5 steps boards can take to be ESG-ready for 2021

January 21, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

5 steps boards can take to be ESG-ready for 2021 Pamela Gordon Thu, 01/21/2021 – 01:40 Amongst the many dramatic challenges global businesses faced in 2020, one that had been simmering for years bubbled up and promised to stay at a high boil in 2021 is ESG: Environment, Social, Governance.  Signs that ESG expectations were becoming more ubiquitous included the establishment of global ESG standards published by the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council in September and BlackRock’s call for a globally recognized framework for investors to understand individual company risks.  Despite years of progress by leading corporations toward ESG, corporate social responsibility (CSR), environmental health and safety (EHS) and sustainability goals, the reality is that board members overseeing these companies are still trying to discern how all of this applies to them. In fact, in PwC’s annual Corporate Directors survey , which includes responses from more than 600 public board directors, only half (51 percent) say their board fully understands ESG issues impacting the company. That same study shows, however, that in 2020, 45 percent of directors say that ESG issues are a regular part of the board’s agenda, which demonstrates an increase from 34 percent in 2019. Time for training How can boards (public and private) improve their efficacy in ESG oversight for long-term value? As ESG experts, Presidians and members of the Athena Alliance (community of female corporate board directors and executives), we set out to help boards to become ESG-ready .  To start, we uncovered board members’ keenest ESG-education needs by surveying sitting board members at public (39 percent) and private (61 percent) companies, generating annual revenues of less than $50 million to $3 billion. They look to ESG to realize the following areas of corporate success: Source: Presidio Graduate School survey, October through December 2020 Then, we developed an ESG training for board members, along with the following five recommendations for board members to get ESG-ready for 2021. 1. Understand why boards need to be ESG-ready In our survey, 47 percent of directors believe ESG is important for brand equity and reputation, 24 percent cited both customer and investor pressure, and 18 percent pointed to risk management and board pressure. One sitting board member said that ESG is “an inherent part of the business model.” Board oversight includes advising the management team on the company strategy, and ensuring improved long term value for all stakeholders. Directors must understand how ESG issues can affect that strategy, and be in a position to assess and address both challenges and opportunities. To get started, align the board on why they should care, in light of demands from stakeholders such as customers, employees, investors, communities and suppliers. Invite an ESG expert to convey how ESG is material to your particular company.  2. Add ESG to your next board meeting agenda When asked what level of importance their boards put on ESG, 76 percent of our survey respondents said “important” or “very important,” yet only 47 percent said their companies report on ESG, and 35 percent said their board provides ESG oversight. Compare that to the 45 percent stated by public companies in the PwC survey, and we are still looking at less than half of company boards addressing ESG even as investors and other business stakeholders demand it. Add ESG to your next board agenda, even if only to start the conversation with the management team. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that somewhere in the organization people have been working on ESG initiatives and have been waiting for the conversation to reach the board. Risk and reputation are two of the most fundamental aspects of “duty of care” for sitting board directors. Corporate leaders who take a broader view of their long-term strategy, including how they will meet ESG demands, will be better positioned to address new risks and opportunities.  3. Select an ESG oversight structure that aligns with your company More than half (52 percent) of our survey respondents serve on the Nominating and Governance committees of their boards, with 20 percent stating they sit on a specialized ESG/EHS working group or committee. Some companies split the elements of ESG between committees, with “social” sitting with the compensation committee for example, as they typically manage diversity, equity and talent initiatives. Because ESG strategy should align with business strategy and focus on material risks and business drivers, the full board will want to understand the ESG messaging and how those risks are being mitigated. A recent article by the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance offers an excellent guide on how to address ESG and corporate governance within the board committees, noting most importantly, “Because ESG strategy should align with business strategy and focus on material risks and business drivers, the full board will want to understand the ESG messaging and how those risks are being mitigated.”  4. Arm yourself with expertise In the PwC survey, respondents agreed that ESG issues are playing a larger role in their board discussions, and should be included in determining the company strategy. In fact, 67 percent of directors said the company should include climate change, human rights and income equality in the company strategy, a 13-point increase over 2019. Interestingly, female directors were more likely (60 percent) to see the link between ESG and company strategy than their male counterparts (46 percent), and agreed in higher percentages (79 percent vs. 64 percent) that climate change and human rights issues should be part of forming the company strategy.  As your board recruits new directors or replaces sitting directors, consider adding a director with ESG expertise, supplemented with an independent ESG consultant for a broader and future view. 5. Get educated When asked from which aspects of ESG education their boards would most benefit from, respondents prioritized: 1) diversity, equity and inclusion, 2) ESG/CSR reporting, 3) products’ environmental footprint/impact, 4) company operations’ environmental footprint/impact and 5) climate and renewable energy. Most prefer a half-day training, with some wanting a customized training for their entire board and others wanting to join training comprising individual board members representing diverse companies. Having interviewed board members over the years for materiality assessments, PGS Consults analysts note that board directors acknowledge their limited understanding of ESG and are genuinely open to learning more. The COVID-19 lockdown in March created a dramatic shift in board member interest in ESG — from polite inquiry to a more urgent need to know. Pull Quote Because ESG strategy should align with business strategy and focus on material risks and business drivers, the full board will want to understand the ESG messaging and how those risks are being mitigated. Contributors Leilani Latimer Topics Corporate Strategy ESG Collective Insight Thinking in Systems Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Freedomz Close Authorship

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5 steps boards can take to be ESG-ready for 2021

5 steps boards can take to be ESG-ready for 2021

January 21, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

5 steps boards can take to be ESG-ready for 2021 Pamela Gordon Thu, 01/21/2021 – 01:40 Amongst the many dramatic challenges global businesses faced in 2020, one that had been simmering for years bubbled up and promised to stay at a high boil in 2021 is ESG: Environment, Social, Governance.  Signs that ESG expectations were becoming more ubiquitous included the establishment of global ESG standards published by the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council in September and BlackRock’s call for a globally recognized framework for investors to understand individual company risks.  Despite years of progress by leading corporations toward ESG, corporate social responsibility (CSR), environmental health and safety (EHS) and sustainability goals, the reality is that board members overseeing these companies are still trying to discern how all of this applies to them. In fact, in PwC’s annual Corporate Directors survey , which includes responses from more than 600 public board directors, only half (51 percent) say their board fully understands ESG issues impacting the company. That same study shows, however, that in 2020, 45 percent of directors say that ESG issues are a regular part of the board’s agenda, which demonstrates an increase from 34 percent in 2019. Time for training How can boards (public and private) improve their efficacy in ESG oversight for long-term value? As ESG experts, Presidians and members of the Athena Alliance (community of female corporate board directors and executives), we set out to help boards to become ESG-ready .  To start, we uncovered board members’ keenest ESG-education needs by surveying sitting board members at public (39 percent) and private (61 percent) companies, generating annual revenues of less than $50 million to $3 billion. They look to ESG to realize the following areas of corporate success: Source: Presidio Graduate School survey, October through December 2020 Then, we developed an ESG training for board members, along with the following five recommendations for board members to get ESG-ready for 2021. 1. Understand why boards need to be ESG-ready In our survey, 47 percent of directors believe ESG is important for brand equity and reputation, 24 percent cited both customer and investor pressure, and 18 percent pointed to risk management and board pressure. One sitting board member said that ESG is “an inherent part of the business model.” Board oversight includes advising the management team on the company strategy, and ensuring improved long term value for all stakeholders. Directors must understand how ESG issues can affect that strategy, and be in a position to assess and address both challenges and opportunities. To get started, align the board on why they should care, in light of demands from stakeholders such as customers, employees, investors, communities and suppliers. Invite an ESG expert to convey how ESG is material to your particular company.  2. Add ESG to your next board meeting agenda When asked what level of importance their boards put on ESG, 76 percent of our survey respondents said “important” or “very important,” yet only 47 percent said their companies report on ESG, and 35 percent said their board provides ESG oversight. Compare that to the 45 percent stated by public companies in the PwC survey, and we are still looking at less than half of company boards addressing ESG even as investors and other business stakeholders demand it. Add ESG to your next board agenda, even if only to start the conversation with the management team. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that somewhere in the organization people have been working on ESG initiatives and have been waiting for the conversation to reach the board. Risk and reputation are two of the most fundamental aspects of “duty of care” for sitting board directors. Corporate leaders who take a broader view of their long-term strategy, including how they will meet ESG demands, will be better positioned to address new risks and opportunities.  3. Select an ESG oversight structure that aligns with your company More than half (52 percent) of our survey respondents serve on the Nominating and Governance committees of their boards, with 20 percent stating they sit on a specialized ESG/EHS working group or committee. Some companies split the elements of ESG between committees, with “social” sitting with the compensation committee for example, as they typically manage diversity, equity and talent initiatives. Because ESG strategy should align with business strategy and focus on material risks and business drivers, the full board will want to understand the ESG messaging and how those risks are being mitigated. A recent article by the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance offers an excellent guide on how to address ESG and corporate governance within the board committees, noting most importantly, “Because ESG strategy should align with business strategy and focus on material risks and business drivers, the full board will want to understand the ESG messaging and how those risks are being mitigated.”  4. Arm yourself with expertise In the PwC survey, respondents agreed that ESG issues are playing a larger role in their board discussions, and should be included in determining the company strategy. In fact, 67 percent of directors said the company should include climate change, human rights and income equality in the company strategy, a 13-point increase over 2019. Interestingly, female directors were more likely (60 percent) to see the link between ESG and company strategy than their male counterparts (46 percent), and agreed in higher percentages (79 percent vs. 64 percent) that climate change and human rights issues should be part of forming the company strategy.  As your board recruits new directors or replaces sitting directors, consider adding a director with ESG expertise, supplemented with an independent ESG consultant for a broader and future view. 5. Get educated When asked from which aspects of ESG education their boards would most benefit from, respondents prioritized: 1) diversity, equity and inclusion, 2) ESG/CSR reporting, 3) products’ environmental footprint/impact, 4) company operations’ environmental footprint/impact and 5) climate and renewable energy. Most prefer a half-day training, with some wanting a customized training for their entire board and others wanting to join training comprising individual board members representing diverse companies. Having interviewed board members over the years for materiality assessments, PGS Consults analysts note that board directors acknowledge their limited understanding of ESG and are genuinely open to learning more. The COVID-19 lockdown in March created a dramatic shift in board member interest in ESG — from polite inquiry to a more urgent need to know. Pull Quote Because ESG strategy should align with business strategy and focus on material risks and business drivers, the full board will want to understand the ESG messaging and how those risks are being mitigated. Contributors Leilani Latimer Topics Corporate Strategy ESG Collective Insight Thinking in Systems Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Freedomz Close Authorship

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5 steps boards can take to be ESG-ready for 2021

