Thursday, 11 October 2012 14:36

Prioritizing Energy Efficiency

Some businesses express reluctance when it comes to embracing the path to a cleaner energy future.  They see nothing but dollar signs.  However, a recent case study by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Climate Corps demonstrates that it is possible to get into a “virtuous cycle” of energy efficiency that pays dividends for both the company’s bottom line and the environment.

EDF Climate Corps is a great program that matches either specially-trained MBA (Masters in Business Administration) or MPA (Masters in Public Administration) students as summer fellows with companies, cities and universities interested in achieving energy efficiency to cut costs and greenhouse gas emissions.  Since 2008, the program’s fellows have built business cases for smart energy investments.  The end results are lighting, computer equipment and heating and cooling system efficiencies that can cut 1.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity use and 27 million therms of natural gas annually, equivalent to the annual energy use of 100,000 homes; avoid over 1 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, equivalent to the annual emissions of 200,000 passenger vehicles; and save $1 billion in net operational costs over the project lifetimes.

 The Virtuous Cycle of Organizational Energy Efficiency has five components: executive engagement; resource investment; people and tools; identification, implementation and measurement; and results and stories.  According to EDF, the virtuous cycle is a model of change for energy efficiency across even extremely different organizations.

The business profiled in the case study is Diversey, which is a subsidy of Sealed Air.  Diversey entered the virtuous cycle of energy efficiency by establishing a public commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from operations to eight percent below 2003 levels by 2013.  This was also the initial component of the virtuous cycle, executive engagement. 

Once Diversey’s leaders committed, policies from the top down required that energy efficiency projects produce a positive return on investment in a payback period of three years or less.  This criterion allowed Diversey to invest $19 million, and yield $32 million in cash savings over the life of the program in order to reach their emissions reduction goals.

 Because the goals and criteria were clearly articulated, Diversey’s ability to measure success was also positively impacted.  In fact, Diversey’s environmental health and safety department received a 40 percent year-on-year budget increase, which is significant because all other divisions of the company at the time were undergoing a 50 percent budget cut.  This was due to the capacity to produce data that demonstrated energy project performance.  According to the report, plant managers were also engaged and incentivized to implement efficiency measures due to centralized capital budgeting.

This is all to say that there are easy and affordable ways for businesses to invest in a commitment to combat climate change that is both good for the company and the environment.  Saving money is always in style; simply combine that goal with one of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and you’ll be maximizing the good you can do.

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In what is easily the best environmental action in a generation, this week, the Obama Administration announced new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for cars and light trucks (think minivans and sport utility vehicles).  By 2025, these vehicles will be required to average 54.5 miles per gallon (MPG).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates CAFE standards and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency measures vehicle fuel efficiency.  An agreement in support of acceptable standards was made between the government, automakers and their unions, and environmental organizations.

The stage for these historic fuel economy standards was set by an energy law enacted in 2007 under President George W. Bush.  Additionally, the 2009 federal bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler were tied to better fuel efficiency. 

Fuel-efficient cars and trucks were the U.S. auto industry’s saving grace.  It makes good sense on multiple levels to continue these efforts.  For one, 570,000 new jobs can be created by 2030.  Not to mention saving consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reducing U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.  This also translates to strengthening national security by lessening the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

What about fighting man-made global warming?  The new standards will cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half by 2025.  This reduces emissions by 6 billion metric tons, which is more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States in 2010.  We thank President Obama for his leadership on combating climate change, pollution prevention and national security.

Starting in 2017, the standards will be phased in over the course of eight years.  New fuel-saving technology is projected to increase the cost of new car or light truck by $3,000 on average.  This means consumers will pay a little more when they buy the vehicle, about $50 more a month over a five-year loan, but they’ll more than make up for it at the pump with expected gas savings per vehicle between $7,000 - $8,000.  And that is good for the environment and our wallets.

Undeniably, the vehicle fuel-efficiency standards represent an unbeatable combination of protecting the environment and strengthening the economy.  They’re also the nation's single largest effort to combat climate-altering greenhouse gases, but we can’t stop building our carbon-reduction portfolios now.  Wonderful news like this should push us to continuing to find more ways to reduce our carbon footprint, as individuals and a nation.  Now let’s go invest in some renewable energy projects!

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Carbonfund.org seeks to partner with businesses that subscribe to the same mission of solving the climate crisis.  The goal of achieving a clean energy future is more complex than simply meeting carbon emission reductions targets.  Any solution needs to be sustainable, and sustainability is one of the cornerstones of Carbonfree® business partner TCX Investment Management Company.

The global TCX Fund provides protection and risk control against currency devaluation in frontier market currencies for major development finance institutions to microfinance institutions and other institutions investing in the communities of many emerging market countries, such as Cambodia, Kenya, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Peru, and Vietnam.  This translates into providing a mechanism to absorb the risk of extreme currency value fluctuations so these institutions can assist local businesses with the startup funding they need. TCX is able to make real contributions to sustainable development and to improving the living standards in communities in some of theleast developed countries on our planet.

TCX maintains a Sustainability Policy requiring that the businesses they assist also meet environmental sustainability goals.A key tenet of the TCX policy maintains that any projects receiving funding should pursue development for the needs of the present population without impairing the ability of future generations to meet community needs.  All projects are expected to include pollution prevention and abatement, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable natural resources management.

Carbonfund.org and TCX have partnered to help TCX reach its own operational emission reduction goals.  In the past three years, TCX Investment Management has neutralized a total of almost 460 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions created by its annual operations – the equivalent of removing 82 passenger vehicles from the road for a year – in part by supporting Carbonfund.org’s renewable energy projects."We chose Carbonfund.org because of their verified programs, pricing and easy-to-use customer friendly services," confirms Bill Piccolo, Operations Manager for TCX.

TCX’s operational emissions neutralization program supports Carbonfund.org’s renewable energy projects, and in doing so, enhances air quality and promotes new technology development that will continue to reduce carbon emissions and hasten the transition to a cleaner energy future.  Carbonfund.org looks forward a continued partnership with TCX in pursuingthe paired goals of sustainable development and environmental stewardship.

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More than a couple of our past blog posts have covered how increasingly extreme weather is the product of climate change.  However, have you stopped to ask yourself what that really means?  How will climate change affect us and future generations?  What things that we currently enjoy will be unavailable to our children?

A recent article covers some things that global warming is likely to ruin for our kids; things such as coffee, chocolate, strawberries.  And the list isn’t limited to agricultural food items.  Say goodbye to blazing fast Wi-Fi.  Also your favorite vacation spot or even your home may be underwater in a few, short decades time.  The country you live in may disappear.  The article has some shocking images of Greenland melting away.

So what’s it going to take to help preserve the Earth as we know it?  Global carbon emissions need to be reduced 80% by 2050.  The U.S. has already pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by approximately 17%.  Eventually legislation will be enacted increasing the goal to a 30% reduction in 2025 and a 42% reduction in 2030, with the ultimate goal of reducing emissions 83% by 2050.

Do your part in reducing carbon emissions and getting us closer to meeting the goals outlined above.  Start by switching your Internet browser to www.envirosearch.org.  Your regular, daily Internet search activities will begin contributing to renewable energy, reforestation, and energy efficiency projects.  Then go to www.carbonfund.org for ideas on how to reduce your carbon footprint and offset carbon emissions.  By working together, and each doing our part, we can change the fate of the planet.

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A recently published study out of the University of Michigan examined Generation X’s views on climate change and found them to be largely unconcerned with the issue.

The Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY) releases a quarterly research report and has followed the same 4,000 people for 25 years.  Originally, in 1987, 5,900 students were selected from a national sample of 7th and 10th graders in 50 U.S. public school systems.

Generation X now comprises 32-52 year olds who are the most well-educated and scientifically savvy generation in U.S. history.  However, the LSAY shows dwindling interest in climate change as it is a complex and long-term issue.  The study compared responses from 2009 and 2011 and found that a scant two percent of those aged 37 to 40 follow climate change "very closely".  This was a 50 percent drop from 2009 results.  Over half said they follow climate change "not closely."  More than 40 percent say they have only a "moderate concern" about global warming.

The most disturbing part of the report points to a disregard for future generations.  Most do not see climate change as an immediate problem that requires their attention to address.  A large percentage, 66 percent, said they aren’t sure that global warming is happening.  About 10 percent even outright deny global warming is actually happening.

