Episode 246: Celebrating the sustainability profession, the ‘clean fight’

November 20, 2020 by  
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Episode 246: Celebrating the sustainability profession, the ‘clean fight’ Heather Clancy Fri, 11/20/2020 – 02:00 Week in Review Stories discussed this week (3:45). Joe Biden’s environmental priorities: The first 100 days How circular cities can put people first With these emerging leaders, building the future of the clean economy starts now Features The New York clean energy scene (14:40)   We chat with two executives representing The Clean Fight NYC, a building decarbonization initiative led by New Energy Nexus and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Insights from Kate Frucher, managing director of The Clean Fight, and John Hoekstra, global vice president of sustainability and cleantech at Schneider Electric.  Optimizing tires for EVs (27:10)   Goodyear Chief Technology Officer Chris Helsel talks about how the giant tire manufacturer is prioritizing design for electric vehicles, which have different weight and acceleration requirements than counterparts for gas-powered cars, trucks and vans. Under pressure: What’s influencing corporate ESG strategy (30:45)   A trifecta of factors — the COVID-19 pandemic, racial inequity and hyper-partisan politics — are reshaping how companies think about environmental, social and governance issues. GreenBiz and EDF+Business at the Environment Defense Fund are teaming on research to track those pressures. GreenBiz Vice President and Senior Analyst John Davies and EDF+Business Vice President Tom Murray weigh in on the data. Celebrating climate professionals young and old-er (39:15)   Nov. 24 marks the inaugural Day of the Climate Professional, dedicated to recognizing those who have dedicated their careers to working on climate action . Joel Makower chats with Steven Carlson, U.S. lead for the organizing group Youth Climate Leaders.  *Music in this episode by Lee Rosevere: “Curiosity,” “Southside,” “More On That Later,” “Night Caves,” “New Day,” Sad Marimba Planet,” “I’m Going For A Coffee” and “As I Was Saying” *This episode was sponsored by Salesforce Resources galore Say ‘hy-drogen’ to a decarbonized future. Our latest energy transition webcast at 1 p.m. EST Dec. 8 explores the potential for green hydrogen technologies, with experts from Shell, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Green Hydrogen Coalition. Sign up here . Recycling’s makeover, courtesy of AI and robotics. New technologies are solving logistics logjams and making it simpler to sort more materials. Join the discussion at 1 p.m. EST Dec. 10.  Do we have a newsletter for you! We produce six weekly newsletters: GreenBuzz by Executive Editor Joel Makower (Monday); Transport Weekly by Senior Writer and Analyst Katie Fehrenbacher (Tuesday); VERGE Weekly by Executive Director Shana Rappaport and Editorial Director Heather Clancy (Wednesday); Energy Weekly by Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden (Thursday); Food Weekly by Carbon and Food Analyst Jim Giles (Thursday); and Circular Weekly by Director and Senior Analyst Lauren Phipps (Friday). You must subscribe to each newsletter in order to receive it. Please visit this page to choose which you want to receive. The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here . Enrolling is free and should take two minutes. Stay connected To make sure you don’t miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes . Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at 350@greenbiz.com . Topics Podcast Jobs & Careers Buildings Transportation & Mobility Collective Insight GreenBiz 350 Podcast Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 46:01 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Close Authorship

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Episode 246: Celebrating the sustainability profession, the ‘clean fight’

How AI and Robotics are Transforming Recycling

November 18, 2020 by  
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How AI and Robotics are Transforming Recycling Date/Time: December 10, 2020 (1-2PM ET / 10-11AM PT) The challenges facing recycling in the U.S. may seem daunting but cross-sector collaboration is providing a path forward on many of its toughest issues. This kind of collaboration – CPG companies working hand-in-hand with technological innovators, MRF operators and investors – will be critical to solving logjams and current hurdles to improving recycling in the United States. Leaders from AMP Robotics, GFL Environmental, Keurig Dr Pepper and Sidewalk Infrastructures sit down to discuss how their work together is bringing about much needed change to our recycling systems and how this collaborative systems approach proves the power of cross-sector action to address critical issues. Moderator: John Davies, Vice President & Senior Analyst, GreenBiz Speakers: Monique Oxender, Chief Sustainability Officer, Keurig Dr Pepper Rob Writz, Director, Business Development, AMP Robotics Michael DeLucia, Principal, Sidewalk Infrastructure Brent Hildebrand, Vice President, Recycling U.S. Operations, GFL Environmental If you can’t tune in live, please register and we will email you a link to access the archived webcast footage and resources, available to you on-demand after the webcast. taylor flores Wed, 11/18/2020 – 13:39 John Davies VP, Senior Analyst GreenBiz Group @greenbizjd Monique Oxender Chief Sustainability Officer Keurig Dr Pepper Rob Writz Director, Business Development AMP Robotics @rdubv3 Michael DeLucia Principal Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners Brent Hildebrand Vice President, Recycling U.S. Operations GFL Environmental gbz_webcast_date Thu, 12/10/2020 – 10:00 – Thu, 12/10/2020 – 11:00

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How AI and Robotics are Transforming Recycling

