Author Archives: GreenBiz.com

Tyson gears up for test drive of emerging, emissions-busting engine

Can an engine design once used in submarines and World War II fighter plans help reduce the nitrogen oxide emissions related to commercial truck fleets?Tyson Foods, which owns one of the largest private refrigerated truck fleets in the United States, will give the technology a spin on a route from Arizona to California next year, thanks to a project funded by a $7 million grant from the California Air Resources Board.The team is led by CALSTART and focuses on engineering from San Diego-based Achates Power, which says its Class 8 truck can cut NOx pollution by 90 percent compared with more widely used engine types alongside a 15 percent to 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency. The engine is also engineered to emit 10 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) than the 2027 federal greenhouse gas requirement. We felt it was intriguing technology, and we liked that it was already being used in other spaces. The test is more intriguing within the context of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s surprising mid-November disclosure that it plans to tighten up rules for regulating NOx emissions through the Cleaner Trucks Initiative. The standard was last updated in 2001. According to EPA data, NOx emissions dropped by 40 percent between 2007 and 2017 but "there is more work to be done." Under the current framework, heavy-duty trucks will account for about one-third of all NOx emissions from the transportation sector by 2025. The new rules are anticipated in early 2020.Rob Lyall, vice president of Tyson Foods Transportation, said his team heard about Achates in the course of its ongoing strategy to reduce fleet emissions — it has been part of the EPA’s SmartWay program since 2005 as part of an ongoing effort to reduce fuel consumption. "At the outset, we felt it was intriguing technology, and we liked that it was already being used in other spaces," Lyall told me during a briefing about the planned pilot.The company has about 2,800 tractors and 7,300 trailers on the road for hauling everything from feed to meat destined for grocery stores and food service organizations, according to a spokesman.An opposed piston internal combustion engine uses cylinders that have pistons at both ends. Originally developed in the late 1800s, it was widely used in World War II in airplanes and can be found in submarines, freighters and trains.Achates Power is one of several companies that has been testing variants of the design for "lighter" engines, particularly for the Class 8 trucks such as tractor trailers or dump trucks. The company was founded in 2004, and is involved in a number of high-profile research and development projects including a $14 million project by the National Advanced Mobility Consortium focused on new military combat vehicles that recently turned into a $47.4 million contract in collaboration with engine-maker Cummins. (The timeline of that work is here.)Of more interest to commercial fleet owners and managers, however, will be the $9 million grant that Achates received from the Advanced Research Project Agency — Energy (ARPA-E) in 2015, and currently running into early 2019. In the impact statement for the project, which also included the Argonne National Laboratory and Delphi Powertrain, the researchers suggest that one major efficiency benefit for an opposed piston engine comes from its ability to reduce heat transfer. The assessment notes: "Compression ignition OP engines are inherently more efficient than conventional gasoline spark-ignited four-stroke engines, with potential for up to 50 percent higher thermal efficiency, while providing comparable power and torque. They also show the potential to meet future tailpipe emissions standards." Our target is to be comparable from a horsepower and torque perspective. Tyson Foods will test the Achates technology on one of its steadiest routes using a Peterbilt 579 tractor, Lyall said. While the exact performance indicators it will study are still being determined, the team will look closely at miles per gallon metrics and maintenance expenses. "Our target is to be comparable from a horsepower and torque perspective."This isn’t the only new transportation technology Tyson Foods plans to experiment with next year. In early 2019, the company plans to test an electric tractor for hauling and moving trailers around in its Northwest Arkansas distribution center. The equipment was developed by Kalmar Global, a Helsinki, Finland, company that sells everything from forklifts to ship-to-shore cranes for lifting containers off freighters.Tyson Foods has nine distribution centers that would be considered candidates for this technology, Lyall said.While Tyson Foods doesn’t have a specific target for reducing NOx, in early 2018, the company set an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030. That goal was verified by the Science Based Targets Initiative in September.Let's block ads! (Why?)

An experiment in vehicle-to-microgrid integration

This article is drawn from the Energy Weekly newsletter, running Thursdays. Subscribe here.Those who read this newsletter regularly know that I occasionally like to geek out over pilot projects that demonstrate the power of new technologies. In that vein, this column is brought to you by the letter B, as in the blockchain."But blockchain pilots are a dime a dozen," I can hear some of you grousing. Yes, dear readers, that’s true, and I’d be the first person to whine about which ones are worth coverage. But this one is focused on something we should all watch closely in the year to come: the intersection of microgrids and electric vehicle charging.As part of a new partnership trumpeted this week, eMotorWerks (part of the energy services arm of mega-utility Enel) and LO3 Energy (the startup behind the much-written-about Brooklyn energy-trading experiment) are getting together. They're connecting Enel’s JuiceNet cloud-based EV charging service with the LO3 energy-transaction system Exergy.Why did this rise above the other blah, blah, blah hitting my inbox on a daily basis? The integration will produce a real-world trial of a system that allows EV owners to make smart decisions about when they charge their cars. Vehicle batteries long have been mentioned as one way to help stabilize local grids — and as a potential source of new revenue for utilities struggling for relevance in a future powered by distributed, renewable energy. Vehicle batteries long have been mentioned as one way to help stabilize local grids — and as a potential source of new revenue for utilities struggling for relevance. The tests that these two companies plan to conduct will be used to prove what’s possible and what’s not. They’ll be looking at a number of applications. These include how to help fleet owners reduce charging costs by allowing the owners to respond to pricing fluctuations, or by paying them to let their EV batteries be used as a demand response resource."By offering JuiceNet technology as a way for residents to manage charging more efficiently, projects such as our virtual battery in California, and now this partnership with LO2, showcase how powerful smart charging can be for grid services at scales ranging from hyper-local to state and national levels," said Vincent Schacter, senior vice president of energy services at eMotorWerks, in a statement.What the heck is a virtual battery? Schachter is referring to the company’s 6,000-charger network installed across the Golden State. The combined capacity is 30 megawatts (or 70 megawatt-hours), and it’s actually available to the California Independent System Operator for balancing grid demand. Today. (For perspective, eMotorWerks has sold more than 40,000 of its smart EV charging stations worldwide.)What the press release doesn’t say is where, exactly, the tests being spearheaded by eMotorWerks and LO3 will take place — although the Brooklyn project is a likely candidate. Let's block ads! (Why?)

