Right to repair is on the way

April 5, 2021 by  
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Right to repair is on the way Suz Okie Mon, 04/05/2021 – 00:40 In the waning months of 2020, the European Union took ambitious steps to address the more than 12 million tons of electronic waste the bloc produces annually. Acknowledging that “Europe is living well beyond planetary boundaries,” a European Parliamen vote called for mandatory repairability scores for consumer electronics, amongst a host of other initiatives intended to extend products’ life spans. Wasting no time, several European nations jumped in on the (repair) action — the U.K. agreed to enforce EU repair rules, France launched a repairability index for select electronics and Austria  reduced taxes on small repairs.  While some feel these efforts don’t go far enough , they’re all seen as a huge win for the right to repair movement — an activist-led fight to give consumers (or third-party repair shops of their choosing) the legally protected freedom to fix and modify the products they own. What’s in a movement From tractors to TVs, when everyday products break they are difficult, if not impossible, to fix. Replacement parts and repair manuals are hard to come by; complex designs make disassembly unmanageable; and legal hurdles have been erected in the name of IP and consumer data protection, amongst other arguments. In many cases, it is easier to replace than it is to repair, and the activists behind the right to repair movement want this to change. Beyond enshrining consumer rights, the right to repair could combat planned obsolescence and a throwaway culture that has turned e-waste into the fastest growing waste stream around the globe. All things considered, their arguments are pretty compelling. Beyond enshrining consumer rights, the right to repair could combat planned obsolescence and a throwaway culture that has turned e-waste into the fastest growing waste stream around the globe — weighing in at more than 50 million metric tons annually. Within that stream — of which less than 20 percent is recycled — it’s estimated that we’re tossing $57 billion in precious metals and raw materials annually, not to mention the emissions that went towards material extraction, manufacturing and shipping. In a PC’s lifespan, upwards of 70 percent of the associated carbon emissions occur during manufacturing — and it’s estimated that by 2025, 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions will come from manufacturing smartphones, computers and TVs alone.  With all that embedded value and emissions, it makes good sense to keep products in use as long as possible. Extending the lifespan of American cell phones by just one year would be the carbon-reducing equivalent to taking 636,000 cars off the road .  Additionally, repair could collectively save American households $40 billion annually, and fixing easily repairable electronics could create 345,000 stable, local jobs . Most important — and perhaps most top of mind — repair can save lives. When the pandemic struck and the need for ventilators skyrocketed, financial, legal and training limitations set forth by manufacturers were restricting the repair of these devices , thus delaying life-saving treatment.  Movement in America Perhaps we can thank COVID-19 for shining a light on the lifesaving magic of the right to repair — according to recent coverage, the movement is “poised to explode.” While this momentum is evident in recent European legislation, across the pond the U.S. is experiencing traction of its own.  In August, the Critical Medical Infrastructure Right-to-Repair Act of 2020 marked the first time in U.S. history that a right to repair bill was proposed on the national level. Another notable moment was the inclusion of the right to repair agriculture equipment in the Democratic Party platform . Since then, more than half the states in the union have introduced right to repair bills that call for equal access to things such as replacement parts, training manuals and tools. While these bills are often limited to a specific industry — targeting electronics, appliances, automobiles, farming or medical equipment — the passage of just one could have ripple effects across the nation.  In November, Massachusetts passed a resolution to bolster its 2012 automotive right to repair law — the first and only right to repair law on the books in the U.S. The resolution expands the data and diagnostic information automakers are required to provide, thus enabling third-party repairs. Despite its limited scope, the 2012 law led to a national standard for automakers and the recent resolution is expected to have similar effects. “I feel excited about the level of momentum that is growing for right to repair,” Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the Repair Association , recently shared with me. “It’s hard to predict which of the many bills that are being considered will clear all the hurdles — but with more bills the odds are better than ever.” Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit and another vocal repair proponent, also shared feeling hopeful: “The growing number [of bills] shows an increasing groundswell. People want this to happen.” So, what’s the holdup? According to Gordon-Byrne and Wiens, the biggest barrier to sweeping right to repair legislation is clear: manufacturer opposition.  With arguments ranging from consumer protection to safety concerns to quality control and beyond, manufacturers from diverse industries have fought right to repair bills, in some cases aggressively. “In New York state, there is $2.5 trillion in market cap registered to lobby against the right to repair bill,” Wiens noted. According to Gordon-Byrne, their motivations are somewhat singular: “Manufacturers are enjoying the benefits of monopolized repair.” There’s a huge opportunity to build a thriving ecosystem around your products, and monetize them over the long run. In spite of opposition, there’s a huge opportunity for manufacturers to throw their hat into a more inclusive repair ring. Robust repair offerings can generate new revenue streams, strengthen customer relationships, and revamp traditional business models , not to mention bolster a company’s sustainability chops.  “There’s a huge opportunity to build a thriving ecosystem around your products, and monetize them over the long run. Build a model making money selling parts, or licensing models for 3D printed parts,” Wiens suggested. “Manufacturer service networks can be hugely lucrative, as we see in the medical device arena.”  A call to action From where I’m sitting, the value (and need) to scale repair is evident. So I’ll leave you readers with a few requests.  For manufacturers: Reap the financial, reputational and environmental benefits of repair by researching and investing in repairability programs. Not sure where to start? Fret not, GreenBiz has a framework for you.  For employees: “Work inside your companies to get them to take a public stance on this issue … [If policy teams within the most vocal opponents] drop their opposition, then these bills would pass quickly,” prompted Wiens.  For the rest of us: Visit the Repair Association’s Stand Up page to contact your legislator and voice your support. As Gordon-Byrne’s noted, “[It’s] free, super easy and — believe me — powerful. Every individual can make a difference.” Pull Quote Beyond enshrining consumer rights, the right to repair could combat planned obsolescence and a throwaway culture that has turned e-waste into the fastest growing waste stream around the globe. There’s a huge opportunity to build a thriving ecosystem around your products, and monetize them over the long run. Topics Circular Economy E-Waste Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Vlad Teodor Close Authorship

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The infrastructure we’re not talking about

March 26, 2021 by  
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The infrastructure we’re not talking about Jim Giles Fri, 03/26/2021 – 00:30 When we talk about infrastructure, we usually mean big, heavy stuff: roads; bridges; seawalls and the like. But as Democrats turn their attention to infrastructure measures potentially costing trillions of dollars, that focus needs broadening. Often the most cost-effective infrastructure is not made of concrete or steel, but soil. To see what I mean, check out the featured photo taken by Russ Jackson, a farmer in Mountain View, Oklahoma. You’re looking at the aftermath of 2019 floods that left millions of acres of U.S. farmland underwater. For several years, Jackson farmed the field on the left using cover crops and no-till practices. His neighbor used conventional tillage on the submerged land to the right. Pretty impressive, right? That’s why advocates for regenerative ag talk about soil as infrastructure. If farmers deploy the right practices, soil can limit the huge cost of floods and safeguard food supply.  At the heart of the issue is the quality of farmland soils. In conventional farming, the use of monocultures and chemical fertilizers degrades fertility and can bake soil into clumps of pale sandy matter. These look lifeless in comparison to the fluffy, dark-colored dirt that’s characteristic of healthy soil, which contains high levels of organic matter. If cover crops are not used, the fragile surfaces of conventionally farmed fields are also exposed to erosion by water and wind. Together, this leads to a cascade of negative impacts. One problem is that the soil simply washes away. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, soil is lost from conventionally tilled fields hundreds of times faster than it is replenished . “If soil continues to erode at current rates, U.S. farmers could lose a half-inch of topsoil by 2035 — more than eight times the amount of topsoil lost during the Dust Bowl,” concluded a recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists .  As Jackson’s photo demonstrates, the soil that remains does a poor job of absorbing water. A good rule of thumb is that a 1 percent increase in organic matter leads to an acre of soil storing an additional 20,000 gallons of water .  We need that storage because climate change is expected to make extreme rainfall events more frequent in the Midwest . Without it, water from those events can wash off fields, raising the risk of downstream floods. Or the precipitation can sit atop the soil, preventing farmers from planting. When researchers looked at satellite imagery in the aftermath of the 2019 floods, for example, they found that farmers who previously had used regenerative practices were more likely to be able to successfully plant in the spring .  Preventing these problems costs money: The World Resources Institute (WRI) cites a median figure of $500 per acre for anti-erosion measures. But that investment produces real returns. Just this week, researchers at Yale University showed that a 1 percent increase in soil organic matter reduces crop insurance liabilities by 35 percent . As with other infrastructure projects, it will be costlier to wait to repair future damages: The WRI notes that the cost of rehabilitating damaged land can reach $15,000 per acre . All of this amounts to a strong argument for including “green infrastructure” in the spending measures to be debated in coming months. If that doesn’t happen, there are other avenues for government support, notably the tens of billions of dollars that ag secretary Tom Vilsack has at his disposal. Want more great analysis of ESG and sustainable finance? Sign up for GreenFin Weekly , our free email newsletter. Topics Food Systems Soil Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The aftermath of 2019 floods that left millions of acres of U.S. farmland underwater. Courtesy of Russ Jackson Close Authorship

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News From the Future imagines iconic landmarks after a climate apocalypse

March 5, 2021 by  
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Have you ever wondered what the world might look after an environmental apocalypse? Thanks to Paris-based digital artist and photographer Fabien Barrau, you can get a clear picture. A professional advertising artist by day, he uses his personal time to create thought-provoking visuals out of his drone images and stock photography for a series known as “News From the Future.” “My motivation for this series was how to influence awareness of climate change and the urgency to act every day according to one’s means and power,” Barrau told Inhabitat. “In my case, my little power is to create images and imagine myself as an explorer who will return from the future with photos of a changed world.” He hopes that the striking images will serve as a reminder to global citizens, especially young people, to the potential future of our world’s most treasured landmarks should climate change continue to worsen. Related: Artist creates mesmerizing paintings using coal pollution from local streams With the effects of climate change threatening to raise ocean levels and heighten the Earth’s temperatures , News From the Future might not be far off from our future reality. The project depicts images of an underwater Arc de Triomphe, a sinking Statue of Liberty and a sand-covered Colosseum, among others. Barrau said he wanted to create a feeling similar to what archaeologists of the 19th century would have felt discovering Pompeii or the great Aztec cities, only with modern architectural achievements as the main subjects. The artist is a self-proclaimed fan of the post-apocalyptic theme in art , novels, films and documentaries. He is especially inspired by Planet of the Apes, Mad Max and the French painter Roland Cat, whom he pays tribute to with one of his pieces. “I love using my photos taken with my drone to use them in post-apocalyptic photo montages,” Barrau said. “I try to imagine what would happen in the event of desertification, the rise of the oceans or the tropicalization of a region.” + Fabien Barrau Via Dezeen Images via Fabien Barrau

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General Mills, Danone pilots provide proof for regenerative agriculture success

