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Category: Innovation

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5 Ways to Quickly Reduce Your Company’s Carbon Footprint (Part 2 of 3)

Welcome back everyone! On our previous blog post, we discussed the first two ways to quickly reduce your company’s carbon footprint—transitioning your company fleet from fossil fuel vehicles to electric vehicles and installing solar panels—today we will touch on two more ways that can quickly reduce your carbon footprint.

Like I mentioned in the previous post, getting to net zero will take everyone working together to achieve this goal. Once businesses—from small businesses to large corporations—start exhibiting these behaviors, it will be easier for their customers and competitors to follow suit.

Now, the third way to reduce your footprint is by repurposing existing office spaces. This is one of my favorites and we will dive further into this one in a future blog post.

3. Reuse Existing Office Spaces

 Most people never think about what goes into creating a building from the ground up, but a vast amount of energy goes into a building creation—from extracting and processing raw materials required for construction, to hauling and disposing waste from a job site—also known as “embodied energy.” This embodied energy is projected to make up 49% of the total carbon emissions of global new construction between now and 2050, according to Architecture 2030.

Adaptive reuse instead, focuses on taking a building that’s past its prime and renovating it for new purposes in line with current technological and social needs. If we want to make our cities more sustainable, adaptive reuse is one of the best strategies that we can implement. It also bridges the gap between the old and the new to create more unique and memorable spaces.

NYC – the historic Farley Post Office Building transformation into the new Moynihan Train Hall—a part of the Penn Station redevelopment

By choosing to adaptively reuse buildings, we are actively bypassing the cost of demolition and construction while extending the lifespan of already existing resources. A Deloitte blog post states that “compared with a new construction, adaptive reuse and restoration can be 16 percent cheaper in terms of construction costs and take 19 percent less execution time.”

Climate change has made adaptive reuse a more viable option, now more than ever before. It is also a compelling one in terms of business and finance too. On top of saving costs, there are also federal tax initiatives for creating sustainable and economically valuable alternatives to new construction thanks to the Tax Reform Act of 1976.

In a report on the global status of buildings and construction, The International Energy Agency found that the building and construction sector worldwide emitted 39% of all global carbon dioxide emission in 2019. On top of that, according to ArchDaily, it could still take anywhere from 10 to 80 years to zero out the carbon costs that come from construction even if choosing to build with energy efficient technology.

Carbon emissions are not the only thing that makes construction problematic; waste from a new build is also a massive issue. For example, when a 50,000-square-foot commercial building is torn down, about 4,000 tons of material end up in the landfill. Aside from that, demolishing a building wastes its initial investment, and a building can only be considered truly sustainable if it is in use long enough to justify the resources used for its creation.

Retrofitting existing buildings to meet high-performance standards is the most effective strategy for reducing near- and mid-term carbon emissions, the most important step in limiting climate disruption.”Kermit Baker, American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chief Economist

In 2014, the construction and demolition industry generated 534 million tons of debris, based on Dorma Kaba’s recent research; and a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report shows that building related construction and demolition debris accounted for 26% of all non-industrial waste generated in the United States.

“As more cities each year pledge to cut carbon emissions, adaptive reuse is an essential component of sustainable development. Creative solutions to renew the buildings we already have will make the difference in the fight against climate change.” – Frank Mahan, Design Principal, Adaptive Reuse Practice Leader at SOM, an innovative architectural firm.

It’s not that it doesn’t take energy and resources to restore an existing building — but rather, that it takes far less of both compared to constructing a new building and when we shift our thinking from “new is best,” to “reuse what’s left;” we are actively considering the environmental impacts associated with demolition and building anew. So, let’s put our hard hats on and tackle this together!

4. Bank Intentionally

When thinking of how to reduce your carbon footprint, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not who you bank with; especially when looking at climate solutions and environmental justice. Oddly enough, intentional banking is one of the easiest and most effective ways each of us can quickly create positive impact.

By banking intentionally, consumers can choose a bank that favors investing in renewable energies and socially responsible businesses over businesses that are destructive to the environment, like fossil fuel companies. These banks pledge their commitment to sustainability principles and align themselves with environmentally conscious customers and investors; helping them to fund a low-carbon future.

Banks play a major role in the American economy; each year trillions of dollars flow through them to fund the growth of various industries—whether that industry or company invests in fighting climate change or worsening climate change. Where banks decide to give their loans helps determine the direction of the economy, and to some extent, the future of our societies.Carbon Footprint

In 2020 alone, natural disasters accounted for about $210 billion in damages around the world. The challenges brought about by climate change and the pandemic have led to increased calls for banks to take a greater role in addressing where money is flowing to.

Climate change has been a top agenda for several banks. A growing number of financial institutions have realized that financing fossil fuels, and other projects that harm the environment, is bad for their long-term future. An Ernst & Young report found that in 2020, 52% of banks considered climate change as a key risk to their business within the next five years. Climate change development – such as the wildfires in Australia, winter storms in central Texas, the unprecedented London heatwaves, and the historical flooding in Pakistan – have created a sense of urgency that impact the growth or business and threaten company and client assets.

Banking on Climate ChaosConsider looking into which banks finance fossil fuel companies and instead, banking with one that supports green financing, fights climate change and aligns with your own personal values. By doing this, you are ensuring that your deposits are being put towards building the tomorrow you want to live in.

