2020: Fossil fuels are dead, long live the sun

August 13, 2020 by  
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2020: Fossil fuels are dead, long live the sun Hunter Lovins Thu, 08/13/2020 – 00:15 We’re female entrepreneurs and environmentalists. We’ve spent decades promoting clean energy technologies. In this strangest of all years, as the death toll mounts from a disease caused by human incursions into once intact ecosystems, we’re observing another death — the demise of fossil fuels. Is that possible? Consider this: In April, Royal Dutch Shell, one of the largest companies in the world, announced its intent to become a net-zero carbon company by 2050. When oil and gas companies say that they’re getting out of oil and gas, shouldn’t you? No doubt Shell is counting on some miracle like carbon capture to preserve its adherence to a century-old business model of selling oil. And who could blame it? For years, extracting the black gold from the ground, processing it, then selling gasoline, fuel oil, petrochemicals and other refined products has been one of the most profitable businesses in history. In 2008, Exxon made a record $40.6 billion . For years, seven of the top 10 companies on the Dow Jones Index were oil companies until 2016 when most fell out of the top 10, leaving only Exxon. Last year, no fossil company made the top 10 list. Exxon’s 2018 revenues were half of what it made a decade earlier; in 2019, it was only $14.3 billion . That’s still a lot of money, but running an oil business is capital-intensive: Exxon was borrowing to pay dividends before COVID-19. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis reported that “the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas companies shelled out a total of $71.2 billion in dividends and share buybacks last year, while generating only $61 billion in free cash flow.”  Meanwhile, the coal and natural gas industries are also collapsing around us — a swift decline from the shale fracking boom. Fracking equipment sits idly in fields, and utilities shutter coal and natural gas power plants indefinitely. While businesses, community organizations, utilities and government agencies move away from dependence on fossil-fueled power generation, you can make that same shift, too. In April, the bubble popped, perhaps forever: Oil future prices hit negative $37 a barrel.  What happened? COVID-19 constricted commuting, and demand for refined oil products fell fast. Oil companies ran out of places to store the stuff. Tankers at anchor in the Houston Ship Channel started bumping into each other, but the oil kept flowing.  Why? It turns out it’s not easy to stop. Capping a well, realistically, means writing it off. Wells are capital-intensive to drill in the first place, but they are also costly to reopen. The cost to buy an oil rig runs from $20 million to $1 billion. Renting one isn’t cheap, either. In 2018, Transocean (yes, the folks who brought you the BP oil spill) charged Chevron $830 million ($445,000 a day) for one rig for five years. We bet someone’s now trying to renegotiate that contract. Hydraulic fracturing isn’t any cheaper. Even before the coronavirus hit, the shale gas Ponzi scheme was falling apart as investors realized that the enormous sums that they were asked to continue pouring into the industry were never likely to return a profit . Prices to frack a new well vary widely, depending on whether you’re drilling in West Texas or horizontally to frack under housing developments, varying from $40 to $90 a barrel. The costs multiply because fracked wells typically last less than a year. Even before COVID-19, traditional oil was lifting for $10 to $20 a barrel in Saudi Arabia, with a world average of $40. Fracking was not a viable industry even before oil went negative.  If this is the case, isn’t it a breach of fiduciary responsibility to invest in oil and gas extraction? If these are your own funds, throw them away if you wish, but Bevis Longstreth , former Securities and Exchange commissioner forecasted back in 2018, “It is entirely plausible, even predictable that continuing to hold equities in fossil fuel companies will come to be ruled negligence.” This helps explain why more than $11 trillion have been divested from fossil ownership, even before the University of California announced that it was divesting its $80 billion portfolio. Surely the world runs on oil. This will just be a blip to what is an essential industry for humankind, won’t it? No. It won’t. We can see the end. When the Kentucky Coal Museum puts solar on its roof because it is cheaper than hooking up to the coal-fired grid at its doorstep, it’s over. For fundamental economic reasons, solar power generation plus battery storage will provide at least half of electric power generation globally by 2030. Last summer, General Electric walked away from a natural gas plant in California that had a projected 20 years life because it can’t compete with solar. And this trend is happening around the world.  India canceled 14 new proposed coal plants because they can’t compete with solar. Portugal achieved 1.6 cents a kilowatt hour (¢kWh) for utility-scale solar, a price almost five times below building a new coal or gas plant. This spring the government announced that the country was 100 percent renewably powered and canceled all subsidies for fossil energy . And then Abu Dhabi set the latest new record for “everyday low price” when it brought on utility scale solar at 1.3 ¢kWh. In the bellwether state of California, the death knell for fossil fuels came when the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power signed a deal to buy power from a utility-scale solar plus battery storage facility at 2.9¢kWh. To put it simply, that is record-cheap solar power. While businesses, community organizations, utilities and government agencies move away from dependence on fossil-fueled power generation, you can make that same shift, too. You can have solar on your roof, a battery bank in your garage and be immune from power shutoffs, rising prices and vulnerability of all sorts. Centralized energy distribution from fossil fuels via the grid is not reliable (or cheaper). Extreme weather events are the biggest contributor to power outages and will increase with climate change, which the Department of Energy estimates costs the U.S. economy $150 billion annually. Customer-sited solar plus storage allows you to generate and store your own power, on or off-grid. Welcome to the triumph of the sun. Pull Quote While businesses, community organizations, utilities and government agencies move away from dependence on fossil-fueled power generation, you can make that same shift, too. Contributors Catherine Von Burg Topics Renewable Energy Solar Oil Natural Gas 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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2020: Fossil fuels are dead, long live the sun

What to do with banana peels

July 31, 2020 by  
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Banana peels. They’re so associated with comedy, you probably crack a smile just thinking about these famous casings. Bananas are a delicious snack and a little taste of the tropics that just about everyone enjoys, but they’re also an environmental problem. So what can you do with banana peels once you’ve eaten the delicious treats they keep wrapped inside? What’s the big deal? Other than being an obvious slip-and-fall hazard, what’s the big deal with banana peels? For starters, they produce methane gas. This gas is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, which is already pretty bad stuff for the planet. Related: 10 ways to use up mushy, overripe bananas Americans eat around 3.2 billion — yes, billion — pounds of bananas every year. That is a lot of methane-producing peels. But don’t give up on eating bananas just yet. There are plenty of environmentally friendly uses for banana peels. Banana peels as fertilizer and compost If you’re a home gardener, banana peels are a valuable resource. Wrap your peels around the base of your tomato plants. This works as a great slow-release fertilizer that provides your plants with nutrients, namely phosphorus, throughout the season. You can also soak your peels in water overnight. Take the banana-rich water and mix it with standard water to use for all your indoor plants. You want to get a ratio of about one part banana-peel water to five parts normal water. Banana peels are a great addition to the compost pile or bin because they are so rich in nutrients. The peels break down very quickly in compost. These peels are also great for animal feed as well. If you keep chickens, rabbits or any type of livestock, grind up dried banana peels and add them to your feed. Do you have aphids in your garden ? Cut two or three banana peels into pieces and dig one-inch holes near the base of your plants that are damaged from insects. Drop the pieces of peel inside. Ants and aphids will be drawn to the peels instead of to your plants. Home remedies If you have itchy bug bites or a rash, such as poison ivy, these fruit skins provide soothing relief. Rub the peel directly on the area to reduce the itchiness and help your skin heal. You can even use banana peels as a cheap polish. Rub the outer layer of peels on leather items of all kinds, including shoes and furniture, to polish the leather. Blend a peel with water to make silver polish. Need to remove a splinter? Leave the needles in the sewing kit and grab yourself a banana peel. Tape a piece of the peel to the skin directly where the splinter has embedded itself and leave it there for about 30 minutes. The enzymes in the peel will naturally draw the splinter toward the surface of the skin so it can easily be pulled out. You can integrate banana peels into your daily skincare routine, as they may help fade scars and soothe acne. Rub the fleshy part of the peel directly on your face. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before you rinse your face thoroughly. Do this every day, and you could notice an improvement in scars and acne within a week or two. Banish bugs Grab a container with a lid and poke some small holes in the lid. Place the peel inside and cover the container with the perforated lid. This is a great way to attract and trap fruit flies and other little insects. They’re drawn to the sweet smell of the banana, and then they’re trapped by your DIY trick. You can throw the peel away after a day or two and freshen the trap as needed. Cook with banana peels Get creative and start experimenting with cooking banana peels. They can be made into vinegar, pickled in brine, broiled with cinnamon and sugar to become a unique dessert or even turned into a spicy curry. There are dozens of ways to cook with the peels that you once threw away. Once you start using them in your recipes, you’re going to find all kinds of ways to give new life to those peels. Add a peel to any roasting pan when you’re cooking meat or fish. This helps to tenderize and moisten the meat while it’s cooking. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can actually just eat your banana peels. They’re full of antioxidants and nutrients, so they’re actually really good for you. Boil peels for about 10 minutes in water and run it through the juicer or blend it up with other fruits and enjoy! Banana peels make a great chutney ingredient, too. Soak them in cold water, then boil the peels and chop them up to mix in with other chutney ingredients to add a tasty, nutritious burst to your dish. There are several different recipes for banana tea online, or you can play around with your own recipe . If you boil the peels for about 10 minutes, enough flavor will be released into the water to create a great flavor. You can also candy your peels to use as a topping for cupcakes, cakes, yogurt, ice cream and a variety of other treats. Chop up the peel into small pieces and cook it on medium heat with a half-cup of sugar and a half-cup of water. Once it caramelizes, spread the mixture on a cookie sheet or parchment paper to allow it to cool. Then, you can chop or break it into pieces and have a sweet banana topping any time. Getting serious about banana peels It’s no laughing matter — banana peels have too many uses to simply be thrown away. The peels are a great source of both potassium, magnesium and fiber, and they’re packed with Vitamins C and B6. So if you’re throwing out your peels, you’re losing out on an all-purpose personal care product, household remedy, garden aid and cooking ingredient that can be added to just about anything. Images via Louis Hansel , t_watanabe , Vicran and bluebudgie