Why is Generation X disengaged, disinterested, or even openly disbelieving regarding climate change?  The answer is as multifaceted as global warming itself.  Disinterest in climate change is surely due in part to a massive and unprecedented disinformation campaign by oil and gas interests and conservative media outlets spanning more than a decade, even as the overwhelming scientific record points squarely to climate change.  Some experts theorize issue fatigue may be the cause when a problem is long-standing.  Others point to the complexity in understanding the underlying causes and potential solutions for climate change as a barrier to engagement with the issue.  Still another potential answer is the distraction by other timely public policy issues.  For example, interest in the economy experienced an upsurge following the Great Recession that began in 2008 to the detriment of environmental issues.

Whatever the reason, there is something every person in all generations can do to help save our planet.  One easy and fast way to protect the environment is to switch your Internet browser to www.envirosearch.org.  You'll be contributing to renewable energy, reforestation, and energy efficiency projects through you regular, daily Internet search activities.  Another simple step is to use an emissions calculator to determine your personal contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.  Then reduce your carbon footprint, plant a tree, or offset your carbon emissions.

Download and read the entire study here http://lsay.org/GenX-4.pdf.

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The Earth is 70% covered by oceans, and stores about 90% of the planet’s heat.  This means that ocean warming translates into global warming.  Climate change deniers contend that global warming is not caused by greenhouse gas emissions, but rather by natural processes and variations.  However, a study released this week proves with 99% certainty that no more than 10% of the observed increase in ocean temperatures over the past 50 years could be accounted for by natural variation.

The Human-Induced Global Ocean Warming on Multidecadal Timescales study is the most comprehensive study ever performed on rising ocean temperatures, and authored by a team of American, Indian, Japanese, and Australian scientists.  According to the study, the planet’s oceans are warming at a rate of 0.20°F per decade, which affects global weather patterns leading to increasing weather extremes such as more heat waves, storms, and intense storms.  Furthermore, ocean warming affects the ocean ecology itself.  A few of the effects we’ve already begun to see are plankton reduction, melting sea ice, and coral die-off. 

The study unequivocally points to global warming as man-made.  Of course, this has been known, shown and settled for nearly twenty years by the IPCC and climate scientists around the world.  But the shift to ocean warming is significant due to its proportion of the Earth and its surface as well as because the vast majority of the people on Earth live very close to rising oceans.

Four or five years ago we shifted from the question of ‘is it happening’ to ‘what to do about it’.  Political and business interests have worked hard to shift this debate back again, but the real focus must remain on the numerous solutions to climate change and the dwindling timeline we have to reduce our global emissions 50-80% by mid century.

Download the full study at this link: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v2/n7/full/nclimate1553.html

 

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We can do a lot as individuals to combat global warming.  But it is undeniable that governments can do more since they harness the power of the collective.  The Obama administration’s strategy is to control global warming emissions through regulation.  This week a huge victory was given to both the administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by the federal appeals court in the District of Columbia.  The decision was unanimous in upholding the agency’s landmark rulings to control greenhouse gases.

The issue seems like a “no brainer” that the EPA should regulate greenhouse gases.  However, dozens of lawsuits from industry groups and 14 states challenged four rules that aim to limit greenhouse gases.  The biggest rule is the EPA’s 2009 “endangerment finding” and the foundation on which the other three rules rest.  The EPA contended, and was vindicated in this ruling, that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions constitute a danger to public health and therefore could be regulated under the Clean Air Act.  The three-judge panel acknowledged and gave credence to climate change as a real and legitimate threat to public health and safety.  So now climate change deniers have less of a leg to stand on; the EPA based its case on sound science and careful research which stood up to a rigorous judicial review and emerged victorious.

The ruling cleared the way for the EPA to proceed with clean car standards and restrictive permits on power plants and other major industrial polluters.  Perhaps now power plants will put increased effort into developing cost-effective and reliable methods to capture carbon emissions, or at least offset them.  If not, the future will certainly be in renewable energy sources now that there are stricter limitations on greenhouse gas emissions.

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June has traditionally been the most popular month for weddings.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s National Vital Statistics Report for 2009, the latest data available on marriages, June is tied with July and closely followed by August, then September, and then October in order of most to least popular months for weddings.  This means wedding season is just getting underway. 

Travel, whether by air or car, generates large amounts of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, and for most weddings is the biggest contributor to its carbon footprint.  Carbonfund.org offers a helpful and easy-to-use emissions calculator to determine the level of carbon dioxide your wedding events will emit into the air.

