Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released their proposed Clean Power Plan. As readers of this blog are already aware, the Clean Power Plan proposes carbon emission standards for coal-fired power plants, which are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., generating approximately one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Some specifics are that under the Clean Power Plan, states must expand their energy sources and use solar (photovoltaic and solar thermal), wind, geothermal, sustainably sourced biomass, biogas, and low-impact hydrology in order to decrease their carbon emissions.
Did you know that renewable energy technologies are characteristically more labor-intensive than intensely mechanized fossil fuel technologies? This means that the potential economic benefits may be substantial; not to mention the significant benefits for our climate and health.
The solar industry employed over 100,000 workers in jobs ranging from solar manufacturing and sales to installation according to the Solar Foundation in 2011. Solar jobs grew by 20% percent in 2013 and 2014 is expected to create 22,000 jobs. Furthermore, these statistics were reported before the EPA plan was released, which may further boost the renewable job sector.
Let’s look at wind energy. The amount of domestically manufactured equipment used in wind turbines doubled from 35% in 2006 to 70% in 2011 with 560 factories directly employing 75,000 full-time employees.
The hydroelectric power industry also plays a role. Statistics show in 2009 it employed 250,000 people. As many as 700,000 jobs could be generated if the hydropower industry installs a new capacity of 23,000 – 60,000 megawatts (MW) by 2025. Rounding out our look at the renewable energy sector, the geothermal industry directly employed 5,200 people in 2010.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) estimated in 2009 that a national, renewable electricity standard attempting to cut 25% of carbon emissions by 2025 would generate 297,000 jobs, $263.4 billion in new capital investment, $13.5 billion in income to farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners, and $11.5 billion in new local tax revenues. Remember, the EPA proposed reducing carbon emissions from existing power plants by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. So the potential economic benefits may increase over the UCS’s estimates.
With these figures, we’re not even taking into account a complete picture of the potential economic benefits from expanded renewable energy sources. Think about how direct job creation leads to indirect job creation. For example, when you hire additional employees, you may very well need a larger Human Resources staff.
All of this comes at a time when our country could deeply benefit from economic stimulation. The U.S. economy is still anemic, with unemployment rates remaining high, and a disturbing national debt that’s expected to reach $20 trillion by 2020. We must embrace win-win scenarios such as these that combine healing our ailing planet with economic recovery. It’s past time to forge the path to a low-carbon future.
Landfillart is an international effort encompassing 1,041 artists to repurpose a piece of rusted metal and create fine art from reclaimed automobile hub caps from the 1930’s through the 1970’s and turn them into “metal canvases”. Although most “metal canvases” have been transformed by the artist using oil or acrylic paint, some have been weaved on, glued or screwed or welded to, or made into fine sculpture.
“This project embodies several key components. It is a collective endeavor requesting artists, worldwide, to think green and create great art” explains Ken Marquis, gallery owner at Marquis Art & Frame, and founder of the project. “I’m hopeful, that upon completion, this project will weave a global tapestry which tells a compelling story of humanity; our similarities, our differences, and the common threads that binds us all.”
Since 2008, Landfillart Inc., funded by their partner company Marquis Art & Frame, has maintained a Carbonfree® Small Business Partnership with Carbonfund.org as part of his own operational sustainability commitment. “We are excited to partner with Carbonfund.org! Both organizations share the goal of reuse, albeit our focus is reusing rusty old scraps of metal,” says Ken. “Landfillart's mission is focused on funding reforestation with any future profits. By forming this partnership, Landfillart is one step closer!”
To date, Marquis Art & Frame’s donations to Carbonfund.org’s forestry projects have neutralized almost 450,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, the same quantity of carbon emissions sequestered by 5,000 tree seedlings grown over a ten-year period.
The ultimate goals of the Landfillart Project are to compile a collection of 1,041 completed hubcaps from artists from all of the 50 states and as many countries as possible. To date the collection consists of more than 1,000 works of art from 50 states and 56 countries. The final group of artists are hard at work completing their “hubcap art”.
