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Business Faces New Environmental Challenges and Opportunities in 2015

March 25, 2015
For twenty five years, GreenBiz has been a catalyst for thought leadership at the intersection of business, technology, and sustainability through its website, events and peer network.  This past month, their eighth annual report was released on The State of Green Business—2015.  This link takes you to a page where you will be asked to fill out a short form and you will be sent a link to the free report.  It was completed in partnership with Trucost, a company that works with companies, investors, governments, and academics and thought leaders to understand the economic consequences of natural capital dependency.
What follows is a brief overview to this comprehensive and eye-opening report.  Why should sustainability officers be interested?  For several reasons, including the value of staying informed and current on the big picture of trends and innovations in business and industry, being aware that governments at all levels are working with corporations on projects and problems of mutual interest and concern such as energy and water, and recognizing that we are doing business every day with companies whose sustainable business goals and practices are impacted by our volume of business with them and the expectations we bring to our dealings with them over how their products are sourced, processed, manufactured, and delivered to our doors. 
This year’s report indicates that companies remain committed to sustainability and in particular, the focus on natural capital dependency risks and opportunities has grown 85% in the past year to include 350 companies.  Natural capital refers to the stock of resources and ecosystem services on which all companies depend for their success.  As Trucost explains, it isn’t “all about carbon” and traditional fossil fuel concepts such as oil, coal, and natural gas; it’s about water, land use, waste and pollutants. It’s about which raw materials are used and where they are sourced, from energy and water to metals, minerals and agricultural products.  Business is looking at the price tag of their methods of production and seeking ways to minimize the real business risks of relying on unsustainable practices in the face of tougher regulation and catastrophic environmental conditions, such as severe water shortages.
The good news is that many of the largest companies in the US and globally are making big changes.  Interface, Shaw, Puma, Nike, General Mills, Philips, Adobe, BMW, Coca-Cola, and Nestle, to name just a few. 
Here are some of the ten green business trends discussed in the report, which also includes helpful graphs and video clips of business leaders discussing their views and actions.  Unlike the past, companies are now sharing their knowledge and lessons learned so that innovation in sustainability is being accelerated.  The Rocky Mountain Institute is a great resource to learn more about how they are driving advances working with groups in industry sectors.  Big business is leading the way for renewable power—think IKEA and the solar roofs on 90% of its US stores.  Attention to water risks has grown into action.  Example—Nestle is now using water extracted from milk it uses to convert it to use for cleaning, a savings of 1.6 million liters of water a year.  Companies are valuable catalysts for change in cities, developing partnerships to bring intelligent design into use for traffic lights and smart parking, among other things.  How about that?  An app for finding the nearest parking space.  Saves on gas, wear and tear on the vehicle, and time. From the city’s perspective, pollution is decreased and parking meter revenues upped with less down time from vacant vehicles.

This report is not a quick read, but it breaks down in easily digestible and highly readable chapters.  Take the time to read it and GWG thinks you’ll be well-informed and inspired to tackle your green goals knowing that you’re in good company. 

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The Hour is Near

January 28, 2015
Earth Hour is coming up on March 28, 2015.  This is the 8th year of the largest mass participation “street party” in world history.  What began as an inspirational event to switch off the lights for one hour to signal support for a sustainable planet has grown to an interconnected global community sharing the goal and taking actions in cities and countries “going beyond the Hour”.  Just a few examples—Earth Hour supporters raised funds to provide fiberglass boats to fishermen impacted by the typhoon in the Philippines, to drive policy actions to save the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, to publicize energy-efficient lighting in the UAE, and to provide fuel-saving stoves that reduce deforestation and protect natural habitats in Nepal and Madagascar.  The WWF and other sponsors organize Earth Hour programs and events.  In 2014, 162 countries and hundreds of millions of people joined forces for Earth Hour and beyond. Read about the many projects and environmental outcomes that were accomplished in the annual report.
Earth Hour has a free tool kit on its website with downloadable posters and logos that green teams can use to publicize Earth Hour.  Consider ways to support this event by raising donations from bake sales, silent auctions, or used book sales.  Just released this week is the new Earth Hour video for 2015.  It’s a two-minute collage of music and clips from events around the world.  To promote and garner interest in your Earth Hour events and other green office activities, this video this would be ideal to run continuously in your office lobby, cafeteria, and in other common spaces of the office.
Turn out the lights on March 28 for an hour starting at 8:30 p.m. local time and check out all the ideas for turning inspiration into actions and outcomes at Earth Hour.

