Day: May 9, 2014

Groundbreaking Principles for Leadership in Sustainable Purchasing Launched

During a webinar on May 7th, the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council unveiled a set of principles that define leadership in sustainable purchasing.  By providing a common reference point for sustainability excellence, the Principles enable greater alignment and benchmarking of sustainable purchasing efforts across all types of organizations operating in the multi-trillion dollar institutional purchasing marketplace.  The Principles will serve as a “moral compass” for the Council as it launches, at an upcoming public meeting on May 20-21, the development of a multi-sector program for guiding, benchmarking and recognizing leadership in sustainable purchasing.

The Council believes these Principles will help the institutional purchasing community achieve its full transformative potential, in much the same way that the UN Principles for Responsible Investment have helped investors to catalyze large-scale market transformation.  The development of a shared definition for leadership in sustainable purchasing will similarly enable efficient sharing of best practices, solutions, training, benchmarking, recognition, and policy efforts among organizations, sectors and regions.

“The Council supports a strategic approach to sustainable purchasing that is consistent across sectors,” says Executive Director Jason Pearson. “The potential for alignment, market influence, and supply chain innovation accelerate dramatically when we all speak the same language and use similar processes to evaluate and mitigate the impacts associated with institutional purchasing.”

“Lockheed Martin has been actively engaging both our procurement staffs and our suppliers towards a process very similar to the one outlined by the SPLC’s Principles,” said Dan Pleshko, Vice President for Aeronautics Quality Transformation at Lockheed Martin, and panelist during the Principles launch webinar. “We are experiencing how this process can allow us to more efficiently, effectively and strategically make progress toward our sustainability goals than we otherwise would have.”

More than 800 attendees representing nearly 40 countries took part in the webinar launch hosted by GreenBiz, which discussed the following:

  • The five essential principles for leadership in sustainable purchasing
  • How to put the principles into action at your organization
  • How suppliers can support customers’ implementation of these principles
  • How the principles can be useful to advocates for social and environmental responsibility
  • How the principles serve as a foundation for the development of a multi-sector guidance, benchmarking and recognition program for leadership in sustainable purchasing

The Principles are available at www.purchasingcouncil.org/principles.

The Principles were developed through an 18-month multi-stakeholder process that engaged leading organizations from a number of sectors, and included the collection of more than 300 comments via public forums and a comment period.  The final iteration of the Principles reflects the deliberation of a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) made up of SPLC members from the purchaser, supplier and public interest advocacy communities.

About the Council

Launched in 2013, the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council builds on four years of work by the Green Products Roundtable, a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder forum convened by the Keystone Center in 2008.  The Council brings together leaders from government, industry, academia, standards organizations and NGOs to develop an integrated guidance, benchmarking, and recognition program for leadership in sustainable institutional purchasing. The Council will hold a public meeting for all interested stakeholders on May 20-21 in Washington, DC. More information is at: www.purchasingcouncil.org.

SPLC’s founding members

  • Aflac
  • American University
  • Apex Clean Energy
  • Arizona State University
  • Bloomberg
  • Caesars Entertainment
  • CIPS Sustainability Index
  • City of Portland, OR
  • City of San Francisco, CA
  • DEKRA
  • Dell
  • Domtar
  • Ecolab
  • Emory University
  • Ernst & Young
  • FairTrade USA
  • FedEx
  • GreenCircle Certified
  • JCPenney
  • King County, WA
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Michigan State University
  • Office Depot
  • SciQuest
  • Social Hotspots Database Project
  • State of California, DGS
  • State of Michigan, DTMB & DEQ
  • State of Minnesota, PCA & MMD
  • The Carbon Neutral Company
  • The District of Columbia
  • UL Environment
  • US Department of Agriculture
  • US Department of Energy
  • US Environmental Protection Agency
  • Waste Management
  • SCS Global Services

SPLC Founding Partners

  • The American National Standards Institute
  • The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education
  • Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association
  • BSR Center for Sustainable Procurement
  • ICLEI
  • Institute for Supply Management
  • ISEAL Alliance
  • National Association of State Procurement Officers
  • Practice GreenHealth
  • The Product Stewardship Institute
  • Responsible Purchasing Network
  • Sustainable Food Lab
  • Sustainability Standards Partnership
  • UNEP Sustainable Public Procurement Initiative

