This wallet can tell you about its carbon impact

February 18, 2021 by  
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This wallet can tell you about its carbon impact Heather Clancy Thu, 02/18/2021 – 01:00 For more essays by Heather Clancy, sign up for VERGE Weekly , one of our free newsletters. In early January, I covered personal care products company Aveda’s project to trace and verify the provenance of its vanilla supply using blockchain — and to allow consumers to peek into that information by later this year. It’s not the only consumer brand dreaming about that sort of connection or looking to digital technology as the answer.  Fashion brand Covalent, created to showcase the potential of a biomaterial called AirCarbon made by biotech firm Newlight Technologies, has started communicating with its customers in a similar way. It’s using blockchain software from IBM to track and disclose carbon impact data related to the production of its products, marketed as carbon-negative. Covalent’s metric is called Carbon Date, a 12-digit number stamped on the roughly three dozen SKUs in its product catalog — items ranging from wallets to clutches to smartphone sleeves to tote bags. Consumers can see the data by visiting the Covalent website and entering their unique code. (The test drive at the link shows you the sort of information that is shared.) The Carbon Date is verified with footprint information from carbon accounting firm Carbon Trust, which created a cradle-to-cradle analysis of AirCarbon after an assessment in 2020.  Newlight CEO Mark Herrema told me his company created the Carbon Date concept to appeal to consumers seeking to dig deeper into the environmental claims being made by consumer products brands. “We had this epiphany that GHG emissions seem like such a vague issue … It was about turning this into something tangible,” he says. The material used to create the products, AirCarbon, is made through a renewable energy-powered anaerobic production process in which microorganisms digest air, saltwater and captured greenhouse gases to create a bioderived polymer. According to Newlight, for every one kilogram of AirCarbon produced in this manner, 88 kilograms of CO2 equivalent are sequestered. Hence, Covalent’s ability to make a carbon-negative claim.  Right now, this is a pretty niche brand: The only place you can buy the Covalent items is on the company’s e-commerce site, and at $480 for a tote bag, they’re obviously not meant for the average consumer.  But Debbie Kestin-Schildkraut, marketing and alliances lead for IBM AI applications and the tech firm’s global blockchain ecosystem, says the importance of proving environmental claims is growing. “We are seeing in every study that we do that more and more consumers are willing to change their shopping habits … Blockchain can help build involvement,” she said. IBM’s blockchain technology is being used in some pretty compelling ways, including to track scallop fishing and offer a premium price to certain boats that fish more sustainably than others; and for food safety applications, such as the ones being deployed by Walmart . Recycler Plastic Bank is also using IBM blockchain services to verify its claims . (The same integrator that wrote that application helped Covalent with the Carbon Date project.) To be clear, the life-cycle analysis used for the Carbon Data calculation includes just raw material extraction, transport of raw materials and manufacturing. It doesn’t include the e-commerce cycle, nor does it include end-of-life considerations that are part of circular economy assessments. AirCarbon is billed a “natural, biologically degradable material” similar to wood. If it winds up in the ocean, it can be eaten by microorganisms — much like a banana peel, according to the company’s FAQ. Is this all a publicity stunt? The skeptic in me says yes but I love the creativity and you can’t argue with the need for transparency initiatives that include the consumer. In this way, the Carbon Date initiative echoes similar moves to label food with their carbon impact that have been embraced by the likes of Unilever, Chipotle and Panera Breads. The challenge will be finding an approach that doesn’t require a translation guide for every single consumer production category. Topics Carbon Removal Consumer Products Zero Emissions Blockchain Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Every Covalent product comes with a Carbon Date to help educate consumers about the impact of its production. Courtesy of Covalent

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This wallet can tell you about its carbon impact

