September is Coastal Cleanup Month with a new look for 2020

September 15, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Beach and coastline cleanups have been a focus of many caring citizens and environmental groups for decades. The most-publicized beach cleanup effort, Coastal Cleanup Day, is typically slotted for a day in September. This year, the event has expanded into an entire month with the goal of involving more people at every level and from every community — not just those near the beach. According to Surfrider Foundation , “International Coastal Cleanup Month (formerly International Coastal Cleanup Day) is one of the world’s largest annual preservation and protection events and volunteer efforts for our ocean, waves and beaches.” Register your own coastal cleanup — wherever that may be One conservation organization, Heal the Bay in Los Angeles County, serves as an example of this campaign by helping citizens coordinate their own cleanup efforts with a centralized registration system. As residents register events, other volunteers can join the effort to coordinate larger cleanup activities. Related: Atlantic has 10 times the microplastics previously thought The centralized information also allows organizers to track the amount and types of garbage removed. Knowing what has been collected is an effective way to identify the source of the pollution and provide data for policymakers. Save Our Shores recommends downloading the Clean Swell App to keep track of the items in your trash pile. “Data collection is an important part of Coastal Cleanup Day,” Save Our Shores explained. “The data that is collected about the types and quantities of debris picked up can be used for outreach, policy and advocacy, and more!” Further, the organization suggests that one member of the cleanup party be in charge of data collection to reduce the spread of germs. Safety tips for your beach cleanup To support community efforts, Heal the Bay provides tutorials and tips for safe and effective cleanups with information on how to dispose of collected trash and abide by LA County Public Health guidelines along with details regarding supplies and parking. Each region has varying needs, so participants can access specific information for their neighborhood. During this time of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the organization encourages social distancing during cleanups as well as the use of masks and gloves. Participants should only work with members of their own household and stay home if they feel ill. If you are in an area impacted by the ongoing wildfires, Heal the Bay advises you to also stay home to minimize your exposure to the smoke. Why is Coastal Cleanup Month important? The primary goal of Coastal Clean Up Month is to reduce the amount of debris that ends up in the waterways, including the ocean. Ocean pollution, particularly plastic from inland as well as boating activities, has become a massive environmental issue in recent years. The cycle is toxic. Animals are harmed by items like six-pack rings and plastic bags. Plastic in the waterways begins to break down into microplastics, which marine animals ingest. This comes full circle as seafood that may contain microplastics lands onto our dinner plates. In addition to waste removal, a secondary goal is to educate communities about the hazards of ocean pollution and share the importance of marine life and aquatic biodiversity. In addition, the event promotes more sustainable activities such as recycling and minimizing waste. Make a difference one small step at a time To support these educational efforts, Heal the Bay maintains five programs that, “allow citizens to explore and learn about the various issues facing the diverse regions that make up Los Angeles.” Volunteers can facilitate touch tank visits at the aquarium, participate in a beach cleanup , spread information through the outreach program, contribute to community science by collecting data or register middle and high school students as part of the youth program. The coordination in Los Angeles is just a sampling of similar events across the nation and around the world. In fact, Coastal Cleanup Month is a global movement that includes 6 million volunteers in 90 countries. Even though the efforts are widespread, coronavirus restrictions have resulted in several canceled events and made it difficult for organizers of various organizations to spotlight the effort this year. With that in mind, the push is for more of a grassroots coordination of many small groups rather than fewer large ones.  Related: How to volunteer during COVID-19 That means the entire month of September is prime time to get out and lead your own cleanup crew, whether that’s a party of one or up to 10 people within the same household. With 30 years behind this organized beach cleanup movement, organizers report disappointment in not being able to host large events. However, they say this is an opportunity for every citizen to tackle the garbage in their own area, whether that be the street, park, mountain, sides of the roadway or parking lot. Although that may feel a little off-point, the majority of the garbage that ends up in the ocean stems from further inland, so you can think of it as confronting the problem at the source. While it might seem that a neighborhood pickup isn’t enough, individual efforts make a huge impact. As an example, Heal the Bay provides inspiration in the fact that, “In 2019, the Ocean Conservancy reports that nearly 800,000 volunteers collectively removed more than 20 million pieces of trash from beaches and waterways around the world. That’s 20 million fewer potential impacts on whales, turtles and other beloved ocean wildlife.” So whether in groups of 1,000 or one, those same hands can make a difference for the health of our planet. + Heal the Bay + Surfrider Foundation + Save Our Shores Images via Adobe Stock

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September is Coastal Cleanup Month with a new look for 2020

