84 Businesses Honored as ‘Best for the Environment’
Today, 84 companies worldwide were recognized for creating the most positive environmental impact by the nonprofit B Lab with the release of the third annual "B Corp Best for the Environment" list. The "B Corp Best for the Environment" list honors businesses that earned an environmental impact score in the top 10 percent of all Certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment, a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of a company's impact on its workers, community and the environment. Honorees were recognized among micro, small and mid-sized businesses.
Highlighted companies include outdoor retailers Patagonia and GoLite, home and personal care companies Method and Seventh Generation, employee-owned, craft brewery New Belgium Brewery and the 20 year old waste reduction and management company, WasteZero.
The "Best for the Environment" companies come from more than 30 different industries such as financial services, consulting, apparel and personal care. Thirty-six percent operate in the service sector, 33 percent in wholesale/retail and 25 percent in manufacturing. A quarter of honorees are based outside the U.S., with 13 percent of companies operating in emerging markets including Brazil, Colombia and Chile.
“It’s great to see so many diverse companies on this year’s 'Best for the Environment' list,” says B Lab co founder, Jay Coen Gilbert. “With representatives from 30 different industries, it shows that all companies can compete to be the best of the best at creating a positive impact.”
Each honored company is a Certified B Corporation. They use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems and have met rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Today there are more than 990 certified B Corporations, across 60 industries and 32 countries, unified by one common goal: to redefine success in business.
B Lab released the “Best for the World” list (overall impact) in March and will release separate lists recognizing the companies "Best for the Community" (community impact), and "Best for Workers" (employee impact) throughout 2014.
11 Midsize Businesses Honorees (50+ Employees)
GoLite (Boulder, CO)—GoLite is the premier global manufacturer of high performance, responsible apparel and equipment designed specifically for outdoor athletes.
Method Products, PBC (CA)—Method is the pioneer of premium environmentally-conscious and design-driven home care, fabric care and personal care products.
Namaste Solar (CO)—Namasté Solar is an employee-owned cooperative that designs, installs and maintains solar electric systems for homes, businesses, nonprofits and government entities.
New Belgium Brewing Co, Inc. (CO)—New Belgium Brewing, maker of Fat Tire Amber Ale and a wide variety of award-winning beers, is the third-largest craft brewer in the country.
Patagonia, Inc. (CA)—Patagonia grew out of a small company that made tools for climbers. Alpinism remains at the heart of a worldwide business that still makes clothes for climbing—as well as for skiing, snowboarding, surfing, fly fishing, paddling and trail running.
Positive Energy Solar (NM)—Positive Energy Solar is local, employee owned, and the only solar company in New Mexico that is a certified B-Corp.
Seventh Generation (VT)—Seventh Generation is a leading brand of green household and personal care products. The company remains an independent, privately-held company distributing products to natural food stores, supermarkets, mass merchants and online retailers across the U.S. and Canada.
Solberg Manufacturing, Inc. (IL)—Solberg manufactures standard and custom filtration, separation and silencing products that protect machinery, the surrounding environment and the workplace.
Sungevity (CA)—Sungevity is the nation’s fastest growing residential solar company that designs, installs and finances residential solar electric systems.
WasteZero, Inc. (NC)—WasteZero partners with more than 800 towns and cities around the country to reduce the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) that is landfilled and burned.
West Paw Design (MT)—West Paw Design is a U.S. manufacturer of eco-friendly and high-quality products for dogs and cats.
25 Small Businesses Honorees (10-49 Employees)
Acorn Sign Graphics (VA)—Acorn Sign Graphics designs and fabricates custom architectural signage and graphics. From award-winning design to sustainable sign and graphic solutions, eco-friendly sign manufacturing to long-lasting installations, Acorn Sign Graphics delivers comprehensive sign services to meet the needs of clients worldwide.
Advanced Home Energy (CA)—Advanced Home Energy partners with homeowners who are interested in going green and offer a wide range of home energy efficiency solutions.
