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Sustainability

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.

News Bit: Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math – Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe – and that make clear who the real enemy is

  By Bill McKibben, from the RollingStone.com, July 19, 2012

“If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change. June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meterologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded in our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the ‘largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.’ The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world’s nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn’t even attend. It was ‘a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago,’ the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls ‘once thronged by multitudes.’ Since I wrote one of the the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it beacuse, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you j ust need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithemtical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn’t yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to undertand our precarious – our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless position with three simple numbers.

To learn about these “3 simple numbers,” the ‘enemy’, and to consider what you believe regarding climate change, read the rest of this scary article HERE.

 

News Bit: The Importance of Embedding Sustainability in Secondary Education Curriculums


By Hunter Lovins, posted on TriplePundit.com, July 20, 2012

“The diverse crises that the planet faces will only be solved when companies and communities implement authentic and innovative sustainability practices. It is therefore encouraging that there are an increasing number of colleges and universities now including sustainability as part of their campus management programs and curriculum.

Are these programs effective enough to create the next generation of thought leaders our world needs? The answer is, ‘No. Not yet.’

A good start is underway, however. Pressure from companies, students, and ranking organizations is forcing colleges and universities to embrace sustainability.

The business community is demanding candidates with sustainability training. Accenture found that over 93 percent of CEO’s see sustainability as crucial to business success, with 88 percent stating it needs to be fully embedded into their strategy and operations.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting is increasing annually, creating job openings for graduates familiar with integrated reporting. Given that about 20 percent of CSR reports each year are submitted by companies reporting for the first time, recruiting candidates who are familiar with sustainability, or training existing employees is a top priority for these companies. Job candidates who hae a strong knowledge of sustainability are better positioned not only to fill current job openings, but help lead their companies into the future.

A 2010 study by McKinsey found, however, that many companies need education on how to go forward. Most executives surveyed considered sustainability important to the their future, agreeing that the management of environmental, social, and governance issues was ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important in a wide range of areas, including new product development, reputation building, and overall corporate strategy. However, only 30 percent said that their companies actively sought opportunities to invest in sustainability or embed it in their business practices. Respondents admitted to a pervasive lack of understanding of what sustainability is and how to implement it. This educational gap, they stated, was inhibiting action.”

To read more about current action steps being taken at colleges and universities across the country (including UW-Green Bay) and the three problems identified as to where efforts are falling short, READ the rest of the article HERE.  

Do you think UW-Green Bay is doing a good job of embedding sustainability into our campus culture?

Olympic Park Sets Gold Standard for Sustainability

  from CNN.com, by Erin McLaughlin and Matthew Knight

“It’s hard to believe that this area of east London was once a dilapidated and neglected quarter of the UK capital.

With shiny new stadiums and visitor facilities nestling among the lush landscaped grounds, every detail of the 500-acre Olympic Park has taken into account environmental concerns, prompting 2012 organizers to bill it as the first sustainable Olympics.

David Stubbs, head of sustainability for the London 2012 Games, was part of the original team that drafted London’s successful bid.

Sustainability was a key reason why London was chosen, he says, and provides a golden opportunity to show what can be achieved.

‘If you can put sustainability at the heart of a project which is the largest logistical exercise in peace time — across 26 different sports, with thousands of people attending and millions watching — then you can do it anywhere,’ Stubbs said.

Many of the park’s bridges have been constructed using gabion walls (steel mesh filled with stones and rubble) providing a visual reminder of the Games’ green goals.

‘There’s a huge emphasis on reuse and recycling,’ says Stubbs.

‘All the buildings that were knocked downs, all that rubble was sort of crushed up and used as the fillings for these gabions for the new bridges.’”

For the rest of the article on the arenas and landscape of the 2012 Olympic Games, read HERE.