Although awaiting the final projects, phase two is already underway. The first museum showing of Landfillart will be in September 2014. Second Time Around: The Hubcap as Art will include 287 objects from the Landfillart collection, representing every U.S. state and 35 other countries. This exciting premier exhibit will open September 6, 2014 at The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester Virginia, details at www.theMSV.org
After the initial museum showing, an abbreviated version of the collection (35 objects) is scheduled to travel, beginning in 2015.
The final phase for the Landfillart collection is to publish a book highlighting all 1,041 completed works of art and their stories. Carbonfund.org is proud to partner with Ken Marquis and the Landfillart project in its efforts to raise awareness about environmental preservation through artistic repurposing.
Americans eat a lot of sugar. According to a 2012 infographic from www.OnlineNursingPrograms.com, we consume about 130 pounds of sugar each year. And when I say sugar, I don’t just mean sugar from sugar cane. I am referring to corn syrup, which is used to sweeten our favorite soft drinks, of which the average American drinks 53 gallons per year. That sounds bad, and it is, but brain scans show that sugar is addictive as cocaine. Well, our national addiction is in major trouble from climate change.
Corn is the biggest agricultural crop in the U.S. It’s a $65-billion-a-year industry and global warming is putting it at a significant risk. A report released this week by Ceres, a coalition of investor and environmental groups, says that corn is at risk because its water demands are growing at a time when the threat of drought is increasing. Ceres said corn production particularly is in danger due to its tapping stressed aquifers as a water source. A couple that are especially relied upon are the High Plains aquifer, which covers eight Great Plains states, and the Central Valley aquifer in California.
Report author Brooke Barton, Water Program Director at Ceres, says, “Escalating corn production for our food, livestock and energy industries has put the corn sector on an unsustainable path.” The Midwest drought of 2012 pushed corn prices to record-level highs of $8 per bushel and according to the report are "a taste of what is predicted to become the new normal in many parts of the Corn Belt thanks to climate change.”
Rising corn prices also impact more than just the food industry. The transportation industry may also take a hit as corn production is affected by climate change. The crop is used to make ethanol, which is a fuel additive, and accounts for roughly 10% of the country’s fuel.
However, the largest use of corn in the U.S. is still for human consumption one way or another. Even if we’re not directly drinking it in soft drinks, it is still used a livestock feed. Soda manufacturers, such as leading beverage company Coca-Cola Co., could make a significant difference in sustainable corn production. Ceres says they could seek out suppliers of their agricultural ingredients who use less water and fertilizers.
Although, the good news to our waistlines is that U.S. consumption of carbonated soft drinks has been declining for a decade. Maybe we are starting to wean ourselves off of our sugar addiction after all. Either way, it is part of a group of addictions that our country needs to overcome. Using less is the best way to control carbon emissions.
The big news this week is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released their proposed Clean Power Plan. Environmental groups and climate change activists have been eagerly awaiting these carbon emission standards for coal-fired power plants.
Power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. and generate approximately one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA’s proposal, released Monday, will help lower carbon emissions from existing power plants by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
The proposed rules are the latest under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The EPA is charged with proposing commonsense approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants.
Last June, President Obama announced a series of executive actions to reduce carbon emissions, prepare the country for the impacts of climate change and lead international efforts to address global warming. Learn more about the President's Climate Action plan on the White House web site.
For good or ill, climate change continues to be a politically charged issue, often dividing along party lines. However, many companies recognize that global warming is already impacting their daily business operations and that the problem is only going to get worse if we do not take steps now to embrace a low-carbon future.
Sustainability advocacy nonprofit Ceres coordinated letters of support for the EPA’s proposed carbon pollution rule to the Obama Administration and Senate and House majority and minority leaders from 125 companies including the likes of Unilever, VF Corporation and Mars. The letters were also signed by 49 investors managing $800 billion in assets.
Read more about the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan at http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/clean-power-plan-proposed-rule.
ClimateStore Inc., located in Boston, MA, officially became a Carbonfree® Partner with CarbonFund.org. The newly launched retail brand has a mission to make it fun and easy for people to reduce their carbon footprint, and launched its on-line brand, climatestore.com, this past Earth Day. The company seeks to close a gap in the retail space, namely, the lack of an easily recognizable retail brand focused entirely on climate change.
ClimateStore hopes to tap into a growing market of climate conscious consumers, and carbon offsets play an important role in its sustainability strategy. To help realize its mission, ClimateStore purchased offsets from a portfolio of reforestation and forest conservation projects to offset emissions from its operations including energy use at its offices, freight and parcel shipping, employee commutes, and business travel. The company also relies on partnerships with like-minded organizations, like Carbonfund.org and 1% for the Planet, to support climate change awareness programs and forest conservation initiatives.
“With the recent release of the latest UN IPCC report and U.S. National Climate Assessment, there can be no doubt this is a critical issue current for future generations. More people are asking what they can do to reduce their carbon impact” says Steven E. Bushnell, Ph.D., Founder and CEO of ClimateStore Inc. “There is a false perception that moving to a lower carbon economy will require giving things up or need extra effort. We take the opposite view; lowering one’s carbon footprint should be fun, easy and rewarding as we collectively secure the stable climate we all hope to live in.”
The ClimateStore.com website provides summaries of climate science, issues an urgent call for action, suggests plans to reduce personal carbon emissions, and provides products to help people achieve a lower carbon footprint. The company launched with about 250 carbon saving products, including: energy efficient lighting, water saving devices, smart home technology, home décor, laundry items, travel gear and accessories. Each product is evaluated by ClimateStore staff to identify exact how it saves carbon - including the production, use, and disposal phases of the product’s lifecycle - and communicate their findings with a simple icon system and detailed product descriptions.
Carbonfund.org and National Geographic Society (NGS) have been partners in the fight against global climate change since 2009. Our relationship with NGS is managed by Mr. Hans Wegner, Chief Sustainability Officer at the Society whose leadership in the sustainability realm has been an inspiration to everyone at our Foundation.
In 2011, Han’s leadership with the NGS “Green Team” led to his team receiving our For People and Planet award in the “Media” category for their efforts to reduce carbon dioxide (C02) emissions.
These efforts included reducing emissions from their operations by 80% with an additional goal of reducing emissions from their magazine paper and printing materials supply chain by 10% by 2015. The team has succeeded at numerous other efforts from obtaining Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) Gold Status for their headquarters building to compost and recycling programs in their cafeteria.
Since the origin of our relationship, with NGS, the Society has been a key supporter of several of our projects including the Purus REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) Project in Acre, Brazil, and the Native Species Reforestation Project in Panama to offset the Society’s respective travel and office emissions.
We had the opportunity to speak with Hans on his impressive 41 years at the National Geographic Society and his broader work in the sustainability realm.
1. Please describe your current role as Chief Sustainability Officer at NGS and what lead you to that position?
I came to the Society in 1973, with a background in commercial printing. I came here to work in one of the photographic labs, compiling film for wall maps for 1.5 years and subsequently became responsible for the production and then the manufacturing of the Magazine. During that time I also handled all paper purchasing for the Society so I became very conversant with the issues related to paper manufacturing and the paper market. I took particular interest in learning all I could about the environmental impacts of all aspects of paper making; from seedling in the ground to recycling of old paper products. I took great pride in working with our paper suppliers to make sure they abide by or exceeded all applicable environmental regulations.
In 2006 I headed up a group of concerned NGS employees who felt we as an organization could do more to reduce the impact our operations had on climate change and to raise our collective awareness of our responsibility to conduct our business sustainably. Our groups focused on measuring the carbon emissions that we as a company were responsible for, including those emitted on our behalf by our suppliers. We knew we had to know our corporate carbon footprint, not only in the aggregate, but by product line or service sector so we could have a roadmap for the remedial actions we wanted to take. On the basis of this information, we made our buildings carbon neutral, achieved LEED-EB Gold status for our complex, and certified our campus as Energy Star rated and implemented many energy saving features.