Georgetown University Energy Efficiency Prize Offering $5 Million to a Sustainable Community: Deadline June 30

The Georgetown University Energy Prize competition is offering a $5 million prize to a local community that can come up with the best long-term energy efficiency plan for “innovative, replicable, scalable and continual reductions in the per capita energy consumed from local natural gas and electric utilities.” Ultimately, the award aims to create new ways for counties and local communities to think about how and why they use energy, with a focus on the role of energy reduction in tackling the energy and environmental challenges they face.

Who can compete?

The competition is open to any county, city or town with a population between 5,000 and 250,000. All told, there are some 8,892 eligible communities, which represent nearly two-thirds of all the communities in the nation. Is your county eligible to compete? Click here to find out.

How will plans be judged?

Participating counties will be required to create a long-term plan for energy reduction, as well as demonstrate their plan’s preliminary effectiveness for two years. Plans will be judged on a number of factors, including how well they:

  • Create innovative approaches and techniques for reducing per-capita energy use,
  • Develop best practices to unite citizens, local governments, businesses, and electric utilities,
  • Educate the public, especially students, on energy efficiency issues and the benefits of reducing energy use, and
  • Increase the visibility of the work that Georgetown University and the prize’s sponsors are doing to develop new strategies for reducing energy usage and increasing energy efficiency.

When can you start?

Applications are accepted until June 30, 2014. To review the full timeline of the competition, click here.​

Call for Papers: Ecomusicologies 2014: Dialogues

Call for Papers
 
 
4-5 October 2014
University of North Carolina at Asheville (USA)
 
Deadline for proposals: 14 May 2014
Ecomusicologies 2014: Dialogues will bring together artists and scholars to stimulate discussion on music, culture, and the environment. The conference is part of the multi-day event series, “Ecomusics” (3-7 October 2014), which will include concerts, soundwalks, workshops, and outings (e.g., field trips to the Moog Factory, Black Mountain College, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park). Not only do the fall colors of October in the Appalachian Mountains make Asheville, North Carolina, an ideal place to be, but its history also makes it an ideal gathering spot for a conference on ecomusicology: it is where Bartok composed his Piano Concerto No. 3, where John Cage conducted happenings, and where Buckminster Fuller created his geodesic dome. If you would like to participate in the conference but would prefer not to travel for environmental or other reasons, you will have the option to participate as presenter or audience member via the Internet.
The conference theme, “Dialogues”, aims to foster common ground, where participants representing diverse backgrounds (academic, artistic, industry, non-profit, et al.) can learn about and exchange ideas on ecomusics. In addition to general ecomusicology topics, the conference committee encourages submissions that respond, but are not limited, to the following topic fields:
  • Musical collaboration (in, for, or with the environment)
  • Improvisation (human and non-human)
  • The music industry
  • The sound of “green”
  • Acoustic ecology
  • Ecopoetics and sound
  • Race, class, gender
  • Sustainability
  • Musician/academic-as-activist
Scholars from any academic field are invited to submit proposals to present in a variety of formats, including:
  • Panels (3 to 5 participants, 30-90 minutes),
  • Papers (20 or 30 minutes),
  • Posters (electronic or paper format), and
  • Alternative formats (performance, film, installation, lecture demonstration, etc.).
An author may submit up to two proposals (on related or separate topics).

More info is available at: http://www.ecomusicologies.org/

 

Webinar: Tools for Successfully Deploying and Measuring Behavior Change for the Littering Public

Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 1:30-2:30 pm CDT
Register at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/378905274

This webinar is part of the popular P2Rx Behavior Change Webinar Series to help pollution prevention technical assistance providers initiate, implement, and measure behavioral change resulting from their programs and initiatives.

Donna Walden will begin by presenting a step-by-step model on community based social marketing (CBSM) to help P2 programs properly selecting behaviors, establish a baseline, and develop strategies that can successfully measure behavior change.

Then UC Santa Barbara Masters candidates Jessica Midbust, Michael Mori, Paula Richter, and Bill Vosti will present a Master’s group thesis undertaken for the Algalita Marine Research Institute on reducing plastic debris in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel River Watersheds using some CBSM techniques.

