Those of us living in the United States can easily get wrapped up in the domestic energy picture, but it is important to stop and take a look at how renewables are doing in other countries too.
If you peruse a list of countries by 2008 emissions, the top emitter of carbon dioxide is currently China, followed closely by the U.S. China accounts for 23.5% of world emissions, and the U.S. is responsible for 18.27%. However, the good news is that China’s renewable-energy industry is currently on the upswing due to supportive government policies and generous subsidies; so much so that they’ve achieved the height of the world’s wind and solar industries. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Everything is made in China.” The U.S. does import many goods from China, but a report released this week titled, “Advantage America” analyzed trade between the two countries in solar, wind and smart-grid technology and services in 2011.
The analysis, by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Pew Charitable Trusts, showed $6.5 billion in renewable energy technology and services traded between the U.S. and China. But the U.S. sold $1.63 billion more to China than it imported.
It’s good to see both countries making such strides in renewable energy. Oftentimes, the countries are perceived as being in competition with one another, but a more accurate picture would be that they are interdependent. The bottom line is that both countries should be doing as much as possible to focus on renewables, especially considering they’re the top two carbon dioxide emitters on the planet. And the global interest and investments in renewables doesn’t stop there.
Saudi Arabia, a country with the world's second largest oil reserves, is beginning a green revolution. This week, Saudi King Abdullah revealed ambitious plans to develop renewable energy programs that will produce 54,000 megawatts of electricity by 2032 as part of a strategy to save 1.2 million barrels of their oil per day for export.
King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-Care) is a strategy paper set up by King Abdullah in 2010 to develop alternative energy sources so the country won't have to burn millions of barrels of oil a year on power generation. KA-Care outlines the preliminary phases of the kingdom's agenda for its energy future and focuses on thermal solar, photo-voltaic solar, wind, geothermal and waste-to-energy. Much of the desert landscape in the Persian Gulf is well suited to solar energy production; a fact that has not escaped the Saudi’s neighbor, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The UAE, with 8% of the world's proven oil reserves, has also embarked on a major renewables program, which focuses on nuclear and solar energy production. By taking a look at the global energy picture, we see that even those countries with vast fossil fuel resources recognize the finite limitations of their reserves and the importance of investing in sustainable energy projects, which is great news in the fight against climate change. Every country on the planet contributes to global warming, and every country will have to do their part in order to pave the way to a sustainable energy future.
Even as we hail President Obama’s nomination of the very qualified Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we’re barraged by news articles filled with warnings about the immediate and highly damaging effects of the budget sequestration on the environment.
Specifically, the budget cuts implemented last Friday will significantly impact the Department of Energy, the EPA, and the National Parks Service, and also will impair disaster relief funding, renewable energy development projects, and scientific research that could benefit environmental protection programs.
In his letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, outgoing Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu outlined the severity of the sequestration’s impact on the DoE’s role in nuclear weaponry monitoring, environmental clean-up efforts, clean energy technology development and on basic scientific research.
Chu’s statements regarding the funding cuts to clean energy technology projects were particularly forceful: "Under sequestration, funding reductions would decelerate the Nation's transition into a clean energy economy, and could weaken efforts to become more energy independent and energy secure, while spurring overall economic growth."
This prognosis is counter to the President’s messages in his second Inaugural Address, calling for a serious response to the threat of climate change, and in the speech he delivered later on Inauguration night this past January calling for progress in “…freeing ourselves from foreign oil.”
The EPA will suffer budget cuts resulting in employee layoffs and furloughs that will delay the finalization of rules governing the greenhouse gas emissions for new power plants, and will reduce the number of environmental inspections and environmental regulatory enforcement efforts. And funding cutbacks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will result in elimination of a number of firefighter and state and local emergency management positions, hampering disaster relief efforts.
The National Parks Service will lose over $100 million. This will delay park openings, reduce park entry access and visitor services, and according to Mother Jones, will also eliminate millions of dollars in tourism revenue that would otherwise support local economies.
