Educational center in Russia has a wind turbine and rooftop solar panels

July 30, 2020 by  
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Located in the Russian village of Khryug in southern Dagestan, the Luminary Inspiration Center is a welcomed educational experience in a small town of just 2,000 residents. The idea for an interactive creative center was born thanks to a local charity foundation, which delivered computers to the village schools in an effort to bring the area up to national internet communication standards. The center has been open since mid-2018 and has always remained free-of-charge for kids between the ages of 10 and 17. By 2020, there were about 120 children regularly studying in the center, half from Khryug and the rest from neighboring villages. Related: Locally crafted children’s learning center doubles as an emergency shelter in the Philippines One of the most compelling aspects of Luminary is its architecture, which is unlike anything else in the immediate region. Most of the children who frequent the center have never been outside of their villages, nor have they experienced anything outside of their own neighborhood’s common architecture. Luminary offers a chance for them to see mosaics of different styles and epochs as well as the combination of the traditional architecture of the area with contemporary black metal and glass elements. The educational center is located within a 2,500-square-meter property inside of an apple garden and includes a lecture hall designed with panoramic glass walls and an outdoor amphitheater for fresh-air learning during favorable weather. Inside, there is a wide range of educational spaces including an observatory, robotics and VR laboratories, a virtual planetarium, a cinema, a library and an artistic workshop. A peaceful, modern interior creates the perfect learning environment for studying and creative thinking. Sunlight-harvesting rooftop solar panels assist with the frequent power outages, so if the internet is lost at any time, it only takes 0.025 seconds for the solar battery to kick in. A large wind turbine in the garden powers the water fountain and provides a working example for a favorite student project — assembling a working wind turbine and solar power station in Luminary’s technological laboratory. + Archiproba Studios Photography by Alexei Kalabin via Archiproba Studios

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Educational center in Russia has a wind turbine and rooftop solar panels

Coconut oil production is a danger to vulnerable species

July 29, 2020 by  
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Coconut oil has been in the spotlight for a while now as a superstar for personal care and healthier eating. It might seem like a miracle product, but a new study is highlighting the negative impacts of coconut oil that lurk in the shadows. Other oils, mainly palm oil , have made headlines for years. Grown in tropical areas, palm oil harvested from trees is widely acknowledged as a threat to the habitats of endangered species. Related: Dutch designer creates leather alternative from palm leaves For the discerning consumer, it can be difficult to gather information about how products you purchase are made. But the truth is all consumable products have an impact on the planet, including coconut oil, a trendy health food and personal care product. A team of researchers wanted to provide more information regarding the harvest of coconuts to consumers, but even they were surprised by the results of their study. Lead author Erik Meijaard has worked in tropical conservation for nearly three decades, so he’s familiar with the frequent publication of information about palm oil and the lack of information around other similar plants. “Both of them are tropical plants that are occupying large areas that previously would have been covered in natural forest,” he said. “Why does one end up being evil and the other one being wonderful?” The cultivation of coconut oil has been detrimental to ecosystems and is even expected to be responsible for the extinction of some animals, including the Marianne white eye, a tiny bird, and the feared-to-be-extinct Ontong Java flying fox, found only on the Solomon Islands. Other species currently threatened by coconut production are the endangered Sangihe tarsier, a small primate native to the Sangihe island of Indonesia, and the Balabac mouse-deer, which is only found on three islands in the Philippines. According to the study , now in several publications, the production of coconut oil is a danger to 20 threatened species per million liters of oil produced, the standard measurement used in establishing the level of destruction caused by production. Comparatively, palm oil measures in at 3.8 species per million liters, and soybean oil impacts 1.3 species per million liters. Another interesting tidbit from the study shows that coconut farms actually cover significantly less land space than other oil crops. For example, compared to the estimated 30.4 million acres for coconut palms, oil palms cover 46.7 million acres. The overall impact is higher, however, based on the IUCN’s Red List. The study reports that coconut plantations affect 66 species on the list, including 29 vertebrates, seven arthropods, two mollusks and 28 plants. Although this revelation on coconut oil might be shocking, it’s intended to be informative for consumers. “We want to be very careful not to say that coconut is actually a greater problem than palm oil,” Meijaard said. The study goes on to report that coconut isn’t the only culprit, and we need to maintain a wider lens when it comes to oil production. For example, the machines that harvest olive oil are blamed for the death of over 2.5 million birds each year. The researchers felt it was important to dig into the effects of oil production in products typically seen as healthy and low-impact environmentally, because these types of oils seem to benefit from a pass by the critical eye of the media and environmentalists. “What we’re really trying to say, and trying to get the public to understand, is that all agricultural commodities have their own issues,” Meijaard explained. Co-author Jesse F. Abrams added, “When making decisions about what we buy, we need to be aware of our cultural biases and examine the problem from a lens that is not only based on Western perspectives to avoid dangerous double standards.” Overall, the goal of the study wasn’t to target coconut oil production but to bring awareness to the need for more information about all consumer purchasing decisions. “At the moment, we’re simply not there yet,” Meijaard said. “We can pick any crop , and there are huge holes in our understanding and knowledge about their impact, so it’s a call from us for scientists, politicians, and the public to demand better information about commodities.” Douglas Sheil, co-author of the study, added, “Consumers need to realize that all our agricultural commodities, and not just tropical crops, have negative environmental impacts. We need to provide consumers with sound information to guide their choices.” + Coconut Oil, Conservation and the Conscientious Consumer Via Mongabay Images via Ogutier , Marie Osaki and Monicore

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Could a private car ban make NYC more livable?

July 29, 2020 by  
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When COVID-19 brought New York City’s traffic to a shadow of itself, Vishaan Chakrabarti, former New York City urban-planning official and founder of Manhattan-based design firm Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) , drafted an ambitious plan for a car-free future. Dubbed N.Y.C. (“Not Your Car”) , the proposal calls for banning private cars to create a more livable city via cleaner air, fewer car deaths and greater space allocated to the pedestrian realm. PAU’s reimagined roadways would also bolster infrastructure for cycling, ride-sharing and public transportation.  According to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign , over half of New York CIty’s households do not own a car, and the majority of people who do own cars not use them for commuting. However, the amount of space that Manhattan devotes to cars adds up to nearly four times the size of Central Park, as seen in a diagram shared in The New York Times . PAU’s proposal asserts that banning private cars would not only reduce traffic but would also improve life for almost everyone who lives and works in dense American cities by freeing up space for new housing, parks and pedestrian promenades. Related: London creates massive car-free zones as the city reopens “In the case of New York City, the air in the Bronx and Queens, which are largely populated by immigrants and people of color, is more polluted than the other boroughs due to traffic sitting idle on the roads leading to Manhattan,” PAU explained. “Among other ailments, long-term exposure to polluted air is thought to increase the deadliness of COVID-19 , which is a direct result of structural racism in the city. By improving air quality, and thus reducing the health risks that invariably come along with it, the city can begin to tackle the environmental racism that plagues our communities.” The plan also offers suggestions for reengineering car-free roads with two-way bike lanes with protective barriers, dedicated bus lanes, larger dedicated trash areas to replace parking spaces, and additional crosswalks. Bridges would also be rethought; the seven-lane Manhattan Bridge, for instance, could replace four car lanes with bus lanes, paths for cyclists and a pedestrian promenade, while the remaining lanes would be used for taxis and ride-share vehicles. Local communities would also be encouraged to take part in deciding how to reclaim their car-free roads. + Practice for Architecture and Urbanism Images via Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

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What makes Al Gore hopeful: Tech innovation, science-based targets and the racial ‘awakening’

