Tuesday, April 24, 2018

UK fund manager will name-shame-divest climate bad guys

Helena Morrissey, a large investment manager responsible for over $1 trillion in assets, has said she’s soon to name and shame and strip companies of funding if they aren’t doing enough for climate change.

"There comes a time when talk is over, and it's time to vote with our feet. Money talks as they say," Morrissey said at a conference in London on Monday. She emphasised the need for the financial sector to work together, driving change through sustainable investments, and said that these investments can produce both "profit and purpose." Many individuals don't invest in the market because of fear their money will be used for purposes they disagree with, Morrissey said. She suggested sustainable investing as a solution.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Vacuum ocean plastic...will it work?

You might have seen the TedTalk. Boyan Slat left school because he was so concerned about ocean plastic. His device will be deployed this summer. It will be interesting to see if it works.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

You can go to jail in Kenya for plastic bags

The UK is considering a ban on plastic straws and Q-tips with plastic. But the toughest plastic regulation of all is in Kenya:

 ...there are fines if you use a plastic bag and if business people are caught making or importing them, they actually face up to four years in jail.
Plastic straw and cotton bud ban proposed - BBC News US 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

New tool: Zero Waste Events checklist and certification

When we tell people about our Sustainable Business Certification, we are often asked if we can certify events. We thought that was a cool idea, especially because of all the events we have in the area.

One of the first and most accessible actions is to make an event "zero waste" (defined in industry as at least a 90% diversion from landfill.) With a little planning and local resources, it's easily achievable.

Wouldn't it be great if the Sedona Film Festival, Yoga Festival, Native Plant Workshop, Art Festival, Marathon, Day of the Dead, Verde River Festival, Earth Day Celebration, weddings, etc., all produced virtually no waste?  

We could educate all who came about zero waste as an achievable goal.

We created Make Your Event Sustainable guide which includes a Zero Waste Events Checklist. If an event planner commits to all relevant practices (from the 16 zero waste practices), their event can be certified by the Sustainability Alliance.

We also have a host of local resources to help you, including people who can compost your food waste and rent you dishes.

Download the guide and learn of Verde Valley/Flagstaff resources here:

Book review: The Righteous Mind

Haight, Jonathan (2012) The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

This book takes a current look at brain science and evolutionary adaptations that have led us to the political divide in the US. The concepts have a chance of bridging the increasing divide.

Key concepts:

Elephant and the rider: The elephant represents our unconscious which is largely in control. The rider is our rational mind which tries to direct the elephant. Mostly it’s in service of the elephant, even if we don’t know it.

We’re 90% chimp/10% hive: Humans are still largely selfish/self-interested but can in certain circumstances act collectively. This capacity to come together was key to our evolution. Culture of course affects the degree to which we focus on individual freedom or collective well-being. To me one of the most interesting perspectives is how religion—the function of it, separate from whatever beliefs—is designed to create community, to sacrifice for the group and dampen selfishness. There are ‘hive switches,’ actions that can help us move our focus from self to group. Examples include military marches, singing together, and sports, as well as religious practices.

Liberals and conservatives have different moral values: No surprise here, but he reinforces earlier research that shows that liberals focus on two:
·      care/harm
·      liberty/oppression
They are much more likely to care about people outside their group and want to ensure fair treatment.

Conservatives share those values but add 4 more:
·      Loyalty/betrayal (often expressed as loyalty to one’s own group, protecting the in-group, nationalism)
·      Authority/subversion (often expressed as a respect for God, leaders, military structure and service)
·      Sanctity/degradation (often expressed as a respect for God, the sanctity of life, hallowed places and practices)
·      fairness/cheating (often expressed as a respect for meritocracies and a concern about free-riders: why take money from someone who earned it and give it to people—welfare recipients—who have not.)

Without these structures, Conservatives worry that people may behave badly.

Fairness to liberals is about righting wrongs, removing sources of oppression. Conservatives’ version of fairness has to do with getting what you earn, and not getting what you haven’t. These tendencies are largely set at birth. Liberals are more interested in change, new things. Conservatives are suspicious of changing too much too fast. 

Haight’s point of view is that we need both of these perspectives: liberalism to open avenues to adaptation but conservatism to maintain structures that maintain a sense of community.

UPS consortium has transformed London with charging stations

UPS has set up charging stations so they can serve London without a drop of oil.

The technology enables UPS to increase the number of vehicles at its central London site from 65 to 170, its entire fleet in the capital. The company says this marks the beginning of the end for reliance on combustion engine-powered vehicles.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Young adults want to transform capitalism

According to this research, young adults have the worst opinion of capitalism in recent history. The current system isn’t fair. Some hardworking people can’t get ahead while well-connected, wealthy families prosper. But they don’t prefer socialism. Instead, they are advocating for worker owned enterprises.

I’ve long been a fan of worker owned cooperatives. The Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain are famous for providing prosperity, focusing on maintaining employment rather than profit margins. The US has many successful worker owned cooperatives too.

A few words of advice. If you have to choose decision making power or ownership, choose power. The United Airlines ESOP failed because it gave employees stock without any control.

Second, build systems to manage involvement and group decision making. Some people will need help stepping into this responsibility. You’ll need clear principles that guide decisions. In W,hy Teams Can Fail and What to Do About It, I document how I used to prepare staff. Balancing rights and responsibilities is key.

If you can’t imagine a workplace where frontline employees make major business decisions, I encourage you to read Maverick by Ricardo Semler, Flight of the Buffalo by Ralph Stayer, and this article about AES.


Monday, April 9, 2018

Portugal produced enough renewable energy in March for whole country

As the US dithers, other countries are moving ahead with renewable energy. Portugal just produced enough renewable energy last month to power the entire country. Way to go! Obrigada!

