Is your environmentalism intersectional? It should be

December 4, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

Is your environmentalism intersectional? It should be Deonna Anderson Fri, 12/04/2020 – 01:30 In late May and then in June when companies and individuals were posting black squares across social media as a symbol of their commitment to Black lives, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, eco-communicator Leah Thomas was thinking of a more concrete, tangible way to improve the environmental movement in a way that intentionally includes Black, Indigenous and other communities of color. In that moment, Thomas founded Intersectional Environmentalist (IE), a mission-driven organization committed to dismantling systems of oppression by amplifying historically silenced voices in the environmental movement, along with co-founders Diandra Marizet, Philip Aiken and Sabs Katz.  “We want transparency. We want people to be inclusive, and we want people and companies not to be silent on these issues anymore because that’s how we’ve gotten to this point in the first place,” said Katz, director of communications at IE. “By continuing to be silent, we will only perpetuate these negative aspects of society.” I spoke with Katz (pictured left) about what the organization has been building since it was founded in June, its new partnership with TAZO and the Intersectional Environmentalist team’s hopes for 2021.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Deonna Anderson: What has Intersectional Environmentalist been up to since you founded the organization a few months ago? Sabs Katz: It has been a little bit of a whirlwind just really understanding the amount of growth that we’ve had in less than six months. But we’ve been focusing our efforts on a couple of different pillars that are really central to IE as a business. One of them is community building. We do that through our Instagram page. And we have a website as well that aggregates a lot of educational resources that look at different topics and look at different communities for people who are interested in learning more about intersectional environmentalism. So we’ve been focusing on community building there.  We’ve also been developing an accountability program for businesses to incorporate intersectional environmentalism into their workplace. And we’ve been focusing on really developing and hoping to set a standard as a business and show other companies that you can be a mission-driven company and still pay your workers fair wages. You can still be profitable and have all of these positive initiatives that can make a difference in the world and yeah, not really compromise your values. Anderson: Can you describe what intersectional environmentalism is and how that’s different from environmental justice and climate justice or how those things might work together? Katz: I’ll start off with a little bit of background. Intersectional theory and critical race theory has been studied largely by Kimberlé Crenshaw , a professor and a lawyer. And she really inspired Leah Thomas, our founder, to incorporate this idea of intersectionality into environmentalism because a lot of times, when we do hear the term intersectional it’s applied to feminism. So Leah, when she was in college, heard and understood intersectional feminism and identified with that but noticed that within the environmental space there wasn’t really a lot of that applied to people’s environmentalism.  And historically the environmental movement has been very white-washed. So after the murder of George Floyd in May, she came out with this graphic that ended up going viral that said environmentalists for Black Lives Matter and defined intersectional environmentalism, a form of environmentalism that advocates for both people and the planet and identifies the ways that injustices are done to certain groups of people without minimizing or silencing under-amplified voices within this space. Intersectional environmentalism … is more of a framework for one to achieve environmental justice. So someone can be an intersectional environmentalist with the goal of attaining climate justice.         View this post on Instagram                       A post shared by Leah Thomas (@greengirlleah) Anderson: Because the GreenBiz audience is mostly corporate sustainability professionals, I’m curious about your business accountability program. Can you tell me how that program works?  Katz:  Right after we were created, there were a lot of companies reaching out to us who wanted to partner with us in different ways or just to find out how to incorporate a more intersectional perspective into their business, into their CSR goals. We developed this accountability program because we wanted people to continue doing the work, and we didn’t want to lose the momentum of people being activated and using their voices. The accountability program is made up of four modules over the course of four months, so there’s one module per month.  There are a couple of different aspects but one of them is largely an online coursework program where the company can participate and learn more about intersectional environmentalism. They can learn more about why it’s important to have sustainability goals and also have diversity goals. I feel like when we see a lot of companies that participate in sustainable practices, it’s very non-human-focused in many ways.  For example, a lot of fashion companies might use organic cotton or maybe they’ll use recycled plastic. But one thing that they might not necessarily talk about is how the production of plastic can cause pollution. A lot of chemical factories or factories that create plastic are located in largely BIPoC [Black, Indigenous and people of color] communities and cause negative health consequences. We want to really encourage companies to lean into those conversations and not minimize those conversations that are deemed maybe a little bit too political. Because what we’re seeing a lot of is that a lot of new folks in Gen Z, a lot of millennials, want to be supporting companies that are transparent. They want to support companies that have a stance against social injustice and environmental injustice. So it’s not only something that is good for moral’s sake. It’s good business practice as well. Anderson: It sounds like you are encouraging businesses to take a more holistic approach to the way that they achieve sustainability within their business versus just their bottom line and thinking more about people. Katz: Absolutely. And within the environmental space for so long, the conversation has been very focused on conservation or it’s been focused on like plastic in the oceans, all of which are obviously very important conversations to have. But we are not really talking about the ways that humans are being negatively impacted by the effects of the climate crisis and disproportionately BIPoC communities and low-income communities are being impacted. And those are the voices that continue to be erased within the environmental movement because it seemed a little bit too political. But when these are realities that are happening every day, it does no good to continue ignoring or to continue silencing those voices when we should be all fighting for an environment that is just for everyone. So that is one of our main goals with this program. Anderson: Intersectional Environmentalist recently launched a partnership with TAZO Tea to help with the launch of IE’s first cohort of interns, with a $250,000 donation from the tea brand. I’m curious about how the internship program works and also how the partnership came about. Katz: Leah Thomas, our founder, had been in contact with somebody from TAZO. They’re a huge fan of Leah herself. And so this has been a conversation that’s been going on for a little bit going back and forth because TAZO has been wanting to take a stance and wanting to invest in environmental justice organizations. We as IE have always known that we want to pay people for their work, and we don’t