US formally exits Paris climate agreement

November 5, 2020 by  
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One of President Trump’s early moves in office was to announce the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement . Now, amidst the election, the full exit process is over, making the U.S. the first country to officially leave the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement, written in 2015, states that all the signatories will work together to limit global warming . The aim is to keep this century’s temperature rise below 2° Celsius, or, ideally, 1.5° Celsius. While the Paris Agreement puts a kind of public moral pressure on countries, it’s a nonbinding agreement that doesn’t legally require its signatories to do anything. Related: UN report shows global warming could pass 1.5°C limit before 2030 If you’re wondering why it took so long for Trump to get out of the agreement, it’s because those who drafted the Paris accord expected trouble from the U.S. Global climate change pacts have been stymied in the past by warring U.S. politicians. As such, then-President Obama instructed his negotiators to make it hard to back out. The treaty went into effect in November 2016, after at least 55 countries responsible for 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions ratified it. No signatory was allowed to give notice for at least three years after the ratification date, and then it had to give a year’s written notice. “The decision to leave the Paris agreement was wrong when it was announced and it is still wrong today,” said Helen Mountford from the World Resources Institute. “Simply put the U.S. should stay with the other 189 parties to the agreement, not go out alone.” People around the world wonder if the U.S. withdrawal will inspire other countries to leave the agreement or perhaps strengthen the ties of those that remain. A few countries, notably Kuwait, Russia and Saudi Arabia, have also shown a tendency to dispute climate change science . While it took four years to extract the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, it will take less time to rejoin if a future American president decides to realign with the international coalition of countries fighting climate change . Via BBC Image via Markus Spiske

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US formally exits Paris climate agreement

If people will believe in QAnon, why won’t they believe in climate change?

November 4, 2020 by  
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If people will believe in QAnon, why won’t they believe in climate change? Suzanne Shelton Wed, 11/04/2020 – 00:15 In 2017, 65 percent of Americans believed that climate change was occurring and that it was caused by human activity. According to our latest Eco Pulse polling, that number is down to 55 percent. Now, what I regularly tell people about this seemingly distressing news is that the number of actual climate deniers — Americans who believe climate change isn’t occurring at all — stands at only 17 percent, right where it was in 2016. I regularly say, “We need to stop focusing on whose fault it is. If your kid calls you and says he or she has just been in a car wreck, your first question is, ‘Are you OK?’ not, ‘Whose fault was it?’ So, in our messaging let’s just focus on the fact that there’s a widely acknowledged problem and we should all do something about it.” I do still think that’s the right approach. But as noted in my blog post a couple of weeks ago , I think those of us in the sustainability community have something to learn from the Disinformation Machine. And I’ve found myself pondering the question in the headline of this piece a lot. To me, the QAnon conspiracy theory doesn’t even seem like a viable plot for a Hollywood blockbuster. Imagine the pitch to an A-list star: “So, half the politicians in Washington, and many in the entertainment industry, are leading a Satanic cult, kidnapping children and forcing them into a shadowy underworld of sex trafficking. These terrible villains sometimes kill the children to extract their adrenaline in order to make themselves younger and more powerful. You’re the president of the United States, recruited specifically to run for president so that you can destroy this evil plan. Many people in this terrifying cult will try to stop you — accusing you of courting foreign interference in your election, trying to impeach you, even throwing a pandemic your way. But you will not be stopped!” I can see three things the QAnon story has going for it that we need to figure out in the land of sustainability communications. Can’t you picture any star going, “Um, neat. And no.” It just sounds too far-fetched, right? How could that possibly be a plausible story? Of course, that’s how some people feel about climate change. As in, “Really? You expect me to believe in some unseen force that’s going to destroy life as we know it, and I’m supposed to give up fossil fuels and meat to save us all? Come on …” I can see three things the QAnon story has going for it that we need to figure out in the land of sustainability communications: 1. Save the children. That’s a QAnon rallying cry that looks to be pretty effective in pulling more mainstream moms into the fold. Most moms, myself included, are instinctively wired to protect children in peril. This is why it’s imperative that we stop talking about climate change as something that’s going to affect “future generations.” Who the heck are those people? And how am I supposed to have personal feelings about a generation? No, frame the message as “your children and grandchildren.” Co-opt the idea of “save the children” to use it to move people to take action against climate change. 2. Evil/the Devil. I recently finished the seventh Harry Potter book with my daughter. If you’ve read it — or even just heard about it — you know the entire series is about Harry ultimately saving the wizarding world from Voldemort, the incarnation of evil. We get how awful Voldemort is, and we desperately want Harry to win. That same idea has been played out over and over in books, movies and even in country-building — Nazi Germany horrifyingly positioned an entire group of people as evil. QAnon is doing the same thing (and many parallels have been drawn to anti-Semitic tropes). The trick, then, is how do we create an evil target to fight against to move people to action on climate change? Perhaps climate change itself is the evil? Perhaps it’s Big Oil? We need a villain to make our narrative more powerful. 3. Somebody people want a reason to hate. One thing I think is particularly nefarious and powerful about the QAnon narrative is that it holds up celebrities that many in America may want a reason to hate as perpetrators of the atrocities. It’s unpopular to hate Oprah Winfrey or the Pope. But say you actually don’t like them, for whatever reason. QAnon gives you a reason to justify your hate. And the whole Hillary Clinton “lock her up” thing that’s really old news? QAnon gives you a reason to bring it back and erase any lingering worries about the fact that Trump didn’t win the popular vote. “Who cares if she won the popular vote … she’s evil!” I don’t know who the equivalent is, but the “fight climate change” narrative needs more than a villain — we need a villain that people love to hate. Pull Quote I can see three things the QAnon story has going for it that we need to figure out in the land of sustainability communications. Topics Marketing & Communication Climate Change Collective Insight Speaking Sustainably Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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If people will believe in QAnon, why won’t they believe in climate change?

