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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

DNC reverses pledge to end fossil fuel subsidies

August 20, 2020 by  
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The Democratic presidential and vice-presidential candidates were barely announced before the DNC removed campaign pledges to end fossil fuel subsidies. In the final draft of the Manager’s Mark, the ledger of party demands, that promise was quietly omitted. The July 27 version of the Manager’s Mark included the statement, “Democrats support eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuels, and will fight to defend and extend tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy .” Related: Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan: create millions of jobs, reverse climate change So what happened? According to a DNC spokesperson, the amendment regarding fossil fuels was “incorrectly included in the Manager’s Mark” and removed “after the error was discovered.” But activists say the amendment didn’t make the platform’s final draft because an anti-fossil fuel stance could lose voters in oil- and coal -producing states like Texas and Pennsylvania. “This is ridiculous,” said Collin Rees , a campaigner for the nonprofit Oil Change U.S. “This is a commonsense position held by both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. … The DNC should immediately include it in the platform.” The exact amount of U.S. government subsidies to the oil and gas business is unknown. Some estimates show a low of $20 billion per year. But last year, the International Monetary Fund concluded the figure was closer to $649 billion in 2015 alone. According to the journal Nature Energy , even before the recent plunges in oil prices, about half of U.S. oil reserves were subsidized so that companies could generate profits. Environmentally minded voters are feeling frustrated by the Democratic Party’s backpedaling. “This platform is a step backwards, and we deserve better,” said Charlie Jiang, a campaigner at Greenpeace. Via Huffington Post Image via Jwigley

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Terreform ONE’s plans to upend cities and suburbs in a post-pandemic world

