How to advance equity in energy solutions in the COVID-19 era

July 6, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

How to advance equity in energy solutions in the COVID-19 era Daphany Rose Sanchez Mon, 07/06/2020 – 02:01 During the day I work in the energy sector supporting government and utilities design programs to perform outreach to and educate low-income and diverse communities. At night, I go back into my neighborhood, one thriving with diverse residents. Sitting on both sides of the table, I’d like to share what you need to pay attention to in order to be part of the solution on the interconnected fronts of energy efficiency and social justice. If 2020 has shown residents in the United States something, it’s the dire need to understand historical barriers, immediately stop our current way of working and deliver energy solutions. As a New York City resident, director of an energy consulting organization, an advocate of energy equity and a third-generation resident of public housing, I have a unique view of the structural barriers we must break down to solve the global climate crisis. As energy consultants developing energy solutions, it may feel difficult to look away from the bombardment of messaging about death and economic downfall, and videos of divisiveness and hatred. More than 122,000 U.S. residents — our neighbors, friends and family members — have died from COVID-19. Witnessing a family member or a friend die so suddenly is new to most of us. It may feel difficult to look away from the bombardment of messaging about death and economic downfall, and videos of divisiveness and hatred. But the worst part is that our country has had not one pandemic, but two rising. We are seeing on social media people of color — specifically, Black people — murdered time and time again. As with COVID-19, families are worried about how many times they have to see a son, daughter, nephew or friend die so suddenly. They’re also the target of hatred from people they’ve never met, feeling the pain, worry and stress of being judged by their skin color. Communities in the crosshairs Meanwhile, COVID-19, just like other structural inequalities, has had the most profound impact on communities of color. Low-income Black and Latinx folks already quarantined within disinvested neighborhoods are seeing rampant infection and death. They’re vexed with the choice of working as essential workers, risking getting sick or dying, versus losing income and risking eviction from an already overpriced apartment. But this isn’t new. Black, Latinx, Indigenous and other marginalized communities have long been resilient against natural disasters, racism, environmental toxicities and gentrification. What should energy professionals who care about these interconnected crises and operate in historically underserved communities do? What’s the best way to look at COVID and racial injustice, and focus the negative emotions and stress onto positive, equitable energy solutions towards climate change? You can start with the following steps: Understand the connections and empathize I have had conversations with many among the majority of people who live outside of yet sympathize with marginalized communities, and with others who demand justice but have a hard time understanding the relationship between equity and race. I’ve heard and seen the juxtaposition, and the idea that climate and racial justice are two separate issues. Others are aware of what actions are required but fearful of losing power obtained through an “injustice” system. Americans are divided on how antiracist measures are critical to dismantling structural barriers, just as they are divided on the urgency to fix our planet in a way that minimizes the collateral damage of leaving the few behind for the greater good. The worst part is that our country has had not one pandemic, but two rising. To those of you who have a hard time understanding what we fight for or why we are so loud about climate justice and racial equity, think about how you feel during the rise of COVID: trapped at home, worried about your future. You’re frustrated, angry, depressed, stressed out. You want life to return to normal. That’s how many of us feel who were raised as “different” races, ethnicities, cultures and identities. If we’re born in subsidized housing, others see us as less than human. It is a quarantined site whose children go to schools that receive less funding. We’re worried we won’t be able to make rent because we earn less. We’re afraid we can’t exercise outside for being mislabeled as a criminal and even killed. We’re worried our parents and grandparents will fall sick without a place for us to take care of them. We’re concerned about our future. We walk a thin line — between being the person our employer wants (providing ideas only when asked) and being the person our parents raised us to be (outspoken, providing perspective based on our diverse understanding and experiences). Listening and empathizing will bring you closer to understanding a community’s needs. Assess the situation Next, assess how you have engaged in the community. Assess who you are in relation to it. What has been done to support the local economy?  Have you or your company accelerated injustice? If so, how do you stop and promote equity within your organization? How do you resist selfishness and step down when someone else with a necessary perspective can be elevated? How do you release your power to support a cause? Self-change and organizational change is the first step to address inequity within the workplace. Let communities lead To assess low-income communities, examine what organizations already exist there. What type of outreach have they done, and how can you provide fiscal resources and collaborate with them on programming? Nonprofits, unions and coalitions within those communities have decades of experience engaging and communicating successfully with their neighbors. They have built trust and know what works and what does not. They are familiar with how to tailor government programming specifically for groups with different cultural backgrounds and energy-use needs. Nonprofits, unions and coalitions within those communities have decades of experience engaging and communicating successfully with their neighbors. To all energy firms: Actively investigate how you are supporting these organizations. Consider mandating a percentage of community representatives on all committee programming boards, regardless of technical expertise, developing materials that are culturally and linguistically representative of the community. Eliminate the transactional relationship with the community. Develop a communal process where you are supporting participants with their mission, helping them build wealth and create a sustainable future for their neighborhoods. Developing long-term community relationships can help us collectively tackle climate change. Evaluate information access Energy consulting firms are also evaluating methods of operation and delivery of energy outreach programming and design. The first thing that comes to everyone’s mind in light of COVID-19 work-from-home quarantine is virtual access as in-person meetings, audits and processes move online. Just as equitable engagement begins with collaborating across sectors to achieve an overarching goal, the clean energy sector must think about collaborating with internet providers while developing outreach and incentive programs that advocate for equipment that requires WiFi. If your energy program incorporates such incentives, think about the additional burden to low-income customers. How can your funding expand to provide an internet connection to residents? At Kinetic Communities Consulting, our projects have shown that if you provide a separate incentive that improves qualify of life, people are more inclined to pursue energy efficiency. Providing internet at a low or no cost with a solar or air source heat pump project provides a quality-of-life improvement. How can your funding expand to provide an internet connection to residents? Roughly three in 10 adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year (29 percent) don’t own a smartphone, and more than four in 10 don’t have home broadband services (44 percent) or a traditional computer (46 percent). And a majority of lower-income Americans are not tablet owners. Collaboration with local internet providers, nonprofits supporting low-income Americans and local government can help close the communication gap. Partnerships with internet providers removes one barrier to energy efficiency programs invested in installing new climate-friendly technologies. Using community aggregation engagement also provides customers the opportunity to obtain a lower internet bill cost and entice customers to complete projects. It gives residents a platform to learn more about their utility usage and lifts a concern of access and awareness. Consider equitable hiring and training COVID has exposed how people of the global majority — that is, people of color — are the first to be laid off, as the latest U.S. employment numbers bear out. Black and Latinx workers are hit the hardest in clean energy, with Latinx workers comprising 14 percent of the industry but 25 percent of its job losses. For energy consultants, the automation of audits and processes can further exacerbate layoffs. When energy consulting firms develop automated methods to accelerate energy outreach and program development; they must consider equitable hiring and training practices. Think about what you have learned in your own position — the relationship of your skillsets and a job’s requirements — to be mindful of whom you are rehiring and who your job postings reach. Consider developing gender-neutral job postings and removing a candidate’s education to avoid unconscious bias. Not only is hiring and training critical, but understanding the work culture you have created can nudge diverse candidates either to grow within or leave your organization. An equitable path forward allows the energy industry community to become more robust and unified. These types of efforts pay off.  Companies with the most diverse executive teams were 21 percent more likely than others to enjoy above-average profitability, according to a 2018 study by McKinsey & Company. For executive teams with ethnic and cultural diversity, this likelihood rose to 33 percent. A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that revenue tied to innovation, in terms of products and services launched in the past three years, was 19 percent higher for companies with above-average diversity in management. Spend time creating and maintaining professional development opportunities for staff to learn and grow within the industry. Be mindful of who you believe should be in the position and be open to the skillsets people have, regardless of the industry standards. Educate yourself Below are some amazing people of color/people of the global majority articles you can read to understand the importance of the intersection in energy and social justice:  •     Black environmentalists talk about climate and antiracism •    Climate activists: Here’s why your work depends on ending police violence •     Why every environmentalist should be antiracist •    How racism manifests in clean energy •     The climate movement’s silence •    How to help Black employees •     Felecia Hatcher: Tech community must do more than tweet support. It needs to invest •    I’m a black climate expert. Racism derails our efforts to save the planet •    Hold my earrings: Black women lead on systemic solutions in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond People are dying, and some may not psychically see it, unlike hurricanes or wildfires. U.S. society is in a state of shock and feels a sensation of dystopian reality. An equitable path forward allows the energy industry community to become more robust and unified, giving people who are hit the hardest the opportunity to engage, participate and create a unified solution for a climate-resilient future. The first step is to become aware, and the next step is action. Pull Quote It may feel difficult to look away from the bombardment of messaging about death and economic downfall, and videos of divisiveness and hatred. The worst part is that our country has had not one pandemic, but two rising. Nonprofits, unions and coalitions within those communities have decades of experience engaging and communicating successfully with their neighbors. How can your funding expand to provide an internet connection to residents? An equitable path forward allows the energy industry community to become more robust and unified. Topics Social Responsibility Cities & Communities Environmental Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Lady Liberty and New York City at sunset. Shutterstock rudall30 Close Authorship

