Weekly Round-Up: Energy Efficiency and Climate Change

Energy efficiency and climate change are often discussed, and are important topics today.  Renewable energy sources like wind and solar are the fastest growing fuel sources.  But, the burning of fossil fuels will continue to be the largest source of energy powering the US and world economies for the foreseeable future.  The extraction of these fuels, as well as the thermodynamic forces used to convert fossil fuels into energy and mobility, also emit various emissions from particulates to methane and CO2.   Thousands of scientists have dedicated their careers studying the impact these emissions are having and could have on the world’s climate. 

Below are some recent articles regarding energy efficiency and climate change that we feel could be of use our customers and consumers.

Energy Efficiency

Office Energy Use. According to You Sustain, an average US office with 50 staff members emits around 530 tons of carbon dioxide yearly as the result of electricity and gas consumption, employees’ travel, water use and waste generation. This is equivalent to the energy use of an average American household for 41 years.

Energy Efficiency Grants and Incentives. Many cities, counties and state agencies offer rebates, grants and incentives to businesses and individuals to purchase and use energy efficient appliances and equipment. A comprehensive list (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency) can be found online.

Your energy saving checklist by Dr. Paul Swift: Here’s a checklist of the top 6 things you need to do to stop wasting money on energy: 1. Check your figures – know how much you’re really using every month.  Speak to your energy supplier about getting a smart meter. Check you’re not using more than you should against sector benchmarks. 2. Take a walk around your premises – find out what equipment uses the most energy. Note the wattage of all of your equipment. 3. Get your timing right – only use energy when you need to. 4. Kit yourself out – invest in energy saving equipment. 5. Get employees on board; 6. Keep warm – stop heat escaping.

How Energy Star for Homes WorksWhat is your home telling you? Take the whole house approach to learn how the systems in your home can work together to provide the most comfortable, efficient living space.   With expert help from Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, you’ll get the home you deserve.

Climate Change

Seven Climate Change Records Broken In 2016.  1. String of Storms shatter statistical milestones. 2. Species Wiped Out – The Bramble Cay melomys is the first mammal wiped out by climate change. 3. Carbon Dioxide levels reach record high yearly minimum – In September, carbon dioxide in our atmosphere stayed above the 400ppm mark, and according to scientists, we may never see it dip back below this number in our lifetimes. 4. Arctic sea ice is melting faster than ever. 5. Warmest August on record. 6. 2016 Could be the warmest year ever. 7. One record to be proud of: The solar industry is soaring in 2016.

Shocking footage reveals Antarctic ice shelf crack is now wider than the Empire State Building as scientists warn it is ‘close’ to calving off and creating a giant iceberg –  Shocking new footage has revealed just how close a massive crack, now wider in parts than the Empire State Building, is ‘close’ to falling off the Larsen C Ice Shelf and creating a huge iceberg. Experts are concerned the huge calving event, which would create an iceberg with an area of more than 5,000 km², roughly the size of Delaware or Wales, could leave the entire shelf unstable. This, they warn, could contribute dramatically to sea level rise.

iceberg calving

The massive crack, now wider in parts than the Empire State Building, would create an iceberg with an area roughly the size of Delare or Wales, could leave the entire shelf unstable, scientists fear.

Weekly Round-Up: Sustainability – A Journey, Not a Destination

Sustainability means different things to different organizations.  It could be environmental stewardship, health and wellness, fair trade, women’s empowerment or an “all of the above” approach. Sustainability is a journey not a destination. sustainability infographic

One of the frequently quoted definitions of sustainability is from Our Common Future (also known as the Brundtland Commission): “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations.”

Here’s a round-up of sustainability news, tips, happenings.

TOP GREEN COMPANIES IN THE U.S. 2016In partnership with Corporate KnightsHIP (Human Impact + Profit)  Investor Inc., and leading sustainability minds from nongovernmental organizations and the academic and accounting communities, Newsweek has ranked the world’s largest companies on corporate sustainability and environmental impact.

