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Reduction is no longer enough: Welcome to the new age of carbon removal

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions isn’t enough. The stark report in early October by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, exhorting companies and countries to move quicker to throttle global warming, is fueling heightened interest in high-tech and low-tech solutions for sucking the infamous greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere."It’s necessary no matter what we do," said Kate Gordon, partner with the sustainability team at investment firm RIDGE-LANE, during a plenary session at VERGE 18, produced by GreenBiz Group. "It’s a range of everything from planting trees all the way to engineered solutions."This is far from new news, but it does signal a new sense of urgency when it comes to taking action. There’s a very practical motivation for speeding things up: carbon removal represents not just our best hope for limiting planetary temperature increases to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius, the field offers very real revenue opportunities for those willing to think about the problem differently.Exhibit A: Occidental Petroleum is seriously studying a plan to build carbon capture plants that it could leverage to improve oil recovery. The industry already pumps at least 68 million tons of CO2 into fields annually, a process that forces stranded oil to the surface while neutralizing the impact of those emissions. It’s a range of everything from planting trees all the way to engineered solutions. "The opportunity is to aggressively work with emitters to capture their CO2 and put it into the ground," said Charlene Russell, vice president of low-carbon solutions for Occidental, during the VERGE 18 session in Oakland, California, last week. The "45Q" tax credit, which provides incentives to companies seeking to invest in certain sequestration processes, has made this path more economically viable, she said. The credit (passed into law as part of the tax package earlier this year) pays $10 per metric ton for enhanced oil recovery applications — an amount that will increase to $35 per metric ton by 2024. Carbon capture approaches that store CO2 in "geologic formations" are eligible for $50 per ton. You won’t be surprised to hear that Occidental was a strong supporter of that legislation.For those skeptical of the industry’s motive, Gordon later offered this reality check: Fossil fuels companies have amassed decades of knowledge when it comes to exploration and geological expertise accompanied by massive research and development budgets. "I would hate to see that asset off the table," she said. "Oil companies should be diversifying into carbon management."Already "hundreds" of companies are focused on the problem of not just capturing and sequestering CO2 but turning it into a component of building materials or durable carbon components or transforming it into fuel, said Julio Friedmann, a former Department of Energy staffer and expert in "carbon wrangling" techniques currently affiliated with Columbia University. Two of his ready examples: CarbonCure and Solidia, both Canadian companies that use waste CO2 to produce concrete (traditionally one of the most carbon-intensive industrial processes on a global basis). Rather than focusing just on investment in buying carbon offsets (credits for projects such as afforestation meant to negate the impact of emissions), companies should think more about supporting what Friedmann has dubbed "inset" approaches — technologies and processes that turn CO2 as a component, such as the carbon-centric concrete example Oil companies should be diversifying into carbon management. "We want to create a world in which we emit less than we take up. … This is not science fiction," he said.Carbon removal could create new opportunities in rural regions, which could benefit from approaches focused on using CO2 to reinvigorate soil health, or in developing economies such as India and China that need to invest in infrastructure while mitigating emissions. Sequestering carbon in concrete and other building materials represents a real opportunity for innovation in both countries, Gordon suggested.  Real-world solutions are bubbling upThe World Resources Institute (WRI) has identified six options that it believes will be instrumental in scaling carbon removal:1. Forests: Every acre of land that is restored to temperate forest has the potential to sequester 3 metric tons of CO2 annually. The upside of this approach is that it is relatively less expensive than technological approaches.2. Farms: Planting cover crops during the time when fields are otherwise bare, for example, can improve the soil’s ability to capture and store CO2 by up to one-half metric ton per year.3. Bio-energy with built-in carbon capture and storage: The idea is to combine technologies for generating power from biomass (organic materials that are used to run processes in the industrial and transportation sector) with those that capture the embodied carbon and return it to the ground.4. Direct air capture: This refers to systems that essentially scrub CO2 out of the atmosphere, and that are often sited at the generation source for a power plant or industrial facility. One company attracting considerable attention for its solution is Climeworks, which just opened its third demonstration facility. Another one we’re watching is Noble Thermodynamic, a startup founded by Cyclotron Road that is working on equipment to remove the CO2 related with using natural gas or hydrogen engines. The downside of this option, at least right now, is that it can cost at least $94 to $232 per metric ton.5. Seawater capture: The U.S. Navy is developing prototypes for systems that would draw the CO2 out of seawater and convert it into a fuel source for ocean-going vessels.6. Enhanced weathering: The idea (a very nascent one) is to turn CO2 from a gas into a solid substance more quickly; this process happens over time, but certain minerals can help accelerate the process. "There is more work to be done to map out cost-effective and prudent applications of this approach," according to WRI experts.Let's block ads! (Why?)

How Novozymes harnesses the sustainability superpower of enzymes

Microorganisms are everywhere. Forty million in a single gram of soil. One hundred trillion in the gut flora of the average human. Among this soup of single-celled, microscopic organisms are microbes such as bacteria, which, among other things, produce enzymes.Enter Novozymes. Headquartered in Bagsværd, just outside Copenhagen, this Danish biotech firm has been putting enzymes to commercial use for the last 70-plus years.The precise science is complex, but the essence of Novozymes’ business is straightforward. Think of enzymes as nature’s change agents. When one substance turns into another — yeast into bread, say, or milk into cheese — enzymes are helping that transition happen.Novozymes’ strength is in helping adapt this catalytic process to specific industrial applications. Today, its enzyme-based products and solutions are used in over 40 industry sectors, from household care and bioenergy to agriculture and animal health.For the most part, the company uses fungi (Aspergillus oryzae, mostly) to produce the enzymes that it needs, drawing on the work of its 1,000-plus large team of researchers around the globe.But what does this all have to do with sustainability? Quite a lot, it transpires. For one, enzymes are biodegradable. Second, unlike raw materials, they don’t form part of a final substance: they are catalysts, not components. Put together, that’s less waste and less resource use. A rich bank of data gives the company an almost unprecedented picture of its overall carbon footprint. As important, enzymes work at low temperature and at moderate pH levels. That means you can wash your clothes at a lower-than-usual heat and an enzyme-based washing liquid will deliver the same results if not better.Enzyme-based solutions also open the possibility of using fewer chemical inputs. Consider leather. When untreated, leather is super stiff. Sulphide, a toxic component, is usually used to help soften the protein components that stiffen leather — a function that enzymes can assist with (reducing sulphide use by 40 percent in the process).The potential of enzymes to slash energy consumption and reduce chemical use endows these biologically active proteins with something akin to sustainability superpowers.Novozymes’ leadership is committed to use these powers for good. And not just the good of shareholders. On the first page of its Articles of Association (PDF), the company commits to operate in a "sustainable" manner; namely, with "environmental and social regard," as well as the normal financial perspicuity you would expect.Cutting direct emissions through collaborationHow to achieve this balance relates in part to how the company manages the impacts of its own operations. Even with the best will in the world, creating enzymes in three-story fermentation tanks is an energy-intensive business.But through a combination of energy efficiency measures and investments in renewables (the firm’s Denmark operations have relied 100 percent on wind energy since 2011), Novozymes’ overall carbon dioxide (CO2) intensity has dropped by 11 percent since 2014 — surpassing its target 2017 of 9 percent.Over recent decades, Novozymes has won particular acclaim for its pursuit of a circular production system at its Kalundborg site on Zealand, Denmark’s largest island. In conjunction with eight other private and public sector organisations, the "Kalundborg Symbiosis" has developed a range of innovative solutions to facilitate cooperation in the use of water, steam, energy and other resources.Most recently, the consortium saw the energy provider Ørsted (formerly DONG Energy) inaugurate the largest biogas plant in eastern Denmark. The plant, which uses biomass residues from Novozymes’ local facility to generate power, promises to slash annual carbon emissions by an estimated 17,000 metric tons.In addition, Novozymes and several of its partners are helping to keep the air clean in Kalundborg. As part of a 20-year purchase agreement with Ørsted, energy supply to Novozymes no longer will come from coal but instead from wood chips. The new facility, due to open in 2019, is set to reduce CO2 emissions by around 800,000 metric tons (35,000 of which are attributable to Novozymes).For Justin Perrettson, the company’s head of global engagement in the Sustainability team, such examples demonstrate the "very rigorous process" that Novozymes has for reducing its own environmental impact. As he noted: "You can always challenge yourself to do more, but I think Novozymes is quite tough on itself and I think that’s fair."Catalysing consumers' carbon reductionsInternal environmental improvements (and emission reductions, in particular) are only part of the picture. The real prize, he insisted, is using the company’s cutting-edge enzyme technologies to reduce emissions outside Novozymes’ four walls."The main way that Novozymes has approached the reduction of climate emissions is through the use of its products and services by its customers," said Perrettson.To that end, the company has set itself the exacting goal of saving 100 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year through the application of its products, by 2020. Last year’s count saw it hit 76 million (the equivalent of taking 32 million cars off the road).Contributing a significant chunk of these reductions are Novozymes’ laundry products, which, as mentioned, enable consumers to reduce energy consumption by washing at lower temperatures. Another major contributor is the company’s fuel ethanol solutions, which see it swap the use of fossil fuels for bio-based feedstocks.Two principles characterize Novozymes’ long-standing efforts to reduce consumer emissions. The first is scientific exactitude. The Danish biotech isn’t one to come out with rough "guestimates."If it says it’s reducing 76 million metric tons of CO2 every year, you can bet the math is there to prove it."Our approach to the whole sustainability and climate change discussion is rooted in science. It is super important to us to show that there is a scientific validation for everything that we claim." So says Jesper Kløverpris, a senior sustainability specialist in the company’s three-person team responsible for life cycle assessments (LCAs). Novozymes has been carrying out LCAs to determine the environmental profile of its products and solutions since 2004.Such a rich bank of data gives the company an almost unprecedented picture of its overall carbon footprint. It also enables the company to accurately calculate potential emission savings should its current markets expand or new solutions emerge.A case in point is the work of Kløverpris and his colleagues around corn-based animal feed in the United States. Based on four separate LCAs, the The One Acre Study report interrogates the environmental benefits of Novozymes’ biosolutions in the agricultural value chain.The results make compelling reading. Consider the product JumpStart. Sold as part of a seed inoculant, the product contains a naturally occurring soil-organism called Penicillium bilaiae (P.b.). P.b. improves the ability of crops to take up nutrients, which leads to higher yields. The subsequent surplus can, in the case of corn at least, be used to produce starch-based ethanol.Or take Ronozyme HiPhos, an enzyme-based product that increases the digestibility of animal feed as well as reducing the need for (carbon-intensive) inorganic phosphorus. A variant on the product — the amylase Ronozyme HiStarch — helps reduce the fat going into chicken feed. As with extra crop yields, this saved fat can be used for biodiesel production (aided by the enzyme product Novozymes Eversa, which converts glycerides and free fatty acids). Novozymes has won particular acclaim for its pursuit of a circular production system on Denmark’s largest island. The potential impact of this suite of products is striking. The LCA team calculate that a single acre of cropland could provide 13 U.S. gallons of biodiesel, 32 pounds of protein-rich animal feed and 230 kWh of clean electricity. That’s all alongside producing feed for 900 chickens, as before."If you calculate for the resource savings and the bioenergy production (among other things), that leaves you with a total reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 1.1 metric ton of CO2 equivalents per acre," Kløverpris stated.Scale that up to every cornfield in the United States and then the numbers become properly staggering. Ten billion extra U.S. gallons of bioethanol, for instance; 21 TWh of bioelectricity; 120 million pounds of pure phosphorus saved. The result? A total saving of almost 90 million metric tons of greenhouse gases.Of course, those numbers suppose mass adoption of Novozymes’ products. Despite year-on-year growth, the company isn’t there yet. Which leads to the other main pillar of its emission reduction strategy: innovation.At present, the Danish biotech leader ploughs around 13 percent of its annual revenues back into research and development. Its pipeline of new research projects runs to over 100.But it’s not just product innovation where the company invests its creative energies. Bringing its nous and know-how to the design of novel business models and breakthrough policies also forms part of the mix.One area of ongoing focus, for instance, is in the biorefinery market. The transport and energy sectors desperately need electrification (renewable electrification, that is). On that score, Novozymes is categorical. It also sees a huge role for sustainable biofuels as the transport and energy sectors transition away from fossil fuels over the coming decades."Even with some of the most aggressive scenarios, it won’t be until 2045 or 2050 that we get a break even between purely electric passenger cars and cars running with combustion engines," said Kløverpris. "Plus, it’s hard to electrify certain forms of transport, such as heavy-duty vehicles, planes and shipping. So we need an alternative to liquid fossil fuels and that alternative is low-carbon biofuels."Meanwhile, integrated biorefineries have the ability to produce more than low-carbon liquid fuels. Co-products such as biogas and solid combustibles can be stored and used for electricity production during peak demand periods when other renewables such as wind and solar cannot meet the full demand. Besides, the highly concentrated stream of biogenic CO2 from fermentation processes can be captured and stored to generate negative greenhouse gas emissions, a measure that will be "badly needed" to meet international climate targets, according to Kløverpris. It also sees a huge role for sustainable biofuels as the transport and energy sectors transition away from fossil fuels over the coming decades. The company therefore has developed a series of innovative blueprints for how the biorefinery market could be scaled up. Its plans incorporate the adoption of new technologies, novel commercial opportunities and progressive public policies."We have presented our vision at several bioenergy conferences already, and we are also working with experts in academia to challenge our thinking," said Kløverpris, adding that the company’s strategy has "lots of resonance" with the bioenergy "roadmap (PDF)" recently published by the International Energy Agency.Actioning the company’s vision for biorefining won’t happen overnight, he admitted. That said, it need not take years either. He points to the example of Brazil, where the government recently introduced a new national biofuels policy.A similar commitment to large-scale, collaborative change is behind its decision to link up with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Novozymes is channeling its energies and expertise into two of the business network’s main clean energy programs: the Low-Carbon Technology Partnership initiative and the below50 initiative (which focuses specifically on the development of sustainable fuels). Dual benefitsNovozymes’ combination of science and innovation is already delivering major benefits for climate change. Seventy-six million metric tons of CO2 averted is no mean feat.According to Ridhima Kapur, a senior analyst in Novozymes’ sustainability team, clear benefits also exist for the company itself. Not only does the firm’s environmental performance inspire its 6,000-plus employees (nicknamed internally as "Zymers"), but it’s also attracting favorable interest from institutional investors.The positive emissions’ profile of Novozymes’ products are winning it an edge in the marketplace as well. In industries such as bioenergy, the case for low-carbon solutions is quite clear, Kapur admitted. But even in consumer-facing industries, such as home care, Novozymes’ eco-credentials are winning it new business.She cited the example of Nice Group, one of China’s largest detergent manufacturers. Spurred on by a new green manufacturing program from the government, the company approached Novozymes to help it understand the environmental impact of its products and identify areas of improvement."They came to us and asked if we could help with an initial LCA of a specific product," she said. "We’ve been talking about sustainability for years. But to have a company come to us and ask for this, and to say it wants to make greener products and change consumer demand, is terrific. It’s basically why we do what we do."Let's block ads! (Why?)

Opportunity Zones: a $100 billion investment for the clean economy?

On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department issued proposed guidance related to the new Opportunity Zone tax incentive. The tax benefit, created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, is designed to spur economic development and job creation by encouraging long-term investments in economically distressed communities nationwide.It could have significant impact for accelerating the clean economy."We anticipate that $100 billion in private capital will be dedicated towards creating jobs and economic development in Opportunity Zones," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. "This incentive will foster economic revitalization and promote sustainable economic growth, which was a major goal of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act."Opportunity Zones offer capital gains tax relief to investors for new investment in designated areas. Investment benefits include deferral of tax on prior gains as late as 2026 if the amount of the gain is invested in an Opportunity Fund. The benefits also include tax forgiveness on gains on that investment if the investor holds the investment for at least 10 years. Opportunity Zones retain their designation for 10 years, but under the proposed regulations, investors can hold onto their investments in Qualified Opportunity Funds through 2047 without losing tax benefits.Working with state and local governments earlier this year, Treasury certified 8,761 communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. Nearly 35 million Americans live in areas designated as Opportunity Zones. These communities present both the need for investment and significant investment opportunities. Nearly 35 million Americans live in areas designated as Opportunity Zones. These communities present both the need for investment and significant investment opportunities. Based on data from the 2011-15 American Community Survey, the designated regions had an average poverty rate of over 32 percent, compared with the 17 percent national average.What is the potential for clean economy investments in the Opportunity Zones? Will investors seek out vacant buildings (think abandoned shopping malls, old manufacturing plants, unused warehousing facilities) to invest in rooftop solar, storage and deep energy retrofits to repurpose buildings for new uses? Will investors develop brownfields to become community solar brightfields? What about rural Opportunity Zones for clean economy investments, including solar and wind projects?These questions and many more need the active attention and industry engagement and leadership from the clean economy community, including many readers who attended VERGE last week or the recent Global Climate Action Summit.Here are some action steps to consider.Seek understanding of the potential for Opportunity Zone investments in your community. Interactive online resources and maps include state portals such as the California Opportunity Zones website.Become familiar with the proposed regulations and comment on provisions that would help promote clean economy investments.Urge clean energy trade associations — including Advanced Energy Economy, American Wind Energy Association, Solar Energy Industries Association and the Alliance to Save Energy — to engage their members and create awareness of the Opportunity Zone potential for clean energy investments.Encourage newly elected public officials, including governors, to prioritize attracting clean economy investments to the Opportunity Zones. For instance, the incoming governor of California next year will have 879 Opportunity Zones and could create policy priorities using existing state programs and incentives to leverage clean economy investments to improve air quality, affordable housing, sustainability, environmental justice and climate change, and to create jobs.I believe the Opportunity Zone federal tax incentive provides great potential for accelerating the clean economy and creating jobs in underserved communities. But this will happen only if our industry provides leadership by engaging at the state and local level in deep and impactful new ways.Let's block ads! (Why?)