There are a few groups of banks that have come together to help align customers and investors with banks and financial institutions that are working toward a sustainable future. One of these groups is The Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV). The GABV is a network of independent banks using finance to deliver sustainable economic, social, and environmental development. You can find a bank that invests in fighting climate change and aligns with your personal values by visiting their website in the link above.

Another group that has come together to help the banking and financial sector is The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI). The UNEP FI was created when six banks came together at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit with the same concerns regarding sustainability and the state of the global climate. There are now more than 450 financial institutions that are members of the UN’s largest partnership with the finance industry. In the past year, member banks have given 113 million customers access to financial services and advised over 15,000 companies on their climate strategies.

By choosing to bank with financial institutions and demanding that these institutions uphold environmental standards; you’re not only helping people and the planet, you’re also helping secure the future of financial stability. With their cooperation, banks can help to finance companies, projects, and loans that support a green economy and help reduce our carbon footprint. Their role should not be underestimated when working towards a more sustainable future.

Becoming more environmentally sustainable requires us to redesign our company’s business models and turn towards the adaptive reuse of buildings and learning to bank intentionally to forecast the future. These two ways of reducing our carbon footprint have shown that this decade is critical to the determination of the future of this planet and it’s in our hands to act now and provide a sustainable and responsible framework for other companies to follow.  The last part of this blog series will be posted Monday, so make sure to check back for the final tip on reducing your company’s ecological footprint.

 

 

 

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Kari Norvell. Please reach out directly to SUNTEX if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

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What Have We Learned during Black History Month, February 2022?

Black History Month

Black History Month in America encompasses so much beautiful and tragic history, that it can be difficult to process and recall our favorite moments from American history or remember what kind of incredible feats were accomplished despite incredible odds, only to be forgotten in March.

While this list is not nearly complete, and should not deter you from learning more, here is a brief summary of some of the highlights from this month’s blog posts, particularly as they pertain to African American accomplishments in the field of environmentalism, key inventions, green-altruism, and the truth about the origins of the “farm to table” phenomenon.

Black Americans have been instrumental to sustainable development of American culture, cuisine, infrastructure, computer software, and definitely in the development of the environmental industry. From Mr. Latimer in the mid-19th century, to Reynolds work today, and everyone in between, it looks like we’ve covered a wide range of topics from inventions in lighting and electricity, to manufacturing and engineering, to food conservation and preservation practices in the US. To learn more about the specifics, feel free to peruse this month’s blog posts! Published blogs can of course be found here:

To learn more about Black history, American history, or other interesting facts we’ve reviewed this month, please check out the sources from within several of the February blog links so you’re able to learn American History from Black Authors, and hopefully get one step closer to a better understanding of our collective history, in this country that we all call ‘home’.

I want to thank SUNTEX for allowing me the flexibility and freedom to explore this topic openly this month, and for continuing to support/lead me in my work in fostering and understanding equality in environmentalism. Please continue to follow this blog and reach out with any questions you may have for us if you’re interested in learning more about the topics we explore. Thank you for being avid readers!

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American Cuisine: Farm to Table, Part 3 of Many

Modern Chefs and their celebration of Black American cuisine is nothing short of a miracle. Recipes that stem from generational knowledge and cooking and farming techniques, is not something that everyone can or does take advantage of – for example, how many times have you bought groceries, planned out particular meals, and then ordered a pizza instead of cooking it at home?

Please keep in mind this is nothing against pizza, which should be ordered as much as you like within reason, or other types of cuisine that perhaps you haven’t attempted yet – however the art of preserving food from your garden, keeping it safely until ready for consumption, and then using everything you can to mitigate waste while providing a delicious/nutritional meal is not a new concept, just a forgotten one.

Lucky for us, there are more chefs than ever before trying to really document and preserve the cooking styles of African Americans, and give credit where credit is due.

American Cuisine: Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi

‘Taste the Nation’ with Padma Lakshmi, Hulu, https://www.hulu.com/series/taste-the-nation-with-padma-lakshmi

American Cuisine: ‘Taste the Nation’

If you have read along in this blog previously, you might have picked up on the fact that I’m a huge fan of Top Chef (https://www.bravotv.com/top-chef), and while there are plenty of places online I could look up to find American culinary influencers – as we have explored the past couple of days (check out previous blogs here: https://suntexllc.com/american-cuisine-farm-to-table-part-1-of-many/, https://suntexllc.com/blog-american-cuisine-farm-to-table-part-2-of-many/) – I do have to say that Padma Lakshmi’s new show, ‘Taste the Nation’ (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12244950/), does a better job of highlighting modern-day American Chefs than I ever could.

Gullah Geechee People: Architects of American Cuisine

Gullah Geechee People, Architects of American Cuisine, Photo Credit: gullahgeecheecorridor.org/

I highly recommend you check the show out for several reasons, but I will say that in comparison to Top Chef, she does do a better job of “welcoming more people into the kitchen, rather than kicking them out,” as Naomi Tomky says in her article on thekitchn.com, titled, ‘Watch the Gullah Geechee Episode of Padma’s New Show for Free Right Now’ (https://www.thekitchn.com/gullah-geechee-padma-hulu-youtube-23050729). In this episode, episode 4 of ‘Taste the Nation,’ Padma Lakshmi interviews several chefs within the South Carolina, Charleston Sea Islands, region and starts to learn more about the historical roots of cooking in this region.