August 10, 2020 by  
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Terreform ONE’s plans to upend cities and suburbs in a post-pandemic world Joel Makower Mon, 08/10/2020 – 02:11 And now for some serious fun. Last week, I had the opportunity to facilitate an  online conversation with  Terreform ONE , a Brooklyn, New York-based nonprofit architecture and urban design research group whose humble mission is “to combat the extinction of planetary species through pioneering acts of design.” It was a refreshing jolt of inspiration and hopefulness during this otherwise dreary moment. The conversation was hosted by the San Francisco-based Museum of Craft and Design , which recently housed an exhibition titled  “Survival Architecture and the Art of Resilience,” in which visionary architects and artists were asked to create artistically interpretative solutions and prototypes for survival shelter in a warming world. (My wife, Randy Rosenberg, executive director of the nonprofit  Art Works for Change , created the exhibition, which has traveled North America the past few years.) As part of the exhibition, Art Works for Change commissioned Terreform ONE (for Open Network Ecology) to create  Cricket Shelter Farm , an innovative living space that addresses both sustainable food systems and modular compact architecture. Essentially, it is housing that also serves as a cricket farm and, hence, a source of food for its human residents. Each of the hundreds of off-the-shelf plastic containers that form the main structure house a self-contained colony of crickets, which can be turned into high-protein flour. A typical shelter might have 300 such units, each producing a bag of “chirp chips,” or the ingredients for making such things as bagels or pasta, every few weeks. “They live happy lives and they reproduce,” explained Mitchell Joachim, Terreform ONE’s co-founder, of the tiny, six-legged critters. In a world with more than a billion undernourished souls, not to mention as many as 1.6 billion homeless, solutions like this can be global game-changers. That may sound fanciful — and, for some, less than appetizing — but insect consumption is hardly a novel concept, according to a 2013 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report . “From ants to beetle larvae — eaten by tribes in Africa and Australia as part of their subsistence diets — to the popular, crispy-fried locusts and beetles enjoyed in Thailand, it is estimated that insect-eating is practiced regularly by at least 2 billion people worldwide,” FAO said. Some 80 percent of the world’s nations eat insects in some form. And because you can produce a gram of cricket protein using a tiny fraction of the land, water and other resources it takes to produce a gram of animal protein, it represents a vast ecological improvement compared to eating meat from cows, chickens, lambs and pigs. In a world with more than a billion undernourished souls, not to mention as many as 1.6 billion homeless, solutions like this can be global game-changers. Bikes, buildings and butterflies Cricket Shelter Farm is just one of Terreform ONE’s  innovative solutions . There’s  Gen2Seat , ”the first full-scale synthetic biological chair,” created by fusing mycelium — the vegetative part of a fungus, and the foundation for mushrooms — with bacteria to create a  biobased polymer. “It’s designed for kindergartens, and she’s supposed to go home and tell mommy and daddy that she can eat her chair and that it’s okay,” said Joachim, a Harvard- and MIT-educated architect, Fulbright Scholar and TED Fellow, whose daughter is pictured here, modeling the chair. Another is the  Plug-In Ecology: Urban Farm Pod , a habitat “for individuals and urban nuclear families to grow and provide for their daily vegetable needs.” As Joachim explained: “Instead of a green wall, it’s a green ball for your home or your rooftop or your urban balcony or an urban park. You make food on the outside and the inside. It’s on wheels, so it can rotate to get the most amount of solar income.” An app tells you when the veggies are ready to pick. And then there’s the  Monarch Sanctuary , a prototype building façade that serves as a habitat for the butterfly of that name, an iconic pollinator species that is considered endangered. It’s a regular building on the inside but the skin of the building doubles as a “vertical butterfly meadow.” Terreform ONE teamed with BASF to launch a Monarch Sanctuary  installation at the Morris Museum. A  planned eight-story building in New York City’s Nolita neighborhood will be the first full-scale version. In addition to BASF, Terreform has also worked with Intel and GE. “These big partners are very much interested in sharing these concepts so they can move on their side of things to make some of them happen,” said Terreform Executive Director Vivian Kuan, an architect with an interdisciplinary background in art, entrepreneurial marketing and startups. Quotidian, everyday folks One of the things I truly appreciate about Terreform’s approach is its attention to the social aspect of these innovative designs. “I think a lot of the future depends on creating access and implementing these programs and making them rely on the collaboration of many different stakeholders — public-private partnerships, where cities and corporations really jump in and help the funding; and where inventors and entrepreneurs develop the technology and pilot,” Kuan said. Joachim pointed to a shared-bicycle concept being incubated at Terreform —”a super accessible bike-sharing program along with a biodiversity program,” as he described it. “This is essentially meant for people who can’t even afford something like Citi Bike” — the privately-owned public bicycle sharing system serving New York City. “It gives them access and they can use it to solve what we call the last-mile problem, which is a very difficult thing in cities. You can get buses and subways to a certain area, but then you can’t get that bag of groceries from that last stop on the subway to your home.” The low-cost cargo bikes are designed to carry up to 400 pounds. “We are working deeply to think about mobility justice in every possible form,” Joachim added. “So, none of this is imagined for the 1 percent or the super-elite. It’s imagined for the quotidian folks and the everyday people in cities, especially dense, intense urban environments.” In this topsy-turvy time, even the most fanciful ideas suddenly seem possible as we rethink cities, suburbs, buildings, work, home, shopping and practically everything else. Joachim and Kuan believe the pandemic could cause a massive shift in how people think about living in dense urban environments — or, instead, move to the ‘burbs. Either way, the times will require new designs for buildings, infrastructure and ways of moving about. Indeed, Joachim said, this may be Terreform’s moment. “We were waiting for a crisis, because we thought that was the only way we’re going to get any kind of change happening.” 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 In a world with more than a billion undernourished souls, not to mention as many as 1.6 billion homeless, solutions like this can be global game-changers. Topics Cities Buildings Eco-Design Innovation 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 Terreform ONE’s fanciful vision of 42nd Street in New York city, with riparian corridors teeming with aqueous life, lighting systems with vertical-axis wind turbines and photovoltaic cells, and lots of green walls. All images courtesy of Terreform ONE. 

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Terreform ONE’s plans to upend cities and suburbs in a post-pandemic world

Carbon accountability: keeping emissions low as the U.S. reopens

July 24, 2020 by  
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As global carbon emissions continue to decrease due to COVID-19, history shows that this drop may not be sustainable. The Great Depression saw a carbon emissions drop of 26% as industrial production in the United States reduced exponentially, but in the years that followed, carbon dioxide spiked to higher levels than before as production raced to catch up. Since March 2020, emissions have again dropped to record lows as cars have stayed off the roads, flights have been cancelled and factory production has reduced or ceased due to the novel coronavirus . Time reported that global carbon emissions are projected to be 7% less in 2020 than in 2019, a level not seen in at least a decade. We’ve proven that we have the power to reduce emissions substantially, but if history has taught us anything, it is that making these changes last will be a much larger environmental obstacle. Related: Coronavirus and its impact on carbon emissions Inhabitat spoke with Ford Seeman, founder and president of nonprofit Forest Founders , to get some insight on carbon accountability and the steps we need to take to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself this time. Inhabitat: Can you help define “carbon accountability”? Ford Seeman: Carbon accountability is the concept of taking ownership for our unique carbon footprints . This includes trying to be mindful of the energy and resources we use, how they are sourced and measures to counteract their impact. [Forest Founders] offers subscription services to help offset what carbon emissions can’t be avoided. Inhabitat: What do you think the environmental and climate improvements we’ve experienced since COVID-19 say about our world? Seeman: We have seen improvements in places where we have been forced to change our behavior, like in the canals of Venice and the air above LA , but we still see disturbing trends such as carbon pollution increasing overall. Industry is the No. 1 contributor to our global carbon crisis and many of the worst industrial polluters didn’t slow down at all during COVID-19. We have still had industrial disasters, like Nornickel’s spill in the Russian permafrost and the continued flaring and leakage of natural gas across the world at almost every well pump and refining site. Even though there were points during quarantine where a huge number of the Earth’s population was locked down, we still only saw an average of 8% decline in carbon emissions. With the entirety of the U.S. on lockdown, we would have expected that number to have been greater considering our outsized carbon footprint compared to the rest of the world, but we didn’t. Andrew Yang stated in his town hall on climate change that the solution has to be at the government level. I am becoming more inclined to agree, even though it disturbs me. There is one caveat, we control who is in charge in the government. We need to demand our politicians stop taking oil money, stop these backwards oil subsidies and stand with us, with the planet’s best interests coming first. Inhabitat: How can we continue reducing carbon emissions, air pollution, etc. as we begin reopening? Seeman: We need to connect our stimulus programs to environmental reform. We need to overhaul how we produce energy and what we consider renewable . We can’t cut down old growth forests to use as fuel and consider it sustainable. Oil subsidies are a backwards tradition that impede our environmental progress. Our economy is supposed to reward the best solutions. Oil subsidies don’t allow this to happen in the energy sector. By making fossil fuel projects more profitable through subsidies, we are standing in the way of progress. Firms like Blackrock divesting from fossil fuels is an indicator that our system is broken. These firms are about making money. If they divested 10 years ago when renewables were more expensive than fossil fuels, it would have been admirable. With renewable energy being at par with fossil fuel energy production, we are just allowing economics to help progress us to a healthier energy production landscape. Subsidizing oil and gas endangers this momentum. Inhabitat: What do you think will be the biggest challenges for carbon accountability as the economy opens? Seeman: Fossil fuel subsidies and the challenges they bring create enormous challenges. We are digging up Earth’s natural carbon sinks and disturbing the natural balance. We are creating dangerous feedback loops that will soon be, if they are not already, out of our control. Inhabitat: What are some of the most important long-term solutions to climate change in your opinion? Seeman: We need to create massive R&D subsidies to create the next generation of renewable and clean technological advancements. We need to work on efficiency ratings as well as our power sources. We need to create renewable energy generators that are more effective using less harmful and evasive resources. Inhabitat: Lastly, can you tell us about your nonprofit , Forest Founders? Seeman: The core values of Forest Founders are innovation, education and empowerment. We want to create unique solutions to allow people to become carbon accountable while teaching them the importance of what the term means. We empower our members through education to help make informed decisions and impart the importance of taking a stand. This could be on a community level or country-wide level. We provide the resources that can help our members feel like they can make an important difference in this overwhelming problem. + Forest Founders Images via Patrick Hendry , David Vig and Jon Tyson

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Carbon accountability: keeping emissions low as the U.S. reopens

