Monday, 13 September 2010 11:56

Cutting Campus Food Waste & Global Warming Emissions

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About one-quarter of all the food prepared in the U.S. gets thrown out, according to the EPA. That's 31 million tons of food each year, much of which decomposes in landfills to produce methane—a heat-trapping gas about 23 times more potent than CO2. The foodservice company Sodexo is creating awareness about food waste among college students, linking waste to climate change. Sodexo's campaign, "Stop Wasting Food,"  is a follow-up to an Earth Day campaign in 2008 which resulted in 340 campuses eliminating the use of food trays. The current campaign urges students to take only what they can eat at campus dining facilities. Tom Post, Sodexo's president of campus services, said, "We are so careful to source and serve food for our customers in a sustainable way but if locally-sourced food ends up in a landfill then we're simply creating another environmental problem. The good news is that by simply thinking before we eat, we can trash our wasteful habits and dramatically reduce food waste today." In addition to methane from food waste, it entails disposal and therefore carbon emissions from transporting the waste. Food waste is also wasted resources. To reduce waste, Sodexo said it had helped National Geographic reduce water consumption by 18 percent in its cafeteria between 2006 and 2009. The company also assisted Cox Communications with improved recycling and composting, cutting waste by 80 percent. Learn more about how you can reduce your climate impact by visiting Carbonfund.org's Save Energy page: www.carbonfund.org/saveenergy.
CarbonFree® Events Partner Paul Mitchell Schools takes its best effort to make its Owners Summit as sustainable as possible twice a year, every year. In addition to calculating and offsetting the summit’s footprint, the hair design program completes a comprehensive checklist when planning the event to reduce waste, save energy and change behavior. This last part–changing behavior–helps the event create a legacy of sustainable behavior that extends beyond the event itself by changing the way its attendees live, its suppliers operate and its facilities function. Without revealing their entire checklist, I want to highlight a few of the broadly applicable sustainability practices any event can borrow from Paul Mitchell Schools: 1.       Print paper materials on recycled paper–if possible using vegetable-based inks. Also, reduce paper usage by, e.g., printing double-sided. This isn’t as trivial as it sounds. Citigroup found that if each of its employees saved only one sheet of paper per week by printing double-sided, the company could save over $700,000 per year. 2.       Make visible reduction, reuse and recycle services for people to use. Make it easy for your participants to make the right decisions and they will. Many events now label their trash receptacles “landfill” to drive the point home. 3.       Ask your caterer to minimize the number of disposables. Ask for non-disposable plates, silverware, napkins and coffee mugs if possible or use recyclables. 4.       Inform attendees on going green & ask them to participate. If you make this a priority, so will your attendees. Provide attendees tips on reducing their own carbon footprint and/or an option for your attendees to support carbon reduction projects. Carbonfund.org provides tips on our Save Energy page. 5.       Use left over paper as packing material to cushion boxes being shipped to and from your office. Be creative with the way you cut down on waste. Please share your own tips in the comment section below.
Friday, 10 September 2010 16:52

China Urges Collaboration in Solving Climate Change

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China's Vice Premier, Li Keqiang, said today that the international community needs to work together to overcome the challenges of climate change, working within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC/Copenhagen) and Kyoto Protocol while respecting the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities." Li was referring to China having signed on earlier this year to the Copenhagen Accord, which essentially calls for limiting the rise in global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius beyond pre-industrial levels. China has said it plans to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide per unit of economic growth, or "carbon intensity," by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, compared with 2005 levels. India also signed on to the Accord and set an intensity reduction target of 20 to 25 percent by 2020, compared with 2005 levels, excluding its agricultural sector. The United States has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 17 percent by 2020 (a target that is not tied to economic growth or carbon intensity) from 2005 levels. Li made his remarks in conjunction with briefing UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres in Beijing on the country's present policies and measures to reduce energy consumption, develop green jobs and promote environmental protection. China will host a session of the follow-up U.N. climate change talks in Tianjin this October. Currently, China’s energy consumption is growing faster than any other country’s, but on a per-person basis, China still consumes far less energy than other leading economies such as the U.S. To produce more clean energy and mitigate climate impact, China, already the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels, aims to produce 20,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2020. Together with wind power and biomass, renewable energy in China is expected to contribute about eight percent, or double the current level, of electricity generation in less than a decade. However, improvements have come with substantial costs. Upgrading the country's electricity grid alone cost China last year about $45 billion.
Wednesday, 08 September 2010 15:10

5 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Footprint as a Renter

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There is a lot of talk out there about how to “green” your home, but what if you rent? For instance, you cannot replace your windows with more efficient ones without your landlord’s permission. However, there are still steps you can take as a tenant to reduce the carbon footprint of your home.
  1. The most basic thing you can do is reduce water usage. According to the EPA, we consume about 2 to 5 gallons per day when we brush with the water running continuously. Of course, it takes energy to pump and heat water, so conserving water makes a difference.
  2. For paper goods, minimize their use but also choose recycled paper. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, if every household in the nation swapped just one roll of traditional toilet paper for one made with recycled paper, the effort could save about 424,000 trees.
  3. Opt for energy-efficient alternatives to the traditional lightbulb, e.g. LED or compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs.
  4. Install faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads. Aerators break up streams of water with air. You get the same water pressure but reduce the actual volume of water.
  5. Unplug appliances and electronics when not in use. "Vampire" energy loss accounts for approximately 5-10 percent of residential energy use in the U.S.
After you’ve done this, encourage your landlord or management company to make additional leaps. Ask them to replace old appliances with Energy Star rated ones, caulk or insulate, and install programmable thermostats that will end up saving energy and money.
Friday, 03 September 2010 13:00

U.S. Affirms Plans to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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The Obama administration today reiterated its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and will rely on EPA regulation if Congress does not legislate to curb emissions. “I think EPA will be an important piece of the total equation, and there will be legislative progress also, though I cannot tell you when it’s going to be,” said U.S. climate negotiator Todd Stern at a press conference following further international climate talks in Geneva. “I’m in no sense whatsoever writing off legislation over time, and I’m quite sure the president isn’t either,” he added. The administration might achieve an emissions reduction of 17 percent, compared with 2005 levels, by first implementing EPA regulations planned for next year that would set national limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
Growing up, we heard our parents say this to us as they tucked us into bed at night. Bed bugs were as mythical as the monster under our beds. Actually, bed bugs are real–these parasitic insects bite and in extreme cases, can cause anaphylactic shock. According to a recent article in The New York Times, “Treatment, including dismantling furniture and ripping up rugs, is expensive. Rather than actively hunting for bugs, hotels and landlords often deny having them.” So what CAN you do to protect yourself? Carbonfund.org partner, GBS Enterprises offers affordable mattress protectors in a variety of sizes. If you’re sleeping away from home–whether in a college dorm, at sleepaway camp, or in a hotel–GBS mattress protectors will protect you from potential bed bugs, allergens, dust mites and incontinence that may be lingering on the mattresses. GBS mattress protectors are also CarbonFree® Certified. 5 scary bed bug facts:
  • Bed bugs are small wingless insects that feed only on the blood of warm-blooded animals. They are also known to feed on bats or household pets.
  • Bed bugs are 6-10 mm in length and take on the appearance of an apple seed. Immature ones appear colorless. Bed bugs develop a reddish brown color and become easier to see after they feed.
  • Bed bugs are not known to spread disease, but getting rid of them from a home is tough.
  • The tiny insects avoid light and attack in the middle of the night. They hide behind headboards, light switch covers, or in mattress seams during the day.
  • Because an adult bed bug can survive for months without a blood meal, bed bug infestations sometimes require multiple exterminations.
Wednesday, 01 September 2010 17:53

An Itchy Problem—More CO2 May Produce More Poison Ivy

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"It started with a slightly puffy eyelid in early summer... The next morning, I couldn't ignore my son's symptoms when he appeared with two eyes swollen to slits, a bloated face and an itchy rash raging over his body." Laura Hambleton, writing in The Washington Post, notes that carbon dioxide—the levels of which have increased in our atmosphere by over 20 percent since 1960—may be feeding an increase in poison ivy. Jacqueline Mohan, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia's Odum School of Ecology, has been tracking poison ivy since 1998. "Tree seedlings grew 8 to 12 percent more, with more C02," Mohan says. "Poison ivy grew 149 percent more. Poison ivy is getting bigger, faster and nastier." Mohan observes, "Vines are particularly adapted to take advantage of higher CO2 in the atmosphere," as they "can increase their rate of photosynthesis to make more green leafy tissue." By contrast, trees have to devote more energy "to creating woody, non-photosynthetic support tissues such as trunks and branches, which do not lead to further increases in photosynthesis." You may also be delighted that pests like ticks and bark beetles are on the rise from warmer temperatures. Check out this earlier blog posting.
Wednesday, 01 September 2010 12:02

Video Spurs Action with Simple Message on Climate Change

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This is a great video on why we all should take action on global warming. Alex Bogusky, who was a principal and co-chairman of the award-winning ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, launched this video on the web to engage more people by simplifying the message about climate change. If you haven't seen the video yet, you can play it here. In Pollution=Bad, Clean=Good, he urges us to stop debating climate change and start doing something about it. After all, taking positive steps will result in a cleaner environment and reduce the threats from climate change.