Why Companies Are Becoming B CorporationsBy Suntae Kim, Matthew J. Karlesky, Christopher G. Myers, Todd Schifeling – Certified B Corporations are social enterprises verified by B Lab, a nonprofit organization. B Lab certifies companies based on how they create value for non-shareholding stakeholders, such as their employees, the local community, and the environment. Once a firm crosses a certain performance threshold on these dimensions, it makes amendments to its corporate charter to incorporate the interests of all stakeholders into the fiduciary duties of directors and officers. The first generation of B Corporations was certified in 2007, and the number of firms earning certification has grown exponentially ever since. Today, there are more than 1,700 B Corporations in 50 countries. Although any company, regardless of its size, legal structure, or industry, can become a B Corporation, currently most B Corporations are privately-held small and medium-sized businesses.

A global view of corporate social responsibility (CSR)  – More businesses than ever are contributing to the greater good across the world, according to the most recent Grant Thornton International Business Report. The survey asked what companies are doing to make their operations more sustainable and why. Here are some of the top findings:

  • Cost management emerges as the key driver for CSR followed by customer demand and because it’s the ‘right thing to do’.
  • How a business is perceived to be operating is also important, especially in China.
  • Vast majority of businesses are involved with local charities, either through donating time, money or products/services.
  • Businesses are working to reduce their environmental impact, with increasing numbers calculating the carbon footprint of their operations.
  • More than half of businesses now view integrated reporting as best practice.

Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and 18 Others Commit $1 Billion To New Cleantech Fund, Breakthrough Energy VenturesBill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Vinod Khosla, Jack Ma, John Doerr and 15 other high-profile investors have formed a new venture firm. Breakthrough Energy Ventures will pour at least $1 billion into cleantech companies over the next 20 years. The firm’s goal, according to its own website, will be: “to provide everyone in the world with access to reliable, affordable power, food, goods, transportation, and services without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.” Breakthrough Energy Ventures will invest in tech ventures at any stage, from seed through commercialization. The deals will focus on electricity, manufacturing, agriculture, buildings and transportation. 

Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development –  On September 25th 2015, member countries of the United Nations adopted a set of 17 goals to end povertyprotect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.sustainable dev goals

A Look At Deforestation: Last Year Billions of Trees Fell. Is Anybody Listening?

Deforestation is a huge and complex issue. In a note to US school children in recognition of Arbor Day in 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as helpless.”

To put it into perspective, I can’t help but think of several often used and perhaps misconstrued idioms.  “We can’t see the forest for the trees.”  “You are barking up the wrong tree.”  Better yet, “Let me cut to the chase,” as we ponder:

  • How does deforestation impact you personally?
  • Are investments in your retirement fund financing deforestation?
  • How can we educate ourselves on the risks and opportunities related to deforestation?
  • Do you or your organization purchase goods or services that might increase levels of deforestation?
  • Are you measuring the potential risks of deforestation within your supply chain?
  • Does your organization have a plan for mitigating deforestation risks within your supply chain?
  • What positive steps can be taken to protect remaining forests and increase the benefits they deliver?

The Value of Our Forests

Forests are economic juggernauts generating valuable commodities like the paper and lumber we rely on daily.  Trees are cleared to build our communities. They feed us and provide fuel for billions globally. Forests are the source of many break-through ingredients used in medical advancements.

Forests provide all sorts of invaluable environmental services ranging from water filtration and temperature control to clean air and tourism. They are home to over half of the biodiversity and creatures on earth.   If we made a concerted effort to accurately account for the value of these environmental services, it would easily exceed trillions of dollars annually.

The Loss of Our Forests

World Resources Institute (WRI) estimates that, 30% of global forest cover has been cleared, another 20% has been degraded.  Most of the rest has been fragmented, leaving only about 15% intact.

Stumps of Fallen Trees

Billions of Trees Have Fallen, Is Anyone Listening?

The UN Climate Summit Report states the conversion of forests for the production of commodities such as soy, palm oil, beef and paper accounts for roughly half of global deforestation. Infrastructure, urban expansion, energy, mining and fuel wood collection also contribute in varying degrees.

Justin Worland reports in an article in Time magazine that “People cut down 15 billion trees each year and the global tree count has fallen by 46% since the beginning of human civilization.”  Deforestation and forest degradation account for anywhere between 10% – 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, deforestation impacts climate change in various ways. The changes include: 1. directly reflecting heat by removing vegetation cover, 2. releasing greenhouses gases through clearing, 3. preventing forests from sequestering more carbon dioxide by cutting them, and 4. the generation of CO2 resulting from the use of bio-fuels.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) are credible and growing responses.  But, I would argue, not nearly enough.  Fortunately, innovative new commitments and guidelines should spur increased measurement and commitment helping to stem the tide of deforestation.