If offered Biden’s lead EPA role, Mary Nichols would say yes

October 30, 2020 by  
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If offered Biden’s lead EPA role, Mary Nichols would say yes Katie Fehrenbacher Fri, 10/30/2020 – 03:00 The Presidential election looming next week could change everything for the future of the environment, clean air and the markets contributing to the clean economy. And if Vice President Joe Biden wins, there’s a chance it could change everything for California’s clean air chief Mary Nichols, too.  Bloomberg recently reported that Nichols, the retiring chair of the California Air Resources Board,  was on a shortlist to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if Biden wins the election next week. Others on the list for EPA head, or other environmental roles, include Mississippi environmentalist and former regional EPA administrator Heather McTeer Toney, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Connecticut regulator Dan Esty, according to the report.  During an interview at the VERGE 20 conference on Thursday , Nichols responded to a question about the report, by saying this: I am one of the people who worked at the EPA once upon a time who has been shocked and distressed by the treatment they have received over the last four years. In particular, it’s a much smaller, a much weaker agency than it was supposed to have been. And if the President wants my help, in whatever capacity, to help turn that around, I’m going to say yes.  If Nichols took on the lead role with the EPA, it would be an abrupt 180 for the agency under President Donald Trump. Current EPA head Andrew Wheeler, working with the Trump administration, has rapidly moved to dismantle many environmental, clean water and clean air protections in an attempt to remove red tape for industry. These are the types of regulations that Nichols has spent her 50-year career — including a stint at the EPA during the Clinton administration — helping implement.  In particular, Nichols and CARB have clashed with the Trump administration, and Wheeler, over issues including California’s ability to set stricter auto emissions standards. Last year, the administration revoked the state’s waiver to set stricter auto standards, and California, followed by 22 other states, sued the Trump administration. Of course, the outcome of the election is uncertain, and Nichols is reportedly just one of the names on Biden’s shortlist. The CARB chair told the VERGE audience that she is only planning to step down from CARB at the end of this year because she has some other projects she has her eye on.  My decision to step down from the Air Resources Board and turn over the leadership of this wonderful organization to someone else isn’t really based on a desire to retire. I have been doing this job for a very long time. Longer than anyone else has or maybe ever will. I want to do some other things. I have some ideas and projects in mind, which I’m not ready to make any announcements about. But it’s not a question of retiring.  Regardless of whether the EPA role is in Nichols’ future, we’re clearly looking forward to seeing what she does next.  Topics Transportation & Mobility Policy & Politics VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Kathryn Cooper, GreenBiz Close Authorship

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If offered Biden’s lead EPA role, Mary Nichols would say yes

Plugging into Amazon’s fleet electrification strategy

October 30, 2020 by  
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Plugging into Amazon’s fleet electrification strategy Mike De Socio Fri, 10/30/2020 – 00:30 When Ross Rachey set out to electrify Amazon’s fleet of last-mile delivery vehicles a few years ago, he thought it would be a matter of matching the company’s needs to the right vehicle on the market. It was not that simple. “We were a little underwhelmed at the vehicles that were available to us when we looked across the industry. It’s not for lack of trying, lots of really smart companies working hard, but we couldn’t find a vehicle that suited our need,” said Rachey, director of global fleet and product logistics for Amazon. The existing models didn’t live up to Amazon’s range and payload demands. And if the company’s fleet team did find something they liked, they couldn’t purchase it in the quantities they needed. “We realized we needed to take an active role in accelerating the products and the technology,” Rachey said. The reality is that charging infrastructure, electricity and utility connections — it’s the longest lead, probably the most challenging part of this equation. So Amazon finds itself, through a partnership with Rivian , designing its own delivery vehicles and playing a large role in scaling up the electric vehicle market. “We’re at the point now where we’re really comfortable placing big, bold bets. We’re comfortable being a first mover. And I think we’ve gotten to a point where we’re really comfortable taking risks,” Rachey said. Amazon’s Rachey spoke this week with GreenBiz Senior Writer Katie Fehrenbacher during a session VERGE 20. Here are a few takeaways on what we need to rapidly scale EVs. We need big players to take the lead There aren’t many motivators as large as a 100,000-unit order for electric vehicles. But that’s the challenge facing Amazon’s partner Rivian right now, and it’s pushing the industry to think a lot bigger. For scale, Amazon’s order is 100 times larger than similar orders from FedEx or UPS. And Rachey said more large-scale moves such as that could ignite this nascent industry. “We as corporations and fleet purchasers and auto manufacturers — we have the ability to make it easier for consumers to adopt electric vehicles. We do that by advancing the technology on more aggressive timelines. We do that by building great products so that people can purchase more products,” Rachey said. More fleet operators are likely to start moving in the same direction, but Rachey says the private sector should pick up the pace before government mandates make it non-negotiable. “I’m in favor of any policy that makes consumer adoption easier, but we can’t sit around and wait for that. We as the corporate customers, manufacturers, battery suppliers, we need to move this curve faster,” Rachey said. Brake lights surround the backend of Amazon’s custom electric van. Courtesy of Amazon We need to design (and retrofit) infrastructure with EVs in mind Rachey’s goal is to make Amazon’s electric fleet as easy to drive and fuel as the gas fleet. That means building out a robust charging infrastructure at Amazon facilities long before it will be needed. “The reality is that charging infrastructure, electricity and utility connections — it’s the longest lead, probably the most challenging part of this equation,” Rachey said. The first thing Amazon has done is design all new buildings with the ability to handle multiple types of fueling, with stronger energy connections to the grid and space onsite for eventual energy storage needs. “Make sure that when you build a site, you haven’t created a one-way door that is going to be painful later to electrify,” he said. For existing sites, Amazon is figuring out how to retrofit and already has started the work at thousands of locations across Europe and North America. We need to develop strong relationships with utilities Rachey says Amazon — and all early movers in this space — have an obligation to be good partners to regional utility companies. The earlier these private companies communicate their infrastructure needs, the sooner utilities can try to meet them. “We are both an exciting customer, because we’re going to have very large energy demands, but it’s not lost on us that we’re a challenging customer, given the scale and the timelines,” Rachey said. It’s likely that Amazon’s demands will outpace the utilities — Rivian is aiming to put the new delivery EVs on the road by the end of 2021 — but Rachey says the company is being as transparent as possible with its plans. He’s encouraged by the fact that everyone at the table, including policymakers, utilities, corporations and auto manufacturers, has the same goal: decarbonization. “Our goals are all aligned, and that’s a really powerful jumping-off point,” Rachey said. Pull Quote The reality is that charging infrastructure, electricity and utility connections — it’s the longest lead, probably the most challenging part of this equation. Topics Transportation & Mobility Clean Fleets VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The interior of an Amazon Rivian van. Courtesy of Amazon