Lazzarini Design releases conceptual Pagurus, an amphibious catamaran

February 17, 2021 by  
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Lazzarini Design calls it the Pagurus or the Crabmaran, and this amphibious catamaran concept is both futuristic and exciting. If you’re in the market for an ultra-luxurious, multipurpose adventure vehicle, this might be for you. Its 82 feet of length matches the long-standing yacht standards for opulence and function, with copious additional features that include solar and water power and the amphibious capability to function on land or in the water. Related: Isaac Burrough unveils solar-powered luxury yacht concept Lazzarini Design of Rome and Dubai is known for finding inspiration in nature, and Pagurus is no exception with its crab-like body. Within that framework, each hull provides a separate living space with up to three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom. It can host up to eight passengers and four additional crew members. The two areas are connected through a bridge tower deck station, while a bridge steel structure stiffens and reinforces the design. Capable of sailing across the ocean propelled by 890 HP engines at speeds up to 24 knots, Pagurus is supplemented by the energy created by water friction and solar power , both of which can recharge the batteries while the vehicle is in motion. In full electric mode, the vessel can pull five knots for a duration of six to seven hours. This billionaire’s toy can even transport massive loads, including an electric automobile or off-road vehicle, which would be lifted onboard using a crane. Remarkably, Pagurus doesn’t skip a beat when the road ahead is land rather than waves , with the ability to move on sand or mud terrains up to 30kmh. If this is what your ideal future looks like, Pagurus can be built on demand from a starting price of 6,580,000 euros ranging up to 24,000,000 euros for the Crabmaran version (about $8-29 million). Then again, you might want to consider one of the other six nature-inspired designs by the company, including the previously released Avanguardia the Swan or Prodigium the Shark. + Lazzarini Design Studio Via Yanko Design Images via Lazzarini Design Studio

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Researchers develop hydrogen paste that could fuel vehicles

February 17, 2021 by  
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A team of researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute of Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM) has developed a hydrogen paste that could one day be used to fuel vehicles. In the Germany-based institute’s latest development, the team came up with a product it calls POWERPASTE, which could be revolutionary in the transport sector. The product is created from a magnesium base and would be stored in vehicles in the form of a cartridge. Those who wish to use this form of fuel for vehicles would be required to purchase hydrogen paste cartridges . To refuel, a driver would swap a used hydrogen cartridge with a new one and then fill the tank with water. Related: Hydrogen fuel cells — good or bad for the environment? Marcus Vogt, research associate at IFAM, explained how the paste works. “POWERPASTE stores hydrogen in a chemical form at room temperature and atmospheric pressure to be then released on-demand,” Vogt said. The researchers say that the paste offers a safe, convenient and affordable hydrogen fuel option for small vehicles. The paste begins to decompose at 480°F, meaning it can be used in cars even in the hottest regions of the world. The POWERPASTE has been praised by the developers for its capacity. “POWERPASTE … has a huge energy storage density,” Vogt said. “It is substantially higher than that of a 700 bar high-pressure tank. And compared to batteries, it has 10 times the energy storage density.” Given that the paste is similar to gasoline in terms of range, it could be a viable alternative. As a result, researchers are proposing the use of the paste in smaller vehicles. They also say that its use could be extended to drones. In recent years, many companies and countries have been shifting attention to hydrogen-based energy solutions. In a bid to avoid the problems caused by fossil fuels , hydrogen technologies such as POWERPASTE are being developed. + IFAM Via Business Insider Image via IFAM

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A tidal wave of new carbon emissions data soon will be upon us

