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Building sustainable roads in emerging economies

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Monday, December 4, 2023

Take a moment and imagine your daily life without roads. Everything needed to survive and thrive — food, shelter, employment, medical care, education — would suddenly be difficult or impossible to access. That’s a daily reality for many people in emerging economies, where road networks are undeveloped or unreliable due to poor maintenance.  “In emerging economies, roads can provide access to communities that were not previously connected to services or opportunities,” said Henri Blas, the chief content officer of the Global Infrastructure Hub. Founded in 2014, the GI Hub is a non-profit dedicated to facilitating sustainable and equitable infrastructure around the world, working to enhance investment and resilience. “When you look at the return on investment from building and maintaining roads, the economic and social benefits can both be considerable,” Blas said.  Roads, however, are expensive: Governments spend roughly $218 billion on them globally each year. Developing countries struggle to finance new road construction or to fund road maintenance, leading to the deterioration or disappearance of vital transport corridors. Simultaneously, emissions from transportation are a substantial driver of climate change. Road travel generates almost 75 percent of transport emissions, and the materials and construction of road infrastructure contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Asphalt, for example, is a petroleum byproduct. Furthermore, inspection and maintenance vehicles are driven hundreds of thousands of miles across road networks every year. As Amelia Burnett, who works on technology applications in infrastructure at the GI Hub, explained, “There is real tension between the social and economic benefits of roads and their environmental impact.” Driven by this paradox, the GI Hub launched a program to increase the sustainability of roads in emerging markets. Working with a group of multilateral development bank partners, the GI Hub created a new, more accessible way for developing countries to harness technology on a larger scale to make constructing and maintaining roads less expensive and more sustainable.  The GI Hub decided to build this program around technology solutions, based on feedback from the governments and funders they work with. “After hundreds of hours of conversations, we found a key need kept coming up,” said Burnett. “A lack of knowledge about the costs and benefits of applying technology has meant that some potentially transformative technologies aren’t being adopted.”  The GI Hub uses the term InfraTech, an abbreviation for Infrastructure Technology, to refer to technologies that can help build and maintain cleaner, greener, more affordable infrastructure. These solutions range from smart meters that facilitate water conservation to AI-powered planning to reduce transport emissions. But as they embarked on the program, the GI Hub needed partners with a deep understanding of road projects in emerging markets, to make sure they were meeting the needs of developing economies. To do so, they partnered with multilateral development banks.  As international financial institutions that support and fund development projects in poorer countries, these banks know the challenges and needs of different regions and are key players in infrastructure development. This made them the ideal partners to help identify solutions that would be the right fit for use in developing countries. The program hoped to create opportunities for technology to be adopted on a large scale, rather than simply on a project-by-project basis, helping amplify the long-term impact.   The GI Hub program, meanwhile, helped these banks invest wisely. The African Development Bank (AfDB), for example, wanted more cost-effective road maintenance. “It is still very difficult to get road maintenance funded in emerging markets,” said AfDB’s transport and logistics division manager, Marco Yamaguchi. “The private sector is less willing to invest in contracts to operate and maintain roads in Africa. To attract them, we need ways to make that investment repay, and technology is one way. When I saw the GI Hub’s program, I knew we needed to get involved.”  Ultimately, the GI Hub was joined by eight multilateral development banks, which collectively operate over every region of the world. Together, the team identified technologies that could make the biggest difference to the sustainability of roads in emerging markets.  After reviewing more than 50 different applications from technology companies, the GI Hub narrowed the field to five technology solutions that could meet road construction, maintenance, and safety requirements while reducing both costs and emissions. One uses AI to provide real-time data on road repair needs, drastically reducing the need for maintenance vehicles to drive the network looking for issues. A second uses high-resolution satellite images to head off potential landslides, and a third is a cutting-edge application that increases the lifespan of asphalt.  “These solutions can be transformative in low-income economies with limited resources,” Burnett said. “What we’ve created is an actionable and replicable process for integrating InfraTech into project development, which any bank could adopt tomorrow.”  The AfDB is already implementing these strategies. One of the biggest infrastructure funders on the African continent, AfDB finances up to $1 billion per year on road projects throughout 54 member countries. Yamaguchi is eager to implement and build upon the GI Hub’s work. He points to the need to maintain life-changing projects like the AfDB-financed Senegambia Bridge, which reduced travel time between The Gambia and Senegal from two days to 10 minutes and dramatically increased trade between the two countries.  Under Yamaguchi’s guidance and with the support of the GI Hub, the AfDB will launch a new Sustainable Roads Maintenance Program for Africa in 2024, which will help maintain roads throughout the continent. “Climate action is one of the highest priority areas for the bank,” he said. “We had already developed the concept, and the GI Hub helped us accelerate the process.” For the GI Hub’s Blas, this program is just a beginning. “It’s not fair or practical to stop building roads in emerging markets, so instead we aim to make that infrastructure more sustainable,” he said. “We need to do the same for all infrastructure, and technology is key to the transformation.”  He envisions a global knowledge hub for InfraTech solutions, expanding beyond transportation to sectors like waste and water. He also emphasized the need for data, saying it’s key for governments and the private sector to align their objectives and co-invest. Only then, he said, can investment grow at scale.  “By showing the policies and practices that led to investment, we can help others replicate those solutions in other countries and on other projects. That’s the ultimate goal — it’s purpose-driven progress through collaboration.” The Global Infrastructure Hub (GI Hub) is a not-for-profit organisation, formed by the G20, that advances the delivery of sustainable, resilient, and inclusive infrastructure. LEARN MORE This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Building sustainable roads in emerging economies on Dec 4, 2023.

