North Americas first mass timber hotel opens in Austin

January 6, 2021 by  
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Acclaimed Texan architecture firm Lake | Flato has teamed up with hospitality company Bunkhouse to create Hotel Magdalena , an 89-room establishment that is also the first mass timber hotel constructed in North America. Located on Music Lane in Austin’s popular South Congress neighborhood, Hotel Magdalena takes cues from its surroundings with its landscaping that evokes Barton Springs as well as with programming that celebrates the area’s history and live music. Large windows open up to patios, terraces and balconies, connecting the hotel with views of downtown while allowing natural light and ventilation to flow through the building. Opened in Fall 2020, Hotel Magdalena is Bunkhouse’s latest and largest hotel project to date. The hotel consists of four new buildings assembled in pieces with mass timber construction. Timber is deliberately left exposed in the ceilings and the exterior elevated walkways that link the four buildings. Inspired by the sloping topography of Barton Springs, the hotel sits at varying elevations and features a Ten Eyck Landscape Architects-designed landscape plan with native Texan species such as Bigtooth Maples, Redbuds, Meyer Lemon Trees and Little Gem Magnolia. Related: Hood River’s mixed-use Outpost achieves industrial chic with mass timber The 89 guest rooms and suites comprise a mix of types ranging from top-floor Treehouse Studios that include up to 50 square feet of outdoor space to spacious Sunset Suites that face west with balconies offering 65 square feet of outdoor space. In addition to leafy outdoor walkways and a variety of balconies and terraces that open the interiors to cooling cross-breezes and daylight, the hotel further strengthens its indoor-outdoor connection with its materials palette, from the custom walnut wood built-in beds and inlay desks to the poured concrete floors with exposed aggregate that mimic Texan river rocks. Amenities at Hotel Magdalena include community-driven experiences such as live music and nature walks, a guest-only pool bar next to a 900-square-foot sunken swimming pool , a full-service restaurant and an events space. Rates start at $275 a night. + Lake | Flato Photography by Nick Simonite via Lake | Flato

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North Americas first mass timber hotel opens in Austin

The sustainability year 2020 in review, in haiku

December 29, 2020 by  
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The sustainability year 2020 in review, in haiku Sue Lebeck Tue, 12/29/2020 – 01:00 Editor’s note: Back by popular demand, smart cities consultant Sue Lebeck provides GreenBiz highlights from the past year in verse. You’ll find her haiku from 2019 here . Rise before the Surprise Leaders gather for the first and last time in year of shelter-in-place. Learning on the Job Could ways to flatten coronavirus’ curve help bend climate’s curve too? From Farms to Front Lines Essential workers carry the day, unclear that anybody CARES. BLM joins COVID-19 In this raw moment, we are dually confronted. Here’s how to respond. Climate and Justice make a Great Pair   Not mere Facebook friends, these two spawn recovery, lift communities. Corporates Gain via E, S and G Weave people, purpose and commitment to climate — then watch value rise. At Circularity, Plastics gets Serious Pacts and moonshots are aiming to contain plastics’ value forever. Proof, Imagination and a Kick Great transit — public, active and electric — drives all toward equity. Food Focus Feeds a Flurry Regeneration- revealed opportunity cost: meat’s great land grab! Electrifying Path of “least regret” as wildfire climate destroys forests and sparks fears. The Forests AND the Trees Climate’s urgent need is restored forests! Also those one trillion trees. Carbontech is on the VERGE Carbontech hits the market; removal joins the carbon agenda. New Year’s Resolutions Watch GreenFin grow, help Big Oil shrink and build racial justice for all. Cheers! Topics Corporate Strategy Climate Change COVID-19 Sustainability Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Shutterstock/Protasov AN

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London tree rental service solves a Christmas quandary

