From China’s stand to Walmart’s wish list: A Climate Week news cheat sheet

September 25, 2020 by  
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From China’s stand to Walmart’s wish list: A Climate Week news cheat sheet Heather Clancy Fri, 09/25/2020 – 00:30 As with virtually all gatherings of the climate community during the COVID age, this year’s Climate Week was convened as an online event — one hosted from more than 20 countries across myriad time zones rather than its usual host city of New York.  Instead of running between Manhattan locations, attendees platform-hopped among more than 450 presentations, panels, screenings and other events, including those hosted by the World Economic Forum and the United Nations, while iconic structures such as the Empire State Building turned their lights green to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis. As is their wont, many companies used the occasion to proclaim updated commitments — the buzzword du la semaine was “net-zero” with Walmart declaring a zero-emissions target by 2040 along with a big clean fleet promise and a pledge to “protect, manage or restore” at least 50 million acres of land and 1 million square miles of ocean by 2030. GE made headlines with its decision to stop making equipment for new coal-fired power plants to focus on its renewables business (although it doesn’t say anything about fixing the old ones).  More than 1,500 companies are committed to net-zero emissions, triple the number that had made those pledges by the end of 2019. Morgan Stanley offered its own twist with a promise to reach “net-zero financed emissions” by the critical 2050 timeframe. The intention is to align its portfolio with the goals of the Paris Agreement. (Morgan Stanley, along with Bank of America and Citigroup, has agreed to deeper disclosure.) In other words, stop financing the emitting stuff, as it has been criticized for in the past. The biggest national-level news of the week came out of the United Nations General Assembly, where Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that the country aims to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. Given the country’s status as the world’s largest emitter, the development is essential for progress against climate change.  While words aren’t action, the commitment stands in sharp contrast with the extensive environmental protection rollbacks adopted by the Trump administration, which has announced its plan to pull out of the Paris climate accord. At the state level, California Gov. Gavin Newsom put the transportation industry on notice with his executive order banning new gasoline-powered vehicles after 2035. Newsom also was named to a two-year term as co-chair of the Under2 Coalition, a network of states and regions looking to integrate the Paris Agreement goals with a mind to social justice.  On the other side of the U.S., New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo finalized a ban on hydrofluorocarbons, a superpollutant found in refrigerators, air conditioners and other cooling equipment. And the mayors of 12 cities — representing 36 million residents — announced their plans to divest from fossil fuels. Among the signatories to the C40 campaign: Berlin, Bristol, Cape Town, Durban, London, Los Angeles, Milan, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Pittsburgh and Vancouver. Throughout the week the heightened attention to supporting nature and biodiversity and to going beyond carbon emissions reductions was also a frequent theme — with a particular focus on the role of science-based targets in driving corporate action.  The Science Based Targets Network has created new guidance for companies interested in setting goals for land and freshwater use, biodiversity or ecosystem impacts using science-based principles, as many are doing to set emissions reduction targets.  “The best companies in the world are no longer satisfied with ‘doing better’,” said Andrew Steer, president and CEO of World Resources Institute, in a statement. “They insist on ‘doing enough’. That’s what science-based targets provide them.” Wondering what you missed from your home office? Below is a curated list of notable corporate commitments and campaign updates that emerged during Climate Week.  Accounting bigwigs suggest ‘universal’ ESG metrics Four iconic accounting firms — Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC  — teamed up with Bank of America to develop and release a set of standard metrics and disclosure frameworks that companies can use to report on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.  The new guidance, released by the World Economic Forum as part of the Sustainable Development Impact Summit , focuses on four pillars: Treatment of employees, including diversity, wage gaps, and health and safety Dependencies on the natural environment related to emissions, land and water use How a company contributes to community well-being, including what it pays in taxes Criteria for accountability  Amazon signs more Climate Pledgers, curates sustainable products shopping site Five more companies have signed the Climate Pledge, an initiative orchestrated by Amazon and Global Optimism : retailer Best Buy ; engineering firm McKinstry ; professional sports club Real Betis ; energy firm Schneider Electric; and manufacturer Siemens . This gesture commits them to reaching a net-zero carbon footprint by 2040, one decade before the deadline for the Paris Agreement.  The mighty e-commerce retailer also created a new “Climate Pledge Friendly” shopping section on Amazon.com dedicated to showcasing consumer products that hold one or more of 19 sustainability certifications such as Cradle to Cradle, Energy Star and Fairtrade.  The focus is on grocery, household, fashion, beauty and consumer electronics options — and some initial brands showcased are Burt’s Bees Baby, HP Inc. and Seventh Generation. Amazon also created its own externally validated certification, Compact by Design , which will recognize products designed to require less packaging, which makes them more efficient to ship.  Jenny Ahlen, director of EDF+Business, praised Amazon’s new strategy but said it doesn’t go far enough. “Certifications are a good starting point for companies to help shoppers make more informed and sustainable choices,” she wrote in a blog about the announcement. “But to truly make progress on creating safer, more sustainable products, retailers — Amazon included — need to work with their suppliers to improve the quality of all the products they sell and share that information with shoppers. Calling out a small portion of products that have met environmental standards isn’t enough.”  