Oil Spill Shuts Down Houston Ship Channel on Exxon Valdez Anniversary

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Tuesday March 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Gaveston_Bay_oil_spill_USACE-eh It’s been said that history repeats itself. It’s doubtful that the author of that saying had oil spills in mind at the time – and even less likely the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Still, the irony of this weekend’s collision and spill near Galveston Bay, Texas on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Exxon spill has been hard to ignore.

Approximately 168,000 gallons of crude oil has been leaking into the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay since Saturday — when a barge being pulled by a towboat collided with a cargo ship in the channel off the coast of Texas City, Texas. The collision closed down traffic and has backed up vessels both ways. More than 80 commercial ships were waiting to get into port as of Monday morning. The Bolivar Peninsula ferry, which shuttles commuters between the peninsula and Galveston, Texas, has been closed until the spill can be cleaned up.

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New Solar Cell Doubles As a Touch Screen

| Tuesday March 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

new solar cell material doubles as touch screenA new finding from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) demonstrates yet again how the flexibility and wide-ranging applicability of solar power provides it with advantages that are impossible to achieve with fossil forms of energy. NTU’s breakthrough is a new solar cell material that could also be used to make the now-ubiquitous touch screens for electronic devices, information kiosks and many other display forms.

The integrated solar cell/touch screen concept parallels the emergence of building-integrated solar cells, as well as solar cells that can be incorporated into fabrics and other wearable or portable items.

In addition to the potential energy cost savings related to consumer products, NTU’s new solar cell material could also provide businesses with a low-emission platform for colorful lighting displays, especially when combined with a storage system that enables night-time use.

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Interview: Monique Oxender Walks Us Through Keurig’s New Sustainability Report

RP Siegel | Tuesday March 25th, 2014 | 6 Comments

Green mountain keurigGreen Mountain Coffee has been a very busy place lately. For starters, the company announced a major deal with Coca-Cola which will focus on bringing single–serving, brew-at-home technology to the soft drink market — a story we covered last month. The company has now changed its name to Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., though it maintains the two brands, Keurig and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters on separate websites and product lines.

In last month’s story we wrote about some of the impacts of this single-serving wave that has been taking the world by storm, pointing out areas where they will clearly make things better, such as moving less water around, and places where there might be some added impact, such as more packaging. I had not seen a lifecycle analysis (LCA) of the Keurig system, so I could not quantify its impact.

Now, with the release of their 2013 Sustainability Report, we have some of those details, at least for the K-Cup coffee system.

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Jaguar Land Rover Embraces Carbon Finance to Deliver Change

GreenFutures | Tuesday March 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

By supporting LifeStraw Carbon for Water, JLR have provided safe water to 700,000 people in the Busia region of Kenya_660By Will Simpson

Can an auto manufacturer make a difference in millions of lives? That is the goal of U.K. manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover, which set an ambitious target to improve health, reduce poverty, and create new opportunities for employment and education for 12 million people around the world by the end of this decade.

It’s no pie-in-the-sky goal: The difference will be felt by people living in communities with particular development goals – such as the need for safe water. These are being identified in collaboration with ClimateCare, with the Busia region of Kenya first on the list (see box, ‘Water for Busia’). Consistent measurement frameworks are being agreed with the London Benchmarking Group to help report the impact consistently across a variety of projects and global locations.

The key to delivering change on such an immense scale? Carbon finance.

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How MBA Students Are Getting ‘Out There’ with Global Experiential Learning

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments
MBA students from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business work with the World Bicycle Relief in Zambia to catch a glimpse of environmental and social challenges that face other cultures in real-time.

MBA students from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business work with World Bicycle Relief staff to provide bicycles for transportation and disaster relief in Zambia.

By Erika Herz

Societal issues loom large, and MBA students don’t want to wait until the end of their programs to make a difference.

As Prof. Andrea Larson of the University of Virginia Darden School of Business shared in her October Triple Pundit article, students eagerly refine their abilities to lead in business with an eye toward sustainable innovation and social impact. An instrumental and increasingly popular means for doing so is global experiential learning. Working beyond domestic sustainability challenges gives these students the opportunity to tackle very complex business, political and cultural situations – all in one project.

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Buying Smartphones for Longevity: Are Manufacturers (and Consumers) Ready?

| Tuesday March 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment

San Francisco Apple Store morning new iPhones launchHere’s a quick question: What’s your smartphone upgrade cycle? Or in other words, what’s the frequency with which you replace your older smartphone in a newer one?

If you’re like the average American, it’s a little less than two years (22 months in 2012, according to Recon Analytics).

This aggressive upgrade cycle is no secret, and it helps the mobile industry grow and generate impressive profits. At the same time, we all know this trend is not sustainable and hurts our wallets. In addition, writes Farhad Manjoo in the New York Times: “Smartphones have crossed the threshold from amazing to boring. High-end phones seem to have hit an innovation plateau, with each new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy just incrementally better than the last.”

Given these circumstances Manjoo suggests it might not be so wild to imagine a world in which we “buy smartphones with an eye to longevity.” In this world, he writes, consumers use their smartphones for more than two years (ideally three); try to repair them instead of replacing them when possible; consider buying used phones instead of new ones; and trade their smartphones in where they’re done with them.

I like Manjoo’s vision. It’s practical and at the same time offers a real change. The only thing I would change about it is aiming somewhat higher with the upgrade cycle to at least twice what we have now – let’s say four to five years. But even without this revision, is it really possible for the mobile industry to become a (more) sustainable closed-loop system, or is it just another green fantasy?

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A Fish with a Story Could Save Our Oceans … and 200 Million Jobs

3p Contributor | Monday March 24th, 2014 | 2 Comments

1027287737_d527cb331d_zBy Cheryl Dahle

The best fish story I ever heard was from Dune Lankard, a native Athabaskan fisher, who shared the tale of the salmon that those of us gathered in his home that evening were about to eat. His people, the Eyaks, have lived in the Copper River Delta region of Alaska for 3,500 years. For much of that history (before industry exploitation and disease decimated the population) their culture, diet and spirituality all centered on salmon.

Lankard narrated the journey of the salmon — starting with its birth in the rich, silty river, following its trek out to sea and then, years later, its heroic return upstream, fighting currents to fulfill its destiny. He said we were privileged to eat this fish, which had been taken at the peak of its energy — immersed in the struggle to reproduce and give its life to the future survival of its species. Instead, its energy would feed us. For that, we owed our thanks.

I’ve never eaten a meal with as much reverence as I did that night. That fish story connected me to riverbanks, pristine waters, and something bigger than my appetite or myself. I’ve not eaten a fish since without thinking about its journey.

The truth is that we rarely know the journey of a fish that has landed on our plate. And that missing story is more than a lost opportunity for reflection: It is the root of why we are overfishing our oceans with rapacious abandon.

Here are a few reasons why story matters if we want to ensure the survival of our own species, which depends on oceans for every other breath we take.

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ExxonMobil to Report Publicly on Carbon Asset Risk

Bill DiBenedetto | Monday March 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

3095052057_cc7c23a1c2_zFinally, ExxonMobil is agreeing to publicize the risks that stricter carbon emissions rules and limits will have on its business.

In doing so, the largest publicly traded international oil and gas corporation in the world became the first such company to do this.

It seems like a huge deal for a several reasons: The oil major is publicly acknowledging the potential impact of carbon emissions limits on its business model and revealing how it assesses the “risk of stranded assets” from climate change, and it did so at the behest of two shareholder groups.

The landmark agreement with shareholders was disclosed—without comment from ExxonMobil—in a PR Newswire release from Arjuna Capital and As You Sow. Arjuna is the sustainable wealth management platform of Baldwin Brothers Inc., and As You Sow is a nonprofit that promotes environmental corporate responsibility.

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How Walmart Is Empowering Women in Business

Shared Value Initiative
Shared Value Initiative | Monday March 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

The retail giant is creating shared value by achieving business goals that help empower women.

By Meghan Ennes

Believe it or not, Walmart is taking on big social issues to build a stronger business. Through the Empowering Women Together Initiative, launched in 2011, they’re making that strategy a reality.

“Walmart is using our size and scope to help women-owned businesses around the world succeed and grow,” says Andrea Thomas, SVP of Sustainability. Setting the precedent for similar social initiatives at Whole Foods and Starbucks, this strategy shift from America’s largest retailer could signal a “turning point in socially-conscious retail” (Forbes).

But Walmart’s strategy is attempting to go beyond social consciousness. They’re creating shared value by achieving business goals that help alleviate a societal problem. Beth Keck, senior director of women’s economic empowerment at Walmart, believes her company can give more women the opportunity for success through the shared value mindset. “All of these initiatives are improving our bottom line,” she says of the company’s sustainability efforts.

One of these goals is to give women in business access to Walmart’s huge customer base, and the company plans to source $20 billion from women-owned businesses across the world.

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Feds, State Investigate Duke Energy for Illegal Pumping of Coal Ash

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday March 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Duke_Energy_coal_ash_USFWS_SoutheastA small handful of environmentalists that were expelled by police from boating on a local waterway in North Carolina are being hailed as national heroes this week. After members from Waterkeeper Alliance, who were trying to take water samples from a stream, were told by police on March 10 to leave an area bordering the Duke Energy Cape Fear River facility, they resorted to aerial surveillance of the area.

The following day they released photographs showing that Duke Energy has been pumping coal ash into a local tributary of the Cape Fear River, a local source for drinking water.

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‘War on Coal’ is Not the Real Reason Your Utility Rates Will Go Up

| Monday March 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

7681112366_6e465d4d17_zWith new EPA regulations for coal-fired power plants looming ahead, the coal and utilities industries have issued sharp warnings about the impact of another “war on coal.” The argument goes that the cost of installing pollution-scrubbing equipment, and/or shutting down outdated coal-fired power plants, is passed directly along to the consumer in the form of higher rates. The U.S. economy also feels the impact, so the argument goes, in terms of higher business costs, lost employment opportunities and a competitive advantage for coal-using companies overseas.