Among the people she meets and highlights within the show include:

For more information about the Gullah Geechee and cultural cuisine, feel free to check out a few more sources (for example, here: https://gullahgeecheecorridor.org/thegullahgeechee/, https://marshviewcommunityorganicfarm.com/).

Gullah Geechee, American Cuisine

Gullah Geechee People, Architects of American Cuisine, Photo Credit: gullahgeecheecorridor.org

For example, GullahGeecheeCorridor.org has this to say about the Gullah Geechee, Southern American diet:

“FOODWAYS: The traditional Gullah  Geechee diet consisted of items available locally such as vegetables, fruits, game, seafood, livestock; items imported from Europe, items imported from Africa during the slave trade (okra, rice, yams, peas, hot peppers, peanuts, sesame “benne” seeds, sorghum and watermelon), and food introduced by Native Americans such as corn, squash, tomatoes and berries. Rice became a staple crop for both Gullah Geechee people and whites in the southeastern coastal regions.

Making use of available food (or rations), making a little go a long way, supplementing with fish and game, leftovers from butchering and communal stews shared with neighbors were African cultural practices.  African cooking methods and seasonings were also applied in Gullah Geechee homes and plantation kitchens.  Because plantation cooks were primarily enslaved women, much of the food today referred to as “Southern” comes from the creativity and labor of enslaved cooks.” (link here: https://gullahgeecheecorridor.org/thegullahgeechee/).

 

For more information about Black Cuisine, and/or the origins of the Farm to Table movement, feel free to check out the sources  mentioned in the past few days blog posts – added here, again, for reference (in order of appearance in blog posts):

 

Otherwise, I’m sure we’ll visit this topic again in the near future, hence the title, “American Cuisine: Farm to Table, Part 3 of Many” because you truly cannot truly study the farm-to-table movement in the United States, or around the world for that matter, without paying homage to those that came before today’s modern movement, including Native Americans from North to South America, Canada to Argentina, nor without being grateful to the African American community for the preservation of the farm-to-table technique of food conservation and culture.

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American Cuisine: Farm to Table, Part 2 of Many

In yesterday’s blog post we briefly explored the origins of the farm-to-table movement within Native American culture – check it out here if you’re interested: https://suntexllc.com/american-cuisine-farm-to-table-part-1-of-many/.

In today’s blog post, we explore the influence Black chefs had on American cuisine – building upon some of the very traditions that Native Americans had established decades prior – and thanks to the incredible research of culinary historian, Diane M. Spivey (http://www.migration-of-african-cuisine-global.com/), we can glean some pretty good insights into how these cooking techniques and recipes became American staples.

Farm to Table: Diane Spivey

Diane Spivey, Culinary Historian, Photo Credit: Upittpress.org

Per an excerpt her article on BlackPast.org, “TRANSATLANTIC FOOD MIGRATION: THE AFRICAN CULINARY INFLUENCE ON THE CUISINE OF THE AMERICAS”:

“The story of the African culinary past begins with “Lucy” and East Africa, the cradle of humankind and civilization.  Over thousands of years East African cuisine and culture slowly migrated to every other part of the African continent, diversifying and establishing new concepts, while retaining basic aspects and characteristics of the old.  Throughout the continent, prosperity arose out of superior agricultural environments and eventually the transcontinental trade and commerce in agricultural and other goods first to Asia and eventually to Europe and the Americas.

East coast cuisine and culture transplanted itself by means of explorers, merchants, travelers, and seamen bound for India, Indonesia, China, Southeast Asia, and Japan.  Spices sold and purchased at East African trading ports and in Indonesian and Southeast Asian markets would dominate the delicious flavors of creative cooks.  The Dravidians of southern India and the Khmers of Southeast Asia (modern Cambodia and Thailand), are two of numerous ancient Eastern civilizations that still bear many African culinary and cultural imprints.

Africa’s East and West Coast cultures made their indelible culinary marks through exploration, migration, and trade expeditions on the Olmecs and Mayans of Mexico, the Chavin of Peru, the Native American Mound Builders, the Caribs of St. Vincent, and other indigenous cultures in the Americas, and these marks were made long before the so-called discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. 

Migration and trade between the Americas and Africa had made the exchange and transplanting of foodstuffs between the three continents quite common.  In other words, the African culinary influence on the Americas began long before the trans-Atlantic slave trade.” https://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/trans-atlantic-food-migration-the-african-culinary-influence-on-the-cuisine-of-the-americas/

While I would like to do my best to contribute to her words, and not copy + paste her entire article within this blog, I have to say that there is a lot of fascinating material within this specific article by Ms. Spivey, that bears reading. For example, did you know the following?

“The last stage of this culinary diaspora was the forced migration of Africans to the Americas through the slave trade, beginning in the 15th century, which brought numerous culinary artists and expert agriculturalists to the Atlantic coast stretching from Argentina to Nova Scotia.  The continual influx and steady increase of Africans into the Caribbean and South America at the height of the human bondage trade ironically constantly rejuvenated the African cultural input, and fostered a culinary revolution under the influence of Africans that would permeate every aspect of cooking and cuisine in rural and urban areas of every country in the Americas. 

Africans who were shipped directly to areas such as Louisiana and South Carolina, as well as those who endured the “seasoning” process in the Caribbean islands and were then transferred to the American South, all positioned their culinary standards throughout the Southern states.

