Day: May 16, 2012

ConAgra Foods’ green strategy: Award employees for sustainability efforts

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Last year, ConAgra Foods — the U.S. packaged-foods company behind such well-known brands as Hunt’s Ketchup and Reddi-Wip — saved millions of dollars while dramatically cutting its energy consumption. It accomplished this by not relying on major process changes or heavy investments hailing from top executives. Instead, it turned to its employees.

The accomplishments stemmed from an awards program, launched in 1992, developed to encourage employees to proactively look for ways to eliminate waste and reduce water and energy consumption. By allowing different divisions to set their own sustainability goals and awarding employees that met those goals, the Nebraska food giant saved 300 million gallons of water, eliminated 61,000 tons of landfill waste and reduced its carbon emissions by more than 43,000 metric tons. These efforts also saved the company $28 million.

Gail Tavill, ConAgra’s vice president of sustainable development, spoke with GreenBiz about how the program works, lessons learned and challenges the program has faced.

It’s not easy going green: GSA seeks better standard

Read the full story in Federal Times.

The government is reviewing how it will measure the “greenness” of new buildings for the next five years. And that has set off a skirmish among construction industry groups jockeying to sway the outcome.

Today, the government’s primary measuring stick is the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system, which scores how green a building is based on everything from its construction materials to its proximity to mass transit. Buildings can be LEED certified or achieve even higher degrees of greenness at the LEED Silver, Gold or Platinum levels.

The General Services Administration, which manages most of the government’s building projects, requires that all buildings it builds be LEED Gold certified. Other federal agencies occasionally use another standard: the Green Building Initiative’s “Green Globes” system.

But various industry groups — and the lawmakers supporting them — are pressing GSA and other policy makers to make changes in how things are done. And the outcome will help decide how billions of dollars of federal construction money is spent over the next five years.

EPA Launches Competition for College Students to Develop Innovative Approaches to Stormwater Management

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is launching a new design competition called the Campus RainWorks Challenge to encourage student teams on college and university campuses across the country to develop innovative approaches to stormwater management. Stormwater is a major cause of water pollution in urban areas in the U.S., impacting the health of people across the country as well as tens of thousands of miles of rivers, streams, and coastal shorelines, and hundreds of thousands of acres of lakes, reservoirs, and ponds. The competition will help raise awareness of green design and planning approaches at colleges and universities, and train the next generation of landscape architects, planners, and engineers in green infrastructure principles and design.

Student teams, working with a faculty advisor, will submit design plans for a proposed green infrastructure project for their campus. Registration for the Campus RainWorks Challenge opens September 4, and entries must be submitted by December 14, 2012 for consideration. Winning entries will be selected by EPA and announced in April 2013. Winning teams will earn a cash prize of $1,500 – $2,500, as well as $8,000 – $11,000 in funds for their faculty advisor to conduct research on green infrastructure. In 2013, EPA plans to expand Campus RainWorks by inviting students to design and complete a demonstration project assessing innovative green infrastructure approaches on their campus.

“Reducing stormwater pollution requires innovative approaches and America’s college students are incredibly creative and talented,” said Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “The Campus RainWorks Challenge will engage students across the country in tackling one of the toughest challenges to clean water and show them the opportunities in environmental careers.”

EPA is encouraging the use of green infrastructure as a solution to help manage stormwater runoff. Green Infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage stormwater runoff at its source and provide other community benefits, including economic development.. Green infrastructure is increasingly being used to supplement or substitute for single-purpose “gray” infrastructure investments such as pipes, and ponds. The Campus RainWorks Challenge will help encourage the use of green infrastructure projects on college and university campuses to manage stormwater discharges.

More information on the Campus RainWorks Challenge:

Sustainability Study: Interactive Exploration

The third annual 2011 Sustainability & Innovation Global Executive Study, conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review in partnership with The Boston Consulting Group, garnered more than 4,000 responses from executives and managers of all industries and regions. Analysis of 2,874 respondents from commercial enterprises reveals that a substantial portion of companies are now seeing the need for sustainable business practices — and are deriving financial benefits from these activities.

Use this tool to access the interactive charts and starting exploring the major trends in sustainability commitment and profitability. You can also download the raw data as comma-separated values (CSV) to view in Microsoft Excel and other applications. The full report is also available for download (registration required).


Opportunity Knocks: Examining Low-Ranking States in Energy Efficiency

Download the document.