On the basis of our success, I was designated Chief Sustainability Officer in 2009.
2. How did you get started in sustainability work? Who or what inspired you to go into a career in sustainability?
I have always had an inclination to try to be environmentally responsible and I like to think of myself as acting on what I know to be true. This is what led me to set environmental policy for our paper suppliers when I was handling paper purchasing for the Society, implementing a requirement to use best forest management practices, to exceed the guidelines of the Clean Air and Water Acts. In the mid 1990's I became increasingly convinced of not only the fact of climate change, but the reality that it was human activity that was causing this phenomenon. Additionally human activity was consuming finite natural resources at obviously unsustainable rates. I was of course aware that the Society was publishing or producing related stories in our Magazine and TV productions on these subjects so the problem was not a lack of public awareness of the issues but rather a problem of failing to act on what we know. I felt compelled to make a difference and to act, so I began talking to people and knew there was a critical mass of my colleagues who felt strongly, wanted to help, and were willing to volunteer their time to make a difference. That led to the formation of the GoGreen Committee (Now Green Team) which has been meeting monthly since late 2006 and is leading the sustainability initiative at the Society.
3. What personal accomplishments in the sustainability realm are you most proud of?
I would have to say being instrumental in starting the sustainability initiative at the Society and thereby creating an awareness that we as an organization and as individuals could and needed to do more than we were.
As to specifics: 1) Focusing our efforts on knowing our carbon footprint and focusing our efforts at reducing that that footprint by eliminating waste where we found it and thereby eliminating the cost of that waste. 2) Setting and then achieving the goal of becoming a carbon neutral facility and qualifying our Buildings for LEED-EB Gold certification. 3) Doing the most comprehensive Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) ever done on a Magazine in cooperation with our paper and printing suppliers. This was completed in 2009. 4) Convincing the Society to become a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) driven company in 2012. 5) Committing the Society to the idea of offsetting our scope III carbon (all indirect emissions except for purchased electricity, heat and steam). To date, we have reduced our scope III by over 20% since 2008.
4. What are you currently working on in the sustainability realm?
We are working with our suppliers of printing and digital media storage to document their emissions on our behalf and to look into renewable energy for those emissions. We are working to achieve carbon neutral status for everything we do, and to send zero waste to landfill. My goal is to have sustainability become part of the culture of the Society.
5. What is your personal biggest sustainability challenge?
Changing behavior at our company and getting more companies to start addressing climate change. Behavior changes are hard. Energy has always been cheap in the US, and the challenge is to change that perception and get people to change their behavior and use less. The other challenge is for all of us to personalize climate change and take responsibility for that change. At the end of the day each of us must make a commitment to change if we are to solve this problem. We all have the tendency to wait for someone else to start. Don't wait for someone else. You do it. Each of us can start today by: not leaving lights on, shortening the showers we take, using mass transit, recycling everything we can, etc.
6. What is going to be the biggest challenge for sustainability in the next 20 years?
Complacency on the part of most of us. Dependence on someone else to do the job for us. Ignoring the noise from the fossil fuel industry to say everything is OK when it is clearly not. A Congress that is divided to the point of dysfunction, so no federal leadership is possible. The naysayers that persist in trying to say that this is not a problem, and it is bad for the economy to address this issue. The fear mongers who wish to use this issue to divide us rather than to say here is a challenge we can unite on and fix.
7. For the next generation of environmental professionals, what advice would you give?
You do not have to be an expert. Read and act on what you know. Make the business case that waiting is paramount to throwing money away and that America cannot compete with clean economies around the world. Make the business case that inaction, or little action, is far, far more expensive and costly to jobs and prosperity than the most drastic actions we take today.
8. How did Carbonfund.org help you achieve your sustainability goals?
Carbonfund.org has been able to find projects for us to help us offset our use of natural gas to heat our buildings and use in our cafeteria. It has also helped us find projects that offset our business travel. My question to any offset provider has always been: Can you get me a two 'fer or three 'fer? By which I mean I am looking for projects that not only reduce carbon buildup in the atmosphere by adding sequestration capacity, but does doing so expand the habitat for an endangered species (either flora or fauna) in an area, thereby enhancing the possibility of that species' survival? So I am always interested in finding projects that have multiple benefits with the primary one being carbon emissions reductions. So far, Carbonfund.org has done a really good job finding such projects for us.