A powerful new approach can help developing countries make road construction and maintenance greener and more affordable.

Take a moment and imagine your daily life without roads. Everything needed to survive and thrive — food, shelter, employment, medical care, education — would suddenly be difficult or impossible to access. That’s a daily reality for many people in emerging economies, where road networks are undeveloped or unreliable due to poor maintenance. 

“In emerging economies, roads can provide access to communities that were not previously connected to services or opportunities,” said Henri Blas, the chief content officer of the Global Infrastructure Hub. Founded in 2014, the GI Hub is a non-profit dedicated to facilitating sustainable and equitable infrastructure around the world, working to enhance investment and resilience. “When you look at the return on investment from building and maintaining roads, the economic and social benefits can both be considerable,” Blas said. 

Roads, however, are expensive: Governments spend roughly $218 billion on them globally each year. Developing countries struggle to finance new road construction or to fund road maintenance, leading to the deterioration or disappearance of vital transport corridors. Simultaneously, emissions from transportation are a substantial driver of climate change. Road travel generates almost 75 percent of transport emissions, and the materials and construction of road infrastructure contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Asphalt, for example, is a petroleum byproduct. Furthermore, inspection and maintenance vehicles are driven hundreds of thousands of miles across road networks every year. As Amelia Burnett, who works on technology applications in infrastructure at the GI Hub, explained, “There is real tension between the social and economic benefits of roads and their environmental impact.”

Driven by this paradox, the GI Hub launched a program to increase the sustainability of roads in emerging markets. Working with a group of multilateral development bank partners, the GI Hub created a new, more accessible way for developing countries to harness technology on a larger scale to make constructing and maintaining roads less expensive and more sustainable. 

The GI Hub decided to build this program around technology solutions, based on feedback from the governments and funders they work with. “After hundreds of hours of conversations, we found a key need kept coming up,” said Burnett. “A lack of knowledge about the costs and benefits of applying technology has meant that some potentially transformative technologies aren’t being adopted.” 

The GI Hub uses the term InfraTech, an abbreviation for Infrastructure Technology, to refer to technologies that can help build and maintain cleaner, greener, more affordable infrastructure. These solutions range from smart meters that facilitate water conservation to AI-powered planning to reduce transport emissions. But as they embarked on the program, the GI Hub needed partners with a deep understanding of road projects in emerging markets, to make sure they were meeting the needs of developing economies. To do so, they partnered with multilateral development banks. 

As international financial institutions that support and fund development projects in poorer countries, these banks know the challenges and needs of different regions and are key players in infrastructure development. This made them the ideal partners to help identify solutions that would be the right fit for use in developing countries. The program hoped to create opportunities for technology to be adopted on a large scale, rather than simply on a project-by-project basis, helping amplify the long-term impact.  

The GI Hub program, meanwhile, helped these banks invest wisely. The African Development Bank (AfDB), for example, wanted more cost-effective road maintenance. “It is still very difficult to get road maintenance funded in emerging markets,” said AfDB’s transport and logistics division manager, Marco Yamaguchi. “The private sector is less willing to invest in contracts to operate and maintain roads in Africa. To attract them, we need ways to make that investment repay, and technology is one way. When I saw the GI Hub’s program, I knew we needed to get involved.” 

Ultimately, the GI Hub was joined by eight multilateral development banks, which collectively operate over every region of the world. Together, the team identified technologies that could make the biggest difference to the sustainability of roads in emerging markets. 