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Lisa Jackson: How Apple aims to lead on environment and equity

October 27, 2020 by  
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Lisa Jackson: How Apple aims to lead on environment and equity Elsa Wenzel Tue, 10/27/2020 – 02:00 Apple’s Lisa Jackson is moving social justice to the top of the list for protecting the environment. Coming from one of Fortune’s “most powerful women in business ” at one of the world’s largest companies, she has views that could have a long-term global impact. Apple’s big-ticket sustainability goals released this year for 2030 include becoming carbon-neutral and achieving a net-zero impact in all operations. The company also recently embraced an outward-facing leadership role on its social impacts, with a $100 million investment to create a Racial and Equity Justice Initiative (REJI), which CEO Tim Cook asked Jackson to lead in June. How can we grow some Black and brown-owned businesses that are working on the issue of climate change? It’s not new for Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives to see racism and climate change as intertwined. She capped off her two-decade career with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as its chief under President Barack Obama. Jackson recalled a key lesson from her New Orleans childhood to GreenBiz co-founder Joel Makower during a VERGE 20 virtual event Monday. 1. Identifying intersections “I know what it means to be at the receiving end of our industrial society, whether it’s the air quality coming from petrochemical facilities, of wind, or the water quality coming down the Mississippi River, or the Gulf of Mexico’s health — and that ecosystem and diversity, all those issues, conflate to me around the place I call home,” the chemical engineer said. For example, she has seen the resources of the world flow upward to the people who make inequitable decisions around land use and then profit from them — but not flowing back to the people who become victims of flooding, fires or other consequences of poor planning. “Those are the questions we have to solve if we’re really going to solve the climate crisis,” Jackson said. Fighting for equality and justice for my community has driven my career as an environmentalist. I’ll continue the work leading Apple’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative. #BlackLivesMatter https://t.co/JKuaQP3I2r — Lisa P. Jackson (@lisapjackson) June 11, 2020 Jackson’s passion for addressing these problems deepened recently when she witnessed the combustive mix of poor air quality and high COVID-19 fatalities within historically underserved frontline communities. “It all comes together because we know that the co-pollutants of CO2 from fossil fuel, and from the fossil fuel-burning power sector and transportation sectors, are all part of that justice equation,” she said. 2. Empowering communities As part of its REJI initiative, which centers around representation, inclusion and accountability, Apple describes using its voice and cash to transform systemic disempowerment into empowerment. One way is to hire more coders of color and to build up wealth in underserved communities by doing more business with suppliers owned by people of color. “One of the things we did in the economic empowerment space is come up with this idea of an impact accelerator,” she said. “How can we grow some Black and brown-owned businesses that are working on the issue of climate change? Because we’ve always said that climate change is an economic opportunity, how can we make sure that opportunity is spread equally?” Plus, Apple is also nurturing coding hubs at historically Black colleges and universities. Apple’s $100 million toward REJI is nine to 10 times the investment committed by Amazon, Google and Facebook each toward racial justice causes. 3. Making the human factor material It’s been two years since Apple planted the seeds to grow a circular economy by committing to make all of its devices from recycled or renewable materials eventually. Jackson described how the iPhone maker quickly found that its “moonshot” of shunning ingredients that need to be mined is not just about closing the loop on material resources, but on human resources as well. The tech giant prioritized eliminating conflict minerals and questionably sourced rare earths early on because of the labor and supply chain difficulties involved. In this area, Apple so far has created its own recycled aluminum alloy for devices including the Apple Watch, MacBookAir and iPad, and it uses recycled tin in solder in some logic boards. It has developed profiles of 45 materials in terms of their impacts on the environment, society and supply chains, singling out 14 for early action on recycled or renewable sourcing. The haptic engine, which enables a variety of vibrations in iPhone models 11 and up, uses recycled rare earths. The Daisy disassembly robot gained a cousin, Dave, which recovers rare earth elements, steel and tungsten from spent devices and scrap. Apple is still aiming to make all of its products and packaging from recycled and renewable materials. So far all paper materials are recycled, and plastics have been reduced by 58 percent in four years. The company is more quietly progressing on safer chemistry. Toward its goal of gathering data on all the chemicals that comprise its products, it has information from 900 suppliers on 45,000 parts and materials. “As much as we want to continue to engage in communities to try to lift up the standards and use our purchasing power to lift up, we also have to be honest with ourselves and say, there’s also a need for us to show an alternative path,” Jackson said. 4. Being first and bigger Where Apple leads, others in the market listen. For instance, so far it has nudged more than 70 of its suppliers to adopt clean energy, which Apple has fully implemented in its offices, data centers and stores without leaning on offsets. The company’s supply chain partners of all sizes are ripe for doing something differently, Jackson said.  Because we’ve always said that climate change is an economic opportunity, how can we make sure that opportunity is spread equally? “They’ve seen what COVID can do, or a crisis can do, to a business that hasn’t thought about resilience and sustainability,” Jackson said. “Apple can help by modeling and also taking a risk on technologies and ways of doing business, and quickly scaling them.” For example, Apple was able in a single year to embed 100-recycled rare earth elements in the magnets of its iPhone 12 series. “If we can come up with a cleaner alternative, then our belief is that these other places will have no alternative but to clean up as well so that they can be competitive not just on an economic level, but on a social and environmental level as well,” she said. “That’s going to be the exciting work for Apple … in the next few years is to not only do it first but to do it bigger, and to hopefully leave behind a supply chain that’s now economical and accessible for other people. Because those industries, those enterprises will say, ‘OK, there are probably more people who want to buy recycled material as well’ — and that’s the circular economy.” Pull Quote How can we grow some Black and brown-owned businesses that are working on the issue of climate change? Because we’ve always said that climate change is an economic opportunity, how can we make sure that opportunity is spread equally? Topics Human Rights Equity & Inclusion Supply Chain VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Apple’s Vice President, Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson. Apple Close Authorship

