How an energy planning tool changed decision-making at MSU

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

What if you had to identify solutions and implement changes that would result in a 45 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction for your organization by 2020?

What if your goals also included achieving a 20 percent increase in your renewable energy sources by 2020? As a leader aware of your limited financial resources, how would you guide your organization to success?

Generically, these would be difficult questions. But with the specific constraints of 10,000 employees, 580 buildings, 5,200 acres of land, a 100 megawatt power plant that is primarily coal-fired, 48,000 students who use the campus daily, 16,000 permanent residents and sub-optimal annual weather conditions (77 sunny days, average wind of 9 miles per hour and 49 inches of snow), the “what ifs” of this type can seem impossible to address.

At Michigan State University (MSU), the complexity of these constraints provided an opportunity for the institution to look for a tool that would help everyone understand the impact of a decision against a set of key performance indicators, or metrics, that are most important to the university (see next page). Like businesses, colleges and universities have many stakeholders, all of whom have different points of view and opinions about paths towards environmental progress.

What Would a Manufacturing Renaissance Do to US Energy Intensity?

Read the full story in GreenTech Efficiency.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about a manufacturing renaissance in the United States. There’s also been an interesting related discussion about U.S. energy intensity.

Years of offshoring and plummeting employment have given way to a small rebound in domestic industry. Behind the scenes, more companies are relocating their manufacturing facilities back on American soil, citing increasing domestic labor productivity and rising wages in China. Adding to the debate, the recent shale gas boom may or may not play a leading role in sparking this renaissance by providing cheap fuel and feedstock to key industries.

The manufacturing sector is also notoriously energy-intensive, taking in massive amounts of energy for both fuel (electricity) and feedstock. However, this may be changing, according to recent analysis from the Energy Information Agency, which indicates that the energy intensity of manufacturing has actually been steadily declining since 2002. The new Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey shows that, while total manufacturing output has declined by 3 percent, total manufacturing energy consumption has declined by a dramatic 17 percent. This means it has taken less energy overall to create each unit of output.

Some aren’t convinced that the energy intensity metric is the most appropriate measure of economic efficiency. But the data do show the manufacturing sector reduced energy consumption faster than it reduced output. So would a major increase in U.S. manufacturing undo these gains?

Learn about Top Innovations from Building America

Since 1995, Building America research has resulted in more than 30 major innovations that are helping to transform our nation’s home building and retrofit industry to high performance homes. In fact, Building America research teams have helped deliver more than 42,000 high performance new and existing homes, working with 300 U.S. production home builders. Learn about the Top Innovations as identified in 2012, and plans for future Top Innovations. An article in the March/April 2013 issue of Green Home Builder magazine highlights these accomplishments that serve to guide the building industry in its move toward more energy efficient, healthy, and durable homes.

Manufacturers’ Thermostat Recycling Programs Fall Short

Read the full story at Environmental Leader.

A manufacturer-run program for collecting mercury thermostats is failing to keep the heavy metal out of the trash in most states, according to a new report released today by two environmental groups: the Multi-State Mercury Products Campaign (MMPC) and the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI).

Turning up the Heat II estimates that, at most, the industry recycling program has captured eight percent of mercury thermostats coming out of service in the past decade. This has resulted in the disposal of over 50 tons of mercury into the environment, which can expose people to the neurotoxin through fish consumption, according to the groups.

Gallup: Americans Want More Energy from Solar, Wind, Natural Gas

Read the full story at Energy Manager Today.

A Gallup poll conducted in March found 76 percent of Americans want more domestic energy from solar power, followed by wind (71 percent) and natural gas (65 percent).

Only 46 percent of survey respondents want to emphasize the production of oil and 37 percent want more nuclear power, while coal is least popular with 31 percent of Americans wanting to prioritize its production, according to an article on Gallup’s website.


Torstar Sets Paper Policy, But No Ban on Controversial Fiber

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Harlequin romance novels and Toronto Star parent company Torstar has adopted paper procurement principles that it says will eliminate the use of fiber from ancient and endangered forests — but it doesn’t set any target deadlines or percentages.

The policy says Torstar will not knowingly purchase paper derived from illegally harvested sources. In addition to Harlequin and The Toronto Star, the principles will apply to more than 125 daily and weekly newspapers published by the Star Media Group and Metroland Media.