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"...Air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue."--John Muir

May 14, 2014
Last year, GreenWorksGov did a series on indoor air quality, specifically focused on fragrances and scents in the workplace.   As I looked out my window this morning and saw leaves stirring in the breeze, I realized I’d never written about air quality in the outdoor sense.  At least, not a dedicated article about air quality.  My “go to” resource is the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin my quest to learn about air pollution and air quality and what we can do about it.  Turns out, quite a lot. 
From EPA’s homepage, you can link to a series of pages about air quality and air pollution, AirNow.  The landing page has a feature that allows you to see the current air quality in any location in the US and Canada.  Looking for other countries?  There is a tab with instructions how to view air quality around the globe using Google Earth.  AirNow does a nice job summarizing the health risks of air pollution that could be a suitable subject for a newsletter item for green teams. 
The two features I want to highlight are the sections “What You Can Do” and a cool, free widget that I think would be a helpful addition to an Intranet Green page and would raise awareness about local air pollution and what affects the quality of the air we breathe.  “What You Can Do” has tips for transportation, household, lawn and garden, and precautions for days when the ozone levels are unhealthy and particle pollution is high.  One tip I wasn’t familiar with but makes perfect sense—refuel after dusk.  First among transportation tips is to choose a cleaner commute, such as mass transit, rideshare, biking, or walking to work.  Whether for business or personal need, combine errands to limit “cold starts” and avoid engine idling.
The free widget is brilliant! Consider posting this on your Intranet page which shows the current air quality in your area.   The link shows an image of what the widget looks like on a page and has the code right on it to paste to your webpage.  Include the zip code(s) you want to see and there you are!  Employees have an easy way to be notified of when air quality is in an unhealthy range, particularly a problem for children and the elderly, so they can modify activities to protect their health.
Another “go to” resource for green office teams is your state air quality control agency.  In California, that’s the Air Resources Board, which is a good resource for information about issues and has links to helpful guides.    
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Buildings, Conservation and Recycling, Pollution Prevention, Administrative Stuff

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Get Your Green Program in Transition for the Easy Basket

May 7, 2014
In a previous blog dated April 16, I introduced an ongoing series about how the sports industry is going green. I promised periodic blogs focused on specific sports of the season, so that green office teams can capitalize on timely opportunities to raise employee awareness and spur them to adopt eco-minded habits at work and in their personal lives. Also, it’s just plain fun. 
As I write, the National Basketball Association (NBA) teams are in playoffs heading to the final games of the NBA season. Basketball happens to be my favorite sport, so I’ve made the choice to start the seasonal sports blogs with the NBA. I had written in the first blog that each year the NBA hosts a green awareness week and has a NBA Green website with news about team green events, activities, and tips for fans. The NBA teamed up with the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2007 to create the NBA Green program. The program’s mission is to take steps to become a more environmentally responsible organization. A Green Advisor for the NBA was jointly developed with the NRDC to guide the league and its teams. The league is taking a comprehensive approach to sustainable practices including greener buildings, recycling and waste management, concessions, energy, water, travel, paper usage, and community service projects. The NBA boasts six LEED certified arenas and five solar roof installations. 
Just this past April, the NBA held its fifth annual Green Week, presented by Sprint to highlight league and team environmental initiatives.  Click here to read about what specific teams did during NBA Green Week.  Across the league, teams and players held in-arena awareness nights, recycling programs, hands-on service projects, and educational curriculum.  The Miami Heat hosted an annual Beach Sweep cleanup in South Florida, the Memphis Grizzlies players helped elementary school kids learn about bicycle maintenance and safety and hosted a Tour de Grizz, a pregame bike ride to FedEx Forum to promote alternative forms of transportation, players including Dwight Howard did Public Service Announcements to encourage fans to go green, and many other teams held events in their cities. These examples are a fraction of what the NBA teams do during Green Week and throughout the year.
The NBA Live Green tab is a mosaic of ongoing events and information to assist fans to participate in environmental projects.  Also, check your local team’s website for news and information about upcoming Green events.  If you live near one of the 30 NBA teams, this is a slam dunk to promote participation in a community service project hosted by your team.  For any green office team, you can publicize the NBA’s efforts, adapt one of their many project ideas to suit your circumstances, and share their green tips for fans.  I am convinced you’ll be as successful as Ray Allen is “automatic” at the foul line. 
Read more about the accomplishments and upcoming goals for the NBA’s Green Program here.
Read more about the NRDC and NBA Green program partnership here.  
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Reinventing Fire--Conclusion: Many Choices, One Future

