How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice

June 26, 2020 by  
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How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice Rachel Ramirez Fri, 06/26/2020 – 00:30 This story originally appeared in Grist;  and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story . “I can’t breathe.” These were among the final words that George Floyd and Eric Garner gasped before their deaths at the hands of white police officers. That plea has become part of the current rallying cry for racial justice and an end to police brutality in the United States. But for Black people living near industrial facilities, the phrase has an additional layer of meaning: a reminder of their disproportionate pollution burden. “While many in power seemed surprised that COVID-19 is killing twice as many Black Americans, those of us in the environmental justice movement know that the health impacts of cumulative and disproportionate levels of pollution in our communities have created underlying health conditions that contribute to our higher COVID-19 mortality rates,” said Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said at a virtual press conference in mid-June. Shepard is part of the National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN) , a national coalition of Black environmental justice groups and grassroots activists founded in 1991. Although the network took a hiatus in 2006 after executive director Damu Smith died , the network just announced that it’s making a comeback against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and renewed calls to fight racial injustice. We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries. The network’s mission sends a clear message: Environmental injustice is not a single issue. Rather, it’s a constellation of issues including discrimination in housing, jobs and healthcare. It’s impossible to untangle Black communities’ current risks from America’s long history of racist policies and practices. Discriminatory policies such as banks’ government-sanctioned refusal to approve home loans and insurance for people in communities of color, also known as redlining, forced Black families into neighborhoods more likely to be exposed to industrial pollution and extreme heat . Now these same communities face a surge in unemployment and poverty rates as a result of the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic, and they also are  disproportionately dying from the novel coronavirus as a result of a lack of health insurance, unequal access to test sites and higher workplace exposure via employment in essential services. As if that weren’t enough, a recent Harvard study also found a link between air pollution and death from COVID-19. Given the systemic conditions that disproportionately expose Black people to the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and other worsening crises, NBEJN members — including the network’s co-chairs, environmental justice pioneers Robert Bullard and Beverly Wright — say they are looking to bring in Black lawyers, engineers, leaders and other experts to join forces to help create an equitable green stimulus package, take on the fossil fuel industry and fight the Trump administration’s seemingly endless orders to weaken environmental protections . “We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries,” said Bullard, an author and professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University. “The NBEJN is about dismantling systemic racism, and we’re talking about turning the dominant paradigm on its head.” Network leaders say COVID-19 recovery legislation could be an opportunity for lawmakers to pass a robust green stimulus package that would focus on environmental justice. Such a green stimulus package, the coalition said, needs to address core issues of systemic racism by, for example, providing green jobs to communities of color. NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America. “Green stimulus packages often only look at protecting the world, but not protecting people like us,” said Wright, executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. “Any stimulus package dealing with transportation to housing or whatever they’re talking about doing will have to include us and need to be viewed with equity and justice lenses.” Even if an equitable green stimulus package makes it through Congress and the White House, there still will be a lot more work to be done. Bullard said that even if the Democratic party wins the presidential election or takes control of the Senate, it will take time to reverse Trump-era environmental policy damages, including the country’s withdrawal from the 2016 Paris Agreement. Even then, he added, policymakers will need to take additional steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions and center frontline communities. And NBEJN leaders say the network will stick around to make sure those steps are taken. “Racism is baked into America’s DNA,” Bullard said. “NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America.” Pull Quote We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries. NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America. Topics COVID-19 Policy & Politics Environmental Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Tverdokhlib Close Authorship

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How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice

How racism manifests in clean energy

June 5, 2020 by  
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How racism manifests in clean energy Sarah Golden Fri, 06/05/2020 – 00:00 As our institutions strain under the uprising in cities across the country, I’ve been struggling to comprehend the depth of racism in America. I understand why these moments of police violence, the senseless destruction of black bodies caught on tape, would spark a fire that rages across this country. I also know that the tinder has been building for generations and is about so much more than this one horrific moment. Every sector plays a part. Including clean energy.  It’s no secret that there are grave inequities in clean energy. In the spirit of this moment, I turned the microscope on my own sector to ask, how does racism manifest in clean energy?  Manifestation 1: ‘I can’t breathe’ “I can’t breathe” refers to more than police violence. Black communities have been struggling to breathe for decades.  “The right to breathe isn’t just related to surviving interactions with police,” said Alexis Cureton, former electric vehicle fellow at GRID Alternatives , an organization that works to bring clean energy jobs and access to low-income communities. “It pertains to surviving and being able to breathe clean air.” Dozens of studies document the racial disparity in environmental impacts, and I’ve linked to a number of those below. To name a few, consider that in America black people: Are on average exposed to 1.54 times more hazardous pollution than white people — regardless of income. Breathe 56 percent more pollution than they create. Are exposed to 50 percent higher rates of particulate pollution than the general population. Are more likely to live near highways, airports, refineries and other sources of hazardous air pollutants. Are disproportionately exposed to toxic air pollution from the fossil fuel industry. The impacts are also real. African Americans have higher rates of lung cancer and asthma , and are more like to have (and die from) heart disease . It’s no coincidence that African Americans are three times more likely to die from coronavirus than white people. To make matters worse, inequities in health care result in black communities paying almost twice as much in premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.  In this way, the story of George Floyd is symbolic of many struggles in the black community.  We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity. “A cop put his knee in the back of his neck and choked him to death, amid his cries for help. You can hear the dude calling for his mom,” said Bartees Cox, director of marketing and communications at Groundswell , an organization that brings community solar to low-income customers. “You look at black people in America and our journey, every opportunity that we’ve had to get ahead has been choked out, fully, over time. Every bit of progress gets choked out.” But here’s the thing: Clean energy technologies exist to reverse this problem. The missing piece is getting them deployed at scale in the communities most affected by dirty energy.  Manifestation 2: Paying more and getting less from energy  More than any other racial group in the United States, African Americans struggle to afford baseline energy needs, a state known as energy insecurity or energy poverty. As a percentage of their income, black households pay upwards of threefold more than white households for energy. They’re also disproportionately affected by utility shut-off policies , leaving them more vulnerable to dangerously hot and cold days.  Why? It’s expensive to be poor. Many solutions that save money in the long run — electric vehicles, rooftop solar, energy efficiency upgrades — require upfront costs or access to capital that exclude many black communities.  Paying more and getting less means black households are often playing catchup. According to Cox, in some places African Americans pay more for energy than for rent.  “We’re not putting people in a situation where they can succeed if they’re spending that much on their energy consumption,” Cox said.  That’s especially true for a community with fewer economic opportunities.  “We have a lack of jobs, we have a lack of access, we have a lack of money in communities,” said Taj Eldridge, senior director of investment at Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator ( LACI ). “Economics are a huge part of it. All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination.” Manifestation 3: Myopic clean energy equity programs  Well-meaning programs and incentives can go only so far if they fail to take a broader view of inequalities.  Take, for instance, a California program that aims to increase access to electric vehicles by providing incentives to install a charging station at your home — provided, of course, that you’re a homeowner. That does little to help African Americans who have been systematically denied homeownership through redlining and lack of access to capital.  “Inherently, that’s racist,” said Cureton, who worked with the program while at GRID Alternatives. “Programs like these aren’t targeted at black people. They’re targeted at people who always lived in California, who always had access to capital. Programs like that don’t help to alleviate the systemic racism that is not only within this country but within this industry.” Cureton says that in order for these programs to work better, it’s essential for those who work in clean energy and equity to be able to talk about the shortcomings of policies without fear of losing funding or negatively impacting the organization.  “This equity push, it looks good and it sounds good,” Cureton said. “But for people of color who are suffering right now, it doesn’t feel good. We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity.” All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination. To be clear, this critique isn’t to marginalize the hard work of GRID Alternatives — or other equity organizations working to support underserved people, such as Greenlining Institute , The Solutions Project and New Energy Nexus . Rather, it’s a reminder that systems of oppression are intertwined and that support needs to flow to those that understand the complexity of the problem.  “I think people get that there is an issue here,” Cox said. “‘Equity’ and ‘intersectionality’ are, like, the foundation buzzwords of the last four years. It’s where the big-money people are moving with their strategies. I think the next step is making sure the money gets to the right people.” Manifestation 4: Lack of representation  Organizations that design policies, programs and products usually are controlled by white people. That lack of diversity around the table leads to a lack of diversity in solutions.  The clean energy sector and companies with climate goals have tremendous power to change this.  Cox, who grew up in Oklahoma, never considered a job in clean energy. His turning point was when professional peers told him about the sector and encouraged him to get involved. That type of proactive engagement is what is needed to change the racial balance.  “The onus is on these companies to do outreach,” Cox said. “Not just in the big cities, not just at Howard and Hampton, take it to Texas Southern. Go to Dillard. Go into the deep south, go into rural areas, recruit at these community colleges. Tell people about the jobs that are available, and push people into them.” Eldridge echos this sentiment, noting that white professionals are often disconnected from the deep bench of talent in the African American community. “There’s not a pipeline issue. There never was. It’s a relationship issue,” Eldridge said. “It amazes me when people say they can’t find people to interview or to have these conversations with, because I see them in the room all the time.” This isn’t altruistic. It’s well documented that companies that embrace diversity perform better and have a happier workforce.  It also isn’t tokenism. Getting the people in the room that understand the black experience is key to finding the policies that untangle the systems of injustice.  “As it relates to shifting power and creating change, your voice can’t be taken seriously if you yourself don’t have an entity that represents you,” Cureton said. “That’s extremely important.” Pull Quote We have to remove the repercussions for constructive criticism around programs that don’t address racial equity. All of the other issues that we see, from health disparities to educational disparities, the root of that is racism and economic discrimination. There’s not a pipeline issue. There never was. It’s a relationship issue. Topics Energy & Climate Equity & Inclusion Featured Column Power Points 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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Gensler upcycles an old warehouse into creative offices in Austin

