Determining Materiality in Hotel Carbon Footprinting: What Counts and What Does Not

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As hotel companies seek in good faith to determine and report their carbon footprints, often in response to stakeholder requests, the issue of materiality arises, in which the hotel firm must determine what factors are important to greenhouse emissions and which are negligible in terms of emissions. The guidance from existing sources on this question is complex and can be contradictory. In addition to examining the boundaries of materiality, this report presents a materiality analysis of two sources of hotel greenhouse gases, fugitive coolant emissions and mobile fuels. Based on data from 154 hotels in 25 countries, neither source appears to be material for most hotels, since neither exceeds the commonly used cut-off point of 5 percent of total emissions. While the circumstances of a particular hotel might render one of these sources material, they do not seem to merit the industry’s attention for constant measurement.

Hotel Sustainability: Financial Analysis Shines a Cautious Green Light

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Hotels around the world have risen to the challenge of improving their sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. Although many groups and customers are demanding sustainability, hotel operators are concerned about whether sustainable hotels increase or decrease their rates and bookings. To answer the question of whether going green hurts or helps revenues, this study used data provided by Sabre to determine the effect on bookings of widespread advertising of eco-certified hotels. Sabre’s Travelocity site uses an eco-friendly hotel label to flag hotels that have earned any of a dozen environmental certifications, including LEED and EnergyStar. Based on an analysis of millions of individual bookings in over 3,000 eco-certified hotels (and a comparison group of 6,000 properties), the study finds that, on average, booking revenue neither increased nor decreased for the certified hotels.

While this study doesn’t address the situation of any individual hotel, we can conclude that going green is compatible with existing quality standards of hotel service, and that advertising green status doesn’t hurt a hotel’s revenues. Earning a green certification does not automatically result in a large revenue bump nor a revenue fall. In short, green is not a “silver bullet” strategy. Finally, although the average effect is revenue neutral, individual properties have widely varied experiences with eco-certification, depending on their individual situation.

Nova Scotia Sustainability Center Gives New Life to Library Discards

Read the full story in Library Journal.

Dalhousie University’s library system was in a bind. Bound books, mostly out-of-date academic journals that had since been uploaded to online databases, had been piling up for years. At nearly 50,000 volumes, the library was running out of space.

“Any university that’s subscribing to a lot of academic journals, you’re challenged to house them, because they grow exponentially,” said Patrick Ellis, the director of Dalhousie’s health sciences library. “So space that looked copious in 1967 is jammed to the rafters in 1987.”

The library rented an off-site warehouse to house the journals. But they were seldom, if ever, asked for by students. The library was squeezing an already-tight budget for books that were no longer needed, so eventually, the librarians decided to let many of the books go.

The first thought was to shred them, and recycle the paper. However, this proved difficult, as the covers needed to be stripped manually before they could be shredded, and the journals needed to be fed very slowly into the shredder because the textbook paper, which contained clay, had a tendency to gum up the machine. Because the shredding truck needed to be running in order to operate the machine, there were also issues of fumes and noise.

“While trying to shred to be environmentally friendly, we were creating all these gasses and noise pollution,” said Nicola Embleton-Lake, the facilities planner who coordinated the project. “There were offices above and next to us, and it became an issue because it was really a nuisance to them.”

After complaints of noise, and with only a tiny fraction of the books shredded, Dalhousie gave up on that solution. The library considered using the books as fuel, but glues and other components they contained made that option environmentally hazardous.

Stumped, the university began to seek ideas.

When builder and inventor David Cameron heard of the problem, he began to think. His work has focused on finding creative ways to deal with waste. He’d previously come up with a way to remove traces of gas from propane tanks to declassify them as hazardous waste and instead crush and recycle the steel, while using the extracted propane as the energy source for the whole operation.

Cameron’s main project these days is the Blockhouse School, an abandoned schoolhouse that’s now a community center focused on sustainability. The school is old, and the nonprofit doesn’t have the money to to heat the minimally insulated building. So when he heard about the books, he hoped to solve two problems at once.

Soil Nutrient Availability Properties of Biochar

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Biochar’s high porosity and negative surface charge allows for numerous soil and plant benefits such as increased water retention, high nutrient availability, and plant growth. By analysing biochar’s effect of all of these factors, a system can be put in place in which soils can be remediated with the proper soil amendments. This report discusses and tests the effects of varying rates of biochar on pH levels, cation exchange capacity, and nutrient exchangeability (of calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium) in soil. Corn plants were also grown in soils of varying amendment types and analysed for plant growth and germination to determine soil effects on the plant. Testing showed significant differences between treatment types in all areas tested except plant germination. A 2:1 ratio of biochar to compost produced the best overall results for the soil used in testing. This treatment maintained acceptable levels of exchangeable nutrients while raising pH and cation exchange capacity, and also raised the plant growth in the soil by 30%. However, for added soil health, gypsum or calcium fertilizer should be added to the soil to remediate low calcium exchangeability. This testing confirmed that biochar does have a strong positive influence on soil and plant health when used in combination with compost.

USDA Announces Cool Planet and the Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies Receive $10 Million to Develop Sustainable Biofuels from Beetle-Killed Wood

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Cool Planet Energy Systems, a developer of small scale bio-refineries for the conversion of non-food biomass into biofuels and soil enhancing biochar, as a member of the Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies (BANR), was awarded a grant by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to develop the scientific underpinnings for using beetle-killed wood as a sustainable feedstock for distributed bio-refineries.

Environmentally friendly energy discovered in wood biochar

Read the full story in the Daily Illini.

A wood biochar supercapacitor may seem like a burnt piece of wood in a small plastic container at first glance; however, these little devices could be the future of environmentally friendly energy.

For the past two years, Junhua Jiang, senior research engineer, and a team of researchers at the University’s Illinois Sustainable Technology Center have been studying wood biochar supercapacitors as an electrochemical source of power.

Climate Change Literature Synthesis Third Edition Now Available

The third edition of the Literature Synthesis on Climate Change Implications for Water and Environmental Resources from the Bureau of Reclamation is now available. The report offers a summary of recent literature on the current and projected effects of climate change on hydrology and water resources.

It is organized around the five Reclamation regions, which correspond roughly with the Columbia River basin, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River basin, the upper Colorado River basin, the lower Colorado River basin, and the Great Plains.

This report contains information surveyed through 2012. It was assembled by Reclamation and was subjected to external review by staff from each of the five National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments centers located in the western United States.

The information in this report is meant for use in a range of planning studies including environmental impact statements, biological assessments, and feasibility studies. The need for the report was first identified by the multi-agency Climate Change and Water Working Group in 2008. Previous versions were published in 2011 and 2009.

You may view or download the report at

Importance of Water to the United States Economy

This report is intended to help raise the awareness of water’s importance to our national economic welfare, and to summarize information that public and private decision-makers can use to better manage the nation’s water resources. It highlights EPA’s review of the literature and practice on the importance of water to the U.S. economy, identifies key data gaps, and describes the implication of the study’s findings for future research. EPA hopes this report will be a catalyst for a broader discussion about water’s critical role in the U.S. economy.

Levi Strauss seeks to slow down fast fashion with sustainable practices

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Levi Strauss launches a new line of clothing committed to durability and responsible manufacturing. Will consumers buy it?

American Meteorological Society Journal Releases Study on Climate Change Sensitivity Assessment and Adaptation Planning for Public Water Supply

A new study in Volume 17, Issue 23 (October 2013) of the journal Earth Interactions, assesses climate change risk to municipal water supplies.  Water supply risk is often conducted by hydrologic modeling specific to local watersheds and infrastructure to ensure that outputs are compatible with existing planning frameworks and processes.

This study leverages the modeling capacity of an operational National Weather Service River Forecast Center to explore the potential impacts of future climate-driven hydrologic changes on factors important to planning at the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities.  Hydrologic modeling results for the study area show that temperature changes alone will lead to earlier and reduced runoff volume.  In addition, the largest flow reductions occur during the high water demand months of May-September.  This study explores the consequences of climate change for the reliability of Salt Lake City’s water supply system using scenarios that include hydrologic changes in average conditions, severe drought scenarios, and future water demand test cases.