Updated Analysis: Calif. Emissions Law Will Help Both Environment and Economy

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday March 24th, 2010 | 2 Comments

The California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) has just released an updated economic analysis of California’s Climate Change Scoping  that forecasts robust economic growth as the state continues implementing AB32—the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006—focusing primarily on energy efficiency and fuel diversification measures.

The ARB is charged with bringing AB32 from paper to reality. And with a backdrop of criticism (including, most importantly, an oil-industry-backed effort to suspend the law) and claims that its implementation would lead the state’s poor economy becoming even more anemic, the board needed to update its earlier projections, which had become dated. ARB has also formed a 16-member Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee (EAAC) to provide advice on the implementation of AB 32. This group’s Economic Impacts Subcommittee has advised ARB as it revised its economic analysis.

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UPS Announces Smart Pickup, a New Green Shipping Option for Businesses

Kathryn Siranosian | Wednesday March 24th, 2010 | 19 Comments

Shipping options for small- and mid-size businesses just got a shade greener.

Yesterday, UPS announced the launch of UPS Smart Pickup, an eco-friendly shipping system that uses innovative UPS technology to ensure that a UPS driver stops at a customer location to pick up a package only when a package is, in fact, being shipped.

Up until now, many of UPS’s small- and mid-size customers have opted for the convenience of a daily scheduled pickup. And, while that option is certainly convenient, it also comes with a significant hitch: on some days, there simply isn’t a package to ship. UPS shows up as scheduled, but the trip is completely unnecessary.

Once a company starts using UPS Smart Pickup, however, these superfluous trips can be eliminated. In short, the new system allows customers to automate the pickup process and schedule UPS service only when it’s needed.

UPS says its new UPS Smart Pickup is expected to:

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Coalition Forms to Address Consumer’s Smart Grid Concerns

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday March 24th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Over the past couple of years, the hype around the coming smart grid and how it would help lower energy consumption, provide better electrical service and incorporate renewable energy sources into the nation’s electrical grid, reached a fever pitch. But once the rubber started hitting the road, there were hiccups.

They started in Bakersfield, Calif., where a resident filed a lawsuit against utility provider Pacific Gas & Electric, claiming that the new meters installed on his home had tripled his power bill. PG&E countered that the higher rates were due to a hot summer and a longer-than-average billing cycle, but the seed of doubt had already been planted and consumer distrust of smart meters—which allow two-way communication between a utility provider and ratepayers and are a key element of the smart grid concept—started to grow.

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Americans Doubling Up on Refrigerators, Cutting into Efficiency Gains

| Wednesday March 24th, 2010 | 8 Comments

Call it the must-have accessory to the super-size-me generation. The number of Americans with more than one fridge is growing–and that’s not good news for the environment.

According to a recent Department of Energy survey (PDF), about 26 percent of American homes have two or more refrigerators, and this is increasing by 1 percent a year.

This latest addition to the list of “standard” American household appliances carries an environmental double-whammy: since the second fridge is often an older, less efficient one, the energy burn more than doubles compared to single refrigerator homes.

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Recent Earthquakes Highlight Importance of Good Design

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday March 24th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Two major earthquakes struck this year:  a magnitude 7.0 quake in Haiti and a larger, magnitude was 8.8 quake in Chile. The death toll in Haiti was over 200,000, while the death toll in Chile was over 400. The two countries themselves are different: Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, and Chile is a much richer country. Chile is also used to earthquakes while Haiti is not. About every seven years, Chile suffers from a major earthquake. After a 9.5 magnitude earthquake in 1960, the strongest one on record, the Chilean government created a seismic design code for all new buildings. The building codes were revised in 1993.

Andre Filiatrault, director of the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at the University at Buffalo, told the New York Times: “There is a lot of reinforced concrete in Chile, which is normal in Latin America. The only issue in this, like any earthquakes, are the older buildings and residential construction that might not have been designed according to these codes.”

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Get Your Smokey On: Prescribed Burns Could Lower Emissions from Forest Fires

| Wednesday March 24th, 2010 | 0 Comments


Anyone who has lived near an area susceptible to wildfires knows what an impact all that smoke can have on air quality – even when the fire is dozens of miles away. Turns out, the impact of those fires on the entire planet is significant as well, in terms of increased carbon emissions.

Now a new study published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology suggests sometimes-controversial prescribed burns in forests could significantly reduce the amount of CO2 emitted in the event of a wildfire. 

The study, led by Christine Wiedinmyer of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), shows that prescribed burns, which are often used by forest managers to protect larger trees from wildfires, could reduce emissions in the West by an average of 18 to 25 percent, and by as much as 60 percent in certain forest systems.

The burns clear out dry brush and other fuel close to the forest floor, preventing fires from building up the energy to consume larger trees, which contain much of the carbon stored in forests.

The NCAR study may add to pressure from environmentalists and conservationists to restrain development in and near national forests, since forest managers often cannot set prescribed burns when development is nearby. Property owners meanwhile want fires of any kind suppressed – leading to a dangerous buildup of fuel on the ground.

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Are Green Jobs the Business of Government?

RP Siegel | Wednesday March 24th, 2010 | 5 Comments

Given the collision of two crises, one economic and the other environmental, our leaders need to understand their priority both in terms of relative importance as well as urgency. Politicians wanting to claim the high ground of concern on the global climate issue, without actually supporting it, were given perfect cover by the financial crisis which enabled them to say, “Of course we want to act on the climate issue, but we must put our
economic house in order first.”

Countering that is the Green Jobs argument, which says we can fix the economy by addressing the climate change issue in a concerted way.

The biggest proponent of this approach is Van Jones, the author of The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems. Jones was appointed as a green jobs adviser to President Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality, before he was drummed out by conservatives outraged over some left-leaning skeletons in his closet.

Opponents of green jobs programs argue against too much government intervention in the marketplace, saying the market itself, not the government, is best qualified to determine what the “next big thing” will be.

Earlier this month, The Economist magazine sponsored a debate on this issue between Van Jones and Andrew Morriss, Professor of Law and Business at the University of Illinois’ College of Law.

The motion being debated was whether, “Creating green jobs is a sensible aspiration for governments.”

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Taking the Three Rs Online at Waste Management

Wes Muir | Wednesday March 24th, 2010 | 2 Comments

Ed Note: Wes Muir is Director of Corporate Communications for Waste Management. We’ve invited Waste Management to periodically contribute to 3p as a guest. Part of the mission of 3p is to bring companies large and small into the greater conversation about sustainability. This post is part of that mission.

Social media continues to provide a means for educating today’s Web-centric society about important issues and actions that need to be taken to improve our world. From Twitter to Facebook to YouTube, popular social networks help the online community share calls-to-action, especially when it comes to encouraging peers to think and act responsibly to preserve the environment.

In particular, social media is helping the online audience to spread the sustainability message. For example, the three R’s of waste management – reduce, reuse and recycle – have long been an idea that is central to the notion of positively impacting the environment. For some, getting into the habit of integrating the three R’s into daily life can seem difficult; however, social media has helped not only to make these efforts fun and interesting, but also to easily provide information on their importance to preserving our way of life.

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Media Company Operates Coffee Houses for Local News Tips

Leon Kaye | Wednesday March 24th, 2010 | 2 Comments

I bet most of the stimulating and revealing talks you’ve ever had were in a coffee house, where you were buzzing off of your skinny latte while ingesting not-so-healthy calorie bomb. Coffee houses are ubiquitous and very public, yet often cozy and intimate, allowing for an interview or revealing conversation to stay private thanks to the constantly hissing espresso machine and howls of chairs scraping over laminate floors. Perhaps that is why we should not be surprised at the rise of a “newscafé” chain that gives its journalists a place to cover local news while serving beverages and snacks to anyone needing a midday fix.

PFF Media, a Czech mass media and education company, operates the Naše Adresa (“our address”) chain. The business model is a compelling one: it provides its reporters tracking local news a cost-effective workplace, while sales of coffee and desserts cover rent and other costs. The result? Currently, the firm operates four local newspapers, all working from the local cafés. Forty more are scheduled to open during 2010, giving PFF 89 outlets that will span the Czech Republic. While 60% of the PFF’s profit will come from online and print editions of its newspapers, almost 20% will come from sales at its coffee outlets, and about 10% from events and entertainment. The final 10% will come from its central office, or “Futuroom” in Prague, a state-of-the-art consulting and training facility.  Finally, the company will not just be snaring bloggers in local communities: its plan is to hire young journalists out of college and train them for four months before setting them free to report on emerging news in their communities.

