Eco-Coach

Green your life at home, work & play

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.


 

Teleworking: The Benefits for Employer, Employee, and the Environment October 17, 2011

What is Telework?

Telework is an arrangement in which employees work from remote locations during a certain percentage of the week to. Such a program involves utilizing current communication technologies so that the employee remains interactive with coworkers and supervisors. Although formally used as a luxury for select employees, an active and successful teleworking program has potential to positively affect a company’s financial accounts, employee satisfaction, and overall CO2 output.

Benefits and Costs.

The benefits of teleworking extend beyond financial gain. As more employees opt to work from home rather than a centralized location, businesses will see a positive effect on employee satisfaction and retention rate. Two-thirds of employees would choose to work from home if given the option and 36% would opt for teleworking privileges over a pay raise. It has been found that teleworkers are able to stay more relaxed and less distracted in an environment of their choosing.

Due to high employee retention rate and a decrease in demand for office space, the positive financial impact telework programs can have for a company expands to areas such as real estate, overhead costs, transportation, and new employee training. As of August, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has saved $19.8 million in real-estate costs alone since instituting the telework program.

The community as a whole can benefit from the implementation of teleworking programs. Highway conditions would improve and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions would decrease as fewer people depend on motor vehicles to get to the office.

Although the financial and social benefits outweigh the costs, it is important to take into consideration obstacles since teleworking is not for everybody. Technical issues that arise pertain to data security, providing IT support, state taxation policies, employer liability and zoning laws. Additionally, socially charged problems may result in collaboration issues and the fear of being ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ For a full list of cost and benefits, visit the Telework Research Network.

Get Started!

So now you are interested, but how do you start to implement a telework program in your company? Begin by assessing how much your company will benefit with the Telework Savings Calculator. With any business venture, the benefits must outweigh the costs. If they do, begin to investigate other programs. Research the types of software technologies and employee training you will need to invest in to make your program a success. To get you started, here are some sources for implementing a teleworking program:

Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 for government agencies

Implementing Telework: Lessons Learned from Four Federal Agencies by Scott P. Overmyer

Telework and ADA Compliance & Implementation Plan from the Telework Research Network

 

Bringing Modular Construction to the Electric Car September 26, 2011

If your computer died, would you throw the old one away, or would you send it to a recycling firm?  Hopefully you would do the latter.  Most computers are constructed using highly modular designs with discrete components, each of which have distinct useful lives.  Recycling firms can repurpose useful components and strip precious metals from nonfunctional or outdated parts.

Charles Gassenheimer, Chairman of Ener1, a leading battery technology firm serving the electric car industry, envisions a similar future for vehicle components.  Ener1 is working today towards a future in which consumers purchase electric cars and separately lease their expensive battery packs, reducing up-front costs and diverting waste from landfills.

Electric cars are similar to computers in that their components can outlast the overall device.  In the case of Ener1’s lithium-ion car batteries, 80% of their charge capacity is retained after 8-10 years (the typical lifetime of a vehicle).  Ener1 battery packs can be removed at the termination of their lease and dissembled into discrete modules.  These modules can then be recombined to serve a host of secondary functions.  One major application is large-scale energy storage for utilities, in order to distribute solar power at night.  Another use is in Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) backup systems for offices, computer systems, schools and hospitals.

 

Making a green commute with Capital Bikeshare September 2, 2011

Those that live or work in Washington, DC or Arlington, VA would be hard-pressed to miss the bright red and yellow bikes quickly becoming ubiquitous in the downtown area.  The bikes and their docks are part of a system called Capital Bikeshare, based on the Public Bike System design already in use in Montreal, Toronto, London, and Minneapolis (in addition to similar systems pioneered in Copenhagen, Lyon, and Paris).  The Washington/Arlington system currently encompasses over 1,000 bikes and 114 docking stations.

The Public Bike System (also known as Bixi, a portmanteau of bike and taxi) was designed from the ground up for sustainability and flexibility.  Every aspect of the docking station is modular and designed for simple repair, replacement, recycling and expansion. The solar-powered stations are installed without any excavation or construction and do not require external power, so they can be installed and moved according to demand.  Electronic monitoring and communications systems built in to the docking stations provide real-time usage metrics, including the location and status of all docked bikes.