How Ruth Gates is using social design to save coral reefs

Adapted from "The Intergalactic Design Guide: Harnessing the Creative Potential of Social Design" by Cheryl Heller (Island Press, 2018).With more species per square yard than the most robust tropical rain forests, coral reefs take up less than 1 percent of ocean floor but support more than 25 percent of marine life. They are the nurseries of the ocean, and without them, the entire marine ecosystem would collapse. In addition to their importance to the environment, the global financial value of coral reefs is $9.9 trillion. They provide services through tourism and recreation, coastal protection, fisheries, and biodiversity valued at $29.8 billion. Coral reefs are essential to the economies and livelihoods of 94 countries. In particular, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, when healthy, is responsible for an estimated 53,800 full-time jobs.But the situation is dire. Fifty percent of the planet’s coral reefs, vast edifices that have persisted for more than 200 million years, have been destroyed in the past three decades by modifications in the oceans due to climate change. All indications are of escalation. There is no coordinated effort in the works at a scale that can stop the abnormal fluctuations in ocean temperature and increasing acidity that are destroying the reefs. Ruth Gates, director of the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology, has discovered what may be a solution.It requires her to prove a complicated scientific theory in a way that will gain the respect and acceptance of her exacting scientific peers, even as she goes against the deeply ingrained rules of scientific behavior. In both aspects of her endeavor, she is doing the unthinkable: breeding a "supercoral" that can withstand the effects of climate change while breaking the silos of scientific protocol to engage nonscientists in a global collaborative effort. Whereas most research scientists are satisfied with learning from their experiments, Gates has an agenda: an audacious vision to save the planet’s coral reefs.Like all contemporary environmental scientists, Gates is preoccupied with the planetary emergency brought on by climate change — in her case, for corals: animals so mysterious and complex that they may never be fully understood, and so vital to life in the ocean that we cannot survive without them.Climate change is the most crowded and contentious issue of the moment. It is one that governments, conservationists, business leaders, nongovernmental organizations, activist groups, politicians and millions of other scientists have taken up, each faction working independently from within the silo of its prescribed role. Gates’s own male-dominated métier of academic research is constricted by narrow rules of engagement and the carefully prescribed scientific process. It’s filled with competition among peers, storm front–sized egos and invisible boundaries intended to keep science more pure than the messy human society beyond it.But Gates’s purpose forces her to question all of these assumptions and toss the outdated ones. In an area in which so many people are at odds, she wants to bring them together, and she is using the power of relationships and a shared vision to accomplish that. She has become a networker and somewhat of an activist. In a high-stakes balancing act, she is juggling a scientist’s responsibility to provide irrefutable evidence of what can be repeatedly proven with a social designer’s need to help people imagine possibilities that do not quite yet exist. Gates is juggling a scientist’s responsibility to provide irrefutable evidence with a social designer’s need to help people imagine possibilities that do not quite yet exist. Gates is asking questions here as well, not about why reefs are failing but about why some corals survive. She observed, after watching a series of severe bleaching events, or thermal anomalies, as she calls them, that not all corals died. Some were robust enough to tolerate hostile conditions better than others. Within large swaths of dead reefs, Gates discovered some hardy individuals that had survived. The question that drives her now is why this is so. "That is the story of my life," she says.In the answers she’s finding, Gates sees an opportunity to save coral reefs — to develop a superspecies through selective breeding that can withstand the threatening conditions that will undoubtedly escalate over the next 10 years. But she also sees the larger context and knows that science is only one piece of the puzzle required to succeed. She knows that the world beyond her team and partners needs to join the effort. Her vision is to engage diverse people and align their efforts toward a higher goal, and that vision has driven her efforts as a social designer. Just as Jeffrey Brown uses a grocery empire as his way to address the systemic causes of poverty, Gates is using scientific research as the means to accomplish her goal of marshaling forces and voices well beyond the scientific world to help corals, the ocean’s most important residents, survive climate change.Work in the waterCorals are intricate creatures: animals that have a symbiotic relationship with the tiny photosynthesizing algae, called dinoflagellates, that live within them and serve as an in-house factory for their food. A microscopic view reveals what seem like individual but synchronized personalities: during the day, the animal rests while the microalgae photosynthesize; at night, while the plants sleep, the animal comes to life — expanding its millions of armlike polyps with tentacles and stinging cells to catch anything that swims by. When ocean temperatures spike (called bleaching events), either the coral discards its algae or the algae choose to leave. Whatever the cause, without its food source, the coral dies. The result is a reef white in color instead of brown, except for the few hardy corals Gates discovered that are able to survive.On Moku o Lo'e (Coconut Island), in O'ahu’s Kāne'ohe Bay, Gates and her team at Gates Coral Lab search for the biological dynamics that cause this massive variation. By sequencing the genomes of the bay’s five principal coral species, they hope to identify the genes that determine adaptability. As with humans, Gates says, coral’s vitality depends on its own genes, the genes of its partner (the algae) and the environmental context in which it lives.Within all these variables, the quest is to cultivate, through selective breeding, a supercoral that can withstand warmer, more acidic conditions. The next task is to determine whether these supercorals can be used to restore damaged and fragmented reefs, increase the resilience of vulnerable reefs, and "green" the enormous seawalls formed by cement being poured into the oceans in an effort to protect shores from the escalating impact of tropical storms (the work that healthy reefs used to do). She and her team use 'tools drawn from the fields of molecular biology, developmental genetics, cell biology, biochemistry, organismal physiology and ecology.' Even in her rigorous scientific experimentation, Gates steps over traditional boundaries, thinking like a social designer as well as a scientist. She and her team use "tools drawn from the fields of molecular biology, developmental genetics, cell biology, biochemistry, organismal physiology and ecology."Twenty researchers in her lab create tens of thousands of corals, taking the very fittest individuals on the reef and deliberately creating unions. A severe bleaching event in the bay provided real-time evidence of hardiness and allowed them to tag thousands of corals that didn’t respond negatively to stress. Now the lab’s nurseries contain juvenile corals selectively bred from the most robust parentage. The researchers induce acclimatization based on the principle that "what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger," in the hope of causing epigenetic change (changes in gene function that don’t involve change in DNA sequence) in future generations. Gates thinks of it as bumping it up, giving the corals a bit of stress, making them run on a treadmill. The researchers use simulated future ocean conditions to evaluate tolerance. Against the accelerating clock of climate change, they race to work with generations of a species that releases its eggs and sperm to reproduce only once a year.Gates reached her transformational moment after years of relatively isolated intellectual freedom in academia, which she extended through four postdoctoral research fellowships. It came in the form of a wake-up call to the hollowness of a claim she (and many of her colleagues) automatically tacked onto the closing of their research papers but never bothered to investigate. She recognized and questioned the assumptions that had been automatic and invisible: one of the first stages in the process of social design. "I was writing this expression over and over again," she said: "This work has direct relevance to conservation and management of coral reefs." "How many times, really, Ruth," she asked herself, "have you written that statement? And do you really have any idea what research would be relevant?" In that moment, she knew it was time to leave the theoretical realm of academia and step out into the real world. "Scientists are really good at observing," she says, "but not good at acting." She recognized and questioned the assumptions that had been automatic and invisible: one of the first stages in the process of social design.Since childhood, Gates has been drawn to the mysteries of the ocean. Her fascination with the televised world of star diver Jacques Cousteau triggered a desire to conduct her own exploration of the seas, and that grew into a relentless quest for deeper knowledge of them. For all that she has accomplished in a lifetime of scientific