Eco-Coach

Green your life at home, work & play

New online tool helps businesses track impacts through their supply chain May 2, 2012

You want your company to improve its community and eco-image and along with that, you want to know what your suppliers are doing to spiff up theirs as well.  It can be a large investment of time to read through every company report – annual, sustainability, CSR – wading through the rhetoric, not to mention dozens of corporate rating and ranking lists of best and worst performers to find out.  But now there is a much faster way to get an understanding from multiple angles of just how responsible those companies are by using CSRHUB*.  This new service offers free and subscriber options for accessing social and environmental ratings based on a wide array of sources to achieve a more unbiased view of a company’s performance.

While still in development stages, CSRHUB has ratings for about 5000 companies worldwide so far.  The ratings are based on four scales – community, employees, environment, and governance.  Ranked search results by industry are based on your settings for the four adjustable scales depending on how you value each.  There are also special issues of concern (accessible with a paid subscription) to use in further filtering results, such as nuclear power connections, board diversity, and involvement with pesticides/pollutants.  Also with a subscription, users can save search results and export them in spreadsheet format.

The CSRHUB site is set up so that you can go directly to a particular company’s rating page or you can search for groups of companies by industry, region or data source.  They currently have over 130 sources that they access for data to consider when rating a company.  These range from the Calvert Social Index to EPA Climate Leaders list to Working Mother magazine’s list of mother-friendly companies.  The entry for each company (when accessing the database as a subscriber) lists basic contact information, their overall and individual scale ratings (based on your preference settings), sources of data that were used in determining their rating, ratings history (graphically by month), and optional reports to purchase.  There are also typically links to recent articles pertaining to CSR topics where the company was mentioned and even current job openings listed.

Access to the basic search and CSR ratings features are available without even registering for the service.  But by registering you get the added benefits of creating unlimited profiles and lists of companies.  These can be shared with other users as well.  Registering also allows you to post to their discussion forums.  For those who want more access to the large amount of data and ratings (segregated into 12 subcategories) on CRSHUB, subscriptions on a personal or professional level are available.  Personal level access can be purchased on a monthly or annual basis for as little as $8/month.  A chart of the features by subscription status is available.

And have no doubt that they embrace their mission fully—CSRHUB recently elected to become a B Corporation.  B Corp status is a relatively new legal designation for companies that do not want to be confined to the traditional corporate dictate of profit above all else.  Currently a handful of states have passed legislation to allow B Corp status with another handful considering such legislation.  From CSRHUB’s website:

B Corps use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.  Unlike traditional corporations, B Corps agree to meet social and environmental performance standards, disclose their performance so that it is transparent, and include consideration of all stakeholder interests in their legal structure…. We are part of a community that intends to change the world and we need to show that we have whole-hearted dedication to our cause.

Since CSRHUB is still growing and expanding their database, they appreciate all feedback from users and potential users.  They want to hear from businesses and individuals about what CSR issues concern them most, which special issues are of greatest interest, how the data is being used, and how the site/service can be improved.  Here’s your chance to guide this data tool in a direction that helps save you time and gives you valuable information regarding your current and potential business partners.’

*We are not in any way affiliated with this tool

 

Four Notable Online Carbon Calculators for Business (and a supplemental paper calculator) February 17, 2012

If your company is just starting down the road of sustainability, and you’d like to get a sense of just how much your carbon emissions contribute to the CO2 on the planet, then taking advantage of one of the free internet carbon calculators for businesses is your ticket.  This is quick (typically under an hour of time) and relatively painless method of getting a snapshot view of your company’s annual emissions.

In all cases, it is very beneficial to have several recent months of utility bills (or total amounts) handy, as well as an idea of annual totals.  You will also need good estimates of miles travelled in all forms –  company cars and delivery trucks; business travel by rail/plane; and average commuting miles per employee.  Paper usage by type and amount (weight) should also be estimated since it is a significant impact of many office environments.  Once you’ve tracked down these numbers – or made educated estimates – the actual entering of data should only take a few minutes.

The four calculators detailed here are in no particular ranking.  More detailed information comparing the calculators will be available shortly on the Eco-Coach website.

TerraPass Business Carbon Footprint Calculator

TerraPass offers carbon offset management services for individuals/families and businesses.  This business calculator evaluates emissions in 5 areas: building/site; server/data center; vehicle fleet; additional business travel and commuting.  Results are shown in bar graph form and can be downloaded in PDF form for future reference.  Their Carbon Balanced Business Advisors are available by email or phone to offer guidance.  TerraPass was voted best carbon offset provider by TreeHugger  in 2010 & 2011.

CoolClimate Network Small Business Carbon Footprint Calculator

This calculator was developed by researchers at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at the University of California, Berkeley.  Although it is labeled for small business, it is applicable for most sized businesses.  Data is entered under three main categories: facilities, transportation and procurement (which  includes 20+ subcategories – each with default values available— to help companies track their impact through the supply chain).  This calculator requires a bit more effort in tracking down a variety of input data and doing some pre-calculations.

The summary of results compares your company to averages for your industry.  Your company’s results can be saved to an online profile.  Finally, “Take Action” steps are suggested as ways to pledge to reduce your company’s carbon impact.  This calculator was reviewed in the May, 2011 issue of Environmental Science & Technology journal.

Carbon Footprint Business Calculator

Carbon Footprint is a UK-based carbon management services company.  This business calculator is more suited for small businesses and is available in 13 languages with metric and American measurement options.  It assesses emissions on energy use of the office building and transportation (divided into 3 sections – fleet mileage, flight travel and public transit).  Consultants are available by email or phone (remember the time difference – they are based in the UK) for additional guidance.  A PDF emissions report by source, ideas for carbon reduction and management planning guidance is available for purchase ($20-30).

Carbonfund.org Business Carbon Calculator

Carbonfund.org is a nonprofit that provides carbon offset solutions for individuals and businesses.  This business calculator is comprehensive and evaluates emissions in 7 areas: office site; vehicle fleet; additional business travel; commuting; special events; paper usage and shipping.  The amount of data considered will require more time commitment in collecting or estimating numbers.  There is no option for exporting a final summary report or viewing a graphical representation of your company’s performance.  They do offer you options to select from (renewable energy, energy efficiency or forestation) to immediately offset your carbon contributions.  Carbonfund.org was the Reader’s Choice for best carbon offset provider by TreeHugger in 2010 & 2011.

For the carbon calculators that don’t include calculations for office paper usage, there is a supplemental calculator provided by the Environmental Paper Network .  It calculates carbon impacts for many different types of paper and paperboard based on weight (tons) and percent recycled content.  This can then be added to the results from one of the business footprint calculators.


 

Which is better for the environment-using paper or a computer? January 6, 2012

With the rise in popularity of mobile devices, such as smart phones, tablets, and e-readers, the question of whether it is better to read something on an electronic device or in print has become even more complicated. The answer is just as confounded. To truly know the environmental impact of a product, you need to assess it from production to disposal (which hopefully involves recycling!). Although a full environmental assessment of all options is not possible here, I will attempt to give an overview of the environmental impact of electronic devices and paper.

Paper

A piece of paper releases 0.03 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents (the amount of greenhouse gases in terms of carbon dioxide impact). If the paper has 100% recycled post-consumer content, it produces a lot less-0.017 pounds of CO2 equivalents. In terms of newspapers, 1 ton of newsprint kills 12 trees. The average recycled content for newspapers in the U.S. is only 35%. Creating wood pulp out of the trees is very energy-intensive and produces large amounts of pollution. In fact, the pulp industry is the third highest polluter in the U.S.

Farming trees specifically grown to produce paper also reduces biodiversity. Some tree species provide better quality paper, so we plant more of those and cut down old-growth trees to make space. This emits carbon dioxide into the air that had been stored for hundreds or thousands of years, and which these new trees can’t hope to recapture during their short lifespan. Pesticide and herbicide use is also a problem, since these are required to maintain the monoculture of tree farms.

The moral here is, if you are going to print something, please use recycled content paper, or better yet-reuse paper by printing on the blank side (though this strategy doesn’t really work for books).

Electronic devices

Alright, so everyone probably knew that making paper kills trees. But do you know what impact computers, e-readers and other mobile devices have on the environment?

Electronic devices are usually made out of plastic, which biodegrades extremely slowly, and also often contain rare metals like coltan that require mining. They also require a lot of energy to manufacture, ship and discard, and sometimes include toxic chemicals inside. Using a computer or other mobile device also requires a lot of electricity, which in the U.S. mostly comes from coal. The energy goes towards powering the device itself, but a significant amount also goes towards powering internet servers, even more so now that the use of “cloud computing” has increased in recent years. In terms of CO2 emissions, Apple has announced that using an iPad only releases 0.004 pounds of CO2 equivalents per hour and that over its lifetime (including manufacturing, transport and recycling), an iPad will produce 231 pounds of CO2 equivalent, which is the same as 7,700 sheets of regular paper or 13,600 sheets of recycled paper. In this comparison, the iPad comes out on top if you think of the number of pages you can read on an iPad during its lifetime without killing one tree.

However, International Paper,  a world-wide printing company, argues that the large energy consumption of devices such as the iPad makes paper a better choice. Powering a computer for five months requires the same amount of energy used to produce a year’s worth of paper for the average person. It also points out that paper has a much higher recycling rate in the U.S. (60%) compared to electronic devices (18%), which are instead often shipped to third-world countries where they contaminate landfills.

To sum up, the answer is complicated. If you read thousands of pages a year on your electronic device, then it might be better than printing thousands of pages. But then in four or five years (or probably sooner), you’ll have to buy the newest iPad, so what happens to the plastics and chemicals used in your original tablet? If you don’t read quite as many pages, then paper might be a good choice, but you would still be killing trees, encouraging biodiversity loss and increasing pollution from the pulp industry. Ultimately, whether to read print or electronic versions of your favorite newspaper or book is really a personal decision. If you already use your computer or tablet often, then also use it for reading. If you prefer the feel of a newspaper or book in your hand, then make sure to plant some trees.

Photos courtesy of Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and Building Green 

 

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.

 

Sports and Sustainability June 1, 2011

When people talk about sustainability they rarely think about how sports teams can implement sustainable measures. Sport entities are usually associated with entertainment and their objectives are generally to outperform other teams when in fact, sports and certain aspects of sustainability are directly linked. Sports teams are rewarded for their performance. Performance relates to sustainability because teams need to protect and develop the well-being of their players. In order to excel, players have to be in excellent health through proper diet and consistent exercise, which is directly related to one of the objectives of sustainability: nurturing human health. Basically, sports teams are already implementing some ‘people’ related sustainable measures without giving much thought to the benefits that can be obtained. Sports teams can further benefit from these practices by integrating sustainable initiatives throughout the entire organization.

Office of Sustainability

Some sports teams have started departments that focus their efforts on sustainability. Unfortunately, effects from the economic crisis have caused some of these teams to curtail their sustainability efforts. A survey conducted in 2009 of 50 professional sports teams suggests that only 25% of the teams currently have full-time employee dedicated to their green program or are actively considering adding a full-time green employee. Sports teams are recognizing the potential benefits of environmentally sustainable initiatives and this number is expected to grow. The same survey suggests that 80% of teams have formed or are actively considering forming an internal green team. Internal green teams would provide sports teams with the necessary expertise to address social and environmental issues.

Sustainable Advertising

Advertising agencies are taking initiatives to make their line of work as clean and sustainable as possible. EcoMedia, an environmentally friendly advertising firm, created the EcoAd, an innovative way to provide green funding for sustainable projects nationwide. The EcoAd provides organizations with the option to sponsor environmentally friendly projects. These organizations are recognized through an EcoAd leaf that would appear on the advertisement. Through sponsoring these projects, organizations can demonstrate their vested interest in environmental initiatives while providing funding where it is needed.

As teams worldwide sold their jerseys as billboards to gambling websites, some take an alternative route. One example is FC Barcelona, who offered UNICEF their jersey to promote their organization while agreeing to donate at least €1.5 million ($2.1 million) over five years to support their programs for children worldwide. Additionally, with FCB’s partnership with IDB, the sports team will provide their knowledge and experience in sports for children and young people as well as their Barça trademark. This joint effort aims to “help prevent violence, promote social inclusion, and to complete their education and improve employment opportunities.”

Sustainable Facilities and Equipment

All sports entities have facilities and sports equipment to manage and maintain. Facilities have a longer lifespan than sports equipment, which is more consumable and renewed on a constant basis. Constant renewal of sports equipment creates large amounts of waste. Initiatives carried out by sports teams worldwide include recycling used sports material by donating it to developing countries and children in need. Alternatively, sports equipment itself can be derived from recycled material. Although sustainable initiatives regarding sports equipment rely mostly on the team’s sponsor, sports teams can use their position to require that sponsors deliver equipment that meets sustainable benchmarks. In the case of FCB, their sponsor, Nike,  has been carrying out sustainable initiatives on their own. The FCB jersey is fabricated out of polyester created out of plastic bottles and each jersey is made out of exactly eight bottles. Additionally, the energy consumption in producing these jerseys is 30% less that the energy needed in producing a convention shirt. According to Nike, the jerseys they supplied during the World Cup in South Africa used a total of 13 million plastic bottles picked up from landfills in Japan and Taiwan.