The group says renewable power produced in March was equal to 103.6 percent of electrical demand on mainland Portugal. (Portugal also includes several islands, which have separate energy systems.)
Fifty-five percent of that energy was produced through hydro power, while 42 percent came from wind. The country still used fossil fuels to balance out supply and demand.


Friday, April 6, 2018

New solar outpacing coal, gas and nukes combined

Good news: Solar is booming, according to a recent report.

According to a report from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, last year more solar capacity was installed around the world than net coal, gas, and nuclear plant capacity combined.
More good news: Transportation is slowly electrifying as battery prices drop.

2017 also saw the sale of 1.1 million electric vehicles (EVs), the report says. 

The bad news is that greenhouse gases are still increasing.

In 2017, global carbon emissions rose 2 percent, also mostly due to China's explosive growth and its reliance on gas-fired generation through a low-precipitation year that hurt hydroelectric generation.

We just have to keep working at it.


Pets may represent 30% of meat production

Whether or not you’re vegetarian, your pooch likely eats more meat than you do. We all know that animal agriculture is hard on the planet. Now there’s a start up that might provide a healthy faux-meat  alternative.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Pedestrian/bike trails = Economic development

What is the value of building infrastructure for people to get out of their cars? In small towns, it can mean the difference between having only a thriving gas station to having a thriving community.

In cars, people tend to speed by smaller towns and rural areas, and spend money along the way only on gas and quick snacks. Trails support longer stays and more diverse spending, advocates say. “The reason there could be a great restaurant somewhere is because of a trail,” says Dennis Markatos-Soriano, the executive director of the East Coast Greenway. The popular Elroy-Sparta trailthrough Wisconsin, for instance, brings $535 million from tourism annually, and the near-constant stream of bikers, horseback riders, and hikers supports a network of local hotels, restaurants, and shops. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dubuque integrates equity into their sustainability program

When you think of leaders in sustainability in the US, we often think of the coasts, not the heartland. But Dubuque, Iowa earned a 4-star in the STAR sustainable communities certification. They've done better than most addressing some social inequities in their community, in particular, "seven specific equity issues: economic well-being, housing, education, health, safe neighborhoods, transportation, and arts/culture."

While city staffers were gathering data for STAR certification, a community effort called Inclusive Dubuque was also getting off the ground. This initiative brought together over 50 partners from businesses, nonprofits, schools, and government organizations to discuss equity issues and identify metrics to better understand the state of equity in Dubuque. The partnership’s work sessions provided an opportunity for the city to share the data and results from their STAR certification with residents and community partners.

You can review a case study here.


Monday, April 2, 2018

How do we finance sustainability?

Fixing climate change and other environmental messes will take money. Unfortunately our economy has long ignored the environment as part of the economy. Traditional economics pays no attention to stocks of natural resources and places no value on the “Commons,” things no one owns but we all need like air, oceans, etc. If no one owns “the environment” and it’s given no value, then who would pay to restore it?

A decade ago I was calling for green bonds. If building new roads or schools is consider a social benefit, eligible for municipal bond rates, then why couldn’t climate or environmental restoration projects also, regardless of who does the work: a corporation, NGO or municipality. The Catch 22 was that there was no income coming off of these projects to pay back the bond. Now, however, ecosystem services are now being valued and paid for. (For example, people who live along rivers can sometimes get paid for protecting or restoring them to maintain cool water temperatures or reduce flooding risk and erosion.)

A framework has just been proposed by an expert panel and is on its way to the EU. It includes a process for defining what is green.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Essential oils warning

Just because something is “natural” doesn’t always mean it’s safe to ingest or put on your body. Some essential oils have been tied to hormone disruption, creating breasts in boys.

Likely the concentration of essential oils is part of the problem. Concentrations are one of three critical concepts for understanding nature and sustainability.

Concentrations: Your houseplant needs a bit of fertilizer (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) but it needs them in relative concentrations. Your body needs a bit of metals like zinc and iron that you find in multivitamins, but too much will make you sick. We’ve increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over 40% since pre-industrial levels. Concentrations matter.

Thresholds: Your plant will live with varying amount of water, but at some point, with too much or too little, it crosses a threshold and dies. Your body temperature may range from 98-104 but spend much time at 105 and you’re dead. At what point do greenhouse gases drive our climate into a completely different state? In any system there is a point at which it shifts into a different state, like a canoe. You can wobble back and forth but at some point you end up in the drink.

Feedback loops: Many of nature’s feedback loops are designed to maintain equilibrium. Your plant releases oxygen during the day as part of photosynthesis but the reverse happens at night. When your body gets hot, you sweat which helps to cool you.  But sometimes feedback loops amplify changes. Climate change reduces ice in the Arctic which increases absorption of the sun’s rays and it melts permafrost, both which increase warming more. Feedback loops and the built in delays are key to predicting the future and making things better, not worse. A common example is trying to adjust the shower with a hot and cold handle; the delay caused by water lines often cause you to scald or freeze until you get it right.

More evidence essential oils 'make male breasts develop' - BBC News US https://apple.news/Am60Lmj7GQE-wCwvwOCuGDg

Another reason to cook at home

Eating out can be expensive and portion sizes encourage over-eating. In addition, according to a recent study, people who eat out—regardless of where— may be ingesting some nasty chemicals, hormone-mimicking phthalates.

 On average, the study found, people who'd dined out -- at any type of restaurant or cafeteria -- had a phthalate intake that was 35 percent higher than people who'd eaten only home-prepared meals.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Simple micro-hydro doesn’t hurt fish

When the dams were built on the Columbia River, the experts knew they would be hard on salmon runs. A single dam can kill a significant percentage of the fry (baby fish) going through the turbines. What they didn’t apparently think about is when you up put many dams, each taking 10-15% of what’s left, the cumulative effect is horrific on fish.