believe that people should be giving free labor. And we believe unpaid internships should be abolished because they’re just frankly not fair. And they take opportunities away from people who might not be able to work for free. A large part of what we do is find ways to make sure that we can pay all of our activists, all of the activists on our team. We’re still pretty young. Sometimes our budget’s a little bit scrappy. But we don’t want to take advantage of people. So this partnership is really a collaboration in many ways because of TAZO’s desire to really support a lot of these environmental justice initiatives. It does no good to continue ignoring or to continue silencing those voices when we should be all fighting for an environment that is just for everyone. And our goal is to continue growing as a team and also ensure that everybody on our team is paid fair wages. All of our interns are paid $21 an hour. And we just want to make sure that we set the standard, like I said before, to show companies that regardless of how big or how small you are, there are ways that you can fund your interns. And so we don’t want these huge companies, especially companies that are much larger than us, to think that it’s still OK to have unpaid internships when there are ways to really fund that.  Anderson: Has the internship already started for these folks? Katz: Yes, the first official day was Nov. 10 on Tuesday right after the election. So it was kind of a whirlwind. But yes. They started a couple of weeks ago. We have a creative cohort of interns. We have eco-communication, social media, environmental justice research interns. And it’s been really exciting hearing the feedback. I know we received well over 1,000 applications, and the applications were only open for a week. So it really shows the desire and the need for more companies to really be imbuing these ideals of social justice and environmentalism within their business. And it’s showing that people want to do this work, and people really want to make their voices heard and be a part of a community that is making a real difference in the world. Anderson: It seems to me that your partnership with TAZO is kind of unique. Are there opportunities for other businesses to get involved with IE? And do you have visions of ways that businesses can get involved outside of your business accountability program and things like this partnership with TAZO? Katz: Absolutely. I think one thing that I forgot to mention earlier is that we do partner very thoughtfully with certain businesses. For example, today we’re doing a series of cookouts with Impossible Foods. We do a lot of social media partnerships. We partnered with Allbirds, a sustainable footwear company. And they created a bunch of posters that were put up in New York City. They were put up in [Los Angeles] and San Francisco in partnership with IE. We are very open to doing partnerships in many different ways. That being said, we want to be very thoughtful and considerate and develop relationships with these businesses rather than having it be a one-off thing because we’re really focused on that community-building aspect. I would say there are definitely other ways to partner with us, not just within that accountability program respect. Anderson: I’m looking forward to seeing what those other partnerships become. Pivoting a bit, 2020 is almost over — it’s been an interesting year, and IE was started this year. I’m curious as we go into 2021, what are some of IE’s hopes about the impact that you have on the environmentalism movement? Katz: I’ll split it up into two different answers. The first one, what are our hopes? Our hope is really to bring intersectional environmentalism to the mainstream environmental movement and have that be the focus of every future environmental conversation. We don’t want it to just be talking about the polar bears. Obviously, we want to talk about the polar bears. But we want to really have the conversations of how are people being impacted? And who are the folks who are most impacted by the negative aspects of the climate crisis? We can no longer continue to ignore the ways that BIPoC communities are being disproportionately impacted.  We’re already seeing climate refugees, folks who are no longer able to live within their communities or within their countries because the weather is too hot to live there or the conditions, the air conditions, the air pollution conditions make it no longer a viable community. We really want folks to not shy away from these conversations. When we look at a lot of environmental organizations, a lot of environmental nonprofits, the largest ones are ones that focus on conservation. They focus on nature. They focus on animals. All of which are absolutely wonderful.          View this post on Instagram                       A post shared by IE (@intersectionalenvironmentalist) But when we look at how often environmental justice organizations are funded, the amount of money that goes to funding these companies and these initiatives is minuscule compared to something like the World Wildlife Fund or the Nature Conservancy, not to disparage those organizations whatsoever. But I think it reflects a larger issue in that why are we not funding this research? Why are we not funding these initiatives? So we’re really hoping to shift that conversation in many ways. We’ve already heard stories of students in universities who are asking their schools to implement intersectional environmentalist courses into their coursework and make those required courses for any environmental majors.  Those would be one of the more grassroots initiatives that we hope to see, and we hope to continue seeing. And then in terms of IE as a business, we are looking to expand a little bit. Right now we are a for-profit, and we very consciously decided to become a for-profit because we wanted to show that you can be a mission-driven organization and still make money and you can still pay people fair wages. One of our goals for 2021 is to create a nonprofit arm so that area can focus on doing a lot more of the grassroots work, whether that’s through our mentorship program, which we’re still continuing to flesh out, or funding grants for sustainability of intersectional environmentalist organizations.  We’re fleshing out that arm in 2021. We’re also hoping to create a media house almost like Jubilee with the goal of really highlighting a lot of these stories of environmental injustice and really bring it to the forefront so that people can no longer ignore these conversations. Anderson: Is there anything we didn’t talk about that you feel is important for GreenBiz readers to know about the work that you are doing at IE?  Katz: I just want to reiterate that a lot of people and a lot of young consumers nowadays, they want to be able to support companies that take a stance when it comes to social justice, when it comes to environmentalism. We don’t need to see just the black squares on social media. We want to see real action being taken. We want transparency. We want people to be inclusive, and we want people and companies not to be silent on these issues anymore because that’s how we’ve gotten to this point in the first place. And by continuing to be silent we will only perpetuate these negative aspects of society.  And not to shy away from them because, like I said, folks want to be supporting these companies … There will always be some folks who don’t want to have that conversation, who don’t want companies to necessarily feel like they should be having that conversation. But at the end of the day, it’s the right thing to do. And it’s the way of the future. And we have to continue having these conversations in order for us to have a future that is intersectional. Pull Quote It does no good to continue ignoring or to continue silencing those voices when we should be all fighting for an environment that is just for everyone. Topics Social Justice Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Illustration by  GoodStudio  on Shutterstock.

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Is your environmentalism intersectional? It should be

New eco-friendly, decomposing construction foam unveiled

November 25, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Researchers have come up with a new, more eco-friendly and effective form of building insulation material. The new material was developed due to the shortcomings of the traditional polyurethane-based foam insulators. These traditional insulators harm the environment via the release of volatile compounds into the atmosphere. A group of engineers from the University of North Texas College of Engineering led the research. The engineers, led by Professor Nandika D’Souza of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, have been working on the project since 2018. D’Souza’s lab earned a National Science Foundation grant worth $302,285 to help find a solution to the shortcomings of the conventional insulators. After much research, the team revealed a new type of insulation material, which is less harmful to the environment . By mixing corn-based polylactic acid with cellulose, in combination with supercritical carbon-dioxide, researchers found they could create an environmentally friendly product. This type of insulator is not only safe but also combustible and decomposable. “PLA on its own was good, but we found it wasn’t as strong as the conventional insulation, so we came up with the idea of mixing cellulose in,” D’Souza said. “ Cellulose is a degradable fiber and is often found as a waste in the paper industry, so not only is it stronger, but also is cheaper and easier to come by.” The team has already tested its new technology at the UNT Engineering Zero Energy Lab, a space designed to test alternative energy generation technologies. With the technology already tested and proven in the lab, it only has to go through trials in the construction industry to determine its viability. Kayode Oluwabunmi, one of the doctoral students in DSouza’s lab, says the undoing of conventional foam is its inability to break down once it’s no longer usable. This means the foam lingers in the environment. “The conventional foams are not environmentally-friendly and do not break down once they are no longer usable. They can stay in the environment for 1,000 years,” Oluwabunmi said. Besides its ability to decompose, the new material is also long-lasting. It shares a similar lifespan with the conventional foam and allows a 12% increase in heating and cooling. In other words, this material will help control energy flow better and with fewer risks. + The University of North Texas Images via The University of North Texas

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New eco-friendly, decomposing construction foam unveiled

Why Google, BASF and Sephora are coming together on safer chemistry

October 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

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Why Google, BASF and Sephora are coming together on safer chemistry Elsa Wenzel Wed, 10/28/2020 – 02:02 It’s probably fair to say that nobody expressly set out to devise a sunscreen to bleach coral reefs or a yoga mat to emit carcinogens. Yet toxic substances circulate in waterways and bloodstreams, leached out from all the consumables of everyday life. Shortsightedness and paltry data in the cycles of product design and engineering are partly to blame for this collateral damage of modern chemistry. Most product designers are unlettered in chemistry, and the practice of green chemistry remains in its early years. Even a basic count of all the industrial chemicals in use is scarce — somewhere over 80,000 , according to the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act Inventory, although the EPA total for recent output is less than 9,000 . It’s simply asking too much of most people formulating a consumer product only to include ingredients that are proven not to harm living systems. But what if design teams seeking safer ingredients didn’t have to know much about the molecules that comprise the stuff they’re making? What if they had a handy menu that graded each chemical? In theory, picking a less-toxic choice could be as simple as shunning an “F” or “C” ingredient for an “A” or a “B” on the list. We really saw this as a key to unlock in order to improve safe and circular chemistry. That’s the vision being advanced by ChemFORWARD, a mission-driven nonprofit backed by leading corporations with serious ambitions to accelerate safer chemistry. The effort is attracting pioneers in green chemistry, design and data to build a first-of-its-kind clearinghouse to help design teams and supply chains ditch hazardous chemicals for good. Leaders on board “We really saw this as a key to unlock in order to improve safe and circular chemistry,” said Mike Werner, circular economy lead at Google, who serves on the nonprofit’s advisory board. The search giant pushes for safer chemistry and a circular economy on myriad levels , including within its office spaces, at its data centers and inside the devices it sells. “ChemFORWARD fits [into] this really big important puzzle toward making materials healthy and safe.” Google is among ChemFORWARD’s roster of “co-design” partners that includes Sephora, Target, Levi’s, HP, Levi Strauss, H&M, Nike, Steelcase and Method, each recognized for various leadership efforts toward safer chemistry. Last year, for example, Sephora became the first major cosmetics retailer to broadcast its policy on chemicals. Target’s Sustainable Product Standard came on the scene in 2013. Nike has its own Chemistry Playbook . Levi’s innovations include its recyclable Wellthread denim line. Other ChemFORWARD partners include the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals.  ChemFORWARD’s technical advisory board is led by Art Fong, Apple’s green chemistry lead. Corporate scientists and chemists also come together via ChemFORWARD for regular meetings and peer reviews with third-party toxicology firms. The nonprofit is betting that teaming up with such pathfinders will help spark lasting industry innovation via its tool, in the process lowering the cost for even small companies to find safer chemical alternatives for their products. “Our intention is to reverse decades of negative impacts from the inundation of toxic chemicals that we find in our products, our economy, our environment and our bodies,” said ChemFORWARD Executive Director Stacy Glass, who has led the effort from a project within the  Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute to its current iteration, housed within the Washington, D.C.-based Healthy Building Network , a nonprofit that advocates for sustainable building materials. “We need new solutions, new ways of thinking about things to have safe, circular products.” We are fundamentally changing the way that chemical hazard data is created, maintained, distributed and financed. ChemFORWARD seeks not only to display what chemicals not to use, but also what’s available instead. This aim progresses away from the longtime industry reliance on restricted substances lists that can leave product makers empty-handed, while liberating data that until recently has been trapped in various PDF reports or proprietary databases. ChemFORWARD seeks to stand apart from other data plays by building bridges in the supply chain with its “collaborative, harmonized” approach. “We are fundamentally changing the way that chemical hazard data is created, maintained, distributed and financed,” Glass said. What’s inside However, ChemFORWARD is entering an area that’s already seeing a lot of activity. Multiple hazards assessment standards are available in increasingly usable formats to help companies identify problematic chemicals. The for-profit firm Scivera , launched in 2008 in Charlottesville, Virginia, offers a subscription database SciveraLENS, with color-coded grades for chemicals based on their inherent hazards. ChemFORWARD’s web-based software pools together data from some of the best-known chemicals assessment methodologies. A color-coded letter grade rolls up information from the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification , Cradle to Cradle (on material health) and the EPA SaferChoice Safer Chemical Ingredients List . That results in offering users more than 50 pieces of interpretation and over 20 human and environmental endpoints, such as around neurotoxicity or aquatic toxicity, for each chemical. A view inside a ChemFORWARD display of dimethyl phthalate, used in plastics. “The work that ChemFORWARD is doing and proposes to do will provide important additional information to a community of organizations seeking real-world data to better understand the safety implications of their materials choices,” said green chemistry trailblazer John C. Warner, a distinguished research fellow at synthetic biology startup Zymergen. Think of nearly any consumer-product chemical villain that’s dominated recent headlines for disrupting ecosystems or being linked to cancer or hormonal havoc. Chances are ChemFORWARD is building a collection of alternatives to it. These include ortho-phthalate plasticizers found in flexible toys, UV-blocking oxybenzone in sunscreens and halogenated flame retardants in electronics. ChemFORWARD has portfolios of alternative cleaning solvents , cosmetics preservatives and fragrance fixatives. The goal is for ChemFORWARD to scale up from about 200 to 2,000 safer chemicals in 2021. “The more technical person can see the technical data they need,” Glass said. “But most companies need, ‘Can I use it [or] can I not use it?’ for an answer.” More than skin deep ChemFORWARD is building clearinghouses for electronics and food packaging, but one of its earliest repositories coalesces data in beauty and personal care, with hundreds of safer alternatives. Someone shopping around to include a safer surfactant in a skin cleanser or an emollient in a moisturizing lotion can consult the tool for the green “A” or “B” options. Sephora, which is mindful of its many eco-conscious young customers and became a co-design partner with ChemFORWARD in March, recently took steps to advance beyond its restricted substances list. The company says 94 percent of all the products it sells eliminate potentially negative “high-priority” chemicals. The Clean at Sephora label for sustainable beauty care products in its catalog features goods from more than five dozen smaller companies, including BeautyCounter . “We knew the importance of creating a baseline expectation for all brands in terms of safety and the environment,” Carley Klekas, Sephora’s senior manager of product sustainability, said. “Sephora already had rigorous requirements in place, specifically with our in-house brand, Sephora Collection, that goes beyond EU regulations, but we also wanted to expand this even more across the brands we carry.” These chemicals used in cosmetics display letter grades according to safety. It teamed up with ChemFORWARD and EDF on a research project that prioritized four chemical categories common within beauty and personal care: preservatives; benzophenones; silicones; and ethanolamines. Sephora then sponsored chemical hazard assessments for the alternative ingredients named in the research. As a result of the partnership, safer alternatives have been assessed for 73 percent of Sephora’s high-priority chemicals — and made available to industry via ChemFORWARD. “We needed a credible