The environmental impacts of the sequestration cuts will affect state-funded initiatives as well. The Washington Post published a chart of the state-by-state budget cuts due to sequestration in various categories, including clean air and water programs. Most states will experience multi-million dollar reductions in funding for environmentally-focused projects and protection measures.
While Obama’s second Inaugural Address in January assured that “…we will respond to the threat of climate change,” and Vice President Biden urged environmentalists to “Keep the faith” at the Green Ball on the eve of the second Inauguration, the far-reaching and immediately damaging effects of the sequestration cuts do not bode well for the climate activist faithful.
Rhetoric is being trumped by reality at the moment. We environmentalists cannot drop our collective guard or slack off the pressure to ensure that progress to protect our environment and address the damaging effects of Climate Change is made – now and continuing into the future.
- budget cuts
- impair clean energy technology
- response to threat of climate change
- freeing ourselves from foreign oil
- rules governing greenhouse gas emissions for new power plants
- funding cutbacks on environment
- National Parks Service
- Department of Energy
- Environmental Protection Agency
- effects of climate change
The continuing focus on Corporate Social/Environmental Responsibility (CSR) programs requires companies to seek out environmentally sustainable practices in every aspect of their operations. While many businesses rely upon product packaging and shipment to reach their customers, they can “green” these activities through careful selection of shipping products, including the labels they use to address and mail their products.
Carbonfund.org business partner Taylor Label is committed to manufacturing its ‘GoGreen’ Labels through a process it calls 'Green-Cycle Production’. This process focuses on the use of environmentally sound raw materials, 100% wind-powered production facility, FSC-certified paper and environmentally benign and recyclable adhesives.
In addition, Taylor Label has neutralized 100% of the carbon emissions from shipping its products to customers through the CarbonFree® Shipping program for the past five years. "Carbonfund.org has products specifically suited to our needs. Their partnership managers and website make accessing their services a straight-forward and successful process," explains Lloyd Taylor, President of Taylor Label.
Taylor Label has been voted the "Most Environmentally Progressive Printing Company" at the annual Environmental Printing Awards, developed the industry’s first Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified label stock and became the first FSC-certified label manufacturer in North America. Taylor Label is also the founding member of 'Canada's Green Printers', a not-for-profit organization designed to help printers share environmental best-practices within the industry. Their comprehensive and long-term commitment to environmentally-responsible product development, manufacturing and shipment underscore Taylor Label’s leadership in sustainability within the shipping label industry.
Even the most environmentally sensitive businesses know that their annual operations contribute to the increase in carbon emissions in our atmosphere, but the businesses that are truly committed to operational sustainability are taking simple and affordable steps to reduce their carbon footprint.
For the past six years, CarbonFree® Business Partner Arbor Teas has neutralized its annual operational emissions and its product shipment emissions in partnership with Carbonfund.org. Arbor Teas retails one of the largest selections of USDA-certified organic loose leaf teas from around the globe, most of which is Fair Trade, through its on-line store. In addition, Arbor Teas is committed to making a positive impact on the environment and has taken many steps to reduce emissions by offering only organic teas, reducing and “greening” its packaging and using renewable energy sources. However, their teas come from all corners of the world, so the shipping emissions are unavoidable. To mitigate these emissions, Arbor Teas has maintained a CarbonFree® Shipping program to offset the carbon footprint of annual product shipment emissions, and to offset all internal operational emissions, by supporting Carbonfund.org’s renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects.
“It makes no sense at all to sell an organic product if the method of delivering it to our customers is environmentally harmful,” says Jeremy Lopatin. “Although we do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint, we’re happy to partner with Carbonfund.org to offset what we can’t avoid… yet!”