After reviewing more than 50 different applications from technology companies, the GI Hub narrowed the field to five technology solutions that could meet road construction, maintenance, and safety requirements while reducing both costs and emissions. One uses AI to provide real-time data on road repair needs, drastically reducing the need for maintenance vehicles to drive the network looking for issues. A second uses high-resolution satellite images to head off potential landslides, and a third is a cutting-edge application that increases the lifespan of asphalt. 

“These solutions can be transformative in low-income economies with limited resources,” Burnett said. “What we’ve created is an actionable and replicable process for integrating InfraTech into project development, which any bank could adopt tomorrow.” 

The AfDB is already implementing these strategies. One of the biggest infrastructure funders on the African continent, AfDB finances up to $1 billion per year on road projects throughout 54 member countries. Yamaguchi is eager to implement and build upon the GI Hub’s work. He points to the need to maintain life-changing projects like the AfDB-financed Senegambia Bridge, which reduced travel time between The Gambia and Senegal from two days to 10 minutes and dramatically increased trade between the two countries. 

Under Yamaguchi’s guidance and with the support of the GI Hub, the AfDB will launch a new Sustainable Roads Maintenance Program for Africa in 2024, which will help maintain roads throughout the continent. “Climate action is one of the highest priority areas for the bank,” he said. “We had already developed the concept, and the GI Hub helped us accelerate the process.”

For the GI Hub’s Blas, this program is just a beginning. “It’s not fair or practical to stop building roads in emerging markets, so instead we aim to make that infrastructure more sustainable,” he said. “We need to do the same for all infrastructure, and technology is key to the transformation.” 

He envisions a global knowledge hub for InfraTech solutions, expanding beyond transportation to sectors like waste and water. He also emphasized the need for data, saying it’s key for governments and the private sector to align their objectives and co-invest. Only then, he said, can investment grow at scale. 

“By showing the policies and practices that led to investment, we can help others replicate those solutions in other countries and on other projects. That’s the ultimate goal — it’s purpose-driven progress through collaboration.”


The Global Infrastructure Hub (GI Hub) is a not-for-profit organisation, formed by the G20, that advances the delivery of sustainable, resilient, and inclusive infrastructure.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Building sustainable roads in emerging economies on Dec 4, 2023.

Read the full story here.
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How to buy sustainable salmon: An expert guide to navigating the nuance of eco-labels

"Many certification schemes, eco-labels, rankings and guides exist to signpost salmon sustainability"

