Day: September 10, 2020

Trump’s EPA gives power plants a pass on deadly coal ash

Read the full story at Salon.

Team Trump recently pushed back the deadlines for utilities to close an estimated 523 leaking, unstable or dangerously-sited coal ash ponds. Kentucky Utilities, which operates the E.W. Brown power plant in Harrodsburg, Ky., closed its main coal ash pond in 2008, but the six million tons of coal ash that remain at the site has polluted Herrington Lake.

Thirsty for clean wines: Taste, sustainability and health drive consumption of natural wines in Australia

Read the full story at Beverage Daily.

The taste, sustainability and health factor are driving the consumption of natural wines in Australia, according to Sydney-based online natural wine retailer, Notwasted.

Goby and ULI’s Greenprint Center for Building Performance Announce Strategic Partnership

Read the full story at PRNewswire.

Goby, the  ESG platform, has announced a strategic partnership with Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Greenprint Center for Building Performance (Greenprint).

Through this partnership, ULI Greenprint and Goby will continue to help ULI members drive portfolio sustainability and meaningful asset value by tracking year over year performance improvements, ultimately reducing the overall environmental impact of the built environment.

Goby’s software, strategic consulting, and utility bill automation solutions enable its ULI Greenprint member clients to boost data integrity and user experience contributing to the Greenprint Annual Performance Report. Real estate owners using Goby for their reporting not only gain full visibility into their portfolio data but are also able to leverage the extended Goby platform to make impactful change at the asset level and make better global ESG decisions for their organizations.

Greenprint is a worldwide alliance of the foremost real estate owners, investors and financial institutions committed to improving the environmental performance of the global real estate industry, with a particular emphasis on reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions.  The 40-plus members of Greenprint hold over 2 billion square feet of office, multifamily, industrial, retail, hospitality and mixed-use property in over 10,000 buildings in the portfolio located across 32 countries. Greenprint members own over $750 billion of real estate assets under management, which is almost 4 percent of the value of high-quality commercial properties globally.

POET forges new path to profitable and sustainable agriculture

Read the full story from POET.

POET has announced its partnership with Farmers Business Network (FBN) to boost profits for farmers while promoting sustainable agricultural practices through the new GRO Network. The GRO Network creates environmental transparency and matches farmers who use environmentally friendly practices with buyers who pay a premium for low-carbon corn.

UNH collaborates with 13 universities to understand climate change and ecosystems

Read the full story from the University of New Hampshire.

The University of New Hampshire is one of 14 universities from around the globe that have collectively been awarded $12.5 million by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to launch a new Biology Integration Institute (BII), called EMERGE, which will focus on better understanding ecosystem and climate interactions–like the thawing of the Arctic permafrost–and how they can alter everything from the landscape to greenhouse gases.

EMERGE, which stands for “EMergent Ecosystem Response to ChanGE,” is an ambitious five-year project that will concentrate on discovering how the processes that sustain life and enable biological innovation operate and interact within and between each other–from molecules to cells, species and ecosystems–under dynamically changing conditions. The end result will be a new “genes-to-ecosystems-to-genes” framework to create models that could help predict ecosystem response to change.

ISO 50001: How Manufacturers Can Achieve a Low-cost and Low-carbon Future

Read the full story at Compressed Air Best Practices.

Ask a manufacturer for their thoughts on green business and, privately, they may tell you that it does not necessarily equate to good business. Probe a little deeper and they might even tell you that you can have one or the other – sustainability or profitability – but not both. Thankfully, this viewpoint is changing.

Methane, Cows, and Climate Change: California’s Dairy’s Pathway to Climate Neutrality

Download the document.

Methane (CH4) is a potent greenhouse gas that is 25-28 times stronger than carbon dioxide (CO2) — the primary greenhouse gas driving climate change in California — but how it influences actual warming is much different, according to a white paper released today by UC Davis professors Frank Mitloehner, Ph.D., and Ermias Kebreab, Ph.D., along with Michael Boccadoro, executive director of Dairy Cares. The publication, Methane, Cows, and Climate Change: California’s Dairy’s Pathway to Climate Neutrality, examines recent literature from leading climate scientists and its implications for the California dairy sector.

‘Super-Pollutant’ Emitted by 11 Chinese Chemical Plants Could Equal a Climate Catastrophe

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

Emissions controls worked perfectly at Chinese plants, until a foreign subsidy dried up.

House hunters are rarely told the home energy rating – little wonder the average is as low as 1.8 stars

Shutterstock

by Neville Hurst (RMIT University)

Most Australian homes have been built to notoriously poor standards. The energy performance of existing homes in Victoria, for instance, averages 1.8 stars – 6 stars is mandatory for newly built homes under the 10-star Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NaTHERS).

Decision-makers typically fail to appreciate the importance of a low star rating, even though it have profound impacts on households’ health and budgets.

These challenges have come to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic as people spend more time at home. In a home with a low star rating, it can be hard and costly to maintain a comfortable temperature. If it’s too hot or cold occupants’ health can suffer.

Despite these impacts, two new pieces of research reveal it is extremely difficult for house hunters to obtain basic information like energy star ratings in the home rental and ownership markets. The researchers see this issue as systemic.

However, it appears real estate agents are not deliberately withholding information. In a “secret shopper” survey, 91% of the agents didn’t know the energy ratings of homes they sell or lease.

NaTHERS is to be expanded in 2021 to include existing homes. But it won’t be mandatory to measure their energy performance.

When ratings tools are voluntary, experience shows few people use them. In Victoria, for example, homes can be assessed by accredited assessors using the government’s Residential Efficiency Scorecard. Only 3,800 existing homes had been assessed by April 2020, according to state government data provided to me.

The NaTHERS star rating explained.

Agents know little about energy efficiency

In my doctoral research project completed in 2019, titled Residential Agent Engagement with Energy Efficiency when Advertising in Melbourne, I found Melbourne-based real estate agents do not actively promote information about the energy efficiency of properties. This is likely true Australia-wide, as agency practice is much the same across the states.

Agents typically respond to market trends and buyer preferences and their advertising reflects this. Understandably, agents highlight features they consider most likely to appeal to buyers. It’s up to agents to decide if energy performance will help them sell or lease the house.

As well as in-depth interviews with agents, I evaluated over 150,000 house advertisements. While some did refer to energy-efficient technologies, in most such cases these were simply listed, often in the body of the advertisement.

The message was likely to be lost among other details, thus not emphasising the benefits of energy efficiency.

This is partly because energy-efficiency performance reporting isn’t mandatory and the practice isn’t common. Agents have little incentive to develop an understanding of home energy performance and how it contributes to poor housing standards.

Young women in jumper and blanket with a cat sitting on her lap in front of the heater.
Many renters can do little to improve a house with a low energy rating that leaves them cold in winter and hot in summer. Shutterstock

Most agents don’t even know the rating

Complementing my research, a recent research project supports the suspicion that real estate agents lack knowledge about the energy efficiency features of their properties.

Environment Victoria recruited volunteers to conduct “secret shopper”-style surveys with agents at properties open for inspection across the state. This ensured the data collected closely matched the information available to other house hunters. Volunteers asked four simple questions of 300 agents, including a follow-up question to each “yes” answer to help verify it.

The overwhelming majority of agents were unable to answer any of the four questions. The survey found:

  • 91% of agents could not point out the energy star rating of the home
  • 68% could not say whether the home had insulation
  • 46% couldn’t identify any energy-saving features. One agent listed the “back fence” as an energy-saving feature.

The secret shoppers found agents were even less aware of energy efficiency when letting out houses compared to selling them. This is particularly concerning because Australia’s worst-performing homes, especially in winter, are typically rented, and tenants are usually less able to improve the energy performance.

The research does not suggest any moral failings by estate agents. As my research found, they are “market followers”. Rather, the findings suggest the need to amend the market rules in which agents operate, to ensure more equitable outcomes for house hunters.

Why mandatory disclosure is needed

Research shows increasing the energy star rating of existing homes to 5.4 stars could reduce heat-related deaths by 90%. Poor home energy performance also contributes to residential greenhouse gas emissions amounting to 19% of Victoria’s total emissions.

Elderly women fanning herself as she struggles with the heat in her house
Increasing the energy star rating of existing homes to 5.4 stars could reduce heat-related deaths by 90%. Shutterstock

Clearly, problems like these flow from estate agents’ poor knowledge of energy efficiency and its impact on the housing market, coupled with buyers’ and renters’ ignorance of the energy ratings of the properties they’re looking at. The problems can only be overcome if state and federal governments work together to make it mandatory to disclose the energy efficiency of housing at point of sale.

Home owners would then be required to provide information to buyers and renters about the energy star rating. House hunters could easily compare the performance of all homes they are interested in.

Such transparency would also provide more options to owners. Mandatory disclosure does influence the housing choices buyers make. Properties with higher energy ratings are often more appealing and fetch higher prices.

Energy Performance Certificate from the UK
Example of a displayed Energy Performance Certificate from the UK, with an A to G rating.

Mandatory disclosure is no panacea for improving the poor energy performance of Australian housing, particularly the rental properties that would benefit from minimum standards. However, mandatory disclosure is an essential element of a suite of policies that governments should implement to drive the transition towards net-zero-carbon, healthy homes.

Neville Hurst, Senior Lecturer, School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Join the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable for two virtual events during P2 Week

Join the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR) for two P2 Week virtual events.

On September 21 from 4-5:30 pm EDT, reconnect with your colleagues at the NPPR 35th Anniversary P2 Virtual Reunion to catch up and discuss the past, present, and future of P2. Anyone who has been involved with pollution prevention during the past 40 years is welcome. Register for the event at https://p2.org/event-3964942

On September 22 from 1:30-3 pm EDT, NPPR and U.S. EPA Region 4 are partnering for P2 Week and NPPR’S P2U kickoff webinar.

People, Prosperity, Planet…the Journey to Sustainability will celebrate 30 years of the P2 Act, 35 years of NPPR, and 50 years of the EPA.

Session Topics

  • Definition and impact of P2.
  • A brief discussion of the evolution of P2, including federal P2 legislation in 1990, EPA programs that advance P2 principles and foster implementation, P2 in today’s world, and where EPA’s P2 program is headed in the future.
  • Brief history of NPPR’s origins and how it currently supports P2 work being done at the local, state, and national level.
  • Announcement of NPPR’s 2020 MVP2 Award Winners.
  • Launch of NPPR’s P2U Training Series, a collaborative effort between NPPR and EPA Region 4 that supports networking and professional development for P2 practitioners.

Open to all who seek a better understanding of P2, relevant federal programs, and/or resources to support the P2 community. It’s brought to you by NPPR and EPA Region 4 at no cost.

Register at https://p2.org/event-3965171.

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