It will take personal sustainability to meet the global challenges we face

July 6, 2020 by  
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It will take personal sustainability to meet the global challenges we face Chris Gaither Mon, 07/06/2020 – 02:15 Earth Day, when we remember the planet’s fragility and resilience, was when I finally understood that I had nothing left to give. It was April 2017. After two decades of striving in my career, I had risen to a role of great impact: a director on Apple’s Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives team. My boss, former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, had entrusted me with orchestrating the company’s annual Earth Day celebration. And, wow, had we stepped up our game that year. We released a 58-page environmental responsibility report and a series of animated videos about Apple’s environmental achievements, posing curious questions such as “Do solar farms feed yaks?” We turned the leaf on our logo green at hundreds of Apple stores around the world. Even bolder, we announced ambitions to make Apple products out of entirely recycled or renewable materials. I drank beer and hugged the brilliant people from so many Apple teams who had pulled all of this off. I smiled. But mostly, I wanted to fall into bed. To inspire Apple employees, we created an hour-long presentation for Lisa to deliver in Town Hall, the campus theater where the first iPhone was announced. And we brought musician Jason Mraz to play an Earth Day concert on the green lawns of One Infinite Loop. Whew. Surrounded by thousands of my colleagues as Mraz performed, I drank beer and hugged the brilliant people from so many Apple teams who had pulled all of this off. I smiled. But mostly, I wanted to fall into bed. Insistent inner voice That wasn’t new. The enormity of my job, leading strategy and engagement for Lisa’s team, usually left me exhausted — especially after Earth Day, when I felt like one of Santa’s elves just after Christmas. What was different? This time, when I told myself I’d bounce back soon, I knew I was lying. Underneath my sheen of accomplishment and pride, a quiet and insistent inner voice told me I was depleted. Cooked. Burned out. That voice was right. As May deepened, so did my sadness and fatigue. The physical and emotional crisis overwhelmed me. Nearly every day, I sat in my glass-walled office and tried to avoid eye contact with my colleagues so they wouldn’t see my tears. I felt like I was failing at everything. I couldn’t gain any momentum on projects. My well of creative energy had run dry. My body no longer allowed me to pretend that this hard-charging life was right for me. Previous injuries flared up, sending lightning bolts of pain along the nerves in my hands, feet and back. As I tried to ignore the pain, my body kept turning up the volume: a 3 out of 10, then a 4, then a 7. My body seemed to be asking, “Can you hear me now?” The pain reached a 10 that spring of 2017. And still I tried to soldier on. Don’t be an idiot, I told myself. Your boss served President Barack Obama, and now she reports to Tim Cook. You have a wonderful team. You have a great title and lots of stock in the world’s most valuable company. Even better, you get to tell stories of the powerful work Apple is doing on climate action, resource conservation, natural-disaster relief and HIV prevention. You show others what’s possible. You become what Robert Kennedy (whose photo hangs on the wall of Tim’s office, alongside Martin Luther King Jr.’s) called a “ripple of hope,” spreading inspiration through customers, investors, suppliers, policymakers and industry. Listening to your spirit So what if you feel down? Most people would kill for this job. Suck it up. Here’s the thing: You can’t think your way through an existential crisis. You can’t talk your way out of burnout. You need to listen, deeply, to your spirit. You need to honor what it’s telling you. And my spirit was telling me something profound: For the previous few years, I’d devoted myself to corporate and planetary sustainability. But along the way, I’d completely lost my human sustainability. Only when I hit the depths of my crisis did I understand that I needed to quit the job I’d worked so hard to get. Only when I hit the depths of my crisis did I understand that I needed to quit the job I’d worked so hard to get. I’d let the burnout go for so long that stepping off the corporate treadmill was the only way I could truly recuperate from the punishment of two decades of high-stress work, long commutes, poor health habits and time away from my family. So that’s what I did. I sat across from Lisa in her office, swallowed hard past the lump in my throat and told her I was leaving to recover my well-being. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I haven’t regretted it for a moment. In the three years since, I’ve come back to life. I’ve gotten well. I’ve crafted a career of purpose and meaning. I’m an executive coach who helps leaders — especially environmental sustainability leaders — nourish and inspire themselves so they can keep doing the work they love. Why am I telling you this story? Because, my friends, I see myself in you. I see you suffering under the weight of the environmental crisis. I see you struggling with weariness, depression and burnout. I see you decide you can’t take a day off when the planet is burning. I see you sacrifice your own sustainability for planetary sustainability. I get it. You keep going because you have a big heart. You’re called to do this work, maybe by your love of wildlife or natural places, or by a deep desire for racial and economic equality. The problem is, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the energy or creativity that you need to do great work. And great work, maybe even transcendent work, is critical right now. That’s why I’m starting this series with GreenBiz. I’ll be writing regularly about ways you can tend to your human sustainability. Purpose. Love. Natural beauty. Breath. Poetry. Stillness. Rest. I’ll use as examples things my clients and I get right, things I get wrong (so, so wrong) and things I still struggle with every day. My hope is that you’ll reconnect with that wise voice inside you, and the spark that brings you most alive, so you can be at your absolute best. Because, to find solutions to our most pressing problems, the world needs you at your best. Pull Quote I drank beer and hugged the brilliant people from so many Apple teams who had pulled all of this off. I smiled. But mostly, I wanted to fall into bed. Only when I hit the depths of my crisis did I understand that I needed to quit the job I’d worked so hard to get. Topics Leadership State of the Profession Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The author with Lisa Jackson at the Apple campus, Earth Day 2017. Photo courtesy of Chris Gaither.

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It will take personal sustainability to meet the global challenges we face

Gardens grow on all floors of Saint-Gobains crystalline HQ

July 1, 2020 by  
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On the outskirts of Paris, French architecture firm Valode & Pistre has completed a new headquarters — a crystalline tower wrapped in low-emission glass — for Saint-Gobain, a multinational building materials company. Designed to emphasize urban integration, energy performance and user comfort, the skyscraper features wind-sheltered gardens accessible from every floor, an abundance of natural light and stunning panoramic views. The building, known as Tour Saint-Gobain, was completed in 2019 in the business district of La Défense. Selected as the winning entry in an international architecture competition, Valode & Pistre’s design for Tour Saint-Gobain references Saint-Gobain’s leading role in construction material distribution — particularly with glass — with its crystalline architecture. The new company headquarters is divided into three distinct parts that are likened to the head, body and feet of a person: the lower floor, or “feet”, contain the open access areas and showroom; the main “body” comprises flexible office spaces; and the highest floors at the “head” houses reception areas, meeting places and the “espace plein ciel”, a stunning gathering space with panoramic views. Related: Dramatic crystalline concert hall boasts a gorgeous prismatic interior in Poland “A tower, more than any other building, is about people and how it affects them,” the architecture firm explained in a press release. “Emotions are expected to be felt at the sight of such a building and the architect should strive to bring about these feelings and this excitement. The dynamic silhouette of the building, through the assembly of three oblique prisms that, in an anthropomorphic way, resemble a head, a body and a foot, allows it to interact with the surrounding towers. The tower thus becomes a figure turning its head and slightly stooping as a sign of warm welcome.” At 165 meters tall, Tour Saint-Gobain spans 44 floors and encompasses 49,900 square meters of floor space. High-performance glass ensures optimal user comfort for occupants, who not only enjoy panoramic views but also direct access to indoor gardens from all of the office spaces. + Valode & Pistre Photography by Sergio Grazia via Valode & Pistre

