How the climate crisis will crash the economy

September 14, 2020 by  
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How the climate crisis will crash the economy Joel Makower Mon, 09/14/2020 – 02:11 The chickens are coming home to roost. Even before the western United States became a regional inferno, even before the Midwest U.S. became a summertime flood zone, even before an annual hurricane season so bad that the government is running out of names to attach to them, even before Colorado saw a 100°F heatwave swan dive into a 12? snowstorm within 48 hours. Even before all that, we’d been watching the real-world risks of climate change looming and growing across the United States and around the world. And the costs, financially and otherwise, are quickly becoming untenable. Lately, a steady march of searing heat, ruinous floods, horrific wildfires, unbreathable air, devastating hurricanes and other climate-related calamities has been traversing our screens and wreaking havoc to national and local budgets. And we’re only at 1°C of increased global temperature rise. Just imagine what 2° or 3° or 4° will look like, and how much it will cost. We may not have to wait terribly long to find out. It’s natural to follow the people impacted by all this: the local residents, usually in poorer neighborhoods, whose homes and livelihoods are being lost; the farmers and ranchers whose crops and livestock are withering and dying; the stranded travelers and the evacuees seeking shelter amid the chaos. And, of course the heroic responders to all these events, not to mention an entire generation of youth who fear their future is being stolen before their eyes, marching in the streets. So many people and stories. But lately, I’ve been following the money. The financial climate, it seems, has been as unforgiving as the atmospheric one. Some of it has been masked by the pandemic and ensuing recession, but for those who are paying attention, the indicators are hiding in plain sight. And what we’re seeing now are merely the opening acts of what could be a long-running global financial drama. The economic impact on companies is, to date, uncertain and likely incalculable. The financial climate, it seems, has been as unforgiving as the atmospheric one. Last week, a subcommittee of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued a report addressing climate risks to the U.S. financial system. That it did so is, in itself, remarkable, given the political climes. But the report didn’t pussyfoot around the issues: “Climate change poses a major risk to the stability of the U.S. financial system and to its ability to sustain the American economy,” it stated, adding: Climate change is already impacting or is anticipated to impact nearly every facet of the economy, including infrastructure, agriculture, residential and commercial property, as well as human health and labor productivity. Over time, if significant action is not taken to check rising global average temperatures, climate change impacts could impair the productive capacity of the economy and undermine its ability to generate employment, income and opportunity. Among the “complex risks for the U.S. financial system,” the authors said, are “disorderly price adjustments in various asset classes, with possible spillovers into different parts of the financial system, as well as potential disruption of the proper functioning of financial markets.” In other words: We’re heading into uncharted economic territory. Climate change, said the report’s authors, is expected to affect “multiple sectors, geographies and assets in the United States, sometimes simultaneously and within a relatively short timeframe.” Those impacts could “disrupt multiple parts of the financial system simultaneously.” For example: “A sudden revision of market perceptions about climate risk could lead to a disorderly repricing of assets, which could in turn have cascading effects on portfolios and balance sheets and therefore systemic implications for financial stability.” Sub-systemic shocks And then there are “sub-systemic” shocks, more localized climate-related impacts that “can undermine the financial health of community banks, agricultural banks or local insurance markets, leaving small businesses, farmers and households without access to critical financial services.” This, said the authors, is particularly damaging in areas that are already underserved by the financial system, which includes low-to-moderate income communities and historically marginalized communities. As always, those least able to least afford the impacts may get hit the hardest. This was hardly the first expression of concern about the potentially devastating economic impacts of climate change on companies, markets, nations and the global economy. For example: Two years ago, the Fourth National Climate Assessment noted that continued warming “is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts.” It placed the price tag at up to 10.5 percent of GDP by 2100. Last month, scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said that while previous research suggested that a 1°C hotter year reduces economic output by about 1 percent, “the new analysis points to output losses of up to three times that much in warm regions.”’ Another report last month, by the Environmental Defense Fund, detailed how the financial impacts of fires, tropical storms, floods, droughts and crop freezes have quadrupled since 1980. “Researchers are only now beginning to anticipate the indirect impacts in the form of lower asset values, weakened future economic growth and uncertainty-induced instability in financial markets,” it said. And if you really want a sleepless night or two, read this story about  “The Biblical Flood That Will Drown California,” published recently in Mother Jones magazine. Even if you don’t have a home, business or operations in the Golden State, your suppliers and customers likely do, not to mention the provenance of the food on your dinner plate. Down to business The CTFC report did not overlook the role of companies in all this. It noted that “disclosure by corporations of information on material, climate-related financial risks is an essential building block to ensure that climate risks are measured and managed effectively,” enabling enables financial regulators and market participants to better understand climate change’s impacts on financial markets and institutions. However, it warned, “The existing disclosure regime has not resulted in disclosures of a scope, breadth and quality to be sufficiently useful to market participants and regulators.” An analysis by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure found that large companies are increasingly disclosing some climate-related information, but significant variations remain in the information disclosed by each company, making it difficult for investors and others to fully understand exposure and manage climate risks . The macroeconomic forecasts, however gloomy, likely seem academic inside boardrooms. And while that may be myopic — after all, the nature of the economy could begin to shift dramatically before the current decade is out, roiling customers and markets — it likely has little to do with profits and productivity over the short time frames within which most companies operate. Nonetheless, companies with a slightly longer view are already be considering the viability of their products and services in a warming world. Consider the recommendations of the aforementioned CFTC report, of which there are 20. Among them: “The United States should establish a price on carbon.” “All relevant federal financial regulatory agencies should incorporate climate-related risks into their mandates and develop a strategy for integrating these risks in their work.” “Regulators should require listed companies to disclose Scope 1 and 2 emissions. As reliable transition risk metrics and consistent methodologies for Scope 3 emissions are developed, financial regulators should require their disclosure, to the extent they are material.” The Financial Stability Oversight Council “should incorporate climate-related financial risks into its existing oversight function, including its annual reports and other reporting to Congress.” “Financial supervisors should require bank and nonbank financial firms to address climate-related financial risks through their existing risk management frameworks in a way that is appropriately governed by corporate management.” None of these things is likely to happen until there’s a new legislature and presidential administration in Washington, D.C., but history has shown that many of these can become de facto regulations if enough private-sector and nongovernmental players can adapt and pressure (or incentivize) companies to adopt and hew to the appropriate frameworks. Finally, there is collaboration among the leading nongovernmental organizations focusing on sustainability reporting and accountability. And there’s some news on that front: Last week, five NGOs whose frameworks, standards and platforms guide the majority of sustainability and integrated reporting, announced “a shared vision of what is needed for progress towards comprehensive corporate reporting — and the intent to work together to achieve it.” CDP , the Climate Disclosure Standards Board , the Global Reporting Initiative , the International Integrated Reporting Council and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board have co-published a shared vision of the elements necessary for more comprehensive corporate reporting, and a joint statement of intent to drive towards this goal. They say they will work collaboratively with one another and with the International Organization of Securities Commissions, the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation, the European Commission and the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council. Lots of names and acronyms in the above paragraph, but you get the idea: Finally, there is collaboration among the leading nongovernmental organizations focusing on sustainability reporting and accountability. To the extent they manage to harmonize their respective standards and frameworks, and should a future U.S. administration adopt those standards the way previous ones did the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, we could see a rapid scale-up of corporate reporting on these matters. Increased reporting won’t by itself mitigate the anticipated macroeconomic challenges, but to the extent it puts climate risks on an equal footing with other corporate risks — along with a meaningful price on carbon that will help companies attach dollar signs to those risks — it will help advance a decarbonized economy. Slowly — much too slowly — but amid an unstable climate and economy we’ll take whatever progress we can get. I invite you to  follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter,  GreenBuzz , and listen to  GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote The financial climate, it seems, has been as unforgiving as the atmospheric one. Finally, there is collaboration among the leading nongovernmental organizations focusing on sustainability reporting and accountability. Topics Finance & Investing Risk & Resilience Policy & Politics Climate Change Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Vollebak’s Garbage Watch is a timeless solution for e-waste

