Day: February 15, 2012

Webinar: Procurement in Sustainability: from buying green products to creating green solutions

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM (CST)
Register here.

Increasingly, corporations and government agencies are developing supply chain sustainability and procurement initiatives aiming to stimulate sustainable products markets and address stakeholder needs for improved environmental and social product performance.  However, in many cases, no available solution exists on the market, and significant cost barriers of assessment, research or product development prevent or delay commercialization.

In this webinar, we wish to explore existing and potential procurement efforts in the context of purchasing organizations:

  1. Engaging, and potentially sharing, in the risks and benefits of designing, prototyping and testing new products and services with suppliers (typical to other demonstration grants/programs), and;
  2. Creating wider commercialization of successes through standardization and scale.
    Registration is free and open to all.

Rolf Nordstrom, Executive Director of the Great Plains Institute, will facilitate this webinar.


Kevin Dooley- Professor of Supply Chain Management, and a Dean’s Council of 100 Distinguished Scholars in the WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

Nancy Gillis- Director the GSA Federal Supply Chain Emissions Program Management Office (PMO) and chair of the Section 13 Interagency Working Group

Tim Smith- Resident fellow and Director of the NorthStar Initiative, and Associate Professor of Corporate Environmental Management and Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota.

Coal tar sealant linked to toxic chemicals in water, air

Read the full story in Great Lakes Echo.

Pavement in the Great Lakes region is often coated with coal tar sealants to protect it from the elements. The sealed surfaces put toxic chemicals in air and water long after application, according to a recent study in Environmental Science and Technology.

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Texas Water Science Center found that coal tar sealed surfaces are a major source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds. Not all PAH compounds are the same, but some are highly carcinogenic and some have been linked to problems in children, like low IQ scores, asthma and premature births.

The chemicals are also toxic to wildlife.

Energy Department Announces Market-Driven Energy-Saving Specifications for Commercial Lighting

The Energy Department today announced new voluntary energy-saving specifications for lighting troffers – rectangular overhead fixtures used in commercial buildings – as well as parking lot and parking structure lighting. The new performance criteria were developed by the Department of Energy’s Commercial Building Energy Alliances (CBEAs), which bring together major U.S. companies from a wide range of sectors to identify and implement successful energy efficiency and cost-saving practices. Building operators can voluntarily adopt these specifications for new buildings or building upgrades to reduce their energy bills and carbon emissions.

The potential to reduce the nation’s energy use through better lighting choices is enormous. On average, over half of the lighting fixtures in commercial buildings operate for more than 10 hours a day and collectively consume more than 87 terawatt hours of electricity annually, which is equivalent to the energy used by nearly 3 million homes. These new commercial lighting specifications can reduce energy use by more than 40% compared with conventional lighting and have the potential to save businesses up to $5 billion annually.

The new CBEA High Efficiency Troffer Specification provides minimum performance levels for LED and fluorescent troffers used in commercial buildings, including offices and restaurants. The new specification delivers energy savings of between 15% and 45% compared with conventional systems. The specification also includes an optional section on lighting controls, which can boost savings up to 75% by employing technologies such as motion sensors and timers.

DOE also released updated specifications for high-efficiency parking lot and parking structure lighting. Both public and private organizations are increasingly using systems that meet DOE’s high efficiency parking lot lighting specification. This specification typically reduces energy use by 50% compared with conventional parking lot lighting. Some early adopters of the new specifications include Walmart, Lowe’s, and Cleveland Clinic.

WalMart now uses energy-saving lights that meet the specification in new parking lot sites, and is upgrading more than 250 existing lots. The company reports energy savings of 58% compared with ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2010, a widely used commercial building code. Lowe’s has tested lighting systems that meet the specification at several sites and plans to expand their use. Based on these and other successful installations, others, such as MGM Resorts International and the U.S. General Services Administration, are also considering upgrading their lighting to meet the new specification.

Through the CBEA, the Energy Department collaborates with building owners, operators, and manufacturers to develop minimum performance requirements that are voluntarily adopted by CBEA members. Increased adoption of energy-saving specifications can help American businesses cut costs, reduce energy use, and increase their competitiveness.

