This wallet can tell you about its carbon impact

February 18, 2021 by  
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This wallet can tell you about its carbon impact Heather Clancy Thu, 02/18/2021 – 01:00 For more essays by Heather Clancy, sign up for VERGE Weekly , one of our free newsletters. In early January, I covered personal care products company Aveda’s project to trace and verify the provenance of its vanilla supply using blockchain — and to allow consumers to peek into that information by later this year. It’s not the only consumer brand dreaming about that sort of connection or looking to digital technology as the answer.  Fashion brand Covalent, created to showcase the potential of a biomaterial called AirCarbon made by biotech firm Newlight Technologies, has started communicating with its customers in a similar way. It’s using blockchain software from IBM to track and disclose carbon impact data related to the production of its products, marketed as carbon-negative. Covalent’s metric is called Carbon Date, a 12-digit number stamped on the roughly three dozen SKUs in its product catalog — items ranging from wallets to clutches to smartphone sleeves to tote bags. Consumers can see the data by visiting the Covalent website and entering their unique code. (The test drive at the link shows you the sort of information that is shared.) The Carbon Date is verified with footprint information from carbon accounting firm Carbon Trust, which created a cradle-to-cradle analysis of AirCarbon after an assessment in 2020.  Newlight CEO Mark Herrema told me his company created the Carbon Date concept to appeal to consumers seeking to dig deeper into the environmental claims being made by consumer products brands. “We had this epiphany that GHG emissions seem like such a vague issue … It was about turning this into something tangible,” he says. The material used to create the products, AirCarbon, is made through a renewable energy-powered anaerobic production process in which microorganisms digest air, saltwater and captured greenhouse gases to create a bioderived polymer. According to Newlight, for every one kilogram of AirCarbon produced in this manner, 88 kilograms of CO2 equivalent are sequestered. Hence, Covalent’s ability to make a carbon-negative claim.  Right now, this is a pretty niche brand: The only place you can buy the Covalent items is on the company’s e-commerce site, and at $480 for a tote bag, they’re obviously not meant for the average consumer.  But Debbie Kestin-Schildkraut, marketing and alliances lead for IBM AI applications and the tech firm’s global blockchain ecosystem, says the importance of proving environmental claims is growing. “We are seeing in every study that we do that more and more consumers are willing to change their shopping habits … Blockchain can help build involvement,” she said. IBM’s blockchain technology is being used in some pretty compelling ways, including to track scallop fishing and offer a premium price to certain boats that fish more sustainably than others; and for food safety applications, such as the ones being deployed by Walmart . Recycler Plastic Bank is also using IBM blockchain services to verify its claims . (The same integrator that wrote that application helped Covalent with the Carbon Date project.) To be clear, the life-cycle analysis used for the Carbon Data calculation includes just raw material extraction, transport of raw materials and manufacturing. It doesn’t include the e-commerce cycle, nor does it include end-of-life considerations that are part of circular economy assessments. AirCarbon is billed a “natural, biologically degradable material” similar to wood. If it winds up in the ocean, it can be eaten by microorganisms — much like a banana peel, according to the company’s FAQ. Is this all a publicity stunt? The skeptic in me says yes but I love the creativity and you can’t argue with the need for transparency initiatives that include the consumer. In this way, the Carbon Date initiative echoes similar moves to label food with their carbon impact that have been embraced by the likes of Unilever, Chipotle and Panera Breads. The challenge will be finding an approach that doesn’t require a translation guide for every single consumer production category. Topics Carbon Removal Consumer Products Zero Emissions Blockchain Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Every Covalent product comes with a Carbon Date to help educate consumers about the impact of its production. Courtesy of Covalent

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This wallet can tell you about its carbon impact

The world-changing potential of STEAM-powered youth

February 11, 2021 by  
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The world-changing potential of STEAM-powered youth Shana Rappaport Thu, 02/11/2021 – 00:01 For more essays and articles by Shana Rapport, sign up for VERGE Weekly , one of our free newsletters. The last time I profiled a young technologist working to change the world, she went on to be honored as Time Magazine’s first Kid of the Year . Just sayin’ — we know how to spot a rising star. On that note, meet Danielle Boyer, who promises to be no exception. An Indigenous educator, inventor, author and environmental activist, Boyer has, at age 20, already accomplished more than most adults to increase diversity, accessibility and affordability in the STEAM education space — science, technology, engineering, art and math.  If you care about accelerating an equitable clean economy, then you need to care about STEAM — specifically, the woeful underrepresentation of women and people of color working in these industries, and the disparate access to quality STEAM education that precedes it. Research shows that having a diverse workforce not only drives innovation and market growth , but also underscores the significant risks of perpetuating inequities when people of color are left out of creating the products and services we all use.  If we are to leverage the full potential of science and technology to address our most pressing global challenges, the people developing these solutions must represent society as a whole. Image Credit: Drawn by Danielle Boyer, Founder and CEO of STEAM Connection That’s why Boyer is working to solve this problem by getting to the root — ensuring that young people of color, particularly girls and those in Indigenous communities, have access to quality STEAM education. I caught up with her recently to talk about technology innovation and environmental education. The following conversation has been edited for clarity and length. Shana Rappaport: Your work is rooted in the belief that ensuring equitable access to environmental education and engineering opportunities is a social and environmental imperative. Why is that? Danielle Boyer: I believe that every child has the potential to be an Earth Innovator — someone who uses their unique talents, interests and skills to benefit our Earth. Giving kids skills in technology, engineering and science to use in their lives as innovators, activists and changemakers is so important. Us youth are the ones who are being affected the most by climate change, and we need, as I say, all of our superpowers to fight it. Each of our superpowers are different and can contribute to positive change, but we must be taught how to use them.  Unfortunately, not every child has the opportunity to discover their superpower, because they don’t have access to learning technical skills — skills that will not only transform their future, but the future of our Earth, too. Underserved communities are isolated from learning these important skills, leaving these kids at a huge disadvantage.  I’ve centered my mission around providing resources to these kids with an emphasis on youth of color and girls, especially in Indigenous communities, like my own. I think that we all deserve to learn what our superpowers are and to be given the opportunity to use them. Rappaport: Talk a little bit about the organization that you founded, STEAM Connection , and how initiatives such as your flagship program, Every Kid Gets a Robot, are designed to fulfill your mission. Boyer: I founded the STEAM Connection in January 2019, which wasn’t that long ago. Our work brings accessible, affordable and diverse STEAM education to children all around the world, and it has been such a cool journey. I work with a team of all minorities — we’re all students in STEAM and we work to bring things like robotics, classes and more to youth.  One of my favorite projects is called Every Kid Gets a Robot , which is a robot that I invented — it costs less than $20, is made out of biodegradable and recycled materials and I send it to kids for free in 12 countries, which is insane. The robot has been to more places than I have. I’ve used it to teach kids skills on everything from electrical engineering to computer science to mechanical engineering. I absolutely love the robots.  Each of our superpowers are different and can contribute to positive change, but we must be taught how to use them. All of these initiatives matter a lot to me, because I’m able to use them to supplement the environmental and STEAM classes that I teach. It’s been so much fun, because I’ve been able to reach tens of thousands of kids now, along with the 35 youth robotics teams that I mentor.  One of my most recent initiatives is called Hands-On Techie Talks — it’s a podcast that I started with my 13-year-old mentee, Vinaya Gunasekar, which is crazy — she’s 13! We started a podcast for kids to bring resources for environmental innovation in a hands-on way to kids during the pandemic, and it has been so much fun. Rappaport: What are your impressions of how Gen Z views the role of technology innovation in accelerating solutions to environmental problems? Boyer: This is a really interesting question — because honestly, when I was 10 years old and got started, I had never used a computer before. Things have changed so much since I was a young kid.  Technology now drives everything that Gen Z does. But, I often think that many young kids don’t necessarily see environmental activists as designers, programmers and scientists. Many of them see activists as media figures who lead protests — and while that certainly is an aspect of it, I think that it puts them off because it may not suit their interests, or they may not see environmental role models who look like them.  Showing kids that they can use their skills right now affects how they see themselves and their potential impact, and everyone needs to play an active role in our Earth. We need people to design robots that clean up oil spills. I believe in doing more than just advocating for a solution, but also being an active part of creating ones, too.  For me, that looks like education that creates well-informed innovators with an emphasis on robotics — because, like I encourage my students to do, I’m using my own unique skillsets to do what I can to benefit our Earth. And I’m close to their age, too. Rappaport: What kind of support can the private sector provide to you, and to Indigenous communities, either as corporate partners or as intergenerational allies? Boyer: I’m always excited to answer this question, because businesses hold the key to so much change. They’re able to solve so many problems that we see in our communities, and they have so much potential for impact — no matter the size of the company.  I don’t think you necessarily need to have an environmental activism program or initiative at your organization to make important change. I believe that people should start with supporting young changemakers in their own communities — and, on theme with our discussion, to use their own skills. For example, are you a financial adviser? Use your skills to help a young person who’s trying to start their nonprofit. Are you in marketing? Help someone who is creating an online platform and needs to get their platform out there.  To find these youth, I suggest getting involved in nonprofits that cater to students, especially ones engaged in Indigenous issues. We Indigenous peoples take care of 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity in rainforests, and in community lands we store at least 24 percent of above-ground carbon in the world’s tropical rainforests. A lot of people don’t know that. I recommend checking out organizations such as the American Indian Science and Engineering Society to see how you can get involved and be engaged as a mentor, a role model and a leader. Image Credit: Drawn by Danielle Boyer, Founder and CEO of STEAM Connection Pull Quote Each of our superpowers are different and can contribute to positive change, but we must be taught how to use them. Topics Social Justice Youth Indigenous People Environmental Justice GreenBiz 21 Featured Column On the VERGE 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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Stockholm offices repurposed into apartments with green roof

February 9, 2021 by  
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When it comes to sustainability,  reusing  something that already exists is usually better than creating something new. The same goes for architecture, a fact that a local Stockholm firm exemplified with its newly unveiled project, which turned a 1990s office building into a series of apartments with a green roof. Dubbed “Vintertullstorget,” the project was able to preserve the existing concrete  structure rather than knocking it down and starting from scratch, reducing the need for excessive construction materials and labor. Instead, they chose to remodel the building and add three new stories, a first-level grocery store and a parking garage meant for both cars and bicycles. Related: A disused factory becomes an office with a landscaped bamboo roof terrace The result was a transformed building with 77 new apartments. The green roof combines wood, grass and plants to create a hidden oasis for residents. Inside, the main lobby hallway highlights black and white tiles and ample lighting with glass entrance doors. Individual apartments feature a shared portion of the wrap-around outdoor balcony as well as spacious, dark  marble  bathrooms, massive windows and a full kitchen. To give residents a better view, the balconies face a green courtyard. The exterior is painted in neutral shades of beige and dark gray, though the unique shape of the cascading  terraces  and windows helps give it a contemporary look. According to the architects, they responded to challenges from the recent coronavirus pandemic by allowing future residents to influence designers with custom features for individual apartments.  The project also  recycled  existing elements of the building. Designers found ways to disassemble and reuse marble from the tiles, iron from the railings, glass from the doors and lighting fixtures in multiple applications throughout construction. Apart from the repurposed character of the project, however, the sustainability aspect is most apparent in the building’s green roof; it works as an outdoor space, but also as a rainwater buffer for the building.  + Urban Couture Arkitekter Photography by Johan Fowelin

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Construction of Europes largest vertical farm is underway

January 26, 2021 by  
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The first phase of construction on the new Nordic Harvest vertical farm has been completed after just 6 months of work. Once finished, the facility will become Europe’s largest vertical farm at 14 stories high in a 7,000-square-meter facility at Copenhagen Markets in Denmark. Featuring proprietary technologies from YesHealth Group, a company that operates vertical farms across Asia and Europe, the Nordic Harvest farm will highlight robotics, hydroponics and more than 20,000 LED lights. The vertical farm will also feature smart software for processing over 5,000 individual data points that are all integrated with Nordic Harvest’s design of process flow and packaging. Related: Design experiment examines safety of food grown in urban vertical gardens The project, which began construction in April 2020, comes from a partnership between YesHealth Group and Nordic Harvest. Production is set to begin within the first quarter of 2021, with profits projected within the first year. Financial projections are based on a scale-up model, so the vertical farm will expand from a 200-metric-ton annual capacity in the first quarter of 2021 to a 1,000-metric-ton annual capacity by the fourth quarter of the same year. Its success will make it a model of feasibility for the growing vertical agricultural industry. Combining technology that the company has developed over the past decade in-house, the new vertical farm will now allow YesHealth Group to harness real-world data from the unique climate and environment in Copenhagen to improve speed and efficiency. “This is a crucial step of our expansion into Europe, and is in-line with our global expansion plan, which we have carefully mapped out for the coming years,” said Jesper Hansen, CCO of YesHealth Group. “YesHealth Group has industry leading technology and operational know-how, and we’re selecting more regional partners with local market expertise like Nordic Harvest.” The project is an important step for the potential construction of more vertical farms across Europe and Asia, as well as serving as a source of inspiration for sustainable systems that can produce safe, high-quality food with less resources. + YesHealth Group Photography by Jesper Palermo via YesHealth Group

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Designers selected for new Shenzhen Natural History Museum project

January 25, 2021 by  
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B+H Architects, 3XN Architects and Zhubo Design have been selected to design the new Shenzhen Natural History Museum. The team beat out over 70 proposals from around the world in an international competition. For the bidding state, 15 teams were selected, representing 18 different countries from throughout North America, Asia and Europe. China’s new Shenzhen Natural History Museum will be the first large-scale, comprehensive natural museum in Southern China and is set to become one of Shenzhen’s “Ten Cultural Facilities of the New Era” once complete. The site is located next to Yanzi Lake in Shenhen’s Pingshan District, a picturesque spot for a world-class natural science museum. The museum will be dedicated to advocating for science in the area, interpreting laws of natural evolution and showcasing the region’s geography and ecology in a global perspective. Related: Fram Museum extension is dedicated to environmental education B+H Architects, 3XN and Zhubo Design’s winning design scheme, called Delta, imagines a 42,000-square-meter facility that rises from the river delta with an accessible green rooftop and an adjoining public park. The park and green roof are meant to provide a welcoming invitation to both residents and visitors while highlighting the museum’s organic geometries. “This building captures the unique atmosphere of a riverfront site and finds the timeless property of water as a concept,” said Yvonne Farrell, Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate and contest judge. “The connection between function, site, concept, structure, material and space is very clear.” Each turn of the structure helps frame a distinct view over the park and nearby hills from viewing terraces along the roof, mimicking a river stream finding its shape in balance with the land. The museum will maximize access to the public park network and lush green areas, allowing residents and visitors to connect with nature and stay active through activities like early morning jogs and evening strolls. The pathways lead guests into a cave-like passageway that connects to the museum lobby, surrounded by multiple cafes and other public areas to centralize the building. + 3XN Architects + B+H Architects + Zhubo Design Images via 3XN Architects

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How My Green Lab is cleaning up R&D

January 19, 2021 by  
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How My Green Lab is cleaning up R&D Elsa Wenzel Tue, 01/19/2021 – 00:30 Solutions to the world’s biggest problems, including climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, are studied in research laboratories across the globe. But as sterile as those labs may appear, they have a dirty secret: immense carbon footprints. Labs burn through five to 10 times more energy per square foot than offices, an impact that may be magnified tenfold for clean rooms and other specialized facilities. For instance, 44 percent of the energy use of Harvard University is derived from its laboratories, which take up less than a quarter of campus space. Labs also send massive amounts of water down the drain and discard possibly billions of pounds of single-use plastics every year. A unifying force is needed that creates standards and fosters a space for strategies and best practices, according to James Connelly. That’s what he wants to deliver as the new CEO of My Green Lab, which works with life sciences leaders including AstraZeneca and Agilent. “It’s sort of a surprising fact how much energy and water and materials that laboratory spaces consume,” Connelly said. “It’s been ignored by the green building world a little bit because it’s difficult to address. So the unique aspect of what My Green Lab does is, it was created by scientists, for scientists to help work on behavior change and a transformation of how the labs are actually operated and how science and research is performed.” We’re seeing an acceleration of interest and excitement about sustainability through the pandemic, an overall awakening of the life science industry to sustainability. At universities and corporations alike, addressing emissions and waste in labs can significantly drive down costs and further sustainability commitments. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, if half of America’s labs shaved off 30 percent of their energy use, the total savings would be equivalent to the annual energy use of 840,000 homes.  “My Green Lab is a brilliant project because it reaches out to change behavior and mindset of scientists in the lab,” said Pernilla Sörme, risk management lead in global safety, health and environment at AstraZeneca, which expanded Green Lab Certification to seven sites across its global portfolio. The nonprofit is the first consolidated effort to educate researchers about sustainability in laboratory operations. Its Green Lab Certification already has labeled more than 400 labs. Last year, the Colorado Department of Agriculture became the first government lab to reach “green,” the highest of five levels. If that sounds similar to green building standards, such as LEED, that’s by design: My Green Lab is gunning to become the leading sustainability advocacy group in the life sciences, globally. Connelly comes to the growing organization by way of the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), which he helped expand into the world’s leading proponent of regenerative, healthy and equitable building design —  managing its Green Building Challenge and Living Product Challenge before serving as VP of projects and strategic growth. Projects and progress My Green Lab’s 15 partners and sponsors include biotech giant Genentech, MilliporeSigma and USA Scientific. The nonprofit also has teamed up with the EPA to bring the Department of Energy’s Energy Star label to ultra-low temperature freezers used for COVID-19 vaccines, applied first to equipment sold by Stirling Ultracold, another sponsor of My Green Lab. My Green Lab also runs the ACT “eco-nutrition” label for lab equipment. (ACT stands for Accountability, Consistency, and Transparency). It was created to help procurement officials and scientists with purchasing. The organization is working directly with manufacturers, including scientific instruments maker Thermo Fisher, to set benchmarks on products and packaging design. The label rates the sustainability of products consumed in laboratories including beakers, pipettes, bottles and equipment such as autoclaves and chemicals. The ratings represent data from the GreenScreen safer chemicals benchmark as well as details on packaging and product handling at the end of life. Last April, diagnostics equipment leader Agilent signed up as a My Green Lab sponsor and also to have its instruments certified for ACT. “We chose to work with My Green Lab because, like them, we understand the importance of building a more sustainable scientific industry,” said Darlene Solomon, Agilent’s chief technology officer and senior vice president. “In many cases, product developments in support of sustainability also reduce laboratory risk. As we see the importance and value that our customers place on sustainability growing, the ACT instrument labels from My Green Lab will play a major role in helping those customers to make more informed, sustainable decisions for their analytical laboratory.” The number of standalone lab-greening efforts has grown since Harvard-trained neuroscientist Allison Paradise created My Green Lab in 2013, from about 10 to 90 groups that engage tens of thousands of scientists around the world. “We’re seeing an acceleration of interest and excitement about sustainability through the pandemic, and that represents the general overall awakening and awareness of the life science industry to sustainability that My Green Lab is really helping to catalyze,” Connelly said. “It’s important because it’s a growth industry that’s going to be incredibly important to our future as a society, and to managing things like COVID or in the future other diseases that may come down the pipeline.” My Green Lab is a brilliant project because it reaches out to change behavior and mindset of scientists in the lab. Through certification and education programs, My Green Lab enlists scientists and facilities professionals to clean up the carbon impact of labs. Lately, the group has been publicizing ways to green the cold chain for COVID-19 vaccines , which require sub-North-Pole temperatures. Its Laboratory Freezer Challenge, entering its fifth year, has gotten professionals from hundreds of labs to reduce the energy consumption of their deep freezers. Higher efficiency energy systems in the green building industry don’t address the “guts” inside a lab that really drive energy consumption, Connelly noted. “That’s something I’m really excited about, to dive in deeply and see how quickly we can make an impact on these types of operations in buildings that have such a dramatic impact on climate change.” And because the higher-level sustainability goals of many organizations still haven’t moved down into their R&D labs, that means plenty of low-hanging fruit for scientists and their colleagues to pluck.  Noted energy hogs inside labs include ultra-low temperature freezers — which can eat up as much energy as a house — and chemical fume hoods for ventilation. The University of Glasgow’s Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation blames 42 percent of its energy consumption on centrifuges alone. In many cases, product developments in support of sustainability also reduce laboratory risk. As for the overuse of single-use plastics, the University of Exeter estimated that academic researchers produced plastic waste equivalent to 5.7 million two-liter soda bottles each year.  Thankfully, Connelly has seen more companies thinking through how to change the supply chain of plastics, produce them in a more sustainable way, figure out ways to reuse or recycle them in laboratories, and change the way lab professionals manage plastics. “There’s a ton of innovation happening,” he said. Based on case studies, My Green Lab estimates that participants in its Green Lab Certification can achieve reductions of 30 percent in energy use, 50 percent in water use and 10 percent in waste. AstraZeneca AstraZeneca was one of the first pharmaceutical companies to pursue Green Lab Certification at multiple sites, starting about two years ago. The company already had achieved LEED certifications in America and ISO 14 001 certification in Europe, and its R&D site leaders found a global strategy to steer sustainability in My Green Lab. Reducing waste and energy in its labs aids AstraZeneca’s sustainability targets, issued a year ago, of zero carbon emissions by 2025 and negative carbon emissions by 2030 across its value chain. That includes moving toward 100 percent renewables and a fully electric fleet. The Green Lab Certification has created a framework and a new way of working that becomes second-nature for AstraZeneca’s scientists, Sörme said. “You start thinking, do I actually need to use a high-grade solvent or can I use a low-grade solvent that’s more environmentally friendly?” And scientists can share ideas across the global sites, which is driving innovation in product development as well as employee engagement. “We also have a lot of fun activities,” she said. “For instance, we got our scientists in the U.K., because they love doing research, to do a bit of an inventory. They did ‘a day in the lab’ to find out how much they used plastic-wise. That’s the state we want to be at when people come up with ideas on their own and want to share that.” Each AstraZeneca lab site has a green team with scientists, facility managers, health and safety managers and procurement professionals. A survey kicks off the Green Lab Certification process, reaching out to every scientist, not just key leaders. There’s a lot of best-practice sharing on novel ideas, such as for recycling lab gloves and reducing water use, Sörme noted. A lab in Boston might share solutions for a site in Cambridge, U.K., to adapt locally. Quick-win practices have included changing freezer filters annually and installing LED lights. AstraZeneca in 2019 credited Green Lab with helping it reach a 97 percent recycling rate of biological waste at a facility in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and sparking the recycling of tens of thousands of plastic centrifuge tubes and serological pipets in Cambridge. The company is exploring how to raise the temperature of ultra-low temperature freezers from minus-80 to minus-70 degrees Celsius to achieve significant energy savings. In a separate effort, AstraZeneca was a winner in the 2020 Freezer Challenge run by My Green Lab and the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories. Systemic issues My Green Lab’s intention to address systemic issues by creating an ecosystem of programs echoes the approach taken by the ILFI, which was initially considered aspirational by many in the mainstream building establishment yet has been embraced by the likes of Microsoft and Google and making headway in Asia and Europe. Connelly hopes to see a similar growth trajectory at My Green Lab, which has an ambassador program and accreditation program in development. It’s worth noting that ILFI was an early advocate of identifying social equity as a root cause behind environmental problems, releasing its JUST Label behind building products in 2014, following its Declare Program in 2012 targeting “red list” chemicals of concern in building products. “We want to start driving equity into our program and elevating it to the same position as efficiency and waste reduction and water reduction,” Connelly said of My Green Lab. Pull Quote We’re seeing an acceleration of interest and excitement about sustainability through the pandemic, an overall awakening of the life science industry to sustainability. My Green Lab is a brilliant project because it reaches out to change behavior and mindset of scientists in the lab. In many cases, product developments in support of sustainability also reduce laboratory risk. Topics Chemicals & Toxics Eco-Design COVID-19 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off My Green Lab is helping scientists address the massive energy costs of running high-tech labs. Shutterstock Choksawatdikorn Close Authorship

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The case for buying climate tech from BIPOC and women-owned suppliers

January 18, 2021 by  
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The case for buying climate tech from BIPOC and women-owned suppliers Marilyn Waite Mon, 01/18/2021 – 01:45 Stopping carbon pollution alone will not bring climate justice. Reaching net-zero by 2050 will not either. Neither will achieving 100 percent renewable energy targets. The entire economy is being rebuilt. From electric modes of transportation to climate-smart agriculture, the low-carbon economy creates new roles, companies and workers. It would be regressive if this green economy excluded the very communities disproportionately affected by a changing climate. Moreover, the climate-friendly transition could provide an opportunity to create a more just workforce — one that includes more women and underrepresented people of color at all levels of leadership and ownership. Right now, this opportunity is not so. A 2019 study by the Solar Foundation and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) found that among all senior executives reported by solar firms, 88 percent are white and 80 percent are men. Another report from the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and the Energy Futures Initiative found that for energy efficiency jobs, women and Black workers substantially lag the national workforce averages. If these trends continue, the low-carbon economy will be just as extractive as its predecessor. Previously, oil and gas companies topped the list of the largest Black-owned enterprises in the U.S. In the 1980s, the largest 10 of these included five energy-related companies , with combined annual sales of about $854 million in 2021 U.S. dollars: Wallace & Wallace; the Vanguard Oil and Service Company; Smith Pipe and Supply Inc.; the Grimes Oil Company; and the Chioke International Corporation. How can the two principal agents in the economy, suppliers and demanders, bring about climate justice? For customers and procurers, one solution is to buy Black. Support women-owned. Go local. That would require an ample supply of green products and services led by women and underrepresented people of color. So where are these suppliers, who are they and what do they have to offer? Historically in the United States, there have been government and corporate procurement programs that support minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs). Many qualifying certification schemes exist, ranging from local to national, and from public, free structures to private, paid third-party structures. The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), founded in Chicago in 1972, certifies minority business enterprises (MBEs) through 23 regional councils across the U.S. The requirements? A company must be at least 51 percent owned and operated by Asian, Black, Hispanic or Native American U.S. citizens. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), founded in 1997, certifies women-owned businesses in the U.S. To qualify, a business must be 51 percent owned, controlled, operated and managed by a woman or women. Most procurement programs that have minority- and women-led business targets have their own process for verification, making third-party systems a redundant, unnecessary cost burden. While these systems may appear straightforward, they can be troublesome for the business owner. One Black-led cleantech startup was so frustrated with the NMSDC process that the founder gave up — at the time when she applied, NMSDC would not verify her as Black without her parental birth records indicating race. This information can be hard to come by for a whole host of reasons. Relying on 23andMe-style DNA tests also does not seem like a viable option for privacy and other concerns. Another Black founder explained, “Most procurement programs that have minority- and women-led business targets have their own process for verification, making third-party systems a redundant, unnecessary cost burden.” Others find the whole notion outdated, and most importantly for the bottom line, not helpful for attracting and retaining customers. Can a system established about 50 years ago meet the needs of today? After all, a lot has evolved in the marketplace — the digital age coupled with social media has changed the way businesses interact. The investment landscape, which still systemically and systematically denies access to capital to women and underrepresented people of color, also has evolved since the 1970s. As detailed in a report by the Brookings Institute, only 4 percent of the 22.2 million U.S. business owners are Black, and only 1 percent of Black business owners get a loan in their first year of business compared with 7 percent for white business owners. Finally, the democratization of information has led to a certain public accountability that lends itself to favor self-identification of race, ethnicity and gender. Instead of relying on a paywalled list of suppliers, purchasers form relationships with suppliers through “warm lead” business recommendations, industry vertical networks considered more trustworthy given the focus on subject matter expertise, and other avenues, such as the “crowd,” that help vet potential business partners. Many tech-oriented companies prefer equity to debt, and often can only consider equity at the early stages. The need to offer equity to investors often reduces the percentage of the founder’s ownership below the 51 percent threshold. The need to prove a certain race or gender may be less helpful than just using self-identification; today’s social media mechanisms create some accountability. Many procurement programs that seek to improve representation penalize larger MWBEs. The regulations are also set up to force these businesses to remain small, by putting in place revenue caps of as low as $3 million to qualify and by only having programs for MWBE sub-contractors, as opposed to prime contractors . Perhaps one way forward is to align with the times, where the ecosystem of capital and access to information has evolved. That is, make visible and uplift the MWBEs leading the clean transition, make the list of founders and senior executives open-access, provide early-stage capital (debt, equity, revenue share, non-dilutive grants) for both small and midsize enterprises and high-growth tech startups alike, strategically partner with MWBEs on projects, and remove the red tape that exists in procurement programs to keep underrepresented MWBEs in a subordinate and small position. On the latter point, the wish list for Black women cleantech founders that I spoke to include allowing for more flexibility around equity ownership (51 percent may be too onerous, especially for VC-backed startups), raising revenue caps (let’s say to $100 million), including sustainability and clean energy carve-outs in procurement, and moving away from third-party certification to decide who is a woman and who is a racial or ethnic minority. Black Owners of Solar Services ( BOSS ) is an organization set up to support smart policies that bring about climate justice in the U.S. Below is a list of Black-led companies, both small and midsize enterprises and startups, that are leading the low-carbon transition. Although not as robust as this list , for customers and procurers, this is where you can start. Senior Executive/CEO/Founder    Specialty Company Etosha Cave, Founder and CSO Carbon Economy Opus 12 Lisa Dyson,  Founder and CEO Carbon Economy Kiverdi Donna Sanders, Founder and CEO Energy Efficiency and Buildings Virimodo Donnel Baird, Founder Energy Efficiency and Buildings BlocPower SaLisa Berrien, CEO and Founder Energy Efficiency and Buildings COI Energy Ugwem Eneyo, Co-founder Energy Efficiency and Buildings SHYFT Power Solutions Ajulo E. Othow, Founder and CEO Solar Energy EnerWealth Solutions Dana Clare Redden, Founder Solar Energy Solar Stewards Gilbert Campbell and Antonio Francis, Co-founders Solar Energy Volt Energy Jessica O. Matthews, Co-founder and CEO Solar Energy Uncharted Power Jessica Newton, Founder and CEO Solar Energy OBIPower Ken Wells, CEO Solar Energy O&M Solar Services Kristal Hansley, Founder Solar Energy WeSolar Mark Davis, Founder and President Solar Energy WDC Solar Mina McCullom, President and CEO Solar Energy SynEnergy Monique Dyers, Founder and Managing Principal Solar Energy Ensight Energy Nicole Poindexter, Co-founder and CEO Solar Energy Energicity Rob Wallace, Co-founder and CEO Solar Energy Power52 Salma Okonkwo, CEO Solar Energy Blue Power Energy Kellee James, Founder and CEO Sustainable Agriculture Mercaris Nemo Semret, Sara Menker and Sewit Ahderom, Co-founders Sustainable Agriculture Gro Intelligence Tinia Pina, Founder and CEO Sustainable Agriculture Re-Nuble Zuleyka Strasner, Founder Sustainable Agriculture Zero Grocery Pull Quote Most procurement programs that have minority- and women-led business targets have their own process for verification, making third-party systems a redundant, unnecessary cost burden. Topics Social Justice Racial Justice Corporate Procurement 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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The case for buying climate tech from BIPOC and women-owned suppliers

DIY building plans for the luxurious Patara Tiny Home are now for sale

January 8, 2021 by  
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There’s more than one great reason to consider a tiny home, whether for living minimally, reducing energy use or saving money. Now, Australian company Ubertinyhomes is making tiny homes even more accessible by selling DIY plans for its Patara Tiny Home for just $250 AUD (about $190). The plans, which were designed by Samuel Commerford, come in both metric and imperial measurements to make construction even simpler. But the most impressive part of these building plans is just how many luxurious elements and storage can fit in this tiny home. Featuring space for a full-sized fridge, oven and cooktop, the kitchen has everything you need to prepare a meal. For even more convenience, there’s room for a washing machine in the bathroom as well. Speaking of the bathroom, it is one of the most spacious and luxurious available with a full-sized soaking tub and even a double sink (a rare feature in tiny homes). Users can choose from a fully flushing, waterless or composting toilet depending on their needs. Related: Hello Wood launches flat-pack kits for DIY tiny cabins Another unique aspect to the Patara Tiny Home is the lounge, which has more than enough room for entertaining and features a cozy window nook for reading or relaxing. The stairs, which lead up to two separate sleeping lofts with standing room, double as a fully functional cupboard providing plenty of storage. The main loft also has a large cupboard space for things like clothes and linens. The package includes detailed floor plans for both ground and loft levels, exterior elevations with window locations, and interior elevations that detail cabinetry, lofts, bathrooms and stairs. The electrical plans offer recommended light switch and light locations; customers also receive information on where to place the main switchboard gas regulator and air conditioning. Of course, the DIY plans wouldn’t be complete without a list of materials. The Patara Tiny Home, which measures 9.6 meters long, 3 meters wide and 3.75 meters tall, is designed to sit on a trailer for easy transportation and can hook up to amenities on different sites. + Ubertinyhomes Via Tiny House Talk Images via Ubertinyhomes

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DIY building plans for the luxurious Patara Tiny Home are now for sale

Researchers discover new species of endangered blue whale

January 7, 2021 by  
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Researchers have discovered a new blue whale species, according to a paper recently published in  Endangered Species Research . The researchers behind the paper recorded a novel blue whale song and verified it in the western Indian Ocean. The song was heard from the Arabian Sea coast to the Chagos Archipelago in the central Indian Ocean and even as far as Madagascar.  Blue Whales are the largest mammals ever known on the face of the Earth. While available in all oceans (except the Arctic ), various unique species show up in different regions. Each species of blue whale is identified by its unique song.  Lead researcher and co-author of the study Dr. Salvatore Cerchio first recorded the sound in 2017 while researching Omura’s whales. Dr. Cerichio, who is also the Director of the African Aquatic Conservation Fund’s cetacean program, has been  leading research  into the new species since then.  “It was quite remarkable,” said Cerchio, “to find a whale song in your data that was completely unique, never before reported, and recognize it as a blue whale.” Given that researchers have extensively studied whale sounds, this finding was a big deal in scientific circles. “With all that work on blue whale songs, to think there was a population out there that no one knew about until 2017, well, it kind of blows your mind,” Cerchio added. The findings lead some researchers to raise concerns about the possibility of additional undiscovered blue whale species. According to Andrew Willson from Five Oceans Environmental Services LLC, who was part of the research team, blue whales and Arabian Sea Humpback whales may comprise several unique subspecies.   “These populations appear to be unique among baleen whales, in the case of the Arabian Sea humpback whales because of their year-round residency in the region without the same long-range migration of other populations,” Willson said. The finding now opens doors for researchers to determine the status of the unique species.  Meanwhile, Suaad Al Harthi, Executive Director of the Environment Society of Oman , touches on the balance between looking into this new species while also saving the endangered Arabian Sea Humpback. “For 20 years we have focused work on the highly endangered Arabian Sea humpback whale, for which we believe only about 100 animals remain off the coast of Oman. Now, we are just beginning to learn more about another equally special, and likely equally endangered, population of a blue whale,” said Al Harthi. + NEAQ Images via NEAQ

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Researchers discover new species of endangered blue whale

Scientists discover 503 new species in 2020

January 4, 2021 by  
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A total of 503 new species were discovered by scientists at London’s Natural History Museum in 2020. According to the scientists, the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop the work of identifying new species at the museum. Although the museum remained closed to the public, scientists continued working behind closed doors, making findings and providing valuable information to the scientific community across the world. Tim Littlewood, an executive director of science at the museum , said that identifying new species can only be made possible by referencing already known species. The museum plays an important role in providing species references and continues to increase the number of known species annually by identifying new ones. Related: IUCN’s latest Red List update comes with good and bad news “Once again, an end of year tally of new species has revealed a remarkable diversity of life forms and minerals hitherto undescribed,” Littlewood said. “The Museum’s collection of specimens provide a resource within which to find new species as well as a reference set to recognize specimens and species as new.” In an article published by the Natural History Museum , Littlewood noted that a decline in biodiversity across the world calls for rapid action in identifying species. “In a year when the global mass of biodiversity is being outweighed by human-made mass it feels like a race to document what we are losing,” he said. As time passes, many species available in nature are driven to extinction before they are even discovered. According to a  United Nations Report , the native species of land-based habitats have decreased by at least 20% since 1900. The report also shows that about one-third of all marine mammal species are currently threatened. Among the 503 new species identified this year is the unique and critically endangered Popa langur monkey. “Monkeys are one of the most iconic groups of mammals, and these specimens have been in the collections for over a hundred years,” said Roberto Portela Miguez of the Natural History Museum. “But we didn’t have the tools or the expertise to do this work before.” For humanity to protect more species, it is important that we start by knowing which species exist. The work being done by the Natural History Museum lays the foundation for the protection of endangered species worldwide. + Natural History Museum Via EcoWatch Photography by Thaung Win via Natural History Museum

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Scientists discover 503 new species in 2020

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