We've all been there. You're in the supermarket freezer aisle trying to make sense of the different labels on seafood products. You know the oceans are in trouble and you're trying to do the right thing, but the information is confusing and seemingly contradictory. One packet of salmon fillets has a smiling dolphin logo on the back. Another, a less-smiley bright blue fish logo. You pull out your smartphone and open the sustainable seafood app your friend told you about, only to become more confused by its traffic light ratings. In the end, you just pick any product that the label assures you is sustainable.   Making sense of salmon sustainability Salmon is one of the most consumed seafoods globally. It's a rich source of protein, key micronutrients and fatty acids. But with so many different products on the shelf, it's hard to know which ones harm the environment and fish stocks the most. Both wild-caught and farmed salmon can be sustainable, but determining the environmental impact of a fillet isn't simple. Both can present significant social and environmental problems. Wild-caught salmon can be overfished or sourced from vulnerable fish populations. But while salmon aquaculture can reduce the pressure on wild stocks, it's no panacea. Farmed salmon producers often face scrutiny for overcrowding, parasites and pollution, with escapees from open-net pens feared to endanger local wild populations. The fish meal used to feed farmed salmon presents further problems, as it often originates from wild-caught fish that aren't always taken at sustainable levels. These challenges are expected to be exacerbated by shifting climates: higher water temperatures and reduced rainfall can enable the growth of pathogens and increase the susceptibility of fish populations to disease. Many certification schemes, eco-labels, rankings and guides exist to signpost salmon sustainability. For wild-caught salmon, the Marine Stewardship Council provides the gold standard, assuring that it has been sourced from fisheries managed according to rigorous environmental standards. For farmed salmon, a tick of approval from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council is considered the most thorough certification, indicating responsible aquaculture practices. One of us (Laurence Wainwright) has researched eco-labels for five years, finding that these two certification schemes are currently the most scientifically sound, evidenced-based standards for seafood sustainability – including salmon. Other seafood sustainability schemes offer some assurances of sustainability, but are often not nearly as rigorous. Schemes for farmed salmon such as the Soil Association's organic standard have recently faced criticism for having standards that are perceived by some as not going far enough – or potentially even misleading customers by certifying some Scottish salmon farms as organic. To a consumer, an "organic" label generally signifies that a product has been grown from organic feed and produced without the use of chemical pesticides or antibiotics. Farmed salmon can be organic, if raised and fed correctly. A Soil Association spokesperson stated: "Organic farms must follow strict rules to minimize impacts on the environment and animal welfare, and when problems occur, they must prove they are taking action in order to use the organic logo." The Soil Association's aquaculture standards are currently under review following a 60-day consultation and an update to its standards is due later in 2024. According to fish conservation charity WildFish, some badges of sustainability in salmon aquaculture can mask details of unregulated salmon supply chains – with certifications rarely being lost even when conditions are breached. According to its 2023 report, some UK farms have been permitted to use wild-caught fish for feed and to use toxic chemicals for parasite control, without losing their organic certification. This is controversial: such ambiguity and lack of transparency only hinders the salmon aquaculture industry. In terms of wild-caught salmon, it is our strong opinion that it is never legitimate, under any circumstances, to call it organic. Not only is this misleading but it defies scientific evidence and undermines the meaning of the term organic.   Which salmon should you buy? When buying salmon or ordering it at a restaurant, look for key information on the labels or ask staff about the sourcing of their fish. How, and from where, was it caught or farmed? Either can be sustainable, but the devil is in the detail. If farmed, what was it fed – and from where did this feed originate? The feed should be from a sustainable source of fish and perhaps even certified itself. If wild-caught, is there minimal by-catch associated with it? Which species of salmon is it? Whether Atlantic, chinook, sockeye, pink, coho or chum, sustainability depends on a variety of factors so there is no hard-and-fast rule. But there are better and worse options: this guide from Seafood Watch is very useful. Which eco-labels does it have? Certifications from the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council are best.   The scale of salmon While it's best to choose locally sourced fish where possible, many salmon-loving populations live far from the hotspots of salmon production. Sushi salmon in Japan, for example, may have travelled 17,000 km from Norwegian or Chilean farms. And an estimated 52% of emissions from the production of 1 kilogram of farmed salmon in Norway comes from its air transport to China for consumption. The need to mitigate the carbon footprint of salmon production will only increase as the world ramps up decarbonization efforts. With an increasing global population, pressure on the already over-exploited wild salmon stocks is set to intensify. Salmon farming or aquaculture currently bridges this gap between supply and demand, accounting for 70% of the salmon available for consumption. As the fastest-growing food production system, the salmon farming industry is projected to reach a value of US$37 billion (£29 billion) globally by 2027. We need to fundamentally change our relationship with seafood if we are to preserve this wonderful natural food resource. We don't have to stop eating salmon but we must make smarter decisions, both at the fish counter and within seafood supply chains. Don't have time to read about climate change as much as you'd like? Get a weekly roundup in your inbox instead. Every Wednesday, The Conversation's environment editor writes Imagine, a short email that goes a little deeper into just one climate issue. Join the 30,000+ readers who've subscribed so far. Laurence Wainwright, Departmental Lecturer and Course Director, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford and Natasha Lutz, PhD in Disturbance Ecology and Machine Learning, University of Oxford This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Costa Rica’s $75 Million Fishing Industry Overhaul Raises Red Flags

Costa Rica stands at a crucial juncture regarding the future of its fishing industry, with growing concern surrounding the progress of the Sustainable Development of Fisheries and Aquaculture program led by the Costa Rican Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute (INCOPESCA). This program, financed by a substantial $75.1 million loan from the World Bank, was envisioned to […] The post Costa Rica’s $75 Million Fishing Industry Overhaul Raises Red Flags appeared first on The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel | Real Estate.

