Some businesses express reluctance when it comes to embracing the path to a cleaner energy future. They see nothing but dollar signs. However, a recent case study by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Climate Corps demonstrates that it is possible to get into a “virtuous cycle” of energy efficiency that pays dividends for both the company’s bottom line and the environment.
EDF Climate Corps is a great program that matches either specially-trained MBA (Masters in Business Administration) or MPA (Masters in Public Administration) students as summer fellows with companies, cities and universities interested in achieving energy efficiency to cut costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2008, the program’s fellows have built business cases for smart energy investments. The end results are lighting, computer equipment and heating and cooling system efficiencies that can cut 1.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity use and 27 million therms of natural gas annually, equivalent to the annual energy use of 100,000 homes; avoid over 1 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, equivalent to the annual emissions of 200,000 passenger vehicles; and save $1 billion in net operational costs over the project lifetimes.
The Virtuous Cycle of Organizational Energy Efficiency has five components: executive engagement; resource investment; people and tools; identification, implementation and measurement; and results and stories. According to EDF, the virtuous cycle is a model of change for energy efficiency across even extremely different organizations.
The business profiled in the case study is Diversey, which is a subsidy of Sealed Air. Diversey entered the virtuous cycle of energy efficiency by establishing a public commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from operations to eight percent below 2003 levels by 2013. This was also the initial component of the virtuous cycle, executive engagement.
Once Diversey’s leaders committed, policies from the top down required that energy efficiency projects produce a positive return on investment in a payback period of three years or less. This criterion allowed Diversey to invest $19 million, and yield $32 million in cash savings over the life of the program in order to reach their emissions reduction goals.
Because the goals and criteria were clearly articulated, Diversey’s ability to measure success was also positively impacted. In fact, Diversey’s environmental health and safety department received a 40 percent year-on-year budget increase, which is significant because all other divisions of the company at the time were undergoing a 50 percent budget cut. This was due to the capacity to produce data that demonstrated energy project performance. According to the report, plant managers were also engaged and incentivized to implement efficiency measures due to centralized capital budgeting.
This is all to say that there are easy and affordable ways for businesses to invest in a commitment to combat climate change that is both good for the company and the environment. Saving money is always in style; simply combine that goal with one of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and you’ll be maximizing the good you can do.
The proliferation of killer whales bred in captivity, on display in aquariums and public performances, and in Hollywood movies over the past thirty years has spurred the interest in killer whale watching in the wild. Yet the worldwide population of Orcas has been difficult for researchers to assess, and the species is threatened by depletion of the global fish population, oceanic pollution, large-scale oil spills, and habitat disturbance caused by noise and conflicts with boats, including whale watching tour operators.
Organizations such as the Pacific Whale Watch Association has helped by establishing strong memberships and specific guidelines for whale watching tours that help to protect both the whales and the tour groups seeking the memorable experience of watching Orcas in the wild.
In a stronger step towards developing environmentally-responsible tour operations, Carbonfund.org is pleased to announce a new partnership that brings carbon neutral whale watching to the Vancouver Island area. Carbonfund.org has recently partnered with Eagle Wing Tours, a locally owned and family operated marine adventure eco-tourism company based on Vancouver Island, to create Canada’s first carbon neutral whale watching experience. Eagle Wing Tours assessed the full estimated annual carbon emissions from its whale watching tour operations and established a carbon mitigation program through Carbonfund.org by supporting our carbon reduction and clean energy technology projects. This carbon neutral program is the final step in Eagle Wing Tours’ Go Green Whale Watching Program.
“We are trying to redefine what a wildlife tour company is. Spotting that whale is the cherry on top of an all ready very comprehensive marine experience,” explains Brett Soberg, Co-Owner and Captain at Eagle Wing Tours. “What we can do to protect these species by supporting education, conservation and responsible business is where we really count. We selected to support Carbonfund.org due their non-profit designation which supports our 1% For the Planet membership.”
Carbonfund.org encourages eco-tourism companies to carefully monitor their environmental impact and to mitigate harmful emissions by investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy innovation, and supporting forestry and habitat preservation. We are pleased to welcome Eagle Wing Tours to join our eco-tourism partners in these efforts.
We’ve already examined and defined a carbon footprint, but have you ever heard of an ecological footprint? An ecological footprint compares human demands on nature with the Earth's ability to regenerate resources and provide services.
Ecological footprints are ever changing because of advances in technology and a three-year lag for the UN to collect and publish statistics. However, it is a standardized measure that begins by assessing the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to supply the resources a human population uses. This is then contrasted with the planet’s ability to absorb associated waste and ecological capacity to regenerate. Think of it like how much of the Earth (or how many planet Earths) it would take to support humanity given an average lifestyle. In 2007, humanity's total ecological footprint was estimated at 1.5 planet Earths. This means humans are currently using ecological services 1.5 times quicker than Earth can renew them.
