With passion for South Africa, her people and the “lighter and brighter side of beautiful living”, new lifestyle retail chain Beetroot Inc has found a recipe for success we could all emulate.
“Our offering is different and fresh – and it was clear from the start that it would resonate with a segment of the market. It is a work in progress and we learn new things (about ourselves and our clients) every day,” says CEO Elize van der Berg.
Beetroot Inc. was launched four years ago with the main objective being sustainable job creation, says van der Berg. The fledgling business initially made and supplied scatter cushions to corporate companies. Now a retail business with seven branches in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, the main impetus for the inception of the company remains the same.
“Job creation is essential to make South Africa work,” says Van der Berg. “We started with two people and a sewing machine and now have more than fifty people on the payroll. Those first two employees are still with the company. We also collaborate with small entrepreneurs who employ people too – we estimate Beetroot Inc supports about 600 people.”
The product range is diverse and currently includes couches, chairs, coffee tables (made from recycled wood), eco-friendly utility furniture (like mobile work stations and trolleys), lampshades, hand-crafted handbags, uniquely designed scatter cushions, placemats, runners, tablecloths and aprons, pochettes (colourful envelope-sized and -shaped utility bags and soft jewellery. Corporate gifts, novelties and congratulatory flags complete the Beetroot Inc. product offering.
The real game changer is that Beetroot Inc. customers can personalise any furniture item they order – adjusting dimensions to suit space requirements and choosing from a variety of fabric and paint finishes. The company also offers to custom-make items that are not part of their current product range, and will reupholster old-favourite furniture pieces too.
“We will keep on experimenting with our product offering,” says van der Berg. It is part of providing consumers with a different retail experience. They must feel free to relax and explore the diversity of Beetroot’s authentic product range and share in the joy and the fun created by South Africans for South Africans.”
Beetroot Inc.’s board members combine an array of skills from different backgrounds; this means the company is able to tap into their management, retail, sales and marketing experience. Similarly, the design of the products is, mostly, a collaborative process, with designers, artists and even shop assistants giving input, continues van der Berg.
“The business is proof that you can harness the power of diversity collectively for the common good,” she continues. “The only proviso is that people must work in the same direction so that they can all contribute towards reaching the company’s objectives.”
Van der Berg says, “We are grateful that we can offer something to people who enjoy the lighter and brighter side of beautiful living – as our pay-off line states. To provide this, we tap into what our team members have in common, we don’t focus on the differences. It is this collective consciousness that drives the company forward.”
A mantra for the nation.
For more information, please visit via http://www.beetrootinc.co.za Beetroot Inc has stores in Gauteng (Menlyn Maine, Fourways Mall, Waterkloof Corner Store, Springs Mall), KZN (Ballito Junction) and the Western Cape (Table Bay Mall, Tyger Valley Centre).
Issued by: Paddington Station PR
It’s that time of the year when many of us go a little crazy giving loads of gifts and indulging in far too much food. The Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) would like to give everyone some waste-wise advice this festive season, to reduce their environmental impact by looking for ways to minimise the amount of household waste which is eventually diverted to landfill.
“During the festive season we produce a lot of waste from packaging, food wrappers, old decorations and even unwanted gifts. We are also likely to produce far too much food for end of year parties and Christmas dinners, not to mention treats for guests who come to visit. With a fridge stuffed to the brim, that extra party food which is not consumed is often thrown into the garbage bin too,” says Jan Palm, President of the IWMSA. “Unfortunately, Southern Africa is running out of landfill airspace and so we all have a responsibility to be waste-wise by correctly sorting and disposing of our waste. You can be waste-wise this festive season by considering alternative ways to dispose of unwanted gifts and food.”
