Day: November 21, 2013

Study could lead to paradigm shift in organic solar cell research

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

Stanford scientists may have resolved a debate over how organic solar cells turn sunlight into electricity. The question: What causes electron-hole pairs (excitons) to split apart? The likely answer: A gradient at the solar cell interface between disordered polymers and ordered buckyballs splits the exciton, allowing the electron to escape and produce an electric current.

The ‘retrofit triangle’

Read the full story in Sustainable Industries.

Every successful resource efficiency retrofit involves an ongoing integration of three normally distinct and separate functions: operations, technology and finance. In spite of all of the tangible benefits that can be attributed to the greening of existing buildings, finance and operations typically operate within silos and the collaboration of technology, operations and finance has been woefully lacking.

Improving the performance of our existing buildings (approx. 98% of our building stock) is critical to addressing climate change. However, greening existing buildings still face a number of barriers to reach large scale implementation. We believe that an integrated approach with strong collaboration between technology, operations and finance is essential to the success of any retrofit, especially deep retrofits.

The understanding and application of key aspects of this three sided relationship and its information exchange form the three segments of what is called in this article the ‘retrofit triangle.’ In a retrofit triangle program, they need to be integrated, eventually becoming a flywheel driving a building-wide data flow that improves the overall asset management and bottom line creation. This framework streamlines retrofits and creates value. When operations, technology and finance work together seamlessly, it removes barriers to capital flow toward efficiency upgrades. For each stage of the retrofit process, the retrofit triangle framework drives building-wide information flow, improves overall asset management, addresses operational risk, and allows for better management, measurement, and forecasting of building performance.

Technology typically falls into one of three groups: tools used to model, measure and manage building operations. This is a combination of hardware, controls, software and visualization tools to track and report performance as well as analytical tools to identify trends, producing intelligence sufficient for financial manager’s decisions.

The following sections outline a step-by-step process of a typical retrofit process and how technology, operations and finance teams can collaborate to ensure the project’s success.

“The Next Play” National College Sustainability in Sports Initiative

Read the full post at NRDC Switchboard.

Today, Davidson College launched a national initiative, entitled The Next Play, which aims to use the wide-reaching influence of sports to inspire progress around sustainability. The Next Play initiative is comprised of two flagship events at the national scale: a sustainability in sports venture pitch tournament and a virtual discussion on sustainability and sports that Davidson College will facilitate in the five months leading up to the tournament.

Portland’s Testing a Greener Kind of P3

Read the full story in Governing.

Online crowdfunding has been around for a little while. But it’s a new approach for governments, especially for environmental projects. Since the recession, revenue has primarily supported essential services; there hasn’t been extra for new parks, energy-efficient retrofits or renewable energies. So states and localities have had to get creative.

21 shocking U.S. food waste facts

Read the full story in Sustainable Industries.

We’ve all done it at one point or another: throwing away food because we forgot about it and it went bad, or because we bought too much and now it’s past its shelf life.

In fact, 40% of food in the United States is never eaten and $4 billion is wasted each year globally. Did you know the average American throws away well over 200 pounds of edible food each year? If we wasted just 15% less food, it would be enough to feed 25 million Americans annually. This Thanksgiving may be a good time to consider how many impoverished people could be fed with that food.

Once you get through the shocking facts in the infographic, provided by A to Z Solutions, learn about 8 opportunities to help reduce waste. We think there may be a few good business plans that can be brainstormed to address the crisis, and we hope agree it’s some interesting food for thought.

Turmoil at climate talks as blame game heats up

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

Rich and poor nations are struggling with a yawning rift at the U.N. climate talks as developing countries look for new ways to make developed countries accept responsibility for global warming—and pay for it.

With two days left, there was commotion in the Warsaw talks Wednesday after negotiators for developing nations said they walked out of a late-night meeting on compensation for the impact of global warming.

Energy savings in 3-D

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

Researchers at the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE)’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are working with aircraft makers to determine energy savings through the use of additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing.

Sachin Nimbalkar and his ORNL colleagues are printing airplane parts to show additive manufacturing’s potential as a technology that should be considered foundational to processes seeking more energy efficiency.

Additive manufacturing builds products precisely, layer-by-layer, and is distinctly different from traditional subtractive manufacturing processes, which take raw material and cut it down into a desired shape and size.

Changing behaviour: how deep do you want to go?

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Behavioural insights come in many forms so those concerned with sustainability need to make judgment calls about the type and depth of the insight they need.

Not Ready for Prime Time: Making Fuel Out of Invasive Plants

Read the full story in Pacific Standard.

It’s not a widely known ecological principle, but the idea that when “life hands you lemons, make lemonade” has certainly been applied to invasive species. While not always the case, plants and animals that are benign in their own home sometimes run amok in new settings, often to the detriment of local economies and existing flora and fauna. (And like so much else, expect climate change to make their penetrations more extreme.)

You can despair—or you can start squeezin’. There’s a relatively well developed “if you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em” movement afoot, or perhaps a-fin, with legions of “invasivores” who target locally raised but unwanted invaders ranging from feral boars to nutria to iguanas to lionfish. This isn’t just a game for carnivores—that Blob of vegetation known as the kudzu vine reportedly cooks up just fine (here are some recipes from one of the many kudzu festivals dotting the South), and might even have medicinal properties.

Not to be outdone, ecologists have suggested that invasive plants be turned into feedstock for making cellulosic (as opposed to starch) ethanol. It’s pure genius: “the plan could motivate the large-scale eradication of an array of troubling invaders, avoid land use conversion, resolve the food-versus-fuel debate, result in millions of gallons of clean-burning ethanol, and finally free us from our addiction to fossil fuels.” There are even more potential benefits, albeit somewhat bureaucratic, write the three scientists at the University of Illinois’ Energy Biosciences Institute who supplied the win-win-ad infinitum list above in an article appearing in Biological Invasions.

EPA seeks comments on Guidelines for Greener Federal Purchasing

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing draft guidelines that will help the federal government buy greener and safer products. In response to broad stakeholder interest, EPA is seeking public input on these draft guidelines and a potential approach to assessing non-governmental environmental standards and ecolabels already in the marketplace.

The draft guidelines were developed by EPA, the General Services Administration, and others following several listening sessions with a wide range of stakeholders on how the federal government can be more sustainable in its purchasing and how it can best meet the numerous Federal requirements for the procurement of sustainable and environmentally preferable products and services. The draft guidelines were designed to assist federal purchasing decision makers in more consistently using existing non-governmental product environmental performance standards and ecolabels.

The draft guidelines address key characteristics of environmental standards and ecolabels, including the credibility of the development process and the effectiveness of the criteria for environmental performance. The draft guidelines were developed to be flexible enough to be applied to standards and ecolabels in a broad range of product categories.

To see the draft guidelines and get instructions on how to comment, visit:

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