and innovative resource to help us assess alternatives to chemicals within our policy, to ensure they were safe, and that we were avoiding regrettable substitution,” Klekas said. “We know this is important work to be done and will ultimately help showcase that there are safer alternatives to the high-priority chemicals we seek to reduce in our assortment, while also help the industry identify gaps where more innovation is needed.” The innovation puzzle Glass sees ChemFORWARD’s highest mission as its potential for furthering innovation. But that requires buy-in not only from retailers and product manufacturers, but also from the chemical producers themselves. The process of making chemical substitutions is only one step along the path to optimizing shiny, new, safer chemicals, which Glass hopes to help propel. Enter Pat Harmon, industry manager at chemicals powerhouse BASF. He’s been involved with ChemFORWARD for many years after meeting Lauren Heine through a Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (G3C) event. Heine was then executive director of the nonprofit Northwest Green Chemistry and had just joined MaterialWise, the early iteration of ChemFORWARD, where she’s now director of safer materials and data integrity. BASF’s sustainability strategy hinges upon developing chemicals that advance sustainability, called “accelerators,” which account for more than 25 percent of its sales. Ninety-five percent of BASF’s products have been evaluated for potential sustainability contributions. BASF has a history of involvement in collaborative assessments, and it quantifies the sustainability benefits of its products through life-cycle assessments and its Sustainable Solutions Steering methodology. It’s really powerful in terms of thinking about moving to green chemistry. Harmon aligned with Heine on the need for better third-party assessments for alternatives to troublesome ortho-phthalates, which are tied to multiple health problems. He also liked what she described of how the fledgling nonprofit chemical clearinghouse might lower the cost to companies of chemical assessments while moving away from “negative lists.” ChemFORWARD’s involvement with leadership brands and retailers, which are ultimately BASF’s downstream customers, also helped to elevate the case for BASF getting involved.  Eventually, BASF shared details for ChemFORWARD about several of its plasticizer accelerators, including its ortho-phthalate alternatives Hexamoll DINCH and Palatinol DOTP . These are used in flexible PVC and in a broad range of applications including children’s toys, yoga mats, wiring cable, vinyl flooring and automotive interiors. A bridge? “Now, chemical suppliers have the option to market their safer alternatives and to validate their low-hazard claims through an independent, trusted platform,” Glass said. “In this way, we create a bridge between chemical suppliers, their customers and prospective customers with data that has been traditionally hard to come by, difficult to interpret and sometimes hard to trust.” Harmon sees ChemFORWARD as a useful tool for companies that ultimately use BASF’s chemicals as well as a resource that can help move safer chemistry forward in industry, demonstrating for BASF’s customers the value of the safer decisions behind their product formulations. And the involvement with CHEMForward may help BASF to identify potential market gaps in areas where the number of attractive chemical alternatives is slim.  “This is why the ChemFORWARD project is so important,” Harmon said. “It’s one of the ways to help understand that you’re making the right decisions to move to new substances. I would really like to see this approach be used more and more.” For example, what if ChemFORWARD could grow to include the broader area of plastics additives in addition to plasticizers, such as flame retardants and light stabilizers? That could bring more of the plastic industry onboard, he added. “If you make it broader for the whole plastics industry, then you have a lot of people who would have interest in using this type of tool,” Harmon said, optimistic that ChemFORWARD may help to advance plastics circularity longer term. For example, if it identifies safer plastics used, say, in medical equipment that’s currently discarded, then more IV bags or other consumables finally might be recycled without the possibility of circulating harmful chemicals into the marketplace and the environment, Harmon said.   Here’s a view of inherent hazards for benzophenone, known to damage coral reefs. It has been banned in sunscreens in Hawaii. ChemFORWARD’s small team hopes to encourage more chemical suppliers to get involved by providing them a means to bring forth their safer chemicals in a way that’s trustworthy, verified and peer-reviewed by a third party, also broadening the availability of their chemicals for certifications and reporting. Companies can use this information for marketing purposes, including for consumer labels, but it’s also critical for risk management and verifying internal claims about a product. “As we get more and more eyes on our platform, we’ll be able to make that case even more strongly that: ‘Hey, chemical suppliers, if you have good stuff and you want to verify those claims, this is a great place to do it,'” Glass said. “We feel a tremendous sense of urgency to not only stop unknowing toxic chemical exposure, but to empower those who are working to create a safe and circular future for all.” Data driven Glass spent a decade in green building, serving as VP for the built environment at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute , which shaped in 2016 the earliest version of ChemFORWARD. Research across industries, up and down supply chains, found that companies lacked information to use better chemistry. Good attempts by other nonprofits had failed to gain traction. Recognizing a larger industry need, the institute spun out the effort, which currently counts less than 10 staff members distributed across the U.S. and a network of toxicologists. I realized this was a data organization problem, our not knowing what was in our stuff and what we’re exposed to. “I realized this was a data organization problem, our not knowing what was in our stuff and what we’re exposed to, and the incredible tax this exposure is causing to society,” Glass said. “I’m not a chemist, I’m not a toxicologist — I said, we can fix this. I see the solution clearly. I’ll take any data solution, any scalable solution, that will get this information into the hands of designers and formulators so (they) can make safer decisions.” It’s possible ChemFORWARD ultimately could feed data into life-cycle analysis or supply chain management tools. It can’t hurt to have Google as a partner, and it’s worth noting that the advisory board’s latest addition is Kimberly Shenk, co-founder of the AI-driven supply chain transparency startup Novi. The movement, however, has a long road ahead. It’s still relatively cheap for companies to crank out new molecules, and the chemicals industry is a powerful economic engine and lobbying force. Nevertheless, ChemFORWARD and others pivoting away from the conventional focus in managing chemical risks and instead toward making decisions based on inherent toxicity is a huge paradigm shift, said Mark Rossi, executive director of Clean Production Action, who also created the GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals hazard assessment method with Heine. “It’s really powerful in terms of thinking about moving to green chemistry,” he said. “All chemistry should be green chemistry, and how do you get there? This is all part of that movement toward making choices based on hazards.” Pull Quote We really saw this as a key to unlock in order to improve safe and circular chemistry. We are fundamentally changing the way that chemical hazard data is created, maintained, distributed and financed. It’s really powerful in terms of thinking about moving to green chemistry. I realized this was a data organization problem, our not knowing what was in our stuff and what we’re exposed to. We create a bridge between chemical suppliers, their customers and prospective customers with data that has been traditionally hard to come by, difficult to interpret and sometimes hard to trust. Hey, chemical suppliers, if you have good stuff and you want to verify those claims, this is a great place to do it. Topics Chemicals & Toxics Data Eco-Design BASF Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Industrial chemicals have proliferated exponentially since the time of this antique medical cabinet, and new ways of organizing them are sorely needed. Shutterstock Triff Close Authorship