Learn more about Earth Hour here

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Bookmark This Resource--The Greening Advisor

January 21, 2015
For as long as GreenWorksGov has been in existence and during my stint as our agency’s first sustainability officer, I have relied on the abundance of information and resource material of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).  The NRDC takes an active role in the most significant, and often controversial, environmental issues.  For this week’s blog, however, GWG is looking to the valuable service the NRDC offers in the form of its Greening Advisor for Smarter Business. 
The Greening Advisor is an online resource to help businesses and other organizations to reduce their environmental impact.  It is easy to follow, goes step by step, and is a comprehensive compendium of “how to do it” recommendations to tackle everything from the business reasons to go green,  how to reduce waste, consume less paper and energy, and use resources more efficiently.  The Advisor devotes specific sections to topical areas such as purchasing and transportation.  It’s practical, non-dogmatic, and helpful.  Don’t miss the Principles and Practices sections, which set out the key components of structuring a successful green program.  For example, the Advisor underscores the importance of an enterprise-wide environmental policy statement and includes a sample policy.  Sample language is included for purchasing policies and contracts, too.  And not to be forgotten—the annual sustainability report which documents the commitment to the effort and lets the public, customers, employees, and business partners know that accountability matters.  A number of corporate business reports are included for easy reference as examples. The Greening Advisor is an excellent resource for those just getting a green effort underway and for those more mature programs looking to refine and expand their initiatives.
The NRDC Greening Advisor evolved as a result of many business contacts to the NRDC requesting assistance and advice on how to reduce their environmental impacts. Famously, the owners of the Philadelphia Eagles football team contacted the NRDC in 2004 for help in improving the team facilities, services, and stadium’s environmental profile.  Shortly after, the Academy Awards sought advice for its annual awards ceremonies and telecast, and Warner Music Group sought the NRDC’s help in finding more eco-friendly paper inserts for its CD and DVD packaging and instituting changes to its paper usage and consumption practices.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is one of the most powerful and effective environmental action groups in the U.S. The NRDC views its mission as safeguarding the earth—its people, plants, animals, and the natural systems upon which life depends.  The NRDC advocates for strong environmental protection with a focus on global warming clean energy, the oceans, wildlife, health, pollution, water supply and quality, and sustainable communities.  With a membership of 1.5 million and a staff of 450 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals, the NRDC is a major force for ensuring compliance with environment protection laws and creating solutions to problems that threaten our environment and well-being. 

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Past, Present, and Future

December 24, 2014
This day we dedicate to reflection.  And on a practical level, consider the value of an inspirational quote now and then to motivate action and sustain your endeavors. 
“The supreme reality of our time is ...the vulnerability of our planet.” - John F. Kennedy
“The frog does not drink up the pond in which it lives.” - Chinese Proverb
“If we take all this action and if it turns out not be true, we have reduced pollution and have better ways to live, the downside is very small. The other way around, and we don’t act, and it turns out to be true, then we have betrayed future generations and we don’t have the right to do that.” 
―Tony Blair
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi 
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” 
― Theodore Roosevelt
“They ravaged neither the rivers nor the forest, and if they irrigated, they took as little water as would serve their needs. The land and all that it bore they treated with consideration; not attempting to improve it, they never desecrated it.” 
― Willa Cather, Death Comes For the Archbishop
“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi 
“When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: if you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren't pessimistic, you don't understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren't optimistic, you haven't got a pulse.” 
― Martin Keogh, Hope Beneath Our Feet: Restoring Our Place in the Natural World
“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” 
― Chief Seattle
 “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
With credit to these two quotation sources—check them out for quotes you can use on bulletin boards, in your newsletters and to inspire your green team meetings. 
Congratulations for all the good work that green teams around the globe accomplished in 2014, and join GreenWorksGov in re-newing our collective commitment to greening our offices  and realizing progress to sustainability even more in 2015.
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Courting the Environment

December 17, 2014
This week’s blog isn’t for law offices only!  In the course of our lives, professionally and personally, at some point we are likely to be dealing with our court systems at the local, state, or federal levels.  Among the many innovations that courts have undertaken in recent years is to adopt technologies that improve the courts’ efficiency and accessibility to the public.  One important trend is e-filing, which refers to the transition from a paper-based system to electronic filing and processing of actions, from traffic citations to litigation. 
The leading institution in the U.S. that serves as a clearinghouse of information and knowledge that is shared among the courts and as a leading think tank for innovation is the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), based in Williamsburg, Virginia.  The NCSC produces an annual report, Trends in State Courts, which is a compendium of articles with special focus on major issues and highlights significant projects and achievements in courts across the nation. 
Among the key trends reported this year are the adoption of e-filing and the conversion from paper-based processing and records management to digital images.  This trend is good news for the environment.  Law offices have been among the highest consumers and producers of paper.   When the courts mandate electronic transmission of documents, a beneficial side effect is the conservation of paper, toner, and even equipment.  We may not see reductions in overall consumption, but we can expect a reduction in the increase of both paper and equipment needed to meet future needs. 
Here are a few samples of the accomplishments from this year’s report:
Kentucky—e-filing will be implemented for all 120 counties by the end of 2015
South Carolina—the appellate courts have adopted a web-based case management system.  A 32 pound case box is now handled by a 23 ounce iPad.
Virginia—relies on e-filing for civil actions in 16 circuit courts and continues to roll it out statewide
Utah—E-everything!  Among the earliest adopters, Utah is expanding its e-filing to all civil and criminal cases and is shifting to electronic processing of payments, warrants, service, notice, etc.
Read the state-by-state summaries here; they start on page 41 of the annual report.
The NCSC practices what it preaches.  The 2014 e-Courts conference held this month was a paperless conference—no printed programs or handouts.  And the NCSC arranged for live streaming to the desktop and mobile devices of the keynote speaker presentation and all educational sessions.    
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