December 9, 2020 by  
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People who like to decorate their houses for Christmas often face a tree dilemma: should they buy an artificial, plastic tree or a real, dead one? Now, a new U.K. business saves Londoners from that choice. London Christmas Tree Rental delivers a real, pot-grown tree, lets customers enjoy it for a few weeks, then picks it up in January and takes it back to a farm, where the tree can continue to grow. The tree rental service has enjoyed a roaring success this year. By the first week of December, it was sold out of all four tree sizes, from the three-footer to the six-footer. Related: Amazon’s Christmas trees are hurting the environment It’s a lucrative side business for owners Catherine Loveless and Jonathan Mearns, who co-founded the company in 2018. “It all started when walking the streets of London in January and weaving between the Christmas tree graveyards that Jonathan decided enough was enough,” the company’s website reads. “With 7 million trees going into landfill each year for the sake of 3 weeks of pleasure there must be a better way to do Christmas trees.” Rental prices range from about 40 to 70 British pounds, or about $53 to $93 in U.S. dollars. Add in 10 pounds (about $13) each way for delivery and pickup, plus a 30 pound (about $40) deposit, and the rental tree can cost more than many cut or artificial trees. Still, it is a more sustainable option, plus trees that are well-cared for will result in a deposit refund. Customers also have the option for free tree pick-up and drop-off. Tree rental lets consumers feel good about the sustainability of their choices. While artificial trees may be reused for many years, they have a significant environmental cost. “In the U.S., around 10 million artificial trees are purchased each season,” according to the Nature Conservancy. “Nearly 90 percent of them are shipped across the world from China, resulting in an increase of carbon emissions and resources. And because of the material they are made of, most artificial trees are not recyclable and end up in local landfills .” Real, cut trees are a better environmental choice, as only a fraction of the trees grown at tree farms are cut down each year. Growing real trees doesn’t involve the the intense carbon emissions necessary for producing their faux brethren. But psychologically, many people balk at ending the life of a beautiful tree just so it can stand in a living room for a few weeks. It seems like selfish, flagrant domination over nature. And millions of these trees go to landfill after they spend less than a month adorning living rooms. London Christmas Tree Rental urges customers to name their trees, so that these plants feel more like family. If a customer grows attached to their tree, they can arrange to have the same one again next year — up to a point. At seven feet, the trees are transferred from their pots to retire in a forest . + London Christmas Tree Rental Via Upworthy Image via David Boozer

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House passes Big Cat Public Safety Act

December 9, 2020 by  
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The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a landmark legislation that will see big cats protected from human mistreatment. The Big Cat Public Safety Act (BCPSA) prohibits individuals from owning big cats in their homes or in roadside zoos. The act was passed by 272 votes, compared to 114 members who voted against the legislation. The bill, which was introduced by Michael Quigley and Brian Fitzpatrick in 2012, has been in the pipeline for a long time. Due to public outcry, the legislation has now been passed, prohibiting exploitation of big cats such as lions, leopards, and tigers . “After months of the public loudly and clearly calling for Congress to end private big cat ownership, I am extremely pleased that the House has now passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act,” Quigley said. “Big cats are wild animals that simply do not belong in private homes, backyards, or shoddy roadside zoos.” Related: ‘Tiger King’ drama overshadows abuse of captive tigers in U.S. The success in passing this legislation in the House has been attributed to the exposure of animal exploitation on the Netflix series “Tiger King.” Following the show’s popularity, in April 2020, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released footage showing the abuse that tigers and other big cats suffer at the hands of Joe Exotic, one of the leading personalities in “Tiger King.” The footage of Joe Exotic and other zoo workers routinely abusing big cats lead to public outrage, which resulted in varying levels of discipline for several people featured in the show. Joe Exotic himself is currently in prison for wildlife violations. The case of Joe Exotic’s mistreatment of wildlife is but one among many. Due to such incidences, multiple states have been implementing rules to control human-wildlife interactions. Currently, only five states, Nevada, Alabama, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, have no laws protecting big cats. As such, it has become necessary to have a federally recognized law to protect these animals. Keeping big cats in roadside zoos and homes also poses a public health threat. Since 1990, over 400 dangerous incidences, including 24 deaths, have been reported in 46 states and Washington, D.C. According to HSUS CEO Kitty Block and Sara Admunsen, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the only way to end these incidences is by introducing federal legislation. “But to wipe this problem out for good, we need strong federal laws that will prevent unscrupulous people from forcing wild animals to spend their entire lives in abject misery while creating a public safety nightmare,” they said in a joint statement.  The Big Cat Public Safety Act now moves to the Senate floor for voting. Via VegNews Image via Sherri Burgan