Fuel Gets Fruity: Converting Produce Scraps into Gas

Read the full story at GOOD.

The compost pile and worm bin are no longer the only appropriate resting places for peach pits, banana peels, and apple cores. The Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, Europe’s largest applied research center, announced last week that it will begin turning old produce into bio-gas at a pilot site in Stuttgart, Germany. Conveniently located next to the city’s wholesale vegetable market, the facility will use microorganisms to transform food scraps into methane gas, which can power a car once compressed and emits less carbon dioxide during combustion than gasoline.

A Recipe for Diversion

Read the full story in Waste Age.

Recycling is perhaps the most discussed facet of municipal solid waste (MSW), from the trucks and carts used to collect recyclables, to single-stream vs. dual stream, often looking at the economics and logistics of managing a program. While opinions on the best way to set up a recycling program are far from unanimous, communities are by and large looking at how to increase recycling rates. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only 34 percent of the total MSW generated in 2010 was recycled, so we clearly have room to improve.

The emerging task, therefore, is to determine next steps to capture more of these wastes and turn them into resources to be recycled. EPA estimates that more than 62 percent of the MSW generated each year is organic: yard trimmings, food waste, wood and paper/paperboard. While 57.5 percent of yard trimmings are captured for composting and mulch, less than 3 percent of food waste is captured. It’s no wonder that municipal food waste collection programs are being planned and implemented across the United States.

Profiles in Garbage: Food Waste

Read the full story in Waste Age.

Food waste includes uneaten portions of meals and trimmings from food preparation. Food waste is the largest component of generated and discarded municipal solid waste by weight.

Estimates of the amount of food waste vary widely. EPA estimates that we each discard less than a pound a day or 225 pounds per year. The Garbage Project at the University of Arizona estimated a per person rate of 1.3 pounds every day, or 474.5 pounds per year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has higher estimates of food waste than EPA. Food processing facilities work aggressively to ensure their food wastes are recovered and not sent to disposal facilities. EPA data does not include these businesses.

Curbside collection of food waste is found in about 160 American communities. Large-scale projects in Seattle and San Francisco have been effective, but cost, facility siting and vector control are concerns for new projects. Anaerobic digestion facilities that convert food scraps to energy are still uncommon. More than 60 million homes and 500,000 businesses have in-sink food disposers that divert food waste.

For the Love of Lightweighting

Read the full post at The Heap.

The other night I was preparing some rice (basmati, if you must know) for supper when a note on the back of the bag caught my eye. The rice was from Lundberg Family Farms, a brand I’ve long admired for its sustainable farming practices and, frankly, the tastiness of its product. Up until recently the bags were resealable. The note read, in part:

We’ve removed the re-closable zipper from our 2 pound bags to save about 15% of the material used to make the bag, which save 35,000 lbs. of plastic from landfills every year. This reduces our environmental footprint and saves precious resources for future generations.

The note went on to suggest alternate ways to keep the rice fresh in lieu of that plastic zipper. This simple notice really got me thinking about all of the ways in which lighweighting is helping to shrink the waste stream. Whether its moving from glass bottles to plastic or concentrating detergent so the package containing it shrinks, manufacturers are finding myriad ways to get their products to market with less packaging — and should be encouraged to find more.

Reading for the Earth

Reading for the Earth is a national effort that promotes reading environmentally themed books during the month of April, in honor of Earth Day. Organized by Earth Day Network and libraries around the country, the campaign will ask young readers across the nation to check out environmentally themed books from their local library. The purpose of the campaign is twofold: to educate youth about the environment and to inspire them to read books more often. To join the effort, students will be asked to visit their local library, pick up a book and pledge to read it during the month of April. Earth Day Network is also encouraging libraries to sponsor Earth Day activities for students in their communities including  book readings and video screenings.

The Death of Campus Sustainability

Read the full post by Dave Newport at The Department of Change.

OK, starting with a title like “The Death of Campus Sustainability” could easily be seen as cheap, manipulative, sensational, or simply wrong.

And yes, the implicit reference to Shellenberger’ and Nordhaus’ controversial 2004 article “The Death of Environmentalism” is intentional—and intended to invoke your angst.