August 6, 2020 by  
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Vollebak, a company at the core of sustainable clothing innovation, targets time itself with a new prototype, the Garbage Watch. While the Garbage Watch’s name may sound questionable, it fits given that the watch uses materials that would otherwise end up in the dump. Specifically, the Garbage Watch  upcycles electronic waste such as motherboards and scrap computer parts and turns them into a functional watch.  Related: This sustainable luxury smartwatch monitors climate change “Today, most of the 50 million tonnes of electronic waste that’s generated every year is treated like garbage even though it isn’t. Instead it contains many of the world’s precious metals, like silver, platinum, copper, nickel, cobalt, aluminium and zinc. You’ll find 7% of the world’s gold in e-waste. In other words, millions of tonnes of the stuff people normally pay to dig up out of the ground is heading straight back into it,” the company says on its website. Vollebak worked on the project in collaboration with the Wallpaper* Re-Made project. Although currently in prototype form, the watch will launch in 2021. A waiting list has already formed for those with an early interest. Steve Tidball, Vollebak co-founder, explains how the project came together, saying, “To avoid trashing our own planet, we need to start figuring out how to re-use the stuff we already have. So our Garbage Watch started with a very simple idea. What if electronic waste isn’t garbage ? What if it’s simply pre-assembled raw materials that we can use to make new things. That’s why everything you can see on the Garbage Watch used to be something else – a motherboard from your computer, a microchip in your smartphone, or wiring from your TV.” Of course, the Garbage Watch design tackles more than just  recycling e-waste; it’s about function as well as fashion. With that in mind, the team gave the watch a unique, conversation-starting design.  As Nick Tidball, Vollebak co-founder, said, “We’ve taken an ‘inside-out’ design approach with the Garbage Watch, making the functional inner workings highly visible…Our aim was to reframe an often invisible and hazardous end of the supply chain, and make people think deeply about the impact of treating their wearables in a disposable manner.” + Vollebak Images via Vollebak/Sun Lee

