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Sustainability

Take Part in ECO-RUSH Days: October 22 – 25

Another on-campus opportunity to learn more about sustainability, food issues, and where some of the electricity feeding the grid you’re using to use or recharge the device you’re reading this on! Events are free and open to everyone!

Monday, Oct. 22:  Come to DIVE! the Movie – learn how you can supplement your diet with dumpster diving … ok, not really, but you will learn a great deal about the vast amounts of food wasted and disposed of in America. Movie will be shown from 5 – 6:3O in the Alumni Rooms, University Union

Tuesday, Oct. 23:  Autumn Fest at the Mauthe Center! Come enjoy a great gathering 7 – 10 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 24: Food Day.  All day at the University Union. Here’s an opportunity to learn more about food issues such as hunger, factory farming, urban agriculture and more about the local foods movement. Come for a locally source meal ($1 suggested donation for students, $2 for faculty/staff) in the Phoenix Rooms, University Union, starting at 4 p.m. and stay for keynote speaker, Will Allen, a MacArthur Genius grant awardee and one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people. He’ll be talking about his efforts in Milwaukee to introduce local and sustainable food sources.

Thursday, Oct. 25:  Beehive Design Collective at the Mauthe Center, 7 p.m. Come learn about The True Cost of Coal – using graphic design and great storytelling, the members of this collective give an informed presentation on the effects of mountaintop coal extraction.

Eco-Rush is sponsored by these student organizations:  PEAC, SLO, SIFE, UWGB Dietetics Club, as well as the Richard Mauthe Center and UW-Green Bay Sustainability Committee.

Five Things You Didn’t Know You Could Recycle

From Wisconsin DNR Recycling News, September 2012

Have you ever looked at an item in your home/room and thought, “I wonder if I can recycle that?” Chances are good that you can! Try doing a Google search for whatever you’re looking to get out of the house, and you may find a program like the ones below that will keep it out of the landfill. If these five are in your “get rid of” pile, here’s how you can recycle them!

1. Sneakers

Nike’s Reuse-a-shoe program turns any brand of old athletic shoes into playground and athletic surfaces, such as basketball courts and running tracks. Go to nikereuseashoe.com to find drop-off locations in Wisconsin or learn about hosting a shoe drive.

2. Crayons

Imagine how many homes across Wisconsin have broken, stubby crayons in abandoned boxes. Give them another life through the National Crayon Recycle Program! Crayons are melted down and turned into new crayons of various shapes. Visit crazycrayons.com to learn more.

3. Trophies

Total Awards and Promotions in Madison is one of many companies that will recycle old trophies for parts or re-engrave and donate them to nonprofits. They’re not accepting trophies currently, but check back at awardsmall.com to find out when you can send in your old trophies to be reused.

4. Wine corks

Close the loop by sending in your old wine corks to become floor and wall tiles. Yemm and Hart, a company that manufactures materials out of reycled content, creates and sells the tiles. Visit yemmhart.com for more details.

5. Jeans

If you have old jeans (or any denim) that are too worn out to be donated, consider giving them to the “Cotton. From Blue to Green.” program to be turned into natural fiber insulation. Corporate responsibility, mail-in, and university drive programs are all available. Go to cottonfrombluetogreen.org to find out more.

PepsiCo launches new Facebook-inspired carbon calculator

 By Alison Moodie, GreenBiz.com, 10-9-2012

For a company like PepsiCo, which oversees more than 20 brands and hundreds of different products around the world, calculating the carbon footprint of just one of its products can take weeks, and at a signficant cost to the company. To save time and money, PepsiCo teamed up with researchers from Columbia University’s Earth Institute to create a tool that can measure the carbon footprint of thousands of products all at once.

The calculator, which lacks an official name, can calculate the carbon emissions of different materials and activities in a company’s supply chain and operations, and within minutes pinpoint which of these carries the largest carbon footprint.

‘The objective was to give companies several capabilities at once with only a single effort,’ said Christoph Meinrenken, the tool’s lead researcher and associate research scientist at the Earth Institute.

