Conferences and Carbon: The Impact Behind the Event

3p Contributor | Thursday December 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Creative Company Conference 2011By Kristi Kaiser

Conferences and events are an integral part of getting business done in today’s world. Even with technologies that make virtual meetings possible — and there are many options for that — there’s still something to be said for getting together for a good, old-fashioned face-to-face event where we can connect with our peers, listen to great content, and engage in learning.

But conferences and events have an inherent impact on the communities where they’re held: some good, some bad. A boost to the local economy is welcomed, for example, but an influx of people can overwhelm local infrastructure or leave behind a significant amount of waste. Events can also generate a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions, leaving behind a big carbon footprint.

The single biggest contributor to an event’s carbon footprint is travel, which accounts for about 90 percent of the carbon emissions from an average event.* Yet accounting and taking responsibility for these emissions often falls to the wayside. It can be overlooked, or it may seem overwhelming, especially with so many moving parts to run an event. Focusing on the carbon emissions associated with travel can easily be ignored — isn’t it enough just to get everyone there?! But if your company has made a commitment to the environment and social responsibility, it should extend to your meetings and other events, too.

So, what’s the right way to address sustainability when there are so many other details to focus on?

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PG&E Smart Grid Lab Tests Battery Storage

| Thursday December 18th, 2014 | 2 Comments

PNNL Battery Continuing to lead the transition from fossil fuels to renewables, California in October 2013 enacted AB2514, legislation that requires the state’s investor-owned utilities to acquire 1.325 gigawatts of energy storage capacity by 2020.

Earlier this month, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison issued their first request for proposals for energy storage assets that will help meet projected long-term local capacity requirements.

California grid and energy market regulators are joining with industry players and already taking the next step in the U.S. renewable energy-smart grid transition. They’re building and testing microgrids in which solar photovoltaic systems are integrated with a variety of advanced energy storage technologies and the latest in real-time energy management software platforms.

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Six Enviros Pledge to Go Public on Diversity

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday December 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

diversity_environmental_groups_OregonDOTNorth American environmental groups have been admitting it for years: The movement needs diversity in its representation. Organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club and others have come forward over the years to admit, often at the nudging of critics, that honoring diversity in the global environment starts with reflecting diversity in its numbers — including its management.

The problem is: Until recently there hasn’t been much of a global roadmap on how to attain that goal. Tracking diversity numbers has largely been left up to organizations with little public transparency.

But that changes next year, say six of the world’s largest environmental organizations. The Sierra Club, NRDC, Audubon Society, Environmental Defense Fund, Resources Media and EarthJustice have pledged to release their diversity numbers by February 2015. The announcement was made by Green 2.0 at the Breaking the Green Ceiling forum, which it and New Media hosted on Dec. 9 in Washington D.C. Environmental groups will submit their numbers to their Guidestar profiles.

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Rocky Mountain Institute and Carbon War Room Merge

Leon Kaye | Thursday December 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Yesterday Rocky Mountain Institute and Carbon War Room announced they will merge, allowing the new organization more leverage as it fights climate change.

Rocky Mountain Institute and Carbon War Room have joined forces

Two NGOs that have been at the forefront of combating climate change through promoting innovation and market-based solutions have now joined forces. Yesterday Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and Carbon War Room (CWR) announced they will merge, allowing them to leverage each other’s strengths and find solutions to expand their vision of a low-carbon economy.

This new organization could benefit from what had been two very approaches. RMI, which was founded over 30 years ago, focuses on research and analysis. CWR, one of Richard Branson’s many ventures, takes a more brash approach toward promoting a global low-carbon economy—and has also been fixated on how capital solutions can help renewables and clean technologies scale. The trick, of course, is whether two different organizations with different work cultures and survive as one entity: a frequent challenge within the private sector when two companies merge.

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Tropical Countries Vow to Fight Deforestation at Lima Climate Conference

3p Contributor | Thursday December 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

15737021818_91ec093557_zBy Jeff Hayward

I recently returned to the U.S. from Lima, where I was part of a delegation to COP20 from the NGO Rainforest Alliance.  Coverage of it ranges from cheers and applause to anger and frustration, but my own experience is somewhere in between.

There is reason to criticize what the Lima agreement didn’t say.  It called for countries to submit their action pledges in advance of COP21 in Paris next year, but didn’t specify what those pledges needed to include or how they’ll be reviewed.  But it was progress that, for the first time, all nations agreed to take responsibility for their greenhouse gas emissions.  For all the delay and brinksmanship of the negotiations, COP20 was also an affirmation that all nations, developed and developing alike, have important contributions to make. 

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What Role Will Mushrooms Play in a Sustainable Future?

RP Siegel | Thursday December 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

static.squarespace.comAs we move forward to a more sustainable and flourishing future, we’re going to need to increase our understanding of our role in the biosphere and request the assistance of some of our fellow planetary occupants, many of whom can do things that we can’t.

One of these we’ll likely need are mushrooms. Of course they are delicious on pizza and in soup, but they also have some amazing properties that make them essential for the maintenance of the soil, on which we all depend. Not only are they one of nature’s best recyclers, breaking down waste matter into simpler compounds that feed the soil, but they can also break down toxins and render them harmless.

From this comes the idea of mycoremediation. That’s the practice of using mushrooms to clean up contaminated soil.

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International Law Silent on Climate Change Responsibility

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday December 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment

globe_with_flags_4m8p_1hus-235x236As global climate change increasingly affects everything from public health and species extinction to infrastructure and property destruction to migration patterns, well, who do you sue?

No one apparently. If you think the international response on what to do about climate change is pretty much a fragmented, inadequate mess, then international law on the subject is even messier. And weaker.

A recent article in the Guardian notes that international law “stays silent on the responsibility for climate change.” This might be important because if there were serious legal ramifications regarding climate change, faster action to mitigate its effects might occur. Or not.

“The global economy is underpinned by law, but you would think it had nothing to do with climate change,” the article by Stephen Humphreys says. “Climate-related cases have been absent from international courts – even from disputes involving human rights, investment or the environment. While there have been cases heard in some national courts, particularly in the U.S., they do not progress far.”

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5 Ways to Improve your Climate Risk Reporting

Emilie Mazzacurati
Emilie Mazzacurati | Thursday December 18th, 2014 | 2 Comments

More companies report climate risks, but few do it well

Climate Disclosure By S&P 500 Companies: 10-Ks Filed 2009-2013. Source: Ceres 2014.

Climate Disclosure By S&P 500 Companies: 10-Ks Filed 2009-2013.

According to Ceres, just shy of 60 percent of S&P 500 companies report climate risks in their financial disclosures (10-K), but the quality of disclosures is going down over time. “Most S&P 500 climate disclosures in 10-Ks are very brief, provide little discussion of material issues, and do not quantify impacts or risks,” writes Ceres in Cool Response: the SEC & Corporate Climate Change Reporting. Companies typically include no more than “one short paragraph or a couple of lines focused on climate-related risks or opportunities.”

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Dow Promotes the Importance of Handwashing

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday December 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

handwashingDow Chemical Co. clearly knows that handwashing is an important thing for children to do. The company recently announced its affiliation with the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW) to promote the practice that can prevent diseases.

This is not the first time the company has partnered with PPPHW. Dow previously worked with the organization during Global Handwashing Day, a campaign that raised awareness about the importance of handwashing with soap and water. PPPHW started Global Handwashing Day to reduce child mortality rates related to respiratory and diarrheal diseases.

Global Handwashing Day recognized a technology created by Dow that makes soaps last longer while feeling better on the skin called Dow Polyox Water-Soluble Polymers. The technology is used in Unilever’s Lifebuoy soap. In 2011, Unilever asked Dow to help a new formulation for its Lifebuoy soap brand. The two companies came up with a soap that people in developing countries could afford and would last longer than other soaps.

Dow’s partnerships with PPPHW and Unilever help the company meet its sustainability goals for 2015. One of those goals is achieving at least three breakthroughs by 2015 that will help solve world challenges in certain areas, including health.

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President Bans Oil and Gas Drilling in Bristol Bay Indefinitely

| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 3 Comments

Salmon fisherman, Bristol Bay, Alaska, USA President Barack Obama took executive action yesterday evening, Dec. 16, to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay, instituting an indefinite ban on oil and gas drilling across some 5.6 million acres in what’s known as the North Aleutian Basin Planning Area.

One of the world’s most economically valuable fishing grounds, the waters of Bristol Bay yield up to $2 billion worth of wild-caught seafood every year. Visiting to partake of Bristol Bay’s natural splendor, recreational fishing and tourism adds another $100 million a year to Alaska’s economy and communities. Home to an American fishing fleet and community that supplies 40 percent of U.S. wild-caught seafood, one of the economic and social pillars of the community is Bristol Bay’s salmon run – the world’s largest – as well as a bevy of endangered marine and terrestrial species of plants and animals.

President Obama’s latest executive action assures that the Bristol Bay ecosystem will not be threatened by oil and gas drilling.  Further, it ensures local communities and businesses can continue to pursue eco-based livelihoods and lifestyles that reach back generations. Far above Bristol Bay, another environmental threat persists, however: the massive open-pit Pebble Mine project.

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Tom’s of Maine Awards $510,000 to Nonprofits in All 50 States

Mary Mazzoni
| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments
The Backyard Growers’ School Garden Program in Gloucester, Mass. has planted five gardens and harvested 500 pounds of greens for students with the help of $10,000 in Tom’s of Maine sponsorship funding received in 2013.

The Backyard Growers’ School Garden Program in Gloucester, Mass. has planted five gardens and harvested 500 pounds of greens for students with the help of $10,000 in Tom’s of Maine sponsorship funding received in 2013.

The votes are in, and 51 nonprofits from across the country will be able to give back more in their communities as winners of the Tom’s of Maine 50 States for Good community giving program.