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How to advance equity in energy solutions in the COVID-19 era

Labels: Disdain them — except one

July 6, 2020 by  
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Labels: Disdain them — except one Bob Langert Mon, 07/06/2020 – 01:45 A longtime friend told me he was Christian and couldn’t support Democrats because it violated his principles. Then I heard a news update that Republicans were trying to ax Obamacare. I think I’m an Independent.  I’ve been spending more time contemplating the racial problems our country faces. I admire the friends and family that have posted Black Lives Matter signs. I just read “White Fragility,” and it infused me with thoughts that challenged my privileged white life. I hadn’t thought I was a racist, but I now realize I am because I’m part of a systemic white-dominant society by default. Truly. And it’s got to change, including me. I’ve thought of myself as young. But now I get up in the morning and hobble about until I’ve warmed up my body to stand straight. Labels. Can’t stand them. Listening to the radio the other day I heard an ad that said, “All of us use social media way too much.” How do they know that about me? I’m not too married to Twitter. I self-label myself as “athletic.” Yet I played a bocce match the other day against an 80-year-old woman who’d recently had surgery on her arm and had to toss the bocce ball with her odd hand. I lost. By a lot. There is one label I genuinely like and admire: ‘I’m a seasoned corporate sustainability leader.’ Another good friend of mine told me on the phone that he never thought I was a radical, “so liberal,” after reading my book about corporate sustainability (“The Battle to Do Good”). I don’t think of myself as liberal, but I’m finding in my daily conversations with friends that maybe I really am. Just yesterday, a good friend of mine said he doesn’t like the politics of Starbucks. And I’m thinking, “This is a company that is really trying to do good.” I passed on a very interesting New York Times article about health care to a buddy. He told me the article was narrow-minded and wrong because — well, it’s from the New York Times. He gets his news from Fox. We’re still buddies, although sometimes I wonder where to draw the line on sharing similar values. He said I’m a CNN person. I do watch/listen to it the most. I find myself labeling others and am ashamed that I do. He is a bully. She is slovenly. And I thought I was a good Catholic. There is one label I genuinely like and admire: “I’m a seasoned corporate sustainability leader.” I started this work by addressing the Big Mac polystyrene clamshell some 32 years ago. Finding the good intersection of business and society has grabbed my heart and mind ever since. But now I am mostly retired. It’s yet another label I disdain. If anything, I feel like I’m accelerating, not stepping back. Even though I made the choice to wind down my sustainability career, I have lots yet to give to my family, friends, neighbors and community. The couple of Myers-Briggs tests I’ve taken have labeled me an introvert working in an extroverted field. My safe haven is to be alone. But what I find I miss the most about working in the day-to-day of corporate sustainability is the gobs of good people I got to know, share, laugh, commiserate with and share a passion to change the world for the better. You are my good friends. I like being with you. Which brings me to my very least favorite label: “Retired from GreenBiz.” My regular writing for GreenBiz has seen its better days. I love writing about sustainability, but now that I’m not in the frontlines, I find I have little to write about. So this is my final column. I love the GreenBiz community, starting with Joel Makower, who I met 30 years ago when I bought a bunch of his books for McDonald’s people. His integrity and caring attitude permeate the whole organization. John Davies is full of bright insight and even better wit. Twenty-four hours at a GreenBiz Executive Network meeting was like filling up the tank with high-octane gas. I was ready to rock and roll after every meeting I attended. Everyone I meet at GreenBiz is an awesome person. How do you do it, GreenBiz? Thank you for the opportunity to write a column with my thoughts for the past five years. As you can tell, I’m not one for being labeled. It irks me. But you can label me a “big sap” for how much I care about the entire sustainability movement — and the special people that make it happen. Pull Quote There is one label I genuinely like and admire: ‘I’m a seasoned corporate sustainability leader.’ Topics Leadership State of the Profession Featured Column The Inside View Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage

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What role does ESG play in the ‘new normal’?

