Day: August 21, 2013

Can Sustainable Consumerism Work?

Read the full story at FastCo.Exist.

Critics of sustainable certification and labeling programs often have fair points, but they miss the bigger picture. Study after study is showing how green consumers are making a difference.

A new approach to making climate treaties work

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

Why can’t global leaders agree on a broad, effective climate change pact?

More than 20 years after they began, international negotiations based on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have resulted in only one legally binding treaty. That agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, has not been ratified by the U.S., historically the world’s largest carbon emitter.

The path from futility to progress likely lies in the way that climate change agreements are designed, according to a new study co-authored by Kenneth Scheve, a political science prof. affiliated with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and a senior fellow with the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Affairs.

The study found that architects of global climate treaties can significantly increase public support—even among those who generally oppose international climate cooperation—by adopting features that resonate with norms of reciprocity and distributional fairness, such as maximizing country participation and including enforcement mechanisms. The findings were published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

What ‘Moneyball’ can teach us about sustainability metrics

Read the full post at GreenBiz.

Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a multi-part series that examines the pitfalls of sustainability measurements while drawing on lessons learned from outside the business world. For additional context, see Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part V.

In Part V of this series, we talked about paradigm shifts as the most powerful way to change a system. This came to mind when something extraordinary happened in early August to the American economy. Overnight, it grew by more than half a trillion dollars. The actual news here is that the Bureau of Economic Analysis added new categories to the definition of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But the bigger story, as this New York Times op-ed points out, is that this change “raises important questions about what we consider economic value and costs, and what we leave out. [Emphasis added]

The editors called out the GDP’s lack of natural accounting: “The failure to account for environmental degradation is a serious shortcoming of our measurement system.” They also touch on the GDP’s silence regarding human capital, which Robert F. Kennedy described as “that which makes life worthwhile” in this stirring 1968 speech.

So why do we bring this up? We raise it not for the news story itself, but as a model for a potential paradigm shift for metrics in the sustainable business world. The U.S. government now thinks of intellectual property — clearly a non-tangible asset — as an investment for future earnings. That shows a rare leap in thinking, beyond a traditional mindset. Which raises the question: What else now becomes more feasible? Could we next see national accounting deducting for similarly intangible ecosystem services — such as a clear-cut forest’s lost ability to sequester carbon?

The benefits of tying executive compensation to sustainability

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Aligning incentives – this is why executive compensation is linked to financial performance. Corporate America wants to promote financial performance, so it compensates its executives directly for it. With the increasing risk that natural resource scarcity and climate change poses to businesses, what about aligning compensation to sustainability performance?

We signed the Climate Declaration — and your firm should, too

In May, Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. became the first major Chicago company to sign the Climate Declaration, a call for a coordinated effort to combat climate change. In a Crain’s guest op-ed. Meaghan Farrell, vice president of strategic consulting at Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. in Chicago, urges more companies to follow suit.

Open Space Law: Sequestration

Read the full story at GreenLaw.

The last two decades witnessed a surge in adopting local and state open space protection laws and strategies. These techniques are now being examined as capable of protecting and enhancing the sequestering environment, which captures and stores from 15 to 20 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions.

This blog post is adapted from my articles Shifting Paradigms Transform Environmental and Land Use Law: The Emergence of the Law of Sustainable Development and Managing Climate Change Through Biological Sequestration: Open Space Law Redux.

Energy Department Invests to Save on Heating, Cooling and Lighting

As part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to reduce energy bills for American families and businesses and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Energy Department today announced 12 projects to develop innovative heating, cooling and insulation technologies as well as open source energy efficiency software to help homes and commercial buildings save energy and money. These projects will receive an approximately $11 million Energy Department investment, matched by about $1 million in private sector funding.

“Energy efficient technologies – from improved heating and cooling systems to better windows and lighting – provide one of the clearest and most cost-effective opportunities to save consumers money while curbing greenhouse gas pollution,” said Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson. “User-friendly tools that quickly and cheaply analyze energy use will also help businesses and homeowners make better use of those technologies to save energy and lower their utility bills.”