Costa Rica stands at a crucial juncture regarding the future of its fishing industry, with growing concern surrounding the progress of the Sustainable Development of Fisheries and Aquaculture program led by the Costa Rican Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute (INCOPESCA). This program, financed by a substantial $75.1 million loan from the World Bank, was envisioned to revitalize the nation’s fisheries, fostering economic growth in coastal communities while steering the sector towards sustainability. However, despite high hopes for transformative change, the initiative appears to have hit a roadblock. Major concerns have surfaced over INCOPESCA’s failure to meet financial management standards, raising questions about the effective utilization of allocated resources. Recent findings by the Comptroller General’s Office (CGR) reveal significant lapses in resource execution within Program 3, Sustainable Development of Fisheries and Aquaculture, with funds lying idle since 2022. The revelation of unutilized resources, coupled with mounting financial liabilities, underscores a disheartening reality: the intended beneficiaries, namely fishermen and coastal communities, are left waiting for tangible improvements promised by the program. Nonetheless, Heiner Méndez Barrientos, INCOPESCA’s Executive President, emphasized the indispensable role of research in combating illegal fishing and overexploitation during a recent appearance before the Legislative Assembly’s International Affairs Committee. Yet, concerns linger regarding the progress of scientific studies integral to the World Bank-supported project. Notably, key species vital to both the fisheries sector and tourism, such as tuna, have seemingly been overlooked in research endeavors. The authority’s neglect jeopardizes the long-term sustainability and prosperity of Costa Rica’s fisheries sector. Likewise, the conspicuous absence of meaningful participation from fishermen and stakeholders raises concerns about the program’s inclusivity and transparency. The oversight in engaging those directly dependent on fishing underscores the need for a reevaluation of decision-making processes to ensure equitable representation. Sustainable fishing isn’t merely an environmental imperative but a matter of social justice. While the program presents an unprecedented opportunity to fortify governance and invest in sustainable fishing practices, its effectiveness hinges on genuine commitment, efficient management, and active involvement from all stakeholders. As Costa Rica stands on the brink of a transformative shift in its fishing industry, it’s imperative for authorities and civil society to redouble efforts in safeguarding the program’s integrity and efficacy. The potential for sustainable fisheries is within reach, but only through concerted action, inclusive governance, and unwavering dedication can this vision be realized. Let us not allow bureaucratic hurdles and inefficiencies to derail the path towards a thriving and sustainable fishing sector. The post Costa Rica’s $75 Million Fishing Industry Overhaul Raises Red Flags appeared first on The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel | Real Estate.

New York Reimagined Subsidized Housing. What Happened?

Via Verde aspired to serve as a model of beautiful, sustainable subsidized housing. A decade later, our critic finds that a building can change minds, but maybe not systems.