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Rape, Pillage and … Philanthropy: How Siloed CSR Misses the Point

| Wednesday March 24th, 2010 | 4 Comments

The bi-partisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission has been studying no less than 22 contributing causes of the financial crisis. At the risk of oversimplifying matters, Jed Emerson of Blended Value Proposition, believes he knows the root cause.  It all boils down to values, Emerson told participants at the Economist’s recent 2010 Corporate Citizenship Conference “Doing Well by Doing Good.”

“We experienced a bifurcation of values,” declared Emerson. “In much of our society, how you live life on Monday through Friday has become different from life on Saturday and Sunday.”

Rape, pillage and … philanthropy
The mentality in much of corporate America has become “rape, pillage and philanthropy,” quipped Emerson. Many executives and companies knowingly tolerate gross inconsistencies between destructive business practices and corporate philanthropy because they artificially disassociate these values.  Putting your philanthropic arm in a silo can salve the conscience of those in the core business units who feel they can act with impunity because their company engages in “do good” endeavors completely detached from its day-to-day activities. That mentality misses the point, Emerson maintained.

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EPA Shaking Up Business In Texas

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 23rd, 2010 | 3 Comments
Houston skyline

Houston skyline, photo: University of Texas

By Wendy Lyons Sunshine

A sea change is underway at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and its effects have reached Texas. Under the Obama Administration, scientists are being appointed to top administrative positions and with them comes a renewed appreciation of hard data—a trend that worries the business community in Texas.

Consider the appointment of top EPA administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, a Princeton-trained chemical engineer who is hip enough to twitter. Shortly after stepping into the top EPA role, Jackson rattled industries across the nation by insisting that carbon dioxide endangers human health and thus requires regulation. She’s got ozone standards in her sights, along with gas drilling practices.

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Corporate Oaths: “I’ll Be Good, I Swear”

| Tuesday March 23rd, 2010 | 0 Comments

Can taking an oath make corporate executives more ethical?  Yes, according to some speakers at the Economist’s recent Corporate Citizenship Conference “Doing Well by Doing Good.”  They hold that responsible citizenship at the corporate level starts with strong personal values.

Stanford University Law School Lecturer Chip Pitts told conference participants, “Society needs individuals who exhibit integrity and consistency in their behavior at their work place and their church, synagogue or non-profit organization.”

“This conversation starts with self,” echoed Jeff Swartz, President and CEO of Timberland. “By blaming CEOs and banks, we miss the opportunity to take personal accountability for our personal actions.”’

Oath of Honor
Economist US Business Editor and New York Bureau Chief Matt Bishop and other panelists pointed hopefully to the small but growing interest in a management oath among the nation’s business schools. In 2005, the Thunderbird School of Global Management adopted a professional Oath of Honor which is taken by students upon graduation.  From the TBird website: “The oath was drafted by the student-run Thunderbird Honor Council after their president Dr. Angel Cabrera (also an Economist conference speaker) challenged the students to be the first business school to establish an oath that would guide them during their business careers.”

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Chevron Sets Up Solar Shop in CA Desert

Leon Kaye | Tuesday March 23rd, 2010 | 1 Comment


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Carbon Offsets: Giving Credit Where It’s Due

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 23rd, 2010 | 3 Comments

By Justin Felt, Product Manager for Offsets, Point Carbon

Carbon offset markets have exploded in the last ten years, from a theoretical concept to a $25 billion-a-year industry. Increasing attention and criticism have also followed this steep rise. While many articles have focused on various aspects of carbon offset credits, few fully explain what an offset is and what’s happening in the market right now.

So let’s get right down to it. First, assuming you are up to speed on the concept of cap-and-trade, carbon offsets in most systems can be used as a form of replacement for carbon permits or “allowances”. The credits come from projects that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These reductions must be additional to what would occur in a business-as-usual scenario. This concept is known as “additionality.”

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5 Reasons for Environmental & Economic Good Cheer

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 23rd, 2010 | 5 Comments

By Michael J. Walsh, Executive Vice President for Research,
Chicago Climate Exchange/Chicago Climate Futures Exchange

Policymakers in Washington and in capitals around the world continue to debate how to achieve cleaner energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While challenging issues surrounding costs, international competitiveness, job creation and other tough topics remain, there is also reason to be optimistic. The challenge of balancing real progress in cutting carbon while maintaining a strong economy and developing new solutions is eminently doable.

Here are five reasons to take heart:

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