Alchemy Goods (WA)—Alchemy Goods strives to turn useless stuff like blown-out inner tubes, old seatbelts and advertising banners into useful products like bags and wallets.
Brightworks (OR)—Brightworks provides comprehensive sustainability planning and facilitation services, helping their clients increase asset value, reduce operating costs, manage risk and enhance their brand, while helping address pressing global ecological challenges.
Britec Ltda. (Santiago, Chile)—Britec LTDA., has a factory of solar collectors in Chile in the Colina 1 Prison.
Bullfrog Power (Toronto, ON)—Bullfrog Power’s mission is to provide Canadians with easy and practical 100 percent renewable energy solutions for their homes, businesses and transportation that empower them to create a sustainable world for future generations.
ChicoBag Company (CA)—ChicoBag advocates for waste reduction and designs a collection of high-quality, long-lasting reusable bags.
Cultiva Empresa (Santiago, Chile)—Cultiva Empresa has developed several reforestation projects in Santiago, totaling 40.5 hectares reforested.
Degraf Ltda. (Santiago, Chile)—DEGRAF is a family business that began operations in 1982 with the objective to recycle waste from the printing industry.
Emory Knoll Farms (MD)—Emory Knoll Farms is the only nursery in the U.S. that is dedicated solely to the propagation of plants for the green roof industry.
Green Building Services (OR)—Green Building Services provides services and tools to support the design, construction and operation of buildings that are responsible, enduring and healthy.
Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods (HI)—Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods (HLH) plants rare high value endemic koa trees on Hawaii Island. Some trees are planted for investors for eventual harvest, while others—“Legacy Trees”—are planted to permanently reforest the land, sequester carbon, advance science and inspire environmental awareness.
Highland Craftsmen, Inc. (NC)—Highland Craftsmen Inc. designs, manufactures and sells all-natural Bark House® brand architectural elements to building, design and furniture professionals as well as individuals.
Icebox Knitting, LLC (CA)—Icebox Knitting seeks to change the historically detrimental procedures of the textile industry by supporting sustainable practices with emphasis on local sourcing and production in closer proximity of the end consumer.
IceStone (NY)—IceStone® is the world’s safest, most sustainable durable surface. Made from three core ingredients—100 percent recycled glass, Portland cement and pigment—IceStone® surfaces are used for everything from kitchen counter tops to conference room tables to art installations.
Indigenous Designs Corporation (CA)—Indigenous Designs is a leader in organic and fair trade clothing. Their clothing supports thousands of artisans in the most remote and impoverished regions of the world
Microgrid Energy, LLC (MO)—Microgrid Solar is a solar PV developer and EPC contractor based in St. Louis, MO, offering turnkey solar services for commercial, government and residential clients.
Natural Systems Utilities (NJ)—Natural Systems Utilities, LLC is an innovative water asset management company that designs, builds, owns and operates decentralized and distributed water delivery, treatment and reuse infrastructure.
New Leaf Paper (CA)—New Leaf Paper develops office and printing papers with leading environmental specifications and distributes them throughout North America.
Preserve (MA)—Preserve is the leading sustainable consumer goods company and producer of stylish 100 percent recycled household products.
Solmetric Corporation (CA)—Solmetric Corporation is a test and measurement company that designs and manufactures tools for the solar installation industry.
SunCommon (VT)—SunCommon’s purpose is to dramatically increase solar energy production in Vermont by eliminating the huge upfront costs and replacing them with a monthly payment that is the same or less than what Vermonters are currently paying their utility for electricity.
The Joinery (OR)—With a focus on both design and construction, The Joinery and its artisans endeavor to create furniture that will last for generations.
The Paradigm Project (CO)—The Paradigm Project is a low-profit limited liability company operating in cooperation with The Paradigm Foundation, whose collective mission is to create sustainable economic, social and environmental value within developing world communities.
TotalPET Corp (San Jose, Costa Rica)—TotalPET Corp recycles PET (a type of plastic used to create beverage bottles) to create packaging and prevent the plastic from ending up as waste.
48 Micro-Enterprises Honorees (<10 Employees)
Acción Verde (Bogota, Colombia)—Accion Verde is a Colombian for-profit enterprise that plants trees to promote reforestation in Colombia.
Alima Cosmetics, Inc. (OR)—Alima Pure™ makes mineral makeup using only the purest cosmetic-grade mineral pigments.
Animal Experience International (ON, Canada)—Animal Experience International (AEI) has a mission to help animals around the globe by matching clients with animal-related volunteer opportunities at sanctuaries, wildlife hospitals, animal clinics and conservation projects.
Atayne, LLC (ME)—Atayne makes high-performing outdoor and athletic apparel from 100 percent recycled materials.
Best Energy (Santiago, Chile)—Best Energy is creating economic value through social and environmental responsibility. They provide solar water heating for social housing through gubernamental subsidies.
BluPlanet Recycling Inc. (AB, Canada)—BluPlanet Recycling Inc. is a Calgary-based multi-family residential and commercial recycling collection service provider.
Climatesmart Business, Inc. (BC, Canada)—Climate Smart is a social enterprise that trains businesses and provides them with software tools to track and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Cool Energy, Inc. (CO)—Cool Energy's SolarHeart Engine captures waste heat that an industrial site, commercial process or power generator is already emitting, and turns it into clean and renewable electricity, recycled thermal energy or mechanical energy.
Cultivating Capital (CA)—Cultivating Capital is a business consulting firm that helps entrepreneurs and small business owners, especially women business owners, go green and market their businesses online.
Ditto Hangers (CA)—Ditto features a growing line of 100 percent sustainable hangers, signage, POP displays, packaging and accessory displays.
Dolphin Blue, Inc. (TX)—Dolphin Blue is an online retailer of ecologically sustainable products for use in commercial and home offices.
Eco-Bags Products (NY)—ECOBAGS® is a small, woman-owned business with a history of creating well-constructed, responsibly- and ethically-produced reusable bags of all kinds using natural, recycled and organic materials.
Ecologic Designs Inc. / Green Guru (CO)—Ecologic Designs works with organizations to manufacture OEM, Private Label and Co-Branded consumer products made from their waste materials or materials they’ve previously reclaimed.
EcoLogic Solutions Inc. (NY)—EcoLogic Solutions Inc.'s purpose is to introduce the safest, effective and cost competitive cleaning products to mass consumers.
Ecoservice (São Paulo, Brazil)—Ecoservice operates with the goal of being a benchmark in sustainable products, systems and services for the building industry.
Ecotrust Forest Management (OR)—Ecotrust Forest Management is a forestland investment management and advisory services company that generates long-term value for both investors and society by facilitating positive environmental outcomes and supporting job creation in rural communities.
Eleek (OR)—Eleek is a sustainable design and manufacturing business specializing in high-style lighting and other decorative building parts.
Energy Opportunities (PA)—Energy Opportunities, Inc. provides technical consulting services on projects relating to energy management, efficiency and conservation, renewable energy systems and the environmental impacts of human enterprises.
Episencial (CA)—Episencial combines advanced skin care technology with Actively Healthy™ ingredients including probiotics, neem oil and botanically-sourced essential fatty acids and antioxidants to enhance skin immunity and defend against daily environmental challenges from water, sun and air.
Feronia Forests LLC (MA)—Feronia's mission is to acquire and to sustainably manage natural hardwood forest properties in the U.S. The company generates revenues from timber harvests, conservation easements, carbon offsets, renewable energy and products of the forest.
Honeyman Sustainability Consulting, LLC (CA)—Honeyman Sustainability Consulting, LLC, helps businesses save money, add value to their brand and cultivate happier and more committed employees—while reducing their impact on the environment.
Incite Directives (Atlanta, GA)—Incite Directives works with businesses and building owners to integrate sustainability into the cultural cloth of their organizations, beginning with facilities and operations.
Just Right Recycling (Abbotsford, BC)—Just Right Recycling is a metal recycling company providing efficient bin services to industry.
Linhardt Design (NY)—Linhardt Design is a New York-based fine and fashion jewelry house that is revolutionizing the industry with its extraordinary designs coupled with socially and environmentally responsible practices.
Luscious Garage (CA)—Luscious Garage specializes in hybrid auto repair and applies the "hybrid" paradigm to everything it does: minimizing environmental impact, promoting advanced technology and working together with customers to meet their needs.
mas ambiente s.a. (Mendoza, Argentina)—Mas ambiente manufactures eco-friendly soaps made with 100 percent recycled cooking oil.
Piedmont Biofuels (NC)—Piedmont Biofuels is a community scale biodiesel operation which collects used cooking oil from area food service establishments and converts it into a clean burning renewable fuel.
Project Repat (MA)—Project Repat upcycles t-shirts into fun and fashionable clothing accessories while creating jobs.
Proyecto Importa (Santiago, Chile)—Proyecto Importa seeks to transform penitentiary labor and social spaces into workshops, which will promote the inclusion of socially vulnerable individuals while developing sustainable products.
Rain Water Solutions, Inc. (NC)—RainWater Solutions manufactures and distributes the 65-gallon Moby rain barrel. They also design and install above- and below-ground rainwater harvesting equipment.
Reciclarg S.A. (Mendoza, Argentina)—Reciclarg seeks to generate awareness of the electronic waste cycle.
REfficient Inc. (Hamilton, ON)—REfficient is an online marketplace where businesses can go shopping in other companies’ surplus inventory.
Resonate LLC (PA)—Resonate LLC is a strategic sustainability consulting firm that helps companies to enhance brand, profitability and company value by integrating social and environmental factors into their business model and performance measurement.
Rivanna Natural Designs, Inc. (VA)—Rivanna Natural Designs creates awards, plaques and gifts made from FSC-certified woods, bamboo, recycled glass and other planet-friendly materials.
Route to Green SPA (Santiago, Chile)—R2G's mission is to make a variety of affordable products and services consistent with the protection of the environment in Chile and Latin America.
Saul Good Gift Co (Vancouver, BC)—Saul Good Gift Co. uses corporate gifts to communicate values around sustainability, local purchasing (to Vancouver, BC), and community engagement to build powerful relationships for its clients.
Seeds Printing (PA)—Seeds is a green printing company comprised of environmentally conscious, creative professionals with years of experience in the fields of printing, design, marketing, writing and editing, and world-class customer service.
SLOWCOLOR (CA)—SLOWCOLOR is an integrated bottom line high-impact clothing enterprise committed to revitalizing the use of age-old traditions to dramatically reduce the social, environmental and health impacts of textile manufacturing.
SMART Watering Systems Inc. (Milton, ON)—SMART Watering Systems is a water efficiency consulting firm and a "hands on" irrigation water management company that works with municipalities, parks departments, architects and property managers to reduce potable water use on landscapes.
Solar States (PA)—Solar States develops solar projects on schools, homes and commercial buildings, as well as connecting Philadelphia students with the green-collar economy through training and jobs.
Spotlight Solar, LLC (NC)—Spotlight Solar makes solar systems that look like sculpture. Their products are intended to complement other environmental investments, like rooftop solar systems, which are usually hidden from the public on flat office building roofs.
Staach (NY)—Staach strives to create the finest modern handcrafted furniture using only sustainable methods and materials.
TerraLocke, Inc. (IL)—TerraLocke is a sustainability consulting firm focusing on local communities.
TerraPass (CA)—TerraPass’ projects help businesses and individuals reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change by generating renewable energy and destroying greenhouse gases (GHGs).
TheGreenOffice.com (CA)—TheGreenOffice.com is a one-stop online retailer featuring more than 34,000 green and conventional office products and a comprehensive range of sustainability services designed to make office greening easy and cost effective.