July 6, 2020 by  
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What role does ESG play in the ‘new normal’? Janine Guillot Mon, 07/06/2020 – 01:25 Facing existential crisis, it’s only natural that our perspective will change — for better and for worse. In recent weeks and months, as many of us have “sheltered in place” in the face of a global pandemic, each of us has come to grips with a valuable reminder of what’s truly important: family, friends and colleagues; security and safety; food and water; healthcare. By comparison, everything else seems small and suddenly insignificant. For some of us, that includes our work. When people are sick, suffering and dying — with little certainty about when or how it will end — how can we be expected to focus on a project deadline, a business meeting or a PowerPoint presentation? Recently, I was asked to participate in a webinar discussion about environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing in the wake of COVID-19, and I had to ask myself, “Is the work we’re doing at SASB completely irrelevant or more relevant than ever?”  The most urgent and important work being done today is that of our healthcare workers, grocery employees, delivery people and others on the front lines of meeting society’s most basic and most critical needs. We shouldn’t let a day pass without thanking them for their service, nor without asking ourselves how we can better support them as they rise to meet the scale of challenge before us. And soon, we must start giving serious thought to what we can do to ensure they’re never put in such a desperate position again. Respond now, adapt as soon as possible While today’s triage efforts are paramount, society is clearly starting to think about what’s next. This is an opportunity for all of us — companies, investors, government, civil society — to think critically about what our role might be in creating a more resilient future.  Although the global COVID-19 outbreak is first and foremost an existential public health threat, it also likely represents the dawn of an economic “new world order” and a reshaping of the global economy. Without question, it’s too soon to draw any conclusions about the lessons we’ve learned from this experience, but it’s nevertheless clear that businesses, investors and our entire system of free enterprise will need to adapt to a new normal in the coming post-coronavirus era.  Transparency leads to accountability, accountability drives innovation and innovation is key to resilience. In recent years, the rise of ESG, responsible investing, corporate sustainability — different people use different terms — has focused on evolving “business as usual” by recognizing that effectively managing environmental and social issues is key to the long-term sustainability of both business and society. The COVID-19 crisis is likely to accelerate this trend. The key questions that have arisen from the crisis are essentially ESG questions, such as: Will rising biodiversity loss and the changing climate influence the frequency and intensity of pandemics? How can companies adapt to ensure business continuity in such an uncertain environment? How can we ensure more resilient supply chains for essential goods, such as food and medicine? What can businesses in B2C industries do to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers? How can healthcare providers better ensure access to critical tests and treatments at an affordable price? How might a long-term period of “social distancing” influence the adoption of artificial intelligence and robotics, and how will that affect workers whose jobs can’t be done remotely — such as manufacturing, waste management and deliveries? How can traditional and ecommerce retailers ensure fair pricing and reduce the risk of supply hoarding or price gouging? How can a wide range of industries — across the transportation, technology, hospitality and infrastructure sectors and beyond — effectively adapt in the wake of an anticipated rise in telecommuting and teleconferencing? Will the COVID-19 crisis permanently change consumer behavior regarding shopping, travel and entertainment, with significant implications for the retail and hospitality sectors?  Once the worst of the current crisis is behind us, it’s crucial that we don’t weaken our resolve to ensure that individuals, businesses, investors, economies — and thus society at large — can become more resilient in the face of 21st-century challenges. An opportunity to adapt In the coming months, as the forces unleashed by the COVID-19 crisis continue to reshape the economic landscape, they will bring long-held assumptions under scrutiny and potentially render entire business models irrelevant. They will bring more questions, but also — if we’re receptive to them — more answers. At SASB, we encourage long-term thinking in capital markets, and while that may not help solve today’s crisis, we believe it can contribute to preventing — or at least tempering — tomorrow’s.  We believe transparency and disclosure on business-critical ESG issues will improve how companies and investors measure and manage so-called non-financial — but nevertheless critical — resources such as natural, social and human capital . Further, it will help corporate directors and managers, along with investors, understand how effective management of those resources is critical to the long-term sustainability of a business. Emerging from this crisis, we can shape a future in which the interests of business, investors and society are in closer alignment.   The best answer to my question about the relevance of our work came during a recent “industry deep dive” webinar. Our restaurant industry analyst was discussing the connection between worker health and foodborne illnesses — a business-critical issue in the restaurant industry — and the metrics that can help drive effective management of such risks, including worker training and food-handling protocols.  I immediately thought about the increasingly clear connection between lack of paid sick leave and the spread of illness, and it became clear: This crisis will provide important new insights into non-traditional performance metrics that will help drive a structural shift in how both companies and investors think about delivering long-term value to both shareholders and society. To return to my original question — is ESG disclosure irrelevant or more relevant than ever — I believe the communication piece is key. Transparency leads to accountability, accountability drives innovation and innovation is key to resilience. When investors readily can identify and direct financial capital to the forward-looking companies that are evolving their business models to thrive in the face of future risks, markets will be more stable, more efficient and better prepared to absorb unexpected shocks. Today, we’re being asked to choose between lives and livelihoods. Emerging from this crisis, we can shape a future in which the interests of business, investors and society are in closer alignment. When economic and human prosperity are mutually supportive, we won’t have to sacrifice one for the other.  Pull Quote Transparency leads to accountability, accountability drives innovation and innovation is key to resilience. Emerging from this crisis, we can shape a future in which the interests of business, investors and society are in closer alignment. Topics Finance & Investing Corporate Strategy ESG Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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What role does ESG play in the ‘new normal’?

