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Sustainability

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.

Garbage Glut: Each of Us Toss Out 7 Pounds of Trash a Day, Spending Billions to Manage It

Read the following excerpt published in The Wall Street Journal by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Edward Humes. Click HERE to read the entire article. Humes’ book, “Garbology” was recently published.

“Each week, we push our trash to the curb, and it seemingly disappears. But where does it all go: the spent cartons of milk, the computer keyboard fried by spilled coffee, those empty dog food cans?

A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology decided to find out. In 2009, they began attaching transmitter chips to thousands of pieces of ordinary garbage. They tossed this “smart trash” into the bin, sat back and watched the tortuous, disturbing path that our garbage often takes: the meanderings of electronic waste as it headed for distant shores, of ratty old sneakers that ran the equivalent of a dozen marathons, of printer cartridges that transversed the continent not once but twice on the road to recycling.

This clever experiment threw a spotlight on the biggest, costliest, dirtiest secret about our garbage: our ignorance of how much we produce, what it contains and what happens to it once it leaves our hands.

Take the nation’s official trash tally – used alike by environmentalists, buisnesses and policy makers – which maintains that the average American tosses out 4.4 pounds of trash a day, with about a third getting recycled and the rest going to landfills. These numbers are found in the Environmental Protection Agency’s exhaustive annual compendium “Municipal Solid Waste in the United States” – America’s trash Bible – and are determined by an array of byzantine estimates and simulations, based on manufacturing data and the life expectancy of products.

But the EPA’s “materials flow analysis” dates back to the bad old days when there were 10 times the number of town dumps and many more illegal ones, with little actual weighing and regulation. Today the business model of the landfill and recycling business depends on precise measurement (and billing per ton), so we have much  more real-world data. Using these sources, the most recent survey conducted by Columbia University and the trade journal BioCycle found that Americans actually throw out much more than the EPA estimates, a whopping 7.1 pounds a day, and that less than a quarter of it gets recycled.

So how does America’s trash weigh in? Here are some key numbers from the emerging science of garbology: 

  • At 7.1 pounds of trash a day, each of us is on track to produce a staggering 102 tons of waste in an average lifetime.
  • Trash has become America’s leading export: mountains of waste paper, soiled cardboard, crushed beer cans and junked electronics. China’s No. 1 export to the U.S. is computers, according to the Journal of Commerce. The United States’ No. 1 export to China, by number of cargo containers, is scrap.
  • American communities on average spend more money on waste management than on fire protection, parks and recreation, libraries or schoolbooks, according to U.S. Census data on municipal budgets.

As these snapshots suggest, garbage costs are staggering. New York City alone spent $2.2 billion on sanitation in 2011. According to the city’s department of sanitation, more than $300 million of that was just for transporting its citizens’ trash by train and truck – 12,000 tons a day – to out-of-state landfills, some as far as 300 miles away. How much is 12,000 tons a day? That’s like throwing away 62 Boeing 747 jumbo jets daily, or driving 8,730 new Honda Civics into a landfill each morning.”

Read the rest of this WSJ article HERE.

 Some final facts on Our Annual Waste (from Garbology)

  • 19 billion pounds of polystyrene peanuts
  • 40 billion plastic knives, forks and spoons
  • 28 billion pounds of food
  • Enough steel to level and restore Manhattan
  • Enough plastic film to shrink-wrap Texas

UWGB a “Green College” According to The Princeton Review!

UW – Green Bay is proud to be included for the first time in  The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2012 Edition. The publishers bill their product — created in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council — as focusing “solely on colleges that have demonstrated a notable commitment to sustainability.”  

Being in this guide is a testament to the hard work and commitment the University’s faculty, staff and students have shown over many years of maintaining a focus on sustainability and working to live up to the “Eco-U” name.

Other Wisconsin schools in the guide are Marquette University, Northland College and the UW campuses at Eau Claire, Madison, Milwaukee and Stevens Point. You can see a state-by-state list at http://www.princetonreview.com/green-schools-by-state.aspx.

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 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: 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

Sustainability: Lessons from Europe

Come to the Department of Natural & Applied Science Seminar, February 24th!

Learn from Dr. Patricia Terry’s experiences on the differences in approach and acceptance of sustainability in Europe.

Tea:  3 p.m., ES 317

Presentation:  3:30 – 4:30 p.m., ES 328

See you there!