9. Why did you choose to work with Carbonfund.org?
In keeping with the idea of sourcing locally, I liked that Carbonfund.org is in fact local to Washington DC metro area. I also like the fact of Carbonfund.org being a not-for-profit, as I believe that addressing climate change should not be a profit driven undertaking. That is not to say that we should not do business with for profit entities, it is just that if not-for-profit is an option; that is my preference so we can put more dollars into emissions reductions.
One cup of premium loose leaf tea inspired Beth Johnston to get into the tea business, and environmental responsibility drives the company’s commitment to organic teas, sustainability practices and Carbonfree® business operations.
“Conserving our planet’s precious resources has always been a personal concern for me. With our continued expansion, both importing and shipping customer orders, I felt a further responsibility to take it on corporately,” says Beth Johnston, Founder and CEO. “We had been looking for an effective way to offset the impact Teas Etc. has on the environment but also wanted to give our customers the choice to offset theirs. We did our homework, looked at a couple of different options and decided that Carbonfund.org was the right partner to help us meet our goals.”
For the seventh consecutive year, Teas Etc. is offsetting its own carbon footprint with Carbonfund.org by supporting renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects. In an effort to generate greater awareness about sources of carbon emissions, Teas Etc. offers customers the option of offsetting the carbon footprint created by shipping their orders. To date, Teas Etc. and its customers have neutralized the same quantity of emissions as would be sequestered by almost 11,000 tree seedlings grown for ten years.
Teas Etc is has provided premium quality award winning teas and modern accessories to wholesale and retail customers for over 15 years. The company is USDA certified to package and to distribute organic products, and has a complete line of organic teas. In addition to their tea line, the company manufactures the innovative, award winning Tea Traveler® that allows tea drinkers to enjoy loose leaf teas on-the-go. The company opened in 1998 with its headquarters in Palm Beach, FL has an office in Nanjing, China and a permanent show room at AmericasMart in Atlanta, GA.
In addition toCarbonfree® operations,Teas Etc. supports a local recycling program, utilizes recycled paper goods, biodegradable packing materials and chemical-free cleaning products. Their ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability, high quality products and excellent customer services confirms Teas Etc. as a leader in responsible online premium loose leaf tea retailing and wholesaling.
Seven years into its long-term commitment to environmental leadership, MWW is achieving great things towards its goal to do its part to make the world a better place. MWW, one of the nation's top mid-sized public relations firms and one of the ten largest independent agencies, is recognized for its work in consumer lifestyle marketing, digital marketing and social media, corporate communications, and visual branding.
MWW is also dedicated to reducing its global warming impact, improving quality of life and US energy security. Since 2007, MWW has led by example, committing to being CarbonFree® in partnership with Carbonfund.org. Over the past seven years, MWW has reduced the carbon impact from its business operations, totaling over 19 million pounds of CO2 mitigation, which is equivalent to the electricity use of 1,291 homes for one year through support of Carbonfund.org’s renewable energy and forestry projects. That's also equivalent to the emissions from over 20,058 barrels of oil consumed or taking 1,797 cars off the road for one year.
“Our work in corporate social responsibility and corporate citizenship is some of the most important we do,” emphasizes Michael Kempner, MWW President and CEO. “MWW remains firmly committed to doing our part to protect and preserve the environment, and we are pleased to continue our seven-year partnership with Carbonfund.org, a leader in carbon reduction and offset solutions. We challenge our peers in the industry, as well as our clients and partners, to join with us in this important work, or to adopt their own programs to help bring about a clean energy economy.”
