What's In Your In-Box?July 30, 2014
While idly browsing my in-box this past week trolling for topics to write about, it occurred to me that my in-box might be a good topic. Sustainability officers and green teams enhance their expertise and can add to their tool kit of ideas and strategies by staying abreast of green efforts underway elsewhere. I subscribe to a variety of bulletins and groups that publish news and information. This week’s column is just a sampling of some of them, and there are many more organizations listed in our Resources section. Most offer email subscriptions, Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds and other ways to stay connected.
Here’s what was in my mailbox in the past week or two.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG): http://www.ewg.org/
The EWG issues frequent reports and news aimed to protect and promote healthier living and covers consumer products, energy, farming, water, and toxics. GWG features EWG’s annual sunscreen guide among other issues.
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE): http://aceee.org/blog
ACEEE aims to act as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors. One solid resource about energy, and there are many others. This is their blog link.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/july/reporters-invited-to-nasa-hurricane-airborne-mission-media-day-at-wallops/#.U9xVpNuF-Zo
This is NASA’s news feed. What can we say? We’ve grown up with NASA and witnessed its evolution. Today it researches and provides invaluable information about our planet and our universe from hundreds of satellites around the globe and is a key contributor to knowledge about climate change and weather systems and much more.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): http://www.epa.gov/gogreen
The EPA has a number of blogs and reports you can subscribe to. This is their monthly “News You Can Use” and delivers information you can apply in the office and at home. There are always links to the vast resources of the EPA.
The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI): http://blog.rmi.org/blog_2014_07_31_Spark2014_26
The RMI is one of my favorite sources for all things energy. GWG did a lengthy series this past year on Amory Lovins' book, “Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era.” RMI charts a course for a future beyond fossil fuels.
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF): http://online.nwf.org/site/MessageViewer?dlv_id=161466&em_id=155002.0
The NWF is all about conservation and protecting our wildlife and natural resources. They are a vital link to learning about the impact of climate change and other forces on wildlife and wild places and safeguarding them for future generations.
There are many, many great resources that come in the form of email bulletins, blogs, tweets, newsletters, and more. These are just a few of the ones I receive and it is not possible to read them all, all the time. Still, subscribe to a variety of governmental, non-profit, and private news and info sources and you’re sure to find something you can share with your co-workers and some good ideas to develop for your green programs.
What's on Your Plate and How Far Did It Travel to Get There?July 23, 2014
Earlier this month, we published a blog about the water that is consumed in the production of food. This is the promised follow-up that focuses on the transportation of food and the sharp increase in miles that our produce and food products travel to get to market and to our kitchen table.
The Center for Environmental Education (CEE), an international clearinghouse and resource group that has been around for over twenty-five years, started our trek across the continental US and beyond to follow the path of moving food to the grocery store. This is a good starting point for understanding the concept of “food miles” and the role it plays in contributing to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions from the various modes of transportation that are used to transport fresh and processed foods, including frozen food and even organic food.
The CEE site linked up with the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA), a program that operates under an agreement with the US Department of Agriculture and provides information and assistance on sustainable agriculture. That site has a wealth of information. It summarizes studies and produces reports on various aspects of food production and its relationship to greenhouse gas emissions. For example, I was surprised to learn that processed food travels an average 1,300 miles to get to market. Organic food products can travel even farther, and one study of the Chicago market showed that fresh produce traveled 1500 miles. The miles traveled have increased steadily in the past fifty years.
Why has this happened? To a large extent, it’s a matter of consumer expectations for consistent produce year round and exotic ingredients. Also, as corporate farming has overtaken small farms, the suppliers for food have declined and producers can deliver their products across the country. Also, Americans have shown an increased attraction to packaged foods and frozen foods, making meal preparation easier and faster. ATTRA published a report, “Food Miles: Background and Marketing”, which makes for fascinating reading on the complexities of the shifts in our food system, eating habits, and the impact of food miles. Transportation is one of the two biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, but interestingly, personal transportation takes a second to the average American’s annual amount of energy used in the consumption of food. Alas, without change, the energy needed for our food system is insatiable.
This is a complex subject and the studies challenge some of our conventional thinking. So GWG will continue this next week when we discuss what is being done and how consumer choices can make a difference.
Why does it matter to green teams? The Department of Energy’s mantra that employees bring their green to work is one good reason. Green teams play a vital role in disseminating information on a wide array of topics outside the walls of typical operational matters related to building energy consumption, recycling, office paper, and procurement, etc. By expanding the sphere of green topics, we connect with people where it matters and that can produce results in the office by generating a wider appreciation for the effect each of us can have in reducing our carbon footprint, enjoying a healthier and longer life, and ensuring a future for our children where they have the blessings of a stable and supportive environment.
Catch Some Rays--Yes, Sir!!July 16, 2014
In the course of many years in government service, one thing I’ve learned is that if you want to know where innovation and technology are working to solve problems, it’s a good idea to check out the Department of Defense and the branches of the military. Need some encouragement that your green team is on the right path? Looking for advances that will spur your green building solar panels? Want some ammo to push for alternative energy fuels and vehicles to boost energy savings and conservation? Look no farther—this week we start a series on the many, many projects that the branches of our armed services have undertaken.
This week’s blog is but a brief introduction to future articles that will link you to some exciting efforts that are yielding results. We know from our own experiences that sustainability programs need top level commitment and resources to ensure success. The Department of Defense has made a strong commitment to address the implications of a changing global environment and secure an energy future that reduces demand and increases alternative and renewable supplies of energy.
Think gear and equipment for starters. This year’s annual Marine Corp event that invites industry to address capability gaps showcased boots, knee braces, and rucksacks that generate electricity and when combined produce impressive amounts of power and reduce battery load.
The Navy, which has already tested bio-fuels for its fleet in 2012, plans for third-generation biofuels to comprise 50% of the fuel used by deploying ships and aircraft throughout the fleet in 2016 and by 2020 50% of all shore-based energy produced will be from alternative sources. Energy factors will be mandatory considerations in all acquisitions for systems and buildings. Navy families are being encouraged in energy conservation practices through incentives for conservation and awareness programs.
Get a jump start on what’s to come from GreenWorksGov on the military’s impressive and aggressive efforts to transform the way the Department of Defense uses energy in military operations to meet 21st century challenges. Read more here: http://energy.defense.gov/Reports/tabid/3018/Article/3507/operational-energy-strategy.aspx
On the Ground in Brazil--How Green Was the Cup?July 9, 2014
In a blog last month, The World Cup Greens Its Goals, GreenWorksGov promised a follow-up on how well FIFA and the host country, Brazil, met their goals for the greenest World Cup ever. Our correspondent on the ground, Austin Freeman, dispatched this report of his observations. Austin is a 2009 graduate of Brown, recently worked at Half the Sky Foundation, which assists orphans in China, and he’s heading to business school at Pepperdine in the fall. As an undergrad, Austin interned for the California Attorney General’s Office and the Conference of Western Attorneys General. We are delighted to present his on-site coverage and are most appreciative of his willingness to spend part of his vacation checking out waste bins, etc. We trust he didn’t miss any exciting minutes of the matches….
Attending a World Cup for the first time in my life was an amazing and unique experience. I met fellow fans from every continent and felt firsthand the raw energy and excitement. Over the course of two weeks, I was fortunate to attend all five games held in Arena Pernambuco in Recife, one of the two stadiums used during the tournament that is fully powered by solar electricity, as well as the USA vs Ghana match in Natal’s Arena das Dunas.
While this World Cup has been noted for the high goal count and numerous thrilling games, it also stands out as the greenest in the tournament’s history. The millions who travel to host cities are likely to be unaware of the certifications for stadiums and carbon offsets for spectators, but during my time in Brazil, I saw firsthand the eco-efforts taken on the ground.
With the exception of a Brazilian beer, nothing on the stadium menu, (which included bland hamburgers, cold sandwiches, and bottled sodas), was unique to Brazil. Also, there was no sign of any locally grown organic foods or any types of organic fruits and vegetables. Food quality aside, all of the packaging except the thin wrap on hot food items was recyclable, which was well thought out and praiseworthy.
Recycling receptacles at the stadiums were prevalent, color coded, and clearly marked with symbols and in multiple languages. However, many fans never discarded their cups because they were customized with that match’s competing countries and made great souvenirs. While the majority of fans left the stadiums in good condition, Japanese fans took it to another level. After their games, they walked through the rows, picking up all trash and leaving the arenas in near spotless condition.
At Fan Fest, a huge watching area set up by FIFA in downtown Recife, recycling receptacles were significantly harder to find. It seemed that the organizers had not considered the increased waste produced by the crowds. However, the poorer members of the community took advantage of this and continuously combed through the crowd, collecting each beer can for its redemption value.
Considering the investment FIFA and Brazil have put in to make this World Cup environmentally friendly, I was surprised of the lack of promotion of their successes. I never saw a single ad for the “green passport” cell phone app, which shows fans how to travel around Brazil in an eco-friendly way, and I only learned about it when I returned to the States. During halftime, FIFA touted its fight against match fixing and boasted about its children’s program, but didn’t say a word about our stadium being entirely powered by the sun.
Despite some shortcomings, the focus put on sustainability efforts at the 2014 World Cup is commendable. According to the Practical Action, a British environmental group, the solar energy generated at Arena Pernambuco and Maracanã in Rio exceeds the national solar energy total of 11 of the 32 competing countries. However, statistics like these demonstrate how much more work there is left to be done around the world during the 1432 days until kickoff of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Get Smart about SustainabilityJune 25, 2014
Need to brush up on your knowledge about sustainability? Want to get an MBA that includes green courses? Or are you interested in free and fee-based courses leading to a certificate in sustainability?
I was amazed to see the variety of options. Google “sustainability online course” and you’ll get 7 million hits in a third of a second. There are lots of free offerings from colleges and universities across the country. I was impressed by the free, eight week Introduction to Sustainability course beginning in August. The course is available through Coursera, an educational platform that partners with universities to offer anyone, for free, access to courses. Their mission is to make a world-class education available to people to help improves their lives. The course will be taught by Jonathan Tomkin, a professor from the University of Illinois. Or consider Climate Change in Four Dimensions beginning July 1 for ten weeks. This course is co-taught by two professors from UC San Diego. What a deal!!
If a certificate is more what you’re looking for, you can obtain one from Harvard, through the Extension program, the International Society of Sustainability Professionals, which is an online webinar program, or UCLA’ s Extension program, just to name a few. I found links to dozens of schools offering individual courses and certificates, which can accommodate almost any location and pocket book.
Serious students seeking a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis on sustainability should start with Business Week’s 2012 rankings of top MBA schools for sustainability. The category rankings are updated periodically, but this was issued in 2013 and is the most recent ranking I could find.
All in all, some great stuff!