It was a sad day in 2010 when Congress failed to pass cap-and-trade legislation.  However, a study by Dallas Burtraw, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future, released this month says that the failure had the unexpected consequence of helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions.  There are two reasons why U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are likely to be lower by 2020: regulatory measures and market changes.

This is not to say that there is no need for cap-and-trade or a carbon tax.  On the contrary, they are still necessary to achieve long-term cuts in emissions and to help establish worldwide support on the issue of climate change.  The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) was an energy bill that would cap the amount of carbon dioxide power plants and manufacturers could emit, and set up a system to trade for carbon offsets. 

When ACES failed in the Senate after receiving approval in the House of Representatives, a series of piecemeal measures were put into place.  This hodgepodge of regulatory measures put the U.S. on track to meet a pledge set by President Obama of cutting climate change emissions by 17 percent by the end of this decade.  The first of which this blog already covered is Groundbreaking Fuel Economy Standards.  President Obama pushed for higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards with automakers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when ACES died in the Senate.  Also, the president is pressing for higher emission standards on coal-fired power plants.

Further regulatory measures in the wake of national cap-and-trade’s demise include California and some Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states establishing their own cap-and-trade programs, and 29 states setting clean-energy requirements for utilities. 

Market changes putting the U.S. on the path to lower carbon emissions by 2020 have been covered by this blog also.  Low natural gas prices have been shifting the market away from dirtier coal as power plants' fuel of choice. 

If ACES, also called the Waxman-Markey Bill, had passed the law would have barred the EPA from issuing carbon standards for power plants, refineries or factories.  Furthermore, it may have very well headed off establishing the higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards.  Lastly, under a national cap-and-trade program, any regional or state efforts would be offset by increased emissions elsewhere.

So the planet still needs further, faster and more wide ranging cuts in fossil-fuel use, but the U.S. is on the right path to curbing carbon emissions with the help of some regulatory measures and market changes.

Environmental conservation is a broad, global goal that will only be achieved by the aggregate of actions taken by small businesses and individuals in communities around the world.  Carbonfund.org is engaged in large-scale initiatives, such as the development of our forestry projects in Brazil, but we continue to offer simple and affordable ways for any person, family or start-up business to make a difference in the fight against the negative impact of climate change.

Our personal emissions offsetting programs and CarbonFree® Business Partnerships help everyone to be part of the solution to climate change.  New CarbonFree® Partner Citizen Yogurt is a great example of a local business putting its community and environmental mission into action.  Citizen Yogurt in Raleigh, North Carolina is a 100% locally owned and operated family business, offering self-serve frozen yogurt with bold and unusual flavors and toppings, and a commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

Citizen Yogurt’s community involvement includes sponsoring local swim teams, sports clubs and organizations in their neighborhood.  They sponsor charitable donation nights where at least 10% of the night’s revenue will go to community organizations.  The yogurt shop features sustainable bamboo hardwood floors and their yogurt comes from rBST-free cows. 

“Citizen Yogurt has chosen to take a different path to success.  We have committed to running our business in the best way possible – including the impact on the environment and community.  Carbonfund.org’s transparency, not-for-profit status and strong partner list help make that goal easier to achieve,” states Charles Park, Owner and President of Citizen Yogurt. 

Citizen Yogurt joined the CarbonFree® Business Partnership program this year, neutralizing their annual operational emissions by supporting Carbonfund.org’s projects that reduce carbon emissions elsewhere through reforestation efforts, energy efficiency innovation and renewable energy technology development. Their CarbonFree® Business Partnership program underscores their commitment to sustainable operations and helps to create awareness in their local area about mitigating carbon emissions and encouraging customers to think about environmental commitments in their own lives. 

We believe that Citizen Yogurt is leading by example as a great model for environmental commitment while serving up tasty froyo treats to the Raleigh community.

One of the primary components of Carbonfund.org’s mission is to provide climate change education and public outreach through our programs, and through our business partners and supporters.  Two of Carbonfund.org’s business partners recently teamed up in a great example of public outreach, hosting a zero-waste event in their community.

