The might of metals in the clean energy transition

February 10, 2021 by  
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The might of metals in the clean energy transition Thomas M. Kostigen Wed, 02/10/2021 – 01:15 Metals. It isn’t often that we — most of us, anyway — think about them. They are like water or packaged foods, things that appear out of a faucet or on a grocery store shelf as if by some magic inception. But there is a scientific beginning to metals. And it’s something we ought to be thinking about, increasingly so. Here’s why: Minerals are critical to the transition to clean, green energy. Copper supplies, for example, need to increase by as much as 6 percent per year to meet the goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement. Copper is needed for wind farms, solar panels and electric vehicles. Other metals supplies need to rise, too, in order to get companies and countries to their carbon neutrality goals — phasing out fossil fuels.  Yet global metal production is in decline. Global metal exploration budgets are down 11 percent in aggregate from 2019 to 2020, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence . Investment in copper exploration is down 24 percent. Less exploration is no way to meet what promises to be the biggest shift in energy supply since the rise of oil at the turn of the last century. Even the Trump administration, which tried to stop the pivot to alternative energies, realized late in the game that mineral mining was exigent. In December, it determined that the dearth of critical minerals was a national emergency, and urged by executive order a proliferation in mining. Critical mineral mining needs to increase five times current production rates to meet the expected demand by 2050, the World Bank says in a report. Metals are needed for more than batteries, windmills and solar power, of course. They are also critical to national defense. Metals are used in high tech devices, aircraft engines and rockets, among other military equipment. (Hence the label of critical minerals.)  As it stands, China is winning the critical mineral race. It produces 63 percent of the world’s rare earth elements and 45 percent of molybdenum  — a hard metal resistant to heat that is used widely, from light bulb filaments to body armor. And China has ties to mining in other countries: more than 70 percent of cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where China has a majority ownership of these mines. Australia produces 55 percent of world’s lithium, and China is its major importer. South Africa mines 72 percent of world’s platinum output, and China has greatly increased its investments there, too.  Beyond the geopolitical divide, there is economic incentive for the U.S. to fill the mining gap. Critical mineral mining needs to increase five times current production rates to meet the expected demand by 2050, the World Bank says in a report . To be sure, mining companies see the opportunity, but environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and investors are — ironically — getting in the way of the green transition. “How minerals are produced and the carbon emissions created during their production are under more scrutiny as manufacturers face pressure from governments, investors and end consumers for cleaner, more ethical supply chains,” EY says in a report , “Why mineral supply may be an e-mobility roadblock.” Terrestrial mineral mining produces substantial environmental degradation , from digging up soil, destroying habitats and producing enormous amounts of toxic waste, not to mention the carbon emissions coupled with the loss of carbon storage from excavation. More than half of the world’s lithium resources come from Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, where miners compete with farmers for water resources. Lithium is crucial to EV batteries, and it takes nearly 2 million tons of water for every ton of lithium mined. Millions of tons of lithium are needed for the green energy transition. More amenable mining, to the ESG community at least, lies with recycling metals. But that also means more carbon emissions from melting, processing and purifying metals. Ocean nodules contain four of the minerals deemed most critical to building a global renewable energy infrastructure: nickel, cobalt, manganese, and copper. Photo by  Adwo  on Shutterstock. Collecting ocean nodules  — clumps of rock deposits found on the seafloor — is a relatively new idea to replace land-based mineral extraction processes. Ocean nodules contain four minerals deemed most critical to building a global renewable energy infrastructure: nickel; cobalt; manganese; and copper. All of these can be found in nodules in the Clarion Clipperton Zone, a remote part of the Pacific Ocean. There are enough of these nodules there — billions of tons — to service the entire need of the clean energy transition . And deep sea nodule collecting reduces by about 90 percent the amount of carbon emissions produced by terrestrial mining. Still, the International Seabed Authority has issued only 18 licenses to organizations for nodule exploration. That doesn’t mean extraction nor processing, which could take years.  None of this solves the immediate need of increasing metals supplies. Ramping up terrestrial mining may have an inverse climate effect — creating excessive carbon emissions in material production rather than material use. Facilities that reuse metals could be a solution. Although while that may curb some virgin mining, it still will come with a carbon emissions’ price. And deep sea nodules seem the most promising in terms of reducing climate impact while at the same time solving the need for minerals, it’s going to take awhile to bring that source online (unless the Biden administration, or others, fast track development). Meanwhile, the green energy transition is rearing to go. President Joe Biden signed the Paris Climate Agreement his first day in office. The European Union announced plans to spend more than $1 trillion over the next decade on a clean energy economy. China wants to become carbon neutral by 2060. And electric vehicle sales are expected to reach some 250 million units by 2030. All of this activity translates into a huge need for metals, which is a problem in search of a solution. And climate change can’t be fixed until the metals problem is solved. Green businesses could find big opportunity in focusing on a clean metals’ solution. Investors too can play a part by embracing and backing cleaner, greener minerals extraction concerns.  There is an old saying about the person who got the most rich during the Gold Rush was the one who sold diggers shovels. Metals may be today’s shovel version of that adage.   Editor’s note: You can read an excerpt of Kostigen’s book “Hacking Planet Earth: How Geoengineering Can Help Us Reimagine the Future”  here . Pull Quote Critical mineral mining needs to increase five times current production rates to meet the expected demand by 2050, the World Bank says in a report. Topics Supply Chain Energy & Climate Clean Energy Minerals Mining Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Copper is needed for wind farms, solar panels and electric vehicles. Photo by  Minakryn Ruslan  on Shutterstock.