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Mysterious seeds from China arriving in mail across America

July 30, 2020 by  
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Agricultural officials from several states have expressed alarm over unsolicited packages of seeds delivered to residents. The packages appear to come from China, as they feature China Post labeling. Agricultural officers advise farmers not to plant the seeds, in case they are harmful or invasive. Warnings sent out to farmers and residents follow reports of unsolicited seed packages being delivered in residents’ mail. Several people reported receiving seeds in white pouches that featured Chinese writing and the words “China Post.” Another concerning detail is that the seed packages were not labeled as food or agricultural products. Envelopes included misleading labels, with some listing the contents as jewelry, toys or earbuds. States that have released public notices against planting the unsolicited seeds include Washington, Virginia, Kentucky, Delaware, Colorado, Iowa, Georgia, Minnesota, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Dakota, Texas, Alabama and Florida. Kentucky , one of the first states to receive reports of unsolicited seeds, issued warnings to residents. As Ryan Quarles, Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner, wrote on Twitter, residents should “put the package and seeds in a zip lock bag and wash your hands immediately.” Residents must also send any seeds they receive to the Department of Agriculture. Following the reports, several other states, including Arkansas, Michigan , Oregon and New Jersey, issued warnings to residents. Such measures may help prevent farmers from planting harmful, contaminated seeds. The Chinese Embassy in Washington claims these China Post packages “to be fake ones with erroneous layouts and entries.” Cecilia Sequeira, spokesperson for the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, says the department is working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to stop illegal importation of prohibited seeds. Should you receive any mysterious seeds in the mail, report it to the nearest Agriculture Office. + NY Times Image via Pexels

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Sanikind kickstarts refillable hand sanitizer bottle project

