Archive for the ‘Express 192’ Category

Can’t see the wood for the trees?

Posted by Ken on June 7, 2013
Posted under Express 192

Wouldn’t that be nice. If Indonesia finally deals with the scourge of deforestation and seriously reduces its green house gas emissions in the process.  “The Burning Question” is posed by internet guru Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark referring also to the wholesale fossil fuel obsession the world has. We see glimmers of hope when Google decides to invest in solar in South Africa and Samsung wins a Smart phone sustainability award. Small steps to a renewable future – like the Armstrong Clean Energy Fund for South East Asia – but it could start a rush. Just like the opportunity that comes with the Australian innovation of printing solar cells on plastic. Or NASA’s commitment to turn its headquarters into a space-age clean energy case study. Singapore decides to more effectively measure its emissions while Paul Polman takes Unilever down the Sustainable Living path. Believe it or not, airlines are ready to take-off to reduce emissions and there’s a new way proposed to deal with organic waste. Art and sustainability could be very compatible bedfellows and sustainable fishing has a QR code to match.  We wonder whether the UK has lost its leadership for a clean energy future or whether the media is telling it the way it should? – Ken Hickson

What to Do With All Of Our Organic Waste?

Posted by Ken on June 7, 2013
Posted under Express 192

As the cost of electricity increases in Australia, there is a search for alternative sources of energy that are on par with petroleum-based fuels in terms of performance, cost and other additional benefits such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Brisbane-based Utilitas Limited has demonstrated that it is now viable to use safe, reliable mature biogas technology to recover energy, water, nutrients and carbon from Australia’s organic waste streams. Read more

Can Australia afford to waste its organic waste?

By Fiona Waterhouse, Chief Executive Officer, Utilitas Limited for EcoGeneration (May/June 2013):

Around the world, biogas is already a significant alternative source of fuel, electricity and heat. Australia has the capacity to grow its biogas production sector if the current increase in demand for pre-project biogas services continues, and businesses make a concerted effort to overcome biogas market constraints.

Up until now, Australians have enjoyed the benefits of a low-energy-cost economy: this is rapidly changing. In 2012, a report by CME to the Energy Users Association of Australia showed that household electricity prices have risen by more than 40 per cent since 2007, and are projected to rise by another 30 per cent by 2013–14.

For some industries, there are alternatives to a pure reliance on grid-connected supply. Brisbane-based Utilitas Limited is demonstrating that it is now viable to use safe, reliable, mature biogas (anaerobic digestion) technology in Australia to recover energy, water, nutrients and carbon from Australia’s organic waste streams.

Internationally, biogas has already emerged as a major alternative source of fuel, electricity and heat. In a recent study by Global Industry Analysts Inc it was noted that “today, biogas competes on par with petroleum-based fuels in terms of performance, cost and other additional benefits such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions.” Although Europe is currently the dominant player in terms of biogas production, the Asia-Pacific market for biogas plants is displaying strong appetite for growth, and countries like Japan, New Zealand and the United States are also catching up fast.

Here in Australia, Utilitas is seeing increasing demand for biomethane potential testing, feasibility analysis, approvals, connection arrangements and the design and construction of biogas plants, coming from a broad spectrum of owners of organic wastes.

According to the Clean Energy Council, there are currently 29 biogas projects – more than 100 kilowatts equivalent (kWe) – in agriculture/food processing and wastewater treatment (WWT), providing installed capacity of approximately 49 megawatts equivalent (MWe). At least two of the biogas plants in WWT in Australia use co-substrate digestion, using a mixture of wastes, to optimise plant health, produce higher gas yields and earn additional revenues from gate fees.

Biogas technology has been proven in both an international and national context, however, up until now, plants have not been built in Australia with a focus on achieving an internationally competitive levelised-cost-of-energy.

Politically, waste-to-energy has been a tad ‘on the nose’ in Australia with a couple of high-profile failures in biomass combustion/pyrolysis, which seems to have tainted the whole market.

As a renewable energy source, biogas is also often overlooked, with analysis tending to lump biogas in the broader category of biomass, or subsume it within data about the extraction of landfill biogas. Occasionally, biogas from sewage gas will be identified separately, but rarely is there an in-depth analysis of the full spectrum of the biogas opportunity in Australia. To make the biogas market opportunity story even more difficult, a large percentage of reports into the waste industry in Australia are considered unreliable.

Notwithstanding this, in 2011, a report by Zero Waste Australia indicated that Australia produces approximately 20 million tonnes of organic waste per year from domestic and industrial sources. Table 1 shows estimations of manure volumes, biomethane potential and electrical generation potential, which is based on data from just four sources of agricultural wastes.

If all of this organic waste (domestic, industrial and agricultural) was treated in biogas plants, there is potential for in the order of 650 MWe of installed electrical capacity, enough to power almost 1 million Australian homes.

In addition to the issues previously mentioned, the lack of supporting services has been another barrier to the development of the biogas industry in Australia. To help overcome this, Utilitas has established Australia’s first specialist commercial biomethane potential testing facilities at its headquarters in Brisbane Technology Park, using an automated biomethane potential testing unit to enable accurate modelling of the energy potential of waste streams, amongst other modelling.

A further impediment to biogas deployment has been the fact that negotiating network connection arrangements with distribution network service providers is currently both time-consuming and costly. The ‘sweet spot’ for biogas plants is typically between 200 kWe–3 MWe, and unfortunately, this scale of generation seems to fall into a ‘no-man’s land’ where they are considered by network service providers as large-scale generation, but clearly are tiny in comparison to a large power station or other facility, for which the providers’ processes and procedures seem to have been developed.

There is an urgent need to streamline connection process to enable the deployment of this scale of distributed generation from biogas projects. A comparable streamlined connection and approval process for this type and scale of generation was successfully implemented by the Ontario Power Authority in Canada as part of its Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program, catering for projects with an installed generating capacity of up to 10 MW.

There is also a critical need for the nascent biogas market in Australia to move early to earn the community’s ‘right to operate’. Other renewable energy developers have been surprised at the community outrage they have experienced. Although biogas technologies are mature, well-proven and widely-deployed as mainstream community infrastructure in other parts of the world, there is a need to move early to help the community understand the role they can play in making the most of this resource.

There is also a need to expand on this analysis, to more deeply quantify the biogas market’s potential in Australia and to comprehensively address its constraints. Surely, as Australia moves from being a low energy-cost economy to a high-energy-cost economy, it is time to stop wasting our organic waste.

Fiona Waterhouse is the Chief Executive of Utilitas Limited, a company that provides biomethane potential testing, approvals processes, negotiation of grid connections and project financing for biogas projects. The company’s current focus is to demonstrate that biogas plants can now be deployed at internationally-competitive levelised-cost-of-energy. It has provided services to 20 projects in Australia, including for feasibility and concept design and for construction contracts. In 2013, Utilitas led development of a Carbon Farming Initiative method for destruction of methane from piggeries using engineered biodigesters, approved in January 2013.