February 9, 2021 by  
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A tidal wave of new carbon emissions data soon will be upon us Ian Kearns Tue, 02/09/2021 – 02:00 A radical increase in available carbon emissions data may be just around the corner. Should it happen within a matter of months as proponents hope, its effects will spread around the world to dramatic effect. Cities failing to measure and publish their emissions data will find themselves under renewed and intense scrutiny. Slow-to-change investors and greenwashers in the business community will lose their cover to continue propping up the fossil fuel economy. And citizens and consumers will have the kind of granular information they need to more effectively target the decision-makers and brands standing in the way of a sustainable future. Central to this shift is likely to be is a collaborative endeavor called Climate TRACE . Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) is a project to use satellite image processing, remote sensing technologies, machine learning and artificial intelligence to monitor worldwide human-made greenhouse gas emissions in real time. Unlike other approaches to monitoring emissions, it plans to attribute emissions to specific sources, whether these be individual factories, ships, power plants or a range of other facilities and all its data will be placed in the public domain. The initiative is the product of a nine-organization collaboration that has the backing of climate campaigner and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Among those involved are nonprofits including Carbon Tracker, CarbonPlan, Hudson Carbon, OceanCarbon, RMI, WattTime and the Earthrise Alliance, and tech companies Bluesky Analytics and Hypervine. Each partner brings a relevant monitoring technology to the table and expertise or a track record working in a key industry such as transport, agriculture or the energy sector. Ultimately, all these impacts from increased transparency will have to be accommodated. If successfully on stream by summer 2021 as its designers hope, the service should drive not only increased transparency but also increased accountability. For the unprepared, the damage could be severe. The kind of Reddit-coordinated collective action by retail investors that disrupted stock prices recently soon may be copied by ethical investors armed with highly specific real-time emissions data to achieve similar effects. Some previously untargeted companies, brands, institutional investors and geographies will be thrust into the limelight as central problems in the battle against climate change. Their asset values and prospects will be damaged by sudden negative shifts in both consumer and investor sentiment as a result.   Those that up to now have been talking a good game on environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting while failing to deliver in practice are likely to be exposed as greenwashers, sometimes brutally and at high speed. And data sets currently used to track a company’s ESG performance also will need to be radically overhauled. As a result, we can expect to see personal, political and business incentives tilt in favor of more action to combat climate change. Faster private- and public-sector innovation to get emissions down should follow. Sustainable investments should grow as divestment from carbon-intensive industries intensifies. And the newly available data should make it easier for governments to enforce environmental laws and for climate change mitigation measures and aid flows to be more efficiently financed and targeted at the areas of greatest beneficial impact. More controversially, forensically targeted climate activism may spill over more frequently into legally contentious areas and in some jurisdictions, the authorities may double down on their already evident efforts to badge environmental activists as security threats . Climate-centered legal disputes will proliferate as climate-impacted regions, entities and communities increasingly turn to the law to sue carbon-emitting ones. Even the COP26 climate talks, scheduled for November in Glasgow, Scotland, may be made harder as transparency on emissions puts whole countries in the dock for not meeting emissions targets, triggering fresh contention over which countries need to do more and which need to pay more for a faster transition to net zero. Ultimately, all these impacts from increased transparency will have to be accommodated. The technologies to acquire and share new sources of real-time data on environmental conditions are advancing and proliferating at speed. Satellite image processing systems and the billions of remote sensing and monitoring devices making up the internet of things (IoT) are one reason. But many foresee an internet of citizens (IoC) playing an important role in the not-too-distant future, too. A “Digital Technology and the Planet” report from the Royal Society in London recently suggested citizens soon could be use their mobile devices to capture and share emissions data in real time. This “citizen science,” the report argued, would “give everyone an active role and empower citizens to contribute to building data-driven systems for the planet.” The age of radically transparent and democratised carbon emissions data is coming. The only remaining questions relate to how soon, and which leaders and organizations will be ready. Pull Quote Ultimately, all these impacts from increased transparency will have to be accommodated. Topics Finance & Investing Reporting Carbon Removal ESG Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Ambitious partnerships on climate action are taking root and bearing fruit