West African cooks made certain that all fish, meat, vegetable, and beans and rice dishes were heavily seasoned with hot peppers and spices, such as Guinea grains, or melegueta, spicy cedar (called atiokwo in the Ivory Coast—its seeds are roasted, ground and used in soups or with leafy vegetables), tea bush (known as an-gbonto in Sierra Leone, its fragrant leaves are used to flavor meat dishes, vegetable, egusi and palm nut soups), African locust bean (harvested, boiled and fermented to produce dawadawa, an indispensable condiment in Nigerian and Cameroonian cuisine), and West African black pepper (fukungen to the people of The Gambia and Senegal), to name just a few. 

Several oils were used in preparing West African dishes, such as groundnut, or peanut (which is sometimes preferred in stews), melon seed, sesame seed (gingelly), coconut, corn, shea butter, and palm, which remains the favorite in West Africa due to the reddish-orange color it imparts to foods.

Both these specific foods and the preparation and cooking methods came with the enslaved people to North and South America.  The cooking methods included frying, boiling/simmering, roasting and steaming (foods are first wrapped in banana, plantain, miraculous berry, cocoyam leaves, or corn sheaths) and baking, or combinations of two or three methods. Broiling has been added in the modern era.” https://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/trans-atlantic-food-migration-the-african-culinary-influence-on-the-cuisine-of-the-americas/

I know there are a lot of direct quotes here, however I fully recommend you go directly to the link above and read the article for yourself! The research and understanding of African cuisine in the Americas (North,Central, and South) is demonstrably impactful, and well-documented within Diane M. Spivey’s work within.

While this historical context is significant to the development of African American cuisine and modern American cuisine, you don’t have to dig too much further into American history to learn that many of our favorite foods today were invented by Black chefs.

Farm to Table, American Cuisine: Potato Chip

George Crum, Native American/African American Chef, Photo Credit: WildBerryLodge.com

Whether born out of necessity in feeding large groups of people as inexpensively as possible during the harrows of slavery, or through something more positive such as an innovative solution to soil erosion, Black Americans have created the foundation of what is today “Southern cuisine” in America. Thus, both today’s and tomorrow’s blog posts will focus on the tastes that define American food, that were created by Black chefs.

George Crum, Inventor of the Potato Chip

Ever had a potato chip? That delicious salty snack is all thanks to chef George Crum, who “unintentionally created the potato chip during the summer of 1853. They were made in response to a customer who sent back their fried potatoes after complaining they were too thick”  (https://www.oprahdaily.com/life/work-money/g30877473/african-american-inventors/?slide=1).

To learn more about his remarkable life, read on here: https://lemelson.mit.edu/resources/george-crum.

George Washington Carver, Inventor of Peanut Butter

Farm to Table, American Cuisine

George Washington Carver, Inventor and agricultural scientist, Photo Credit: New Scientist.com

Thanks to Oprah’s list of “14 Black Inventors that changed American Life” we also know who is responsible for the creation of the wonder-food that is peanut butter: George Washington Carver.

According to this list, he was not only responsible for Peanut Butter, but also “As an agricultural chemist, in an effort to increase the profitability of sweet potatoes and peanuts (which thrived in the South as opposed to dwindling cotton supply), Carver began conducting experiments in 1896 and created 518 new products from the crops. They include ink, dye, soap, cosmetics, flour, vinegar, and synthetic rubber. He publicly revealed his experiments in 1914” (https://www.oprahdaily.com/life/work-money/g30877473/african-american-inventors/?slide=4). Read more about his life and the myriad of cuisines he created here: https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Washington-Carver.

It’s a good thing we’re parceling out this topic of the origins of the “Farm to Table” movement all week long – because there’s just too much to cover! Thanks to the important works of Diane Spivey in researching and documenting (preserving) the African traditions that were popularized in the American continents, as well as the promotion of infamous chefs such as George Crum and George Washington Carver by influential people such as Oprah, we have a good list to get started. Check out tomorrow’s blog post to learn more about the roots of American cuisine!

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Black Inventions We Can’t Live Without: Part 3 of 3

Before finishing out this week’s focus: Black Inventions we Can’t Live Without – and should mention, that if you haven’t already, please do go and check out our prior blogs from this past week on the subject: (https://suntexllc.com/blog-blackinventionswecantlivewithoutrefrigeration/, https://suntexllc.com/black-inventions-we-cant-live-without-part-2-of-3/). However, I would like to take a moment to focus on one element of these posts: author.

I feel it’s important to view history through the cultural and professional lens of those telling it. For that reason, I seek authors that may have a clearer viewpoint than I could have on the subject matter and quote/publish their stories and works instead of highlighting anything I might be able to write. To that end, I’d like to highlight some of the important and gifted writers we’ve featured this month thus far, whose discoveries and/or inventions in Black Content have helped to tell an untold story about U.S. history (to name just a few, in order of appearance within this blog):

Thanks to these influential writers and creators, we were able to learn a lot this month already, however there are a few more folks I would like to call attention to from these sources specifically. During most of the prior year, the focus of the SUNTEX blog has mostly been about environmental sustainability – I mean, we are an environmental home-energy company after-all. However we’ve also done a series on the historical background of lighting, insulation and cooling, and the “invention of electricity” (link here: https://suntexllc.com/historical-figures-from-lightening-to-lighting/). However today’s inventions build a more wholistic picture of early inventions that are critical to today’s home-energy discussion: from computer science and data analysis, to the invention of home security systems.