February 23, 2021 by  
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General Mills, Danone pilots provide proof for regenerative agriculture success Jesse Klein Tue, 02/23/2021 – 01:30 A few years into Danone’s and General Mills’ regenerative agriculture pilots, one thing has become clear: It’s about data collection. Holistically changing our agriculture system to become more sustainable comes later.  “We really don’t have a great understanding of what happens when farmers make these transitions to regenerative systems,” said Steven Rosenzweig, senior soil scientist at General Mills. “This represents a way to get a better understanding of what’s really happening with these landscapes.” Danone recently completed a three-year pilot program for regenerative agriculture on 82,000 acres of farmland. According to Nicholas Camu, vice president of agriculture at Danone North America, the biggest reward of this pilot is the data and subsequent analysis to understand what’s going on in the fields.  The company’s project provided funding — through government grants and fund matching initiatives — to help farmers transition to no-till agriculture and crop rotation, plant cover crops and other regenerative practices. By the end of the pilot, Danone’s farmers planted cover crops on 64 percent of the total acreage and practiced no-till on 77 percent. The national average is 5 percent and 33 percent respectively. They also doubled the number of crop species to 32. By switching to these regenerative practices, Danone hoped farms would restore the soil, foster biodiversity, protect water systems, reduce greenhouse gases and sequester more carbon. But doing so in a significant way to combat climate change will take much more than three years, and probably closer to a generation. So getting the data on what worked and how well it worked is almost more important at this early stage. Danone worked with third-party verification organization EcoPractices to measure the decrease in emissions, decrease in erosion and increase in carbon soil sequestration on each farm. But the reports are not public and data has remained the property of each individual farm, so we don’t really know how the shift to regenerative agriculture practices performed.  But Danone did share that across the 82,000 acres in the pilot, 39,035 acres grew cover crops and 46,378 acres reduced till or practiced no-till. In aggregate, according to Danone, practicing regenerative agriculture in this program reduced more than 80,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and sequestered more than 20,000 tons of carbon into the soil.  Now with that data, Danone can use its “return on investment” tool to model what happens when farmers implement regenerative agriculture techniques and can use that to convince other farms it is worth the investment.  These pilots are about finding what actually works, and not every method works for every farm. “With this tool that we developed, we can say ‘OK, you need to buy a new tractor to reduce tillage. And we now know that at this farm, it will pay itself back in four years, which gives us the right arguments to talk to the farmers and convince them that this is the right investment and we will help you cover those costs for four years,” said Camu. “That’s all thanks to this data gathering that we can really make specific solutions for specific farms.” General Mills is only one year into its three-year program but it already has laid the groundwork for a massive data dump. The program involves 24 wheat growers in Kansas, 45 grain and oat farmers in Canada and three dairy farms in Michigan. The company took baseline samples in 2019 of the birds, insects and soil carbon levels at each farm and plans to come back each year to see progress. Its overarching sustainability goal is to expand regenerative agriculture practices to 1 million acres by 2030 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2025.  “Farmers want to learn from the scientists,” said Rosenzweig. “Showing them how they’re collecting the data and what they’re finding. There’s a huge educational opportunity to transfer that knowledge from the scientists to the farmers and vice versa. The farmers are also seeing lots of things that scientists might not necessarily catch.”  These pilots are about finding what actually works, and not every method works for every farm.  Through the program, General Mills learned that the best science-based intentions can fall flat when they bump up against reality. According to Rosenzweig, the weather is the biggest unexpected challenge faced by any farmer and last year there was a record-breaking dry climate in the summer and fall in Canada followed by a wet spring. The perfect breeding ground for grasshoppers. The increase in grasshoppers created huge yield reductions as the pests ate crops.  According to Rosenzweig, even though the farmers were trying to spray fewer pesticides as part of their regenerative agriculture plan, they had to give in to control the massive grasshopper influx.  “So while [the farmers] are working towards establishing a healthy ecosystem with predator populations and general insect diversity to control against these pest outbreaks, until you have a system that’s really humming, you are still vulnerable to a lot of these pest outbreaks,” he said. During its pilot, Danone also learned that no-till agriculture didn’t work for farms where the ground is tough and full of clay. According to Camu, it compacts too fast and makes it impossible to plant anything without tillage, so they had to dial back up the tillage at those specific farms. Regenerative agriculture isn’t a light switch. Danone’s and General Mills’ pilots and subsequent data gathering are to help farmers slowly start to turn the wheel and break the high barrier of entry to regenerative agriculture. Armed with good data and anecdotal evidence, Danone plans to expand its regenerative agriculture to 100,000 acres over the next two years. “It’s best to let your farmers do the talking for you to the other farmers,” Camu said. “You have to have the right arguments and some proof. Some take the leap of faith a little bit faster than others. But then when you have those, you always have farmers that follow.” Pull Quote These pilots are about finding what actually works, and not every method works for every farm. Topics Food & Agriculture Regenerative Agriculture Farmers Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The main take away from General Mills’ and Danone’s programs is testing the theories of carbon sequestration. //Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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Townhomes with living roofs cost 45% less to build than area average