Climate Group tallies up more members for RE100, EP100  Beverage and snack company PepsiCo set a new global target to source 100 percent of its electricity for company-owned and controlled operations using renewable power by 2030, and across its entire franchise by 2040. (It expects to reach this goal for its U.S. operations by the end of this year.) This move could result in the equivalent of removing 2.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca amped up its renewable energy with a deeper commitment to addressing industrial heat by joining the Renewable Thermal Collaborative, dedicated to decarbonizing tough-to-abate manufacturing and production processes. Currently, 13 percent of AstraZeneca’s power load comes from combined heat and power, and the company has committed to identifying renewable alternatives by 2025. Two energy-centric campaigns managed by the Climate Group welcomed new members this week. The EP100 initiative , which encourages companies to commit to higher levels of productivity and revenue while using less energy, has more than 100 members, with Japan’s Daito Trust Construction among the latest joiners. The RE100 , which represents more than 260 companies committed to using 100 percent renewable power, added new signatories including Intel , ASICS (the apparel company), pharma firm Sanofi and manufacturers SKF and VELUX .  Formidable food purveyors forsake food waste A group of powerful food retailers including Kroger , Tesco and Walmart and food service company Sodexo created the “10x20x30” initiative , which commits them to convincing at least 10 of their suppliers to halving food waste and loss by 2030. The effort is part of Champions 12.3, a group focused on addressing the challenge of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which calls for a 50 percent reduction in food loss and waste by the end of this decade.  One example of the actions we might see as a result is Walmart’s move to source cucumbers that use a coating provided by startup Apeel that extends their shelf life through a natural coating that extends shelf life. “Cutting food loss and waste in half  — from farm to fork — by 2030 will require ambitious, collection action,” said Jane Ewing, senior vice president of sustainability for Walmart, in a statement. “The 10x20x30 initiative is accelerating progress by aligning and training shareholders across the industry on how to dramatically reduce food waste.” IKEA, Unilever, others bring 1.5 Celsius mindset to supply chains The Exponential Roadmap Initiative in Stockholm launched the 1.5 Degrees Supply Chain Leaders initiative , a group of multinational companies that have set targets to halve their absolute GHG emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions across their supply chains by 2050 — in line with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. Initial supporters include BT Group , Ericsson , IKEA , Telia and Unilever . Among the commitments is making climate-related targets and performance a “key supplier purchasing criteria” by this time next year.  “To tackle the climate challenge, it is not enough for us to collaborate with the big global suppliers,” said Mikko Kuusisto, senior director of strategic sourcing for Telia, in a statement. “We need to engage also with the smaller, more local and often nonlisted companies to get them to commit to halving their emissions by 2030.” To help facilitate that transition, the Exponential Roadmap Initiative teamed up with the International Chamber of Commerce, the We Mean Business coalition and the United Nations Race to Zero Campaign to create the SME Climate Hub . The website will provide a set of resources intended to help smaller suppliers take these steps, including measurement tools, best practices frameworks and services.  Mars, Carrefour giants cultivate new coalition for forests The Forest Positive Coalition of Action, which includes close to 20 companies with a collective market value of $1.8 trillion, is a CEO-level group under the umbrella of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) vowing to address key commodity supply chains that often contribute to deforestation. Among the actions they are advocating include joining forces for forest conservation in “key production landscapes,” policy initiatives and regular reporting.  Aside from sponsors Mars and Carrefour , the list of participants includes Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Danone, Essity, General Mills, Grupo Bimbo, Jerónimo Martins, METRO AG, Mondel?z, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Unilever and Walmart. The launch was greeted with skepticism by environmental NGOs including the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), SumofUs, Friends of the Earth U.S. and Amazon Watch, which notes that the involved companies so far have fallen short on deforestation commitments and on protecting the rights of Indigenous people. “We’ve see 10 years of inaction, half-measures and greenwashing from the CGF, while human rights defenders and frontline communities have been putting their lives on the line to defend forests from rampant corporate expansion,” said Brihannala Morgan, senior forest campaigner at RAN, in a statement. Microsoft shares ‘positive’ vibes for water Building on its “carbon negative” pledge in January, a goal that will see it remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it historically has emitted, Microsoft is applying that same mindset to its water strategy. Only in reverse. Its new commitment will see it reduce the per-megawatt consumption of water related to the energy that powers its operations and also focus on water replenishment in 40 “stressed” regions in which it operates. The goal is to replenish more water than it uses by 2030. That will inspire measures such as: Wetland restoration Removal of impervious pavement Installation of on-site rainwater collection and water recycling systems across its newest offices, including the new Silicon Valley campus, the redesign at its central campus in the Seattle area and facilities in India and Israel A heightened focus on evaporative and “adiabatic” (outside air) cooling technologies for its data centers AI for Earth technologies, such as a project called Vector Center, for helping measure water risk and scarcity  It’s worth noting that Microsoft’s new strategy prioritizes not just availability but also accessibility, the issue of safe drinking water and sanitation. Were there other announcements this week? Sure, and I’m also sure I’ll get plenty of emails about what I “missed.” While I am grateful for every company that commits to taking practical, meaningful, un-greenwashed action, the common thread of the visions advanced above is that they set the bar higher — even if just a little bit. That’s what we need to move entire industries to support taking action on the climate crisis. Topics Corporate Strategy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A moment in time for the climate clock on the metronome in New York’s Union Square.

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From China’s stand to Walmart’s wish list: A Climate Week news cheat sheet

Walmart drives toward zero-emission goal for its entire fleet by 2040

September 23, 2020 by  
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Walmart drives toward zero-emission goal for its entire fleet by 2040 Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 09/23/2020 – 01:50 If you needed any more evidence that America’s vehicle fleets are driving toward zero-emission status, it’s this: Walmart just announced that it will electrify and zero out emissions from all Walmart vehicles, including long haul trucks, by 2040.  That includes more than 10,000 vehicles, including 6,500 semi-trucks and 4,000 passenger vehicles. Up until this point, Walmart largely had emphasized fuel efficiency , although it also ordered several dozen Tesla electric semi-trucks for a Canadian fulfillment center.  Why the change? Zach Freeze, senior director of strategic initiatives and sustainability at Walmart, told GreenBiz that “more needs to be done,” and Walmart wanted to set the ambitious goal of zero emission “In order to get to zero, we need to transition the fleet,” Freeze said.  The semi-trucks will be the trickiest vehicles to adopt zero emission technologies, be that batteries, hydrogen or alternative fuels. Some heavy-duty truck fleets are opting for swapping in alternative fuels today, while the electric semi-truck market matures (check out this webcast I’m hosting Oct. 1 on the city of Oakland’s circular renewable diesel project). Expect Walmart’s 4,000 passenger vehicles to go electric much more quickly. Passenger EVs today can help fleets reduce their operating costs (less diesel fuel used) and maintenance costs, leading to overall lower costs for the fleets.  Walmart is just at the beginning of its zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) journey, but the strategy with its announcement is to “send a signal” to the market. “We want to see ZEV technology scaled, and we want to be on the front lines of that trend,” Freeze said.  Jason Mather, director of vehicles and freight strategy for the Environmental Defense Fund, described Walmart’s new goals in a release as “a critical signal to the industry that the future is zero-emissions.” However, these commitments only cover Scope 1 and 2 zero-emission commitments, not Scope 3. Of course, Walmart isn’t the only big company using ZEV goals to send market signals. Last year, Amazon announced an overall goal to deliver all of its goods via net-zero carbon shipments, and the retailer plans to purchase 100,000 electric trucks via startup Rivian.  Utility fleets will be another key buyer for electric trucks. Oregon utility Portland General Electric tells GreenBiz it plans to electrify just over 60 percent of its entire fleet by 2030. Utilities commonly use modified pick-up trucks, SUVs, bucket trucks, flatbed trucks and dump trucks. PGE says that 100 percent of its class 1 trucks (small pickups, sedans, SUVs) will be electric by 2025, while 30 percent of its heavy-duty trucks will be electric by 2030. Its entire fleet includes more than 1,000 vehicles. “It’s really important for us as a utility to be doing this. At the end of the day, we’ll be serving our customers’ electric fleet loads,” said Aaron Milano, product portfolio manager for transportation electrification at PGE. “It’s necessary that we learn and help our customers through this process.” I’ll be interviewing PGE CEO Maria Pope at our upcoming VERGE 20 conference , which will run half days across the last week in October, virtually of course. Tune in for a combination of keynotes and interactive discussions with leaders such as IKEA’s Angela Hultberg, Apple’s Lisa Jackson, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, Amazon’s Kara Hurst, InBev’s Angie Slaughter, the city of Seattle’s Philip Saunders and the Port Authority New York and New Jersey’s Christine Weydig.  Topics Transportation & Mobility Clean Fleets 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 Courtesy of Walmart Close Authorship

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Walmart drives toward zero-emission goal for its entire fleet by 2040