House of Childhood is a daycare that emphasizes energy efficiency

January 20, 2021 by  
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As part of a National Association for Urban Renewal project that will run until 2030, the Maison de l’enfance à Albertville (Savoie, France) is the first step in an ambitious urban development masterplan in the area. Translated House of Childhood, the building was designed by Tectoniques Agency and is functional, inviting, striking and environmentally friendly. With a commitment to early childhood, this initial project is a multipurpose facility with a dynamic, open floor plan that incorporates a municipal daycare center, a family daycare center, space for nursery assistants, a leisure area and a school restaurant. Related: Adorable prefab nursery in Greece mimics a tiny urban village According to a press release, the House of Childhood is, “set in the heart of the Bauges, Beaufortain, Lauzière and Grand Arc mountain ranges,” making for a natural backdrop in nearly every direction. Architects placed an emphasis on the upper level of the building in order to capture the sweeping landscape. In addition to exceptional views of the surrounding peaks, the building responds to a goal of minimal site impact . In fact, a compact design caters to the architects’ call for preserving the ground in anticipation of future land development of green spaces. The team relied on a concrete foundation — Albertville is in a seismic zone — but equally relied on natural materials like different types of locally sourced wood for framing and furniture. To soften the look, the concrete walls are surrounded by a wooden structure. The upper facade offers protection and visual appeal with a combination of shimmering bronze and copper coloring. A significant portion of the building was built using prefabricated panels, ensuring industrial quality while allowing expediency of construction. This technique enabled the project to be completed in 13 months. Energy-efficient elements are included, such as the biomass heating network and ventilation provided by an adiabatic AHU to keep children cool during hot summers. The centralized entrance provides access to a reception area on one end and the dining room, activity rooms and technical rooms on the other. The first floor houses a courtyard with a generous playground. Natural light illuminates the interior through a combination of skylights and glazed facades. The interior design is also focused on the children, drawing natural elements inside with fully exposed bleached beech and spruce walls, ceilings and furniture. Paint colors designate separate spaces; for example, yellow defines the changing rooms and blue defines the restrooms.  + Tectoniques agency Photography by Renaud Araud via Tectoniques agency 

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House of Childhood is a daycare that emphasizes energy efficiency

Big in 2021: American jobs created by EV companies

January 6, 2021 by  
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Big in 2021: American jobs created by EV companies Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 01/06/2021 – 00:30 One of the big things I’m thinking about to kick off 2021 is how electric vehicles will be entwined with a U.S. recovery. Even before Joe Biden has formalized any green stimulus plans, the EV industry in the U.S. is showing important indicators that it will see solid growth this year — and that means jobs. New industry jobs. Electric jobs. Climate jobs.  Recently I chatted with the CEO and founder of Lion Electric , an electric bus and truck maker based in Saint-Jerome, Quebec. Marc Bedard founded the company 12 years ago — after working at a diesel school bus company in the 1990’s — with the goals of eliminating diesel engines for school buses and diesel fumes from the air that school kids breathe.  Lion got its start making electric school buses and has delivered major orders to the Twin Rivers Unified School District in Sacramento, California, and White Plains School District in White Plains, New York. More recently it unveiled an electric delivery truck and scored orders with Amazon and Canadian logistics provider CN.  