When most people think of Girl Scouts, they think of yummy cookies that are sold once a year by adorable little girls. Now Girl Scouts can be linked to sustainability. The Girl Scouts Forever Green (GSFG) Take Action program began in honor of the organization’s 100th anniversary. The Alcoa Foundation gave a two-year, $1.5 million grant to expand the program to 12 countries (Australia, Brazil, China, Guinea, Iceland, Italy,Jamaica, Mexico, Suriname, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.) By the end of the program, the results showed that it was a raging success with 639 million kilowatts of energy saved, 226 million gallons of water conserved, one billion pounds of carbon dioxide eliminated, and 120 million pounds of waste eliminated. In addition, there were 409,940 aluminum cans recycled, 123,753 native plants/trees planted, and 2,462 wildlife fed and sheltered.
“Although our girls might be famous for wearing the color green, it’s clear that they are enthusiastic about ‘going green’ and working to preserve our natural resources,” said Anna Maria Chavez, CEO, Girl Scouts of the USA in a statement. “As an organization committed to helping girls become leaders who make a difference in the world, we couldn’t ignore their passion for the environment, and the generous contribution from Alcoa Foundation provided an outlet for girls to funnel their ecological energies.”
Across the proverbial pond there is much development of renewable energy going on. New government figures show that Scotland gets over 40 percent of its electricity from renewables. Published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the data reveals that renewables make up 40.3 percent of gross electricity consumption in 2012, up from 36.2 percent in 2011. Scotland has a target for renewables to generate the equivalent of 50 percent of gross annual consumption by 2015, and 100 percent by 2020. Indeed, the country is on track to meet its targets. The data as of September 2013 shows that Scotland has 6.5 gigawatts (GW) of installed renewable electricity generation capacity, with an additional 4.6 GW of capacity either under construction or planned, namely in wind power. There is also a hydropower potential. According to Highlands and Islands Enterprise, hydropower produces about 12 percent of Scotland’s electricity, and there is “considerable potential” to expand it.
The contribution of renewables to total electricity generation was 26.8 percent in 2011, up from 29.8 percent in 2011. Scottish renewable electricity made up 36 percent of the UK’s renewable energy generation in 2012. UK renewable generation increased 19.1 percent in 2012, mainly from increases in offshore wind and biomass generation. Quarterly data up to third quarter 2013 shows that renewable generation in 2013 is on track to beat 2012. The generation over the first three quarters of 2013 is four percent higher than over the same period in 2012. At the end of third quarter 2013, there was 14.6 percent more installed renewables electricity capacity in Scotland over the year from third quarter 2012.
New York City will reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfills by converting it into energy. Last week, Deputy Mayor Cas Halloway announced that the city will partner with Waste Management to deliver pre-processed organic waste food to Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant where it will be added to wastewater sludge to increase biogas production. The biogas by-product will be converted into renewable natural gas for both residential and commercial use through a partnership with National Grid, an international electricity and energy company. Through this project, enough energy could be produced to heat almost 5,200 New York city homes and reduce annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by over 90,000 metric tons, equivalent to removing almost 19,000 cars from the road. In addition, the project will help the city reach its PlaNYC goal of reducing municipal GHG emissions by 30 percent by 2017, a goal it is more than halfway to achieving.
The New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection uses about 40 percent of the biogas produced at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. The new partnership with National Grid will help to ensure that 100 percent of the biogas produced will be converted to power, which means it will not contribute to the plant’s GHG emissions. The project will be financed by National Grid. A biogas purification system’s construction will begin in 2014. The system will purify the plant’s remaining 60 percent of biogas it produces.
Los Angeles, the second most populous city in the U.S., has made history by becoming the first major city to require all new and refurbished homes have a “cool roof.” On December 17, 2013 the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed an update to its Municipal Building Code. A cool roof is one that “reflects and emits the sun’s heat back to the sky instead of transferring it to the building below,” according to the Cool Roof Rating Council.
Cool roofs are great in an area like Los Angeles which has warm summers and mild winters. A white roof is one of the most popular choices for a cool roof, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Heat Island Group estimates that a white roof can reflect 80 percent of sunlight in the summer, making the building cooler. A cooler building in the summer means less air conditioning is used and that saves homeowners money. Cool roofs offer other benefits, according to both Climate Resolve, which worked on the ordinance with the City Council, and the Cool Roof Rating Council. Those other benefits include improving air quality by reducing the formation of ozone, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and decrease roof maintenance costs.
Coca-Cola, the the largest beverage company in the world, with over 500 brands, recently announced that it is converting all of its 2014 Chevrolet Express service vans to hybrid-electric vehicles. The vans, 100 in total, will use the XL Hybrids’ powertrain technology, which stores energy that is wasted in braking and reapplies it during acceleration. The powertrain technology reduces fuel use and carbon emissions by up to 21.2 percent on urban or suburban routes. The move earns the company the distinction of having the largest heavy-duty hybrid electric delivery fleet in North America.
Early tests showed that the hybrid technology results in a 15 to 20 percent fuel reduction. The 100 hybrid vans are estimated to prevent 4,000 total tons of carbon dioxide emissions compared to what conventional vans would produce over their 10-year life span. The powertrain unit pays for itself three times over as a result of fuel savings and low maintenance. The hybrid vans are not the only alternative vehicles the company uses. Coca-Cola recently announced that it will be using 16 refrigerated plug-in electric vehicles to deliver its Odwalla brand beverages in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Leading sustainably-minded companies including Seventh Generation are participating in a coalition that urges Congress to update chemical safety laws. Called Companies for Safer Chemicals, Seventh Generation and the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) are leading the coalition. Other participating companies include Patagonia, Stonyfield Farm, Aubrey Organics, Method, Naturepedic, Badger, Annie’s, EILEEN FISHER, Zarbee’s Naturals, Keys, Think Dirty, and Beautycounter. Coalition members have signed a declaration which asks “Congress to pass comprehensive and effective chemical safety reform legislation now.” The declaration also states that reform “must respect the rights of states to protect their residents when the federal government fails to do so, and require the Environmental Protection Agency to take fast action on the most harmful chemicals.”
“Federal chemical reform is desperately needed, but after twenty-five years of doing business, we know we can’t do it alone,” said John Replogle, CEO of Seventh Generation. “We’re honored to be joined by such a diverse group of socially responsible businesses and we’re looking forward to driving change that will protect the health of future generations.”
Just about every American knows the line “leggo my Eggo.” Eggo waffles are the most popular frozen waffles around, and their manufacturer, Kellogg’s Company is the world’s leading cereal company, second largest producer of snack foods and the leading North American frozen foods company. Kellogg’s has also increased sustainability efforts, and the Eggo waffles made in Kellogg’s bakery in San Jose, California are the latest demonstration of that effort. Kellogg’s recently installed fuel cell technology to produce about half of the facility’s annual electricity use. The system also uses less water to generate this power than if the power grid had supplied the energy. Bloom Energy developed the fuel cell servers which convert natural gas into electricity using a reaction more efficient than combustion.
The fuel cell servers are not all that is sustainable about the San Jose bakery. This year, the bakery started testing new types of energy efficient waffle irons, which resulted in an energy savings of 15 percent. The design of the waffle irons allows 12 percent more waffles to be produced per cycle. The improvements to San Jose bakery help meet the company’s goals of reducing energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and water use by 15 to 20 percent from 2005 to 2015, as Kellogg’s 2012 CSR report outlines.
Black Friday is the premier shopping day of the retail holiday season. Retailers promote it weeks before the actual day. Some big box retailers will start Black Friday on Thanksgiving, opening up their stores on a national holiday.
However, one clothing retailer wants to make people think before they automatically buy something new. That retailer is Patagonia, who released a film earlier this week called Worn Wear. The company bills the short film as “an antidote to the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzy, Worn Wear is an invitation to celebrate the stuff you already own.”
The short film is produced by Keith, Lauren, Chris, and Dan Malloy who are Patagonia Surf Ambassadors. Surf Ambassadors are described on the retailer’s website as “field testers for our gear and storytellers for our tribe.” The film features various locales, from a surf camp in Baja, Mexico, to a maple syrup harvest in New Hampshire, to an organic farm in Ojai, California. It also features various Patagonia customers who have repurposed and repaired the company’s clothing, including a champion skier and a National Geographic photographer.
Hundreds of garment workers in Bangladesh took to the streets last week to demand a higher monthly salary. Fast forward a week, and now the world’s second largest clothing retailer, Hennes & Mauritz, best known as H&M, has made a commitment to pay a “fair living wage” by 2018. The announcement came on November 25 at a conference in Berlin titled Living Wage in International Supply Chains. Helena Helmersson, Global Head of Sustainability at H&M, was the keynote speaker at the conference. Helmersson made the commitment during the conference
It has always been our vision that all textile workers should be able to live on their wage,” the company said in a statement. “That is also stated in our Code of Conduct. We believe that the wage development, driven by, for example, governments in some countries, is taking too long, so we want to take further action and encourage the whole industry to follow. With size comes responsibility and we have the ability to contribute to change.”
Duke Energy Renewables, a part of Duke Energy, announced it reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for $1 million over the deaths of golden eagles and other migratory birds at two of the company’s wind power generation sites in Wyoming. The DOJ filed misdemeanor charges under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) for 14 golden eagle mortalities within the last three years at Duke Energy’s Top of the World Windpower Project and Campbell Hill Windpower Project near Casper, Wyoming. Both wind power projects are made up of 176 large wind turbines located on private agricultural land. Over 1,000 bird species are protected under the MBTA, which was enacted in 1918. The case is the first criminal enforcement of the MBTA for bird deaths at wind projects. Although golden eagles are not listed as endangered or threatened, they are protected under the MBTA.
The company must pay fines, complete restitution and community service totaling $1 million, and faces five years of probation. During that time, it is required to implement an environmental compliance plan to prevent bird deaths at its four commercial wind projects in Wyoming. Duke will spend approximately $600,000 a year to implement the compliance plan. In addition, the company is required to apply for an Eagle Take Permit within 24 months, and if it’s granted, it will “provide a framework for minimizing and mitigating the deaths of golden eagles at the wind projects,” according to a DOJ statement.
There is a section within Royal Dutch Shell’s 2012 sustainability report, released last spring, which describes the oil company’s self-imposed carbon pollution price. Yes, you read those last three words correctly and they are not a typo. Although Shell is a public advocate for a “strong and stable price on carbon emissions,” the company is “not waiting for government policy to develop” carbon pollution prices, as it states in the report.
Back in 2009, critics charged that Shell, along with other oil companies, supported climate change denial. Fast forward to present day and that same company states in its report that it considers “the potential cost of a project’s carbon emissions” which it sets at $40 a ton.
Think Progress reports that if Shell’s carbon pollution price were an actual national carbon tax, $0.35 a gallon would be added to the price at the pump. It would also add $0.04 a kilowatt hour (kWh) to coal power’s price, and “might cut U.S. carbon emissions more than 20 percent below current levels, which are already more than 10 percent below 2005 levels.”
The Hawaii County Council, the governing council for the Big Island of Hawaii, voted 6 to 3 for a bill that bans genetically modified organisms (GMO) from being grown on the island. Bill 113 the bill imposes “restrictions on the cultivation, propagation, development, and testing of genetically engineered crops and plants to protect public and private property as well as surface waters, vulnerable watersheds, and our Island’s coastal waters.”
The bill would levy a $1,000 fine per day for violations and those found violating would be responsible for “all costs of investigation,” including attorneys fees and any damages that result to neighboring non-GMO crops or plants. Hawaii Island Mayor Billy Kenoi has 10 days to either sign the bill into law or veto it. If he vetoes it, the Hawaii County Council could override it with an affirmative vote from six of its members. Last weekend, Kauai County Council overrode Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s veto of a bill that requires farmers to report to the county any GMO crops being grown.
Council member Margaret Wille introduced the bill and voted in favor of it. “We are at a juncture — do we move forward in the direction of the agro-chemical monoculture model of agriculture, or do we move toward eco-friendly, diversified farming?” Wille told Civil Beat after the vote. “There is no sacred cow when it comes to how do we protect the future health of the island and the kids,” she said.
IKEA is the world’s largest home furnishings retailer, with over 340 stores in 40 countries, including 38 in the U.S. That’s one big reach. IKEA would like its reach to be powered with renewable energy.
IKEA Canada recently announced its purchase of a 46 megawatt (MW) wind farm in Alberta. The 20 turbine wind farm will be the largest owned by a Canadian retailer. It is expected to generate 161 gigawatt hours (GWh) every year, more than double the total energy consumption of IKEA Canada. That amount of energy is equivalent to 60 percent of IKEA Group electricity use in North America, or eight percent of IKEA group electricity use worldwide or 13,500 average Canadian households’ electricity use. The project is currently under construction by the global wind and solar company, Mainstream Renewable Power, and expected to be fully operational in fall 2014.
IKEA Group committed to own 157 wind turbines globally, 110 of those turbines in Europe, and has installed over 500,000 solar panels on its buildings in nine countries. The company has invested in wind farms in seven other markets, including Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. IKEA has allocated $1.8 billion to invest in renewable energy through 2015. IKEA Group’s goal is to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes by 2020.
Procter & Gamble (P&G) has lofty long-term environmental goals, as its recently released 15th annual Sustainability Report reveals. They include using 100 percent sustainably sourced renewable or recycled materials in all products and packaging, powering its plants with 100 percent renewable energy, and having zero consumer and manufacturing waste end up in landfills. Since P&G is the largest consumer packaged goods company on the planet, just setting those kind of goals is a big deal and could influence other companies.
In order to measure progress toward its long-term goals, P&G set the following concrete short-term goals:
- Powering its plants from 30 percent renewable sources by 2020
- Using only third party certified virgin wood fiber in its tissue/towel and absorbent hygiene products by 2015
- Sourcing palm oil only from responsible and sustainable sources by 2015
- Using only third party certified virgin content for its paper packaging by 2020
- Make manufacturing waste to landfill less than 0.5 percent of input materials
REI recently announced a major energy reduction achievement. By retrofitting its data center, REI reduced the cooling energy used to operate the facility by 93 percent. The data center contains servers and backup systems for computers, software systems, the company’s website and point of sales for all of its 132 stores. The retrofit features a rooftop evaporative cooling tower which keeps servers at recommended temperatures, and reduces the need for mechanical cooling, about 8,672 hours a year. It saves enough energy to power six REI stores, or 2.2 kWh a year.
REI partnered with the energy efficiency firm CLEAResult and Puget Sound Energy to complete the retrofit, which was recognized by the Association of Energy Engineers as the Region V Energy Project of the Year for 2013. In addition to installing a cooling tower, the retrofit included:
- Upgrading backup battery banks
- Removing old power distribution units
- Installing floor brush barriers and curtain systems so cold air can be contained in areas critical to the data center
- Upgrading software to the backup power system
- Rewiring subfloor cabling to optimize airflow under the raised floor