Walmart drives toward zero-emission goal for its entire fleet by 2040

September 23, 2020 by  
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Walmart drives toward zero-emission goal for its entire fleet by 2040 Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 09/23/2020 – 01:50 If you needed any more evidence that America’s vehicle fleets are driving toward zero-emission status, it’s this: Walmart just announced that it will electrify and zero out emissions from all Walmart vehicles, including long haul trucks, by 2040.  That includes more than 10,000 vehicles, including 6,500 semi-trucks and 4,000 passenger vehicles. Up until this point, Walmart largely had emphasized fuel efficiency , although it also ordered several dozen Tesla electric semi-trucks for a Canadian fulfillment center.  Why the change? Zach Freeze, senior director of strategic initiatives and sustainability at Walmart, told GreenBiz that “more needs to be done,” and Walmart wanted to set the ambitious goal of zero emission “In order to get to zero, we need to transition the fleet,” Freeze said.  The semi-trucks will be the trickiest vehicles to adopt zero emission technologies, be that batteries, hydrogen or alternative fuels. Some heavy-duty truck fleets are opting for swapping in alternative fuels today, while the electric semi-truck market matures (check out this webcast I’m hosting Oct. 1 on the city of Oakland’s circular renewable diesel project). Expect Walmart’s 4,000 passenger vehicles to go electric much more quickly. Passenger EVs today can help fleets reduce their operating costs (less diesel fuel used) and maintenance costs, leading to overall lower costs for the fleets.  Walmart is just at the beginning of its zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) journey, but the strategy with its announcement is to “send a signal” to the market. “We want to see ZEV technology scaled, and we want to be on the front lines of that trend,” Freeze said.  Jason Mather, director of vehicles and freight strategy for the Environmental Defense Fund, described Walmart’s new goals in a release as “a critical signal to the industry that the future is zero-emissions.” However, these commitments only cover Scope 1 and 2 zero-emission commitments, not Scope 3. Of course, Walmart isn’t the only big company using ZEV goals to send market signals. Last year, Amazon announced an overall goal to deliver all of its goods via net-zero carbon shipments, and the retailer plans to purchase 100,000 electric trucks via startup Rivian.  Utility fleets will be another key buyer for electric trucks. Oregon utility Portland General Electric tells GreenBiz it plans to electrify just over 60 percent of its entire fleet by 2030. Utilities commonly use modified pick-up trucks, SUVs, bucket trucks, flatbed trucks and dump trucks. PGE says that 100 percent of its class 1 trucks (small pickups, sedans, SUVs) will be electric by 2025, while 30 percent of its heavy-duty trucks will be electric by 2030. Its entire fleet includes more than 1,000 vehicles. “It’s really important for us as a utility to be doing this. At the end of the day, we’ll be serving our customers’ electric fleet loads,” said Aaron Milano, product portfolio manager for transportation electrification at PGE. “It’s necessary that we learn and help our customers through this process.” I’ll be interviewing PGE CEO Maria Pope at our upcoming VERGE 20 conference , which will run half days across the last week in October, virtually of course. Tune in for a combination of keynotes and interactive discussions with leaders such as IKEA’s Angela Hultberg, Apple’s Lisa Jackson, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, Amazon’s Kara Hurst, InBev’s Angie Slaughter, the city of Seattle’s Philip Saunders and the Port Authority New York and New Jersey’s Christine Weydig.  Topics Transportation & Mobility Clean Fleets 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 Courtesy of Walmart Close Authorship

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Walmart drives toward zero-emission goal for its entire fleet by 2040

A corporate water strategy manifesto: We can and will do better

September 23, 2020 by  
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A corporate water strategy manifesto: We can and will do better Will Sarni Wed, 09/23/2020 – 01:30 We have decided to craft this brief manifesto to challenge the status quo, accelerate innovation, solve wicked water problems and achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” The pandemic has strengthened our resolve to do better. Our observations and point of view for 2020 so far are: The pandemic has been an accelerator of trends, such as the digital transformation of the water sector, attention on lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, and the appalling underinvestment in water infrastructure in the U.S. and globally. The recent interest and commitment to water pledges has diverted scarce resources and funds from actions such as watershed conservation and protection, reuse, technology innovation and adoption, public policy innovation, etc. The corporate sector has too narrow of a view of the opportunities to solve wicked water challenges. We no longer can be silent on the tradeoff between pledges versus actions. The belief that more of the same is unacceptable. We also believe that scale of investment in solving wicked water problems is grossly inadequate, whether at the watershed level, supply chain, operations or engagement on public policy and with civil society. The statistics on water scarcity, poor quality, inequity and lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene remain appalling and unacceptable. We held these beliefs before the pandemic, which have only accelerated this year and prompted us to share our view. Most important, the statistics on water scarcity, poor quality, inequity and lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene remain appalling and unacceptable. For example: About 4 billion people, representing nearly two-thirds of the world population, experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year ( Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2016 ). 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030 ( Global Water Institute, 2013 ). Globally, it is likely that over 80 percent of wastewater is released to the environment without adequate treatment ( UNESCO, 2017 ). The World Resources Institute has revised its predictions of the water supply-demand deficit to 56 percent by 2030. Our intention is not to offend or not acknowledge the work done to date by those dedicated to solving water. Instead, it is to push all of us towards doing better together, not more of the same. All of us means the private sector, governments and civil society (community groups, NGOs, labor unions, indigenous groups, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations and foundations). None of us is doing the job required fast enough. We realize this is hard, complex work and that your efforts are important. We do believe the answers exist but not the fortitude to take on big water risks and make the necessary investments. So, consider the questions below and let’s do more, invest more and scale efficient and effective solutions. Less talk, more action. For businesses: Is sustainability and water stewardship integrated into your business or is it a fringe activity from a sustainability, corporate social responsibility or water team? Does it support your business strategy? If the answer is no, your efforts will be underfunded and understaffed because they, at best, create partial business value. How many “non-sustainability” colleagues from other areas of your business participated in sustainability or water-related conferences/webinars over the last five years? If not many, see the question above. Do you have a water replenishment/balance/neutrality/positive goal? If yes, why, and do you believe these goals actually solve water problems at scale and speed to have an impact? Did you commit to these goals because your competitors have done so, for communications, or to drive the needed improvements at the local level? Is your goal designed to improve access to water and sanitation for everyone at a very local level? Asked another way, in five or 10 years when you claim success, will you have really improved water security in that basin? Can you more effectively use your resources to improve water policies or leverage resources by working collaboratively with others? Water is not carbon, it isn’t fungible and as a result, achieving water-neutral or water-positive goals can be misaligned with watershed impacts. We believe these kinds of goals are complex and can lead to chasing numbers that may not yield the desired business, environmental and community benefits. See WWF for important considerations before developing and issuing them. For all: Are the pledges, memberships and carefully worded water stewardship statements and goals on path to produce the necessary long-term results? Do we really need more private-sector pledges? How about fewer pledges, more actions? In the last five years, from all the water conferences you attended, how many ideas did you take back and implement? Why not take those travel dollars you’re saving in 2020 and what you’ll save in the future because you found new ways to work and invest in actions with others at the basin level? We believe in learning by doing. When did you last talk with a government agency in charge of water or wastewater about improving policies (allocations, cost of water, enforcement of water quality standards, development, tax dollars for green and grey infrastructure, etc.)? We believe improving water-related policies is the ultimate prize, and we need to start taking action, now. How much time do you spend on positioning your organization as a water stewardship leader? Too often, we sustainability professionals at NGOs, businesses and trade organizations get bogged down with labor-intensive marketing and communication efforts instead of focusing on execution. Let your actions speak for themselves. The bottom line: Less talk, more action and investment. Let’s recommit and focus so we can solve water in our lifetime. It is possible. Pull Quote The statistics on water scarcity, poor quality, inequity and lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene remain appalling and unacceptable. Contributors Hugh Share Topics Water Efficiency & Conservation Water Scarcity Water Operations Featured Column Liquid Assets Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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A corporate water strategy manifesto: We can and will do better