April 23, 2014
This is GWG’s seventh and final chapter of Amory Lovins’ book, Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Future.  In it, he summarizes the vision of a future that is free of our dependence on fossil fuels, is a safer, more efficient, and cleaner world, and one that is more economically healthy and stable.  He describes the barriers, the opportunities, and the steps that need to be taken to achieve this vision, which by now readers understand is not dependent on unknown, new technologies.  The transformation has begun—we see it in the development of lighter, electric cars, buildings that are misers of energy, and micro-power grid designs.  Wind power already employs more Americans than coal.  What is needed is to accelerate the adoption of technologies we have today.
Realizing the vision largely depends on our will as a society, as countries, as businesses, and as individuals.  As Lovins quotes Henry Ford, “If you think you can, you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”   Focused action will be needed.  Lovins believes there have been four key errors since the Kyoto Protocal agreement in 1997 to curb climate risks and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).  They include the assumption that solutions are costly rather than profitable, an insistence that the motive is about climate change rather than security, profit or economic development, the assumption a global treaty was required for countries and business to take action, and the assumption that US businesses can do little before carbon is priced.  As these errors are realized, Lovins foresees that businesses and countries will lead climate protection efforts rather than governments.  Oil companies that diversify and transition to clean energy and biofuels will be dominant players while others will fade into history in the path of whalers and buggy makers.  History convincingly demonstrates that concerted action will bring results.  The US reduced its oil intensity by 5% a year between 1977 and 1985 and California shrank GHG emissions per dollar of Gross Domestic Product by 30% between 1990 and 2006. 
Lovins writes that an investment in the US of $4.5 trillion will produce economic benefits of $9.5 trillion, yielding $5 trillion in net wealth.  He makes a compelling argument that the US is the second biggest emitter of GHG, yet the nation is unwilling to lead global reductions.  We cling to our attachment to outmoded energy sources which forces us to maintain relationships with unsavory or unfriendly governments just for oil.  Reinventing fire solves this ethical dilemma and would help restore American’s moral authority and standing in the world, which lowers our national security risks.
Lovins includes a short survey of what other world countries are doing and the competitive advantages that they will realize if we fall further behind in investing in clean energy and renewables.  China, for example, is the leading manufacturer of five renewable technologies, including wind, photovoltaics, small hydrogen, biogas, and solar water heaters.  He puts forth six challenges that need to be mastered to guide the energy revolution.  We need to transform the auto industry away from gas-guzzling vehicles, to redesign communities so people live, work, and play in closer proximity, to build and retrofit buildings to greater efficiency, to accelerate energy savings and cogeneration in industry, to eep slashing the cost of renewable energy, and to revamp utilities from a profit model that depends on how much electricity they sell and to increase renewable sources of energy into their grids.
Powerfully, the future Lovins charts is possible by applying ingenuity and innovation to the technologies we have.  Reinventing Fire is a transformative book.  For this reader, it is a mind-bender and it demanded concentrated attention, the willingness to learn new concepts and terminology, and to get into the weeds about sources of energy, engineering principles, industrial processes, and technologies.  It’s so worth it.   We have one life, one planet, one chance to get it right. 
Click here to learn more about Reinventing Fire.
Click here to learn how to buy this book.
Click here to learn more about Amory Lovins.
Click here to learn more about the Rocky Mountain Institute where Lovins is co-founder and Chief Scientist.

    

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Buildings, Conservation and Recycling, Pollution Prevention, Administrative Stuff

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Why Sports Matters to Successful Green Programs