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New York Citys street trees have unique stories to tell

October 12, 2020 by  
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It’s been called a concrete jungle, but New York City is covered in trees. There are almost 700,000 street trees surrounded by the ultra-urban environment of NYC, and each one has its own story. One photographer decided to capture the spontaneous stewardship that occurs with these trees on the streets of New York every day. In a new photographic series, Matthew Jensen hopes to show everyone a little “Tree Love.” Jensen started noticing how the residents of New York care for their street trees as he walked around all five boroughs that make up the city. He began to observe how each tree was a little bit different and how many hands have helped care for each of these trees. Related: Check out Glasir, the tree-shaped urban farming solution Homemade tree guards, hand-lettered signs, decorations, ornaments, bird feeders and trinkets of all kinds can be spotted on the trees as you walk the streets of New York. Every little token is evidence that the residents of New York have taken it upon themselves to give personal care and attention to the hardy trees that share the streets with them. Jensen spent three years photographing the trees and the examples of human care that surround them. He ended up taking thousands of photos, fascinated with the subject and with the way each tree ends up becoming unique and individual thanks to those who live and work around it. “Old growth, self-planted, stunted, scarred, broken, coppiced, blighted, blight-resistant, rare, over-pruned, each tree exhibits time and circumstance in its own way,” Jensen said. “And tree beds are as equally idiosyncratic with homemade tree guards, hand drawn signs, unique plant and flower combinations, decorations and ornaments, benches, birdfeeders, and more often than not, too much garbage .” The final collection, titled Tree Love: Street Trees and Stewardship in NYC, is 75 images of street trees. Each one tells its own amazing story and is a powerful reminder than human beings and nature need each other. Street trees and city dwellers coexist in New York; in a way, they depend on each other. With a little more tree love around the world, everyone can do their part to help heal the planet. + Matthew Jensen Images via Matthew Jensen

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Alternatives to Tree Removal

October 1, 2020 by  
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Homeowners remove trees for many reasons, but there are often … The post Alternatives to Tree Removal appeared first on Earth 911.

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5 cozy getaway cabins that are perfect for fall

September 1, 2020 by  
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Get away from it all and enjoy the beauty of fall in an Airbnb cabin. You can surround yourself in nature while you stay in a tiny cabin, or book a luxurious solar-powered cabin with all the bells and whistles. Airbnb is is a treasure trove full of eco-friendly getaway cabins that let you get off the grid and escape from it all. Eco-cottage in New York This beautiful, modern cottage is surrounded by tall trees and greenery. It has two bedrooms and one bathroom. Both bedrooms have queen-sized beds, and this cottage is full of great amenities. Not only is there Wi-Fi on the property, but there’s also a laptop workstation that is comfy and quiet. This is a single-level home with no stairs, and private parking is available. The spacious kitchen has all the extras: coffee maker, dishwasher and microwave. There’s a beautiful outdoor area with a grill, too. Related: Top fall camping destinations throughout the US This is an owner-built structure in a location that is perfect for getting out and enjoying nature. The cottage is surrounded by trails and breathtaking scenery that honors the beauty of the natural world. Rock Rest eco-cabin in Colorado This cabin in Colorado has a truly unique look because of the stone supports and the multicolored wood planks used to assemble it. The structure has a distinctly modern appearance that is also rustic inside and out. The owners wanted to create a retreat that paid homage to the environment, and they succeeded. The elevated cabin was built with the goal to leave the surrounding nature as undisturbed as possible . Inside, you’ll find stainless steel appliances, open shelving, concrete counters, a tankless water heater and a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment system that provides water for the trees. Other creature comforts include a smart TV, a washer and dryer and a large kitchen decked out with appliances for cooking delicious meals. The eco-cabin has one bathroom and one bedroom. The bedroom features a twin bed elevated above a queen-sized bed. The living room includes a day bed, and the porch also features a twin-sized bed swing, perfect for napping. Solar-powered cabin in Maine Enjoy a private getaway tucked among towering trees and surrounded by the sounds of wilderness in this solar-powered cabin in Maine . This is an off-grid retreat nestled among mountains and lakes. Tuck the kids into a handcrafted bunk bed while you rest on the double bed and enjoy views of the 33 acres of wooded hills that surround this space. There is a separate composting toilet and plenty more eco-friendly perks onsite. Treat yourself to locally roasted, organic coffee beans while you cook in the wood stove. The water is pure mountain water from the onsite well, and all of the electricity is provided by solar energy. The shower room is just a three-minute walk away. Get outdoors to take advantage of the soaking pools, dipping pools, fire circle and hammock — not to mention all those acres of natural beauty. Off-grid luxury cabin in Colorado Step outside and take in views of the incredible Colorado mountains in this off-grid, two-bedroom cabin . The cabin also has two bathrooms and luxury features everywhere you look. There is a separate suite, a laptop workspace, a cozy fireplace and of course Wi-Fi if you aren’t ready to completely unplug. There is a great selection of children’s books and toys, making it ideal for the whole family, plus on-premises parking. Related: A socially distanced vacation in eastern Oregon The Colorado wilderness itself is one of the main features of this eco-cabin. There are breathtaking vistas in all directions and a natural