Waste To Green, LLC (NC)—Waste To Green provides electronic waste/e-waste recycling services to businesses, individuals and government looking to minimize their carbon footprint through ethical, responsible and secure recycling of their old electronics and IT assets.
Yellow Leaf Hammocks (CA)—Yellow Leaf Hammocks are 100 percent hand-woven, customizable hammocks that offer customers supreme comfort, strength and durability, along with a commitment to cultivating a sustainable economic opportunity for marginalized ethnic groups like the endangered Mlabri Tribe.
Zero to Go (NY)—Zero to Go provides a removal service in which unwanted items are transferred directly to people in need. Their sustainable removal services address the needs of the community by ensuring useable materials stay local and out of the waste stream.
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Airborne Particles Are Still the Biggest Problem<p>The <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-it-matters-that-the-coronavirus-is-changing-and-what-this-means-for-vaccine-effectiveness-152383" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">SARS-CoV-2 variants</a> are believed to spread primarily through the air rather than on surfaces.</p><p>When someone with the coronavirus in their respiratory tract coughs, talks, sings or even just breathes, infectious respiratory droplets can be expelled into the air. These droplets are tiny, predominantly in the range of <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0021850211001200?casa_token=KtyrsEfbeqcAAAAA:vv10sSxm33tzg0EQvNMIFtV7GCu5gE9QAzuyzHKr2_4Cl0OFkUJoGwzn4d0ZnEWS19NsOTuH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1-100 micrometers</a>. For comparison, a human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter.</p><p>The larger droplets fall to the ground quickly, rarely traveling farther than 6 feet from the source. The bigger problem for disease transmission is the tiniest droplets – those less than 10 micrometers in diameter – which can remain suspended in the air as aerosols for <a href="https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/50/5/693/325466" target="_blank">hours at a time</a>.</p>
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What Can You Do to Stay Safe?<p>1) Pay attention to the type of face mask you use, and how it fits.</p><p>Most off-the-shelf face coverings are not 100% effective at preventing droplet emission. With the new variant spreading more easily and likely infectious at lower concentrations, it's important to select coverings with materials that are most effective at stopping droplet spread.</p><p>When available, N95 and surgical masks consistently perform the best. Otherwise, face coverings that use <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352431620301802?casa_token=-Dj6nGBAm24AAAAA:qq9BpbzCKaPDFcV73ohA2fCnhE_Zlkss6Bei3kUwq9QYndhHj0Vafbbd-ef_855lx6knDfUt" target="_blank">multiple layers of material</a> are preferable. Ideally, the material should be a tight weave. High thread count cotton sheets are an example. Proper fit is also crucial, as gaps around the nose and mouth can <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsnano.0c03252" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">decrease the effectiveness by 50%</a>.</p><p>2) Follow social distancing guidelines.</p><p>While the current social distancing guidelines are not perfect – <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-a-smoky-bar-can-teach-us-about-the-6-foot-rule-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-145517" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">6 feet isn't always enough</a> – they do offer a useful starting point. Because aerosol concentrations levels and infectivity are highest in the space immediately surrounding anyone with the virus, increasing physical distancing can help reduce risk. Remember that people are infectious <a href="https://medical.mit.edu/faqs/COVID-19#faq-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">before they start showing symptoms</a>, and they many never show symptoms, so don't count on seeing signs of illness.</p><p>3) Think carefully about the environment when entering an enclosed area, both the ventilation and how people interact.</p><p>Limiting the size of gatherings helps reduce the potential for exposure. Controlling indoor environments in other ways can also be a highly effective strategy for reducing risk. This includes <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-a-smoky-bar-can-teach-us-about-the-6-foot-rule-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-145517" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">increasing ventilation rates</a> to bring in <a href="https://theconversation.com/keeping-indoor-air-clean-can-reduce-the-chance-of-spreading-coronavirus-149512" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fresh air and filtering existing air</a> to dilute aerosol concentrations.</p><p>On a personal level, it is helpful to pay attention to the types of interactions that are taking place. For example, many individuals shouting can create a higher risk than one individual speaking. In all cases, it's important to minimize the amount of time spent indoors with others.</p><p>The CDC has warned that B.1.1.7 could <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7003e2.htm?s_cid=mm7003e2_w" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant</a> in the U.S. by March. Other fast-spreading variants have also been found in <a href="https://virological.org/t/genomic-characterisation-of-an-emergent-sars-cov-2-lineage-in-manaus-preliminary-findings/586" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Brazil</a> and <a href="https://www.who.int/csr/don/31-december-2020-sars-cov2-variants/en/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">South Africa</a>. Increased vigilance and complying with health guidelines should continue to be of highest priority.</p>
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By Tara Lohan
A key part of the United States' clean energy transition has started to take shape, but you may need to squint to see it. About 2,000 wind turbines could be built far offshore, in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast, in the next 10 years. And more are expected.
