Hard truths from a decade of investing in regional food systems

September 10, 2020 by  
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Hard truths from a decade of investing in regional food systems Meredith Storton Thu, 09/10/2020 – 02:00 The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the inequities and fragility of our industrialized food system and accelerated the movement to create strong regional food systems that support local growers, provide food security, give communities agency over their food supply and yield environmental benefits. These systems will remain out of reach, though, unless we address persistent, decades-old structural issues. Price pressures continue to challenge the viability of decentralized food systems and communities of color continue to be underserved — as farmers, food chain workers, supply chain entrepreneurs and consumers. We need to change both who we fund and how we fund if we want to create equitable, thriving regional food systems. What will it take to achieve such massive shifts? RSF Social Finance has been reflecting on that question as we wind down our Food System Transformation Fund, a pooled loan fund launched in 2010 to help rebuild regional processing, manufacturing and distribution infrastructure that was lost as the food system industrialized. Restoring these supply chain links is essential to creating viable regional food systems, yet community-based infrastructure enterprises have limited access to both startup and growth capital. The Food System Transformation Fund attempted to address that problem with program-related investments from foundations, on the premise that risk-tolerant debt could enable early-stage businesses to grow and eventually access traditional capital from banks and community development financial institutions. As we wind down the fund and move our food system investments into other RSF portfolios, we’re sharing what we’ve learned in hopes of advancing efforts to build a regenerative food system. Investors seeking a better food system need to take the time to understand a company’s impact and its beneficiaries, toss out traditional assumptions about market rate returns and ensure that terms benefit communities. Over the past decade, the fund provided $6.5 million in debt to 27 organizations across 14 states. More than 25 percent of borrowers grew into our senior secured loan portfolio or accessed traditional debt, while nearly 20 percent had to cease operations or substantially change ownership. The enterprises between those two poles continue to need patient, flexible and diverse capital structures. That’s not because they’re failing, but because the finance ecosystem has failed to develop tools fitted to the needs of food system enterprises. This truth informs three fundamental insights from our work in the field of food system transformation. 1. In food systems, high impact and high returns don’t mesh Investing in food systems is very different from investing in a trendy plant-based–meat startup or a consumer packaged goods company that can outsource manufacturing and build a brand for sale to a conglomerate. Food system businesses are capital-intensive — they require substantial investment in processing equipment, trucks and warehouses — and they operate in a highly competitive, low-margin sector. Immense price pressure in the U.S. food system compresses gross margins and makes it challenging for food infrastructure businesses to achieve profitability. Our spending on food doesn’t reflect the true cost of production: Americans spend only 9.5 percent of their income on food, compared with 15 percent in Canada , 13 percent in France and 23 percent in Mexico . Most small farms in the U.S. aren’t profitable ; on average they earn only 17.4 percent of every dollar spent by consumers at stores. Workers throughout the industrialized food system face poor working conditions and low wages. Many food system infrastructure businesses are trying to fix these inequities, and it’s imperative for investors to understand the tradeoffs between returning capital to investors and reinvesting that capital into the business and the community. This issue is most glaring with the venture capital model. When venture-backed companies disrupt local food systems and don’t have the longevity or the relationships to create long-term impact, they actually can harm communities. In the worst-case scenario, these companies launch, rapidly scale, seize market share from existing community-based businesses and then run out of cash, leaving the community with less than it had beforehand. Similarly, pulling out high financial returns for investors undermines the positive changes these companies can achieve and puts more pressure on a strained, inequitable system. Investors seeking a better food system need to take the time to understand a company’s impact and its beneficiaries, toss out traditional assumptions about market rate returns and ensure that terms benefit communities. 2. Farmers and communities can’t bear the risk Traditional financing tools are seldom structured in a way that shares risk across the system. When times get tough, capital partners must navigate the delicate balance of principal return to investors versus making farmers and local food systems whole. Traditional collateralized loans place the burden on those least able to bear risk — the community-based enterprise and its stakeholders. The Food System Transformation Fund primarily issued debt backed by collateral — equipment, vehicles and accounts receivable. When portfolio companies had to cease operations, we had to choose between returning capital to investors or letting the company repay farmers and other community partners. Our investors prioritized community well-being, and we were able to forgive debt in these cases, but this is a structural problem that shouldn’t require an 11th-hour solution based on investors’ goodwill. When venture-backed companies disrupt local food systems and don’t have the longevity or the relationships to create long-term impact, they actually can harm communities. One way to distribute risk more equitably is to integrate various forms of capital — financial, social and technical — within the same transaction to support an enterprise. This may mean some combination of unrestricted grants, debt, equity, loan guarantees and forgivable loans. Guarantees can unlock capital that otherwise wouldn’t fund the space and forgivable loans can help businesses prioritize impact, which often takes a back seat to financial return. For example, if the enterprise is meeting its impact objectives but experiencing financial or operational challenges outside its control, the loan can turn into a grant. Funders need to be creative and partner with food system enterprises to find the optimal mix of tools to support the business and its stakeholders. 3. Transforming the system will require philanthropic, public and private capital While there is a lot of interest in food system enterprises, the current funding ecosystem is weak.   The capital needed to build these businesses is hard to come by and even harder to sustain over the long term. The funding is not readily available in many regions where the work is happening, and it is not equitably distributed. As in many sectors, entrepreneurs of color are woefully underfunded. Philanthropic capital, with its flexibility and public benefit purpose, is well-positioned to seed the space and attract other funders. Foundations and donor-advised funds can support this work not only through grant-making but also through investments and leveraging their assets to unlock capital from more-traditional lenders or community development financial institutions (CDFIs). These types of organizations steward deep relationships within their communities and are well-positioned to fund food system enterprises. Federal programs provide critical resources to local food organizations and small farmers, but support for sustainable food systems makes up only a fraction of the public funding allocated for agriculture. Increasing this share would have a multiplier effect. As more philanthropic and government funding flows into the food systems space, more private capital will find its footing there. Many enterprises in our portfolio accessed USDA grants to support early-stage programs and center equity in their work. The field needs all sources of nonextractive capital, which ranks community benefits above investor returns. But we have found that food system enterprises are best served when community-based funders lead. Food systems vary widely across rural, urban and geographic divides. Funders that hold direct relationships with food system entrepreneurs and ecosystem partners more clearly understand the regional food supply chain and are able to make more informed and effective funding decisions. The way forward Over the past decade, much has changed across food and finance systems. Consumers increasingly value sustainable and local production methods , and more funders are entering the space, especially with sustainable food production emerging as one solution to our climate crisis. With COVID-19 thrusting the inequities of our food system into the forefront of the national conversation, we must use this moment to catalyze investment into food systems that care for farmers, food chain workers, eaters and the environment. If we want to decommodify our food system, we must decommodify our food financing system. We need tools with impact-adjusted return expectations; we need investors and donors willing to redistribute risk; and we need local, integrated capital solutions. With those assets in hand, we can realize the vision of a regenerative food system that serves everyone. Pull Quote Investors seeking a better food system need to take the time to understand a company’s impact and its beneficiaries, toss out traditional assumptions about market rate returns and ensure that terms benefit communities. When venture-backed companies disrupt local food systems and don’t have the longevity or the relationships to create long-term impact, they actually can harm communities. Topics Food & Agriculture Finance & Investing COVID-19 Social Justice Investing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Hard truths from a decade of investing in regional food systems