10 Minutes with Josh Prigge, host of 'Sustainable Nation'

This column is about the "how" of sustainable business, featuring one significant change and how a leader (and team) made it happen. Josh Prigge is founder and CEO of sustainability consulting firm Sustridge and host of the Sustainable Nation podcast. He just completed his 50th episode. The podcast started earlier this year and features sustainability leaders across business, higher education and government. We discussed the cumulative learnings of these 50 leaders.Bob Langert: What pops out first as most in common to all 50 interviewees?Josh Prigge: Collaboration is probably the No. 1 theme that keeps coming up for successfully leading sustainability change initiatives, as well as the power of networks, both internally and externally, and cross-sector collaboration.Most sustainability leaders have relatively small teams within large organizations. So, developing relationships really is crucial in having the ability to influence others and is what really drives change.Langert: How does one really influence people?Prigge: Being a good communicator and being open to other people's ideas. Empathy is a big thing. So, being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understanding what's important to others. Being able to communicate how sustainability fits in there and how sustainability can be helpful to them in what they're trying to accomplish in their department.I think it turns people off when, as a sustainability professional, you're trying to tell other people what to do or what needs to be done.Langert: With all these interviews you've done with all these different sector people, it must be so fascinating. Has anything been unexpected?Prigge: I've been somewhat surprised by a couple things. One is just the level of commitment that we're seeing in all of these sectors. The number of organizations and communities that are embracing things like the Sustainable Development Goals, science-based targets, the B Corp movement and the concept of regenerative development.It's just been amazing to see all these sectors really embracing this next step in the evolution of sustainable development. Moving past sustainability, past the idea of merely reducing negative impacts, to embracing regenerative practices and a focus on positive impacts. So, I've seen universities that have goals of net-zero water use and climate-positive goals. Governments that are committing to regenerative agriculture and zero-waste futures. Businesses with net-positive corporate footprint goals. What’s surprising me is the amount of optimism in all sectors and how excited everyone is, especially now more than ever in the absence of any federal leadership. Langert: Has anything surprised you?Prigge: What’s surprising me is the amount of optimism in all sectors and how excited everyone is, especially now more than ever in the absence of any federal leadership. The optimism about our ability to make that change has been impressive.It's been somewhat surprising to me because as sustainability professionals, we're also painfully aware of the trouble that we're in and the issues that we're facing as a planet and as a society. But at the same time, I guess we're surrounded by each other. We surround ourselves with some of the most passionate, brilliant, committed people in the world. So I think we give each other hope and I think we build that optimism within each other.Langert: Since you hear leaders communicating on your podcasts, what are the best tips you've learned about how to best verbally communicate?Prigge: I think both internally and externally, the No. 1 thing is being authentic. From my own experience and from all the interviews I've done, this is really the most important thing when communicating sustainability.Langert: Translate that into, how does one be authentic?Prigge: I guess there's so much greenwashing out there, and people are getting smart. Don't make sustainability a separate marketing and communication initiative.How does sustainability fit into who you are as an organization? Communicate how sustainability ties into the core mission or purpose of the organization, whether it's how sustainability ties into the purpose of the business, or how it helps a university provide valuable education for its students or helps prepare students to become global citizens. Or how it helps to provide a safe, healthy, equitable environment for your community. Talk about how the core mission or purpose, what that is and then how sustainability is helping to realize that vision.Langert: What have you observed with the sustainability leaders when it comes to things that are not working well? Prigge: Be transparent about it. Be open about it. I’ve learned that people will give you the benefit of the doubt. And I think a lot of corporations are scared to take that leap, to make that announcement, to set those goals because they're afraid of falling short, but I think they need to understand that people maybe aren't as concerned about that part as they are of just knowing that you're making an effort and you're starting your journey.Langert: You ask all your interviewees, "What is one piece of advice you would give to other sustainability professionals that might help them in their careers?" What comes up most?Prigge: Well, broken record, but building relationships internally and externally is the most common response I get there. So, again, being very strategic and deliberate in understanding who you need to develop relationships with and who you need to maintain them with. You can understand all of the sustainability frameworks and know everything about what is needed for an organization. But if you don't have strong relationships, you're not going to be able to implement much of that.Another takeaway is to look outside your industry, even outside your sector. So, myself personally, I think it really helped that I worked in higher education for several years, and then moved to the corporate world, and I hear this from a lot of my guests as well. So, look at higher ed, look at business, look at government for ideas, for models, for strategies. Stay informed on sustainability issues in all these different areas because there's a lot of great things going on.Let's block ads! (Why?)

The next step in the sustainability journey: What would nature do?

Janine Benyus has long known how much smarter nature is than we are. She remains ever-ready to provide a thoughtful answer each time the sustainability movement turns another corner and breathlessly asks, “what next?”In her sit-down with Joel Makower at the VERGE conference in Oakland last week, she gave all credit to her own source of inspiration — nature. Twenty-one years after her book, Biomimicry, came out and established a new way of thinking about design, Benyus is still dispensing her unique blend of wisdom and inspiration at the forefront of a movement that shows no sign of slowing down. At the same time, she acknowledged that biomimicry has become “a meme,” and is here to stay. In fact, last year, Fortune magazine called it “One of 5 Trends to Ride.”Looking for a way to remove particles from air? Take a look at mangrove roots. They capture waterborne soil for their own nourishment. The roots, it turns out, are spaced apart in a particular way that causes eddies —little miniature whirlpools, which cause the particles to spin and then drop. There are now buildings utilizing this principle, with columns arranged in a similar manner.Looking for a way to keep bacteria off your doorknobs and walls? Check out the structure of the skin on shark fins, to which bacteria cannot adhere. Hospitals are now adding this type of texture to their walls.But as we begin to crest the net zero buildings hill, guided by, among other things, answers to key questions about energy efficiency and water conservation provided by “the genius of the biome,” larger questions loom before us. As we begin to crest the net zero buildings hill, guided by, among other things, answers to key questions about energy efficiency and water conservation provided by “the genius of the biome,” larger questions loom before us. What comes next?  How do we construct buildings that are net zero along every dimension? We’re talking about buildings that replace all the ecosystem services they displaced in their construction.One solution is being explored by a joint effort between the Biomimicry  Institute and Interface Corporation at its Lagrange, Georgia facility, where they are instantiating the “Factory as a Forest” concept for the first time. The idea is that the building and its grounds (including the permeable parking lot) will provide the same beneficial impact on the surrounding area, which used to be a forest. Underpinning this audacious concept is what Benyus called “Ecological Performance Standards” which quantify impacts such as water purification and absorption, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, biodiversity and others. Surely, a city as a forest cannot be far behind.This represents a new level in the sustainability journey, in which carbon negative products and systems are one type of milestone. Still, the carbon cycle is only one of several life-sustaining processes upon which life on our planet depends. There’s also the nitrogen cycle, the phosphorus cycle and perhaps others of which we are not yet aware. It’s the recognition of how everything we make and everything we do is deeply interwoven into the fabric of our local biome. At a deeper level, it’s the recognition of how everything we make and everything we do is deeply interwoven into the fabric of our local biome. And because there are so many of us, and because we are a species that is so capable of dramatically transforming our environment, we need to not just become more fully aware of our global impacts, but we also need to take action to ensure that the disruptions we produce will not threaten our very existence.Much of this will fall on those who design these products and systems, who will have to carry a heavier burden. When they start to ask, “Do you really want me to consider everything?,” we’ll know we’re getting close. The good news is that there will be a growing body of effective responses they can draw from, as well as jobs created to develop and implement them. If there’s a building that needs to replace the carbon sequestering services previously provided by the land it now rests upon, trees can be planted, biochar buried, rooftops gardened, or even direct air capture machines installed. If it’s a consumer product, then its life cycle must be fully understood, circularity maximized, carbon neutral or carbon negative materials utilized, giving preference to those that can be grown rather than mined.A few companies, like Interface, Global Thermostat and Newlight Technology  are already doing this, with others lining up to follow. These are the leaders, who, as Benyus said, “are like the foot of the amoeba.” They initiate a step in a given direction, “and the rest of the body eventually follows.”Thanks to people like Janine Benyus, those amoeba-foot leaders have a good idea of where they might step next, based on solid principles as old as life itself.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Meet Lyft's first head of social impact and its first sustainability director

