Eco-Coach

Green your life at home, work & play

Crowdsourcing competitions that help the environment April 22, 2012

In the spirit of joining the collective effort for a healthier planet in celebration of Earth Day (April 22) ,we have rounded up three crowdsourced competitions that will get your creative juices flowing.  Crowdsourcing, if you are unfamiliar, is a way to achieve a goal or get work done by opening up the task to a wide group of people, such as all employees in a company or the entire online community.  By sharing our inspiration, we can help each other dream up even better ways to achieve a sustainable world.

The latest challenge was recently announced by EMC in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund and InnoCentive and supported by Popular Science.  They are looking for new ways for electronic waste (e-waste) to be tracked from collection points to the final disposal or dispersal.  There are possible multiple awards available with the top winner taking home at least $5,000 and possibly $10,000.  The deadline is June 3, 2012.  More details are available at the InnoCentive website.  Check out InnoCentive’s offerings and services while you are there.  They have made crowdsourced competitions their business.

The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge is held by the United Postcode Lotteries each year.  It was started by the Dutch Postcode Lottery which was founded in 1989 to help create a fairer, greener world. This is an international competition that seeks entries for creative business plans for products or services that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or enhance a low carbon economy.  Entries for this year are due by July 31, 2012.  First place winners are typically awarded 500,000 euros and a runner-up is also chosen who receives a lesser award based on available funds.  Last year’s winner designed an innovative, water recycling shower head and the runner-up designed a simple, cheap mechanism to tilt solar panels perpendicular to sunlight for use in third world countries.  More information and videos of the past five winners are available on their website.

MIT’s Climate CoLab has run several competitions over a number of years based on key questions related to climate change.  For 2011 the question was “How should the 21st century economy evolve bearing in mind the risks of climate change?”  For 2012 the competition is happening in phases.  The first phase ended April 15th and asked “How should we eat given the risks of climate change?” and “How should the world’s transportation infrastructure evolve given the risks of climate change?”  The next phase will be announced soon.  As they are announced, details are available at their website.  Aside from being able to influence national and international policy with a winning proposal, there does not seem to be a monetary award directly attached to the competition.  But, hey, it’s MIT.  Just the kudos from them should be sufficient.

We wish everyone the best of luck in taking on these challenges!  We look forward to hearing about the winning concepts.

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Opportunities to solve eco-challenges April 18, 2012

In the spirit of  Earth Month, EMC Corporation, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and InnoCentive Inc, are looking for eco-innovators to help solve the challenge of electronic waste (e-waste). The challenge ends on June 3rd, 2012 and is open to the public for submission. Figuring out how to keep large amounts of obsolete electronics from being disposed of improperly is just one of the hundreds of issues our society is facing.

Organizations like InnoCentive help everyday people put their intellectual and creative expertise to work in order to solve real life challenges. InnoCentive allows you to create an account and browse through numerous challenging opportunities to help create solutions through innovation. All of the challenges provide monetary awards for winning ideas- not to mention that adding your experience in eco-innovation to a resume can open doors for other green opportunities.Challenges call for experts in business, chemistry, engineering, design and more. The demand for eco-innovation is on the rise, and it is encouraging entrepreneurs and thinkers to help out.

 

The Most Sustainable Companies of 2011 February 3, 2012

It’s that time of year again, compiling multiple summaries of anything and everything that happened in 2011 that you could care to read about: the Top Energy Stories, the Weirdest, Wildest Animal Stories and, of course, most sustainable large companies. In this analysis, Corporate Knights, a clean energy magazine, ranked the top 100 sustainable companies in 22 countries. Japan had the greatest number of companies, 19, while the U.S. came in second with 13, an improvement by one from 2010’s assessment. Other countries with a large number of green companies were: the UK (11), Canada (eight), Australia (six), Switzerland (six), France (five), Denmark (four), Finland (four), Brazil, Germany, Norway, and Spain (three each).
The analysis criteria ranged from comparing income to amount of waste produced and water consumed, as well as the percentage of women leaders and level of transparency in the company. Johnson & Johnson was the highest ranking U.S. company (number two overall), with Norway’s Statoil ASA taking the top position. Finland’s Nokia OYJ was number four, Intel Corp number six, Britain’s AstraZeneca PLC number seven and General Electric Co. number 11. Other notable U.S. companies, like Procter & Gamble Co., Kraft Foods Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Coca-Cola Enterprises, ranked 44th, 45th, 75th, and 78th, respectively.
To learn more about Corporate Knights’ analysis, visit their website.

 

Washington, DC Truly LEEDs the Nation! January 26, 2012

Washington, DC has been announced as the leader in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)! In the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual list of the top 10 states with the most square feet per capita of LEED certified buildings (which actually has 11 entries since DC isn’t a state), the district came out on top with 31.5 square feet per person, bringing it to a total of almost 19 million square feet. That is an increase of 6.35 square feet per person from DC’s 2010 numbers, when it also led the nation. Colorado came in second with 2.74 ft2 and Virginia and Maryland also did well, coming in at 4th and 6th, with 2.42 and 2.07 square feet per person, respectively. Interestingly, neither Nevada nor New Mexico are on the 2011 list, even though they were 2nd and 3rd in 2010. It is important to note that some other states have a greater total number of square feet that is LEED certified, including Illinois (#3) with 34.5 million ft2, Texas (#8) with 50 million ft2, and New York (#10) with 36.5 million ft2.

DC has a large number of green buildings per capita due to efforts by the federal government (it owns or uses 30% of LEED certified buildings) and because many buildings host workers who do not live in the district, but rather commute from Virginia or Maryland. Since the Executive Order issued in 1999 on “Greening the Government through Efficient Energy Management”, many federal agencies have developed sustainability plans involving LEED for their buildings and facilities. The General Services Administration was the first government agency to adapt aim for LEED certification in their buildings (2003), and now aim for LEED Gold, and the U.S. Navy was the first government agency to certify a LEED building. 2006 was a big year for LEED, when the USDA, the EPA, NASA, and the Smithsonian all implemented policies that required LEED Silver or LEED certification for new construction and large renovations. Since then, other agencies like Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Interior, the Department of State, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Air Force and Army have all created policies requiring LEED Silver, certification or their equivalent as well.

In addition to the federal government guidelines, the district has a few policies of its own. Since 2006, all non-residential, public commercial buildings must be LEED Silver. Since 2007, all public schools and renovations on commercial buildings larger than 30,000 square feet must be LEED certified. All new or renovations of non-residential, private buildings over 50,000 square feet must develop and implement a green building checklist and next year all non-residential buildings and institutions of higher learning must receive LEED certification. Additionally, since 2008 all new and renovated metro (WMATA) facilities must be LEED certified.

LEED, pioneered by the U.S. Green Building Council headquartered in DC, has certified projects in all 50 states and 120 countries.

Photo courtesy of: The U.S. Green Building Council

 

Energy conservation or energy efficiency? Or both? January 20, 2012

Saatchi & Saatchi’s  Strategy for Sustainability winter 2012 newsletter featured a recent article featured from the Guardian  that highlighted the fact that we now use 15 times more energy than we did prior to the industrial revolution. That shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that fossil fuels are involved in most activities – from growth and transportation of the food we eat, to the hot water for our shower, the fuel for our transportation (unless you walk or bike), and the power for our computers, phones, printers, etc… The article points out that although the majority of conversations are focused on finding alternative forms of energy supply, reducing energy demand is largely overlooked and should be something that is incentivized and regulated.

Speaking as someone who spends a lot of her time educating and encouraging organizations and individuals to reduce, reuse, repurpose and really, rethink, their energy, water, waste and product use, I agree that conservation is important. Regardless of whether you believe in Peak Oil or not, the fact remains that the earth’s population is increasing at an exponential pace – in the 1950’s, there were about 2.5 billion people on the planet, and now, a mere 60 years later, there are 7 billion. We are utilizing a finite resource and our needs are growing exponentially. Conservation is certainly important, as are finding alternative energy solutions.

Although it would be great for energy to be considered as a public good, as the article states, this will likely not happen in the near future, so energy conservation is one of the ways to stem the growth of energy use, at least for the short term.  Energy efficiency, of course, is a great first step in that discussion. Energy efficiency can reduce direct energy consumption by as much as 20-30%. Steps for this are more or less widely known – for commercial buildings, they range from switching to more energy efficient lighting, installing occupancy sensors and installing an energy management system, to looking at more holistic smart building solutions.