April 16, 2014
One of the great challenges most green teams will face is gaining the support and participation from employees who are vital to success.  Employee engagement can’t be taken for granted.  We can’t assume that everyone will jump on the bandwagon because we disseminate factual information.  Most people need an incentive.
One incentive or motivation is our human nature for social connection—our desire to belong, to be part of a group.  I think sports are a great example.  Whether it’s a  soccer team of third graders, a college basketball team (UConn Huskies!!), or a professional baseball team, people who may seem to have little in common come together over their shared support for their favorite sport or team. Workers in the office from the mail room to the executive floor may not understand the intricacies of each other’s jobs, but they can converse comfortably and knowledgeably with each other about the weekend football games.
I think we can shamelessly exploit our near-universal fondness for one sport or another and generate more support for sustainability because “everybody’s doing it” by taking every opportunity to publicize the greening of sports. If sustainable habits and practices are taking hold in our beloved sport, it’s a smart strategy to play this up with employees who might be more easily persuaded to be an active  fan of green when “everybody’s doing it”, especially their favorite sport or team.  Before you judge this a cheesy tactic, take a look at what the sports world is doing. 
Ohio State home football games have had a zero waste goal for four years.  In 2012, they achieved a 95 to 98% success rate in diverting waste from landfills by recycling and composting.  Pretty impressive when the team draws 100,000 fans per game. The Portland Trail Blazers NBA basketball team play in a LEED Gold certified arena,  purchase more than 95% compostable food and beverage containers, divert 80% of waste from landfills, and use bikes and electric vehicles for onsite operations, just to name a few things.  In 2005, Major League Baseball was the first professional sports organization to team up with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to build a sustainability partnership program.  All teams are involved.   Since then, virtually every major sport has teamed up with the NRDC to reduce their environmental impactMLB,  NBA, NHL, USTA, NFL, MLS, NLL, and the NCAA. NASCAR is the latest to sign on.
The NRDC has a website devoted to greening sports with news and information.  Also, they have developed a tailored Greening Advisor for each sporting group.  The steps that have been taken across all sports are exciting.  Just to cite two--Yankee Stadium obtains 100% of its power from wind farms.  The NBA annually has held green awareness weeks and has a NBA Green website with news about team green events, activities, and tips for fans. 
We can find leaders throughout industry sectors and green teams shouldn’t hesitate to use those examples to build support in their offices.  I think using sports to inspire and ignite “green team” support  can be an effective year-round strategy.  The NRDC website says it best:  “No matter what jersey your favorite team wears, there's one color that every sports fan can root for: green.”
I am so enthusiastic about this topic that GWG will devote blogs throughout the year consistent with the season of a particular sport to spotlight the steps and results that are being achieved. 

Follow college sports?  The NRDC has also issued, “Collegiate Game Changers, How Campus Sport Is Going Green. “ 

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Buildings, Conservation and Recycling, Pollution Prevention, Administrative Stuff

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Greening Your Meetings--A Slam Dunk

April 9, 2014
If you’re in the neighborhood, check out the Sustainable Meetings Conference in San Francisco, April 15-17.  It’s hosted by the Green Meeting Industry Council which seeks to integrate sustainability into all phases of event planning and execution.  It’s a good organization for meeting planner professionals, as is Meeting Professionals International.
A good place to start for anyone involved in planning or assisting in arranging a meeting and everyone interested in learning what makes a meeting or conference “green”, head to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website pages.
If you know of a group in your office planning an off-site meeting, here’s a list of green hotels in the US that have received independent certification for their green practices.  You can search Energy Star’s site for nearly 500 hotels and over 20,000 other types of buildings to find those which have been  Energy Star certified. Or head to EPA’s helpful pages with numerous resources to green hotels and lodges
Want to infuse some  environmental awareness into your weekly staff meetings or monthly pot lucks?  Some easy ones are to have a “No single use plastics, polystyrene, or non-recyclable containers.”  Encourage staff to opt for the stairs over the elevator to increase walking to the meeting room.   Meeting agendas and minutes should be distributed electronically and any paper handouts printed on two sides.  Sharing is good. For lunches and other gatherings in the office, ask staff to bring their own reusable utensils, serving pieces, and plates and cups.  Encourage a healthy menu sign-up sheet that includes fruits and vegetables and discourages “empty” calories.  You know the ones, we all do…. Ordering out for delivery?  Choose a local, farm-to-fork vendor, or other eco-minded food services supplier and tell them they were chosen because of this.

You can increase awareness by verbalizing your desire to have minimally negative environment impact  meetings or gatherings.  Raise it as an agenda topic at your next staff meeting and suggest your team identify “greening” your meetings as a regular business practice. 

Note:  Congratulations to the UConn Huskies on dual 2014 national NCAA basketball championships.  UConn is ranked by the Sierra Club as the #1 greenest college in the US, and was featured most recently in the August 28, 2013 GWG posting. Clearly, sustainability is complementary to success!

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