Home Improvements: Computers and Analytics  

Though we briefly analyzed the start of several key inventions in the field of energy, and outside of it (see if you can find a few here: https://suntexllc.com/blog-standard/), it’s important to highlight Mark Dean, co-creator of the color monitor – something we use daily to work/study/learn/communicate/watch/build.

Black Inventions: Computers and Analytics  

Mark Dean, Inventor and Engineer, Photo Credit: www.blackpast.org/

Mark Dean was born in 1957 and has helped to create some of the most profound changes to our daily lives that we still see today. For a full look at his biography, check out the following link, https://www.biography.com/inventor/mark-dean, which tells us just who he is –

Who Is Mark Dean?

“Computer scientist and engineer Mark Dean helped develop a number of landmark technologies for IBM, including the color PC monitor and the first gigahertz chip. He holds three of the company’s original nine patents. He also invented the Industry Standard Architecture system bus with engineer Dennis Moeller, allowing for computer plug-ins such as disk drives and printers.”

According to BlackPast.org, in their biography titled,

MARK DEAN (1957- ),

“Dr. Mark Dean, an American inventor and computer engineer, is one of the most important figures in the emergence of the personal computer in the late 20th Century. Three of the nine patents on the original personal computer (PC) by International Business Machines (IBM) are registered to Dean, making him a key contributor in the development of the PC.”

[and later within that same article],

“Dean was hired by IBM as a chief engineer on the personal computer project at a time when the PC was just beginning to emerge as a major consumer item. The first IBM personal computer was released in 1981. It began with nine patents including three from Mark Dean.” https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/dean-mark-1957/

So I think it’s safe to say that given the modern marvel that is the cell phone – and the expectations that this technology not only place calls but also act as a tiny computer – are in large part thanks to the work of Mark Dean and his colleagues, but his accomplishments didn’t stop there.

“Over the course of his career Dean climbed up the ranks at IBM eventually becoming a Vice President and overseeing the corporation’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California. He also served as the chief technology officer for IBM Middle East and Africa. Dean is also the John Fisher Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Tennessee. In 2018 he was named interim dean of the university’s Tickle College of Engineering.

Dr. Mark Dean has been honored by numerous organizations, and in 2001 he was elected into the National Academy of Engineering, the most prestigious professional society for engineers in the country. Dr. Dean continues to contribute to the evolution of the personal computer.” https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/dean-mark-1957/

To say Mark Dean’s career has been impressive is perhaps an egregious understatement, and whatever the right words may be to describe such a man, impressive definitely makes the cut. Why though would we feature his work in a solar blog?

Well, those who are familiar with the solar industry, and to some extent, the research needed to improve it, know that we have a lot to thank Mark Dean for. If not for his accomplishments, how would we be able to measure and improve upon inverter-data efficiency in monitoring and reporting? How might we compare solar companies and solar panels online to determine which were right for our customer, and then communicate that quality and detail to them? Certainly not without color-screen-monitors or higher data processing microchips, and thankfully now, we won’t have to.

Home Improvements: Security Systems

Another important feature of modern-day home improvement is the home security system. At SUNTEX we feature several of them on our ‘Security Products’ page (https://suntexllc.com/security/), and we understand the importance this service holds for our residential customers. However, one thing I’m guessing many readers did not know: this technology was invented by a nurse, and African American woman in the sixties, Marie Van Brittan Brown.

Who is Marie Van Brittan Brown?

For help with this subject, we again turn to the writers at blackpast.org, whom had this to say about her:

Black Inventions: Home Security

Marie Van Brittan Brown, Inventor of Home Security, Photo Credit: https://theblackwallsttimes.com/2022/02/07/before-ring-a-black-woman-invented-the-first-home-security-system/

“Marie Van Brittan Brown was the inventor of the first home security system. She is also credited with the invention of the first closed circuit television.  Brown was born in Queens, New York, on October 22, 1922, and resided there until her death on February 2, 1999, at age seventy-six.

The patent for the invention was filed in 1966, and it later influenced modern home security systems that are still used today. Brown’s invention was inspired by the security risk that her home faced in the neighborhood where she lived. Marie Brown worked as a nurse and her husband, Albert Brown, worked as an electronics technician.

Their work hours were not the standard nine-to-five, and the crime rate in their Queens, New York City neighborhood was very high. Even when the police were contacted in the event of an emergency, the response time tended to be slow. As a result, Brown looked for ways to increase her level of personal security. She needed to create a system that would allow her to know who was at her home and contact relevant authorities as quickly as possible.” https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/brown-marie-van-brittan-1922-1999/

What did this early home-security technology look like?

“Brown’s security system was the basis for the two-way communication and surveillance features of modern security. Her original invention was comprised of peepholes, a camera, monitors, and a two-way microphone. The final element was an alarm button that could be pressed to contact the police immediately.

Three peepholes were placed on the front door at different height levels. The top one was for tall persons, the bottom one was for children, and the middle one was for anyone of average height. At the opposite side of the door a camera was attached with the ability to slide up and down to allow the person to see through each peephole. The camera picked up images that would reflect on the monitor via a wireless system. The monitor could be placed in any part of the house to allow you to see who was at the door.