Sustainability leaders must celebrate the work of female mayors on racial equity

August 17, 2020 by  
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Sustainability leaders must celebrate the work of female mayors on racial equity Kimberly Lewis Mon, 08/17/2020 – 01:00 Sustainability leaders are architects, designers, city planners, engineers, scientists, energy experts, lawyers, nonprofit leaders and business owners. The United Nations defines “sustainability” as meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs of the next generation to meet their own needs. In practice, much of our work centers around developing global climate change solutions to save the planet. The Black Lives Matter movement has cast a bright light on what we’ve all known for a long time: We cannot do this work effectively without fighting against white supremacy and putting racial justice at the center of sustainability.  Sustainability also relies on local government. Despite the pain and heartbreak across the country, we have seen leaders — especially female mayors and local officials such as mayors Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, Vi Lyles of Charlotte, North Carolina, Libby Schaaf of Oakland, California and Jenny Durkan of Seattle — working in their communities to create powerful dialogues and meaningful policy action. In June, Ferguson, Missouri elected its first Black mayor, Ella Jones.  As sustainability leaders, we must partner with these mayors to implement an anti-racist future. Whether it be renaming Black Lives Matter Plaza on 16th Street NW in Washington, D.C., or urging protestors and police to congregate peacefully, these leaders are working hard to take action on systemic racism. Sustainability must put people at the center. But what does this actually mean? As Bowser stated in a recent interview , her actions on 16th Street were to “send a unifying and affirming message about what this time and the reaction to the killing of George Floyd means in our country.” The image of Bowser next to the late Congressman John Lewis is a powerful testament to change, progress and hope.  Like these other mayors, Bowser has pushed for a green and sustainable vision for her city . In 2019, Lance Bottoms and Lyles testified before Congress on Atlanta’s and Charlotte’s steps to create a more climate resilient city. Lightfoot , Schaff and Durkan also fight for sustainability in their cities daily. From the carbon footprint of city buildings and housing to energy policy, mayors are on the front lines of sustainability. These leaders — many of whom are Black women — are standing up and also listening, and doing all they can to create a brighter future. Yes, reforming policing is first and foremost right now. But the larger discussions about dismantling systemic racism are about how we will invest in people and communities. Sustainability is part of that necessary community investment. Equal access to clean air, clean water, clean energy, green space and a healthy built environment is the heart of sustainability. Yet, environmental racism is real. A recent literature review published in the Journal of American Medical Association found a statistically significant correlation between low birth rate and miscarriage in Black communities with higher temperatures from global warming and climate. Environmental justice leaders have shown time and time again the disproportionate impact of citing toxic manufacturing plants and landfill in Black, Indigeneous and people of color communities along with the devastating impacts to public health. Putting racial justice at the center of our conversations on climate solutions and design is essential.  Sustainability is often stated as rethinking profit, people and planet. Sustainability must put people at the center. But what does this actually mean? Designers must think about the impact of design, not just the intent. We must not only ask for feedback from communities where we work, but we need to take the feedback and change design based on their needs. Using design thinking, we must separate our intent from our impact. We also must create opportunities for BIPOC individuals to provide input and solutions for sustainability. That means investing in people — specifically, creating job opportunities for BIPOC leaders in creating solutions for a healthier, greener planet. We can’t safeguard the planet if we can’t protect, respect and support each other. It starts with equality, and it leads to the health and resilience of people and the planet. The bold leadership of these women mayors is inspiring. It’s time for the sustainability community to honor their bravery with bold, inclusive action to create a greener and more equitable planet.  Editor’s Note: The authors are past national winners of the Women in Sustainability Leadership Award . Their view is that the role of these local female civic leaders in sustainability and racial equity has been overlooked and that the sustainability community should embrace their efforts. Kimberly Lewis is writing in her personal capacity. Pull Quote Sustainability must put people at the center. But what does this actually mean? Contributors Heather White Topics Social Justice Cities Corporate Strategy Racial Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Protesters looking at the new mural on 16th Street at newly dedicated Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C., on June 5, 2020. Shutterstock Allison Bailey Close Authorship