How to safely dispose contaminated gloves, masks, wipes and more

April 16, 2020 by  
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Our new normal, the novel coronavirus pandemic, has caused society to take up more rigorous hygiene regimens. Unfortunately, personal protective equipment like masks and gloves quickly become contaminated, and they shouldn’t be tossed carelessly — especially not littered in parking lots, where they are destined to end up harming the environment. Because the pathogen causing COVID-19 can survive for hours or even days on different surfaces, observing appropriate disposal protocol is crucial. So, here are some recommendations, which are both safer for public health and better for our planet, on what to do with used gloves, masks, disinfectants, wipes, paper towels and more. Gloves Those who venture out shopping for essentials during this pandemic are often sporting disposable gloves. But wearing the same gloves from place to place or using your phone while wearing gloves just spreads germs. It’s important to regularly change gloves if you are wearing them. Wondering about proper methods to remove contaminated gloves from your hands? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers an illustrative tutorial page. After safely removing your gloves, you can dispose of them in a trash can. Do not be the person that throws them on the ground! Of course, the Waste Advantage Magazine recommends bagging used gloves before throwing them away for safe disposal. Some gloves can normally be recycled, but during the pandemic, it is best to throw gloves away to keep everyone safe. To reduce waste, you can also simply wash your hands with hot, soapy water after running an errand. If you visit multiple stores, wash your hands after each one. Masks Another prevalent countermeasure against COVID-19’s spread is wearing masks, for which the World Health Organization (WHO) offers downloadable tutorials. WHO recommends to “discard [the single-use mask] immediately in a closed bin.” Related: Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats Traditionally, masks are supposed to be discarded frequently. But with the current shortages, many people are making their own with cotton and/or wearing the same mask for long periods of time. If you have paper masks, they should be carefully removed and thrown out after each use. They cannot safely be reused or recycled. N95 masks should be reserved for medical staff only. If you do have N95 masks, check with your state’s public health department, your city’s health department or local hospitals for donating procedures. Have a cloth mask? The CDC offers advice on how to make, wear and wash cloth masks. After each wear, wash cloth masks in a washing machine before reuse. Hot water and regular laundry detergent should do the trick at cleaning these masks, and you can also add color-safe bleach as an extra precaution. Disinfectants, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer Household cleaning products and hand sanitizers are being used much more than usual. So what should you do with all of the packaging? Packaging can be appropriately discarded in either recycle bins or trash cans, depending on the labels. Related: How to properly and safely dispose of these 10 items in your home As for sponges and scouring pads, those should be thrown in the trash. For containers of specialty cleaners, like oven cleaner, check with your local waste management company for advice on how to safely dispose of these items. According to Earth911 , it is important to read the labels of cleaning items for specific disposal instructions. “For example, many antibacterial cleaning products contain triclosan, which could contribute to the antibiotic resistance of bacteria, so it should not be poured down your drain.” Wipes Despite marketing’s ploy to pass off the ever-popular wipe as ‘flushable,’ it isn’t. Many municipal plumbing systems were not designed to handle flushed wipes. While many people stocked up on wipes after the toilet paper supply ran dry, disinfectant wipes have also flown off the shelves. But Green Matters warns against flushing both ‘flushable’ and disinfectant wipes. “The only thing (besides bodily fluids) that you should be flushing down the toilet is all that toilet paper you stocked up on.” RecycleNow also explains, “Baby wipes, cosmetic wipes, bathroom cleaning wipes and moist toilet tissues are not recyclable and are not flushable, either, even though some labels say they are. They should always be placed in your rubbish bin.” Paper towels and other paper products Many paper products are labeled as ‘made from recycled materials .’ Accordingly, many consumers believe paper towels and napkins can be chucked into recycling bins. However, Business Insider cautions otherwise. Why? Soiled paper towels and napkins ruin whole batches of recyclables. Besides, if you purchased recycled paper towels, their “fibers are too short to be used again,” meaning they can’t be recycled, even if they are clean. If you used paper towels with chemical cleaners or if they are greasy, they should go into the trash. If you are sick, the trash can is again the best place for used paper products. Otherwise, paper products that are not chlorine-bleached can be composted . Images via Inhabitat, Unsplash and Pixabay

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Earth-friendly holiday gift ideas for your entire family

December 13, 2019 by  
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Wondering what to give every family member on your list — parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins? Here are this year’s green gift recommendations from Inhabitat to help you decide which eco-conscious presents to give this holiday season. Zero-waste makeup Beauty and personal care products are wonderful ideas for gift-giving. Even better are the ones that are ethical, zero-waste and eco-friendly. Some suggested brands are Antonym Costmetics , Axiology , Besame , Elate Beauty , Ilia , Kjaer Weis , Lush , RMS Beauty and Tata Harper . Vegan leather goods Vegan leather is in, especially for those who prefer being cruelty-free and ethical. For vegan leather alternative goods like belts, footwear, jackets, luggage, outerwear, purses and wallets, consider Brave GentleMan , Cork By Design , Corkor , Doshi , Ethique212 , Eve Cork , Matt & Nat , Pixie Mood , Stella McCartney , Tree Tribe , Urban Expressions, Vaute Couture , The Vegan Collection , Wilby and Will’s Vegan Shoes . Bamboo pillows and bedding For a good night’s sleep, pillows and bedding made from bamboo fibers are a healthy and environmentally friendly choice. Did you know that bamboo pillows and bedding are hypoallergenic? If that has piqued your interest, have a look at the options by Cariloha Bamboo , Ettitude , Hotel Sheets Direct , Miracle Bamboo Pillow , Simply Organic Bamboo , Snuggle-Pedic , Zen Bamboo and Zenlusso . Sustainable weighted blankets If anyone in your family has weighted blankets on their wish list this year, then Bearaby and Sheltered Company have some snuggly, sustainable options. Weighted blankets resemble the sensation of being hugged or swaddled, allowing for a deeper sleep. Plus, weighted blankets stimulate serotonin production, which helps reduce stress and increase calmness, making sleep more comfortable and satisfying. Cast iron skillets Cast iron skillets are sturdy and durable. As the original non-stick cookware , they don’t have the hazardous coating chemicals, like Teflon, which means they are a healthier cookware choice. Also, what draws many people to them is that they are easy to clean and they can be passed down from generation to generation. Examples of cast iron skillets to gift this year include those by All-Clad , Demeyere , Le Creuset , Lodge Cast Iron , Mauviel , Skeppshult , SolidTeknics and Staub . Solar grills, cookers or ovens Solar energy is now being utilized in cooking and grilling. Grills, cookers and ovens that operate via solar power are becoming a hot commodity, not only for camping enthusiasts and off-grid homesteaders but also for those prepping for potential power outages. Some viable options to choose from include those offered by All Season Solar Cooker (SolCook) , GoSun , Haines Solar Cookers , SolSource by One Earth Designs , Sun BD Corporation , SunFlair Solar Ovens and Sun Oven International Inc . Related: We tested the GoSun Go solar oven — here’s what we thought Organic fabric aprons Organic , sustainable fabrics are a better option for the planet. Luckily, there are many aprons out there that are made from organic textiles. Try the offerings from Native Organic , the Portland Apron Company and Rawganique . Nut and seed butters Nut and seed butters are wonderful sources of vitamin E and protein . They are also full of healthy fats and are high in fiber. These butters can be made from almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chia seeds, coconuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and even watermelon seeds. Some good brands to gift include Artisana Organics , Barney Butter , Dastony , Justin’s , MaraNatha Foods , Nutiva , Rawmio , Reginald’s Homemade , Soom Tahini , Sun Butter , Wild Friends and Yumbutter . Better yet, try your hand at making homemade varieties! Jams, jellies, marmalade and preserves You can’t have nut and seed butters without a tasty jam or jelly. Marmalades and preserves are a delicious addition as well, especially to cheese boards and bread trays. If you aren’t great in the kitchen, here are some recommendations for wonderful varieties to try: Frog Hollow Farm , Happy Girl Kitchen Company, INNA , June Taylor Company , Katz Farm , Lemon Bird Preserves , Mountain Fruit Company , Quince & Apple Company and We Love Jam . Eco-conscious headphones and earbuds For the music listeners on your nice list, there are some options that are friendly to the environment. While there aren’t yet any types that are 100 percent green, there are still many that strive to do better by the environment through materials like sustainably sourced wood, organic cotton, recycled plastic , bioplastic or recycled metal. Options to consider are those from The House of Marley , Thinksound and Woodbuds . Related: Inhabitat reviews House of Marley’s new sustainable headphones Garden tools Burgon & Ball has been around since 1730, and its stainless steel tools have been endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society as “Tried, Tested, Trusted.” For those on your holiday list with a green thumb, gift them a Burgon & Ball set of tools. Solar-powered gadgets If you have a gadget geek on your list, consider SunCore products like backpacks, Bluetooth speakers, solar panel kits, door locks and street lights. There are numerous other types of solar-powered gadgets, too. For instance, there are the Logitech Solar Wireless Keyboards and the SolSol Solar Charger Hat . For campers and glampers , having a tent, such as this Eddie Bauer 3-person tent or Earth Ship tents powered by a solar panel from Goal Zero or BioLite , might be just the ticket. Of course, there are an assortment of portable solar power packs to choose from as well, like chargers, portable panels and solar backpacks, as seen on SolarProductsPro . But if you want to get started with going solar, then peruse the online offerings from A Green Origin , the altE Store , Blue Pacific Solar , Free Clean Solar , The Solar Store and Wholesale Solar . Maps, globes and more MOVA offers a world of possibilities with its wide array of maps and globes. The company likewise features artworks of the planets and outer space . All of MOVA’s inventory showcases an appreciation for Earth and our place in the universe. Woodworking kits Woodworking is a hobby that is regaining momentum, and it can appeal to people at any age. For youngsters, there’s Annie’s Young Woodworkers Kit Club subscription and the wood craft kits from Craft Kits and Supplies . For all ages, visit the Wood Store ’s online portal for more merchandise and ideas to cultivate the hobby. Images via Juliana Malta , Joanna Kosinska , Olesia Misty , James Kern , Edgar Castrejon , Michal Jarmoluk , Conger Design and Mova Globes

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Earth-friendly holiday gift ideas for your entire family

A micro home in one of Quebecs regional parks offers a unique way to enjoy the outdoors

April 9, 2019 by  
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La Pointe is located within Canada’s Poisson Blanc Regional Park, and it’s a nature-loving minimalist’s dream come true. The micro home gets its name from the distinctive triangular geometry that comes to a cathedral-style point in the roof. The designers at Atelier L’abri wanted to honor the A-frame style that was made popular in North America in the 1950s while still providing the essential functions needed in a forest cabin. La Pointe offers off-the-grid living that isn’t completely isolated from civilization. The micro home is located off of a nature trail about 10 minutes by foot from the park’s reception pavilion. Despite the minimal square footage, there is room for up to four occupants inside thanks to the first-floor table’s ability to convert into an extra bed. Related: Disconnect in these A-frame tiny cabins in the Catskills The structure was built on-site and features a kitchenette, an outdoor porch area and a lofted bedroom accessible by ladder. The bed is suspended mezzanine-style using steel rods, and it calmly overlooks the rest of the home. The entire space, including the sleeping area, takes full advantage of the natural light that streams in during the day. The connecting covered terrace is the perfect spot to enjoy the space when the weather is hot, and the wood-burning stove keeps the house warm in the cold Canadian winters. The whole structure is raised off the ground to prevent weather-related damage from both the snow and the nearby reservoir. The exterior, made from natural cedar boards, creates a woodsy look that blends in beautifully to the surrounding forest landscape. The roof is made from steel, a recycle-friendly option for a building material. The interior uses the same cedar, which — combined with the dark, steel-colored appliances inside — creates an organic and raw look. Occupants can enjoy the forest views from the large bay window that centers the home from the first floor. + Atelier L’abri Photography by Jack Jérôme via Atelier L’abri

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A micro home in one of Quebecs regional parks offers a unique way to enjoy the outdoors

Here’s what the key figure in any community microgrid looks like

January 8, 2019 by  
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Identifying the person who serves as “the beating heart” of a microgrid project isn’t easy.

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Here’s what the key figure in any community microgrid looks like

Researchers decipher one of last unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls

January 23, 2018 by  
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Since the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in a Qumran cave in 1947, most have been restored and published. But the University of Haifa said two researchers from their Department of Bible Studies deciphered one of the last remaining unpublished scrolls – and they uncovered some surprises. Eshbal Ratson and Jonathan Ben-Dov reassembled around 60 fragments – some smaller than 0.155 square inches – that an earlier researcher said had come from different scrolls in a period of over one year. The University of Haifa researchers found these pieces “actually constitute a single scroll,” according to the university, and discovered for the first time that the name given to “special days marking the transitions between the four seasons” by the Judean Desert sect is Tekufah. This word in today’s Hebrew means ‘period.’ Related: Believed tomb of Jesus Christ is far older than previously thought The researchers also obtained new insight into the 364-day calendar the sect used. They said in a statement, “The lunar calendar, which Judaism follows to this day, requires a large number of human decisions. People must look at the stars and moon and report on their observations, and someone must be empowered to decide on the new month and the application of leap years. By contrast, the 364-day calendar was perfect. Because this number can be divided into four and seven, special occasions always fall on the same day…The Qumran calendar is unchanging, and it appears to have embodied the beliefs of the members of this community regarding perfection and holiness.” Another finding was that a scribe corrected errors made by the person who wrote the scroll. The researchers said the author “made a number of mistakes” and another scribe added in “missing dates in the margins between the columns of text.” The Journal of Biblical Literature published the work, and the researchers now plan to decipher the last remaining scroll. + University of Haifa Via The Jerusalem Post and the BBC Images via Haifa University/The Jerusalem Post and Depositphotos

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Researchers decipher one of last unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls

Man creates spectacular topiary garden with plants saved from a compost pile

May 4, 2017 by  
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When Pearl Fryar bought his home in Bishopville, South Carolina forty years ago, his neighbors worried he wouldn’t be able to maintain the expansive grounds. Since then, Fryar’s gardening skills have put those fears to rest – he’s created a stunning topiary garden made up of plants rescued from a local compost pile . When Fryar was looking to buy his current house, he was met with resistance because some neighbors assumed that, as a black man, he wouldn’t be able to keep up the yard. Fryar took those words as a challenge, aiming to disprove the local racists with his talented green thumb, “I figured that if I won Yard of the Month, then the person who made that statement could understand that you can’t judge people by one person.” Related: This mobile transforming prep station helps urban foragers turn weeds into tasty meals Recently featured on CNN’s Great Big Story , Fryar began to collect his plants from the compost pile of a local nursery. Over the years, he has rescued over 300 trees and shrubbery – including a few trees that were over 30 feet high. The ambitious man tends to his garden every day, but he doesn’t use fertilizer, sprays, or any type of chemical in the upkeep. In fact, he doesn’t even use water. He says that the plants are all natural and grow organically. The amazing home garden became so popular, that Fyar opened it up to the public in 2006. Today, the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden sees an estimated 10,000 visitors a year from all over the world. Fryar enjoys the attention, explaining that his garden is all about love. In fact, the last thing visitors see as they leave the grounds are the words “love, peace, and goodwill” mowed into the lawn. + Pearl Fryar garden + Great Big Story Via Boing Boing Images via CNN video

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Man creates spectacular topiary garden with plants saved from a compost pile

Love sign made of matches and reclaimed wood sets hearts afire

February 9, 2015 by  
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With Valentine’s Day right around the bend, we thought it was the perfect time to feature artist Pei San Ng ‘s amor-themed matchstick art . Ng arranged approximately 2,500 match sticks with red tips on a base of reclaimed art board and plywood to form the word “Love.” “Love on fire represents romance and passion or destruction and jealousy. It is raw and gritty,” says Ng of the work. You might be tempted to mimic this symbolic piece as a tribute to the person who sets your heart aflame—just be careful not to do it indoors or while wearing polyester clothing! + Pei San Ng Via Recyclart Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: eco art green design , eco design , green art , love sign , match love sign , matches , matchstick love sign , Matchsticks , pei san ng , Reclaimed Materials , recycled love sign , Recycled Materials , sign made of matches , Valentine , valentine’s day

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Love sign made of matches and reclaimed wood sets hearts afire

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