June 2, 2020 by  
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At the heart of East Austin, an old and uninviting warehouse has been transformed into a creative office building fittingly dubbed UPCycle after its site-sensitive design approach that includes the reuse of the entire building. Gensler led the renovation and updated the space with an additional 16,000 square feet of mezzanine area as well as energy-efficient improvements including new insulation and high-efficiency mechanical systems. The industrial character of the original building has been retained and celebrated as part of an overarching goal to preserve a piece of East Austin history.  Originally built in 1972, the 65,000-square-foot warehouse had originally been used as the former location of the Balcones Recycling Center. Drawing inspiration from the building history, the architects sought to reuse the entire building and integrate reclaimed materials in creative ways. All components found onsite — from the steel structure and metal panel skin to the existing railroad tracks and graffiti art from past exhibitions — were reclaimed or preserved and enhanced. Even the building skin was repurposed and turned inside out to reveal its natural finish. Related: Adobe’s renovated headquarters channels the design giant’s creative energy “By recycling and upcycling 95% of the existing building, approximately 1,830,000 kilograms of embodied carbon dioxide were saved, and the lid of the existing structure significantly lengthened,” Gensler said in a project statement. “This savings amounts to the equivalent of taking nearly 450 cars off the road.” Expanded to 81,711 square feet, UPCycle now serves as a multi-tenant creative office building. In addition to repurposed materials , the building has been updated with new elements, such as butterfly trusses covered in graffiti by local artists and a new roof with clerestory windows to bring more natural light indoors. To pay homage to the site’s direct access to the adjacent rail lines, Gensler created a new entry lounge from a converted boxcar placed on the building’s original railroad tracks and fitted it with seating, WiFi and music. + Gensler Photography by Dror Baldinger via Gensler

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Gensler upcycles an old warehouse into creative offices in Austin

