skip to content

Sustainability

Category Archive: News

News Bit: Why Efficiency is Smarter than Renewables

by Marc Gunther, Greenbiz.com, published June 15, 2012

“Real estate is the largest source of clean energy in this country, and it’s very inexpensively tapped.”

“So said Tony Malkin, the president of Malkin Holdings, owner of the Empire State Building.

Malskin spoke this week at the annual Energy Efficiency Forum in Washington, D.C. and he’s got a point, albeit a controversial one.

If we – or more to the point, the people who represent us in Washington – have $1 to spend, better that it be spent on energy efficiency than on clean energy. That’s not way things work now. Today, wind and solar power get generous tax breaks and subsidies. Energy efficiency investment do not. The government has it exactly backward.

Why? First let’s stipulate that money spent on efficiency and on clean energy creates short-term jobs. The efficiency-related jobs are more likely to be US jobs (because most solar panels are made in China) but set that aside for a moment. What matters is what happens after the insulation goes into a building, or the panels go up on the roof.

The problem with clean energy is that electricity from wind turbines or solar panels, as a rule, costs more than power generated by burning coal or natural gas. If it didn’t, the wind and solar industries wouldn’t need the investment tax credits and renewable portfolio mandates that are vital to the business. But over time the higher costs of clean energy create a drag on economic growth, whether they are paid by the government or by energy users.

By contrast, money spend on efficiency reduces costs over time. So, whether we are talking about more efficient factories, commercial buidlings, homes or even cars, the spending on efficiency makes the economy more productive, driving economic growth and creating jobs in the long run.

Yet the government generously subsidizes wind and solar. Efficiency, not so much.

Actually, it’s a bit worse than that. Since businesses can deduct legitimate expenses on their tax returns, they pay less than the full cost of their electricity bills.

“I get a tax deduction for wasting energy,” Dave Meyers, president of building efficiency business at Johnson Controls, said wryly during the forum.

“It is absolutely insane to me that energy can be expensed on your tax bill,” Malkin agreed.

Let me hasten to add that we need both energy efficiency and clean energy, and in my view, both deserve strong policy support. Remember, scientists say that to avoid risky climate change, the world needs to curb its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. That will require the aggressive deployment of low-carbon energy sources, as well as dramatic gains in efficiency. But we also should be clear about how the costs and benefits work, so we an get the policy right, and especially think about why the government isn’t doing more to promote efficiency.

Read the rest of the article HERE – what’s your opinion – renewable, efficiency, both? How?

News Bit: Fryer Grease Hits the Black Market

Story by Samantha Neary, posted in TriplePundit.com on June 13, 2012.

“We know that oil consumption is a hot topic today, especially in this volatile economic climate. For example, biodiesel has taken center stage this week with reports of increased grease theft from restaurant kitchens nationwide, subsequently creating an underground frying oil market.

With green energy becoming evermore prevalent and effective, the demand for biodiesel has inspired many to cash in. Here is how it happens: restaurants store used cooking grease in barrels to be picked up by a collection company, “green” thieves steal the grease and resell it to recyclers who then process it and sell the processed biodiesel to someone in the transportation industry. Yes, all this effort is over lard.

For years, restaurants had to pay companies to haul away old grease, which was used mostly in animal feed. Some gave it away to locals who used it make biodiesel for their converted car engines. But with a demand for biofuel rising, fryer oil now trades on a booming commodities market, commanding around 40 cents per pound, about four times what it sold for 10 years ago. Many restaurants now have contracts with collection companies to sell their grease for about $300 per container. This boost in value is tempting for thieves, especially in hard times like we face today, so the renering industry has been trying to lock down the growing market from freeloaders. But barrels of grease are still slipping through the cracks. So instead of restaurants paying collection companies, they are not paying lawyers to persecute grease thieves.

It did take some time, however, for this type of larceny to be taken seriously in court. ‘The reception in municipal court is very uneven,’ said Steven T. Singer, a lawyer in New Jersey. ‘You’re reliant upon the prosecutors, so you got to get them to understand the seriousness of this, as well as the judge.’”

Go to the rest of the story and watch the video from a security cam of a grease thief slipping away with the goods HERE.

Visualizing sustainability’s rewards via MIT’s new interactive tool

Published on GreenBiz.com, 5-14-2012

By Deb Gallagher

“MIT Sloan Management Review released the results of its latest global survey on sustainability and innovation earlier this month, revealing that a significant number of companies see the value of sustainable business practices — and are repeating the financial rewards.

For the first time, the results were released in an interactive data visualization format. The new tool allows readers to filter the data by industry, company size, company performance and other factors. Presenting the data this way yielded several interesting findings.