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The might of metals in the clean energy transition

Crypto crowdfunding meets energy efficiency in Apple co-founder’s new venture

December 10, 2020 by  
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Crypto crowdfunding meets energy efficiency in Apple co-founder’s new venture Heather Clancy Thu, 12/10/2020 – 01:00 Did you know Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (aka Woz) has a cryptocurrency named after him? Here’s the backstory. A mere three years ago, my inbox was bloated with news about startups such as South Africa’s Sun Exchange or Estonia’s WePower or Australia’s Power Ledger focused on “democratizing” the ability of individual investors to back solar projects, often in emerging markets or communities off the grid or radar of traditional financers.  The common denominator underlying these ventures is blockchain, a digital ledger technology used for dozens of intriguing corporate applications intended to address climate change — from tracing ingredients across supply chains to verifying, purchasing and trading carbon credits.  And now you can add energy efficiency financing to the list of crypto-enabled crowdfunding opportunities, in the form of a new company co-founded by Wozniak.  The mission of Efforce , which has operations in Italy and Malta, is to raise capital for energy efficiency projects, one of the most potentially impactful ways for businesses to decarbonize their operations, if not quite as media-sexy as buying into solar or wind energy installations. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), more than $250 billion in financing went toward energy efficiency initiatives in 2019, but at least double that amount is needed by 2025 to keep the world progressing toward the mitigation goals of the Paris Agreement. This push can’t be a single person’s battle. It needs to come from all of us together to compound this effect in such a way that it becomes a reality over our lifespan. In most cases, the challenge is the upfront financing that energy services companies (ESCOs) typically need to get a project off the ground — the equipment alone to retrofit a building or industrial facility with power-sipping alternatives such as LED lighting, insulation or new manufacturing equipment easily can cost $200,000, according to Efforce’s estimates.  To help fund more projects, Efforce will use a web marketplace to verify and list proposals, and to create a performance contract used to track the results. Next, the opportunities will be listed and would-be backers can buy into them using Efforce’s currency, called the WOZX token. Over time, the project results will be measured through smart meters and project owners will receive energy credits (measured in megawatt-hours) that can be cashed out or traded. “This push can’t be a single person’s battle. It needs to come from all of us together to compound this effect in such a way that it becomes a reality over our lifespan,” says Woz in the marketing video on the Efforce website. “In these difficult times, many small companies are struggling,” said Efforce co-founder Jacopo Visetti, in a statement. “Efforce allows business owners to safely register their energy upgrade project on the web and secure funding from all types of investors around the world. The companies will then have more available cash to use for other critical projects such as infrastructure or hiring.” Visetti previously founded AitherCO2 , an energy services company in Italy, so I wasn’t really surprised to learn that Efforce plans to handle some of the initial projects itself before it opens things up to other partners.  Efforce’s official launch last week — the venture was rumored more than a year ago, but market turmoil delayed initial funding — created a stir: Even before listing a single project, the company’s tokens were trading at $1.55 Monday afternoons (up from 22 cents at its listing). The company has raised $18 million from private investors, at a valuation of $80 million. Given the relatively modest scale of this venture, it will take the creation of many, many more companies such as Efforce to address a gap of the size that the IEA has identified. What’s more, the appetite for investments of this nature in a COVID-19-ravaged economic climate with lots of empty commercial buildings is unclear. But the model it has set forth — sidestepping a massive upfront capital expense — is right for the times. Pull Quote This push can’t be a single person’s battle. It needs to come from all of us together to compound this effect in such a way that it becomes a reality over our lifespan. Topics Energy & Climate Information Technology Energy Efficiency Blockchain Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak with fellow Efforce co-founder Jacopo Visetti. Courtesy of Luca Rossetti Close Authorship