The calculator was developed to follow publicly known carbon footprinting standards such as the GHG Protocol Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) standard and PAS20:2011. The methodology and software helps businesses identify which materials or activities in their supply chain and operations have the biggest effect on the total carbon footprint of one of their products, product lines, brands or regions. The calculator also reveals the accuracy of this information and how this accuracy can be improved so a company can make better business decisions.

“We saw the opportunity to use our carbon/greenhouse gas analysis as a base for building a broader decision-making tool that could help us identify other efficiency opportunities throughout our supply chian, drive innovation and improve our overall operations,” said Rober terKuile, PepsiCo’s senior director of environmental sustainability.

The tool also provides certifiable product footprints to be used in ecolabeling and for environmental measuring groups such as The Sustainability Consortium and GoodGuide. This certification requires an intensive, bottom-up assessment of each product’s entire life cycle in order to provide the required microscopic level of detail and to be auditable outside the company, said Meinrenken.

The tool is not the first of its kind. Earlier this year, Danone announced it had developed a system, in partnership with SAP, that can calculate the carbon emissions of individual products. Meinrenken said the inner workings of the Danone tool hadn’t been made public, so it was hard to adequately compare the two. He said PesiCo’s tool was developed before Danone unveiled its calculator.

The PepsiCo tool takes inspiration from sites like Facebook and Netflix, which mine huge swaths of data to figure out what users like. It analyzes data already stored in a company’s database to infer information, like what materials are in a product and where they come from. This process saves a company time and money, said Meinrenken.

‘This is just a general argument of being smart and efficient with companies’ existing data to mine and ‘milk’  it if you will, to learn additional things from the same data, rather than hiring additional staff and building up new data,’ he said.

To learn more about this approach to carbon footprinting, finish reading the article HERE.

Build Your Own Time Capsule!

 

Send a message to future UW – Green Bay faculty, staff and students by leaving a message in a bottle during the week of Sept. 17 -21. In October, the new planters being installed on the Student Services Plaza will be filled with soil. But, some of the planters are deeper than the plants will need to live a healthy and long life. So, as many gardeners do when they have a really big pot,  we’ll be using a ‘filler’ – bottles that have been recycled on campus - to take up some of that unneeded space. This saves money on soil we don’t have to purchase and reuses bottles already present on campus.

To make the whole process more fun, everyone on campus has the opportunity to build their own time capsule to be used in the planters. With plastic bottles lasting an estimated 450 years in a landfill (that’s why it’s important to recycle them!!), take a few minutes to send your message to a future generation of students and employees. Here’s how you can participate:

Do-it-Yourself

  • Save a rigid plastic soda or water bottle and save the cap!
  • Wash and dry the bottle – set the rinsed bottle in a sunny place for a day or so to evaporate the leftover water inside
  • Write your message – is it a wish, hope, dream, thought, comment, drawing? Include a little demographic info such as your name, age, etc. so future UWGB historians will know something about you
  • Place it inside the bottle and put on the cap
  • Bring your bottle to campus the week of Sept. 17 – 21 and deposit it in one of the specially marked containers located at-
    • MAC Hall – top of the hallway ramp, next to the recycling/trash collection station
    • Cofrin Library – collection station closest to the Garden Cafe
    • Rose Hall – to the right of the collection station closest to Wood Hall
    • Theater Hall – next to the collection station
    • Instructional Services – next to the GAC Lab, to the left of the collection station
    • Environmental Sciences – just outside of ES114 lecture hall, next to the collection station

 Less Do-it-Yourself

  • Come to the Message-in-a-Bottle booth staffed by SGA, PEAC and SLO members. Booths and times are:
    • Monday, Sept. 17, MAC Hall, top of stairs by the Biodiversity Center; 11:30-1:00
    • Tuesday, Sept. 18, Union, across from the bookstore; 11:30 – 1:00
    • Friday, Sept. 21, Cofrin Library, across from Garden Cafe; 11:30 – 1:00
  • Pick up a bottle (limited quantity available, first-come/first-serve), paper and pen.
  • Contemplate and write your message.
  • Deposit it in the time capsule bin.

