Friday, June 30, 2017

Urban ag: New report summarizes lessons learned

Growing food within cities is becoming increasingly popular. Restaurants are eager to buy local food; farmers markets are blossoming, food hubs are being created. Here's a link to a summary of the report which has a link to the whole report.

How will climate change affect your local economy?

Thanks to some nifty modeling, local governments can forecast how climate change will affect their economy, from agricultural yields, mortality rates, workforce impacts and even crime. Some regions of the US may have a net gain and others will have overal negative impacts. How will your community do? Check out the charts in this article.

Eight ways climate change affects human health

While the US is embroiled in discussions about healthcare plans, its important to remember that climate change is going to exacerbate health problems. New regulations should take that into account. This article explains the 8 ways climate change affects human health.

The scourge of plastic bottles and what to do about it

There is so much plastic in the ocean that if you eat fish or even sea salt, you are likely eating plastic too. This article is packed with interesting data and possible solutions.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

We have three years to turn the corner on climate

That title probably hit you like a cancer diagnosis. But take a breath and then let's do what new cancer patients do: investigate the most effective treatments and get busy pursuing them. And maintain hope.

According to an article in Nature, if we don't turn the curve on greenhouse gases in the next three years, we won't have enough time to change our economy without major disruption. Here is the six point plan:

These goals may be idealistic at best, unrealistic at worst. However, we are in the age of exponential transformation and think that such a focus will unleash ingenuity. By 2020, here’s where the world needs to be:
Energy. Renewables make up at least 30% of the world’s electricity supply — up from 23.7% in 2015 (ref. 8). No coal-fired power plants are approved beyond 2020, and all existing ones are being retired.
Infrastructure. Cities and states have initiated action plans to fully decarbonize buildings and infrastructures by 2050, with funding of $300 billion annually. Cities are upgrading at least 3% of their building stock to zero- or near-zero emissions structures each year9.
Transport. Electric vehicles make up at least 15% of new car sales globally, a major increase from the almost 1% market share that battery-powered and plug-in hybrid vehicles now claim. Also required are commitments for a doubling of mass-transit utilization in cities, a 20% increase in fuel efficiencies for heavy-duty vehicles and a 20% decrease in greenhouse-gas emissions from aviation per kilometre travelled.
Land. Land-use policies are enacted that reduce forest destruction and shift to reforestation and afforestation efforts. Current net emissions from deforestation and land-use changes form about 12% of the global total. If these can be cut to zero next decade, and afforestation and reforestation can instead be used to create a carbon sink by 2030, it will help to push total net global emissions to zero, while supporting water supplies and other benefits. Sustainable agricultural practices can reduce emissions and increase CO2 sequestration in healthy, well-managed soils.
Industry. Heavy industry is developing and publishing plans for increasing efficiencies and cutting emissions, with a goal of halving emissions well before 2050. Carbon-intensive industries — such as iron and steel, cement, chemicals, and oil and gas — currently emit more than one-fifth of the world’s CO2, excluding their electricity and heat demands.
Finance. The financial sector has rethought how it deploys capital and is mobilizing at least $1 trillion a year for climate action. Most will come from the private sector. Governments, private banks and lenders such as the World Bank need to issue many more ‘green bonds’ to finance climate-mitigation efforts. This would create an annual market that, by 2020, processes more than 10 times the $81 billion of bonds issued in 2016.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Antimicrobials are hiding in your home

Antimicrobial chemicals are in everything from soap, cosmetics, clothes and yoga mats. But according to scientists, these two chemicals should be phased out of products in part because they are contributing to antibiotic resistance. Memorize these two chemicals and avoid them:

  • Triclosan
  • Triclocarban

Why businesses are bringing nature to work

Research is slowly piling up about the benefits of giving employees access to nature, whether a walk through a park, a nice view, or even some greenery in the office. It appears to improve productivity and help people make better, long-range decisions.

Monday, June 26, 2017

World Economic Forum warns 1/5 of humanity could be climate refugees by 2100

So far, sea level rise has been relatively steady but that may change soon. According to this new research up to a fifth of humanity may become refugees. This article references a plan for coastal cities to prepare, and it shows the cities that will be most directly affected by a 2 or 4 degree C rise in temperature. Remember, refugees won't all stick around, so even inland communities may be affected.

One fifth of the world's population could be a refugee by 2100 - The World Economic Forum

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Which states are the dirtiest regarding the climate?

A new report ranks states based on their greenhouse gases. How well is your state doing? Which metric do you think best represents how your state is doing?

Friday, June 23, 2017

One way to solve traffic: Oslo is taking away parking spaces

Transportation is a major source of carbon emissions, at least with our existing fleet. Europeans like the atmosphere created by pedestrian streets. So to meet its climate commitments, Oslo is experimenting with ways to reduce traffic to its core. Rather than banning cars outright, they are converting on-street parking to bike lanes and public spaces. Of course businesses often express concern, but experiences in other cities show that they vastly over-estimate lost business from drivers and get more loyal biking/walking customers who tend to hang out longer.

In stage one this year, all on-street parking in the central district will be removed, and the planned installations will go up; in 2018, the stage-two year, several streets will be closed to vehicle traffic and 40 miles of bike lanes will be built. During stage three in 2019, the city council will assess its progress, Berg told The Guardian: If the parking ban proves sufficient to set Oslo up to substantially slash carbon emissions, the city will extend the strategy; if it feels inadequate, the city council with resuscitate its initial plan to instigate an all-out car ban.

Social Progress Index puts US as a second tier country

The US likes to think of itself as the best. But increasingly different indexes that try to measure how healthy our society is are finding we have things to learn from other countries. The 2017 Social Progress Index puts the US at Number 18 from the top.

Here's a link to the study: 2017 Social Progress Index -

And a short article from Bloomberg: America Is Now a ‘Second Tier’ Country - Bloomberg

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Native Americans forced to relocate thanks to climate change

When most people think about human migrations associated with climate change, they probably think about Bangladesh, Tuvalu or maybe Alaska. But a number of Native American tribes are having to make tough decisions about where to live as their traditional homelands become flooded or unstable due to permafrost melting.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The unintended consequences of the American Dream

The American Dream of creating a better life for your kids, of progress for those who strive, may be peversely undermining the ability of the poor, especially poor Whites, to get ahead. This has led to vastly different rates of despair between rich and poor, Whites and minorities.

"There are high costs to being poor in America, where winners win big but losers fall hard. Indeed, the dream, with its focus on individual initiative in a meritocracy, has resulted in far less public support than there is in other countries for safety nets, vocational training, and community support for those with disadvantage or bad luck."

Sustainability requires social justice. If communities or groups become increasingly marginalized, it destabilizes society. According to recent research, the US may be in worse shape than many other countries in the OECD and to our south.

Is the American dream really dead? - the guardian

Monday, June 19, 2017

What happens when you pay far above minimum wage?

Seattle is phasing in a $15 minimum wage and they are modeling and gathering data to see if this is helping or hurting businesses and those at the bottom of the ladder. So far, the impact on business has been "negligible".

Contrary to the simple supply-and-demand theory, higher minimum wages, Allegretto says, may end up saving companies money in the long run. “We know that turnover decreases when you increase minimum wages,” she says. “If companies invest more in their workers, the workers are going to be more satisfied. In industries like the restaurant industry, where the turnover rate is sometimes above 100% in a year, that’s a lot of money to spend on recruiting and training and re-recruiting constantly,” Allegretto says.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

World Overshoot Day Aug 3

Most people know that humans are putting pressure on the environment. But one measurement puts a date on it, the day each year when we exceed the productive capacity of the earth.

From January 1 to August 2, the world’s 7.5 billion people will have used as much of Earth’s biological resources—or biocapacity—as the planet can regenerate in a year. During the remaining five months of 2017, our human consumption will be drawing down Earth’s reserves of fresh water, fertile soils, forests, and fisheries, and depleting its ability to regenerate these resources as well as sequester excess carbon released into the atmosphere.

This article has four actions we need to do to address this....but the comment about "half a child" is jarring!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Dark Skies matter to trees too

A number of communities in Arizona are certified as Dark Sky, preserving the ability to see the stars at night. Research has showed it also improves human health. But did you know that trees need to sleep too? Apparently when cities turn off their lights at night, the trees are healthier and live longer.

It makes sense. I remember a high school science project where we measured gases off plants during the day and night. Plants change their metabolic processes at night. If there's no 'night' then the plants can't do that work.

Climate: what is the cost of doing nothing

Some people wring their hands about the costs of addressing climate change, shifting our energy toward renewables, our vehicles toward electric/hydrogen, and changing our eating habits. But they should factor in the costs of doing nothing: devastating weather events, crop failures, and pandemics.

The share of national GDP at risk from climate change exceeds $1.5 trillion in the 301 major cities around the world. Including the impact of human pandemics – which are likely to become more severe as the planet warms — the figure increases to nearly $2.2 trillion in economic output at risk through 2025.
 If You Think Fighting Climate Change Will Be Expensive, Calculate the Cost of Letting It Happen - Harvard Business Review

Monday, June 12, 2017

4 US cities taking the lead on climate change

If you had to guess which cities were doing the most to meet the Paris agreements, you probably wouldn't guess more than one right. One city is truly ironic. Look at the progress they are making and ask yourself, how well is my city/county doing? You might forward this to your local officials and ask.

The fight against climate change: four cities leading the way in the Trump era - the guardian

Friday, June 9, 2017

The house that hemp built

Construction is responsible for a huge environmental footprint including a lot of landfill waste. According to the EPA's The Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2014 Fact Sheet full report shows:
  • 534 million tons of C&D debris were generated in the United States, in 2014—more than twice the amount of generated municipal solid waste.
  • Demolition represents more than 90 percent of total C&D debris generation, while construction represents less than 10 percent.
So if you plan to build a house or remodel your office, require the contractor recycle.

But people may not often think of the impact of the materials that make the house. Cement has a large carbon footprint. This house was built with hemp. No, you can't smoke it and I wouldn't recommend burning it down to get a high.

Biggest vertical garden you don't eat

Bogota has the largest vertical garden, surrounding a building, using gray water, to insulate the building and provide habitat.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Coal Country picks itself up by the boot straps

Appalachia: it draws images of poverty and rich landscapes, mountains and mountaintop removal. But at least one county in Kentucky is determined to evolve beyond coal.

It’s known as the Letcher County Culture Hub, a broad and growing collaboration of arts and media groups, for- and non-profit outfits, community organizations, and government agencies that help one another survive and grow.

My two takeaways...

How can areas rich with coal only have 1% of their population with access to broadband?

And this idea:
The satellite will include the Farmacy Program, where doctors write prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables that residents can redeem at the market.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Cotton, Fashion and its Environmental Footprint

Courtesy: khongkitwiriyachan
In our culture, we churn through clothes. Cotton is a popular fiber but it has a huge environmental footprint. But Circular Economy solutions are coming to the rescue. Note that this doesn't excuse compulsive buying habits, but at least we can feel a bit better about our choices.

This article is written by Sue Ide, a colleague and member of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals, and is reprinted with her permission.
Sue Ide, ISSP certified Sustainability Associate (

I LOVE cotton T-shirts! I wear them all year around. They are comfortable on my skin, easy to maintain, and has a variety of colors and designs. I don’t even bother counting how many cotton T-shirts, I have in my closet. I have cotton T-shirts I wear only once or Never wear at all, such free T-shirts given at the volunteer events, bought or given as a souvenir. It’s a memory… so I still keep it. However, I always wondered, do I really need all of them?

Cotton, also known as, The Thirsty Plant, requires a lot of water. In order to make 1 T-shirt, it uses 700 gallons of water. This can provide one person drinks for 900 days. Cotton not only uses a lot of water, but it pollutes the water. Cotton is Claimed for 20% of the world’s insecticide usage.

The Sustainable Cotton Project estimates that the average acre of California cotton grown in 1995 received some 300 pounds of synthetic fertilizers or 1/3 pound of fertilizer to raise every pound of cotton. Synthetic fertilizers have been found to contaminate drinking wells in farm communities and pose other long-term threats to farm lands.

“One of the commonly used pesticides on cotton throughout the world, endosulfan, leached from cotton fields into a creek in Lawrence County, Alabama during heavy rains in 1995. Within days 245,000 fish were killed over 16 mile stretch. 142,000 pounds of endosulfan were used in California in 1994”. 1

Now the situation is a bit different with GMO cotton. In 2013, 99 percent of the U.S. upland crop was planted in transgenic varieties –genetically engineered varieties resistant to worms, herbicides, or both. Let’s take a look at the Land. During the years 2010 through 2012, the average harvested area was 9.8 million acres. 2. Cotton is the 6th biggest farmland in the US. 3

Cotton is a very resource intensive and pollutive product. Is there a way to recycle cotton shirts to reduce the production of virgin crop?

Due to the nature of the fast fashion trend, 15% of garments in factories will never be used and directly disposed. One Third of clothes are never sold. In order to keep the brand value, it goes straight to the Landfill or incineration.

In the United States, 85 percent of the clothes in people’s closets will be thrown away.

The Planet Aid estimated that if 100 million of clothes are recycled instead of incinerated. It will save 300-400 million tons of CO2, which is equivalent to removing 26,000 – 36,000 cars off the road. It will reduce the resources of making new fabrics. Reduce land, reduce 2 million pounds’ insecticides and 140 billion gallons of clean water will be saved. 4

New technology of textile recycle is emerging. There is 2 ways of Textile recycling. Mechanical and Chemical (natural chemical. Nontoxic). Mechanical recycling is in place for years. It will bring clothes back to the fiber level by shredding. Then converted back to yarn to make new clothes. Because shredding damages the fiber quality. It can only be repeated for a few cycles.

Chemical is a new technology. It will change the fabric back to the cellulose level. It will bring old cloths back to virgin quality. Even the molecules of old and worn fiber qualify for reuse. The fibrous components of worn fabric can be separated and returned to textile production as raw material. The end result can be a product of equivalent quality to the original. 5

Major apparel chains such as H&M and Levi’s are the major supporters of the textile recycling. 6

You can find the Textile collection center near you at 7

*1 Conventional Cotton Statistics:

*2 Cotton FAQ:

*3 Farms and Farmland:

*4 Planet Aid:

*5 Chemical Processing:

*6 GreenBiz:

*7 Where to donate:

Friday, June 2, 2017

Building codes for tiny houses

Oregon and particularly Portland have been testing grounds for Tiny Houses, cleverly constructed homes with 400 sq ft or less. Some Millennials are interested because they can't afford a normal home. Homeless advocates think they could be an alternative to cardboard boxes and bridge overpasses. Some people just think they're cool or need a place for granny to hang out close by. But building and fire codes can be a barrier.

Here's an article with links to the legislation that is greasing their wheels.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Changing political beliefs and desireability bias

In this new research, there's an interesting distinction between the effects of confirmation bias and desireability bias. It's commonly asssumed that we filter out information that doesn't fit with our beliefs. But it may be less about what we believe and more about what we want to have happen. See the link below.

To me, this ties in with other research on opinions about climate change. People tend to deny the science if they are afraid of its implications, what they assume might be the logical consequences (e.g., global agreements, regulation, can't drive my SUV). So perhaps we need to pair problems with solution suggestions that appeal to all political persuasions. Thoughts?

As US commitment falters, companies take up the climate cause

According to this article, the real carbon footprint of a company is on average 4 times their own emissions (when you take into account their suppliers). A number of large corporations are doing something about it. WalMart is launching their One Gigaton by 2030 project. Apple is already close to 100% renewable energy. At a time when the world is biting its fingernails, waiting to see if the US will scrap the Paris Climate Agreement, the trend toward clean energy is only accelerating.