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Healthy Human Systems

Innovations and Actions for People and Planet

We use systems for nearly every dimension of human life, from food production to transportation, to information technology. Our current industrial infrastructure is wildly out of balance with the very real limitations of the Earth’s ecosystems. These youB values ask us to reimagine human structures, to transform them into life-sustaining systems that are in balance with the natural world and well-being for all humans.  

 
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Healthier Systems for People and Planet

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Systems are created to support societal, business, economic, and other objectives. All systems that have been created for human society have evolved over time. These include economic systems, healthcare systems, industrial systems, transportation, energy, agriculture, recreation, political systems, education, media and others.

By its very design, each human system has an impact—both intended and unintended—on human and planetary wellbeing. The goal of the sustainability movement is to modify systems to be as healthy as possible for people and our planet. This is being actively pursued globally through research and innovation to more perfectly meet the needs of the entire human population (present and future) while protecting, and even restoring, natural ecosystems.

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-  Coined as the Garden City, Singapore is on track to become the greenest city in the world. Due to its economic rise, Singapore launched a landscape of towering architecture and consulted urban planners to ensure developments have plant life, green roofs, cascading vertical gardens, and verdant walls. Green building has been mandatory since 2008 and has no plans to stop.

-  US think tank Capital Institute released a report to combat traditional capitalist behaviors and shift thinking. The report argues that implementing a holistic approach can drastically improve societal efficiency and resiliency both economically and socially. The report reminds and emphasizes that we are all connected and living on the same planet; therefore, it should be taken care of properly.

-  Expo 2020 in Dubai, UAE spanned for several months and brought hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world. To ensure that the event didn’t negatively impact the local climate, the Expo organizers, the United Nations, and other sustainability experts implemented measures to use clean energy, reduce water consumption, minimize the carbon footprint, and reduce waste. These techniques and systems are real-world examples of how cities can adapt to environmentally friendly practices easily and effectively.

 
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Earth-Friendly Product Innovations

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Earth-friendly innovations use science and creativity to reduce human impacts on the earth. This is commonly referred to as green or clean products and technology.

Technology can range from packaging innovations to clean energy technology. Some examples include products made from recycled, recyclable, plant-based, and/or biodegradable content, as well as products that use zero or fewer polluting substances, reduce emissions, and increase energy efficiency or energy storage.

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-  Solar energy is a hot topic. Homes, businesses, and empty lands are being retrofitted with acres of solar panels with the aim to provide enough clean, renewable energy for local cities. But who else is in the sun often? People, and their clothes. Dutch Designer Pauline van Dongen is actively developing fashion-forward solar-reliant clothing. One of her pieces, a solar T-shirt, can produce up to one watt of electricity from the sun, which is enough to power an iPhone for a few hours. Tommy Hilfiger, Tzukuri, Mae Yokoyama are others are also jumping in with their own innovations.

-  Helium balloons are making a comeback, but this time for environmental good. Zephyr, a photovoltaic balloon and eco-friendly generator, was created by Karen Assaraf, Julie Dautel, Cedric Tomissi, and their France-based company EONEF. The balloon can fly up to 30 days at a time and are used to observe wildlife, measure air quality, and promote coordination during a disaster.

-  Glitter: some hate it, some love it. Either way, the microplastics are harming our environments. Companies like TodayGlitter, BioGlitter, and Eco Glitter Fun created alternative, biodegradable (often eucalyptus-based) solutions that break down easily while also providing users with their shiny fix.

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Circular Economy

 

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Most societies and people currently employ a one-and-done mindset, meaning that products are used for their intended purpose (usually only once) and then discarded (typically in a landfill). As a result, landfills and oceans are overflowing with trash, most of which is unlikely to decompose any time soon (hint: plastics). This harms all life, including land animals, fish, plants, water quality, and so on.

In a Circular Economy, products are designed from the beginning to be reusable, repairable, and recyclable/compostable, versus being designed to be discarded. The goal of the circular economy is to transform our take-make-waste extractive production cycle into a system that is regenerative and designs out waste. The objective is to keep resources in use for as long as possible, derive the maximum value from them while in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life. This minimizes the use of new resources as well as waste.

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-  AirCarbon, a material made naturally from almost all known life, is making waves as a sustainable and earth-friendly material. The product is easily meltable and can be formed into fibers, sheets, and solid parts to replace synthetic plastic and animal leather. Due to its natural composition, the material can break down effectively upon disposal and the surrounding natural microorganisms can consume it for food.

-  The aluminum can is one of America’s most successful recycling stories. In the United States, an estimated 105,784 aluminum cans are recycled each minute — representing an overall recycling rate of nearly 50 percent, the highest recycling rate for any beverage container. Additionally, due to the continuous recyclability of aluminum, 75 percent of all aluminum produced is still in circulation.

-  Globally, date palms are produced at around 8 million tons annually. This is primarily due to its health benefits as well as diversity of uses in products around the world. The date palm is a near-perfect circular economy; the fibers are used in ropes, thermal insulation, and evaporative cooling equipment; second-class dates can be turned into paste and honey; and the roots can be ground up to compost back into the ground and improve the quality of soil.

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Environmental Justice

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Everyone pollutes. It’s just a given fact. But there are some companies and areas that pollute more than others, and certain populations that are disproportionately harmed by this.  It has been found that 5 percent of industrial polluters account for 90 percent of toxic emissions in the US. And, typically, the pollutants from those industrial companies are most heavily concentrated in low-income and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)  communities, thereby putting low-income people and People of Color at an elevated risk. This causes economic, health, social, developmental, and other issues.

Environmental Justice works to ensure that everyone, regardless of race, color, or economic class, is safe from environmental harms and is meaningfully involved in amending previous environmental injustice and ensuring all decisions and policies incorporate environmental justice.  

  

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  • For decades, fossil fuel companies have been pouring emissions into the atmosphere and damaging environments around the world. The US EPA attempts to curb pollution by issuing a set number of air pollution permits per year, which ultimately are bought up and abused by big fossil fuel companies. The Carbon Lighthouse Association (CLA) is looking to change that. Every year, this nonprofit organization buys up as many permits as they can. By doing so, CLA reduces the number of government-regulated pollution allowances and carbon emission offsets. 

  • A Toxics Release Inventory put together by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed that African Americans and other People of Color makeup 56 percent of residents near toxic sites (refineries, landfills, chemical plants). Michael Regan, a former environmental regulator in North Carolina and current EPA head, is looking to change this and improve living conditions. Part of this begins with EPA inspections. The EPA will conduct unannounced inspections of chemical plants, refineries, and other industrial sites in three Gulf Coast states. The goal is to hold companies accountable and ensure they are following protocols and safe, healthy practices. So far, nearly $79 million in funding has been allocated to Mississippi under a bipartisan infrastructure law, and more is to come from President Joe Biden’s bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill. 

  • People of color, young people, residents of small island nations, women, non-homed people, LGBTQ+ people are typically those impacted most by environmental harm. Ecofeminists like Irene Vazquez, Jhannel Tomlinson, Bernard Ferguson, Erica Cirino, Dominique Palmer, Ayesha Constable, Kayly Ober, and Adriana Laurent are all speaking out about environmental injustice and promoting awareness wherever they can. Their efforts are gradually having resounding, lasting impacts on communities in desperate need.

 

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