We should be unsettled.

Even as S&N’s article was roundly criticized when it was published, it appears now they were correct at least about the effectiveness of the environmental movement.

We’re losing.

In terms of the natural world, critical global environmental indicators show major natural systems going downhill, the Earth’s carrying capacity has been exceeded, and climate change’s negative effects have already begun.

In terms of politics and public opinion, despite general awareness of that environmental decline, public concern over environment degradation has slipped from 71% of the US population saying environmental protection trumps economic growth in 1989, to only 36% today. Over the same period, Gallup reports support for economic growth as the top priority—even if the environment suffers– has risen from 19% to over 54% today.

Not trying to be depressing here; just the facts, ma’am.

We’re losing the war on the environment…. Accept it.

Chu: President’s 2013 Energy Budget Makes Critical Investments in Innovation, Clean Energy, and National Security

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu today detailed President Barack Obama’s $27.2 billion Fiscal Year 2013 budget request for the Department of Energy, emphasizing the President’s commitment to an all-of-the-above energy strategy that includes critical investments in innovation, in the job-creating clean energy technologies, and in our national security strategy.   The budget request for the Department is part of the President’s blueprint for an American economy that is built to last based on American energy that is cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.  At the same time, the FY 2013 budget request also represents tough choices aimed at focusing taxpayer resources on areas that will yield the greatest benefit over time.

“The United States is competing in a global race for the clean energy jobs of the future,” said Secretary Chu. “The choice we face as a nation is simple: do we want the clean energy technologies of tomorrow to be invented in America by American innovators, made by American workers and sold around the world, or do we want to concede those jobs to our competitors?  We can and must compete for those jobs. This budget request includes responsible investments in an American economy that is built to last.”

  • Specifically the President’s FY 2013 budget request for the Department of Energy:
  • Invests in cross-cutting research to lead in the research, development, deployment and production of clean energy technologies;
  • Promotes efforts to make solar power affordable for all Americans by reducing the cost of solar energy by 75 percent and making it cost competitive without subsidies by the end of the decade;
  • Continues the Obama Administration’s efforts to reduce our dependence on oil by one-third by 2025;
  • Supports groundbreaking basic science, research and innovation to solve our energy challenges and ensure that the United States remains at the forefront of science and technology;
  • Strengthens national security by reducing nuclear dangers and maintaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent; and
  • Advances responsible environmental management by cleaning up the legacy from the Manhattan Project and the Cold War.

Some highlights in the FY 2013 budget include:

  • $60 million to perform critical research on energy storage systems and devise new approaches for battery storage;
  • $770 million for nuclear energy, including $65 million for cost-shared awards to support  first-of-a-kind small modular reactors and $60 million for nuclear waste R&D that aligns with the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future;
  • $276 million for research and development of advanced fossil fuel power systems and carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies to allow for the continued use of our abundant domestic coal resources while reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
  • $350 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to continue support for promising early-stage research projects that could deliver game-changing clean energy technologies;
  • $120 million to support the Energy Frontier Research Centers and $140 million for the five existing Energy Innovation Hubs and to establish a new hub to focus on grid systems and the tie between transmission and distribution systems;
  • $11.5 billion to protect Americans by maintaining U.S. nuclear deterrence capabilities, reducing nuclear dangers in an increasingly unstable and unpredictable world, and providing for the Navy’s nuclear propulsion needs; and
  • $2.5 billion to support NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation program, which plays a critical role in completing the President’s goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear material around the world in four years.

The budget request for fiscal year 2013 also highlights the steps the Department continues to take to improve its management and operations, and reduce costs. Some examples include:

  • Eliminating 4.6 million gross square feet of excess real property, over 3 million sq. feet more than the FY 2011 target, which will avoid future operations and maintenance costs;
  • Reducing its time-to-hire new employees by 45 percent; and
  • Reducing, consolidating or moving 40 percent of its websites to the platform to increase communication and transparency, and streamline website infrastructure processes, which will save more than $10 million a year.

The Energy Department’s complete FY 2013 Budget Request to Congress is available at: