The COVID Covenant: Going big is the price of admission

September 21, 2020 by  
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The COVID Covenant: Going big is the price of admission Gil Friend Mon, 09/21/2020 – 01:00 The world (well, most of it) attacked COVID-19 as if it were a true global emergency: with extraordinary speed, scale and scope. With real collaboration and a healthy dose of courage, some gutsy decisions were made both in government and business. Getting billions of people to don masks, allocating trillions of dollars and putting massive human safety nets in place around the globe in record time is no task for the faint of heart. Yet we haven’t responded to other planetary catastrophes with the same speed, scale, scope and coordination. This year’s Climate Week commitments notwithstanding, we haven’t shown the same guts and drive on climate as on COVID. But what if we did? That is the challenge posed by the COVID Covenant. Take climate change — in the grand scheme, a far greater and decidedly more existential emergency than the current pandemic. While some targets have been set, some progress made and some portion of the public enrolled, the world has not become galvanized to meet it. This is a threat we know will affect billions of people and displace hundreds of millions more through sea-level rise, desertification and other disastrous impacts by the time our children are grown. The stakes are high. There is no room here for laggards. We need to shift the whole game, raise the level of ambition, move that needle. We could talk about why we haven’t acted, but the real question is about what we will do going forward: How will we provoke the world into attacking carbon as it has the virus? And climate is not the only major threat we face. The social infrastructure that has left many millions without access to healthcare in the middle of a major pandemic certainly threatens global stability. Inequality and injustice are worldwide disasters as well. These are all global issues that underpin all of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and they are all soluble. Yet our planetary response to them has been tepid at best. Going big The COVID Covenant was created to kick the world into overdrive, to accept no less than the huge, unprecedented commitments required to deal with these issues, to make what seemed impossible, possible. In short: to go big. Developed by a cadre of sustainable business veterans, the COVID Covenant represents an all-in community of influential business leaders, municipal leaders and individuals who — after a long, deep breath — have committed to doing far more, far faster than they ever believed they could, and to turn on the sirens and the flashing lights for others while they’re doing it. Each has committed to the COVID Covenant. They have declared they are going big. That’s the price of admission. The COVID Covenant I solemnly commit to do what is necessary, at the speed, scale and scope that is necessary, to ensure we don’t go back to a broken system — an overheating, divided, unequal world — and build a resilient, equitable, healthy world in its place. Before the ink is dry on this Covenant, I will begin creating economic, social and governmental change at speed, scale and scope. I will practice, and advocate for, unprecedented levels of collaboration and I will mobile mobilize my organization(s), city, company and others in my circle of influence to do the same. We know what a real emergency response looks like now, what it feels like — the immediacy and urgency of it. And still, when this pandemic eventually ends, will most organizations return to their pre-coronavirus goals, such as to reduce emissions by 20 percent in five years, say, or to be carbon neutral by 2050? Will they continue with health care and wages as usual? Or will they go big, to get it done now?Demand and lobby hard to ensure everyone has health care, and for a far more equitable wage structure? Will they catalyze others to do the same? If, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says, we have a maximum of eight years of carbon left in our 1.5 degree Celsius carbon budget, then a goal of neutrality 30 or 40 years from now no longer looks like leadership. Like heroism. Like going big. Instead, it looks like thinking small. If — or more likely, when — the next pandemic hits, or Florida is underwater, or California is burning, or whatever the next disruption is — can we afford to have millions of people in food lines within a few days of a shutdown, or for millions to lose their jobs or not be able to access health care? The stakes are high. There is no room here for laggards. We need to shift the whole game, raise the level of ambition, move that needle. If the COVID Covenant can get those who are crawling toward progress to walk instead, if it can get the walkers to start jogging and the joggers to sprint, then we have a chance. (Those already sprinting? Time to turn on the jets — let’s see commitments that make Microsoft’s aim to remove all the carbon it has ever generated look like last year’s news.) The world has progressed — a bit — on climate. A few short years ago, climate targets were not science-based, and carbon-neutral commitments were rare. Most corporations were not reporting to GRI or SASB or thinking about TCFD. Now, thousands of companies are reporting, hundreds have set science-based targets and many corporations and communities already have committed to neutrality — though, as we’ve noted, their goals are too modest and too slow. The goalposts have moved, but nowhere near fast or far enough. Further, faster The message of the COVID Covenant is, “It’s great you say you’ll do this cool thing in 20 or 30 years, but that’s not soon enough. What if you treated it like the emergency it is and committed to getting the job done fast? What would it take for you to do it in 10 years? Five years? Three?” The COVID Covenant is seeding a community of collaborating competitors, of peers, experts and cheerleaders, sharing best practices, modeling what going big looks like and how to get there, offering feedback and advice, and trumpeting its work to the world. What this community does and becomes is up to those who commit to it — we’re confident that a group of people and companies whose uniting purpose is to go big will do more than just commit. The community might generate new business relationships among its members, new research or new public-private partnerships. However the collaboration evolves, it will be a vehicle for greater change and impact — picking up the gauntlet thrown down by the coronavirus, climate change and widening social inequity.  Those who’ve committed to the COVID Covenant include Andrew Winston, Hunter Lovins, John Izzo, Gil Friend, Daniel Aronson, Catherine Greener, Daniel Kreeger, Amy Larkin, P.J. Simmons and Phil Clawson.  Read more and make your own commitment here . Pull Quote The stakes are high. There is no room here for laggards. We need to shift the whole game, raise the level of ambition, move that needle. Contributors Daniel Aronson Topics Climate Change Leadership COVID-19 COVID-19 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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New study outlines ways to prevent future pandemics

July 27, 2020 by  
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The coronavirus pandemic has left the world devastated in many ways. Besides the deaths the pandemic has caused, COVID-19 has lead to a serious economic slowdown around the world. Millions of people have lost their jobs. While there are vaccines being tested for this virus, there are uncertainties about future pandemics. Scientists are now worried about the possibility of another pandemic occurring sooner than we expect. While the world is busy fighting the novel coronavirus, a group of scientists has been busy trying to find ways to prevent future pandemics. A study in the journal Science has argued that it is possible to prevent future pandemics at a fraction of the cost used to fight COVID-19. The study suggests that we could avoid another pandemic by controlling human and wildlife interactions. COVID-19 is believed to have originated from wild animals , specifically bats. Related: WWF releases report on avoiding the next zoonotic disease pandemic The study now proposes ways of ensuring that viruses from animals do not transfer to humans. The scientists have suggested measures that could reduce human-wildlife interaction and help prevent the spread of diseases. At the same time, these measures could protect the environment. The proposed measures include ending illegal wildlife trade, preserving forests and enhancing disease surveillance. “We have a lot of examples of these actions curtailing risk,” said Aaron Bernstein, director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard University’s School of Public Health and one of the authors of the study. “So we know that it’s possible — but we haven’t really invested at all.” Although there have been similar measures undertaken by governments, the seriousness of these actions has always been questionable. The study now provides evidence that shows taming both the illegal wildlife trade and deforestation could be achieved at a fraction of the economic cost of managing the coronavirus. If such actions are not taken and there is the occurrence of another pandemic in the near future, the impact would be devastating for the world. + Science Via Grist Image via Annie Spratt

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New study outlines ways to prevent future pandemics

Where are they now? Catch up with 30 Under 30 alumni

June 29, 2020 by  
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Where are they now? Catch up with 30 Under 30 alumni Heather Clancy Mon, 06/29/2020 – 02:30 June 22 marked the publication of the fifth annual GreenBiz 30 Under 30 , our report celebrating rising young professionals in the field of corporate sustainability.  What’s up in the worlds of the 120 alumni from past lists? We reached out this spring to check in, asking those inclined to weigh in on how current events have changed their world views. We asked them to consider two questions: With the world turned upside down, what is your focus at work? Do you think the COVID-19 crisis marks a turning point for the sustainability movement?  Following are some of their responses, lightly edited, representing perspective from all four past cohorts. We did not specifically ask the alumni to consider the broader question of systemic racism, as our outreach was completed prior to the national protests triggered by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But look for future updates and essays on this topic, such as the one digitally penned recently by Jarami Bond (named in 2017). One final note: Be sure to check the end of this article for quick job updates from others who responded to our outreach but chose not to comment on the two questions. Without further ado, here’s what’s up with members of past GreenBiz 30 Under 30 cohorts. And, if you want to consult those lists in their entirety, here are the links: 2016 , 2017 , 2018 and 2019 . Jessica Artioli Centurião ( 2018 ) Digital Innovation Manager, BASF; Sao Paulo, Brazil COVID-19 will definitely change the world, and I truly hope that this will bring a new priority for sustainability topics. We as human beings and our planet are all connected. That’s why I hope that after COVID-19 we will be more human and environmental-driven than money-driven. If our environmental is suffering, we will suffer at some point. We cannot forget that a better future is 100 percent in our hands, because WE, and only WE, have the power and the resources to make better decisions, to be more conscious. Sustainability must be a must have and not a nice to have. We are constantly looking for innovation and solutions that can help us in this new way of remote work, to improve our interactions to our customers and to be more emphatic than ever. We don’t need outstanding experiences now; we need to shelter our customers, our people, our environment.  Holly Beale (2019) Program Manager, Datacenter Environmental Sustainability, Microsoft; Seattle My environmental work in Microsoft’s datacenter communities has certainly been disrupted by the global crisis. Plans for tree-planting programs have been postponed; workshops for sustainability employment training are on hold; and community gatherings for local environmental projects are on hiatus.  As I get the chance to meet in virtual roundtables with community members, it can easily get pretty discouraging. However, right now I’m focusing on two main things: Focus on being flexible and understanding the unpredictability our community groups are facing; being sympathetic and supportive in the ways they need, even if this differs from our original approach. And turning towards smaller-scale, grassroots engagement. We’ve been able to shift many environmental projects’ approaches to the home-scale, like home gardens, yard tree plantings and home recycling campaigns.  As we emerge, we are learning how to build the capability to truly understand, qualitatively and quantitatively, our communities’ vulnerabilities against a much broader set of scenarios. In a way, we are seeing this crisis as an illustration of how expensive the failure to build resiliency can ultimately prove. As we are learning, in climate change as in pandemics, the costs of a global crisis are bound to vastly exceed those of its prevention. We’re understanding that the seeds we sew today will grow our shade for the future, and without rolling up our sleeves now and getting dirty, the future will force our path in a direction we do not desire.  Can I talk about one trend that’s emerging which is giving me incredible hope? The shift towards plant-based protein has been a movement I’ve been following closely, with baited (tempeh) breath. We know that animal agriculture is now recognized as a leading cause of global warming. According to Project Drawdown, eating a plant-based diet is “the most important contribution every individual can make to reversing global warming.” But even in parts of the population unconcerned with the devastating environmental effects, this virus’s life disruption is forcing our awareness of meat farms being a “breeding ground for pandemics.” Issues of health, the working poor and racial justice are making people uncomfortable, and with the supply chain disruption with the closing of meatpacking cesspools, Jonathan Safran Foer writes, “Our hand has been reaching for the doorknob for the last few years. COVID-19 has kicked open the door.” And it’s really happening. Earlier in May, sales of alternative meat products in grocery stores went up 264 percent! I’ll certainly be watching this trend, and I’m more hopeful for it than I’ve been about any singular issue in a long time. John Bello (2018) Project Manager, Skanska; Portland, Oregon After doing some research in Prague on carbon negative building materials, I have relocated to Portland and am currently working as a project manager/sustainability lead on the PDX Airport Terminal Core Redevelopment (TCORE) Project. We are using the newly developed Embodied Carbon for Construction Calculator (EC3) to support low-carbon procurement on structural steel, piles, rebar and concrete. We are also working directly with Pacific Northwest lumber suppliers to procure sustainably harvested glulam beams for the airport’s new undulating roof structure. Fortunately, we have been able to continue construction during the pandemic and have made several changes to our operations to promote social distancing, hand washing and face coverings. Despite the crisis, I am pleased to see that we have not wavered on our approach towards sustainable procurement and low-carbon development.   Sara Bogdan (formerly Lindenfeld) (2016) Manager Sustainability and ESG, JetBlue; New York  My job is typically one where I am frequently traveling and in the operation. My favorite part of my work has always been implementing emissions and waste reduction projects, allowing me to visit airports and meet crew members all across our network.  But now, being “grounded” along with everyone else, of course my day-to-day has shifted. We are inventing new ways of coordinating sustainability programs from afar. Our priority and resolve hasn’t changed. For JetBlue and my team, COVID-19’s massive impact to our business and way of life has only reinforced the importance of smart, sustained ESG risk management. Our industry was, of course, abruptly and majorly changed by the global pandemic. For us, this only bolsters the imperative of thinking through how we can mitigate additional ESG risk factors that may present themselves next — such as those associated with a warming climate. I am proud that we have already made industry-changing moves to set JetBlue up for success, including the first U.S. airline to announce a carbon-neutral domestic operation, purchasing sustainable aviation fuel and rolling out fleets of airport electric ground vehicles, to name a few. Willemijn Brouwer (2018) Lead, Internal Engagement for Sustainability, DSM; Heerlen, Holland While the dystopic headlines made me temporally get rid of my news apps, I now truly believe we can seize this global crisis as a tremendous opportunity. Albeit the virus bringing terrible consequences for the vulnerable in our society, it has demonstrated to be very inclusive and diverse in who it has hit. In other words, all countries and all people are experiencing the consequences. It’s a truly global challenge, but that also ignites a global awareness we have to build back better. In my own job at RoyalDSM, I was afraid my co-workers couldn’t be bothered less with my projects around sustainability ambassadorship. And I couldn’t be more wrong! There is a genuine and collective interest how we as a company and as individuals can contribute to the sustainable future of society at large. The past months have shown me that together we stand strong and we can achieve a lot — faster and more determined than ever. Devin Carsdale (formerly Kleinfield-Hayes) (2017) Sustainability Compliance Auditor, Inter IKEA Group; Philadelphia I do think this crisis will force business to rethink its many assumptions about how it has conducted itself up until now. I traveled quite extensively for my job, securing IKEA’s supply chain throughout the Americas and meeting with suppliers to advise or verify the compliance of its many social, labor and environmental requirements. This situation has forced our team to do all of those activities virtually; some of which have the potential of staying that way permanently and others that may still need our attention in person. I have heard IKEA leadership referring to coming back stronger than ever and there is no question that its 2030 strategy is at the heart of it; with product circularity, renewable energy investment and taking care of workers as some of the key tenants, IKEA’s stewardship continues to be part of its core business model. My hope is that customers will reward companies that prioritize workers and the environment and have their precious purchasing power signal to the markets that “sustainable” business is the only kind of business here to stay. HY William Chan (2019) Urban Designer and Planner; Sydney, Australia We won’t have business as usual again, and we shouldn’t want it. Business as usual wasn’t working. We can evolve business (and cities, governance and individuals) to be and do better. The time is now to flatten the climate change curve. My focus is on “unlearning” the urban systems that we had taken for granted, the city challenges that were hidden until now, and shifting that paradigm long term. This includes a radical redesign of sustainable high density living, the development of better public spaces that support sustainable, personal active transport of walking and cycling, and to address gaps in food supply by innovating for more localized urban “farm to fork” approaches. I see these urban challenges as long-term opportunities in sustainability, catalyzed by what we have experienced together during the pandemic. Alexandra Criscuolo (2019) Environmental Sustainability Manager, New York Road Runners; New York As New York Road Runners’ Environmental Sustainability Manager, I have been tasked with developing and driving the execution of NYRR’s organization-wide sustainability strategy, which includes improving the sustainability of the TCS New York City Marathon, NYRR’s weekly running races, and our facilities.  Just prior to the pandemic, we wrapped up measuring our sustainability baseline with Waste Management Sustainability Services, and I was developing our detailed plan for the year ahead. As our programs and offerings began to shift and events were canceled as a result of the pandemic, we pivoted to donate unused equipment and other items to help frontline medical workers and others in need. I organized virtual meetings with stakeholders across the organization to determine a plan to keep the items from the landfill and give them another life. I am optimistic and believe this major disruption of our “business as usual” will allow us to rebuild a more sustainable future. A future that is more regenerative, circular and healthy for humans and the planet we call home. While operations have come to a halt, the climate crisis has not, and this pandemic can certainly be a turning point for the sustainability movement. We are focusing on two major goals: Planning for future events to be as sustainable — and safe — as possible while also using this time to enhance our sustainability data gathering process to make it as smooth as possible for the time when we return to operating races. Joseph Gale (2018) Environmental Specialist, RS&H; San Francisco RS&H Practices and Resource Groups are pushing forward to meet the ever-changing needs of our clients, as well as are furthering internal initiatives and external growth strategies. I am pleased to announce that in May, I received the approval to initiate an enterprise approach to corporate sustainability. Through collaboration with an internal cross-practice committee, this two-year effort achieved success with development of a business case, scope of services, and presentation to the company CEO in October. The Corporate Sustainability Team will be working with our CEO and executive team to implement new initiatives as they relate to sustainability and operational resilience. Alison Humphrey (formerly Larkins) (2019) Director, ESG, TPG Capital; San Francisco The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled world leaders, companies, communities and individuals to take urgent, collective action to confront a critical issue risking harm to people across the globe. It also illuminated challenges and opportunities previously obscured in the blurred corners of complex and interconnected global supply chains. My hope is that we can harness this energy and approach to address the climate crisis. In this spirit, I’m hearing from many companies that they are seizing this opportunity to reset, reassess and consider how we enhance and “rebuild” business and civic processes through an ESG and climate lens. From where I sit, I don’t see us losing momentum. Certainly, we’ll need hold ourselves and each other accountable, but I think ruthless optimism and hard work are ultimately what will get us to where we need to go. Kamillah Knight (2019) Diversity and Inclusion Lead, Unilever; Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey My focus at work has been providing tools, trainings and resources for all of Unilever’s employees in North America, focusing primarily on parents, women and our POC talent. My goal is to continue to create new and innovative ways to engage people both during and outside of their workday to ensure that they can show up as their best self no matter what. I do believe that the COVID-19 marks a turning point in the sustainability movement. We have seen countless reports during this time that make mention and provide facts around the decrease of pollution and harmful effects on the environment as a result of everyone being quarantined. This has led many people to say that they think it should be required for people to stay home for a certain amount of days in the year to give the environment a “break.” This time has not only changed the way that we see the environment and how it should be (without pollution), but it has also changed the way that people view other people and their needs given the huge disparities that exist in different communities, in addition to the value that people bring in the work that they do. The needs and diversity of communities is a huge component of achieving the SDGs and/pushing forward the sustainability movement. With the change in thought I am confident that we will see more people that will lean into sustainability than ever before. Just look at how companies are even responding. The most pressing issue on my mind right now is using the time that I am privileged to have right now to build stronger relationships and connections with my loved ones and to do the things that I didn’t have time to before. This is time that we will never get back in the same capacity. I am grateful and I know how I use this time will be reflected in how I “re-enter” the world once things open back up. Media Authorship UN Global Compact, Arlene Thompson Close Authorship Jillian Lennartz (2016) Manager, Sustainability Reporting, Teck Resources; Vancouver, British Columbia The COVID-19 pandemic has hit at a particularly interesting time for me. I moved from the U.S. to Canada in mid-February without any inkling that the border would snap shut behind me and the job market would suddenly all but dry up. Being a new immigrant looking for a job while there is a global health and economic crisis is not a situation I anticipated being in when I made plans to move. However, I was fortunate to have landed in an area with a few exciting roles that remained open despite the shutdowns. I’m beyond ecstatic to have started in a role with Teck Resources. I’ll be standing in for a fellow 30 Under 30 honoree (Katie Fedosenko, 2017 cohort) who will be going on a year of parental leave. She has built an impressive ESG program, which I anticipate will further evolve as the current global crisis plays out. SARS-COV-2 has noticeably impacted the entire process of interviewing and on-boarding. I have yet to step foot in Teck’s headquarters. Every interview, meeting and training has been remote, which has been an adjustment for both myself and the teams with Teck. Fortunately, I come from a generation and a culture that’s already very accustomed to using technology to its fullest; I believe we may have been the first generation to be referred to as “digital natives.” It therefore hasn’t been an entirely foreign experience to have meetings over teleconference and use cloud-based file sharing for collaboration. Especially as sustainability practitioners we have worked with stakeholders around the globe and formed relationships with site representatives we may never meet in person. I feel that as a profession we’re well-situated to continue our work as uninterrupted as possible. Ding Li (2018) Partner Business Development Manager, CLP Innovation; Hong Kong Ever since the COVID-19 crisis started in January in Hong Kong, I have been working from home and minimizing contact with people. As an extrovert, I have a strong need to be surrounded by people. I remember the first week of staying at home, I felt really bad. Boredom turned into negative thoughts, and negative thoughts turned into depressing thoughts. At the end of the week, I almost vomited because mentally I felt really sick.  I realized this is a problem and I have to fix it — I started to schedule virtual coffee meetings with friends in the sustainability industry. They shared with me how COVID-19 has impacted their organizations, their job roles and their personal life. Facility managers say they have discovered energy use issues in their buildings — buildings are not able to adjust loading with the decrease in occupancy; sustainability managers shifted their focuses from environmental issues to community engagement; and others say they spent more time with their family and experienced work-life balance for the first time. They have taken advantage of the situation and used it to enhance their companies’ sustainability strategy and their own personal goals. It is a rare opportunity for me to engage people who I know professionally in a personal way. It helped me to cope with the difficult self-isolation situation and allowed me and my friends to be united in this crazy time.  Meanwhile, I built an office space at my rooftop, which helps me to stay focused and separate work from personal life. I have cooked more healthy meals and now I am enjoying my time at home. If not because of COVID-19, I would not know how resilient and adaptive everyone can be.  We would not have imagined millions of people could stay at home to avoid a pandemic, just like we would not have imagined countries and businesses could truly collaborate and build a zero-carbon economy.  I am proud of what humanity has accomplished so far when facing the challenge of COVID-19, and I believe this gives us a reason to be optimistic when facing the climate crisis. We are more resilient and adaptive than we think. When there is a will, there is a way! Idicula Mathew (2019) Founder and CEO, Hera Health Solutions; Memphis Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our team at Hera Health Solutions has been closely interacting with leaders in the industry to build strategies and innovations that will outlast to redefine the new normal in healthcare. As a startup that is an innovator in pharmaceutical devices, Hera Health Solutions is now looking forward to help shape the future of sustainable long acting medications. Since my being featured in GreenBiz 30 Under 30 in 2019, Hera Health Solutions has closed a more than $1.25 million investment round led by leaders in healthcare venture capital firms and impact organizations. With the new funding, the Hera Health Solutions team has grown. Now even more notably, Hera Health Solutions has kickstarted new R&D for its proprietary implantables for areas of other extended release medication potentials including vaccinations. On the other side of this global pandemic is a new normal that we will establish together. And while there is an undeniable number of uncertainties, one thing for sure is that the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry has now changed. The world had to witness the sudden and overnight decline of hospital and physician resources. The new demand in contactless and physically distant healthcare has now become a precedent for the future. Now more than ever, the need for more effective and sustainable long acting medications to patients and users is highlighted more than ever.  Ana Sophia Mifsud (2019) Senior Associate, Rocky Mountain Institute; New York Life in New York has certainly felt intense over the last couple of months. In the midst of all the chaos, my work has never felt so important. Since my 30 Under 30 nomination, I have shifted roles and am now working on deep decarbonization a little closer to home. I have joined RMI’s Building Electrification program, which is focused on eliminating fossil fuels in buildings. What many don’t realize is that roughly 70 million homes and businesses directly burn fossil fuels for heating and cooking. In addition to contributing to almost 10 percent of the U.S.’s climate impact, these emissions lead to unhealthy living situations. Even before the pandemic hit, on average, Americans spent about 90 percent of their time in buildings. Yet, indoor air quality has remained largely unregulated, leading to disproportionate health impacts, particularly in already vulnerable populations.  While our work is more important than ever, we’ve had to make some adjustments in order to continue convening and strategizing virtually. I’ve developed some best practices to help guide this recalibration and am putting them in practice while facilitating an eLab accelerator team focused on decarbonizing affordable multi-family housing in Chicago. In this decisive decade of climate action, I feel fortunate to be working on developing solutions that create sustainable jobs, reduce our climate impact and create healthier places for us all to live and work.  With regards to whether the COVID-19 crisis marks a turning point for the sustainability movement, I’m not sure. But I firmly believe we should all act in the spirit of applied hope . The type of hope that catalyzes action out of the belief that we can create the type of future we deserve. Catherine Queen (2017) Senior Manager, Sustainable Development and B Corp, Danone; Broomfield, Colorado As a sustainability professional, and a stubborn climate activist, I see the stark parallels between the pandemic and climate change. Climate change is unseen in our daily lives — until it isn’t — much like this virus. Those impacted the hardest are vulnerable populations.  Amid the uncertainty, my specific focus at work has not shifted. After leading Danone North America to become the world’s largest Certified B Corporation, I continue to work to integrate the environmental and social mission into how we run our business — inspiring and engaging teams to take action every day to balance short-term profits and results for long-term social and environmental implications, including and especially during a pandemic.  While the pandemic has shown how interconnected we all are, and I have seen many inspiring examples of our shared humanity, it is devastating to see continued areas of grave disconnectedness with ongoing inequality and inequity. Our collective response to the pandemic has also shown what we can do, as a company and as a society, when we use our collective voices and action. I hope next year when these updates are requested, we will have globally proven that collectively we made a difference, to create a better and more equitable for us all.  Similar to the mission of the B Corp Movement, this year is illustrating the importance of being bold and taking a leadership stance — even when you don’t have all the answers. We can’t address crisis on our own and my hope is this time serves as a call to action — to join together to solve the issues of our times.  Alexis Rocamora (2019) Senior Sustainability Consultant, EY Japan My focus since last year has been to help companies in Japan integrate sustainability into their supply chain management. I do so by helping them adopt supplier policies and by conducting due diligence processes to verify suppliers’ compliance with sustainability obligations (environment, health and safety, labor and human rights).  Even before the COVID-19 crisis, companies were increasingly carrying out such assessments, for several reasons (rise in due diligence legislation, ethical concerns, willingness to limit corporate risks, etc.). However, as COVID-19 is amplifying inequalities worldwide, companies are realizing that knowing their suppliers is not merely about keeping the business as usual while applying green paint on the surface, or avoiding a few inconvenient headlines in the media. As it turns out, sustainability risks of suppliers act like a cascade effect on the most vulnerable in a time of crisis: Part-time workers are being laid off, foreign workers are forced to repatriate at their own expense, workplaces with poor health and hygiene measures become hot spots for the virus to spread.  So in the future, supply chain relocalization, full transparency and mandatory supplier due diligence might become mainstream, not (only) because it is the sustainable thing to do, but because businesses depend on it. Companies have a tendency to relegate sustainability to “non-financial” issues (which doesn’t matter much to shareholders, and thus to management). I have the feeling that this crisis will contribute to the realization that businesses actually depend more than they thought on real-world considerations, which are better embedded into sustainability factors than financial statements. This might lead to giving corporate sustainability a strategic and transformational role rather than a PR and risk management one.  I’ve been re-reading “This Changes Everything” from Naomi Klein recently. In the same way that she pointed out that the sustainability movement could have been successful if it had been put at the center of mass economic transformations (such as the spread of neoliberalization since the 1980’s or the economic stimulus granted to the banks after the financial crash of 2008), I believe that the economic crisis unleashed by COVID-19 should only be addressed by measures that aim to redefine our societies’ economic model towards a sustainable and equitable one.  Regarding adaptation to the situation, my company (even in Japan) has been promoting flexible working arrangements for a long time so the transition was rather easy. What I can tell about the situation here overall is that Japanese companies are known to have a conservative corporate culture with long working hours, mandatory drinking activities with teammates and an obsession for physical workplace attendance. COVID-19 has disturbed this prehistoric work culture by forcing even the most traditional companies to massively adopt flexible working arrangements (some are even in the process of ditching the mandatory use of the Japanese “seals,” used for hundreds of years to sign every official documents!) and I hope that these changes survive the pandemic.  Alejandra Sánchez Ayala (2019) Sustainability Leader, C&A Mexico; Guadalajara, Mexico My focus for the last 12 weeks has been to make sure my team is prepared for the new normal we will be facing in the short and medium term. We have been preparing strategies for adapted versions of our programs and revisiting the ideas of what makes sense in our supply chain. In Mexico, a lot of small business have been severely affected by the economic crisis linked to the lockdown, and we have a shared responsibility to take this into account for future decisions. I do believe that this crisis has arisen questions about the implications of the environmental challenges that we might face due to climate change and what role we play as society, consumers and professionals. We are facing challenges we never believed we’d have to face. I had a conversation with some colleagues about the almost apocalyptic sight of people wearing masks all the time. Now it’s about protecting ourselves from a virus, but what if this was linked to permanently poor air quality?  Sadly, I don’t think all governments are living up to the requirements of this crisis. For example, in Mexico, due to COVID-19, some highly questionable decisions have been made regarding environmental topics, which now seems to be even a lower priority than ever. Renewable energy projects have been threatened under the excuse of COVID-19, to favor fossil fuels, a strategy the government is pushing since last year. In this context, I believe that although consumers might be willing to engage in more conversations regarding sustainability (engrained in the core of business and not as a nice to have added value), this also requires participation from governments and private industry. But in the current landscape, I don’t believe that in the short term we will be seeing the turning point we wish regarding sustainability. Devan Tracy (2018) Smart Buildings and Energy Analytics Lead, Lockheed Martin; Washington, D.C. With the world turned upside down, I’ve noticed that data visualization has been used more frequently in mainstream media to depict COVID-19 spread projections, medical supply inventory or supply chain interrelationships. We are all becoming better data scientists as a result. In the smart buildings world, this is key. I’ve partnered with our data and analytics office to continuously optimize algorithms, explore anomalies, detect faults and jump on opportunities for our newly launched, large-scale smart buildings pilot. This pilot set the stage for an expansion of the program to 50,000 additional sensors across an additional 5.8 million square feet at Lockheed Martin this year. And the beauty of smart buildings is that they were designed from day one to support remote work. It is no longer a requirement to be onsite to operate and optimize a campus.  Powerful visualization underscores the importance of the effective translation of data, allowing us to address problems quicker than ever before — and helping everybody get to the future faster, together. Check out this quick video where I talk about our smart buildings program on the LM YouTube Channel “Talk Techy to Me” series.  We are all emerging from the crisis with a refined perspective. Now more than ever, dog barks and baby cries are welcome additions to conference calls. This is humanizing and reminds us that we are all multidimensional creatures. Colleagues are increasingly accommodating, and interactions more frequently extend beyond surface level chatter. These snapshots into our personal lives bring teams closer together and make us more cohesive teams. After all, we are human beings and not just human doings. Finally, here’s a list of other comings and goings among the 30 Under 30 (presented in alphabetical order): Kelly Elizabeth Behrend (2016) left New York City for San Salvador, El Salvador, to become director of sustainability at hugo, “the first Central American superapp.” Former Easton sustainability analyst Claire Castleman (2018) has started a new position as Small Business Support Program Associate at Self-Help Credit Union. James Connelly (2016) left the Living Future Institute after eight years to become CEO of My Green Lab, a nonprofit in the life science Industry.  Fifth Element Group partner Pratik Gauri (2019) is the India host of Fintech.TV, which produces a program on ESG investing and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. He’s also started a new blockchain venture and is a new global youth lead for innovation nonprofit Dream Tank .   I hear Lizzie Horvitz (2017) recently started a company (still in stealth) that helps incentivize consumers to make better purchasing decisions based on the greenhouse gas emissions associated with products.  Jeffrey Jennings (2016) in January started a new role as a senior supply chain sustainability process leader with Freeport-McMoran. He’s assisting with the development of a responsible sourcing program and assessment of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks in our supply chain.  Entrepreneur Andrew Krioukov (2016) has become an adviser to an early stage venture fund focus on artificial intelligence and internet of things, UNION Labs. His startup, Comfy, was acquired by Siemens two years ago.  Isabel Mogstad (2019) has left the Environmental Defense Fund to become director of U.S. policy and engagement at BP.  Former Sula Vineyards and PepsiCo sustainability team member Inesh Singh (2019) recently took over as manager of agro development at Anheuser-Busch InBev in India.  If you’re a GreenBiz 30 Under 30 honoree who’d love to engage — or contribute essays about the cause of corporate sustainability, environmental justice and the clean economy imperative — reach out to me by email at heather@greenbiz.com . Topics Careers COVID-19 Corporate Strategy Collective Insight 30 Under 30 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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Where are they now? Catch up with 30 Under 30 alumni

Scientists support use of reusable containers during COVID-19 pandemic

June 25, 2020 by  
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Since the start of the pandemic, there have been concerns that using reusable containers and bags at grocery stores and cafes could enhance the spread of the virus. However, such claims have now been refuted by a team of 119 scientists. The team, which includes scientists from 18 countries, has published a document stating that reusable containers are safe. Many cafes, restaurants and grocery stores around the world have stopped accepting reusable cups, bags and other containers for fear that these items would spread COVID-19. Environmentalists have pushed for a long time to have restaurants and other businesses adopt the use of reusable containers. But these gains made over the years risk being eroded almost overnight if people continue to revert to single-use containers. Environmentalists are now accusing plastic manufactures of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to lobby for single-use plastics. Related: COVID-19 leads to plastic ban reversals The scientists involved in reassuring the public include epidemiologists, virologists, biologists and doctors. They have compiled a statement that encourages restaurants and individuals to continue using reusable containers as long as public health requirements are observed. The team said that reusable items are safe as long as high standards of hygiene are observed. One of the signatories to the statement, professor Charlotte Williams of Oxford University, explained that COVID-19 should not stop the efforts made toward a sustainable future. “I hope we can come out of the COVID-19 crisis more determined than ever to solve the pernicious problems associated with plastics in the environment,” Williams said. According to the scientists’ statement, the coronavirus primarily spreads through aerosol droplets and not from contact with surfaces. Although surfaces can transfer the virus, washing reusable containers is much safer than relying on single-use ones. The scientists explained that most people do not bother cleaning single-use containers under the assumption that they are safe. Unfortunately, the virus can get in contact with any surface, including single-use containers. Europe plans to ban all single-use plastics starting next year. There is concern that plastic manufacturers are now using the coronavirus pandemic to delay the ban. Such a move would be detrimental, considering that plastic waste contributes 80% of all marine pollution . + Health Expert Statement Via The Guardian Image via Goran Ivos

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How we can fight the pandemic by embracing circularity

June 12, 2020 by  
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How we can fight the pandemic by embracing circularity Garry Cooper Fri, 06/12/2020 – 01:30 Throughout the pandemic response, a key issue has been a lack of communication and coordination to get personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies to where they are most needed, with many areas of the country suffering from severe resource shortages as a result. The only truly successful solution has been, and will continue to be, to strategically adopt two core elements of a circular economy model: reuse and resource sharing. The key goals of the circular economy are ” designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems .” Unlike in our current linear economic model, which generally discards materials once used, the circular economy enables more value to be extracted from an item by eschewing the “take-make-waste” pattern. In a situation where supply is limited, the circular model gets far more use out of the same supply. While the need for a circular economy has been growing for decades, especially as the impacts of climate change have begun to loom larger, this pandemic has caused that need to increase dramatically. Taking on the circularity principles of reuse and resource sharing — and equally important, having a more coordinated approach around those efforts — is critical for directing supplies to the places where there is the greatest need in a timely and equitable fashion. My company, Rheaply, has pivoted our resource-sharing technology to aid in this approach. In partnership with the city of Chicago, we built Chicago PPE Market , a platform that provides small businesses and nonprofits access to a network of local manufacturers and suppliers of PPE at cost-controlled rates, helping them protect their staff and prevent further spread of the virus. Within the first week of the platform going live, we onboarded 1,555 small businesses, with over 165,000 listings and 2,100 transactions for items such as face coverings, protective shields and various sanitizers. Yet we are just one company contributing to the efforts to fight the pandemic. To truly fight the virus, we must all adopt a circularity approach, sharing physical resources and human capital. Even beyond the pandemic, this approach will allow us to more efficiently and cooperatively operate as a global community. The first step is to change the way we think about the resources we have. To do so, we must do the following: Establish a community-oriented mindset.  With healthcare professionals advising “social distancing,” we are all keeping physically distant from others, even as states begin to reopen. Mentally, however, distancing is a way of making people think more about others. You distance yourself to protect everyone, not just yourself. We have to think about fighting this virus as a team effort, not as something that just healthcare professionals can do.  We also have to think about that “team” more broadly. To combat the virus effectively, the team has to be made up of your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors, your city, your state, your country — the global community. For most people, the most effective way to help the team is to practice social distancing in order to prevent the spread of disease. But for those with the power to do so, it is imperative to think about the broader team and allow for human capital and medical supplies to be allocated to places where the need is greatest now, while also planning for sufficient healthcare workers and PPE to fight the virus when it spikes in new areas. Think about the resources you have that might help others. There may be other ways to help that may surprise you.  Check your cabinets . Consider what resources you might have in your home or business. If you’re a dentist whose practice has been forced to temporarily close or whose practice has a surplus of supplies that could benefit healthcare providers, consider donating or selling those items to institutions in need. If you’re a graduate student working in a lab, think about the gloves, gowns and masks you’re not currently using and donate them. If you’re not in charge of the supplies at your organization, make the case to your superiors for donating supplies. Think about your skills . Not all resources are tangible. If you’re someone who is healthy, consider how your skills could be used as resources to benefit others. One example would be people who have put their sewing skills to work to make masks. Another would be individuals who use 3D printers to make PPE . Pivot your business . If you’re a manufacturer or other business owner, think about how your business could alter its offering to make a difference. If you have the resources and access to certain supply chains, you may be able to shift to manufacturing PPE. Businesses ranging from hockey equipment manufacturer Bauer to fashion brands have begun creating masks. You might be surprised to see how your business’s strengths could be directed toward fighting the virus.  If we spread this way of thinking, both about supplies and human capital, then we can create a system where we all can rely on each other. Think about using, not owning, resources.  Question the way you think about items. Plenty of items don’t need to be owned, but instead just used for a period of time (properly decontaminated N95 masks or face shields) — you may have items that could be reused by those currently in greater need. Ask yourself, “What is the true value of idle resources that I’ve put aside?” If you’re not using an item, then it is of little value to you, whereas it may be of great value to someone else. For items that should not be reused (gloves), think about how much of these items you actually need. Ask yourself, “Do I need this many gloves right now?” In many cases, your need is probably less dire than the need of overwhelmed healthcare providers.   At the same time, we also should be thoughtful about how we treat and value the skills of our healthcare workers. Those who oversee healthcare providers can’t think of healthcare providers as belonging exclusively to certain institutions; instead, they have to think about them as having transferable skills that could provide a huge benefit to institutions and communities around the country and the world.  If we spread this way of thinking, both about supplies and human capital, then we can create a system where we all can rely on each other. If you lend a hand now, then others will be more willing to help you when you are in need. These times are tough, and it’s easy to start feeling helpless. But practicing and advocating for the principles of a circular economy are crucial ways to help. You have the power to make a difference. Let’s get started. Pull Quote If we spread this way of thinking, both about supplies and human capital, then we can create a system where we all can rely on each other. Topics Circular Economy Corporate Strategy Climate Strategy Reuse Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Rows of N95 respiratory mask, used as personal protective equipment. Shutterstock Faizzamal Close Authorship

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How we can fight the pandemic by embracing circularity

U.S. rabbit populations contend with lethal virus, RHDV2

May 22, 2020 by  
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Wildlife  officials recently announced outbreaks of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2 (RHDV2) ravaging Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and California. The  U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)  deems RHDV2 as seriously contagious and nearly always fatal amongst domestic and wild rabbit species and their close relatives, hares and pikas. RHDV2 is not zoonotic, so it won’t infect livestock, pets or humans, asserts the  California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) . Still,  Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPW)  advise against pets consuming rabbit carcasses. Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) is the viral agent causing rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD).  Science Direct  says RHDV belongs in the calicivirus family, which infects many  animals  including pigs, cattle, cats and even humans. Norovirus, for example, is a human calicivirus. But humans seem unaffected by RHDV.  Related:  What’s causing the decline in monarch butterfly populations? There are two worrisome strains of RHDV — RHDV1 and RHDV2.  House Rabbit Society ,  Veterinary Practice , as well as both the Vaccine and Veterinary Research  journals document RHDV1 as first emerging in China back in 1984, when, in just one year, 140 million rabbits were decimated. China claims that the outbreak started in Angora rabbits imported from Europe. Eventually, RHDV1 spread to over 40 countries and hit the U.S. in 2000. Given its estimated 95% mortality rate, Australia and New Zealand notoriously introduced RHDV1 into their wild rabbit populations as pest biocontrol. RHDV1 mutated, begetting RHDV2, which was first identified in 2010 when domesticated rabbits in France showed clinical signs of RHD despite being already vaccinated against RHDV1. By September 2018, RHDV2 reached the U.S., manifesting among domestic rabbits in a rural Ohio farm, documents the  Veterinary Information Network (VIN) News Service . The USDA considers both RHDV1 and RHDV2 invasive pathogens, as they are not native to North America. A  joint paper  put forth by the Center for Food Security & Public Health , Institute for International Cooperation in Animal Biologics, Iowa State University, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the USDA revealed RHD can be difficult to eradicate. Not only can the virus strains survive over seven months on rabbit carcasses, but they also withstand temperatures below freezing and above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  House Rabbit Society  cites several differences between RHDV1 and RHDV2. Incubation is two to 10 days for RHDV1, but three to nine days for RHDV2. Rabbits with RHDV2 can be asymptomatic yet spread the virus for up to two months. There is no known cure for either strain. While a vaccine exists for RHDV1, there are currently no USDA -licensed vaccines for RHDV2. That RHDV2 can “potentially surviv[e] more than 3 months without a host” has prompted some U.S. veterinarians to import RHDV2 vaccines despite a convoluted process. The  USDA  and  VIN News Service  warn RHD is highly contagious, spreading easily by direct contact with rabbit excretions and secretions — saliva, sweat and biowaste. Sharing food, water, bedding, fomites and vehicles spreads RHD. Other vectors are infected rabbit meat, pelts, even insects. Besides farmers and pet owners, biologists and  conservationists  are worried about this virus. As declining rabbit populations have repercussions in  habitat  food chains, RHDV2 could cause severe consequences down the line. + Veterinary Information Network (VIN) News Service Via USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and House Rabbit Society Images via Pexels

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Ancient Mayan-inspired Casa Merida operates off the grid in Mexico

May 22, 2020 by  
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In the hot and humid Yucatán capital of Mérida, blasting air conditioning all day is commonly regarded as a necessity of life. But Mexico City-based Ludwig Godefroy Architecture has rebelled against this belief with its design of Casa Merida, a self-sufficient dwelling that uses passive solar principles to stay naturally cool. Sustainable in both energy use and design, the contemporary, solar-powered home draws references from traditional Mayan architecture and uses locally produced materials wherever possible. Built primarily of board-formed concrete, Casa Merida is organized as a series of “broken” volumes that reads as an 80-meter-long rectangle with 8-meter-wide sections. This lane-like form was created to follow traditional airflow cooling concepts and to evoke the ancient Mayan sacbé , a term that translates to “white path” and describes stone walkways covered in white limestone. All parts of the home open up to the outdoors via large wooden louver doors that let in cooling breezes, natural light and views of green courtyards interspersed throughout the property. Related: This modular, off-grid design can adapt to any landscape The indoor-outdoor connection is key in the design of the home, which was crafted to feel completely disconnected from the city. This is achieved by placing the communal areas — including the living room, kitchen and swimming pool — at the far end and quietest part of the property instead of placing them near the backyard. The backyard is used as a buffer zone from the urban environment. To help the home meet goals of self sufficiency, the architects installed rainwater collection systems with sculptural water collectors that add to the beauty of the residence. A biodigester is used to treat blackwater, which is then used to irrigate the garden. Heating and all of the home’s electricity needs are provided for via solar hot water heaters and solar panels. “The construction is reaching a 90% made on-site, with local materials and built exclusively by Yucatec masons and carpenters, a sort of modern reinterpretation of what could mean vernacular architecture,” the architects said. “Made of massive materials that do not require special treatments or maintenance, accepting aging and time as part of the architecture process, the house has been conceptualized to end up one day covered by a new coat of materiality: a layer of patina.” + Ludwig Godefroy Architecture Photography by Rory Gardiner via Ludwig Godefroy Architecture

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Crowds fill national park for Yellowstone reopening

May 21, 2020 by  
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As some of the biggest national parks start to reopen, visitors reassure themselves that it is safe to be outdoors. But unfortunately in places like the ever-popular Yellowstone National Park, everybody is crowding in to see Old Faithful. On May 18, cars with license plates from all over the country filled Yellowstone’s parking lots and hardly a mask was in sight as people crowded together to watch the park’s famous geysers. Locals worry this could spread the virus to their communities. For now, only Yellowstone’s Wyoming gates are open. The Montana entrances remain closed. Tour buses, overnight camping and park lodging aren’t allowed. The park’s official stance is to encourage the use of masks in high-density areas. Related: Best practices for outdoor exercise during COVID-19 “We checked the webcam at Old Faithful at about 3:30 p.m. yesterday,” Kristin Brengel, senior vice-president of government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association, told The Guardian . “Not much physical distancing happening and not a single mask in sight.” Cars from all over began lining up at 5:30 a.m. for Yellowstone’s noon reopening. Local Mark Segal said his was the only car he saw from Teton County. He worried about out-of-state visitors spreading the coronavirus to the local community. “What if everyone that leaves here goes and gets a bite in Jackson?” he asked. “This is exactly what we’re afraid of.” Montana and Wyoming have had fewer COVID-19 cases than surrounding states. Locals are divided on the issue, with some local business owners pressing the park to reopen and bring much needed tourism dollars, while others are more concerned about public health. Melissa Alder, co-owner of a coffee and outdoor store called Freeheel and Wheel in West Yellowstone, told NPR she’s feeling nervous. “We are fearful of the congregation of people that will come, and I don’t think we’re ready,” Alder said. “I mean, we don’t have a hospital. We don’t have a bed. We don’t even have a doctor full-time here in West Yellowstone.” Via The Guardian and NPR Image via NPS / Jacob W. Frank

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US renewables hit milestone in surpassing coal output

May 21, 2020 by  
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The  COVID-19  pandemic has disrupted nationwide  energy  supply-and-demand patterns. Stay-at-home social distancing measures have altered U.S. electricity consumption. Bulk electricity usage by commercial businesses and industrial manufacturing has given way to increased household electricity consumption as the general population isolates at home. In turn, this economic slowdown has shifted electricity generation to rely more on the renewable energy sector. Both the  US Energy Information Administration (EIA)  and the  Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA)  have revealed that, from March 25th through May 3rd, utility-scale solar, wind and hydropower collectively generated more electricity than coal! This record 40-day timespan has edged over 2019’s run of 38 days when U.S.  renewables  first beat coal last year. Last year marked the first time renewables outpaced coal-fired electricity generation. This led to  IEEFA forecasts  of renewables eclipsing coal by 2021. Unexpectedly, this year’s COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated  renewable energy ‘s first-quarter performance in producing electricity. Hence,  EIA forecasts  expect electric power generated by coal “will fall by 25% in 2020.” Related:  COVID-19 and its effects on the environment Interestingly,  Forbes  notes that “The electric power sector consistently sees its lowest  coal  demand in April,” owing to seasonal temperature adjustments when winter transitions into springtime. Because of the change in season,  natural gas  and coal generators often “schedule routine maintenance for the spring…and many coal plants spen[d] part of April offline for planned, temporary outages.” This illustrates why wind generation is typically relied upon most in springtime. As for  hydropower , snowmelt often feeds rivers, thus accounting for increased electricity generation downstream each spring as well, Forbes explains. Last year’s forecasts showed trends at play within the energy industry. Not only have upgrades expanded  solar , wind and hydro infrastructure capacities, but coal plant closures have likewise been commonplace, hinting at the changing energy landscape. Several factors have quickened the demise of coal reliance. As the  EIA  has shared, both investor-owned and publicly-owned municipal electric utilities began decommissioning coal-fired power plants a decade ago at the behest of local and state government public utilities commissions. Secondly, costs to construct  wind farms  have slid over 40%, whereas solar costs have sunk by over 80%, making both more appealing. Naturally, the decline of coal-fired power plants has positive implications for the environment and  climate , since coal produces excess  greenhouse gas emissions .  But another concern is alleviated, too. Back in 2008, a joint Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) and University of Minnesota  research report  raised alarms on critical infrastructure planning. This report warned that pandemics could adversely affect coal supply chains and thereby prompt shortages in generating electricity to the Midwest, a region that relied on coal for 75% of its power generation, as opposed to only 5% on the West Coast. Transitioning away from coal-generated electricity these past 12 years following this report has mitigated the risk of wide swathes of Middle America losing electricity during the 2020 pandemic. + US Energy Information Administration (EIA) + Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA) Images via Pexels

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US renewables hit milestone in surpassing coal output

US renewables hit milestone in surpassing coal output

May 21, 2020 by  
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The  COVID-19  pandemic has disrupted nationwide  energy  supply-and-demand patterns. Stay-at-home social distancing measures have altered U.S. electricity consumption. Bulk electricity usage by commercial businesses and industrial manufacturing has given way to increased household electricity consumption as the general population isolates at home. In turn, this economic slowdown has shifted electricity generation to rely more on the renewable energy sector. Both the  US Energy Information Administration (EIA)  and the  Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA)  have revealed that, from March 25th through May 3rd, utility-scale solar, wind and hydropower collectively generated more electricity than coal! This record 40-day timespan has edged over 2019’s run of 38 days when U.S.  renewables  first beat coal last year. Last year marked the first time renewables outpaced coal-fired electricity generation. This led to  IEEFA forecasts  of renewables eclipsing coal by 2021. Unexpectedly, this year’s COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated  renewable energy ‘s first-quarter performance in producing electricity. Hence,  EIA forecasts  expect electric power generated by coal “will fall by 25% in 2020.” Related:  COVID-19 and its effects on the environment Interestingly,  Forbes  notes that “The electric power sector consistently sees its lowest  coal  demand in April,” owing to seasonal temperature adjustments when winter transitions into springtime. Because of the change in season,  natural gas  and coal generators often “schedule routine maintenance for the spring…and many coal plants spen[d] part of April offline for planned, temporary outages.” This illustrates why wind generation is typically relied upon most in springtime. As for  hydropower , snowmelt often feeds rivers, thus accounting for increased electricity generation downstream each spring as well, Forbes explains. Last year’s forecasts showed trends at play within the energy industry. Not only have upgrades expanded  solar , wind and hydro infrastructure capacities, but coal plant closures have likewise been commonplace, hinting at the changing energy landscape. Several factors have quickened the demise of coal reliance. As the  EIA  has shared, both investor-owned and publicly-owned municipal electric utilities began decommissioning coal-fired power plants a decade ago at the behest of local and state government public utilities commissions. Secondly, costs to construct  wind farms  have slid over 40%, whereas solar costs have sunk by over 80%, making both more appealing. Naturally, the decline of coal-fired power plants has positive implications for the environment and  climate , since coal produces excess  greenhouse gas emissions .  But another concern is alleviated, too. Back in 2008, a joint Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) and University of Minnesota  research report  raised alarms on critical infrastructure planning. This report warned that pandemics could adversely affect coal supply chains and thereby prompt shortages in generating electricity to the Midwest, a region that relied on coal for 75% of its power generation, as opposed to only 5% on the West Coast. Transitioning away from coal-generated electricity these past 12 years following this report has mitigated the risk of wide swathes of Middle America losing electricity during the 2020 pandemic. + US Energy Information Administration (EIA) + Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA) Images via Pexels

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