July 22, 2020 by  
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What makes Al Gore hopeful: Tech innovation, science-based targets and the racial ‘awakening’ Heather Clancy Wed, 07/22/2020 – 02:00 Who is responsible for emissions? Where did they originate? How can we be sure? A global coalition fronted by former Vice President Al Gore promises granular insights and data into those sources — down to individual power plants, ships or factories. Climate TRACE (short for Tracking Real-time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) intends to use a massive worldwide network of satellite images, land- and sea-based sensors and advanced artificial intelligence to generate what it’s describing as the “most thorough and reliable data on emissions the world has ever seen.” The long lag it takes to calculate this information today is untenable if countries and the corporate sector hope to act quickly, the group wrote  in a blog about the initiative, co-authored by Gore and Gavin McCormick, founder and executive director of coalition member WattTime. “From companies looking to select cleaner manufacturing suppliers, to investors seeking to divest from polluting industries, to consumers making choices about which businesses to patronize, one thing is clear: a reliable way to measure where emissions are coming from is necessary,” they wrote. “Climate TRACE will empower all of these actors.”  Some of the innovation around new materials has been particularly impressive to me, materials like silicon carbide. Climate TRACE is just the latest example of the former vice president’s decades-long commitment to educating the world about the climate crisis, through The Climate Reality Project, and to investing in technologies and solutions that could address it, through Generation Investment Manager.  Emissions monitoring using advanced technologies is something all members of the coalition have been working on for some time, but breakthroughs in software and processing technologies — as well as the will to take action more quickly than mid-decade — prompted the coalition members to step forward with the goal of making its first report before the United Nations COP26 conference in 2021. Candidly, Gore is the reason I’m on the corporate climate beat, so I was inspired by the invitation to interview him as a virtual keynote session for SEMICON West , a conference focused on members of the semiconductor industry. “There are real indications that this COVID-19 pandemic has actually accelerated the shift toward more sustainable technologies and as much as anything else, I would say there has been a very dramatic change in attitudes,” Gore told me at the beginning of our chat, prerecorded before the Climate TRACE announcement.   To be clear, the data isn’t encouraging. As Gore related during our conversation, 19 of the 20 hottest years “ever measured with instruments” have been in the last 20 years — and 2020 is on pace to dethrone the current record holder for hottest year on record. What’s more, Gore observes that we’re still emitting 152 million tons of heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere every 24 hours. The consequences of that imbalance are felt in water cycle disruptions, sea-level rises, far stronger storms and the spread of tropical diseases northward, he noted. “It’s a real horror story and since our civilization has been built up almost entirely during this climate envelope, if you will, that has persisted since the end of the last ice age, the fact that we’re changing those conditions so radically poses an existential threat to the survival of human civilization as we know it.” But advances in processing, communications and data analysis technologies give Gore hope that humans still can take meaningful action, especially with new resolve and urgency borne out of the COVID-19 crisis, Gore told me. “This can be the stimulus we need for sustainable prosperity in the wake of the pandemic as we finally come out of it, so it’s so important that this tremendous industry has awakened to this challenge and is providing tremendous leadership,” he said.   Following is a partial transcript of our conversation, which picks up after Gore’s opening remarks. The comments were edited for clarity and length.  Heather Clancy: Do you see any long-term changes emanating from the COVD-19 crisis that could help the world deliver a zero-carbon future? Are there nuggets of hope in the response that you can point to specifically? Gore:   Well, you have to go country by country, and I don’t want to dwell too much on the response here in the United States right now. I’m a recovering politician, and I don’t want to stray back into that field. The longer I go without a relapse, the less likely one becomes. But you can find examples of hope and optimism in many country’s response to the pandemic and their success should be emulated elsewhere. I’ll leave it at that. But there are many realizations that are coming from this. We now know that the burning of fossil fuels is a precondition for higher mortality rates under COVID-19. There was a study of 324 cities in China showing a linear correlation between the infection rate and the death rate from COVID-19 compared to the amount of fossil fuels burned in those locations. A Harvard study showed the same thing here in the U.S. and even if you go back to the 1918-1919 [flu] pandemic, there was a very thorough study just 18 months ago showing that the amount of coal burned in cities throughout the U.S., again, was correlated precisely with the death rate from the great flu pandemic a little over 100 years ago. There is a lot of scholarship on how diversity in crowds, if it’s properly appreciated and tapped into, can make any group and any company way smarter than the smartest person in that company. Now we’ve already also seen with COVID-19 a rapid reduction in travel and an increase in working from home and I’m sure many of the people listening to us, Heather, have had the same experience I know you and I have had. That is thinking, “Wow, this stuff works pretty well. Maybe we don’t have to make all of those airplane flights that we have been chained to for all this time,’” and there are many other examples. There are real indications that this COVID-19 pandemic has actually accelerated the shift toward more sustainable technologies and as much as anything else, I would say there has been a very dramatic change in attitudes. I don’t want to sound Pollyannish, but I really believe there has been a kind of a general awakening.  The gains from the LGBTQ community of the last several years are being consolidated. The gains demanded in gender equity over the last several years are also being consolidated, and I think, again, the shocking new awareness on the part of so many of the inequities and injustices that communities of color have been experiencing for a lot of reasons. I mean, they are much more likely to be downwind from the smokestacks and downstream from the hazardous waste flows, but they also have much less access to quality healthcare. Their housing, by and large, is not the same. They don’t have the Zoom-able jobs like we do right now on average. Incomes, I mean, it takes 11.5 typical Black families, average Black families to make up the net worth of one white family, average white family in the U.S. and these statistics have remained unchanged for 50 years. We’ve got to change that, and I think there is a general increase in awareness, an awakening if you will. One jokester called it The Great Awokening. I don’t think I’ll use that phrase as my own, but I do think there is something to it. I think that the rising generation is demanding a better future, and if they knew all that you have planned and underway in this industry, they would feel so good about it. I’m going to do my part to make sure they do find out about it. Clancy: What foundational technologies do you see coming out of this moment of destruction that could really make an impact? And let’s go to the semiconductor industry. What positive developments do you see happening where they could really make a difference? Gore: Some of the innovation around new materials has been particularly impressive to me, materials like silicon carbide … These have been already essential in, well, take increasing the range of Tesla’s electric vehicles and actually that’s another mark of the change. Tesla just became the most valuable automobile company in the world, surpassing Toyota. That’s pretty impressive.  