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What is the role of gas efficiency in the time of building electrification?

December 10, 2020 by  
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What is the role of gas efficiency in the time of building electrification? Alejandra Mejia Thu, 12/10/2020 – 00:30 Transitioning most of our energy uses to clean electricity in an equitable manner is necessary to meet our 2050 climate goals. But what is the role of gas energy efficiency programs as we move to electrify America’s buildings? The short answer is there are still plenty of economic, climate and energy benefits to pursue as long as utilities and their regulators adhere to a few simple guidelines: Prioritize improving the efficiency of building “envelopes”; addressing the pressing needs of under-resourced (low-income) communities and communities of color; and eliminating incentives for building new homes that use gas.  For years, energy efficiency has been one of the energy sector’s silver bullets . Investing in efficiency improvements has held America’s energy use constant over the last 15 years despite a 33 percent increase in GDP, saved households an average of $500 each year on utility bills and created 2.4 million U.S. jobs. As we reduce the use of fossil fuels directly in our homes and buildings by installing appliances that can run on 100 percent clean electricity, efficiency still will be an important tool for avoiding unnecessary electric system costs in the future. Efficiency’s role in equitable building electrification To stabilize our climate and successfully transition to a thriving clean energy economy, we need to eliminate virtually all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the buildings where we live and work. This likely means replacing nearly every fossil fuel-burning appliance with one that can run on electricity generated from clean sources such as wind and power. Given the magnitude of this challenge , we must ensure that none of our energy investments are at cross-purposes to this goal. For efficiency funding that is not tied to a specific fuel — programs that don’t care whether a home uses gas or electricity — this means focusing on and fully funding the transition to efficient, all-electric technologies that are key to meeting our climate goals. It also means prioritizing the smooth, equitable transition of under-resourced and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPoC) communities that have disproportionately higher energy burdens off the fossil fuel system. If we do not prioritize the people who are least able to afford new all-electric equipment in this transition, we risk leaving them holding the bag on a system with a decreasing customer base and increasing costs. As more people transition to all-electric buildings, the costs of maintaining the gas system will rise for those still dependent on it. If we do not prioritize the people who are least able to afford new all-electric equipment in this transition, we risk leaving them holding the bag on a system with a decreasing customer base and increasing costs.   Focus on building efficiency for long-term success Gas efficiency programs are funded by gas utility customers. They commonly offer rebates for new efficient gas appliances and fund weatherization and other building efficiency upgrades. A recent American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) report makes several helpful recommendations for improving the efficacy and cost-benefit of those programs. In particular, we agree that “going forward, building shell improvements in existing buildings will be particularly important to reduce costs and emissions,” and that increased partnerships and cost-sharing between gas and electric utilities is necessary to fully realize the benefits of such an investment. However, the report does not suggest how to balance the short-term benefits of some efficient gas appliances with the reality that those appliances will operate — and produced GHG emissions — for 10 to 20 years. One way to strike this balance is to focus gas programs on improving the efficiency of the buildings, rather than on the appliances within them. That includes insulating buildings, reducing air infiltrations, improving ventilation and upgrading windows. Envelope efficiency helps homes and businesses stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, and improve indoor air quality while reducing energy costs, regardless of the type of energy. Envelope upgrades improve the quality of life of residents, especially those living in housing that is in disrepair due to historic underinvestment, and make it easier and cheaper to switch those buildings and residents to 100 percent clean electricity when the time is right. Because continuing to install long-lived gas appliances is incompatible with meeting our climate and equity goals, gas efficiency funds no longer should go toward any fossil gas equipment unless there is a clear social, health or equity concern or crisis that cannot be effectively addressed with efficient all-electric solutions. All-electric equipment should be the preferred solution and all available efforts (including envelope efficiency) should be leveraged to make those clean electric options work for residents. How to avoid locking people into a polluting gas system Gas efficiency programs, like all clean energy initiatives, should prioritize the BIPoC and low-income communities that historically have been underserved . With regards to appliance rebates, this means first and foremost doing everything possible to help these residents move off the fossil gas system while saving money. However, in some cases, largely depending on local weather and electricity costs, providing immediate relief from disproportionate energy burdens and unhealthy living conditions may involve installing new, highly efficient gas appliances. The decision to install gas or electric appliances should be weighed carefully and be based on the following three key factors: The short-term cost to residents of electrifying home energy uses in areas with high utility rates.  A full accounting of the long-term costs of maintaining a safe and reliable gas delivery system. The risk that a new gas appliance will lead to higher energy costs in the future for the customer receiving that appliance.  Continuing to install gas equipment at the same time we’re working to reduce our dependence on all fossil fuels risks leaving the most vulnerable customers to pay the rising costs of an underused gas system. To prevent this, California consumer advocates recently asked regulators to investigate when efficiency programs reserved for low-income customers should sunset their gas appliance incentives in favor of clean electric options. We should be asking these questions about every energy efficiency program in every state and ensuring that BIPoC leaders are helping set and adopt the solutions for their own communities. Building clean from the start is more important every day Finally, we should not be investing any more of our energy efficiency funds on helping new buildings pipe for and install gas appliances. Most buildings that will house us in 2050 already have been built — which is why how we operate and upgrade those buildings today is so important to securing a stable climate future. But we will continue to build new homes and offices in the meantime, and it is vital that those buildings do not continue to further our dependence on polluting fossil fuels. Building efficient, healthy, all-electric buildings will mean lower energy costs from the start . This will be particularly important for affordable housing for under-resourced households as it ensures their energy costs are minimized from the get-go and that they are insulated from having to finance the rising costs of the gas system as electrification of existing buildings takes hold. Pull Quote If we do not prioritize the people who are least able to afford new all-electric equipment in this transition, we risk leaving them holding the bag on a system with a decreasing customer base and increasing costs. Topics Energy & Climate Electrification Energy Efficiency NRDC Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Gas programs should focus on improving the efficiency of the buildings, rather than on the appliances within them. That includes insulating buildings, reducing air infiltrations and more. Photo by  Lisa-S  on Shutterstock.

