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I’m “bringing it home” – Green Building Convention 2014, South Africa

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Last week I had the privilege to participate and to speak in the 7th Annual Green Building Convention organised and hosted by The Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

It was my first trip to South Africa and I’m still enthusiastic about the warm welcome I received, the excellent line up of speakers I listened to and the people I met during the two days of the convention.

“It’s time” – Green Building Convention 2014

Under the motto “it’s time for Africa” and we are “bringing it home” the conference touched on prevailing and futuristic topics to better understand the opportunities created by change in the built environment. At this point it is impossible to mention all speakers, but the following four individuals were a great source of inspiration for me and I’m “bringing home” lots of food for thought for me personally and my colleagues at Interface:

- DION CHANG – Is an innovator, creative thinker, visionary and renowned trend analyst. Although his feet remain firmly planted on African soil, he uses a global perspective to source new ideas, gauge the zeitgeist and identify cutting edge trends.

- MICK PEARCE – Is a Zimbabwean architect. His models are drawn from nature from copying natural processes, which he studies through the new science of biomimicry. He believes architectural expression must construct a balance between the natural, social and economic environments in which a project is sited. He designs low maintenance buildings with low capital and running costs, using renewable energy systems of environmental control.

- SIYABULELA XUZA – Mthatha-born scientist and innovator. Siya began experimenting with rocket fuels in his mother’s kitchen. This passion turned into a serious science project that culminated in him developing a cheaper and safer rocket fuel. He is often referred to as the new Mark Shuttleworth, has had a planet named after him and has garnered worldwide acclaim for having developed an alternative rocket fuel. He is now “bringing it home” and turning his attention to Africa’s energy problems.

- VINCENT TRUTER – Is a cross disciplinary creative mind with a passion for sustainability. He is a gifted public speaker and facilitator that is passionate about making profit and purpose meet. He took me on a two-wheeled journey (see the picture below) that makes green mobility a reality for South Africans – something we take for granted in Europe.


After taking part in the Convention I can yet again argue that sustainable building is truly the future! The challenge will be to deliver practical tools, to use efficient building technologies, radical materials and intelligent products to deliver change to the ground. In this collaboration and knowledge, transfer is key.

Knowing that there are so many passionate people from local to global and global to local makes me think positively that (hopefully) very soon the built environment will be transforming towards a truly sustainable landscape, at home in Europe, in Africa and elsewhere.


Group picture in front of the Cape Town Stadium on our electric bicycle experience

Electric bike experience


Our new collection Human Nature welcomes the delegates in the entrance to the main stage 

Human Nature installation

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Better Growth, Better Climate.

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In the next 15 years…

A short summary of the recently launched New Climate Economy synthesis report has been released by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group. The succinct briefing is prepared with a business audience in mind and highlights the key points of the report: that the next 15 years are crucial, there are major opportunities for economic systems such as cities, land use, and energy, and that economic growth and action on climate change can be achieved together.

See more here

Better Growth Better Climate


#Climate2014, #climatechange, #CWNYC

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Press Release – CLG Pushes For Net Zero Economy At UN Summit On Climate Change

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CWNYCThe Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG), whose members include Coca Cola Enterprises, EDF Energy, Jaguar Land Rover, Philips, Tesco, and Unilever, among others, is urging governments to use the upcoming UN summit on climate change in New York on 23 September to raise ambition and commit to concrete action to drive down emissions and pave the way to a low carbon future.

The CLG, hosted by the University of Cambridge Instituted for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), represents UK, EU and multinational businesses from a range of sectors that support transformative action on climate change and resource efficiency. These companies take the science of climate change seriously and are already pursuing progressive policy and market reform. They want governments to go further by providing regulatory certainty and ambitious targets on GHG emissions and energy efficiency, and to adequately price carbon in order to stimulate investment in a low carbon economy and society.

The patron of the Corporate Leaders Group, HRH The Prince of Wales, will release a video message at the summit, in which he will say: “The battle against climate change is surely the most defining and pivotal challenge of our times. We cannot meet the climate change challenge unless business and government actively work together. Through the work of my Corporate Leaders Group, I am encouraged that more and more businesses are supporting a transformative goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions well before the end of the century. Taking action on climate change is neither inherently bad for business nor against economic interests.  It is, in fact, the only rational choice.”

In the week of the summit, which will be attended by 125 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the Corporate Leaders Group will partner with Track Zero and Skanska to host an event at the Empire State Building on the role of cities in meeting climate goals. Speakers will include Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC, Farhana Yamin, Founder, Track Zero, and Elizabeth Heider, CSO, Skanska US.