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

Terreform ONE’s plans to upend cities and suburbs in a post-pandemic world

August 10, 2020 by  
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Terreform ONE’s plans to upend cities and suburbs in a post-pandemic world Joel Makower Mon, 08/10/2020 – 02:11 And now for some serious fun. Last week, I had the opportunity to facilitate an  online conversation with  Terreform ONE , a Brooklyn, New York-based nonprofit architecture and urban design research group whose humble mission is “to combat the extinction of planetary species through pioneering acts of design.” It was a refreshing jolt of inspiration and hopefulness during this otherwise dreary moment. The conversation was hosted by the San Francisco-based Museum of Craft and Design , which recently housed an exhibition titled  “Survival Architecture and the Art of Resilience,” in which visionary architects and artists were asked to create artistically interpretative solutions and prototypes for survival shelter in a warming world. (My wife, Randy Rosenberg, executive director of the nonprofit  Art Works for Change , created the exhibition, which has traveled North America the past few years.) As part of the exhibition, Art Works for Change commissioned Terreform ONE (for Open Network Ecology) to create  Cricket Shelter Farm , an innovative living space that addresses both sustainable food systems and modular compact architecture. Essentially, it is housing that also serves as a cricket farm and, hence, a source of food for its human residents. Each of the hundreds of off-the-shelf plastic containers that form the main structure house a self-contained colony of crickets, which can be turned into high-protein flour. A typical shelter might have 300 such units, each producing a bag of “chirp chips,” or the ingredients for making such things as bagels or pasta, every few weeks. “They live happy lives and they reproduce,” explained Mitchell Joachim, Terreform ONE’s co-founder, of the tiny, six-legged critters. In a world with more than a billion undernourished souls, not to mention as many as 1.6 billion homeless, solutions like this can be global game-changers. That may sound fanciful — and, for some, less than appetizing — but insect consumption is hardly a novel concept, according to a 2013 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report . “From ants to beetle larvae — eaten by tribes in Africa and Australia as part of their subsistence diets — to the popular, crispy-fried locusts and beetles enjoyed in Thailand, it is estimated that insect-eating is practiced regularly by at least 2 billion people worldwide,” FAO said. Some 80 percent of the world’s nations eat insects in some form. And because you can produce a gram of cricket protein using a tiny fraction of the land, water and other resources it takes to produce a gram of animal protein, it represents a vast ecological improvement compared to eating meat from cows, chickens, lambs and pigs. In a world with more than a billion undernourished souls, not to mention as many as 1.6 billion homeless, solutions like this can be global game-changers. Bikes, buildings and butterflies Cricket Shelter Farm is just one of Terreform ONE’s  innovative solutions . There’s  Gen2Seat , ”the first full-scale synthetic biological chair,” created by fusing mycelium — the vegetative part of a fungus, and the foundation for mushrooms — with bacteria to create a  biobased polymer. “It’s designed for kindergartens, and she’s supposed to go home and tell mommy and daddy that she can eat her chair and that it’s okay,” said Joachim, a Harvard- and MIT-educated architect, Fulbright Scholar and TED Fellow, whose daughter is pictured here, modeling the chair. Another is the  Plug-In Ecology: Urban Farm Pod , a habitat “for individuals and urban nuclear families to grow and provide for their daily vegetable needs.” As Joachim explained: “Instead of a green wall, it’s a green ball for your home or your rooftop or your urban balcony or an urban park. You make food on the outside and the inside. It’s on wheels, so it can rotate to get the most amount of solar income.” An app tells you when the veggies are ready to pick. And then there’s the  Monarch Sanctuary , a prototype building façade that serves as a habitat for the butterfly of that name, an iconic pollinator species that is considered endangered. It’s a regular building on the inside but the skin of the building doubles as a “vertical butterfly meadow.” Terreform ONE teamed with BASF to launch a Monarch Sanctuary  installation at the Morris Museum. A  planned eight-story building in New York City’s Nolita neighborhood will be the first full-scale version. In addition to BASF, Terreform has also worked with Intel and GE. “These big partners are very much interested in sharing these concepts so they can move on their side of things to make some of them happen,” said Terreform Executive Director Vivian Kuan, an architect with an interdisciplinary background in art, entrepreneurial marketing and startups. Quotidian, everyday folks One of the things I truly appreciate about Terreform’s approach is its attention to the social aspect of these innovative designs. “I think a lot of the future depends on creating access and implementing these programs and making them rely on the collaboration of many different stakeholders — public-private partnerships, where cities and corporations really jump in and help the funding; and where inventors and entrepreneurs develop the technology and pilot,” Kuan said. Joachim pointed to a shared-bicycle concept being incubated at Terreform —”a super accessible bike-sharing program along with a biodiversity program,” as he described it. “This is essentially meant for people who can’t even afford something like Citi Bike” — the privately-owned public bicycle sharing system serving New York City. “It gives them access and they can use it to solve what we call the last-mile problem, which is a very difficult thing in cities. You can get buses and subways to a certain area, but then you can’t get that bag of groceries from that last stop on the subway to your home.” The low-cost cargo bikes are designed to carry up to 400 pounds. “We are working deeply to think about mobility justice in every possible form,” Joachim added. “So, none of this is imagined for the 1 percent or the super-elite. It’s imagined for the quotidian folks and the everyday people in cities, especially dense, intense urban environments.” In this topsy-turvy time, even the most fanciful ideas suddenly seem possible as we rethink cities, suburbs, buildings, work, home, shopping and practically everything else. Joachim and Kuan believe the pandemic could cause a massive shift in how people think about living in dense urban environments — or, instead, move to the ‘burbs. Either way, the times will require new designs for buildings, infrastructure and ways of moving about. Indeed, Joachim said, this may be Terreform’s moment. “We were waiting for a crisis, because we thought that was the only way we’re going to get any kind of change happening.” I invite you to  follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter,  GreenBuzz , and listen to  GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote In a world with more than a billion undernourished souls, not to mention as many as 1.6 billion homeless, solutions like this can be global game-changers. Topics Cities Buildings Eco-Design Innovation Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Terreform ONE’s fanciful vision of 42nd Street in New York city, with riparian corridors teeming with aqueous life, lighting systems with vertical-axis wind turbines and photovoltaic cells, and lots of green walls. All images courtesy of Terreform ONE. 