hot spring nearby. Fern Valley eco-cabin in New York This modern tiny cabin was inspired by Swedish architecture in a classic, lean-to style. The cabin may be small, but one whole wall is made up of windows so you are always surrounded by the glory of nature, even when you are indoors. This rugged cabin does not have modern features like running water (from November to April), electricity or Wi-Fi. Here, you can connect deeply with nature and truly live off of the grid. You can enjoy all 12 acres of the private property, including a pond, during your stay. Although it lacks water and electricity, the cabin does have some off-grid amenities, including a coffee maker and an outdoor grill. A queen-sized bed greets you at the end of a long day filled with adventure. Escape this fall With extra care and planning, you can enjoy some rest and relaxation this fall in an eco-cabin surrounded by autumnal beauty. Be sure to check out the advice on travel precautions from the CDC and WHO before taking off for your next socially distant getaway. Images courtesy of Airbnb

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Redwoods, condor sanctuary are damaged in California wildfires

August 28, 2020 by  
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The beloved giants of Big Basin Redwoods State Park have been facing massive wildfires in California. Fortunately, many survived, proving how tough and resilient these trees can be, although there has still been considerable damage. Meanwhile, a condor sanctuary has also been devastated, with experts fearing the loss of some of these critically endangered birds. Big Basin’s redwoods have stood in the Santa Cruz Mountains for more than 1,000 years. In 1902, the area became California’s first state park. The trees are a combination of old-growth and second-growth redwood forest, mixed with oaks, conifer and chaparral. The park is a popular hiking destination with more than 80 miles of trails, multiple waterfalls and good bird-watching opportunities. Related: Arctic wildfires rage through Siberia Early reports of the Santa Cruz Lightning Complex fires claimed the redwood trees were all gone. But a visitor on Tuesday found most trees still intact, though the park’s historic headquarters and other structures had burned in the fires. “But the forest is not gone,” Laura McLendon, conservation director for the Sempervirens Fund, told KQED . “It will regrow. Every old growth redwood I’ve ever seen, in Big Basin and other parks, has fire scars on them. They’ve been through multiple fires, possibly worse than this.” Scientists have done some interesting studies on redwoods, including one concluding that redwoods might be benefiting from climate change . A warming climate means less fog in northern California, which allows redwoods more sunshine and therefore more photosynthesis. Researchers have also looked into cloning giant redwoods, which could save the species if they burn in future fires. A sanctuary for endangered condors in Big Sur also suffered from the wildfires. Kelly Sorenson, executive director of Ventana Wildlife Society, which operates the sanctuary, watched in horror as fire took out a remote camera trained on a condor chick in a nest. Sorenson saw the chick’s parents fly away. “We were horrified. It was hard to watch. We still don’t know if the chick survived, or how well the free-flying birds have done,” Sorenson told the San Jose Mercury News. “I’m concerned we may have lost some condors. Any loss is a setback. I’m trying to keep the faith and keep hopeful.” The fate of at least four other wild condors who live in the sanctuary is also still unknown. Via CleanTechnica , EcoWatch and KQED Image via Anita Ritenour