Almost three years ago, Arbor Teas became the first tea company to deliver its full line of organic loose teas in 100% backyard compostable packaging. With the release of this next generation packaging, Arbor Teas advanced its environmental mission, continuing to lead the tea industry through its staunch commitment to sustainable business practices. For the first time ever, tea drinkers are now able to compost their tea leaves AND tea packaging together in their home composting system. This innovative packaging is composed of a cellulose film made from wood pulp sourced from sustainably-managed trees, and the films used for Arbor Teas’ new packaging breaks down in a backyard compost setting.
Carbonfund.org applauds Arbor Teas’ long-term commitment to maintaining its CarbonFree® Operations and Shipping programs, and to its continuing innovation in the areas of product packaging and sourcing.
Most of the time, we do not take into account the complete costs to producing or consuming a good or service. This is because we focus on the explicit costs. For example, if we were to bake a loaf of bread, we would take into account the cost of the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, milk, and butter. Perhaps we would even calculate our labor time to make the dough and the cost of running the oven, but would we account for the carbon dioxide dumped into the atmosphere for the delivery truck that delivered the baking supplies? How about the CO2 emissions from the power plant burning fossil fuels to generate the electricity to run the oven? The problem is that we are not required to bear the full cost of production. Some of the costs to bake that loaf of bread were shifted to society as a whole.
Even if we did not bake the loaf of bread ourselves, we’re still shifting costs to society as a whole just by consuming it. Our cars burn gasoline to drive to and from the grocery store, and regardless if we walked or biked, gasoline was likely also burned to deliver the bread to the grocery store in the first place. Sure the delivery truck paid for the gasoline, but many companies do not pay for the carbon emissions their operations generate.
We need to make some drastic changes to avoid the ills of global warming, which we are beginning to see affect our daily lives, but the logistics of transforming our world’s energy system can be intimidating. The first thing we need to do is get off fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy sources. Easier said than done, I know. It will be a complex and time-consuming process converting power plants, vehicles/transport systems, homes and commercial buildings. Unfortunately, time is not on our side here. We really need to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050.
So then the question becomes how can we transition the world’s energy infrastructure to sustainable sources by mid-century? One of the ways suggested is to implement a tax on CO2 emissions that begins low and gradually increases. There should be no mystery either about how much and at what intervals over time the tax will rise. Then people, businesses and governments can plan their fossil fuel exit strategy.
The revenues the carbon tax generates should be directed into subsidizing renewable energy innovation and overhauling energy infrastructure.
Ideally, the carbon tax should be global. Again there are logistical challenges to this climate change solution. The key is that we need a systematic and practical process. Isn’t it time we started taking responsibility for the full costs of production and consumption? Society is bearing the cost as a whole, and society as a whole needs to be part of the solution.
CarbonFree® product certification offers companies a method to quantify, reduce and offset greenhouse gas emissions
ANN ARBOR, Mich., USA and TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Quebec, Canada (February 25, 2013) – Bio-Lub Canada Inc., developer of antifriction treatments and solutions for the ecological and biodegradable degreasing industry, has earned the first CarbonFree® certification in the industry for its bio-hydraulic fluid from Carbonfund.org and NSF Sustainability, a division of global independent public health organization NSF International. As a result, industries that utilize hydraulic processes (automobile, construction machinery, excavation, farming, forestry and others) now have access to an environmentally-friendly, carbon-neutral ISO 46 hydraulic fluid.
Hydraulic systems play an important role in our daily lives. Elevators, forklifts, commercial lawnmowers, garbage trucks, farming equipment, aircraft flight control systems and construction equipment such as loaders or bulldozers all use as much as 100 liters (26.4 gallons) of hydraulic fluid. Some loss to the environment is inevitable. With Bio-Lub biobased hydraulic fluid there will be little, if any, environmental impact. By earning CarbonFree® certification for its BLC 710 bio-hydraulic fluid (in 20-, 205- and 1000-liter packaging), Bio-Lub is helping environmentally conscious organizations reduce their carbon footprint and impact on the environment. The bio-hydraulic fluids are made from vegetable oils derived from a renewable source and are also USDA certified as 96 percent biobased under the BioPreferred® program.