Retired USPS van is converted into a mobile community center

July 20, 2020 by  
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Known as the Chicago Mobile Makerspace, this renovated United States Postal Service delivery van has been given a second life as a mobile community center and classroom. Completed in June 2020, the converted van has everything necessary for use as a classroom, tool shop, design studio, gallery or general meeting space. There is ample storage for power and hand tools, art materials, laptops and even larger machinery, such as laser cutters and 3D printers. Thanks to an efficient electrical system that includes four rooftop solar panels , the sustainable community-center-on-wheels has the capacity to power tools or charge devices. The van also has a wind-powered ventilator, and the floors are fitted with Marmoleum — a sustainable flooring made from natural materials . Related: Go off the grid with a Tesla-powered adventure vehicle by Ready.Set.Van. An interior with light birch plywood cabinets, a custom pegboard, magnetic whiteboards, seating and a desk allows students and community members to hold meetings and workshops with ease. Large windows and a warm color scheme give the 108-square-foot converted van a more spacious feel, while the design features a hinged door that allows students to easily spill outside while continuing to interact with the inside. The bright, patterned exterior helps the van stand out on the street, attracting passersby to interact with this community space. Behind the $21,000-project is Chicago Mobile Makers, a nonprofit organization that offers free and low-cost youth workshops on problem-solving, design, architecture, digital fabrication and construction throughout Chicago. The workshops encourage local youth to inspire change in their own communities through design and skill-building. In 2019, the nonprofit engaged more than 670 youths, held over 150 workshops and served 11 different neighborhoods. Now, with the addition of the redesigned van, kids in Chicago will be able to get the same unique educational experience in virtually any location within the city, from an empty lot to a summer street festival. + Chicago Mobile Makers Images via Chicago Mobile Makers

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How a Blue New Deal charts a course for a sustainable sea change

July 20, 2020 by  
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How a Blue New Deal charts a course for a sustainable sea change Joel Makower Mon, 07/20/2020 – 02:11 Last week, a group of activists, scientists, academics and others issued a report calling for policies and other initiatives to generate prosperity while addressing inequity and the climate crisis. They called it the Blue New Deal. Its focus: an ocean-based blue economy . The problem, these experts said, is that the much-ballyhooed Green New Deal doesn’t adequately address the many environmental and social challenges that lie along the world’s shorelines and into the deep blue: industrial overfishing; coastal flooding; declining biodiversity; plastic waste; irresponsible tourism; unsustainable aquaculture; oil and chemical pollution; invasive species; and a range of other issues, many affecting the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities. Yes, provisions in the Green New Deal address fisheries and fishing communities, but that’s only a drop in the ocean, say blue-economy experts. The Ocean Climate Action Plan (OCAP), produced by the Center for the Blue Economy at the Middlebury Institute and the nonprofit Blue Frontier, aims to fill the shortcomings of the Green New Deal, offering a four-part set of policy recommendations that, it says, “contains both conservative and liberal economic philosophies that are mutually reinforcing.” There’s a pool of insights for companies, too. “There’s been a lot of stovepiping between the marine conservation community and the climate community,” David Helvarg, executive director of Blue Frontier, explained to me last week. “There’s kind of this feeling that the environment ends with the shoreline.” Suffice to say, it doesn’t. Indeed, says Helvarg, 14 of the 20 biggest U.S. cities are coastal, which he and others regard as those adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. That’s also true for eight of the world’s 10 largest cities, according to the U.N. Atlas of the Oceans . These communities face a wide range of environmental, social and economic challenges that extend well beyond their terrestrial-based boundaries. There’s kind of this feeling like the environment ends with the shoreline. The OCAP report is the result of “dozens of conversations” with leaders and experts, culminating in October in a meeting in Monterey, California, attended by 60 leading ocean and coastal experts across disciplines. It was followed by a virtual meet-up in April, attended by more than 750 people. The group is quick to distinguish the ” blue economy ” from the ” ocean economy .” The latter includes all ocean-based economic activity, including fishing, shipping, mining, port operations, oil and gas exploration and energy generation. “When we talk about the blue economy, we’re talking about sectors that are sustainable and that maintain the health of the ocean that support our economies and communities, both human and wild,” said Helvarg. “We’re looking at how you build and expand economic activity in ways that benefit both the sustainable ecological systems and the health of the ocean that sustains us and that benefits ocean-dependent communities and businesses.” That includes providing opportunities for marginalized and disadvantaged communities, including communities of color, that tend to be at greater risk of pollution and climate impacts. According to the report: One of OCAP’s core premises is that our ocean and coastal economies suffer from pervasive market failure; many externalities from industry are not properly priced in the market, many offshore industries are currently being stymied due to regulatory uncertainty over property rights, and large gaps in information lead to inefficient decisions about ocean and coastal resource use. Correcting these market failures in order to spur rapid innovation in the blue economy is one of OCAP’s top priorities. Ensuring that markets function efficiently is a deeply conservative objective. The Blue New Deal laid out in the OCAP report is a policy framework that aims to achieve two key objectives: use ocean and coastal resources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and draw atmospheric greenhouse gases down to safer levels; and enable coastal communities to more effectively and equitably adapt to climate impacts. No wish list  To accomplish these things, the report lays out four key issue areas along with policy recommendations for each: Coastal adaptation and financing: helping vulnerable communities retreat from unstable shorelines; catalyzing a “large-scale dynamic living shorelines industry”; creating jobs that rehabilitate coastal ecosystems; reforming flood insurance; improving coastal wastewater management. Clean ocean energy: catalyzing large-scale deployment of offshore wind power; ensuring the protection of critical offshore habitats; creating robust programs to assess additional renewable ocean energy systems such as wave, current, tidal and thermal. Ports, shipping and the maritime sector: accelerating the decarbonization of ports and the shipping industry, including dramatically improving air and water quality in adjacent communities. Aquaculture, sustainable fisheries and marine biodiversity conservation: helping U.S. fisheries adapt to climate impacts; catalyzing the growth of a “new sustainable seafood industry,” including aquaculture, mariculture and plant- and cell-based seafood alternatives. It’s not just a wish list. The report offers a gap analysis of how current U.S. congressional legislation aligns — and doesn’t — with Blue New Deal objectives. Example: I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the report’s recommendation to fund state governments to pilot living shoreline projects in at-risk coastal counties is addressed in seven congressional bills. As with most other sustainability-related matters, there’s a takes-a-village aspect of all of this, along with a sense of urgency as climate impacts become increasingly evident, particularly along coasts. “It’s triage at this point,” Helvarg explained. “I mean, we’re fighting to preserve the last 10 percent of the world’s tropical corals. We’re fighting to minimize the impacts of sea-level rise and intensifying hurricanes, where NOAA just put out a report that hurricane intensity increased 8 percent a decade over the last 40 years. That means we’re going to have a more-than-normal active hurricane season on top of the pandemic this year, and if a hurricane comes ashore this year it’s going to be a third more intense than one that would have come ashore in 1980.” Given U.S. legislators’ decidedly somnolent approach to addressing the climate crisis, it likely will take a few more devastating hurricanes or other natural disasters before the Blue New Deal — and the Green New Deal, for that matter — garner a sense of urgency. It’s also possible that market signals could drive many of these notions forward without policy action. “We think that the crisis is an opportunity for almost every maritime sector and industry to engage and work with other stakeholders in turning the tide on this,” Helvarg said. Our aim is to restore the blue in our red, white and blue. Helvarg’s group works with a wide range of industries, but not with the oil and gas sector — “they’re the problem, not the solution,” he said — but there’s good news even there. “There’s a lot of potential lateral movement for the roughnecks and roustabouts ” — skilled and unskilled workers on oil rigs, respectively. “They have all the skill sets to immediately transition to be wind turbine technicians and linesmen and ocean engineers, which have the potential to be at least as significant in terms of U.S. domestic energy as offshore oil.” Can ocean and coastal health become part of a “new deal” — green, blue or any other hue? This is yet another arena where equity and environmental issues align, creating opportunities for leadership companies and communities to uplift the 40 percent of Americans living in coastal regions. And help thwart the worst impacts of what may well be a future national crisis. As Helvarg quipped: “Our aim is to restore the blue in our red, white and blue.” Pull Quote There’s kind of this feeling like the environment ends with the shoreline. Our aim is to restore the blue in our red, white and blue. Topics Oceans & Fisheries Policy & Politics Social Justice Coastal Health 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 Shutterstock / GreenBiz photocollage

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How a Blue New Deal charts a course for a sustainable sea change

Danone’s Eric Soubeiran: ‘The food system is broken’

July 20, 2020 by  
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Danone’s Eric Soubeiran: ‘The food system is broken’ Cecilia Keating Mon, 07/20/2020 – 00:30 Earlier this year, Danone became the first listed company to become an “enterprise à mission,” a new type of corporation created by a 2019 French law. The pioneering governance structure will see the food giant officially entrench environmental, social and societal objectives into its bylaws, alongside more typical profit goals. Danone, founded more than a century ago and famously declared an asset of national importance by the French government in 2005, has long prided itself on being a purpose-led business. Its new status is the latest in a string of moves the company has made to boost its environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials as it works towards meeting a highly publicized aim of becoming one of the first B Corps certified multinational. Eric Soubeiran, the company’s vice president of nature and water cycle, explained that weaning the company off intensive farming is at the core of its new sustainability mission. Danone, which owns a range of household brands including Volvic, Evian, Actimel, Alpro and Activia, is first and foremost a dairy company, after all. “If you really want to do sustainability well in a company, you need to know your business well,” Soubeiran said. For a food company, that means knowing how and where you source your ingredients, what your customers want, and understanding the provenance of your direct and indirect carbon emissions. “Concretely, when you look at Danone, 60 percent of our carbon footprint is from agriculture,” Soubeiran acknowledged. “Eighty-nine percent of our water footprint is from agriculture. [Sustainability] starts from knowing your Scope 3 [value chain emissions]. It is looking at the elephant in the room, and going after it piece by piece. That is why it’s very important for us to have an opinion about the agriculture model we want.” [Sustainability] starts from knowing your Scope 3 [value chain emissions]. It is looking at the elephant in the room, and going after it piece by piece. As such, the company is working with farmers worldwide to adopt a regenerative approach to farming that encourages healthier soil and ecosystems, better water stewardship and a broader diversity of cultivated seeds and crops. Danone is providing training to farmers in France to make the switch to new techniques to meet a goal to rely on 100 percent regenerative farming in the country by 2025. And in order to encourage the approach beyond its supply chain, Danone recently founded the One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B) initiative, a cross-sector effort to improve the private sector’s approach to biodiversity. The strained food production system is begging for reform, argued Soubeiran. “It is very clear in Danone’s vision that the food system is broken,” he reflected. The practices ensconced in the “green revolution” of the 1970s, he said, have “intensified agriculture practices to a point where we have created a situation where food has become a commodity. And by definition, a commodity has no value or very limited value. That’s why [as an industry] we are focused on volume, not quality, and how we have reached a point where we accept the fact that 30 percent of all food produced globally is wasted.” The transition away from intensive farming, he stressed, not only can prevent the loss of wild species, create better working conditions for farmers and livestock, end monocropping and protect local ecosystems, but is also a lever that Danone must pull if it is to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by mid-century in line with global climate goals. Soubeiran has experience disrupting what he dubs “linearalized” food chains and moulding them to be more sustainable. In a previous role at Danone, he was charged with managing the company’s milk supply during the period when France liberalized its previously tightly controlled milk market. The company decided to eschew a price mechanism focused on volume and set its milk price based on the cost of production, giving Danone leeway to firm up production conditions with farmers. “We wanted to stabilize our relationship with farmers so that we could discuss the way they were farming, talk about sustainability and animal welfare,” Soubeiran explains. “It’s hard to do that when you have huge [price] volatility.” Indeed, Soubeiran is under no illusions that the wholesale transition to regenerative farming comes at a cost premium, despite growing interest in sustainable products from customers across Danone’s markets. “There is a market for sustainable food — people look for it — but we need to develop parallel stream of financing,” he said. “That’s why Danone has signed the green recovery appeal at the European level, because we believe the transformation and the renegotiation of the agriculture policy is instrumental to that.” There is a market for sustainable food — people look for it — but we need to develop parallel stream of financing. An additional stream of financing is targeted at helping farmers improve the quality of what they are producing while keeping prices down for the customer, Soubeiran explained. As such, in May the company urged the EU to use its upcoming Farm to Fork and Biodiversity 2030 strategies to establish an EU Common Food Policy that provides incentives to farmers to switch to regenerative practices. These, the company suggested, could range from crop and livestock insurance that minimizes the risk of lower yields through the transition process; “innovative multi-stakeholder financing mechanisms” or carbon bonds for agricultural products with pricing adjusted to reflect soil carbon sequestration performance; and guarantees of “first loss” inspired by the renewable energy sector