Juvenile fish that are drawn into the turbine pits by the current can be killed or injured. Usually these mortalities or injuries are caused when the fish strike the spinning blades or the concrete walls. The intense water pressure also can kill the fish. Biologists estimate that if turbine passage is the only way past a dam, 10 to 15 percent of the fish that are drawn through the turbines will die. With that much mortality at least possible at each dam, fish that pass multiple dams, such as fish from central Washington or the Snake River, have a statistically high probability of dying before they pass the last dam, Bonneville. (source)

There are around 400 dams in the Columbia basin, some large like Bonneville and some much smaller. To mitigate the impact, it’s led to heroic efforts, building fish ladders, screens, fish hatcheries. They even truck fish around some dams and stop the turbines (or overflow them) during fish runs.

Here’s a simple hydroelectric system that creates an artificial whirlpool that powers a turbine, creating enough energy for 300 homes. Fish pass through unhurt.


Friday, March 30, 2018

National Hockey League concerned about ice and climate change

NHL obviously needs ice rinks which use energy but symbolically, losing iced-over ponds is even more of a concern. That's where the game started. 

“It would be dishonest not to acknowledge that the report is coming out when the world is facing the most challenging political climate in the United States as it relates to climate-change policies,” says Hershkowitz, whose non-governmental organization has members in more than 50 countries.
So in a carefully worded release, they are measuring their climate impact in as non-political way as possible and are committing to being part of the solution.
“What I would say is when we do this work, we try to do it as apolitically as possible,” says Omar Mitchell, NHL vice president for corporate social responsibility, “because at the end of the day, as our commissioner would say, this is the right thing to do.”

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Don't miss the Native Plant Workshop

Keep Sedona Beautiful was on the County Wide TV station, talking about KSB, the Native Plant Workshop and the Earth Day Extravaganza map. Check it out!

Why we should embed sustainability into STEM/STEAM education

Sustainability + STEAM, they just make sense together. STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, art and math) are popular educational priorities these days. And no wonder. Technology and engineering are major drivers of our economy and social change. We believe that these topics in isolation miss an important element. They are not an end in themselves; they could be directed toward good or evil. What’s needed is a vision of what they are intended to solve or contribute to. That’s where sustainability comes in.  Here are three reasons why S+STEAM is better than STEAM alone.

Solve world problems

Lots of students in STEM/STEAM classes learn how to build robots. That’s fine but we don’t want robots just to have robots. Ideally they solve important local and world problems.

If STEAM training starts with an analysis of ways their communities and the world are unsustainable, it brings relevance to the education. Students can choose issues they care about and think about how they can build robots or other technologies to address these problems. Can they build technologies to identify recyclables or invasive species, clean water or power a light bulb in poor communities, or even solve climate change?

One inspiring example is Heirs to Oceans. It is a group formed by enterprising home-schooled kids in the Bay Area. They are passionate about the seas and climate change. They, with the help of some grown-ups, created this podcast about their program: http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/loudest-smallest-voices-are-raising-alarm-climate-change

Kids/parents from all over the world can join their efforts here: https://www.heirstoouroceans.com/

Programs like these energize kids to learn and help them find their calling in life.

Avoid unintended consequences

Humans are great at solving one problem while creating several more. It’s a function of simplistic cause-effect thinking. In contrast, sustainability brings a systems view, a more circular system where, for example, human activity pollutes the water and the water harms people. You’re called upon to consider how systems are interconnected and to find leverage points where a small action can make a big positive difference. And it helps students to foresee potential actions and reactions.

Your students will enjoy a cautionary tale like the Cats in Borneo which is explained in this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17BP9n6g1F0

Borneo contacted the World Bank to help them address malaria. The World Bank’s solution killed the mosquitoes but their solution also led to roofs collapsing and cats dying. Then the rat population exploded resulting in an outbreak of plague. Watch the video to find out how these effects were connected.

Benefit from a toolbox of innovative practices

There’s a commonly referenced Einstein quotation, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” A corollary could be that you can’t solve problems with the same approaches. Sustainability and systems thinking brings a new set of tools for finding innovative solutions.

Waters Foundation is a good source for information on systems thinking in language appropriate to children. Here’s a link to their 14 Habits of a Systems Thinker. http://watersfoundation.org/systems-thinking/habits-of-a-systems-thinker/. These tools aren’t just for mature kids. There’s a wonderful video (that I can’t find online anymore) of pre-schoolers using a causal loop diagram to explain how being mean to another child can create more problems.  This link will take you to an example of very young kids using behavior over time graphs. http://watersfoundation.org/newsletter-archives/december-2013/developing-young-systems-thinkers/

Like STEAM, systems thinking is a tool (a means) that should be paired with sustainability (an end). However the sustainability field has a set of useful tools as well. Here are a few that might be inspiring to students:

The four Natural Step principles (system conditions) for a sustainable society were developed by scientists to get at the root of what a society needs to do to be both environmentally and socially sustainable. There are some wonderful short videos on YouTube from Sustainability Illustrated that can explain sustainability and these 4 principles in several minutes.

Biomimicry is the practice of using nature as an inspiration for how to design our products and processes. On the Biomimicry Institute, you can use their Ask Nature database of biological solutions. These are already gaining traction in the real world: swimsuits designed with sharkskin to reduce drag, paints that clean themselves like a lotus leaf, and surgical glue inspired by slug slime.

The Circular Economy is recycling on steroids, a society where everything is either used again, consumed or safely composted. That society doesn’t exist yet but Europe and China are both working on projects related to this concept. A related concept is industrial ecology or industrial symbiosis, where an industrial park is designed such that the waste of one operation because input to another.

“A fertilizer factory is fed with vinasse, a byproduct of sugar, from a nearby beer brewery. A paper and pulp plant receives scrap wood from a nearby wood factory as input, while providing sludge for fertilizer, green mud for building materials, white sludge for a citric acid factory and a cement plant, wood chips for a charcoal factory, fly ash for a cement plant, and waste hot water for an aquaculture mill.”


