Cleantech and more

Planting one trillion trees this decade? Call in the drones

Tree planting is hard, and costly. To reach ambitious goals announced in Davos, humans need to make room for machines

Let’s plant one trillion trees by 2030.

That simple, powerful message came out of the World Economic Forum in January, as billionaires and high-ranking politicians gathered to discuss ways to keep our increasingly unstable climate from becoming unlivable.

Think COVID-19 is bad? In many ways, the current pandemic is a taste of what’s to come if we don’t dramatically reduce atmospheric CO2 emissions over the next 30 years. COVID-19 may have temporarily pushed talk of climate action to the margins, but the risks of a warming world remain.

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A rewards program for the oil sands

Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan is built around output-based subsidies.

It’s been nearly a year since Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced an ambitious set of policies to cap oil sands emissions, phase out coal-fired power generation and implement an economy-wide carbon tax in Canada’s “dirty” province.

Since revealed last November, Alberta’s climate plan has received widespread praise, including kudos from U.S. President Barack Obama during an historic speech this June in the House of Commons. It has also been embraced by some of the province’s biggest oil sands producers. Cenovus Energy, Canadian Natural Resources (CNR), Shell Canada and Suncor Energy all endorsed the plan, with Suncor CEO Steve Williams even calling it a “game changer.”

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Mining industry starts to dig renewables

Record-low solar, wind and energy storage costs have caught the attention of mining companies looking for clean power.

Until about eight months ago, rolling blackouts were a common occurrence in South Africa, where the national power grid is notorious for being unreliable and Eskom, the state-owned utility, has struggled to keep up with rising electricity demand.

But Eskom can’t take credit for this period of relative stability. On the contrary, the situation is not about what Eskom did; it’s about how industry reacted. Electricity demand has eased in the country. Worries over patchy, unpredictable power supply have driven away investment and slowed economic activity. South Africa’s massive mining sector is among the most affected.

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Taking the temperature

Toronto-based Ecobee has morphed into a heavy hitter in the burgeoning home thermostat market.

Stuart Lombard had no obvious reason to leave his job as a venture capitalist in 2007. Times were good. As managing partner with J.L. Albright Venture Partners in Toronto, he worked out of a swank office on the 44th floor of Brookfield Place, at the time known as BCE Place. The firm was one of Canada’s most successful early-stage investors in Internet and software startups, many of which were acquired by the likes of General Electric and Cisco.

Lombard also had major street cred in the technology world. During the 1990s he co-founded what grew to become Toronto’s largest Internet service provider, and as chief executive of Isolation Systems, a maker of virtual private network products, he built a company that in 1998 was sold for $37 million and at one point was owned by Intel.

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A changing of the guard at Corporate Knights

Same fight, new editor, and four reasons to hope.

Four is and has always been my favourite number. Some people think having a favourite number is silly, but the number “4” has meaning when it pops into my head. Sharp. Well balanced. A homonym to the word “for,” which to me represents positivity and agreement and progress.

Three’s company but four is a party. When I started developing my personal signature in high school math class, I even incorporated the number four into the scribble that is my last name. So perhaps it’s fitting that after four years of leading the small but resourceful editorial team at Corporate Knights – which by the way puts out four issues a year – it’s time for me to move along.

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Can big oil transition to a low-carbon economy?

There are no easy or painless answers, but there will be casualties as the fossil fuel industry approaches its Kodak moment.

Please, PUT a global price on carbon.

That’s pretty much what six of Europe’s biggest oil and gas companies said in a joint letter sent in May to Christiana Figueres, the United Nations’ top climate bureaucrat.

“We stand ready to play our part,” Shell, BP, Total, Statoil, Eni and BG Group wrote, pointing to a number of actions they are already taking to limit emissions, from greater investment in lower-carbon natural gas and operational efficiency to supplying more renewable energy and exploring the use of carbon capture and storage.

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Hotels, Airbnb battle for green cred

Whether for leisure or business, more travelers are seeking accommodations that mesh with sustainable values.

Shipping container, recycled concrete pipe, or treetop – take your pick. Yes, this is an article about sustainable hospitality, and yes, the three strange options above are all types of hotels. A Days Inn hotel in Sioux Lookout, Northern Ontario, boasts of being the largest hotel in North America constructed with old shipping containers – 120 of them to be exact.

In Sweden’s Lule River Valley, a venture called Treehotel offers rooms that are suspended up to six metres from the ground within a tall pine forest, while Tubohotel in Tepoztlán, Mexico, uses massive recycled concrete pipes as the housing for its 20 rooms, stacked in pyramids of three.

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Turning city dogs into power providers, one poop at a time

By Tyler Hamilton
New York City is considering a plan to turn dog waste into energy.

Many livestock farmers have anaerobic digesters on the farm that turn chicken, cow and pig manure into methane, which is usually burned on-farm to generate electricity. In the city, wastewater management facilities often capture methane that results from the processing of human waste collected from the flush of toilets.

dogwaste3Walk to an urban dog park and it’s a different story. If you’re not stepping on a pile of poop, you’re likely picking a load of it up with a vanilla-scented plastic bag that’s typically tossed into the nearest (usually overflowing) garbage can.

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App watch: Carrot Rewards

By Tyler Hamilton
A new mobile app called Carrot Rewards uses the lure of points to encourage Canadians to participate in healthier lifestyles.

Canadians love their rewards programs and loyalty points, which can be redeemed for everything from movie passes to airline tickets. This obsession with collecting points is now being leveraged to help make Canadians healthier.

A new mobile app developed by Social Change Rewards, with funding support from the B.C. and federal governments, uses the lure of points to encourage Canadians to participate in healthier lifestyles. Points can be earned by letting the app nudge you in the right direction, whether that means reminding you to go to the gym for a workout or alerting you to a healthy recipe worth trying. You can also earn points by taking quizzes or reading articles, making this app – appropriately called Carrot Rewards – a powerful educational tool.

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Is Ontario destined to become a relic of the auto industry?

Judging by the province’s record on EV innovation and manufacturing, the future of its auto sector looks bleak.

Ben Faiola drives his Michigan-made Chevy Volt into his garage, turns it off and just walks away. Usually, he’d have to do what nearly all electric vehicle owners must do to start their next trip on a fully charged battery: plug the car into a wall charger.

Not Faiola. He’s one of a handful of people in Canada who has installed a wireless EV charging system called Plugless, developed by Richmond, Virginia-based Evatran Group. The system just sits on the floor of Faiola’s garage. All he has to do is drive over it with the help of a wall-based unit that uses light signals to guide him in like an airplane on a runway.

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