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Why Google, BASF and Sephora are coming together on safer chemistry

Carbontech is getting ready for its market moment

October 28, 2020 by  
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Carbontech is getting ready for its market moment Heather Clancy Wed, 10/28/2020 – 01:30 It may be a little early to start writing about trends for 2021, but I’m going to do it anyway. What’s on my mind? Carbontech, a category of climate tech I’d love to see break through next year. It’s the exciting idea that we can take something that could be considered waste, draw it out of the atmosphere and turn it into a source of revenue or economic growth. There are signs that give me optimism. This morning, digital payments company Stripe announced a plan to let its merchant customers divert a portion of their revenue to carbon removal projects. The move follows Stripe’s own pledge to put $1 million into four “high potential” projects earlier this year, and the two initiatives are related. The specific technologies that Stripe is funding are carbon-sequestering cement (CarbonCure), geologic storage (Charm Industrial), direct air capture (Climeworks) and ocean mineralization (Project Vesta). “Stripe’s climate initiative is a gift because it removes all barriers to positive action,” wrote Substack CEO Chris Best, a beta tester, in a statement. “This program makes it easy, and valuable, to do the right thing. We’re proud to be part of it.” All of the popular newsletter platform’s writers have the opportunity to participate. Makes me want to host my own personal blog there. Lest I forget, another well-known commerce player, Shopify, last month picked carbon removal and carbontech as a focus for its Sustainability Fund, which commits $5 million annually to climate-tech solutions. Some companies it is supporting are the same as Stripe (CarbonCure, Charm Industrial and Climeworks). It is also including ocean sequestration in the mix through its support of Planetary Hydrogen. And it is also letting merchants add options for offsetting that buyers can select during transactions.  Startups in this particular corner of the climate solutions area have not actually been supported in a commercial way. Rising corporate support of carbontech and carbon removal technologies writ large is one of the biggest reasons driving my optimism that the market is about to take a turn.  Last week, for example, Microsoft announced one of its most unusual investments yet, as it seeks to deliver on its pledge to become a “carbon negative” company. It plans to supply Alaska Airlines with sustainable aviation fuel for the three most popular routes flown by its employees between Seattle and Silicon Valley, via a partnership with SkyNRG, which produces it from waste oil and agricultural residue. That’s right: Microsoft is buying jet fuel.  MInd you, those jets will still need to use regular fuel in combo with the sustainable stuff, but the strategy will help Microsoft reduce emissions from those flights (it’s also working on an accounting standard for helping do this), and we all know the aviation sector will be really tough to decarbonize. This is a much needed commercial boost, optically speaking. A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft also joined the Northern Lights project in Norway, which is seeking to standardize methods for capturing carbon emissions at industrial facilities in Europe, turning them into a liquid and transporting it to a place where it’s pumped and stored under the ocean floor. The initiative — a collaboration of Norway’s government along with oil giants Equinor, Shell and Total — is moving into a commercial phase. The nature of Microsoft’s involvement isn’t entirely clear, but one thing being explored is how the software company’s analytics technology can help create blueprints for the techniques being used to capture CO2 (so they can be replicated elsewhere) and for creating new value chains for transporting and managing it.  Corporate interest is on the rise Carbontech is very much in the spotlight at this week’s VERGE 20 virtual event, in sessions dedicated to moonshots and emerging technologies. According to a comprehensive market report published this week by the Circular Carbon Network (CCN) and discussed during the conference, the pace of activity picked up dramatically in the past decade — of the roughly 330 innovators working on carbon removal or turning carbon into value, more than 65 percent of them were started after 2010. About 50 percent of the 107 companies that CCN tracks closely are already generating revenue. I’ll bet that’s more than you thought.  The investment dynamics are intriguing: CCN’s research uncovered 135 companies in this space that have raised $2.2 billion; its own Deal Hub tracker recovered deals worth $714 million in the past year, a significant pick up of activity, according to the organization’s report.  “What you are seeing is an accelerating pace of interest and activity,” said Nicholas Eisenberger, managing director at Pure Energy partners and co-founder of CCN, who spoke about this topic during a carbontech market update at VERGE 20. “This market is going to either be very large or ginormous.”  Here’s another big takeaway from my conversation last week with Eisenberger and his colleague Marcius Extavour, executive director of the NRG Cosia Carbon XPrize, one of the managing organizations for the CCN: Deals with corporate investors are increasingly attractive to carbontech entrepreneurs. And vice versa. CCN is tracking 61 multinational companies (as of this writing) involved in everything from research and development (the most common intersection) to buying and selling CO2 derivatives (buying it for food and beverages or selling carbon credits). Aside from Microsoft and the to-be-expected oil companies, others on the list include Amazon, Delta Air Lines, Interface, Lafarge, Nike and Starbucks. “This space is about climate, it’s also about a climate solution. It’s also an example of a climate solution that can support economic growth,” Extavour noted, pointing to the carbontech evolution. Hence, the corporate interest. The extent to which COVID-19 infrastructure investments and economic recovery plans are linked with climate action is also likely to increase corporate involvement, especially outside the U.S., where some investments already have been linked to these metrics, such as the bailout of Air France, Extavour added. How ginormous could the carbontech market get? According to nonprofit Carbon180, the total addressable market for products that could be affected is $6 trillion — with the biggest opportunities for using “waste CO2” found in transportation fuels and building materials. Captured carbon also could be a resource for food, fertilizers, polymers and chemicals. (Before you ask, very few innovators that CCN is tracking are focused on enhanced oil recovery applications.) Helping entrepreneurs commercialize carbontech more quickly is the mission of the new three-year Carbon to Value Initiative created this summer by the Urban Future Lab at New York University-Tandon, Greentown Labs and the Fraunhofer USA Technbridge (with support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Consulate General of Canada in New York). Whew.  Lo and behold, C2V last week added the first corporate members to its leadership council with representatives from Johnson Matthey, W.L. Gore and Associates, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, NRG and Suez. (Extavour and Eisenberger are also on the council, as is Noah Deich, executive director of Carbon180.)  Pat Sapinsley, managing director of cleantech initiatives at NYU Tandon, said carbontech entrepreneurs haven’t benefited broadly from attention by the investment or mentorship communities that have shown up to support other climate-tech sectors such as energy or transportation. “Startups in this particular corner of the climate solutions area have not actually been supported in a commercial way,” she said. “They’ve been very well supported recently, by some really excellent NGOs, but we bring commercial chops to the table.” C2V is accepting applications for its first startup cohort (supported from May to November 2021) through Jan. 27. Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, said there are four sorts of solutions types C2V hopes to catalyze: capture mechanisms; transformative process innovations; utilization methods that use CO2 as a feedstock fuels, building materials and so forth, and storage approaches (including those focused on important natural solutions such as sequestration). By mentoring carbontech entrepreneurs, C2V hopes to send a “market signal” for broader commercial and government support, Reichert said. “This is such a multidimensional problem that we need to tackle it from a multi-industry and multidisciplinary approach,” she said. By the way, there are still three days left of VERGE 20, with plenty of sessions about carbon solutions, including one of the most popular approaches — tree planting, conservation and cultivation initiatives. If you’re missing out, register here . Pull Quote Startups in this particular corner of the climate solutions area have not actually been supported in a commercial way. Topics Innovation Carbon Removal Carbon Capture Carbontech VERGE 20 Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The Climeworks plant in Hinwil, Switzerland.

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Carbontech is getting ready for its market moment

The Role of Innovation in Changing Behavior Towards a Circular Economy

October 21, 2020 by  
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The Role of Innovation in Changing Behavior Towards a Circular Economy Date/Time: November 12, 2020 (8-9PM ET / 5-6PM PT) By 2030 plastic waste is expected to increase by more than 50% to 330 million tons per annum if business continues as usual. Not only is this unsustainable for communities and the environment, it also makes little sense economically. Recent figures show $120 billion is lost each year because plastic waste is mismanaged. This hour-long webinar will explore how innovation and new business models can help transform the relationship between people and waste, redefining value and driving a circular economy.  Topics include:  The business and environmental case for shifting from a linear to a circular economy for plastics Opportunities to leverage innovation, beyond new technologies and materials to affect behavior change  Exciting new solutions to tackling plastic waste leakage For more reading on the Alliance: https://endplasticwaste.org/progress-report/ Moderator: Lauren Phipps, Director & Senior Analyst, Circular Economy, GreenBiz Speakers: Jacob Duer, President & CEO, Alliance to End Plastic Waste Jeff Kerscher, Founder & CEO, Litterati John C. Warner, Distinguished Research Fellow, Exploration and Discovery, Zymergen Corporation 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, 10/21/2020 – 12:45 Lauren Phipps Director & Senior Analyst, Circular Economy GreenBiz Group @laurenfphipps Jacob Duer President & CEO Alliance to End Plastic Waste Jeff Kerscher Founder & CEO Litterati @jeffkirschner John C. Warner Distinguished Research Fellow, Exploration and Discovery Zymergen Corporation @johnwarnerorg gbz_webcast_date Thu, 11/12/2020 – 10:00 – Thu, 11/12/2020 – 11:00