I’ll mention one more: Innovations around how semiconductors are packaged, that’s also been a prominent trend and essential in enabling the next generation of algorithms which power things like drug discovery, which has got our attention right now, and smart electricity grids which are much more power efficient. Environmental leader Al Gore. Clancy: What could get in the way of these advances? What concerns should the industry have from an environmental standpoint as they take these to the mainstream? Gore: Well, we are seeing a challenge to the efficacy of self-government. I don’t want to sound too highfalutin on this, but really here in the U.S., we have seen what can stand in our way when we pretty much know what to do and we just have to get our act together and think and act collectively to do it and when we let partisanship get out of bounds and when we don’t accept the authority of knowledge, when we tolerate an assault on reason and when we allow powerful players in the economy to embark on information strategies that are intended to put out wrong facts. I started to say alternative facts but, again, I don’t want to trip over all of those controversies. But it is a problem, seriously, and we have seen that spread to some other countries like Brazil and the Philippines and Hungary, not to mention Russia. Democracy itself is the most efficient way of making collective decisions because it allows us to harvest the wisdom of crowds. There is a lot of scholarship on how diversity in crowds, if it’s properly appreciated and tapped into, can make any group and any company way smarter than the smartest person in that company. So I do believe that we are seeing a number of positive developments, and I do have a lot of confidence in this rising generation that is insisting that we get on with these solutions. Clancy: You referenced data centers and cloud computing services earlier, particularly for enabling things like artificial intelligence — which we need for drug discovery, we need for so many things, so many applications related to conservation and climate change. But these things use a lot of electricity. How can the tech industry address this? Gore:  New technologies, innovation efficiency — including some of the new developments that I’ve already mentioned — will help, but we’ve got to go into this with our eyes wide open. Applied Materials has told us that, has told the world that their studies indicate that we could actually see a very large increase in the amount of energy used for information processing and that makes this challenge even more urgent. But I do continue to be optimistic, very optimistic on the ability of this industry to rise to the challenge and there are some things the industry could do, and I know some of these have been discussed.  First of all, collaborate across the industry from semiconductor equipment makers to software companies with academia to think about how to deliver a step change in the efficiency of data center semiconductors. It’s been encouraging already to see cutting-edge applications of artificial intelligence to effectively reduce data server energy use by significant amounts without any changes to hardware. I’ve been following for a few years now Google’s use of its DeepMind Division to dramatically reduce energy use in server farms, again, without any new hardware. That’s awfully impressive… Now they had the advantage of a lot of structured data to work with. They’re Google, after all, so they got a lot of structured data but there are thousands of use cases where that same approach can also be used.  Secondly, reduce the electricity required to manufacture semiconductors. I’ve been amazed at the increasing amount of power required to manufacture these ever-smaller chips, and I would join with others in encouraging all of the equipment manufacturers to work together to reduce carbon emissions in the manufacturing of these advanced semiconductors and finally continue decarbonizing the power supply on which the data centers operate… Clancy: I want to go back to something you referenced in your opening remarks, which is the environmental justice issue. It’s well-documented that climate change has a disproportionate impact on communities of color. How can the tech industry act internally and externally to change this to get rid of that digital divide that prevents progress? Gore: Well, I think first of all, this awakening that I talked about has affected people in the semiconductor industry. You look at these protest marches around the U.S. The vast majority of those marching are white and two-thirds of the American people now say they support the Black Lives Matter movement, a dramatic change compared to just two months ago. And, of course, George Floyd’s murder was a turning point but it’s also reflective of the changes that we have seen more broadly in our society. I mentioned already the fact that the communities of color are suffering disproportionately from COVID-19, and there are many reasons for it. But it’s wise for every industry, particularly a cutting-edge industry like this one, to respond very effectively to the rising demands from two groups.  First, younger employees who want their work to have meaning. Many of the executives listening to us have already long since learned that when they interview the best and brightest to join their firms, they find that the job applicants are interviewing them. They want to know whether or not the company shares their views on sustainability and shares their views on diversity. I think that the Science Based Targets initiative is a particularly important initiative that can make a tremendous difference, and I want to commend the leaders in this industry who have taken that step. And, by the way, I mentioned the wisdom of crowds earlier. I don’t want to emphasize it too much, but we’ve studied that a lot at Generation, and the scholars tell us and the evidence proves that you benefit tremendously in your collective thinking from as much diversity as possible on every matrix except one.  You don’t want any diversity on values. But then if you have different life experiences, different points of view, different religious traditions, different ethnicities and all of the rest orientations, that adds to the ability of any company to make better collective decisions. And so for the tech industry, specifically, it’s long been known that this industry has work to do in order to deal with the struggle to become more racially and culturally diverse. We’ve seen software companies make some very encouraging efforts to broaden their hiring funnels through apprenticeships and scholarships, but that could probably be increased in the semiconductor industry also. Clancy: Speed is of the essence in the fight against the climate crisis. How can the tech industry and the government work together maybe like in the area of research and development but also more broadly to make the most of this moment? Gore: Well, I think that the Science Based Targets initiative is a particularly important initiative that can make a tremendous difference, and I want to commend the leaders in this industry who have taken that step. I want to encourage others to adopt and embrace a science-based target to make sure that their activities and their emissions reductions plans are in keeping with what the global scientific community, the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] says is necessary to stay below a 1.5-degree Celsius increase in temperatures. Look, this is an existential threat to our society, and I know I’ve used that phrase, but we’ve got to accept that and we have got to take leadership and make sure that we’re doing everything we can. It’s just unbearable to imagine a future generation living with the kinds of consequences the scientists tell us would ensue if we don’t solve this crisis. And imagine them looking back at us in the year 2020 and asking, “Why in the hell didn’t you do something about it? Didn’t you hear the scientists? Couldn’t you hear Mother Nature screaming at you?”  Every night on the TV news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation, practically. We’re appropriately focused on the pandemic now, but even now we’re seeing these extreme weather events and the increasingly dire forecasts from the scientists. So I’m encouraged by this industry, and I think that the science-based targets approach is a really great step, and I’d encourage everybody to adopt them. Pull Quote Some of the innovation around new materials has been particularly impressive to me, materials like silicon carbide. I think that the Science Based Targets initiative is a particularly important initiative that can make a tremendous difference, and I want to commend the leaders in this industry who have taken that step. There is a lot of scholarship on how diversity in crowds, if it’s properly appreciated and tapped into, can make any group and any company way smarter than the smartest person in that company. Topics Climate Change Innovation Social Justice Technology Racial Justice Collective Insight The GreenBiz Interview Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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What makes Al Gore hopeful: Tech innovation, science-based targets and the racial ‘awakening’

