Green your life at home, work & play

New Protocols for Product Carbon Footprinting October 24, 2011

When considering a company’s carbon footprint, we most often think about the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions tied to the company’s operational

energy use.  While company energy use is a definite concern, it is also important to consider the emissions tied to a business’s products as well.  The World Resources Institute (WRI) has recently released supplements to its Greenhouse Gas Protocol for measuring GHG emissions from corporate value chains as well as product lifecycles.

The Corporate Value Chain protocol will help companies evaluate the emissions of products that they produce, buy, and sell.  Identifying emissionsfrom value chains allows companies to dive deeper into their carbon footprint, identify the highest sources of company emissions, and establish the most efficient methods for reducing emissions.

The Product Life Cycle Standard enables companies to measure the carbon footprint of a given product from resource extraction, through production, to consumption and disposal.  With a better understanding of how all phases of a product’s life cycle contribute to GHG emissions, companies can be better equipped to design products with lighter environmental impacts.

Companies seeking to “green” their operations should consider carbon footprinting their products as well as their value chain.  GHG emissions are often tied to inefficient uses of energy; identifying areas where energy use can be reduced and emissions can be cut often leads to cost savings.  For more information regarding the new protocols, please visit the Greenhouse Gas Protocol website.


America’s Climate Choices Final Report July 8, 2011

The National Research Council has just released its final report on America’s Climate Choices.  The report highlights the environmental, economic, and social risks of climate change and calls for action to reduce the amount of environmental change we will face while also preparing to adapt to future warming

The report finds that climate change is happening and human activities are very likely the primary cause.  The report acknowledges the uncertainty about risk but affirms that there is enough reason to begin acting now.

According to the National Research Council, local, state, and private sector efforts are valuable, but they will not be able to achieve the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions needed to avert a climate crisis.  The report calls for strong federal policies to set national goals and engage international efforts.  To effectively address climate change mitigation, the U.S. must reduce GHG emissions, prepare adaptation strategies, fund scientific research and technology development, and promote communication between experts and the stakeholders that make the country’s climate policy.

The National Research Council is the research body of the National Academies.  Sponsored by NOAA, the report was authored by renowned scientists and engineers, economists, business leaders, a former governor, an ex-congressman, and policy experts.

For more information about America’s Climate Choices, visit the America’s Climate Choices website.


Is the Increase in Extreme Weather Events a Product of Climate Change? June 20, 2011

Filed under: Air pollutants,Climate change,General — Matt Cohen @ 6:16 pm
Tags: ,

Radically changing weather patterns have been marked by torrential rains and catastrophic flooding, heavy snowfalls, extreme droughts, and devastating forest fires.  Severe weather events have become increasingly regular, and many are beginning to view these extremes as normal under a changing climate.  As earth’s climate continues to change, so will our perceptions of normal weather.

TornadoAlthough climate change is never tied to one specific weather event, it does influence weather.  Climate change drives the environment that impacts storms and droughts, multiplying the intensity of weather events.  In an article for Planet Ark, Deborah Zabarenko describes extreme weather as the “New Normal Climate.”

The article goes on to discuss the costs associated with the increase of climate driven extreme weather events.  The City of Chicago’s 4,400-mile sewer system has been constructed over the past 150 years and is not equipped to handle the extreme storms and floods that are projected for the future.  For the City, it is imperative to forecast future storms and floods.

The City estimates that it will cost between $690 million and $2.5 billion to cope with extreme weather for the remainder of this century.  Homeowners and businesses will be faced with costs that far exceed the City’s estimate.  Economic losses from natural disasters were $25 billion per year in the 1980s.  Through the last decade, the cost has increased to $130 billion per year.  As the global climate continues to change and weather becomes even more extreme, we can only expect these costs to increase.


Sustainable Companies Achieve 200% ROI per Bloomberg May 19, 2011

Earlier this month, media company Bloomberg announced that they have achieved a 200% return on investments. The financial software, media and data company has an estimated revenue of $6.9 billion and makes up one third of the global financial data market (Source: NYT). The company was founded in 1981 by Michael Bloomberg, the current mayor of New York City.

Bloomberg first launched their public ESG (environmental, social and governance) data service in 2009. The program evolved from what was primarily an employee engagement platform to a unique source of innovation and opportunity. The company’s first publicly released sustainability report states that for every $1 spent on sustainability, it saves $2 in operating costs. Overall this has resulted in a net savings of $25 million since 2008.