There was also a voice component to enable Brown to speak to the person outside. If the person was perceived to be an intruder, the police would be notified with the push of a button. If the person was a welcome or expected visitor, the door could be unlocked via remote control.” https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/brown-marie-van-brittan-1922-1999/

Sound familiar? My mind immediately thinks of the modern-day phenomenon, the “Ring Doorbell” or the “Google Nest Doorbell,” which are fairly common-place items in houses these days. I personally can think of 3 friends that have them, and several of our customers, and swear by them as being helpful for both security, and communication for example for food deliveries and/or packages. However, that’s not all Brown’s invention contributed to, as the article lays out for us a little further down:

Brown’s invention laid the foundation for later security systems that make use of its features such as video monitoring, remote-controlled door locks, push-button alarm triggers, instant messaging to security providers and police, as well as two-way voice communication. Her invention is still used by small businesses, small offices, single-family homes, and multi-unit dwellings such as apartments and condominiums. The Browns’ patent was later referenced by thirteen other inventors including some as recently as 2013.” https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/brown-marie-van-brittan-1922-1999/

Without the works of Mark Dean or Marie Van Brittan Brown, the home improvement industry overall would look very different today. The technological efficiencies created by the inventions of these two people have made it possible to move away from business-only computers and security systems to cheaper and more sustainable access to personal computers and at-home security systems. They’re technologies that helped to create the home-improvement landscape we see today, and I can say that all those with me at SUNTEX are incredibly grateful to both Mr. Dean and Mrs. Brown for what they did to help us get here!

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Black Inventions We Can’t live Without: Part 2 of 3

As we get older, we develop better ways of learning, have more time for reading and perusing interests, and can build upon the foundational knowledge we received in school as children to really develop our understanding of history more thoroughly than when we were simply learning the basics.

For example, in English class you may have first learned to read and write – later being asked to replicate this skillset on paper for various assignments and exams. Later in your schooling, you might have read about famous authors from the past – reading Shakespeare or Maya Angelou – and then been quizzed on their content.

As an adult however, you’re free to develop your own curriculum in reading and writing, be it historical literature about kings and queens such as works from Philippa Gregory, or dramas that are later modified into tv series such as Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty or Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Your knowledge of literature and the diversity of topics and authors and viewpoints starts to expand your worldview beyond what you learned in school, and you can decide what you like and pursue more information about it.

History of course works much the same way, in that you might have learned about Caesar and Brutus and the Roman empire when you were younger and may want to travel to Europe to see the infamous Roman ruins and aqueducts as they exist today, centuries later. Your interests might lie in the Ming Dynasty of China which built the Great Wall – so, you might start by looking up a little bit about their history on history.com, for example (https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-china/great-wall-of-china#:~:text=Despite%20its%20long%20history%2C%20the,Dynasty%20(1368%2D1644).), or you might even go to your local library to see if you can check out books like Ming China, 1368-1644: A Concise History of a Resilient Empire (Critical Issues in World and International History).

If your interests lie in American history, there is likewise a lot of information to explore – even in the relatively brief period of global history when the United States has been a governing body. Funny enough however, because of the principles set forth in the Constitution of the US that were in direct response to the objections of being ruled by Monarchical England, a lot more time is still spent on learning about Europe and Great Britain than Africa or Black History. For this, and a litany of other good reasons, it’s important to celebrate Black History Month and dive deeper as you get older into the good, as well as the bad and the ugly of Black history.

All that said, today we continue from yesterday’s focus on “Black Inventions We Cannot Live Without” (check out yesterday’s post here: https://suntexllc.com/blog-blackinventionswecantlivewithoutrefrigeration/) to explore some of the greatest inventions to come from Black inventors that are still widely used, starting today’s blog post with Shirley Jackson.

Shirley Jackson

Black Invent

Shirley Jackson, Photo credit: https://aaregistry.org/story/dr-shirley-jackson-a-progressive-scientist/

With the advent of the internet, information about Shirley Jackson has become more readily accessible, particularly because of the high adoption of smart phones and touch screen technology – just a couple of things she herself helped to create. Her contributions to this field are remarkable, given her aptitude for complex subjects such as mathematics, computer science, and physics and the ability to apply these concepts simultaneously while developing her many inventions.

In fact, “Jackson conducted successful experiments in theoretical physics and used her knowledge of physics to foster advances in telecommunications research while working at Bell Laboratories. Dr. Jackson conducted breakthrough scientific research which laid the groundwork for the invention of the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting” (https://blackdoctor.org/shirley-ann-jackson-a-visionary-in-telecommunications/).

Random side note: Perhaps you’ve heard about Bell Laboratories, or remember it’s founder, Alexander Graham Bell (https://history-computer.com/bell-labs-history/).

Among her many achievements,

“Jackson, the first African American woman to earn a doctorate at MIT, is responsible for monumental telecommunications research that led to the invention of products such as the touch-tone phone, portable fax, fiber optic cables, and caller ID” (https://www.oprahdaily.com/life/work-money/g30877473/african-american-inventors/?slide=11). She would go on to be “named one of the Top 50 Women in Science by Discover magazine, and recognized in a published book by ESSENCE titled 50 of The Most Inspiring African-Americans. She also was named one of “50 R&D Stars to Watch” by Industry Week Magazine.