that would allow farmers to fund the transition to more resilient agricultural systems. Soubeiran contends that the coronavirus has, in some respects, made his mission easier, given that the animal-originating coronavirus has underscored how ecological systems support human life. “If we protect biodiversity, we are basically protecting the diversity of DNA,” Soubeiran mused. “There’s also a sanitary aspect to it, given that we’re protecting corridors of biodiversity. While that was not that obvious six months ago, that’s obvious now for everyone.” He points out more than 65 percent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic — transmitted to people from animals. But, while the zoonotic coronavirus has turbocharged public understanding of biodiversity and served as a “call to action” for Danone’s corporate sustainability initiatives, Soubeiran concedes that on a practical level the pandemic has hampered the firm’s ongoing efforts to transition farmers to regenerative practices. For example, when social distancing regulations were at their most demanding, trips to train farmers on new practices and discuss investment and financing plans became logistically impossible. On the bright side, however, the crisis has underlined the resilience of Danone’s direct sourcing model, he says, which minimized supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. The firm sources 75 percent of products directly from suppliers, Soubeiran explained, adding that the model is a major boon in a world where collaborations and knowledge-sharing between multinationals and their suppliers are critical to meeting carbon targets and other joint sustainability objectives. Soubeiran contends that there is a healthy appetite from company shareholders for Danone’s growing file of sustainability initiatives, in particular its decision at the close of last year to publish carbon-adjusted earnings per share (carbon EPS) in its quarterly reports. The metric sends a very strong message to shareholders that the company “has done its homework” on counting its Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions, according to Soubeiran, as well as exposing them to the invisible cost of carbon. Danone, banking on the assumption it reached peak emissions in 2019, is confident that its carbon-adjusted EPS will rise over the years to come. And investors are engaging with the approach — in 2018, Soubeiran estimates he had 70 interactions with shareholders; last year, it had more than doubled to 190. Moreover, in late June, 99 percent of shareholders backed Danone’s motion to become an “enterprise à mission,” a turnout dubbed “mind-blowing” by Danone chief executive Emmanuel Faber. “Huge kudos to our shareholders after today’s unanimous support of the change of Danone’s by-laws to incorporate health, planet, people and inclusiveness objectives as part of our mission,” Faber enthused. “You showed evidence that finance can change the world. It is on us, boards and CEOs, CFOs to engage finance on what matters. It responds. Big time.” Very often, sustainability is seen as a constraint — about less carbon, less pesticide, less fertilizer. Over the coming months, Soubeiran will focus on steering a cross-sector effort to improve the private sector’s approach to biodiversity, dubbed the One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B) initiative. The coalition, launched by Danone at last year’s UN COP climate conference, counts consumer goods heavyweights L’Oréal, Google, McCain, Walmart, Kellogg, Nestlé and Unilever. The companies have promised to work together to scale up regenerative agriculture practices, to increase the number of ingredients sourced in order to reduce the world’s reliance on a handful of crops, and to better protect local ecosystems through nature restoration and eliminating deforestation. The group is developing a framework for action that will be unveiled at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, postponed six months to January in the wake of the pandemic. The initiative has been inspired by “systems thinking,” Soubeiran explained, and will focus on specific actions that can be monitored instead of overarching science-based targets or percentage-based goals. “With OP2B the focus is on action, action that can trigger a transformation,” he said, adding that that the single-issue, action-orientated initiative is “quite a new way of collaborating” for Danone. Overall, Soubeiran is buoyed by the boundless opportunities’ biodiversity boosting initiatives present to food companies looking to enrich their portfolios — a fact underlined by this week’s World Economic Forum study highlighting how a nature-focused recovery could deliver over $10 trillion of economic gains . “Very often, sustainability is seen as a constraint — about less carbon, less pesticide, less fertilizer,” Soubeiran reflected. “But biodiversity is about more: More choice, more taste, more experience. It’s a very interesting topic and creates a positive spin on sustainability.” Pull Quote [Sustainability] starts from knowing your Scope 3 [value chain emissions]. It is looking at the elephant in the room, and going after it piece by piece. There is a market for sustainable food — people look for it — but we need to develop parallel stream of financing. Very often, sustainability is seen as a constraint — about less carbon, less pesticide, less fertilizer. Topics Food & Agriculture Leadership COVID-19 Biodiversity Regenerative Agriculture ESG COVID-19 BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Workers fills up milk storage tank at a Danone dairy plant in Normandy, France, April 2008. Source:  Photoagriculture Shutterstock Photoagriculture Close Authorship

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Danone’s Eric Soubeiran: ‘The food system is broken’

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