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Gardens grow on all floors of Saint-Gobains crystalline HQ

Newly renovated Seventh Generation HQ focuses on sustainability

June 30, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

Seventh Generation, the company famous for its eco-friendly and bio-based home and personal care products, recently unveiled its renovated headquarters in Burlington, Vermont. Finished in January 2020, the $3.5 million project focused on aligning employee experience with the company’s social mission and values by transitioning the global headquarters into a fully agile workplace. An agile work environment traditionally utilizes strategies meant to optimize the use of space and promote creativity through features such as comfortable seating areas, quiet reflective spaces, outdoor workspaces and standing desks. Green-minded businesses often promote agile work spaces in order to reduce environmental footprints. Related: The Nature Conservancy’s Oregon HQ gets a green renovation Seventh Generation took this opportunity to add free address workstations, shared community tables and individual storage lockers for its employees. There are now enclosed huddle rooms, phone booths and open scrum areas on each floor to promote flexibility and collaboration among departments, and the central atrium has been renovated to open up to adjacent workspaces on each floor. To inspire healthier eating habits, there is an onsite garden to provide vegetables for the company cafeterias. Each floor is assigned its own unique color that connects it to one of the company’s core values: nurture nature, enhance health, transform commerce and build communities. The project is currently pending for LEED Gold Certification for Commercial Interiors due to its focus on sustainability. Over 90% of the construction waste from the renovation has been either recycled or diverted from landfill. The building uses 45% less than the baseline annual water use of a similarly-coded office space, and it boasts energy-efficient LED lighting and a green cleaning products policy to spare the office from harmful contaminants. Biophilic elements (designs choices meant to connect building occupants to nature) can be found throughout the office as well. Quality ventilation, custom planters and open workspaces integrated with greenery improve interior air quality and reflect the core ethics of the environment-focused company. Seventh Generation also tests indoor air quality regularly to ensure that employees aren’t being exposed to chemical, biological or particulate contaminants. The project was led by architect and interior design firm, TruexCullins. + TruexCullins Images via TruexCullins

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Newly renovated Seventh Generation HQ focuses on sustainability

12 sustainable gifts to give Dad for Father’s Day

June 15, 2020 by  
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Father’s Day is just around the corner, so as you celebrate graduations, June birthdays and virtual weddings, keep an eye out for the perfect gift for Dad. While his favorite treat is always welcome, finding something more personal can be a challenge. We’ve come up with some ideas that not only express your love and gratitude for your father, but for the planet, too. Tools If your dad spends his spare time woodworking or tinkering on cars, there are many new gadgets on the market he would like to experiment with. He might also want to upgrade older tools. While shopping, avoid tools made with plastic and look for high-quality wood or stainless steel options that will last a lifetime. Many brands even include a lifetime warranty with your purchase. This will keep low-quality tools out of the landfill and keep Dad from having to shop for wrenches or hammers ever again.  Related: 15 essential woodworking tools Travel mugs and bottles Whether your dad must have his morning cup of Joe or always carries a water bottle with him, provide him with a long-lasting stainless steel option that will keep him from needing single-serve water bottles or to-go coffee cups. Watches Watches are a timeless gift. But, when choosing a design, seek out an eco-friendly model. Many watch manufacturers are now offering sustainable wood designs, like WeWOOD . Also check out the Veldt LUXTURE AARDE watch with a built-in Climate Action Reminder. Wallet By the time a good wallet gets broken in, it starts to break down and needs replaced, so Dad might appreciate something a little different. This year, go for a vegan leather wallet. Some unique options include these apple waste and wood leather wallets , or these wallets made from recycled banana trees . Plants Whether dad is the clear winner in the green thumb category or simply could use some bamboo luck in his office, both indoor and outdoor plants are great options this Father’s Day. Perhaps select a succulent or cactus, or if Dad is into novel gifts, pick up a Venus flytrap, tropical pitcher plants or sundews. Beer-making kit If your father enjoys a good brew at the end of the day, he may also enjoy making his own beer . Complete kits run around $200 and include all of the tools he’ll need, from a glass carboy to the instruction book. He can then add hops and yeast to perfect a recipe of his choice. Hobby class What does your dad love to do in his spare time? Has he shown an interest in gardening, pottery, knife-making, welding, golf, photography, playing guitar or learning another language? Whatever the hobby, get him a certificate for a local or online class to boost his learning on the topic. You could even take the class with him for a special, shared experience. Time outdoors Sometimes all Dad wants is to spend time with you, so set a date for some outdoor fun. Hike somewhere he’s never been, plan a camping trip or go fishing. Meet up for a road or mountain bike ride. Go for a round of golf or introduce him to disc golf at a nearby park. Whatever activity you choose, make sure to get a picture to memorialize the event. Backyard games If your father is the perpetual entertainer with the grill always ready for action, add some backyard games to the mix. Find or make a solid wood cornhole game for hours of family fun that won’t damage the planet. Horseshoes is another classic that requires little more than two metal poles and four metal horseshoes. Gardening supplies Whether he’s just recently shown an interest or taught you all you know about gardening while growing up, your dad might appreciate some new gardening supplies to add to his tool shed. If space is tight, get him one of the many new indoor gardening systems where he can grow veggies in the kitchen. For the outdoor gardener, invest in quality and sustainable gloves, organic skin protection and seeds. For yard decor, get solar path lights, a bird bath, bird feeder, bat house, butterfly house, bird house or beehive .  Park pass For the dad who enjoys spending time in nature, make sure he has the access he needs with a park pass. Most passes expire annually, so it could even be a tradition in the making to buy Dad an access pass. For the road-tripper, a national park pass will provide access to parks and monuments across the country.  Check out pass options here . Solar products The sun is a powerful tool for providing energy. Mount a solar panel to the RV or van for continual power on the road. On a smaller scale, get Dad a solar-powered lantern for nights under the stars. For cooking, invest in a solar oven and leave the propane and charcoal at home. Images via Aleksandra , Deborah Breen Whiting , Nicolas J. Leclercq , Gyae Min and Akiragiulia

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12 sustainable gifts to give Dad for Father’s Day

Seattle permanently closes 20 miles of street

May 18, 2020 by  
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Seattle recently made bold moves to put pedestrians and cyclists first as the pandemic-induced stay-at-home order creates a new normal. Up to 20 miles of roadways in the “Stay Healthy Streets” program shall remain permanently closed to nonessential through traffic to encourage people to exercise safely while social distancing.  Environmentalists  are praising the move because curtailing vehicular traffic means a reduction in  carbon emissions . “Our rapid response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 have been transformative in a number of places across the city,” Sam Zimbabwe, Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Director, told  The   Seattle Times . “Some of the responses are going to be long lasting, and we need to continue to build out a transportation system that enables people of all ages and abilities to bike and walk across the city.” Related:  COVID-19 and its effects on the environment Quarantine fatigue has been a major motivation towards more citizen safety measures to sustain  public health  through exercise. Not only were 20 miles of Stay Healthy Streets permanently closed to encourage walking, jogging, skateboarding, scootering and cycling, but  Seattle’s Office of the Mayor  also announced plans for enhanced bike infrastructure and additional protected bike lanes. The news has garnered praise from the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board. Mayor Jenny Durkan further explained, “We are in a marathon and not a sprint in our fight against COVID-19. As we assess how to make the changes that have kept us safe and healthy  sustainable  for the long term, we must ensure Seattle is rebuilding better than before. Safe and Healthy Streets are an important tool for families in our neighborhoods to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy the nice weather. Over the long term, these streets will become treasured assets in our neighborhoods.” According to SDOT, the streets that have become pedestrianized were selected because they have few open spaces, lower rates of car ownership and are located in routes open to essential services as well as takeout meals. Of course, postal services, deliveries, garbage and recycling trucks, plus emergency vehicles are still permitted on these “closed” streets. SDOT will also be reprogramming traffic signals to reduce pedestrian wait-times at crosswalks so that crowd formations at intersections can be avoided. Pushing buttons to request walk signals will no longer be needed for 75% of Seattle’s densest regions as walk signals there will become automated to minimize the touching of surfaces. An estimated $100,000 to $200,000 will be used for these safety measures, which include helpful new signs and barriers. The  SDOT blog  has documented that ever since Washington state’s Governor Jay Inslee issued stay-at-home orders, vehicular traffic has dropped by 57% in Seattle. It is hoped that permanently closing almost 20 miles of street will lead to fewer idling cars and limit traffic even after the lockdown lifts. In so doing, reductions in  air pollution  will continue for the Evergreen State’s Emerald City long after the lockdown lifts. + City of Seattle Office of the Mayor + Seattle Department of Transportation Images via Pexels

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Seattle permanently closes 20 miles of street

Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics

May 11, 2020 by  
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Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics Joel Makower Mon, 05/11/2020 – 00:44 At first glance, the sprawling industrial site, covering roughly 900 acres in Kingsport, Tennessee, appears to be just another chemical manufacturing facility. There are hundreds of buildings and countless miles of pipes, conveyors, distillers, cooling towers, valves, pumps, compressors and controls. It doesn’t exactly look or feel particularly noteworthy. But something extraordinary is going on at this Eastman chemical plant: two breakthrough processes to turn waste plastics of all kinds back into new plastics, continuously, with no loss of quality. Last year, the company announced two major initiatives: Carbon renewal technology , or CRT, which breaks down waste plastic feedstocks to the molecular level before using them as building blocks to produce a wide range of materials and packaging. The company claims this enables waste plastics to be recycled an infinite number of times without degradation of quality. Polyester renewal technology , or PRT, which involves taking waste polyesters from landfills and other waste streams and transforming them back into a raw material that the company claims is indistinguishable from polyester produced from fossil-fuel feedstocks. With both CRT and PRT, hard-to-recycle plastics can be recycled an infinite number of times, says Eastman, creating products that can claim high levels of certified recycled content — a true closed loop. Both technologies are or will be hitting the market, so it is too soon to call them a success. Still, they represent a story about a legacy industrial company seeking to reinvent itself by simultaneously addressing the climate crisis, the scourge of plastic waste and the need to accelerate resource efficiency to meet the material needs of 10 billion people by mid-century. If it works, this old-line corporate icon could find itself a leading light in the emerging circular economy . Chemical reaction Eastman, celebrating its centennial this year, was founded by George Eastman, the entrepreneur who, in the late 1880s, started the Eastman Kodak Company. (“Kodak” was a made-up word he appended to his last name.) Along the way, he nearly singlehandedly democratized photography (and spawned countless “Kodak moments” ) through the company’s production of cameras, film, processing chemicals and related goods and services. In 1920, in the wake of World War I, Eastman’s company was suffering a scarcity of raw materials, including photographic paper, optical glass and gelatin, and many chemicals — such as methanol, acetic acid and acetone — needed to produce and process film stock and prints. He determined that ensuring his company’s future would require self-reliance. He set out to find a suitable location for a Kodak-owned and operated chemical production facility. If it works, this old-line corporate icon could find itself a leading light in the emerging circular economy. Kingsport proved to be the right spot, situated in what is known as the Mountain Empire, which spans a portion of southwest Virginia and the mountainous counties in northeastern Tennessee. It had ready access to two key commodities vital to Kodak: wood fiber to make cellulose, the key material in photographic film; and coal, which powered its boilers to make steam and electricity, and later would be used to produce synthetic gas — syngas — to create the acetyl chemicals needed to make films, plastics and textiles. From those two feedstocks, Eastman Chemical, a subsidiary of Kodak, grew to become an economic powerhouse in the Mountain Empire, expanding into its own empire of more than 50 manufacturing sites worldwide. The company adapted to, and prospered from, the changing times. By the late 1920s, for example, the demand for home movie film and the growing need for X-ray film led Eastman Chemical to produce acetic anhydride, the base material for photographic emulsions. In the 1930s, the company turned to producing cellulose acetate to make textile fibers. The automobile boom of the 1940s and 1950s led Eastman to produce chemicals and materials critical to automotive design and production. During World War II, the Kingsport site infamously was used to make RDX, a powerful explosive — a million and a half pounds a day, at its peak. By the end of World War II, Eastman was managing a project to produce enriched uranium for the Manhattan Project. After the war, polyester fibers for textiles and other products became, and remain, a significant line of business. George Eastman didn’t live to see much of the success he catalyzed. He died in 1932 by suicide, a single bullet to the heart. In the 1990s, Kodak’s photography business darkened with the advent of digital cameras — the company was slow to adapt and got run over by more nimble competitors — and the company spun off its chemical division in 1994 to help pay down debt. (Eastman, the company, has dropped “chemical” from its branding, although not from its legally incorporated name.) Eastman’s latest innovations, as well as its pivot to make sustainability core to its strategy, has been energized by its current chairman and CEO, Mark Costa. A former management consultant — Eastman was one of his clients — and brandishing degrees from both Berkeley and Harvard, Costa joined the company in 2006 to lead strategy, marketing and business development before ascending to the corner office in 2014. Under his leadership, the company has accelerated its transformation from chemicals to specialty materials. “When we came out of the great recession in 2009 and were starting to think about our innovation portfolio, we were already thinking about sustainability in a very serious way,” Costa told me over lunch in his office in early March, with a sweeping view of a nature preserve and park deeded by Eastman to the city of Kingsport. “We knew that the circular economy and being a lot more efficient with carbon was a good idea.” Media Authorship Mark Costa, Courtesy of Eastman Close Authorship Eastman CEO Mark Costa (Photo courtesy of Eastman) “This idea of circularity isn’t new to us,” he added. “In all of our innovation — I had the responsibility for the innovation portfolio since 2009 — we required everything that we did be tied to a sustainability driver. All the way back then.” Plastic to plastic Eastman’s two new “renewal” technologies are, to some degree, natural extensions of products and services that have long been part of Eastman’s toolkit. Now, repurposed and modified for an era of sustainability and circularity, they position the company to address one of the holy grails of the circular economy: turning waste plastic back into new plastic with the same performance and quality characteristics. The rising attention being paid to the global plastic waste problem has illuminated many serious challenges of collecting, sorting and recycling plastic back into new plastic in a continuously closed loop.  For starters, only a couple kinds of plastics are being regularly collected and recycled, based on available infrastructure and market demand: PET and HDPE — Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the SPI resin identification codes developed in the late 1980s by the Society of the Plastics Industry. Most of the others — SPI Nos. 3 through 7 — are technically possible to recycle but lack both infrastructure and markets in most places. Worst of all is the growing mountain of packaging that is multi-material — layers upon layers of mixed polymers, papers, laminates and foils — in the form of juice boxes, ketchup packets, toothpaste tubes and countless other things. These Franken-materials are a nonstarter for most modern recycling systems. The best one can hope is that they be downcycled into some durable product — say, artificial turf, plastic furniture or an automobile fan blade — which itself will wear out eventually, ending up as nonrecyclable waste in a landfill. But only a tiny fraction of these plastics ever escape landfills as their final resting place. Eastman’s ability to turn all plastics back into their constituent molecules is a potential game-changer. Sorting all these plastics is another issue. Even if plastics 3 through 7 were readily recyclable, keeping various polymer types separate from one another is a highly labor-intensive task, assuming the infrastructure was even there to handle it. And given the historically low price of oil, even before the recent market crash, recycled plastic remains uncompetitive to virgin for many applications. Those petrochemicals are just too darn cheap. So, Eastman’s ability to turn all waste plastics back into their constituent molecules and back into productive use is a potential game-changer. A primer There are two basic ways to recycle plastics: mechanical and chemical. The former is most commonly used with soda bottles (PET) and milk jugs (HDPE) — plastics 1 and 2, respectively. It involves grinding, washing, separating, drying, regranulating and compounding waste plastic to create new raw materials. Mechanical recycling can be cost-effective but has limits and disadvantages: The process is heat-intensive — and, therefore, energy- and carbon-intensive — and produces air pollutants. Contamination by food and other foreign materials is another problem that literally gums up the works. And after plastic has been mechanically recycled once, it’s rarely suitable for another round of recycling. This means that the recycled material eventually will end up in waste streams. And there are physical limits to how recycled plastics produced through mechanical methods can be used in manufacturing. “You can only get up to maybe 50 percent recycled content in a bottle with mechanical, where you really start getting a pretty ugly product and all kinds of other performance issues,” Costa said. “So, there’s going to be sort of a quality performance limitation.” An alternative is chemical recycling, a technology that has been around since the 1950s but has become the focus of growing investment and innovation as the circular economy has gained steam. Plastic makers including BP and Dow, and consumer packaged goods companies such as Coca-Cola, Danone and Unilever, are testing or investing tens of millions of dollars in the technology, according to the Wall Street Journal . In chemical recycling, depolymerization breaks down plastics into their raw materials for conversion back into new polymers. Pyrolysis — heating of an organic material in the absence of oxygen — can turn mixed plastic waste into naphtha, which can be transformed back into petrochemicals and plastics. With only about 9 percent of the more than 400 million tons of plastic waste produced globally each year currently being recycled, according to U.N. Environment , that leaves the other 90 percent or so as potential feedstock.  There’s big potential here, according to a 2019 report from the American Chemistry Council. It found that if widely adopted, chemical recycling — which it refers to as “advanced plastic recycling and recovery” — could create nearly 40,000 direct and indirect U.S. jobs, as much as $2.2 billion in annual payroll and $9.9 billion in direct and indirect economic output.  Calling on the carpet Eastman’s carbon renewal and polyester renewal technologies are forms of chemical recycling. But they aren’t intended simply to displace mechanical recycling. For PET and HDPE plastics, mechanical recycling already is reasonably efficient, creating recycled materials streams that have proven cost-competitive in many markets. “We don’t want to compete with that,” Costa said. “Frankly, the value of it is too high. From a sustainability point of view, you shouldn’t touch it.” Media Authorship Courtesy of Eastman Close Authorship Besides, there’s a much bigger opportunity. Eastman’s Polyester Renewal Technology is a chemical recycling process specifically for polyester waste, which produces virgin-like materials, even from colored PET, according to Eastman. The process involves using glycolysis — the breakdown of PET by ethylene glycol — to disassemble waste PET into its fundamental building blocks. Those building blocks then can be reassembled to produce new polyesters with high levels of recycled content. In its search for waste plastics, Eastman easily can forgo tapping into recycling markets for plastic water and soda bottles. There are plenty of other sources of waste polyester — from carpets, for example. In one recent initiative, Eastman partnered with Circular Polymers , a company that reclaims post-consumer products for recycling. Circular Polymers is collecting and densifying the PET it retrieves from waste carpeting. It then converts the PET waste into pellets, which are shipped by railroad from its plant in California to Eastman in Tennessee. Eastman uses its CRT process to turn the pellets into new materials with certified recycled content. Those materials end up in textiles, packaging for cosmetics and personal care products, and eyeglass frames. Costa says Eastman could divert millions of pounds of carpeting a year through partnerships such as this, although that’s still a mere fraction of the more than 3 billion pounds of carpet sent to landfills in 2018, just in the United States, according to Carpet America Recovery Effort , an industry group. And it’s not just polyester. Eastman sees potentially unlimited opportunity in all the other types of plastic waste — especially the stuff that’s hard to recycle, from a cost and logistics perspective, including those dreaded Franken-materials. The company’s goal is to extract the value of the carbon molecules contained in these waste materials and put them back into productive use as like-new plastics. Said Costa: “If there’s a way to bring carbon back in through products that’s better than the fossil-fuel approach of the linear economy, we should do that, right? I mean, this isn’t complicated.” Fashion forward Eastman’s goal is to substitute its “carbon renewal” materials for their virgin counterparts wherever they are economically viable. Beyond pure economics, Costa described to me Eastman’s three criteria for determining when it makes sense, from both a business and ecological perspective, to recycle waste plastic. First, the waste has to go back into products — not be incinerated or burned to make energy. Second, the carbon footprint of the recycled material must be better than its fossil-fuel equivalent, based on life-cycle analysis. And third, “Consumers shouldn’t give up a lot in their quality of life.” That is, few if any tradeoffs in price or performance. So far, CRT and PRT processes are finding their way into several of Eastman’s many brands of polymers, including Tr?va, a cellulose-based thermoplastic made from trees, used in automotive, packaging and electronics applications; CDA, a bio-derived material, used in injection-molded applications, such as ophthalmic frames and tool handles; Cristal, designed and engineered specifically for high-end cosmetics packaging applications; and Tritan, a durable clear plastic used to make Camelbak and Nalgene water bottles, and Rubbermaid food storage containers. And then there is Naia , a fiber made from certified sustainably managed pine and eucalyptus plantations, widely used in the fashion industry. It is essentially cellulose acetate, the same material used in photographic film, being made by Eastman in Kingsport for about 100 years. In this case, it is spun into a yarn that is used to make fabric. Naia is made in a closed-loop process, in which chemical inputs — acetic acid and acetone — are continuously recycled. Naia is made in a closed-loop process, in which chemical inputs — acetic acid and acetone — continuously are recycled. According to company marketing materials, it compares favorably to silk, cotton, viscose filaments and polyester in terms of environmental impacts — water usage, climate emissions, ecosystem disruption — and feel. Its yarn can be knitted or woven and easily blended with other fibers. Garments made with Naia are easy to home-launder compared with many fashion-forward fabrics, which require dry cleaning, says Eastman. The company claims that Naia produces no microfibers when washed. There’s one big challenge from a sustainability perspective, however: The fossil fuels used as a feedstock to produce the syngas to make one of the principal ingredients for Naia. Eastman’s Naia textile yarn for fashion. (Photo courtesy of Eastman) Eastman is developing the technology to eliminate the fossil fuels from Naia production, replacing them with gases derived from breaking down waste plastics, a process called reforming, a carbon renewal technology . The resulting product, Naia Renew, is being launched this fall. The company describes it as “a cellulosic yarn sourced from 100 percent circular content, produced from 60 percent certified wood fibers and 40 percent recycle waste plastics.” Used textiles are another potential feedstock for Naia, creating a virtuous cycle that turns no-longer-wearable garments back into new ones. Eastman is in discussions with leading fashion brands about the potential of take-back programs in the future, Steve Crawford, Eastman’s chief technology and sustainability officer, told me during my visit. “They could collect the garments, send them to us, and we could make them back into the same fiber to make new garments.” Mining landfills? There’s yet another disruptive opportunity here: mining landfills to cull plastic waste to be “renewed” through Eastman’s processes. The company says it is working closely with waste management companies to evaluate how to create the availability of such feedstock. “As part of our work, there’s a lot of focus on how we partner, how we collaborate with the parties in this space,” explained Cathy Combs, Eastman’s director of sustainability. “How do we create an infrastructure that will be able to supply chemical recycling?”  “We’ve demonstrated that the new Eastman recycling technologies are capable of utilizing a broad array of waste plastics, including plastics that aren’t currently utilized in mechanical recycling,” Crawford added. “But we’ll need to partner with key players in both the waste collection and waste management systems, and key end-use value chains. We also need brands to help create demand for these materials to become valuable sources of feedstocks for these new technologies.” Of course, all of this innovation is taking place amid a pandemic, not to mention what appears to be a global recession. The textiles sector, like most others, has taken a hit from COVID-19, with a dramatic slowdown in global retail sales resulting in global supply-chain disruption, furloughs throughout the value chain and mounting inventories and liquidity challenges. But industry participants and influencers believe the textiles industry will emerge with an increased emphasis on sustainability as the industry rebuilds, said Jon Woods, Eastman’s general manager of textiles and nonwovens. Mark Costa, for his part, remains bullish on the company’s future, including on the impact the company could have both locally and globally — particularly in the economic development that come from mining plastics from local waste streams. “I think there’s going to be real economic opportunity, and a lot of small-business job creation — which is great for this country as well as in Europe — who are going to jump into this,” he told me. “I mean, the waste management guys will do it, and they’ll be big and at scale. But there’s also a lot of opportunity for local, small businesses to work with municipalities on how to do that. And just like we saw with carpet and the way they densified it, people are going to get creative. Once there’s policy and economic incentive, that’s what America does great.” There’s going to be real economic opportunity, and a lot of small-business job creation — which is great for this country as well as in Europe — who are going to jump into this. Costa believes that technologies such as CRT and PRT can give new life to plastics recycling if they can dramatically improve its economics. “The aluminum guys would have never succeeded if they could only take 10 to 20 percent of the aluminum and had to throw away 80 percent. I doubt you’d have high aluminum recycling rates because you just couldn’t justify the effort.” And, he added, some of Eastman’s sustainability and circular ingenuity just might rub off on the beleaguered chemical sector. “Everyone wants to focus on the things that are negative about the chemical industry, and we have lots of room for improvement. So, how do we collaborate to take this seriously, which I think the industry very much does right now, and solve the next set of solutions to make the environment better at the same time as you’re improving quality of life? That’s our ultimate goal. That’s what we get up every day trying to focus on doing.” 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 If it works, this old-line corporate icon could find itself a leading light in the emerging circular economy. Eastman’s ability to turn all plastics back into their constituent molecules is a potential game-changer. Naia is made in a closed-loop process, in which chemical inputs — acetic acid and acetone — are continuously recycled. There’s going to be real economic opportunity, and a lot of small-business job creation — which is great for this country as well as in Europe — who are going to jump into this. Topics Circular Economy Leadership Plastic Waste Recycling 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 An aerial view of Eastman’s Kingsport, Tennessee headquarters facility. Courtesy Eastman Close Authorship

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Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics

Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics

May 11, 2020 by  
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Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics Joel Makower Mon, 05/11/2020 – 00:44 At first glance, the sprawling industrial site, covering roughly 900 acres in Kingsport, Tennessee, appears to be just another chemical manufacturing facility. There are hundreds of buildings and countless miles of pipes, conveyors, distillers, cooling towers, valves, pumps, compressors and controls. It doesn’t exactly look or feel particularly noteworthy. But something extraordinary is going on at this Eastman chemical plant: two breakthrough processes to turn waste plastics of all kinds back into new plastics, continuously, with no loss of quality. Last year, the company announced two major initiatives: Carbon renewal technology , or CRT, which breaks down waste plastic feedstocks to the molecular level before using them as building blocks to produce a wide range of materials and packaging. The company claims this enables waste plastics to be recycled an infinite number of times without degradation of quality. Polyester renewal technology , or PRT, which involves taking waste polyesters from landfills and other waste streams and transforming them back into a raw material that the company claims is indistinguishable from polyester produced from fossil-fuel feedstocks. With both CRT and PRT, hard-to-recycle plastics can be recycled an infinite number of times, says Eastman, creating products that can claim high levels of certified recycled content — a true closed loop. Both technologies are or will be hitting the market, so it is too soon to call them a success. Still, they represent a story about a legacy industrial company seeking to reinvent itself by simultaneously addressing the climate crisis, the scourge of plastic waste and the need to accelerate resource efficiency to meet the material needs of 10 billion people by mid-century. If it works, this old-line corporate icon could find itself a leading light in the emerging circular economy . Chemical reaction Eastman, celebrating its centennial this year, was founded by George Eastman, the entrepreneur who, in the late 1880s, started the Eastman Kodak Company. (“Kodak” was a made-up word he appended to his last name.) Along the way, he nearly singlehandedly democratized photography (and spawned countless “Kodak moments” ) through the company’s production of cameras, film, processing chemicals and related goods and services. In 1920, in the wake of World War I, Eastman’s company was suffering a scarcity of raw materials, including photographic paper, optical glass and gelatin, and many chemicals — such as methanol, acetic acid and acetone — needed to produce and process film stock and prints. He determined that ensuring his company’s future would require self-reliance. He set out to find a suitable location for a Kodak-owned and operated chemical production facility. If it works, this old-line corporate icon could find itself a leading light in the emerging circular economy. Kingsport proved to be the right spot, situated in what is known as the Mountain Empire, which spans a portion of southwest Virginia and the mountainous counties in northeastern Tennessee. It had ready access to two key commodities vital to Kodak: wood fiber to make cellulose, the key material in photographic film; and coal, which powered its boilers to make steam and electricity, and later would be used to produce synthetic gas — syngas — to create the acetyl chemicals needed to make films, plastics and textiles. From those two feedstocks, Eastman Chemical, a subsidiary of Kodak, grew to become an economic powerhouse in the Mountain Empire, expanding into its own empire of more than 50 manufacturing sites worldwide. The company adapted to, and prospered from, the changing times. By the late 1920s, for example, the demand for home movie film and the growing need for X-ray film led Eastman Chemical to produce acetic anhydride, the base material for photographic emulsions. In the 1930s, the company turned to producing cellulose acetate to make textile fibers. The automobile boom of the 1940s and 1950s led Eastman to produce chemicals and materials critical to automotive design and production. During World War II, the Kingsport site infamously was used to make RDX, a powerful explosive — a million and a half pounds a day, at its peak. By the end of World War II, Eastman was managing a project to produce enriched uranium for the Manhattan Project. After the war, polyester fibers for textiles and other products became, and remain, a significant line of business. George Eastman didn’t live to see much of the success he catalyzed. He died in 1932 by suicide, a single bullet to the heart. In the 1990s, Kodak’s photography business darkened with the advent of digital cameras — the company was slow to adapt and got run over by more nimble competitors — and the company spun off its chemical division in 1994 to help pay down debt. (Eastman, the company, has dropped “chemical” from its branding, although not from its legally incorporated name.) Eastman’s latest innovations, as well as its pivot to make sustainability core to its strategy, has been energized by its current chairman and CEO, Mark Costa. A former management consultant — Eastman was one of his clients — and brandishing degrees from both Berkeley and Harvard, Costa joined the company in 2006 to lead strategy, marketing and business development before ascending to the corner office in 2014. Under his leadership, the company has accelerated its transformation from chemicals to specialty materials. “When we came out of the great recession in 2009 and were starting to think about our innovation portfolio, we were already thinking about sustainability in a very serious way,” Costa told me over lunch in his office in early March, with a sweeping view of a nature preserve and park deeded by Eastman to the city of Kingsport. “We knew that the circular economy and being a lot more efficient with carbon was a good idea.” Media Authorship Mark Costa, Courtesy of Eastman Close Authorship Eastman CEO Mark Costa (Photo courtesy of Eastman) “This idea of circularity isn’t new to us,” he added. “In all of our innovation — I had the responsibility for the innovation portfolio since 2009 — we required everything that we did be tied to a sustainability driver. All the way back then.” Plastic to plastic Eastman’s two new “renewal” technologies are, to some degree, natural extensions of products and services that have long been part of Eastman’s toolkit. Now, repurposed and modified for an era of sustainability and circularity, they position the company to address one of the holy grails of the circular economy: turning waste plastic back into new plastic with the same performance and quality characteristics. The rising attention being paid to the global plastic waste problem has illuminated many serious challenges of collecting, sorting and recycling plastic back into new plastic in a continuously closed loop.  For starters, only a couple kinds of plastics are being regularly collected and recycled, based on available infrastructure and market demand: PET and HDPE — Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the SPI resin identification codes developed in the late 1980s by the Society of the Plastics Industry. Most of the others — SPI Nos. 3 through 7 — are technically possible to recycle but lack both infrastructure and markets in most places. Worst of all is the growing mountain of packaging that is multi-material — layers upon layers of mixed polymers, papers, laminates and foils — in the form of juice boxes, ketchup packets, toothpaste tubes and countless other things. These Franken-materials are a nonstarter for most modern recycling systems. The best one can hope is that they be downcycled into some durable product — say, artificial turf, plastic furniture or an automobile fan blade — which itself will wear out eventually, ending up as nonrecyclable waste in a landfill. But only a tiny fraction of these plastics ever escape landfills as their final resting place. Eastman’s ability to turn all plastics back into their constituent molecules is a potential game-changer. Sorting all these plastics is another issue. Even if plastics 3 through 7 were readily recyclable, keeping various polymer types separate from one another is a highly labor-intensive task, assuming the infrastructure was even there to handle it. And given the historically low price of oil, even before the recent market crash, recycled plastic remains uncompetitive to virgin for many applications. Those petrochemicals are just too darn cheap. So, Eastman’s ability to turn all waste plastics back into their constituent molecules and back into productive use is a potential game-changer. A primer There are two basic ways to recycle plastics: mechanical and chemical. The former is most commonly used with soda bottles (PET) and milk jugs (HDPE) — plastics 1 and 2, respectively. It involves grinding, washing, separating, drying, regranulating and compounding waste plastic to create new raw materials. Mechanical recycling can be cost-effective but has limits and disadvantages: The process is heat-intensive — and, therefore, energy- and carbon-intensive — and produces air pollutants. Contamination by food and other foreign materials is another problem that literally gums up the works. And after plastic has been mechanically recycled once, it’s rarely suitable for another round of recycling. This means that the recycled material eventually will end up in waste streams. And there are physical limits to how recycled plastics produced through mechanical methods can be used in manufacturing. “You can only get up to maybe 50 percent recycled content in a bottle with mechanical, where you really start getting a pretty ugly product and all kinds of other performance issues,” Costa said. “So, there’s going to be sort of a quality performance limitation.” An alternative is chemical recycling, a technology that has been around since the 1950s but has become the focus of growing investment and innovation as the circular economy has gained steam. Plastic makers including BP and Dow, and consumer packaged goods companies such as Coca-Cola, Danone and Unilever, are testing or investing tens of millions of dollars in the technology, according to the Wall Street Journal . In chemical recycling, depolymerization breaks down plastics into their raw materials for conversion back into new polymers. Pyrolysis — heating of an organic material in the absence of oxygen — can turn mixed plastic waste into naphtha, which can be transformed back into petrochemicals and plastics. With only about 9 percent of the more than 400 million tons of plastic waste produced globally each year currently being recycled, according to U.N. Environment , that leaves the other 90 percent or so as potential feedstock.  There’s big potential here, according to a 2019 report from the American Chemistry Council. It found that if widely adopted, chemical recycling — which it refers to as “advanced plastic recycling and recovery” — could create nearly 40,000 direct and indirect U.S. jobs, as much as $2.2 billion in annual payroll and $9.9 billion in direct and indirect economic output.  Calling on the carpet Eastman’s carbon renewal and polyester renewal technologies are forms of chemical recycling. But they aren’t intended simply to displace mechanical recycling. For PET and HDPE plastics, mechanical recycling already is reasonably efficient, creating recycled materials streams that have proven cost-competitive in many markets. “We don’t want to compete with that,” Costa said. “Frankly, the value of it is too high. From a sustainability point of view, you shouldn’t touch it.” Media Authorship Courtesy of Eastman Close Authorship Besides, there’s a much bigger opportunity. Eastman’s Polyester Renewal Technology is a chemical recycling process specifically for polyester waste, which produces virgin-like materials, even from colored PET, according to Eastman. The process involves using glycolysis — the breakdown of PET by ethylene glycol — to disassemble waste PET into its fundamental building blocks. Those building blocks then can be reassembled to produce new polyesters with high levels of recycled content. In its search for waste plastics, Eastman easily can forgo tapping into recycling markets for plastic water and soda bottles. There are plenty of other sources of waste polyester — from carpets, for example. In one recent initiative, Eastman partnered with Circular Polymers , a company that reclaims post-consumer products for recycling. Circular Polymers is collecting and densifying the PET it retrieves from waste carpeting. It then converts the PET waste into pellets, which are shipped by railroad from its plant in California to Eastman in Tennessee. Eastman uses its CRT process to turn the pellets into new materials with certified recycled content. Those materials end up in textiles, packaging for cosmetics and personal care products, and eyeglass frames. Costa says Eastman could divert millions of pounds of carpeting a year through partnerships such as this, although that’s still a mere fraction of the more than 3 billion pounds of carpet sent to landfills in 2018, just in the United States, according to Carpet America Recovery Effort , an industry group. And it’s not just polyester. Eastman sees potentially unlimited opportunity in all the other types of plastic waste — especially the stuff that’s hard to recycle, from a cost and logistics perspective, including those dreaded Franken-materials. The company’s goal is to extract the value of the carbon molecules contained in these waste materials and put them back into productive use as like-new plastics. Said Costa: “If there’s a way to bring carbon back in through products that’s better than the fossil-fuel approach of the linear economy, we should do that, right? I mean, this isn’t complicated.” Fashion forward Eastman’s goal is to substitute its “carbon renewal” materials for their virgin counterparts wherever they are economically viable. Beyond pure economics, Costa described to me Eastman’s three criteria for determining when it makes sense, from both a business and ecological perspective, to recycle waste plastic. First, the waste has to go back into products — not be incinerated or burned to make energy. Second, the carbon footprint of the recycled material must be better than its fossil-fuel equivalent, based on life-cycle analysis. And third, “Consumers shouldn’t give up a lot in their quality of life.” That is, few if any tradeoffs in price or performance. So far, CRT and PRT processes are finding their way into several of Eastman’s many brands of polymers, including Tr?va, a cellulose-based thermoplastic made from trees, used in automotive, packaging and electronics applications; CDA, a bio-derived material, used in injection-molded applications, such as ophthalmic frames and tool handles; Cristal, designed and engineered specifically for high-end cosmetics packaging applications; and Tritan, a durable clear plastic used to make Camelbak and Nalgene water bottles, and Rubbermaid food storage containers. And then there is Naia , a fiber made from certified sustainably managed pine and eucalyptus plantations, widely used in the fashion industry. It is essentially cellulose acetate, the same material used in photographic film, being made by Eastman in Kingsport for about 100 years. In this case, it is spun into a yarn that is used to make fabric. Naia is made in a closed-loop process, in which chemical inputs — acetic acid and acetone — are continuously recycled. Naia is made in a closed-loop process, in which chemical inputs — acetic acid and acetone — continuously are recycled. According to company marketing materials, it compares favorably to silk, cotton, viscose filaments and polyester in terms of environmental impacts — water usage, climate emissions, ecosystem disruption — and feel. Its yarn can be knitted or woven and easily blended with other fibers. Garments made with Naia are easy to home-launder compared with many fashion-forward fabrics, which require dry cleaning, says Eastman. The company claims that Naia produces no microfibers when washed. There’s one big challenge from a sustainability perspective, however: The fossil fuels used as a feedstock to produce the syngas to make one of the principal ingredients for Naia. Eastman’s Naia textile yarn for fashion. (Photo courtesy of Eastman) Eastman is developing the technology to eliminate the fossil fuels from Naia production, replacing them with gases derived from breaking down waste plastics, a process called reforming, a carbon renewal technology . The resulting product, Naia Renew, is being launched this fall. The company describes it as “a cellulosic yarn sourced from 100 percent circular content, produced from 60 percent certified wood fibers and 40 percent recycle waste plastics.” Used textiles are another potential feedstock for Naia, creating a virtuous cycle that turns no-longer-wearable garments back into new ones. Eastman is in discussions with leading fashion brands about the potential of take-back programs in the future, Steve Crawford, Eastman’s chief technology and sustainability officer, told me during my visit. “They could collect the garments, send them to us, and we could make them back into the same fiber to make new garments.” Mining landfills? There’s yet another disruptive opportunity here: mining landfills to cull plastic waste to be “renewed” through Eastman’s processes. The company says it is working closely with waste management companies to evaluate how to create the availability of such feedstock. “As part of our work, there’s a lot of focus on how we partner, how we collaborate with the parties in this space,” explained Cathy Combs, Eastman’s director of sustainability. “How do we create an infrastructure that will be able to supply chemical recycling?”  “We’ve demonstrated that the new Eastman recycling technologies are capable of utilizing a broad array of waste plastics, including plastics that aren’t currently utilized in mechanical recycling,” Crawford added. “But we’ll need to partner with key players in both the waste collection and waste management systems, and key end-use value chains. We also need brands to help create demand for these materials to become valuable sources of feedstocks for these new technologies.” Of course, all of this innovation is taking place amid a pandemic, not to mention what appears to be a global recession. The textiles sector, like most others, has taken a hit from COVID-19, with a dramatic slowdown in global retail sales resulting in global supply-chain disruption, furloughs throughout the value chain and mounting inventories and liquidity challenges. But industry participants and influencers believe the textiles industry will emerge with an increased emphasis on sustainability as the industry rebuilds, said Jon Woods, Eastman’s general manager of textiles and nonwovens. Mark Costa, for his part, remains bullish on the company’s future, including on the impact the company could have both locally and globally — particularly in the economic development that come from mining plastics from local waste streams. “I think there’s going to be real economic opportunity, and a lot of small-business job creation — which is great for this country as well as in Europe — who are going to jump into this,” he told me. “I mean, the waste management guys will do it, and they’ll be big and at scale. But there’s also a lot of opportunity for local, small businesses to work with municipalities on how to do that. And just like we saw with carpet and the way they densified it, people are going to get creative. Once there’s policy and economic incentive, that’s what America does great.” There’s going to be real economic opportunity, and a lot of small-business job creation — which is great for this country as well as in Europe — who are going to jump into this. Costa believes that technologies such as CRT and PRT can give new life to plastics recycling if they can dramatically improve its economics. “The aluminum guys would have never succeeded if they could only take 10 to 20 percent of the aluminum and had to throw away 80 percent. I doubt you’d have high aluminum recycling rates because you just couldn’t justify the effort.” And, he added, some of Eastman’s sustainability and circular ingenuity just might rub off on the beleaguered chemical sector. “Everyone wants to focus on the things that are negative about the chemical industry, and we have lots of room for improvement. So, how do we collaborate to take this seriously, which I think the industry very much does right now, and solve the next set of solutions to make the environment better at the same time as you’re improving quality of life? That’s our ultimate goal. That’s what we get up every day trying to focus on doing.” 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 If it works, this old-line corporate icon could find itself a leading light in the emerging circular economy. Eastman’s ability to turn all plastics back into their constituent molecules is a potential game-changer. Naia is made in a closed-loop process, in which chemical inputs — acetic acid and acetone — are continuously recycled. There’s going to be real economic opportunity, and a lot of small-business job creation — which is great for this country as well as in Europe — who are going to jump into this. Topics Circular Economy Leadership Plastic Waste Recycling 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 An aerial view of Eastman’s Kingsport, Tennessee headquarters facility. Courtesy Eastman Close Authorship