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QuenchSea offers low-cost desalination device for humanitarian aid

July 21, 2020 by  
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Newly developed QuenchSea is a low-cost, handheld machine with the potential to become a complete life-saver for water-related emergency situations and humanitarian crises. The device has the capacity to turn about one liter of seawater — and up to three liters in ideal conditions — into drinkable freshwater every hour using a manual system. The desalination device comes from London-based start-up Hydro Wind Energy, and the company is on a mission to donate 100 million units for humanitarian efforts by 2027. The innovative idea is part of an ambitious vision to help solve the world’s freshwater crisis. Related: GoSun Flow is a portable water purifier and sanitation station powered by solar Globally, there are 2 billion people living without access to clean water . Around two-thirds of the global population live in water-scarce areas, and 7 million die from water-related diseases each year. In the past, emergency situations would often mean resorting to boiling seawater in order to make the water potable. The QuenchSea provides a safe alternative that is not only fast and convenient, but affordable, making it one of the first of its kind. Better yet, each purchase includes the donation of an extra device for humanitarian use by one of QuenchSea’s clean water partners. Even if you don’t need a device for yourself, the website offers opportunities to donate funds toward a purchase of one for a nonprofit organization. QuenchSea works by combining a hydraulic system, triple-filtration and reverse osmosis. There is an inbuilt ultrafiltration and microfiltration system inside that removes suspended solids, bacteria, viruses, parasites and microplastics from the seawater. An initial filter removes the majority of the sediments and particles before forcing the seawater through a pressurized 0.01 micron membrane to remove the rest of the contaminants. The final stage uses an advanced industrial reverse osmosis membrane containing pores small enough to filter pure water through while rejecting larger molecules, such as salt and bacteria. While the global water crisis was the initial inspiration for the project, the QuenchSea device is designed for anyone to use. Whether you’re a sailor on the open ocean, a survivalist or a camper , the ease of use makes it an ideal companion to outdoor adventures. The device weighs just 1.5 pounds, fits into a small bag and is both durable and reusable. Need for additional filters vary depending on usage but will only cost about $10 to change. + QuenchSea Images via QuenchSea

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12 things you should never compost

July 7, 2020 by  
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Composting is an easy and effective way to deal with food waste and fertilize your garden. Compost bins are readily available for purchase in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. You can also easily make your own composter or even simply create a compost pile. Layers of brown material, food scraps and green material decompose, turning into nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Although composting is simple and advantageous, there are still some items that you should never toss into the mix. Here are some compost no-no’s to abide by. Pet waste Although it may seem like a natural material , dog poop and cat litter are not suitable for the compost pile. Remember, in essence, if it’s in the compost, it’s on next year’s lettuce. Do you want cat poop in your lettuce? Besides the yuck factor, parasites, bacteria, germs and viruses that are harmful to humans can survive in this waste. Fish Even though fish scales and other parts break down quickly, it’s not quick enough if you have cats in the neighborhood. Fish is best left out of the mix mostly because it is likely to attract animals. Plus, the smell is likely to offend the neighbors. Meat Meat is another stinky attractant. Not only will your dogs and local wildlife be unable to resist the temptation, but the internal temperatures created during the composting process might not get high enough to kill pathogens. Related: Compostable, portable Stak pods eliminate the need for individually wrapped snacks Treated wood Pressure-treated lumber is a durable choice for fencing, decking and other outdoor projects. But when that wood has served its purpose, find a disposal method where it doesn’t end up in your compost. The chemicals in pressure-treated lumber can leach into your food and also compromise the balance of your compost mixture. Untreated lumber and bark chips can go into the compost, as can other natural materials, such as straw.  Fire ashes Similar to the reasons explained above, wood ash can contain chemicals that affect the end product of compost. However, if you’re certain the ashes are exclusively from clean, untreated, natural wood , it can be a nice addition to the mix. Dairy products All animal products are likely to attract unwanted attention to your compost pile, so cheese, yogurt, milk and other dairy products should not be composted. Although some critters, such as worms, are useful for composting, the rodents and flies that would go after the rotting dairy would just cause problems for your compost pile. Fat, oil and grease Again, these items attract animals , but they also upset the balance and repel some of the water that is essential to the decomposition process. Diseased plants Although the composter is the perfect spot for plants you’ve pulled from the garden or yard, make sure the plants are disease-free. Any bacteria or other infestations can transfer to other plants down the road, so it’s best to dispose of them instead. Weeds For a backyard composter, the temperatures are often lower than commercial facilities that treat all kinds of yard debris, so use caution with which plants you add. Weeds can often survive the heat limitations of a backyard composter, meaning they can pop up again in the garden after you’ve dispersed the compost. Grass clippings with pesticides Grass clippings are a welcome element and typically make up the “green” portion of the compost recipe. However, if your lawn is treated with pesticides , keep the clippings out of the composter and, subsequently, your food supply. The chemicals in the grass can also kill organisms essential to the composting process. Black walnut components While nearly every organic plant, with the exception of weeds, is welcome at the composting party, black walnut trees produce juglone, a substance that can be dangerous or even deadly to many vegetable plants. Plastics It might seem obvious that these are inorganic materials, but some packaging is deceptive in its phrasing and might claim to be compostable. The truth is that many plastic-like polymers still have to reach temperatures only achieved at commercial facilities. So while the label may say it is compostable, read the fine print. It will usually clarify whether the statement pertains to a commercial facility or is suitable for the backyard.  The advantages of composting are both obvious and extensive, so don’t derail your efforts by adding the wrong materials. Instead, focus on the many options you do have to create a healthy compost pile. All organic food scraps, mostly those from fruits and vegetables, can be combined with eggshells and even coffee grounds. For the second element, include brown items such as unprinted paper bags, toilet paper rolls, unbleached napkins, small twigs, leaves and bark. Finally, round out your ingredients with the green from healthy plant materials and untreated grass. Once you get started, you’ll find out just how many items can be diverted from the street cart to the compost pile — a win for your garden and the planet. Images via Shutterstock

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Kudmai Collection repurposes vintage fishing boats into unique wood flooring

July 7, 2020 by  
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The Sacred Crafts, a San Diego-based brand focused on adding character to the home by sustainable methods, is giving new life to old wooden ships. The company’s new line, dubbed the Kudmai Collection after the Thai word for “reborn,” is a beautiful example of environmentally friendly reuse that also celebrates cultural history. Rather than creating new materials (and new waste), the company is dedicated to harvesting old materials that were once useful and meaningful for its pieces instead. The wood used for the Kudmai Collection comes from vintage and decommissioned Thailand boats, which have been retired from service and are no longer needed. Related: Costa Rican eco-lodge is made of reclaimed wood from a 100-year-old home The boats are deconstructed and the wood is designed for indoor flooring, but it can also be utilized for outdoor flooring and wall paneling with the proper treatment. Each plank is made of 4mm reclaimed ironwood and reclaimed acacia wood with an added base of 15mm sustainable eucalyptus plywood. Kudmai is available in three main colorways, which are customizable depending on needs and lifestyles. “Carbonized” uses a natural wood treatment that adds heat and pressure to enrich the wood’s natural minerals, meaning it doesn’t require staining and won’t change color over time. “Blonde” is the lightest of the three, with a subtle medium- to pale-yellow hue and a natural sheen that will help brighten a space. “Nude” provides a deeply rich, reddish-brown color with added warm vintage appeal. The flooring comes with a 10-year residential warranty and can ship to any country globally. There are two finishes available: low-sheen satin and high-gloss piano. While giving new life to materials that would otherwise become trash, the flooring also helps tell the stories of sailors and destinations that the fishing boats experienced throughout their service on the water. Because each piece of upcycled wood is unique in terms of age and seasoning, depending on its exposure, Kudamai floor boards become a true one-of-a-kind addition to any home. + The Sacred Crafts Images via The Sacred Crafts

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Tropicfeel launches hemp capsule clothing collection