Who knows how valuable your signature or message will be in 40 – 50 years when the roof again needs replacement!

 

Silent Spring +50: What’s Really Changed?

By Richard Liroff, GreenBiz, published 9-4-12

“Silent Spring burst into American consciousness 50 years ago this month. Despite a massive pesticide industry campaign to discredit both the book and its author, it dramatically raised public awareness about the risks of 20th century chemistry and catalyzed contemporary environmentalism. If you’re moved by the sight of bald eagles, ospreys and brown pelicans – not to mention healthy humans – thank Rachel Carson.

Carson argued that heavy-handed pesticide use was endangering natural systems and humankind. She recognized the need for pest control but urged use of safer alternatives: ‘Methods [to control insects] must be such that they do not destroy us along with the insects.’ When she noted the average human ‘almost certainly starts life with the first deposit of a growing load of chemicals,’ she presciently identified the problem of prepolluted babies. Roughly 300 contaminants have now been found in babies’ umbilical cords.

If Carson were writing today, she might not limit herself to pesticides but might ask more broadly, can we construct healthier buidlings without using cancer-causing materials or toxic heavy metals, design fire-safe consumer products without using toxic flame retardants made from bromine or chlorine, or sell automobiles whose new car smell isn’t hazardous to our health?

Carson also might have opted to write a business book. While her intended audience in the 1960s was the general public and their political representatives, these days the center of gravity has shifted to companies and their suppliers, whose influence in many instances far outweighs the others.

So, how much progress has been made in the last 50 years to phase out the nastiest chemicals and bring safer alternatives to market? The bad news is the U.S. government has moved at a snail’s pace to address chemical hazards in everyday products. The good news is that over the last decade or so, private-sector companies have begun to take up some of the slack – increasingly demanding and securing safer chemicals for the products they sell – and this pace is accelerating.

The unwieldy U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act has gone unamended since its enactment in 1976. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency couldn’t even use it to remove asbestos from the marketplace. The chemical industry has stymied meaningful strengthening of the law, continuing its long tradition of pushing back against rising scientific and public concerns as chronicled in such histories as Doubt is Their Product, Deceit and Denial and Sophisticated Sabotage. In May 2012, a series of articles in the Chicago Tribune documented the brominated chemical industry’s ‘decades-long campaign of deception that has loaded the furniture and electronics in American homes with pounds of toxic chemical linked to cancer, neurological deficits, develomental problems and impaired fertility.’ The campaign included creating ‘a phony consumer watchdog group.’ This is not the business response Carson had in mind.

Evidence has continued to accumulate linking environmental contaminants with human health disorders such as cancers; infertility; asthma; neurodegnerative diseases such as Parkinson’s; neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism; and endocrine disorders such as diabetes. Noting that exposures to even the most miniscule levels of contmainants in the womb and early in childhood can predispose vulnterable individuals to diseases later in life, environmental health advocates have been urging a precautionary approach to chemical exposure -’prevention is the cure.’

Although chemical manufacturers have opposed meaningful reform of federal chemical policies, companies that use chemicals to make their products are a growing force pushing for safer chemicals. Chemical-using comapnies – especially consumer brands – find themselves facing a multitude of business risks. These include reputational risks, increased overhead costs to track and dispose of chemicals and to reduce exposures, litigation risks, loss of market share, and increased health care costs and reduced productivity associated with employees’ exposure to toxic chemicals at work and at home. The search for safer alternatives is also driven by the personal ethics of individual CEOs and family business owners.

Here are two prime examples of private sector drivers … to read the rest of this interesting article, GO HERE.

New Bike Shelter on Campus!

 A new covered bike shelter sprouted in the last few days on the triangle-shaped patch of ground between MAC Hall, the Library and ES. The first fully funded project from the student-approved Sustainability fee assessed to students each semester, the covered shelter was determined by the SGA environmental affairs committee to be both a visible and practical first project. With a covered shelter, in a central location, the hope is that it will encourage students, staff and faculty to forgo driving to campus (even on a day where there might be predicted rain) and take a bike instead. Not only is choosing a bike ride over a car ride better for the environment, it’s also better for personal health and wellness. The campus Sustainability Committee also helped with the project cost by providing funding for the concrete pad.

Are product sustainability programs at a tipping point?

By Chris Nelson, GreenBiz, published 8-22-12

“Over the last few months, I’ve had a chance to speak to a large number of senior business, EH&S and sustainability leaders at a variety of Fortune 500 ERM clients about product sustainability and what it means to their organizations. What resonated in these conversations is that designing and implementing product sustainability programs at an enterprise level is now a strategic imperative for many companies. This was a consistent theme across many different market sectors and was being driven by the belief that a product sustainability program could create significant business value for their organizations.

Generally, these programs focus on improving permforance across the enterprise in the following areas (including but not limited to): life-cycle management, product regulatory compliance, supply-chain management, materials, waste, energy, water, packaging and product innovation. Companies are finally being able to see that a product sustainability program can lead to opportunities to increase sales, reduce risk, improve brand recognition and trust as well as develop organizational capabilities related to sustainability and innovation. And, of course, an improvement in their overall environmental and social performance.

This hasn’t always been the case. Companies historically addressed product sustainability issues reactively, intended to deal with a specific customer request related to a product life-cycle or supply-chain initiative, or with a pressing regulatory issues. It was not becasue they saw the ability to create business value by designing and implementing product sustainability programs at the enterprise level.

Companies are not seeing that the status quo of reactive responses is no longer enough. Many of these companies are seeing their market leadership position erode as their competitors are beginning to make serious commitments – as well as substantive progress – towards product sustainability leadership. They are realizing that they need to be more proactive in understanding and meeting regulatory requirements to ensure they have a license to operate in an environment where the global regulatory landscape is increasing and becoming more complex. They have better access to product-level data and information as a result of the implementation of large-scale EHS and sustianbility information systems; these systems not only report what is – or is not – in a given product, but can also indicate resource (e.g. energy) intensity to help manufacturers improve overall business processes. Some companies are losing business by not effectively communicating the environmental impacts of their products and operations in response to a customer supply chain initiative.

Most importantly, there is an increasing emphsis placed on product life-cycle management to ensure their companies are focusing their attention on the most important opportunities and issues across the product value chain.

Most of these companies are struggling to understand how to unlock potential business value from a product sustainability program and to identify and access the resources they need to deliver on their vision for product sustainability. That’s where the challenges and complexity of designing and implementing product sustainability programs expose themselves. The business value is difficult to determine and in most cases the companies do not have – or are unsure as to whether they have – the right resources to make all of this a reality, from a people, tools and infrastructure perspective.”

To read the rest of the article and learn the questions a company should ask when designing and implementing a product sustainability program, CLICK HERE.

UW – Green Bay Listed by Sierra Magazine as a “Cool School”

UW-Green Bay rated a first-ever appearance on Sierra Magazine’s 6th annual “Cool Schools” ranking. Coming in at #65 out of a total of 96 schools that were ranked, UWGB was one of only two University of Wisconsin System schools appearing in the list. The other, UW – Oshkosh (#14), shows that higher education institutions in northeast Wisconsin are working hard to improve the sustainability of our campuses.

The ranking is a nice recognition of the consistent effort made by many people over many years on our campus to keep improving energy efficiency, innovating, participating in and providing education on environmental issues, policy and sustainability.  

Open to all four-year colleges and universities in the United States, campuses could participate in the review process by completing an in-depth survey about their school’s sustainability practices. The survey developed was a result of collaboration between Sierra, Princeton Review, Sustainable Endowments Institute and Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).  Its questions focus on measurable environmental goals and achievements, with priority given to achievements.

To view the Cool Schools issue and see UWGB’s ranking in the 11 categories included in the survey, CLICK HERE.

 

College endowments lose top grades in sustainable investments

By Robert Kropp, GreenBiz.com, July 23, 2012

“College and university endowments no longer lead the practice of sustainable investment. In fact, as a new report from the IRRC Institute and the Tellus Institute points out, many if not most endowments now lag behind the mainstream institutional investors, whose uptake of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) investment criteria is growing.

Titled “Environmental, Social and Governance Investing by College and University Endowments in the United States: Social Responsibility, Sustainability, and Stakeholder Relations,” the report presents findings that are ‘counterintuitive,’ according to the IRRC Institute executive director Jon Lukomnik.

‘Historically, endowments were groundbreaking institutional investors that addressed social and environmental considerations in their investments far earlier than others,’ Lukomnik said. ‘Our findings indicate that today’s endowment no longer are leaders in the institutional ESG investment arena.’

College and university endowments control about $400 billion in assets. However, the report found that a widely practiced and standardized conceptualization among endowments of sustainable and responsible investments was lacking. An understanding of sustainable and community investments was also missing.

Moreover, when ESG criteria were applied, endowments most commonly restricted them to ‘single-issue negative screening of public-equity portfolios,’ instead of adopting the positive, or best-in-class, screening of corporations that is increasingly the strategy of choice among sustainable investors, the report found.

Endowments also persist in their concentration on proxy-voting recommendations, although, as the report points out, many have shifted their investments from equitities to alternative asset classes where proxy voting is less significant.

There was a time when colleges and universities in the U.S. were among the leading institutions in adopting ESG criteria in their investments. For instance, their endowments took a leading role in the divestment campaign to end apartheid in South Africa. The involvement of students in shareowner advocacy is another example.

Another indication of the failure of endowments to keep up with an increasingly sophisticated industry is the absence of these institutions as signatories to major institutional networks. Not a single endowment is a member of the United Nations’ Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI), and only one is a member of the Council of Institutional Investors (CII).

The report also found that endowments’ transparency among ESG investments remained ‘paricularly poor.’

‘Colleges are regularly self-reporting unverifiable data about their ESG investment policies and practices, which upon investigation prove to be overstated,’ the report concluded.”  

CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article.

News Bit: Facebook shares its carbon footprint

Published on GreenBiz.com, by Joel Makower, 8-1-12

“Facebook today revealed for the first time information about its carbon footprint, citing the ‘power of openness.’ The data, covering the energy use for its data centers and global offices, reflects both the company’s efforts to reduce energy use and increase renewable energy consumption, as well as the challenges it faces to steadily improve those efforts.

‘We’re releasing this data because we believe in the power of openness, and because we hope that adding another data point to our collective understanding of our industry’s environmental impact will help us all keep improving,’ the company said in a statement.

At first glance it’s a happy story. The company said that last year, its data centers and operations used 532 million kilowatt hours of energy, emitting 285,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. By contrast, Google revealed last year that its carbon footprint equaled nearly 1.5 million metric tons, more than five times Facebook’s. (Google’s ‘energy czar’ at the time was Bill Weihl, who now serves as Facebook’s ‘sustainability guru.’)

For the typical Facebook user, a year’s worth of liking and posting consumes just 269 grams of carbon equivalent – ‘roughly the same carbon footprint as one medium latte,’ the company pointed out. ‘Or three large bananas. Or a couple of glasses of wine.’ To put that in perspective, a typical U.S. household’s annual carbon footprint is about 48 tons, according to the Cool Climate Network at the University of California, Berkeley. Suffice to say, that’s a helluva lot of lattes.

But Facebook is quick to note that ‘as a fast-growing company our carbon footprint and energy mix may get worse before they get better.’ That’s due primarily to the challenges of sourcing sufficient clean power where the company sites its data centers. Facebook’s goal is to source 25 percent of its power from clean-energy sources by 2015, which is only a tad better than the 23 percent of ‘clean and renewable’ energy the company now uses. Still, according to Facebook, achieving 25 percent ‘is going to be a stretch for us, and we’re still figuring out exactly what it will take to get there.’

To read more about Facebook’s efforts, activist pressures on the company, and what they’re doing 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, CLICK HERE.