In recent years, many states have embraced new energy efficiency policies and as a result, investments in energy efficiency programs have been increasing steadily. But a group of about a dozen states remains year after year at the bottom of the ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. In this report, we describe the results of numerous interviews with policy-makers and policy influencers in the states ranked in the bottom ten of the Scorecard to explore why they have not embraced energy efficiency and to investigate the approaches and policies in the utility sector, the public sector, buildings, and industry that might allow them to get started or accelerate their activities.

After interviewing fifty-five stakeholders, we found a number of barriers both common and unique to the states we examined. Fortunately, energy efficiency does have a foothold in every region of the country, and the policies and programs we recommend are grounded in past experience and success in states similar to those we examined for this report. The recommendations vary in scope and targeted sector, but we focused on low-cost, flexible solutions that made sense given the context of most states we analyzed. We conclude that low-ranking states in the Scorecard should seize the opportunity to tap into an abundant, yet under-utilized resource in energy efficiency, which can contribute to economic development, environmental well-being, and energy security.

Biofuels Industry at Crossroads as Military Waits for Lower Prices (UPDATED)

Read the full story in National Defense Magazine.

Military leaders like to say that their aircraft, ships and personnel can’t tell the difference between petroleum and biofuel.

But their budgets can.

Planes, ships and helicopters all have completed successful tests using alternative fuels. But the Defense Department has been paying per-gallon rates for biofuels that make volatile standard oil prices look like steals.

It’s the classic chicken and the egg conundrum.

Industry needs the military to buy big providing a demand signal that could help reduce prices, but a lot of things have to be sorted out in the young market before the Pentagon can afford to do that.

Proponents say that the biofuels industry is at a crucial juncture and needs the right mix of policy, action and financial support to cross the bridge to commercialization. But if any leg of that support goes weak, the military may have to wait even longer for green fuel to reach competitive prices.

EPA Announces NAS’ Review of IRIS Assessment Development Process

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) will conduct a comprehensive review of the agency’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program’s assessment development process. The IRIS program helps EPA protect Americans’ health and the environment by conducting health assessments of over 550 chemicals that may be present in our environment.

In April 2011, NAS recommended several ways to improve the development of IRIS assessments. EPA has embraced these recommendations and is implementing them using a phased approach. Future draft IRIS assessments released for public comment and peer review will demonstrate the progress EPA has made in implementing NAS recommendations.

“EPA is committed to a strong and robust IRIS program,” said Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “This program plays a significant role in protecting the health of our country’s citizens and the environment in which they live. We welcome the NAS’ review of the IRIS assessment development process and look forward to working with them to continue to strengthen the program.

NAS will conduct a review of the IRIS assessment development process and the changes that are currently being made or planned by EPA in response to NAS’ April 2011 recommendations. NAS will also review current methods for weight of evidence analyses and recommend approaches for weighing scientific evidence for chemical hazard identification.

EPA’s IRIS program provides health profiles of chemicals to which the public may be exposed from releases to air, water, and land and through the use and disposal of chemicals. IRIS assessments inform EPA rulemakings, and the release of final IRIS assessments is consistent with EPA’s ongoing efforts to improve Americans’ health and protect the environment.

More information about IRIS:

Webinar: How to Design a Data-Driven Sustainability Program

May 22, 2012 at 11 AM EDT
Register at

In today’s business world, sustainability is a data game, requiring quantifiable goals, performance analytics and the ability to report performance indicators without investing in a large team. Improving sustainability performance against critical business requirements can be tricky. How do you build a business case for automating sustainability management? How should your company decide strategic focus areas that matter most to your stakeholders? What are the best ways to calculate results and report?

In this free one-hour webcast, Kristen Sagan, Sustainability Manager at Columbia Sportswear — a leading innovator in outdoor apparel, footwear, accessories and equipment— will show how her company is driving meaningful sustainability programs across its organization and retail outlets with the help of automated solutions. Michael Jordan, Executive Vice President Sustainability Strategy at Jones Lang LaSalle and an author of peer-reviewed journal articles and a book on corporate sustainability design, will share best practices on facilitating stakeholder engagement to identify measurable critical requirements.Lara Greden, Senior Principal, Energy & Sustainability Business Strategy, CA Technologies will participate in the roundtable Q&A at the conclusion of the webcast to help share industry wide views of data-driven sustainability programs.