  • The automotive sector gets it:  The automotive industry leads the way in making the buisness case for sustainability. However, when it comes to profitability, automotive is only the middle of the pack; the consumer products industry is at the top, with 42 percent of consumer products respondents saying that they are profiting from their sustainability activities.
  • High representational benefits: Improved brand reputation is the greatest benefit companies enjoy from addressing sustainability issues. This is especially true in the automotive, consumer products and media/entertainment industries.
  • Customers drive sustainability: Of the ‘harvesters,’ those respondents who say their companies are profiting from sustainability-related activities, 53 percent indicate that customer preference for sustainable offerings was a key driver in changing their business model. In the more resource-intensive industries, such as chemicals and energy and utilities, issues such as legislative or political pressure and maintaining a ‘license to operate’ increase in influence.
  • Size matters: Overall, the larger the company, the more likely that it will make a business case for sustainability. But that trend varies across industries – in industrial services, for example, companies with more than 100,000 employees were less likely to make a business case for sustainability than companies with 200 – 1,000 employees within the same industry.”

For ‘Special Features’ and to read more, click here.  

 

Iconic Milwaukee Brewing Company Rolls Out First “All Local” Beer

Something from closer to home …

From Triple Pundit, by Leon Kaye

“Beer is only one reason to visit Milwaukee, a city rich in architecture, culture and a vibrant sustainable business community. When it comes to beer, the same could be true for just about any city or town in the U.S. Naturally every community brags about its local I.P.A. or lager, and generally the boasting is justified. But Lakefront Brewery recently started serving what it describes as the first truly “local” beer in the U.S.

Lakefront’s “Wisconsinite” adds to the company’s reputation for innovative brews. Last year Lakefront introduced its gluten-free New Grist, and had to go through bureaucratic hoops in the U.S. government in order to have it “officially approved” as a gluten free beer. Lakefront also sells the nation’s oldest USDA-approved organic brew.

So what makes a genuinely “local” beer?

It helps that Wisconsin benefits locavores with its ample farmland. Geography is a boost as well. The water, of course, comes from Lake Michigan. The wheat comes from Chilton, near Lake Winnebago and 80 miles north of Milwaukee. Malted barley is super local, processed by another local company, Malteurop, just across town. And the magic ingredient, hops, are grown 110 miles west in Mazomanie. For decades, most hops grown for U.S. beer production have been raised in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.”

For the rest of the story, click here.

News Bit: NIKE, NASA Just Do It, Partner on Waste

By Leon Kaye, TriplePundit.com, April 9, 2012

“Last week NASA and NIKE kicked off ‘LAUNCH: Beyond Waste Challenge’ to find 10 ‘game changing’ innovations that could revamp current waste management systems. The immediate steps are to find new methods to minimize waste or alter it into new products. In the long term, the goal is to have these new waste processing systems aid space travel in the future.

Those interested in participating in the program have until May 15 to submit ideas for the elimination, transformation and mitigation of waste. LAUNCH is also seeking proposals for waste reduction education and financial strategies. This initiative welcomes any innovations that can help with waste diversion or zero-waste strategies that can benefit in households, communities, businesses or industry.

The fundamentals behind LAUNCH are growing concerns over the effects that the world’s increasing population coupled with diminishing resources call for a complete redesign and rethink of how societies approach waste. Current practices from the obvious, incineration and landfill disposal, to even more sustainable processes like recycling and ‘upcycling,’ (which use energy and do not always address consumerism and the accumulation of ‘stuff’) are untenable in the long run.”

To read more about how shoes and rockets work together go HERE.

News Bit: Want Young Customers in China? Cut Your Emissions.

By Jessica Shankleman, Greenbiz.com, April 3, 2012

“Businesses have been urged to accelerate their environmental footprinting strategies to include emerging economies, after new research by The Carbon Trust revealed young people in China could hold the key to unlocking mass demand for greener products.

The survey of 2,500 young people across six countries carried out the TNS found 83 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds in China would be more loyal to a brnd if they could see it was reducing its carbon footprint. In contrast, just 57 percent of U.S. respondents and 55 percent of young people in the U.K. made the same claim.

Globally, 78 percent of young people said they want their favorite brands to reduce their carbon footpring, but again those in China showed the highest demand for emission reductions with 88 percent calling on firms to cut their footprint.

South Africa came in second place with 86 percent of respondents calling on blue chips to reduce their impact, followed by Brazil at 84 percent. Again the U.S. and U.K. lagged far behind, with only two thirds of respondents demanding more action from big brands.

The analysis was launched just days after The Carbon Trust unveiled the first four Asian companies to receive the Carbon Trust Standard, its independent label awarded to companies that reduce their organizational carbon footprints year-on-year.

Tom Delay, chief executive of The Carbon Trust, said the survey results were “startling” in that they revealed how Chinese consuemrs could lead the global demand for greener goods.

‘Sixty percent of young adults questioned in China would stop buying a product if its manufacturer refused to commit to measuring and reducing its carbon footprint, compared to just 35 percent of those in the U.S.,’ he said. ‘Perhaps it is the Chinese, no the U.S. consumer, that really holds the key to unlocking the mass demand for new low carbon products necessary to deliver an environmentally sustainable economy,’”

Read the entire article HERE.

Would you buy from a product from a company that could document that product’s carbon footprint? And would you be loyal to that company because it makes the effort to be transparent on the environmental impact of the product?

News Bit: Why Trends in Sustainability Are Good For Business and Education

 

By John Viera, GreenBiz.com, March 30, 2012

“Pick up any newspaper these days and it won’t be long before you find an article that calls out some aspect of our coutnry’s education system in need of fixing. From the daunting numbers that are presented, this coverage, unfortunately, doesn’t seem overblown. .

The U.S. Department of Education’s most recent national assessment of high school seniors determined that 74% lacked proficiency in math, 62% lacked proficiency in reading, and 79% lacked proficiency in science.

In the last round of comparative international exams, American 15-year-olds ranked 25th in  math, 17th in reading and 22nd in science among participating countries. Chinese 15-year-olds ranked first in each subject.

News about higher education isn’t much different. In 1990, the U.S. boasted the highest percentage in the world of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees, but had fallen to 12th by 2010. Meanwhile, there’s never been a greater need for college graduates. By 2018, 63 percent of jobs are expected to require at least some colleged education. Again, the numbers don’t tell a positive story; but there may be a silver lining.

When I was in school, specific education around the environment was an afterthought to traditional disciplines. Limited to conservation, education rarely integrated sustainability values with the realities of everyday living. From what I observe of candidates entering the workforce today, and in younger hires across the board, this has changed.

Over the last decade, high school students enrolled in advanced placement environmental science courses has skyrocketed 426 percent nationally, more than four times the average increase of all advanced placement courses. The figures are similar in higher education. On average, the number of academic papers on sustainability has doubled ever 8.3 years since 1974, according to a recent study from Indiana University.”

To read more and see how your education at UWGB is a benefit….click here!

News Bits: Young People Not So ‘Green’ After All

Interesting article by Martha Irvine, Associate Press National Writer…

“They have a reputation for being environmentally minded do-gooders. But an academic analysis of surveys spanning more than 40 years has found that today’s young Americans are less interested in the environment and in conserving resources – and often less civic-minded overall – than their elders were when they were young.

The findings go against the widespread belief that environmental issues have hit home wih today’s young adults, known as Millennials, who have grown up amid climate change discussion and the mantra ‘reduce, reuse, recycle.’ The environment is often listed among top concerns for young voters.

‘I was shocked ,’ said Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who is one of the study’s authors. ‘We have the perception that we’re getting through to people. But at least compared to previous eras, we’re not.’

Twenge, author of the book, “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable Than Ever Before,” has spent much of her career publishing work that challenges or attempts to explain commonly held beliefs about young people.

This study, published online this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, looked at the life goals, concern for others and civic orientation of three young generations – baby boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials.

Based on two longstanding national surveys of high school seniors and college freshmen, Twenge and her colleagues found a decline, over the last four decades, in young people’s trust in others, their interest in government and the time they said they spent thinking about social problems.

Steepest of all was a steady decline in concern about the environment, and taking personal action to save it.

Researches found that, when surveyed decades ago, about a third of young baby boomers said it was important to become personally involved in programs to clean up the environment. In comparison, only a about a quarter of young Gen Xers – and 21 percent of Millennials – said the same.

Meanwhile, 15 percent of Millennials said they had made no effort to help the environment, compared with 8 percent of young Gen Xers and 5 percent of young baby boomers.

Millennials also were the least likely to say they’d made an effort to conserve electricity and fuel used to heat their homes.

In the case of heating fuel, 78 percent of young baby boomers and 71 percent of young Gen Xers said they cut back, compared with 56 percent of Millennials.

It is important to note that most of the survey data available for Millennials was collected before the country’s most recent recession hit.

Even so, those working in the environmental field – including some Millennials themselves – aren’t that surprised by the findings.”

The article continues HERE.

Are you surprised by these findings?? Add a comment…

To read the full scientific article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology CLICK HERE.

News Bit: Austin Passes Bag Restriction Law

For those of you who picked up your free usable bag last week at the Union, you’re in good shape if you decide to move to Austin!

“Austin, Texas, has passed a law restricting plastic and paper retail carryout bags. The law, which will take effect March 1, 2013, allows for three options: paper or plastic bag of thicker construction with handles, or reusable linen or woven bags, says Bob Gedert, director of Austin Resource Recovery, in an interview. Because of the replacement options, the city is characterizing it as a bag regulation, not ban.

The new law differs from what Austin City Council proposed in December, which involved a 52-cent interim fee for single-use bags. Gedert says administrative challenges, retail relationship to challenges and being accountable to the public made that “too difficult a path to take.”

Read more about this interesting and controversial step, HERE.

Source:  Waste360.com 

News Bit: Building a Sustainable Future Requires More than Science

“Contrary to popular belief, humans have failed to address the earth’s worsening emergencies of climate change, species’ extinction and resource overconsumption not because of a lack of information, but because of a lack of imagination, social scientists and artists say.

At a conference of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, British Columbia, experts argues that the path to a truly sustainable future is through the muddy waters of emotions, values, ethics, and most importantly, imagination.

Humans’ perceptions of reality are filtered by personal experiences and values, said David Maggs, a concert pianist and PhD student at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

As a result, the education and communication paradigm of “if we only knew better, we’d do better” is not working. Maggs told attendees at the world’s largest general science meeting. ‘We don’t live in the real world, but live only in the world we imagine.’”

Want to learn more about reality or the lack thereof? Read more HERE.

Source:  TriplePundit.com