Elizabeth Heider, CSO of Skanska US said: “Climate change is a critical issue that is increasingly influencing major business decisions. Investment in low-carbon energy efficient options makes business sense and is the best strategy for a prosperous future economy. By setting clear and binding energy efficiency targets, in the context of a coherent and ambitious overall climate change and energy security strategy, governments would send the right signal to businesses wanting to invest.”

The Corporate Leaders Group will also support the launch at the summit of a new World Bank statement on Carbon Pricing, which will be endorsed by multiple governments, companies, and investors, and will build on the messages outlined in the CLG’s Carbon Price Communiqué. World Bank President Jim Kim will launch the statement, alongside the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on September 23.

José Manuel Entrecanales, the ACCIONA Chairman & CEO said: “Climate change poses huge risks to us all, but also it also offers significant opportunities. The low carbon economy is worth $4 trillion and growing at a rate of 4% per annum. Renewables have a vital part to play in ensuring a safe, sustainable future energy supply for us all. By providing clear support and ambitious targets, governments would trigger a clean energy revolution.”

Deforestation will be another key issue under discussion at the summit. The importance of tackling it is recognized by the group and its Royal patron. The Banking Environment Initiative, another CISL-hosted business platform whose patron is The Prince of Wales, will also take part in discussions at the summit on deforestation.

“If we want to avoid the dangerous consequences of climate change, we must preserve tropical forests immediately,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. “As business leaders it is imperative that we use our purchasing power to catalyze behavior change and help transform the supply chains of some of the world’s most environmentally intensive commodities. Deforestation is illegal and cannot be reversed. If we work together to halt deforestation we will have the chance both to stop global warming and to preserve some of the world’s richest biodiversity.”

The Corporate Leaders Group is a member of the We Mean Business coalition, which will launch its flagship report on the eve of the UN Summit in New York. The report will illustrate low carbon business success stories and identify policy measures that would allow business to go even further in helping to meet the climate change challenge. The launch will be accompanied by a CEO panel discussion on how a new clean industrial revolution is good for business and is already creating jobs.

Sandrine Dixson-Decleve, Director of the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group said: “There is a powerful and growing consensus among leading businesses on the need for action. More companies and investors are committed to bold leadership on climate than ever because they know it makes business sense. It stands to reason that if you need to modernise then do it right – and bring in low carbon energy assets and infrastructure which will provide multiple benefits and boost the economy.  Now is the time to accelerate both ambition and action, ahead of the UNFCCC meeting in Paris in 2015, at which leaders will need to agree a new global deal.”

Notes and contact:

More on Twitter: @climateCLG, @CISL_Cambridge, @WMBTweets, #wemeanit, #CWNYC and via the web

The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) is hosted by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), which brings together business, government and academia to find solutions to critical sustainability challenges. See more at:

The CLG is a partner of the We Mean Business coalition representing organisations working with thousands of the world’s most influential businesses and investors. Members: BSR, The B Team, CDP, Ceres, The Climate Group, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and WBCSD.

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The 2030 EU climate package key is Poland

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Poland EUThe European Commission proposed 2030 climate package is now being discussed and negotiated in multiple fora. It looks that the key is Poland.

Poland generates more than 80 percent of its electricity from coal, lots of it in the form of lignite. The coal sector employs 115,000 people and it’s not just that number of jobs that concerns me: these people are heavily unionised and highly political.

Poland has the second worst air quality (after Bulgaria) in the EU. A study from Bankwatch suggests that breathing in Krakow for a year can be exceptionally damaging to your health – a resident inhales as much benzopyrene, a highly carcinogenic pollutant, as the equivalent of smoking 2,500 cigarettes.

Poland has a big neighbour with lots of gas but that’s obviously not on the table right now…

The only way forwards is via energy efficiency and by tackling energy demand, and that infrastructure must be created in a way that also generates jobs. Poland could become the EU hub for energy efficiency technology, a market for building retrofits, a test bed for European policy and a receiver of funds to innovate and experiment with energy efficiency.

As an aside, I don’t mind whether we have an EU energy efficiency binding target or just a carbon one. Instead of focussing on energy efficiency targets we should focus on creating the right frameworks for efficiency innovations to become mass market. Regulating demand though product policy, enabling technologies to overcome entry barriers, opening up old oligopolies – these are the policies that will get us further.

#EU2030 #climate

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Join Thousands of Volunteers for the Third Annual International Green Apple Day of Service

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It’s that time again where I’m getting ready for the 3rd edition of the Green Apple Day of Service. This year I am dedicating some time to talk at my son’s school about sustainability and about “where we learn matters”. A nice bunch of my Interface collaborators around the world are also volunteering to support this great movement.

What makes the Green Apple Day even stronger this year is that it goes global with the “Global Coalition for Green Schools”.

Global Coalition Logo Final

This came into being to create a powerful global force for ensuring that every child has the opportunity to learn in a green school within this generation. It seeks to amplify the voices of the many national coalitions around the world who work tirelessly to make their schools healthy, safe and efficient. Many European GBCs are part of this global coalition – please feel free to connect with your local GBC if it’s part of this big movement!

The Green Apple Day of Service will take place on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. This official date is symbolic as projects can happen anytime from now until November.

About last year Green Apple Day of Service :


As our last year common action worked pretty well in Europe, we’ve decided to continue with a presentation to raise awareness on waste, recycling and on the oceans preservation. We’ll illustrate the presentation with our Net-Works programme as it’s the perfect hook to sensitise children around the protection of the oceans and marine life. Net-Works is the perfect story, implemented by people for people and easy to understand. A template will be available for volunteers to go and present it in the schools of their children or wherever they like!

But if you’re not familiar with speaking in front of an audience or if you have any other ideas to make this Green Apple Day of Service happen in any schools you’d like, please feel free to propose and suggest ideas.

If you run out of inspiration, please have a look at :

I’m sure our vast network of champions will demonstrate the strength and breadth of our movement, leaving a meaningful and lasting local impact. Do not hesitate to come back to me with as many ideas as possible!!

If you have any questions, please feel free to write to me at





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Everyday products that contain harmful chemicals

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Apple Harmful ChemicalsLast week Apple announced that it would stop using two harmful chemicals, Benzene and n-hexane, that are used in the final assembly process across its lines of iPads, iPhones and Macs. These chemicals are thought to cause cancer and nerve damage.

Apple are not the only company using rare earth elements, toxic chemicals, or untested materials in their products. The long term issues and damages caused by these will be unknown for many years. The real issue will probably be their combined use.

Not only is this a worry for our health but it also can be a challenge as we try to build a more circular economy. These chemicals are often very hard to process, but thankfully in many instances there are alternatives.

Here are some everyday household items that you may not know contain, or use, noxious substances in their production. 

* No real surprises here – but many sanitizers, deodorisers and cleaning products contain all kinds of nasties from Perchloroethylene, Nitrobenzene to Petroleum Distillates. Carcinogenic and affect central nervous system – Use eco alternatives where possible.

* Avoid artificially scented candles, the fumes can be poisonous.

* Many beauty products – Lipsticks, talc, shampoo, and pretty much anything that contains mineral oil or petroleum jelly e.g. Baby oil – They often also contain chemicals, some of which are connected with health issues such as respiratory problems, allergies and skin development. Google, but read thoroughly, some of the sensationalised reports are dubious at best.

* Some toys and candles still contain lead! Most people now know the toxic nature of lead and yet some products still slip through the net.

* Batteries – Jam packed with all kinds of harmful elements. Obviously dispose of properly and ensure your children are protected.

* Smokeless smoking devices – At this time nobody knows how safe e-cigarettes are – ‘vaping‘ as it’s known.

* Mothballs – Contain paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene. Cancer causing, red blood cell deteriorating chemicals.

* Pressed wood products – (Anything that looks like wood but has been reconstituted) – Sometimes contains arsenic and the gluing agent can be urea-formaldehyde. Causes burning eyes and throat, difficulty breathing, and asthma attacks. Cancer has been linked.

* The computer you’re sat in front of – (And nearly every electronic device) - lead, cadmium, silver, chromium, mercury, brominated flame retardants and more. All toxic to humans.

* Printers and paints (Plus many other applications) – Some studies confirm that water paints, laser and ink-jet printers can releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ozone particulates. VOCs are connected to lung and heart conditions.

* Pesticides in food – Our food is covered in products that deter weeds, plant diseases or insects.  There are proven links to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemias as well as other health conditions. According to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, 9 of the 12 most dangerous and persistent organic chemicals are pesticides.

Of course it is impossible to avoid all pollutants and the research is growing daily. This list is by no means exhaustive and the advice is always simply to read the labels and use healthy alternatives where possible. Considering what is harmful to you, your family, as well as the environment.

Sources: Associated Press, Wikipedia – Rare Earths, PBSSafer Chemicals, Minnesota Health Dept.

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Barcelona – The #sustainable city

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barcelonaBarcelona is one of the trailblazer sustainable cities, integrating renewable energy, sensible public policy and waste management strategies into its core infrastructure.

Of course there’s more that can be done, and many cities are on the same track, but let’s look at Barcelona’s progress and key points to date:

* Home to 1.7m People in the city with c. 5m within urban proximity across 300 square miles.

* Spain’s second largest city.

* Top 5 EU city by GDP.

* In 2000, Barcelona became the first European city to have a solar thermal ordinance. In 2006 the Spanish government became the first in the world to enact a national building code requiring the installation of solar panels for hot water.

* In 2004 the city installed a 443-kilowatt PV array, the largest urban PV system in Europe at the time.

* By the end of 2011, Spain’s Catalonia region had a cumulative installed solar PV capacity of 234 MW.

* Green urban spaces in Barcelona have increased by 150% over the last 30 years.

* In 2002, Barcelona installed a heating and cooling system that relies on urban waste with a new one added in 2012. This system has reduced CO2 emissions by 17,500 metric tons in 2013—the equivalent of planting 875,000 trees, 6 times more trees than the city currently has.

* The bus network (transports 190mn pax / yr, has one of the cleanest bus fleets in Europe, with 400 natural gas vehicles, 82 hybrids, and the rest (approximately 500) with particulate traps that reduce annual emissions of NOx (71%) and particles (85%) for each bus.

* Bicing, their bike share program, since 2007 generates 14 million trips/yr on the city’s 181 kilometers of bike lanes.

* Around 50% of all trips in the city are made on foot or on bicycle, only 20% made by private vehicles.

* Barcelona has one of the lowest per capita greenhouse gas emission levels in the industrialised world – under 4 metric tons of emissions per person per year (Houston is at 14.1 and Paris is at 5.2).

* Around 40% of all tenders issued by Barcelona include at least one environmental or social criterion.

* Barcelona was shortlisted for the European Green Capital Award 2012 and 2013

Sources: Wikipedia, RMI Outlet, ICLEI, Majorcities, Managenergy

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Net-Works – 9 tons of fishing nets arrives in Slovenia for recycling

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At the end of last month a container ship with 9 tons of fishing nets arrived in Slovenia from the Philippines. These monofilament nets were recovered by local villagers participating in the Net-Works™ project. Net-Works is a community-based initiative established by us and the Zoological Society to recover and recycle fishing nets from fishing villages in impoverished regions, connecting some of the dots for a more circular economy.

Over 660 million people on the planet depend upon the oceans to support their livelihood. But year after year, pollution in our waters and beaches gets worse.

Net-Works is the first step in creating a truly restorative loop in carpet tile production, cleaning up oceans and beaches while also creating financial opportunities for some of the poorest people in the world.

If you Google #IfNetEffect there are some great online spaces that capture the initiative in pictures, video and text. Like this Pinterest Board:

IfNetEffect Pinterest


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2020 – An important #sustainability milestone

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20202020 is going to be a busy year.

In the year 2020 we will see many initiatives, events and milestones reached, and it’s only 6 years off.

London’s Crossrail is scheduled to be in full service by 2020, the Summer Olympics will be kicking off in Japan, and Toyota says that all cars it will produce will be hybrid.

Other initiatives include the IFPRI Food Security visionGM have pledged to use 125 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020, and let’s not forget the 5 targets that the EU have set around - Employment, innovation, climate change/energy, education and poverty. The book Shift lists its vision for technology in 2020 which is also an interesting read.

For us, it will also be a huge year. The culmination of 26 year’s work on Mission Zero, which is our promise to eliminate any negative impact our company may have on the environment by the year 2020. Interface is on a mission to protect, restore, innovate and educate. We’ve broken our mission into 7 steps to help us on our journey toward zero:

1 Zero Waste
2 Benign Emissions
3 Renewable Energy
4 Closing The Loop
5 Resource-Efficient Transportation
6 Sensitivity Hookup
7 Redesign Commerce

In the run up to our 20 year anniversary this month I will post more detail around Mission Zero, the challenges and results to date.

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The impact of regulated labelling: Your Fridge needs dramatically less energy

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Energy efficient household appliances have lead to a drop in electricity consumption as the chart below illustrates. Here is some of the content from the announcement from the DECC detailing the drop in absolute costs of electricity consumed by household goods.

The technical progress with fridges in particular has been incredible – energy requirements have dropped from 300Kwh in 1990 to less than 100Kwh today. This is a combination of mandatory, regulated EU labelling, accompanied by strong innovation incentives.

Can you image what would we could achieve if we tried harder?


You’ll notice recently that energy consumption is forecast to plateaux generally, but worryingly there was a peak with TVs which may never flatten. The impact of TVs has been augmented by the increase in size and technology of the new sets, and exposes how bad our regulation and labelling is on the subject. For TVs we don’t regulate on an absolute basis but on a relative basis (eg. size) which is wrong. Product environmental performance should always be regulated on an absolute basis.

Imagine car regulation that instead of measuring kgCO2/km, divided emissions by the size of its steering wheel?

Labelling is most effective when it is regulated, standardised and accompanied by other policies. Private labels where some geezers and certification sharks make the money almost always are condemned to fail.

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