Last week, a team of 17 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) divers returned from a mission in which it removed 57 tons of debris from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
The divers traveled on the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette for a 33-day mission to remove marine debris from Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii. The monument is a World Heritage Site and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. Most of the debris removed was either fishing nets or plastic letter.
NOAA has led missions to clean marine debris every year since 1996, removing 904 tons in total, including the 57 tons removed on this latest mission.
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands include 5,178 square miles of the least disturbed coral reef habitat in U.S. waters. Divers found three sea turtles tangled in nets at Pearl and Hermes Atoll. The divers removed almost 6.25 tons of plastic trash on the shorelines of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. At the end of the voyage, they removed 7,436 hard plastic fragments, 3,758 bottle caps, 1,469 plastic beverage bottles and 477 lighters.
Change.org announced recently that it will amend its parental leave policy. The site that allows users to create petitions will increase the paid time an employee can take for the birth of a child from six weeks to 18 weeks. This is extended to both fathers and mothers. The new policy also includes people who adopt as being eligible for leave. Change.org has about 200 employees, and about 51 percent are women.
The company’s new policy goes further than federal law. Although the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides job protection so parents can take leave, there’s no guarantee of pay during time off. Jennifer Dulski, president and CEO of Change.org, told CNN Money that “giving people unpaid leave only solves half the problem.” The company’s goal was “to create a generous and equal leave policy that supported all parents,” she said.
Former Philip Morris cigarette plant in Concord, North Carolina will produce batteries to store energy for wind and solar farms, Fortune reports. The Swiss owned startup Alevo, which manufactures batteries, bought the 3.5 million square foot plant. The batteries are lithium-iron-phosphate and can be charged within 30 minutes, run 24/7 and last for 40,000 charges.
The North Carolina plant used to manufacture a billion cigarettes annually. However, smoking is not as popular and many Americans are either smoking less or quitting altogether. Years ago, Philip Morris stopped producing cigarettes at the plant. Now, it will produce batteries and create jobs while doing so. Alevo says it will hire 500 people in the next year, and within three years it will create 2,500 jobs. When the plant produced cigarettes, over 2,000 people were employed there.
European leaders agreed to reduce greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2030. Two targets of 27 percent were also agreed on: one for the market share of renewable energy and another for energy efficiency improvement. The renewable energy target is binding on all EU member countries, but the energy efficiency target is optional.
“This 2030 package is very good news for our fight against climate change,” said President of the European Commission Jose Barroso in a statement. “No player in the world is as ambitious as the EU.”
Environmentalists are not very happy with the EU’s targets. “It is clear that all of the targets could have been – and should have been – more ambitious,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of climate and energy programs at the World Resources Institute. Morgan cites recent analysis that shows the EU can reduce carbon emissions by 49 percent by cutting natural gas imports in half and investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Public lands like Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California and Everglades National Park in Florida are national treasures that need to be protected. The outdoor company The North Face and the Department of the Interior recently announced a joint partnership to protect and preserve public lands. The joint partnership supports the 21st Century Conservation Science Corps (21CSC) which began in 2010 as part of the Obama administration’s America’s Great Outdoors program. The North Face also announced it is donating $250,000 to the 21CSC.
The company also launched a new commercial campaign, featuring footage of The North Face global athlete team members skiing, running, climbing and hiking. The commercial launched on YouTube on Oct. 27 and will hit national television during NBC Sunday Night Football on Nov. 9 . It will run through the end of December on other channels, including ESPN, USA Network and Comedy Central. The commercial will also be featured on digital and social channels such as Hulu and Facebook beginning Nov. 10.
The Ebola virus is one of the deadliest to hit West Africa. The number of Ebola cases in West Africa totaled 9,936 with 4,877 deaths as of Oct. 20. The average death rate is 50 percent, but in past outbreaks the death rate has ranged from 50 to 90 percent. Clearly, West Africa needs help fighting Ebola, and corporate donors are pledging money to help with that fight. Recently, JPMorgan Chase & Co. announced up to $600,000 in donations from its foundation and employees.
Grants of $300,000 from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation will support the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Rescue Committee in their work to help control the Ebola outbreak. The foundation is also launching an employee giving campaign that will match employee donations dollar-for-dollar. The foundation will double donations made by employees by up to $150,000 for a total of $300,000.
Solar prices continue to drop, according to the findings of a joint report by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). Distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) system prices decreased by 12 to 19 percent nationwide in 2013. Prices in 2014 are expected to drop by another 3 to 12 percent — and this trend is expected to continue through 2016.
PV system prices of residential and commercial systems dropped by 6 to 7 percent per year from 1998 to 2013 — and by 12 to 15 percent from 2012 to 2013. Market analysts expect system prices to continue to drop. The Department of Energy SunShot Initiative aims to reduce PV system prices by 75 percent from 2010 to 2020.
The Sultanate of Oman will have a 50 megawatt (MW) wind project online in early 2017. Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, signed a joint development agreement with the Rural Areas Electricity Company (RAECO) to build the first large-scale wind farm in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The wind farm will be built in the country’s Dhofar Governorate. It is estimated that it will produce enough electricity to power 16,000 homes. It will represent seven percent of total installed power generation capacity in the Dhofar region or about 50 percent of Dhofar’s winter energy use. Consisting of up to 25 wind turbines, the wind farm will have a daily production estimated to be 1,200 megawatt hours (MWh). Construction will start in the last quarter of 2015, and Masdar will fund the $125 million project.