She was inducted into the Women in Technology International Foundation Hall of Fame (WITI) in June 2000. WITI recognizes women technologists and scientists whose achievements are exceptional. Dr. Jackson was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1998 for her significant and profound contributions as a distinguished scientist and advocate for education, science, and public policy.” (https://blackdoctor.org/shirley-ann-jackson-a-visionary-in-telecommunications/).

It’s easy to see why she is such an important figure in American Black History, and if you’d like to learn a little more about what she’s up to these days, feel free to read more about her life and achievements here: https://www.black-inventor.com/dr-shirley-jackson, and here: https://president.rpi.edu/president-biography.

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Black Inventions We Can’t live Without: Part 1 of 3

Now that we’ve all slept off our sugar high from the boxes of chocolates and delicious Galentine’s Day and Valentine’s Day deserts, time to get back to celebrating Black History Month. What better way to celebrate this month than to continue to admire the long list of Black inventors whom history has overlooked?

One of the most important benefits of the internet – aside from the interconnectivity of social media and the ability to post photos of our pets or favorite meals of course – is the free access to information! Previously knowledge and power were reserved for the select few members of society that 1) were male, and/or 2) could afford it, however this exclusivity is no longer the case. The internet allows for people like myself to connect with people like Oprah, or the editors of biography.com to learn more about a wide range of topics, including the focus of today’s blog post: Mr. Frederick McKinley Jones.

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, refrigeration is a big part of your energy bill, and part of the energy discussion at large (check them out here to see what I mean: https://suntexllc.com/2729-2/, https://suntexllc.com/setting-the-stage-energy-consumption-in-the-home/). This technology and the many conveniences it affords us today in our daily lives would not be possible however without the work of Frederick McKinley Jones.

Frederick McKinley Jones, the inventor of Refrigeration equipment

Black Invent: Frederick McKinley Jones

Frederick McKinley Jones, Photo Credit: https://aaregistry.org

While everyone we’ve discussed this month has an impressive and impactful resume, Frederick McKinley Jones might just be one of the most important inventors of all time. Reason being that refrigeration isn’t only used to preserve your left-over lasagna from the night before, but also helps us to preserve and ship medicine and blood for transfusions (among other things), which has furthered science and saved lives all over the world for decades.

Take a look at the following link from Oprah Winfrey’s article, “14 Black Inventors That Changed American Life” to gain a little more insight into his life, and his contributions to your own life as well: https://www.oprahdaily.com/life/work-money/g30877473/african-american-inventors/?slide=2.

Though this can likely be said about most if not all educational topics, it must be said that the more you learn about Mr. McKinley Jones and his life, the more impressed you will be with the seemingly insurmountable obstacles he overcame to achieve such a feat as becoming the “first African American to receive the National Medal of Technology” (https://www.oprahdaily.com/life/work-money/g30877473/african-american-inventors/?slide=2).

Essentially orphaned at 9 years old, and deciding to run away just two years later, he lived on his own picking up odd jobs for years around the Midwest, while teaching himself automobile mechanics and developing a passion for working with machines (https://www.biography.com/inventor/frederick-jones).

If you read on in the previous link, you already know this, however it’s important to note that his achievements were not limited to the development of refrigeration: “Over the course of his career, Jones received more than 60 patents. While the majority pertained to refrigeration technologies, others related to X-ray machines, engines and sound equipment” (https://www.biography.com/inventor/frederick-jones); he would later be “ inducted into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame in 1977.”

To say that he led an impressive career might be an understatement. The work completed and inventions created by Frederick McKinley Jones is nothing short of monumental, and changed the foundation of our daily lives, paved the way for modern medicine and the transportation of food and medicine, and helped to save lives in World War II and was likely the very reason some of you are alive today. We have a lot to be grateful for in terms of modern technology improving our daily lives, however I hope that after reading this post you won’t forget to save space for Frederick McKinley Jones in your gratitude journals when considering the direct contributions he made to your life.

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Small Business Week Kicks Off with a Boom!

Small BusinessHave you ever had an idea for a small business and thought, where on earth should I begin?! If so, you’ve likely had overwhelming thoughts about spreadsheets, accountants and tax consultants, whether or not to hire outside consultants to step in, or to hire within, or more likely you’ve thought to yourself: wow, this is going to be a lot for me to take on all by myself until I can afford to hire someone.

Don’t panic! We have all been there, and lucky for you, here at SUNTEX we have learned a few tricks of the trade on how best to solve these problems, before you throw your hands in the air, ready to give up before you ever even begin.

I’m reminded of an old adage that a former colleague shared with me once, that proved to be very useful in quelling those anxious thoughts about what comes next – it goes like this:

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Of course, I would never actually eat an elephant, but as the following YouTube video explains, this saying is all about problem solving through means of setting one small, achievable goal at a time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZpAYmUpx44.

Another familiar and helpful saying I have had personal experience with which deals with this type of problem solving is: “Little by little”, or “Poco a poco.”

When I lived in Guatemala a few years ago – working in the health industry and attempting multiple USAID development projects at once – initially I thought I would drown in work. First I needed to find people willing to work with me, then train them in becoming health experts themselves, then perform an epidemiology report for the local health post of the town we were in (including participation from at least 10% of the total population), and finally implement USAID health projects geared towards addressing the most dire health concerns in the community, with the neediest of people.

Often, when I was feeling overwhelmed by it all – especially considering the emotional toll this work took on me and my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers daily – Guatemalans would tell me to slow down, and take things “poco a poco.”