Now in its sixth year, the 50 States for Good program rewards grassroots nonprofits with a total of $500,000 in project funding. Back in August, the natural personal care brand asked the public to nominate their favorite nonprofit organizations on social media, and thousands of entries poured in.

This year, for the first time, the program features 51 winners, one from each state and the District of Columbia — bringing this year’s project funding total to $510,000, with each organization receiving a $10,000 donation. (Scroll down for the full list of winners.)

“For the first time, we’re awarding more than $500,000 to support organizations and volunteers on the front lines of making communities stronger across the country,” said Susan Dewhirst, goodness programs manager at Tom’s of Maine. “Every community advocate we heard from – reflected in thousands of nominations – has a unique and special vision for bringing a lasting, positive impact to where they live.”

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Boeing and South African Airways Partner on Biofuel from Tobacco

Leon Kaye | Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Tobacco, biofuels, solaris, South Africa, Boeing, South Africa airways, aviation fuel, jet fuel, Sunchem, SkyERG, Leon Kaye

Tobacco could have a future as a jet fuel feedstock. 

It has been ages since you could light up on a flight, but there is a chance tobacco could become an aviation fuel of the future. Boeing and South African Airways (SAA) have announced that they are close to processing the first crop of tobacco plants for biofuel production. This pilot project, which both companies have publicly acknowledged for over a year, promises so much it almost sounds too good to be true.

This time the feedstock is Solaris, a nicotine-free tobacco plant developed and patented by the Italian biotech firm Sunchem. Instead of providing leaves for cigarette production, the Solaris plant offers flowers and seeds from which oil can be extracted for fuel production. Solaris is not genetically modified, it can grow on lands inhospitable to food crops, and its by-products are high in protein and can be used for animal protein. Its promoters say it will allow tobacco farmers to continue their lives’ work while supporting the national campaign to reduce smoking in South Africa.

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“Coal Means Death for Us”: Big Coal and Forced Evictions in Colombia

Michael Kourabas
| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 2 Comments
According to a lawsuit filed in Colombia by La Guajira residents, between August 2001 and January 2002, the owners of the Cerrejón mine

According to a lawsuit filed in Colombia by La Guajira residents, the owners of the Cerrejón mine displaced indigenous populations by destroying local infrastructure.

Here’s a sad truth: The displacement of indigenous populations as a result of international corporate development projects is a relatively common practice. A mining or agricultural company needs land, so a deal is struck with a corrupt government providing land to the corporation, whether or not it is occupied. Those with the misfortune of living in the way of the project are forced to leave, under the threat of violence or an approaching bulldozer; development begins while insufficient attention is paid to environmental concerns, leading to the pollution of local water sources; people die, either from disease or violent clashes with security forces.

Sound familiar? It should, because in weakly-governed states in Africa, Asia and South America, where governments are more interested in attracting (and siphoning off) foreign investment than in protecting the land or the people, this happens every day.

The story of the Cerrejón mine in the the Guajira region in Colombia is one such story, and it carries a simple lesson: In La Guajira, Colombia, the resource beneath the ground is more valuable than the people who live above it.

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Manufacture NY: The New Model for Sustainable Innovation

| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

static.squarespace_350 New York City’s apparel manufacturing sector is about to get a makeover: To reignite local fashion manufacturing and spur economic development, the city recently announced it will invest $3.5 million to help launch the fashion incubator Manufacture New York, a co-location center with sustainability in its DNA.

Founded by Bob Bland, a Brooklyn-based fashion designer, entrepreneur and community organizer, Manufacture NY will be the country’s first fully-integrated facility with on-site, on-demand manufacturing – taking the term “Made in the USA” to the next level. Part production hub, part incubator, part learning lab, part R&D lab, the 160,000-square-foot Brooklyn facility will advance sustainably-minded research, design and manufacturing for emerging designers, manufacturers and entrepreneurs in apparel, textiles and wearable tech.

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Utility-Scale Solar Photovoltaics Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels in Chile

| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 7 Comments

chile-solar With energy demand rising and energy imports meeting as much as 70 percent of its needs, Chile has put itself on the “fast track” when it comes to developing an abundance of clean, renewable energy resources. Recent changes in energy market regulations are proving to be keys to unlocking Chile’s distributed renewable energy potential, and more broadly speaking, its sustainable development.

The same confluence of market regulatory changes, lower costs and technological advances is driving rapid renewable energy growth in the U.S. The birthplace of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, U.S. solar energy technology and project developers are venturing overseas in efforts to expand their businesses. Given the changes recently made to the market regulations governing its energy sector, Chile has become a “hotspot” for solar and renewable energy project developers.

Case in point: SunEdison on Dec. 15 was awarded 15-year power purchase agreements to supply 570 gigawatt-hours of electricity to Chile’s National Electricity Commission. Highlighting just how fast solar has become competitive with fossil-fuels in Chile, this solar energy will come at a lower cost than electricity generated by fossil-fuel combustion – and that’s without subsidies or incentives.

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