Day: June 11, 2013

Gentrification of the Strip Mall

Read the full story in Atlantic Cities.

There is little question that suburban strip malls represent an unsustainable architecture. Totally automobile-dependent, marked by large surface parking lots, and remarkably inefficient at using land, strip malls generate much more pollution and consume much more in the way of resources on a per capita basis than do more walkable, urban shopping districts. Such urbanist thinkers as Galina Tachieva (Sprawl Repair Manual), June Williamson and Ellen Dunham-Jones (Retrofitting Suburbia) are absolutely correct in urging that, as these malls age and decline, they should be replaced with better, greener forms.

Indeed, some of our best and most iconic smart growth developments – The Crossings in Mountain View, California, and Mizner Park in Boca Raton, Florida, come immediately to mind – were built on what were once dead shopping malls. Late 20th-century commercial buildings typically have much shorter life spans than do homes, so remaking these old parking lots and typically single-level stores represents one of our best hopes for achieving a greener suburban future.

And yet: As these properties have declined, so have their rents, making them affordable to small, often entrepreneurial businesses. Particularly as immigrants have settled in inner suburbs (where many of these fading commercial strips are), businesses owned and patronized by the immigrant population have occupied many of these spaces, in some cases alongside small start-ups owned by longtime community residents as well.

Insight: regional climate models are not completely reliable

Read the full story at EnvironmentalResearchWeb.

There is a great demand for climate information on the local scale – how will the mean and extremes change in my town over the next 10 to 100 years? The answer is provided using climate models, which are mathematical representations of our knowledge of the climate system. These are a straightforward extension of the weather models that make forecasts for the next week, or the seasonal forecast models that in some regions provide useful predictions for the next few months.

The weather forecasts and seasonal forecasts have been verified – many “forecasts” for the past have been compared to what really happened. One of the key properties of a good forecast is reliability. A forecast system is reliable if it rains on 60% of all the days forecasted with a “60% chance of rain”.

In our study we checked the reliability of regional climate-model trends. Because we only have a single trend per grid point, we collected the trends of all grid points into a verification graph, the rank histogram.

We discovered that the recent CMIP5 climate-model ensemble is not reliable but overconfident – the trends are more often in the top 5% and bottom 5% of the ensemble than expected by chance. The ensemble seems reliable for temperature but this is caused by variations in the rate at which the global mean temperature rises, not by the correct spatial pattern. The maps show the locations of the trends in the tails of the ensemble. Some of this is due to the natural fluctuations of weather and climate, but a large part must also be due to other causes.

States, firms fill chemicals leadership void left by feds

In this GreenBiz article, the most recent in the P2 Pathways series, author Ken Zarker from Washington State Department of Ecology’s Pollution Prevention and Regulatory Assistance Section, discusses the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 and how its beneficial to look at lessons learned from states action on chemicals management to help craft a workable national solution.

Read other P2 Pathways columns at http://www.greenbiz.com/business/engage/enterprise-blogs/p2-pathways.

Ski industry demands action on climate change

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

study authored by University of New Hampshire researchers Elizabeth Burakowski and Matthew Magnusson and published last December warns that if winter temperatures continue to warm significantly, the winter tourism industry could disappear completely in many areas of the U.S.

Legislators continue to drag their feet in addressing what is the greatest crisis confronting humanity today. But increasingly, many companies are joining the call for effective policies to address the threat. Many have joined Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), an advocacy coalition of businesses directed by Ceres that is calling for meaningful legislation to enable a transition to a low-carbon economy.

Nike, Adidas and others aim for less toxic supply chains

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

In 2004, a group of forward-thinking fashion and athletic brands with restricted substances lists (RSLs) — featuring major players Adidas, C&A, Gap, Levi’s, Marks & Spencer and Nike — formed an industry working group with the aim of reducing the use and impact of harmful substances in the apparel and footwear supply chain.

Nine years later, the Apparel and Footwear International RSL Management Group (AFIRM) is 18 members strong and continuing its mission by creating and distributing new and innovative tools for supply chains around the globe and by hosting seminars to educate its global supplier base on ever-evolving best practices in chemical safety management.