Employees at MWW give back through Good Matters, a company-wide Corporate Social Responsibility program, which enables employees to support local charities and other causes that are close to their hearts. Each year, team members can take advantage of eight hours of paid time off to volunteer for an organization of their choice. These collective efforts have defined MWW’s commitment to corporate citizenship, for the environment, community, employees, and their clients. Carbonfund.org is proud to partner with MWW in helping to make the world a better, cleaner place to live.
Last week our planet reached a scary milestone for carbon dioxide, the most important global warming gas. The average carbon dioxide reading exceeded 400 parts per million at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO) on the island of Hawaii for the 24 hours that ended at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday, May 9, 2013. Earth hasn’t had this much carbon dioxide concentrated in the air for at least three million years, which is before human life on the planet.
This should be a wakeup call that major and potentially catastrophic global weather changes are coming and a sign we’re not doing enough to tackle climate change.
We’ve seen carbon dioxide levels above 400 parts per million in the Arctic last year and even in some hourly readings at NOAA’s MLO. However, this is the first time we’ve seen the average reading for an entire day exceed that level. Carbon dioxide levels do rise and fall along with the seasons. As foliage grows over the summer in the Northern Hemisphere, 10 billion tons of carbon will be pulled out of the air. But it’s only a temporary pardon in a situation that’s becoming direr by the moment.
We simply must invest in alternative energy technologies and begin curbing our dangerous global appetite for fossil fuels. Otherwise, the time will come soon where no measurement of the ambient air anywhere on earth, in any season, will produce a reading below 400.
The official target to limit the damage from global warming is 450 parts per million (PPM), which is generally agreed to be the maximum level compatible with that goal. Our relentless, long-term increases in carbon dioxide emissions are likely get us to 450 PPM in well under 25 years. The time to slow down global warming is dwindling quickly. Twenty five years may seem like a long time, but our planet is huge. It will take more time than that to right the ship.
Not every country has agreed to set binding emissions targets, either. Unfortunately, the United States count among those shirking their responsibility. Now greater efforts are necessary, and are all but impossible without severe economic disruptions.
Can we live on a planet that is warmer and wetter? Probably, but billions of people are going to suffer as we make the transition. It’s a better plan to lower our carbon footprints and speedily move to no and low carbon energy sources. The price is going to be high either way, and it’s only getting steeper as we hurtle towards the point of no return.
For immediate release
With Earth Day (April 22) fast approaching, it is time for all of us to evaluate how our daily activities affect our planet and see what we can do about it. As of April 22, Solosso, a premium custom clothing company that lets you design your own eco-friendly custom dress shirts online, launches an initiative to plant a tree for every shirt sold, thus taking their operations from carbon neutral to carbon negative. “As a clothing company, we want to lead the way to sustainability in an industry that is infamous for its carbon emissions,” says Jan Klimo, Head of Business Development at Solosso.
The initiative is executed through the Carbonfund.org Foundation, a non-profit organization leading the fight against global warming by collecting and investing funds into high-quality carbon offset projects resulting in real carbon emission reductions, such as reforestation.
Jan describes Solosso’s partnership with Carbonfund.org: “We’ve been partners with Carbonfund.org for over three years now, completely offsetting our carbon footprint with their help. As of this year’s Earth Day, we are excited to go the extra mile and turn our operations from carbon neutral to carbon negative by planting a tree for every shirt we sell. As a clothing company, we want to lead the way to sustainability in an industry that is infamous for its carbon emissions.”
Plant a Tree initiatives are popular among a range of business, such as Dell, Baby Check List, Global Basecamps, or Euroloan to name a few. Money funneled into reforestation projects has an obvious positive environmental impact all over the world. Linda Kelly from Carbonfund.org explains: “Tree-planting projects benefit the environment, the atmosphere and the local community, by creating jobs in the tree-planting activities and maintaining the ongoing forest management. The tree-planting projects we support are numerous and geographic locations are worldwide. Some of our tree-planting projects are in the US, but the majority are in India, South America and Haiti.”
With Carbonfund.org’s portfolio of carbon-reducing projects worldwide, carbon offsetting is available to any individual, business or organization.
What are you or your business doing to help achieve a zero carbon world?