Commercial and residential buildings use nearly 40 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States each year and produce more than 40 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution. According to the Energy Information Administration, about 48 percent of energy consumption in U.S. homes in 2009 was for heating and cooling, down from 53 percent in 1993. While better insulation and more efficient windows and equipment helped precipitate this decline, the projects announced today are focused on furthering these savings.

Next Generation Energy Efficient Buildings Technologies

Today, the Energy Department announced about $6 million to nine projects that will develop new energy efficient building technologies, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and building insulation. The projects will also help curb emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – potent greenhouse gases primarily used in refrigeration and air conditioning. In the United States, emissions of HFCs are expected to nearly triple by 2030, and double from current levels of 1.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions to 3 percent by 2020.

See a full list of the nine research and development projects announced today, which include:

  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory ($750,000 DOE investment): The project will develop affordable insulation plastic film for large windows. The transparent film easily fits on top of the window glass and uses a material familiar to the construction industry, helping to reduce manufacturing and supply chain costs.
  • Sandia National Laboratories and United Technologies Research Center ($750,000 DOE investment): This project will help demonstrate a rotating heat exchanger technology for residential HVAC systems. The heat pump will improve HVAC system cycle efficiency and increase the use of heat pumps in colder climates.
  • Thermolift, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Stony Brook University and National Grid ($750,000 DOE investment): This project will help commercialize a natural gas heat pump to provide heating, cooling and hot water for homes and commercial buildings. The all-in-one unit will not use harmful hydrofluorocarbons and refrigerants and could triple space heating efficiency.

Open Source Energy Efficiency Software

The Energy Department today also announced about $5 million to three projects – led by the University of California, Virginia Tech and Carnegie Mellon University — to develop open source software that helps building owners and operators measure, monitor and adjust lighting, HVAC and water heating energy use to save energy without compromising performance. According to a study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, commercial building owners could save an average 38 percent on heating and cooling bills by installing energy control systems. Find additional detail on these projects.

See more about the Energy Department’s broader efforts to help building owners and operators across the country save money by saving energy.

Constant access to wireless networks has an environmental cost

Read the full story from the Guardian.

Wireless networks and devices, technologies that should drive sustainable development, are turning into energy-consuming monsters.

The challenges posed by the transformation of the sector are addressed in The Power of Wireless Cloud (PDF), a paper from The Centre for Energy-Efficient Telecommunications (CEET) in Melbourne. The paper calculates that the CO2 burden of building and maintaining mobile networks has been overlooked in wireless cloud calculations, especially the antennas and wireless routers that provide connections to smartphones and tablets. CEET estimates that from 2012 to 2015 wireless cloud computing will add 24 megatonnes of carbon, taking the sector’s total emissions up to 30 megatonnes, the equivalent of putting around 4.9m new cars on the road.

Environmental Justice Comes of Age with New Science-Based Screening Tools

Read the full story at Environmental Leader.

This past April, the state of California released a first-of-its-kind statewide environmental health-screening tool.  Known as CalEnviroScreen, 1.0, the tool seeks to identify those California communities most burdened by pollution and most vulnerable to its effects.  The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), which developed the tool jointly with the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), indicates that the tool is also intended to help state decision-makers prioritize resources to target grants, investments, cleanup efforts, and enforcement actions to California’s most disadvantaged communities.  In other words, this tool is intended to help state lawmakers direct monetary resources based on environmental justice principles and CalEPA’s environmental justice mission.

F-SCRAP grant will allow Benedictine to divert food scraps from landfills

Read the full story from Benedictine University.

Benedictine University has received a $46,000 Food Scrap Composting Revitalization and Advancement Program (F-SCRAP) grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to allow for the diversion of food scraps generated in the Lisle campus cafeteria and other buildings.

%d bloggers like this: