Elegant design and engineering goes beyond being sustainable to being eco positive. New vocabulary, additional data collection and working with scientists is needed to most effectively stimulate and manage a circular economy, making the means by which we live to be resilient, efficient and productive, and most of all, regenerative and eco positive.
Did you know that most average Americans live as though they have 4.8 planets? This is what Dutch industrial designer Babette Porcelijn discovered when she largely left behind a thriving business working with commercial clients to focus on the hidden impacts of design.
In her research, Porcelijn looks at everything from the global impact of importing and exporting to the environmental toll of producing single consumer items, such as a laptop computer. Her “Impact Top 10” breaks down, with surprising results, the average items used by consumers that cause the largest amount of environmental impact.
Who knew that meat would come in second, beat out only by consumer products, but well above cars? (If you speak Dutch and want to understand your individual impact, answer a few questions to see how you compare to others.)
Excerpts from the interview:
- The sixteen largest container ships emit as much sulfur as all the cars in the world together
- The rich consumer buys a lot of products, but he does not see the impact the production of these goods has on the environment. How can you make sustainable choices if you don't know what’s going on?
- When I started to investigate, I was shocked to find out that often I couldn’t find answers to my questions. Even worse, sometimes there were no words to describe the things I wanted to talk about. The worst finding, perhaps, was the fact that there was no impact top 10 of the average consumer, including hidden impacts.
- If we assess the impact of the consumer, we usually only consider environmental impacts caused by the use of a product. Furthermore, we mainly look at climate effects, but if we solve the climate problem, and we don’t solve problems like water scarcity, pollution or plastic soup, then we still have a problem.
- Over the last few decades, rich consumer countries have moved much of their industry and agriculture to low-wage countries. Production comes with lots of impact on climate, nature, and environment. Rich countries import these products and this food and their consumers buy these. But we often leave the “hidden impact” out of the equation.
- Designers can make a big difference in many ways. First, we are beginning to understand what we should NOT do anymore—and Hidden Impact reveals that thoroughly—but the next question is, what to replace the fulfillment of our needs in a sustainable way? What SHOULD we do? And that is a design challenge! I think we need to work together with scientists to come up with the best solutions.
- We are trained systems thinkers, and the world needs those—product designers can design circular products, and circular business models, while product designers and architects can design for long endurance products, with renewable materials and design for disassembly and reuse.
- We could take responsibility for the products we put in the world; do we want to add more stuff people don’t really need into the world, while it damages the environment and brings our joint future in jeopardy, while the ones who benefit have commercial motives instead of humane motives? Also, design for communication: tell the world what’s at stake and what we can do about it, inspire them with awesome alternatives which are more attractive than our current ways
- In short, we need nothing short of a paradigm shift and we need designers to make it a good one. Eco-positive* and fair.
- The best thing that can happen—and it does, people tell me—is that people actually change their lifestyles. I will never tell people what they should or shouldn’t do. I merely help those who want to make effective changes to improve their environmental impact. And I hope to inspire people as a side-effect of my research.
- Some of the biggest issues you mention, like microplastics, come from items like car tires. With this being such a common item, do you know of any companies working on alternative solutions? ANSWER: It is a common item, but it isn’t common knowledge yet. Nevertheless, I’ve heard about research for better tire materials, but that’s difficult to tackle since biodegradable plastics in nature aren’t as biodegradable as in the lab. We could catch run-off from the roads and clean it, and we could choose a different means of transportation (bike, walk, and public transit).
- We need as many people on board as possible. Especially in rich consumer countries, which have—on average—the biggest impact. In the twelve biggest economies in the world lives 13% of the world population, but we cause 55% of the impact! That means that with 13% of the people, we can reduce over half the impact, and that’s a hopeful thought to me.
- We, consumers, are key. Ultimately, we decide everything that’s going on in the world, even though we often don’t realize it. We buy products and with our money, companies thrive. They can either damage or save the environment, and we get to choose which ones survive by buying their stuff. We decide who our politicians are and what they will fight for. The more money you have, the more difference you can make, either by your lifestyle and daily habits or by devoting yourself as a professional to for an eco-positive society*.