In their report, Bloomberg found that most of the targets it hit resulted from management decisions. For example, all new data equipment that they shipped to clients complied with Energy Star efficiency standards. That being said, individual employees still play a crucial role in any company’s sustainability strategy and can add to the savings resulting from mechanical, equipment and purchasing changes.

Some highlights from the report:

  • Nearly half of Bloomberg’s 13,000+ employees will be in a LEED-certified office space by 2012
  • Emissions have been reduced by 20% over the 2007 baseline (measured as core emissions normalized by revenue)
  • Bloomberg diverted 59% of its waste from landfills through recycling and composting programs
  • All new PCs and flat panels shipped to customers are Energy Star certified
  • Bloomberg has initiated over 300 sustainability projects in 24 countries over the past three years
  • Over 5,000 users in 29 countries have accessed 50 million sustainability data sets through the Bloomberg Professional service
  • carried 1,976 stories on clean energy and environmental issues in 2010

“It is not only important for companies to develop sustainability strategies, but also to report on their results,” said Peter Grauer, Chairman of Bloomberg. “Disclosure, transparency and access to information are critical drivers of shared knowledge surrounding sustainability. As members of the global business community, it is our responsibility to ensure this information is made available – and to elevate the conversation.”

Bloomberg’s full report is available online. For more information, visit the following articles:

Image source: Bloomberg


Fuel Economy Standards May 5, 2011

In the United States, transportation accounts for 28% of greenhouse gas emissions. Within transportation, light-duty vehicles contribute 60% of those emissions, with the rest coming from heavy-duty vehicles, aircraft and other smaller sectors. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program aims to address and reduce the transportation industry’s emissions.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2007, April 2009

Phase I – The first phase of the National Program was announced by President Obama in May 2009. It governed both CAFE and greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light trucks of model years 2012-2016. The final rule was adopted in April 2010 and was a significant step since it was the first time the U.S. has strengthened fuel economy standards since the 1970’s. The final rule of Phase I requires an estimated fleet wide average of 34.1 mpg and 250 grams of CO2 per mile by 2016.

Phase II – In October 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a joint Notice of Intent that identified a range of proposed standards for cars and light-duty trucks of model years 2017-2025. The agencies projected an annual decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of 3% to 6%. This correlates to a range of 47 mpg to 62 mpg in 2025. They are expected to propose the new standards by September 2011.

According to a recent study, even under the most stringent standards being considered (6% decrease or 62 mpg), variable profits in the industry would likely increase. Also, the Detroit Three (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) actually would gain more of the profit increase than the rest of the industry, since they are more invested in trucks and larger cars and therefore likely to be required to make greater fuel economy improvements than their competitors. Improved technology doesn’t come without its costs. But these higher fuel standards are actually cost-effective as long as fuel stays above $1.80 per gallon, and with gas currently hovering around $4 a gallon it’s not hard to imagine it staying this high.

Many companies are improving their own fleets ahead of the anticipated fuel economy regulations. For example, in 2004, FedEx launched the first street-ready hybrid trucks. They increased fuel efficiency by 57%, decreased particulate emissions by 96%, and reduced smog-causing emissions by 65%. As of 2010, FedEx was operating one of the largest fleets in the industry. They use nearly 2,000 alternative energy vehicles worldwide, include natural gas, all-electric and biodiesel vehicles.

Instead of trying to roll out hybrid vehicles across the entire fleet, which would not have been cost effective, FedEx instead has focused on managing the fleet to reduce emissions. They have set a goal of improving efficiency of the entire fleet by 20% by 2020. This includes a variety of methods such as optimizing routes, using smaller and more fuel-efficient “sprinter” vans, and delivering by foot or bicycle in large cities like New York City and London. Other companies, such as UPS, are
also looking to reduce their fuel consumption and improve the management of their fleet, as are companies that own fleets.

FedEx image source: Autoblog Green


Eco-Friendly Conference Centers and Where to Find Them April 22, 2011

Like hotels, conference centers are also seeing a trend in eco-friendly renovations and practices. Making an establishment green opens doors to clientele who care about their surroundings and want a green facility for their meeting — a growing segment of the business world. Going green produces lower operating expenses, providing savings that are particularly needed in the current economy.