However, given the past record of accuracy for those warnings, it looks like a bad case of déjà vu all over again. According to a history of similar warnings about coal regulation compiled by the Center for American Progress (CAP), those predictions fail to account for the positive impact of innovation, as well as the economic counterbalance of improved public health.

Meanwhile, within the broader issue of U.S. infrastructure, CAP draws out an important point: In the coming years, the main driver of utility rates will not be the power plants or the fuel they use, it will be the urgent need to overhaul the nation’s aging, badly outdated electricity distribution and transmission grid.

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AT&T, EDF Promote Conservation Toolkit In Water-Stressed U.S. Cities

| Monday March 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

waterpipejapan“Conserving water conserves energy, and conserving energy conserves water,” was a key message of 2014 World Water Day and the World Water Development Report. It’s a message that business executives across the economy, not just those in the agricultural and industrial sectors, are increasingly taking to heart.

The search for ways to minimize waste and conserve water, other natural resources and energy is making for what may seem like strange bedfellows. Some of the world’s largest corporations have been joining with leading environmental organizations to find what amount to triple bottom line solutions — solutions that can turn business risks and threats into opportunities and benefits.

Working together at the water-energy nexus, AT&T and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) over the past few years have developed a set of tools to help businesses reduce water, and hence energy, use for cooling buildings. Setting a target of reducing their own annual water use by 5 percent (some 150 million gallons) and annual energy use by 400 million kilowatt-hours (enough for 35,000 U.S. households), the two unlikely partners are setting out to promote and foster adoption of their water-energy conservation toolkit in five water-stressed U.S. cities.

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First Interstate Water Credits Program Launched in the Ohio River Basin

Mike Hower
| Monday March 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Ohio RiverThe Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) on March 11 officially launched the first water quality pilot trades in the Ohio River Basin. The pilot, which is the world’s only interstate water quality trading program, is part of a new initiative to test water quality improvement strategies. Duke Energy, American Electric Power and Hoosier Energy were the first buyers of the interstate water credits.

Water quality trading is a market-based approach that could enable facilities to meet permit limits using nutrient reduction credits from farmers who implement conservation practices, EPRI says.

Several parties, including industrial sources, farmers and the general public, contribute to nutrient loading — which may lead to serious ecological problems. The transactions will produce cleaner watersheds, advance sustainability practices and test more cost-effective regulatory compliance options, according to EPRI.

The companies altogether purchased 9,000 stewardship credits, agreeing to retire the associated nutrient and ecosystem benefits, rather than apply them towards possible future permit requirements. The buyers can use the credits to meet corporate sustainability goals, and the credits may also be considered for future flexible permit compliance schedules by the participating states.

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New Study Reveals the Workings of China’s Pilot Emissions Cap-and-Trade Systems

| Monday March 24th, 2014 | 1 Comment
The haze over eastern China is often visible from space.

The haze over eastern China is often visible from space.

Environmental and ecosystems degradation – air pollution in particular, most recently – has become a hot-button issue for the Chinese government and society. With increasingly polluted lakes, rivers and coastal waters, desertification and land degradation, and toxic air, perhaps nowhere in the world are the profund and far-reaching costs of an unconstrained, unregulated quest for rapid economic growth better illustrated.

Responding to rising public alarm and protest, China’s government earlier this month pledged to tackle its pollution an environmental problems. Declaring a “war on pollution” in his first speech in office to open this year’s session of the National People’s Congress, Chinese Premier Li Kequiang stated, “Smog is affecting larger parts of China and environmental pollution has become a major problem, which is nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.”

Pioneered by the European Union (EU), the Chinese government is turning to emissions cap-and-trade systems as a foundational element in its war on pollution. With pilot markets now up and running in seven major Chinese cities and provinces, Beijing-based consulting firm Environomist and contributing organizations recently released the first comprehensive study of China’s nascent emissions cap-and-trade systems.

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House Vote on National Parks Could Make or Break Local ‘Gateway’ Communities

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday March 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

YosemiteThe House of Representatives will vote this week on a bill that would require public participation before a president designates a national park. The proposed bill, H.R. 1459, strips presidents of the power given to them under the American Antiques Act of 1906  to designate a national park.

Specifically, the bill seeks to classify national park declarations under the Antiquities Act as a major federal action and would would require the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to be applied. To meet NEPA requirements, federal agencies must prepare a detailed statement called an environmental impact statement (EIS).

The bill would also limit national park declarations to one per state during a president’s four-year term in office, unless otherwise approved by Congress.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) who criticized President Barack Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act earlier this month to expand the Coastal California National Monument to include the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands. Bishop characterized Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act as “disappointing to say the least.” He added that it “is also purely political and undermines sincere efforts to reach consensus on questions of conservation.” Bishop described H.R. 1459 as being “about transparency and fairness.”

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