July 17, 2020 by  
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Hand sanitizer has become an essential part of life during the COVID-19 pandemic, but its environmental impact via  plastic waste  increases with each empty bottle. As a consumer, it’s frustrating wanting to do the right thing for the planet, but being unable to get the hand sanitizer you need without contributing to plastic pollution. Enter Sanikind, a sustainable solution for portable and conveniently refillable hand sanitizer. Sanikind’s widely popular Kickstarter campaign, which ends on July 24, has over 4,000 backers funding over $200,000 to the project. This support shows how many people feel frustrated about plastic pollution, and it’s not hard to see why. Sanikind offers a simple solution to alleviate  pollution  and plastic waste problems. The Sanikind spray bottle, useful for both hands and surfaces, provides around 250 sprays. When sprays run out, simply refill the one-ounce container with more sanitizer from the endlessly recyclable aluminum refill bottle. Each spray bottle is made from 100% recycled plastic, sourcing manufacturing materials from the waste stream and creating a reduced waste circle. Related:  Discarded COVID-19 masks are now littering seas and oceans “We developed Sanikind because you shouldn’t have to choose between clean hands and clean oceans,” said Miles Pepper, Sanikind co-founder. “Experts believe COVID-19 has set us back 10 years in terms of reducing plastic consumption and use. Our Kickstarter supporters can help prevent millions of tiny plastic hand sanitizer bottles from ending up in our oceans, which are already being clogged by single-use coronavirus-related waste.” Sanikind knows the list of items you need when leaving the house has grown during the pandemic: wallet or purse, phone, keys, mask and sanitizer. With this in mind, Sanikind includes an easy to use carabiner with each bottle of Sanikind. Conveniently attach it to your keys, purse or backpack, so it’s always on hand, for your hands. In addition to providing a sustainable solution for an urgent problem, the project also employs U.S. distillery workers who manufacture according to WHO and FDA guidelines. This isn’t the first product from Pepper, who already has another well-received product under his young belt. According to the company, “Sanikind was co-founded by 25-year-old serial entrepreneur Miles Pepper, the inventor and co-founder of FinalStraw, which raised almost $2 million dollars on Kickstarter in 2018 and went on to be featured on Shark Tank and ship hundreds of thousands of units to consumers. When Coronavirus hit, Pepper immediately mobilized to create Disinfect Connect, putting distillery-made disinfectant in the hands of 32,000+ frontline healthcare workers, first responders and nursing home staff.” Available this fall, Sanikind can be purchased as you need it, or as a subscription. All shipments are 100% plastic-free, and Sanikind will offset its carbon footprint . + Sanikind Images via Sanikind

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It’s time to put people first

