You can help monitor Amazon deforestation from your couch

October 2, 2020 by  
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While many people around the world worry about deforestation in the Amazon rainforest , to most of us, it’s still remote. Most people have never visited the Amazon, and many have no idea what they can do about deforestation. But a new online tracking system relies on citizen scientists to help monitor the Amazon via satellite. “You don’t have to be a climate scientist, you don’t have to be a data scientist, you just have to be a citizen that is concerned about the issue of deforestation,” said Elliot Inman, a researcher at systems analysis company SAS, as reported in Huffington Post . SAS worked with Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis to create an app that depends on humans to look at images and help train artificial intelligence to spot deforestation. Related: These AI-powered cameras can sense poachers and save wildlife World Resources Institute oversees the resulting Global Forest Watch tracking system. First, a computer algorithm scans incoming images. When it identifies a place where trees have recently disappeared, it flags that image. Human eyes are needed to help discern what might have caused those missing trees. Volunteers scan the images for signs of human impact, such as roads, farm plots or tree lines that are suspiciously straight. This human input helps train the artificial intelligence , so that eventually the system will be able to digest images more quickly on its own. The system relies on consensus from multiple users. Sometimes it’s tricky to determine whether a brown patch on an image is due to humans burning trees to clear land for agriculture versus a natural forest fire . With a bit of training, citizen scientists are better able to notice small things that the computer might miss, such as a thin line that indicates a primitive road leading to the burned clearing. Data gathered by the system will help conservation organizations and governments identify when they should intervene to protect ecosystems. In the future, Global Forest Watch may even help predict where deforestation will happen next. All you need to help is an internet connection and a little bit of free time. + Global Forest Watch Via Huffington Post Image via Sentinel Hub

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A closed loop fashion system requires scaling solutions now, not later

October 2, 2020 by  
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A closed loop fashion system requires scaling solutions now, not later Deonna Anderson Fri, 10/02/2020 – 01:00 The fashion industry is damaging to the planet — it’s responsible for 10 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. But there are companies — both large and small — trying to solve this problem. Back in 2017, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation tapped on large brands such as Burberry, Gap and H&M to make fashion circular  — ensuring that clothes are made from safe and renewable materials, establishing new business models to increase their use and developing systems that would enable more old clothes to be turned into new garments. Outside of this particular coalition of companies, other fashion businesses are attempting to make the industry more circular by using customizable digital technology, eliminating excess production and tracking the life cycle of products. One of those companies is San Francisco-based clothing startup unspun , which produces sustainable jeans via a unique digital process: customers design their ideal pair of jeans, use their smartphones to takes a 3D scan of their bodies, then receive the custom-built denim in the mail.  “We think it’s really important to think of this from a closed loop and regenerative system, because humans are so used to going for the ‘next thing,'” said Beth Esponnette, co-founder of unspun, during part one of a discussion about scaling circular fashion during Circularity 20 in late August. It’s really hard to change our behavior, and even if we were able to do that, it’s not going to fix the problems in the system. “It’s really hard to change our behavior, and even if we were able to do that, it’s not going to fix the problems in the system,” Esponnette continued. She noted that unspun is not trying to villify consumption, but rather to set up a more responsible industry. The company is designing for disassembly and thinking about how to go from yarn to product and back to yarn again. “It’s not quite ready yet but it’s soon to be on to its first prototypes, so we really see the industry being no-waste and actually infinitely customizable, definitely by 2050, hopefully even by 2030,” she said. While the company is not completely zero-waste at this time, it has a commitment to eventually get there. In the meantime, it works with Blue Jeans Go Green to turn its cutting waste from from the jean making process into denim insulation for homes.  At this point, a pair of custom-fitted unspun jeans costs $200 — a price that not every person who wants to make more sustainable fashion choices can afford. That’s one reason why addressing the environmental impacts of the fashion industry will require multiple solutions to be at play at the same time.  Addressing the environmental impacts of the fashion industry will require multiple solutions to be at play at the same time. Making changes along the apparel supply chain At a different part of the supply chain, labeling and embellishment manufacturer Avery Dennison has a vision of the future: where every physical label on a garment will have a digital twin or ID that would tell the sustainability or end of life story of the piece of clothing. It also could help a consumer know what to do with the garment at its end of life, whether it can be resold, repaired or recycled. “That’s what really drives us, to be able to help enable that whole circularity of the industry,” said Debbie Shakespeare, senior director of compliance and sustainability at Avery Dennison. Right now, the fashion industry operates primarily in production and consumption, but avoids the decomposition part of the loop because of the perception that it will be wasteful, said Beth Rattner, executive director at the Biomimicry Institute, which provides sustainability advising to companies, including some in the world of fashion.  Of the total fiber input used for clothing, 87 percent is either landfilled or incinerated. But working in only the front part of the loop is only ignoring a waste problem that already exists, and is even getting worse. Of the total fiber input used for clothing, 87 percent is either landfilled or incinerated, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation , a think tank advancing the circular economy. Plus, there’s the waste that’s harder to see than the piles of fabric in a landfill. “We still have polyester that’s ending up in microfibers, which are ending up in the ocean, in our seafood dinner,” Rattner said. “We’re eating about a credit card worth of plastic every year.” The fashion industry must contend with its long history of operating unsustainably A recent report from the Biomimicry Institute called The Nature of Fashion  points out how the fashion industry has unsustainably operated as a collective for decades. “It’s safe to say that no one ever looked at a barrel of oil and thought, ‘That would make a nice-looking dress,'” the report’s forward reads. “And yet, for nearly 80 years, we have collectively looked past the ill-effects of petroleum and focused solely on the versatile, low price-point clothing that polyester makes possible.” It’s safe to say that no one ever looked at a barrel of oil and thought, “That would make a nice-looking dress.” The report argues that new fibers — no matter how recyclable they may be — should not be developed if there is no natural decomposition for them, because man-made material loops always leak into the environment . “The fashion industry now more than ever needs to look at materials in the larger context of natural systems,” Anita Chester, head of materials at Laudes Foundation, a partner for the report, said in a press release at the time of the report’s release. During the Circularity 20 session, Rattner gave attendees a vision and a call to action by telling them to imagine having a pantry of Twinkies in a pantry after deciding to be a healthy eater — likening them to the mounds of polyester sitting in our waste management system. Should you eat all those Twinkies first, and then go buy your kale? Should we keep using the same materials that we’ve been using? “We know that the Twinkies are bad for us,” she said “We don’t have to keep eating them, we can do something else with them. So my call to action is: we don’t have to eat the Twinkies.” Pull Quote Addressing the environmental impacts of the fashion industry will require multiple solutions to be at play at the same time. Of the total fiber input used for clothing, 87 percent is either landfilled or incinerated. It’s really hard to change our behavior, and even if we were able to do that, it’s not going to fix the problems in the system. It’s safe to say that no one ever looked at a barrel of oil and thought, “That would make a nice-looking dress.” Topics Circular Economy Fashion Circularity 20 Textile Waste Apparel Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock New Africa Close Authorship

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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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Natufia’s hydroponic garden embraces farm-to-table eating

April 14, 2020 by  
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Farm-to-table is a practice that includes collecting food as close to the source as possible, therefore ensuring the greatest amount of nutrients and best quality. With that in mind, one company, Natufia, has taken the idea a step further with its indoor hydroponic garden systems.  Natufia is a temperature-controlled garden that fits inside your kitchen, providing the freshest herbs and vegetables possible and the shortest distance from “farm” to table. This hydroponic garden easily grows plants, nurturing them from pod to maturity. Once the system is in place, simply order seed pods and place them into the nursery trays to germinate. You then move them into the two pull-out racks that hold up to 32 unique plants at once, so you can personalize the garden to suit your family’s needs. You can grow everything from kale and basil to chamomile and cornflowers. Related: This self-sustaining planter doesn’t require sunlight for plants to thrive From there, the system is automatically monitored, controlling temperature, hydration, humidity, nutrient distribution, water, pH, air circulation and even music that science suggests supports healthy growth. In addition to convenience, the plants are non-GMO and certified organic . That means they come without pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or environmental pollutants. Natufia seeds are also Demeter-certified, which is the highest biodynamic certification available. When your plants are ready, the only thing left to do is pick the perfect amount for your meal as you pull ingredients together. Leaving the rest on the plant makes your food last longer and saves room in the refrigerator. Plus, the garden system allows for less trips to the market, zero packaging waste and limited transport emissions compared to other food options. The fully automated closed system that recycles water for up to 10 days to boost water savings is another eco-friendly benefit. Once you’ve harvested all you can from your plants, you can simply order more seed pods online. + Natufia Images via Natufia

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Expandable camper converts into a two-story home via a pop-up roof