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Terreform ONE’s plans to upend cities and suburbs in a post-pandemic world

Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

June 1, 2020 by  
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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause? Joel Makower Mon, 06/01/2020 – 00:00 If you were to believe the mainstream business media, there would be no question whatsoever that the twin crises of a pandemic and a recession have pretty much put the kibosh on sustainable business activity. I mean, why, amid all this human and economic carnage, should companies be focused on anything besides keeping their doors open? Last month, for example, the Wall Street Journal published a piece (“Sustainability Was Corporate America’s Buzzword. This Crisis Changes That”) proclaiming that when it comes to corporate commitments and programs, “executives have called a timeout.” It said in part: Today, every occupant of every C-suite is trying to figure out what they’re willing to throw overboard as the economic storm spawned by the pandemic is swamping their ships. Businesses that were planning to help save the world are now simply saving themselves. Among the Journal’s proof points: General Motors put the brakes on a car-sharing program, Starbucks washed its hands of filling reusable coffee mugs and “companies have delayed sustainability reports.” Yes, we get it: No one wants to share a vehicle with strangers or refill an unwashed coffee mug during a pandemic. No question those programs should be “thrown overboard,” at least temporarily. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. All of which, my friends, is the editorial equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard: something so dissonant with reality that it makes my head hurt. The reality is that corporate sustainability is alive and well. Unlike previous economic downturns, sustainability isn’t being jettisoned in the spirit of corporate cost-savings. It’s being kept alive as part of a pathway back to profitability. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Need proof that reports of the death of sustainability are premature? Let’s begin with a few headlines: Southern Company commits to net-zero emissions by 2050 Microsoft committed to protect more land than it operates on globally by 2025 Citigroup to halt all financing for thermal coal mining by 2030 Shell plans to achieve net-zero emissions across its product manufacturing operations Mattel launches latest sugarcane-based products Volvo and Daimler launch €1.2 billion fuel cell truck joint venture General Mills commits to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 All of those happened in April. April! The Lost Month. When jobs and economic activity essentially went poof. When more than 190,000 humans died of COVID-19 globally, nearly five times the number one month earlier, and more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs. When the U.S. services sector posted its biggest contraction in more than a decade and the price of oil turned negative for the first time in history. When the global economy essentially sank like a stone as people world over sheltered in place. April! Okay, you say, April coincides with Earth Day, when companies traditionally strut their sustainability stuff. Thus, it’s not a good indicator. Fair enough. In that case, here are some headlines from May: Total pledges to deliver net-zero operations by mid-century Campbell Soup to transition to 100% recyclable or compostable packaging by 2030 Dunkin’ switches to plastic-free cups and plans to double number of green restaurants French corporates call for “green and inclusive recovery” BNP Paribas accelerates “complete coal exit” plan Intel’s 2030 commitments include “shared” climate and social goals More than 300 companies push U.S. Congress to promote climate action Pernod Ricard moves up ban on single-use plastics to 2021 ADM to pioneer biofuels, more carbon capture projects Over 150 global corporations urge world leaders for net-zero recovery from COVID-19 Siemens Gamesa unveils plans for “world’s largest wind turbine” Google to stop making AI tools for oil and gas extraction Half of Cargill’s sustainable cocoa now traceable from farm to factory I could go on; there’s more where these came from. Still, this baker’s dozen of storylines provides a peek into what happened in the 31 days just ended, well before most cities and states have started to reopen. Another data point, albeit anecdotal: The 90 or so members of our GreenBiz Executive Network — sustainability leaders at large companies — remain firmly in their jobs. Sure, there’s been some churn — both comings and goings — but that’s normal. There seem to be precious few layoffs among these professionals. That could change if the downturn drags on, but so far, so good.  Five easy pieces So, why is sustainability still going strong within the private sector amid this terrifying time? Five reasons: 1. Corporate sustainability is a long-term evolution. As several of the above headlines suggest, companies are making commitments into 2025, 2030 and beyond. That means they have set the wheels in motion for long-term structural change. These changes generally don’t come and go based on quarterly cycles. 2. Companies understand that sustainability engenders resilience by making supply chains more transparent, operations more efficient and, increasingly, improving the ability of operations to withstand or recover from calamities of all types. 3. Investors see sustainability as material. Largely because of No. 2 above, institutional shareholders see sustainability performance as a proxy for a well-managed company that is taking a risked-based approach to strategy and investing. And they’re not shy about letting companies know this. 4. There’s a growing call for a business-led “green recovery” to revive economies around the world and help them prepare for the next likely pandemic: climate change. While the Green New Deal isn’t yet getting traction in Washington, D.C., some of its components already are being tucked into the recovery legislation. And in Europe, “green recovery” is already a mainstream meme . 5. Companies understand that the world is watching. They want to be able to attract and retain customers and talent — to be seen as part of the solution or at least not part of the problem. True, we’ve been hearing this for years, and there is strong evidence that job shoppers and seekers have been seeking out “good” companies. But the times have ratcheted up those concerns. In a world where talent, both young and experienced, are drawn to employers that are helping address the world’s problems, who will want to work for your company? Of course, it’s not all a rosy scenario. Clean energy jobs have been decimated . Hiring is on hold for many open corporate sustainability positions. More than a few sustainable business professionals are devoting their time these days to the pandemic, to ensure the well-being of employees, suppliers, customers and others, and that facilities will be healthy places to work once the recovery kicks in. Some are itching to get back to their “day job.” But let’s stop and briefly celebrate the moment: Corporate sustainability continues, largely unhindered, during some of the worst moments in modern human history. Its value and importance are being seen as central to addressing the economic, environmental and social problems we face, and to increasing societal resilience to the next wave of shocks, in whatever form they take. And, little by little, companies are stepping up to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities. Okay, enough celebrating. It’s time to get back to the hard work still to be done. Pull Quote For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Topics Leadership State of the Profession Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz, via Shutterstock Close Authorship