Back again with the second article in a series featuring companies’ first dedicated sustainability leaders. This time, I speak with the team leading Lyft’s work on social impact and sustainability. Love them or hate them, ride sharing apps are quickly changing the way we get around. They’re making our commutes easier, which is leading more people to travel by car. From the beginning, Lyft has carved out a reputation for itself as the friendlier of the ride hailers. The company’s interest in social issues has manifested in numerous ways, not least of which involve asking their then-head of global policy & strategy, Mike Masserman, to add social impact to his portfolio, then by naming Sam Arons as the first director of sustainability. In the last year, Lyft has made some big climate impact commitments and accomplished some major milestones. In April, it made all Lyft rides carbon neutral, and in September, extended carbon neutrality to the rest of Lyft’s operations.I caught up with Masserman and Arons to discuss Lyft’s journey on these issues. The conversations have been edited for clarity and length.Mia Overall: As an outside observer, seeing Lyft take a stand on social and environmental issues makes sense. Ride hailing apps have been criticized for contributing to congestion and pollution. Plus, Uber made some missteps with the Muslim ban and other social issues. So as a high touch consumer good, I can see why Lyft would want to take on initiatives that create social good. Is there more to the story?Mike Masserman: There is. Lyft’s commitment to social and environmental issues goes way back before the Muslim ban or any congestion issues. It goes back to a trip Lyft CEO Logan Green took to Zimbabwe, and to his days when he first founded Zimride, the predecessor to Lyft. Co-founders Green and John Zimmer were always focused on how the company could better connect our communities and eliminate congestion. Logan built The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) while in school at UC Santa Barbara, and John took a course at Cornell called Green Cities, which inspired him to focus on transportation. Sustainability was an issue that was always important to them, and is one of the primary reasons they got into this business.Overall: You’ve been with Lyft for four years and were heading global policy and strategy. A year ago you began heading social impact as well. How did this come about?Masserman: Being on the front lines of the policy discussions, many social issues come up — whether it’s reducing drinking and driving deaths or driving equity. I was always a proponent within the company that we needed to be talking about our impact in a more meaningful way because it was happening in departments all across the company. Many of us advocated for creating a program like this and then I was asked to take it on. It makes sense because our work is rooted in both policy and action. Overall: What are some things you are very proud of accomplishing?Masserman: We have made our entire fleet and office carbon neutral and we’re covering 100 percent of our electricity consumption with renewable energy. We’ve signed on to letters that we’re still in the Paris Agreement, and we advocate for policies that will help fight climate change.Impact is embedded in our mission — to improve people’s lives. That’s why we created the "Round Up & Donate" tool. We also launched "The Ride to Vote" program. This year we launched the "Relief Rides" program, which is how we help people in crisis, such as women who’ve been domestically abused. People are very proud of this and it’s brought a lot of focus. Externally it’s changed the way people see Lyft.  Overall: What has it been like being the first person in this role? What have been the biggest challenges — internally or externally?Masserman: Internally, one of the challenges — and opportunities — is that everyone is involved in social impact in some way. This comes from the company ethos of doing good, but the fact that everyone is interested also creates challenges because a lot of people have a lot of different passions. Lyft is a "for purpose value driven company." We’ve had to pull people back and focus on rides rather than cash donations.Anytime you do something that's new, there is uncertainty. And many of the things we’re asked to do, no one in the company has done before. Some of the challenges include showing the metrics — and the results.Overall: What have been some unexpected outcomes or benefits?Masserman: We always knew there would be a great reaction from certain segments of the population. Still, we were surprised to see how many people are value driven and make decisions to work with companies that are doing the right thing. On the policy front, the outcomes have been great. It’s easy to walk into a policy maker’s office and say, "We care about sustainability." But it’s a different experience to walk in and say, "We’ve made a multi million-dollar commitment." Also, we’ve discovered many pain points that we are able to help with. In Detroit, for example, we formed a partnership with the city to give pregnant women rides to their doctors’ appointments. It has been very collaborative.Overall: What have you learned?Masserman: I’ve discovered how important it is to have buy-in from the top — John and Logan.  I’ve also had to learn how to say "yes-and" or "no-and." For example, we’ll get approached by a local nonprofit that wants to be part of the Round Up & Donate program. I’ve learned to say yes, perhaps in the future, and in the meantime here is a 20 percent discount code. We work with so many non-profits, I’ve learned that focusing on our superpowers is the way to have impact.Overall: Given the public focus on climate change and GHG emissions, it seems natural for a company operating cars to have a role focused on sustainability. What led to Arons’s role being created when it was?Masserman: Sustainability has been an issue that John and Logan have cared about. Sam has known Logan for a long time. We had to reach a certain size to be able to become carbon neutral. Hiring Sam was about bringing someone on board to focus not only on carbon offsets, but to build a best in class program related to green cities.Overall: Sam, you joined Lyft as the first director of sustainability in March. How did you and Logan meet?Sam Arons: We met in 2006 when I was a graduate student at UC Berkeley studying energy and resources. At Berkeley, we started hearing about a guy named Logan down in Santa Barbara who had helped launch The Green Initiative Fund. TGIF was a proposal to increase student fees by a few dollars a semester, which would raise thousands of dollars for sustainability projects on campus. It worked well there, so we created our own TGIF at Berkeley. He gave us advice on how to roll it out.My graduate research was on plug-in vehicles, so I was getting involved in the transportation space. Logan later moved to the Bay Area to start working on Zimride, which at that time was a Facebook app. I thought it was tremendously cool and asked if I could help out. He said yes so I became part of the Zimride group — as the official note taker at meetings. I then graduated and went to work at Google.Overall: How did you and Logan get back in touch?Arons: We stayed in touch over the years. I followed Zimride getting sold to Enterprise. Logan reached out to me in 2016, around the time Google had made the announcement that it would achieve 100 percent renewable energy the following year. Logan wanted to know how we had done it at Google and how they might do something similar at Lyft. That led to a long conversation that unfurled over a year. I thought Lyft was a cool convergence of the electric vehicle space and the energy space. In a way, a transportation company became an energy company and I saw a way to bring these two worlds together to impact the future of planet.Overall: A month after you joined Lyft, the company announced that all Lyft rides would be offset by carbon credits. What was involved in making that possible?Arons: First, the directive to do that was coming straight from the top. The project had been started well before I got to Lyft, but no one was working on it full time. My first task was to help take it over the finish line, and I hit the ground sprinting. The volume of carbon credits was out there. We had done an RFP and received a number of bids by companies offering carbon credits. We ended up choosing 3 Degrees.Overall: At the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco a few weeks ago, Lyft announced that all operations are now carbon neutral.  What was involved in making that happen?Arons: We made a two-part announcement. First, that we would offset all emissions from our business including rides (which were already offset), as well as all other operations. The second part is that all the electricity we use would be covered with renewable energy. In order to make that happen, the first thing we had to do was to calculate our carbon footprint so that we would know how much to purchase. We had an EDF Climate Corps Fellow, Matt Panopio, who helped make this possible. Overall: What drove the timing of these commitments (no pun intended)?Arons: Climate change is one of the most urgent issues we are facing. It was less about us waiting for a particular moment, and more about us trying to work as quickly as we can.  We started by offsetting all rides because we were able to calculate the emissions. To offset the rest of our operations, we had to get the data on emissions and that wasn’t as readily available. That’s why it took longer. Overall: What has it been like being the first person in this role at Lyft?Arons: It’s a lot of fun. I’m leaping out of bed every morning. I find it exciting, compelling, and there is so much to do that I try not to feel too overwhelmed.Transportation is the largest source of GHG emissions, bigger than electricity. We have the opportunity now to make an enormous impact and lead the way. Lyft alone is not going to solve climate change. If we can show others that it is possible to run a viable business while going carbon neutral and electrifying your entire fleet, hopefully this will pave the way for others to do the same.Overall: What things that have been the hardest to navigate? Arons: We’re growing at such an incredible pace that everyone is trying to do 12 things at once. There is support and enthusiasm for what our team is working on, but at the same time everyone is very busy with their day jobs growing the business.My team’s role is to incorporate sustainability into all aspects of the business, but we also need to make it easier for our counterparts across the company to do that. For example, I might help write job descriptions for roles on other people’s teams, like the vehicles team, which by nature needs to sit in operations. I’ve also collaborated with the policy team to put together a set of priorities related to electric vehicles. I might also weigh in on budgetary considerations, such as where various teams need to incorporate sustainability-related activities into their budget.Overall: At Google and now at Lyft, you’ve gone for really big goals. What advice would you have for other companies considering big goals like this?Arons: You may be surprised by what you can accomplish. Setting big audacious goals can feel scary and overwhelming. You might not know how you will get there, but you certainly won’t get there if you don’t set the goal. If you set a big goal, you might not meet it, but you’ll accomplish a lot more than you would have if you hadn’t set the goal and you’ll learn a lot along the way. We can all do this, we all have to do this, so let’s get out there and make these things happen.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Financing an equitable, sharing city

Today we constantly hear grievances about there not being enough money for this or that beneficial cause. But at the same time, many people have huge privately managed assets that finance all kinds of ventures through retirement investments — some of which they would probably not wish to support. We often keep these funds out of fear for our long-term security.What would happen if people mobilized these vast assets in shared projects to create a better and more stable future in their own communities? By pooling citizens’ wealth for community purposes rather than simply for the highest returns, money and credit can be made much more abundant to ordinary people. Finance enables communities to flourish, to pool their commonwealth, to share and thereby reduce risk, and to achieve objectives that individuals cannot achieve alone.The tools to implement this imagined future already exist. Finance of this kind funds projects that do not offer quick returns on investment, but are immensely important for our continued well-being and the stability of natural ecosystems. Needs-oriented finance takes public needs seriously, which also means that benefits and risks are shared equitably. This is only possible if all people involved share in the ownership, responsibility and decision-making.The case studies in this chapter present solutions to realize this vision of shared finance in cities. The selected cases are meant to cover the main actors at the level of the city — that is, citizens, businesses, financial institutions and the local government. Furthermore, we have tried to cover many aspects of finance — including the creation of money, savings and investments, and mutual security. Needs-oriented finance takes public needs seriously, which also means that benefits and risks are shared equitably. So let us start with what citizens can do.First, citizens can create means of exchange that take on some of the functions of money, and determine the rules governing their circulation. Generally, central and private banks enjoy the privilege of creating money, which is one of the factors leading to the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few. The attempts so far to create alternative systems of exchange, like community currencies, are generally small or specialized, but they can have significant benefits for the participants and demonstrate how we might redesign the institution of money on a large scale.Second, citizens can use their money to invest in enterprises they wish to support, providing mutual benefits to the entire community. The investment fund for local sustainable food production in Freiburg, Germany, and civic crowdfunding by Spacehive in the U.K. both focus on investment. The first example uses money as savings, while the other seeks only nonfinancial returns on investments. Third, citizens can pool their money as well as their time, skills, ideas, and knowledge in order to provide mutual financial security. Sickness and old age are two of the main financial risk factors we all face. The Fureai Kippu time banks in Japan address these issues. It is a case where a successful social welfare system has been established to ensure financial security in case of illness and old age.What can businesses do? They can provide mutual credit as a means of exchange, and facilitate mutually beneficial trading relationships, both of which tend to increase stability in the face of economic downturns. The WIR Bank of Switzerland, essentially a network of small and medium enterprises, has successfully performed all these business-to-business functions ever since the depression years of the 1930s.Specialized financial institutions with a well-defined mission for the public or the common good also have an important role to play. They can be public, cooperative or socially driven institutions. What can businesses do? They can provide mutual credit as a means of exchange, and facilitate mutually beneficial trading relationships. Cooperative financial institutions are owned by the people or institutions that rely on their services, which ensures accountability to the people they serve. As a particularly successful example, we have featured the Self-Help Credit Union of North Carolina. It is part of a broader category of community development financial institutions (CDFIs) in the United States, which have as their mission to promote economic opportunity among minority and other disadvantaged communities. Customer-owned and cooperative banks play an important role in many other countries as well, and generally provide financial services at reasonable cost, while investing primarily in the local economy.Socially driven financial institutions devoted to the common good can also follow a variety of other institutional models, belonging to foundations, trusts, or other institutions. A number of such banks have come together to form the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. We have featured a bank that does not belong to this alliance, but is remarkable for the local economic development work it is promoting in Brazil and the local currency it has launched: Banco Palmas. It follows a hybrid ownership model, involving the local communities and the non-profit organization Instituto Palmas.How can local governments support shared finance? They can establish policy goals to support those building blocks of shared finance that already exist in a place and help them grow, to help establish new tools, and to help create mutually supportive connections. A local government can support its own citizens’ efforts in alternative finance. Cities can even set up or support their own financial institutions, as North Dakota has done. Although this is strictly speaking a state — and not a city — policy, it should be noted that North Dakota has a population of only around 700,000 people, which is easily exceeded by the population of many metropolitan areas. This means that many cities would be able to start banks that would have at least as much business and profit potential as the Bank of North Dakota.... It would be difficult to find a single place where all these types of institutions flourish. Which city in the world will be the first to develop a complete network of institutions, policies and practices to finance the emergence of a truly sustainable economy that supports the aspirations of all its people? This would be a challenge worthy of a Sharing City.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Episode 145: A ballad to Oakland during VERGE 18, clearing the air on carbon removal

Week in ReviewTune in around 17:24 for a roundup of news, plus a special presentation on "place" by Dawn Danby, co-founder of consulting firm SphericalA new frontier in wind energy on Native American land, cultivated by six Sioux tribesMicrosoft has figured out a way to reduce risks associated with PPAsLessons from Walmart and UPS on electrifying their fleetsFeatured StoriesDon't overlook natural paths to carbon removal (35:15)The imperative from the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is clear: Humankind must move more quickly to take carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere. Kate Gordon, fellow at the Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy and partner on the sustainability team of RIDGE-LANE Limited Partners, weighs in about where businesses have an opportunity to make a positive impact most quickly.We have the tools we need to reduce emissions (45:40)Former Department of Energy staffer Julio Friedmann has spent much of his career studying pathways for capturing CO2 emissions out of water and air. Now a senior research scholar and lead of the CaMRI Initiative at Columbia University, he weighs in on how businesses can view the infamous greenhouse gas as a potential revenue stream and why the corporate sector needs to stop stalling.A unique vocal and visual mash-up (52:00)The Faces[On]Display augmented reality experiment is an interactive art exhibit that uses fast-tracking and facial gesture recognition to create unique performances from Can Büyükberber's immersive artist research residency at Adobe. While we can bring you the visuals, enjoy the VERGE 18 performance by opera singer Amanda Gregory.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.• How do you measure a circle? As more companies reconsider materials, products and business models for the circular economy, the need for new metrics to track progress is becoming more apparent. An upcoming one-hour webcast — "Measuring Circularity: Why Lifecycle Assessment is Not the Right Tool" — will explore new options that help managers keep tabs on factors such as recycled content or solid waste from manufacturing. Register for this free, interactive session at 1 PM EST Oct. 23, brought to you by GreenBiz and UL Environment.• A helping (solar) hand. This upcoming one-hour webcast — "Powering Inclusion Through Solar Handprints: An Innovative Partnership" — will explore an initiative spearheaded by flooring manufacturer Mohawk Industries in collaboration with nonprofit Groundswell to bring clean power to underserved communities. You'll learn more about how this relationship aligns environmental stewardship with social equity. Register for the free, interactive session at 1 PM EST Oct. 30.• 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?)

What the circular economy's early days look like for Amazon and Nike

What's the killer app for the circular economy? GreenBiz co-founder Joel Makower wanted to know.The quick answer is that no single magic button exists yet, if ever. As with so much of sustainability, however, the ideal endgame for circular principles is to become baked into every point of the product's lifecycle along the line of design, supply chain, manufacture and beyond."The killer app is that which is invisible," said Nike's VP of Business Innovation Cyrus Wadia, onstage Tuesday at VERGE 18 in Oakland. "We need to be embedding these attributes into high-performance products."That's the end goal, but where does business stand now? Take a step back.The term "circular economy" refers to three dimensions of a new economic model: ending waste and pollution; keeping products, materials and nutrients at the highest possible value for the longest possible time; and regenerating the natural resources and capital upon which economic systems depend. That's according to Del Hudson, the Ellen MacArthur Fund's head of U.S. and North America Operations. The British organization, which is accelerating the concept, advocates for next-level innovations and systemic shifts that most corporations have yet to follow (or lead, for that matter). Ultimately we call it a transition, and it’s happening right now. However, Hudson does believe that this moment has moved beyond an aspirational phase. "Ultimately we call it a transition, and it’s happening right now," she said.That means that in the half-year since the last U.S. gathering of the Circular Economy 100, which met again recently in Oakland, more metrics, product designs and business model innovations have sprung up — with rapid growth in $1 billion enterprises, and cities using circular principles to drive climate, economic development and social inclusion goals.Conversations are less about what it looks like to move away from the old "take, make, waste" linear model and more about how to partner to drive new, circular models forward, Hudson said. "It’s less about, 'how do I apply this to my organization,' and more about, 'who do I collaborate with as I move to this transition.'"So what does that look like to Nike and Amazon? If this is just the baby-steps phase of the circular economy in the United States, Nike is at least providing some of the footwear; 75 percent of the materials in its shoes and apparel consist of some recycled content. And last year the company's products used the equivalent of 1 billion plastic bottles in recycled polyester. "Sustainability has to happen at scale," which drives sustainable innovation, Wadia said. However, he could not quantify how many of Nike's products use reused or recycled materials (somewhere above 5 percent?).Nike with OpenIDEO recently named five winners of ITS Circular Innovation Challenge, which called in March for proposals to design and reuse its Nike Grind scrap material, recovered from the factory floor and old shoes. It attracted 600 proposals across 60 countries."There’s a really healthy solver network around the world that’s ready to work on these problems," Wadia said, describing how "one of the sexiest ideas" explored how to make "postconsumer waste look more like preconsumer waste."Materials scientists, chemists and others are crucial to creating the materials that are "better for the planet and better for the athlete," he added. Yet with all the reach of Nike — 1 billion product units sold per year — Wadia sees that "we have not activated or even really scratched the surface to work with those communities" on furthering innovation.As for reach, last year Amazon shipped more than 5 billion products to subscribers of its free-shipping Amazon Prime service alone. Kara Hurst, Amazon's worldwide head of sustainability, sees innovation as essential, within and beyond its logo-stamped packages. The materials, marketing and logistics Goliath is offering more refurbished products and services such as textbook rentals to replace one-time use of a product. And Amazon is continually exploring how to ship goods without overboxing them, which includes the development of a fully recyclable curbside mailer. Is the U.S. embracing their innovation opportunity in the way that other markets appear to be going after it? This week Amazon announced $10 million to support the Closed Loop Fund to support curbside recycling infrastructure for 3 million households over the next decade.At EMF, Hudson sees a "renaissance" in the conversation around commercial opportunities for recycling, driven in part by policy shifts including China’s National Sword rule, which this year began banning imports of two dozen kinds of waste materials, including many types of plastics — which are now piling up around the U.S."Is the U.S. embracing their innovation opportunity in the way that other markets appear to be going after it? We’re seeing some signals," Hudson said, pointing to the Department of Energy re-releasing $70 million to the Remade Institute, established under the Obama administration to further low-carbon industrial technologies. It's "a good example that the innovation upstream opportunity is massive."If there is a circular "killer app" for Amazon, which means so many things to so many people, Hurst said it's "trying to get information into people’s hands quickly" because consumers want to know how to get the highest value out a product and what to do once they're done with it. In addition, she sees that expanding community engagement and bringing more people into the conversation around reuse circularity are essential.In addition to external outreach — which includes efforts such as an e-waste collection drive and an Alexa Skills Challenge that invites software developers to create a positive social or environmental "skill" for the Alexa virtual assistant — Hurst described internal efforts."What are solutions we can provide to general managers that run our fulfillment centers?" And how can they consider waste minimization and diversion, product recycling and donation and even food recycling? Amazon wants to drive "a lot of practical toolkits" for its long value chain, Hurst said.Hudson described the circular economy opportunity as "exponentially larger when we look at the business model potential at the front end" and really explore eliminating what doesn’t currently work in business systems. That will take a lot of collaborations, partnerships and systems-thinking, as Makower described.Organizations can send the demand signal, Hudson said. Yet "we also need action for the longer-term vision to ride out some of the policy changes we’re seeing."Let's block ads! (Why?)

Moving the needle: toward a more holistic and ethical fashion industry

The Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator (BF+DA), a Pratt Institute initiative, is a hub for ethical fashion and design that provides design entrepreneurs, creative technologists and industry professionals with the resources they need to transform their ideas into successful, triple bottom line businesses.About 15 emerging design businesses are selected to work from the BF+DA. Each year, the BF+DA also serves over 70 apparel production clients, 300 digital fabrication clients and 4,000 event, tour and educational program attendees. It’s also recently launched sustainability consulting offerings to further its mission and reach.Debera Johnson is the BF+DA’s founder and executive director. She also founded the Center for Sustainable Design Strategies at Pratt Institute and has been leading the integration of sustainability into Pratt’s art, design and architecture programs for over 15 years.Bard MBA’s Lindsey Strange spoke with Johnson about BF+DA, its function as a hub for ethical fashion and responsible technology and how it promotes triple bottom line values by linking financial success to an ethical and sustainable supply chain.Lindsey Strange: What is the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator?Debera Johnson: The Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator is a hub for ethical fashion. There are really three things that we’re focused on doing. First — redefining the fashion industry around the environment and society. We’re very concerned about the impacts of the industry on the planet and on people. So, we have a business accelerator to work with emerging design firms and help them not only achieve financial success and stability but also the triple bottom line. Second — we have production facilities open to designers. Our goal there is to be a local resource for sustainable production and to help educate designers about how to implement strategies around efficiencies and sustainable supply chain.The third and probably the newest part of what we’re doing is becoming a research and design center for the integration of technology into smart garments and functional textiles — and, most importantly, with the idea of sustainability alongside it. Innovation can really take off, and people get very excited about new things, but what we’ve forgotten to think about the environment and the kind of labor we’re producing as we create these innovations. And so the BF+DA is very committed to having that dual conversation that connects sustainability and technology. Strange: Even when consumers start to understand the environmental and ethical implications of their fast fashion choices, it’s hard to convince them to buy for the value of the product. How do you help entrepreneurs navigate that landscape?Johnson: The apparel industry is so price- and margin-conscious. Fast fashion is beating down the price of what we expect clothing to cost, but we’re not looking at the material concerns and, especially, the ethical concerns around the labor that’s creating that product. Our consumer culture wants the bargain, the deal, often despite the quality of the product. Consumers need to decide whether they’re more interested in saving pennies or saving the environment. Products that are quality are going to cost more. Consumers need to decide whether they’re more interested in saving pennies or saving the environment. Products that are quality are going to cost more. We just have to decide where we stand. At BF+DA, transparency is a big piece of how we do storytelling — letting people know who made the product, how it was made, what materials were used and whether the dyes are toxic or organic. When you start to understand a product in that way, you’re able to make better choices about what you buy, and you have the information to justify spending more. Strange: Can you tell us more about the different BF+DA labs?Johnson: The idea of the BF+DA was to create a place in which you could go from idea to prototype to manufacture to market in one place — to see it all happening and be able to walk across the hall and talk to someone in the s.LAB (Sustainability Lab) about making a product more sustainable and then walk through the door to the p.LAB (Production Lab) and see those ideas being built into the product.The t.LAB and d.LAB are focused on the future of fashion. There’s so much technological development going on around the creation of products in manufacturing as well as the integration of new materials that have special functionality. The d.LAB focuses on digital technology and its relationship to apparel. Now, instead of measuring someone, we can body scan them. We then take that scan into a design platform and drape virtually on a machine using software. That information goes into a pattern-making program, which gets output to a digital pattern cutter and then goes to the sewer. The digitalization is essentially the process.One of our goals at BF+DA is to provide the types of resources that the big companies are using to small, independent designers, so that they’re at the front edge alongside the big companies. Strange: Do you see any other areas where sustainability and technology are coming together in a good way?Johnson: The digitalization is one of them. I also think that biotech is creating really interesting materials in laboratories and not farms. It’s exciting to start to think about other types of fibers like cotton that can be made in closed-loop systems rather than farmed. That will have huge implications. People are making leathers in laboratories, and they’re growing pigment and indigo in petri dishes.Then you also have things like blockchain to help with traceability. It can track a fiber from where it was grown to where it was milled to where it was cut and sewn and assembled. And there’s also nanofibers, which have special functions like being able to read pressure or be infused with vitamins so your clothing will essentially give you your vitamins or medicine.There’s a lot coming down the pipe that will really change our perception of what clothing is and will add new functionality that we haven’t thought about previously. This Q&A was an edited excerpt from the Bard MBA’s Oct. 19 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?)