Put Your Money On it. Gambling on the Lives of Hundreds of Thousands

Posted by Ken on June 7, 2013
Posted under Express 192

A monumental event occurred last month, though with nary a ripple across the world of commerce. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has hit 400 parts-per-million, a level not seen since three million years ago. Yet, it’s business as usual, with no actions to stop levels from rising further from businesses and the market. This nonchalance was addressed by the book ‘The Burning Question’ by Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark, where they pointed out the non-action of the market is akin to gambling on the lives of hundreds of thousands. Read more

The Burning Question by Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark – review

Peter Forbes on a book showing how the City has already factored burning all available fossil fuels into share prices

By Peter Forbes for The Guardian (31 May 2013):

Humankind cannot bear very much reality but climate change will not go away: 400 parts-per-million, Prince Charles on the warpath, and here is the most succinct exposition of the great dilemma for some time. Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark are honest about our reluctance to face up to the challenge: “If you wanted to invent a problem to induce confusion, disbelief and the turning of blind eyes, it would be hard to come up with something better than climate change.”

It is this cussed nature of the climate-change conundrum that has led, in the last three and a half years since the failed Copenhagen climate summit, to the triumph of the rightwing lobbies over the scientists, environmentalists and concerned citizens. Effective political action to mitigate climate change has ceased and, as Berners-Lee and Clark point out, carbon dioxide emissions are building up at an exponential rate (compound interest, in the vernacular).

Beyond its raw facts about emissions, this book’s great contribution to the debate is to point out that the markets are gambling trillions of dollars on a bet that governments will never seriously curb carbon emissions. How do they know this? Because to address climate change would mean leaving most of the remaining fossil carbon in the earth. But that would entail the future value of the fossil-fuel energy companies falling to a fraction of their present valuation: current share prices declare that no climate mitigation will happen. However, sudden action may be forced on governments by a period of catastrophic climate damage and food shortages. This would cause a global collapse of the energy industry greater than the crash of 2007-08. Something will have to give. If the markets are playing their usual game – we know a bubble will burst but that’s OK because we’ll get out in time – they are gambling with the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and the livelihoods of billions.

The second vital contribution to the argument is the revelation that so far the switch to renewables has had no effect on global carbon emissions, which are increasing by about 3% a year. New technologies have often not supplanted the old but simply added to the mix: the appetite of the world’s population for burning energy, including carbon energy, is insatiable.

Berners-Lee and Clark (and also Bill McKibben in a lucid foreword) explain the maths with stark clarity. Because carbon stays in the atmosphere for a long time what matters now is the total we can safely burn. To come within the agreed 2C rise we can add around 565 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050. But using established reserves of fossil fuels would add 2,795 gigatonnes and the City is betting on all of that being burned. At the present rate we’ll hit 565 gigatonnes in a mere 16 years. After which, if we are serious, we will have to stop emitting carbon altogether. Obviously, this is not going to happen, but what is? If nothing is done, there is expected to be a 4-6C rise in average global temperature, wreaking havoc.

The Burning Question is eloquent on the trade-offs between economics and ecology, and especially wise on the psychology that has most of the world paralysed. The authors quote JK Galbraith: “Faced with the choice of changing one’s mind and with proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” When of course what everyone should be busy on are the solutions to the problem. As Prof David McKay, chief scientific adviser at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, has said: “You need almost everything and you need it very fast – right now.” Berners-Lee and Clark almost endorse nuclear power (why is the French example of decarbonising 80% of their electricity generation by means of nuclear power in the 1980s accorded so little attention and respect?) and they have sensible ideas about agriculture and deforestation, neglected but important sources of carbon dioxide. Above all, they advocate carbon capture and storage, which, as they say, is a way of making the oil, gas and coal industries “part of the solution” by exploiting their vast knowledge of piping large quantities of stuff around the world.

Carbon capture is not merely a way of snatching the carbon dioxide from the air and burying it. It could be a major source of the fuel we need. By focusing on clean energy sources such as solar, wind and wave power, it is sometimes assumed that carbon-free electricity is the whole solution. But planes are never going to run on electricity; nor are heavy agricultural and mining equipment ever likely to; and biomass is needed as feedstock on a huge scale for the chemicals industry, especially bulk plastics.

All our biomass, whether fresh-grown or fossil, comes from one process: natural photosynthesis whereby complex organics are created by splitting water and carbon dioxide using sunlight. The mechanism of this fabulously complex feat of photochemistry is gradually being unravelled. The holy grail is to replicate this industrially and economically to bypass natural photosynthesis, leaving that for food production. Surely, this process, which is already feasible on a pilot scale, warrants an international moonshot or Human Genome Project approach? Momentum is building to consider global artificial photosynthesis as “the moral culmination of nanotechnology”.

Meanwhile, we have the fossil-fuel lobby: a modern version of the Catholic church refusing to admit the evidence of Galileo’s telescope. The church apologised 367 years later. The lobbyists for the dirty black stuff are just as wrong and will be proved to be so. But any (at present, most unlikely) apology from them is going to be too late for us all.

There have been many books on this issue but The Burning Question lives up to the urgency of its title. Clearly set out, steely with the numbers but fair and humane in its assessments of human strengths and weaknesses, it is a book to reignite the debate.

• Peter Forbes’s Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage is published by Yale


Profile: HRH Prince Charles

Posted by Ken on June 7, 2013
Posted under Express 192

“Global Sustainability” is the theme of a new film being promoted by Prince Charles , who says we must deal with growing set of alarming problems  – like the “threat multiplier” of climate change – and “without a resilient approach to business and economics, I am afraid we run the risk of bequeathing those who follow us something far worse”. Read More

Prince Charles writes for Huffington Post on ‘Introducing ‘Global Sustainability”

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has today posted an entry to the Huffington Post blogs about ’Global Sustainability’. On his blog, the Prince also has a series of other posts which are centred around His Royal Highness’s life-long passion and interest in conservation and working to improve global sustainability.

The Prince of Wales’s latest post today explains how, “There is a growing set of alarming problems which, if not addressed with real urgency, will severely affect nature’s capacity to keep her life support systems running and thus guarantee the well-being of billions of people around the world.”

The Huffington Post is a news website and also blogging platform which many well-known figures take to to explain things how they see them.

In his latest article, the Prince says also, “If we are to guarantee the well-being of our grandchildren and their grandchildren, then genuine sustainability has to become embedded in the DNA of business and government.”

A film is also included on the post, however it requires a password to view it. The Prince says, “As this film shows, without a resilient approach to business and economics, I am afraid we run the risk of bequeathing those who follow us something far worse.”

Clarence House have not commented on nor tweeted themselves, the latest article.

‘Global Sustainability’

By HRH Prince Charles in Huffington Post (3 June 2013):

I have long been deeply concerned about the effect our modern, highly industrialised approach is having on nature’s capacity to sustain life on Earth. There is a growing set of alarming problems which, if not addressed with real urgency, will severely affect nature’s capacity to keep her life support systems running and thus guarantee the well-being of billions of people around the world.

It is worth bearing in mind that bodies like the UN have produced countless reports showing the damage we have so far been responsible for. In the last half century alone, not only have we depleted over a third of the world’s farmable soil, we have so intensified the way we produce food we are now using far more water than we did, even though there is less fresh water available.

In that same 50 years we have also burned down over a third of the world’s tropical rainforests and are still doing so – despite the fact that they are actually the lungs of the world. An area the size of a football pitch goes up in smoke every four seconds – that’s over 26,000 football pitches a day! As a result, we have destroyed more than 80,000 species on which, did we but know it, we depend for our long term health and welfare. Everything is interconnected.