July 2, 2020 by  
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In a move, or movement, away from fast fashion, the sustainability minded travel and lifestyle company Tropicfeel has created an all-natural clothing line that makes packing easy and is equally as easy on the environment. On the heels of its wildly successful 2017 Kickstarter campaign for a lightweight and durable shoe called Monsoon, Tropicfeel moved into the clothing realm, directly aimed at disrupting the wasteful and polluting mainstream clothing industry. The newly unveiled hemp selections provide travel or everyday essentials in a capsule collection that makes mixing and matching a breeze.  Related: Olli Ella releases capsule wardrobe made with organic cotton The nine Stand Up wear-anywhere pieces are made from sustainable, natural fibers including hemp, tree pulp-derived Tencel and organic cotton fibers. These natural materials, along with compostable packaging, create products manufactured as totally vegan , environmentally friendly, lightweight and long-lasting.  The capsule collections include an olive green maxi-length T-shirt dress, feather-light ecru shorts, simple T-shirts and even a statement beach towel. The Stand Up collection keeps color options to a minimum for easy coordinating. Tropicfeel burst into the fashion market three years ago with a Kickstarter campaign in the hopes of achieving crowdfunding to help launch its debut shoe design, resulting in the most-funded shoe in Kickstarter history. That’s when the team knew they were on to something, that something being a shared desire to own functional fashion pieces that last longer, are versatile enough to wear on a hike or out to dinner and are made in an environmentally conscious way. The company explained how hemp as the primary material helps achieve these goals. “Hemp requires minimal fertilizer and as little as half the water required for pure cotton, whilst the hardy plants hoover up vast amounts of CO2 from the air, return up to 70% of nutrients back into the soil and protect against soil erosion,” Tropicfeel stated. “Designed with the minimalist traveler in mind, the Tropicfeel collection is also perfect for day-to-day life: hemp is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-odor, breathable and cooling in summer’s heat.” + Tropicfeel Images via Tropicfeel

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Tropicfeel launches hemp capsule clothing collection

Consumer Reports finds high arsenic level in Whole Foods bottled water

June 26, 2020 by  
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New Consumer Reports tests determined that some bottled water manufactured by Whole Foods contains potentially dangerous arsenic levels. Starkey Spring Water, which Whole Foods has been selling since 2015, contained at least triple the amount of arsenic as every other brand tested. Arsenic levels in the Starkey Spring Water ranged from 9.49 to 9.56 parts per billion. While this is within federal regulations stating that manufacturers must keep arsenic levels at or below 10 PPB, Consumer Reports experts believe that level is too high to keep the public safe. Related: EWG warns ‘forever chemicals’ are contaminating US drinking water at levels far worse than expected Consumer Reports and The Guardian worked together on a major project about Americans’ access to safe and affordable water . They found that bottled water is not always safer than tap water and noted irregularities between the ways in which the EPA regulates municipal water and the FDA oversees bottled water. While states can set individual standards for tap water, they have no jurisdiction over bottled water’s contaminants. For example, New Jersey and New Hampshire lowered their acceptable arsenic levels to 5 PPB to protect children. However, that rule only applies to tap water. “I think the average consumer would be stunned to learn that they’re paying a lot of extra money for bottled water, thinking that it’s significantly safer than tap, and unknowingly getting potentially dangerous levels of arsenic,” said Erik Olson, senior strategic director of health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), according to The Guardian . Arsenic levels of 5 PPB or more were associated with children’s IQs measuring five or six points lower than average, according to a 2014 study published in the journal Environmental Health . Whole Foods has already faced a couple of lawsuits over Starkey Spring Water’s arsenic level, including one from a stage IV cancer survivor who said his condition makes him keenly aware of contaminants, and he wouldn’t have bought the bottled water had he known about the high amount of arsenic. An FDA spokesperson stressed that because arsenic occurs naturally, “it is not possible to remove arsenic entirely from the environment or food supply.” However, you may want to rethink your bottled water brand in favor of one with lower levels. Or, better yet, if you live in a place with good tap water, save some money and skip the ocean-bound plastic bottles. + Consumer Reports Via The Guardian Image via Suzy Hazelwood

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Consumer Reports finds high arsenic level in Whole Foods bottled water