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Sustainability leaders must celebrate the work of female mayors on racial equity

Where to find eco-friendly engagement and wedding rings

July 16, 2020 by  
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Your engagement and wedding rings are a symbol of your eternal love and commitment to your spouse. If you’re eco-minded, they should also be a testament to your love for and commitment to the planet. So when selecting your metal and gem rings, do so with extra attention to the material origin and manufacturing process. We’ve made it easier with a roundup of some of the best sustainable jewelers. Jewelry-making, at its core, uses natural or eco-friendly materials and sustainable methods, but mass-production has led to pollution , over-harvesting and poor working conditions for thousands of people in the industry. The main issue is the mining process as well as the conflicts common to the areas around mines. As these environmental and humanitarian issues have come to light, a variety of companies have stepped in to do some of the foundational ethical research for you, ensuring you’re making the best wedding ring choice for yourself, your partner and the planet.  Related: How to have a more sustainable wedding Melissa Joy Manning With a Green-certified shop in Berkeley, California and a similar studio in New York City, Melissa Joy Manning is an honorable choice for your wedding rings. Not only is the manufacturing process sustainable, but all products are handmade using recycled precious metals . Packaging is made from recycled materials as well. Plus, carbon offsetting counterbalances any shipping emissions. Ken and Dana Design With each piece handcrafted in NYC, Ken and Dana Design avoids overseas manufacturing and ensures a generous living wage to the workers along the supply chain. All jewelry uses recycled metals to curb the impact caused by sourcing virgin materials. Diamonds are sourced from all Kimberley Process-compliant suppliers, which is a certification system that prohibits the trading of diamonds from conflict regions. Ken and Dana Design also offers Canadian-origin and lab-grown diamonds. A portion of each sale is donated to Earthworks and Cool Effect, organizations aimed at protecting the environment. Couple If diamonds are your dream, Couple.co is a great option for sourcing a ring you know has been thoughtfully made. Each diamond must first be certified by the International Gemological Institute, then only the best are personally selected by the in-house gemologist. For an eco-friendly and 100% ethically sourced and produced option, you can also select lab-grown diamonds. Aurate New York For a combination of minimalist design and high diamond traceability practices, Aurate New York is a solid choice. The gold is 100% recycled, and the company employs a process to ensure each piece is sustainably handmade, casted, polished and perfected in NYC by seventh-generation craftsmen. Plus, for each purchase, the company donates a book to improve literacy efforts across the country. Noémie Another U.S.-based jeweler focused on ethical production, Noémie uses recycled 18K gold and conflict-free certified diamonds. Plus it provides free overnight shipping and returns and a lifetime warranty, and it boasts IGI Diamond Certification. Do Amore Diamond-sourcing is a hot button issue due to the violence in some of these areas. While the Kimberley Process is a great start in avoiding diamonds from conflict areas, it’s not a foolproof indicator. Do Amore recognizes this and takes the process further to ensure safe worker conditions by purchasing all diamonds directly from Diamond Sightholders, who are held to strict sourcing and employee treatment standards. In addition, all rings are made from recycled precious metals, handmade in the U.S. and packaged sans plastic in wood boxes made from sustainable Jarrah trees. MiaDonna All MiaDonna rings are made in the U.S. using lab-developed diamonds and recycled metals. One tree is planted through the Nature Conservatory to carbon-offset each shipment, and the company is dedicated to the protection and reconstruction of areas damaged by the mining process. The company has also been awarded the Green America Seal of Approval, which is best expressed by MiaDonna itself with the statement, “We believe in transparency. As an advocate for diamond mining communities, global societies and the Earth, we are putting a modern twist on an outdated industry.” Erica Weiner If vintage describes your dream ring, check out the unique and expansive collection from Erica Weiner . In addition to offering the flair you desire, going vintage means eliminating the need for virgin materials, making it one of the most sustainable options for eco-friendly wedding jewelry . Catering to all preferences, the company also has handmade options made from recycled materials in contemporary designs. Aide-mémoire Jewelry If your desire to be earth-conscious is combined with a goal to support the LBGTQ+ community, Aide-mémoire Jewelry may be the option you’re looking for. As an “all-inclusive, queer woman-owned small business in Seattle, Washington,” the company designs its jewelry with recycled precious metals and lab-grown, conflict-free diamonds, then places each order in recyclable and compostable packaging. The company also contributes to Lambda Legal, an organization that supports the LBGTQ+ community, and Higher Heights, which supports Black female politicians. Bario Neal Designers Anna Bario and Page Neal set out to share more than beautiful jewelry. “Disillusioned by industry standards that turned a blind eye to metal and gemstone mining’s environmental and human tolls,” the duo creates rings with a commitment to social justice and environmental sustainability. Bario Neal supports LGBTQ+ rights and worldwide marriage equality, and all items are handmade in the Bario Neal Philadelphia studio. Both diamonds and colorful stones are fully traceable, and according to the company, “Fairmined metals are extracted by empowered and responsible small-scale and artisanal miners.” Images via Ken and Dana Design, MiaDonna, Bario Neal and Noémie

