Now is the Time to Make Earth Day Everyday

In a recent blog post, Jason Clay of World Wildlife Fund made some interesting historical references to the conditions of our world dating back to the first Earth Day – April 22, 1970.   Since 1970 the human population doubled.   The non-human vertebrate species’ populations declined by an average of 58 percent.  The global average temperature increased by about one degree Celsius. In 1970, the US imported about $54 billion worth of goods and services.  That number rose to $2.7 trillion in 2016.

Manhattan skyline

Manhattan skyline in 1974, photographed by Alexander Hope for Documerica. Courtesy of the National Archives

By 1970 millions of Americans were fed-up with the state of the natural environment.  Civil society was ripe for activism and government solutions. They were ready for business and commerce to clean up their acts.

Senator Gaylord Nelson (WI (D)) understood this disgust along with the rising demands of citizens.  He proposed a national event to galvanize action – Earth Day.  “The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy,” Senator Nelson said, “and, finally, force this issue permanently onto the national political agenda.”

NYT first Earth Day

A throng of thousands along New York City’s 5th Ave., as far as the eye could see, came out for Earth Day 1970 demonstrations receiving front page coverage the next day

Clearly, we’ve made great progress since the first Earth Day. But so much still needs to be done.  I’d venture to say, focusing on just one day falls short of the vision of the father of Earth Day.

Our reliance on fossil fuels and the inefficient use of most, if not all, energy continues to make the most significant impact on the environment. Energy is the life blood of our economy.  But extraction, refining, generation and transmission of most of our energy sources creates enormous amounts of waste, emissions of particulate air pollution and heat trapping greenhouse gases.  Yet, many of these externalities are not accounted for on the cost ledger of our businesses or personal budgets.

What does the American public think?  According to a March 2017 Gallup Poll, 59% of Americans believe the environment should be prioritized over energy production.   This is not an unreasonable expectation.  Just think about the amount of solar energy hitting the earth each day. If properly collected, stored and transmitted, solar energy could provide more than is needed to meet our daily energy needs.

LED bulbs avoid the use of significant amounts of energy.  They reduce maintenance costs and eliminate mercury associated with fluorescent bulbs.

Imagine if procurement officials from colleges and universities gave preference to recycled materials and low carbon commitments in setting selection criteria for goods and services?

Would energy efficiency and use of renewable energy increase significantly if fossil fuel energy use by industry and commerce were listed on the loss side of balance sheets?

Senator Nelson said, “The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats, and biodiversity…that’s where all economic activity and jobs come from.”

This Earth Day, by all-means, plant a tree, organize a clean-up, recycle.  Better yet, organize efforts to make long-term commitments to reduce the impact of your organization.   What material impact does your company have as a result of the use of energy, water and waste generation across the entire supply chain?  Do you measure it?  Do you set expectations for your suppliers to reduce natural resource use? Can you meet and exceed the environmental expectations of your customers?

If not, I encourage you to set stretch, time-based goals. Work to make the change you want to see in your organization and the world.  Look for opportunities to embed sustainability measurements, goals and requirements across all functions of your organization and with all your suppliers and customers.

If you don’t do it.  Who will?Gaylord Nelson quote

Easy ways to “go green” at the office to celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day is coming up at the end of the month. You’re already trying to be as “green” as you can be at home, so now it’s time to make your workplace just as sustainable.  There are lots of simple changes you can make to raise awareness of environmental issues, create a sustainable workplace, and encourage your co-workers to make and participate in sustainable choices.

Here’s a few ways to make any office Earth Day-ready:

  1. Think Before You Print. Refrain from printing things that can easily be read or saved on the computer. And, if you decide to print, TreeZero encourages you to use our tree free multipurpose paper. We also suggest that you set up your printers to print two-sided, set your margins as wide and your font size as small as possible. Not only will you save paper, but you’ll think twice about what you’re sending out.recycle bins
  2. Recycle Everything You Can. Recycling is one of the easiest, least demanding and least expensive ways to go green. Strategically place recycling bins around the office to encourage people to properly dispose of paper, aluminum, plastic, glass and other items. As your office becomes more involved in the recycling, you can also set up separate bins for items such as batteries and ink cartridges.biking to work
  3. Commute Smarter. Walk or cycle to work if you can.  Take public transportation (tip: buy bulk passes to save money). As a bonus with either of these two options, you’ll get additional exercise on your way to and from work.  If you must drive, carpool or car share.  According to the EPA, ditching your car for two days per week will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 pounds per year.dog at work
  4. Conserve Water. Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge instead of running the tap. Don’t pour left over water down the drain.  Use it to water the plants.  If you’re lucky enough to be able to bring your dog to the office, use left over water to fill the dog’s water bowl.green team 2
  5. Start a Green Team. Get your office to create a sustainability team. Gather team members from a cross-section of the company and work together to develop and maintain green practices for your company. Keep it fun and encourage company-wide participation rewarding creative ideas.  Your new Green Team can inspire, activate, and engage employees to create meaningful changes within your company.  Otherwise, what’s the use of these tips if no one is using them?

Let us know how you’ve made your office a more sustainable place to work. Share some of your favorite sustainable ideas.  We look forward to celebrating and supporting Earth Day 2017 with all of you!

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.