December 16, 2020 by  
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A Seattle-based architect is proving that high quality doesn’t have to come at a high price. Matt Wittman of architecture and landscaping studio Wittman Estes acted as the architect, developer and contractor for Tsuga Townhomes, a trio of sustainable townhomes with living roofs, eco-friendly finish materials and a  rainwater collection system . Completed for $185 per square foot, the three-unit urban infill project costs 45% less to construct than the Seattle average. According to the architect, a rapid rise in the city’s construction costs has resulted in a high volume but low-quality housing market. In 2018, average construction costs in  Seattle  ranked among the highest in the world at $280 per square foot, leading to an onslaught of homes built from low-cost, low-quality materials that often lacked character and connection to nature.  Related: Luxury apartments feature underground rec club and a massive green roof Wittman chose to place the three dwellings on an environmentally critical 5,040-square-foot sloped site to reduce costs, only permissible because the slope had been artificially created by the construction of a nearby avenue. Located at the edge of Highland Park, the site overlooks the Duwamish River. The main house sits along a busy section of Highland Park Way, while the duplex is constructed into the hillside. Both utilize strategically placed, large south-facing windows to get the most out of the view, highlight the trees and natural elements of the area, allow ample  sunlight  to maximize solar load and provide access to the outside decks and terraces. Sustainability strategies not only help create a healthy living environment inside the townhomes but reduce energy use and costs as well. The design features a series of  green roofs  and bioretention planters to capture rainwater for the plants while reducing runoff. Energy-efficient mechanical systems go beyond the required coding for insulation, achieving a Four Star Built Green Certification. The series of green roofs, terraces and porches also create a buffer zone between private and open spaces, gradually filtering through thoughtful landscaping. + Wittman Estes Images © Wittman Estes

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Which Approach to Minimalism Is Right for You?

November 20, 2020 by  
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Minimalism, reducing one’s consumption to the essentials, is one way … The post Which Approach to Minimalism Is Right for You? appeared first on Earth 911.

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How to make soy wax candles for a cozy, autumnal home

September 25, 2020 by  
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As the days get shorter and colder and the nights grow long, people tend to want to make their homes feel cozier. One of the quickest ways to do so is with candles, so now is the perfect time to consider making your own. Why would you do this when it’s so easy to buy candles at the store? Store-bought candles tend to contain unsavory ingredients like animal fat, carcinogenic paraffin and oh-so-unsustainable palm oil. When you make your own soy wax candles, you know exactly what’s in them. Once you improve at making attractive candles, you can even give them as holiday gifts. With the ongoing pandemic, 2020 is the year for DIY hobbies , so get started with this guide on how to make your own soy wax candles at home. Why soy wax ? You can get soy wax online or at a craft store. The wax is made from soybeans which are harvested, cleaned and processed into flakes. Then, the manufacturer extracts oil from the flakes and hydrogenates it, which changes the melting point and makes the oil solid at room temperature. Related: Make your own artisan soap bar from repurposed scraps Most of the world’s soybeans come from the Midwest, especially from Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. Soy is a renewable resource that makes for a clean-burning candle. Other good waxes for DIY candles include coconut wax, which is great for holding any scents you might want to add, and rapeseed oil, which has a firm wax that works well for pillar candles. Pick the right wick for your soy candle This may seem like the simplest step, but it turns out there are more than 200 different types of wicks available — and if you pick the wrong wick, your candle will burn inefficiently. You can even make your own wick with cotton string, salt and vegetable oil, as described by Sew Historically . If you’re wick shopping, larger-numbered wicks are thicker and made for bigger candles. A medium-sized candle calls for a medium-sized wick, and so on. It’s wise to make and burn a trial candle before you create a whole batch. If your trial candle flames way up and creates a large melt-pool surrounding the flame, this means your wick is too big. Flame too small? Try a bigger wick. If you switch up your candle recipe by adding coloring or scented oil, this could affect how it burns. So for any changes you make along the way, be sure to burn a trial candle under close supervision. Contain your candle When you first start making candles, you might begin with simple glass jars you have around the house. But the container you choose adds personality to your candle. There are a ton of options, as long as you choose something that won’t catch fire, leak, crack or break. This means no coconut shells, artistic wood pieces or plastic . Metal cans are a good option as long as they don’t leak. If your intended metal container has seams on the bottom or side, test that it can hold water for a couple of days before you trust it to contain your candle. Cracking is a common problem for candle containers. Thinner glassware , such as martini glasses, can crack at high temperatures. Thick glassware, such as jelly jars, which are made to withstand heat, are safe. Ceramic bowls and cups are pretty options. Be aware that if the vessel is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, it will get hotter as it burns and could be prone to cracking, leading to a fire hazard. As a reminder, burn candles on heat-resistant surfaces away from anything flammable, and never leave them unattended. Burning candles isn’t recommended for households with cats or other small, curious creatures that leap on various surfaces or could grab at the candles. A basic DIY soy candle recipe You can melt your wax in the microwave or use a bain-marie, a pan that goes into a larger pot of hot water to melt ingredients. While your wax is melting, attach your wick to the bottom of a clean container. You can use a dab of vegan glue or a bit of molten wax. Straighten the wick and hold it in place until it starts to harden, then put two skewers or chopsticks around it and tape the sticks to the side of your container. Back to the wax — once it has reached 160°F, remove it from heat and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Then you can add in a few drops of your chosen essential oil, distributing it evenly. Untape the chopsticks from your container. Slowly, gently pour the wax in, leaving half an inch at the top of the container. Be sure to save a little wax. You may need it after your candle sets, as candles often shrink away from the container edges and/or the wick. If this happens to your beautiful creation, you can re-melt that surplus wax and fill in the holes until your surface is even. Let your candles sit overnight, trim the wicks and then they are ready to burn or give as gifts . This is much more personal than buying candles from a store, and you can even create special scent blends for different family members or friends. Images via Jing , Fi Bell( 1 , 2 , 3 ), Samantha Gades and Dan Smedley

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This dad built a backyard coffee shop with repurposed materials

July 28, 2020 by  
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When Julianna Astrid posted about the DIY coffee shop that her dad, Ed, built in his  backyard , her social media blew up with supportive comments. The impressive backyard cafe uses only repurposed construction materials, combined with various pieces from swap meets, antique stores and thrift stores. Ed works full time as a contractor in Orange County and took unused  building materials  from past projects to build the structure. He finished the job in just three months, working on the weekends and after his regular work hours to complete the passion project. Related: San Francisco superdad builds homemade roller coaster in his backyard As daughter Julianna explained to  Newsweek , “My dad is a contractor and has been on so many job sites where he has to throw old materials away to make room for the new remodels ; but he saved some of the ‘trash’ from numerous jobs and repurposed it to create his coffee shop; these things included materials to build the structure, the coffee shops doors and the front window!” The mini coffee shop, or “La Vida” as Ed has named it, serves as a place to relax and enjoy a brew with friends and family. The design features a painted wooden exterior and interior, a bar area under one of the glass windows and a dedicated outside patio with string lights and seating. A cute pastry case and a mini-fridge filled with cold  coffee  beverages fill out the space. From the chalk menu board to the cozy chess table in the corner, you’d never know that you were in someone’s private backyard rather than an actual cafe. Julianna originally posted about La Vida on her TikTok in March before  tweeting  about it in June. Since then, the Twitter post has received over 37,000 retweets and 302,000 likes. According to Julianna, her dad has always loved coffee and building, so this project came naturally for the hardworking contractor. The space is still a work in progress, with Ed keeping an eye out for different types of coffee beans from around the world and unique pieces from second-hand stores to stock his shop. In the future, he plans on making  YouTube  videos teaching people to build things for their homes. + ELS Builds Via Twitter Images via Julianna Astrid

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How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice

June 26, 2020 by  
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How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice Rachel Ramirez Fri, 06/26/2020 – 00:30 This story originally appeared in Grist;  and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story . “I can’t breathe.” These were among the final words that George Floyd and Eric Garner gasped before their deaths at the hands of white police officers. That plea has become part of the current rallying cry for racial justice and an end to police brutality in the United States. But for Black people living near industrial facilities, the phrase has an additional layer of meaning: a reminder of their disproportionate pollution burden. “While many in power seemed surprised that COVID-19 is killing twice as many Black Americans, those of us in the environmental justice movement know that the health impacts of cumulative and disproportionate levels of pollution in our communities have created underlying health conditions that contribute to our higher COVID-19 mortality rates,” said Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said at a virtual press conference in mid-June. Shepard is part of the National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN) , a national coalition of Black environmental justice groups and grassroots activists founded in 1991. Although the network took a hiatus in 2006 after executive director Damu Smith died , the network just announced that it’s making a comeback against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and renewed calls to fight racial injustice. We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries. The network’s mission sends a clear message: Environmental injustice is not a single issue. Rather, it’s a constellation of issues including discrimination in housing, jobs and healthcare. It’s impossible to untangle Black communities’ current risks from America’s long history of racist policies and practices. Discriminatory policies such as banks’ government-sanctioned refusal to approve home loans and insurance for people in communities of color, also known as redlining, forced Black families into neighborhoods more likely to be exposed to industrial pollution and extreme heat . Now these same communities face a surge in unemployment and poverty rates as a result of the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic, and they also are  disproportionately dying from the novel coronavirus as a result of a lack of health insurance, unequal access to test sites and higher workplace exposure via employment in essential services. As if that weren’t enough, a recent Harvard study also found a link between air pollution and death from COVID-19. Given the systemic conditions that disproportionately expose Black people to the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and other worsening crises, NBEJN members — including the network’s co-chairs, environmental justice pioneers Robert Bullard and Beverly Wright — say they are looking to bring in Black lawyers, engineers, leaders and other experts to join forces to help create an equitable green stimulus package, take on the fossil fuel industry and fight the Trump administration’s seemingly endless orders to weaken environmental protections . “We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries,” said Bullard, an author and professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University. “The NBEJN is about dismantling systemic racism, and we’re talking about turning the dominant paradigm on its head.” Network leaders say COVID-19 recovery legislation could be an opportunity for lawmakers to pass a robust green stimulus package that would focus on environmental justice. Such a green stimulus package, the coalition said, needs to address core issues of systemic racism by, for example, providing green jobs to communities of color. NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America. “Green stimulus packages often only look at protecting the world, but not protecting people like us,” said Wright, executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. “Any stimulus package dealing with transportation to housing or whatever they’re talking about doing will have to include us and need to be viewed with equity and justice lenses.” Even if an equitable green stimulus package makes it through Congress and the White House, there still will be a lot more work to be done. Bullard said that even if the Democratic party wins the presidential election or takes control of the Senate, it will take time to reverse Trump-era environmental policy damages, including the country’s withdrawal from the 2016 Paris Agreement. Even then, he added, policymakers will need to take additional steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions and center frontline communities. And NBEJN leaders say the network will stick around to make sure those steps are taken. “Racism is baked into America’s DNA,” Bullard said. “NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America.” Pull Quote We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries. NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America. Topics COVID-19 Policy & Politics Environmental Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Tverdokhlib Close Authorship

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Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right

June 25, 2020 by  
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Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right Paolo Natali Thu, 06/25/2020 – 00:30 According to polls, it was  mid-March  when most of us in the United States understood the severity of COVID-19. At the same time, we collectively were searching for data to drive lifesaving decision-making. Close all business and keep people inside homes? Or allow some degree of freedom? What would be the exact growth curve of virus cases, and most important, how could we flatten it? By early April, a consensus had emerged around the role of accurate data, even if it could not help contain a first wave of infections. This lesson on the importance of actionable data did not go unnoticed for those of us working on industrial decarbonization. With growing consensus on the gravity of the climate crisis, countries and companies are adopting carbon reduction targets. If we are to learn from the pandemic, there’s one critical element for any effort to have a chance of success. Less catchy than a target reopening date, and perhaps more like an immunologist telling you to get tested: Do we have the right data to act upon? Pressure is growing to take action The question is relevant because there is mounting pressure to take action against the climate crisis. Pressure to make emissions visible has been around for a while: Consumers want to know how much carbon is embodied in the products they buy. Investors are concerned about the viability of long-term assets in high emissions sectors at risk of being hit by negative policy or market developments. For example,  one chocolate bar  could emit as much as 7 kilograms of CO2, equivalent to driving 30 miles in a non-electric car. Alternately, if the cacao is grown alongside agroforestry or reforestation, the same bar could have zero or even negative emissions via the trees removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If consumers knew the difference, would they pay a premium for the climate-smart chocolate? A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. This year, Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management company, made thundering news in his  annual letter to investors , touting, “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.” Since then, the asset manager  backed two proposals  at the annual general meetings of both Chevron and Exxon, related to the manner these companies conduct themselves in relation to Paris Agreement targets. Earlier in the year in Australia, investors at both Woodside Petroleum and Santos passed annual general meetings motions to  adopt a “Scope 3 ” (indirect emissions) reduction target. This trend of shareholder and consumer scrutiny has strengthened in recent months, and most S&P 500 companies — in fact, 70 percent of them — already make climate-related disclosures to the reporting platform CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project). Translating demands into dollars Yet, to date, there is no way to exactly translate these demands for action into dollar figures. You walk around trade conferences (or, more likely these days, Zoom workshops) and everyone is asking: What’s the premium that a consumer is willing to pay for low-carbon products? Is a bank really willing to decline loans for an investment that fails to fulfill certain sustainability standards, for example as pledged by the 11 global banks that signed the  Poseidon Principles  for shipping finance in 2019? If the European Union agrees on a border price for carbon, what should it be? All of this pricing talk begs the question: How can we have such discussions without clear metrics that everyone can stand by? A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. For a start, while financial accounts are reported via one of two standards — U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) — a variety of methods can be used for carbon accounting (CDP accepts 64 of them). While financials make the performance of a chemicals company comparable to an iron ore miner, the carbon accounting metrics differ in a way that is difficult to reconcile. This becomes a problem for an automotive company, which needs to combine the performance of both to make an accurate declaration about the carbon content of a product that has over 30,000 parts. It is also a challenge for a fund manager who needs to combine stocks of different sectors, and has a fiduciary duty to use financially material metrics to do so; or for a commercial banker who lends money to different asset classes, and needs to determine the amount of “climate risk” involved in each investment decision. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. Remember the core of the coronavirus debate: The number of confirmed cases are better known than the total number of cases. This uncertainty generates debatable data, upon which it is difficult to make decisions that will have an enormous impact on the destiny of societies. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. And if the cost of those gases to a community and ecosystem isn’t clearly visible, conversely, how can we measure good interventions so that investors feel confident to put their money toward them? This is particularly ironic because market demand for product sustainability creates a win-win situation for everyone involved: make a plan to increase product sustainability, shape the world to be a better place. In most cases, low-carbon technologies are either readily available, such as in the case of low-carbon electricity and carbon-neutral concrete, or less than a decade away, such as hydrogen-based trucking. But if it’s so easy, why isn’t it happening? And most importantly, what needs to happen? Harmonizing the efforts The current ecosystem of reporting is built on bottom-up efforts that are not harmonized. The previously mentioned CDP has a large database of disclosures. The Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has a widely adopted set of metrics that companies use to report (including to CDP). The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board has — you guessed it — standards solid enough to guarantee “financial materiality,” that is, to allow the analyst in the above example to “buy with confidence” when making investment decisions based on sustainability. The Science-Based Targets Initiative promises to take all this to the next level and link carbon disclosures to the trajectories that companies need to undertake in order to comply with the Paris Agreement. Companies that need to report emissions lament that this is too complex or that it doesn’t allow apples-to-apples comparisons due to discrepancies in the way different methods prescribe calculations. Investors lament that they can’t base financial decisions on current metrics, because they aren’t reliable or standardized. Consumers still have to see eco-labels that are truly credible. It is imperative that emissions accounting shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. As confusing as it sounds, the good news is that between existing methods, standards and platforms, the elements of a functional system do exist. Despite the gloomy portrait that we often read in the news, of a humankind sleepwalking toward climate disaster due to a selfish inability to act together, this ecosystem actually represents a wonderful testament to the ability of society to recognize a challenge and address it. The importance of climate alignment A few years ago, the Smart Freight Center introduced the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC) Framework, creating a common guidance for logistics companies to report in a unified manner. The GLEC Framework is a guidance that specifies how disclosures need to be made in each of the existing methodologies and platforms. Once a company discloses according to the GLEC Framework, analysts will be able to compare a disclosure made for different purposes using different methods, and trace back what it actually means. It is urgent that this expand to supply chains at large. It is also imperative that the emissions accounting focus shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. With unified and simplified standards, companies will be able to be easily ranked based on their actual and projected contribution to meeting the Paris Agreement, thus keeping climate change at bay. Why do this? To reap the benefits of being in sync with what stakeholders request more and ever louder. This is only wise, considering that not even a global pandemic and looming economic recession has silenced these requests. According to a recent Deloitte  report , 600 global C-suite executives remain firmly committed to a low-carbon transition. They are perhaps finding opportunity in shifting from risk and need clear data to make their decisions. Pull Quote A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. It is imperative that emissions accounting shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. Contributors Charles Cannon Topics Energy & Climate COVID-19 Data Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right

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