To address its products’ environmental impacts, Bio-Lub Canada underwent a detailed life cycle assessment to measure the carbon emissions produced from its bio-hydraulic fluid products sold worldwide. To achieve carbon neutrality for the products, Bio-Lub offset the per-unit carbon footprint through investment in third-party validated renewable energy, energy efficiency and forestry carbon offset projects. These carbon offset projects are supported through the Carbonfund.org Foundation, a leading nonprofit and developer of the CarbonFree® Product Certification program, the first carbon neutral product label in North America.
“Using environmentally friendly ISO 46 bio-hydraulic fluids such as Bio-Lub’s is particularly important for sensitive environmental applications such as farming and marine dredging. By earning CarbonFree® certification, Bio-Lub is taking its commitment to the environment a step further through offsetting the greenhouse gasses made when producing and distributing the products,” said Tom Bruursema, NSF Sustainability General Manager.
“We at Bio-Lub are excited that our BLC-700 series is the first eco-friendly hydraulic fluid in our industry to be certified worldwide as CarbonFree® by NSF International and Carbonfund.org,” said Michel Cordeau, CEO of Bio-Lub Canada Inc. “Bio-Lub products are designed for superior performance and low environmental impact and Carbonfree® certification is just one more way to validate our commitment to environmentally preferred products.”
How the CarbonFree® Product Certification Program Works
The CarbonFree® Product Certification program uses life cycle assessments (LCAs) to determine the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over a product’s entire life cycle. GHG emissions (expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents) that cannot be reduced or eliminated from the product’s life cycle are offset or ‘neutralized’ with third-party validated renewable energy, energy efficiency and forestry carbon offset projects.
A carbon offset is a verifiable reduction in carbon emissions somewhere in the world other than where the emission is generated. These external reductions offer clean energy transformation (e.g. wind, solar), sequestration (e.g. forestry) and clean technology (e.g. energy efficiency). The projects also offer a range of benefits including conservation, clean water, job creation and innovation. Credits are generated when a project is verified and registered – allowing companies to purchase these credits and offset the emissions produced in the manufacturing and use of their products. These credits are then permanently ‘retired’ on behalf of the product/company.
CarbonFree® certified products earn the use of the CarbonFree® mark along with being listed in the Carbonfund.org online product certification database. The CarbonFree® mark can be found on a variety of products today, including foods, beverages, electronics and apparel.
AboutCarbonfund.org Foundation: Carbonfund.org is a leading nonprofit climate solutions organization, making it easy and affordable for individuals, businesses and organizations to reduce their climate impact and hasten our transition to a low-carbon economy. Carbonfund.org supports innovative renewable energy, energy efficiency and forestry projects globally that reduce carbon emissions and help people. Carbonfund.org has worked with over 2,000 corporate and nonprofit partners. More at www.carbonfund.org.
About NSF International: NSF International is a global independent organization that writes standards, and tests and certifies products for the construction, food, water and consumer goods industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment (nsf.org). Founded in 1944, NSF is committed to protecting human health and safety worldwide.
NSF Sustainability draws upon this expertise in standards development, product assurance and certification, advisory services and quality management systems to help companies green their products, operations, systems and supply chains. Product assessments include testing and certification for more sustainable consumer and commercial products. NSF is also an approved testing laboratory (under ASTM D6866) for conducting biobased testing. Through its National Center for Sustainability Standards, NSF also develops sustainability standards for products such as carpet, flooring and other commercial building materials.
Additional NSF services include NSF Education and Training, safety audits for the food and water industries, nutritional/dietary supplement certification, organic certification provided by QAI (Quality Assurance International) and management systems registrations delivered through NSF International Strategic Registrations (NSF-ISR). NSF-ISR services include ISO 14001 environmental management systems registration and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and Chain of Custody (COC) certifications.
A study released in 2009 by two New Zealand scientists, claiming that a medium-sized family dog had a carbon footprint twice the size of an SUV, caused quite a stir in the pet food industry. Carbonfund.org business partner Ainsworth Pet Nutrition took note. A fifth generation family-owned and operated company catering to all segments of the pet food industry, Ainsworth Pet Nutrition makes a wide spectrum of pet foods and snacks, from brands that offer sound nutrition and convenience to ultra-premium specialty foods.
In late 2009, Ainsworth Pet Nutrition began an ambitious company-wide Social & Eco Responsibility program, making significant achievements across the entire company and establishing longer-term 2015 goals for its logistics, packaging, manufacturing, products and community. By 2011, their manufacturing operations achieved a recycling rate of over 90% and reduced waste from 6% to 2% in their largest facility. The company’s overall sustainability goals for 2015 aim to reduce overall carbon emissions from manufacturing and shipping by 15%, water-usage by 25%, achieve a 99% recycle-rate, and produce less than 1% created waste.
In 2012, Ainsworth Pet Nutrition took the additional step to analyze then neutralize the annual carbon dioxide emissions related to the manufacturing process and shipping of two of the company’s high-end brand, Back to Basics and Rachael Ray Nutrish. Ainsworth partnered with Carbonfund.org to support a CCBS-validated reforestation and preservation project in the Darien, Panama rainforest in order to mitigate 2012 annual operational emissions for these two brands.
Ainsworth plans to continue to extend its sustainability initiatives to examine product sourcing, reviewing the entire supply chain to select suppliers based on their environmental actions, proximity to production facilities, and socially-responsible behavior.
“Continuous reduction of our environmental impact has become one of Ainsworth’s top strategic objectives,” states Jeff Waters, President of Ainsworth Pet Nutrition.
Carbonfund.org is proud to partner with a forward-thinking company like Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, helping them to lead the pet food manufacturing industry in maintaining an aggressive and ongoing commitment to operational sustainability.
The American Forest and Paper Association continues to make strides as an industry intent on leading the expansion of paper recycling. The success of their “Better Practices, Better Planet 2020” initiative will be partly dependent upon consumer preferences shifting to products containing fully or partially recycled paper. In order to help close the “recycling loop”, “green” consumers must continue to seek out businesses that offer eco-conscious products featuring recycled paper, in order to expand the practice of paper recycling and the manufacturing, marketing and price-competitiveness of products containing recycled paper. CarbonFree® Business Partner Paper Culture was led by its strong environmental focus, one of the foundations upon which the company has built its business, to develop its product line on 100% post consumer recycled paper and to take additional measures to neutralize the carbon emissions from its business operations.
As part of its ongoing environmental commitment, Paper Culture took the important step five years ago to neutralize its annual operational emissions and become a CarbonFree® Partner. "In choosing Carbonfund.org, Paper Culture wanted a partner that had a strong, auditable record of driving additional green house gas reducing projects,” explains Christopher Wu, Paper Culture Owner. “When we looked at their marquee list of partners that includes names like Staples, Discovery Channel and Virgin, when combined with the audit trail provided by Environmental Resources Trust to verify the various Carbonfund.org projects, our decision was made."
Over the past five years, Paper Culture’s CarbonFree® commitment has neutralized its own operational emissions by steadily supporting Carbonfund.org's reforestation projects around the world, which reduce carbon dioxide emissions through tree planting and forestry management efforts.
Paper Culture is an online stationery company offering modern eco-friendly personalized stationery and cards such as baby announcements, holiday cards, and baby shower invitations. All Paper Culture card and stationery designs are printed on 100% post consumer recycled paper, and Paper Culture plants a tree in a US national forest with every order. These steps, together with the long-term commitment to CarbonFree® operations, underscore Paper Culture’s focus on environmental responsibility and demonstrate their sustainability leadership within the paper products industry.