Two Redwood Trees

Redwood Trees Providing Canopy

The respiration of our remaining boreal and rain forests are the lungs that inhale CO2 and breathe out oxygen for most of the creatures on the earth. Chuck Burr, founder of www.restorationseeds.com and the Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association estimates that, “when you walk from a modern immature woods into the old growth redwoods, the temperature drops 10 degrees F in the summer, the humidity increases 10 percent and the oxygen increase a few percent.  The bottom line is that the climate benefits of a plantation of 30’ (9m) trees is insignificant compared to a forest of 200’ (61m) old growth trees.”
Plain and simple, forests are invaluable and are in crisis.

It’s Time to Take Action – Saving Our Forests

In 2010 the Board of Directors of the Consumer Goods Forum approved a resolution to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020.  The aim is to achieve this through the responsible sourcing of key commodities (soy, palm oil, paper/pulp and beef) so sourcing these commodities will not deplete tropical rainforests.

Dozens of governments, scores of international corporations and more than 50 Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) signed the New York Declaration on Forests in 2014.  The goal of this non-binding agreement is to reduce forest loss by halve, end it by 2030 and restore forest lands by an area larger than India. Meeting these goals would cut between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons of carbon annually.

In 2016, institutional investors with $22 trillion in assets requested that companies report data about forest risks through the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).  According to the report, Revenue at Risk: Why Addressing Deforestation Is Critical to Business Success, the total annual turnover at risk for publicly listed companies is estimated to be up to $906 billion.

The United Nations has created a mechanism that enables organizations to participate in efforts that can combine carbon reduction and neutrality efforts with programs that incentivize people and communities to engage in activities that preserve and expand forest canopies.  Better known as REDDReducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries  this methodology was launched in 2008.

TreeZero & 100% tree free, carbon neutral copy paper

At TreeZero, our copy paper is 100% tree free and carbon neutral.  TreeZero recently partnered with the environmental group Wildlife Works to participate in their REDD projects in Africa.  The Wildlife Works projects have been successfully third-party validated and verified against the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) methodology, and the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standard (CCB) at the GOLD level.  Two-thirds of the funds dedicated to TreeZero’s carbon neutrality efforts go to local communities in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to provide incentives to stop deforestation.

TreeZero is a proud to partner of Wildlife Works and we hope that our customers and consumers find our commitment to the environment of value to their businesses and their sustainability strategies.

Conclusion

If we don’t measure forest related impacts and risks to our organizations and nature – how can we expect to manage and minimize these risks? If we don’t manage them, they are likely to end-up managing us. “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem.  Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”  Theodore Roosevelt, October 1907.

The Weekly Round-Up: Focus on Food Waste

Food waste or food loss is food that is discarded or lost uneaten. The causes of food waste or loss are numerous, and occur at the stages of production, processing, retailing and consumption. Current estimates put global food loss and waste between one-third and one-half of all food produced.

This week our Round-Up focuses on news and information on this important topic. 

Gleaning is all about feeding the hungry – One major area of food waste in America is in farmers’ fields, where crops that don’t meet top-grade quality are left to rot or be plowed under.  The Biblical concept of gleaning is reemerging as a method, not only for feeding the hungry, but also reducing food waste. According to the Society of Saint Andrews, a group that coordinates thousands of volunteer groups participating in gleaning events. Each year, 35,000 – 40,000 volunteers glean over 20 million pounds of fresh, nutritious produce from farmers’ fields and orchards after the harvest for their hungry neighbors.

Volunteer Participating in a Gleaning Event 

The Institute of Culinary Education and The New School Announce Zero Waste Food Conference — Industry leaders, including acclaimed chef Massimo Bottura, will inspire creative solutions to create more sustainable food networks — The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) and The New School announce the launch of the Zero Waste Food conference, an exploration of sustainable methods for producing, distributing, consuming and disposing of food in the environments where we cook and where we eat. The conference will take place on April 28 and 29, 2017 at locations on The New School and ICE campuses. Bridging the gap between research and practice, academics, activists, chefs and business leaders and producers will participate in panel discussions, and provide culinary demonstrations and hands-on cooking classes, that uncover innovative techniques for creating delicious meals from food waste.

Congresswoman renews campaign to take on food waste Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree is renewing her efforts to reduce food waste with federal legislation. Pingree, a Democrat, is an advocate for making food donation easier and cutting down on the amount of food that gets thrown out. She is a co-sponsor of The Food Donation Act of 2017, which was introduced on Feb. 7. The bill seeks to modernize food donation rules by expanding liability protections for food donors. Pingree also plans to reintroduce a pair of other food waste bills in the coming weeks. One would address food waste using tools like tax credits, research and a public awareness campaign. The other would standardize date labeling on food by distinguishing between quality and safety date labels.

The global food waste scandalby Megan Tatum –  The world binned or burned the equivalent of £2.9 trillion of food last year. A fetid pile of 1.3 billion tonnes – a third of all the food the world produced – went ‘off’ in fields, factories and family homes, says the FAO, belching out more noxious carbon than any country in the world, with the exception of China and the US.  Stuffed into this squalid mountain of discarded food lie 45% of the world’s fruit and veg, more than a third of its fresh fish and seafood, 30% of its grains and cereals and a fifth of its nutrient-rich dairy and meat – enough food to feed all Africa’s hungry.

Here in the West, our weekly shopping habits, obsession with perfect produce and scrupulous quality controls mean a third of waste happens in the final stages of the supply chain. Whereas in the developing world, as little as 5% of food is wasted by consumers and only 20% during processing, with the overwhelming majority lost in the very early stages of production.  “One of the major reasons is storage and the ability to protect the product from the farm through the supply chain to the customer [versus] a lack of storage facilities, poor distribution networks, and poor transportation,” says Liz Goodwin, former Wrap CEO and now director of food loss and waste at WRI.

The Wisdom of Garbageby JESSICA LEIGH HESTERResearchers are digging into heaps of discarded food to uncover clues about why we throw so much of it away—and how cities can cut the waste. Belinda Li, a project engineer at Tetra Tech, has been dispatched by the Natural Resources Defense Council to excavate hundreds of samples of trash in Nashville, Denver, and New York City—three cities where the NRDC has rooting or established relationships with local organizations. The bin digs are a quest to exhume data from detritus—and from there, to glean information about consumer behavior and food waste.  Trashed food exacts an enormous environmental and economic toll: By some estimates, each American family spends some $1,600 each year on uneaten eats.  

Science is great and gross! Researchers sort through bags of garbage collected in Manhattan(Jessica Leigh Hester/CityLab)

Nationally, there’s a larger push to collect and crunch data about wasted food, and then make those stats publicly available with an eye toward shaping policy. Back in January, the Rockefeller Foundation—which is in the midst of a seven-year, $130 million food waste-reduction initiative called YieldWise—threw its support behind a portal designed by a coalition including the USDA and EPA. The Further With Food website allows users to zero in on the data that’s most relevant to them, sorting by audiences (such as students, restaurant workers, hunger relief groups, and lawmakers), sources (like academic, business, and NGO), and topics (including policy, meal planning, and food rescue).  By the end of June the NRDC intends to spin this new data into a toolkit including sample protocols, case studies, and suggestions for scaling up solutions that have proved successful.

Trade groups push to expire confusing food date labels – Consumers are confronted with more than 10 different date labels on packages. The food industry is working to simplify labels on perishable food. Date stamps like “best by,” “sell by,” “use by” and “best before” can be confusing for shoppers.  Those multiple notifications could soon be reaching their expiration date. The trade groups are moving to reduce those “expiration” labels to just two: “use by” and “best if used by.” They say it’ll not only reduce consumer confusion, but also keep people from wasting perfectly good food, reports CBS news correspondent Jamie Yuccas. The new label guidelines are voluntary, but giant retailer Walmart is already on board. It says it supports the effort to “simplify consumers’ lives” and “reduce food waste.”

 

Weekly Round-Up: A Focus on Deforestation

Each week we’ll provide you with a round-up of news, information and happenings on a different topic effecting the environment including deforestation, climate change, sustainability, water stewardship, recycling and more.