While Lion Electric already has a factory in Montreal that can make 2,500 e-buses and trucks a year, the company tells GreenBiz it plans to expand into the U.S. by buying and converting an American factory that could be large enough to make 20,000 vehicles a year. Lion will unveil more details about where exactly that factory could be in the coming weeks, although vehicle production there probably won’t start for a couple of years. The expected rise of EV jobs across new and established automakers offers a spark of good news amidst expected anemic job growth for the first half of the year. Lion isn’t the only EV truck maker eying expansion into the U.S. market. Arrival — a London-based EV truck maker with a 10,000-EV deal with UPS —  plans to invest $43 million into its first U.S. factory in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The factory is expected to produce 240 jobs, with operations to start in the second quarter of 2021. The company’s U.S. headquarters will be in nearby Charlotte, North Carolina. In addition to Arrival and Lion, a handful of other independent U.S. EV makers have emerged in recent years to tap into the growing American electric truck market, including Lordstown Motors , Hyliion , XL Fleet , Rivian, Nikola and Lightning eMotors. All of these companies recently have raised hundreds of millions of dollars and gone public by merging with “blank check” companies, or Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (also called SPACs).  Although the financial tool is a bit speculative in nature — the SPAC process is far quicker and less rigorous than going public via a traditional initial public offering — it turns out that SPACs, strangely enough, could help create thousands, if not tens of thousands, American EV industry jobs. Hopefully, most of those will end up being long-term, stable jobs.  And those are just the latest jobs from the newest players. Ford is developing an all-electric cargo van at a Kansas City plant that will create 150 jobs this year. That’s on top of the hundreds of other new EV jobs created by Ford’s new electric vehicle lines, the electric F-150 and the Mustang Mach-E. Likewise, Daimler Trucks North America has been converting and expanding its factory to make electric trucks at its Swan Island headquarters in North Portland, Oregon. The new EV jobs couldn’t come at a better time. Thanks to the pandemic, 2020 saw historic American unemployment rates peaking in April and recovering to just 6.7 percent unemployment as of November. But with a slow vaccine rollout and surging infection rates, prolonged long-term high unemployment rates are expected. Clean energy jobs have been equally hit hard, with about a half-million clean energy workers left unemployed by the pandemic this year.  Despite not knowing what Biden’s green stimulus will look like, the administration already has signaled that the automakers could be a big part of a recovery. Biden selected former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as his energy department secretary. Granholm worked closely with the Obama administration and the auto industry throughout the green stimulus program following the 2008 financial crisis.  The expected rise of EV jobs across new and established automakers offers a spark of good news amidst expected anemic job growth for the first half of the year. And these are just jobs from the vehicle manufacturers.  Equally strong job growth is expected for EV infrastructure providers riding the same electric wave and could get even more of a boost from a green infrastructure stimulus. A federal government stimulus also could inject funding and jobs into a growing domestic EV battery production sector.  In what is expected to be another dark couple of quarters for employment in 2021, look to EV jobs to offer a bright spot.  Sign up for Katie Fehrenbacher’s newsletter, Transport Weekly, at this link . Follow her on Twitter. Pull Quote The expected rise of EV jobs across new and established automakers offers a spark of good news amidst expected anemic job growth for the first half of the year. Topics Transportation & Mobility Jobs & Careers Electric Vehicles Electric Bus Electric School Buses Electric Trucks Featured Column Driving Change 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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Big in 2021: American jobs created by EV companies

Big in 2021: American jobs created by EV companies

January 6, 2021 by  
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Big in 2021: American jobs created by EV companies Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 01/06/2021 – 00:30 One of the big things I’m thinking about to kick off 2021 is how electric vehicles will be entwined with a U.S. recovery. Even before Joe Biden has formalized any green stimulus plans, the EV industry in the U.S. is showing important indicators that it will see solid growth this year — and that means jobs. New industry jobs. Electric jobs. Climate jobs.  Recently I chatted with the CEO and founder of Lion Electric , an electric bus and truck maker based in Saint-Jerome, Quebec. Marc Bedard founded the company 12 years ago — after working at a diesel school bus company in the 1990’s — with the goals of eliminating diesel engines for school buses and diesel fumes from the air that school kids breathe.  Lion got its start making electric school buses and has delivered major orders to the Twin Rivers Unified School District in Sacramento, California, and White Plains School District in White Plains, New York. More recently it unveiled an electric delivery truck and scored orders with Amazon and Canadian logistics provider CN.  While Lion Electric already has a factory in Montreal that can make 2,500 e-buses and trucks a year, the company tells GreenBiz it plans to expand into the U.S. by buying and converting an American factory that could be large enough to make 20,000 vehicles a year. Lion will unveil more details about where exactly that factory could be in the coming weeks, although vehicle production there probably won’t start for a couple of years. The expected rise of EV jobs across new and established automakers offers a spark of good news amidst expected anemic job growth for the first half of the year. Lion isn’t the only EV truck maker eying expansion into the U.S. market. Arrival — a London-based EV truck maker with a 10,000-EV deal with UPS —  plans to invest $43 million into its first U.S. factory in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The factory is expected to produce 240 jobs, with operations to start in the second quarter of 2021. The company’s U.S. headquarters will be in nearby Charlotte, North Carolina. In addition to Arrival and Lion, a handful of other independent U.S. EV makers have emerged in recent years to tap into the growing American electric truck market, including Lordstown Motors , Hyliion , XL Fleet , Rivian, Nikola and Lightning eMotors. All of these companies recently have raised hundreds of millions of dollars and gone public by merging with “blank check” companies, or Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (also called SPACs).  Although the financial tool is a bit speculative in nature — the SPAC process is far quicker and less rigorous than going public via a traditional initial public offering — it turns out that SPACs, strangely enough, could help create thousands, if not tens of thousands, American EV industry jobs. Hopefully, most of those will end up being long-term, stable jobs.  And those are just the latest jobs from the newest players. Ford is developing an all-electric cargo van at a Kansas City plant that will create 150 jobs this year. That’s on top of the hundreds of other new EV jobs created by Ford’s new electric vehicle lines, the electric F-150 and the Mustang Mach-E. Likewise, Daimler Trucks North America has been converting and expanding its factory to make electric trucks at its Swan Island headquarters in North Portland, Oregon. The new EV jobs couldn’t come at a better time. Thanks to the pandemic, 2020 saw historic American unemployment rates peaking in April and recovering to just 6.7 percent unemployment as of November. But with a slow vaccine rollout and surging infection rates, prolonged long-term high unemployment rates are expected. Clean energy jobs have been equally hit hard, with about a half-million clean energy workers left unemployed by the pandemic this year.  Despite not knowing what Biden’s green stimulus will look like, the administration already has signaled that the automakers could be a big part of a recovery. Biden selected former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as his energy department secretary. Granholm worked closely with the Obama administration and the auto industry throughout the green stimulus program following the 2008 financial crisis.  The expected rise of EV jobs across new and established automakers offers a spark of good news amidst expected anemic job growth for the first half of the year. And these are just jobs from the vehicle manufacturers.  Equally strong job growth is expected for EV infrastructure providers riding the same electric wave and could get even more of a boost from a green infrastructure stimulus. A federal government stimulus also could inject funding and jobs into a growing domestic EV battery production sector.  In what is expected to be another dark couple of quarters for employment in 2021, look to EV jobs to offer a bright spot.  Sign up for Katie Fehrenbacher’s newsletter, Transport Weekly, at this link . Follow her on Twitter. Pull Quote The expected rise of EV jobs across new and established automakers offers a spark of good news amidst expected anemic job growth for the first half of the year. Topics Transportation & Mobility Jobs & Careers Electric Vehicles Electric Bus Electric School Buses Electric Trucks Featured Column Driving Change 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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Big in 2021: American jobs created by EV companies

Award-winning Jewish primary school gets a sustainable expansion in Chicago

December 22, 2020 by  
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The Blue Ribbon School-recognized Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School (BZAEDS) in Chicago, Illinois has elevated its unique identity with a sustainable expansion that celebrates the private K-8 day school’s Jewish values and cultural heritage. Designed by local architectural practice Wheeler Kearns Architects , the recently renovated BZAEDS has most notably gained a secure, light-filled entry with a plaza, a variety of gathering spaces, flexible classroom areas and a series of environmentally friendly features, which range from a solar array to permeable paving throughout for responsible stormwater management. Opened in 1946 with the motto “You Shall Teach Them Diligently,” the Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School is located next to the Anshe Emet Synagogue, with which it formerly shared a small and nondescript entrance accessed from the parking lot. The new, 32,000-square-foot Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School Expansion, completed last year, provides the school with a secure and independent entrance dedicated to the students. The entry vestibule is fronted with south-facing glass to promote connection between the school and the community. Full-height glazing also provides views to the school’s varied functions from religious classes held in the “Makom Rina” (Place of Joy) to the outdoor recreational fields. Related: This modern art museum was once a cheese factory in Arkansas “The addition embeds timeless Jewish principles and ideas into the structure and experience of the building, while providing an efficient, sustainable innovative learning environment for future generations,” the architects explained. “The building uses daylight , open space, visual connection, and material cues so visitors can intuit their way through the building. Most importantly, the building makes all visitors, staff, faculty and students feel like they have a place to call home.” In addition to providing a more attractive entry and flexible gathering spaces, such as the lushly landscaped entry plaza, the expansion optimizes the environmentally friendly aspects of the solar -powered school. Ample glazing lets in natural light and reduces dependence on artificial lighting while deep overhangs mitigate solar heat gain. A VRF mechanical system was installed for on-demand heating and cooling. Recycled, renewable and low-VOC materials were selected for much of the interior palette, such as the ceilings, linoleum floors, tile and athletic field composition. + Wheeler Kearns Architects Photography by ?Steve Hall, Hall + Merrick Photographers via Wheeler Kearns Architects

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EPA finalizes rule to make efforts against climate change more difficult

December 14, 2020 by  
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Like an evil troll throwing a curse over its shoulder before being banished from the kingdom, President Donald Trump’s EPA finalized a rule that could make it harder for Biden to address pollution and climate change. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, announced the new rule. “Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, we are ensuring that future rulemakings under the Clean Air Act are transparent, fair, and consistent with EPA governing statutes,” said Wheeler, as reported by CNN . But critics say the change ensures that the EPA will continue to put the economy over environmental and public health interests. It allows the agency to disregard positive side effects of decisions, such as saving lives from being lost to air pollution, while fully weighing the economic impact. Related: Exxon’s leaked documents reveal devastating pollution plan During Trump’s four years in office, his administration managed to roll back more than 100 public health and environmental rules, putting the welfare of corporate polluters over that of the people. “For four years, this administration has waged war on public health by kowtowing to polluters,” said Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, as reported by Common Dreams . “Now, on the way out the door, this amounts to sabotaging the efforts of the incoming administration to protect Americans from dirty air.” Poor air quality is especially troubling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. A study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found an association between air pollution and increased mortality from COVID-19 infection. Individual-level COVID-19 data isn’t publicly available, so the study couldn’t state a definite cause and effect, but the implication is clear. Yet this new EPA rule was proposed in June and passed at a time when COVID-19 deaths are at a high and still rising. New Jersey Representative Frank Pallone tweeted his disgust: “This rule will distort @EPA analysis by discounting the health benefits of air pollution standards & prioritizing the financial costs to polluters above health costs to the public. It’s a betrayal both of the #CleanAirAct and of EPA’s mission to protect human health .” Via Common Dreams and CNN Image via Johannes Plenio

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EPA finalizes rule to make efforts against climate change more difficult

Good Days brings sustainable activewear to Hong Kong

December 14, 2020 by  
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Out of yoga studios and into closets all over the world, activewear remains a huge fashion trend. One company in Hong Kong is putting a twist on the trend by cleaning up the planet while making leggings, tops and sports bras. Good Days has created an entire activewear line made from recycled post-consumer plastic waste. Former Lane Crawford brand manager Libby Perry founded Good Days, Hong Kong’s first sustainable athletic apparel brand. The company works with sustainable suppliers and ethical manufacturers to create fashionable, eco-friendly activewear. The brand’s sustainable collection contains 30 pieces so far, available in a variety of colors. Each piece is made from fabrics made with recycled and recovered plastic. TopGreen, one fabric used in the line, comes from FENC in Taiwan, a supplier that repurposes 100% traceable post-consumer plastic and turns it into new yarn. A small portion of the nylon used to make these clothes comes from Varvico JL, an Italian company specializing in turning industrial waste into 100% regenerated yarn. In fact, the only virgin material used in the collection is certified organic cotton. Good Days is dedicated to diverting plastic that would have ended up in oceans or landfills otherwise. The company takes this plastic and repurposes it into usable, high-quality products. The plastic water bottle you drink out of today just may become part of a great-looking pair of leggings tomorrow. The brand uses no disposable plastic packaging, and all Good Days orders are sent in non-toxic and compostable packaging. Additionally, every delivery comes packaged in a reusable tote bag that has been made from repurposed rice sacks. All of this factors into Good Days’ sustainability values. As stated on the brand website, “the Good Days brand ethos is our commitment to keeping sustainable and ethical decision making at the heart of what we do.” + Good Days Images via Good Days

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Good Days brings sustainable activewear to Hong Kong

U.S. contributes 5 times more ocean plastic than previous estimates

November 3, 2020 by  
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The U.S. is contributing up to five times more plastic pollution to the oceans than previously thought, according to a follow-up study published in Science Advances . The study was a sequel to 2015 research, which had given a rough estimate of the waste contribution by the U.S. The new study has now revealed that Americans contributed between 1.1 and 2.2 million metric tons of plastic to the oceans in 2016. This figure is almost double the higher end of the estimates from 2015 and five times more than the lowest estimates in the earlier predictions. The study has revealed that Americans are using more plastic than ever before. The data included American waste exports that were not accounted for in their previous studies. About 88% of the country’s waste exports goes to countries with poor recycling infrastructure. Recent developments have shown that much of the plastic waste that is exported does not go through recycling systems and ends up in the oceans. Related: Flow of plastic waste in the ocean could triple by 2040 “When you consider how much of our plastic waste isn’t actually recyclable because it is low-value, contaminated, or difficult to process, it’s not surprising that a lot of it ends up polluting the environment,” said Kara Lavender Law, lead author and research professor of oceanography at the Sea Education Association. Data analysis is an important aspect that must be employed in the management of plastic waste . According to Tony Walker, an associate professor at the Dalhousie University School for Resource and Environmental Studies, there is a lack of data standards across municipalities. The researchers are now emphasizing the need to get accurate information when it comes to plastic pollution. As reported by The New York Times , only 9% of the country’s total waste goes into the recycling system. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that such waste will actually be made into new items. Plastic recycling has proven to be quite expensive, making it unrealistic for plastic manufactures to use recycled plastic. + Science Advances Via The New York Times Image via Brian Yurasits

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U.S. contributes 5 times more ocean plastic than previous estimates

Tree-planting drones aim to cool a hot planet

November 3, 2020 by  
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Professional tree planters typically plant upward of 11,000 trees per week. This sounds speedy until you compare Flash Forest’s plan to use two pilots and a drone to plant 100,000 trees in a day. The Canadian startup isn’t that fast yet. But this month, it plans to plant 40,000 trees on fire-ravaged land north of Toronto . Then, the organization will expand its efforts to other regions, with a goal of planting 1 billion trees by 2028. Flash Forest is one of several startups trying to restore forests with tree-planting drones. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, humans need to plant 1 billion hectares of trees to have any hope of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This equals a forest about the size of the U.S. Related: The daily life of a tree farmer with One Tree Planted “I think that drones are absolutely necessary to hit the kind of targets that we’re saying are necessary to achieve some of our carbon sequestration goals as a global society,” said Flash Forest cofounder and chief strategy officer Angelique Ahlstrom, as reported in Fast Company . “When you look at the potential for drones, we plant 10 times faster than humans.” When beginning a new project, Flash Forest first uses mapping drones to determine the best places to plant trees based on soil type and existing plant life. Then the planting drones swoop in, precisely depositing special moisture-storing seed pods. The drones even have a pneumatic firing device they can deploy in difficult terrain like mangrove forests or steep hills. “It allows you to get into trickier areas that human planters can’t,” Ahlstrom said. The startup, which launched in early 2019, can already plant 10,000 to 20,000 seed pods per day. Flash Forest matches the tree species with the environment — and what the environment might be like in the future. “We work with local seed banks and also take into account that the different changes that climate change brings with temperature rise, anticipating what the climate will be like in five to eight years when these trees are much older and have grown to a more mature stage, and how that will affect them,” Ahlstrom explained. The drones don’t just drop the seedlings and desert them. Depending on the project, Flash Forest plans to check on the seedlings when they’re a couple of months old, then a year or two, then three to five years old. If all works out well, the trees will take eventually take care of themselves and, by extension, us humans as they help to limit the global temperature rise. + Flash Forest Via Fast Company Image via Ki-Kieh

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Tree-planting drones aim to cool a hot planet

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