It’s simple and affordable to have a carbon neutral wedding.  If you don’t know the exact numbers try a preset amount.  For example, the 15-ton preset option may be right for you if you have more than 100 guests and many of them are flying.  The 50-ton option can be used for larger weddings of over 200 guests, many of whom are flying, or destination weddings, which involve a lot of travel.

As you prepare for the beginning of a new life together, it is important to share this special time with friends and family.  Your wedding is a celebration of the future, and you can make it a celebration for our planet's future as well!

Go to http://www.carbonfund.org/weddings to learn more about how you can offset the global warming emissions impact of your special day.

Published in carbonfree blog
Friday, 08 June 2012 11:45

Five Ways to be Chic and Eco-Friendly

There’s quite a bit of buzz in the news about eco-friendly clothing, but you may be asking yourself why.  Here are five reasons to go green with your clothing choices. 

1)      Keep toxic chemicals off your skin.  Did you know that conventional cotton uses 25% of the world's pesticides?  Those same pesticides can be harmful to you if they are absorbed through your skin.  Seek out Certified Organic textiles that are grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers, and are certified by an international governing body such as Control Union, Institute for Marketecology (IMO) or One-Cert.

2)      Get informed about the labor and shipping practices employed to make the clothes you buy.  All those pesticides already mentioned, well, they’re not good for you or the farmers that grow cotton using them.  Also keep in mind where the clothes were manufactured, which you can often find on the label.  Think about all the greenhouse gas emissions generated if that t-shirt you’re considering had to be shipped across the ocean.

3)      Buy antibacterial and durable clothing – it’ll save you money and keep you healthier in the long-run.  Bamboo fabric can have up to a 99.8% antibacterial rate.  This reduces bacteria that thrive in clothing and cause unpleasant odors.  So you’ll smell better and be less likely to have a skin infection or allergic reaction.  Tencel is a completely biodegradable fabric that retains its shape after its first washing and is naturally wrinkle resistant.  Its durability is maintained whether wet or dry.

4)      The earth has finite resources; buy clothes that are sustainable.  Polyester is mainly made out of oil, which is not a renewable resource, and to make matters worse it is not biodegradable either.  Sustainable textiles include organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and soy fabrics.

5)      Lastly, consider vintage clothing.  Buying clothing that was chosen once before is environmentally friendly, and a great way to maximize your clothing budget.  If you need an outfit for a special event, check out a consignment store first.  Oftentimes, they’ll help you find what you’re looking for because they have the time and staff that know the available stock.

If you prefer to buy new, look for clothing that is created with reclaimed, recycled, and vintage materials.

Shopping for clothes has an often overlooked environmental impact.  It pays for us to use our purchasing power to make ourselves chic and reduce our carbon footprint.

Learn more about eco-friendly fabrics here: http://www.the-eco-market.com/eco-friendly-fabrics.html.

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New information is coming to light about the massive collapse of one of the world’s oldest and earliest urban civilizations.  The Harappan, or Indus, civilization came into being over 4,000 years ago and existed for about 600 years before it slowly disappeared.  Scientists and scholars have hypothesized about its demise.  Theories range from regional conflicts to a foreign attack, but some suggest environmental issues may have been the cause. 

Researchers recently published an article named, “Fluvial landscapes of the Harappan civilization” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlining evidence that points to environmental factors leading to the end of this ancient civilization.  The scientists studied satellite maps and collected field sediment samples, then cross-referenced them with previous archaeological findings to develop a much clearer picture of what really happened to this long-lost civilization.

The Harappan civilization is named for one of its largest cities, and occupied what is now India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and part of Afghanistan.  It had a sophisticated indoor plumbing system, gridded streets, a flourishing arts and crafts community, and what appears to be a more democratic society than other large civilizations such as Egypt or Mesopotamia. 

The Harappans were largely dependent upon monsoons that dried up leading to the end of their urban environment.  They used the rivers and seasonal floods that were fed by these monsoons to meet their agricultural needs.  Once the monsoons weakened, people slowly moved eastward away from cities into small villages and towns.  The water in the area they moved to was unable to support the large cities of the past.  

There are lessons to be learned from the extinction of this colossal civilization.  The Harappans were overly dependent on monsoons that eventually disappeared and the U.S. is also largely dependent on somewhat predictable weather, which is now threatened by climate change.  Americans need to prepare for increasingly extreme weather, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase energy efficiency, and we need to do it now before we suffer a similar fate to that of the Harappans.

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