Renewable energy lab glows like a lantern in Germany

September 2, 2020 by  
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On a site formerly used for experiments on solar energy , Stuttgart-based architectural practice Behnisch Architekten has completed Building 668 (KIT Energy Lab 2.0), a massive testing lab for new energy systems as part of a scheme to move Germany toward greater adoption of renewable energy. Located at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) campus near Stuttgart, the KIT Energy Lab 2.0 is also remarkable for its eye-catching design — the timber-framed structure is wrapped in translucent polycarbonate cladding and topped with a dramatic sawtooth roof as a nod to the industrial character of the neighboring buildings. Its polycarbonate exterior allows a consistent amount of light into the simple, low-carbon building, which lights up like a lantern at night. Related: Sustainable RAUM Pavilion can be continually reused or recycled in Utrecht Completed over the course of four years, the KIT Energy Lab 2.0 spans an area of 18,621 square feet over two floors with simple layouts conducive for flexibility. The ground floor is centered on a large, double-height test hall with work areas — including the test hall and an office, meeting and IT/server room — lining the north side of the building, while the transformer rooms and control station are located on the southern end. A central stairway and elevator lead up to the second floor, which consists of additional office space, a small staff kitchen, a meeting room, lab room, control station, test preparation room and a bridge over the column-free test hall that connects to large gallery spaces. The interiors echo the simple and industrial look of the exterior. Exposed timber trusses, unpainted wooden surfaces, lofty ceiling heights and oversized lighting fixtures emphasize the industrial motif. Natural light floods the test hall, which accommodates the areas “Power-Hardware in the Loop” (PHIL) and “Smart Energy System Control Laboratory” (SESCL) as well as assembly areas for tests. The KIT Energy Lab 2.0 was created in partnership with the Helmholtz Centres, the National Aeronautics and Space Research Center of the Federal Republic of Germany (DLR) and Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ). + Behnisch Architekten Photography by David Matthiessen via Behnisch Architekten

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Renewable energy lab glows like a lantern in Germany

7 easy science experiments for kids at home

August 28, 2020 by  
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Many kids will be spending more time learning from home as the school year ramps up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the beakers and test tubes of the science lab, it may seem difficult to provide hands-on learning. But have no fear, we’ve put together a list of easy (and fun!) home science experiments to entertain and educate youngsters at the same time. Lava lamp This experiment is sure to produce oohs and aahs from the smallest scientists. Prepare a clear plastic bottle; inside, fill the bottle one-quarter of the way with water. Then fill the rest of the space (nearly to the top) with vegetable, mineral or baby oil. Wait for the oil to settle above the water, then add a few drops of food coloring. Related: This DIY algae kit is an easy science experiment for kids The food coloring carries the same density or weight as water, so it will pass through the oil and color the water below. Now comes the fun part. Add a fizzy tablet, such as an Alka-Seltzer, to the container. It will plop to the bottom and then begin to release colorful bubbles as the carbon dioxide it produces finds its way to the top of the container. The experiment highlights the laws of science where lighter objects, such as gases, will float to the top while heavier substances will sink to the bottom. Water cycle in a jar The water cycle on our planet is a complex phenomenon to explain. After all, we don’t see water vapor rise. To create a visual expression, place about two inches of boiling water into a canning jar. Parents should handle this part. Then place a ceramic plate right-side up over the opening of the jar, sealing it. Wait about three minutes for steam to accumulate. Put several ice cubes on the top of the plate outside the jar. The warm air in the jar will condense and create water droplets, like rain falling from the sky when moist air from the Earth’s surface meets cold air from the atmosphere. Ocean in a bottle With a clean bottle, water, oil and food coloring, make an ocean in a bottle by replicating waves. Fill a plastic bottle one-third to halfway with water. Use blue and green food coloring to create the ocean color you desire. Of course, you can add a primary, secondary and tertiary color lesson at this time by allowing your child to mix blue and red to create purple or yellow and red to create orange. Leaving a few inches at the top, add vegetable or baby oil and tightly replace the cap. Now rock and roll the bottle to create waves. Volcano There are many ways to create your own volcano at home. You can get creative with papier-mâché or simply use a bottle or upturned box. Better yet, make a simple volcano shaped dome out of dirt, leaving a hole in the top to add ingredients. This is a messy project, so it’s best to create your eruption outdoors. Inside the homemade volcano of choice, place a container near the top to hold your ingredients. Support it from below if necessary. Add two spoonfuls of baking soda to the inside of the volcano. Follow that with a spoonful of dish soap (bubbles!) and about 10 drops of food coloring. Red and yellow make a nice orange color, but let the kids experiment. That’s what it’s all about! Now get ready for your eruption with the addition of one to two ounces of white vinegar. The idea is to replicate the pressure that builds up in nature, so play around with different amounts of ingredients . For a more explosive volcano, you can use a two-liter bottle. Place two teaspoons of dish soap, 6-7 tablespoons of water, a few drops of food coloring and 1 ½ cups of white vinegar. Add about ½ cup of baking soda quickly and step back! This experiment shows how pressure builds the need for carbon dioxide to escape. Create a sundial There was time before there were watches and clocks. Show kids how to monitor time using the age-old sundial technique, right from your yard. Simply find a long stick and insert it vertically into the ground. Begin on the hour, say 8 a.m. Use chalk or small pebbles to mark the shadow created by the stick. Come back each hour to mark the new shadow spot. Do this throughout the day to complete your sundial. Explain to children how the Earth’s rotation around the sun causes the shadow to move. Solar oven Heat from the sun on a hot day can cook lunch with the aid of a solar oven. To show kids exactly how powerful solar energy is, simply line the lid of a pizza box with foil from top to bottom. Line the lower portion of the box with black paper. Cut a window out of the lid, hinging it with about two inches remaining around the border. With the hinged portion open, adhere plastic wrap to the top and bottom of the remaining lid, creating a double pane “window” between the foil wrapped lid and the pizza box bottom. Ensure the plastic is sealed all the way around using tape to hold it in place. Once complete, take your box outside. Put food inside the box and angle the foil-lined lid to reflect light and heat through the clear plastic and onto the food. Prop your lid into place using a stick or straw and check frequently to make adjustments as the planet moves. Bon appétit! Grow veggies and compost While setting up a lab in the kitchen is fun, science is all around us in nature. Observe the changing of the seasons through leaves and plant cycles. Start with seeds and grow some pea plants. Also use your organic food scraps to show kids the magic of composting . + Science Fun Images via Adobe Stock, Adriel Hampton , Oliver Lyon and Jonathan Hanna

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Community First! provides affordable, permanent micro-housing

August 28, 2020 by  
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Community First! Village in Austin, a 51-acre sustainable development, provides  affordable housing  to Central Texas’ chronically homeless. McKinney York Architects recently designed two new micro-house concepts inside the community. These tiny homes are changing lives by providing homes for hundreds of locals who have fallen on hard times. The program, developed by Austin-based non-profit  Mobile Loaves & Fishes , consists of 120 total units. The organization is a social outreach ministry that has worked with the local Austin  homeless  community since 1998 through prepared feeding programs, community gardening and more. Related: Modular, affordable housing project opens in Portland McKinney York Architects founder Heath McKinney and her team chose to design two pro-bono micro-houses inside the community. These homes showcase the firm’s creativity and attention to detail while contributing to a  sustainable  cause. “Being a good neighbor to our local community is an important part of our office culture,” said Aaron Taylor, project manager for the first micro-home . “This, coupled with the firm’s mission to provide quality design for everyone, really made working at CommunityFirst! Village a fulfilling experience.” This first  tiny home  features what McKinney York Architects’ website describes as “humble modular materials” that “lend dignity to the dwelling through a straightforward, logical aesthetic expression.” The home also includes a screen porch positioned to take advantage of summer breezes while providing shelter from winter winds. Openings encourage cross-ventilation, and a double roof creates shaded heat gain reduction during the warmer months. “We try to find opportunities for great design, despite the inevitable constraints, whether it’s the size and orientation of an existing concrete slab or the available construction budget,” said Navvab Taylor, leader of the second home design team. The second home includes a butterfly roof to catch breezes and  collect rainwater  for the garden. Pine paneling accents the interior, and a screened porch keeps mosquitoes away while creating an open public space for socializing. + McKinney York Images © Thomas McConnell

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Rental houseboat in India celebrates fire, water, air and earth elements

August 26, 2020 by  
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Talk about getting back to nature! This rental houseboat brings all of the elements of nature — fire, water, air and earth — onboard for an immersive experience. The client, Lyndon Alves, is with a vacation rental company called Sunset Getaway. This vacation rental comes in the form of a 100-foot-long river boat that can be reserved for a private experience. Located on the Chapora River in north Goa, India (near Morjim), the Kerala Rice Boat was constructed using bamboo and wood throughout the 1,600-square-foot space. Related: Prefab houseboat in Prague features a spacious rooftop lounge The traditional Kettuvallam is common throughout the Kerala region for promoting tourism in the area. Distinctive with its thatched roof and wooden hull, this houseboat architecture was a welcome challenge for FADD Studio, who was hired for the rental houseboat’s interior design . The lacquered interior walls do not lend themselves to paint, wallpaper or any adhesive, but they do offer protection from all types of weather as well as easy maintenance. However, the material means the design team needed to focus on fabrics and art for the theme. Each of the three bedrooms represents an element of nature . The water room features shades of blue, green and yellow with a striking ripple effect in the duvet as well as wall art that focuses on the water theme. In the fire room, reds and oranges dominate the space with a striped, richly-colored bedspread and two-tone curtains that soften the fiery space. In contrast, the earth room is neutral with a duvet that is pleated to emulate sand piles. Small green flowers are stitched into the material to bring Earth’s living elements into the room. In the main dining area, the element of air matches the breezes that filter through as the boat floats down the river. Lavender and gray hues reflect the calming vibe of gentle winds. Throughout the three bedrooms and the sunset deck, where guests can schedule a private massage, accessories precisely match the vibe of each natural element. Light fixtures, lamps, towel rods and even robe hooks bring the elements to life inside while nature drifts by outside the boat. + FADD Studio Images via FADD Design

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Rental houseboat in India celebrates fire, water, air and earth elements

Solar-powered dome in the Texas desert is the perfect place to go off the grid

August 18, 2020 by  
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The Terluna off-grid adobe dome home is located in a remote part of the Texas desert near Big Bend National Park, inside one of the country’s few remaining dark sky ordinance territories. Along with the opportunity to completely cut yourself off from the modern world, the dome’s setting offers incredible views of the night sky along with unobstructed access to the desert horizon. The dome is an earthen structure, built with an adobe barrier, that provides shelter from the elements. In this part of the state, those elements can range from extreme heat and wind to cold and rain. All power comes directly from an installed solar energy system, with just enough energy to also power phones, laptops and lights. Related: Spectacular rammed-earth dome home is tucked deep into a Costa Rican jungle Terluna is isolated, but because the entrance to Big Bend National Park is just a 25-minute drive away, it is easily accessible for those who want to do some exploring. For history buffs, the historic Terlingua Ghost Town can be found about 25 minutes away as well. Wi-Fi is also available in the dome for those who aren’t quite ready to go fully off the grid just yet. Fans of HGTV’s “Mighty Tiny Houses” may recognize the Terluna, as it has been featured on the show in the past. The dome home includes a kitchen with a two-burner propane stove, an oven and a refrigerator. The kitchen sinks get water from a small rain collection tank; guests are recommended to bring their own drinking water. There is space for two people to sleep comfortably, and linens, pillows and blankets are included. Additional space on the pallet couch allows for a third guest. A no-flush, composting toilet can be found in a separate, private outhouse next to the main structure, and guests will have to utilize a nearby coin shower if they want to wash up. The off-grid nature of this space means that occupants will have to sacrifice AC, but the Airbnb stay does have a fan and plenty of windows. + Airbnb Images via Airbnb

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Solar-powered dome in the Texas desert is the perfect place to go off the grid

This dad built a backyard coffee shop with repurposed materials

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

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This dad built a backyard coffee shop with repurposed materials

This dad built a backyard coffee shop with repurposed materials

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

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This dad built a backyard coffee shop with repurposed materials

The future of the fashion industry requires innovative circular systems

July 17, 2020 by  
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The future of the fashion industry requires innovative circular systems Nicole Pamani Fri, 07/17/2020 – 00:15 Agricultural waste from food crops either is traditionally left to rot or is burned, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. About 270 million tons of banana waste are left to rot annually, and in India, 32 million acres of rice straw are burned. Circular Systems’ Agraloop , in contrast, sees food crop waste as a valuable resource, a feed stock for natural fiber products. Winner of the 2018 Global Change Award , the company aims to unlock value for the textile and fashion industry, for farmers and for the planet. Bard MBA alum Nicole Pamani recently spoke with Isaac Nichelson, CEO and co-founder at Circular Systems , about how the company’s circular production processes are helping to redefine the meaning of sustainable materials in the fashion industry. They discussed how Agraloop functions like a mechanical sheep, and how the COVID-19 pandemic is causing us to rethink the way we produce products.  Nicole Pamani: Tell us the Agraloop story. Isaac Nichelson: Agraloop is the world’s first regenerative industrial system for textile production. It originated from the mind of Yitzac Goldstein, whose natural systems thinking drives him at the core. It’s recently been described by our friend Nick Tipon from Fibershed , one of the world’s experts in regenerative farming practices and fiber systems, as essentially a giant mechanical sheep.   A sheep consumes a lot of biomass left over from food production, basically agricultural stubble. That biomass goes into its belly, where the sheep breaks it down and turns it into nutrition. Finally, the sheep fertilizes the field, trampling it in ever so perfectly, which improves the fertility cycle. This is exactly what Agraloop does at an industrial scale. It takes the leftover biomass from food crop production and upgrades that fiber, using some of the waste to create energy. When we’re done, what’s left over are only beneficial effluent and super high value products, rather than the caustic salts that come from traditional fiber processing or dye processing.  The effluent is actually perfect organic fertilizer, and we take it back to the farms to build soil fertility and further sequester carbon — just like the sheep does. We’re able to provide farmers with more income for waste that was actually climate liability because it’s usually burned.  This is more than just a better way to produce fiber from food crop waste. It’s literally showing the world that we can create industrial systems that are beneficial to humanity and to our habitat. Pamani: How do the textiles produced by Agraloop stack up against recycled fabrics? Nichelson: With this process, we’re changing people’s whole conception of what a recycled fabric is. Traditionally, recycled cotton textiles have been downplayed as inferior because in most cases they are. By tearing apart the fabric, mechanical recycling creates shorter staple fibers, and that creates a less strong yarn product. The lack of strength causes issues like pilling. Because it’s generally blended with recycled polyester, it also has problems of inconsistency. These issues have prevented the massive growth of traditional mechanically recycled textiles.  But that can all be fixed. Yitzac has innovated again around the creation of a yarn system that allows us to produce stronger-than-traditional virgin yarns that are also higher performing than traditional synthetics. Their moisture management will meet or exceed the performance of the Adidas Climate Cool or Nike Dri Fit with no chemical finishing and all recycled and organic inputs. The COVID-19 global pandemic is forcing us to rethink our patterns of consumption and the way we produce things. Pamani: What’s the next big sustainability challenge in the circular fashion industry? Nichelson: We’re having it delivered to us inadvertently right now with the COVID-19 global pandemic. Within this moment so much loss is happening, but it’s also forcing us to rethink our patterns of consumption and the way we produce things. It’s bringing home the idea of how fragile our habitat is and how sacred our health is.  As we sit in our houses, either laid off or working from home with a lot more time on our hands, we’re looking inward at this incredible crisis. The whole world — but especially the tech, style and fashion industry — is collapsing in on itself right now because it’s unbalanced and totally unprepared for what’s to come. What’s necessary is not a revolution, but a resolution to change that resolves to do things differently as a species, not just an industry.  Pamani: Do you see opportunities for collaboration across different levels of production?  Nichelson: We’ve been doing presentations at textile exchanges and with some of the biggest companies in our space about a new way of looking at sustainability and collaboration. We are raising the bar. What we need to be striving for is fixing things — that’s regeneration, that’s true circular. We’re in this incredible moment, this inflection point for humanity, and constructive interference is what’s going to save us. We need it right now on a global basis. Are we going to come out of this into the real hunger games, or are we going to come out of this into a world ready to transform and willing to collaborate? I can tell you that we at Circular Systems are working night and day to do our part to make that collaboration a reality, and we invite everybody else to join us.  The above Q&A is an edited excerpt from the Bard MBA’s June 5 The Impact Report podcast. The Impact Report brings together students and faculty in Bard’s MBA in Sustainability program with leaders in business, sustainability and social entrepreneurship. Pull Quote The COVID-19 global pandemic is forcing us to rethink our patterns of consumption and the way we produce things. Contributors Katie Ellman Topics Circular Economy Food & Agriculture Fashion Food Waste Collective Insight The Sustainable MBA Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Credit:  Rawpixel.com

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Wood lattice walls ventilate this beautiful Costa Rica home

July 10, 2020 by  
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Perched in the mountains of Nosara, a surfing paradise on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica , Casa Guayacán boasts a beautiful ocean view and a tranquil setting. A stunning example of sustainable architecture in a tropical setting, this home being designed by two talented professional architects comes as no surprise. Evangelina Quesada and Lucca Spendlingwimmer, architects who moved to the remote mountain location with their two daughters, built the home based on their mutual love for contemporary tropical architecture. The home takes advantage of the ocean breeze with ventilating lattice walls and is equipped with a rooftop solar panel system that provides 100% battery autonomy throughout the day and night. Related: Stunning Costa Rican beach home uses passive features to stay cool The facade incorporates a design that combines spacious floor-to-ceiling windows and wood lattice walls for natural cross ventilation . Elongated from north to south, most of the space faces the sea, with the west side facing the sunset in the evening. Half-open wood slats help emphasize airflow, while also creating a unique light pattern that changes during different times of the day. To move the house as far from the public street as possible and address the site’s uneven terrain, the design was developed over two levels. A shorter lower level allows for entrance access below the main structure, room for parking, a studio and service area. The upper level contains common areas, bedrooms and the property’s best ocean views. The home’s modular floor plan allowed for a faster construction time and less material waste. The home uses materials such as stone, polished cement, metal, wood and glass. The wood , taken from controlled teak plantations, was treated with linseed oil to maintain natural texture and color. Incorporating traditional building methods and talent from local artisans in the woodwork helps make Casa Guayacán a captivating addition to the tropical Costa Rican foothills. + Salagnac Arquitectos Images via Salagnac Arquitectos

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Wood lattice walls ventilate this beautiful Costa Rica home

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