This week, we’re focusing on Deforestation. World Resources Institute (WRI) estimates that, 30% of global forest cover has been cleared, another 20% has been degraded. Most of the rest has been fragmented, leaving only about 15% intact.

The Round-Up

Plant trees while you search the web – Ecosia is the search engine that plants trees with its ad revenue. Share Ecosia and show friends how they can do good just by searching the web. https://info.ecosia.org/what

Deforestation rises with incomes in developing economies – by John C. Cannon – Economists have for the first time shown a definitive link between rising incomes and a corresponding uptick in deforestation using satellite mapping data. For a long time, economists have assumed that this more-or-less predictable pattern exists in developing economies, but it’s been difficult to prove. “Until now, nobody had found a way of testing it empirically in a convincing way,” said Jesús Crespo Cuaresma, an economist at the International Institute for Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the Vienna University of Economics and Business. The researchers also expected that reforestation would occur in richer countries as income levels rose, but their research did not bear that out. https://news.mongabay.com/2017/01/deforestation-rises-with-incomes-in-developing-economies/

Ceres and the PRI Join Forces to Tackle Tropical Deforestation – Ceres and the PRI announced a new partnership to tackle widespread, global deforestation driven by escalating production of beef, soy and timber, focusing initially on South America.  Through a new, joint investor group, the two organizations will support global institutional investors pressing food and timber companies to eliminate deforestation and other related concerns, including forced labor and land rights disputes from their supply chains. The announcement was made at an investor event at the United Nations climate negotiations in Morocco, formally called the Conference of the Parties, or COP22. Deforestation is a key topic at COP22, with an estimated 12 million hectares of forest being destroyed annually from human activity, or the equivalent to 36 U.S. football fields every minute. Cutting down forests releases carbon into the atmosphere, and an estimated 10 to 15 percent of global carbon emissions are produced annually from global deforestation, largely for agricultural and timber production. “Beyond the enormous environmental impacts of biodiversity loss, climate change and eroded landscapes that are less climate-resilient, deforestation poses real financial risks to investors with agribusinesses in their portfolios,” said Dawn M. Martin, who spoke at the event and is the chief operating officer of Ceres, which coordinates the $15 trillion Investor Network on Climate Risk. “Working collaboratively will enable Ceres and PRI to achieve far greater impact at stemming deforestation than each of our organizations could achieve alone.” Among the activities planned by the new global investor group over the next two years: Map and develop a set of indicators for evaluating beef, soy and timber companies’ sourcing policies and their impact on deforestation (e.g., traceability, sustainability goals and policies, transparency, adherence to certification schemes); Benchmark 50 to 60 companies in the beef, soy, and timber industries against the indicators. Based on benchmarking results, engage with low-scoring companies (including through shareholder resolutions) to press them to adopt sustainable sourcing policies. Engage in public policy advocacy at the national and international levels. http://3blmedia.com/News/Ceres-and-PRI-Join-Forces-Tackle-Tropical-Deforestation

Deforestation Free Funds is a search platform that enables people to find out if their money, in the form of individual investments or an employer-provided 401(k), may be causing tropical deforestation through investment in companies that produce, consume, or finance palm oil – the fastest growing cause of rainforest destruction today. Some companies are making real efforts to reduce the harm that this industry causes – and the goal of Deforestation Free Funds is to help make this happen. By driving transparency in the industry’s financing, we hope to encourage policies and practices that bring about real change. https://www.deforestationfreefunds.org/faq#about

The New York Declaration on Forests – is a non-legally binding political declaration that grew out of dialogue among governments, companies and civil society, spurred by the UN Secretary- General’s Climate Summit. For the first time, world leaders endorse a global timeline to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020, and strive to end it by 2030. It also calls for restoring forests and croplands of an area larger than India. Meeting these goals would cut between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons of carbon pollution every year – about as much as the current emissions of the United States. The Declaration is endorsed by dozens of governments, [30] of the world’s biggest companies, and [more than 50] influential civil society and indigenous organizations. The associated voluntary Action Agenda (section 2) serves as a guide to governments, companies, and organizations regarding the diverse set of actions that can achieve these transformational goals. http://forestdeclaration.org/summary/