So what can a conference center do to be more eco-friendly? There are many different techniques, but some of the most common include:

  • Adjust thermostats for more efficient heating and cooling; automate temperature systems to avoid energy loss
  • Retrofit or install energy efficient lighting (e.g. compact fluorescent bulbs)
  • Minimize the use of paper for meeting materials; recycle leftover paper
  • Switch to reusable materials (e.g. china, glass and silverware, and linen table covers and napkins)
  • Donate or compost excess and leftover food
  • Greener transportation alternatives
  • Efficient water use and waste management

Unlike hotels, there aren’t any commonly accepted green-certification programs for conference centers (yet), so facilities must advertise their practices through print and online media. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) website lists several conference centers that have achieved certification. Visit their directory and type “conference” into the Project Name field to browse this listing.

You can do some simple online research to find a green conference center in your area, or contact a local environmental leader or organization for more information. Below are a few good examples to get you started.

Airlie Conference Center ( – Warrenton, Virginia

Initiatives include reduced energy consumption, minimized waste through recycling and composting, utilization of eco-friendly projects in all aspects of its operations, producing and sourcing of local foods, stewardship of more than 1,000 acres of sensitive wildlife habitat, and workshops and programs dedicated to environmental education and policy.

David L. Lawrence Convention Center ( – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This facility is the largest LEED Gold-certified convention center, built on an urban brownfield location. Over 95% of demolition waste from the old building was recycled, and 50% of the new materials were brought from the local area to reduce transportation costs and energy use. Initiatives include: the use of over 75% natural light (reducing energy use); an on-site water reclamation plant and other water initiatives that have shown a 66% reduction in purchased water; 100% biodegradable trash liners, 30% post consumer recycled copier paper, 57% post consumer recycled hand towels, and 50% post consumer recycled toilet tissue; a dedicated recycling program; and much more.

Essex Conference Center ( – Essex, Massachusetts

Initiatives include the use of high post consumer content in all paper products (brochures, business cards, copy paper, napkins, paper towels, cups, etc), energy-saving compact florescent bulbs, environmentally safe and non-toxic products for cleaning and maintenance, water-efficient shower heads, 100% recycling of materials (glass, newspaper and magazines, aluminum, cardboard, scrap metal), and organic fertilizers. Instead of throwing away old computer systems and equipment, they are donated to charity or shipped to Ghana for use in community centers.

More examples include:

For more information, check out:

Economically Sound – Conference Centers Go Green

Boston Green Tourism – Green Convention Centers


Benefits of telework (aka telecommuting) March 23, 2011

The modern workforce is continually evolving, and it has becoming increasingly common for companies to offer telecommuting options to their employees. Telecommuting typically involves an employee working from home (or other non-office location), and can be an occasional occurrence or happen or a regular basis. Telecommuting has the potential to save money, lower carbon emissions, and increase employee efficiency and effectiveness.

In 2009, the technology company Cisco released the results of their Teleworker Survey that polled 1,992 Cisco employees across five global regions. The survey was intended to evaluate several telecommuting topics, including environmental impacts, commuting patterns, technology barriers, and work quality and productivity. The study revealed that a majority of respondents reported a significant increase in productivity, work-life flexibility, and overall satisfaction as a result of their ability to work remotely.

According to Cisco’s Internet Business Services Group, the company has generated an estimated annual savings of $277 million in productivity by allowing telecommuting. Cisco employees also prevent approximately 47,320 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the environment, and fuel cost savings of $10.3 million per year due to telecommuting and avoided travel.

In 2010, IT executives from private and public companies in the Washington, D.C. metro area were surveyed on their telecommuting opinions and habits. Of those polled, a majority said that telecommuting would boost productivity (69% of respondents), decrease their carbon footprint (71%), improve overall quality of life (76%), save them time (84%), and make working for an organization more desirable (93%). About half of those polled were managers, who also feel that telecommuting has mostly positive benefits. 81% of managers said that their management ability is unaffected by telecommuting, and 93% of managers said that they were satisfied with the quality of work done remotely.

Another option for decreasing business costs and environmental impact is to pursue methods of teleconferencing. If you’re holding a meeting involving people located in different geographic areas, you can avoid travel costs and lost time by holding the meeting via a conference call or webcast. Teleconferencing is already a relatively common practice and includes several popular websites, such as GoToMeeting and Polycom.

Meetings that are conducted through teleconferencing can be scheduled with greater ease, eliminating the need for travel arrangements, and allowing for meetings to be arranged on much shorter notice. Many people can be involved in a teleconference, sometimes up to hundreds of people at a time, for greater involvement and collaboration. Polycom’s website includes a Carbon Calculator on their website, and although it is designed to sell their product, it is a useful tool to estimate the cost of each meeting in terms of dollars (or other currency), hours, and kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2).


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