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New benchmark shows that biodiversity is in fashion

December 3, 2020 by  
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New benchmark shows that biodiversity is in fashion Liesl Truscott Thu, 12/03/2020 – 01:00 This week, in advance of World Soil Day — Dec. 5 — the Textile Exchange Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark (CFMB) Program is launching a new tool to help the fashion and textile industry take urgent action on biodiversity. The Biodiversity Benchmark , developed in partnership with The Biodiversity Consultancy and Conservation International and supported by Sappi, will enable companies to understand their impacts and dependencies on nature in their materials sourcing strategies, chart a pathway to delivering positive biodiversity outcomes, and benchmark their progress. Outcomes and learnings can be channeled back into the community to support further improvements. The benchmark is in beta and comments will be open through Jan. 31. All interested companies are eligible, and it is free to participate. More than 200 companies already report through the CFMB. With the Biodiversity Benchmark, the aim is to integrate biodiversity into existing materials and sourcing strategies, rather than approach biodiversity as a new or disconnected topic. The aim is to integrate biodiversity into existing materials and sourcing strategies, rather than approach biodiversity as a new or disconnected topic. The inclusion of biodiversity is part of Textile Exchange’s Climate+ strategy, which focuses on urgent climate action and recognizes that soil health, water and biodiversity will play a key role in this transition. Benchmarking drives a race to the top and is one way Textile Exchange mobilizes the industry to accelerate the uptake of preferred materials. It is my hope that this new benchmark will help transform biodiversity commitments into actions. A risk — and an opportunity The Earth’s interrelated systems of water, land, biodiversity and ocean are facing unsustainable pressure. We cannot win the fight against climate change without addressing nature loss.? — Science Based Targets Network, 2020 When surveyed in 2019, 42 percent of our member companies put “biodiversity risk” as important or very important to them. A sustainability strategy is no longer an option, it is now table stakes. Considering biodiversity as part of the strategy is the next step, not only because biodiversity is an urgent issue and the right thing to do, but also because it poses real business risks, particularly as many businesses are directly dependent on biodiversity and nature’s contributions to human systems and well-being. A company that recognizes biodiversity risk as a priority would acknowledge the importance of nature’s services to its business as well as how its operations affect biodiversity. The fashion industry, for example, is very dependent on natural resources and healthy agricultural and forestry ecosystems. The Biodiversity Consultancy’s chief executive, Helen Temple, sees this as an opportunity: “The fashion and textile industry now has an opportunity to establish a leadership position in how it tackles biodiversity and nature loss.” No-regrets approach This Biodiversity Benchmark Companion Guide is designed to catalyze companies to think about their fiber and material choices in relation to their dependencies, risks, opportunities and impacts through a biodiversity lens. While a company’s biodiversity strategy is being fully developed and science-based targets confirmed, we advocate a no-regrets approach , as defined by the UNDP, UNEP and IUCN and expressed by the Science Based Targets Network. Such an approach focuses on maximizing positive and minimizing negative aspects of nature-based adaptation strategies and options. No-regret actions include measures taken which do not worsen vulnerabilities (for instance to climate change) or which increase adaptive capacities and measures that always will have a positive impact on livelihoods and ecosystems (regardless how the climate changes). It’s there to encourage companies to start immediately by taking positive action. From my own industry — apparel and textiles — I want to share three examples of companies taking action on biodiversity: Suppliers leading the way: Sappi Biodiversity is never more relevant than with suppliers, who are arguably the closest to the issue, working directly on the land and in ecosystems, sourcing, refining and renewing resources. Sappi is a leading global provider of dissolving pulp and of everyday biobased materials created from renewable resources, from packaging paper to biomaterials such as nanocellulose. They’ve been committed to sustainability for decades and a U.N. Global Compact member since 2008. Krelyne Andrew, head of sustainability at Sappi Verve, explains why. “Our goal is to be a trusted, transparent and innovative