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Lisa Jackson: How Apple aims to lead on environment and equity

Brown, female and on the bus: A personal journey into transportation policy

October 27, 2020 by  
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Brown, female and on the bus: A personal journey into transportation policy Sahar Shirazi Tue, 10/27/2020 – 01:30 I got my first passport at 6 months old. Not to take a luxurious holiday with my jet-setting family, but to move back to a country on the brink of war, right after a democratic revolution that almost immediately turned into a dictatorship. At age 5, after various failed attempts to flee Iran, I boarded a flight from Istanbul to Los Angeles by myself. Before I started school, transportation already had served to move me both into and out of opportunity in very real ways. Like many immigrants, my identity is complicated. First, I am not technically an immigrant. I was born in Berkeley, California. I was 6 months old when my family moved back to Iran, and for the first 5 years of my life, I was physically stuck there. Even after we finally made it back to the U.S., I was raised in such strictly traditional surroundings, we may as well have been in my grandparents’ village in Iran, just without the bombs and threats from the government (at least, not at that point). My family struggled to gain legal status in the U.S., and I was shaped by my personal experiences as well as theirs. When we first moved to the U.S., we were very poor. We lived in apartments around Sacramento, moving every six months or so as my parents chased elusive opportunities and odd jobs. Both of my parents worked at various burger joints, and my sister and I took the public bus to school, keys tied around our necks, sometimes upwards of 40 minutes each way. In 1989, Mazda came out with the Miata, originally only available in red, white and blue in the U.S. It was the first time I’d ever cared about a car. Walking by those shiny, tiny cars as I went to sit in the greasy air of the burger shop gave 9-year-old me my first taste of material want, the first-time consumerism infiltrated my psyche as a child. In school, I fantasized that I could learn skills to woo my classmates; to become clever or artistic or sporty enough that they would no longer question my hair, skin, language or lack of wealth. But here, here was a way for me to buy my way into their world. I was enchanted by the car not as a mode for gaining access or opportunity, but as a means to gain status. And that understanding never left me. I was enchanted by the car not as a mode for gaining access or opportunity, but as a means to gain status. And that understanding never left me. By the time I was old enough to drive, my family had moved out of Sacramento and into northern Sonoma County. My parents had moved up the ladder and now owned their own little burger shop, were able to buy their first house, and we’d been living in a middle-class community for some time. My political psyche also had formed more. I was involved in groups and actions, I already had joined boards and commissions for youth, and I’d organized various petitions and rallies in school. I’d been given a used bike in my early teens and rode it around the developing landscape of wine country as my only physical escape from my home. I took the school bus to school, and the county bus to the local community college, in the neighboring town, for classes I couldn’t take at our underfunded high school. Active and shared transportation was my lifeline, and I could not imagine sheltering myself in a private car — even a little Miata, removed from the experience of transportation, despite all the problems such a luxury would have alleviated. In Iran, taxis and mini-buses charged for space rather than users; and the wealthy paid extra for empty bus seats or “closed door” taxis that did not pick up other strangers. Riding the bus in the U.S. and not smooshing into a stranger still felt luxurious despite the inconveniences and delays, until the harassment began. In addition to being Middle Eastern in a region made up of mostly white and Latino populations, I was a young female who’d developed early. Before I understood the comments that men hurled at me, I knew the discomfort they caused. On the school bus, young boys grabbed me with no remorse and no consequences (other than the time I punched one of them, finally trying to assert some form of power). At the city bus stop, on a rural road with no one around, men slowed down and screamed out the window for me to get in as they drove by. This behavior continued through my 20s, in Oakland and San Francisco and much more “urban” and “progressive” places than the small town I spent my adolescence in. I still remember wondering what part of my 22-year-old self, dressed in paint-splattered clothes from nine hours of working with preschoolers, screamed out for that kind of attention. A stop request sign on a light-rail train in Sacramento. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/ZikG Media Source Shutterstock Media Authorship ZikG Close Authorship These were normalized experiences of being female, brown and a non-driver. And yet, I never sought the safe isolation of being in a car. I could not have explained why, until age 29, I refused to get a license. I had neither the understanding of transportation’s importance or its role in our social fabric to put words to my own stubbornness, until I sank deep into the academic study, personal stories and history of our systems. When I entered grad school at Mills College in 2009, I finally decided to get a license. I realized I could no longer afford to wait for buses that never came, and I had the luxury of being able to drive, have a vehicle and affording my private transportation system. Being in an enclosed vehicle alone was a new experience at 29, and the safety and comfort I felt was matched only by my own sense of disconnection from the world. I’ve heard the term “windshield mentality” used for the psychology of driving, and it resonates deeply. On a train, a bus, a bike or on foot, we are forced to interact with the world in some way. But alone, in a car, separated physically from all others, we can easily sink into an “us vs. everyone” mentality. Suddenly, the biker or pedestrian is a nuisance, not a person trying to get somewhere just like me. The stop signs and speed limits are just in my way, rather than being protections for the lives of others. No level of learning changes this basic psychology. I still must remind myself every time I drive, I am not in traffic, I am traffic. To truly have a system that serves the needs of diverse communities, that acknowledges and repairs the harm we have done with past planning and projects, we must have greater representation from the people affected by them. With this shift in mentality taking shape, I entered a public policy program, aiming to learn about community-based economic development and social equity work. I was going back to school to make a difference, and I had no idea that that path would lead me to transportation. One of my early projects was a study for the local business improvement district; a parking study. As I walked around the community counting parking spaces by the hour, I dashed across roads with no stoplights, crosswalks and wide lanes incentivizing high speeds, wondering why certain corners were so dark once the sun went down, and taking note of the infrastructure for other modes of transportation such as buses and bikes. I spoke to shop owners and residents, passersby and city officials, and every conversation and observation pushed me to learn more about urban planning. I think of those conversations often these days, of the person who told me they won’t take the bus in the evenings, because the bus stop is next to an ATM, and there have been too many muggings there. Of the person who explained to me that the land use and transit components are decided separately, so putting a bus stop in front of a café instead, for example, had not been considered. And of our final presentation to the local Business Improvement District, where we suggested pedestrian, bike and transit improvements to slow down traffic would benefit them, rather than more parking, and the incredulous response we received. I think of my own transportation stories; of the frustration of taking three buses and riding over an hour to commute to my job that was only eight miles away. Of the kids who were on the last leg of that commute, using the county bus as their school bus every morning, and how happy their interactions made me. Of missing a bus between jobs and the anxiety I felt as I waited 30 minutes for the next option. In many ways, transportation and land use is the physical manifestation of patriarchy and racism. From our history of bulldozing minority neighborhoods to build freeways and refusing loans to Black families to our current decision-making structures that exclude those who cannot access language, time, education, transportation, childcare, technology — all but the most resourced participants, we have reinforced systems that benefit white men at the expense of all others for decades. How do we move forward when we are burdened with so much weight, pulling at us from our past? How do we confront our own history and learn from it, to make programs, policies, investments and structures that serve the needs of communities, especially in a world of constrained time and resources? Recently, I gave a presentation that showed historic redlining maps lined up with current maps of disadvantaged communities, and I was surprised at the response it garnered. “Wow, they are the same,” someone said incredulously. Our past actions have long-lasting consequences, and we are never starting from scratch. It still boggles my mind how that is a revelation. Of course they are the same. To truly have a system that serves the needs of diverse communities, that acknowledges and repairs the harm we have done with past planning and projects, we must have greater representation from the people affected by them. Our current systems, which make decisions for people without their involvement, will continue to create inequitable outcomes, however well-intentioned those decisions may be. Sharing more information, education and stories about transportation and mobility, and enabling collaboration through new models of engagement can help us move past limited community meetings and outreach into engagement and co-creation of goals. By acknowledging the importance of transportation in economic, environmental, educational and health outcomes, those of us in the field can help connect the dots for the next generation of transportation planners, policymakers and engineers, and increase diversity in representation in our field. Just as my lived experiences influenced my decision to enter transportation, and continue to color my views through every project, the experiences of those different from me, those affected most by the mistakes of our past and present, must be included and valued as we move forward and try to do better. Meaningful representation, moving past tokenism, is critical to shifting the transportation paradigm and addressing our past harms. Mobility creates economic, social, and environmental opportunity, and that opportunity has been distributed asymmetrically thus far. Transportation is more than technical engineering, it is more than a bus or a train or a bike; it is the potential for movement through the physical world, and the experiences and stories of accessing that movement.  So when someone asks me now why I do this work, I simply tell them: It turns out I’ve been working in transportation my whole life, I just finally made it official. This article was first published on the author’s Medium channel. Pull Quote I was enchanted by the car not as a mode for gaining access or opportunity, but as a means to gain status. And that understanding never left me. On a train, a bus, a bike or on foot, we are forced to interact with the world in some way. But alone, in a car, separated physically from all others, we can easily sink into an ‘us vs. everyone’ mentality. To truly have a system that serves the needs of diverse communities, that acknowledges and repairs the harm we have done with past planning and projects, we must have greater representation from the people affected by them. Topics Transportation & Mobility Racial Issues Social Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Inside a bus in Chicago, circa March 2016. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/Sorbis Shutterstock Sorbis Close Authorship

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Brown, female and on the bus: A personal journey into transportation policy

Former Walmart exec brings ride-share technology to fresh produce transport

October 27, 2020 by  
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Former Walmart exec brings ride-share technology to fresh produce transport Jesse Klein Tue, 10/27/2020 – 01:00 Hwy Haul co-founder and CEO Syed Aman knows fresh produce is the future of grocery stores. It’s one of the few categories that still drives shoppers to buy in-store. But some points in the supply chain for fresh produce are still stuck in the dark ages. Using his experience at Walmart, Aman is dragging trucking into the digital age with the added bonus of reducing food waste and eliminating unnecessary transportation emissions.  The trucking industry is fragmented and driven by individual relationships, according to Aman. Hwy Haul is trying to unite every stakeholder — shipper, trucker and retailer — in one place. Hwy Haul’s app digitally connects growers with fresh produce to truckers who can deliver the loads to buyers around the country. According to Max Gorobets, associate director of transportation for Lakeside Produce , one of Hwy Haul’s clients, before the app, would have to get on the phone to call each trucking company to find a truck and a driver to pick up and deliver his load. Lakeside Produce delivers 12 million cases of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers to large grocery stores in Canada every year, usually dealing with regional trucking companies. “You spend a lot of time and effort and money to get it done manually,” he said. Now Gorobets enters his load’s origin and destination information into the Hwy Haul app, and drivers on the other end can decide to accept it. Gorobets’ story reminds me of my own transition from yellow cabs to the Uber and Lyft ride-sharing services. Hwy Haul is used by thousands of carriers across North America, and it earns a commission on every load. The San Francisco-based startup has raised $3.3 million in seed funding. According to its website , investors and advisers include partners and CEOs at August Capital, Freshworks and Nutanix. But convenience isn’t the main driver modernizing the trucking industry. Aman hopes his platform will help with transportation-related sustainability commitments by reducing the number of empty miles driven by trucks and the amount of food waste. Technology working to reducing empty mileage  In the trucking sector, anywhere between 20 and 30 percent of miles are driven by empty freights, according to industry research. Sometimes, trucks drive 300 miles just to pick up a load. Those emissions add up. Hwy Haul has reduced empty mileage by 80 percent compared to industry standards by using data science, AI and algorithms, Aman said.  Gorobets described a time he was short a driver in California on a Saturday night. He needed a truck within the hour to make it on time for his delivery in Michigan or he would have lost the produce to a different retailer. Gorobets was in Leamington, Ontario, trying to figure out a truck for a load in San Francisco, not usually an easy task. “With Hwy Haul, I posted the load and within half an hour, I had a driver in the area ready for pick-up,” he said.   Without Hwy Haul, Gorobets would have called every carrier in California and might have been able to connect only with a driver a few hundred miles away. He would have had to settle for those empty miles, and the planet would have had to suck in CO2 from an unnecessary and unproductive drive.  21st-century monitoring could eliminate waste Aman’s key metric of success, however, is reducing rejections and therefore reducing food waste. According to him, produce spends half its shelf life on a truck.  “Produce is a very time-sensitive commodity,” he said.  That means having eyes on the produce at all times during the route. Hwy Haul uses sensors to monitor metrics such as temperature and location that are uploaded in real-time to its portal.  “One of the biggest problems of this industry is visibility and transparency,” he said. “Everyone is anxious about what’s happening to their load.” Shippers can log into the portal to see what is happening to their products and where a shipment is along the trip instead of hassling the truck driver over email, phone or text. According to Aman, an average of 14 percent of loads are rejected by the retailer once they make it to the destination because of spoilage and damage en route. If there’s one metric he hopes to get down to negligible, it’s that one. So far, Hwy Haul has reduced rejections by 90 percent compared to industry standards, he estimated.  “If the food gets rejected, we are working on certain programs to be routed to a nearby food bank or wholesalers rather than crashing into the dumpster,” Aman said. Topics Transportation & Mobility Food Systems Supply Chain Food Waste Transportation Supply Chain Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Hwy Haul connects truckers and shippers through a digital platform for convenience and sustainability improvements.  Courtesy of Hwy Haul Close Authorship

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Former Walmart exec brings ride-share technology to fresh produce transport

EPA @ 50, and what it says about you and me

October 26, 2020 by  
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EPA @ 50, and what it says about you and me Terry F. Yosie Mon, 10/26/2020 – 01:45 The American people always have possessed a very personal relationship with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Like all personal relationships, the EPA and its public have their share of successes and shortcomings, adjustments of expectations to realities, and recognition that the daily grind of complexity reveals our own values however much they end up being compromised. Few institutions exhibit such a pervasive daily presence in American life as the EPA. Its decisions impact the air we breathe (indoors and outside), the water we drink, the food we eat, the health of the children we give birth to and raise, the cars and fuel we purchase, the beaches where we swim, the chemicals we consume (voluntarily or involuntarily) or the quality of nature that we enjoy. The public health and environmental benefits of the EPA’s actions have been enormous, even while controversial. As one example, a draft report to Congress from the current administration estimated that, over the past decade, annual benefits from EPA regulations ranged from $196 billion to $706 billion, while yearly economic costs were between $54 billion and $65 billion. On Dec. 2, the EPA will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its establishment, not by an act of Congress but through an executive decision of President Richard M. Nixon. It has carried out its mission through the various statutes enacted by Congress beginning in 1970. The 50th-anniversary commemoration will not be widely celebrated because the EPA has become a political lightning rod among anti-regulatory conservative groups — who have dominated the national narrative about environmental policy during most of the past 40 years — and the toxic management of the current administration has weakened numerous health and environmental safeguards. However, the anniversary should stimulate serious reflection about what we as citizens expect from the EPA and ourselves if we are to successfully resolve the mounting domestic and international challenges that have placed the biological systems of our planet in various stages of collapse. The anniversary should stimulate serious reflection about what we as citizens expect from EPA and ourselves. A good place to begin that reflection is a new book by former senior EPA officials, “Fifty Years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Progress, Retrenchment and Opportunities,” edited by A. James Barnes, John D. Graham and David M. Konisky and soon to be published by Rowman & Littlefield. (I am co-author of the chapter on environmental science.) Long-term environmental policy observers will note that the EPA’s beginning coincided with a burst of public interest and participation to clean up America’s degraded skies, water and land. Often led by idealistic college students and affluent citizens of a growing middle class, a mass movement catalyzed new research, advocacy and media attention that greatly affected decisions in Congress and the executive branch and pioneered new judicial interpretations supportive of the EPA’s decisions. Fast-forward 50 years to the present. Both America and the EPA have experienced what author George Packer described as the “unwinding” of American life. The phenomenon of the unwinding means that people who have been on this earth since at least the 1960s “have watched structures that had been in place before your birth collapse like pillars of salt across the vast visible landscape … the order of everyday life … changed beyond recognition.” Unwinding support  America’s relationship to the EPA and environmental policy also has experienced an unwinding that has manifested itself in four distinctive ways: Environmental decision-making became less connected with core values and more focused around technocratic solutions. This understandable outcome resulted from a growing recognition that environmental problems were more complex than originally perceived and more costly to resolve. The resulting investments in science, technology and economic analysis, and debates over which scientific data and cost/benefit analysis met acceptable professional standards, moved the environmental conversation away from citizens and towards scientists and engineers and lawyers that knew how to craft or oppose regulations to support their positions. At times, these “insider” debates became dysfunctional (EPA’s scientific review of dioxin risks went on for about 20 years) and detracted from the ability to continuously engage in a broader public conversation about environmental priorities and the benefits of EPA policies to enhancing the quality of life. Bipartisan politics largely died. The bipartisanship present at EPA’s founding generally persisted through subsequent decades until the mid-1990s and the unveiling of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. Deregulation was a central feature of this Republican agenda and has remained so to the present day. Democrats also abandoned the idea that the EPA should remain as an independent agency and, beginning with the Clinton administration, centralized much of environmental policymaking as part of the White House political operation. The financial advantages that Republicans and their corporate allies enjoyed supported their deregulatory agenda at all levels of government through gerrymandered congressional districts, volumes of commissioned studies conducted by their ideological supporters and more conservative judicial appointments. Both parties used environmental policy, and the EPA, as a weapon against their political opponents. A debilitated and insecure middle class led to weakened support for environmental protection. Beginning in the 1970s, America’s post-World War II economic success buckled through a series of recessions and depressions, oil embargoes, high inflation and low inflation, de-industrialization and free trade policies and financial collapses that eroded the affluence of the middle class. As a result, the widespread societal consensus for environmental protection fragmented across social and economic class lines as middle- and lower-income voters focused more directly on job security, health insurance and the broader social safety net. Advocacy groups opposed to taking action on climate change, strengthening controls on particulate matter or controlling non-point sources of water pollution were able to exploit the economic anxieties of workers in America’s industrial states and the farm belt. Environmental organizations, and other members of the center-left and progressive communities, have been slow to recognize that enacting their agenda necessarily depends upon building a new political coalition to build hope and job opportunities for those whose incomes have not kept pace in a changing economy. Public values have changed. Over several decades, public opinion polls consistently concluded that Americans support environmental protection as a second-tier priority (generally below health care, jobs and economic security, and education). These surveys, however, do not reveal that awareness of environmental problems necessarily motivates people to act upon this information, endorse specific policies or support EPA as an institution. The changing arc of the Baby Boom generation (born between 1946 and 1964) is a case in point. Boomers provided the tip of the emotional and advocacy spear for a host of environmental and social reforms while in their 20s and 30s. By the time they reached their 40s and 50s, their values and priorities had taken a decidedly more conservative turn in favor of tax cuts and more skepticism towards government intervention in the economy. They have represented a core part of the constituencies that elected the Reagan, Bush and Trump administrations and Republican control of Congress. As this generation, now proceeding into its retirement years, experiences the COVID-19 pandemic, its receptivity towards government taking preventive public health actions and securing a broader economic and social safety net appears to be evolving yet again. Regenerating and refocusing Renewing support for environmental protection, and for the EPA specifically, critically depends upon reviving America’s democracy. Such renewal depends upon success in three areas: Expanding voting and other forms of civic participation across all income levels and social groups so that environmental policymakers and legislators hear from a more representative range of voices across society; Assuring that future abundance is distributed more equitably and that the risks (environmental or economic) generated from such abundance are reduced and managed more effectively; and Rethinking the EPA’s role in advancing environmental and social justice. The very complexity of American society and its overcharged political system has the unfortunate byproduct that issues don’t get the attention they deserve until a crisis emerges to focus public and political attention. A regeneration agenda for the environment and EPA can advance through the following initiatives: Re-establishing the EPA as a science-based, professional, independent agency whose decision-making processes are decoupled from any White House or campaign political operation. While the agency’s senior leadership will continue to be political appointees who will generally seek to reflect any specific administration’s priorities, supporting the professionalism and diversity of EPA staff and its adherence to widely accepted scientific and economic methods and peer standards can significantly augment its effectiveness, reputation and legitimacy. Investing in and broadening public access to environmental data and decision-making. This should include expanding research to understand the impacts of pollution upon minority populations and supplementing the array of risk reduction tools beyond traditional regulation to expedite decision making. The EPA also must embrace more direct and extensive public engagement to listen to public concerns and explain its actions through community outreach, talk radio, town hall meetings and social media. Most EPA administrators and their leadership teams have not conceived these actions as a vital responsibility nor have they possessed the critical communications skills for success. Re-establishing the public’s relationship with the EPA is a vital factor in restoring the agency as a credible and effective — and non-political — public institution. Integrating environmental protection within the economic renewal agenda. Expanding health care, investing in more innovative infrastructure (digital technologies and more equitable access to broadband) and decarbonizing the economy all provide unique opportunities to unify environmental and economic policies. Well-paying job opportunities, greater economic security, healthier lifestyles, more prosperous communities and a more sustainable planet are measurable outcomes of such a strategy. Being explicit about the values that environmental policies support. Oftentimes, public policy decisions are submerged in a barrage of models and concepts that are impenetrable, even to many of the most senior leaders of the EPA and other agencies. If the outcome of an environmental decision will increase the cost of a consumer product as a means of protecting children’s health or reducing hospital admissions from pollution — then say so. Over time, and more often than not, the public will support such reasoning and appreciate the honesty and integrity through which it is offered. The very complexity of American society and its overcharged political system has the unfortunate byproduct that issues don’t get the attention they deserve until a crisis emerges to focus public and political attention. Even more, unfortunately, our present moment is experiencing four simultaneous crises — public health, economic, race relations and global climate change. The current unwinding largely was predicted and has been long in the making. It, too, can be resolved if economic investment, science-based policies and public engagement expand although the process will take time and be noisy and sometimes disruptive. As for those Baby Boomers, many of whom have entered their retirement years, it’s time to pass the torch to the millennials and their idealism, new skills and alternative outlooks on life and the planet we inhabit. Pull Quote The anniversary should stimulate serious reflection about what we as citizens expect from EPA and ourselves. The very complexity of American society and its overcharged political system has the unfortunate byproduct that issues don’t get the attention they deserve until a crisis emerges to focus public and political attention. Topics Policy & Politics Featured Column Values Proposition Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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