June 12, 2020 by  
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It’s time to put people first Lise Kingo Fri, 06/12/2020 – 02:00 Editor’s note: Lise Kingo is stepping down as CEO and executive director effective June 16. The organization’s new leader, Sanda Ojiambo, begins June 17. Seventy-five years ago, the United Nations set out to put the world on a path to recovery, pledging “never again” to allow the horrors of two devastating world wars. The premise was that a peaceful and just world had to be built on the equal worth, rights and freedoms for every human being. The same universal values and principles which laid the foundation when, at the turn of the millennium, then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan initiated a “global compact” between the United Nations and business leaders to “give a human face to the global market.”  In launching the United Nations Global Compact, Annan reminded us that we all have an active choice to take — between a global market driven by calculation and short-term profit and one that has a human face. Between a world that condemns a quarter of the human race to starvation and squalor, and one that offers everyone at least a chance of prosperity, in a healthy environment. Between a selfish free-for-all in which we ignore the fate of the losers, and a future in which the strong and successful accept their responsibilities, showing global vision and leadership. Failing to do so, he cautioned, would make the global economy fragile and vulnerable to the backlash of all the isms — protectionism, populism, nationalism, ethnic chauvinism and so forth.  Have we lost our way? As we set out to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the U.N. and 20th anniversary of the U.N. Global Compact, we must look around the world at what is happening in front of our eyes — the obvious failure to deliver on those most fundamental values and principles that bind us all together. With Annan’s words ringing true in our ears, we must ask ourselves — have we lost our way? COVID-19 has exposed the fragile nature of our progress. The hard truth is that our failure to create a more socially just world has worsened the current crisis and could hamper our ability to recover faster. More than half of the general population globally finds that capitalism in its current form does not work for them. Even before the pandemic, social inequalities were widening for more than 70 percent of the global population. One thing was that economies had bounced back to the levels recorded before the 2008 financial crisis, but in reality, economic growth and labor productivity were mainly carried by low-paid, low-quality and low-security jobs, with more than half the world’s population — 4 billion people — not covered by any social safety net.   Those same people have been left disproportionately vulnerable to COVID-19. Nearly half of the global workforce in the informal sector, totaling 1.6 billion workers, are in imminent danger of having their livelihoods destroyed. The 49 million people thrown back into extreme poverty, wiping out two decades of progress. The half of the global population without access to essential health services. It is no surprise, then, that frustrations are growing. The meaningless and brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police has further illuminated deep-seated inequalities rooted in the endemic and structural racism that persists today. It has sparked a wave of serious introspection among business leaders and heads of state across the world. No one is excused from the discussion.  Inequalities and racism, of course, are not isolated to one country. This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer made for sober reading. Its January report pointed out that more than half of the general population globally finds that capitalism in its current form does not work for them. And amidst the current health and socio-economic crises brought on by COVID-19, additional polling found that the pandemic had exacerbated the sense of social injustice. Close to two-thirds of respondents agreed that those with less education, less money and fewer resources are being unfairly burdened with most of the suffering, risk of illness and need to sacrifice due to the pandemic.  It’s time to raise SDG ambition In launching the UN Global Compact, Annan was clear that without the active commitment and support of business, universal values would remain little more than fine words — documents whose anniversaries we can celebrate and give speeches about, but with limited impact on the lives of ordinary people. COVID-19 has demonstrated the cost of turning the blind eye to obvious injustices. With less than 4,000 days to get our collective plan of action for people, planet and prosperity on track, now it is time we deliver for all. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will not be delivered through incremental improvements to business as usual. Progress to date is a testament to that. With the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement as our lighthouse, and the Ten Principles as our guide, business must undergo a radical business-model transformation that can lead to a new normal — one where the equal worth, rights and freedoms of people always come first in any business decision. Don’t underestimate the power of your example, your voice and your footprint in the world. Business leaders of the future need to understand that the key to stable markets is social equality. Beyond the challenge of COVID-19, many other crises loom large. From climate change, biodiversity loss and the erosion of planetary resources — this could just be the tip of the iceberg. That’s why we need business leaders to use this moment to become social activists and rethink their role in the world and their “reason for being.” Not only for the good of society but indeed the future of their own business. By deeply integrating “people, planet and prosperity for all” across corporate purpose and values, governance and strategy, business plans and performance management, business leaders can lead the way in the Decade of Action, making a step-change towards SDG ambition. Let’s choose to be social activists Now we need the most senior leaders — the CEOs, their executive teams and the boards — to become activists for social change, within their own organizations, in their daily lives and beyond. As I prepare to depart the U.N. Global Compact after five years, I want to leave you with this message: Don’t underestimate the power of your example, your voice and your footprint in the world. Leadership is about having the courage to be the change — indeed, to insist that change happens.  In the words of Annan, “To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to go there.” As we move into the Decade of Action, let us never lose sight of our mission to be united in the business of a better world, one that leaves no person behind. Pull Quote More than half of the general population globally finds that capitalism in its current form does not work for them. Don’t underestimate the power of your example, your voice and your footprint in the world. Topics Corporate Strategy Leadership Equity & Inclusion Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Lise Kingo, former CEO of the U.N. Global Compact Courtesy of Joel S Photo/U.N. Global Compact Close Authorship

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This moment: An open letter to the GreenBiz community

June 2, 2020 by  
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This moment: An open letter to the GreenBiz community Joel Makower Tue, 06/02/2020 – 02:11 In the wee hours of Nov. 9, 2016, shortly after Donald Trump was declared the 45th president of the United States, I sat down and penned a note to the GreenBiz community. A lot of us were shocked, confused, depressed and angry that this vulgar man, who saw climate change as a hoax and “beautiful clean coal” as our savior, would be setting the national agenda at such a critical time. It was “a stunning and devastating indictment of decency, fairness and inclusion,” I wrote that morning. And: It will be critically important, for both our individual sanity and our collective future, that we stay the course, double down, make every program, project, partnership and product count. That was then. The past few days, in the wake of the national upheaval over the death of yet another black man at the hands of yet another white police officer, have been similarly filled with angst and anger within the sustainability community. “What do we do?” we’ve asked one another. Should we simply stay the course, doubling down on our work on climate and the clean economy, which is growing more urgent by the day? Or do we stop, take stock and rethink what we do? Today, I’m not sure that staying the course is, in and of itself, what’s needed. It may be time for a radical rethink: Given all that’s changing, what does the world need of us now? Whether you come from privilege or poverty, whether your education comes from the best schools or the streets, whatever your politics or identity, this is a brutally tough moment. The coronavirus and economic crash already had laid bare the inequity and disparity among the classes and races: those who have a job and those who don’t; those who are able to earn a living at home versus those who must risk going to an employer’s workplace during a pandemic; those who are able to afford food, shelter and healthcare, even amid economic upheaval, and those who can’t; those who feel comfortable walking or driving or just being outside their home, and those who fear that any moment could lead to their becoming the next George Floyd, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice or Sandra Bland. Now, all of those inequities and disparities have been cast into the open. To the extent they existed in the shadows — festering societal problems to which those with power and privilege largely threw up their hands — they are now center stage. To the extent these problems could be ignored — that one could live life without having to reckon with race, poverty and inequality — they have been thrust onto our individual and collective doorsteps. To the extent they were topics relegated to hushed, private conversations — well, those conversations are full-throated, 24/7 and inescapable. To the extent these problems could be ignored — that one could live life without having to reckon with race, poverty and inequality — they have been thrust onto our individual and collective doorsteps. The calamities of 2020 — the physical, economic, social and psychological crises we’d already been confronting these past few months — have contributed to this raw moment, the culmination of centuries of systemic oppression and institutionalized racism. Words of comfort, of healing and hope, aren’t cutting it, and they shouldn’t. For those of us working in sustainability, it raises some fundamental questions. Among them: What led you to this work in the first place? Was it to protect the unprotected? To ensure the well-being of future generations? To engender community resilience? To create solutions to big, seemingly intractable problems? Or maybe, simply, “to make the world a better place”? If so, then this is the moment to live up to those lofty goals — fully and, most likely, uncomfortably. That means having difficult conversations with family, colleagues, friends and peers. It means recognizing — really, truly recognizing, not just mouthing the words — that nothing is sustainable if people are in pain. It matters little how much renewable energy is generated, how many circular supply chains are created, how much organic or regenerative food is produced if our fellow citizens are being exploited, discriminated against, threatened and worse. This is what ‘sustainability’ should be about — the security and well-being of all species. This is what “sustainability” should be about — the security and well-being of all species, including humans — and it no doubt will provoke nodding heads among many of you. But nodding heads aren’t enough. They never were and certainly aren’t now. This is a moment for the private sector to step up. Not just in helping to calm and heal, although that will be a critical task in the coming days and weeks, but also to lobby for justice: economic justice, racial justice, criminal justice, climate justice. And to deeply understand what these terms even mean, and how they relate to creating the societal value that is the beating heart of business.  This is a seminal moment that is testing all of us — those in sustainability, certainly, along with most everyone else. And as we work on or support societal solutions — and countless ideas are likely to come out of this, from every conceivable source — it’s important to ask some simple but profound questions: Who’s setting the rules? Who’s calling the shots? Who’s being heard? Who’s left out? Who’s benefiting from the status quo and from the proposed solutions? Does it empower the marginalized or merely placate the restless? These are the kinds of questions that have been woefully absent in the past. And we are living with the result. If we are to change the course, not simply aim to get back to some elusive “normal,” these questions will need to be asked and answered. Failure to do that will lead us right back to where we are. I’d like to end on a positive, hopeful note, much as I tried to do back in November 2016. But hope and positivity are in short supply right now. So I’ll just say this: Don’t underestimate your power in this moment. You may not feel powerful, particularly in light of the deafening voices screaming in the streets and on our screens. But there is power in us all: to care for those around us, to contribute time and resources at the community and national levels, to take the time to truly comprehend the issues before us and to understand that silence is complicity. Pull Quote To the extent these problems could be ignored — that one could live life without having to reckon with race, poverty and inequality — they have been thrust onto our individual and collective doorsteps. This is what ‘sustainability’ should be about — the security and well-being of all species. Topics Policy & Politics Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Disney releases retro tees using bottles from the parks

May 19, 2020 by  
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Creating clothing fibers from  recycled plastic  is nothing new, but when a name like Disney is involved, it’s hard not to have childlike enthusiasm over the efforts. Disney, a company that needs no further description, has partnered with Unifi, Inc., makers of REPREVE®, the leading recycled fiber, to produce a new retro-style Mickey & Co. collection that is sure to bring out the kid in all of us.  Unifi has been on this ride for a long time, turning plastic waste into material used by Chicobags, Ford, Patagonia, PrAna and many other companies. The ever-growing count meter on their website reports over 20 billion bottles have been recycled , with the resulting fibers being used for everything from totes to curtains. Related: REPREVE: sustainable multi-use fiber made from recycled water bottles The company’s partnership with Disney offers an opportunity to educate children about the importance of recycling. As Jay Hertwig, Unifi’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing, said, “Disney’s new retro collection is a wonderful circular economy initiative that shows what can happen when kids of all ages recycle and give bottles a second life. We’re thrilled to partner with Disney on this iconic collection and help promote the importance of recycling and sustainability.” The recycled products for the clothing release came, in part, from the Disney parks themselves, bringing the product full circle from pre- to post-production. This 1984 retro Mickey & Co. collection is currently available online through ShopDisney.com. Regardless of your favorite character, a total of nine tees featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy and Pluto are ready to bring the magic. In addition to individual characters, there are several tees with the entire gang appearing in all their fabulously fun fanfare.  Disney timed the release of the new retro line with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in April 2020, before shutdowns of the parks began due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. + Disney and Unifi Images via Unifi 

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MIT moves toward greener, more sustainable artificial intelligence

May 15, 2020 by  
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While current  artificial intelligence  (AI) technology holds strategic and transformative potential, it isn’t always environmentally-friendly due to high energy consumption. To the rescue are researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) , who have devised a solution that not only lowers costs but, more importantly, reduces the AI model training’s carbon footprint. Back in June 2019, the  University of Massachusetts at Amherst revealed  that the amount of  energy  utilized in AI model training equaled 626,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. How so? Contemporary AI isn’t just run on a personal laptop or simple server. Rather, deep neural networks are deployed on diverse arrays of specialized hardware platforms. The level of energy consumption required to power such AI technologies is approximately five times the lifetime  carbon emissions  from an average American car, including its manufacturing.  Related:  This AI food truck could bring fresh produce directly to you Moreover, both  Analytics Insight  and  Kepler Lounge  warned that Google’s AlphaGo Zero — the  AI  that plays the game of Go against itself to self-learn — generated a massive 96 tons of  carbon dioxide  over 40 days of research training. That amount of carbon dioxide equals 1,000 hours of air travel as well as the annual  carbon footprint  of 23 American homes! The takeaway then? Numbers like these would make AI model deployment both unfeasible and unsustainable over time. MIT’s research team has devised a groundbreaking automated AI system, termed a once-for-all (OFA) network, described in  their paper here . This AI system — the OFA network — minimizes  energy consumption  by “decoupling training and search, to reduce the cost.” The OFA network was constructed based on automatic machine learning (AutoML) advancements.  Essentially, the OFA network functions as a ‘mother’ network to numerous subnetworks. As the ‘mother’ network, it feeds its knowledge and past experiences to all the subnetworks, training them to operate independently without the need for further retraining. This is unlike previous AI technology  that had to “repeat the network design process and retrain the designed network from scratch for each case. Their total cost gr[ew] linearly … as the number of deployment scenarios increase[d], which … result[ed] in excessive energy consumption and  CO2  emission.” In other words, with the OFA network in use, there is little need for additional retraining of subnetworks. This efficiency decreases costs, curtails carbon emissions and improves  sustainability . Assistant Professor Song Han, of MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, was the project’s lead researcher. He shared that, “Searching efficient neural network architectures has until now had a huge carbon footprint. But we reduced that footprint by orders of magnitude with these new methods.” Also of particular interest was Chuang Gan, co-author of the MIT research paper, who added, “The model is really compact. I am very excited to see OFA can keep pushing the boundary of efficient deep learning on edge devices.” Being compact means AI can progress towards miniaturization. That could spell next-generation advantages in green operations that improve environmental impact. + MIT News Images via Pexels and Pixabay

