Financing Energy Upgrades for K-12 School Districts

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This guide focuses on clean energy financing options for school administrators, facility managers, and other K-12 school decision makers who are considering investments in high performance school projects. This guide explicitly focuses on comprehensive energy upgrades, those that involve multiple measures and are targeted toward achieving significant energy savings. Successful implementation of clean energy upgrades in schools is a matter of understanding the opportunity, making the commitment, and creatively tapping into available financing. This guide attempts to provide the foundation needed for successful projects in U.S. schools. It walks through the financing options available to K-12 schools and provides case studies of six school districts from around the country.

Cut the wrap: How to reduce hospital waste and emissions

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

On average, Saint Marys Hospital at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., produces six compactor loads of waste per day, all of which have to be hauled to an incineration facility for disposal. “This is a huge volume of material being generated across the facility, much of it as a single-use waste stream from our sterilization processes,” says Kevin Hovde, operations manager of hospital surgical services.

It’s not alone: Sterilization wrap makes up as much as 20 percent of the surgical services waste stream and 5 percent of the total waste stream in some medium to large hospitals, according to a University of Minnesota Medical Center fact sheet. Health care facilities often use sterilization wrap — also called disposable surgical wrap or blue wrap — to wrap surgical instruments during sterilization, a critical procedure to help minimize patient infections during surgery. The disposable sheets made of nonwoven polypropylene, an inert polymer derived from petrochemicals, allow the sterilant — usually steam — to penetrate and sterilize the instruments. That steam, in turn, causes structural changes to the wrap that prevent the entry of microbes and contamination after sterilization, while the instruments are being stored.

Health care facilities also have a second option: A reusable hard case often made of aluminum. These hard boxes also have a small piece of nonwoven polypropylene to allow the sterilant in. That small piece, which makes up a fraction of the weight of a full blue-wrap sheet, still needs to be replaced every time the box is used. Like the disposable wrap, the hard case also maintains the sterility of the tools until they’re used.

Either way, the sterilization process costs health care facilities considerable annual expense. There’s the ongoing purchase of the single-use wrap or the high initial cost of the reusable sterilization cases. Handling and storage requirements also can deter some facilities from opting for the cases.

EPA Chemical Risk Assessment Plan For 2013 to Focus on Flame Retardants

Read the full story from Chemical Regulation Reporter.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced plans March 27 to begin full risk assessments on seven chemicals in 2013, including four flame retardants.

The agency’s 2013 Toxic Substances Control Act work plan identified plans to study 20 flame retardant chemicals, using information from the four full risk assessments to better understand other similar chemicals that lack sufficient data for a full risk assessment. The agency also plans to investigate some flame retardants to determine how they transform and move in the environment.

The four flame retardants that will undergo a full risk assessment are:

  • 2-ethylhexyl ester 2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (TBB);
  • 1,2- ethylhexyl 3,4,5,6-tetrabromo-benzenedicarboxylate, or (2-ethylhexyl)-3,4,5,6 tetrabromophthalate (TBPH);
  • tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP); and
  • hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD).

Climate Change. Challenges. Solutions.

Climate Change. Challenges. Solutions. is a special series presented by Cognoscenti and the School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Each week they focus on one critical aspect of climate change. Experts in that area will examine the issues from the perspectives of science, technology, policy, law and ethics. Join the conversation on Twitter at #OCNEU.

Bill McKibben’s lessons for business in the age of climate change

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Perhaps one of the most well-known climate activists of our times, environmental writer Bill McKibben is on a mission to slow down the effect of greenhouse gases on the earth. Alongside his colleagues at the nongovernmental organization, McKibben has spearheaded a campaign calling upon communities, governments and universities all around the world to take action by divesting from fossil fuel companies.

Last summer, McKibben laid out his case for divestment in Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, an article he wrote for Rolling Stone. The piece stated that while the United Nations’ Copenhagen Accord climate agreement recognizes that the earth’s temperature should not rise by no more than an amount just under two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), global temperature has already risen about 0.8 degrees Celsius — and that many scientists such as NASA’s James Hansen believe that a rise of two degrees is too much. McKibben closes his case by highlighting research by the Carbon Tracker Initiative which reports that burning the total amount of coal, oil and gas reserves currently held by fossil fuel companies would release five times the amount of carbon needed to stay under the two-degree threshold.

McKibben is also reaching out to business. Later this month, he’ll speak to the health care industry at the CleanMed conference in Boston (April 24-26) about what it can do to fight climate change.

GreenBiz Interim Managing Editor Kristine A. Wong recently spoke with McKibben about lessons for business in the age of climate change.

Ecolab Launches Toxic-Chemical Free Industrial Laundry Detergent

Read the full story at Environmental Leader.

Ecolab has introduced an industrial laundry program that it says cleans heavily soiled textiles without using hazardous chemicals and can save industrial laundry customers as much as 3 million gallons of water a year.

The Performance Industrial Program is a three-product system that uses Ecolab’s patented Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPE)-free chemistry to remove petroleum, oil and grease.

6 Reasons Your Sustainability Innovation Is Failing

Read the full story at Environmental Leader.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been participating in Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations, a course by David A. Owens of Vanderbilt University. It’s a Coursera class, which means that it’s free and open to the public — and it’s huge (with tens of thousands of students “in attendance”). I’m fascinated by the topic of strategic innovation, and naturally want to apply the concepts to my own field of study: sustainability.

And here is the question I’m wrestling with: why is innovation not getting us closer to global sustainability? Climate change, water scarcity, and biodiversity loss—for all the brilliant advances in “green” processes, products, and services, we’re still losing the battle.

But why? Or at least, why is it taking so long?

In particular, I find Owen’s analysis of common innovation hurdles to be a great aid to my quest to understand why current innovation efforts don’t seem to be making a significant dent in our global sustainability problems.

Owen argues that hurdles to innovation can come from six different places. I’ve listed them below, along with my own comments about how they apply specifically to sustainability challenges.