By now, the fashion industry’s harmful effects on the environment are well-known. With natural resources being used faster than they can be renewed, and more clothing produced by brands (and thrown out by consumers) than ever before, the environmental impact of the industry, as it currently operates, is catastrophic. “In the U.S., 11 million tons of textiles go into landfills every year,” says Kristy Caylor, CEO and co-founder of For Days, a zero-waste, organic line of basics. “When these clothes decompose, they release methane which is more harmful than CO2.”
Amazon wants to make sustainable shopping easier for its customers.
The e-commerce giant announced today that it has labeled more than 25,000 products on its website as “Climate Pledge Friendly,” which indicates that each item aligns with its previously announced Climate Pledge.
According to the company, these products — which span from groceries and household supplies to fashion, beauty and personal electronics — are identified in shopping results, plus have additional sustainability information on the item’s page and are featured in a dedicated section online.
From Siberia to Australia to the western U.S., massive fires have consumed millions of acres this year and spawned fire-generated tornados and other phenomena rarely seen before. Scientists say the world has entered a perilous new era that will demand better ways of fighting wildfires.
The Illinois Commerce Commission, in an Oct. 1 order, urged Ameren “to provide full net metering credits to residential solar customers until an audit is completed.” The commission also directed its staff to perform the audit and determine if Ameren has reached the required threshold under state law for ending retail net metering in its service territory. Ameren says it may reach that threshold imminently. ICC Chairman Carrie Zalewski “expressed concerns that by allowing Ameren to end net metering before the Commission approved the replacement tariff as required by statute, would be a violation of the legislature’s intent to transition smoothly from retail net metering to a successor distributed generation rebate,” the commission said in a press release.
The continued growth of residential solar is under threat in Illinois, the solar industry said this week, with Ameren asserting a 2016 state law allows it to stop compensating home solar customers at the full retail rate for the power they send back to the grid.
The Future Energy Jobs Act of 2016 allows a utility to work with state regulators to replace the full retail rate, based on net metering, with a negotiated “distributed generation rebate” when the amount of distributed solar generation reaches 5% of the peak demand on the system. Ameren says it will soon reach that threshold.
The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has set a public meeting for today,following an emergency request from the solar industry and environmental groups asking it to order Ameren to continue full retail compensation, kilowatt-hour for kilowatt-hour, until a new distributed generation tariff is developed, as required by the 2016 law.
Climate Designers is the global hub for designers and creative professionals from all industries, committed to using their creative skills for climate action. As a professional network and education platform, they help designers build careers by connecting them with impactful work opportunities which gives hiring companies and potential clients a high quality recruiting pool.
The community brings together design practitioners of all kinds to master the best new climate action practices — how to communicate in ways that incite change, knowledge of up-to-date terms, policies, and technologies, and how to lead teams to take action.
Keeping laboratory samples cold can be an essential part of research activities and ensuring the safety and integrity of projects and experiments. As a Tier One research university, the numerous refrigerators, freezers, and cooling equipment used at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign also present a significant opportunity to further energy conservation efforts.
Winning the “hat trick,” the U of I was honored by the International Laboratory Freezer Challenge as one of the top universities at implementing cold-storage best management practices and reducing energy usage for a third straight year. Twenty-one labs on campus combined to save approximately 263 kWh/day, which is the equivalent energy use of nine average households.
As wildfires, heat waves and hurricanes sweep across North America, residents are bracing for the power outages that come with these extreme weather events.
Strong winds can knock down electrical lines or blow dry vegetation like dead tree branches into power lines and ignite wildfires. Utilities may intentionally shut down targeted sections of power lines in fire-risk areas in the interest of public safety. In October 2019, for example, with wildfires burning through California, PG&E, the largest utility in the United States, cut the electricity to two million homes.
But turning off the power can also have negative effects on communities. People rely on a stable electricity supply for evacuation warnings, health care and essential services such as water and lighting.
Local electricity generation could mitigate these disruptions. During the California blackouts in 2019, Blue Lake Rancheria, an Indigenous community in northwestern California, was a “beacon of energy” in a sea of darkness. The community had previously constructed a state-of-the-art microgrid that allowed it to disconnect from the main grid and provide homes and businesses with solar-generated electricity while other Californians were left without power.
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated the unplanned power outages caused by wildfires, hurricanes and other disasters. People are increasingly dependent on their home electrical supply to communicate, work and learn — and reduce their social isolation. In addition, travel restrictions, isolation requirements and supply chain problems for equipment and materials are making it difficult for utilities to respond quickly to power outages.
The trouble with the status quo
In the power systems that dominate North America and Europe, electricity is typically generated in large quantities far away from population centres and transmitted by power lines over long distances. More than 430,000 kilometres of transmission lines crisscross North America.
Other events, like a pandemic, can also disrupt access to electricity due to the limited pool of skilled workers. The timely restoration of an outage event is unlikely if illness (or other circumstances) limit the availability of skilled talent.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, some utilities sequestered essential workers to ensure continuity of service. But utility service personnel may also cover a wide geographical area, moving from one community to the next, which can increase infectious disease exposure both to the community and to the workers themselves.
What we can do?
Local electricity generation can insulate communities against these challenges. Solar- and wind-generated electricity, as well as battery storage, are cost-effective and reliable. These alternative generation sources tend to be small-scale and located close to those who will use the electricity.
A microgrid — a self-sufficient, energy-generating distribution and control system — puts communities on the path to self-reliance. It integrates the source of the electricity with consumption loads, such as homes and businesses, in a connected system, allowing the community to operate in isolation when the utility-scale electricity supply is interrupted.
Building resilient communities
During the California power outage in 2019, Blue Lake Rancheria helped nearby communities. It converted a hotel to a newspaper office to boost communication and took in critical patients from the county hospitals. Non-residents lined up at gas stations and convenience stores to stock up on resources they didn’t have access to in their own communities due to the power outages.
Cost and regulations are among the major obstacles to local electricity generation and the adoption of microgrids. Communities need access to capital to invest in these technologies, but it is often out of reach. In addition, myriad regulations govern the generation, distribution and sale of electricity, and these uncertainties can be difficult to navigate.
In Canada, there are various incentives programs across the provinces to help communities investing in green infrastructure. For example, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has multiple funding programs, like the Green Municipal Fund, that assist municipal partners from creating plans to funding capital projects. In British Columbia, the Community Energy Leadership Program has a guide listing resources and support for communities interested in undertaking clean energy projects.
Communities should engage in community energy planning to help define community priorities around energy and establish actions to achieve the community’s energy goals. The plan showcases a community’s commitment to taking action and advocates for support on funding opportunities and policy changes. The planning process drives education and awareness within local partners on the importance of a reliable electricity supply.
Shifting the focus of renewable electricity generation from a purely economic lens to one that sees the value in its many societal benefits — energy independence and security, skilled local jobs, zero-emissions electricity — can help build more energy-resilient communities.