Evidence of the increasing effects of climate change is building, as are the investing opportunities and changes in consumer habits linked to environmental concerns and resource use. Here, select dispatches about the companies responding to customer demands and climate risk, the ESG investors and their advisers, and the enterprising individuals and scientists preparing for tomorrow.
A thirsty world. From India to Iran and South Africa to Botswana, 17 countries are now under extremely high water stress, according to World Resources Institute data published Tuesday. This status means these countries are using almost all the water they have. Reservoirs in Chennai, India’s sixth largest city, for instance, are nearly dry. Last year, residents of Cape Town, South Africa, narrowly avoided their own “day zero” water shut-off. And the year before that, Rome rationed water to conserve the scarce resource. WRI said droughts are part of the issue, but its modeling shows that water withdrawals globally have more than doubled since the 1960s due to growing demand, and they show no signs of slowing down.
Related: How to invest in water: A long-term bet on an essential commodity with limited supply
California’s largest recycling chain closes. The largest bottle and can recycling-center chain in California, rePlanet, closed Monday, creating a massive gap in recycling capacity in the state, the Sacramento Bee reported. “With the continued reduction in state fees, the depressed pricing of recycled aluminum and [polyethylene terephthalate] or PET plastic, and the rise in operating costs resulting from minimum-wage increases and required health and workers-compensation insurance, the company has concluded that operation of these recycling centers and supporting operations is no longer sustainable,” a spokesman said in a statement Monday.
Tiny homes, big impact. Little research has been done to measure how environmental behaviors change when people make the dramatic move to a typical “tiny house” of less than 400 square feet. So one doctoral candidate, who writes about some of her findings for Fast Company, dug into the claims that restricted footprints make a real difference. Maria Saxton’s survey of 80 downsizers, augmented by some math involving acreage used, transportation, food use and more, found that on average “every major component of downsizers’ lifestyles, including food, transportation and consumption of goods and services was positively influenced.” Saxton says her research finds that about 366 million acres of biologically productive land could be saved if 10% of Americans made the move to a tiny home.
Read: Amazon is selling entire houses for less than $20,000 — with free shipping
Innovation in Hotlanta. The Georgia Institute of Technology and partners are finishing construction of a 37,000-square-foot structure with classrooms and teaching labs designed to be certified as a “living building.” That means the structure will generate more electricity than it uses and can maintain a self-sufficient water supply, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Georgia Tech project is far larger than other similar undertakings in the southeastern U.S., the paper reports. The two-story building’s efficiency performance will be closely watched because creating a comfortable learning or working environment in Atlanta’s hot and humid air can be an energy-intensive task in conventionally designed structures.
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