Thus, because these forests produce billions of tonnes of rainwater every day, we now risk big consequences for our ability to grow all the food we will need to feed what will soon be a global population of nine billion people. And all of these problems are being compounded by climate change, an effect the experts ominously call “a threat multiplier.” For many years I have sought to highlight that this all adds up to something far more than an “environmental crisis.” We are fast engineering a global economic crisis.

This film demonstrates the work of those initiatives I have set up through which I aim to bring together leaders of organizations and government and those from the corporate world to share their knowledge and forge practical solutions. They range from trying to establish more sustainable fisheries and better ways of managing farming within tropical forests, to the creation of more sustainable approaches to food production and more local forms of food distribution, not to mention clever financial mechanisms that enable global corporations to do things differently for the good of the Earth and for their profits. This is the work of my International Sustainability Unit and of the British Asian Trust.

The film also profiles the Cambridge Programme for Sustainable Leadership, of which I have been patron for 20 years, and the work of a project I established in 2004, called Accounting for Sustainability. This works with the corporate world and within government to ensure we are not battling to meet the challenges of the 21st Century with the decision-making techniques and corporate reporting systems of the 20th Century. If we are to guarantee the well-being of our grandchildren and their grandchildren, then genuine sustainability has to become embedded in the DNA of business and government. As this film shows, without a resilient approach to business and economics, I am afraid we run the risk of bequeathing those who follow us something far worse.

Not Space Junk but Space for Sustainability

Posted by Ken on June 7, 2013
Posted under Express 192

NASA is well known for its technological marvels – capable of putting men on the moon and a robot rovers on Mars. Many of technologies have found way to everyday use, from memory foam now used in pillows to freeze-dried food. Especially of interest now, are the technologies that can be applied to improve building performance and energy efficiency. NASA shows the way. Read more

NASA’s Sustainability Base Opens, LEED-Platinum News (3 June 2013):

NASA’s “Sustainability Base” is open for business, setting the bar for green federal buildings by exceeding LEED-Platinum and making use of the same closed loop processes used in space travel.

Designed by pre-eminent green architect Bill McDonough, known for cradle-to-cradle solutions, the new building is designed to showcase NASA’s culture of innovation by adapting many of its technologies to building performance.

In addition to being a great place to work, the building is a test bed for how NASA’s technologies can be applied to improve building performance in general.

The 50,000 square-foot, 2-story building is at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “It is unlike any building ever created,” they say. Using NASA innovations originally engineered for space travel and exploration, the lunar-shaped Sustainability Base is simultaneously a working office space, a showcase for NASA technology and an evolving exemplar for the future of buildings.”

Oriented to take advantage of the sun’s arc and prevailing winds from San Francisco Bay, the building is highly intelligent – it optimizes performance automatically in real time in response to changes in sunlight, temperature, wind, and occupancy.

That intelligence comes from the use of NASA technologies, originally developed for its Aviation Safety Program. The building has many zones with sensors that send real-time data to a central controller about the building’s environment. The software the “considers” an optimal strategy given multiple performance goals and constraints.

It takes all these factors into account: weather forecasts, predicted heat load from the sun, estimates of body and laptop temperatures and even occupants’ calendars to predict density numbers at meetings. With this information, the central controller predicts internal temperatures, and adjusts the heating and cooling systems for maximum comfort.

Designed to be “native to place,” it has outdoor workspaces,  views of nature, natural shading and daylighting and fresh air. The interior is made from non-toxic, recycled materials, such as reclaimed white oak flooring that comes from an old wind tunnel nearby.

A combination of solar PV (85 kilowatt array from SunPower), a small wind turbine, geothermal and a Bloom Energy fuel cell provides the energy on-site. It uses just 10% of the water of comparable conventional buildings because of a super efficient graywater recycling system, derived from one originally designed for the International Space Station.

At only 54-feet wide, daylight can reach into the center of the building; artificial light is necessary just 40 days a year. By wrapping the building in an exoskeleton, that light is glare-free and shaded with lots of airflow. It also makes the building extremely stable – important in this earthquake-prone area – without the use of columns in the floor plan.

In addition to xeroscaping with native California plants, bioswales filter pollution and prevent rainwater runoff. regulate the building’s temperature.

“Once we’ve demonstrated the performance of the technology, I want to work with private-sector vendors,” to bring it to the marketplace, says Steve Zornetzer, associate director of NASA’s Ames Research Center. Referring to the forward-osmosis water-filtration gray water system, he says, “We’ll license the technology to them. We can really bring advanced technology to the built environment and make a difference.”


Indonesia Sees Redd: Cutting deforestation & cutting emissions

Posted by Ken on June 7, 2013
Posted under Express 192

Deforestation in Indonesia has caused great devastation to its natural landscape, with 20% of its forest area lost between 1990 and 2010. A glint of hope comes in the form of the world’s largest REDD+ project at Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve in Borneo, which will reduce emissions by 119 million tonnes over 30 years. Another hopeful sign is the pledge by Asia Pulp and Paper to stop cutting down natural forests, bowing to pressure from Greenpeace, among others. Read more

World’s largest REDD+ project approved in Indonesia

Rimba Raya project should save 119 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent over 30 years

By BusinessGreen staff (3 June 2013):

The world’s largest REDD+ project has finally been given the go-ahead by the Indonesian government after spending three years in limbo.

The project at Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve in Borneo was approved by the Ministry of Forestry last week and is now set to reduce total emissions by 119 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent over 30 years.

The 64,000 hectare site will generate carbon credits from preserving the carbon-rich tropical peat swamp and forest in the face of development pressure from palm oil plantations. Under the REDD+ scheme the credits can be purchased by companies seeking to reduce their emissions through the voluntary carbon market.

Supporters of the scheme say the revenues from carbon credits will go towards preserving critical orangutan habitat, which is faces severe threats from deforestation and changes in land use.

The project had been left in limbo for over three years as a result of a long-running assessment programme, but the eventual approval of the Ministry of Forests was hailed as a victory by conservationists.

“Rimba Raya will be one of the most important orangutan conservation projects in the world,” said Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas of conservation group, Orangutan Foundation International, which is a beneficiary of the project. “It is nothing less than the promise of survival for the endangered orangutan.”

REDD+ projects have been criticised in some quarters as companies could in theory log areas of forest, but compensate for the emissions by planting trees elsewhere. Questions have also been asked over project developers’ ability to accurately measuring the amount of carbon stored in forests and soils – as well model what might have happened had the project not existed.

Wider reforms to the REDD+ scheme are continuing as part of international climate talks with diplomats hopeful that a market mechanism could be established that will give developing countries a financial incentive to leave forests standing.



Battling Deforestation In Indonesia, One Firm At A Time

by ANTHONY KUHN for NPR (31 May 2013):

On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, a backhoe stacks freshly cut trees to be made into pulp and paper. Asia Pulp and Paper, or APP, is Indonesia’s largest papermaker, and the company and its suppliers operate vast plantations of acacia trees here that have transformed the local landscape.

APP has sold billions of dollars’ worth of paper products to Staples, Disney and other big U.S. corporations. But environmental groups have accused APP of causing deforestation, destroying the habitat of Sumatran tigers and orangutans, and trampling on the rights of forest dwellers.

Asril Amran is the head of a nearby village. He says that the plantations have ruined the local environment.

“In the past we could go into the forest and catch deer. We could look for birds,” he recalls. “But now, there is nothing, as you can see. No animal can live in the acacia forest. We cannot shelter in its shade. It’s hot. It’s a greedy tree — it uses up a lot of water.”

The Rainforest Action Network says that APP has turned an area of rain forests the size of Massachusetts into pulpwood plantations. It estimates that by cutting down forests and burning peat land, APP spewed the equivalent of 67 million to 86 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2006. That would rank APP’s emissions ahead of 165 countries, as measured by those countries’ emissions as measured in 2006.

Two years ago, the environmental group Greenpeace began targeting APP’s biggest customers.

They protested at the Los Angeles headquarters of Mattel, makers of the Barbie doll. In this campaign video, Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken, learns that Barbie’s packaging is causing deforestation.

In response, Ken dumps her. Barbie sits on her couch in a huff, wearing her Day-Glo spandex.

“I’m Barbie,” she says. “As long as I look good, who cares about tigers in some distant rain forest? If Mattel wants to use wood from Indonesia’s rain forests to make my box, then let them do it.”

The campaign and others like it worked. Companies stopped buying APP’s products, and APP’s profits plummeted.

APP felt the criticism was unfair. After all, they said, they were building schools and conservation programs for local communities.

APP Managing Director for Sustainability Aida Greenbury says her company and the NGOs that were criticizing it were just not talking on the same wavelength.

“We addressed climate change by trying to implement sustainable practice in our forestry, so we have tried our best to address those. But there’s always something missing, as if we were talking on two different frequencies.”

So the company turned to Scott Poynton, a lanky Australian who runs the Tropical Forest Trust.

Poynton told them bluntly that if they kept cutting down virgin forests, no amount of “greenwashing” was going to help them.

“I was just like: You guys are not listening. Your whole business is going down the drain; you’ve got customers leaving you every two seconds; you think you’re doing a good job; and you’ve missed the point,” he says.

Corporate Targets

Greenpeace and Poynton’s good cop/bad cop tactics worked. In February, APP’s chairman announced that his company would stop cutting down natural forests.

Poynton says that APP’s managers just needed help in seeing that their business model was outdated.

“The context in which they’re operating has changed, and with the questions of climate change, cutting down forests is not cool,” Poynton says. “And people don’t want deforestation in their products.”

Environmentalists say the APP case shows the importance of big corporations in driving deforestation, and stopping it.

“Sure, consumers want stuff, they use stuff. But the corporations are the ones that determine often, or try to influence what you perceive that you need, and what you perceive are the things that you want to buy,” says Lafcadio Cortesi, an activist with the Rainforest Action Network. “And so that’s one of the reasons that we focus on large corporate consumers rather than individuals.”

Greenpeace Indonesia activist Yuyun Indradi welcomes APP’s new policy. But he says that if APP goes back on its pledge, Greenpeace will restart its campaign. He adds that APP is only the first step in a bigger fight against deforestation.

“Our target is zero deforestation in Indonesia by 2015,” Indradi says. “Yes, I think it’s quite ambitious. But APP’s pledge helps to lighten our burden in reaching that goal.”

He says Greenpeace is now trying to persuade other papermakers to follow APP’s example.

A Sustainable Living Business Plan from Unilever

Posted by Ken on June 7, 2013
Posted under Express 192

Business and sustainability can be very good for each other. That is the message CEO of Unilever Paul Polman hopes to get across. Committing itself to its Sustainable Living Plan, it promises to cut its environmental footprint in half and sourcing agricultural products that don’t degrade the planet by 2020. Shares of the company have soared – up by 75% under Polman’s watch. Read more

Unilever’s CEO has a green thumb

By Marc Gunther for Fortune Magazine (23 May 2013):

Paul Polman calls himself a “hard-core capitalist.” Sometimes you have to wonder. The day he became the chief executive of Unilever in 2009, Polman said the consumer products giant would stop providing earnings guidance and quarterly profit reports. “I figured that the day they hired me, they can’t fire me,” he says, “so that was probably the best moment to do that.”

The stock fell and analysts grumbled. Not long after came word from the CEO that Unilever, whose brands include Dove, Lipton, Hellmann’s, and Ben & Jerry’s, was determined to tackle big social and environmental problems like climate change, disease, and poverty. “If you buy into this long-term value model, which is equitable, which is shared, which is sustainable, then come and invest with us,” Polman told investors. “If you don’t buy into this, I respect you as a human being, but don’t put your money in our company.” Shareholder return, he insists, cannot and will not trump nobler aims. “Our purpose is to have a sustainable business model that is put at the service of the greater good,” he says. “It is as simple as that.”

This sounds like the boilerplate that fills corporate-responsibility reports, but Unilever, which has headquarters in London and Rotterdam, the Netherlands, has gone beyond big U.S. companies like GE, IBM, and Wal-Mart by putting sustainability at the core of its business. In a 2010 manifesto called the Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever promised to double its sales even as it cuts its environmental footprint in half and sources all its agricultural products in ways that don’t degrade the earth by 2020. The company also promised to improve the well-being of 1 billion people by, for example, persuading them to wash their hands or brush their teeth, or by selling them foods with less salt or fat. “The essence of the plan,” Polman tells Fortune, “is to put society and the challenges facing society smack in the middle of the business.”

A tall, 56-year-old Dutchman, Polman talks about climate change, biodiversity, deforestation, and the UN Millennium Development Goals to anyone who will listen. “We live in a world where temperatures are rising, natural resources are being depleted, species loss is accelerating, and the gap between rich and poor is increasing,” he says. “This is completely unsustainable.” It isn’t the kind of thing you expect to hear from a guy who makes his living selling soup, shampoo, and laundry soap. Predictably, Polman has become a darling of NGOs and academics who believe that the corporate world needs change.

At a company-sponsored event to mark Global Handwashing Day — Oct. 15, if you missed it — Jeffrey Sachs, the director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, declared that Unilever is a “great company, and it’s led by a visionary CEO.” And guess what? Polman has done very well for investors too. In a sluggish global economy, revenues were up by 10.5% in 2012, to $68 billion, and earnings grew by 5.5%. Since Polman took over as CEO four years ago, Unilever has increased its sales by 30% and trounced its biggest rival, Procter & Gamble, particularly in emerging markets, where Unilever has deep roots. Last year Unilever generated about 55% of its revenues from the developing world. “The company is growing again after years of decline,” Polman says. Unilever’s stock recently touched its all-time high; it has grown by about 75% on Polman’s watch, while P&G shares are up by 35% in that span.

Whether Unilever’s do-good agenda has driven its financial success is hard to know. Polman says the two are inseparable.

“Sustainable solutions — it drives our top line, it drives costs out, it motivates our employees, it links us with retailers,” he says.

The global hand-washing campaign, for instance, which is backed by the UN and health ministers in Africa and Asia, lifts sales of Lifebuoy soap, while a “brush day and night” campaign helps Pepsodent and Signal, Unilever’s tooth-care brands. Socially responsible marketing around beauty and self-esteem for women helped Dove become Unilever’s bestselling brand in the U.S.

“This idea of conscious consumption is definitely moving up the ladder,” Polman says.

The search for sustainable solutions drives innovation too. Unilever researchers are working to develop a laundry detergent that can clean clothes in a few minutes at any water temperature. More broadly, Polman says, the company’s sustainability plan has galvanized employees and made Unilever a more desirable place to work. On LinkedIn, Unilever is one of the five most-searched-for employers, behind Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook. That’s not bad for a company that traces the Dutch side of its lineage back to a family butter-making business in 1801.

People at Unilever like to say that doing good is in the company’s DNA, and they took me to Port Sunlight, a tidy little suburb on the banks of the River Mersey, near Liverpool, to underscore the point. Port Sunlight is where Unilever’s British antecedents took root: William Hesketh Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers, built a factory here to make Lifebuoy soap to combat cholera in Victorian England. He, too, promoted the health benefits of hand washing.

The paternalistic Lever was an early advocate of profit sharing — he called it “prosperity sharing” — but he didn’t want to share his wealth directly with his workers. “It would not do you much good if you send it down your throats in the form of bottles of whisky, bags of sweets, or fat geese at Christmas,” he once said. “On the other hand, if you leave the money with me, I shall use it to provide for you everything that makes life pleasant — nice houses, comfortable homes, and healthy recreation.” Lever built a model village for his factory workers at Port Sunlight that included flower gardens, a church, a school, a library, a swimming pool, and more than 800 houses that are desirable dwellings yet today. It’s a lovely place, even on a chilly, rainy winter day.

Unilever still operates a soap factory there employing about 700 people; another 800 work at a research and development laboratory on the site. Polman, who visited Port Sunlight as soon as he became CEO, says that Lever’s values remain “firmly embedded into the fabric of the business,” although, he notes wryly, the company founder “never made money.”

Polman himself didn’t intend to become a businessman. One of six children of a tire company worker in Amsterdam, he went to school in a Carmelite seminary and hoped to become a priest or a doctor. But when those paths were blocked — there wasn’t enough demand for priests, and admissions to medical school were limited — he went to the U.S. in 1979, intending to find a job at B.F. Goodrich in Akron, which had acquired the tire company where his father worked. Instead he landed in Cincinnati, where he pursued an MBA at the University of Cincinnati and worked nights as a maintenance man for P&G. He eventually landed a position in finance and stayed for 26 years, working in finance and marketing.

His interest in sustainability grew gradually. An early P&G assignment to a Belgian detergent factory showed him the value of taking waste out of manufacturing. As president of global fabric care at P&G in the early 2000s, he talked about the business opportunities created by “poverty, disease, nutrition, the quality of women’s lives.”

Unilever was floundering when Polman came aboard as an executive director in 2008. Revenues had been flat, or worse, for a decade. The company had been through cost cutting, restructuring, asset sales, and acquisitions that turned people inward and left them “a little bit far removed from consumers,” he says. A focus on sustainability, he decided, would force the businesses to connect with consumers and their needs, particularly in emerging markets. In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, he felt, companies needed to step up and show they could help solve big problems. “Too many businesses, unfortunately, are just bystanders,” Polman says.

Not Unilever. The company pokes its nose into everyone’s business. It’s asking its customers to use less water. It wants to reduce the sugar in its ready-to-drink teas and remove calories from ice cream. It’s telling the farmers who supply it with palm oil, soybeans, tea, cocoa, and tomatoes to get their crops certified as sustainable, or else take their business elsewhere. The chickens that lay the eggs that go into Hellmann’s mayonnaise or Ben & Jerry’s ice cream henceforth must be cage free.

No other company has a sustainability program as wide and deep. Unilever’s plan includes 60 targets, with timetables, such as sourcing “75% of the paper and board for our packaging from certified sustainably managed forests or recycled material” and “providing 50 million households in water-scarce countries with products that deliver excellent cleaning but use less water.”

The thinking is that the sourcing of raw materials and the use of its products by consumers represent the bulk of Unilever’s social and environmental footprint, so the company and its 170,000 employees have to figure out how to change the behaviour of suppliers and customers. Certainly the opportunity is there — the company’s products are used more than 2 billion times a day.

Polman’s sustainability plan tied together existing efforts and set big goals. Some of the payoffs were immediate. Reducing packaging saves the company money: The Vaseline Petroleum Jelly jar uses 3% less plastic than it used to, saving 113 tons of resin a year as well as energy costs in its production. Eliminating waste is another winner: In the U.S., 10 of the company’s factories now send no waste to landfills. Unilever operates in more than 190 countries and runs up big travel expenses; now its offices in 54 of those countries are equipped with videoconferencing facilities. A program called “Agile Workplace” enables people to work at home, which reduces the company’s real estate needs.

Other efforts will take longer to bear fruit. Unilever’s sustainable sourcing program is intended to ensure that the company will have access to affordable raw materials for as long as it needs them. The company buys 6% of the world’s tomatoes and 5% of the world’s onions, mostly for Knorr soups and Ragu sauces. By the end of 2012, about 36% of the company’s agricultural raw materials were sustainably sourced, up from 14% in 2010. That means they are being farmed in a way that doesn’t deplete the soil, overuse water, or harm biodiversity. “We’re future-proofing the business,” explains Gail Klintworth, the company’s chief sustainability officer, who formerly ran its South African operations. Unilever also hopes that consumers will care.

Increasingly Lipton highlights the fact that its tea comes from plantations certified by the nonprofit Rainforest Alliance, while Ben & Jerry’s touts its fair-trade bona fides and has run a “Caring Dairy” program that seeks to establish dairy standards that “better balance the needs of man, cow, milk, and earth.”

It’s harder to fathom the business case behind Unilever’s efforts to change consumer behavior — which are extensive. The company has run a cheeky online ad campaign for the Axe brand of grooming products that urges young men to save water by showering with a friend or “an attractive stranger.” Suave, an affordable beauty brand, ran a campaign called “Turn Off the Tap” informing people that if they turn off the shower while applying shampoo and conditioner, they would save water and energy costs. Dove and Suave have also launched dry shampoos that save even more water.

Polman’s willingness to go beyond business as usual is best exemplified by a product called Pureit, a water purifier for the home aimed at the world’s poor, many of whom lack access to safe drinking water. (The World Health Organization estimates that waterborne diseases kill about 1.8 million people a year.) Manufactured in India, Pureit sells for just $40 and removes bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other pollutants from water. So far, Unilever has sold about 10 million units, mostly in India, and the product is being rolled out elsewhere in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Says Polman: “We want to make it a billion euro business.”

The trouble is, Pureit makes no money for Unilever, and at best is expected to break even as it grows. Investors may gripe that it dilutes the company’s margins, but Polman is undeterred. “I don’t look at it as a P&L. I look at it as creating societies that function,” he says. “As long as my total business works, I’m not accountable for every SKU.”

Right now, investors are giving Polman plenty of leeway because the business is working very well. Last year, despite rising commodity prices, budget crises in southern Europe, and slowing growth in emerging markets like China, India, and Brazil, Unilever posted record revenues and profits. Its sales grew in every region even as it reduced costs. “This is a company that in its entirety is starting to deliver consistent top-line growth, above the market, and consistent margin expansion,” Polman told financial analysts on a recent earnings call.

Polman is fully aware that “the moment Unilever underperforms, the guns will come out,” as he puts it. He understands that he risks being ridiculed as a soap salesman trying to save the world. But there’s no arguing with his results so far — maybe he is a hard-core capitalist after all.

This story is from the June 10, 2013 issue of Fortune.


Plastic Fantastic! Printing Lightweight Solar PV Panels

Posted by Ken on June 7, 2013
Posted under Express 192

The effort to green our energy sources rests heavily upon the ability to manufacture cheap, easily made, transported and installed, and efficient photovoltaic (PV)solar panels. A breakthrough may have come from CSIRO in Australia, which has found a way to print lightweight flexible solar panels cheaply. This could open PV panels to a wider range of applications, previously impractical due to cost or physical restrictions. Read more

Printing flexible solar panels

Desley Blanch on Radio Australia (30 May 2013):

A whole new world opens up as a way is found to print lightweight solar panels using existing printing technologies

Audio: A way to print lightweight flexible solar panels cheaply

DESLEY BLANCH :  Solar panels coated onto buildings to provide power is the future now that Australian scientists have figured a method to print large but extremely lightweight solar panels onto flexible plastic.

The paper-thin and flexible solar cells which will produce 10 to 50 watts of power per square metre are now being produced in sizes equivalent to an A3 piece of paper – 10 times the size of what was previously possible thanks to a new solar cell printer that is now installed at CSIRO, Australia’s national scientific research agency.

CSIRO Materials scientist Dr Scott Watkins believes printing cells on such a large scale opens up a huge range of possibilities that include off-grid power, low-cost solar lighting and water purification in developing countries.

DR SCOTT WATKINS : What we’re developing are some organic semiconductors so these are polymers and perhaps the example that people will be most familiar with is something like polystyrene or something and the chemicals that we’re using are very similar to those in their nature but they do conduct small amounts of electricity.

And so these polymers are coated onto a surface and then are sandwiched between two electrodes and when the light hits those polymers they absorb the light and then generate the charges and that creates a voltage and that’s how the solar cell works.

DESLEY BLANCH : Having the ability to print cells on such a large scale and such a size will open up a huge range of potential applications. So what do you believe will now be possible as you talk of laminating these panels to windows of skyscrapers?

DR SCOTT WATKINS : That’s a key example in the medium term of being able to use solar panels or install them into places that we don’t currently consider. So all of the residential panels that you’ll see around the world are always angled and facing north when we’re in the southern hemisphere to capture as much sun as possible; but if solar could be cheap and easily applied to a range of surfaces, then those considerations don’t necessarily have to be primary in deciding where to put them.

So putting them onto the sides of buildings is a prime example. And I always use the example–we use curtains to keep the sun out of our houses. Why don’t we make them out of flexible solar panels and be producing some power all the time.

DESLEY BLANCH : Now in countries where villages have thatched roofs that can’t support heavier solar panels like we have in more Western countries these ultra-low cost solar cells based on plastics, well, they’re opening up another world, so in what ways do you see this happening?

DR SCOTT WATKINS : Well, in many places around the world where grid connected power is not present, things such as kerosene lamps are used to provide lighting inside the houses at night and that requires transport of the liquid fuels and then has the associated risks of fire and health problems with burning that fuel.

Providing lighting that’s powered by solar opens up the opportunity for them to do away with the kerosene lamps and as you say, they’re more compatible with structures that perhaps don’t have a rigid roof, so having these lightweight panels that you can potentially put on less rigid roofs or just leave lying around in the sun and move around more easily than you can traditional silicon panels is a real opportunity for these sort of places around the world.

DESLEY BLANCH : You see an immediate future in supplementing battery power. In what ways do you see this?

DR SCOTT WATKINS : There’s also examples in other places where you might want to use it for purifying water for example and so you could use it to charge up a battery that does power a pump, for example, to purify the water, those sort of things, integrating into a lighting battery power system and then more generally in things like cases to power electronics, and so that could be laptops or tablets or phones whereby an extra hour of battery life could be achieved just by leaving your case out in the sun, so if the solar cell is integrated into the case it’s providing supplementary charging for the device that extends the life of your portable device.

DESLEY BLANCH : I can see this on my mobile phone, on the back of it, somehow. Is that what you’ve got in mind?

DR SCOTT WATKINS : That’s an example. You just have to leave it out facing up to the sun and not in your pocket, but definitely bags and things like that we see as a real short term possibility. And increasingly we’ve got a lot of mobile devices and a need to have them connected at all different times and battery life is a key limitation for mobile devices. So any little extra power that we can get is a benefit.

DESLEY BLANCH :  Now this research is being carried out by the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium and your partners in this are the University of Melbourne and Monash University here in Melbourne. And the reason you can now print these flexible solar panels is you’ve acquired a printer and you’ve got it located at CSIRO. Now the beauty of this machine is it’s based more along the lines of a traditional printer, which gives just about anyone, I guess, access to your technology. So tell us how you see this future when we can do our printing of our own solar cells or whatever.

DR SCOTT WATKINS : Yeah. A large part of what we’re doing and the collaboration that you mentioned is really, really important with the university partners that we’ve got there. But it’s about trying to lower the barrier to entry to manufacturing. So at the moment to produce silicone solar panels you have to spend up to a billion dollars to set up a plant but by using traditional established printing technologies and printers that are industry standard in many ways, it lowers the cost to entry or it even opens up the opportunity for existing manufacturers to expand their product line and produce printed electronic devices.

So what we and collaborators we have at the University of Melbourne and Monash University have been doing is trying to develop the process as far down the track towards commercialisation as we can so that we can demonstrate the process on equipment that companies and people are familiar with; they see them, they recognise them. So things like screen printing that you’d make T-shirts from, we’re actually using screen printing to put down the top electrodes on these devices. So it’s using these established printing techniques to lower the barrier to entry to manufacturing to make it as accessible as possible.

DESLEY BLANCH : So how did you rework standard printers so it might print a solar cell?

DR SCOTT WATKINS : Well, there’s a huge range of little tweaks and modifications that we’ve had to do. We have to control how well the ink goes down. The inks that we have are different from what might be used for T-shirts or for paper, for example so we’ve had to tune their properties, change how we heat them, how we dry them, how they get rolled back up, how we pattern the things down onto the electrodes. So there’ve been many, many things.

And my colleagues through the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium have done a huge amount of work in developing all these little tweaks to be able to translate what we initially do on solar cells about the size of a fingernail. So up until two years ago, that was as big as we were making and now to translate that process up to A3 size has been a huge effort from a lot of people and it’s been a very exciting process to go through but the knowhow that we’ve developed is really valuable and we are now really looking to translate that to someone who can turn these into products.

DESLEY BLANCH : Commercialise time!


DESLEY BLANCH : Now, do you actually print onto plastics or are you sticking them onto plastics?

DR SCOTT WATKINS : No, we just start with plastics, so we buy in a plastic that’s made from PET, so the same as what’s in soft drink bottles and it’s by the roll and it has an electrode, a transparent electrode coated onto it and then we coat down three or four layers of materials on the top of that by a couple of different printing techniques, so really starting from plastic and building the device up from there.

DESLEY BLANCH : Will it be possible to print straight onto some kinds of building material, say roofing?

DR SCOTT WATKINS : Yeah, well, in our consortium Blue Scope Steel is a very big partner in our consortium and they have obviously a dominant position in the roofing market in Australia. They have been helping us to develop the techniques to be able to apply them directly to steel and that remains a key goal. Glass as well is obviously a very good sub-strate for doing these sorts of things and coating directly onto the building materials presents an opportunity to integrate the solar cell directly into the building, rather than sticking them on the roof or attaching them or mounting them onto the roof.

DESLEY BLANCH : So how do you get the power from the solar cell to the device that needs that power? How does that work, do you need wires for that?

DR SCOTT WATKINS : Yeah, but we can print the wires.

DESLEY BLANCH : Of course.

DR SCOTT WATKINS : (laughs) That’s actually probably the easiest part of the whole process. We have the cells and they end up with two electrodes and when you connect them up you get DC power out of that. And as with traditional solar cells, if you want AC power you pass them through an inverter to create that AC power.

But you can also tune the voltage and current that you get out of these solar cells by varying the pattern of the electrode that we print on top. So if there is a specific application that needs a higher voltage or a higher current, for example, we can tune the properties of the solar cells just by printing it in a slightly different way to match the output of the solar cell to the application.

DESLEY BLANCH : You mention PET  but how available is the plastic that you’re using to construct these solar cells? Is it readily available to you?

DR SCOTT WATKINS : Well at the moment the sources of that PET are the same as what goes into drink bottles and essentially, the amount of material we’re putting onto the top of it is of the order of the label that goes onto soft drink bottles, for example, so we’re not introducing much in the way of contamination.

So in the same way that drink bottles can be recycled our solar cells could be recycled in that same way too. None of the materials we’re using are toxic or dangerous or need to be handled in any special way.

DESLEY BLANCH : And how much power output will this technology produce?

DR SCOTT WATKINS : In the lab right now, on our very small scale devices, so back on the finger nail size, we’re getting closer to more like 80 watts per square metre. So what the project really now is moving about is translating that sort of efficiency across to the larger area. And in the short term to medium term the numbers that we’ve been saying in that sort of 10 to 50 watt range we think we can consistently do that. But in the longer term, higher values are possible.

But it’s really about this is an opportunity for solar to be used in different ways and it’s about matching the power output that we can do to the particular application.

DESLEY BLANCH : I’m thinking about the life span of these systems where you’ve got  these materials, they’re embedded with solar cells and they’re exposed to the weather.

DR SCOTT WATKINS : Yeah, it is an issue and we won’t ever challenge silicon for absolute lifetime, a silicon panel that you’ll buy for on your roof will last you for 25 years and that will be a challenge for an organic device. But we are using very low cost materials, it’s very small amounts so the waste that you generate is low and you can recycle them as I said. And so the initial opportunities are really in those short term applications and the more we develop the technology the longer the lifetime will be. But there will still be a need to replace them or replenish them.

One example, you could just sort of imagine leaving the basic structure, the wires and the connectors there on your roof and just replacing it periodically with a new sheet in much the same way that, say, people replace the thatching in those sort of roofs. You could refresh your solar panel.

DESLEY BLANCH : So where does your organic photovoltaics  solar cells fit with these now familiar silicon crystal solar cells?

DR SCOTT WATKINS : Well, it’s complementary. It’s a big market–energy for the world and no one technology is going to dominate and no one solar technology is going to dominate.

There are opportunities for actually putting organic solar cells on top of silicon solar cells to use them in a tandem device and so that’s where the organic solar cells can do better at capturing some of the light that the silicon cell doesn’t absorb and so you can use them to increase the efficiency of the silicon cell.

But there are other advantages of the organic solar cells, for example, they do perform better under low light conditions, so early in the morning or late at night or in cloudy areas or under trees and things like that. They still will put out a fairly stable voltage whereas a crystalline silicon cell will drop off in voltage there. So it’s again about matching the solar cell, whether it’s the voltage that it delivers or the absolute power it gives to the application and complementing what’s out there with large scale silicon. It means that we’re opening up the possibility of using more solar power to do more things.

DESLEY BLANCH : Why do you call it organic?

DR SCOTT WATKINS : Well, the polymers that we’re using are mainly carbon-based, and so in the traditional sense, that, chemistry based around carbon materials is called organic chemistry, they’ve been coined organic solar cells. So yeah there aren’t too many elements in there, a little bit of sulphur and a little bit of silver on top, but it’s mainly carbon.

DESLEY BLANCH :  So what is next for the project, where to from here?

DR SCOTT WATKINS : So we’re working with a couple of partners at the moment about integrating directly into their materials and expanding the technology.

But even in the last week, the number of contacts we’ve had from new partners and new people interested in this has been very positive. And we’re really looking at some very short term applications now. We’re in deep discussions with them about just proving the technology on a manufacturing scale. So we’ve up to now, been doing things in the lab and really one or two off type things, but moving them into a scale where we can show repeat manufacture of something and look at manufacturing yields and things like that will give confidence the investors, whether they be private or government as we’ve had a lot of support from our state and federal governments so far, give them confidence that we are continuing to go down the track of producing a real product.

And this is one of the things that differentiates us from other energy technologies in that if you build a geothermal plant or something you’re only going to provide power to the grid, it’s a long term plan. But this sort of flexible solar has the potential to deliver short term benefits, short term applications on the way to those long term applications where we’re powering large areas.

DESLEY BLANCH : Dr Scott Watkins leads the Organic Photovoltaics Group at  CSIRO Future Manufacturing Flagship which is part of the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium with research partners in the University of Melbourne and Monash University.

A Little Art & Heart Goes a Long Way to a Sustainable Future

Posted by Ken on June 7, 2013
Posted under Express 192

Art has long been used as a medium to transmit messages or intent, from artists to audience, and they can be from a diverse range of topics. A climate-themed art exhibition, called Unfold, is being staged by Cape Farewell in Beijing, looking at themes and debates provoked by climate science. The Annual Festival of Art in Paso Robles, California also combined arts and sustainability, featuring a sustainable landscaping exhibit. Read more

Climate change art exhibition opens in Beijing

Exhibition, called Unfold, aims to merge culture and science to provoke climate debate in China

By Jennifer Duggan in The Guardian (25 May 2013):

With its greenhouse gas emissions continuing to soar and environmental concerns a hot topic, China is perhaps the perfect venue for a different way of looking at the issue of climate change – through art.

A climate-themed art exhibition is to open in Beijing today and will look at themes and debates provoked by climate science. The exhibition, called Unfold is being staged by not-for-profit climate change arts organisation Cape Farewell which aims to prompt what it calls a cultural response to climate change. The exhibition has travelled to a number of cities, starting in Vienna, and has also been shown in New York, London and Chicago.

It includes the work of more than 20 artists, all of whom have travelled on and been inspired by expeditions to the Arctic and the Andes. “All of the artists in the show have travelled on one of the three voyages [organised by Cape Farewell]. So they have all had direct experience of the effects of climate change in a part of the world which is probably at the frontier of change. It’s a kind of frontline where you can see quite dramatically the way the glaciers have retreated,” said Chris Wainwright co-curator of the exhibition and pro-vice chancellor of the University of the Arts London (UAL).

“What we do is we embed them [the artists] with a scientist, that’s a very important part of it. The scientist informs the artists and then the artist is being inspired to try and create something,” said David Buckland, Cape Farewell’s founder and director.

The issue of climate change and environmental issues in general are the topic of much debate in China, both among the public and in the media. “It seemed logical that we bring it to China because the issues about climate change are often focused around China,” said Wainwright. On the issue of climate change, Buckland believes China is “very engaged and very aware on a people level”.

China has become the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, burning huge amounts of coal and, for this reason, Wainwright believes it is an important venue for the exhibition. “China is seen as one of the countries that has a significant responsibility for addressing climate change, one of the countries that is one of the highest creators of CO2 emissions and it was felt that there was a need to bring the show, not just to China but to parts of the world where these issues could be addressed and discussed,” he said.

They also hope to “empower” artists and people in China to address climate change issues “not necessarily in a confrontational way but in an empowering way so that people can think about how they can positively change their lives and change the way they behave”, said Wainwright.

“It’s an incredibly big ask to try to re-frame our complex societies and I think that is very difficult for anyone to find a way through this. Can we be inspired to think differently and hopefully find solutions to what is a global problem but working locally? That is incredibly important in China,” said Buckland.

Cape Farewell looks to promote a cultural response to climate change, as a way of changing the debate. “The scientists are the messengers but it is really important that all of us take on board that climate change is a very serious event,” said Buckland. “I think the artworks themselves contain stories, narratives and that is a lovely way to talk to the wider public. At the same time it would be good to educate but it is more important for people to be excited about what we are doing and to re-frame the climate debate.”

One of the pieces included in the exhibition is an artificially grown diamond, made from the ash of a polar bear bone by artistic duo Ackroyd and Harvey. The pair found the bone on one of the expeditions organised by Cape Farewell. “We attach huge importance to the value of things like diamonds, they are the symbol of our wealth, the symbol of our status. I think the work asks the question: which is the most valuable, the polar bear or the diamond?” said Wainwright.

Another piece of note in the exhibition is an LED text display by Atonement author Ian McEwan entitled The Hot Breath of our Civilisation which was written after he took part on an exhibition to the Arctic. The expedition also inspired McEwan’s novel Solar.

• The Unfold exhibition takes place at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing from 29 May until 19 June and in AMNUA, Nanjing University, from 28 June until 20 July.



Fifth Annual Festival of Art in Paso Robles combines art and sustainability

Local art enthusiasts were in for a special treat Saturday.

It was the Fifth Annual Festival of Arts in Paso Robles.

The event was held at Paso Robles City Park.

There were several new features this year, including a new bar and lounge area, featured artists, and a sustainable landscaping exhibit.

“This is like no other art festival around, since it celebrates the environment, it celebrates the artists, and it celebrates kids, and it’s all free,” said Barbara Partridge, the event chair.

The event was free to attend, but guests could also purchase art, souvenirs, and food.

A portion of the proceeds benefit the Festival, Studios on the Park, and the Salinas River Corridor Project.


Vision Statement

The vision of the Paso Robles Festival of the Arts is to be the premier multiday arts festival in Central California honoring and preserving the natural beauty and character of the region through the arts.

Mission Statement

The Paso Robles Festival of the Arts celebrates the arts and promotes Paso Robles as an arts destination through an annual festival connecting world-class artists, the Paso Robles community, and visitors of all ages.


Salinas River Corridor Project Update

Salinas River IllustrationThe community has connected with a new vision of an enhanced river corridor where conservation, recreation and enhancements to the natural habitat are all possible ~ and the Festival’s connection to the Salinas River Corridor is still going strong.

Last year’s success story was in acquiring the 154 acre Salinas River Parkway Preserve with over $1.5 million in State grant funds. That purchase would not have been possible without the matching funds generated in previous years by the Festival of the Arts.

This year there is much progress to report! Additional land has been acquired that will make way for construction of the River Road trail connection between the Niblick and 13th Street bridges. Also, grant funds have been secured for trail and restoration enhancements that will connect Charolais Road walking trails with the River Parkway trail. And more….

Come by the Environmental Partners Area and see for yourself what projects are underway and what possibilities exist!  Remember, portions of the proceeds of the day’s events will be dedicated to the REC Foundation’s river enhancement fund.

How Smart is That? Sustainable Design and Fishy QR Codes

Posted by Ken on June 7, 2013
Posted under Express 192

A smartphone might be an irreplaceable tool for the modern man, but its manufacture of exacts a heavy toll on the environment – from mining of raw materials to factory emissions. Now the Samsung Galaxy S4, has received TCO certification – the world’s first – for sustainable design and manufacturing. Meanwhile, the mobile becomes a handy tool in promoting seafood sustainability, where consumers are able to find out more about the fish they eat by scanning a QR code. Read more

Samsung GALAXY S4 becomes world’s first TCO certified smartphone

In Tempo (26 May 2013):

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. announced recently that the Samsung GALAXY S4 is TCO Certified.

The first smartphone to be awarded such an honor. TCO Development, an independent body that focuses on sustainability in the IT industry, found the GALAXY S4 was sustainably designed and manufactured and met customer demand for sustainable mobile products.

“The demand for environmentally friendly products informed our decision making process when we were creating the GALAXY S4.

“We are delighted to be the first smartphone manufacturer to be TCO Certified as this validates our approach to sustainability,” said JK Shin, CEO & President, IT & Mobile Communications Division, Samsung Electronics.

“This is the second significant certificate the GALAXY S4 has received since its release as we were also awarded Platinum ECOLOGO certification from UL. Our customers can trust that every device we release to the market is sustainable and environmentally friendly.”

To become TCO Certified a smartphone must meet requirements across a variety of criteria including social, environmental and economic viability.

In the social category, Samsung demonstrated that it is committed to socially responsible manufacturing and is compliant with International Labour Organization and United Nation conventions.

In the environmental category, it was found that the GALAXY S4 was free from many hazardous materials such as nickel, beryllium, and mercury which, if present, would have severely restricted its potential to be recycled at the end its lifecycle.

In terms of economic viability, the power efficiency of the charger was praised, as was the smartphone’s industrial design which boosts reliability.

“TCO Certified Smartphones are designed to make it easier for smartphone buyers to choose products that have been designed with sustainability in mind. By certifying their smartphones, leading brands such as Samsung have a real opportunity to demonstrate that their products are helping advance more sustainable mobile solutions,” said Sören Enholm, CEO TCO Development.



QR codes used in edible form for sustainable sushi fish

By Jennifer Goula for  Mobile Commercial Press (25 May 2013):

Another restaurant is now using smartphone barcodes to promote sustainability in seafood.

Diners eating at an upscale San Diego restaurant called Harney Sushi will now be able to use their smartphones to scan QR codes on their dishes to learn more about the sustainability of the seafood products that have been used.

When the barcodes have been scanned, they direct users to websites where they can discover more about what they’re eating.

The QR codes lead users to the website for FishWatch at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where they will be able to discover more about the seafood that they are eating as a part of their meal, in terms of its sustainability. The owners of the restaurant, Dustin Summerville and Kirk Harrison, as well as Robert Ruiz, its executive chef, have partnered with a number of different stakeholders in fisheries, as well as with scientists from the NOAA from that agency’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. The center is located in La Jolla, California and the participants are working together to come up with a local culture and economy of seafood sustainability.

The edible version of the QR codes give consumers the chance to learn more about this effort.

Though not the first, Harney Sushi is among the original restaurants in the U.S. to use these QR codes, printed with water based, edible ink on rice paper. This is not the first time that the restaurant has made its way into the news. In 2010, this location’s executive chef Ruiz won the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival grand prize and has earned the title of “Chef of the Fest.”

This makes the QR codes only the latest effort to help to work with the community and spreading the word about the efforts that the restaurant is making to be environmentally responsible. The barcodes are a very practical vehicle for sharing this message, because they are compatible with virtually any smartphone – a device carried by the majority of the restaurant’s patrons, as well as being very inexpensive to create and easy for the customers to scan and use.