2 gorillas at the San Diego Zoo test positive for COVID-19

January 13, 2021 by  
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Two gorillas have tested positive for COVID-19 for the first time since the pandemic started. The gorillas showed symptoms, including coughing, at the San Diego Zoo last week. The staff took tests, which came back positive early this week. “Despite all our efforts and dedication from our team members to protect the wildlife in our care, our gorilla troop has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2,” said Lisa Peterson, executive director of the zoo. Related: WWF releases report on avoiding the next zoonotic disease pandemic Zoo officials indicated that the animals might have contracted the disease from an asymptomatic member of the staff. Specialists look at this incident as proof that the biggest risk in the transmission of the virus is proximity to the infected party. “The fact that we are just seeing the first evidence of ape exposure now after months of transmission potential for captive and wild apes underscores the importance of proximity, as opposed to contaminated surfaces, as the primary source of infection,” said Thomas R. Gillespie, a disease ecologist and conservation biologist at Emory University. Throughout the pandemic, there have been concerns about the possibility of humans infecting animals and vice versa. There have been some reports of humans passing the virus to pets such as dogs and cats, but there has been no conclusive report to ascertain the risk that animals face. The most severe cases were reported in Europe, where millions of minks on fur farms were culled . In another incident, a tiger at Bronx Zoo in New York City tested positive for the disease in April 2020. Later the same year, four tigers and three lions also tested positive for COVID-19. The news of the San Diego Zoo gorillas contracting the virus is already causing concerns among conservationists. The biggest risk lies in Africa , where the only remaining populations of wild gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees are found. Given that gorillas and other great apes share approximately 95% of the human genome, they are likely to suffer similar effects of the virus as humans. “Confirmation that gorillas are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 does give us more information about how the pandemic may affect these species in native habitats where they come into contact with humans and human materials,” the zoo said in a statement. “By working with health officials, conservationists, and scientists to document this case, we will be expanding our knowledge about this potential challenge so that we can develop steps to protect gorillas in the forests of Africa.” + San Diego Zoo Via Mongabay Image via San Diego Zoo

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2 gorillas at the San Diego Zoo test positive for COVID-19

The year ahead for water: The Roaring ’20s and creative destruction

January 7, 2021 by  
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The year ahead for water: The Roaring ’20s and creative destruction Will Sarni Thu, 01/07/2021 – 01:00 A recent issue of the Economist featured an article titled ” The Plague Year: The Year When Everything Changed ” (subscription required). Few will be surprised by this title. However, aside from the COVID-19 reflections, the article provides insights about lessons learned from several events from the early part of the last century. The article explains, “The horrors of the first world war and the ‘Spanish Flu’ were followed by the Roaring Twenties, which can be characterized by risk-taking social, industrial and artistic novelty.” In the U.S., Warren Harding built his 2020 campaign around “normalcy.” What unfolded was not a return to normal. According to the Economist, the survivors of the Spanish Flu and the first world war left survivors with “an appetite to live the 1920s at speed.” While making predictions for 2021 would be a fool’s errand, I am willing to place a bet that our view of water, including the more traditional view of the water sector — think utilities, solutions providers, NGOs — will not return to normal. And, frankly, we shouldn’t go back. The water sector from a technology, business model and funding perspective will be transformed, driven by lessons learned from the pandemic but also due to the natural rhythm of “creative destruction.” 2021 and creative destruction I believe this is the year where creative destruction will transform the water sector and our view of water. In the early 20th century, economist Joseph Schumpeter described the dynamic pattern in which innovative entrepreneurs unseat established firms through a process he called “creative destruction.” According to Schumpeter, and discussed in detail in ” The Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction ,” the entrepreneur not only creates invention but also creates competition from a new commodity, new technology, new source of supply and a new type of organization. The entrepreneur creates competition, “which commands a decisive cost or quality advantage and which strikes not at the margins of the profits and the outputs of the existing firms but at their foundations and their very lives.” This innovation propels the economy with “gales of creative destruction,” which “incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” Schumpeter’s view of creative destruction was applied to the emerging trend of sustainability in 1999 by Stuart L. Hart and Mark B. Milstein in their article, ” Global Sustainability and the Creative Destruction of Industries.” This is the article that got me curious about the cycles of creative destruction and its relevance to the water sector. For me, the key point from Hart and Milstein is that with technological innovation there is a dramatic transformation in institutions and society. The technology innovation — and, in turn transformation in institutions and in society — create profound challenges to incumbent businesses. Historically, these incumbents (the installed base) “have not been successful in building the capabilities needed to secure a position in the new competitive landscape.” One additional point about disruption, a term used frequently without distinction from innovation. Disruptive innovation “describes a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge the incumbent business.” Innovative companies disrupt incumbents by successfully gaining a foothold by delivering functionality frequently at a lower price while incumbents chase higher profitability in more demanding segments and tend not to respond effectively.   Advancing the water sector with disruptive innovation What does creative destruction and disruptive innovation mean for the water sector? I believe it will, in general, be the democratization of water. It will be an “end run” around the public sector, infrastructure and traditional financing of innovations to deliver universal and equitable access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. The creative destruction of water will include real-time and actionable information on water quantity and quality and increased access to capital to scale innovative solutions. A few examples of disruptive innovations we might anticipate for 2021 and this decade include: Digital technologies such as earth observation systems (satellite data analytics) for real-time water quality and quantity evaluations for watersheds, source water and asset management; real-time water quality monitoring at the tap; and artificial intelligence, inexpensive sensors and virtual reality/augmented reality applications to improve the management of utility and industrial assets and resource use Innovative business models and financing such as water as a service for outsourcing water conservation and treatment; or crowdfunding startups, projects and programs to supplement or serve as an alternative to traditional sources of investment capital Democratizing access to safe drinking water such as air moisture capture Decentralizing water treatment and reuse systems at the residential and community scale The water sector is poised to undergo a “gale of creative destruction” to a large degree by the pandemic. The accelerated transition to using digital technologies is also an enabling tool, in addition to providing readily accessible actionable information to the general population. I believe we are now entering the Roaring ’20s for water. Topics Water Efficiency & Conservation Innovation Featured Column Liquid Assets Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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The year ahead for water: The Roaring ’20s and creative destruction

4 alternative protein trends to watch in 2021

January 4, 2021 by  
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4 alternative protein trends to watch in 2021 Jesse Klein Mon, 01/04/2021 – 01:30 It is highly probable your children will be vegans eating a Christmas ham Dec. 25, 2050. Alternative proteins will be the norm very soon and we might look back at this decade as the time when real shift in diets occurred.  Don’t believe me? Here are a few stats. Venture capital invested $1.5 billion in alternative proteins in 2020. The plant-based meat market is predicted to grow from $3.6 billion in 2020 to $4.2 billion by 2021 . And by 2040, 60 percent of meat sales will be plant-based or cultured meat products.  Every movement has the trends that significantly shape its future and others that quickly die and are forgotten. Here are four trends for 2021 that are expected to last beyond the initial excitement.  1. Fermentation is king  Fermentation, using genetically engineered microbes to mass-produce plant-based proteins, is on the verge of dramatically altering our protein food system. The value of fermentation lies in the system’s simplicity, effectiveness and flexibility to be used across food categories. Perfect Day uses fermentation to make dairy-like products while startups such as Clara Foods are focusing on egg substitutes . And there is about to be even more competition. According to a Prepared Foods report , 44 new fermentation companies launched in late 2019 and early 2020, a 91 percent increase compared to 2018.  But it looks like there will be plenty of money to go around. Even as COVID-19 upended global markets, alternative protein companies focusing on fermentation raised $435 million in venture capital by July, 58 percent more than in 2019. High-profile investors such as Al Gore and Bill Gates got in on the 2020 action, leading an $80 million investing round for Nature’s Fynd in March. And in December, Nature’s Fynd added $45 million from Oxford Finance and Trinity Capital. The company uses microbes found in Yellowstone National Park’s famous geysers to grow a protein with all nine amino acids. As we move to 2021 and beyond, fermentation technology likely will become a pillar of the alternative protein supply chain.  2. A move to direct-to-consumer In early 2020, some premier alternative protein companies had restaurant-only strategies. Impossible Foods had chefs such as David Chang serving the burger at its trendy restaurants. Soon after, the focus expanded into fast-food chains. But when the pandemic shut down restaurants, it expedited a shift to grocery stores and even direct-to-consumer purchasing.  You can buy Impossible’s ground “beef” at 15,000 Safeways, Krogers, Trader Joe’s and many other grocery stores across the country. Beyond Meat, which was in grocery stores before Impossible, can be shipped directly to your door. Impossible Foods also created a shop section on its website, bypassing the grocery store middlemen completely.  Eclipse , a vegan ice cream company based in the Bay Area, shifted from partnerships with popular ice cream shops such as Salt & Straw to chef collaborations on limited-edition pints ice cream lovers can buy directly from Eclipse online. Next year, alternative protein companies will continue to take the pandemic’s lessons to heart by giving consumers the convenience of direct purchasing while the companies get to rake in dollars without the help of restaurants or grocers. Atlast and Meati are two companies using precise mushroom cultivation to produce whole cut substitutes that taste and act like the real heterogenous meat versions. Photo by  Ksenia Lada  on Shutterstock. 3. An opportunity in whole cuts  While the alternative protein industry has made huge strides in the areas of ground beef and processed products such as chicken nuggets or fish sticks, a huge section of the meat market that has yet to be successfully tapped into is whole cuts. In fact, according to a USDA agricultural marketing and economic report , about 80 percent of meat purchases are whole cuts such as chicken breasts, steaks and loins. In 2021, the alternative protein industry will need to focus on innovating in this very valuable part of the market. Some are already doing it and planning on coming to market with consumer products next year. Atlast and Meati use precise mushroom cultivation to produce whole cut substitutes that taste and act like the real heterogenous meat versions.  “The way we make bacon is the equivalent of making mushroom pork belly,” said Eben Bayer, CEO of Atlast. “We grow this blob of mushroom like a big piece of meat, and we run it right through a conventional pork slicer.” To create bacon that has different layers and doesn’t act like a standard mushroom, Atlast tightly controls and changes environmental factors such as airflow and temperature during the growing process to create mushroom sections that taste fattier and other sections that get crispy to create that true bacon experience. While the industry inches towards whole cuts in 2021, the companies that figure out how to make convincing plant versions of steaks, chicken breasts and hams at scale will have cracked the alternative protein market wide open. 4. A focus on non-allergenic substitutes  Many standard ingredients for alternative proteins are soy, oats, legumes and nuts. These are also some common allergens. One percent of the U.S. population is allergic to nuts. And estimates suggest up to 6 percent of the population has a gluten sensitivity, along with the many who have jumped on the trend of cutting out gluten without any intolerance. Legume allergies, such as peanuts and soy, are also frequent. In 2021, the industry will need to start creating products that cater to this demographic. Going vegan or vegetarian for people with allergens can be extremely difficult and limiting. Soy and gluten-free vegan options such as Sophie’s Kitchen seafood products or Atlantic Natural Foods’ Neat Meat will be important in making alternative proteins accessible to everyone.  Topics Food & Agriculture Alternative Protein Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The plant-based meat market is predicted to grow from $3.6 billion in 2020 to $4.2 billion by 2021 . Photo by Line Tscherning for  LikeMeat on Unsplash .

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4 alternative protein trends to watch in 2021

