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

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

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

It takes a village to succeed in climate tech

June 3, 2020 by  
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It takes a village to succeed in climate tech Ben Soltoff Wed, 06/03/2020 – 02:00 Solving climate change depends, to some extent, on technological innovation. The world’s leading climate authority, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published a landmark 2018 report highlighting the urgency of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The report outlines four potential pathways for reaching that goal. The pathways are vastly different, but one thing they have in common is a central role for new technologies, all of which fall under the growing category known as climate tech . Relying on emissions-reducing technology isn’t the same as blind techno-optimism . New technology needs to complement existing solutions, deployed immediately. But the IPCC pathways make clear that the route to mitigation goes through innovation. So, what does it take to turn a societal need into a functional reality? Scientific breakthroughs are only part of the challenge. After that, there’s a long road before solutions can be implemented at scale. They require funding through multiple stages of development, facing many financial and operational risks along the way. There’s a parallel here with the response to COVID-19. Even if a working vaccine is developed, it must go through trials to determine efficacy and the logistical challenge of distribution to billions of people. But a key difference is that effective climate solutions are more varied than a single vaccine and usually more complex. At a webinar last week hosted by Yale, Stanford and other groups, Jigar Shah, co-founder of clean energy financier Generate Capital , noted that climate technologies, unlike medical breakthroughs, must compete with systems already in place.   “In the biotech industry, which I think folks herald as a well-functioning market, once companies reach a certain validation of their technology and approach, there’s a payoff there,” he said. “And in [climate tech], there really isn’t one [in the same way], largely because there are a lot of incumbent technologies that provide electricity, energy, water, food, land and materials.”   The period when a new technology is costly to develop but too early-stage to produce commercial revenue is often called the “Valley of Death” because even promising technologies often fail during this period. Success requires the collaboration of a wide set of partners and investors. As an Environmental Innovation Fellow at Yale, I’ve helped compile insights for investors on overcoming the unique barriers faced by nascent climate technology. Fortunately, many investors are already tackling this challenge.   The new wave of climate tech investors In the early 2000s, there was a well-publicized boom then bust in clean energy investing. According to Nancy Pfund, founder and managing director of impact venture capital firm DBL Partners , much of this interest was from “tourists” looking for an alternative to the dot-com failures earlier in the decade. On a GreenBiz webcast last week, she observed that the current interest in climate tech is markedly different. “Today there’s such a high level of focus, commitment and knowledge on the part of both the entrepreneurs and investors,” she said. Pfund said the interest in climate tech is partially due to the compelling economics of renewable energy compared to alternatives. “There’s been a stunning cost reduction over the past decade,” she said. “This brings in mainstream investors who are just making dollars and cents. They’re not even necessarily waving the climate banner. They want to rebalance their portfolio for the future.” During the same webcast, Andrew Beebe, managing director of Obvious Ventures , noted that an additional factor in the rise of climate tech has been the overwhelming public demand for climate action. “There’s been a societal shift as well,” he said. “In entrepreneurs today and investors, I see an urgency like we’ve never seen before. People are not that interested in doing yet another social media company, unless it has a real impact.” In entrepreneurs today and investors, I see an urgency like we’ve never seen before. It’s important to note here that climate tech takes many forms. There are software solutions that can help reduce emissions and that don’t face the Valley of Death I mentioned earlier. But some of the most critical solutions are physical technologies that require a lot of time and capital to succeed. “You can’t spell hardware without the word ‘hard,’ and everyone knows that,” said Priscilla Tyler, senior associate at True Ventures , at the Yale-Stanford webinar. “Hardware is hard, which isn’t to say it’s impossible. And if anything, in my opinion, it begets more impact and more opportunity.” There are promising signals that climate tech is here to stay. Tyler is part of a group of venture capital investors called Series Green , which meets regularly to discuss climate tech opportunities. Additionally, multiple weekly newsletters share the latest deals in climate tech, and in a recent open letter , a long list of investors confirmed that, despite the COVID-19 economic downturn, they remain committed to climate solutions. Going beyond traditional venture capital A notable climate tech deal that happened last week was the $250 million investment in Apeel Sciences . The California-based company has developed an edible coating for fruits and vegetables that can help to preserve some of the 40 percent of food that normally gets thrown away. Investors in this round included Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Katy Perry. A company such as Apeel doesn’t start out raising hundreds of millions of dollars from large institutional investors and celebrities. At the early stages, many new technologies depend on government grants and philanthropy. Apeel got started with a $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundation in 2012. Apeel coats fruits and vegetables with an edible layer that can is designed to extend shelf life by two to three times. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Apeel Sciences Close Authorship Prime Coalition is an organization that helps foundations deploy philanthropic capital to climate solutions through flexible funding structures that allow for long periods of technology development and multi-faceted risk. It calls these funding sources “catalytic capital,” because they can help unlock other forms of finance further down the line.  In addition to helping others deploy catalytic capital, Prime also makes its own catalytic deals directly through an investment arm called Prime Impact Fund. “We’re looking to support companies that have specific things to be de-risked before they will be attractive to follow on funders, and then we can be the source of that de-risking capital,” said Johanna Wolfson, principal at Prime Impact Fund, at last week’s Yale-Stanford webinar. By collaborating with one another, investors such as Prime can help technologies move through the stages of innovation, until they’re ready for more traditional investment structures. Catalytic capital invested today could help create the next Apeel Sciences several years from now. At each stage, investors serve not only as sources of money but also strategic partners for the startups themselves. This is particularly true for corporate investors, who may have substantial industry knowledge to share and more flexible expectations than traditional investors. There’s a lot more sophistication on part of corporate investors now than there was 10 years ago. “There’s a lot more sophistication on part of corporate investors now than there was 10 years ago,” said Pfund. “Then, you saw the agenda of the corporation being pushed around the board table more than you do today, and that’s never a good idea.” If their interests are aligned, corporations and startups can create mutually beneficial relationships, where each offers the other something that it couldn’t have obtained on its own. “These corporate investors see so many different technologies, and they believe their own products are better than the startup products, so how do you actually get their support?” said Andrew Chung, founder and managing partner of 1955 Capital , on last week’s GreenBiz webcast. “Well, you need to have a widget or product they haven’t seen before or can’t build themselves.” Non-financial support also can be catalytic Investors such as DBL Partners often connect the startups in their portfolio to corporates and other partners. These connections can be hugely valuable for startups, especially in emerging industries where networks are largely informal. While investors’ main role is to provide capital, they also provide many forms of non-financial support, which can be essential to advancing innovation. In addition to connections, they also can help startups to navigate dynamic policy environments at the state and federal level. “Policy plays a pivotal role,” said Pfund. “We don’t invest in policy, we invest in people, but we know that our companies are going to have to address the changing policy landscape.” We don’t invest in policy, we invest in people, but we know that our companies are going to have to address the changing policy landscape. DBL Partners helps to shape the policy landscape by convening roundtable meetings, advocating for legislation and reaching out to regulators in order to help create a more favorable environment for innovation. This sort of engagement is relatively low-cost in the short term, but it can have massive benefits in the long term, especially as new technologies begin to scale up. Shah pointed out that the challenges facing climate tech don’t end once solutions reach commercialization. Nascent technologies still need to be deployed at a large scale to have impact. “A lot of us focus on going from zero to millions,” he said, “but then, in fact, millions to billions is still nascent.” Reaching the necessary scale requires a careful alignment of technological development, market creation, political support and investment across a wide spectrum of capital. “All of these things work together in tandem to really unlock nascent technologies,” Shah said. This story was updated June 4 to correct Apeel’s funding information. Pull Quote In entrepreneurs today and investors, I see an urgency like we’ve never seen before. There’s a lot more sophistication on part of corporate investors now than there was 10 years ago. We don’t invest in policy, we invest in people, but we know that our companies are going to have to address the changing policy landscape. Topics Innovation Climate Tech Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Geothermal-powered bus station will use anti-smog blocks to fight pollution