January 25, 2021 by  
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Ambitious partnerships on climate action are taking root and bearing fruit Dominic Waughray Mon, 01/25/2021 – 00:30 Buried beneath the dour daily headlines on COVID-19 infections, lockdowns and travel bans, the latest science about our planet released during 2020 makes for tough reading. Despite the reductions in air travel and the global economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, climate change sadly has not slowed down this past year. We have only until 2030 to  get things on track  for a net-zero and nature-positive economy — this should sharpen our minds for action. Unfortunately, as the economic effects of COVID-19 cause government debts to rise sharply, there is now much less public money available for activities like climate protection or ecosystem restoration — this should sharpen our appetite for innovation. How then to make the shift to a net-zero, nature-positive economy within the decade? If there is good news, it is this: The pandemic has shown that when our backs are against the wall, incredible things are possible. The partnerships catalyzed between governments, scientists and the private sector to produce a suite of new vaccines within 12 months are a remarkable testament to our ability to innovate at scale, fast, when we feel we must. The state of the planet 2020 was, along with 2016, the joint hottest year  on record ever — closing out the warmest decade on record ever. Global average temperatures are now about 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This is getting uncomfortably close to the 1.5 degrees C cap on average warming that governments pledged to aim for when they signed the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to avoid dangerous climate change. What  scientists observed during 2020  should worry us all. In the Arctic,  temperatures  are rising at twice the global rate.  Floods  affected more than 10 million people across China, India, Nepal, Japan and Bangladesh, and there were a record 29 tropical storms in the Atlantic, with a record 12 making landfall. Unprecedented wildfires raged across  Australia  and California, with the Australia fires releasing about three-quarters of the CO2 that the country’s industry emitted in 2018-19. The key for 2021 will be to supersize the good examples of these kinds of efforts and bring them together to help shape a decade of unprecedented partnership and action to 2030. Less visibly,  more than 80 percent of the ocean in 2020 suffered marine heatwaves , providing more energy for tropical storms, as well as impacting sea life and spoiling fish harvests for the billions of people who rely on the ocean for their food and jobs. In June 2020, the United Nations warned of an impending global food crisis, the worst seen for over 50 years, noting the ” perfect storm ” playing out between these environmental changes and the impact of COVID-19, especially for poorer countries. It is no surprise then that the World Economic Forum  Global Risks Report 2021  identifies climate action failure, extreme weather and biodiversity loss, alongside infectious diseases, as the top global risks for the next decade in terms of impact and likelihood. As with COVID-19, perhaps so with climate? The climate and nature crises are now an urgent mainstream issue for many voters, especially among Generation Z. Many  institutional investors  are also seeing the risks and are shifting their money accordingly. Given these voter and investor pressures, an unprecedented level of collaboration and innovation is required among leading “real economy” players from industry, technology and finance, to work together and with government and civil society and make big things happen, fast. Promisingly, for several years, especially since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, an ecosystem of ambitious partnerships for action on climate and nature has been taking root and growing, often with the help of the World Economic Forum. We are now able to start reaping the early rewards of this harvest. For example, the  Mission Possible Partnership  gets leading heavy-industry companies, banks and governments to create investment-grade “net-zero” sector strategies in seven key areas of the global economy — aviation, shipping, trucks, chemicals, steel aluminum and cement. More than 200 companies and organizations are so far involved. This effort has the potential to tackle 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The  Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP)  gets leading consumer goods companies, waste specialists and banks to work with governments to create investment-grade plans for tackling plastic waste pollution, and then trigger the finance and projects to make it happen. Launched in 2018 with the Canadian and UK Governments, GPAP is now helping countries across ASEAN and West Africa to tackle ocean plastic waste. GPAP in Indonesia is helping the government deliver its  national target  to reduce ocean plastic waste in Indonesia 70 percent by 2025 and to be plastic waste-free by 2040. 1T.org (trillion trees)  is a partnership platform that gets leading governments, businesses, technology companies, scientists and civil society groups to work together on initiatives that will conserve, restore and grow a trillion trees by 2030. Such “nature-based solutions” like 1t.org , undertaken alongside the decarbonization of energy and industry systems, can help provide up to  one-third of the climate solution  required by 2030 to keep on track with the Paris Climate Agreement. The  1t.org United States Chapter  was launched in August 2020; so far more than 26 U.S. companies, nonprofits and governments have pledged to conserve, restore and grow more than 1 billion trees across the contiguous U.S. by 2030, and committed to supporting actions such as mapping technology and carbon finance worth billions of dollars. In October 2020 the  One Trillion Trees Interagency Council  was established to be responsible for coordinating federal government support of 1T.org in the US and internationally. These and many other examples of public-private partnerships and alliances are helping to accelerate large scale, practical action for a net-zero, nature positive economy by 2030. They connect together states, cities, provinces, civil society groups, businesses, investors, innovators and technologists. They are also connecting business leaders, technology and finance within key industrial sectors and across global supply chains, as companies work with and learn from each other. And they are spurring leadership groups such as the  Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders  to engage with politicians and decision-makers, to further raise ambition and give business confidence to governments about the pathway ahead. Leaders in this CEO group already have net-zero commitments linked to companies with at least 1.5Gt of global emissions as disclosed in 2019. In an age where transparency and authenticity are key, these partnerships and alliances work to deliver their results in line with the latest science, with the companies involved increasingly adopting disclosure and measurement systems like science-based targets and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) metrics, such as the common  framework being developed by the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council . Coming together for impact The key for 2021 will be to supersize the good examples of these kinds of efforts and bring them together to help shape a decade of unprecedented partnership and action to 2030. Imagine if we could bring many more companies, investors and governments together into these and other “high ambition” coalitions, underpinned by the science-based targets we must meet by 2030, and designed to drive the net-zero, nature-based transition we must create: this would bring to life a real economy that works for people and nature alike and for the long term. Indeed, one of our recent  Nature Action Agenda reports , identified that such a nature positive transition could generate 395 million new jobs by 2030. That is the kind of “real economy” win-win we sorely need in our COVID recovery plan. Inspired by the incredible public-private sprints on vaccine collaboration for COVID-19 and mandated by the universally accepted United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 17 on revitalizing global partnerships for sustainable development, we must ensure that such large-scale, public-private collaboration for ambitious climate, nature and food security outcomes become mainstream during 2021. These are the partnership vehicles that can bring together industry, investors and civil society to speed and scale impact, drawing on wide networks of innovation, expertise and resources from across the real economy, at a time when public funds are scarce. To spur these efforts, official climate and biodiversity events should more deeply involve government, industry, investors, civil society leaders and other key stakeholders, and be structured as annual “accelerators” focused on scaling the system change innovation, financing, job creation and partnerships required to ensure we are on track to achieve our 2030 goals. Encouragingly, the official climate COP 26 hosted by the UK in Glasgow in November seems to be leaning in this direction. Pull Quote The key for 2021 will be to supersize the good examples of these kinds of efforts and bring them together to help shape a decade of unprecedented partnership and action to 2030. Topics Climate Change Corporate Strategy 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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Ambitious partnerships on climate action are taking root and bearing fruit