Planning a low-water garden with expert Guy Banner

April 28, 2020 by  
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For those fortunate enough to have some outdoor space, gardening has become a top  pandemic  activity. It gets people outdoors doing something constructive while maintaining social distancing. You might even grow something to eat. But as all eco-conscious people know, gardening requires water. Sometimes a lot of water. For low-water gardening tips, we asked horticulturalist Guy Banner of  Red Butte Garden  in Salt Lake City for some tips. Banner worked as a field botanist for federal agencies like the U.S. Geological Service and the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon before going back home to Utah. He now co-owns  Grand Prismatic Seed , which specializes in hardy organic seeds, and works as the assistant horticulturalist in Red Butte’s Water Conservation Garden. Red Butte is a gorgeous 100-acre botanical garden with display gardens, hiking  trails , walking paths, talks, outdoor concerts, flower shows and lots of educational displays for home gardeners. It’s definitely worth a trip once we can leave our houses again. Inhabitat: Could you tell us a little bit about the history and inspiration behind Red Butte’s Water Conservation Garden? Banner: The  Water Conservation Garden (WCG) had been a long-term goal for the garden as a response to our arid climate and regional projected population growth as well as an opportunity to create a garden space with a different feel and plant palette. Ten years of planning and preparation came before the grand opening in the spring of 2017. The hope was to create a water conservation garden that demonstrated low to no water use through design,  plant selection and gardening techniques without sacrificing high aesthetic value. I believe it has been a success. The WCG hosts plants from similar climates across the globe but there is a special emphasis on housing many examples of the beautiful and well-adapted native flora of the western U.S. Inhabitat: Any tips for people planning a low-water garden at home? Banner: There are many lovely dry shade plants, but the majority of the most colorful and structural low-water plants need full sun and warmth. They are great for sunny south and west facing garden beds.  Rocks , slopes, windbreaks, evergreens and structures can be used to create warmer sheltered spaces for more cold-sensitive plants. Low-water plants tend to need good drainage in the  soil , especially in non-arid climates. You can find out your soil’s drainage by doing a simple DIY soil percolation test, like this one from Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension:  Soil Perc. Test. To improve drainage, plant on a slope, use rock, gravel, sharp sand and coarse organic material to amend heavy clay soils and/or use plants adapted to those conditions. You can also build mounded beds with large rocks, cobble, cinder blocks, etc. inside to give height and good drainage. If you are lucky enough to have a naturally moist and/or cool garden site, ‘low-water’ plants for you can have higher water needs. Draw inspiration from your native upland flora . Those plants will indicate plant types that can thrive in your area without extra water. Newly planted and transplanted plants will have to be watered regularly until their roots can establish. Establishment can take between one and three years, depending on how slow-growing the plant is. Only the most low-water plants can establish with little to no water after initial planting. Rainfall should be considered. Plants that grow from seed or seedlings in your beds will create the best root systems most quickly, because the roots are free to grow to their fullest potential while seeking out the nutrients and moisture in your garden soil. Mulch is a great way to improve soil texture, moderate temperature, reduce weeds and retain moisture. Use well-draining inorganic rock or gravel mulches around very xeric plants that are prone to rot if their stems and crowns are surrounded by excess moisture. The spongy organic material, beneficial bacteria and fungi of healthy living soils help plants to better utilize available water and nutrients. The natural symbiosis of roots with beneficial fungi (mycorrhiza) in upwards of 90% of studied plant families help plant roots access much more of the soil’s water and nutrients than they can on their own. To improve sterile and impoverished soils use healthy compost or beneficial soil life inoculants. Be minimal and cautious with pesticides, toxic materials and repeated heavy tillage. Visit and support your local nurseries, botanical gardens, university extension programs and gardening clubs. They can be excellent resources. Inhabitat: What are the biggest water-related mistakes people make when planting a garden? Banner: One of the biggest mistakes in low-water gardening is to mix plants with high and low water needs in the same irrigation zones. This creates a lot of hand watering or drowned low-water plants. The key is to create ‘hydrozones’ of plants with similar water needs that receive the same irrigation. Another water-related mistake is to not maximize the water that naturally falls on your garden area. Unless you live in a heavy rainfall area, slow, spread and sink the water you receive by integrating passive rainwater harvesting into your landscaping . It can be particularly useful to integrate your rain gutter downspouts, create swales and basins and then hydrozone the plantings based on how much water is retained. Be mindful of rainfall patterns, leaks and potential flooding in your designs. Inhabitat: What have you learned from working at the Water Conservation Garden? Banner: It’s always teaching me new things of course but here are some of the most poignant lessons that I have learned. The amount of water used to establish many of our garden’s low-water plants is more than some of the most xeric or sandy soil adapted plants can handle; they establish better now with the lower water scheduling. The natural slopes of our foothill garden have helped significantly with drainage of our rocky, clay soils. The use of native annuals and summer drought-adapted bulbs in the garden can create a wonderfully lush landscape by taking advantage of natural seasonal moisture. People are very excited and often surprised to see the wide range of possibilities in low water gardening that we display, and it inspires me to continue to make the garden botanically interesting, aesthetic and approachable. Inhabitat: Can you recommend some low-water plants? Banner:  My current favorite low-water plants are Northern Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa var. nieuwlandii), Shasta Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. polyanthum), Long trunked Spanish Dagger (Yucca gloriosa), Palmer’s penstemon (Penstemon palmeri), Smoothstem blazingstar (Mentzelia laevicaulis), Pale stonecrop (Sedum sediforme), Silverleaf Oak (Quercus hypoleucoides), Yellowhorn (Xanthoceras sorbifolium), Texas beargrass (Nolina texana),  Arizona fescue (Festuca arizonica), New Mexico Agave (Agave parryii var. neomexicana), ‘Frazier Park’ Big Berry Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca ‘Frazier Park’), Canyon Liveforever (Dudleya cymosa), Saint John’s Chamomile (Anthemis sancti-johannis) Inhabitat: Anything else our readers should know about water conservation and gardening? Banner: There is a lot to explore in finding the best water- conserving garden for your unique situation. While there are many general guidelines and recommendations you will find special opportunities as you dig deeper in your gardening practice (pun intended). Don’t be afraid to experiment and make some mistakes. Have fun with it! For more information on what to plant for your climate zone, check out this EPA site . + Guy Banner, Red Butte Garden Images via Teresa Bergen