FC Barcelona has reached out to Ecoembes, a non-profit organization aiming at reducing waste in sports arenas, to reduce waste in their sports facilities. FC Barcelona owns several facilities, including a stadium that can seat 99,354, a Sports City, basketball court, and an ice rink. Integrating 435 recycling points for paper and plastic containers throughout their facilities resulted in over 171,000 kg (380,000 lbs) of waste being recycled during the first year that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

Future of Sports Sustainability

Although initial implementation of sustainable solutions is generally expensive in the short run, results in the long term can be profitable, saving on waste and energy consumption. Benefits from implementing sustainable initiatives in sports teams are becoming more accessible to all sporting organizations, but there are sport entities that are more will to take the lead.  If the most prestigious teams carry out sustainable initiatives, other will follow, creating a domino effect. Already there are some sports organizations in the USA that have started to implement various sustainable measures.

The Philips Arena, home to the Atlanta Thrashers, and the American Airlines Arena, home to the Miami Heat, meet the requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Additionally the Verizon Center, home to the Washington Capitals, and Rose Garden, home to the Portland Trail Blazers, have implemented energy conservation systems that save them thousands of dollars per month. 


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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 (www.airlie.com) – 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 (www.pittsburghcc.com) – 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 (www.eccr.com) – 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

 

Sustainability and the Consumer Electronics Show January 10, 2011

The world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), took place last week in Las Vegas, Nevada. The tradeshow is run by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which also produced something else of note last week: their 2010 Sustainability Report.

“CEA member companies have realized significant benefits from integrating sustainability into their business, from increased use of life cycle assessment in eco-design to further reductions of energy in the use phase of electronics, to innovative eCycling programs resulting in the recovery of millions of pounds of valuable resources.”

The 48-page report covers a range of topics in environmental and social performance, focusing on sustainable product and packaging design, sustainable facilities, sustainable transport and delivery, and eCycling. The report includes numerous case studies from member companies such as Best Buy and Apple, and these case studies bring up key questions for your consideration.

(1) What should be the focus of my business’s sustainability plan? This varies greatly for individual cases. For example, Apple completed a comprehensive life cycle analysis for every product and discovered that 97 percent of the company’s footprint is directly associated with its products and only three percent with its facilities. Therefore Apple has focused on designing its products to use less material, ship with smaller packing, and be as energy efficient and recyclable as possible. (See case study on p. 11.)

(2) How can we optimize the use of resources in our facilities? Greener buildings tend to reduce capital and operational costs and promote innovation, technological advancement and environmental protection. For example, Sony Electronics Inc. recently built a new head office building in San Diego which was awarded LEED Gold certification. Design elements included bicycle racks, dedicated parking spaces for staff who carpool to work or drive fuel-efficient vehicles, and efforts to use wood taken only from sustainably managed forests. (See case study on p. 21.)

(3) How well do we report our sustainability efforts? Many companies now publish sustainability reports in addition their annual corporate financial reports, communicating with customers, shareholders, communities and employees. All 10 of the largest CE companies issue reports that document corporate environmental and social performance. These reports are guided by the Global Reporting Initiative, and are published on their companies’ websites for convenient access.

(4) How can my business take initiative in our community? AMD, a semiconductor design company, has begun installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at locations in Austin, Texas, and Sunnyvale, California. The company believes that this initiative will serve as an example for other businesses in these areas, encouraging the growth of infrastructure for the EV market. It also will tip the balance for those employees and community members considering the purchase of an EV but who are concerned about the availability of charging stations nearby. (See case study on p. 28.)

The 2010 Sustainability Report can be found online at CE.org and is a good source of inspiration for many different aspects of commercial sustainability. CEA also recommends two additional reports for information on the consumer electronics industry and its sustainability efforts.

+ CEA 2010 Sustainability Report
+ The Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Impact of Telecommuting and e-Commerce
+ Energy Consumption by Consumer Electronics in U.S. Residences

 

 
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