William Rees was the first academic to publish about an ecological footprint in 1992. He supervised the PhD dissertation of Mathis Wackernagel who outlined the concept and offered a calculation method. Rees penned the term ecological footprint in a more accessible manner than the original name of “appropriated carrying capacity” after a computer technician described Rees’ new computer as having a small footprint on the desk. Wackernagel and Rees published the book Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth in early 1996.
The implications are dire according to Rees who wrote in 2010, “…the average world citizen has an eco-footprint of about 2.7 global average hectares while there are only 2.1 global hectare of bioproductive land and water per capita on earth. This means that humanity has already overshot global biocapacity by 30% and now lives unsustainabily by depleting stocks of ‘natural capital’.”
We’re definitely overspending the planet’s resources. Just take a look at man-made global warming and climate change. We need to continue on the path to seeking a sustainable lifestyle, and do it on a global scale. All of us working together can reduce the amount of the earth’s resources that we consume. Start with yourself and get creative with how many ways you can save energy and recycle. What’s great about beginning with energy efficiency is that it can save you money too. Then there are cost effective ways to offset the rest such as by contributing to Carbonfund.org’s development of renewable energy technologies and carbon emissions reduction projects. The important thing is to get started right away.
Carbonfund.org supports several carbon reduction and energy efficiency projects such as the Truck Stop Electrification system, a project that is supported in part by Clean Air Cab’s fleet emissions neutralization program.
Clean Air Cab is central Arizona’s first carbon-neutral taxicab fleet; they partner with Carbonfund.org to calculate and neutralize the carbon emissions generated by its fleet of Toyota Priuses.
"We chose Carbonfund.org because unlike most companies selling offsets, Carbonfund.org is a non-profit. Clean Air Cab believes in giving back and we are happy to support a non-profit organization," affirms Clean Air Cab founder, Steve Lopez.
The company started by selecting the Toyota Prius, a fuel efficient vehicle for its taxicab fleet. A Ford Crown Victoria, the “traditional” taxicab vehicle, produces two and half times the amount of CO2 per year compared to the 2010 Toyota Prius. But the Prius still creates carbon emissions, so each quarter Clean Air Cab checks its total fleet mileage with Carbonfund.org to ensure that it has secured a sufficient quantity of carbon credits to completely neutralize fleet emissions.
Clean Air Cab’s mission “to make it affordable and convenient for everyone to go green” is in lockstep with Carbonfund.org. We are happy to partner with an environmentally conscientious company that provides a carbon neutral transportation alternative to central Arizona communities.
Just when we were about to succumb to the gloomy picture that is global climate change, a ray of hope breaks through the clouds. A technical report released this month by the U.S. Energy Information Agency calculated that energy related U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, which account for about 98 percent of total CO2 emissions, for the first four months of 2012 decreased to around 1992 levels.
The dramatic decrease is attributed to a switch from dirtier burning coal to cleaner natural gas. Almost everyone in the energy and environmental industries believes the shift could have major long-term implications for U.S. energy policy.
Scientists didn’t predict the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. falling to its lowest level in 20 years in part because the decrease is not attributed to legislation limiting greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The switch to natural gas was driven by the market.
The state of the economy, increasing efforts for energy efficiency and a growing utilization of renewable energy are certainly aspects that contribute to lowering U.S. carbon emissions. However, at the moment, the lion’s share is due to the current low price of natural gas. There has been an upsurge in shale gas drilling in the northeast, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, which has made natural gas more affordable than coal per unit of energy generated. Gas production is on the increase because of the modernization of the process of hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, where highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals are inserted to fracture shale rock which releases natural gas.
While natural gas is a cleaner-burning energy source than coal, it is not emission-free. There is still some carbon dioxide emitted and drilling can have environmental impacts such as contamination of ground water, air quality risks, migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, and surface contamination from spills and flowback.
There are also concerns that the rise in use of natural gas could stall renewable energy efforts. The ultimate goal should still be a mix of increasing energy efficiency and clean energy with the balance kept to a minimum of natural gas.
So the upshot is that the U.S. energy picture is far from perfect, but the news concerning a drastic decline in U.S. carbon dioxide levels is welcome and positive because it reminds us that there is still time to turn around the fate of the planet’s climate.
More than a couple of our past blog posts have covered how increasingly extreme weather is the product of climate change. However, have you stopped to ask yourself what that really means? How will climate change affect us and future generations? What things that we currently enjoy will be unavailable to our children?
A recent article covers some things that global warming is likely to ruin for our kids; things such as coffee, chocolate, strawberries. And the list isn’t limited to agricultural food items. Say goodbye to blazing fast Wi-Fi. Also your favorite vacation spot or even your home may be underwater in a few, short decades time. The country you live in may disappear. The article has some shocking images of Greenland melting away.
So what’s it going to take to help preserve the Earth as we know it? Global carbon emissions need to be reduced 80% by 2050. The U.S. has already pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by approximately 17%. Eventually legislation will be enacted increasing the goal to a 30% reduction in 2025 and a 42% reduction in 2030, with the ultimate goal of reducing emissions 83% by 2050.
Do your part in reducing carbon emissions and getting us closer to meeting the goals outlined above. Start by switching your Internet browser to www.envirosearch.org. Your regular, daily Internet search activities will begin contributing to renewable energy, reforestation, and energy efficiency projects. Then go to www.carbonfund.org for ideas on how to reduce your carbon footprint and offset carbon emissions. By working together, and each doing our part, we can change the fate of the planet.
A recently published study out of the University of Michigan examined Generation X’s views on climate change and found them to be largely unconcerned with the issue.
The Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY) releases a quarterly research report and has followed the same 4,000 people for 25 years. Originally, in 1987, 5,900 students were selected from a national sample of 7th and 10th graders in 50 U.S. public school systems.
Generation X now comprises 32-52 year olds who are the most well-educated and scientifically savvy generation in U.S. history. However, the LSAY shows dwindling interest in climate change as it is a complex and long-term issue. The study compared responses from 2009 and 2011 and found that a scant two percent of those aged 37 to 40 follow climate change "very closely". This was a 50 percent drop from 2009 results. Over half said they follow climate change "not closely." More than 40 percent say they have only a "moderate concern" about global warming.
The most disturbing part of the report points to a disregard for future generations. Most do not see climate change as an immediate problem that requires their attention to address. A large percentage, 66 percent, said they aren’t sure that global warming is happening. About 10 percent even outright deny global warming is actually happening.
Why is Generation X disengaged, disinterested, or even openly disbelieving regarding climate change? The answer is as multifaceted as global warming itself. Disinterest in climate change is surely due in part to a massive and unprecedented disinformation campaign by oil and gas interests and conservative media outlets spanning more than a decade, even as the overwhelming scientific record points squarely to climate change. Some experts theorize issue fatigue may be the cause when a problem is long-standing. Others point to the complexity in understanding the underlying causes and potential solutions for climate change as a barrier to engagement with the issue. Still another potential answer is the distraction by other timely public policy issues. For example, interest in the economy experienced an upsurge following the Great Recession that began in 2008 to the detriment of environmental issues.
Whatever the reason, there is something every person in all generations can do to help save our planet. One easy and fast way to protect the environment is to switch your Internet browser to www.envirosearch.org. You'll be contributing to renewable energy, reforestation, and energy efficiency projects through you regular, daily Internet search activities. Another simple step is to use an emissions calculator to determine your personal contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Then reduce your carbon footprint, plant a tree, or offset your carbon emissions.
Download and read the entire study here http://lsay.org/GenX-4.pdf.
New information is coming to light about the massive collapse of one of the world’s oldest and earliest urban civilizations. The Harappan, or Indus, civilization came into being over 4,000 years ago and existed for about 600 years before it slowly disappeared. Scientists and scholars have hypothesized about its demise. Theories range from regional conflicts to a foreign attack, but some suggest environmental issues may have been the cause.
Researchers recently published an article named, “Fluvial landscapes of the Harappan civilization” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlining evidence that points to environmental factors leading to the end of this ancient civilization. The scientists studied satellite maps and collected field sediment samples, then cross-referenced them with previous archaeological findings to develop a much clearer picture of what really happened to this long-lost civilization.
The Harappan civilization is named for one of its largest cities, and occupied what is now India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and part of Afghanistan. It had a sophisticated indoor plumbing system, gridded streets, a flourishing arts and crafts community, and what appears to be a more democratic society than other large civilizations such as Egypt or Mesopotamia.
The Harappans were largely dependent upon monsoons that dried up leading to the end of their urban environment. They used the rivers and seasonal floods that were fed by these monsoons to meet their agricultural needs. Once the monsoons weakened, people slowly moved eastward away from cities into small villages and towns. The water in the area they moved to was unable to support the large cities of the past.
There are lessons to be learned from the extinction of this colossal civilization. The Harappans were overly dependent on monsoons that eventually disappeared and the U.S. is also largely dependent on somewhat predictable weather, which is now threatened by climate change. Americans need to prepare for increasingly extreme weather, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase energy efficiency, and we need to do it now before we suffer a similar fate to that of the Harappans.