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The daily life of a tree farmer with One Tree Planted

August 21, 2020 by  
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Trees make the world a better place for humans by providing shade, sequestering CO2 , intercepting airborne particles, aiding respiratory health and adding great beauty to this planet we call home. Because trees do so much for us, planting more of them is an eco-strategy touted by many environmental organizations. But what’s it really like spending your workday growing, planting and caring for trees? To find out, we talked to a Zach Clark-Lee, a professional tree farmer who works with the environmental charity One Tree Planted. Founded in 2014, One Tree Planted works on reforestation projects in North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Australia. Some of its goals are to restore forests after natural disasters, create jobs and enhance biodiversity . The organization figures that it costs approximately $1 to grow and plant a tree, from land prep to maintaining and monitoring the planted tree. So if you have a dollar, you can sponsor a tree through One Tree Planted’s website. Or learn more about planting some trees yourself. Related: Nonprofit plants 80,000 trees in Kenya and Rwanda Here’s what Clark-Lee had to say about working with One Tree Planted. Inhabitat: What and where is your job, and how did you become affiliated with One Tree Planted? Clark-Lee: I work for the Colorado State Forest Service Seedling Nursery in Fort Collins, Colorado as a tree farmer . I took a tour of the nursery while in school, and I immediately fell in love with their mission and passion. I started as a volunteer in 2014 for about 4-5 weeks and then was offered a seasonal position. One year later, I started training to become the container production supervisor. Now, this is not the only hat that I wear. I’m the volunteer coordinator for the nursery, a licensed drone flier, tree planter and tour guide. Giving tours is how I became affiliated with One Tree Planted. I connected with their mission and values right away and then started growing trees for their vast projects. I’ve gotten a significant number of trees in the ground by working with One Tree Planted and have connected with some fantastic people along the way. Inhabitat: What was your motivation behind getting involved in the industry? Clark-Lee: To be completely honest, my motivation at first was completely selfish. I just wanted to be able to work outside. The more I learned during my hands-on experience, the more I realized how important my work and the work of the nursery was. My motivation adapted quickly. While I still love the fact that I get to work outside, I’m driven by a purpose, a want and a need to make our world a better place. Ultimately, I want to ensure my kids and future generations all over the world have a thriving planet to call home. Inhabitat: How many trees do you cultivate yearly? Clark-Lee: We sell roughly 500,000 native trees , perennials, shrubs and grasses every year. These plants have so many different applications such as going to post-fire/flood affected areas, building habitats, erosion control, creating living snow fences and windbreaks and more. Inhabitat: What’s a typical day like for you? Clark-Lee: I arrive at 6:45 in the morning and get our crew rolling for the day. We may be seeding, transplanting, weeding or getting orders ready for distribution. Every day that I’m on the farm, I get to nurture our plants to help others and Mother Nature. The days are long, and sometimes more challenging than others, but I experience a constant rewarding feeling from my work. A feeling that makes me want to get up and do it again day after day. Home is an interesting concept for me. The nursery is really my second residence, and after a long day on the 130-acre farm, I get to go to my  actual  home and spend time with my family. Inhabitat: What happens after you’ve grown the trees, and where do they go? Clark-Lee: We grow and sell trees for many different reasons. Some of our plants are going to areas that may have been impacted by devastating fires or floods . Some may be for habitat rehabilitation and animal corridors that house birds, lions, bobcats, pollinators and more. We also have specific projects for a number of different conservation efforts, like helping reservations restore their land or helping farmers/landowners with windbreaks or living snow fences to better manage their properties. Inhabitat: Do you plant trees yourself? Why? Clark-Lee: Yes, we plant the trees ourselves, mainly to ensure the success, health and beauty of the tree planting. We want our plants to help Colorado and surrounding states be as healthy and prosperous as we all know they can be. We also plant species on our property for seed increase, when seed may be hard to get your hands on. Inhabitat: Where have you planted trees? Clark-Lee: I have started my own plantings on the “High Park” burn scar, just outside of Fort Collins. I saw this site and realized that not many people were planting there. So, I took it upon myself to change that. With the help of One Tree Planted, I was able to purchase the trees from the nursery and get started. Planting is a passion of mine, and I cannot wait for the pandemic to end so that I can return to the forest with my volunteers. Inhabitat: What wild animals have you seen in the field? Clark-Lee: I have seen amazing wildlife , like mountain lions, bobcats, eagles, hawks and owls. Inhabitat: What do you like the most about working in the industry? Clark-Lee: What I like most about working in the industry is the like-minded people I have the opportunity to connect with. Volunteers are truly a different type of breed — an amazing one! They are happy to get out in the hot sun and traverse all kinds of terrain just to put trees in the ground. Volunteers don’t do it for the money, they do it because they are passionate about the cause and want to help. Inhabitat: How long have you done this work, and how long do you plan to do it? Clark-Lee: I have been doing this work for almost 7 years now, and I don’t think I could be any happier doing anything else. I have been able to grow and plant trees for the world’s health and help others find their path in this industry. Inhabitat: What else should readers know about your work? Clark-Lee: Passion is the ultimate driver for my work. If you’re looking for ways to help fight climate change , or get involved in your own community, you can start with planting trees. Get out and volunteer for an hour or two, or 10 hours, or a whole week. Do it until passion slaps you across the face. You might discover something in you that you never knew you had. Inhabitat: What are your hopes for the future of forests, and how does your work contribute to that? Clark-Lee: I hope that I can pass my torch to the future generations with a smile and know that we are in safe hands. I hope that my passion rubs off on people from all walks of life. I want my work to instill hope in others. Trees are the answer, and don’t let anyone forget it. See professional tree planters in action in this video from One Tree Planted. + One Tree Planted Images via Jplenio , George Bakos and Siggy Nowak

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The daily life of a tree farmer with One Tree Planted

Investors say agroforestry isn’t just climate friendly — it’s profitable

August 10, 2020 by  
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Investors say agroforestry isn’t just climate friendly — it’s profitable Stephanie Hanes Mon, 08/10/2020 – 00:15 This story originally appeared in Mongabay and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story. In the latter part of 2016, Ethan Steinberg and two of his friends planned a driving tour across the United States to interview farmers. Their goal was to solve a riddle that had been bothering each of them for some time. Why was it, they wondered, that American agriculture basically ignored trees? This was no esoteric inquiry. According to a growing body of scientific research, incorporating trees into farmland benefits everything from soil health to crop production to the climate. Steinberg and his friends, Jeremy Kaufman and Harrison Greene, also suspected it might yield something else: money. “We had noticed there was a lot of discussion and movement of capital into holistic grazing, no till, cover cropping,” Steinberg recalls, referencing some land- and climate-friendly agricultural practices that have been garnering environmental and business attention recently. “We thought, what about trees? That’s when a lightbulb went off.” The trio created Propagate Ventures , a company that offers farmers software-based economic analysis, on-the-ground project management and investor financing to help add trees and tree crops to agricultural models. One of Propagate’s key goals, Steinberg explained, was to get capital from interested investors to the farmers who need it — something he saw as a longtime barrier to such tree-based agriculture. Propagate quickly started attracting attention. Over the past two years, the group, based in New York and Colorado, has expanded into eight states, primarily in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. It is working with 20 farms. In late May, it announced that it had received $1.5 million in seed funding from Boston-based Neglected Climate Opportunities, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust. Fruit nut alley cropping in New York. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Propagate Ventures Close Authorship “My hope is that they can help farmers diversify their production systems and sequester carbon,” says Eric Smith, investment officer for the trust. “In a perfect world, we’d have 10 to 20 percent of U.S. land production in agroforestry.” For the past few years, private sector interest in “sustainable” and “climate-friendly” efforts has skyrocketed. Haim Israel, Bank of America’s head of thematic investment, suggested at the World Economic Forum earlier this year that the climate solutions market could double from $1 trillion today to $2 trillion by 2025. Flows to sustainable funds in the U.S. have been increasing dramatically, setting records even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the financial services firm Morningstar. While agriculture investment is only a small subset of these numbers, there are signs that investments in “regenerative agriculture,” practices that improve rather degrade than the earth, are also increasing rapidly. In a 2019 report , the Croatan Institute, a research institute based in Durham, North Carolina, found some $47.5 billion worth of investment assets in the U.S. with regenerative agriculture criteria. “The capital landscape in the U.S. and globally is really shifting,” says David LeZaks, senior fellow at the Croatan Institute. “People are beginning to ask more questions about how their money is working for them as it relates to financial returns, or how it might be working against them in the creation of extractive economies, climate change or labor issues.” Agroforestry , the ancient practice of incorporating trees into farming, is just one subset of regenerative agriculture, which itself is a subset of the much larger ESG, or Environmental, Social and Governance, investment world. But according to Smith and Steinberg, along with a small but growing number of financiers, entrepreneurs and company executives, it is one particularly ripe for investment. Although relatively rare in the U.S., agroforestry is a widespread agricultural practice across the globe. Project Drawdown, a climate change mitigation think tank that ranks climate solutions, estimates that some 1.6 billion acres of land are in agroforestry systems; other groups put the number even higher. And the estimates for returns on those systems are also significant, according to proponents. Ernst Götsch, a leader in the regenerative agriculture world, estimates that agroforestry systems can create eight times more profit than conventional agriculture. Harry Assenmacher, founder of the German company Forest Finance, which connects investors to sustainable forestry and agroforestry projects, said in a 2019 interview that he expects between 4 percent and 7 percent return on investments at least; his company already had paid out $7.5 million in gains to investors, with more income expected to be generated later. This has led to a wide variety of for-profit interest in agroforestry. There are small startups, such as Propagate, and small farmers, such as Martin Anderton and Jono Neiger, who raise chickens alongside new chestnut trees on a swath of land in western Massachusetts. In Mexico, Ronnie Cummins, co-founder and international director of the Organic Consumers Association, is courting investors for funds to support a new agave agroforestry project. Small coffee companies, such as Dean’s Beans , are using the farming method, as are larger farms, such as former U.S. vice president Al Gore’s Caney Fork Farms. Some of the largest chocolate companies in the world are investing in agroforestry. “We are indeed seeing a growing interest from the private sector,” says Dietmar Stoian, lead scientist for value chains, private sector engagement and investments with the research group World Agroforestry (ICRAF). “And for some of them, the idea of agroforestry is quite new.” Part of this, he and others say, is growing awareness about agroforestry’s climate benefits. Gains for the climate, too According to Project Drawdown, agroforestry practices are some of the best natural methods to pull carbon out of the air. The group ranked silvopasture , a method that incorporates trees and livestock together, as the ninth most impactful climate change solution in the world, above rooftop solar power, electric vehicles and geothermal energy. If farmers increased silvopasture acreage from 1.36 billion acres to 1.9 billion acres by 2050, Drawdown estimated carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced over those 30 years by up to 42 gigatons — more than enough to offset all carbon dioxide emitted by humans globally in 2015, according to NOAA  — and could return $206 billion to $273 billion on investment. Part of the reason that agroforestry practices are so climate friendly (systems without livestock, or “normal” agroforestry such as shade grown coffee, for example, are also estimated by Drawdown to return well on investment, while sequestering 4.45 tons of carbon per hectare per year) is because of what they replace. Photo of silvopasture system by Sid Brantley. Image via U.S.  National Agroforestry Center . Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Sid Brantley/U.S. National Agroforestry Center Close Authorship Traditional livestock farming, for instance, is carbon intensive. Trees are cut down for pasture, fossil fuels are used as fertilizer for feed, and that feed is transported across borders, and sometimes the world, using even more fossil fuels. Livestock raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), produce more methane than cows that graze on grass. A silvopasture system, on the other hand, involves planting trees in pastures — or at least not cutting them down. Farmers rotate livestock from place to place, allowing soil to hold onto more carbon. There are similar benefits to other types of agroforestry practices. Forest farming, for instance, involves growing a variety of crops under a forest canopy — a process that can improve biodiversity and soil quality, and also support the root systems and carbon sequestration potential of farms. A changing debate Etelle Higonnet, senior campaign director at campaign group Mighty Earth, says a growing number of chocolate companies have expressed interest in incorporating agroforestry practices — a marked shift from when she first started advocating for that approach. “When we first started talking to chocolate companies and traders about agroforestry, pretty much everybody thought I was a nutter,” she says. “But fast forward three years on and pretty much every major chocolate company and cocoa trader is developing an agroforestry plan.” What that means on the ground, though, can vary widely, she says. Most of the time a company’s sustainability department is pushing for agroforestry investment, not the C-suite. Some companies have committed to sourcing 100 percent of their cacao from agroforestry systems. Others are content with 5 percent of their cacao coming from farms that use agroforestry. In a perfect world, we’d have 10 to 20 percent of U.S. land production in agroforestry. What a company considers “agroforestry” also can be squishy, she points out — a situation that makes her and other climate advocates worry about companies using the term to “greenwash,” or essentially pretend to be environmentally friendly without making substantive change. “What is agroforestry?” says Simon Konig, executive director of Climate Focus North America. “There is no clear definition. There’s an academic, philosophical definition, but there’s not a practical definition, nothing that says, ‘It includes this many species.’ Basically, agroforestry is anything you want it to be, and anything you want to write on your brochure.” He says he has seen cases in South America where people have worked to transform degraded cattle ranches into cocoa plantations. They have planted banana trees alongside cocoa, which needs shade when young. But when the cocoa is five years old and requires more sun, the farmers take out the bananas. “They say, ‘it’s agroforestry,’” Konig says. “So there are misunderstandings — there are different objectives and standards.” He has been working to produce a practical agroforestry guide for cocoa and chocolate companies. One of the guide’s main takeaways, he says, is that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to agroforestry. It depends on climate, objectives, markets and all sorts of other variables. This is one of the reasons that agroforestry has been slow to gain investor attention, says LeZaks of the Croatan Institute. “There really aren’t the technical resources — the infrastructure, the products — that work to support an agroforestry sector at the moment,” LeZaks says. While agroforestry is seen as having significant potential for the carbon offset market, its variability makes it a more complicated agricultural investment. Another challenge to agroforestry investment is time. Tree crops take years to produce nuts, berries or timber. This can be a barrier for farmers, who often do not have extra capital to tie up for years. It also can turn off investors. “People are bogged down by business as usual,” says Stoian from World Agroforestry. “They have to report to shareholders. Give regular reports. It’s almost contradictory to the long-term nature of agroforestry.” This is where Steinberg and Propagate Ventures come in. The first part of the company’s work is to fully analyze a farmer’s operation, Steinberg says. It evaluates business goals, uses geographic information system (GIS) components to map out land, and determines the trees most appropriate for the particular agricultural system. With software analytics, Propagate predicts long-term cost-to-revenue and yields, key information for both farmers and possible private investors. After the analysis phase, Propagate helps implement the agroforestry system. It also works to connect third-party investors with farmers, using a revenue-sharing model in which the investor takes a percentage of the profit from harvested tree crops and timber. Additionally, Propagate works to arrange commercial contracts with buyers who are interested in adding agroforestry-sourced products to their supply chains. “Here’s an opportunity to work with farmers to increase profitability by incorporating tree crops into their operations in a way that’s context specific,” Steinberg says. “And it also starts addressing the ecological challenge that we face in agriculture and beyond.” This report is part of Mongabay’s ongoing coverage of trends in global agroforestry. View the full series here . Pull Quote In a perfect world, we’d have 10 to 20 percent of U.S. land production in agroforestry. Topics Food & Agriculture Forestry Forestry Reforestation Regenerative Agriculture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of National Agroforestry Center Close Authorship

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Investors say agroforestry isn’t just climate friendly — it’s profitable

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