5 sustainable packaging developments to watch in 2021

January 4, 2021 by  
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5 sustainable packaging developments to watch in 2021 Meg Wilcox Mon, 01/04/2021 – 01:15 For companies with sustainable packaging goals, 2025 is fast approaching. That’s the year when many have pledged to become zero waste, or to use 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging. But COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in those plans, with single-use packaging skyrocketing, low fossil fuel prices and disrupted recycling systems, already weakened by China’s 2018 plastics waste ban.  Yet, at the same time, the pandemic has led to a surge in environmental and sustainability awareness by showing how much carbon emissions can drop, or wildlife can flourish, when the world’s economic engine slows down.  As TerraCycle founder and CEO, Tom Szaky, put it, “The world is waking up, but the systems that are there that allow them to act are going the other way. There’s this divergence, which is a great opportunity for anyone who can bridge the gap.” Bridging that gap with novel solutions and collaborations, in a race against the clock, is one of five key themes to keep an eye on for sustainable packaging in 2021.  1. A year for reckoning — and opportunity In September, Waste Management published a report identifying gaps in the plastics recycling system, in response to shareholder pressure from As You Sow and Trillium Asset Management. The report provided a bit of a roadmap for 2021, according to Nina Goodrich, director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and executive director of GreenBlue. It was critical for helping stakeholders understand the system, the supply chain, and the role that emerging tech will play, and it “provided the environment for everyone to buckle down and say, ‘Uh-oh, how are we going to do this?’” she said. That is, how will stakeholders meet their recycling goals? Noting, for example, that the report revealed that only 30 percent of PET is collected, and most of that goes into fiber, Goodrich queried, “How does one create a system where there’s 100 percent recycled content and recyclability when you have more than one market demanding that material?” Clearly, stakeholders will have to get out of their silos and collaborate across sectors.  Although it’s a challenging time, with companies’ 2025 sustainable packaging goals coming due and the recycling market in disarray, Szaky said he believes that 2021 will be an interesting year: “We’re going to see a lot of people leaning in on these topics in a way they haven’t before.”  For Loop, the reusable packaging platform that allows consumers to buy goods in durable packaging and return it to producers after use, that means opportunity. “It’s a pretty exciting time for us,” Szaky told GreenBiz. “We’re booming.”  2. Reuse models will continue to grow Loop is fast growing, raising $25 million last year. It’s moving into quick service restaurants including Burger King, McDonald’s and Tim Hortons in 2021. “The big theme for next year is retailers are starting to do in-store quite aggressively,” said Szaky. Carrefour already has begun in France. Many of the other 15 retailers that Loop works with are starting store rollouts in six countries in 2021, according to Szaky. Loop isn’t the only reusable packaging platform seeing strong growth. Algramo expanded into New York City last summer. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Algramo Close Authorship Plenty of new reuse pilots are springing up, such as Good Goods, a New York City startup that incentivizes customers to return their wine bottles to the point of sale, or the dozens of other projects summarized in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation report, ” Reuse — Rethinking Packaging .”  In fact, experimentation is the name of the game with reuse models, according to Kate Daly, managing director at Closed Loop Partners.  “We’re very much in an age of experimentation, and need to continually interrogate what are the unintended consequences when you switch from one system to another,” said Daly. “We really want to make sure that sustainable choices like reusable packaging aren’t just limited for people who can pay extra for their goods.” Also key is ensuring that reusables get the longest life and largest recapture rate, and that they’re recyclable and recoverable at the end of their life. To foster learning about what works and doesn’t work, Closed Loop Partners will release a report this month on its 2020 pilot initiative with Cup Club, a NextGen Cup Challenge awardee, and its experience marketing reusable cups across multiple cafes in the Bay Area.   3. Compostable packaging finds a niche with food waste Biopolymers and compostable materials are quickly becoming an alternative to disposable packaging, but there’s a confusing array of materials being developed. Some bio-based materials such as bio-PET are derived from biological materials, but are not biodegradable. Meanwhile, other bio-based materials such as PLA, (polylactic acid), a natural polymer made from corn starch or sugar cane, is biodegradable, although not in the way a consumer might assume it to be.  To help brands and others understand the fast-evolving landscape of bio-based materials, Closed Loop Partner’s released ” Navigating Plastic Alternatives in a Circular Economy .” We’re very much in an age of experimentation, and need to continually interrogate what are the unintended consequences when you switch from one system to another. Among its conclusions, the report finds that compostable alternatives are not a silver-bullet solution, in part because there is not enough recovery infrastructure to recapture their full value efficiently. Plus, among the 185 commercial composting facilities that exist, many don’t accept compostable-certified packaging.  “We have to rethink where composting is appropriate and where it isn’t. It is a really good solution where you have food waste,” Goodrich said. Daly agrees: “What we wouldn’t want to see is any format that is being successfully recycled being converted to a compostable format when there isn’t the infrastructure possible. That would create a misalignment between the material and infrastructure that would exacerbate the challenges already in place today.” 4. Extended producer responsibility takes off Last month, the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) and Product Stewardship Association (PSI) released a joint statement calling for extended producer responsibility at the end of life for flexible packaging and paper. The statement lays out eight policy elements that could go into legislation, including a mechanism for producer funding for collection, transportation and processing of packaging, among other critical funding needs for municipal recycling facilities.  “With this agreement, FPA member companies and PSI member governments, companies, and organizations have started down a path together to provide desperately needed fiscal relief for municipalities while fixing and expanding our national reuse and recycling system,” said Scott Cassel, PSI’s chief executive officer and founder, in a press release.   Goodrich called it “groundbreaking.”  Remarkably, FPA wasn’t the only industry association to step up on extended producer responsibility. The Recycling Partnership released ” Accelerating Recycling ,” a policy proposal outlining fees that brands and packaging producers would pay that would help fund residential recycling infrastructure and education. A proposed per-ton disposal fee could be required at landfills, incinerators and waste-to-energy plants, with the revenue going to local governments for recycling programs. The American Chemistry Council also came out with a position paper supporting packaging fees across multiple material types, in addition to disposal fees to equalize the costs of disposal versus recycling. “Two years ago, you couldn’t even mention this, and now you have a series of industry proposals being put on the table. That is incredibly significant,” said Goodrich.  5. Rising action to eliminate toxics from food packaging Amazon was the latest among more than half a dozen major food retailers — from Whole Foods to Trader Joe’s to Ahold Delhaize — to announce a ban on certain toxic chemicals and plastics in food packaging materials. The new restrictions apply to Amazon Kitchen brand products sold through the tech giant’s various grocery services, but not to other private-label or Amazon brand-name food contact materials, such as single-use plates.  Still, it’s a good start. And Amazon’s actions “send a strong signal to competing grocery store chains that they need to get their act together, and also tackle some of the same chemicals of concern that scientists are sounding the alarm on,” Mike Schade, campaign director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, Mind the Store, told GreenBiz. We really see a sense of urgency around these issues, as plastic production continues, as more and more materials are lost to landfill that we’re not able to recapture as a valuable resource. Schade has seen rising attention over the past few years on the part of both food retailers and fast casual restaurants, such as Sweet Green, towards not only banning specific chemicals, but also restricting classes of chemicals.  Getting toxics out of packaging, in flexible films in particular, was also on the agenda at a 2020 RCD Packaging Innovation workshop that brought together 80 representatives from consumer brands, waste managers and the plastics industry over a nine-month period. Such attention on toxics is critical, as a comprehensive report on the health impacts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in packaging and other plastics materials underscored last month. Bisphenol A, phthalates, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and dioxins are among the chemicals that disturb the body’s hormone systems, and can cause cancer, diabetes and reproductive disorders, and harm children’s developing brains. Expect more food retailers and fast casual restaurants to ban or restrict endocrine-disrupting chemicals from their packaging. But, as Schade point out, those chemicals are just the “tip of the toxic iceberg.” Much more work is needed to get to the larger universe of chemicals.  More work is needed all around in 2021 to advance a circular economy. “We really see a sense of urgency around these issues, as plastic production continues, as more and more materials are lost to landfill that we’re not able to recapture as a valuable resource,” said Daly. “And the approaches must be collaborative and systemic. None of us can do this alone.”  Pull Quote We’re very much in an age of experimentation, and need to continually interrogate what are the unintended consequences when you switch from one system to another. We really see a sense of urgency around these issues, as plastic production continues, as more and more materials are lost to landfill that we’re not able to recapture as a valuable resource. Topics Design & Packaging Circular Economy Circular Packaging Packaging Plastic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Rawpixel.com Close Authorship

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5 sustainable packaging developments to watch in 2021

3 circular economy trends that defined 2020

December 21, 2020 by  
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3 circular economy trends that defined 2020 Lauren Phipps Mon, 12/21/2020 – 00:15 As the year comes to a (welcome) close, it’s worth taking a moment to consider how the circular economy concept has emerged and evolved during this very particular year. Here are three trends that defined the circular economy in 2020, and what they might mean for the year to come.  1. Reuse is on the rise. Despite some setbacks posed by the pandemic (including misinformation about the safety of reusables peddled by industry lobbying groups), the transition from single-use to reusable packaging is building real momentum. With such proof points as Loop’s continued growth and recent $25 million Series A , Algramo’s New York expansion and the launch of the Beyond the Bag initiative, to name a few, it’s clear that reuse is taking hold at scale.  In 2021, I’ll be watching CPG and food and beverage companies, which have been scrutinized for one-off pilots and an overall failure to move quickly enough towards commitments to make all packaging recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025. If brands and retailers intend to fulfill their public commitments, we’ll need to see real investment in reuse platforms and systems in the year ahead.  2. Metrics begin to materialize. This year saw the launch of new tools and standards to calculate and track the circular nature of products, business and systems. Notably, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development released the Circular Transition Indicators and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched the Circulytics tool; GRI established a new standard on waste ; and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute released the fourth version of its product standard . The bright and shiny narrative of the circular economy’s promise will lose its luster without verified data and material evidence to show that circular is indeed better, and these tools are a step in the right direction.  Next year, I expect to see an emphasis on reporting and consistency of data behind various claims, as well as an effort to fold circular economy metrics into existing sustainability and ESG frameworks. I also will be looking for more actionable datasets and analysis on the link between climate change and the circular economy, and opportunities to mitigate carbon emissions using circular economy strategies.  3. It’s (still) all about plastic. Plastic continues to be the star of the show when it comes to the global conversation about materials management and circular economy solutions. The topic is top of mind for most of us given the increased demand for single-use everything amid the pandemic, which has led to a surge in plastic waste entering into waterways and oceans. But this year also offered a collective leveling-up of our data-backed knowledge and understanding about the flows and intervention points that could stem the tide on plastic pollution.  While source reduction continues to be the No. 1 solution to the global plastic waste crisis, many companies continue to solely address end-of-life management — notably in chemical recycling technologies for plastics packaging and synthetic textiles .  2021 is sure to bring continued tension between the problem of plastic waste and the problem of plastic production and use. I’ll be keeping my eye on the policy landscape and the balance between upstream action and accountability alongside downstream solutions.   This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, Circular Weekly, running Fridays. Subscribe here . Topics Circular Economy Reuse Plastic Featured Column In the Loop Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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3 circular economy trends that defined 2020

VF Corp leans in to the circular economy and regenerative ag

December 16, 2020 by  
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VF Corp leans in to the circular economy and regenerative ag Deonna Anderson Wed, 12/16/2020 – 09:58 With about 20 brands such as The North Face, Vans and Timberland under its umbrella — including its recent acquisition of popular streetwear brand Supreme — VF Corporation is big. The company had approximately 48,000 employees at the end of its 2020 fiscal year, which ended on March 28, according to its most recent annual report , and revenue during that year was $10.5 billion.  With that much reach, VF Corp has the opportunity — and responsibility — to be intentional about how it manages the lifecycle of the garments it designs, produces and sells. “Because of our scale, we know it’s our responsibility to address textile waste and then overall be thinking about how to keep products in use for the long term, and to design out waste from the beginning,” said Jeannie Renne-Malone, who has served as the vice president of global sustainability at VF Corp since Sept. 2019. In November, I met up with Renne-Malone on Zoom to chat about how the apparel and footwear giant works with all its brands to zero in on opportunities to deepen their work toward the collective sustainability goals, how VF Corp is thinking about its 2030 science-based targets and its focus on improving how it sources its materials. For example, back in May,  Timberland announced that it planned to introduce a collection of boots using regenerative leather sourced from Thousand Hills Lifetime Grazed ranches, which have 600,000 acres that have been transitioned to regenerative practices. “One of our biggest opportunities is regenerative agriculture,” Renne-Malone said. “We’re really looking at regenerative agriculture as a way to scale opportunities across all our brands, and then possibly partnerships with other industries as we move forward.” Following is a transcript of our conversation. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. Deonna Anderson: I want to talk about your science-based targets at VF Corp. You set those about a year ago now. Can share some insights about the process of setting the targets and if there’s been any progress working towards those in the last year? Jeannie Renne-Malone: It’s been a full year since we announced them. We took a couple of years to develop a really in-depth baseline. Our baseline is from 2017, and that covers our entire value chain. We collected data from across our Scope 1 and Scope 2 sources, all of our energy consumption and so forth. And then, for our Scope 3 emissions, which is our largest impact, we collected data from our contracted factories, from logistics and across our entire value chain. We worked [with] the consultant, the Carbon Trust, to develop our baseline and to develop the modeling used to help us set up the targets themselves. Because of our scale, we know it’s our responsibility to address textile waste and then overall be thinking about how to keep products in use for the long term, and to design out waste from the beginning. Since last December, we’ve continued to develop our roadmaps across all of our emission sources, and some of them, our Scope 1 and Scope 2, are really a small percentage of our overall impact, really only 1 percent. And we have clear roadmaps to how we will meet all of those targets for Scope 1 and 2. Those are easier, just generally speaking, across all sectors, all industries. Ninety-nine percent of our impact is in our Scope 3 emissions, and of that, we’ve identified that 42 percent comes from raw material extraction, production and manufacturing. And so that’s really where our focus has been over the past year: developing a vision around sustainable materials. At the time that we announced our science-based targets we also announced a bold new sustainable materials vision that by 2030, 100 percent of our top nine materials will originate from recycled, responsibly-sourced renewable or regenerative sources. So that’s really where we’ve been collaborating with the brands to identify some of the long-term innovations, short-term investments that we can make, [and] what kind of partnerships and collaborations we need to invest in to really move us towards that goal. We’ve looked quite a bit at regenerative agriculture… We’re looking at advanced recycling and just to find recycled polyester and different recycled materials. Across all of these different material types, we are working on developing a roadmap that will outline, first in the next two to three years, what we can do in the near term that will really move the needle to get us to that 2030 goal.  Thinking from an apparel perspective, we really only have 20 seasons until 2030 … So we’re thinking about it from that perspective — what material substitutions do we need to make in the next two to three years that will truly start moving that needle that we need to move towards 2030? Anderson: How does VF Corp work with its brands to work toward the collective sustainability goals? It sounds like you touch base with one another and figure out where the opportunities are.  Renne-Malone: Absolutely. Each brand has a sustainability lead, and we collaborate as we are developing both the enterprise-wide initiatives to make sure that the work that is being done at the brands and the strategies and initiatives and goals of the brands ladders up to the overall enterprise-wide strategy. We see VF as really enabling the brands to succeed with their sustainability strategies.  What we’re doing now is leaning in on sustainable raw materials. We’re also really focusing on circularity as one of our major opportunities, and one of our major strategic initiatives. When we think about take-back programs, or recycling infrastructure that needs to be in place to advance us towards our goals, we think about it collectively, of how we can create scalable, enabling opportunities for our brands to succeed in our individual goals. Anderson: Can share about the importance of VF Corp leaning into the circular economy, and why it’s important for an apparel brand, or a company that has a bunch of different apparel-related brands, to be doing that kind of work?   Renne-Malone: I think there’s a couple of reasons. Because of our scale, we know it’s our responsibility to address textile waste and then overall be thinking about how to keep products in use for the long term, and to design out waste to the beginning. From a responsibility perspective, we know that that’s part of our long-term sustainability goal and vision.  We also think about the emerging conscious consumer that not only wants to know where products are made, what was the environmental impact along the way, who made those products, but also what will be done with those products at the end of the day. So when we think about circularity, we think about it in terms of the materials that go into the product initially, the design of the product, designing out waste, and then what will happen to that product at the end of its life. Will it be put back into a re-commerce type of business model? That’s something that we’re testing out with some of our brands. Or can it be designed fully for recyclability?  Like our brand Napapijri was the first apparel brand to get Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold recognition for its circular jacket series . Some of our research shows that 67 percent of Gen Z and Millennials are already making purchasing decisions based on climate change, and that generation of consumers will comprise, I think, two-thirds of the apparel and footwear consumers by 2027. That’s only six years away, so we know that we need to be thinking about the materials, again, that go into our products and designing for circularity from beginning to end to really meet this emerging consumer need.  And there’s also the conscious consumer that is really buying less stuff. We want to make sure that we’re designing with durability and also with providing options to sell on the re-commerce market such as our North Face Renewed platform. Designers from The North Face at a workshop at the Renewal Workshop in October 2019. Media Authorship The North Face Close Authorship Anderson: Pivoting a bit, I know you were on the2020 GreenBiz Badass Women’s List earlier this year. The mini-profile about you mentions the circular economy experiments that your brands are doing, your public policy efforts and the science-based targets, which we’ve already talked about. But I’m curious about what VF Corp’s public policy approach looks like. Renne-Malone: Our brands have been engaged with policymakers for some time. The North Face has been doing quite a bit around policy. And what’s exciting is more recently we’ve developed a set of guardrails at the VF level to really think through what kind of policies are under development or that we would like developed that we can use our voice to encourage that they move forward. And we’ve identified those that really align with our publicly-stated goals. We’re thinking about policies around sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, circularity, recycling infrastructure … what we would see as incentives to advance our programs across not just the U.S. but also in Europe. We see the EU New Green Deal as an opportunity to really see incentives for many of the programs that we’re advancing globally. And then, of course, there’s the side benefits of job creation and reduced greenhouse gas emissions …   We have an established government affairs program that engages with us to identify those opportunities for direct engagement but also to kind of keep tabs on what policies are emerging, and where we can lean in and we’ll use our voice to help hopefully this even come to fruition.  I would just add that overall what we’re really trying to do is help advocate for a climate-resilient recovery from COVID and just, moving forward, it’s so important in that we think that our advocacy efforts could really lend to that effort.  Anderson: That is a good segue to my next question, which is about the pandemic. How has the pandemic made an impact on VF Corp’s sustainability strategy? Renne-Malone: If anything, we see that it’s almost helped us accelerate our strategy, and we’re really doubling down on our commitment during and after the pandemic. And this is a result of a couple of things. One, we’re a people-first company, or a purpose-led company, and we’ve had a people-first approach to addressing COVID. And that’s actually caught the attention of investors.  There was a Barron’s most sustainable corporations list that was released in February, and we were 21 on the original list. And then they reissued it based on social factors. And then we ended up number one on the list after they reevaluated their criteria and their weighting. We were super excited about that, and I think it really lends to the fact that from a sustainability and ESG perspective our investors are really listening to us. That’s one stakeholder that I think has really caught the attention of what we’ve been doing through the pandemic. Anderson: You mentioned that VF Corp has a people-first approach. What does that look like in practice when it comes to your stewardship and social responsibility efforts? Renne-Malone: A couple of different things — we have a deep tie to the environment because of the nature of our brand. Having a set of outdoor, activewear brands really gives us that deep connection to the environment. And I think that’s really evident with our brands like The North Face and Timberland, for example, that all of them have a deep connection to ensure a sustainable future for next generations. And then I’ll add that we’re purpose-led and performance-driven, and what I mean by that is the better we perform as a company, the more resources we’ll have to activate our purpose, which creates value for our stakeholders. So I start there to kind of paint the picture that performance is super important to us too, and it all ties together.  We have a foundation that, over the course of the pandemic, has donated over $10 million to different organizations [focused on the] outdoors. We have a deep tie to the environment because of the nature of our brand. Having a set of outdoor, activewear brands really gives us that deep connection to the environment. And then we also have a program that’s primarily focused on our supply chain. It’s called the Worker and Community Development Program, where one of our colleagues leads an effort to identify projects that will benefit the workers and the communities around our contracted factories.  And so one example — which I love this one — it’s called Vision Spring. And it’s a program in India where we’ve identified a nonprofit that will give eye exams to factory workers and then provide eyeglasses if needed. And so that’s a real benefit improving a quality of life, not only for their work within the factory, but also overall when your vision is improved, it just improves your quality of life overall. So we really look at different opportunities to invest in our communities. Anderson: What do you feel is your most important priority as the vice president of global sustainability right now?  Renne-Malone: My scope of my work is really focused on environmental sustainability … but there is such a connection between people and planet that everything we do to address climate change and environmental stewardship really ties to creating benefits for people. And I just feel this sense of urgency — not to get on my soapbox, but we can’t ignore what’s happening around us in the middle of this climate crisis and an ecosystem crisis and a health crisis. I really think this is our opportunity and our responsibility to continue to amplify the work that we’re doing in an even more focused way, and to really look for opportunities for partnership, collaboration, innovation, not only within our own industry but across other industries.  I do think now it’s even more important to think about the intersection of the climate crisis, environmental justice, social equity, racial equality and health. I think the solutions we’ve identified will really address those issues as we are also trying to reduce our impacts. So as we’re thinking about circular economy, waste, regenerative agriculture, renewable energy, we know there are all these ancillary benefits to people along the way.  I guess overall I’m very passionate and focused on our action around climate change, and really it’s my own personal purpose to look at those intersections between the social responsibility and environmental stewardship. And so super-proud to work for a company that has a purpose of betterment of people and the planet. Pull Quote Because of our scale, we know it’s our responsibility to address textile waste and then overall be thinking about how to keep products in use for the long term, and to design out waste from the beginning. We have a deep tie to the environment because of the nature of our brand. Having a set of outdoor, activewear brands really gives us that deep connection to the environment. Topics Corporate Strategy Circular Economy Fashion Apparel Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Lambertt Close Authorship

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VF Corp leans in to the circular economy and regenerative ag

Can California’s cap and trade address environmental justice?

December 16, 2020 by  
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Can California’s cap and trade address environmental justice? Julia Rosen Wed, 12/16/2020 – 01:30 Growing up in North Richmond, California, Denny Khamphanthong didn’t think much of the siren that wailed once a month at 11 a.m. every first Wednesday. The alarm is a test of the community’s emergency warning system, which has alerted residents to numerous incidents over the years at the nearby Chevron oil refinery. One accident there —  a 2012 fire  — sent a cloud of black smoke billowing over San Francisco Bay and left thousands of local residents struggling to breathe. Now, when Khamphanthong explains the sound to his young nieces, he sees the fear in their eyes. “I forget that this isn’t normal,” he says. Nor is the fact that Khamphanthong and most of his childhood friends carried inhalers. Richmond, a diverse, industrial city where housing prices and incomes have lagged behind its Bay Area neighbors, has poor air quality and some of the highest rates of respiratory and cardiovascular disease in California. “There’s a lot of beautiful things that happen out of [Richmond],” says Khamphanthong, a community organizer with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network whose family emigrated from Laos in the 1980s. “But at the same time, when you look at the reality of it, it is sad.” Pollution, poverty and race collide in many other disadvantaged communities across California — and the country — and some argue that the state’s climate policies haven’t helped. While California already has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent since their peak in 2004, many residents still suffer from high levels of air pollution — much of it produced by fossil fuels. In particular, controversy has dogged California’s cap-and-trade policy , which took effect in 2013 and regulates roughly 450 entities accounting for 85 percent of California’s emissions. The system works by setting a limit on the total amount of greenhouse gases released by refineries, power plants and other large emitters, and requires polluters to obtain permits to cover their share. The overall “cap” lowers every year, forcing polluters to reduce their emissions or purchase allowances from others who do. Environmental justice activists say the cap and trade program has not served California’s disadvantaged communities, and particularly communities of color, where many facilities operate. Economists, environmentalists and policymakers — many of them white — tout cap and trade as a cost-effective way to cut emissions while generating money for other climate initiatives. But environmental justice activists say the program has not served California’s disadvantaged communities, and particularly communities of color, where many facilities operate. In their eyes, it doesn’t do enough to address climate change and allows emitters to continue polluting the air in the meantime. For example, state records suggest that the Chevron Richmond Refinery, one of California’s largest emitters, released more greenhouse gases in 2017 and 2018 — the last years for which data are publicly available — than it has since 2008. And in several recent years, it emitted as much or more of certain air pollutants . It also dramatically has increased the volume of gas flared off as waste — another source of harmful compounds . (Representatives from Chevron said that flaring was related to a new hydrogen plant coming online, and that the refinery has made significant investments in reducing emissions of air pollutants over the past 40 years.) To many, cap and trade highlights a contradiction. “You’re hearing all this great stuff about how amazing your governor and your state is on climate leadership,” says Lucas Zucker, policy and communications director at the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy . But “it doesn’t feel like anything is changing.” As the United States reckons with its long legacy of racial injustice and the increasingly devastating consequences of climate change, questions about the efficacy and fairness of cap and trade have taken on greater urgency than ever. But seven years on, researchers, regulators and activists are still arguing about how California’s most famous climate policy has affected its most vulnerable residents — and how to do better. The air Climate change is usually seen as a global problem. But its effects are profoundly local, and often refract through long-standing patterns of inequality and racism. In the U.S. and elsewhere, low-income residents and people of color shoulder an outsized share of the climate burden. They face greater risks from heat waves , floods and other climate-related impacts. And they have suffered collateral damage from the harmful pollutants produced by using fossil fuels. As the U.S. reckons with its long legacy of racial injustice and the increasingly devastating consequences of climate change, questions about the efficacy and fairness of cap and trade have taken on greater urgency than ever. These pollutants, which include particulate matter, nitrogen and sulfur oxides, and toxic substances such as benzene, have been linked to health problems ranging from respiratory disorders to reproductive problems to cancer. Numerous studies show that polluting facilities and their emissions tend to concentrate in disadvantaged communities. “Me and my five cousins, we all have asthma,” says Abe Francis, 15, of Sacramento. When Francis was young, doctors prescribed him medication because they feared he might stop breathing in his sleep. He still struggles to catch his breath when he plays basketball at the park. “It’s incredibly scary for me,” says Francis, who is African American. According to CalEnviroScreen , the system the state uses to identify at-risk populations, his neighborhood falls in the highest fifth of pollution-affected communities in California. It ranks in the 94th percentile for poverty and roughly 90 percent of residents are people of color. Chemical plant in Wilmington, a city in California’s Los Angeles County. Shutterstock Angel DiBilio Close Authorship   In Wilmington, a predominantly Latino community in south Los Angeles, Dulce Altamirano says her children and grandchildren suffer from headaches, rashes, nosebleeds, and respiratory problems caused by pollution. “The air quality is very bad,” 45-year-old Altamirano says in Spanish, with a sigh. “I personally have many problems with breathing, with my throat. … There have been times when my husband wanted to call the paramedics.” The city sits among numerous refineries, oil wells and storage facilities, shipping ports and high-traffic roads, and some neighborhoods rank in the top 10th of CalEnviroScreen scores. Climate policies present an opportunity to address these issues because greenhouse gases and harmful air pollutants often come from the same sources, such as industrial smokestacks and vehicle tailpipes. In fact, when California passed its landmark 2006 climate law  — which directed the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020 —  supporters claimed that it would save thousands of lives through improved air quality alone. But environmental justice advocates grew concerned that these benefits would not be equally distributed when the California Air Resources Board (CARB) decided to adopt a cap-and-trade program as part of its strategy to implement the law. CARB turned to cap and trade in part because it had broad support from both environmental groups and industry players, and was already in use by a coalition of East Coast states and the European Union to tackle greenhouse gases. (In 2014, Quebec joined California’s market and several other states and countries have considered or adopted their own versions in recent years.) However, community activists worried that the system would allow companies to find ways to keep emitting, particularly in disadvantaged neighborhoods. “Anytime to you have that kind of pay-to-pollute scheme, the communities that already were being sacrificed — that becomes a business decision,” Zucker says. Some evidence suggests that these fears have come true. A 2018 study led by Lara Cushing , now at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that more than half of the facilities covered under cap and trade actually increased their in-state emissions during the first three years of the program. These facilities were also more likely to be in disadvantaged communities. (In-state emissions were offset by purchasing cleaner power and carbon credits from other projects that reduced emissions elsewhere.) A 2019 report by the environmental group Food and Water Watch found similar results for the East Coast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — a cap-and-trade program that regulates the power sector. However, a new analysis by economists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, paints a slightly brighter picture in California. The researchers used a model to simulate how pollution spreads in the atmosphere to study how emissions translate to exposure. Like others, they found glaring disparities between disadvantaged communities and their whiter, more prosperous neighbors. But while this so-called environmental justice gap increased in the years before cap and trade took effect, it fell by 20 to 30 percent afterwards in the areas where facilities were covered by the program. The California studies, which took different approaches, do not offer a clear answer about whether cap and trade has helped or harmed disadvantaged communities in the state. Both had to wrestle with outside factors that affected emissions, such as the Great Recession and California’s other climate policies. But activists say that an even more important question mostly has gone unasked: What would have happened if California had adopted a different policy altogether? Many feel that their communities would have seen greater progress if the state had regulated emitters directly, says Katie Valenzuela . She grew up in Oildale — a town in a major oil-producing region in California’s Central Valley — and previously served as policy and political director for the California Environmental Justice Alliance . In March, Valenzuela was elected to Sacramento’s City Council District 4, representing midtown and downtown Sacramento and South Land Park. In recent years, state regulators have tried to tackle inequalities in air quality. But Valenzuela says that officials have leaned on cap and trade instead of embracing more aggressive climate policies — often at the expense of vulnerable communities: “It’s been 14 years, and we’ve still never had a meaningful discussion about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.” The money By the time California’s cap-and-trade program came up for renewal in 2017, environmental justice advocates had united against it. They felt ignored by state officials and abandoned by mainstream environmental groups. The final reauthorization bill , which extended the program until 2030, only compounded their sense of betrayal: Among other provisions, it exempted many polluting facilities from extra regulation by local air districts. This souring of relationships was particularly disastrous given that many saw California’s original climate law as an explicit effort to advance environmental justice. It was “integral to the design,” says Michel Gelobter , a social entrepreneur and environmental justice advocate who helped shape the bill when he was executive director of Redefining Progress, a sustainability think tank. The law directed state officials to consider the impacts of climate policies on “communities that are already adversely impacted by air pollution.” It also mandated that the state convene an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee to oversee its climate efforts. Even the cap-and-trade program, while far from perfect, had equitable ambitions, Gelobter says. He and other economists note that traditional environmental regulations often raise the cost of goods and services, which disproportionately harms low-income people. And the extra money that consumers pay goes into the pockets of polluters, Gelobter says. Thus, to him, the most just climate policies are those that impose a price on carbon and use the revenue to blunt the economic blow on the most vulnerable members of society. California has done exactly that. Every quarter, the state auctions off emissions allowances to polluters (some are also distributed directly to industries) and by law, 35 percent of the money raised must be spent in disadvantaged communities. In practice, however, the state has delegated far more — almost 60 percent, or roughly $3 billion in total since the first funds were released in 2014. Phil Serna , a member of the California Air Resources Board, sees this as a powerful counterpoint to critiques that cap and trade is unjust. “How we invest our resources is really a reflection of our priorities,” says Serna, also a Sacramento County supervisor. How we invest our resources is really a reflection of our priorities. Some cap-and-trade revenue goes directly to California residents , to offset the increased cost of electricity and natural gas caused by the state’s climate initiatives. The rest of the money goes toward projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or improve water quality. In disadvantaged neighborhoods, that might mean expanding public transit, increasing access to renewable energy and building efficient, affordable housing. Some feel uncomfortable about the source of these funds, because they often come at a cost to community health. “We would prefer it if there was no money coming from the cap-and-trade system because there was no pollution coming from our economy,” says Alvaro Sanchez, director of environmental equity at the nonprofit Greenlining Institute . But from an investment point of view, he says, “the money picture feels fairly positive.” In the San Joaquin Valley, cap-and-trade funds have helped low-income residents purchase clean cars. Most of the valley ranks in the upper third of CalEnviroScreen scores and the region has the worst air quality in the nation . Bakersfield leads the country in particulate pollution, and Fresno ranks second. But here, the leading culprits are  agriculture and traffic  — not the large industrial facilities covered under cap and trade. (The program regulates transportation indirectly by forcing fuel distributors to buy emission allowances.) Under an initiative called Drive Clean in the San Joaquin , residents can get up to $9,500 to trade in their old car for a hybrid or electric vehicle. So far, Drive Clean has replaced 3,000 cars and saved customers hundreds of dollars a month in gas and maintenance costs, says Tom Knox, executive director of Valley Clean Air Now , which runs the program. One of those vehicles went to Sokunrith Nop, who emigrated to the U.S. from Cambodia 41 years ago and lives in Stockton. He replaced his 1995 Honda Civic with a fully electric 2017 Fiat 500e. “I love it. It suits me perfectly,” says Nop, who needed something reliable to drive his child to school. He likes saving money on gas. And he wants to help the environment. “Everybody should drive a car like that where we don’t pollute,” Nop says. He only wishes the program could help more people like him: “Those cars are expensive.” The rub Cap and trade isn’t the only way to put a price on carbon, and it’s not the only one that raises environmental justice concerns . Such issues arise whenever policies rely on market forces to drive down emissions — because markets are famously unconcerned with equity. “It’s all about finding efficiencies,” says Kyle Meng , an economist at UCSB and co-author of the study on the environmental justice gap. Still, activists and researchers have proposed numerous ways to make California’s program fairer. For instance, regulators could require that emissions in disadvantaged communities decline at least at the same rate as the overall cap, rather than setting a statewide goal, says James Boyce , an economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Officials also could impose geographic restrictions on trading to ensure that the pollution benefits accrue more locally, or force emitters to go through local air permitting processes. California’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee repeatedly has called on regulators to reduce the number of available allowances and do away with offsets — a cost-containment measure that allows polluters to buy added emissions credits from outside projects that reduce carbon emissions, such as planting trees or protecting them from logging , often in other states. Alicia Rivera , a community organizer for Communities for a Better Environment in Wilmington, says that she struggles to explain the concept of offsets to residents breathing unhealthy air. “The refinery gets credit, but in Wilmington, they haven’t reduced anything,” she says. (CARB has not banned offsets; however, starting in 2021, companies won’t be able to use as many, and at least half must benefit the state.) Some say that California’s program would produce more equitable results if it had a more ambitious emissions target, and thus higher carbon prices. (By the state’s own assessment , cap and trade deserves little credit for its progress so far.) Others say that it has received too much attention. Danny Cullenward , a climate policy expert at Stanford University, argues that cap and trade “claims to be able to do anything you want … while the politics frustrate any efforts to dial it up to do that.” Stanley Young, director of communications at CARB, says that cap and trade serves as a backstop for the state’s other climate policies, such as efforts to increase renewable energy use and clean up traffic pollution. He says that it works as advertised. It helps lower greenhouse gas emissions and forces companies to factor in the cost of carbon.  The program raises money, too, and California has made good on its obligation to invest the resulting funds in hard-hit communities, but some say it still could do better. Certain programs that ostensibly benefit disadvantaged communities may not actually do so; for example, a recent study by Cushing and others found that some of the state’s clean vehicle rebate programs serve more well-off Californians than low-income residents. Sanchez, of the Greenlining Institute, says that the most disadvantaged communities often lack the means to access cap-and-trade revenue. When they do, state agencies are sometimes reluctant to give control to community-based organizations, says Simeon Gant, executive director of GreenTech , a workforce training program in Sacramento whose students include teenager Abe Francis. As a result, he says, “they never get to the people they’re targeting.” Indeed, many Californians never have heard of cap and trade and remain unaware that it produces money for their benefit. Khamphanthong and others say the state should do a better job of engaging with community members to figure out what they need most. In Richmond, Khamphanthong would like to see support for green jobs that treat employees well and benefit the community. “Why not just work with us to figure out a solution?” he asks. The future In recent months, California’s cap-and-trade program has encountered problems. At the beginning of the pandemic, the spring auction brought in a fraction of the expected revenue. Over the summer, the head of California’s Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees CARB, released a letter stating that he would work with the board to reevaluate the state’s dependence on cap and trade going forward. Whatever California decides, it has to put equity first, says Jackie Cole of Veritable Good, a consulting firm that specializes in environmental justice. “If that is not the central lens through which you are developing solutions, then those communities will always be left out,” she says. New York may offer an interesting model. Last year, activists celebrated the passage of a climate law that sets even more aggressive emissions reductions goals than California. Environmental justice groups championed the bill, and they are hopeful that the state will steer clear of cap-and-trade policies (they have long fought the East Coast’s regional market). Instead, activists support imposing a polluter fee to raise money, on top of strict mandates to cut emissions. After a long negotiation among community members, local officials and industry representatives, refinery managers agreed to cut emissions of several key pollutants by 50% by 2030. Back in California, CARB passed a resolution  — “almost a constitution,” says Serna — reaffirming its commitment to social and racial justice in October. “I have every expectation that that will eventually find its place into everything that we continue to do at CARB,” he says, including managing cap and trade. (In September , Black employees at CARB wrote an open letter and proposed an action plan to address concerns about systemic racism within agency culture.) The state already has taken steps to address air pollution in disadvantaged communities, including issuing new regulations for vehicles  — a major contributor. After Francis participated in a recent CARB panel on environmental justice, the agency offered to install low-cost air monitors at his home as part of a pilot program. Francis said they already have helped his family members stay safe on unhealthy days. The state also has begun implementing a 2017 law , passed alongside the cap-and-trade extension, that creates a community-focused system for tackling harmful emissions in the most affected neighborhoods. Along with Richmond, one of the first cities to participate is Wilmington, together with neighboring Carson and West Long Beach. After a long negotiation among community members, local officials, and industry representatives, refinery managers agreed to cut emissions of several key pollutants by 50 percent by 2030. The final plan , released last year, also includes provisions to reduce pollution from traffic and oil wells. Rivera, the community organizer, says the refinery agreement represents a victory — albeit hard-won and too late for many. But Altamirano, the Wilmington resident who served as a member of the community steering committee in the negotiations, isn’t quite as hopeful. She lives close enough to a refinery to hear valves pop open and to smell the noxious fumes that seep out. Sometimes, flares illuminate the night sky above her house. And she says she’s still waiting to see change. ” Solo hablan, pero no se hace nada ,” she says. “Just talking and then doing nothing.” Listen to Public News Service’s audio version of this story. This report was made possible in part by the Fund for Environmental Journalism of the Society of Environmental Journalists . Pull Quote Environmental justice activists say the cap and trade program has not served California’s disadvantaged communities, and particularly communities of color, where many facilities operate. As the U.S. reckons with its long legacy of racial injustice and the increasingly devastating consequences of climate change, questions about the efficacy and fairness of cap and trade have taken on greater urgency than ever. How we invest our resources is really a reflection of our priorities. After a long negotiation among community members, local officials and industry representatives, refinery managers agreed to cut emissions of several key pollutants by 50% by 2030. Topics Carbon Policy Environmental Justice California YES! Magazine Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Signage from a mass mobilization at the Chevron Oil Refinery in Richmond on August 15, 2009. Flickr planet a. Close Authorship

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Can California’s cap and trade address environmental justice?

Infographic: Plastic Pandemic in the Age of COVID-19

December 11, 2020 by  
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Recycling efforts have taken a backseat during the pandemic. Efforts … The post Infographic: Plastic Pandemic in the Age of COVID-19 appeared first on Earth 911.

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Infographic: Plastic Pandemic in the Age of COVID-19

Greenhouse gases hit record levels despite COVID-19 lockdowns

November 30, 2020 by  
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A recent report released by the  World Metrological Organization  (WMO) has revealed that greenhouse gasses have increased to record highs in the atmosphere despite the lockdowns caused by the pandemic. Contrary to the expectations of many, the amount of greenhouse gases has been on the rise in 2020. The slowdown in economic activities and travel across the world is estimated to have caused a 4.2% to 7.5% reduction in the overall emissions in 2020. According to the WMO, this minor reduction due to the pandemic was nothing compared to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Worse yet, the report indicates that growth is higher than the average rate in the past 10 years. Related: Will gene editing and cloning create super cows that resist global warming? “The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph. We need a sustained flattening of the curve,” said Petteri Taalas, secretary-general for the WMO. The reviewed data revealed that the benchmark station of Mauna Loa in Hawaii experienced a higher rate of carbon emissions in 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019. The station recorded 411.3 ppm in 2020 and 408.5 ppm in September 2019. The same scenario was observed in Tasmania, Australia, where carbon dioxide levels rose to 410.8ppm in September 2020 from 408.6ppm in September 2019. The WMO secretary-general said that these figures are worrying if we look at the fast rate of growth each year. “We breached the global [annual] threshold of 400ppm in 2015 and, just four years later, we have crossed 410ppm,” Taalas said. “Such a rate of increase has never been seen in the history of our records.” Those behind the report are now calling for stringent actions to be taken if the world is to meet the crucial target of cutting emissions in half by 2030. Otherwise, global warming will lead to increased poverty, malnutrition and deaths from droughts, floods, heatwaves and fires. “The needed changes are economically affordable and technically possible and would affect our everyday life only marginally,” Taalas said. “It is to be welcomed that a growing number of countries and companies have committed themselves to carbon neutrality . There is no time to lose.” + WMO Via The Guardian Image via Thomas Millot

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Greenhouse gases hit record levels despite COVID-19 lockdowns

ChargePoint’s Pasquale Romano on the state of electrification during the pandemic

November 25, 2020 by  
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ChargePoint’s Pasquale Romano on the state of electrification during the pandemic This video is sponsored by ChargePoint. “We have found that because of goods delivery being so critical now, even more so than it has been during pre-pandemic times, the fleet market for us is really seeing lots of activity. Virtually every single company out there that has anything from small vans or normal passenger cars all the way up through larger medium and heavy-duty vehicles – we’re just seeing a tremendous amount of interest and activity in that segment and I think it’s because it is so effective in reducing the cost structure of those services.” Katie Fehrenbacher, senior writer & analyst for transportation at GreenBiz, interviewed Pasquale Romano, president & CEO of ChargePoint, during the VERGE 20 virtual event (October 26-30, 2020). View archived videos from the conference here: https://bit.ly/3kMjeXt . taylor flores Wed, 11/25/2020 – 14:50 Featured Off

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ChargePoint’s Pasquale Romano on the state of electrification during the pandemic

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