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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Take your sustainable lifestyle to the next level in 2021

January 1, 2021 by  
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Are you already recycling? Carrying around a refillable water bottle rather than contributing to the ocean-bound plastic problem? Composting your food scraps? That’s all commendable, but there’s more to be done to achieve a net-zero lifestyle. If you’re ready to up your environmental commitment this year (and hold larger entities accountable along the way), here are a few ideas — some more dramatic than others — for sustainable resolutions in 2021. Get rid of your car If you have a car , sell or donate it. Once you’ve unloaded the gas guzzler, do your errands on foot or by bike. If you don’t have your own bike, join your city’s bike-share program. With proper COVID-19 precautions, take public transportation for longer distances. Related: The pros and cons of electromobility Ditch the plastic liners Do you know how long those kitchen trash bags take to decompose? Anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years. Instead, go au naturel and regularly clean your trash, recycling and compost containers. Change your laundering style Did you know that most of the energy it takes to run a washing machine comes from heating the water? Only 10% of energy is for working the machine, so switch to cold-water washing . Once your clothes are clean, hang them to dry. If you live somewhere sunny and have space for a clothesline, this won’t be too hard. If you live somewhere cold and rainy, see if you can hang an inside clothesline or set up a drying rack. But if this is impractical and you must run the dryer, make sure it’s fairly full so you make the most of the energy. Dryers are the third-biggest energy hogs in the average house, after the refrigerator and washer. Forget the lawn Lawns are a huge waste of space and resources. In the U.S., people spray about 3 trillion gallons of water on them every year, use 800 million gallons of gas in their lawnmowers and treat them with nearly 80 million pounds of pesticides . But who are we trying to impress with this golf course-looking terrain around our homes? Instead, go with xeriscaping or planting vegetables. Let clover take over, or fill your yard with pollinator-friendly plants. Control your climate Invest in ways to weatherize your home and lifestyle year-round. If you have the money and own a home, a heat pump can cut your energy use in half. Try low-tech solutions like wearing thicker socks and a fleece bathrobe over your clothes so that you don’t need to turn the heater up as much in winter. Add an extra blanket to the bed, and turn your thermostat down at least seven degrees at night. You use about 1% less energy per eight hours for every degree you turn it down. In summer, air conditioning is a massive energy hog. Three-quarters of U.S. homes have air conditioners, which use 6% of the total electricity produced in the nation, according to Energy Saver . Annual cost? About $29 billion dollars and 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide released. If you must use AC, don’t set it so low. Add insulation to your house. Wear a bikini. Eat more ice pops. Sweat a little, it won’t hurt you. Go vegan Yes, Meatless Mondays are a terrific start. But this year, try adding Tuesday. And Wednesday. Et cetera. A University of Oxford study concluded that cutting out meat and dairy could reduce your carbon footprint by 73%. “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said lead author Joseph Poore, as reported by The Independent . Boycott new One way to stop supporting the constant addition to more junk in the waste stream is to boycott buying anything new (excluding food, prescriptions or emergency items). Perhaps you already enjoy thrifting and flea markets. If so, committing to buying nothing new might be a fun challenge. Make 2021 your year of browsing the free libraries, finding your new look at a garage sale and swapping useful items with other folks in your neighborhood. Set up regular donations to environmental organizations Just about every organization needs your help right now. Whether you prefer whales or bats, oceans or rivers, an environmental charity exists that would greatly appreciate your recurring donation, even if it’s just five bucks a month. Control your food waste The U.S. is one of the top countries for food waste in the world, tossing almost 40 million tons annually. Most of this food goes to landfills. In fact, food waste is the second-largest component of the average American landfill behind paper. This year, commit to only buy what you’ll eat and to eat what you buy. If you don’t already compost, get yourself a compost bin and throw in all your banana peels, coffee grounds, etc. Get political On the most basic level, vote. Beyond that, support causes you believe in by writing letters to your politicians or boycotting companies that are contributing to the global climate crisis. Attend town hall meetings with your local or state representatives. If you have the time, energy, resources and moxie, run for office. Images via Adobe Stock

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San Francisco Bay could make the perfect sea otter habitat

December 29, 2020 by  
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San Francisco Bay could become the new home to extinction-threatened sea otters, according to a  recent report  published in PeerJ. Although the bay is located in the middle of a major urban area, it may still offer a suitable environment for the otters. While most parts of the bay may not suit wild animals, some sections manage to meet the requirements for a conducive sea otter habitat.  Sea otters have struggled to grow in numbers due to increased shark attacks along California’s central coast, which has been their home for decades. In the early 1900s, people hunted otters to the brink of extinction due to their luxury fur. However, protection measures enacted in 1911 helped the otter population grow to about 3,000 by 2020. Unfortunately, their population seems to have stagnated over the past decade due to increased shark attacks. To help the otter population continue growing, wildlife managers have looked at alternative residences in pockets of coastal waters. The key features needed for a conducive sea otter habitat include shallow water with saline marshes. According to Jane Rudebusch, the lead author of the study and a spatial ecologist at San Francisco State University’s Estuary & Ocean Science Center, the findings surprised the scientific community. At the start of the study, researchers did not expect the busy shoreline to accommodate such delicate animals. In the study, the researchers used existing data to create a map of the bay area, providing a clear picture of areas the animals could inhabit safely. “A large part of the north bay is a sweet spot,” Rudebusch says. As Scientific American further explains, “Much of this area is only about three feet deep and has ample salt marsh in protected areas, including China Camp State Park and the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.” While the study identifies areas perfect for sea otters, some question food abundance for the animals. One 2019 study published in  PeerJ suggested  that the entire bay area contains enough food for about 6,600 sea otters. However, the study did not map the parts of the bay where the food can be obtained. Rudebusch says that the study findings are just the beginning. More research must be done before wildlife managers think of moving the otters to the area.  + Scientific American Image via Pixabay

