5 Simple Steps to Creating a Zero-Waste Office

Read the full story in Entrepreneur.

The average U.S. office worker generates two pounds of paper each day, according to Environmental Protection Agency. Most of that trash — 90 percent — is made up of printed materials like sales reports, project drafts, copy machine mistakes and unwanted mail.

While recycling might seem like the easy fix, Jay Coalson, executive director of the Zero Waste Alliance, a Portland-based nonprofit that helps organizations eliminate trash, champions business owners to take it further.

“I believe in no waste,” says Coalson, “Some might think it’s impossible and frankly, it is an audacious goal. But so is starting a small business and running it through a recession. Entrepreneurs are already audacious; why not use this mindset to get rid of waste and enhance your community in the process?”

Coalson says achieving zero waste is a process that takes time. He offers small-business owners these five steps to eliminate weekly trash from their workplace.

EPA Provides Tools for Sustainable Communities

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released a first-of-its kind report showing how low-income, minority and tribal communities can apply smart growth land use and development strategies to create healthy communities, spur economic growth and protect the environment.

The Creating Equitable, Healthy, and Sustainable Communities report describes how low-income, minority, and tribal communities can employ smart growth strategies to clean up and reinvest in existing neighborhoods; provide affordable housing and transportation; and improve access to jobs, parks and stores. The report also provides smart growth practitioners with concrete ideas on how they can better meet the needs of low-income residents as they promote development or redevelopment in underserved communities.

“The way communities are designed and built has an important influence on public health, the quality of our air and water, and economic vitality,” said Michael Goo, associate administrator for EPA’s Office of Policy. “EPA hopes this report will help smart growth and environmental justice advocates work together more effectively to achieve the best results possible for communities.”

“Historically, environmental justice and smart growth have been viewed as separate interests, yet communities across the U.S. are showing that they are actually complementary,” said Lisa Garcia, associate assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice. “Combining these principles and focusing on equitable development can help community-based organizations, local planners, and other stakeholders achieve healthy and sustainable communities for all Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic status.”

The report also features
case studies on seven communities across the country that have used the strategies described in the report. These strategies include:

  • designing safe streets for all users
  • cleaning and reusing contaminated properties
  • reducing exposure to facilities with potential environmental concerns
  • fixing existing infrastructure before investing in new projects
  • preserving affordable housing

The Creating Equitable, Healthy, and Sustainable Communities report was developed by EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice and Office of Sustainable Communities.

Spread Of Ecolabels Vexes Cleaning Product Makers

Read the full story in Chemical & Engineering News.

Cleaning products companies aren’t fond of the seals, lists, and guides but they participate in them nonetheless.

Hydrovolts Introduces Commercial Turbine, Targets Wastewater Plants

Read the full story at Xconomy.

As recently as a year ago, Seattle renewable energy startup Hydrovolts planned to sell its turbines primarily to irrigation districts for use in canals. But the company now sees a more promising initial market for a “waterfall turbine” that can be bolted onto systems within wastewater treatment plants and other industrial facilities.

Energy Department Expands Technical Assistance for Tribal Energy Projects

As part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to help Tribal communities across the country enhance their energy security and build a sustainable energy future, the Energy Department today announced the second round of the Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program, which provides federally recognized Tribal governments with technical assistance to accelerate clean energy project deployment. Additionally, the Energy Department plans to seek information from Tribes interested in launching or expanding utility services in their own communities, which will help establish a new START Utility Program (START-UP).

“Building on our all-of-the-above strategy to deploy every available domestic energy resource, the new technical assistance opportunities announced today will strengthen our partnerships with Tribal communities, create good jobs and protect our planet,” said Office of Indian Energy Director Tracey LeBeau.  “Working side-by-side with tribal energy leaders across the country, we are making sure Native American and Alaska Native Tribes have the tools and resources they need to foster economic competitiveness and promote tribal self-sufficiency.”

Launching START Second Round

Over the past year, the START program has helped nine Tribal communities advance their clean energy technology and infrastructure projects – from solar and wind to biofuels and energy efficiency. Through the current round of START projects, energy experts at the Department’s National Laboratories and at other federal agencies have worked side-by-side with tribal leaders to develop strategic community energy plans, conduct market research and identify financing mechanisms to support cost-effective renewable energy project development.

This second round of technical assistance awards will build upon the initial successes of the START program and further help Native American and Alaska Native communities increase local generation capacity, enhance energy efficiency measures and create local entrepreneurial and job opportunities. In the contiguous United States, Energy Department and National Laboratory experts will provide technical assistance on Tribes’ clean energy project development — supporting community-scale renewable energy projects across the country. In Alaska, the Energy Department and the Denali Commission help rural Alaska Native communities conduct energy awareness and training programs and pursue new renewable energy and energy efficiency opportunities. The selected Alaska Native villages may also be eligible for grant funding that supports renewable energy or energy efficiency projects.

For more information and application requirements for the START program, please visit the Energy Department’s Office of Indian Energy website. Applications are due by March 15, 2013.

New Program Focused on Tribal Utility Planning

As part of the Energy Department’s efforts to support affordable and reliable electrical service to Indian lands and Tribal communities, the Department is launching a new Tribal START Utility Program (START-UP). This new program expands on the current START program to help Tribes across the country develop their own utility services and increase ownership of local energy assets.

To ensure START-UP meets the needs of Indian Country, the Department plans to gather information and public comment from tribes interested in developing, acquiring or expanding utility services in their own communities. Additional details on this effort will be available on the Office of Indian Energy website in the coming weeks.

Find more information on the Energy Department’s broader efforts to support energy efficiency projects and energy development on Tribal lands at www.energy.gov/indianenergy.

Energy Department Announces New Funding to Develop Advanced Biomass Supply Chain Technologies

As part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, the Energy Department today announced about $6 million for projects that will develop and demonstrate supply chain technologies to affordably deliver commercial-scale lignocellulosic biomass feedstocks to biorefineries across the country. This funding will help accelerate the development of integrated, cost-effective supply chain systems that reduce time and costs to produce affordable, clean transportation energy options for our cars, trucks, and airplanes.

The Energy Department’s recently-updated Billion Ton Study shows that sustainable biofuels could displace approximately one-third of America’s current transportation petroleum use. Successfully expanding biofuels production in the United States will require leveraging existing infrastructure as well as designing and deploying new, cost-effective supply chain technologies that integrate harvesting, collection, preprocessing, transportation, and storage. This funding opportunity will focus on developing new logistics strategies and technologies that address key challenges in large-scale biomass feedstock transportation, such as format and quality variability, storage stability, bulk and energy density, handling characteristics, and variable conversion performance.

The Energy Department will make available about $6 million this year for one to two multi-year projects. All selected projects will require a cost share contribution by the grant recipient, including 20% for research and development activities and 50% for demonstration activities. Read the full funding opportunity announcement.

Tax Reforms to Advance Energy Efficiency

Download the document.

At the beginning of President Obama’s second term, tax reform has become a frequently-cited concern.  Both Democrats and Republicans are supporting tax reform and actual work on legislation is likely to begin in 2013.  Key elements of reform are likely to include simplifying the tax code in some respects and reducing marginal tax rates by eliminating many credits and deductions.

Tax reform provides us with an opportunity to remove barriers to efficiency investments imbedded in the current tax code and to use the tax code as a tool to support energy efficiency in the future more than current provisions do.  In this report, we suggest policies in six areas that could be used to encourage energy efficiency: existing energy efficiency tax incentives; depreciation; low-cost strategies for promoting investment in manufacturing; fees on emissions; treatment of expenses in business taxes; and ending or reducing subsidies for fossil fuels.  We propose several policy options designed to encourage investment in energy efficiency that may be used as a starting point for future tax policy discussion.