Los Angeles City-Owned Buildings to Go 100% Carbon Free
By Maria Stamas
Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti on Monday committed all new or substantially rehabilitated buildings owned by the City of Los Angeles to be 100 percent carbon free — and to use less carbon-intensive building materials in the process. His executive directive not only has Los Angeles leading by example on ways to reduce building emissions, it breaks new ground.
The announcement follows a growing trend of leading cities, such as Seattle, San Francisco and Pittsburgh, in committing new government building stock to be all-electric or become 100 percent emissions free.
Los Angeles also will become the first local government to adopt the state's Buy Clean California Act, requiring carbon emissions reductions from construction materials, including steel, flat glass and insulation beginning in 2021 for buildings such as fire stations, civic centers and libraries.
This executive directive is the latest step in L.A.'s sustainability efforts.
We also know that City Halls cannot tackle this work alone. Community engagement, both in policy development and implementation, will be essential to success. Housing, energy, workforce development and climate change are topics that involve every Angeleno in every community, and we must bring a diverse set of experiences and visions for the future to these policy discussions.
LA Becomes First CA City to Require Less Carbon in Construction Materials
Tackling the carbon emissions used in the materials for new construction — referred to as embodied carbon — is the next frontier of climate action and particularly important for cities. Without policy interventions, worldwide, new construction in cities will generate 100 gigatons of embodied carbon.
Los Angeles' new directive means the emissions performance of materials will be taken into account when an agency is contracting to buy steel, flat glass and mineral wool (insulation), as well as other products the city may add to the list for its buildings. Cement, as one of the most carbon-intensive of materials, would be a great one to look at next. Fortunately, the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance will soon be publishing a framework for cities to go further in this space.
LADWP to Prioritize Equitable Access to Clean Energy Programs
Among his many directives, Mayor Garcetti also committed the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to improve access to its clean energy programs specifically for low-income, affordable housing and multifamily properties. Los Angeles faces dual crises of housing affordability and growing climate change impacts, such as severe wildfires. Funding programs to provide energy efficiency and clean energy for these buildings while reducing utility cost burdens for renters will be a welcome relief.
LADWP has the potential to provide greater incentives to its rental housing customers, and so we expect this directive will accelerate progress toward fully programming the $100 million in energy efficiency funds for renters, which were approved by LADWP's Board in June of 2018.
Joining a New but Growing All-Electric Trend
Los Angeles joins a small, but growing trend of cities leading by example in constructing 100 percent clean energy municipal buildings. Already, the city has 26 all-electric buildings in development, totaling $1 billion in construction and 2 million square feet.
Seattle announced just last month it will be requiring all new or substantially altered City of Seattle buildings to operate without fossil fuels, and by January 2021, it will develop a strategy to eliminate fossil fuel use in existing city buildings.
San Francisco, in that same time period, announced all its new or renovated government buildings will be all-electric, the latest in the city's efforts to combat climate change.
Pittsburgh, too, recently committed its government buildings to become net-zero energy, meaning new buildings and major renovations will be highly efficient and produce as much renewable energy on-site or nearby as needed to offset the remainder of their emissions from heating water and warming or cooling their indoor spaces.
It's exciting to see the leadership exhibited by Los Angeles and other leading cities in this space. Not only are they leading by example, reducing emissions in their multi-billion-dollar building portfolios, but these cities are spurring demand for new technologies and less-carbon intensive materials, supporting workforce development and job creation, and paving the way for efficient, renewable, all-electric buildings across the country.
Already many developers are choosing to go all-electric on their own, and several cities across California are going beyond their own buildings to adopt building codes committing privately-developed new construction to go all-electric as well.
With continued commitment from the city and a robust community engagement process, the executive directives announced will significantly advance L.A.'s efforts to cut carbon emissions from buildings.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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