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Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics

Solar-powered innovation center targets LEED Gold in Toronto

April 8, 2020 by  
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Sustainability, indigenous culture and contemporary design come together in Perkins and Will’s design for the new $85 million Centre for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (CITE) at Seneca College’s Newnham Campus. Created in collaboration with the First Peoples@Seneca Office, the LEED Gold-targeted building features indigenous-led design and services, such as counseling and financial aid, as part of Seneca’s commitment to the Indigenous Education Protocol. In addition to cultural responsiveness, CITE is home to state-of-the-art engineering and robotics labs as well as an entrepreneurial incubator for students and industry leaders. Located on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the 274,000-square-foot CITE building integrates messaging about indigenous teachings and history throughout, from the punctuated terracotta panels lining the facade that reference Anishinaabe birchbark ‘memory chests’ to the vibrant, indigenous-inspired interior artwork. The relationship between these Indigenous stories with the building’s academic programs are visualized in eight graphic murals created in collaboration with design firm Bruce Mau Design that include a hoop dance, a pow wow, DNA sequencing and a map of the Internet. Related: Perkins + Will’s KTTC building blends beauty and sustainability in Ontario To achieve LEED Gold standards, Perkins and Will wrapped the building in glass to promote reliance on natural light rather than artificial sources. The facade’s punctuated terracotta boxes as well as the south-facing structural colonnade — held up by 13 columns representative of the 13 moons of the lunar cycle — help deflect unwanted solar gain. CITE also features a building integrated solar array, stormwater management cisterns, a biodiverse landscape design, locally sourced, recycled materials wherever possible and increased use of FSC-certified wood finishes for lowered embodied carbon. “CITE presented the perfect opportunity to show how Indigenous knowledge can guide post-secondary education. To provide a more sustainable vision for future innovation, we paired themes like the Internet, space exploration and coding with Indigenous knowledge spanning seven generations,” said Andrew Frontini, principal and design director at Perkins and Will’s Toronto studio. “We organized the structural order of the building elements of the building to support these theme. As you walk through CITE, you encounter overlapping Indigenous and technological stories that initially might speak to different audiences, but over time our hope is that they merge together as one.” + Perkins and Will Images by doublespace photography

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Solar-powered innovation center targets LEED Gold in Toronto

An origami-like CLT roof crowns this office in Japan

April 7, 2020 by  
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When Tokyo-based architectural office UENOA was tasked to design a new office building for structural screws manufacturer SYNEGIC Co., Ltd, the client also asked them to create “advanced architecture that [would] expand the possibilities of wooden structures.” The architects rose to the challenge by experimenting with new ways of using cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels in construction. The result is a sculptural office with a sweeping roof frame built of heavy CLT panels that touches the ground on four sides. Located in Miyagi prefecture north of Tokyo, the new SYNEGIC office building is oriented north to south and spans 834 square meters across two floors. The ground floor of the hexagonal-shaped building is partitioned into a series of rooms for a variety of functions including meetings, offices, storage, bathrooms and technical equipment. In contrast, the cross-shaped second floor does not have partition walls and comprises an open-plan office, conference room and sample room. Related: First CLT Passive House project in Boston breaks ground The highlight of the project is the massive folded roof with exposed trusses. The architects created the structure by connecting flat laminated timber trusses with widths of 105 millimeters — the typical size for lumber used in Japanese houses — to triangular CLT panels. The use of CLT allowed the architects to take advantage of time-saving prefabrication and avoid on-site hardware joinery. The heavy CLT panels used for the roof have also been used as partition walls for bearing vertical loads on the ground floor.  “After thoroughly controlling the texture of the CLT surface just like a marble, we are trying to join screws with consideration of design and workability rather than general CLT hardware,” the architects said. “Through these ambitious processes commensurate with the high cost of CLT, it was possible to realize a large CLT wall in the atrium that has no modules and emphasizes the wooden texture more.” + UENOA Images by Hiroyuki Hirai via UENOA

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An origami-like CLT roof crowns this office in Japan

A sculptural office crowns the solar-powered Stellar building in India

March 17, 2020 by  
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Following four years of design and construction, Mumbai-based design studio Sanjay Puri Architects recently completed Stellar, a solar-powered commercial building in Ahmedabad, India. The building features a striking sculptural office on its northwest side. Constructed with rust-red colored aluminum sheets, the angular office is a focal point for not only the 110-meter-long building but also for the bustling intersection where the building is located. To mitigate the city’s temperatures, which rise to an excess of 95 degrees Fahrenheit for eight months of the year, Stellar features a series of terraces that deflect solar gain. Spanning an area of 18,580 square meters, the multistory building houses retail on its lower three levels and office spaces on the upper four levels. About one-third of the offices open onto landscaped terraces and are set back from the building perimeter to take advantage of solar shading. The terraces are connected to a rainwater harvesting tank that stores runoff for reuse. Solar panels have also been installed on the terraces to harness renewable energy . Related: Sculptural, energy-saving office boasts the “smartest building advances in Germany” The crowning distinction of Stellar is the 500-square-meter office on the building’s northwest side. Surrounded by a spacious, north-facing outdoor terrace, the eye-catching office is wrapped in angular aluminum sheets strategically placed to protect the windows from the sun. Small triangular perforations along the sides of select panels also allow natural light to pass through into the office during the day and are backlit at night to give the office a beautiful, glowing effect. “This office space is deliberately designed to contrast with the rest of the building, creating an interesting juxtaposition of color, volume and geometry in addition to creating an individual identity based upon the brief,” the architects explained. “The simple rectilinear geometry with muted color tones and the complex angular geometry awash with color contrast to create a unique composition.” + Sanjay Puri Architects Photography by Abhishek Shah via Sanjay Puri Architects

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A sculptural office crowns the solar-powered Stellar building in India

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