Once these measures are in place, it is time to look at energy conservation. This involves getting people on board – and this can be a tougher proposition, one that requires not only education but ongoing cheerleading, for lack of a better term. I have had CEOs and COOs tell me that their staff will ‘do as they are told’. Even if this is the case (which in most cases, it is not), obedience to mandated rules will be short-lived and will cause ill-will. I recently went to a Sustainable DC Energy Workgroup, one of nine workgroups convened with the end goal of providing an innovative plan to ‘make DC the greenest, healthiest, and most livable city in the nation’. The question was raised there as well –  ‘how can we get people to change their behavior – why is it so hard to do?’

That is a great question, and one that I find many organizations struggle with – once they realize the importance of it. Behavior change can add another 10-15% , if not more, in energy conservation, so it is certainly something that should not be ignored.  There are no easy solutions to successful behavior change.  Answers range from educating and incentivizing to recognizing to challenging individuals to conserve energy. It all depends on the organization’s culture –whether it is hierarchical or flat, its size, and its vision. These, among others, are all ingredients to the recipe that will, ideally, result in reduced energy consumption.

Another way to conserve energy, indirectly, is to look at the embodied energy from all the products that are used in a regular office environment or at home. This is a tougher one to measure, but, as a starting point, it can be addressed by following a couple of basic rules: simplify and buy ‘green’ products.

Simplifying means less stuff in your life – whether that is at your office or your home. It means thinking twice about whether something is really needed before you hit the ‘Buy’ button or put in a purchase order.  It means reusing items and again, rethinking.

As for buying ‘green’, this means what I’m sure many of you have already guessed – purchasing items that are made of 100% recycled content, that are sustainably harvested and produced, and that can be reused or repurposed.  The energy required to recycle a product is less than the energy required to make a new one.

So, conserving starts with getting people on board and simplifying processes and your life. And, although it sounds simple, it is tougher to do than installing energy efficient mechanical equipment, but it is just as important – if not more.

 

A Green Company to Watch: Puma December 7, 2011

Puma, one of the world’s leading sports gear companies, is truly a company to watch because of their success but also because of their dedication to sustainability initiated by their CEO and Chairman Jochen Zeitz. After joining Puma in 1990, Zeitz completely changed the look and style of the company. Although many thought this was crazy, it eventually caught on and helped Puma reach $2.3 billion in annual sales in 2006. What is even more impressive for us green-minded people is Puma’s sustainability initiatives spearheaded by Zeitz. He has helped Puma reduce its use of hazardous chemicals, redesigned its shoeboxes to reduce packaging waste and supported solar power development. Now, after decades of research and changes to increase transparency, Puma is releasing a report that monetizes their impact on the environment through their use of environmental services, such as clean water, crops, soil formation, wildlife habitat and storm protection. Although this was no easy task, it greatly helps Puma to determine which areas are the worst-offenders and thus how to improve its overall environmental impact. From this new Environmental Profit and Loss Statement, Puma has learned that it would have to pay $133 million a year for the impact caused by its water use and greenhouse gas emissions. The report also found that the most expensive areas in terms of environmental impact are: cotton farming, natural rubber production and cattle ranching.

The next goals of the statement are to report social impacts as well as more environmental ones and to eventually also reflect the positive outcomes of Puma’s business, such as raising the level of education and health in an area. Zeitz has now moved on to become the Chief Sustainability Officer for Puma’s parent company, PPR SA, as well as head of the sport & lifestyle group. I, personally, am looking forward to seeing how Puma will use this new knowledge to decrease their environmental impact in the coming years.

To help your own business evaluate the ecosystem services it uses, check out the Guide to Corporate Ecosystem Valuation by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Photo courtesy of Greener Package

 

Green Office Pioneers in the DC Metro Area: Part 2 November 28, 2011

The second installment in our series on green offices in the DC metro area is the new East Coast headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in Fort Belvoir, VA. The building received a LEED Gold rating, the second highest LEED rating and the largest federal government building to receive such a high rating (2.2 million square-feet). The office focused on three areas: water, energy and transportation. By collecting 

rainwater and using low-flow fixtures, NGA saves about 3 million gallons of water a month. It also reduces energy use by 30% with efficient lighting w

ith motion sensors and transparent ETFE roofing to provide more natural daylight. Carbon dioxide emissions from cars are reduced by NGA encouraging their employees to use public transportation.

NGA also included healthier materials in their building, including ones with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contain chemicals that can cause headaches, nausea, and eye, nose and throat irritation, among other things. Chilled beams are also incorporated into the building to further reduce energy use associated with heating and air conditioning, since these reduce the power used by the fans.

Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense

 

 
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