study, though, it is her compulsion to turn her knowledge into action that drives her to take on the challenge of convincing people from other milieus to join her cause.Work on the groundGates’s next act illustrates a key principle of social design: collaboration and net-worked cocreation. In late September 2012, with the help of some academic friends and drawing on an idea she had, to use networks to activate science, she put together a workshop of unusual participants. In addition to scientists, she invited a group of managers and conservation professionals, challenging them to arrive at a common answer to the question she posed: "What should science be doing in the conservation of coral reefs?"It was a learning experience for everyone, beginning with how much about the other participants’ ways of thinking they didn’t know. Gates says she didn’t understand the language of conservation, or of management, the decision trees and timelines that were so different from those she used. As it always does in social design, the process became the strategy: mapping and listening, uncovering divergent perspectives, was in itself the beginning of the solution.In their time together, group members discovered they had conflicting needs regarding how to balance urgency with action, given that, in their respective fields,  different certainties of outcome are required in advance. Where scientists learn to be comfortable not knowing how an experiment will go (the reason why, after all, it’s called an experiment), people whose job is to manage the expectations of others within an organization, or among the public, need to be certain of what they can deliver before they promise it.Therefore, some in the group argued for immediate action to acquire the necessary evidence to take the next step, and others wanted hard evidence before they would act or would even be comfortable talking about it. Different habits of language surfaced that distorted understanding and, in turn, complicated collaboration. Different habits of language surfaced that distorted understanding and, in turn, complicated collaboration. For example, "assisted evolution" makes sense to scientists but leaves conservationists cold; "building resilience" makes sense to conservationists but is too vague for scientists and managers. Bureaucrats can get behind only the idea of "climate optimization." In communicating openly and comparing their different habits of language, the participants identified the values they share.By the end of the workshop, the group had created a vision composed of eight projects critical to the conservation and management of coral reefs. Gates took on the most audacious one, and the riskiest, even though it was also the one based on a proven theory from Charles Darwin himself.As Darwin argued when making the case for his theory of evolution through natural selection, whether it’s for sweeter corn, blight-free tomatoes, faster horses, fancier chickens or better bird dogs, humans have been selectively breeding plants and domesticated animals since we traded hunting and gathering for agriculture, perhaps before. Where Gates’s research differs from what has become common practice is in the application of selective breeding to "wild nature."Gaining acceptance and active participation to put her discoveries to work requires the skills and principles of social design. Gates imagines, and is building, a collaboration among diverse stakeholders, a supernetwork with the capacity to act on what she is learning. She hopes the network can contribute not only to the scientific research needed to save coral reefs but also to the social and political capital needed to reach global scale.Her network is diverse. It includes scientists within and outside her own field and some unexpected allies: members of the hospitality industry, whose reliance on tourism will, she hopes, provide impetus for their participation; and politicians and government agents whose legislation either addresses or denies climate change. She includes indigenous people, whose wisdom and reverence for nature she trusts, to implement the ideas she and her partners are developing, and schoolchildren, who may learn to live with nature more respectfully than their parents do. Journalists and filmmakers who can bring visibility and, she hopes, support to the cause are also important pieces of the puzzle. Her vision includes the formation of a supportive social architecture: a coordinated vertical network of diverse teams in every part of the world affected by coral reef collapse. Her vision includes the formation of a supportive social architecture: a coordinated vertical network of diverse teams in every part of the world affected by coral reef collapse. A win will come, she believes, not from accruing resources for herself and her colleagues in Hawai'i but by inspiring teams in every affected country to apply their shared learning in the places where they live. She imagines engaged communities connected simultaneously to each other, the larger scientific and environmental communities, and the world.Communicating social designLike every good social designer, Gates has become a master communicator. She recognizes the communication challenges her efforts face, not least because outside of scientific and conservation communities, people don’t understand how essential coral reefs are to life on the planet. They can seem like something "nice to have," like a pretty home aquarium, tended only for the purpose of entertainment. Reefs are largely unobserved in the wild, save by island vacationers in snorkels, fins or glass-bottom boats and a relatively small fellowship of shiny black–suited diving enthusiasts. One way she addresses this challenge is by both telling and showing the story of corals. Her website is a rich source of imagery, of "baby" corals on trays being moved from one tank to another or to a different spot in the ocean. From her room-sized microscope come stunning close-up views of what look like colorful arms waving for attention.As Interface’s Ray Anderson did in his mission to stop the carpet manufacturing industry’s assault on the environment, Gates addresses what she sees as an urgent need for transparency and awareness. She has an almost nonstop schedule of media and public appearances, "talking to everyone who will listen about the urgency and importance of this mission." It’s a show-and-tell carefully calculated to convince audiences — from powerful policy makers and her peers to schoolchildren. One way she addresses this challenge is by both telling and showing the story of corals. Gates says she knows, at this point in her research, that science will not be the limiting factor (meaning, of course, that her theory works). She also knows the kinds of controversies that could prevent us from saving coral: resistance from those who believe the problem will go away on its own (if we just ignore it) or who believe that some radical new technology just around the corner will solve all the world’s climate problems concurrently. Some pushback will come from people who believe that nature will heal herself as she has in the past. Resistance will also come from those who believe that regardless of what is happening and the likely outcome, humans should not interfere in wild nature.This last argument is one that Gates finds particularly curious, since human activity has already interfered with every ecosystem on the planet in one way or another. And, as she says, "people who vehemently make this argument have no qualms about clear-cutting their yard."Her work frightens people, raising concerns that it will create another freak invasive species, like the lionfish from Indo-Pacific waters that now live in the Atlantic Ocean and eat more than 40 other species, or the emerald ash borer, an Asian beetle that has destroyed entire forests in the northern United States. Others worry that Gates is opening the door to a monster corporation like Monsanto, this time of the sea, that will brand and trademark genetically modified organisms for corals, making designer reefs and causing genetic narrowing. Still others worry that her work is merely fixing symptoms, distracting us from the daunting challenge of stopping the lethal behavior causing climate change in the first place.Confident in the grounding of her scientific research, and with an understanding of the role that lack of transparency and coordinated efforts has played in past failures, Gates is not intimidated. She welcomes criticism because it means people are talking to her about her work, and talking about it, she knows, is the only path to coordinated action. In the past, she says, with her hands wide apart, "science has been over here and the implementers were over here. The Army Corps of Engineers was doing something unconnected to the science. That’s when mistakes are made." She reasons that scientists bring a piece to the jigsaw puzzle, and every other part of the community has an important role to play as well. "It has to be a level playing field; they have to be concordant contributions," she says. "People have to listen to each other and collaborate, because the minute egos take over, the level playing field is gone."If courage is measured by the enormity of the challenge undertaken, Ruth Gates is one of our most intrepid heroes. She has contributed immeasurably to our knowledge of coral biology, and her vision for the future of reefs is one of the few plausible scenarios we have. Beyond that are the important lessons her work holds for anyone with the ambition to take on large-scale challenges that require society and science to collaborate in aligned action in service to the planet and its inhabitants. It is cause for hope that Gates is showing us what’s possible if we can overcome the false boundaries that prevent us from working together.Let's block ads! (Why?)