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2020 was the year that…

December 28, 2020 by  
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2020 was the year that… Joel Makower Mon, 12/28/2020 – 02:11 It was a very long year. True, just 366 days (it was a leap year, after all), each one, I’m told, containing only the standard 24 hours. But it was much, much longer than that. Remember 2019? Neither do I. To recall some of the key developments, as I have done each December for more than a decade, I’ve plumbed the nearly 1,300 stories, columns and analyses we’ve published on GreenBiz.com since the dawn of 2020 — a.k.a. the beforetime — accentuating the positive, seeking signs of progress and hope. We need such reminders to get us through these challenging times. Here, in no particular order, are five storylines that I found encouraging during the 12 months just ending. And, perhaps, to set us on a more bullish course for 2021. Here, in no particular order, are five storylines that I found encouraging during the 12 months just ending. (All links are to stories published on GreenBiz.com during 2020.) What would you add to the list? 1. Companies accelerated the route to sustainable mobility The rise of electric vehicles has been a perennial story for nearly a decade, but 2020 saw the pace of change accelerate. Indeed, in January, my colleague Katie Fehrenbacher predicted that 2020 would be a key year for EVs. She was right. Both the private and public sectors delivered big wins for the electrification of transportation. California’s governor signed a history-making executive order , banning sales of new gas-powered cars within 15 years. Britain upped the ante , with a similar ban but within a decade, helped by McDonald’s plan to install EV chargers at its UK drive-thru restaurants. On the supply side, General Motors and Volkswagen planned major EV rollouts. Ultimately, how fast these markets rev up depends on demand from fleet buyers. Amazon continued its aggressive EV buying plans , as did both Walmart and IKEA . One reason for all this: Batteries continue their journey down the price-experience curve, where increased demand lowers prices, further pumping up demand. New technologies are helping, many still in early stages . Some are specifically geared toward truck and bus fleets , an indication that the markets for medium- and heavy-duty EVs are about to kick into high gear . 2. Sustainable fashion became material Fashion is another long-simmering environmental story that has finally reached a boiling point. The issues are many, from the resources needed to grow cotton or produce synthetic fabrics, usually from petroleum feedstocks, to the waste that ends up in landfills, especially for inexpensive and trendy clothing items that often have a short useful life. In 2020, several new developments help put sustainability in fashion. For example, the nonprofit Textile Exchange  launched a Material Change Index , enabling manufacturers to integrate a preferred fiber and materials strategy into their products. It also  launched a Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark to help the fashion and textile industry take action on biodiversity. Circular models made the rounds, starting with the design department, where a lot of negative environmental and social impacts are baked into garments, usually unwittingly. Adidas and H&M Group  teamed up for a project to recycle old garments and fibers into new items for major brands. German sportswear company adidas committed to using only recycled polyester across its supply chain by 2024. Markets for secondhand clothing racked up sales, including recommerce , where companies sell their own reclaimed and refurbished goods back to customers. In the wings:  startups touting a new generation of textiles, production methods and business models, suggesting there are a lot more innovations in store. 3. Forestry took root on the balance sheet Saving and planting trees has been a cornerstone of environmental action pretty much since Day One. (Hence, the often-epithetic moniker “treehugger.”) And pressing companies to eliminate deforestation in their supply chains has long been an activist focus. Now, companies themselves are seeing the business benefits of proactive forestry policies. First, there’s risk mitigation — ensuring “a company’s ability to sell products into a global supply chain,” as a BlackRock executive put it . It’s not just the climate impacts of concern to investors. Deforestation and human rights abuses often go hand-in-hand — “there’s almost a direct correlation,” said another investor — an additional layer of risk for companies from neglecting forests and those who live and work there. And then there’s the opportunity for companies to offset their emissions, since trees are a natural climate solution that can help draw down greenhouse gases, especially firms adopting net-zero commitments (see below). Microsoft , JetBlue and Royal Dutch Shell are among those seeking to offset a portion of their carbon footprint by investing in forest protection and reforestation. Finally, there are the innovators — entrepreneurs who see gold in all that green. Silicon Valley venture capitalists are beginning to branch out into forestry-related startups — companies such as SilviaTerra and Pachama that provide enabling technologies to facilitate forestry projects. These entrepreneurs likely saw opportunity in the Trillion Trees initiative launched in early 2020. Of course, success requires stopping deforestation in the first place, especially in tropical rainforests. And that remains a problem. Half of the companies most reliant on key commodities that have a negative impact on forests — palm oil, soy, beef, leather, timber, and pulp and paper — don’t have a publicly stated policy on deforestation, according to one report . Still, some firms are making progress. Mars, for example, announced that its palm oil — used in food and pet care products — is now deforestation-free after shrinking the number of mills it works with from 1,500 to a few hundred, a clear-cut sign that progress is possible. 4. Food equity showed up on the menu For all the talk about Big Ag and Big Food, there’s a growing recognition of the smaller players in the food chain, from farmers and producers to those who prepare and serve meals. And, of course, the 821 million or so humans who face food insecurity, according to the United Nations. And that stat was from 2018, long before this year’s pandemic and global recession created millions more hungry bellies. With restaurants closed and other foodservice operations curtailed, one lingering question is what the world’s largest food companies are doing to help their suppliers and other partners. “Retailers and brands are recognizing that if they don’t step in to help their producers and distributors, the links holding together those supply chains may crack in ways that aren’t easily repaired,” my colleague Elsa Wenzel reported back in June. Collecting uneaten food or unsellable produce for distribution to those in need is one activity that accelerated during the pandemic . A newish concept, “upcycled food” — goods that “use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment” — is being promoted by a nonprofit consortium called the Upcycled Food Association. Increased concern for farmers is also on the menu. Fair Trade certified crops continue to rise , ensuring a living wage for many smallholder farmers, and there’s growing interest in supporting Indigenous farmers , who have long practiced regenerative techniques. The Regenerative Organic Alliance developed a standard to support farmers who promote soil health. All this will require making capital and assistance available to growers around the world, including the data and analytics that increasingly are core to 21st-century farming. And to do this quickly, before the ravages of a changing climate create further hardships for both food producers and consumers around the world. 5. Net-zero commitments found infinite potential And finally, zero — perhaps a fitting coda to a year that boasts two of them in its name. What began just a couple years ago blossomed into a full-on movement as the number of net-zero commitments doubled in less than a year . The list of companies making such commitments cut across sectors and international borders, among them BP , Delta , Facebook , HSBC , Nestlé , Walmart , even Rolls Royce . Verizon, Indian IT services giant Infosys and British consumer goods brand Reckitt Benckiser became the first global companies to join Amazon’s Climate Pledge initiative , committing to reach “carbon neutrality” by 2040. Some went further. Microsoft said it would become “carbon negative” within a decade , with a stretch goal to remove all the carbon it has emitted since it was founded in 1975. The travel-intensive strategy firm BCG said it aspires to be “climate positive” by removing more carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere than it emits. But getting to zero — or neutral or positive or some other goal — is not without controversy. As one report noted , net-zero commitments vary widely in terms of their metrics and transparency, among other things. That is, no single standard governs the way net-zero is defined or measured, or how it should be communicated. As such, net-zero could soon be in the crosshairs of activists eager to point out corporate greenwash. Help could be on the way. In September, the Science Based Targets initiative unveiled plans to develop a global standard for corporate net-zero goals, including the role of carbon offsets, a practice whose massive expansion is itself problematic and controversial . How it gets resolved will be an enduring storyline for 2021 and beyond. There’s more Those were hardly the only 2020 storylines of note. There was a significant uptick of Wall Street interest in  environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting … a surge of attention by companies to  environmental justice … the continued rise and empowerment of  corporate sustainability professionals . Oh, and the advent of a new U.S. presidential administration that  promises to reengage with business and the global community on addressing the climate crisis. That is to say, 2020 wasn’t all about the pandemic, recession and you-know-who. If that’s not enough, here — in alphabetical order by company — are a baker’s dozen other hopeful headlines from the past 12 months: How Apple aims to lead on environment and equity Bank of America CEO: Each public company needs to reach carbon zero BP announces net-zero by 2050 ambition Delta lifts off with $1 billion pledge to become carbon neutral Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics General Mills, Danone dig deeper into regenerative agriculture with incentives, funding HSBC invests in world’s first ‘reef credit’ system IKEA will buy back used furniture in stand against ‘excessive consumption’ Microsoft is building a ‘Planetary Computer’ to protect biodiversity Morgan Stanley will measure CO2 impact of loans and investments How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop Unilever unveils climate and nature fund worth more than $1 billion Walmart drives toward zero-emission goal for its entire fleet by 2040 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 Here, in no particular order, are five storylines that I found encouraging during the 12 months just ending. Topics Leadership 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 GreenBiz Group

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2020 was the year that…

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