Wouldn’t you know it, by the end of my service in just two years, I had trained 35 new Public Health Leaders in Basic Sanitation and Disease Prevention, we built 45 wood-burning stoves and supplied enough concrete for about 50 homes to add concrete floors in their kitchens (addressing public health concerns such as chronic pneumonia and poor sanitation in the kitchen). It’s safe to say that this process worked, as our testimony demonstrated, and I am so grateful to the Guatemalan people for teaching me this first-hand.

As a small business ourselves, we understand the difficulties sometimes associated with making headway on new initiatives or balancing priorities, and we’re here to help! After all, one thing that I think all businesses, no matter how big or small, can benefit from is the power of shared knowledge.

This week, we’ll hear from a few other sources on the Do’s and Don’ts of small business ownership, and how you can manage your workload as you navigate this tricky endeavor. So that you aren’t just taking our word for it, we’ll feature blog posts from others such as XX and YY. So be sure to check it out! You won’t want to miss it.

As always, if you have suggestions to add to this week’s topic yourself, be sure to post them in the comments section below – we love to engage with our audience and the more comments, the merrier.

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“Right to Capture State” – Part 2 of 2

Right to Capture: SolarSo, now that you’ve got your rainwater storage system set up from yesterday — great job on that by the way (!) — you’re ready to move on to step #2 in taking advantage of the ‘Right to Capture’ state laws, at least as they apply to solar energy. I preach to friends and family to ‘go solar’ if and when they can, because I genuinely believe in taking advantage of laws.

Alright! All joking aside, I believe in the product, and believe that the cost is well worth the benefits gained in installing solar panels on your rooftop. Because I work for a solar company, I’m inherently biased, sure, however that also implies at least a fair amount of insight into the companies that can deliver for you, and to be honest there are quite a few all over Texas to choose from.

Right to Capture, The Skinny:

You can “Go Solar,” as we say in the industry, for $0 down — however the system itself is costly, and you’ll want to make sure you have access to the online portal immediately following the installation, just in case some squirrels chew through the wiring and you need to call your installer to come out and take a look. If you have at least a 600 credit score, there are several finance companies you can likely choose from, and will ideally reduce your energy bill in the process. I say ideally here because energy usage is really the driving factor in a high energy bill (though, you will likely still need to pay administrative and/or energy transmission costs to your local energy provider). If you turn off all of your electricity, lights, unplug anything that has constant energy power — from digital clocks to refrigerators — and only use a gas-powered stove to heat your food when needed, you would expect to see a pretty low bill, right?

Well, the same administrative and energy transmission costs apply even to those with a residential solar system, even if your system covers 100% of your energy needs. Particularly in the summer months, or roughly April-September in Texas, it’s easy to “offset” your energy usage with solar energy from your southern-facing rooftop solar system; in the winter, it’s a slightly different story. For this reason, it’s unfeasible to make the switch to solar energy 100% without battery-storage or a generator — or simply by connecting to a grid with a highly technical management system, but why does this occur during the winter months? Solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems produce less energy in the winter for one very simple reason: the days are shorter, and thus there is less sunlight to absorb (at least in the northern hemisphere, and the southern hemisphere would be just the opposite).

Residential Solar, The Rub: (more…)

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“Right to Capture State” – Part 1 of 2

You’ve likely heard it from your realtor, contractor, or perhaps even at the local pond and garden store — but even if you’re hearing it here first, in Texas, we live in a “right to capture” state.Capture the Water For those of you interested in learning more about what this means, check out the following links towards the bottom of this blog post that explain the applicable Texas laws in greater detail. In laymen’s terms, the idea is that *any oil, water, sunshine, or other natural resources* that fall within your property line belong to you (*deferring to local laws and common sense of course). Not to mention, there are incentives for you to do so, for example, for…

⦁ Austin, Hays County, Georgetown, New Braunfels, Round Rock, San Marcos, San Antonio, (and more!): https://www.watercache.com/rebates/austin#:~:text=City%20of%20Austin%20Rainwater%20Collection%20System%20Rebate⦁ &⦁ text=The%20rebate%20program%20is%20structured,exceed%2050%25%20of%20system%20cost
⦁ Dallas / Frisco: https://www.friscotexas.gov//357/Rain-Barrel-Program; and some helpful information about rain-water catchment systems in Texas can be found, here on Arlington’s website:  https://www.arlingtontx.gov/city_hall/departments/stormwater_management/stormwater_education/texas_smart_yards/rain_barrels_and_cisterns

⦁ Houston: https://www.rainwatersolutions.com/products/city-of-houston-gbrc

There is a TON of great information online about what a ‘rainwater collection’ system is, as well as how to build one. If you’re curious to learn more about others in this space, check out the following links, here:

⦁ Rainwater Harvesting Laws and Incentives in Texas: https://www.twdb.texas.gov/publications/shells/RainwaterHarvesting.pdf; including an annual rainwater collection competition(!): http://www.twdb.texas.gov/innovativewater/rainwater/ Right to Capture: Rain Barrel

⦁ Details about the efficacy and importance of rainwater collection, from watercashe.com: https://www.watercache.com/education/rainwater-harvesting-101

⦁ How-to Build a Rainwater catchment system in your home: https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/tips-for-installing-a-rainwater-collection-system/

 

Have you build one already? Please feel free to describe your experience in the comments section below!

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