We need a federal climate policy, but please ditch the name ‘Green New Deal’

While the “Green New Deal” proposed by a number of policy makers is a great idea, it couldn’t be a more terrible name. It calls specific reference to the New Deal, and thus is like throwing a dagger at people of color, especially black people in the United States.It’s not the underlying policies that some promoting this “new” New Deal advocate for that I find troubling. It’s the label. It’s the poor choice of words — and words matter.The New Deal was the economic stimulus package launched under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in order to curb the impacts of the Great Depression. A cornerstone of the New Deal was the passing of the Federal Housing Act (FHA), which created the Federal Housing Administration. The goal was to help people who did not have large savings acquire mortgage financing through private banks and other financial institutions. The only problem was — and was officially the case until 1968 — the FHA explicitly refused to back loans to black people.As journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates explains in his Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations,” “It was the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, not a private trade association, that pioneered the practice of redlining, selectively granting loans and insisting that any property it insured be covered by a restrictive covenant — a clause in the deed forbidding the sale of the property to anyone other than whites. Millions of dollars flowed from tax coffers into segregated white neighborhoods.”Another cornerstone of the New Deal was the creation of the Social Security program. Although the intentional racial bias incorporated in the launch of a nationwide social security fund is debated, the result was that 65 percent of black people in the United States were not eligible to benefit when Social Security was signed into law. In other words, there was no intentionality of including blacks in the social safety net created by the New Deal. The spirit of inclusivity appears embedded in the ideals of an economic proposal linked to fighting climate change. Why name it after a national policy that was anything but? So, back to the new climate policy being advanced by Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York and championed by Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont. Its focus on harnessing the transition to a clean economy to catalyze economic growth by fighting climate change is commendable. Some of the policies that I’d like to see enacted in a plan that aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals include, but are not limited to:100 percent clean energy Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) by 2050 (similar to California’s goal, set out in SB 100);A mandate for supporting the adoption of zero emissions vehicles (expanding on policies such as those outlined in Section 177 of California’s Clean Air Act);A national requirement to adopt the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) in annual financial filings (expanding on legislation such as California’s SB 964);A national minimum paid maternity and paternity leave (similar to most developed economies, including the Paid Parental Leave Ordinance in San Francisco);An ingrained policy that enables universal access to education, training and job placement in the future work opportunities across community colleges and public universities.Early indications are that the spirit of inclusivity is embedded in the ideas being considered as part of the Green New Deal. So why name it after a national policy that was anything but? Ask the professionals in charge of communications and marketing campaigns for global brands, and they will tell you about costly blunders and the importance of getting the words, images and message right.Let’s get this message right and not reference one of the exclusionary blights of U.S. policy. Let’s build inclusivity on triumphs — not on discrimination. Yes to more investment in renewable energy. Yes to training the workforce in the green economy. Yes to a massive rollout of electric vehicle charging stations. Yes to an economy where carbon emissions are decoupled from economic activity. Yes to all of the above intentionally including everyone. No to a “Green New Deal” label.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Episode 151: Hunter Lovins looks ahead, a startup accelerator guide

Week in ReviewTune in around 6:57 for a roundup of news.Cop out: Can the U.N. Climate Summit Deliver?The road to automated driving systems in commercial vehiclesHow Kickstarter is encouraging designers to consider circularity and other environmental factorsFeatured StoriesMahindra's mission (23:28)Indian conglomerate Mahindra Group has set an ambitious goal to become carbon neutral by 2040. GreenBiz Executive Editor Joel Makower digs deeper into how that strategy is playing out in this interview with Lakshmanan Chidambaram, president of Americas Strategic Verticals.How to incubate cleantech and clean energy innovation (29:35)"What's an accelerator versus an incubator, prize or venture studio?" The answer to that provocative question is explored in the new book "Accelerate This! A Super Not Boring Guide to Startup Accelerators and Clean Energy Entrepreneurship." We catch up with author Ryan Kushner, who helped create the Free Electrons program backed by 10 prominent utilities.  The path to a more inclusive, constructive economy (38:58)Hunter Lovins has been a champion of sustainable development for more than 35 years. She has consulted on sustainable agriculture, energy, water and climate policies for governments, communities and companies. She has co-authored more than a dozen books, including the best-selling "Natural Capitalism." Lovins chats about why she's optimistic about the fundamentals of a "regenerative economy," the subject of her latest book, "A Finer Future: Creating an economy in service to life."  Calculating the footprint of building products (52:52)How much will a particular building material affect a construction project’s carbon footprint? Industry leaders in the building products space — including flooring company Interface, design firm Gensler, construction manager Skanska, ceiling manufacturer Armstrong, insulation company CertainTeed and wallboard producer USG — are collaborating on a database that includes about 17,000 low-carbon options for materials such as concrete, steel and gypsum. The resource builds off an internal embodied carbon calculator developed by Microsoft. Lisa Conway, vice president of sustainability for Interface, discusses materialsCAN (Carbon Action Network). *All music in this episode by Lee Rosevere ("As I Was Saying," "Thinking It Over," "Keeping Stuff Together" and "What's Behind the Door.")What's new at GreenBiz?News, events, webcasts — the list goes on. Keep your finger on the pulse of the latest in sustainability by keeping up with GreenBiz.• Do we have a newsletter for you! Monday's GreenBuzz and Wednesday's VERGE Weekly are essentially unchanged. But the lineup includes Transport Weekly (Tuesday), Energy Weekly (Thursday) and Circular Weekly (Friday). You must subscribe to each newsletter in order to receive it. Please visit this page to choose the newsletters you want to receive.• Check out our Center Stage podcast, which features the best of live interviews on sustainable business and clean technology, conducted on stage at GreenBiz and VERGE conferences.• The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here. Enrolling is free and should take two minutes.Stay connectedTo make sure you don't miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes.Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at [email protected].Let's block ads! (Why?)

Get the ball rolling: Dow's blueprint for unlocking carbon reductions

To date, Dow Olympic & Sports Solutions has delivered 3.64 million tons of CO2e reductions, and it’s on track to exceed 6 million tons by 2026. This unique partnership between Dow and the International Olympic Committee uses sport and the Olympic brand as platforms to demonstrate how science and technology can help the transition to a lower-carbon future.The collaboration leverages Dow’s materials science expertise, technologies and science-based solutions to deliver climate benefits — and, in the process, to provide actionable lessons learned to organizations across sectors. As global technology and sustainability director for Dow Olympic & Sports Solutions, improving the world through sport is more than an Olympic Movement philosophy, it’s a way of life for Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi. Piccolrovazzi helps to organize committees, bid cities, large-scale events, business partners and other key stakeholders address technology and sustainability-related needs with Dow solutions.Bard MBA’s Stephanie Erwin spoke with Piccolrovazzi about how sports and the Olympics fit into Dow’s larger structure, business and strategy. Stephanie Erwin: Most people don’t think of sustainability or sports when they think of Dow chemical. Your mission statement talks about creating innovation at the intersection of chemistry, biology and physics. How do sports and the Olympics fit into the organization’s strategy?Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi: Dow is a world-leading materials science company. We often talk in very technical terms, and people sometimes struggle to understand what we do. This is really why we’ve embarked on a sports partnership — to help us communicate about our science and technologies, and to help them become more visible for consumers. We’ve embarked on a sports partnership — to help us communicate about our science and technologies, and to help them become more visible for consumers. Our chemistry touches consumers in many ways throughout their daily lives, from the mattresses they wake up on, to the insulation material that makes their homes more comfortable, to packaging solutions that keep their food fresh. Our chemistry also enables many industries. For instance, in the automotive industry, we’re helping achieve the light-weighting of transportation by binding different materials together. We use our sports partnerships to make this chemistry more visible.Sustainability is really part of what we do at Dow. It’s become part of our business strategy, our Corporate Sustainability Goals, and our corporate values, which are integrity for people and protecting the planet. It’s a theme that’s really embedded in how we do work. Erwin: How do both sports and Dow’s International Olympic Committee Carbon Partnership inspire change toward a more sustainable future?Piccolrovazzi: Dow has actually been delivering technology solutions since the 1980s to different sports venues. These have included solutions like insulation materials or heat processes that went into the venues. So, in many different applications, our technologies were already present.Then, in 2010 we became the official chemistry company of the Olympic Movement, and that gave us continuous opportunities to participate with our technologies in different projects. We also began to talk about the contributions of our science, and we very quickly realized that we could bring more than just our technologies to the plate.So, we started to expand our focus to our sustainability expertise and other capabilities. With the Sochi Games, we became the official carbon partner of the games, and since 2017 we have been the official carbon partner of the International Olympic Committee. Erwin: How does this partnership translate to Dow’s long-term sustainability goals?Piccolrovazzi: It’s great to see that the business case behind sustainability is better understood today than it was in the past. For instance, the Business Commission report Better Business, Better World estimates a $12 trillion opportunity from the implementation of programs related to the Sustainable Development Goals, so there’s good knowledge about the business case. We’re looking at the partnership with the IOC to see how we can use sport to drive engagement and drive the adoption of differentiated technologies that need to reduce CO2 emissions. However, while technologies exist and the business case is understood, adoption of technologies is still lacking. We’re looking at the partnership with the IOC to see how we can use sport to drive engagement and drive the adoption of differentiated technologies that need, on the one hand, to reduce CO2 emissions, and on the other hand to better understand the next generation of solutions. This is how our partnership with the IOC connects the sustainability focus with the power of sports to engage people and deliver a project that leads to lower CO2 emissions. Erwin: What have been some of the biggest barriers to the success of this work?Piccolrovazzi: We sometimes think that the barriers are financial, but quite often they’re really around the adoption of technologies. Through our programs, we’re trying to drive technologies that are beyond current business solutions, beyond current business practices. This doesn’t mean that they’re completely new technologies, but they need to be better than the incumbent.When it comes to people adopting these technologies, we often see that there’s an activation barrier that we need to overcome. So, we’re using the Olympic brand to help us engage people to overcome these activation barriers.Similarly, I think that climate change is a very difficult problem for people to grasp. It’s a global problem and carbon emissions aren’t visible, which adds up to a challenge to implementing programs. Plus, sometimes the narrative isn’t very positive, so that’s another reason why we use sport. It helps us make this narrative more positive and engage both our customers and the partners that we need to implement projects.This Q&A is an edited excerpt from the Bard MBA’s Dec. 7 The Impact Report podcast. The Impact Report brings together students and faculty in Bard’s MBA in Sustainability program with leaders in business, sustainability and social entrepreneurship.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Europe's circular economy competitive advantage

Europe feels a long way away from the vibrant and teeming Yokohama waterfront on the edge of Tokyo Bay. Since the 1970s, the story of the world’s economy has been dominated by vibrant and dynamic East Asia, from Japan and South Korea through to the earth-shaking rise of China. Europe, by contrast, can seem far less vital, a land of fading glories and interesting ruins far from the action.But does this ignore Europe’s coming great competitive advantage as we begin to build a post-carbon economy? This was a question in the air in Yokohama at the World Circular Economy Forum, co-hosted by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra this fall.East Asia’s extraordinary growth has been remarkable and transformative, lifting many millions out of poverty and thrusting the world into the digital age. The world faces a different set of existential challenges, as human-made climate change threatens lives, ecosystems and entire cultures. We face an urgent need to rework our economies so that we put less carbon into the atmosphere and simply produce less stuff. We need a circular economy that reuses, reworks, recycles and rethinks. We face an urgent need to rework our economies so that we put less carbon into the atmosphere and simply produce less stuff. There is an inevitability about this. First, this is because the climate challenge is urgent and compelling. The world is starting to turn away from economies and companies built on carbon and waste. Second, because resources are increasingly scarce: their availability or security cannot be taken for granted, whether it is water or cocoa, rare earth metals or wheat. Third, because the challenge of dealing with waste affects lives and our planet, whether it is plastic in the ocean or toxins leaching into water supplies.Good businessThe fourth and most intriguing reason, however, is that it is good business. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals opens up an economic prize estimated at more than $11 trillion. Companies that can do more with less have a massive competitive advantage over those that have to scrabble around for expensive resources — and pay for their own pollution. Companies that can do more with less have a massive competitive advantage over those that have to scrabble around for expensive resources — and pay for their own pollution. It is no surprise that Finland — and Europe — are at the forefront of this. The rise and fall of Finnish mobile phone pioneer Nokia provides ample evidence of the need to understand and adapt to the way the world is changing. Europe is extremely dependent on imports, relying heavily on global supply chains that may not be so reliable in the future. Its companies are vulnerable to both physical scarcities and shifts in fundamentals such as exchange rates.This urgent, common-sense case for a more circular economy is being heard in Europe at both government and business level. In Finland, companies such as L&T, Neste and Fortum are embracing circular thinking, mirrored elsewhere in Europe by giants such as Philips.Through projects such as the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy, private and public sectors are working together, searching for the innovations, business models and ideas that will underpin post-carbon economies and companies.This is where real economic growth opportunities lie in the 21st century, and why Europe has such an important and vibrant economic role to play in a post-carbon world of new vulnerabilities and even scarcer resources. The view from Yokohama currently may be dominated by East Asian growth rates, but Europe shows every sign of being a pace-setter in the more circular economic world of the future.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Could plastics actually help fight climate change?

What do your car, phone, soda bottle and shoes have in common? They’re all largely made from petroleum. This nonrenewable resource gets processed into a versatile set of chemicals called polymers — or more commonly, plastics. Over 5 billion gallons of oil each year are converted into plastics alone.Polymers are behind many important inventions of the past several decades, such as 3D printing. So-called "engineering plastics," used in applications ranging from automotive to construction to furniture, have superior properties and even can help solve environmental problems. For instance, thanks to engineering plastics, vehicles are now lighter weight, so they get better fuel mileage. But as the number of uses rises, so does the demand for plastics. The world already produces over 300 million tons of plastic every year. The number could be six times that by 2050.Petro-plastics aren’t fundamentally all that bad, but they’re a missed opportunity. Fortunately, there is an alternative. Switching from petroleum-based polymers to polymers that are biologically based could decrease carbon emissions by hundreds of millions of tons every year. Bio-based polymers are not only renewable and more environmentally friendly to produce, but they actually can have a net beneficial effect on climate change by acting as a carbon sink. But not all bio-polymers are created equal.Degradable bio-polymersYou may have encountered "bioplastics" (PDF) before, as disposable utensils in particular — these plastics are derived from plants instead of oil. Such bio-polymers are made by feeding sugars, most often from sugar cane, sugar beets or corn, to microorganisms that produce precursor molecules that can be purified and chemically linked together to form polymers with various properties.Plant-derived plastics are better for the environment for two reasons. First, there is a dramatic reduction in the energy required to manufacture plant-based plastics — by as much as 80 percent. While each ton of petroleum-derived plastic generates two to three tons of CO2, this can be reduced to about 0.5 tons of CO2 per ton of bio-polymer, and the processes are only getting better.Second, plant-based plastics can be biodegradable, so they don’t accumulate in landfills.While it’s great for disposables such as plastic forks to biodegrade, sometimes a longer lifetime is important — you probably wouldn’t want the dashboard of your car to slowly turn into a pile of mushrooms over time. Many other applications require the same type of resilience, such as construction materials, medical devices and home appliances. Biodegradable bio-polymers are also not recyclable, meaning more plants need to be grown and processed continually to meet demand.Bio-polymers as carbon storagePlastics, no matter the source, are mainly made of carbon (PDF) — about 80 percent by weight. While petroleum-derived plastics don’t release CO2 in the same way that burning fossil fuels does, they also don’t help sequester any of the excess of this gaseous pollutant — the carbon from liquid oil is simply converted into solid plastics.Bio-polymers, on the other hand, are derived from plants, which use photosynthesis to convert CO2, water and sunlight to sugars. When these sugar molecules are converted into bio-polymers, the carbon is effectively locked away from the atmosphere — as long as they’re not biodegraded or incinerated. Even if bio-polymers end up in a landfill, they will still serve this carbon storage role.CO2 is only about 28 percent carbon by weight, so polymers comprise an enormous reservoir in which to store this greenhouse gas. If the current world annual supply of around 300 million tons of polymers were all non-biodegradable and bio-based, this would equate to a gigaton — a billion tons — of sequestered CO2, about 2.8 percent of current global emissions. In a recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change outlined capturing, storing and reusing carbon as a key strategy for mitigating climate change; bio-based polymers could make a key contribution, up to 20 percent of the CO2 removal required to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.The non-degradable biopolymer marketCurrent carbon sequestration strategies, including geological storage that pumps CO2 exhaust underground or regenerative agriculture that stores more carbon in the soil, lean heavily on policy to drive the desired outcomes.While these are critical mechanisms for climate change mitigation, the sequestration of carbon in the form of bio-polymers has the potential to harness a different driver: money.Competition based on price alone has been challenging for bio-polymers, but early successes show a path toward greater penetration. One exciting aspect is the ability to access new chemistries not currently found in petroleum-derived polymers.Consider recyclability. Few traditional polymers are truly recyclable. These materials actually are most often downcycled, meaning they’re suitable only for low-value applications, such as construction materials. Thanks to the tools of genetic and enzyme engineering, however, properties such as complete recyclability — which allows the material to be used repeatedly for the same application — can be designed into bio-polymers from the beginning.Bio-polymers today are based largely on natural fermentation products of certain species of bacteria, such as the production by Lactobacillus of lactic acid — the same product that provides the tartness in sour beers. While these constitute a good first step, emerging research suggests the true versatility of bio-polymers is set to be unleashed in the coming years. Thanks to the modern ability to engineer proteins and modify DNA, custom design of bio-polymer precursors is in reach. With it, a world of new polymers become possible — materials in which today’s CO2 will reside in a more useful, more valuable form.For this dream to be realized, more research is needed. While early examples are here today — such as the partially bio-based Coca-Cola PlantBottle — the bioengineering required to achieve many of the most promising new bio-polymers is still in the research stage — such as a renewable alternative to carbon fiber that could be used in everything from bicycles to wind turbine blades.Government policies supporting carbon sequestration also would help drive adoption. With this kind of support in place, significant use of bio-polymers as carbon storage is possible as soon as the next five years — a timeline with the potential to make a significant contribution to helping solve the climate crisis.Let's block ads! (Why?)