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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

June 1, 2020 by  
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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause? Joel Makower Mon, 06/01/2020 – 00:00 If you were to believe the mainstream business media, there would be no question whatsoever that the twin crises of a pandemic and a recession have pretty much put the kibosh on sustainable business activity. I mean, why, amid all this human and economic carnage, should companies be focused on anything besides keeping their doors open? Last month, for example, the Wall Street Journal published a piece (“Sustainability Was Corporate America’s Buzzword. This Crisis Changes That”) proclaiming that when it comes to corporate commitments and programs, “executives have called a timeout.” It said in part: Today, every occupant of every C-suite is trying to figure out what they’re willing to throw overboard as the economic storm spawned by the pandemic is swamping their ships. Businesses that were planning to help save the world are now simply saving themselves. Among the Journal’s proof points: General Motors put the brakes on a car-sharing program, Starbucks washed its hands of filling reusable coffee mugs and “companies have delayed sustainability reports.” Yes, we get it: No one wants to share a vehicle with strangers or refill an unwashed coffee mug during a pandemic. No question those programs should be “thrown overboard,” at least temporarily. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. All of which, my friends, is the editorial equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard: something so dissonant with reality that it makes my head hurt. The reality is that corporate sustainability is alive and well. Unlike previous economic downturns, sustainability isn’t being jettisoned in the spirit of corporate cost-savings. It’s being kept alive as part of a pathway back to profitability. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Need proof that reports of the death of sustainability are premature? Let’s begin with a few headlines: Southern Company commits to net-zero emissions by 2050 Microsoft committed to protect more land than it operates on globally by 2025 Citigroup to halt all financing for thermal coal mining by 2030 Shell plans to achieve net-zero emissions across its product manufacturing operations Mattel launches latest sugarcane-based products Volvo and Daimler launch €1.2 billion fuel cell truck joint venture General Mills commits to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 All of those happened in April. April! The Lost Month. When jobs and economic activity essentially went poof. When more than 190,000 humans died of COVID-19 globally, nearly five times the number one month earlier, and more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs. When the U.S. services sector posted its biggest contraction in more than a decade and the price of oil turned negative for the first time in history. When the global economy essentially sank like a stone as people world over sheltered in place. April! Okay, you say, April coincides with Earth Day, when companies traditionally strut their sustainability stuff. Thus, it’s not a good indicator. Fair enough. In that case, here are some headlines from May: Total pledges to deliver net-zero operations by mid-century Campbell Soup to transition to 100% recyclable or compostable packaging by 2030 Dunkin’ switches to plastic-free cups and plans to double number of green restaurants French corporates call for “green and inclusive recovery” BNP Paribas accelerates “complete coal exit” plan Intel’s 2030 commitments include “shared” climate and social goals More than 300 companies push U.S. Congress to promote climate action Pernod Ricard moves up ban on single-use plastics to 2021 ADM to pioneer biofuels, more carbon capture projects Over 150 global corporations urge world leaders for net-zero recovery from COVID-19 Siemens Gamesa unveils plans for “world’s largest wind turbine” Google to stop making AI tools for oil and gas extraction Half of Cargill’s sustainable cocoa now traceable from farm to factory I could go on; there’s more where these came from. Still, this baker’s dozen of storylines provides a peek into what happened in the 31 days just ended, well before most cities and states have started to reopen. Another data point, albeit anecdotal: The 90 or so members of our GreenBiz Executive Network — sustainability leaders at large companies — remain firmly in their jobs. Sure, there’s been some churn — both comings and goings — but that’s normal. There seem to be precious few layoffs among these professionals. That could change if the downturn drags on, but so far, so good.  Five easy pieces So, why is sustainability still going strong within the private sector amid this terrifying time? Five reasons: 1. Corporate sustainability is a long-term evolution. As several of the above headlines suggest, companies are making commitments into 2025, 2030 and beyond. That means they have set the wheels in motion for long-term structural change. These changes generally don’t come and go based on quarterly cycles. 2. Companies understand that sustainability engenders resilience by making supply chains more transparent, operations more efficient and, increasingly, improving the ability of operations to withstand or recover from calamities of all types. 3. Investors see sustainability as material. Largely because of No. 2 above, institutional shareholders see sustainability performance as a proxy for a well-managed company that is taking a risked-based approach to strategy and investing. And they’re not shy about letting companies know this. 4. There’s a growing call for a business-led “green recovery” to revive economies around the world and help them prepare for the next likely pandemic: climate change. While the Green New Deal isn’t yet getting traction in Washington, D.C., some of its components already are being tucked into the recovery legislation. And in Europe, “green recovery” is already a mainstream meme . 5. Companies understand that the world is watching. They want to be able to attract and retain customers and talent — to be seen as part of the solution or at least not part of the problem. True, we’ve been hearing this for years, and there is strong evidence that job shoppers and seekers have been seeking out “good” companies. But the times have ratcheted up those concerns. In a world where talent, both young and experienced, are drawn to employers that are helping address the world’s problems, who will want to work for your company? Of course, it’s not all a rosy scenario. Clean energy jobs have been decimated . Hiring is on hold for many open corporate sustainability positions. More than a few sustainable business professionals are devoting their time these days to the pandemic, to ensure the well-being of employees, suppliers, customers and others, and that facilities will be healthy places to work once the recovery kicks in. Some are itching to get back to their “day job.” But let’s stop and briefly celebrate the moment: Corporate sustainability continues, largely unhindered, during some of the worst moments in modern human history. Its value and importance are being seen as central to addressing the economic, environmental and social problems we face, and to increasing societal resilience to the next wave of shocks, in whatever form they take. And, little by little, companies are stepping up to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities. Okay, enough celebrating. It’s time to get back to the hard work still to be done. Pull Quote For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Topics Leadership State of the Profession Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz, via Shutterstock Close Authorship

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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

Demystifying the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept

May 29, 2020 by  
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Demystifying the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept Heather Clancy Fri, 05/29/2020 – 02:15 If your sustainability team has regular debates about how to label or describe its various initiatives, it’s not alone. The nuances of all the various adjectives and descriptors that are used to describe climate action — from “science-based” to “net zero” to “carbon negative” — are enough to make heads spin, especially for those who spend their professional lives worrying about how to communicate these concepts. The analysts and journalists of GreenBiz feel your pain. So, it was hardly surprising when literally thousands of GreenBiz community members signed up for the recent webcast about “Absolute Zero,” moderated by yours truly. It was one of the best-attended sessions in the history of our online events.  Technically speaking, the literal definition of absolute zero is the lowest possible temperature that’s theoretically possible. From the climate perspective, the phrase is used frequently by UK Fires, a research collaboration between the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Nottingham, Bath and Imperial College London — although it’s not all that common (yet at least) in North American circles.  So how does this idea apply to the world of sustainability? Here’s the first thing to understand about the concept of Absolute Zero as it applies to corporate climate action: It’s not all about you, and it’s not all about reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s just the table stakes. The reality, though, is that any individual company must use a combination of strategies to inch or leap toward that goal — and the combination of what an organization is able to use will depend a great deal not just on its industry sector but also on its financial clout and support from the C-suite.  It might, for example, buy carbon offsets to kickstart action in the short term without delay, then move on to supporting initiatives that directly affect its operations, such as installing new technologies for energy efficiency or clean energy. From there, the focus for many companies often progresses into its supply chain — the place many corporate sustainability teams spend a lot of their time today. The most ambitious plans (at least right now) are those seeking ways to enable reductions for others on top of all that. Some organizations never may reach the last stage. But those that can should try, according to the speakers on this month’s webcast. “In a world in which we know some companies will not be able to reach net zero, it’s absolutely imperative that others who can reach it go beyond,” said Charlotte Bande, climate strategy lead for sustainability consulting firm Quantis. Bande said Absolute Zero (a concept that the firm is socializing with its clients) is the long-term guidepost that businesses should navigate toward — it encourages companies to maximize their individual contributions toward the vision of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. “Absolute sustainability is about making sure that society operates within planetary boundaries while satisfying human needs,” Bande said. Included in that should be strategies addressing biodiversity, land use, freshwater consumption, the phosphorus cycle and the nitrogen cycle, she noted. How might Absolute Zero apply to your own strategy? During the next 10 years — a period the United Nations Global Compact has dubbed the ” Decade of Action ” — companies must focus far more on mitigating their impact not just within their own corporate boundaries but within their entire value chain, including suppliers and customers, according to the speakers on the GreenBiz webcast.  That means paying far more attention to issues related to sustainable development, such as child labor policies, community water abuses or gender equity issues, said Owen Hewlett, chief technical officer of Gold Standard, a Swiss NGO that issues carbon credits.  “We very much see that climate results are optimized when you deal with sustainable development at the same time,” he said. Offsetting versus insetting Hewlett devoted part of his presentation to a discussion about ” insetting ,” which he and Bande defined as activities within a company’s supply chain that can be counted toward science-based targets even though they are technically outside a company’s direct boundaries — such as addressing the emissions of suppliers in tiers one or two of a company’s supply chain.  In that way, insetting is distinct from the more broadly used process of “offsetting,” a term often used to describe the process of supporting projects focused on carbon removal in order to receive credit for the reductions that it enables.  For many organizations, the distinction is elusive, but many companies use the process of offsetting to kickstart their corporate emissions reductions. The idea of insetting is often associated with natural climate solutions , although it can be accomplished by any verifiable activity that mitigates emissions related to a company’s value chain.  We very much see that climate results are optimized when you deal with sustainable development at the same time. “The real test is this question: What does it count towards? If it’s in boundary, you can report it against science-based targets. If it’s outside boundaries, then it should be considered enabling reductions [for others]. Often, it’s a bit of both,” Hewlett acknowledged. One example of insetting is a program that the petcare divisions of food company Mars created to help wheat farmers improve their productivity and measure the carbon sequestration impact of activities such as reducing fertilizer usage and using cover crops and manures.  Apple’s program to invest in renewable energy for some suppliers is another illustration of an initiative that could be considered an example of insetting. (This example wasn’t used on the webcast, but it helps illustrate what’s possible.)   Leadership is a constantly moving target Focusing on reducing Scope 3 emissions that are upstream or downstream in a company’s value chain is a growing focus for sustainability teams in sectors such as food and consumer packaged goods — as is focusing on the creation of products and services that help other organizations, particularly customers and suppliers, cut their impact more broadly.  During the webcast, one of several polling questions probed attendees about where they thought it was possible to “maximize the potential” of their sustainable business strategies. More than half of those who responded during the live session said “enabling others to reduce” was where their largest future impact lies. The idea that companies have a responsibility not just for their own emissions but also for those of their customers and suppliers is being embraced by a growing number of companies, including Microsoft.   In January, the technology company publicly embraced a “carbon negative” climate strategy that will see Microsoft begin to charge its different business units an internal carbon fee for their Scope 3 emissions — it also does this for Scope 1 and Scope 2 impacts. It also committed $1 billion in funding to new technologies, innovations and climate solutions, with the intent of taking responsibility for past emission. “We really zeroed in on what we’re doing not only in our own operations but in our value chain,” said Elizabeth Willmott, carbon program manager at Microsoft, on the webcast. In a sense, successful companies and industrialized nations should bear responsibility for the climate impact of their economic sense, she said. “What is exciting is that it embraces the idea of net zero, but goes beyond,” Willmott said. While Microsoft hasn’t used the phrase Absolute Zero to describe this strategy, the carbon negative nomenclature has been used by others, including retailer IKEA, which actually adopted a similar philosophy in 2018. (IKEA now uses the term ” climate positive ” to describe its policy, as does Intuit, which is teaming up with Project Drawdown for help.  Regardless what they actually call it, the aim is the same: These companies intend to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they produce — because they have the means of doing so.  Microsoft considers the future impact of its products — particularly its cloud software services — as a key motivator for its recent strategy shift. In that sense, its climate policy is increasingly being embedded into core business decisions, including future “co-innovation” with both retail and enterprise customers.  “What is a leadership move today won’t be tomorrow,” Willmott said during the webcast. Pull Quote We very much see that climate results are optimized when you deal with sustainable development at the same time. Topics Corporate Strategy Carbon Removal Offsets Natural Climate Solutions Collective Insight GreenBiz 101 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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Demystifying the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept

Demystifying the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept

May 29, 2020 by  
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Demystifying the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept Heather Clancy Fri, 05/29/2020 – 02:15 If your sustainability team has regular debates about how to label or describe its various initiatives, it’s not alone. The nuances of all the various adjectives and descriptors that are used to describe climate action — from “science-based” to “net zero” to “carbon negative” — are enough to make heads spin, especially for those who spend their professional lives worrying about how to communicate these concepts. The analysts and journalists of GreenBiz feel your pain. So, it was hardly surprising when literally thousands of GreenBiz community members signed up for the recent webcast about “Absolute Zero,” moderated by yours truly. It was one of the best-attended sessions in the history of our online events.  Technically speaking, the literal definition of absolute zero is the lowest possible temperature that’s theoretically possible. From the climate perspective, the phrase is used frequently by UK Fires, a research collaboration between the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Nottingham, Bath and Imperial College London — although it’s not all that common (yet at least) in North American circles.  So how does this idea apply to the world of sustainability? Here’s the first thing to understand about the concept of Absolute Zero as it applies to corporate climate action: It’s not all about you, and it’s not all about reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s just the table stakes. The reality, though, is that any individual company must use a combination of strategies to inch or leap toward that goal — and the combination of what an organization is able to use will depend a great deal not just on its industry sector but also on its financial clout and support from the C-suite.  It might, for example, buy carbon offsets to kickstart action in the short term without delay, then move on to supporting initiatives that directly affect its operations, such as installing new technologies for energy efficiency or clean energy. From there, the focus for many companies often progresses into its supply chain — the place many corporate sustainability teams spend a lot of their time today. The most ambitious plans (at least right now) are those seeking ways to enable reductions for others on top of all that. Some organizations never may reach the last stage. But those that can should try, according to the speakers on this month’s webcast. “In a world in which we know some companies will not be able to reach net zero, it’s absolutely imperative that others who can reach it go beyond,” said Charlotte Bande, climate strategy lead for sustainability consulting firm Quantis. Bande said Absolute Zero (a concept that the firm is socializing with its clients) is the long-term guidepost that businesses should navigate toward — it encourages companies to maximize their individual contributions toward the vision of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. “Absolute sustainability is about making sure that society operates within planetary boundaries while satisfying human needs,” Bande said. Included in that should be strategies addressing biodiversity, land use, freshwater consumption, the phosphorus cycle and the nitrogen cycle, she noted. How might Absolute Zero apply to your own strategy? During the next 10 years — a period the United Nations Global Compact has dubbed the ” Decade of Action ” — companies must focus far more on mitigating their impact not just within their own corporate boundaries but within their entire value chain, including suppliers and customers, according to the speakers on the GreenBiz webcast.  That means paying far more attention to issues related to sustainable development, such as child labor policies, community water abuses or gender equity issues, said Owen Hewlett, chief technical officer of Gold Standard, a Swiss NGO that issues carbon credits.  “We very much see that climate results are optimized when you deal with sustainable development at the same time,” he said. Offsetting versus insetting Hewlett devoted part of his presentation to a discussion about ” insetting ,” which he and Bande defined as activities within a company’s supply chain that can be counted toward science-based targets even though they are technically outside a company’s direct boundaries — such as addressing the emissions of suppliers in tiers one or two of a company’s supply chain.  In that way, insetting is distinct from the more broadly used process of “offsetting,” a term often used to describe the process of supporting projects focused on carbon removal in order to receive credit for the reductions that it enables.  For many organizations, the distinction is elusive, but many companies use the process of offsetting to kickstart their corporate emissions reductions. The idea of insetting is often associated with natural climate solutions , although it can be accomplished by any verifiable activity that mitigates emissions related to a company’s value chain.  We very much see that climate results are optimized when you deal with sustainable development at the same time. “The real test is this question: What does it count towards? If it’s in boundary, you can report it against science-based targets. If it’s outside boundaries, then it should be considered enabling reductions [for others]. Often, it’s a bit of both,” Hewlett acknowledged. One example of insetting is a program that the petcare divisions of food company Mars created to help wheat farmers improve their productivity and measure the carbon sequestration impact of activities such as reducing fertilizer usage and using cover crops and manures.  Apple’s program to invest in renewable energy for some suppliers is another illustration of an initiative that could be considered an example of insetting. (This example wasn’t used on the webcast, but it helps illustrate what’s possible.)   Leadership is a constantly moving target Focusing on reducing Scope 3 emissions that are upstream or downstream in a company’s value chain is a growing focus for sustainability teams in sectors such as food and consumer packaged goods — as is focusing on the creation of products and services that help other organizations, particularly customers and suppliers, cut their impact more broadly.  During the webcast, one of several polling questions probed attendees about where they thought it was possible to “maximize the potential” of their sustainable business strategies. More than half of those who responded during the live session said “enabling others to reduce” was where their largest future impact lies. The idea that companies have a responsibility not just for their own emissions but also for those of their customers and suppliers is being embraced by a growing number of companies, including Microsoft.   In January, the technology company publicly embraced a “carbon negative” climate strategy that will see Microsoft begin to charge its different business units an internal carbon fee for their Scope 3 emissions — it also does this for Scope 1 and Scope 2 impacts. It also committed $1 billion in funding to new technologies, innovations and climate solutions, with the intent of taking responsibility for past emission. “We really zeroed in on what we’re doing not only in our own operations but in our value chain,” said Elizabeth Willmott, carbon program manager at Microsoft, on the webcast. In a sense, successful companies and industrialized nations should bear responsibility for the climate impact of their economic sense, she said. “What is exciting is that it embraces the idea of net zero, but goes beyond,” Willmott said. While Microsoft hasn’t used the phrase Absolute Zero to describe this strategy, the carbon negative nomenclature has been used by others, including retailer IKEA, which actually adopted a similar philosophy in 2018. (IKEA now uses the term ” climate positive ” to describe its policy, as does Intuit, which is teaming up with Project Drawdown for help.  Regardless what they actually call it, the aim is the same: These companies intend to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they produce — because they have the means of doing so.  Microsoft considers the future impact of its products — particularly its cloud software services — as a key motivator for its recent strategy shift. In that sense, its climate policy is increasingly being embedded into core business decisions, including future “co-innovation” with both retail and enterprise customers.  “What is a leadership move today won’t be tomorrow,” Willmott said during the webcast. Pull Quote We very much see that climate results are optimized when you deal with sustainable development at the same time. Topics Corporate Strategy Carbon Removal Offsets Natural Climate Solutions Collective Insight GreenBiz 101 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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Demystifying the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept

"Wither" artistically represents deforestation in the Amazon

May 27, 2020 by  
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While all eyes are on the national and international headlines regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears no one is watching and protecting the rainforest, which is experiencing a “newly deforested area” that is “71% larger” than previous records, according to The Wall Street Journal . When the data regarding this rapid increase in deforestation came to light, Dutch artist Thijs Biersteker created a digital art installation titled, “Wither,” to visually represent the disappearing landscape in Brazilian rainforests. Related: Humans can’t count on rainforests to offset their carbon Taking the form of a plant  with a variety of leaf styles, the electrically-powered piece brings to light, quite literally, the roughly three football fields-worth of rainforest that is lost each second . Well, technically Biersteker brings it to dark, as the lights of each petal fade and become transparent to represent “the loss of 250m2 of rainforest,” according to the artist. Each light that is snuffed out matches real-time data coming in from a variety of rainforest watch groups who monitor the deforestation progression.  Biersteker and his team from Woven Studio planned to reveal the artwork later on, but the recent acceleration of deforestation during this pandemic added a sense of urgency to the message, so they decided to launch now to drive awareness around the topic. The art was commissioned by Daily Paper, a popular Amsterdam-based fashion and lifestyle brand. As Biersteker said, “It is interesting that while we dream, talk, videocall, and post about a new post-Covid-19 world, an old system is destroying our future more fiercefull than ever. This artwork turns deforestation facts into something you can feel. Hopefully it will provoke people to spend their time inside, to think about the world they want to go back to outside. I often wonder when we are allowed back into the world, what will we find, and what will we have lost?” Biersteker is the founder of Woven Studio, a sustainable art studio focused on helping research groups, universities, museums and architects present data through visual art. + Woven Studio Images via Thijs Biersteker

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"Wither" artistically represents deforestation in the Amazon

Best practices for outdoor exercise during COVID-19

May 12, 2020 by  
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Now that states are starting to ease their lockdowns, outdoorsy and active people are eager to hit the trails or pick up their tennis rackets and golf clubs. But what do you need to know before getting active amidst COVID-19 ? Here are tips to stay safe while enjoying the great outdoors during a pandemic. Picking the safest activities The virus is still out there. So as you venture out of your home, remember to keep your guard up. The safest activities are those that let you maintain physical distance and congregate with as few people as possible — it’s still safest to stick with members of your own household. Related: COVID-19 and its effects on the environment If you must recreate with the population beyond your quarantine-mates, singles tennis is going to be safer than doubles, because there’s only one person on each side of the net and only one other person touching your tennis balls. You can probably golf safely, but a post-golf hang out in the clubhouse is a bad idea. For now, you’re better off avoiding sports that require close contact and lots of hands on the same equipment, such as soccer, basketball and volleyball. Hiking At first thought, hiking seems like the perfect pandemic activity. What could be more socially distanced than trekking through the wilderness? Well, nothing. Except that, depending where you live, half of your neighbors probably had the same idea. Plus, hiking trails are narrow. So what happens when one hiker wants to pass another? Choose your hiking trails carefully. Depending on where you live, trailheads might be blocked and parking lots could be closed. Try to check your local ordinances before you head out. This can be tricky, since websites may not be up to date and conditions can change rapidly. In Oregon, official guidelines currently say, “Be prepared for last minute changes to ensure the safety and health of others.” In other words, rangers may close trailheads or parking lots at any minute if folks fail to behave responsibly. Pick the less popular trails, go early and abort the mission if there are too many cars parked near the trailhead. Have a face mask handy so you can cover up and protect fellow hikers if you need to pass them. Avoid narrow trails on cliff edges, where there’s nowhere to step aside. If your dog wants to come along, plan to hike on a wide trail or in a remote area. If the trails are too crowded, and/or you can’t resist those puppy-dog eyes, consider looking for quiet country roads and going for a ramble rather than a hike. Running Since the gyms closed, the number of outdoor runners seems to have multiplied. It can be tricky to navigate your path as you stay 6 feet away from other humans. This might mean zig-zagging from one side of the street to the other, coming to a dead stop when a group of kids go by on trikes and being highly alert to avoid cars and bikes. You’ll need your wits about you. Either skip the headphones or only wear one. With regular routes suddenly too crowded for physical distancing, it’s also important to be vigilant when navigating less familiar terrain. Distance runners might need to plan their routes more carefully. Being 4 miles from home on city streets and suddenly realizing all the public restrooms are closed — well, that’s not a fun predicament. This isn’t a great time for public drinking fountains, either. So carry a reusable water bottle or plan your route so that you can stop by your house for a mid-run comfort break. Water sports As spring turns into summer , water lovers’ thoughts turn to their local beaches, rivers and lakes. Many water sports are a good option during COVID-19, but this isn’t a good time to take up anything extreme. You really don’t want to have to seek medical attention or be hospitalized right now. Instead, try activities like kayaking or paddle boarding on calm waters. But because even the calmest water can be dangerous, go with your household or a buddy. You can stay in close proximity with the people you live with, but if you meet up with a friend, you do need to continue to practice social distancing. Some outfitters are opening up now for contactless rentals and physically distanced group outings with well-sanitized kayaks. This is a good option if you don’t own the gear. Swimming and surfing can also be done while adhering to physical distancing guidelines. Adhere to local ordinances and, again, go with your household or a friend. Other outdoor exercise tips and etiquette As you venture outdoors, keep your safety and that of others in mind by following local ordinances and official guidelines. If you live in a place where face masks are optional, bring one along in case conditions turn out to be more crowded than expected. Stick a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket in case you have to touch something. If you’re exerting yourself, watch where you are huffing and puffing. People going on a socially distant walk with family or housemates should go single-file if others are trying to pass. If other people fail to observe proper pandemic etiquette, stay calm. Move away from people breathing in your space. Also, remember why you’re going outdoors: fresh air, exercise and the uplifting effects of nature . This is a time to prioritize physical health and sanity, not athletic achievement or personal best race times. So get outside, be safe and try to be kind to yourself and others. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Best practices for outdoor exercise during COVID-19

Superblock of Sant Antoni reclaims Barcelona streets for pedestrians

May 7, 2020 by  
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As part of Barcelona’s efforts to reclaim its car-congested streets for pedestrians, the city has tapped architects to create “superblocks” — groups of streets transformed into car-free public plazas. One such project was completed in 2019 by Leku Studio in the trendy neighborhood of Sant Antoni. Redesigned with attractive way-finding elements and street furniture, the Superblock of Sant Antoni is the second of six superblocks completed to date. The Superblocks Program was conceived as a way to curb air pollution while addressing a lack of green and social spaces in the city. Each superblock comprises nine city blocks and is closed off to thru-traffic, with parking tucked underground. New street furniture, colorful graphics and removable planters are added to encourage walking, cycling and social gathering. Related: How Barcelona “superblocks” return city streets to the people “Where previously there was an urban highway, now there is a healthy street full of life and green, where there was a traffic intersection now there is a livable plaza ,” explained the architects, who implemented the first phase of the Superblock of Sant Antoni in 2018. “Car noise has been replaced by children playing, cheerful conversations between neighbors or elderly people chess games. The transformation continues together with this flexible landscape capable of integrating new changes derived from urban testing and social innovation.” Reversibility was a guiding principle behind the design of the Superblock of Sant Antoni. As a result, the architects created an “adaptive urban furniture toolkit” so that the street furniture and planters — built with eco-friendly materials — could be combined in a variety of ways. The graphic tiles and signage also provide a reference for the arrangement of the new urban elements. The City of Barcelona plans to create 503 superblocks that will eventually connect to one another to create a series of “green corridors” that total 400 acres of new green space by 2030. + Leku Studio Photography by DEL RIO BANI via Leku Studio

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Superblock of Sant Antoni reclaims Barcelona streets for pedestrians

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