partner. … By promoting sustainable and innovative approaches to forest management, we ensure that all the benefits of healthy forests are maintained for people and the planet. Biodiversity conservation is a central pillar of our land management.” Biodiversity conservation is a central pillar of land management. In South Africa, she explains, Sappi owns and leases 964,000 acres of land, of which about a third is managed for biodiversity conservation. In North America, Sappi is a founding member of a new risk assessment platform, Forest in Focus, aimed at assessing the health of wood baskets using trusted public data to drive action. Sappi is also accelerating partnerships to help achieve its ambitious goals. Luxury meets biodiversity: Kering In July, Kering announced a dedicated biodiversity strategy with a series of new targets to achieve a “net positive” impact on biodiversity by 2025. It included launching the “Kering for Nature Fund: 1 Million Hectares for the Planet” to support the fashion industry’s transition to regenerative agriculture. Aligned with its long-term commitment to sustainability, Kering’s biodiversity strategy outlines steps to not only minimize biodiversity loss across its global supply chains, but also support nature and create net positive conservation. The strategy encourages the prevention of biodiversity degradation, the promotion of sustainable and regenerative farming practices favoring soil health and the protection of global ecosystems and forests that are vital for carbon sequestration. As Marie-Claire Daveu, Kering’s chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs, describes it: “Thriving biodiversity is intrinsically linked to the long-term viability of our industry, and society more broadly. Integrating a dedicated biodiversity strategy — which is now part of our wider sustainability strategy — into Kering’s day-to-day operations is pivotal for our contribution to bending the curve on biodiversity loss over the next years. Business has a serious role to play in shifting towards a ‘nature-positive’ economy and ahead of the establishment of the Global Goals for biodiversity in 2021, it is important that Kering’s strategy aligns with the scientific community so that we are already on the right path and taking the actions that are urgently needed.” Smaller brands taking bold action: INDIGENOUS INDIGENOUS, which promotes “organic and fair trade fashion,” was founded on the fundamental belief of supporting climate justice. Indigenous peoples own or steward about a quarter of the world’s landmass and are the guardians of more than 70 percent of the earth’s remaining biodiversity. When we think about protecting biodiversity on the planet, indigenous peoples need to participate as a cornerstone of the conversation. As industry begins to realize the importance of protecting biodiversity, Scott Leonard, the company’s CEO, believes business leaders must come together to rebuild the rights of nature economy and align on accountable supply chain practices. “The road ahead to adopt business practices that protect biodiversity is an arduous task,” he says. “We need much stronger alignment with all stakeholders in the value chain surrounding industry to adequately scale the rapid adoption of next generation solutions that truly protect our biodiversity. Our current consumption patterns are not an option for our future and yet we continue to allow more deforestation, forest degradation, species extinctions and massive carbon loss as each day goes by.” Collaborative leadership: Fashion Pact The Fashion Pact — more than 60 CEOs from the industry’s leading companies, representing more than 200 brands — is focusing on the collaborative action needed to bring solutions to a global scale. Alongside setting seven tangible targets for climate, biodiversity and oceans, the companies are beginning their first collaborative activity on biodiversity. “We are very excited for the launch of the Textile Exchange Biodiversity Benchmark,” said Eva von Alvensleben, executive director of the Fashion Pact. “Not only is this a step forward for our signatories in advancing on their global commitments but [this] will allow for the development of a common understanding of the information needed to shape effective biodiversity strategies as an industry.” It’s clear that we have a mountain to climb, but I am encouraged by the number and ambition of new commitments on biodiversity from companies of all market segments and parts of the supply network. Meaningful change requires bold action, and we hope we can provide a catalyst for this within the textile industry with the Biodiversity Benchmark. Pull Quote The aim is to integrate biodiversity into existing materials and sourcing strategies, rather than approach biodiversity as a new or disconnected topic. Topics Supply Chain Biodiversity Apparel Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Image credit: Sappi

