Sustainability Article

Guoli Chen’s picture

By: Guoli Chen

A novelty in the C-suite not so long ago, the chief sustainability officer (CSO) is fast becoming a fixture in companies of note as climate change and inequality increasingly dominate global attention.

During the past year alone Citigroup, General Motors, and International Paper have each appointed their first CSO. They join Diageo, P&G, Mastercard, and Tyson Foods on the growing list of firms that have added a CSO to their top management team in recent years. Yet these firms are hardly trailblazers. Between 2004 and 2014, the number of S&P 500 companies that have a CSO increased from 25 to 90.

Julio D'Arcy’s picture

By: Julio D'Arcy

In my synthetic chemistry lab, we have worked out how to convert the red pigment in common bricks into a plastic that conducts electricity, and this process enabled us to turn bricks into electricity storage devices. These brick supercapacitors could be connected to solar panels to store rechargeable energy. Supercapacitors store electric charge, in contrast to batteries, which store chemical energy.

Brick’s porous structure is ideal for storing energy because pores give bricks more surface area than solid materials have, and the greater the surface area, the more electricity a supercapacitor material can hold. Bricks are red because the clay they’re made from contains iron oxide, better known as rust, which is also important in our process.

We fill the pores in bricks with an acid vapor that dissolves the iron oxide and converts it to a reactive form of iron that makes our chemical syntheses possible. We then flow a different gas through the cavities to fill them with a sulfur-based material that reacts with iron. This chemical reaction leaves the pores coated with an electrically conductive plastic, PEDOT.

Katie Myers’s picture

By: Katie Myers

Freight trucks account for 23 percent of U.S. transportation. Transportation is the No. 1 source of greenhouse gas emissions in America. The country’s freight industry is in no position to ignore its impact on the environment and the greater good.

We can break down the trucking industry’s environmental impact further. Each market segment emits the following amount of carbon emissions every year:
• Truckload (TL): 836 million tons of emissions
• Partials: 722 million tons of emissions
• Less-than truckload (LTL): 342 million tons of emissions

Fortunately, at least one logistics provider is committed to reducing the industry’s carbon footprint. Flock Freight is transforming the $400 billion freight landscape by eliminating inefficiency and waste through green shipping practices.

Emerson Grey’s picture

By: Emerson Grey

It’s Sunday night, and you decide to make a quick run to the grocery store. You grab five bananas—one for each breakfast of the work week. Then, at home, you immediately throw two of the bananas into the trash.

Who would buy fresh food and throw 40 percent of it away? Americans do, on average, every day. This 40 percent represents the overall rate of food waste in the United States. That amount of waste is the same whether you throw the bananas away immediately upon returning from the supermarket or let them brown and attract fruit flies next to the toaster. And the problem isn’t just at the consumer level; farmers, grocers, restaurants, and other businesses where food waste is rampant are huge contributors as well.

Tara García Mathewson’s picture

By: Tara García Mathewson

In October 2019, I shared the news that the classroom connectivity gap in U.S. schools is effectively closed. More than 99 percent of schools nationwide have access to speedy and reliable internet, making online learning an option for their students.

Only now it doesn’t matter. School buildings are closed because of the coronavirus, and the bandwidth that powered digital learning for kids is going unused. Now, the most important connectivity statistic is that more than 9 million students do not have internet access at home.

NIST’s picture

By: NIST

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have demonstrated a potentially new way to make switches inside a computer’s processing chips, enabling them to use less energy and radiate less heat.

The team has developed a practical technique for controlling magnons, which are essentially waves that travel through magnetic materials and can carry information. To use magnons for information processing requires a switching mechanism that can control the transmission of a magnon signal through the device. 

Although other labs have created systems that carry and control magnons, the team’s approach brings two important firsts: Its elements can be built on silicon rather than exotic and expensive substrates, as other approaches have demanded. It also operates efficiently at room temperature, rather than requiring refrigeration. For these and other reasons, this new approach might be more readily employed by computer manufacturers.

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

While sales of products like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and even home appliances have skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, auto sales have experienced the opposite. Through March, April, and May 2020, total vehicle sales in the United States fell to levels not seen since the Great Recession a decade ago. Demand crashed as millions of commuters suddenly found themselves working from home or laid off, and consumers responded predictably to the economic uncertainty by putting off expensive purchases such as new cars, trucks, and SUVs.

But with the lockdowns gradually lifting across all 50 states and life returning to a more normal pace, auto dealers are feeling cautiously optimistic that sales will pick up again and increase throughout the summer months. The bigger question is whether the rest of the year can make up for the springtime slide.

Jeffrey Phillips’s picture

By: Jeffrey Phillips

Throughout human history we’ve constantly sought out tools and capital to make us more productive. From the formation of basic tools to assist in farming to real cultivation and shaping of the land for greater yields, humankind learned to grow food. Further research into genetics, fertilizers, and pesticides enabled us to rapidly scale food production. From early sweatshops to almost fully automated factories, we’ve learned how to scale manufacturing and get far more productivity from fewer workers and more machinery and automation.

In this manner, we’ve learned to improve the deployment of human labor, land, tools, machinery, and other capital to improve our quality of life. Now, we must fully engage the asset that we have the most of that is producing the least for us: data. It’s time to put our data to work.

Multiple Authors
By: Katherine Harmon Courage, Knowable Magazine

This story was originally published by Knowable Magazine.

From mask wearing to physical distancing, individuals wield a lot of power in how the coronavirus outbreak plays out. Behavioral experts reveal what might be prompting people to act—or not.

With many states and towns lifting strict stay-at-home orders, people are faced with a growing number of new decisions. Mundane logistical questions—Should I go get my hair cut? When can I picnic with friends? What should I wear to the hardware store?—during the Covid-19 pandemic carry implications for personal and public health, in some cases life-or-death ones.

Vanessa Bates Ramirez’s picture

By: Vanessa Bates Ramirez

Long before coronavirus appeared and shattered our preexisting “normal,” the future of work was a widely discussed and debated topic. We’ve watched automation slowly but surely expand its capabilities and take over more jobs, and we’ve wondered what artificial intelligence will eventually be capable of.

The pandemic swiftly turned the working world on its head, putting millions of people out of a job and forcing millions more to work remotely. But essential questions remain largely unchanged: We still want to make sure we’re not replaced, we want to add value, and we want an equitable society where different types of work are valued fairly.

To address these issues—as well as how the pandemic has impacted them—this week Singularity University held a digital summit on the future of work. Forty-three speakers from multiple backgrounds, countries, and sectors of the economy shared their expertise on everything from work in developing markets to why we shouldn’t want to go back to the old normal.

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