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The Role of Innovation in Changing Behavior Towards a Circular Economy

World’s largest Arctic expedition returns with grim news

October 14, 2020 by  
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After 13 months of collecting data, history’s largest  Arctic  research expedition returned with grim news. “We witnessed how the Arctic Ocean is dying,” mission leader Markus Rex told Agence-France Presse. “We saw this process right outside our windows, or when we walked on the brittle ice.” In September 2019, the research mission set sail on the German Alfred Wegener Institute’s Polarstern ship from Tromsø, Norway. For 13 months, about 300  scientists  from 20 countries were on board at various times. Known as the  MOSAiC  Expedition — Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate — the team followed in the footsteps of Fridtjof Nansen’s 1893-1896 journey. But instead of traveling aboard an old wooden sailing ship like Nansen’s Fram, MOSAiC traveled via the Polarstern, a highly modern icebreaker designed for research. Related: Arctic wildfires are emitting 35% more carbon compared to 2019 The international scientists gathered information to better understand how the Arctic is weathering the climate crisis. Rex described this area as “the epicenter of  climate change .” The crew hopes that the finding will help predict how heatwaves, storms, floods and fires will affect the Arctic’s future. The  researchers  brought back over 1,000 ice samples and 150 terabytes of data about subjects such as Arctic clouds, biology, atmosphere, and ocean physics. It will take years, or even decades, to analyze all this intel. “We went above and beyond the data collection we set out to do,” said Melinda Webster, a sea ice expert from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Unfortunately, the expedition’s initial impressions of the situation were severe. “At the North Pole itself, we found badly eroded, melted, thin and brittle ice,” said Rex. The researchers experienced smooth sailing in some areas previously covered with  ice . Rex predicts that Arctic summers will soon be ice-free if the planet’s warming trend continues. The Polarstern’s Arctic voyage cost $177 million.  Coronavirus  upended the trip’s logistics, forcing scientists to end the mission earlier than planned. Via EcoWatch and Science Image via Pixabay

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World’s largest Arctic expedition returns with grim news

SOM designs a low-carbon waterfront community for Chinas most livable city

October 14, 2020 by  
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Global design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has unveiled designs for Jiuzhou Bay, a new 5.6 million-square-foot mixed-use neighborhood in coastal Zhuhai, which was recently named China’s most livable city by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Selected from a shortlist of 10 global design firms, SOM’s proposal targets a low-carbon scheme that makes use of the region’s abundant natural resources — the sea and the sun — to generate renewable energy and reduce the development’s environmental footprint. Located in China’s southern Guangdong province in the Pearl River Delta, Zhuhai is a burgeoning tech hub with a reputation that has been recently elevated by a connection to the international finance and tourism centers Hong Kong and Macau via the longest sea-crossing bridge in the world. The new development will be a beacon for sustainable growth in the tech-heavy region that the architects say may soon rival Silicon Valley. The proposed Jiuzhou Bay development will include state-of-the-art office spaces, residences, retail and infrastructure, such as a robust transportation hub that offers connections to land, sea and rail across more than 40 acres. Related: Historic Zhuhai sugar factory to be reborn as a low-carbon cultural hub The city’s maritime history has also greatly informed the architects’ design decisions, particularly with the five modular canopies that wrap around the three sides of a 1.8 million-square-foot port to form a series of covered pedestrian alleyways, a lively retail environment and interlinked courtyards along the waterfront. Solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems would be integrated into the canopies. The masterplan also includes a lighthouse-inspired skyscraper with offices, a 20-story Ritz Carlton hotel , a sky bar and an observation deck. “The forms of the canopies are inspired by the local legend of the Fisher Girl and reflect the fishing nets commonly seen on the coastline throughout the region,” said Sean Ragasa, design director at SOM. “We wanted our design to resonate with the culture and history of Zhuhai, and to evoke a story that’s familiar to everyone who lives there.” + SOM Images via SOM

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This new cooling technology also prevents viral spread