April 14, 2020 by  
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Living on the road typically means having to sacrifice some living space, but one savvy camper company has designed an expandable truck that adds more space on demand. Dutch company Haaks has a long history of creating comfortable and functional campers built for off-grid living, but now it has outdone itself with the Opperland — a wooden camper with a pop-up roof that allows it to become a two-story tiny home. Haaks’ campers are designed to provide travelers with a strong connection to nature. The campers are modular concepts built with eco-friendly materials, such as sustainably sourced wood, and come with solar panels and other off-grid features . Additionally, the compact campers can be easily transported to any dream location. Related: 7 transforming mobile homes for adventuring in the great outdoors Measuring just 13 feet long and 7 feet wide, the box-like Opperland offers less than 100 square feet of living space on the ground floor. But once it is set in place, the compact camper ‘s unique system snaps into action to offer way more than what meets the eye. Once it has been driven by its accompanying Fiat Ducato truck to the desired location, the compact camper slides easily off of the flatbed. A set of hydraulic legs sets the camper firmly on level ground, but it remains elevated off the landscape to reduce its footprint. Once in place, a push of a button opens a pop-up roof, converting the box into a two-story tiny house . The Opperland comes with all the amenities needed to live out your tiny home dreams. The upper floor houses a bedroom, while the ground floor has space for a kitchen complete with an induction cook-top, a refrigerator and ample counter space. The corner next to the kitchen is outfitted with a small sofa and a dining table. To connect the cozy interiors to the great outdoors, the end wall of the camper can be folded up to open the living area to the natural surroundings. A small staircase at the end of the kitchen leads to the upper floor bedroom. The sleeping loft features enough space for a double mattress. Underneath, a small bathroom includes a toilet and shower. Although the basic Opperland camper has been created to provide most of the necessities required to live on the road, the camper, which starts at $107,150, can also be customized. + Haaks Via New Atlas Images via Haaks

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Expandable camper converts into a two-story home via a pop-up roof

Value-added tax: a potential solution for carbon leakage

November 26, 2019 by  
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This system would be burdensome and inefficient but it could make it feasible to practically address carbon leakage.

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Q&A: How Can I Monitor My Solar Power System?

October 2, 2019 by  
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In the early days of solar-powered electricity, solar system owners … The post Q&A: How Can I Monitor My Solar Power System? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Q&A: How Can I Monitor My Solar Power System?

How Can I Finance a Solar Energy System?

February 11, 2019 by  
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Are you considered installing a solar power system on your home? … The post How Can I Finance a Solar Energy System? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Quiz #35: The U.S. Recycling System Evolves

November 1, 2018 by  
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In this quiz, we explore the evolving recycling business in the … The post Earth911 Quiz #35: The U.S. Recycling System Evolves appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Quiz #35: The U.S. Recycling System Evolves

Elon Musk’s first tunnel is almost complete and he’s offering free rides

May 11, 2018 by  
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Another day, another genius marketing idea from Elon Musk . In an Instagram post , Musk announced that he plans to offer free rides in The Boring Company’s first tunnel — which he described as “almost done.” Musk went on to say: “As mentioned in prior posts, once fully operational (demo system rides will be free), the system will always give priority to pods for pedestrians and cyclists for less than the cost of a bus ticket.” First Boring Company tunnel under LA almost done! Pending final regulatory approvals, we will be offering free rides to the public in a few months. Super huge thanks to everyone that helped with this project. Strong support from public, elected officials & regulators is critical to success. As mentioned in prior posts, once fully operational (demo system rides will be free), the system will always give priority to pods for pedestrians & cyclists for less than the cost of a bus ticket. A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on May 10, 2018 at 6:49pm PDT The Boring Company will offer rides in the tunnel under the Los Angeles , California area “pending final regulatory approvals” in a few months. Elon Musk thanked people who have been involved in the project, and said “Strong support from public, elected officials and regulators is critical to success.” As he often does, Musk answered a few questions about the project on Twitter. He said the company has already started working on a route between New York and Washington, D.C., and that they hope to start work on a route between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2019. Musk explained that one would be a true Hyperloop with “pressurized pods in near vacuum tunnels,” and that passengers on that route would be able to travel faster than if they were on a jetliner. Related: Boring Company confirms plans to use excavated dirt for low-cost housing bricks When one Twitter user requested a stop near Vandenburg, an Air Force base in Santa Barbara County from which SpaceX launches rockets, Musk responded , “A cool thing about the design is that’s easy to incorporate branch loops to serve small to mid-size cities without slowing down the main loop at all.” The Boring Company’s frequently asked questions page says the initial test tunnel is in Hawthorne, California. According to the Los Angeles Times , in April the City Council’s public works committee unanimously approved an environmental review exemption for a 2.7-mile tunnel. The Boring Company Images via The Boring Company

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