The IWMSA has identified the best waste-wise tips to get you through the festive season:
- Find a charity that is collecting food
Look for a Non-Profit Organisation in your area that is collecting and redistributing food this festive season. A handy website to help you find a charity that is nearest to you is www.giveback.co.za or www.forgood.co.za. “There are many people less fortunate than ourselves who would love to enjoy eating delicious Christmas party leftovers. So instead of throwing it away, call ahead to a charity and ask if they would appreciate receiving your leftover food. You’re bound to feel good when you take time to do this and the simple act of helping others will be most rewarding. The added bonus, is that the extra food doesn’t end up in your rubbish bin,” says Palm.
- Give food parcels to homeless people
“There are many people who live on the street, who spend their days begging on the side of the road and often go to sleep hungry. Christmas Day isn’t any different for them. Why not take left over food from your Christmas meal and give it to the underprivileged people in your community?” suggests Palm. “Another alternative is to take your leftover food to the nearest police station or hospital where you can treat the staff who are hard at work over the holiday period. It’s a nice way of thanking them for the valuable work they do.”
- Compost your food waste
Create your own compost to spread over flower beds in your garden using uncooked fresh produce like vegetable peels. You can add egg shells, tea bags and coffee granules to your compost bin. “Remember to combine grass clippings and leaves from your garden with the food waste, not forgetting to turn the material to allow air in which will help it to break down quicker. There are numerous benefits to composting organic waste as it produces mulch, soil amendments and organic fertilisers,” explains Palm. You can take composting a step further by building your own worm farm to make the richest organic fertiliser for your garden. Worm farms are odourless and don’t take up a lot of space, and therefore you can keep it inside. For an easy guide to building your own worm farm visit http://bit.ly/2i0ImMa.
- Give away unwanted gifts
Instead of throwing away gifts that you don’t want, consider who might enjoy owning them. “Perhaps the trinkets in your Christmascracker could be given to children who wouldn’t normally receive toys at Christmas? Or perhaps you can donate clothing items you don’t want to a charity,” says Palm.
- Return and exchange gifts you do not want
Consider returning gifts to the shop where they were bought and request a refund or exchange. Palm explains, “Set a trend in your family and encourage others to cross out prices on gifts, but leave tags on so that they can be returned if the receiver doesn’t want it, this is a simple way to ensure gifts don’t go to waste.”
- Give gifts in gift bags that can be reused
“Using gift bags instead of wrapping paper and sticky tape makes environmental sense, because there’s no need to drop off paper at a recycling depot. A gift bag can easily be folded flat and stored away, ready to be reused next Christmas,” says Palm.
- Be ready to collect wrapping paper for recycling
“Everyone has a tradition of opening gifts with friends and family, be it on Christmas Eve, first thing on Christmas Day or when friends arrive at your home to celebrate. Get ready to collect as much wrapping paper for recycling by having a large bag close at hand when the gifts are unwrapped. Encourage the younger children to be Santa’s little helpers and make a game of collecting all the wrapping paper so that all of it ends up in your recycling bin,” says Palm.
“Now is a perfect time to reconsider how we dispose of waste. We encourage everyone to approach this Christmas with the mindset of a Waste-Wise Warrior, by diverting waste away from landfills,” concludes Palm.
For more information on the IWMSA, visit www.iwmsa.co.za. The IWMSA is also on Twitter (https://twitter.com/IWMSA) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/iwmsa). For more information on recycling and recovery, visit the National Recycling Forum’s website at www.recycling.co.za.
Over the years the prestigious Steel Awards, hosted annually by the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (Saisc), has been an excellent barometer of the growth of the Light Steel Frame Building (LSFB) in Southern Africa. This year was no different. Nineteen projects were entered into the LSFB category by seven leading Southern African Light Steel Frame Building Association (Sasfa) members from seven provinces around the country. The majority – 25% – came from Gauteng, with KZN 20% and 15% each from OFS and Eastern Cape.
Sasfa director John Barnard says that while the quantum of entries is an indicator of how the industry is faring, the floor area covered by the entries is a measure of how the industry has transformed since LSFB first became a category in the Steel Awards 10 years ago. It reflects the trend towards larger projects being built using LSF.
This year, the LSFB entries comprised 30% residential, 30% community buildings and the rest in office / commercial and industrial projects
“It is pleasing to see the growth in LSFB use in the residential sector,” says Barnard. “Home owners have accepted that LSF buildings appear no different to ‘conventionally’ built structures and that the quality of finishes is typically better. They also realise that LSF is a very cost-effective building method, with financial savings emanating mainly from significant time savings to complete building projects, less rework, reduced logistical costs –which are of growing importance due to the escalation of fuel prices and general construction inflation – and a drastic reduction of rubble on building sites, when compared with the brick-and-mortar alternative.”
When analysing the LSFB entries for Steel Awards 2017 during the judging process, Barnard says it was interesting how different entries represented different attributes of LSFB – logistics playing an important role in the more remote projects, low mass being important in the construction of long-span roof trusses, while speed of construction the key for most of the others.
2017 Steel Awards LSFB Winners
There were two joint winners in the MiTek LSFB category at Steel Awards 2017 –
GLA School Hall and Summit Place:
With several two and three storey office buildings at Summit Place, Garsfontein, Pretoria, already successfully clad with LSF façade walls with ETICS external cladding, it was no surprise that architect Boogertman & Partners, decided to use the same solution on the Assupol Building – the 11-storey winning office block -, in the same development.
In most of the earlier Summit Place buildings, the architect specified slanting, gravity defying façade walls. With the Assupol Building, he decided to introduce elegantly curved façade walls, made possible by LSF.
This is the first and highest South African high-rise office building where façade walls were constructed with LSF and ETICS external cladding. Saint-Gobains’ ETICS was used for the external cladding, as it is suited to curves, provides a durable external finish as well as insulating the office building to reduce the energy required for heating and cooling over the lifetime of the building.
Barnard says that this project amply portrays the benefits of LSFB. “The façade walls were built quickly and accurately with, for example, all of the 700 pre-made external windows fitting perfectly into the pre-designed openings in the wall panels. The low mass of the LSF and ETICS cladding eased logistics, and made handling on site a lot easier, requiring only a small team of artisans to do the installation. Also, importantly in these circumstances, the low waste factor meant a small operational footprint allowing other trades to work in tandem.
“This project is aesthetically pleasing and uniquely captures most of the benefits of LSFB,” says Barnard.
GLA School Hall
The main challenge of this Jeffrey’s Bay project was to establish a world class green education facility on a tight budget. This required architect, Jacobus Scott, to come up with innovative solutions especially because the owners wanted a multi-use gathering area, which required along span roof design. “The MiTek Ultra-Span system was perfect in these circumstances,” says Barnard. “The MiTek team designed and installed a cost-effective solution that not only looks impressive, but also effectively solved design and engineering problems that could never have been overcome with a traditional roofing system.”
Barnard adds that what struck him about this project was how closely the final structure resembles a sketch drawing used originally to promote the solution! “This is not the lowest mass per area roof structure, but some clever design captured benefits made possible by high strength low mass steel trusses. From natural ventilation to optimisation of natural light, photo voltaic cells and rainwater harvesting and the recyclability of materials used – LSF – made this green structure possible”.
“While these two are worthy winners, all the entries were of an exceptional standard and reflected the quality and excellence of an industry that is becoming increasingly relevant in a construction environment that is facing rising costs in materials and transport and in an end-user environment where energy costs are soaring and environmental issues are paramount,” Barnard concludes.
Fly larvae that turn organic waste into animal food, reusable sanitary pads and a shark barrier that is friendly to marine life have been recognised as the top innovations for 2017 by the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme for SMEs in South Africa (GCIP-SA). Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor was the keynote speaker at a gala event in Pretoria where the winners were announced. The grand prize of R120,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to California was awarded to Bandile Dlabantu, whose mobile insect bio-conversion unit was announced as the winning SA cleantech innovation for 2017. Runners-up Sara Andreotti (Sharksafe Barrier) and Euodia Naanyane-Bouwer (Gracious Nubian washable and reusable sanitary pads) each received a prize of R60,000, and will be joining Dlabantu at the Cleantech Open Global Forum in California in January 2018 to compete against other GCIP top performers from across the globe. Three special category winners were also announced at the event, with each receiving R20,000 in prize money.
In addition to her runner-up prize, NaanyaneBouwer scooped the innovation for social impact award. The award for the best Women Team went to the TouchTap team, led by Stephanie Pons. Comprising a team of committed female members, the team was judged to contribute significantly to the mainstreaming of women in the clean technology space. Team leader Pontsho Moletsane received the award for the most promising Youth Team on behalf of Yellow Beast for Nosets™, an automated irrigation system designed to enhance irrigation efficiency for shallow root crop agricultural markets. It was the view of the judges that, through their innovation, commitment and enthusiasm, this young team would serve to encourage other young innovators to choose entrepreneurship as a career. These top performers were selected by three provincial panels of independent judges from a pool of eleven finalists from across the country, based on key business aspects such as product/market fit, business model, financing strategy, management team, sustainability, and innovation.
Over the past four years, the GCIP-SA has assisted a total of 102 cleantech entrepreneurs and innovators in validating their technologies and developing sustainable and investment-ready business models. The programme will be integrated into the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) as from January 2018, where it will be institutionalised as a legacy project. “The premise is simple: successful innovations, innovators and entrepreneurs create industries, jobs, and contribute to better living conditions, a sustainable environment and economic growth,” says TIA CEO Mr Barlow Manilal. Successful international partnership The GCIP-SA is part of an international initiative that aims to promote clean technology innovations and support SMEs in growing their innovations into viable and sustainable businesses. Over the past four years, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and TIA have successfully implemented the GCIPSA, which continues to contribute to the green economy in SA by bringing cleantech innovations to life through extensive training and mentoring, and connecting them to networks of local and international peers as well as potential partners and funders.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has been the principal project funder since 2014, while US-based Cleantech Open serves as the international knowledge partner. In her keynote address at the 2017 awards event, Minister Pandor said that the GCIP-SA’s highly successful programmatic approach accelerates commercial opportunities and creates platforms for participants to promote their product offerings and raise funding. “Through its ongoing support of entrepreneurs and innovation in the clean technology space, the Programme will contribute to strengthening the resilience of the complex South African entrepreneurial economy to operate within the global market, and will have measurable positive economic and social benefits for the country.”
Some pricey features, like replacing windows or buying a solar system, can take many years to pay for themselves.
Investing in making your home more energy efficient can help the environment, lower your utility bills and possibly help you fetch a higher sale price.
But homeowners considering a green remodel should also weigh how long it will take for the improvements to reap savings. Some pricey features, like replacing windows or buying a solar power system, could take many years to ultimately pay for themselves.
“You have to make a decision: ‘How environmentally friendly do I want to get if it takes me 16 years to break even on my investment?’” said Sid Davis, a home renovator and author of “Your Eco-Friendly Home: Buying, Building or Remodeling Green.”
Here are some things to consider as you map out your home’s conversion to a more energy-efficient, environmentally friendly pad:
GET AN ENERGY AUDIT
You want to lower your electric or gas bill. You may even be ready to buy or lease solar panels to generate electricity. But what if you can accomplish big savings by simply re-sealing your windows and doors to prevent air inside your home from venting, driving up your heating and cooling costs? Where do you begin?
During an energy audit an expert sizes up the efficiency of your appliances, air and heating systems, and gauges how much air your home is leaking.
Up to 25 percent of heating and cooling costs result from heat loss, as air moves in and out of a house through holes, improperly sealed windows and insufficient insulation.
Check with your electric or gas company to see whether they offer to conduct home energy inspections. Often, such audits may be free.
MAKE EASY CHANGES FIRST
Tackling less expensive changes first can add up to big savings.
Replacing incandescent lights with compact fluorescent light bulbs, using a programmable thermostat to control when air conditioning or heat turns on can whittle away at your utility bills. Then there’s insulation, the decidedly low-tech but key feature of every energy efficient home.
The cost of home insulation can vary, depending on how much you need and which type you use.
Try this online tool from home-improvement website Homewyse.com: www.homewyse.com/services/cost_to_insulate_your_home.html.
“Adding attic insulation is a good energy saver that does not break the bank,” notes John Ritterpusch, assistant vice president of sustainability and green building at the National Association of Home Builders. “Air sealing older homes with a caulk gun and a steady hand can do much to keep the winter winds at bay.”
Adding high-efficiency toilets can also translate into savings, especially when you factor in potential rebates from water utilities that range from $25 to $200, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That could shorten the time it takes to recover the cost of such toilets, which are typically more expensive than less-efficient ones, to a few years, the EPA says.
LOOK INTO REBATES
From solar power systems and appliances to single-pane windows, certain energy and water-efficient improvements can qualify homeowners for rebates from utilities or government tax credits.
For example, the IRS offers a tax credit of 30 percent of the cost of solar hot water heaters, solar electric equipment and wind turbines. If the credit exceeds how much you owe in taxes, the IRS allows you to carry over the unused portion into the next year’s tax return.
To search which energy efficient appliances and other home features qualify homeowners for federal tax credits, check this out: www.energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits.
Here’s a search portal for rebates on Energy Star-rated appliances: www.energystar.gov/rebate-finder.
CONSIDER RESALE IMPACT
Certain green upgrades may add value to your home, depending on whether you live in a part of the country where those upgrades are seen as more of a selling point.
For example, in the Southwest, homebuyers may be more likely to view water-sparing landscaping, “smart” sprinklers or a solar power system as valuable features of a home than in other parts of the country where water and energy costs are less expensive.
A recent study tracked single-family homes with solar power systems in six states that were sold mostly between 2010 and 2013. The study, conducted by real estate appraisers and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found that the homes sold, on average, for more than other homes without solar power systems. It also found that the sales price gain was higher the bigger the solar system in the home.
The appraisers, on average, found a premium of around $14,000 for solar homes with typical-sized systems of about 3.85 kilowatts.
The green premium isn’t a given. Some home appraisers may not have the training to evaluate the value of green home features. Or there may not be enough comparable homes in the area with such features, said Sandra Adomatis, a certified general appraiser and instructor with the Appraisal Institute. She also co-led the solar power study.
One way to boost the likelihood that green remodeling features are factored into your home’s value by appraisers and would-be buyers is to prioritize improvements that make a visible dent in your utility bills.
“If you can prove dollars and cents (buyers) are more willing to pay a premium,” Adomatis said.
What is a green home?
The simple answer is a green home is one that has been built, remodeled, or retrofitted to meet higher standards than conventional construction, with the goal of achieving healthier, more resource-efficient, more cost-effective homes that enhance the lives and experiences the people who live in them.
Generally there is independent, third party verification to document that standards have been met or exceeded. This verification serves as the basis for certification of green homes and provides valuable information for consumers, helping in comparison shopping and decision-making.
There are several organizations that have developed standards for green building and development. Certification by any of these organizations is strong evidence that the home is built or remodeled to higher standards. Here are some of the most widely known and recognized green home standards.
Leader in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED certification is available for construction and remodeling of commercial buildings, schools and other institutional buildings, homes and neighborhoods.
Energy Star is another set of standards that are widely recognized. Energy Star-certified homes must meet specific standards for energy efficiency, water conservation, and for Indoor air quality and health.
The National Green Building Standard (NGBS) was developed by the National Association of Home Builders. It is the first residential green building standard to undergo the full consensus process and receive approval from the American National Standards Institute.
There are other organizations offering green building certification, many of which are regional or statewide, such as the Build Green New Mexico Standards, largely adapted from the U.S. Home Builders Association standards.
Generally speaking, consumers can feel confident that a “green certified” home does indeed meet higher standards and offers specific, documentable benefits to the homeowner and residents of the home.
Does that mean a home without certification can’t be a green home? Absolutely not! I have worked with many people who have sought to make their homes healthier and more comfortable, enjoyable, energy and resource efficient, and cost effective. Every action taken to enhance these attributes of a home, in my estimation, makes a home more “green.”
There are generally six areas, or attributes, of homes in which standards are established for “green homes,” and in which improvements can be made.
Location: We all know real estate is all about “location, location, location”. But it’s not just status people are looking for today in location – people are choosing neighborhoods based on how they want to live and where they want to spend most of their time. For some, that means being in natural settings with open spaces and views. Others are choosing locations convenient to their jobs, schools, and daily activities that are important to them. The U.S. Green Building Council has developed standards for neighborhood development based on the following questions:
Is your local grocery store within walking distance, and is there a sidewalk for you to trek there safely?
Does your neighborhood boast high-performing green buildings, parks and green space?
Do bikes, pedestrians and vehicles play nicely together on the road?
These questions are becoming increasingly important for people of all ages and in all areas of the country.
Design: We humans spend up to 90 percent of our time indoors. It makes sense that time should be spent in spaces that make us happy, allow us to breathe easily, give us views of nature, bring in plenty of daylight, and make us healthier and more productive. Trends are showing increasing preference for smaller but better designed homes – this means architectural and interior design are becoming increasingly important for better living.
Energy efficiency and renewable energy: Energy efficiency and cost effectiveness rank high with today’s buyers. Buyers are looking at the monthly cost of home ownership rather than the overall price or price per square foot of the home. Most understand utility costs are a significant and growing part of their monthly cost of home ownership, and that an energy-efficient green home with low utility bills can be less costly to own on a month to month basis than a conventional home. Today, renewable energy (usually in the form of solar power) is a top priority for many homeowners. It has proven easy, reliable and cost effective. And, it adds value to a home.
Water efficiency: This is an aspect of green homes that is gaining in popularity throughout the country, and most especially in our desert Southwest.
Indoor air quality: Poor indoor air in our homes can result in a variety of issues, including irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, allergies, respiratory problems, and other, often serious, health problems. Many people aren’t even aware the materials used in conventional homes often put out harmful gases. Poorly constructed homes often have moisture problems that can lead to mold and other problems. Poorly maintained heating and cooling systems can compromise indoor air quality.
Materials and resources: Reusing old materials such as brick, wood flooring, beams, windows, etc., is a really cool way to be “green.” There are more recycled and renewable materials available today, giving people maximum choices to express their taste and be green at the same time. One of the most sustainable choices people can make is to makeover an existing home. That’s reusing and recycling at its best.
A home doesn’t have to be certified, nor does it have to address all six of these areas to be green. Bringing a home to higher standards in even one of these areas can a difference. Whether “green certified,” or just “green improved,” what is important is that the improvements are in line with the goals and priorities of the people who live in the home.
China’s energy sector is lumbering under the weight of a coal power glut prompting the central government to step in, writes Feng Hao.
China’s central government has ordered local authorities to delay or cancel construction of new coal-fired power plants, as regulators attempt to reduce a glut in capacity, just one year after decisions were delegated to the provinces.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the National Energy Administration (NEA) have ordered a halt to construction of coal-fired plants in 13 provinces where capacity is already in surplus, including major coal producers such as Inner Mongolia, Shanxi and Shaanxi. A further 15 provinces will be required to delay construction of already-approved plants.
Harsh punishments have been threatened for construction that goes ahead in breach of the new regulations. Operating licenses will be denied, connection to the power grid blocked, and financial institutions will halt lending to transgressors.
The curbs come as Chinese government departments are asked to make rapid policy adjustments in response to slowing electricity demand, as the country shifts towards a less wasteful and less energy-intensive economy, and aims to reduce the amount of coal power generation.
China’s central government decided early last year to decentralise the authority to approve environmental impact assessments on coal projects starting from March 2015 onwards.
But the problem goes back further, say analysts, pointing to the Chinese economy’s addiction to debt-fuelled capital spending.
“The document shows the government has realised how serious the overcapacity issue is, and that decisive measures need to be taken to solve it,” Song Ranping, developing country climate action manager at the World Resources Institute (WRI), toldchinadialogue.
“The government now needs to make sure this is implemented and evaluate how successful the measures are, so that controls can be further tightened if necessary,” he added.
Central and local governments need to address issues such as oversupply at an earlier stage, Song said. He pointed to the need for an ‘early warning mechanism’ that flags up local decisions that exacerbate the surplus.
A clear price signal that a surplus of coal-fired power is uneconomic is lacking in China, because the country’s power tariffs are state controlled. That means energy producers still receive a good price despite the oversupply.
The communique issued last week by the NDRC and the NEA comes in the wake of announcements made at China’s twin legislative sessions in March and in the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan, which placed a strong emphasis on greener, smarter economic growth.
ST&I can help implement the SDGs in more ways than many policymakers realise, says Måns Nilsson.
The 2030 Agenda and its centrepiece, the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs), call for a transformation in how societies interact with the planet and each other. This transformation will need new technologies, new knowledge and new ways of structuring societies and economies.
Scientific research obviously has a central role. But is innovation the only way it can contribute?
I was recently part of an independent expert group set up by the European Commission to advise on the role of science, technology and innovation (ST&I) in implementing the new global sustainable development agenda.  We identified many, sometimes unexpected, aspects of ST&I’s potential role, and made some recommendations on how to maximise the benefits.
I see three principal roles for ST&I: characterising the challenges; providing the solutions; and strengthening public institutions and society. 
The 2030 Agenda is based on a principle of universality. This means that every country should contribute to achieving the larger vision of global sustainable development. But — naturally — the challenges, priorities and options for action will vary between countries, and for the different groups or institutions involved.
“Scientific research can help to identify precisely what the sustainability challenges are in different contexts.” Måns Nilsson, Stockholm Environment Institute
Scientific research can help to identify precisely what the sustainability challenges are in different contexts, what are the root causes of those challenges and how they relate to other challenges.
The agenda also needs to be interpreted. The SDGs may be numerous, but they are also notoriously vague. This allows — in fact, requires — countries to interpret them, work out where to focus their energies and decide what targets to set. This applies beyond governments too, to the different groups and institutions working to advance sustainable development.
This interpretation is largely a social and political process, but science has a key role to play, for example to provide data and models exploring how different targets interact. This is one role policymakers don’t normally consider.
Finally, science has a role in tracking progress towards the goals. Some targets lend themselves to measurement with indicators derived from the natural sciences, but most require contributions from social and behavioural sciences too.
The second way ST&I can contribute is by providing the technologies, strategies and business models for implementing the SDGs. We simply do not yet have all the solutions we need to make this agenda a reality.
Certainly much could be achieved through making wider use of already available or emerging technologies and know-how. But there will always be a need to adapt them and innovate. To make this happen, we will need to better align funding models, institutions and mindsets with the needs of sustainable development. Research institutions tend to be stuck in sectoral or disciplinary straitjackets, but delivering on the SDGs requires multidisciplinary work.
The 2030 Agenda explicitly recognises that sustainability challenges are fundamentally inter-related. Similarly, the solutions will need to integrate — or at least coordinate — action by many groups, informed by diverse scientific fields. A key role of research here is to ensure that agendas are coherent: that progress in one sustainability area does not undermine progress in another.
Scientific research can also help in assessing current practices, strategies and policy proposals — with an eye to capturing how different goals interact (both the trade-offs and the synergies). The aim here is to look for improvements, identify potential consequences and explore how promising activities could be scaled up or transplanted.
And we should not overlook a final type of contribution, even though it is less direct and often goes unrecognised.
“Scientists will also need to step out of their comfort zones and embrace new ways of working and thinking.” Måns Nilsson, Stockholm Environment Institute
First, the research community is uniquely placed to serve as a neutral forum and platform for dialogue between government, business, civil society and other groups or organisations.
Second, it contributes to development and democracy. In the past, institutions such as the World Bank have viewed research and higher education as a private and individual concern rather than a social benefit — so, for example, they have encouraged borrowing countries to reduce public investment in favour of privatisation.
But in the past 20 years, development policymakers and practitioners have become more aware of the development benefits of long-term investment in research institutions.These are not only in terms of research results that can be put to productive use, but also in building up an educated middle class that promotes social stability and democratic processes.
What does this mean for science?
To say that implementation of the SDGs must rest on solid scientific foundations does not only mean that politicians, businesses and civil society should listen to what science has to say. To pursue this agenda, some scientists will also need to step out of their comfort zones and embrace new ways of working and thinking.
Although Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Brock Environmental Center is considered a major landmark in the green building movement, it looks like that just wasn’t enough for the eco-loving team behind the project. Now, thanks to SmithGroup JJR architects and Hourigan Construction, the building, a net zero energy and net zero water masterpiece, is about to receive the world’s most prestigious accolade in sustainable building: a Living Building certification.
According to CBF Hampton Roads Director Christy Everett, the ambitious project was designed to be a model for future sustainability. “When we envisioned the Brock Environmental Center, we intended to raise the bar and demonstrate the built environment can actually give back to the natural environment rather than harm it,” she said. “We hope the Brock Center can be an international model for sustainability for years to come.”
The 10,500 square-foot center was built to provide all of its water and energy needs on site, while composting 100 percent of its building and human waste. To date, the building currently generates 80 percent more power than it uses thanks to its 168 rooftop solar panels and two wind turbines. Additionally energy advantageous is the strategic orientation of the structure, which uses ambient wind currents for natural cooling and circulation during the hot summer months. All of the center’s energy generation and use can be seen in real time at the building’s public energy dashboard.
To help with its zero waste objective, the building is equipped with composting toilets and even urine is collected and turned into green fertilizer that is then sold at local nurseries. The center is also the first commercial building in the U.S. to be granted a special permit that allows for the collection and reuse of rainwater for all of its water needs, including drinking water. The system uses large cisterns to collect rainwater, which is then treated to meet safety standards set by EPA’s Safe Water Drinking Act as well as local safety standards.
Set on a coastal marshland, the building not only needs to be storm resilient, but also prepared for the inevitable rise of sea levels. The Virginia Beach region is expected to sea at least a one meter rise by 2100. Accordingly, the Brock Center was built almost 14 feet above sea level so that it would be able to withstand future storm surges.
In order for a building to be awarded a Living Building certification, it must be able to perform up to International Living Future Institute’s standards for 12 months. The Brock Center’s 12 month test period ended in late March, at which point, the Future Living Institute audited the center to ensure it met all of the strict environmental criteria required to achieve certification.
Annette Osso, Co-founder and Managing Director of the Resilient Virginia nonprofit commended the hard work and determination the team work put into the project. She said, “The Brock Center illustrates what can be done by committed organizations, working with the public sector, to ensure that energy production, water management, and waste handling not only have less environmental impact but actually give back to the surrounding communities and their ecology”.
The Brock Center will be awarded the Living Building certification in May at the Living Building Conference in Seattle, Washington.
WasteCon 2016 is the flagship conference of the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) and one of the most important events on the environmental calendar this year.
Waste-wise organisations cannot afford to miss a spot at this year’s event, taking place from 17 to 21 October 2016 at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg. The theme of the conference is ‘The Changing Face of Waste Management’.
“We encourage people and organisations operating in the environmental and waste management industry to register for this exclusive conference where best practices will be shared from all over the globe,” says Prof Suzan Oelofse, president of the IWMSA. Early bird registrations are open and interested parties can benefit from the reduced fee before 31 May 2016.
The keynote speaker for the event is Torben Kristiansen, vice-president of waste and contaminated sites at COWI A/S based in Denmark. With his extensive experience in waste management, Kristiansen will delve into the current status of the waste management industry, legislation and practice in Europe.