The Middle East region is “rapidly adopting renewable energy as a viable solution to meet growing electricity demands and to address long-term resource security,” said H.E Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE minister of state and chairman of Masdar. Al Jaber sees the Oman wind project as being a “prime example of how clean energy can deliver reliable power supplies and improve energy security, while also supporting a transition to a low-carbon future.”
The Ikea Group may be putting a price on carbon emissions, Reuters reports. “There was a lot of discussion about carbon pricing and putting an internal price on carbon,” Chief Executive Peter Agnefjall said at the Reuters Global Climate Change Summit. “That’s definitely something we bring home and that we will analyze in the coming months.”
The company is making great strides to become more sustainable. It has committed to investing €1.5 billion until 2015 in renewable energy, mainly wind and solar power. The goal is for the company to become energy neutral by producing as much renewable energy as it consumes in its operations. By 2015, Ikea aims to produce at least 70 percent of its energy consumption from renewable sources.
It’s easy to see the impact of the three-year-long California drought in residential areas anywhere in the state. Just look for brown lawns or green lawns with patches of brown. Or drive through parts of the San Joaquin Valley and see idled farmland. It’s harder to see with the naked eye the effects of the drought on the dairy industry in general and the organic dairy industry specifically. But report after report by various media outlets reveals that organic dairy farmers are being hit very hard in the Golden State.
California is the state with the most organic dairy cows, and it gained that spot in just a few years. California had less than 100 organic dairy farms in 2008, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. By 2011, the state had 57,809 certified organic dairy cows, making it the state with the highest amount of them. California is clearly an important state for organic dairy production. And the lack of rainfall in the state means it’s hard for organic dairy farmers to keep grasses green.
Procter & Gamble, commonly known as P&G, expanded its sustainability goals to include water conservation and sustainable packaging. P&G expects its manufacturing facilities to reduce water use by an added 20 percent per unit of production, with a focus on water conservation initiatives at facilities in water-stressed areas. P&G has four locations in California, a state experiencing its third straight year of drought. The drought is one of the worst on record.
Additionally, the company is on track to meet its goal to reduce packaging by 20 percent per unit of production by 2020. P&G has reduced its packaging by 4.5 percent percent per consumer use since 2010, according to its 2013 Sustainability Report. This progress has spurred the company to add more packaging goals. One of those goals is doubling the use of recycled resin in plastic packaging. The other is ensuring that 90 percent of its product packaging is recyclable or programs are in place to create the ability to recycle it.
Lego recently announced that it will not renew its contract with Shell when it ends in 2016. “We want to clarify that as things currently stand we will not renew the co-promotion contract with Shell when the present contract ends,” the company said in a statement released last week. The announcement comes after a three-month-long campaign by the environmental group, Greenpeace. The group set its sights on Lego, demanding that the toy company drop its partnership with Shell.
The company made it clear that it did not like the campaign by Greenpeace. Instead of a campaign targeting the company, Greenpeace should have had “direct conversation with Shell,” Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, president and CEO of the Lego Group, said in a statement by the company. Knudstorp added that Lego does not “want to be part of Greenpeace’s campaign, and we will not comment any further on the campaign.”
NRG is a company with a clever name and marketing strategy. The company provides sustainable energy choices, including solar power, for consumers. It is also a company that has sustainable energy solutions installed at six stadiums that are home to professional teams. Those energy solutions provide a way for the company to let attendees of the games held at the stadiums know that solar energy and alternative technologies, such as LED lights, are choices. Information about solar and those other technologies is available at the six different stadiums.
The LED lights and electric vehicle charging stations installed at the six stadiums, plus solar power, serves as “real life examples of alternative energy solutions,” as Elizabeth Killinger, president of NRG Retail and Reliant, said to me. The company installs them in “hopes of educating the people who’ve visited those stadiums that solar is something they can consider for their homes and businesses, as well as some of the other alternative technologies whether that’s electric vehicle (EV) charging or the LED lights.” In other words, the company can spread the word about sustainable energy solutions while putting their name in the minds of potential consumers. It’s a brilliant strategy.
Mars, Inc. launched a new palm oil policy six months ago and recently released an update on its progress. The food manufacturer best known for its chocolate committed to developing a palm oil supply chain that is both sustainable and traceable by the end of this year. The company requires palm oil to be traced back to known mills and for its suppliers to confirm they will comply with its sourcing charter by the end of 2015. It is currently on track to meet its commitment to achieve 100 percent traceability of its palm oil supplies by the end of this year.
Mars is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) . By the end of 2013, it purchased all of its palm oil from RSPO-certified sources through the “mass balance” program. Mass balance requires processors to purchase palm oil from certified sources, but allows them to mix it with conventional palm oil. As a result, some of the palm oil in its supply chain is from non-certified sources. Tracing palm oil back to known mills allows the company to assess the environmental and social practices of the plantations and farms the mills source from and see that improvements are made.
The company achieved a 12.6 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2013, surpassing its goal of a 10 percent reduction. Caesars surpassed other goals including its goal for water reduction. The hotel chain reduced water use by 18 percent per air conditioned 1,000 square feet in 2013. The goal was to reduce water use by 10 percent by 2015 and 15 percent by 2020.
Environmental stewardship is a long-term strategy Caesars developed about six years ago, Gwen Migita, vice president of corporate citizenship and sustainability, told me. The company is currently in the next stage of its five-year strategy. “Environmental stewardship was a long-term strategy we really developed about six years ago,” Migita said. “From the top down, our CEO has made a commitment to sponsor and support our sustainability strategy.”