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New benchmark shows that biodiversity is in fashion

Botswana elephant deaths caused by cyanobacteria

September 22, 2020 by  
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On June 18, 2020, we reported about the mysterious deaths of 154 elephants in Botswana. At the time, wildlife officials in Botswana said that the cause of the deaths was being investigated. According to a statement released by the Botswana Wildlife Conservation on Monday, it turns out that the elephants were killed by cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria is a type of algae that is found in many warm, calm waters around the world. Some species of this blue-green algae can produce toxins that are harmful to other organisms, including humans. The World Health Organization indicates that people who are exposed to cyanobacterial toxins either by drinking or bathing in infected waters may suffer symptoms including skin irritation, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever. At the same time, animals, birds and fish can be poisoned by the bacteria if it is available at high levels. Related: Scientists discover algae species that may affect coral reefs In May and June, concern was raised after several elephants died in Botswana in the Okavango Delta. According to Botswana officials, a total of 330 elephants died in just two months, prompting investigations into the actual causes of death. The findings have now been released after several months of tests in specialist laboratories in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Canada and the U.S. Although several of the elephants were found near watering holes, wildlife officials did not believe cyanobacteria to be the issue. Blue-green algal blooms mainly appear along the edges of the water, while the elephants typically drink from the center of a watering hole. Speaking in a press conference, Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks’ Principal Veterinary Officer Mmadi Reuben confirmed that the deaths had been caused by cyanobacteria. Reuben further noted that the deaths subsided toward the end of June, around the same time that the water pans began drying up. The elephant carcasses had tusks intact, which led officials to rule out poaching as a cause of death. Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, 25 more elephants have recently died. Samples have been sent to the U.K. for testing to help determine the cause of these deaths. Scientists and wildlife officials are still looking for possible measures that could be taken to stop such deaths in the future. Via BBC Image via Herbert Bieser

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Painting wind turbines may reduce bird collisions and deaths

August 27, 2020 by  
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A new study published in the journal Ecology and Evolution shows that painting one blade on a wind turbine black may reduce bird deaths at wind farms by up to 70%. For a long time, organizations, such as the Royal Society For The Protection of Birds (RSPB), have been championing for more care when it comes to setting up wind power plants to avoid the deaths of birds through collisions. This study could reveal a simple solution. Although wind farms provide one of the cleanest sources of energy , they are tainted by the effects of the turbines on birds. It is common for birds to collide with the turbines and die on the spot. The study now shows that if the blades of turbines are painted black, the rate of accidents could greatly decrease. The study was conducted off the coast of Norway; the location is home to the Smøla plant, where six to nine white-tailed eagles are killed annually. Related: US and Canada in drastic crisis with 3 billion birds lost since 1970 According to Roel May, researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Nature Research and one of the authors of the study, wind power negatively impacts wild bird populations. “Collision of birds, especially raptors, is one of the main environmental concerns related to wind energy development,” May said. The main purpose of the study was to find out if there are any mitigating measures that could reduce the collisions. The researchers found that if one of the main rotor blades is painted black, it reduces the motion smear, making the blades visible to birds when they are in motion. While the findings are promising, the study authors warn that more research still has to be done. The new study provides a platform for more studies to explore the possibility of reducing bird deaths at renewable energy plants. “Although we found a significant drop in bird collision rates, its efficacy may well be site- and species-specific,” May explained. “At the moment there exists interest to carry out tests in the Netherlands and in South Africa.” Further studies will need to be carried out in diverse locations to determine the viability of such a move in different areas and on specific bird species. Members of RSPB are also championing for establishing wind power farms in safer locations, where there are no large populations of birds. + Ecology and Evolution Via BBC Image via Matthias Böckel

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Off-grid home threads through a South African riverine forest

July 23, 2020 by  
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When a nature-loving elderly couple tapped South African architecture firm  Frankie Pappas  to design their new home, they requested a residence with minimal site impact. The architects responded with a site-specific house that operates completely off-grid and weaves between trees to preserve the natural scenery. Built largely of natural materials , the home — named the House of the Big Arch — seems to disappear into the landscape.  Located within the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve between a riverine forest and a sandstone cliff, the House of the Big Arch comprises two main skinny linear volumes joined together at an angle with small additions to the sides. The unusual shape directly responds to the sloped site and the location and size of the surrounding trees. To ensure the preservation of all existing trees, the architects laser-scanned the entire site to create a digital  3D model  that informed critical design decisions.  To “bridge the landscape between the riverine forest and sandstone cliff,” the architects constructed the building with rough stock brick matching the color of the site’s weathered sandstone. The “bridge” portions of the home use sustainably grown timber, and the non-structural walls use glass and aluminum. In addition to blending in with the surroundings, the home operates entirely off-grid and follows passive principles for a reduced energy footprint. Water collected from the roof gets filtered and stored for reuse.  Greywater , stored separately, also gets processed for reuse. A 16-square-meter solar array provides for all the home’s energy needs.  Related: South Africa’s first interior 6 star Green Star awarded to Formfunc The House of the Big Arch spreads across three floors, with an underground cellar for storing food supplies, curing meats and aging wines. The ground floor opens up to  courtyards  and houses a study, library and a small swing beneath the arch at the front of the site. On the first floor, open-plan communal areas connect to a tree-shaded deck and a pool.  + Frankie Pappas Images via Frankie Pappas

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Off-grid home threads through a South African riverine forest

South Africa’s first interior 6 star Green Star awarded to Formfunc

February 14, 2020 by  
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The Green Building Council recently awarded South Africa’s highest possible Interiors Green Star v1 certification to Capetown-based company  Formfunc Studio’s  office spaces — the first such rating to be awarded in the country for an office and distribution center. Spearheaded by local multidisciplinary environmental firm  Terramanzi Group , the design optimizes energy efficiency as well as occupant health and wellness. Designed with the Green Star Rating Tool in mind, the environmental consultants from the Terramanzi Group assessed all elements of the office fit-out to ensure ratings of between 75 to 100 credits for each evaluated category. This meant careful planning on a wide range of factors, from materials used to Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) and emissions. Key to the design was a “less is more” approach that led to a minimalist interior design with unplastered walls and exposed ceilings to minimize materials.  Low VOC  paints and sealants were used wherever possible.  Low-tech and high-tech solutions were used throughout, such as the installation of  floor-to-ceiling glazing  that takes advantage of natural daylight and the highly efficient HVAC system that improves outside air rates into the building to achieve above SANS 10400 requirements. Sensors were also installed to monitor and control carbon dioxide, water, and electricity levels. To promote responsible environmental stewardship, the office has been equipped with a recycling station and a composting unit for organic waste. Employees also have access to biking and motorbike parking on-site.  Related: This amazing green office is covered with native plants that were rescued on-site “As we are the exclusive distributor of Humanscale® ergonomic chairs, workstations and other  office  accessories to the southern African market, it was imperative that our office environment went beyond just an ergonomic solution but also reflected our brand and our philosophy of recreating workspaces that are simpler and healthier for our employees to work in,” Kim Kowalski, director and co-founder of Formfunc, explained in a project statement. + Terramanzi Group Images via Formfunc Studio

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South Africa’s first interior 6 star Green Star awarded to Formfunc

Africa’s first sustainable chocolate brand plans to sell in the US

October 7, 2019 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

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While Africa grows 70 percent of the world’s cacao, very little chocolate is made on the continent. Instead, most of the raw material is shipped to other countries that then produce delicious chocolates. But De Villiers Chocolate is now working on becoming the first African-made, sustainably sourced chocolate brand available in the U.S. “Once we discovered the cocoa beans of the vibrant Bundibugyo region in Uganda , we began to realize the potential of the journey we had embarked upon,” said Pieter de Villiers, CEO and master chocolatier at De Villiers Chocolate. “It became our mission to create a chocolate brand true to its origin and the exotic taste of Africa .” Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa De Villiers Chocolate currently sells its products at its studio on a historic Cape Dutch estate, online and through an upmarket grocery chain in South Africa. Now, De Villiers Chocolate has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 to help bring its chocolate to the U.S. From humble origins in a garage 10 years ago, De Villiers Chocolate has now grown into a Capetown, South Africa-based business producing chocolate, ice cream and coffee in South Africa’s Cape Winelands region. The cocoa and coffee qualify for three voluntary sustainable standards: Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ . De Villiers ethically sources all ingredients. It does not use palm oil, for the health of rainforests and the planet in general. It does not add artificial flavors, colorants, stabilizers, preservatives or hydrogenated vegetable oils to its chocolate. The company uses unrefined brown sugar as a sweetener, and the De Villiers dark chocolate is vegan. In a press release, De Villiers noted that Africans have not historically profited much from chocolate, despite the fact that most of the world’s cacao crop is grown there. “So how does Africa achieve sustainability ? Not by charity; charity to Africa is not sustainable. The only truly long-term endeavor is to facilitate and allow Africans to do it for themselves,” the press release reads. Through its sustainable sourcing and mission-driven products, De Villiers Chocolate is trying to put Africa on the map as a home to world-renowned chocolate artisans. + De Villiers Chocolate Image via De Villiers Chocolate

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Africa’s first sustainable chocolate brand plans to sell in the US

The World Surf League is pledging to eliminate single-use plastics and become carbon-neutral by the end of 2019

June 27, 2019 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

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The World Surf League (WSL)  is known for being the authority for all things surfing, famous for showcasing the most talented professional surfers to the rest of the world. Now, they’ve decided to use that powerful platform to set an example for sports organizations everywhere by committing to substantial environmental initiatives. Earlier in June, the WSL announced a series of pledges that will apply to all WSL Championship Tour and Big Wave Tour events. They include becoming carbon neutral globally by the end of 2019, eliminating single-serve plastics by the end of 2019 and leaving each place better than they found it. The WSL runs more than 230 global surfing events each year. Considering the WSL’s millions of passionate fans, and the organization’s plan to hold competitions throughout Australia, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa, Tahiti, France, Portugal, California and Hawaii in 2019 alone, these public commitments are bound to inspire others to address critical issues about the state of our environment. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability Along with the announcement came an expansion of the WSL’s already-active ocean conservation efforts by their launch of a global campaign to “ Stop Trashing Waves ” with its non-profit arm, WSL PURE (“Protecting Understanding and Respecting the Environment”). WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt spoke of breaking new ground in the world of sports when it comes to the “urgent battle against climate change and ocean pollution,” saying, “We believe it’s our responsibility to be ‘all in’ with our efforts to protect the ocean and beaches amid the devastating climate crisis we all face. We invite everyone who cares about the ocean to join us.” So how does the WSL plan on carrying out these goals? For starters, the organization is offsetting its carbon footprint by investing in REDD+ and VCS (Verified Carbon Standard) certified carbon offset projects. These projects are focused on restoring and protecting natural and renewable energy ecosystems based in each of the WSL’s operating regions. The WSL will also be making an effort to limit non-essential travel and implement policies to reduce carbon emissions within its offices. 11-time WSL Champion and surfing legend, Kelly Slater, spoke of the announcement with enthusiasm. “I think it’s a great stance and an important message to send to people around the world. The ocean is vital to everyone, for food, for oxygen and especially to us surfers. I think everyone should make it their priority to care about this issue and make changes in their lives to help.” + World Surf League Images via World Surf League

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The World Surf League is pledging to eliminate single-use plastics and become carbon-neutral by the end of 2019

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