August 13, 2019 by  
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The Polish city of Lublin will soon be home to an environmentally friendly bus station that not only offers a new and attractive public space, but also combats urban air pollution. Designed by Polish architectural firm Tremend , the Integrated Intermodal Metropolitan Station in Lublin will be built near the train station and aims to revitalize the area around the railway station. The contemporary design, combined with its environmental focus and green features, earned the project a spot on World Architecture Festival’s World Building of the Year shortlist.  Located close to Folk Park, the Integrated Intermodal Metropolitan Station was designed as a visual extension of the neighboring green space with a lush roof garden and large green wall that wraps the northern facade. Greenery is also referenced in the series of sculptural tree-like pillars that support a massive flat roof with large overhanging eaves. Walls of glass create an inviting and safe atmosphere, while the administration rooms will be provided with tinted windows for privacy.  To reduce energy demands, the building will be heated with geothermal energy and outfitted with energy-efficient LEDs . Meanwhile, motion detectors will be used to activate the lighting to ensure energy savings. A rainwater collection and treatment system will also be used to irrigate the plants that create a cooling microclimate and improved air quality. Air quality is further improved with the use of “anti-smog blocks,” a modern photocatalytic material containing titanium dioxide that breaks down toxic fumes.  Related: Cepezed completes the first self-sufficient bus station in the Netherlands “Architecture of public places is evolving in my opinion in a very good direction,” says Magdalena Federowicz-Boule, President of the Tremend Board. “Combining different spaces, open shared zones favors establishing contacts. The communication center, which is to be built in Lublin, is to revive it for revitalization district and become a meeting place where people will be able to meet and spend together time in an attractive environment with green areas. The project is also a response to problems, related to environmental protection and city life, such as smog , water and energy consumption, noise. It is an image of how we perceive the role of ecology in architecture.” + Tremend

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Geothermal-powered bus station will use anti-smog blocks to fight pollution

These biodegradable sweaters ditch fast fashion in favor of sustainable cashmere

June 24, 2019 by  
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With a goal of replacing fast fashion with consciously consumed fashion, Frances Austen’s summer 2019 collection features 100 percent biodegradable sweaters made from sustainably sourced cashmere and silk. After many years in the fashion business, Frances Austen founder Margaret Coblentz was tired of seeing the trends in fast fashion , including a flurry of wasteful production and post-consumer disposal. With the clothing industry consistently falling into the highest-ranking waste production industries, she decided to do something about it with a very basic philosophy — make quality clothing that is versatile and long-lasting. Her goal is to encourage consumers to re-wear clothing, both because it’s good for the planet and because they love what they’re wearing. With that in mind, the luxury product line aims to be both trendy and timeless. Related: H&M releases sustainable fashion line made from fruit and algae “The lightbulb moment was years in the making,” Coblentz said. “After a decade of witnessing firsthand the overproduction of fast fashion that is not re-wearable, recyclable or re-sellable, we decided to do something about it. We saw amazing qualities in luxury fabrics , silk and cashmere, and envisioned game-changing clothing that is 100 percent sexy on you as well as the environment. If you want to help the planet, it starts by re-wearing your clothes, and our aim at Frances Austen is to make that easier for you. All our pieces are made to last, versatile for every occasion and comprised of biodegradable materials and are 100 percent cashmere.” Sustainability begins with the materials used during production, so the yarn comes from specialists in the industry, spun by Cariaggi in Italy. All of the yarn is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, a certification only earned with chemical-free production and high international safety standards. For production, the company partnered with Johnstons of Elgin, a family-owned factory in Scotland. In business for over 200 years, it is the largest employer in the small community of Hawick. Long associated with luxury and an emphasis on craftsmanship, Johnstons of Elgin is a name known for its socially responsible practices. With reliable material and manufacturing partnerships in place, Frances Austen shifted focus to long-lasting durable designs in the sweaters themselves. Dedicated to using the finest fibers (15 micron), the goal of less pilling leads to durability and a softer feel over the life of the garment. Hoping to meet the needs of a range of consumers, the product line includes crop designs, lantern sleeve, raw edge crew and a longer, reversible V-neck in a range of colors from citrine and kiwi to traditional charcoal and soft white. As a result of my interest in writing about the sustainably focused 2019 summer sweater line, Frances Austen sent me a sample sweater to experience. The Reversible V in blush mauve is uniquely designed to allow a deep V front or a stylish V back and crew neck front. In my opinion, this adds to the versatility of the piece, giving it more value as a long-lasting article in my closet. The material is remarkably soft and comfortable on the skin. Time will tell the story of durability, but I’m excited to put it to the test as a staple of my wardrobe for many years to come. + Frances Austen Images via Frances Austen and Dawn Hammon / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product overview and review is not sponsored by Frances Austen. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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These biodegradable sweaters ditch fast fashion in favor of sustainable cashmere

Boston’s mayor announces curbside compost program

June 24, 2019 by  
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Boston’s mayor Marty Walsh wants to know: are you going to compost that? Because chances are you should. Walsh has announced a plan to ensure that 100 percent of compostable waste is diverted from landfills by 2050. According the city’s estimates, 36 percent of the trash that Bostonians are throwing away should be composted and 39 percent should be recycled. This is a huge amount of waste going to the wrong place (landfills or incinerators) and ultimately equates to 6 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions . Related: Washington becomes the first state to allow human composting Mayor Walsh is determined to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and believes an overhaul of the waste services in the city can make major progress in the right direction. The city has requested proposals from companies willing to provide curbside composting services to Boston residents for a subscription fee, which the government plans to subsidize. Right across the Charles River, the neighboring city of Cambridge already started providing free curbside composting for residents last year, but Boston has six times the population. Boston also plans to expand the window of time that yard waste is collected and launch a textile pick-up program. Last year, the city also announced a plan to ban single-use plastic bags throughout the city. “Preparing Boston for climate change means ensuring our city is sustainable, both now and in the future,” Walsh said. “We need to lead and design city policies that work for our residents and for the environment and world we depend upon. These initiatives will lead Boston toward becoming a zero-waste city and invest in the future of residents and generations to come.” To help out with the transition toward zero-waste , Boston received a grant from Cocoa-Cola to increase the number of recycling bins, signage and trash services in city parks. Boston was one of seven cities to receive this pilot funding from Coca-Cola. The switch to a more comprehensive waste system will require re-educating Bostonians about how to recycle and what to compost. The city’s website recommends residents download the city’s free “ Trash Day ” app, with which users can look up specific items and learn exactly how to dispose of them. Via Curbed Image via Shutterstock

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Earthling Survey: Will You Embrace Sustainable Eating?

December 19, 2018 by  
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Express your opinion and help drive environmental change. Every week, … The post Earthling Survey: Will You Embrace Sustainable Eating? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earthling Survey: How Much for a Zero-Emission Vehicle?

December 5, 2018 by  
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Earthling Survey: Will Your Next Home Be Larger or Smaller?

November 28, 2018 by  
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Earthling Survey: Will Your Next Home Be Larger or Smaller?

Earthling Survey: What Would You Value Most in a Sustainable Economy?

November 21, 2018 by  
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Survey Results: Plastic or Paper Food Packaging?

November 21, 2018 by  
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Thanks to those of you who responded to last week’s … The post Survey Results: Plastic or Paper Food Packaging? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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