Secrets for circular supply chain partnerships from Interface and Aquafil

June 29, 2020 by  
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Secrets for circular supply chain partnerships from Interface and Aquafil Elsa Wenzel Mon, 06/29/2020 – 02:00 It’s an enviable alliance that has outlasted most marriages. For two decades, Interface and Aquafil have worked together to close the loop on carpeting, an example that other companies have followed. The carpet maker and the nylon supplier moved long ago past the early steps of engagement and strategy. They’ve innovated on raw materials, resulting in Aquafil’s Econyl yarn that it recycles from ghost fishing nets, carpet fluff and other would-be waste. They’ve co-launched pilot projects that have reshaped their supply chains, including the Net Works program, which pays fishers in the Philippines and Cameroon for turning in castoff nets used to create new nylon. They’ve expanded their markets and slashed carbon footprints along the way, cementing reputations as innovators. What are the secrets for the successes of this longtime collaboration between Interface and Aquafil? A virtual GreenBiz event June 23, “How to Get Your Supply Chain to Embrace Circularity,” moderated by GreenBiz co-founder and Executive Editor Joel Makower, revealed insights. Buying 100 percent-recycled nylon from Aquafil has helped Interface reduce the carbon footprint of its carpet tile by 69 percent. Learnings from this partnership also helped Interface to move forward with other initiatives, such as being able to count recycled or bio-based ingredients in 60 percent of the material used in its carpeting and 39 percent of its luxury vinyl tile, the latter of which took only three years to achieve. It’s not easy to be ahead of your time “When I see a landfill I see a goldmine,” Aquafil Chairman and CEO Giulio Bonazzi told a banker in 2008, pitching his circular vision for using waste materials instead of oil to produce nylon yarn. “The guy was so shocked he jumped out of his chair, I’m not kidding, and said, ‘I will not give you one penny.’” Ten years earlier, Bonazzi was on the other side. When he heard Interface legend Ray Anderson position Interface as a regenerative company by 2020, he thought the man had lost his mind. Eventually, though, something tugged at Bonazzi. He began to find value in that audacious goal, a notion that eventually led Aquafil to collaborate with Interface on common working teams to tackle one problem at a time. The companies share a long-held desire “to engineer a product with the end in mind just like nature does,” as Bonazzi put it. For Interface, the journey was a solo one that began back in 1994. That’s when founder Anderson set “Mission Zero” goals to remove negative environmental impacts by 2020, an ambition that largely has been achieved. These include three goals of a zero carbon footprint, zero use of virgin materials and zero use of chemicals of concern, in addition to the “reuse or re-entry” of materials in each of Interface’s markets. The company took this commitment a step further by applying these same metrics and goals to its suppliers in what it called the Suppliers to Zero program. Reaching out to suppliers to get them on board took Interface a great deal of creativity and early consciousness raising. How can other companies find success in winning over their suppliers toward eliminating the very concept of waste in their products? Moving toward circularity is a tough sell if the concept is new to certain stakeholders, but know thyself and consider data your friend, urged Interface vice president and CSO Erin Meezan: “Look at your components individually so you can target your first steps toward what’s most material.” For example, in the early steps toward its Mission Zero path, a life-cycle analysis blamed nylon for being Interface’s largest environmental impact. In 1996, the company began working with suppliers toward using nylon produced from waste. Aquafil, in the meantime, fine-tuned a depolymerization process that it says sidesteps the use of toxic chemicals or dyes, relying largely on a food-grade catalyst to help separate waste material from nylon. Interface eventually unveiled its first recycled nylon carpet tile, using Econyl, in 2010. No-cost or low-cost ways to get the conversation going with suppliers include simply meeting with them, Meezan noted. Interface invited suppliers into its factories for sustainability summits in 2003, showing off practices that suppliers themselves could mimic. It raised awareness during these events and in other conversations, which included suggesting relevant webinars and other resources. Interface also requested new types of data from suppliers that often never before had been asked about the carbon footprint of their products. That introduced a new lens through which to view their approaches. As for higher impact results, Interface early on promised bigger purchases for suppliers that ramped up their recycled content.  How can the business case be made? “What we did with suppliers is share what we had learned about our own footprint and how we did that analysis,” Meezan said. “That was our best weapon and the best capability we had.” For Interface, 92 percent of its products’ environmental impacts come from raw materials. Knowing such figures is the first place to start, she added. “Data is really your friend, being able to map out for the senior leadership team how important your supply chain is.” Next, if you’re thinking of pitching something ambitious, start small. Don’t overwhelm stakeholders with a major reinvention of complex systems. Instead, consider a pilot project. “It’s a way less threatening way to pitch a senior leader,” Meezan said. And while a pilot keeps both the targets and the opportunity for failure modest, success can encourage new possibilities. Finally, don’t forget to bring strong examples of supply chain progress and innovation to senior leadership. Interface was the first carpet maker to use Aquafil’s Econyl, now widely used among competitors, too. Yet it’s common for arguments to spring up internally over when to open up an innovation to the greater industry, she said. Meanwhile, years ago Aquafil attempted to spark a parallel partnership toward circularity with its own supplier, a chemical giant. Once again, Bonazzi said he was laughed at and told he would fail. “Basically they were not happy, they were feeling more a competitor than a customer and made a big mistake,” he said. Today, Aquafil is selling the solvent-free nylon processing technology that it created back to that supplier. Bonazzi didn’t change suppliers, in part because he didn’t need to. The very nature of the progress Aquafil helped to advance with Econyl shifted the sourcing needs away from big petroleum. Instead, a widely distributed crew of fishers, carpet collectors, waste pickers and post-consumer material suppliers including Gucci and Stella McCartney have become primary suppliers. “Instead of oil, we use waste,” he said. For Aquafil, the costs of regenerating nylon initially were more expensive than for the process of producing virgin-oil nylon, but no longer. Bonazzi noted that it’s important to look at price trends over the course of several year when considering an innovation of this nature instead of reading too much into a recent rock-bottom price for petroleum . “If you take into account all the costs, sustainability is never too expensive because if we pay the cost of landfilling or incinerating or the raw material we take from the planet, the actual costs are much higher than the costs we are paying nominally,” he said. Both Bonazzi and Meezan noted that their customers are far more savvy than a decade or two ago about the fact that the cost of raw materials doesn’t reflect the negative effects caused by extracting them from the earth in unsustainable ways. Ahead of the times What happens when your circularity efforts are ahead of what most consumers are demanding? Interface and Aquafil have found themselves in the position of consumer educators, which requires ongoing diligence.  For example, Interface’s sales personnel bring the message to potential customers about why products designed for circularity make for greener, low-carbon buildings. In the last five to 10 years, Meezan has found these efforts amplified by an adjustment in popular sentiment led by advocacy from the likes of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Circular messaging by fashion companies such as Gucci, Prada and Stella McCartney — all Aquafil customers, by the way — have helped too. Despite speed bumps in the early days of figuring out nylon recycling, Bonazzi said the market and customers have been supportive along the way. He said working with a client with exacting sustainability standards, such as Interface, brings far more benefits than headaches. “They challenge us a lot but also the most challenging clients are the ones making the best products,” he said. “The more challenging the customers, the better they are. We work together to learn how to be better companies. This is really what we are trying to do.” Topics Supply Chain Recycling Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A colorful fishing net. Shutterstock Anton Gvozdikov Close Authorship

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Secrets for circular supply chain partnerships from Interface and Aquafil

Philippine students must plant 10 trees to graduate, new law says

May 31, 2019 by  
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The Philippine Senate passed a new law passed this month requiring all students to plant 10 trees in order to graduate. The program would total about 525 billion trees planted across one generation of students. The “Graduation Legacy for the Environment Act,” championed by Congressman Gary Alejano encourages inter-generational collaboration and responsibility for the future of the environment. The Act encompasses 12 million elementary school graduates, 5 million high school graduates and half a million college graduates every year . Related: English tree planting challenge will help plant 130,000 trees “While we recognize the right of the youth to a balanced and healthy ecology …there is no reason why they cannot be made to contribute in order to ensure that this will be an actual reality,” said Congressman Gary Alejano. Local nonprofits will assist with the implementation of the new legislation by selecting indigenous tree species and site locations. According to the Act, trees will only be planted in mangroves, existing forests, protected areas, military ranges, abandoned mining sites and urban areas. The nonprofits will also establish nurseries to ensure the stock of trees can keep up with the annual surge in demand. The Philippines is recognized as a highly deforested country. Nearly 25 million acres of forest cover was cut down in just 50 years between 1938 and 1988, primarily for the logging industry. Throughout the entire 20th century, forest cover dropped from 70 percent of land to just 20 percent. Without trees to stabilize the ground and coastline, communities and urban areas are at elevated risk for flooding and landslides. Congressman Alejano is confident that even if only 10 percent of the trees survive, the widespread planting will result in at least 525 million additional trees. Furthermore, students will learn the valuable lesson that they must be part of the solution to protect the environment for their future and for their children’s future. Via Bored Panda Image via Exchanges Photos

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‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

May 8, 2019 by  
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The tourism industry is booming throughout the world but nowhere more noticeably than on the small tropical islands of Southeast Asia. Millions of tourists flock to these remote islands every day to enjoy the beaches and snorkel among the coral reef, but the traffic and waste they produce has forced some ecosystems to reach their breaking point. “Overtourism” is the new term for the overpopulation of tourists who wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems. Many Asian governments have had to close entire islands in order to allow habitats and species (like sharks and sea turtles) to rehabilitate. The environmental impact of overtourism The primary reasons that mass tourism negatively impacts the environment include: Discharge of human waste directly into the ocean by boats, cruise ships and hotels A government survey in the Philippines revealed that 716 out of 834 businesses on the famous Boracay Island did not have wastewater permits and were indiscriminately dumping sewage and waste into the water. Cruise ships, private yachts and many hotels along the coasts also dump waste directly into the ocean . Toxic chemicals from sunscreens pollute young coral species Sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate have been found to alter the DNA of young corals , prohibiting normal and healthy growth. Related: Hawaii bans reef-killing chemical sunscreens Massive amounts of garbage and plastic pollution According to the Ocean Conservancy, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand are responsible for up to 60 percent of all plastic pollution in the ocean. Globally, eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. Related: New study reveals microplastics are in the air Unsustainable development and the destruction of key habitats, like mangroves Almost 50 percent of all mangrove forests have been destroyed in countries including India, the Philippines and Vietnam. Mangroves are systematically cleared to make way for hotels, resorts and white sand beaches, but healthy mangroves are an essential part of healthy coastal ecosystems. Mangroves protect beaches from erosion and provide critical nursery and breeding grounds for young fish and other species. Why are there so many tourists? The rapid rise in tourism is mostly because of expanding middle classes in many countries. More people are able to afford vacations and travel, particularly in China. In 2018, Chinese citizens made a total of 150 million trips abroad, compared to just 10 million in 2000. Regardless of the origin of the tourists, Pacific islands’ infrastructure and ecosystems are unable to handle the surge and are in desperate need of regulation and management. “I would argue that tourism has not only been badly managed in general, it’s not been managed at all,” said Randy Durband, chief executive officer of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Islands close their borders to tourists When tourism began to rise, most island residents were happy to have the jobs and foreign investment, and their governments did not take the time nor resources to develop a management strategy or implement limitations. Now, many governments are scrambling to preserve the very ecosystems that bring tourists to their shores before they are destroyed beyond repair. After calling the waters around Borocay Island a “cesspool,” Filipino President Rodrigo Duerte closed the entire island and launched a large clean-up effort. A new management plan will reduce the daily visitors from 20,000 to approximately 6,000, ban single-use plastics , impose littering fines and ban jet skis from driving within 100 meters of the shore. With these steps, an acceptable rehabilitation of the island is expected to take at least two years. In Thailand, the government closed the famous Maya Bay indefinitely after conservationists reported that over 50 percent of corals had been destroyed. In addition to sunscreen toxins, boat anchors and physical impact from tourists walking on coral and taking pieces as souvenirs cause major damage. Current coral restoration efforts are underway to replant native corals, and species like black tipped reef sharks have reportedly returned. SEE: Can the Cayman Islands save to Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? Closing islands is an extreme solution, but it demonstrates that many governments are realizing the importance of ecosystems even at the expense of tourism revenue. Sustainable tourism expert Epler Wood said, “We don’t advocate a closing unless it’s an emergency. We recommend balanced management that looks at supply and demand and measured responses based on planning and science that involves regular benchmarking, like water testing .” Tips for sustainable tourism Tips for governments: The nation of Bali has imposed a $10 tax on international passengers that goes directly toward cultural and environmental preservation initiatives, such as waste management. Many tourism-dependent islands in the Pacific and Caribbean have imposed similar tourist fees. In Palau, visitors are required to sign an environmental pledge that is stamped right onto their passports, promising to act respectfully and without damaging ecosystems. Bans on straws and single-use plastics can also be particularly effective on small islands without proper waste management systems. Finally, governments can invest in marine spatial planning and zoning initiatives that identify key vulnerable areas. Such spatial data allows governments to declare zones and enforce allowable activities within the zones, such as protected conservation areas versus recreation areas. Tips for tourists: According to the South China Morning Post, here are five tips to be a more sustainable tourist : Book hotels that employ sustainable initiatives to reduce waste, energy and water consumption. Choose tour operators who give back to the community — and keep tourism benefits within the local economy — by employing locals, supporting local growers and other initiatives. Be a plastic-free traveler and dispose of your garbage correctly. Research sustainable tourism initiatives you might want to support ahead of your trip. Engage in community-based tourism. “The basic model is: educate yourself, do the right thing and try to be of positive benefit,” said Marta Mills, a sustainable tourism specialist. “Act like you are a guest in someone’s home, because you are.” Via Yale360 Images via Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi , Laznes Binch ,  Stefan Munder , Juanjook Torres González and Jose Nicdao