Threats to Birds<p>One of the gravest threats facing birds is climate change, according to Audubon, which found that rising temperatures threaten <a href="https://www.audubon.org/2019climateissue" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">nearly two-thirds of North America's bird species</a>. That's why the impending development of offshore wind is a good thing, says Shilo Felton, a field manager in the organization's Clean Energy Initiative, but it also comes with dangers to birds that need to be better studied and mitigated.</p><p>The most obvious risk comes from birds colliding with spinning turbine blades. But offshore wind developments can also displace birds from foraging or roost sites, as well as migratory pathways.</p><p>Along the Atlantic Coast four imperiled species are of top concern to conservationists: the endangered piping plover, red knot, roseate tern and black-capped petrel, which is being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.</p><p>"Those four species are of utmost importance to make sure that we understand the impacts," says Felton. "But beyond that there are many species that are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act that could potentially see more impacts from offshore wind."</p><p>Northern gannets, for example, are at risk not just for collision but <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308703197_Possible_impacts_of_offshore_wind_farms_on_seabirds_a_pilot_study_in_Northern_Gannets_in_the_southern_North_Sea" target="_blank">habitat displacement</a>.</p>
A northern gannet flying along Cape May, N.J. Ann Marie Morrison / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>"There's <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320716303196" target="_blank">some evidence</a> that they just won't use areas where turbines are, but that also excludes them from key foraging areas," says Felton. Researchers are still studying what this may mean for the birds. But a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0141113620305304" target="_blank">study</a> published in December 2020 conducted at Bass Rock, Scotland — home to the world's largest northern gannet colony — found that wind developments could reduce their growth rate, though not enough to cause a population decline.</p><p>Other birds, such as great cormorants and European shags, are <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320716303196" target="_blank">attracted to wind developments</a> and use the infrastructure to rest while opening up new foraging areas farther from shore.</p><p>"There's plenty of potential for a bird to use a wind farm and still to avoid the turbines themselves," says Felton.</p><p>Birds like pelicans, however, are less versatile in their movements and are at particular risk of collision because of their flight pattern, she says.</p><p>But how disruptive or dangerous offshore turbines will be along the East Coast isn't yet known.</p><p>Federal and state agencies, along with nongovernmental organizations, says Felton, have done good research to try to better understand those potential impacts. "But these are all theoretical, because we don't have a lot of offshore wind yet in the United States."</p>
Threats to Ocean Life<p>Birds aren't the only wildlife of concern. More development in ocean waters could affect a litany of marine species, some of which are already facing other pressures from overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction and climate change.</p><p>Scientists have found that marine mammals like whales and dolphins could be disturbed by the jarring sounds of construction, especially if pile driving is used to hammer the steel turbine platform into the seafloor.</p><p>The noises, though short-lived, could impede communication between animals, divert them from migration routes or cause them to seek less suitable areas for feeding or breeding. Research from Europe found that harbor porpoises, seals and dolphins may avoid development areas during construction. In most, but <a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/7/4/045101" target="_blank">not all cases</a>, the animals were believed to have returned to the area following construction.</p><p>The biggest concern for conservation groups in the United States is the critically endangered North American right whale. There are fewer than 400 remaining, and the species' habitat overlaps with a number of planned wind development areas along the East Coast.</p><p>"Offshore wind is in no way the cause of the challenges the whales face, but it's going to be another pressure point," says John Rogers, senior energy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.</p><p>Researchers aren't sure how right whales will respond to the noise from pile driving.</p><p>"But we are concerned, based on what we know about how whales react to other noise sources, that they may avoid [wind development] areas," says Kershaw.</p><p>And if that displacement causes them to miss out on important food resources, it could be dangerous for a species already on the brink.</p><p>There are a few other potential threats, too.</p><p>Ships associated with the development — more plentiful during construction — also pose a danger. In the past few years cargo ships, fishing boats and other vessels have caused half of all deaths of North Atlantic right whales.</p>
A juvenile right whale breaches against the backdrop of a ship near the St. Johns River entrance. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission / NOAA Research Permit #775-1600-10<p>And after construction, the noise from the spinning turbines will be present in the water at low decibels. "We don't quite know how the great whales will react to those sounds," says Jeremy Firestone, the director of the Center for Research in Wind at the University of Delaware.</p><p>Other marine mammals may also perceive the noise, but at low decibels it's unlikely to be an impediment, <a href="http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v309/p279-295/" target="_blank">research has found</a>.</p><p>And it's possible that wind development could help some ocean life. Turbine foundations can attract fish and invertebrates for whom hard substrates create habitat complexity — known as the "reef effect," according to researchers from the University of Rhode Island's <a href="https://dosits.org/animals/effects-of-sound/anthropogenic-sources/wind-turbine/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Discovery of Sound in the Sea</a> program. Exclusion of commercial fishing nearby may also help shelter fish and protect marine mammals from entanglements in fishing gear.</p>
Ensuring Safe Development<p>Despite the potential dangers, researchers have gathered a few best practices to help diminish and possibly eliminate some risks.</p><p>When it comes to ship strikes, the easiest thing is to slow boats down, mandating a speed of <a href="https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/vessel-speed-limits-sought-protect-endangered-north-atlantic-right-whales-2020-08-06/" target="_blank">10 knots</a> in wind development areas, and using visual and acoustic monitoring for whales.</p><p>Adjusting operations to reduce boat trips between the shore and the wind development will also help. A new series of service operating vessels can allow maintenance staff to spent multiple days onsite, says Kershaw, cutting down on boat traffic.</p><p>For construction noise concerns, developers can avoid pile driving during times of the year when whales are present. And, depending on the marine environment, developers could use "quiet foundations" that don't require pile driving. These include gravity-based or suction caisson platforms.</p><p>Floating turbines are also used in deep water, where they're effectively anchored in place — although that poses its own potential danger. "We have concerns that marine debris could potentially become entangled around the mooring cables of the floating arrays and pose a secondarily entanglement risk to some species," says Felton, who thinks more research should be conducted before those become operational in U.S. waters — a process that's already underway in Maine, where a <a href="https://composites.umaine.edu/2020/08/05/diamond-offshore-wind-rwe-renewables-join-the-university-of-maine-to-lead-development-of-maine-floating-offshore-wind-demonstration-project/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">demonstration project is being built</a>.</p><p>If loud noises are unavoidable during construction, noise-reducing technologies such as bubble curtains can help dampen the sound. And scheduling adjacent projects to conduct similar work at the same time could limit the duration of disturbances.</p>
The foundation installation of the off shore wind farm Sandbank using a bubble curtain. Vattenfall / Ulrich Wirrwa / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>Once turbines become operational, reducing the amount of light on wind platforms or using flashing lights could help deter some seabirds, NRDC <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/harnessing-wind-advance-wind-power-offshore-ib.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers reported</a>. And scientists are exploring using ultrasonic noises and ultraviolet lighting to keep bats away. "Feathering," or shutting down the turbine blades during key migration times, could also help prevent fatalities.</p><p>"We need to make sure that offshore wind is the best steward it can be of the marine ecosystem, because we want and expect it to be a significant part of the clean energy picture in some parts of the country," says Rogers. "We also have to recognize that we're going to learn by doing, and that some of these things we're going to figure out best once we have more turbines in the water."</p><p>That's why environmental groups say it's important to establish baseline information on species before projects begin, and then require developers to conduct monitoring during construction and for years after projects are operational.</p><p>Employing an "adaptive management framework" will ensure that developers can adjust their management practices as they go when new information becomes available, and that those best practices are incorporated into the requirements for future projects.</p>
Putting Research Into Action<p>Advancing these conversations at the federal level during the Trump administration, though, has been slow going.</p><p>"We didn't really have any productive discussions with the administration in the last four years," says Kershaw.</p><p>And when it comes to birds, Felton says the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's recently completed "draft cumulative environmental impact statement" covering offshore wind developments had a lot of good environmental research, but little focus on birds.</p><p>"Part of that comes from the current administration's interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act," she says.</p><p>President Trump has been hostile to both wind energy <em>and</em> birds, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/05/climate/trump-migratory-bird-protections.html" target="_blank">and finished gutting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act</a> in his administration's the final days, removing penalties for companies whose operations kill migratory birds.</p><p>There's hope that the Biden administration will take a different approach. But where the federal government has been lacking lately, Kershaw says, they've seen states step up.</p><p>New York, for example, has established an <a href="https://www.nyetwg.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Technical Working Group</a> composed of stakeholders to advise on environmentally responsible development of offshore wind.</p><p>The group is led by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, but it isn't limited to the Empire State. It's regional in focus and includes representatives from wind developers with leases between Massachusetts and North Carolina; state agencies from Massachusetts to Virginia; federal agencies; and science-based environmental NGOs.</p><p>New York's latest solicitation for clean energy projects includes up to 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind and <a href="https://www.nyetwg.com/announcements" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">requires developers</a> to contribute at least $10,000 per megawatt for regional monitoring of fisheries and other wildlife.</p><p>Environmental groups have also worked directly with developers, including an agreement with Vineyard Wind — an 800-megawatt project off the Massachusetts coast that could be the first utility-scale wind development in federal waters — to help protect North Atlantic right whales.</p><p>The agreement includes no pile driving from Jan. 1 to April 30, ceasing activities at other times when whales are visually or acoustically identified in the area, speed restrictions on vessels, and the use of noise reduction technology, such as a bubble curtain during pile driving.</p><p>"The developers signed the agreement with us, and then they incorporated, most, if not all of those measures into the federal permitting documents," says Kershaw. "The developers really did a lot of bottom up work to make sure that they were being very protective of right whales."</p><p>Environmental groups are in talks with other developers on agreements too, but Felton wants to see best practices being mandated at the federal level.</p><p>"It's the sort of a role that should be being played by the federal government, and without that it makes the permitting and regulation process less stable and less transparent," she says." And that in turn slows down the build out of projects, which is also bad for birds because it doesn't help us address and mitigate for climate change."</p><p>Kershaw agrees there's a lot more work to be done, especially at the federal level, but thinks we're moving in the right direction.</p><p>"I think the work that's been done so far in the United States has really laid the groundwork for advancing this in the right way and in a way that's protective of species and the environment," she says. "At the same time, it's important that offshore wind does advance quickly. We really need it to help us combat the worst effects of climate change."</p><p><em><a href="https://therevelator.org/author/taralohan/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Tara Lohan</a> is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.</em></p><p><em style="">Reposted with permission from <a href="https://therevelator.org/offshore-wind-wildlife" target="_blank" style="">The Revelator</a>. </em></p>
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