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Clear doesn’t mean clean for Venice’s canals

March 24, 2020 by  
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Images of dolphins cruising Italian ports and swans floating beneath picturesque bridges in Venice’s famous canals are popping up on social media feeds. But clearer  water  doesn’t necessarily mean cleaner. Unfortunately, two weeks of lockdown isn’t enough to reverse centuries of human impact on Venice’s canals. Boat traffic kicking up natural sediment is the main cause of the canals’ usual murkiness. “The low turbidity of the water does not mean cleanliness,” Pierpaolo Campostrini, the managing director for the Consortium for Managing Scientific Research on Venice Lagoon System, told ABC News. “The transparency is due to the absence of sediment resuspension.” Cold water is probably also contributing to the canals’ clarity, as it’s not warm enough for the synthesis of organic compounds from  carbon dioxide . Related: Coronavirus and its impact on carbon emissions Water pollution can be invisible. “ Pollution  can impact how water appears, but perfectly clear water can contain toxic substances,” Kristen Thyng, assistant research professor at Texas A&M University, told Afar. Italy has been on lockdown since March 9, when Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte imposed a national quarantine. At the time of writing, Italy has more than 59,000 confirmed  coronavirus  cases. This is the second-highest national rate after China. Venice is in northern Italy, where factories usually cause air pollution. Because the nationwide lockdown has prompted the temporary closure of many industries, air quality has improved. The European Space Agency has captured clearer skies from its satellites. However, chemical analysis would be necessary to say exactly how much both air and water quality have improved in Italy during the pandemic. Citizens of Venice were still recovering from record high tides last November, which prompted the Italian government to declare a state of emergency. Many shops and hotels  flooded , and St. Mark’s Square, a tourist favorite, was underwater. Unfortunately, most locals aren’t able to appreciate the canals’ current beauty. Lockdown means they can only leave their homes for necessities, work and  health  circumstances. + ABC News Via Afar Image via Gerhard Gellinger

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Clear doesn’t mean clean for Venice’s canals

Wisconsin’s hidden eco-wellness hotspot

March 24, 2020 by  
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Madison,  Wisconsin  is defined by water. It’s only one of two cities in the US built on an isthmus (the other is Seattle), and it has five lakes. The population of just over a quarter million is overwhelmingly young and educated, thanks to the massive University of Wisconsin. Mad City is one of the Midwest’s more progressive places and regularly features on “best of” lists. But you have to be tough to live here. Winter temperatures regularly dive below freezing, while summer temperatures often top 90 degrees. Outdoor activities in Madison Madison’s outdoor recreation revolves around its lakes. If you like kayaking , stand up paddleboarding or water skiing, you’re in luck. This is also a place to try more extreme water sports, such as wakeboarding, kiteboarding and flyboarding (where water can propel you almost 50 feet in the air). Those who are looking for something more contemplative will enjoy a trip to  Olbrich Botanical Garden . The 16 acres look their best in spring and summer, but even in winter you can enjoy orchids blooming in the sun-filled glass Bolz Conservatory. The garden’s 30-foot high Thai pavilion was a gift from the Thai royal family. The red lacquer and gold leaf structure was built in  Thailand , shipped by sea, rail and truck to Madison, then reassembled by Thai artisans without using screws or nails. At the  UW Madison Arboretum , you can meander through woodlands, wetlands, savannas and restored prairies on more than 17 miles of  trails . You can also see rare effigy mounds built more than 1,000 years ago. The arboretum features events like fungi workshops and expert-led nature walks. In the winter, it’s a popular place to snowshoe and cross-country ski. Wellness in Madison The Garver Feed Mill building is the latest wellness star in the Madison scene. After the US  Sugar  Company constructed this brick behemoth in 1906 for beet sugar processing, it became known as the Sugar Castle because of its dramatic arched gothic windows. Later it was a factory for formulating livestock feed, before sitting derelict for a couple of decades. But just last November, it reopened as a spectacularly popular event space, site of the farmers’ market during winter, and home of wellness providers and artisan food makers. The whole building is gorgeous, with lots of exposed brick walls, big windows and chandeliers. For the perfect wellness-focused day at Garver, take a class at  Perennial Yoga , eat a healthy meal at plant-based Surya Café, then visit  Kosa Wellness Spa & Retreat  to relax in the steam room and sauna or to get an Ayurvedic treatment.  “Something society doesn’t afford us is quiet and space,” said owner Shilpa Sankaran, who aspires to provide Madison with just that. “Where do you hear your own voice? That’s where the remedy lives, in our own knowing.” She sources most of her spa products from Wisconsin and has a special interest in supporting women in business. Women in  India  who have escaped sex trafficking manufacture the spa’s robes. I especially liked how they left some of the more attractive graffiti in place on the treatment room walls from the years that squatters filled the building. If art uplifts you, the  Chazen Museum of Art  on the UW campus houses lots of work by famous artists, including Miro, Picasso, and Louise Nevelson, plus interesting installations by UW art faculty. This big  museum  is free and well worth visiting. Dining out in Madison Madison is an easy town for vegetarians and  vegans . The  Green Owl Café , Madison’s first all-veg restaurant, is a cheerful and comfortable hangout spot for bowls, veggie burgers, vegan wings and vegan desserts like lava cake and coconut cream pie.  Surya Cafe , in the Garver Feed Mill, features more adventurous — some might say startling — combinations, such as a curried cauliflower waffle with maple-cumin kale and mango jalapeno sauce. Himal Chuli serves Nepali food, with several veggie and tofu-based options. The roti is so excellent I ordered a second serving.  Ian’s Pizza has several locations and is one of my favorite Madison eateries. You can custom order a gigantic salad with more than 40 mix-in options, and they often have vegan slices. For vegan dessert, don’t miss  Bloom Bake Shop . This bakery has a whole case of vegan cupcakes. Public transit Since Madison is largely a college town, you’ll find lots of public transportation and  bikes . It’s known as an extremely bikable city, so if you like biking, check out Madison  BCycle , the local bike share program. This program is designed for short trips of under an hour. If you want a bike for longer-term use, the  Budget Bicycle Center  rents various kinds of bikes. Metro Transit  is Madison’s bus company, serving the greater Madison area. Eco-wellness lodging The white dome of the Capitol filled my window at the  Madison Concourse Hotel . In addition to this stunning view and a convenient downtown location, the Concourse has been refining its eco measures for a decade. The  hotel uses energy-efficient lighting, offers reusable glass cups instead of plastic in guest rooms and is a member of REAP Food Group, which works on shortening the distance from farm to table. The Concourse’s Ozone laundry system and high-efficiency water heaters save an estimated 400,000 gallons of water per year. For an out-of-town sojourn, the  Holy Wisdom Monastery  in nearby Middleton has private rooms in its retreat house and two additional secluded hermitages.  Holy Wisdom offers the choice of a communal spiritual experience or lots of solitude as you hike trails through its prairies or read in the  library . You can even wear a silence tag if you want to take a silent retreat, and people won’t talk to you. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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The future of building is communities that are all-electric and ultra-efficient

December 19, 2019 by  
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From Utah to Texas to California, these homes are changing the way we think about the built environment.

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Early-career public-sector sustainability professionals reflect on VERGE 19 (Part 1)

December 19, 2019 by  
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Insightful on mobility. Actionable ideas for addressing food waste. Youth activism. What inspired CivicSpark leaders at this year’s conference.

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Sculptural, solar-powered home generates more energy than it uses

October 24, 2019 by  
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In the Texan suburb of Addison just north of Dallas, 5G Studio Collaborative has completed the Winnwood Residence, a contemporary home that blurs the line between the indoors and out. Certified LEED Platinum , the single-family home offsets all its energy use with a 10 kW rooftop solar array and geothermal wells drilled beneath the driveway. Walls of glass, large skylights and outdoor living spaces immerse the residents in the landscape and help bring in natural light and ventilation to reduce the home’s energy demands. Completed in 2016, the Winnwood Residence is a sculptural, single-story home that spreads out across 4,600 square feet to embrace varied landscape views, one of which is a land and water conservation park funded by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the U.S. Department of the Interior; the front third of the client’s property has been designated as an extension to the conservation project across the street. To keep focus on the outdoors, the architects opted for a minimalist yet modern design of “a solid black plaster mass sitting within an enclosed garden.” The interiors are also simple and feature white walls of smooth reflective plaster and minimalist decor. Related: Solar-powered Austin home can save owners nearly $100K in energy costs “The exterior finish is black plaster, upon which climbing Boston Ivy is expected to overtake overtime; the shadowy blackness of the exterior surfaces allows one to truly enjoy light, not shadow, filtering through the trees,” the architects explained in a statement. “The architecture elegantly and quietly achieves its sustainability objectives; proposes a new vocabulary of architecture that is decidedly un-local yet celebrates Texas living and is very much about the landscape as it is about the interior.” The building will gradually blend into the lush landscape, which has been repopulated with native and adaptive species. To further reduce site impact, the architects installed a rainwater collection cistern beneath the driveway to minimize runoff and increase water permeability. Geothermal and solar energy power the energy-positive home. + 5G Studio Collaborative Photography by Adam Mørk via 5G Studio Collaborative

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Which cities are the most sustainable? WalletHub releases Top 100 Greenest US Cities 2019

October 9, 2019 by  
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Comments Off on Which cities are the most sustainable? WalletHub releases Top 100 Greenest US Cities 2019

Ever wonder which American cities are the most eco-friendly? WalletHub recently unveiled its list of 2019’s Greenest Cities in the U.S., after comparing 100 of the country’s most populated cities across 28 underlying indicators of environmental-friendliness and sustainability. Some of the key factors surveyed were greenhouse gas emissions per capita, green job opportunities per capita, smart energy policies and clean initiatives. Interestingly, nine of the top 10 greenest U.S. cities are on the West Coast. WalletHub, renowned as a personal finance website, has long advocated for consumer interests. Green living is a growing public concern, perhaps because sustainability and financial needs are closely intertwined. To find the American cities with the best green programs and eco-conscious consumer habits, WalletHub conducted this study. Related: 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard reveals leading states in clean energy adoption What is green living, though? Green living is a lifestyle that embraces environmental preservation by reducing, reusing and recycling . It contributes to ecological protection and habitat biodiversity while simultaneously conserving natural resources. There is, after all, increasing demand for coordination around land conservation, local agriculture, renewable energy and waste reduction. According to WalletHub, green living boils down to a choice of preserving the planet. This can be achieved via cleaner, more sustainable practices and habits. Green living benefits both the environment and public health , which places greener cities at an advantage. By assessing 28 metrics, including a city’s environmental quality and climate change contributions, transportation and energy sources, lifestyle and eco-friendly behaviors and policies, WalletHub determined the following to be the top 10 greenest cities in the country. 1. San Francisco, California 2. San Diego, California 3. Irvine, California 4. Washington, D.C. 5. San Jose, California 6. Seattle, Washington 7. Fremont, California 8. Sacramento, California 9. Portland, Oregon 10. Oakland, California While WalletHub’s study did not assess all cities in the U.S., it did examine the top 100 largest cities by population. After highlighting the greenest states in the group, WalletHub also called out those at the bottom of the list, citing them as needing improvement. Those that ranked in the bottom as the least green of the most populous American cities are: 91. Virginia Beach, Virginia 92. Jacksonville, Florida 93. Detroit, Michigan 94. Cleveland, Ohio 95. Gilbert, Arizona 96. Mesa, Arizona 97. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky 98. Toledo, Ohio 99. Corpus Christi, Texas 100. Baton Rouge, Lousiana Green living continues to gain momentum. It is hoped that by more people consistently choosing to go green, incessant waste and its associated long-term costs can be reduced, thereby saving money at the household, local, state, national and even international levels. More importantly, it can preserve our planet for years to come. + WalletHub Image via Pexels

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Which cities are the most sustainable? WalletHub releases Top 100 Greenest US Cities 2019

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