Participants will learn some valuable behavior change techniques and hear recommendations made from the graduate students on how to change the behavior of the littering public.

Stanford to Purge $18 Billion Endowment of Coal Stock

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Stanford University announced Tuesday that it would divest its $18.7 billion endowment of stock in coal-mining companies, becoming the first major university to lend support to a nationwide campaign to purge endowments and pension funds of fossil fuel investments.

Still Counting Gulf Spill’s Dead Birds

Read the full story in the New York Times.

After the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew out in the Gulf of Mexico some 50 miles from the nearest land, responders were left to cope with a search area of nearly 40,000 square miles, as well as wind and currents that kept evidence of damage away from the more easily searchable coastline.

Patrollers recovered fewer than 3,000 dead birds. But some had suspected that many more were unaccounted for.

Now a team of scientists has tried to quantify the extent of damage inflicted on the gulf’s bird population from the oil spill caused by the explosion. Based on models using publicly available data, the studies estimated that about 800,000 birds died in coastal and offshore waters.

Alternative Jet Fuels: Federal Activities Support Development and Usage, but Long-term Commercial Viability Hinges on Market Factors

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What GAO Found

The federal government supports the development and use of alternative jet fuels through both broad and targeted initiatives. Broad national strategies promote the development of a variety of alternative fuels—including alternative jet fuel—to help achieve national goals, such as securing energy independence, fostering economic development, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the renewable fuel program—established by law in 2005 to encourage greater use of renewable fuels and administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—requires that U.S. transportation fuels contain certain amounts of renewable fuels annually, increasing from 9-billion gallons in 2008 to 36-billion gallons in 2022. The other four federal agencies that GAO reviewed—Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Energy (DOE), and Department of Defense (DOD)—directly support alternative jet fuels through targeted goals, initiatives, and interagency and industry coordination efforts. For example, FAA set a goal for the U.S. aviation industry to use 1-billion gallons of alternative jet fuels annually by 2018. The four agencies also sponsor research that specifically targets alternative jet-fuel development or provide direct support for its future commercial production, or both. For example, FAA and DOD support research to determine the technical feasibility of using new alternative jet fuels on aircraft and in existing infrastructure. Also, USDA, DOE, and DOD have coordinated their activities to support the future construction or retrofit of multiple domestic commercial- or pre-commercial-scale production facilities to produce alternative fuels, including alternative jet fuels. Specifically, in May and June 2013, four private fuel producers received awards totaling $20.5 million in federal funds, with private industry paying at least 50 percent of the cost.

Achieving price competitiveness for alternative jet fuels is the overarching challenge to developing a viable market. No alternative jet fuels are currently commercially available at prices competitive with conventional jet fuels. The 23 stakeholders that GAO interviewed most frequently cited high development costs and the uncertainty of federal regulations and policies as primary reasons why alternative jet fuels are not priced competitively and believe that federal activities are needed to help advance the alternative jet-fuels industry. For example, according to 10 stakeholders, fuel producers face difficulties in obtaining private investment to help construct commercial-scale fuel production facilities, in part because of concerns about the supply and high cost of feedstock (the source used to produce the fuel, such as crops) and high capital costs. Also, 13 stakeholders stated that continued uncertainty about the future of current federal policies—particularly the renewable fuel program—generally causes potential investors to discount the value of federal subsidies, discounting that, in turn, limits the support these policies may provide the industry. Stakeholders identified a variety of federal actions to advance alternative jet-fuels development, including continuing current federal research efforts, providing greater regulatory and policy certainty, and giving more direct financial support. However, even if the cost to produce alternative jet fuels is reduced, market factors may still determine the long-term success of the industry. The main market factors identified by stakeholders were (1) comparative value of competing end products, (2) feedstock prices, and (3) the costs of conventional jet fuels.

Why GAO Did This Study

The federal government has encouraged the development and use of alternative fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with aviation and to enhance economic development and energy security for the United States. To help achieve these goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the aviation industry is actively supporting alternative jet fuels.

GAO was asked to provide information on the progress and challenges to developing and using alternative jet fuels in the United States. This report examines (1) the role of the federal government in the development and use of alternative jet fuels and (2) key challenges to developing and using alternative jet fuels and actions that the federal government plans to or could take to help address those challenges.

GAO interviewed officials from five federal agencies—FAA, USDA, DOE, DOD, and EPA. GAO selected these agencies for review because GAO identified them as the federal agencies most involved in the development and use of alternative jet fuels. GAO also reviewed relevant literature and federal and industry documents and discussed challenges and potential federal actions with 23 stakeholders from government, academia, and the private sector, selected to represent a range of perspectives and expertise in areas related to each step in the development and use of alternative jet fuels. GAO is not making recommendations in this report. DOT, USDA, DOE, DOD, and EPA reviewed a draft of this report and provided technical comments that were incorporated as appropriate.

Review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s State-of-the-Science Evaluation of Nonmonotonic Dose-Response Relationships as they Apply to Endocrine Disrupters

Download the report or read it online.

Potential health effects from chemicals that disrupt endocrine function pose an environmental health concern because of their ability to interfere with normal hormone function in human and wildlife populations. The endocrine system regulates biological processes throughout the body and is sensitive to small changes in hormone concentrations. Endocrine-disruptor research has focused primarily on chemicals that affect three hormone pathways that play important roles in reproduction and development – the estrogen, androgen, and thyroid hormone pathways. Some of this research has identified dose-response relationships that have nonmonotonic curves. Nonmonotonic dose-response curves (NMDRs) are of concern because they do not follow the usual assumption made in toxicology that as dose decreases the response also decreases.

The existence of NMDRs has been a controversial topic for decades, and there has been considerable debate about their implications for how chemicals are tested and for how risks from such chemicals are assessed. Toxicity tests are designed to identify hazards and to characterize dose-response relationships, so tests are aimed at finding a (high) dose that elicits a response, and dose-response is explored by testing lower doses spaced to identify statistically a no- or lowest-observed-adverse-effect level. The concern for NMDRs is that such studies, as currently designed, might not detect the inflection of the dose-response curve if only a few doses are tested or if the change in inflection occurs below the range of doses tested. Another concern is that some NMDRs are found for biological effects that are not usually evaluated in toxicity tests. If current testing strategies are inadequate to account for NMDRs, changes to risk assessment practices might be necessary. To help address these issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a draft State-of-the-Science Evaluation: Nonmonotonic Dose Responses as they Apply to Estrogen, Androgen, and Thyroid Pathways and EPA Testing and Assessment Procedures. EPA asked the National Research Council to conduct an independent review of this evaluation to ensure that it is scientifically sound and of high quality.

Review of Environmental Protection Agency’s State-of-the-Science Evaluation of Nonmonotonic Dose-Response as they Apply to Endocrine Disrupters evaluates whether EPA’s evaluation presents a scientifically sound and high-quality analysis of the literature on NMDRs. This report reviews how well the EPA evaluation described how the assessment was performed, whether consistent methods and criteria were applied in the analysis of different evidence streams, and whether appropriate methods were applied to evaluating the evidence. The report makes recommendations to improve EPA’s process and strengthen the evaluation.

Up to $12.3 Million in Grants and $57.8 Million in Loan Guarantees Available In Rural Energy for America Program

On May 5, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is seeking applications from rural small businesses and agricultural producers for funding to make energy efficiency improvements or to install renewable energy systems.

“Developing renewable energy presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America,” Vilsack said. “This funding will help farmers, ranchers and rural small business owners incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations, create jobs and help America become more energy independent. When small rural businesses and farmers cut their energy costs with cleaner and more efficient energy, we are both helping their bottom lines and reducing the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that affects our climate.”

The funding announced is being provided through USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Investments from programs like REAP help support the true engine of America’s economic growth – a thriving middle class. REAP is one of many USDA programs and initiatives to support an expanded domestic energy economy. In addition to helping to increase renewable energy production, USDA makes investments in the bioeconomy, provides support for the emerging biobased products industry, supports new technologies, and supports energy efficiency improvements.

For more information on the REAP program, visit www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdamediafb?contentid=2014/05/0079.xml