This net-zero home is integrated into the slopes of Carmel Valley

June 26, 2020 by  
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Tehama 2 in Carmel-by-the-Sea by Studio Schicketanz is a net-zero home built using reclaimed wood and local stone. We caught up with Mary Ann Schicketanz to talk about some of the more sustainable features to this project and her studio. In an effort to incorporate the agricultural, architectural tradition of the coastal area, the home was designed in response to the owner’s desire for a traditional environment without artificiality. The main wooden structure is supported by a solid, plaster base, a contrast meant to mirror the ground and the sky. There are PV panels incorporated into the roof of the guest wing, and the generated energy is stored in Tesla Powerwalls. Schicketanz gives us a closer look into all of the sustainable efforts that went into this project. Related: Modern farmhouse targets net-zero energy in Vermont Inhabitat: Your firm designed the first LEED-certified project in Big Sur and the first LEED-certified project in Carmel. Why is sustainability so important to you? Schicketanz: “I believe the future of our planet will depend on everyone, in each industry sector, to work toward a lifecycle economy. We need to stop digging up or pumping up raw materials for production and building. Ultimately, this leads to waste and pollutes the planet after we are done consuming. While we are working toward a healthier world, building LEED-certified is a start.” Inhabitat: What about taking environmental impact into account during construction? Schicketanz: “The biggest issue we face is construction waste , and it is terribly hard to move our industry toward a little-to-no-waste process.” Inhabitat: Can you tell us about some of the more sustainable and eco-friendly features to Tehama 2? Schicketanz: “We used reclaimed wood and materials for the ceiling as well as human-made materials such as concrete floor tiles throughout instead of stone pavers. In this particular job we were striving for, and achieved, a Net Zero rating , which even included charging stations for two electric vehicles.” Inhabitat: Are there any aesthetic features to the house that you are especially proud of? Schicketanz: “Yes, we developed an asymmetrical all-timber structure (inspired by the vernacular architecture of Carmel Valley) allowing for a very deep porch without losing any views toward the Santa Lucia Mountain Range.” Inhabitat: What did you find most rewarding about this particular project? Schicketanz: “I love how the structure is integrated and interlocks into the landscape.” Inhabitat: Why should people invest in a Net Zero home? Schicketanz: “Aside from being extremely good for the environment, another obvious reason is that after a very short time, homeowners no longer have any costs to operate their homes.” + Studio Schicketanz Photography by Tim Griffith Photography via Studio Schicketanz

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This net-zero home is integrated into the slopes of Carmel Valley

Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

June 23, 2020 by  
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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan Tom Baruch Tue, 06/23/2020 – 01:30 The global COVID-19 pandemic is a historic Black Swan event that offers a Green Swan of opportunities to harvest innovation from 50 years of converging exponential technologies. We are presented with a rare opportunity to invest in new innovations, rebuild our data and power infrastructures and supply chains to restore and strengthen the economy while healing the environment. According to author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Black Swans are unexpected, hard-to-predict events that result in extreme, unintended consequences. The coronavirus pandemic is a classic Black Swan. Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed countries and states scrambling for personal protective equipment and ventilators. Oil tankers are carrying millions of tons of oil with nowhere to go. Farmers are destroying food and supermarket shelves are missing essential items across the nation. These events, made visible by the COVID-19 virus, have shown us the fragility of systems pushed to their breaking point by design constraints to maximize return on investment in the absence of resiliency.  Green Swans, according to John Elkington , are positive market developments once deemed highly unlikely, if not impossible. They can have a profound positive impact across economic, social and environmental value creation. To lessen the impact of current and future Black Swan events, we have Green Swan solutions that are ready to deploy on behalf of preparedness and resilience. Entrepreneurial innovation, new investment and regulatory models must be promoted and accelerated to prepare for future pandemics, climate change and to restore the environment. Back to normal is not an option To rebuild the economy, the United States government so far seems to choose to deploy the same playbook it did in 2008: funding legacy companies in industries such as oil and gas.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. This old playbook will not return us to a pre-COVID-19 “normal.” The price of oil plunged below zero on some days, and customer demand remains at an all-time low. Bailouts paper over the fossil fuel industry’s weaknesses and “will create a zombie industry forever dependent on state aid for survival,” according to Jason Quay, director of the Global Climate Strategy Sunrise Project.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. In the United States, examples include the Transcontinental Railroad, the Manhattan Project, the Interstate Highway System and the Apollo program.  What if the government were to integrate support for clean energy into its COVID-19 economic recovery program? Renewables would emerge more robust than ever. Utilities already have found wind and solar power are less costly sources of energy. The economics of solar and wind including storage costs are quickly undercutting the economics of oil as a prime mover. According to MIT Tech Review , prices for solar energy have declined by 97 percent since 1980. Government policies that stimulated the growth of solar accounted for 60 percent of that price decline. Even without those policies — they soon expire — renewables are more than competitive against fossil fuels. The national strategy for re-opening the economy needs to focus on resilience projects and creating an infrastructure that will absorb future shocks. Government must provide the regulatory support to amplify transformative innovation from the intersections of converging exponential technologies. We already have demonstrated the efficacy of investments directed to electrical distribution, water, transportation and renewable energy. Green Swan solutions are already at work Entrepreneurs are on the verge of creating an era that will be marked by abundance, sustainability and resilience. The world that emerges from COVID-19 could offer plentiful, zero marginal cost electricity, ubiquitous computing and cheap bio-manufacturing of high-purity drugs and environmentally friendly plastics directly from DNA.  As another example, the digitization of the electrical grid, is changing the way power is delivered and consumed. Cheap electricity drives electrons across the electrical grid where they become more accessible and offer a more affordable, cleaner and more resilient way to charge electric batteries. Among other benefits, that will increase EV adoption, leading to cleaner air. Cheap electricity will increase access to clean water. One ingenious company, Zero Mass Water , has repurposed the same solar panels helping create cheap electricity to squeeze potable water from the air — even in desert conditions. Cheap electricity also will drive synthetic biology — the intersection of information and biotechnologies, where Moore’s Law meets Mendel , the father of genetics. Synthetic biology already has delivered safe, more economical, cleaner fuels, hardier crops and proteins that are brewed locally to fertilize crops and feed animals — including us humans. Futuristic, sustainable, brewed, high-performance materials already are manufactured locally, disrupting traditional supply chains. Among the many companies demonstrating the breadth of this industry are Calysta (proteins for food production), Codexis (enzymes for multiple applications) and Geltor (proteins for nutrition and personal care products). These companies are demonstrating their products can be more effective than those developed from petroleum products or requiring the slaughter of animals. Emerging digital and biological tools for traceability and reliability are helping build supply-chain resilience now when it is most needed. With digital and biological tools, entrepreneurs are mapping supply chains to increase traceability while offering new levels of transparency following goods as they make their ways from manufacturer to consumer.  Resilience, despite resistance Entrepreneurs, new business models and investors will show us the way forward. Entrepreneurs have demonstrated time and time again that they can compress a century of progress into a decade. With the support of a community of enlightened venture capital investors, corporate strategic partners, financial institutions and governmental regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can create exponential change and generate substantial value in short periods of time. With community inputs from technology, financial and regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can generate greater returns on investment, and their efforts can create a template for the rest of the world. We need to encourage and fund new business models that leverage converging exponential technologies. In the 1990s, business models were focused almost exclusively on share of wallet. For the past 20 years, digital technology has enabled the emergence of the business models that have driven the circular and sharing economies with their positive benefits. New business models are quickly emerging based on cloud computing, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, blockchain, data analytics, augmented/virtual reality and combinations thereof. No doubt, they will bring countless benefits. Regulatory barriers for new business models should be eliminated or eased. Don’t bet against America We know this current crisis is a preview or warm-up act for a climate-changing world. The pandemic demands that business and government leaders be ready, willing and able to respond while building secure and resilient supply chains and infrastructure. The post-pandemic world requires that business and government leaders encourage creativity in preparing for the next crisis.  As we try to anticipate a resilient, reliable, secure, sustainable and prosperous future, we also have the chance to incubate and create that future. We can apply what we have learned from the past 50 years of entrepreneurial innovation, from Moore’s Law (semiconductors, information technologies and the Internet) and the mapping of the human genome, and their positive impact on global GNP. It is up to us to innovate and advocate to make the right choices. In a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, investor Warren Buffett wrote, “America’s economy will continue to grow and prosper for generations to come.” He finished by saying, “For 240 years, it’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America.”  Applying our know-how and ingenuity to prepare for the next crisis is the right place to start. Pull Quote History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. Topics Innovation VERGE Cleantech 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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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