[*Eco positive: when you (or a company, or a city/country etc) have a more positive impact on the environment than negative, harmful impact. Protecting and restoring nature, working on family planning and reducing population growth, designing sustainable or eco-positive solutions, cleaning up pollution etc.]
Read more about Porcelijn, her work and how she hopes her book can help create change both for consumers and designers in the full interview.
Are we learning the difference between Socialist Authoritarianism like in Venezuela and Democratic Socialism like what they have in the top 2 happiest countries in the world, Norway and Denmark?
The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness. The World Happiness Report 2017, which ranks 155 countries by their happiness levels, will be released today at the United Nations at an event celebrating International Day of Happiness. The report, the fifth one to come out since 2012, continues to gain global recognition as governments, organizations and civil society increasingly use happiness indicators to inform their policy-making decisions. In addition to the rankings, this year’s report includes an analysis of happiness in the workplace and a deeper look at China and Africa.
World’s First Solar Mural Installation, a Land Art Generator Artwork by Cruz Ortiz, to be Unveiled at Luminaria. La Monarca’s final home will be at EPIcenter where it will generate clean energy for the site
SAN ANTONIO, TX –– Land Heritage Institute (LHI), in collaboration with EPIcenter, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) have partnered to present the world’s first Solar Mural installation – public art that produces renewable energy.
The Solar Mural artwork, La Monarca, will be unveiled at Luminaria, San Antonio’s 10th annual contemporary arts festival, held at Hemisfair on November 10, 2017. La Monarca’s final home will be at EPIcenter, and it will indeed generate clean energy.
La Monarca will be a spectacular, giant lotería card #24, which celebrates San Antonio’s status as the National Wildlife Federation’s first Monarch Butterfly Champion City.
The image, crafted by San Antonio artist Cruz Ortiz, is printed onto a special film produced by Sistine Solar. The film visually masks the standard dark blue solar cells, replacing them with the beautiful La Monarca image. The film allows light to pass through to the photovoltaic cells beneath and generate electricity.
There will be four panels stacked 2×2 at a vertical angle, measuring 6’6” wide by 11’ tall. Each panel stands at 66” x 40”.
Power from La Monarca will be stored throughout the day and then used to power the lights that will illuminate the artwork during the Luminaria Festival.
Following the close of Luminaria, La Monarca will find a permanent home inside a pollinator garden on the EPIcenter campus along the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River where it will generate solar energy for the facility.
“EPIcenter is a place committed to new energy innovation; we are excited to premiere the world’s first Solar Mural at Luminaria and look forward to enjoying this work of art – and the energy it will produce – at the EPIcenter campus,” said Kimberly M. Britton, Chief Executive Officer.
Partners hope that in the near future, Las Monarcas will be a swarm of Monarch Butterfly-inspired Land Art Generator artworks to be designed for placement at and to provide power to social service centers, municipal buildings, or eco-cultural tourism destinations throughout the City of San Antonio or other stops along Monarch Butterfly migration routes.
LHI will also be hosting the 5th biennial LHI Art-Sci Symposium in partnership with Luminaria in Southtown on Saturday, November 11, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. at The Mercury Project (538 Roosevelt Avenue), free and open to the public. Symposium sessions, geared toward a general audience and fine for families with finesse, will focus on Sound Art & Sound Walks, Feminist Art in a Digital Age and reGEN: artists and scientists exploring regenerist practices and renewable energies. For a full agenda please see www.renewableart.org.
At Luminaria, La Monarca will appear atop a grassy knoll between two of the three historic 1960s-era “Confluence of Cultures” murals commissioned for the HemisFair ’68 World's Fair: a stone mural by Juan O’Gorman and a glass tile mural by Carlos Mérida. Luminaria will take place Friday, November 10, 2017 from 7:00 pm to midnight at the Hemisfair campus in downtown San Antonio, TX. (NOTE: The grassy noll is between E. Market St. and the Convention Center.)
La Monarca has been a collaboration between Land Heritage Institute’s LHI Art-Sci Projects, EPIcenter, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the Land Art Generator Initiative. Fabrication and technical support has been provided by OCI Solar Power, Mission Solar Energy, Sun Action Trackers, and Sistine Solar. The project has been made possible through support from EPIcenter and OCI Solar Power, the Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Learn more at www.monarcas.org.
EPIcenter is flipping the switch on an historic 1909 power plant by transforming it into a world-class center that will be the hub for new energy technology innovation, education and community engagement, and entrepreneurial incubation and ideation. The EPI stands for Energy, Partnerships and Innovation. Learn more at www.epicenterus.org.
The Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) delivers sculptural installations that have the added benefit of renewable power generation for individual buildings and/or the utility grid. LAGI artworks provide power to neighborhoods and cities while adding visual interest to outdoor spaces—from public parks and streets to private courtyards. LAGI arrives at context-specific design solutions that reflect the needs of the end-user by utilizing a variety of project delivery models. These include: design competitions, direct commissions, calls for proposals, and facilitating participatory design processes within communities. Learn more at www.landartgenerator.org.
About Land Heritage Institute
Land Heritage Institute is under development as a living land museum on 1200 acres of open space along the banks of the Medina River on the far southside of San Antonio preserving, maintaining and interpreting 10,000 years of continual human habitation. Learn more at www.landheritageinstitute.org
With residents and partners, LISC forges resilient and inclusive communities of opportunity across America – great places to live, work, visit, do business and raise families. Learn more at www.lisc.org
About OCI Solar Power
OCI Solar Power is a leader in the solar power industry. Headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, OCISP develops, constructs, finances, owns, and operates solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities, specializing in utility, commercial, and industrial-scale solar projects. For more information, visit www.ocisolarpower.com.
The wings of a butterfly have inspired a new type of solar cell that can harvest light twice as efficiently as before and could one day improve our solar panels.
Solar panels are usually made of thick solar cells, and are positioned at an angle to get the most amount of light from the sun as it moves throughout the day. Thin film solar cells, which can be only nanometers thick, have a lot of potential. These are cheaper and lighter, but because they’re less efficient, we usually use them only in watches and calculators, instead of solar panels. Scientists studied the black wings of the rose butterfly, and copied the structure to create thin solar cells that are more efficient. Unlike other types of cells, these can absorb a lot of light regardless of the angle, and are also easy to make. The results were published in the journal Science Advances.
The rose butterfly is native to Southeast Asia. Because it is cold-blooded and needs sunlight to fly, its black wings have evolved to be very good at absorbing energy. “The really interesting thing is that the butterflies, which have evolved these complex structures as a result of selection over millions of years, are still way outperforming our engineering,” YaleNUS College biology professor Vinod Saranathan told The Verge in an email. (Saranathan was not involved in the study.)
To figure out why these butterflies are so efficient, scientists led by Radwanul Siddique, a bioengineer at the California Institute of Technology, looked at wings under an electron microscope and created a 3D model of the wings’ nanostructures. The wings are built from tiny scales that are covered in randomly spaced holes. The holes are less than a millionth of a meter wide, and they help scatter the light and help the butterfly absorb heat.
The holes are random in size, distribution, and shape, says Siddique. Using computer models, the team figured out that the position and order are important for absorbing light, but the shape doesn’t matter. Next, they created a similar structure using extremely thin sheets of hydrogenated amorphous silicon that have the same type of holes.
Most solar panels are positioned at an angle, which means they generate lots of power for a few hours and then not much the rest of the time. Solar panels using Siddique’s technique could produce more power throughout the day. Though Siddique is now at CalTech, he did this research as part of his doctoral work in Germany, and some members of his old lab have already received funding from the German Research Foundation to work on solar cells and LEDs.
Renewable energy might be clean, but it's not always reliable if the Sun ducks behind clouds or the wind slacks off. To counter that variability, the grid will need to combine a range of different sources, such as solar, wind, hydro, waves, and biomass, with large-scale energy storage systems. Now, an MIT team has developed a new type of battery that could fit the bill. It breathes air, and can store energy long-term for about a fifth of the cost of existing technologies. The new design is a rechargeable
The new design is a rechargeable flow battery, meaning its cathode and anode components are liquids (catholyte and anolyte) that pass ions back and forth to store or release energy. In this case, the anolyte is made up of sulfur dissolved in water, and the hunt for an equally abundant material for the catholyte led the team to an oxygenated liquid salt solution.
Across the U.S., energy users of all sizes are taking control of their power supply and relieving stress from the grid. That’s the idea behind distributed energy. Atlantic Re:think and Siemens partnered to explore this burgeoning energy revolution in 360º video.
The traditional power grid is under tremendous pressure. In many places, infrastructure needs to be upgraded. Extreme weather and cybersecurity are constant concerns. These challenges threaten entire communities and businesses, from hospital networks to manufacturing plants and university systems. Technology now offers more solutions than early energy pioneers could’ve fathomed as they designed the central grid some 150 years ago. There are now more ways to support and complement the grid than ever before. It’s time to tap into these innovations.
Whether the challenge is energy generation, distribution, storage, or management, all can be addressed through a single solution: on-site energy control. Often called distributed energy, this increases reliability while reducing costs and environmental impact. The Siemens portfolio of on-site energy solutions offers users greater control over their energy supply, where it comes from, how sustainable it is, how they use it, and how much they pay for it. It allows them to restore customer and grid power during a complete blackout, and it plays an integral role in the grid’s digital transformation. The technologies are being implemented in new as well as legacy systems, as Siemens helps decision makers across the country to navigate the unique challenges they face. It’s time to take advantage of this technology and overhaul the system; to develop a more economically and environmentally resilient and sustainable approach to how we power our lives.
Members of a local energy-efficiency initiative collectively reduced their carbon impact by more than 10,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2016, according to an annual report from San Antonio 2030 District, which is leading the effort.
The initiative, led mostly by private-sector businesses such as downtown building owners, aims to achieve a 50% reduction in energy consumption by 2030.
Addressing district members last week, SA 2030 District Director Elizabeth Kertesz said that the group’s members together recorded a 22% drop in energy use intensity (EUI). The district uses the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager as a measurement tool.
Last week, I walked into the San Antonio City Council Chambers to present the Council members with nearly 700 petition signatures urging them to press forward with their pledged commitment to develop a Climate Action Plan for the city. While there is much to celebrate in the forward movement of our new Council, many questions remain about the project's scope of work, as well as its transparency and community inclusion. Most outstanding, from my personal perspective, is the failure of our Council to set a sol id, definitive carbon-reduction target to guide the plan’s development.
We have our share of brags in San Antonio when it comes to the transition to renewable energy sources; 13 percent renewable energy is nothing to sneeze at. But we must remember that we are in no way in the vanguard among U.S. cities. More than 30 U.S. cities have already made net-zero commitments with aspirational dates beginning in the 2030 and 2035 range, not to mention the handful of smaller communities, such as Georgetown, Texas, just up the road that are already 100% powered by renewables.
While our city desperately needs a path to net-zero carbon emissions, CPS Energy has failed to update its decade-old renewable target of 20 percent by 2020. So far, that debate is yet to be had.
Below is a copy of the letter submitted on behalf of the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and Moms Clean Air Force. Deeper in the letter you will see the list of nearly 40 local organizations who supported our June 2017 demand for solidarity with the Paris Climate Agreement, the development of an inclusive, grassroots-led Climate Action Plan, and a pathway to 100 percent renewable energy.
Change is inevitable. But the depth of suffering we may avert by rapidly decarbonizing our economy, strengthening our municipal resilience, and building stronger communities of common concern across the city is up to us.
I strongly urge all local Sierra Club members in San Antonio to engage more deeply with the Alamo Sierra Club to make sure we can make this just transition as soon as possible, while remaining cognizant and allied with our many partners fighting for justice in all of its forms.
Greg Harman is a Clean Energy Organizer with the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter (and proud District 5 resident)
Climate change debates aside, the raw numbers show San Antonio is becoming much hotter, much more often. What does this mean to our city, and to a state where nearly 40 percent of the labor force is working outside?
Most people don’t realize it wasn’t always this hot here. When record-keeping in San Antonio started in the late 1800s, it took at least three or four years to rack up that many triple-digit days.
As the Earth continues to warm at a higher-than-normal rate in part because of burning of fossil fuels, climate scientists predict San Antonio will get even hotter. The city could see two to three additional weeks a year when temperatures top 100 degrees.
This warming will have consequences, especially to the local economy. Extreme heat will hit outdoor workers, the poor and the elderly hardest. For the better-off, climate change may not make San Antonio unlivable, but it will undoubtedly make life hotter and harder by the middle of the 21st century.
One prominent study published in the journal Science in June put Bexar County on the front lines of declines in the outdoor labor force, more heat-related deaths and a decrease in economic output.
Learn more about what's happening and being done to deal with a warming climate along with how to make your home more climate friendly.
The country’s energy mix is under scrutiny. A report commissioned by Energy Secretary Rick Perry acknowledges that low natural gas prices—not renewables—are behind the recent closure of coal energy plants, and that the grid has managed to withstand the increasing presence of renewable energy. According to an unrelated study published this week in the journal Joule, the world is poised to give up fossil fuels altogether.
The research lays out renewable energy roadmaps—the mix of resources a given country would need to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy—for 139 countries collectively responsible for more than 99 percent of the global carbon emissions. According to the resulting analysis, the planet is pretty much ready to go 100 percent renewable by 2050.
Fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and oil are not renewable resources. It took an extremely long time for the Earth to produce them, and they're going to run out. And now that we know them to be significant contributors to human-caused climate change, trying to replace them is basically a no-brainer. Still, many regard renewable energy as the flighty, less dependable sibling of our go-to fossils. But according to the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable energy sources accounted for roughly 15 percent of total electricity generation and 10 percent of total U.S. energy consumption in 2016. Some of that investment in renewable energy is being led by places that we tend to associate with petroleum, like Texas, where wind energy provided more than 12 percent of that state’s electricity in 2016.
It's time to discredit the false choice between environmental protection and economic growth, that climate change is simply an ideological choice and giving government more authority to address it would stimulate a “regulatory onslaught,” damaging the U.S. economy and subvert human freedom.
We must have the courage to come together and make changes to preserve the stability, resiliency and safety of our local communities at home and throughout the planet. Otherwise what is detailed in this article will continue as a smokescreen to delay productive and profitable efforts to prevent crises.
When Gov. Abbott issued his call for a special legislative session this summer, he only included one environmental issue: eliminating local tree protection ordinances in over 110 Texas cities. This gave Texas environmentalists a unique opportunity to organize an all-hands-on-deck effort focused on defending Texas trees and local democracy.
And you know what? We won.
Abbott pushed hard for this pre-emption legislation, calling local ordinances “socialistic,” a pretty big surprise for communities with tree protection rules like Mineral Wells, Mansfield and League City — hardly bastions of left wing politics.
…read more about how producing consensus policies can make Texas a better place to live…Source: A victory for Texas trees — and for local control
On June 12th, Jae Yang was appointed President of Mission Solar Energy. This new endeavor has become a source of passion and excitement for him. We sat down with Jae and chatted about the job, his expectations and his plans to take the Mission Solar Energy into the future. LAYERS OF EXPERIENCE Jae previously worked for […]
With a welcoming by former Texas Legislative Representative and CPS Energy retiree, Joe Farias (pictured at the podium), CPS Energy President & CEO, Paula Gold Williams, delivered her State of the Energy update on Wednesday to a sold-out luncheon of local business leaders and elected officials. In partnership with the West San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Gold-Williams spoke to the complexities of the energy industry’s changing business model.
Gold-Williams doesn’t see CPS Energy becoming a technology company. But it will be ready to partner with companies like Google and Amazon to make their new solutions work better for our community.
“We can’t tell you exactly what our next technologies will be,” she says. “There will be more solar, more wind, and energy storage. We will make it a priority to process those options and bring them to market quickly. Our goal is to be your energy expert and advisor, as well as your service provider, to help you aggregate technology in the right way. And of course, always keeping a sharp eye out for our customers.”
She says CPS Energy and San Antonio already are seeing the benefits of working with New Energy Economy (NEE) partners on technologies like solar power and LED lighting. “For example, we’re wrapping up a 450-megawatt solar initiative that utilizes a variety of technologies. At the same time, as many as 30,000 energy-saving LED lights are replacing old sodium lights and making local streets brighter.”
“We want to provide a high standard level of service, and get our partners to tweak that service to meet our customers’ needs,” she says.
The program offers just one example of the continuing efforts at the local level to rethink a largely carbon-based power system. The initiatives are driven by financial advantages as well as environmental ones.
Green Mountain’s chief executive, Mary Powell, sees the program here as the best way to please customers while making the system more environmentally and physically sustainable.
“The opportunity for us,” she added, is to lead the transformation of an electric system that depends on power sent along big transmission lines “to a community-, home- and business-based energy system.”
A new version of the California Academy of Sciences’ http://inaturalist.org/iNaturalist app uses artificial intelligence to offer immediate identifications for photos of any kind of wildlife. You can observe anywhere and ask the computer anything. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and it seems like it mostly works. It is completely astonishing.
One iNaturalist user compared it to getting your hands on a real-life Star Trek tricorder.
iNaturalist adds an option to use artificial intelligence to provide instant nature identifications.
The Utility Will Coordinate Air Quality Data Collection Activities, Previously Handled by the Agency and Funded by the State
CPS Energy has agreed to further partner with the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG), ensuring air quality data collection remains active at a half-dozen air monitoring stations across San Antonio and the surrounding area. While State funding for this work was recently eliminated, the new agreement between CPS Energy and AACOG will help both organizations keep up their efforts to effectively monitor San Antonio’s air quality…
A $500,000 grant from CPS Energy will allow researchers at University of Texas in San Antonio to dive into San Antonio’s climate inventory and, for the first time, develop the framework for a local climate action plan to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The project was announced Tuesday, moments before Mayor Ron Nirenberg signed a resolution in support of the Paris Climate Agreement.
“This Council, in resoundingly approving the resolution, made a clear statement that [climate action] is a priority. Now we are acting on it today,” Nirenberg said. The City’s comprehensive SA Tomorrow plan calls for a climate action initiative, but has yet to receive funding.
With four major cement manufacturers in the area, is San Antonio ripe for using and developing carbon capture biomimicry tech to ward-off more than $1 billion in EPA non-attainment air quality and health costs? At least until these cement-making bacteria can build the cities of the future.
The Algoland Carbon Capture Project in Sweden Uses Algae to Help the Country Reach Zero Emissions
The green goo – in a corner of the factory, there are neatly lined, large, clear bags of green liquid with gas bubbling through them. This is part of the Algoland project, the brainchild of environmental scientist Catherine Legrand, executed by her team of researchers from Linnaeus University, and managed by Olofsson. The project has found a way to wield naturally occurring algae to capture carbon dioxide coming from the cement plant before it enters the atmosphere.
It’s elegant: Take water from the Baltic Sea’s Kalmar Strait next to the plant, pump it about 100 meters (110 feet, about the length of a soccer field) into bags that can hold about 3,000 liters (800 gallons) of liquid. Add key nutrients to multiply the naturally occurring algae, and then let them soak in the gases piped to it from the cement plant (what would otherwise be the factory’s waste product) while the sun shines…