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Where to find eco-friendly engagement and wedding rings

Work from home in style in these slippers made of natural and recycled materials

May 20, 2020 by  
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Footwear requirements at home are different than anywhere else you may roam. While sometimes slippers or bare feet fit the bill, other times you might need proper support, even if you’re staying indoors. The entrepreneur behind Dooeys thinks you can have the best of both worlds, with a shoe and a slipper in one that won’t hurt the planet. Founder of Dooeys, Jordan Clark, originally from Seattle, Washington, was living in Amsterdam and found herself struggling to find a proper pair of shoes for her typical work-from-home activities. Tennis shoes were too rigid, and slippers didn’t offer the support she needed nor the style she desired. So she decided to design her own footwear that women could wear while working and lounging at home. She dubbed this footwear Slipshoes. Related: Vegan shoes from Insecta are a stylish option for eco-friendly footwear In addition to comfort and versatility, it was important to Clark that the shoes were made with sustainability in mind. She said, “I came up with the idea for Dooeys two years ago before I had any idea there would be a global shift forcing millions to work from home. I spent the past year-and-a-half designing and sourcing sustainable materials to make the perfect house shoes for women.” To that end, Slipshoes are made with a breathable upper portion using vegan apple leather that comes from post-processing organic apple skins grown in the Italian Alps. The insoles are produced from cork , which is harvested in Portugal and bound with natural latex from the rubber tree. The EVA soles are made from sugarcane while the footbed stems from coconut husks. Each shoe is made in Portugal using these earth-friendly materials, along with recycled plastic and recycled polyester.  Jordan hopes the shoes appeal to anyone who loves the environment and just enjoys working, lounging or entertaining at home. The Slipshoes are available as two-tone loafer or slide-in mules. Both styles are currently available for pre-order on the Dooeys website for $145. + Dooeys Images via Dooeys

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Work from home in style in these slippers made of natural and recycled materials

Seattle permanently closes 20 miles of street

May 18, 2020 by  
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Seattle recently made bold moves to put pedestrians and cyclists first as the pandemic-induced stay-at-home order creates a new normal. Up to 20 miles of roadways in the “Stay Healthy Streets” program shall remain permanently closed to nonessential through traffic to encourage people to exercise safely while social distancing.  Environmentalists  are praising the move because curtailing vehicular traffic means a reduction in  carbon emissions . “Our rapid response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 have been transformative in a number of places across the city,” Sam Zimbabwe, Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Director, told  The   Seattle Times . “Some of the responses are going to be long lasting, and we need to continue to build out a transportation system that enables people of all ages and abilities to bike and walk across the city.” Related:  COVID-19 and its effects on the environment Quarantine fatigue has been a major motivation towards more citizen safety measures to sustain  public health  through exercise. Not only were 20 miles of Stay Healthy Streets permanently closed to encourage walking, jogging, skateboarding, scootering and cycling, but  Seattle’s Office of the Mayor  also announced plans for enhanced bike infrastructure and additional protected bike lanes. The news has garnered praise from the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board. Mayor Jenny Durkan further explained, “We are in a marathon and not a sprint in our fight against COVID-19. As we assess how to make the changes that have kept us safe and healthy  sustainable  for the long term, we must ensure Seattle is rebuilding better than before. Safe and Healthy Streets are an important tool for families in our neighborhoods to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy the nice weather. Over the long term, these streets will become treasured assets in our neighborhoods.” According to SDOT, the streets that have become pedestrianized were selected because they have few open spaces, lower rates of car ownership and are located in routes open to essential services as well as takeout meals. Of course, postal services, deliveries, garbage and recycling trucks, plus emergency vehicles are still permitted on these “closed” streets. SDOT will also be reprogramming traffic signals to reduce pedestrian wait-times at crosswalks so that crowd formations at intersections can be avoided. Pushing buttons to request walk signals will no longer be needed for 75% of Seattle’s densest regions as walk signals there will become automated to minimize the touching of surfaces. An estimated $100,000 to $200,000 will be used for these safety measures, which include helpful new signs and barriers. The  SDOT blog  has documented that ever since Washington state’s Governor Jay Inslee issued stay-at-home orders, vehicular traffic has dropped by 57% in Seattle. It is hoped that permanently closing almost 20 miles of street will lead to fewer idling cars and limit traffic even after the lockdown lifts. In so doing, reductions in  air pollution  will continue for the Evergreen State’s Emerald City long after the lockdown lifts. + City of Seattle Office of the Mayor + Seattle Department of Transportation Images via Pexels