There are many benefits of using a bikeshare system instead of a privately owned bicycle.  Capital Bikeshare manages all aspects of repair, maintenance and storage.  Sharing bicycles allows more people to use fewer bikes, which reduces manufacturing and materials use.  Because their bikes are based on a common design, broken bikes can be harvested for working parts, further reducing waste.

Bikeshare systems have tremendous potential to augment existing public transit options.  Capitol Bikeshare can reduce the load on the Washington Metro, which has experienced record riderships in recent years, while decreasing fossil fuel use and traffic congestion.

Visit www.capitalbikeshare.com to become a subscriber for a yearly fee of $75.
The Washington Area Bicyclist Association is an excellent resource for those interested in commuting by bike.

 

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


 

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).

 

Car Rental Takes a Turn for the Sustainable February 11, 2011

For many travelers today, car rental is an inevitable part of any personal or business trip. When deciding which car rental company to choose, have you ever taken the company’s sustainability efforts into consideration?

One major car rental company, Enterprise, recently made an announcement that they plan to spend more than $150 million to build or retrofit sustainable and more energy-efficient buildings. These projects will take place at over 1,000 of their locations nationwide and will go into effect over the next five years.

The plans are part of Enterprise’s set of internal sustainable guidelines: the Enterprise Sustainable Construction Protocol (ESCP). The goal of the ESCP is to create a healthy workplace and long-term savings through lower consumption of water and energy. The initiative focuses on seven areas:

1. Materials: Include regionally-produced materials and materials with at least 10% recycled content in construction

2. Energy: Use both interior and exterior energy-efficient controls and systems.

3. Sites: Build on previously developed sites and use materials that reduce the heat of parking lots.

4. Recycling: Reuse fixtures, furniture and equipment (e.g. rental counters, signs, furniture) and recycle construction debris.

5. Water: Install water reclamation systems or low-flow/high-efficient pressure wash systems, use high-efficiency plumbing fixtures, and design efficient landscaping.

6. Air quality: Use Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) material in paint, carpet, coatings, and adhesives and use Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) plans where appropriate during construction.

7. Process: Develop innovative approaches for each facility and ensure changes positively affect employee satisfaction.

Enterprise is clearly a leader in energy-efficient operations. They opened a location last summer at the O’Hare International Airport which became the rental car industry’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver-certified independent car rental location. The building was constructed using regional materials and includes a roof system that insulates the building and provides a suitable habitat for native plants. The facility also has a storm water retention system, energy-efficient lighting, and a system for recycling car wash wastewater. The new features have reduced the facility’s energy use by 15% and water use by 22%.

Green buildings aren’t the only change moving through the car rental industry. Enterprise has been putting together a fleet of energy-efficient cars, and they are the first company to add the new Chevrolet Volt. If you’re considering which rental car company to choose on your next trip, keep these companies and fuel-efficient cars in mind.

Alamo (nationwide) carries the Toyota Prius Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Saturn Aura Hybrid, Saturn VUE Hybrid

Avis (nationwide) offers the Nissan Altima Hybrid, Toyota Prius Hybrid, and Ford Escape Hybrid
Bio-Beetle (Los Angeles and Maui) carries biodiesel-compatible cars such as the Volkswagen Beetle, Golf and Jetta

Budget offers the Ford Escape Hybrid, Toyota Prius Hybrid, and Nissan Altima Hybrid

Enterprise (nationwide) carries the Toyota Prius Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Saturn Aura Hybrid, Saturn VUE Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid and Chevrolet Volt

Hertz (nationwide) offers the Ford Fusion, Toyota Prius Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima

National (nationwide) carries the Toyota Prius Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Saturn Aura Hybrid, Saturn VUE Hybrid

This list will continue to change as technologies change and as hybrid vehicles increase their share of the market. Keep in mind that these companies don’t offer hybrid or fuel-efficient choices at all of their locations, so remember to think ahead when planning your car rental. Not interested in driving a hybrid? Some companies, such as Enterprise, National and Alamo, offer the opportunity to pay an extra charge to offset the carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions from your rented vehicle.

 

 
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