October 8, 2020 by  
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This new cooling technology also prevents viral spread Gloria Oladipo Thu, 10/08/2020 – 00:40 In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air-conditioned cooling centers . Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus. “Air conditioners look like they’re bringing in air from the outside because they go through the window, but it is 100 percent recirculated air,” said Forrest Meggers, an assistant professor of architecture at Princeton University. “If you had a system that could cool without being focused solely on cooling air, then you could actually open your windows.” Meggers and an international team of researchers have developed a safer way for people to beat the heat — a highly efficient cooling system that doesn’t move air around. Scientists lined door-sized panels with tiny tubes that circulate cold water. Stand next to a panel, and you can feel it drawing heat away from your body. Unlike air conditioners, these panels can be used with the window open — or even outdoors — making it possible to cool off while also getting some fresh air. This reduces the risk of spreading airborne viruses, such as the coronavirus. “If you look at what the health authorities and governments are saying, the safest place to be during this pandemic is outside,” said Adam Rysanek, an assistant professor of environmental systems at the University of British Columbia who was part of the research effort. “We’re trying to find a way to keep you cool in a heat wave with the windows wide open, because the air is fresh. It’s just that it’s hot.” Cooling panels have been around for a while, but in limited use, because scientists haven’t found a good way to deal with condensation. Like a cold can of Coke on a hot summer day, cooling panels collect drops of water, so they have to be paired with dehumidifiers indoors to stay dry. Otherwise, overhead panels might drip water on people standing underneath. Meggers and his colleagues got around this problem by developing a thin, transparent membrane that repels condensation. This is the key breakthrough behind their cooling technology. Because it stays dry, it can be used in humid conditions, even outdoors. We’re trying to find a way to keep you cool in a heat wave with the windows wide open, because the air is fresh. In air conditioners, a dehumidifier dries out the air to prevent condensation. This component uses an enormous amount of energy, around half of the total power consumed by the air conditioner, researchers said. The new membrane they developed eliminates condensation with no energy cost, making the cooling panels significantly more efficient than a typical AC unit. The research team involved scientists from the University of British Columbia, Princeton, UC Berkeley, and the Singapore-ETH Centre. They published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “This study demonstrates that we can maintain comfortable conditions for people without cooling all the air around them,” said Zoltan Nagy, an assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of Texas who was not affiliated with the study. “Probably the most significant demonstration of this study is that humans can be provided with comfort in a very challenging thermal environment using a very efficient method.” Researchers developed their technology for use in the persistently hot, muggy climate of Singapore, where avoiding condensation would be particularly difficult. To test their design, they assembled a set of cooling panels into a small tunnel, roughly the size of a school bus. The tunnel, dubbed the “Cold Tube,” sat in a plaza in the United World College of South East Asia in Singapore. Scientists surveyed dozens of people about how they felt after walking through the tunnel. Even as the temperature neared 90 degrees F outside, most participants reported feeling comfortable in the Cold Tube. We can maintain comfortable conditions for people without cooling all the air around them. Scientists said they want to make their technology available to consumers as quickly as possible, for use in homes and offices, or outdoors. Climate change is producing more severe heat , which is driving demand for air conditioners. Researchers hope their cooling panel will offer a more energy-efficient alternative to AC units. If consumers can use less power, that will help cut down on the pollution that is driving climate change. Before they can sell the panels, researchers said they need to make them hardy enough to survive outdoors. The anti-condensation membrane is currently so thin that you could tear it with a pencil, so it must be made stronger. Scientists also need to demonstrate that the panels work efficiently indoors. Hospitals and schools in Singapore already have shown interest in the cooling system. “We know the physics works. Now we need to do one more test so we have a bit more of a commercially viable product,” Rysanek said. “It’s really about trying to get this into people’s hands as quickly as possible.” Pull Quote We’re trying to find a way to keep you cool in a heat wave with the windows wide open, because the air is fresh. We can maintain comfortable conditions for people without cooling all the air around them. Topics HVAC Nexus Media News Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Cooling panels draw heat away from people standing nearby. Lea Ruefenach Close Authorship

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This new cooling technology also prevents viral spread

Lack of cruise ships gives researchers the perfect chance to study humpback whales

October 5, 2020 by  
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Due to the impact of COVID-19, researchers have found the perfect opportunity to understand the Alaskan coast and its humpback whales. Alaska’s southeastern waters are usually busy, with thousands of tourists on cruise ships at any given moment. This disruption impacts how the whales behave. However, researchers have experienced a difference during the summer of this year, thanks to a slow-down of tourist activities, and they are taking the rare chance for a closer study of the area’s humpback whales. Alaska receives many cruise ships every year with over 1 million tourists expecting to enjoy spectacular views of glaciers. However, that number has been drastically reduced to zero during the pandemic . Now that the waters are open, researchers are using the opportunity to understand the ecosystem better. Related: Record number of pilot whales get stranded, die in Tasmania Paul Swanstrom, founder of Mountain Flying Service, said, “The town of Skagway gets a million people a year off cruise ships and is just completely shut down. It’s nuts. All the southeast has been hit pretty hard.” With the ships out of the way, scientists are now preparing to watch whales in their natural habitat. It has been over 40 years since scientists last recorded the sounds of whales in Alaska. In most cases, they have to record the interactions between whales and humans. “It’s the first time in human history that we’ve had the technological ability to listen to these whales in a meaningful way without us interfering … it’s a really, really big deal,” said Michelle Fournet, director of Sound Science Research Collective and research fellow of Cornell University. “The last time researchers were able to listen to humpbacks in a quiet ocean in Alaska was in 1976.” Since whale observations began, the technology has greatly improved, allowing researchers to gather improved data on the whales. “We’re going to see how these humpback whales are interacting with their environment instead of how they’re interacting with us,” Fournet explained. “You can’t figure out whether or not your species is resilient to something if you don’t know what it acts like when it’s happy.” Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Lack of cruise ships gives researchers the perfect chance to study humpback whales

NYC Metronome clock now displays deadline for irreversible global warming

September 23, 2020 by  
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The New York City Metronome digital clock in Manhattan has been reprogrammed to show the critical window within which global warming must be stopped. The display, called The Climate Clock, now indicates that the world has to stop global warming in about 7 years — otherwise, the impacts would be irreversible. The artists behind the project say that they have based their timing on calculations by the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin. The Metronome was reprogrammed on Saturday and started ticking second by second, creating a sense of urgency in addressing global warming . For the past 20 years, the Metronome clock that faces Union Square in Manhattan has been one of the city’s prominent artistic projects. Due to its influence on the city, the minds behind the project thought it would be the ideal way of sharing the critical message of global warming. Related: Scientists announce the Doomsday Clock is within 100 seconds to midnight The two artists behind the project, Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd, said that the clock is a perfect technological tool to call people to action. “ Climate change is already here. This clock is not an alarm clock saying, in 7 years it will ring and we need to wake up! It’s more like a stopwatch already running that we have to keep pace with,” Golan explained. “We need to take action today, tomorrow, and the day after that. Let’s get moving. Every second counts. We need to act in time.” Before the countdown was projected, the building displayed messages such as, “The Earth has a deadline.” At the launch of the clock, the numbers 7:103:15:40:07 were displayed, indicating that the time remaining is 7 years, 103 days, 15 hours, 40 minutes and 7 seconds. “The clock is a way to speak science to power,” Boyd said. “The clock is telling us we must reduce our emissions as much as we can as fast as we can. The technology is there. We can do this — and in the process, create a healthier, more just world for all of us.” The Climate Clock will be displayed on the Metronome through September 27, which is the last day of Climate Week. However, the two artists hope the same message can be displayed permanently. + The Climate Clock Via The New York Times Image via The Climate Clock

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