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‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

Disaster-resilient housing saves lives and dollars

April 25, 2019 by  
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When Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013, the Raloso family hid in their bathroom while their house collapsed around them. 4,000 of their neighbors died. The Raloso’s invested in rebuilding stronger and when Typhoon Rammasun hit just a year later, the World Bank reported the family “rode out the storm in their disaster-resilient house — along with 17 of their neighbors who took shelter there.” A World Bank report, Build Back Better, promises massive savings in dollars and lives by retrofitting existing houses to withstand disasters before they happen. The report assessed 149 countries, which covers 95 percent of the world’s population, and more than 30 percent savings by building houses stronger, faster and more equitably. Natural disasters cost the U.S. over $200 billion in 2017 alone, so 30 percent in potential savings is a promise that cannot be ignored. Related: Installing Retrofit Wall Insulation Low income housing should be the priority When disasters hit, families often suffer what the World Bank calls a “double tragedy”— the loss of loved ones and the loss of their most valuable and sometimes only asset— their home. Without this asset, many people cannot access loans to rebuild and do not have any form of shelter or stability. Alarmingly, many affordable housing programs incentivize the segregation of low-income families into vulnerable areas, such as flood plains in Texas , despite the fact that these same communities require costly government aid after disasters strike. Their disproportionate vulnerability and lack of capacity to recover means low-income people are hit the worst during disasters— further exacerbating poverty and dismantling affordable housing reforms within minutes. What is retrofitting? Retrofitting or rehabilitating houses looks different depending on the type of building, region and expected disasters. In flood-prone areas, contractors may suggest elevating the house or improving the septic system. After Hurricane Ivan hit the Caribbean island of Grenada, many families used recovery funds to build hurricane-resilient roofing that utilizes stronger braces and a faceted design that doesn’t catch the wind. In the US, the nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners uses lessons from Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina to encourage proactive retrofitting and to ensure current recovery efforts in Texas and Puerto Rico prioritize resilience —  rather than simply building back what was destroyed. “The return on investment for taxpayers is that these households will need less support after an event. Disasters are very expensive and it is more expensive to repair housing after an event than before. There are fewer contractors, they charge more, there’s limited temporary housing,” explains Laurie Schoeman, Senior Program Director for Resilience Initiatives at Enterprise. Research is increasingly pointing to energy efficiency as a critical ingredient to retrofitting and rehabilitation. Not only will high performing, energy efficient buildings provide cost savings to residents, they also have the infrastructure to ride out the aftermath of storms when power is down and attention is on urgent needs such as water, medical supplies and food. Resilience and equity Despite the benefits, retrofitting is often not an affordable option in slums, housing projects or low-income areas. Around the world, poor people are forced to live in susceptible areas that are undesirable by those who can afford a safer choice. As the World Bank’s blogpost explains, poor people “trade livability for opportunity— by living in flood-prone, landslide-prone or other at-risk areas for access to jobs and services.” Additionally, poor people throughout the world are more likely to build their own homes, many of which are not to code. The World Bank’s report argues these same homes could withstand hurricanes and earthquakes with just a few improvements. Most governments steer clear of informal, substandard housing, but the World Bank contends that this ignorance is costing governments millions of dollars in aid after disasters. In the U.S., Enterprise Community Partners focuses on connecting home and building owners to grants and loans for retrofitting and rehabilitation. “The key to working with low income households in terms of resilience and rehab is providing a comprehensive source of funding. Anything short of that and it’s not affordable,” Laurie Schoeman told Inhabitat. Enterprise also produces manuals and toolkits to help homeowners, contractors and others understand the best methods to assess and improve resilient housing. According to the World Bank, technology is also helping to make such assessments easier and cheaper than ever. Drones and drive-by cameras can identify highly-vulnerable areas to target for intervention. Connecting this technology with community experts who know local materials, practices and cultures is essential. Recovery grants can be combined with existing housing programs to offer affordable loans and subsidies that refocus government resources on resilient infrastructure for the most vulnerable populations. “We have a lot of funding coming into communities,” Laurie Schoeman told Inhabitat, “but unless it’s going toward resilience we will be back in the same place. Let’s get these communities the information and resources they need to build forward .” + The World Bank Images via Shutterstock, Andrea Booher , Bob McMillian

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Bananatex launches a sustainable material revolution at Milan Design Week

April 9, 2019 by  
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A party of three has collaborated to create a multi-purpose material sourced entirely from banana leaves. Swiss bag brand QWSTION, a yarn specialist from Taiwan, and a Taiwanese weaving partner spent four years developing the new material, which is being revealed at the 2019 Milan Design Week. The strong, flexible material, called Banantex, offers a new universal option in the search for sustainable materials . Beginning at the source, the banana leaves come from a natural ecosystem of sustainable forestry in the Philippines. The banana trees grow naturally without the use of pesticides or other chemicals. Plus, they do not require any additional water. The banana plants are a boon to an area previously eroded by palm plantations, bringing back vegetation and a livelihood for local farmers. Related: See how banana trees are recycled into vegan “leather” wallets in Micronesia With a long history of creating materials from sustainable resources, QWSTION saw the strength and durability of the banana leaves that were used in the Philippines for more than a century as boat ropes. Following three years of research and development, the bag company finalized the plant-based material. As a bag company, the first products they put together are backpacks and hip pouches, made completely with the plastic-free material. The larger goal, however, is for other companies to use Banantex in their own production, spreading the application to any number of industries that could eliminate many of the synthetic materials on the market today. United with the common goal of inspiring responsible product development, the team conceived the idea as an open source project with this in mind. The characteristics of the material makes this idea easy to imagine since it is durable, pliable and waterproof. Plus, it is biodegradable at the end of the life cycle, significantly reducing post-consumer waste rampant in the clothing and accessories industries in particular. The display will be open to the public at Milan Design Week on April 9-14, 2019. + QWSTION Images via QWSTION

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The environmental secrets the fashion industry does not want you to know

March 25, 2019 by  
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The fashion industry has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few decades. Having greater access to the latest trends in fashion is great, but the industry as a whole could do a lot better lessening its environmental impact on the world. Some of the biggest issues with the fashion industry are microplastics used in production, child labor violations and new disposable fashion trends— which put more waste into landfills around the world. If you are curious about how the fashion industry is affecting the environment, here’s an inside look at the industry’s biggest hidden secrets. Related: The sustainable wardrobe: it’s more accessible than you think Fashion’s Environmental Impact Mass-producing clothing items for the fashion industry has massive implications on the environment. The industry as a whole contributes greatly to water waste and has a large carbon footprint – and that is only considering production. Discarded items of clothing end up in landfills around the world, further polluting waterways and oceans. When it comes to clothing production, it takes thousands of liters of water to produce a single cotton shirt. Farms that grow cotton also use a quarter of the world’s insecticides. Around a trillion gallons of water are used to die fabrics, which further contributes to water waste . Child Labor Laws Aside from environmental concerns, the fashion industry also violates child labor laws in certain locations around the world. Areas most impacted by child labor violations include Bangladesh, Argentina, China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. In Bangladesh, for example, child workers – most of whom are women – only take home around $96 every month. The country’s government, however, says that its citizens need at least $336 a month to meet basic living requirements. Given how the country has little regulations on labor and environmental practices, the situation is unlikely to change in the near future. Related: Faux fur or real fur, which one is better for the planet? Plastic Microfibers One of the biggest issues with the fashion industry is the use of plastics in garments. Synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester and acrylic are used in over 60 percent of clothing. Plastics are used in fashion because they are long-lasting, budget-friendly, pliable and light. The problem with incorporating synthetics in the production of clothing is that they leach plastic microfibers into the environment. These microfibers eventually make their way to the ocean, where marine organisms ingest them. Once eaten, the plastics can lead to digestive blockages, growth issues, problems in the endocrine system and even starvation. “One of the problems is plastic ingestion at all levels of the food chain, which may pass plastic to larger animals and humans. The question is ‘is it acceptable to us to end up eating plastic?’” Heidi Savelli, an expert with the UN Environment, explained. Discarded Clothing Fashion sales have skyrocketed over the past few decades. The industry has seen a growth of around 60 percent since 2000, which is partly because clothing does not last as long as it used to. On average, people retain a piece of clothing for about half the amount of time as they did in the late ‘90s. This trend of discarding and buying clothes has been profitable for the fashion industry, but it has led to disastrous effects on the environment. With production steadily increasing, more and more water is being used in cotton farming while excess materials are overcrowding landfills . Industry Solutions With the fashion industry causing a major concern for the environment , there are a few things it can do to become more eco-friendly. For starters, companies can make changes to the manufacturing process, which will reduce the amount of plastic that ends of polluting the environment. The primary issues in clothing are the density of the material and the length of fibers. If these two problems are addressed, then there will be a lesser chance of plastic microfibers shedding in the wash. Companies can also incorporate better finishing techniques when making clothing, which can also reduce microfiber issues. There also needs to be an improvement in the way microfibers are captured, both in efficiency and scale. There are capturing devices on the market, but they are not geared towards large-scale operations. What Can You Do? There are a number of different things you can do to lessen the fashion industry’s impact on the environment. For starters, you can repair clothing items instead of replacing them whenever possible. When it comes to laundry, washing less is the best way to reduce microfibre shedding. You should also look into investing in a front load machine, as they are better at handling plastic microfibres. If you want to go the extra mile, there are special bags that catch plastic debris in the wash and reduce these particles by over 80 percent. At the end of the day, doing your part to help curb disposable fashion will only go so far, and unless the industry makes some major changes, these environmental concerns will continue to grow. Via UN Environment , The Progressive Images via Shutterstock

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