The City of Pleasanton, CA and Hacienda Business Park Owners Association hosted the 3rd annual Pleasanton Green Scene Fair on September 20th at Hacienda West.   The event featured over 100 exhibitors providing information, demonstrations, raffles and samples of products related to health and nutrition, energy efficiency, commuting alternatives, water conservation, recycling, and locally-sourced foods.  The event also included a special display of alternative fuel vehicles, a mini-farmers market and the “Off The Grid” gourmet food trucks selling natural and sustainable treats.  

Hacienda Business Park Owners Association has been a CarbonFree® Business Partner since 2007, calculating and neutralizing annual operational emissions by supporting Carbonfund.org’s carbon reduction and clean energy technology projects.  And Hacienda’s Owners Association helps to spread the word about Carbonfund.org’s mission and projects, including the Million Tree Challenge, to the many businesses that occupy Hacienda’s properties.  They also recommended that the City of Pleasanton contact Carbonfund.org to evaluate the fair’s carbon emissions and create a program to mitigate emissions associated with the day’s events by supporting Carbonfund.org’s clean air projects. 

The road to succeeding in the fight against climate change and to hasten our transition to a cleaner energy future is to act boldly and work together to engage businesses, communities and networks to join in local and global efforts.  The Pleasanton Green Scene Fair is a great example of partnership among a local business leader in sustainable operations, their environmentally-aware municipality and Carbonfund.org to promote environmental conservation and sustainable business practices in their community.

Frequent travelers know that metal hotel keys are almost a thing of the past, widely replaced by flexible plastic hotel key cards.  In some instances, these key card systems add energy efficiency benefits by auto-controlling the electricity usage in the room, switching off lights or turning off the electricity to the room altogether when the guest leaves the room. 

One of our CarbonFree® Business Partners, The Greenfield Group, has developed unique ways to stand out in the competitive hotel key card marketing business.  As a business committed to maintaining carbon neutral operations by supporting our global reforestation projects, the Greenfield Group has become a  CarbonFree® supplier to its hotel clients.  In order to operate as sustainably as possible, the Greenfield Group partnered with Carbonfund.org to analyze the carbon emissions created by their annual business operations, travel, and product shipping, then implemented a carbon emissions mitigation program by investing in reforestation and avoided deforestation projects around the world. 

The Greenfield Group provides complimentary custom-designed hotel key cards featuring local business advertisements, and they further augment their services by supporting various environmental causes as an integral part of their business model.  In addition to being a carbon neutral business, The Greenfield Group helps provide a free community bike program in the Ocean Beach community of San Diego and participates in local tree planting campaigns and trash cleanup efforts, and they developed a clever and innovative way to recycle old hotel keycards into guitar picks for students, teachers, and guitar players of all ages.   

 “At The Greenfield Group, it is our priority to align our practices with what is best for the environment,” says Rob Greenfield, founder of The Greenfield Group.  “In most businesses, including ours, it is very difficult to not have some undesirable impacts on the earth.  That is why we have partnered with Carbonfund.org to offset the negative aspects of our business that we can't control.”

Currently, The Greenfield Group donates over 5% of its total revenue to environmental projects, and their goal is to reach 10% total revenues to the environment by the end of 2012.  This type of market leadership and environmental commitment is prevalent among Carbonfund.org’s business partners, and we are pleased to partner with The Greenfield Group to help them achieve sustainable business operations. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012 15:01

Tying the Economy and the Environment

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The anemic U.S. economy could get a boost from a surprising source.  A study released last week calculated that 70,000 new jobs could be created by the Atlantic Wind Connection over a 10-year span as the offshore wind industry grows.  The project includes installing an immense transmission backbone along the East coast connected to a chain of offshore wind farms, and is supported in part financially by Google Energy.  The aforementioned jobs would be created by manufacturing, building, operating and maintaining wind turbines, and an additional 40,000 jobs would be needed to serve the supply chain.

The 110,000 jobs directly created by the industry and supply chain do not take into account 50,000 jobs that could be generated from the additional economic activity effect.  That is when workers in the area use local businesses to meet their daily needs such as grocery stores and housing.

The project entails construction of a 380-mile power line from Virginia to New Jersey that enables up to 7,000 megawatts of electricity to be produced from offshore wind farms.  That’s enough electricity to power over 2 million homes in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Backers of the Atlantic Wind Connection commissioned the study by information and analytics company IHS Inc. which concluded that large-scale wind development along the Atlantic seaboard would also have a combined economic impact for the states of $19 billion and increase local, state and federal government revenues by $4.6 billion.

Wind energy generates more than just renewable energy; it creates actual jobs too and during a time when the nation’s flagging economy badly needs them.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology describes cloud computing as offering the potential for tremendous cost savings and increased operational agility to organizations.  Another key benefit of cloud computing is the access to up-to-date versions of numerous business technology platforms and applications.  New Carbonfund.org Business Partner Spyrel adds to the benefits of cloud computing by providing their customers a service partner whose operations are CarbonFree®.

As part of its own corporate sustainability initiatives, Spyrel maintains carbon neutral operations by supporting Carbonfund.org’s energy efficiency innovation projects.  Their status as a CarbonFree® Business Partner provides a market differentiator and underscores Spyrel’s commitment to market leadership in the area of environmentally-sound business practices.

An example of Spyrel’s innovations in energy efficiency is their TREES Technology (Tools for Reporting Energy Efficiency Services), which helps utilities measure the energy efficiency performance of their service delivery, thus reducing energy waste.  As the least expensive unit of energy is the one that’s never used, Spyrel’s TREES solution also contributes to the company’s overall sustainability initiatives.

"Our environmental commitment is helping customers enjoy powerful productivity gains by leveraging innovative cloud computing platform based applications for specific business verticals,” explains Imtiaz Khan, CEO/President of Spyrel. “By partnering with Carbonfund.org, we will be able to achieve that goal ensuring corporate sustainability is empowered.”

Spyrel’s leadership in supporting energy efficiency technology development and becoming a carbon neutral business demonstrates their long-term commitment to these corporate sustainability goals and to supporting Carbonfund.org’s overall mission. 

Thursday, 11 October 2012 14:36

Prioritizing Energy Efficiency

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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.

Thursday, 11 October 2012 12:55

Welcoming Macmillan Publishing

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Carbonfund.org Foundation Welcomes Macmillan Publishing to the Large Business Partnership Program.

Macmillan is a group of publishing companies in the United States held by Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, which is based in Stuttgart, Germany. American publishers include Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Henry Holt & Company, W.H. Freeman and Worth Publishers, Palgrave Macmillan, Bedford/St. Martin’s, Picador, Roaring Brook Press, St. Martin’s Press, Tor Books, and Macmillan Higher Education.

As a key component of its sustainability initiative, Macmillan has set a goal to reduce the CO2 emissions generated by its annual business activities by 65% (over a 2009 baseline) by the year 2020.  This includes the carbon emissions mitigation through Carbonfund.org including supporting renewable energy, forestry and biodiversity preservation.

Macmillan is well on track toward realizing this ambitious goal through the programs and actions undertaken to date.  Some examples are: 

  • Rationalizing sourcing of paper based on the CO2 profile of the various mills that manufacturer the specific grades that Macmillan uses in printing its books.
  • By mid-2013, completing the 3-year transition of their car fleet to 90%+ hybrid vehicles which will result in a reduction of over 800 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year from associated fuel savings.
  • Significant investment in lighting retrofits at distribution/returns facilities that are 45-50% more energy efficient than the replaced configurations.

“Sustainability is part of the very mission of our company. Not just as a press release, not just around the edges, but in the very fabric of the place. It is as important as growth, as important as profitability.  It may even be more important."

“While we’ve made great headway in reducing emissions in those areas under our immediate control, we know it will take a longer horizon to gain the required savings in areas where we wield influence, but cannot drive change just by force of will.  That’s why we have pursued a partnership with Carbonfund.org to mitigate our total annual emissions by offsetting approximately 25% of that total through our sponsorship and support of several of the creative, verified, and geographically diverse programs that they administer,” says John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan.

Macmillan sets an important example for the publishing industry in both internal and external carbon reduction initiatives.

About Macmillan (http://us.macmillan.com)