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MIT moves toward greener, more sustainable artificial intelligence

First-of-its-kind device prototype harnesses renewable energy from ocean waves

October 16, 2019 by  
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Our planet is a water world, covered with 70 percent oceans. For centuries, it’s been widely known that the high seas can generate energy, if harnessed appropriately. With today’s renewables market rapidly expanding, it’s no wonder then that wave energy has recently gained traction as a contemporary, clean energy source. Two companies have jointly completed a marine hydrokinetic convertor, the OE Buoy, to leverage wave power as a renewable, green energy source. The city of Portland, Oregon is corporate headquarters to Vigor, a marine and industrial fabrication company that has had a long-standing record of cutting edge engineering projects. For this endeavor, Vigor teamed up with Irish wave-power pioneer Ocean Energy in a collaborative effort to push marine hydrokinetic technologies forward. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) helped to fund the $12 million design project. Related: Renewable energy surpasses fossil fuels in the UK Weighing 826 tons, the OE Buoy wave device measures 125 feet long, 59 feet wide and 68 feet tall. It will be deployed at the U.S. Navy Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) on the windward side of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, off the coast of Naval Base Pearl Harbor. The buoy has the potential to generate up to 1.25 megawatts of electrical power. In other words, it has enough utility-quality electricity supply to support marine-based data centers, desalination plants, naval autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) power platforms, offshore fish farming and off-grid applications for remote island communities. Besides that, the buoy has the capacity to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, making it a cleaner, more sustainable source of renewable energy . “This first-of-its kind wave energy convertor is scalable, reliable and capable of generating sustainable power to facilitate a range of use-cases that were previously unimaginable or just impractical,” said John McCarthy, CEO of Ocean Energy. “This internationally significant project will be invaluable to job creation, renewable energy generation and greenhouse gas reduction. Additionally, technology companies will be able to benefit from wave power through the development of OE Buoy devices as marine-based data storage and processing centers. The major players in Big Data are already experimenting with subsea data centers to take advantage of the energy savings by cooling these systems in the sea. OE Buoy now presents them with the potential double-benefit of ocean cooling and ocean energy in the one device.” + Vigor + Ocean Energy Via OPB Image via Tiluria

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First-of-its-kind device prototype harnesses renewable energy from ocean waves

Self-sustainable childrens center in Tanzania harvests water like a baobab tree

October 16, 2019 by  
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In northern Tanzania, a Swedish team of architects, engineers and a non-profit collaborated with local workers to complete the Econef Children’s Center, a self-sustaining facility for orphans in the King’ori village. Asante Architecture & Design , Lönnqvist & Vanamo Architects , Architects Without Borders Sweden, Engineers Without Borders Sweden and Swedish-Tanzanian NGO ECONOF created the center to provide sleeping quarters and classrooms to orphaned children, as well as to also increase ECONEF’s independence by reducing building maintenance and operation costs. The off-grid buildings are powered with solar energy and harvest rainwater in a system inspired by the African baobab tree. Built to follow the local building vernacular, the Econef Children’s Center uses locally found materials and building techniques to keep costs low and to minimize the need for external construction expertise. The new center provides sleeping quarters and classrooms for 25 children. “The aim of the Children’s Center Project is to increase ECONEF’S independence and reduce its reliance on private donations,” explains the team in a project statement. “To help achieve this goal the new buildings are planned to be ecologically and economically sustainable and largely maintenance free. The center produces its own electricity through the installation of solar panels. Systems for rainwater harvesting and natural ventilation are integrated into the architectural design.” Related: Timber-clad waterfront house in Norway epitomizes modern Scandinavian design Inspired by the African baobab tree that can retain up to 120,000 liters of water in its trunk to survive in the desert, the building’s rainwater harvesting system draws rainwater from the roof’s spine through a central gutter that funnels the water into two water tanks tucked beneath the two of the inner courtyards. The collected rainwater is used for showers and laundry. + ECONEF Images by Robin Hayes

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