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Seattle permanently closes 20 miles of street

Olson Kundig designs worlds first Recompose facility for composting human remains

December 3, 2019 by  
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Architectural practice Olson Kundig has unveiled designs for the flagship facility of Recompose, a company that will offer a new and sustainable after-death care service, in which human remains are gently converted into clean soil. Presented as a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional burials and cremations, Recompose’s “natural organic reduction” service expects to save over one metric ton of carbon dioxide per person as compared to typical after-death options. The flagship facility in Seattle will emphasize the service’s environmentally friendly aspects with the inclusion of greenery indoors and the use of modular, reusable architecture. In April 2019, Washington state passed a bill that allowed human remains to be composted — making it the first state to legalize such a practice. Yet even before the bill was passed, Katrina Spade, founder and CEO of the Recompose public benefit corporation, had already reached out to Olson Kundig’s design principal, Alan Maskin, in 2015 to begin designing the first prototype of the Recompose vessel. Related: 6 eco burial options for a green afterlife Expected to open in spring 2021, the 18,500-square-foot Seattle flagship facility for Recompose will be located in the city’s SODO neighborhood and will include a ceremonial disposition area ringed by trees, spaces for storage, an area for the preparation of bodies, administrative back-of-house areas and an interpretive public lobby that describes the Recompose process. Approximately 75 modular Recompose vessels — used to compost human remains into soil in about 30 days — will be stacked and arranged around the central gathering space. “This facility hosts the Recompose vessels, but it is also an important space for ritual and public gathering,” Maskin said. “The project will ultimately foster a more direct, participatory experience and dialogue around death and the celebration of life. We’re honored to be involved with this project, and excited for the first Recompose facility in the world to open its doors in Seattle .” + Olson Kundig Images via Olson Kundig

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Olson Kundig designs worlds first Recompose facility for composting human remains

A family builds an impressive, 300-square-foot tiny home to travel the world

December 3, 2019 by  
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It’s the freedom to travel that continues to push the tiny home trend. Families like Bela, Spencer and their young daughter, Escher, are able to enjoy a minimalist lifestyle while also exploring the world whenever they get the urge to get up and go. What’s more, this family’s custom tiny home on wheels , as functional as it is beautiful, features all of the creature comforts of a contemporary home. Bela and Spencer began their love affair with tiny home living on their honeymoon, where they spent a few days off the grid in a quaint cottage in Appalachia. The experience stayed with them for years, even as they found themselves paying a whopping $2,300 a month to rent a studio apartment in Redwood City years later. Related: Newlyweds forgo pricey wedding to embark on an incredible tiny home adventure Wanting a better life that would allow them to travel with their new addition, baby Escher, the couple decided to embark on a DIY tiny home project. Once they located an idyllic spot in the mountains of Santa Cruz, California, they got to work building the tiny home of their dreams. The couple decided to approach each design step by focusing on spatial awareness and functionality instead of the limited square footage. This focus allowed them to create functional, custom spaces that best suited their own needs as a family. The finished tiny home on wheels features an expansive, open-air deck, complete with a comfortable lounge space, dining set and barbecue grill. The family spends quite a bit of time here, enjoying the views and fresh mountain air. The entrance is through a glass garage door that opens vertically and connects the interior to the front deck. Interestingly, the interior layout was designed to have nine distinct living spaces, each one separated from the other by either a difference in level (steps or a ladder) or a soft partition of some sort (glass door, curtain or shoji paper). This strategy allows each section to have a unique purpose. The ground floor features a living room and high-top dining table that looks out a window over the landscape. The fully equipped kitchen, with a striking copper backsplash, is elevated off the ground by a short staircase that slides out of the wall to create storage space . Behind the kitchen is the master bedroom, which, like the rest of the home, benefits from an abundance of natural light. The queen-sized bed is built on hydraulic lids, enabling it to fold up to reveal more storage underneath. On the other side of the home, a spacious bathroom with a composting toilet features a lovely, spa-like shower stall. Above this area is an L-shaped loft accessible by a ladder. This upper level houses two distinct spaces: an extra bedroom and storage. + This X Life Via Living Big in a Tiny House Photography by Bela Fishbeyn; family photos by Ryan Tuttle

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A family builds an impressive, 300-square-foot tiny home to travel the world

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