You have been granted access, use your keyboard to continue reading.New York Reimagined Subsidized Housing. What Happened?Via Verde aspired to serve as a model of beautiful, sustainable subsidized housing. A decade letter, our critic finds that a building can change minds, but maybe not systems.Akilah Browne and her son walk with their neighbor Eduardo González. They were early buyers of Via Verde’s co-op apartments.Credit...Daniel Arnold for The New York TimesFeb. 7, 2024, 5:01 a.m. ETHeadway  Explore the world’s biggest challenges through the lens of progress. We'll send you the next Headway story as soon as it is published. This story is from Headway, an initiative from The New York Times exploring the world’s challenges through the lens of progress. Headway looks for promising solutions, notable experiments and lessons from what’s been tried.“A beacon.”That was how Shaun Donovan, former commissioner of New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, heralded Via Verde, the South Bronx development, in 2011.Construction was nearly done at the time, and I chose Via Verde for the subject of my first column as The New York Times’s architecture critic. It wasn’t the Guggenheim on Fifth Avenue or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It wasn’t a visual spectacle, but it was handsome and dignified, standing out with its prefab metal facade not just in a neighborhood of empty lots, aging apartment blocks and derelict rail tracks but also against a backdrop of dreary, bare-bones affordable housing developments all across the city.Most important, its goal was larger than itself: to reimagine subsidized housing for a new century. I promised in that column to report back on whether it succeeded.Did it?Some history: A Bloomberg-era trophy project, Via Verde emerged from two international competitions. Every relevant city agency helped to speed its construction, unheard-of before or since. Engineers, solar experts, community groups, architectural organizations as well as the New York City Council pulled in unison. Envious developers and architects of less coddled projects grumbled.The winning design team paired Grimshaw, a glamorous architecture firm based in London, with Dattner, a veteran New York outfit. They conceived a 20-story tower and mid-rise annex with 151 subsidized apartments for working poor and formerly homeless renters, alongside 71 townhouses for first-time, income-restricted homeowners, itself a novel concept. Lee Weintraub, the project’s landscape architect, envisioned the campus: a refined, leafy oasis with an amphitheater, rooftop community garden and apple grove.Via Verde’s design incorporated rooftop gardens and other amenities not usually found in subsidized housing.Credit...Angel Franco/The New York TimesVia Verde’s most trumpeted feature was its mixing of green and health-conscious design with aesthetics. The South Bronx suffered from some of the highest asthma rates in the country (it still does). And it’s a fresh food desert. Community members voiced their desire for health-conscious living during Via Verde’s public planning sessions. So in addition to the community garden, where residents could grow their own fruits and vegetables, developers included a rooftop gym and leased the building’s storefronts to a clinic and pharmacy.Luxury projects routinely market green and healthy features alongside fancy architecture. But for subsidized housing developments, this was not just unusual back then, it was provocative. Housing and homeless advocates argued — many continue to — that in the midst of an affordable housing crisis every available dollar for new development should be spent on constructing as many apartments as possible.That’s understandable. But Via Verde implied a different calculus. Paying a premium for better architecture and sustainable design, it suggested value as an alternative to cost. Its proposition was that spreading dignity, promoting equity, inspiring pride in its residents — all this would pay for itself in the long run.Residents arrived in 2012. Architects and design students from around the world started making pilgrimages to the South Bronx. Via Verde became a case study at the Harvard Business School.For a while, I sat in on meetings where a gardener from the nonprofit GrowNYC helped residents who volunteered for Via Verde’s community garden. Over the years I checked in with the project’s developers, Adam Weinstein, president of Phipps Houses, the venerable New York nonprofit, which now manages the site, and Jonathan Rose, a national for-profit developer of affordable housing with a reputation for sustainable and health-conscious design.And I returned one frigid morning this January to meet with a few Via Verde homeowners. At the front gate, Marisol Colon, the building’s concierge, was on duty. She buzzed me into the heated vestibule, where several residents lugging groceries from around the corner were stamping their feet against the cold.From its tallest building, Via Verde’s rooftop gardens blend into the winter Bronx landscape.Credit...Daniel Arnold for The New York TimesDanny Nieves lives in an apartment above his son’s family in Via Verde.Credit...Daniel Arnold for The New York TimesVia Verde, on Brook Avenue in the Bronx, is separated from the street by a gate and a concierge. Credit...Daniel Arnold for The New York TimesThrough much of the last century, subsidized housing developments were designed for sprawling, porous campuses. “Towers in the park” became the term of art, and over time, also a rough shorthand for all the failures of public housing. Via Verde reconsidered the model, combining it with something like the Upper West Side courtyard-style building. Spread across one and a half acres, it isn’t porous but features a single gated entrance, watched over 24/7 by an attendant, or concierge, as at a luxury development.According to Weinstein, the cost for the concierge has more than amortized itself over the years. Crime, he says, has been largely a nonissue at Via Verde, unlike just outside its gates. At Lambert Houses, another Phipps project in the South Bronx, Weinstein and his team have been erecting new high-rises with doormen, in imitation of Via Verde, to replace the project’s six-story buildings from the 1970s with their multiple, unguarded entrances. I visited the first new tower to be completed a couple of years ago.“I’m not scared anymore to come in and out of my apartment,” one resident told me. She said the new building made her feel “cared for.” I heard the same from Via Verde tenants.Care, Weinstein says, translates into dollars saved. The development has had its share of headaches and miscalculations — apartments plagued by flies because windows weren’t designed for screens; sustainable bamboo cabinetry that fell apart; a tower elevator on the fritz when I last visited.But Weinstein told me maintenance costs have remained flat for a decade. Expenses for repairs have been half what they are at subsidized projects of a similar vintage. At a cost of $99 million, Via Verde has turned out to be “the least expensive most expensive project in the end,” Weinstein says.This is partly because Phipps knows what it’s doing. It’s also because, residents and staff members say, Via Verde has become a source of pride. Eduardo González Jr. was one of the first to buy an apartment at Via Verde. A Bronx native — he is assistant director of diversity, equity and inclusion for Cornell Cooperative Extension — he was attracted to the idea of buying into a mixed-income community. Now he and his wife are raising a family at Via Verde, where their children play with other children from the building in Weintraub’s open, gated spaces.But his children don’t attend neighborhood schools, González told me, saying he sometimes feels “conflicted” about what another homeowner, Akilah Browne, calls “living in a bubble.”Akilah Browne’s son reaches for one of his books inside their Via Verde home. Credit...Daniel Arnold for The New York TimesWhen I asked Colon, the concierge, about the neighborhood outside Via Verde, she rolled her eyes. A teenager was recently shot and killed around the corner; meth dealers and homeless encampments are a growing presence along Brook Avenue, Via Verde’s front door. “But inside,” Colon stressed, “it’s all smooth and safe.”In that first column I wrote that there is only so much “a housing development on its own could do.” For Donovan, now chief executive and president of Enterprise, a national affordable housing nonprofit, Via Verde’s legacy is inseparable from its architecture. “The care and respect residents and workers continue to have for it,” he says, “reflects the respect and care that great design shows for residents and the community.”Rose and Weinstein told me separately that, in their own work as developers, there is a before and an after Via Verde. The project road-tested features that are today considered best practices for affordable housing developments across the country, including the use of solar panels, green roofs and day-lit stairwells to encourage walking. Energy codes have become more aggressive for affordable developments.How much of that, if any, is linked to Via Verde is obviously hard to pin down. There are other developers and designers of affordable housing whose work has also raised the bar around the country, among them the architects David Baker in San Francisco, Andrew Bernheimer in Brooklyn and Michael Maltzan in Los Angeles.Richard Dattner, who collaborated on Via Verde, believes the project “showed what was possible, architecturally.” His firm is presently completing more than a thousand new subsidized apartments in Brooklyn. Rose is about to complete Sendero Verde, a 750-unit affordable housing development in Harlem.“Architects grumbled that the project got special treatment but they should be thanking us now,” Dattner told me. “Now better architecture is a requirement.”You wouldn’t necessarily know it, however, from much of what still gets built. Design quality has slipped as a priority during the administrations of Bill de Blasio and Eric Adams. If anything, bringing city agencies and community groups together around new subsidized housing has become harder.The problem isn’t just a lack of leadership. Last year, New York State failed to pass any legislation whatsoever to support new housing. Across the country, NIMBYism and the weaponization of environmental law, historic landmark rules and other regulations have turned all sorts of proposals for subsidized housing into sieges.Via Verde reminds us we can do better. It’s still a beacon.The Headway initiative is funded through grants from the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors serving as a fiscal sponsor. The Woodcock Foundation is a funder of Headway’s public square. Funders have no control over the selection, focus of stories or the editing process and do not review stories before publication. The Times retains full editorial control of the Headway initiative.Michael Kimmelman is The Times’s architecture critic and the founder and editor-at-large of Headway, a team of journalists focused on large global challenges and paths to progress. He has reported from more than 40 countries and was previously chief art critic. More about Michael KimmelmanEnjoy unlimited access to all of The Times.6-month Welcome Offeroriginal price:   $6.25sale price:   $1/weekLearn more

Oxford’s Bold Plan for a Zero-Carbon, Circular Plastics Economy

Oxford researchers outline a roadmap for a sustainable, net zero plastic economy, advocating for reduced demand, renewable raw materials, a significant increase in recycling, and...

The University of Oxford proposes a plan for a sustainable plastic economy, focusing on reduced demand, renewable resources, increased recycling, and cleaner production methods. Credit: SciTechDaily.comOxford researchers outline a roadmap for a sustainable, net zero plastic economy, advocating for reduced demand, renewable raw materials, a significant increase in recycling, and integration with renewable energy.Researchers from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Plastics, University of Oxford, have outlined ambitious targets to help deliver a sustainable and net zero plastic economy. In a paper published in Nature, the authors argue for a rethinking of the technical, economic, and policy paradigms that have entrenched the status quo, one of rising carbon emissions and uncontrolled pollution.The Current State of Global PlasticsCurrently the global plastics system results in over 1 gigatonnes per annum (Gt/annum) of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions which is the same as the total combined emissions of Europe’s three largest economies (UK, Germany, and France).[1] If left unchecked, these emissions could rise to 4-5 Gt/annum with other sources of pollution also causing concern.[2] Another problem is the lack of effective recycling – in 2019, only 9% of the world’s plastic waste was turned into new products through mechanical recycling. The majority ended up in landfills or was incinerated, and a significant proportion was mismanaged, ending up polluting terrestrial and marine ecosystems.[3] Proposed Interventions and TargetsThe authors analyze the current and future global plastics system, proposing technical, legal, and economic interventions from now until 2050 to allow it to transition to net zero emissions and to reduce other negative environmental impacts. The study includes a future scenario centered on four targets:Reducing future plastics demand by one-half, substituting and eliminating over-use of plastic materials and products.Changing the way plastics are manufactured to replace fossil fuels as the hydrocarbon source to use only renewable raw materials, including waste biomass and carbon dioxide.For plastics that are recoverable, maximizing recycling very significantly, targeting 95% recycling of those materials that are retrievable from wastes.Integrating plastic manufacturing and recycling with renewable power and minimizing all other negative environmental impacts, including of additives.The Need for Collective ActionThe authors emphasize the need for concerted action across all four target areas to ensure the global plastics systems curb their climate impacts and meet UN Sustainable Development Goals.Charlotte Williams, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford’s Department of Chemistry and lead author said:“We need plastics and polymers, including for future low-emission technologies like electric vehicles, wind turbines, and for many essential everyday materials. Our current global plastics system is completely unsustainable, and we need to be implementing these series of very bold measures at scale, and fast. This is a solvable problem but it needs coherent and combined action, particularly from chemical manufacturers.”Designing a Sustainable Future for PlasticsTo successfully transition the plastics system, the authors set out principles to ensure “smart materials design” and differentiate between plastics that are recoverable and irretrievable after use, noting that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Rather, the authors propose careful use of the design principles to help select the optimum production methods and appropriate use of resources, deliver the required performances, ensure waste management, and minimize broader environmental impacts. A timeline of technical-economic-policy and legal interventions helps readers focus on the actions needed to reach net zero emissions by 2050.Urgent Call to Action“The time for action has arrived, we cannot afford to wait any longer,” study co-author Fernando Vidal, Postdoctoral Researcher in Chemistry at POLYMAT in Spain and former Oxford Martin School Fellow on the Future of Plastics concluded.“We must change our concepts around the way we make, use, and dispose of plastics, otherwise, we risk perpetuating this problem. The upcoming UN Global Plastic Treaty is the opportunity to make a lasting change in the right direction.”Study co-author Cameron Hepburn, Battcock Professor of Environmental Economics at Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, said: “The problem is that plastics, while contributing hugely to global pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, are extraordinarily useful. Our research finds that creating a circular economy for plastics in order to reduce their negative impacts is possible, but only if we can reduce future demand by half, switch to renewable plastics that aren’t made from fossil fuels, recycle 95% of what’s left, and minimize environmental impacts at every step of the process.“The challenge is enormous, but we present a roadmap to transform the whole system, including through the smart design of plastics, economic and legal interventions, and a shift away from overconsumption.”Notes:“Strategies to reduce the global carbon footprint of plastics” by Jiajia Zheng, and Sangwon Suh, 15 April 2019, Nature Climate Change.DOI: 10.1038/s41558-019-0459-z“Towards circular plastics within planetary boundaries” by Marvin Bachmann, Christian Zibunas, Jan Hartmann, Victor Tulus, Sangwon Suh, Gonzalo Guillén-Gosálbez and André Bardow, 6 March 2023, Nature Sustainability.DOI: 10.1038/s41893-022-01054-9Global Plastics Outlook: Economic Drivers, Environmental Impacts and Policy OptionsReference: “Designing a Circular Carbon and Plastics Economy for a Sustainable Future” 31 January 2024, Nature.DOI: 10.1038/s41586-023-06939-z

Want to be more eco-friendly when travelling? Here’s how

If your aim this year is to be more eco-friendly and sustainable when travelling, here are a few ways how you can do just that… The post Want to be more eco-friendly when travelling? Here’s how appeared first on SAPeople - Worldwide South African News.

Being more eco-friendly when you travel is a commendable goal that involves making conscious choices to minimize your environmental impact. Here are some tips to help you travel more sustainably… CHOOSE ECO-FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATION Look for sustainable hotels, hostels, or vacation rentals that have implemented green practices, such as energy-efficient lighting, water conservation measures, and waste recycling. USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT WHERE POSSIBLE Opt for buses, trains, trams, and subways instead of renting a car or using taxis. Public transport is generally more energy-efficient and produces fewer emissions per passenger. ALSO READ: Six travel tips to remember when flying with pets PACK LIGHT The more weight a vehicle carries, the more fuel it consumes. To be more sustainable, pack only what you need to help reduce the weight of your luggage and in the same way, the environmental impact of your transport. CHOOSE NON-STOP FLIGHTS Take direct flights whenever possible to be more eco-friendly. A significant portion of emissions from air travel comes from takeoff and landing, so reducing the number of flights can help minimize your carbon footprint. ALSO READ: World’s busiest flight routes: Where are they? BRING A REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE AND SNACKS Single-use plastic contributes to environmental pollution. Bring an eco-friendly, reusable water bottle and refill it to reduce plastic waste. You can also pack snacks in reusable containers to avoid unnecessary packaging. ALSO READ: Seven tips to ensure you sleep well during a long flight RESPECT LOCAL ECOSYSTEMS AND WILDLIFE Be sure to follow designated trails, avoid disturbing wildlife, and always stick to responsible tourism practices. Be mindful of the impact your presence can have on delicate ecosystems. CONSERVE ENERGY AND WATER Practice eco-friendly energy and water conservation in your accommodation. Turn off lights and electronics when not in use, avoid taking unnecessarily long showers and use towels and linens for more than one day if possible. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES BY SUNDEEKA MUNGROO The post Want to be more eco-friendly when travelling? Here’s how appeared first on SAPeople - Worldwide South African News.

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