An ode to the Volt: Farewell, we'll miss you

This article is drawn from the Transport Weekly newsletter from GreenBiz, running Tuesdays.Eight years ago General Motors delivered the first of its "extended range" electric Volts to its first customers amid much fanfare at the Los Angeles Auto Show. GM execs called the car a "game changer" and "epic," while early adopter owners eagerly touted the combination of the battery and the gas-powered engine. Last week — the same week as the 2018 LA Auto Show — GM abruptly announced that it would stop making the Volt early next year, amidst a broader move to cut costs across the company.It was a truly sad day for Volt owners. Many of these customers have been passionate advocates of electric vehicles and were among the first of a small but growing set of Americans to try out a vehicle that (partly) runs on batteries.Frustrated and disappointed Volt fans have taken to Facebook groups, forums and columns to express their dismay. Volt owners that I've talked to have been equally upset by the move. My sister, Jill Fehrenbacher, founder of Inhabitat, described GM's ending production of the Volt as heartbreaking. She bought the car for environmental reasons but loves the convenience of the small engine. Entrepreneur Apoorv Bhargava, founder of Weave Grid, told me he's really sad to see GM kill the Volt given "it’s got so much potential to convert EV skeptics but also to attract those people who like EVs but just have real constraints around range." While the car didn't ever achieve the sales volumes it needed, the Volt is currently the bestselling plug-in electric vehicle in the United States. HuffPost writer Jonathan Cohn writes that he doesn't just like the flexibility of the small engine of the car but also how "peppy" and "roomy" it is. "General Motors just killed the best car you’ve never owned," Cohn wrote. GreenBiz President and co-founder Pete May started leasing a Volt two years ago and charges the car with his home solar panels. His son, Hugo, now drives it and particularly enjoys the 100 percent torque that EVs provide. Despite the end of an era, GM and Volt enthusiasts have a lot to be proud of with the pioneering vehicle. While the car never achieved the sales volumes it needed, the Volt is currently the bestselling plug-in electric vehicle in the United States (with around 150,000 sold), according to these numbers. Tesla's Model 3 likely soon will take that title in the fourth quarter of this year.The Volt also has been influential in the auto industry. It was released years before many big auto companies had started pledging to move toward electrification, and its battery and engine combo has been a gateway car for EVs. In that respect, GM execs were right to call it "a game changer" at its launch.The car's creation was also useful for GM's development. The automaker held its IPO shortly after the Volt was delivered and about a year after GM declared bankruptcy. Lessons learned with manufacturing and selling the Volt no doubt will inform GM's electric future. The automaker says it's not moving away from electric vehicles and is doubling down on the all-electric Bolt platform. GM plans to release 20 electric models by 2023. The Volt will live on in all these cars, as well as in the future that someday likely will be dominated by electric vehicles.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Human rights as a driver of climate action and sustainable development

On Dec. 10, the world celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Universal Declaration was crafted at a time when the man-made horrors of World War II were still fresh in the minds of world leaders. Seventy years later, the rights set out in that document face a new man-made threat on a global scale: climate change.This year alone, we have seen the catastrophic impact of climate change, a phenomenon where those who have contributed the least to it are also those most disproportionately suffering its harms. From wildfires in Greece and the United States, to floods in Japan and Nigeria, to a heat wave in Pakistan and mudslides in India, 2018 has been a year of devastating loss of life and displacement due to natural disasters either influenced by or exacerbated by global warming. The rights set out in the Universal Declaration are simultaneously straightforward and expansive — encompassing, for instance, the right to life, the right to work and the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, clothing and housing. The declaration establishes the essential framework necessary for human dignity. Conversely, climate change threatens not just individual rights but the very foundations necessary for individuals and communities to survive and flourish.Businesses around the world are rising to the challenge of building a low-carbon economy. Thousands have made commitments towards the Paris Climate Agreement, and hundreds have set science-based targets in line with that agreement. But we should not be putting out the fire while ignoring the people affected. As companies accelerate action on climate change, it remains vital that such action is founded on respect and support for human rights.Climate change, together with the actions we take to combat it, is fundamentally transforming how we live and work. Even as green job opportunities continue to increase, other individuals and even whole communities are struggling with the fast pace of change. We are at risk of exacerbating poverty and inequality if we don’t seek to build a low-carbon future that works for all of us. On the other hand, this moment of enormous change also presents us with an opportunity to build a future that is good for the environment, the economy and society simultaneously — the world envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.A distinctly human rights-based agenda, the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals light the way forward to creating the world we all want. And while Goal 13 is specifically on climate action, the interconnectedness of these Global Goals underscores how a healthy planet also leads to thriving communities and an inclusive economy. However, the urgency of climate change, as evidenced by the latest IPCC report, among many others, has put Goal 13, together with the Paris Agreement, in the spotlight.But respect for human rights does not mean slowing down our actions to combat climate change. If anything, it is essential that we move even faster toward a zero carbon economy: as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has observed, "The negative impacts of climate change are disproportionately borne by persons and communities already in disadvantageous situations owing to geography, poverty, gender, age, disability, cultural or ethnic background, among others, that have historically contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions."There are many examples of where the private sector is already taking inspiring action on climate change, but achieving a just climate transition also requires respect for the rights of people, such as communities facing energy insecurity and local communities displaced by renewable energy projects. Actively integrating these types of interconnected considerations into corporate decision-making and strategy will be foundational to the long-term health of this planet — ultimately good for both society and business.Helping business translate human rights from policy to practice has been central to the work of the United Nations Global Compact since its creation in 2000. And in 2018, Global Compact Local Networks further have advocated for business leaders to stand up for human rights through promoting uptake of the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and convening human rights-focused CEO round tables around the world — from Argentina and Turkey, to Poland and the United States.In 2019, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres will convene a climate summit to raise the ambition on combatting climate change from all sectors of society. On this journey, the U.N. Global Compact remains committed to working with businesses everywhere to take a principles-based approach to climate action.The challenge for business is to create the momentum to put universal human rights principles at the center of their climate action strategies. Seventy years ago, the Universal Declaration set out an ambitious vision for the future. Today, the Sustainable Development Goals seek to make that vision a reality. It is time for all stakeholders to carry the torch forward and contribute to the realization of that vision — for people and for planet. Let's block ads! (Why?)