June 23, 2020 by  
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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan Tom Baruch Tue, 06/23/2020 – 01:30 The global COVID-19 pandemic is a historic Black Swan event that offers a Green Swan of opportunities to harvest innovation from 50 years of converging exponential technologies. We are presented with a rare opportunity to invest in new innovations, rebuild our data and power infrastructures and supply chains to restore and strengthen the economy while healing the environment. According to author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Black Swans are unexpected, hard-to-predict events that result in extreme, unintended consequences. The coronavirus pandemic is a classic Black Swan. Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed countries and states scrambling for personal protective equipment and ventilators. Oil tankers are carrying millions of tons of oil with nowhere to go. Farmers are destroying food and supermarket shelves are missing essential items across the nation. These events, made visible by the COVID-19 virus, have shown us the fragility of systems pushed to their breaking point by design constraints to maximize return on investment in the absence of resiliency.  Green Swans, according to John Elkington , are positive market developments once deemed highly unlikely, if not impossible. They can have a profound positive impact across economic, social and environmental value creation. To lessen the impact of current and future Black Swan events, we have Green Swan solutions that are ready to deploy on behalf of preparedness and resilience. Entrepreneurial innovation, new investment and regulatory models must be promoted and accelerated to prepare for future pandemics, climate change and to restore the environment. Back to normal is not an option To rebuild the economy, the United States government so far seems to choose to deploy the same playbook it did in 2008: funding legacy companies in industries such as oil and gas.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. This old playbook will not return us to a pre-COVID-19 “normal.” The price of oil plunged below zero on some days, and customer demand remains at an all-time low. Bailouts paper over the fossil fuel industry’s weaknesses and “will create a zombie industry forever dependent on state aid for survival,” according to Jason Quay, director of the Global Climate Strategy Sunrise Project.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. In the United States, examples include the Transcontinental Railroad, the Manhattan Project, the Interstate Highway System and the Apollo program.  What if the government were to integrate support for clean energy into its COVID-19 economic recovery program? Renewables would emerge more robust than ever. Utilities already have found wind and solar power are less costly sources of energy. The economics of solar and wind including storage costs are quickly undercutting the economics of oil as a prime mover. According to MIT Tech Review , prices for solar energy have declined by 97 percent since 1980. Government policies that stimulated the growth of solar accounted for 60 percent of that price decline. Even without those policies — they soon expire — renewables are more than competitive against fossil fuels. The national strategy for re-opening the economy needs to focus on resilience projects and creating an infrastructure that will absorb future shocks. Government must provide the regulatory support to amplify transformative innovation from the intersections of converging exponential technologies. We already have demonstrated the efficacy of investments directed to electrical distribution, water, transportation and renewable energy. Green Swan solutions are already at work Entrepreneurs are on the verge of creating an era that will be marked by abundance, sustainability and resilience. The world that emerges from COVID-19 could offer plentiful, zero marginal cost electricity, ubiquitous computing and cheap bio-manufacturing of high-purity drugs and environmentally friendly plastics directly from DNA.  As another example, the digitization of the electrical grid, is changing the way power is delivered and consumed. Cheap electricity drives electrons across the electrical grid where they become more accessible and offer a more affordable, cleaner and more resilient way to charge electric batteries. Among other benefits, that will increase EV adoption, leading to cleaner air. Cheap electricity will increase access to clean water. One ingenious company, Zero Mass Water , has repurposed the same solar panels helping create cheap electricity to squeeze potable water from the air — even in desert conditions. Cheap electricity also will drive synthetic biology — the intersection of information and biotechnologies, where Moore’s Law meets Mendel , the father of genetics. Synthetic biology already has delivered safe, more economical, cleaner fuels, hardier crops and proteins that are brewed locally to fertilize crops and feed animals — including us humans. Futuristic, sustainable, brewed, high-performance materials already are manufactured locally, disrupting traditional supply chains. Among the many companies demonstrating the breadth of this industry are Calysta (proteins for food production), Codexis (enzymes for multiple applications) and Geltor (proteins for nutrition and personal care products). These companies are demonstrating their products can be more effective than those developed from petroleum products or requiring the slaughter of animals. Emerging digital and biological tools for traceability and reliability are helping build supply-chain resilience now when it is most needed. With digital and biological tools, entrepreneurs are mapping supply chains to increase traceability while offering new levels of transparency following goods as they make their ways from manufacturer to consumer.  Resilience, despite resistance Entrepreneurs, new business models and investors will show us the way forward. Entrepreneurs have demonstrated time and time again that they can compress a century of progress into a decade. With the support of a community of enlightened venture capital investors, corporate strategic partners, financial institutions and governmental regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can create exponential change and generate substantial value in short periods of time. With community inputs from technology, financial and regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can generate greater returns on investment, and their efforts can create a template for the rest of the world. We need to encourage and fund new business models that leverage converging exponential technologies. In the 1990s, business models were focused almost exclusively on share of wallet. For the past 20 years, digital technology has enabled the emergence of the business models that have driven the circular and sharing economies with their positive benefits. New business models are quickly emerging based on cloud computing, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, blockchain, data analytics, augmented/virtual reality and combinations thereof. No doubt, they will bring countless benefits. Regulatory barriers for new business models should be eliminated or eased. Don’t bet against America We know this current crisis is a preview or warm-up act for a climate-changing world. The pandemic demands that business and government leaders be ready, willing and able to respond while building secure and resilient supply chains and infrastructure. The post-pandemic world requires that business and government leaders encourage creativity in preparing for the next crisis.  As we try to anticipate a resilient, reliable, secure, sustainable and prosperous future, we also have the chance to incubate and create that future. We can apply what we have learned from the past 50 years of entrepreneurial innovation, from Moore’s Law (semiconductors, information technologies and the Internet) and the mapping of the human genome, and their positive impact on global GNP. It is up to us to innovate and advocate to make the right choices. In a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, investor Warren Buffett wrote, “America’s economy will continue to grow and prosper for generations to come.” He finished by saying, “For 240 years, it’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America.”  Applying our know-how and ingenuity to prepare for the next crisis is the right place to start. Pull Quote History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. Topics Innovation VERGE Cleantech 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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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

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