In this free webcast, you’ll learn how to:

  • communicate the value of program investments
  • prioritize sustainability goals and initiatives
  • gain transparency in energy and sustainability performance
  • gain “in the trenches” experience on facilitating stakeholder engagement

All participants will receive complimentary copies of three executive briefs from the independently researched Verdantix Energy & Sustainability Leadership Series: New Metrics to Improve Sustainability Performance; How to Engage Skeptical Executives on Sustainability; and Best Practices for Sustainability in the Supply Chain.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson Testimony before the U.S. Senate, Appropriations Subcommittee on Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Thank you for inviting me to testify on the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget for the Environmental Protection Agency. I’m joined by the Agency’s Chief Financial Officer, Barbara Bennett.

EPA’s budget request of $8.344 billion focuses on fulfilling EPA’s core mission of protecting public health and the environment, while making the sacrifices and tough decisions that Americans across the country are making every day.

EPA’s budget request fully reflects the President’s commitment to reducing government spending and finding cost savings in a responsible manner while supporting clean air, clean water and the innovative safe guards that are essential to an America that’s built to last.

In some cases we have had to take a step back from programs – this budget reflects a savings of $50 million through the elimination of several EPA programs and activities that have either met their goals, or can be achieved at the State or local level or by other Federal agencies.

Let me spend a moment discussing major elements of EPA’s budget request.

This budget recognizes the importance of our partners at the State, local and tribal level. As you know, they are at the front lines of implementing our environmental laws like the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act. In fact, the largest portion – 40 percent of EPA’s funding request — is directed to the State and Tribal Assistance Grants appropriation to support their efforts.

Specifically, this budget proposes that $1.2 billion – nearly 15 percent of EPA’s overall request – be allocated back to the States and tribes, through categorical grants. This includes funding for State and Local Air Quality Management grants, Pollution Control grants and the tribal general assistance program.

The budget also proposes that a combined $2 billion – another 25 percent of EPA’s budget request – also goes directly to the States for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. This funding will help support efficient system wide investments and development of water infrastructure in our communities. We are working collaboratively to identify opportunities to fund green infrastructure – projects that can reduce pollution efficiently and less expensively than traditional grey infrastructure.

Additionally, EPA’s budget request would fund the protection of the nation’s land and water in local communities, including important waters such as the Narragansett Bay. Reflecting the President’s commitment to restoring and protecting the Great Lakes, this budget requests that Congress maintain the current funding level of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This support will continue to be used for collaborative work with partners at the State, local and tribal level, and also with non-profit and municipal groups. The budget also requests support for protection of the Chesapeake Bay, and several other treasured and economically significant water bodies. The budget reflects the importance of cleaning up contaminated land sites in our communities by requesting $755 million for continued support of the Superfund cleanup programs and maintains the Agency’s emergency preparedness and response capabilities.

EPA’s budget request makes major investments in its science and technology account of $807 million, or almost 10 percent of the total request. This request includes $576M for research, including $81 million in research grants and fellowships to scientists and universities throughout the country for targeted research as part of the Science to Achieve Results – or STAR – program, including children’s health, endocrine disruption, and air monitoring research. Also, as part of this request, EPA includes funding increases into key areas that include green infrastructure and hydraulic fracturing.

As I’ve mentioned before, natural gas is an important resource which is abundant in the United States, but we must make sure that the ways we extract it do not risk the safety of public water supplies.
This budget continues EPA’s ongoing congressionally directed hydraulic fracturing study, which we have taken great steps to ensure is independent, peer reviewed and based on strong and scientifically defensible data. Building on these ongoing efforts, this budget requests $14 million in total to work collaboratively with the United States Geological Survey, the Department of Energy and other partners to assess questions regarding hydraulic fracturing. Strong science means finding the answers to tough questions, and EPA’s request does that.

We are making investments to support standards for clean energy and efficiency in this budget. Specifically, this budget supports EPA’s efforts to introduce cleaner vehicles and fuels and to expand the use of home-grown renewable fuels. This includes funding for EPA’s Federal Vehicle and Fuel Standards and Certification program to support certification, and compliance testing for all emissions standards. This also includes implementation of the President’s historic agreement with the auto industry for carbon pollution and fuel economy standards through 2025 for cars and light duty vehicles, including testing support for NHTSA’s fuel economy standards.

Taken together, the Administration’s standards for cars and light trucks are projected to result in $1.7 trillion dollars of fuel savings, and 12 billion fewer barrels of oil consumed. This funding will also help support implementation of the first ever carbon pollution and fuel economy standards for heavy duty trucks.

Mister Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. While my testimony reflects only some of the highlights of EPA’s budget request, I look forward answering your questions.

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