If you want to learn more, come to our Sustainability in Schools Symposium.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How long does it take stuff to decompose?

Here are some startling facts about how long it takes various materials to decompose in a landfill. I was actually surprised that somethings decomposed at all.

Source: https://www.down2earthmaterials.ie/2013/02/14/decompose/

  • Plastic bottles: 70-450 years 
  • Plastic bag: 500-1000 years 
  • Tin can: around 50 years 
  • Leather shoes: 25-40 years 
  • Thread: 3-4 months 
  • Cotton: 1-5 months 
  • Rope: 3-14 months 
  • Cigarette: 1-12 years 
  • Milk packet (tetra) covers and drink packets: 5 years 
  • Nylon clothes: 30-40 years 
  • Sanitary napkins & children diapers: 500-800 years 
  • Glass bottles: 1,000,000 years
  • Hairspray bottle: 200-500 years 
  • Fishing line: 600 years. 
  • Glass bottle; 1-2 million years 
  • Aluminum can: 200 years

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Zero waste in the built environment

As part of New York City's intent to be zero waste by 2030, architects have gotten together to create zero waste guidelines.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Surprising facts about diet and the climate

This recent study figured out that one-fifth of Americans generate almost half of the food-related greenhouse gases. They must eat a lot of meat! Not good for their health or the planet. Where do you think you are on this scale?

One fifth of Americans are responsible for half the country's food-based emissions - Popular Science https://apple.news/AdSNTiGFeQQimQ7-rmumVgQ

Saturday, March 17, 2018

What’s for dinner? Bugs, weeds and algae

Sounds disgusting to Americans but soon we’ll be eating bugs, weeds and algae. You just won’t probably know it. Just like most people don’t want to see the sad cow face when they eat a burger, most people don’t want to see the antennae and carapace of the bug. But bugs are a great source of protein and are much more sustainable to produce. Take a look at what may soon be on your menu...

Menu of the Future: Insects, Weeds, and Bleeding Veggie Burgers - National Geographic https://apple.news/A9gxrRzIBQ1eFd8qzFgD1-w

Splitting hairs on renewable energy

This article is for carbon-geeks. It explains a drawback of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (the international standard for reporting greenhouse gases) in that it treats all renewables the same. But if, for example, my solar array is replacing an old, inefficient coal-fired power plant and yours if offsetting a natural gas plant, we are producing different carbon benefits. The article offers a couple other options.


Friday, March 16, 2018

Shoes made from FSC certified trees

These aren’t the colorful Dutch poplar clogs. These are sneakers made from eucalyptus fibers. I wonder if they smell good too. To make sure they’re not contributing to deforestation, they are using the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification for forestry practices.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Sustainability: customers increasingly hold both carrot and stick

The interest in corporate sustainability continues to grow. An increasingly, customers are wielding both carrot and stick.

Customers are also increasingly likely to look for a brand that better aligns with their values. A recent global study by BBMG and GlobeScan revealed that for the first time since 2009, more consumers say they have punished companies for their behaviour (28%) than have rewarded them (26%).
While figures in the 20% range not might seem like a lot, it is enough for a tipping point.

Here are 5 trends in corporate sustainability.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Another reason to use green cleaning approaches: your lungs

I remember the time I tried a spray shower cleaner a friend had recommended (remember the scrubbing bubbles ads?). My bronchial tubes hurt and I started to cough. Simple Green does the same thing to me. There’s a so-called green product from Clorox that drives me out of the room.

Increasingly research is showing that a lot of household and commercial cleaning products are hurting lung function, especially for women.

So if the man of the house doesn’t want to do all the housecleaning, switch to safe cleaning methods: water, vinegar and baking soda can clean virtually anything. Use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect sealed surfaces.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Orange bag + plastics = diesel

It’s been a while coming, but it appears a company in Salt Lake City has figured out how to turn 3-7 plastics, including plastic bags, into diesel fuel.  This couldn't come at a better time now that China has decided not to be the world's dumping ground anymore.


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Police testing Tesla

If you’re a cop and want to have a car that will outrun the bad guys, why not get a car that has a insane driving mode? Even though they’re expensive, Teslas are increasingly being purchased by police departments. I hope they also buy green power or get solar panels with them.


Preparing your garden for climate change

Some amount of climate change is inevitable, even if we act immediately. We’re already seeing it. Here in Arizona, drought and temperatures often 10degrees above normal for weeks is becoming common. If you love gardening, as I do, you worry about your stressed plants. Rather than pouring even more water on them and covering everything in burlap, here are some tips to prepare your garden for a changing world. Most importantly build your soil: it sequesters carbon and retains moisture.

9 Radical Ways to Face Climate Change, with Brooklyn's Rebecca McMackin - Gardenista - Gardenista https://apple.news/A40LJfTAiOXGLkwSxfIMKlQ

Friday, March 9, 2018

Colorado driving flat out toward electric cars

Colorado is making big investments in electric car infrastructure to meet their goal of 1 million plug-in electric cars on its roads by 2030. But they estimate it will save their citizens big bucks:

  • $4.1 billion will accrue to electric utility customers in the form of reduced electric bills;
  • $29.1 billion will accrue directly to Colorado drivers in the form of reduced annual vehicle operating costs; and
  • $9.7 billion will accrue to society at large, as the value of reduced GHG emissions


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Saving our Verde River with beer

It seems counter-intuitive to save a river by creating a product that uses water, but this article documents how we can replace thirstier crops like cotton and alfalfa with barley. It's a great example of sustainable entrepreneurship, aligning the various segments of the supply chain to make this new industry work for everyone.


How to remove a million pounds of plastic from the ocean and waterways?

Answer: you make it part of your business model.

Image from United by Blue website
United by Blue commits to removing a pound of trash for every item purchased from their company. Somehow that claim makes me feel as if I’m being held ransom to their products, but at least it’s having good effects. They don’t just donate to groups doing the work; they organize it. They have both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce sales.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

High speed rail inching out air travel in EU and Asia

Trains are more fuel efficient than air travel. This is true for freight as well as passengers. This article shows in charts who high-speed trains are taking market share from air travel by being virtually as fast but less expensive. That sends a market signal to choose the more sustainable option. Not to mention they are a lot more comfortable than the sardine cans we call airplanes these days.

Watch Out, Airlines. High Speed Rail Now Rivals Flying on Key Routes - Bloomberg


Monday, March 5, 2018

Meauring Happiness: How are we doing

According to this research, Arizonans are doing pretty well relative to other areas in Optimism, the feeling you can get ahead if you work hard. It's different for non-hispanic whites vs Latino and African American populations. This looks like an interesting tool to investigate further, as the article refers to an interactive map.


And here's a link to an interview with the author of Happiness for All? Unequal Lives and Hopes in Pursuit of the American Dream,


Make your own cleaning products

Here are recipes to make your own household cleaners..cheaper and safer than a lot of store-bought alternatives.

These Homemade Cleaners Are Easy to DIY — And Really Work - Food Network https://apple.news/A7q5ptSPkR_ivM73Qd6lELg

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Stylish shoes made from pop bottles

This company has figured out how to make comfy shoes from recycled plastic. Not cheap but for those of you who like to show off your shoes while avoiding high-heels, you might check these out. A friend loves them.


This is why diversity in STEM science matters

If I say, environmentalist or environmental scientist, what comes to mind? Likely a white guy, either young and scruffy, or middle-aged and studious. Not a woman, not Latino, not Black, not East Indian or Asian, not even Native American. Don’t feel too bad; we’ve all internalized some stereotypes, even if we need to push against them.

To some degree, this stereotype comes from the roots of the environmental movement with a lot of White middle class people. But it’s changing and we need to increase diversity to get better results. This story is a great example, a Latino who quickly nailed the reason for anomalies in data about asthma in Latin populations. Being a geneticist and knowing his cultural heritage put the pieces together.


Friday, March 2, 2018

Malaysia teaching sustainability at university

Malaysia is integrating sustainability into education. This could be a model for other countries.

To enhance awareness of planetary boundaries, the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University, Malaysia, paired up with the SDG Academy, a free online education platform offering graduate-level courses related to sustainable development. The result was a Blended Learning Program that combined the SDG Academy’s expert-led online syllabus with in-person classroom instruction tailored specifically to the national context of Malaysia. The Blended Learning Program educated participants about the global environmental consequences of their everyday life choices, to encourage more conscientious decision-making.

Net zero buildings make financial sense, even for developers

Rocky Mountain Institute decided to move into a net zero office building. They've used their experience to debunk a number of different myths. Traditionally it's been thought that the additional expenses associated with making a building net zero wouldn't provide a return to a developer, especially if he or she decided to sell right away. Not so.

NZE-leased buildings can be up to 19 percent more profitable for developers who hold on to their property and 17 percent more profitable for developers who choose to sell their property immediately.
It's good for tenants as well:

The greatest benefit to the tenant comes from higher employee productivity and satisfaction due to improved thermal comfort, natural daylight, and residing in a healthy building—all shown to improve productivity by 6–16 percent.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Why social sustainability is as important as environmental sustainability

You may have noticed that our logo has People, Planet, Prosperity (considered the three legs of sustainability stool: economic, social and environmental sustainability.)
From Social Watch,
Often people are confused about the social and economic piece. They think of sustainability as predominately environmental. 
It's certainly true that our society is wholly dependent upon nature, our economy is a "wholly-owned subsidiary of Nature," as Ray Anderson liked to say. It's probably most accurate to see these as concentric circles, with Environment the largest, then Society and then our Economy as a subset of our society. (See the common example from Social Watch.)
But we can't get to environmental sustainability without getting people on board, without meeting human needs. We're so clever, we find ways to circumvent natural limits that other species face. We go ahead and meet our needs unsustainably, if we have to. If you were a Brazilian farmer who had to burn down some rain forest to feed your kids, you'd do it, right? If you have to get into a fossil-fuel driven car to get to work, you do it. "Now" matters more to us humans than long-term impacts, especially when we're in crisis.
So the end-game is finding a way that we can all have a good life within the limits of nature.  

Sounds good, but still a bit vague, right? To make matters worse, what determines a good quality of life differs. In underdeveloped nations, access to clean water and sanitation is key. In the developed world, we've developed a dizzying array of things we think we need to be happy. So for now, let's examine social sustainability at the community level.

Think of social sustainability as quality of life. What in your community is undermining the quality of life for those who live and work in the community? 

Let me use Sedona, my home town, as an example. The City is already working on two big priorities that I consider part of social sustainability:

Traffic: Traffic jams are a huge headache for people in the community; they affect how we feel; just yesterday I talked to someone who moved to Cottonwood because of it; and of course it has environmental and economic impacts as well like air pollution and days I shop or eat out in Cottonwood so I don’t have to drive to West Sedona from Village of Oak Creek. And I'm sure our three million visitors don't like sitting in hour-long traffic jams during high-season and holidays. It's also bad for business.

Lack of workforce housing: Many people who work here can’t afford to live here; this is an interconnected problem between the types of jobs here, wage scales, cost of real estate vs rent that can be charged. Having to commute (especially in bad traffic...do you see how everything is connected?) requires that people of modest means must own a car or spend hours on public transit, away from their family.

We have some other social challenges in Sedona including some hunger and homelessness. Our education system seems to be struggling because our state doesn't fund it as well as most other states. The transient nature of our community (people who live here part time, where this is not ‘home’, as well as being a retirement community) has an impact on social cohesion or social capital which can be important assets when the community needs to come together to get things done. Sedona isn’t very walkable, which affects people’s health and requires they get in their car. So the work the City is doing around urban planning, to create walkable centers, is also a social sustainability initiative.

Other communities have different social sustainability issues, things like crime levels, drug abuse, food deserts (where people can’t get easy access to fresh food), rates of obesity, etc. 

It’s hard to think about social sustainability in the broad sense (although there are some good theoretical frameworks out there like Chilean economist, Manfred Max-Neef’s 9 fundamental human needs and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals). But if you just keep asking, “What is undermining our quality of life in our community?” you can easily identify what needs to be addressed.
And then here's the trick: find solutions that also help the economy and the environment (or at least that don't make them worse.) That's the special sauce of sustainability, seeking solutions that make everything better: People, Planet, Prosperity. All three. Not trade-offs.

ELF from Organic Transit:
So how do we, for example, fix traffic in Sedona while making the other P's better? We certainly don't build wider roads. Instead:
  • We can build a better transit system to handle all the tourists which would make their visit more enjoyable, one that would explain what they're seeing and make it easy to start hiking from one trail head and get picked up at another. 
  • We can encourage the formation of a new business that would rent 'neighborhood electric vehicles' like this solar-powered ELF, buzzing around in bike lanes or rarely used sidewalks, with drivers stopping to take pictures whenever they want (instead of filming out their sunroof while they drive--trust me, they do it). 
  • We can get tour companies to collaborate on scheduling transportation, perhaps through an app. "Done with your trip to the local wineries? A tour to Honanki is leaving in 10 minutes. Click here to learn about that archeological site." 
These more sustainable solutions (vs. widening roads) create new economic opportunities, improve the visitor experience, and reduce greenhouse gases. 
People, Planet, Prosperity: Win, Win, Win.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dubai may beat China to largest waste-to-energy plant

Waste-to-energy is not your old, polluting incinerators. The technology has gotten amazingly good. They make the most sense when you can capture and use the heat as well as the energy (as in district heating.) Presumably Dubai doesn't need a lot of space heat but maybe they can use it for industrial processes.


Waste-to-energy is not without its critics. Some worry that societies will be forced to create waste to feed them. In Sweden, their recycling numbers still stayed very good despite the waste-to-energy option but they are now importing waste from other countries. In Sweden they also use the W2E plants to store wind energy at night when demand is lower.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Encircling Black communities with highways chokes people to death

Social Justice is an important part of sustainability. African Americans are much more likely to die from asthma, for a number of reasons, but our transportation infrastructure is one of them.

Take a look a the images in this article, of a community in Orlando completely surrounded by freeways. I learned in this article that the EPA air quality measures, while helpful, don’t assess the smallest particles from internal combustion engines which are the most harmful to lungs.

But imagine all the vehicles on these highways are electric, producing no emissions, making only tire noise. It can’t happen fast enough for this neighborhood.

Even Breathing Is A Risk In One Of Orlando's Poorest Neighborhoods - HuffPost https://apple.news/AepJIbNq7QOmLgXbHslcCPQ

Monday, February 26, 2018

A $1 of prevention in City Planning saves $6

Not really a surprise but some important data that might inspire action.

According to this new report by the National Institute of Building Sciences, when the Feds spend a $1 on mitigation grants (to address foreseeable natural disasters including those caused by climate change), they save us $6 on future disaster costs. And when communities build these strategies into their building codes, that can save $4 on each dollar spent. Both strategies together could save 600 lives and a million injuries.

Here's a link to where you can download the report: http://www.nibs.org/page/mitigationsaves

And here's a more detailed summary from their page:
More than a decade after releasing its original report on mitigation, the National Institute of Building Sciences issued Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report. The 2017 Interim Report highlights the benefits of two mitigation strategies. The Institute's project team looked at the results of 23 years of federally funded mitigation grants provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and found mitigation funding can save the nation $6 in future disaster costs, for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation.

In addition, the project team looked at scenarios that focus on designing new buildings to exceed provisions of the 2015 model building codes. The 2017 Interim Report demonstrates that investing in hazard mitigation measures to exceed select requirements of the 2015 International Codes (I-Codes), the model building codes developed by the International Code Council (ICC), can save the nation $4 for every $1 spent.

The project team estimated that just implementing these two sets of mitigation strategies would prevent 600 deaths, 1 million nonfatal injuries and 4,000 cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the long term. In addition, designing new buildings to exceed the 2015 International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) would result in 87,000 new, long-term jobs and an approximate 1% increase in utilization of domestically produced construction material.

How does Arizona score on solar?

According to this Electrek article, Arizona rates 22nd in solar, a C. The new proposed modernization plan is getting good marks for moving the goalpost:

Currently, Arizona has a 15% renewable energy mandate by 2025, a goal which has already been met. This new proposal will see that increase to 80% by 2050, “with the ultimate goal of being 100%.” Nuclear power is included in the clean energy target.

And they're proposing the second largest storage capacity at 3 gigawatts.  (How much is a gigawatt?)

If approved, the plan would make Arizona “the first state to attempt to modernize its renewable portfolio standard to reflect the recent advances in energy technologies,” Lon Huber, a consultant who worked to craft the original RUCO proposal, said. “What this plan is saying is we aren’t going to build our future on natural gas — the backbone of the system over the next 40 to 60 years will not be gas.”


8 Sustainable Business Trends in 2018

University of Cambridge has long been pushing sustainability. In the US we often miss trends that are bubbling up in other parts of the world. This is an interesting report on 8 trends that will affect business in 2018. Here's a summary quoted from their announcement. What do you think?

  • Volatility is the new normal: From disruptive technologies to political uncertainty, the future is chaotic and it is here to stay.
  • Sustainability to shape the face of business: Growing public consciousness of sustainability issues and political leadership gaps will increasingly open the way for business to step up to the challenge of sustainability leadership, and either lead, adapt or fail.
  • Enduring loss and damage from extreme weather: After the unprecedented climate events of 2017, vulnerable cities, countries and people will face yet more extreme and disruptive weather events, with the potential to impact business though value chain disruption and stranded assets, and contribute to social unrest. 
  • Human versus machine: Growing levels of automation will not only begin to transform the future of business but also the future of work.
  • China and the global shift to the East: The re-election of President Xi Jinping has given China stability in a turbulent world, and has reinforced the state’s mandate to address climate change at a time when other world leaders have faltered over sustainability.
  • The end of an era for plastics: Packaging is set to be key battleground in addressing the environmental impacts of business on oceans, land and air.
  • A watershed year for transparency: Anticipating the recommendations for reporting climate-related financial risks from the Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), companies such as ExxonMobil have faced investor and public pressure to voluntarily improve risk disclosure. This could fire the gun for greater transparency in other parts of business such as executive pay, gender equality and tax arrangements.
  • Life after coal: The energy revolution is reaching its climax as the switch to renewables and electricity is unstoppable. 8 trends that will define business in 2018. #CISLtrends

Get the full report here: https://www.cisl.cam.ac.uk/publications/sustainability-leadership/8-business-and-sustainability-trends-that-will-define-2018

Sails made of solar panels

Why didn’t we think of this before? Some cargo ships have been experimenting with using sails to supplement their propulsion, but what if you covered a ship with verticle solar panels that could be turned into the wind? Soon we will know how well this works.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

What industry is adding jobs the fastest? Solar.

According to a recent study, the solar industry is adding jobs at an astounding rate.new Jobs was in the solar industry.


World’s largest lakes drying up

Here’s a bitter irony: Sea levels are rising but freshwater lakes are disappearing.

We try to avoid doom&gloom in this blog, but this is a startling article from National Geographic cataloging diminishing surface water supplies. Climate change, diversions and over-population are decimating many of the world’s largest lakes, with most of the damage coming in the last 30 years. Where will the migrating birds stop? What will people eat when there are no more fish and no water for agriculture? The Panama Canal has had to limit the draft of ships. We need to take this seriously.

Almost two and a half billion people live in areas where human demand for water exceeds the supply.

 Some of the World's Biggest Lakes Are Drying Up. Here's Why. - National Geographic https://apple.news/AsY2ACPSrTBy_CN-Ut7Ny7A

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Friday, February 23, 2018

Is your shampoo as bad as tailpipe emissions?

Good news: air pollution from vehicles has gotten better over the decades.

Bad news: products you may be using in you house may increasingly be the problem, now representing up to half the volatile organic compounds in the air.

Unfortunately this article doesn’t tell us which chemicals to avoid and you can’t get to the scientific paper without paying. But this is another reason to buy biodegradeable products from trusted companies and avoid “fragrances,” which are often endocrine disruptors (which mess with your hormones).

A new study, published in the journal Science, has found that household products such as shampoo, oven cleaner, and deodorant could all be a significant source of air pollution - the same form as that which is released by car fumes.
The team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Colorado collected air samples in Pasadena, Los Angeles valley, which is a particularly smoggy area. They then analysed data from the US and Europe, including research from other scientists.
They found that up to half of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) came from domestic products, including bleach, perfume, shampoo, and paint. When these particles degrade, they become a particulate matter called PM2.5, which is know to cause respiratory problems and is linked with 29,000 deaths in the UK each year.

Scientists have found that shampoo is a source of the same dangerous form of air pollution made by cars - Business Insider https://apple.news/A8pcCF7bFSk6_FIqIUjgtpA

Here are 9 ways to avoid hormone disrupting chemicals: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/9-ways-avoid-hormone-disrupting-chemicals

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Mayors from 46 states/territories sign onto the Clean Power Plan

The Clean Power Plan is a national strategy to transform our energy system to protect the climate. Mayors from around the country are signing an open letter demanding that that Clean Power Plan stay in place. The map in this article shows which cities have signed on, spreading across the country, representing 51 million Americans. So far it appears Arizona only has one city signed on.

U.S. cities are the vanguard for a sustainable future - GreenBiz.com https://apple.news/AU0-8H4OlNZa4ulle4a8D9g

Seychelles created huge marine “protected areaL

Marine reserves have been found to be effective tools in conservation. They act as fish nurseries, where babies can grow up and endangered species can hide. This protected area, roughly the size of Great Britian, will apparently still allow some fishing at a sustainable level. It is funded largely by The Nature Conservancy and Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

Ocean Refuge the Size of Great Britain Announced - National Geographic https://apple.news/AUKcqqeIFTt6Bq7-JufOJmg

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Can we ferment our waste and save the climate?

LanzaTech thinks so. They are working on a process using microorganisms similar to those at the bottom of the sea to convert waste and CO2 into fuels, potentially creating a Circular Economy for products as diverse as airplane fuel, tires and yoga pants.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Review: Doughnut Economics

Source: https://www.kateraworth.com/doughnut/

Raworth, Kate (2017) Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green.

It’s not often anymore that I read a book and start immediately taking notes because the ideas are so helpful. But Kate Raworth has dissected what’s wrong with our old economic theory and proposes an alternative, in language you don't have to be an economist to understand. 

The Doughnut refers to an image she’s created with Planetary Boundaries around the outside (showing the environmental systems upon which we depend and our degree of overshoot for each) and inside, a similar set of societal needs, along with our under-shoot of each. The idea is to pull people who don't have enough from the no-man's-land in the center of the doughnut while staying within the outer boundary of the limits of nature. The space between the inner and outer ring is what she calls "the safe and just space for humanity."

This image is brilliant, but basing the future on an image of junk food is perhaps not the best way to title her book. A round life-preserver would have been a better metaphor. I would have titled the book How Wrong-headed Economic Theory Has Convinced Us All to Destroy Life on Earth and What to do Instead.

Here's the conundrum she tries to solve: 
“We have an economy that needs to grow, whether or not it makes us thrive. 
We need an economy that makes us thrive, whether or not it grows.” p. 227

A couple concepts, along with the Doughnut, are key. One is the power of images. She warns we should all be careful not to internalize a lot of economic images we’ve been fed. Not just economists have done this; these old models are entrenched in politics, international aid, and our view of what it is to be human. 

For example, the Kuznets Curve that seems to imply that emerging economies have to become more unequal for a time as they get richer, is not true but has influenced politics and international relief efforts. Same problem with supply and demand curves, the exponential GDP curve (that no economist wants to finish drawing beyond the point it goes almost verticle...what happens next?).

Worst of all is the stick-figure view of human nature referred to as Homo Economicus. We have been taught that we are selfish, wanting more and more stuff, with perfectly rational decision-making based on perfect information. NOT! Even the inventors of that caricature knew it was flawed and incomplete. 

I remember recently having a conversation with a doctor who told me profit was his main motivation; that universal healthcare would lower his ability to make more and more money; his motivation would stop. I thought he had a cynical and narrow view of human nature. Yes, money drives us, but so do a lot of other things: compassion, love, a desire to make a difference, beauty, spiritual healing. Wouldn't we all be better off if we shared an image of human nature that nurtured our better angels rather than our worst?

Another theme is that entrenched economic thinking and the schools teaching it are stuck in the old way of thinking, and the more prestigious the university, the more resistant to change. She encourages us to be agnostic about whether growth must continue or not and instead focus on redesigning our economy around getting everyone into the circumference of the doughnut.

Tesla building virtual power plant in Australia

In the old, dirty 20th century, power plants were set far away from population centers since they were dangerous and polluting. The process involved digging up mountains to get coal (or drilled for gas), burning it, wasting lots and lots of heat. Then they ran the electricity a long distance into towns, losing up to 10% more of the electricity along the way. And with 9-11 in mind, they sat there with a big terrorist target on their back.

Nature knows better, preferring distributed systems that are loosely coupled, so if a bad thing happens over there, it stays there.

Tesla is helping Australia move into the 21st century with a distributed power system.

The state of South Australia has announced plans to equip at least 50,000 homes with solar panels and Tesla (TSLA) battery storage units, connecting them all to the electricity grid to form the world's largest "virtual power plant."


Systems thinking quiz: How is AirBnB driving up rents?

Sustainability is ultimately about seeing systems. Traditionally we have thought about cause—>effect. But the real world swirls in cycles and eddies. This article is an interesting case in point. What has the impact of AirBnB been? It had bee presumed it could decimate the hotel industry but it has not. But perhaps it’s hurt a more vulnerable population.

Airbnb and the Unintended Consequences of Disruption - The Atlantic https://apple.news/AXN8ool0NTDWu6NcZMFru-w

Friday, February 16, 2018

B-corporations legal in Arizona

For those businesses wanting to go beyond our Sustainable Business Certification, consider becoming a B-Corp. B stands for Benefit and the idea is you write into your bylaws and practices that you'll keep in mind all relevant stakeholder needs, not just owners/shareholders, as you make decisions. It's a way to get around the common misperception that corporate boards have to make decisions in the short-term interests of their stockholders. That's never been true. But a B-Corp certification requires that they consider other stakeholders like employees, the communities in which the company operates, the environment, etc.

When I was in business, we became an early B-Corp. Back then, it took a couple days to finish the process. You fill out an assessment, upload relevant documents and then get audited (for us, it was over the phone.) There's also a fairly hefty fee and you have to get recertified.

The advantages is that some governmental agencies or other organizations may specify giving preference to hiring B-Corps in the same way they might earmark some projects for minority or women-owned businesses. This certification is recognized (but maybe not well known) across the country. In comparison, the Alliance certification is regional, fast, easy and free; and ours has levels of performance up to full sustainability which B Corp does not.

Here's an AZ website to provide more info: https://www.keytlaw.com/benefitcorp/

Here's a link to B-Lab, the organization that administers the B-Corp certification: https://www.bcorporation.net/

Sustainable investment funds outperformed during the correction

Decades ago, people thought you’d have to give up returns to buy responsible companies. But study after study is showing that sustainable investing typically does as well or better. If you are trying to make the world better, why would you invest in companies making the world worse? Here’s a report about how sustainable funds performed in the recent correction.

In the first nine days of the month—a period over which the S&P fell 7.2%—two-thirds of all sustainable funds available in the U.S. finished in the top half of their respective categories. For equity funds, “65% outperformed their peers, with more than twice as many finishing in their category’s top quartile than in the bottom quartile,” wrote Jon Hale, head of sustainability research at Morningstar. Per his data, 30% of sustainable stock funds finished in the top quartile of their category, compared with the 14% that ended in their group’s bottom quartile.

‘Sustainable’ funds outperformed the broad market in the recent correction - MarketWatch https://apple.news/AHW9KvQMbRDaBvRthwLPPVg

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Going Tubeless for the Environment

by Lin Ennis, SNAP Fitness in Sedona

In 2015, three Snap Fitness locations in the Verde Valley switched to coreless toilet paper, i.e., there is no brown tube in the center of the roll. Each year, more than 17 billion toilet paper tubes are thrown away, mostly ending up in landfills. That amount of waste is enough to fill the Empire State Building’s 37 million cubic feet two times.

Removing the core allows the roll to hold 15 percent more tissue. That means fewer cardboard boxes, and fewer semis on the highways delivering tissue. The brand Snap uses is 50 percent post-consumer content and 65 percent total recycled content. It is ECOLOGO certified, meaning not only the end product, but also its origin and manufacture have been audited to prove its compliance with stringent, third-party, environmental performance standards.

Based on the three R’s, we recommend you Reduce your use of tissue tubes:
If that doesn’t work for you right now, Reuse, as there are hundreds of ways to do so:
And finally, Recycle:

Additional resources: