Saturday, October 30, 2010

The New Weapon Against "Greenwashers" and Their Carbon Footprints

Greenwash (verb, \ˈgrēn-wȯsh\) - to market a product or service by promoting a deceptive or misleading perception of environmental responsibility.

“Going green” has become the next craze of the corporate world. Capitalizing on growing consumer interest in environmentalism and sustainability, companies are launching major ad campaigns to tout their green credentials. But many of these claims are misleading or downright false. How can we know who’s telling the truth? “Greenwashing” is eroding the credibility of environmental marketing and turning would-be green consumers into skeptics.

The U.S. is a leader in financial accounting (thanks in part to accounting software systems), but we need the similar strength in environmental accounting to prevent deceptive green marketing campaigns. The recent development of Enterprise Carbon Accounting (ECA) software enables companies to track their carbon emissions and identify opportunities for waste reduction. The full development and requirement of ECA software will make it much more difficult for businesses to cover up their environmental records. They’ll have to live up to their claims if they want to pursue green marketing strategies. But for ECA software and environmental accounting adoption to drive truly green business practices, we need action in five main categories:

Clear government action on regulations - like increased coverage of the EPA’s Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule;

Adoption of carbon accounting principles - stricter requirements for disclosure of standardized corporate emissions information;

Expansion of “scope 3” emissions accounting - mandatory inclusion of suppliers’ emissions in environmental reports would prevent under-reporting of emissions;

Better green business incentives - using ECA software to identify eco-friendly savings opportunities can make it cheaper to go green;

Demanding, informed consumers - demanding the numbers, while boycotting the liars, forces businesses with green marketing campaigns to prove their sincerity.

To read more about ECA software and greenwashing prevention, check out Software to Hold "Greenwashers" Accountable.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Would the "Green-ness" of a Company's Supply Chain Influence Your Purchasing Decisions?

Software Advice, a free online resource that reviews wholesale distribution software, is hosting a survey that asks readers the following question: would the "green-ness" of a company's supply chain influence your purchasing decisions? The survey accompanies an article that profiles five multi-national companies and their efforts to improve the eco-friendliness of their distribution processes. While familiar greening methods like renewable energy use are often present in their announcements, these five companies have also gone a step further to distinguish themselves as trend-setters in the movement toward greener businesses.

For example, IBM and Walmart are using their considerable influence to encourage suppliers to behave in a more environmentally friendly manner. When contracts with two of the biggest companies in the world are at stake, suppliers might be more inclined to improve their practices. Meanwhile, Patagonia has sent a roving team of investigators on a mission to find out just how green the company's suppliers are. These reports are available to everyone on YouTube, and this kind of widespread transparency may discourage suppliers from harming the environment unnecessarily.

To get the full details on these and other companies, you can read the original article here. While you're there, be sure to participate in the survey and let everyone know what you think about these issues.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Bio-Inspired Design in Action

Guest post by Shanolda Yancy

The human bone structure is an important part of our everyday lives. Over time, researchers have studied the properties of human bones and their connective tissues. They have also studied how bones reform on their own.  This is all part of a new wave in design termed biomimicry or bio-inspired design.

During their studies, researchers have learned to create unique designs for items such as chairs and automobiles from the structure of the human bone. The designs of our bones have been the inspiration of the design of many items we use today. The designs are made possible with the help of computer software programs, CAO (computer-aided optimization) and SKO (soft kill option), developed by Claus Mattheck at the Karlsruhe Research Centre in Germany. One researcher’s design became an inspiration for the blueprint of the Eiffel Tower. This particular design was of a crane by the famous head of The Swiss Technical University in Zurich, Karl Culmann. Mr. Culmann came up with his design while watching a physician friend engaged in cutting a section of a femur bone.

As we know, bones are durable, strong and light weight. While experimenting with the human bone structure, researchers broke down the chemicals of our bones which led them to a great discovery. From their testing, they derived an artificial bone material that is so divine that the material is almost impossible to distinguish from that of an actual human bone structure.  This was done by a method known as bone remodeling. "Bone remodeling is the result of the coordinated activity of osteoblasts, which form new matrix, and osteoclasts, which resorb bone,” according to Ask Nature Beta.  A good application of bone modeling is the use of self-healing material such as concrete and ceramics. Another application of bone modeling is the use of adjustable building materials that allow for removal of such material as needed to obtain a desired shape. The use of bone structure, as it is indicated here, is a great way to show how our bones not only serve its significant purpose, but how they also serve us all in ways we once never imagined.

S.E.C Adds Climate Risk to Disclosure List

Guest post by Verna Hale

The Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.) is proposing to add climate risks to the current list of disclosures public companies should report.

Properties along the coastline may be affected by hurricanes and banks or insurance companies that invest in coastal property could be affected by storms or rising seas and would therefore be a good example of a climate risk disclosure. Investors have a fundamental right to know which companies are well destined for the future and which are not and they should essentially get information on climate-related impacts, including regulatory and physical impacts.

Although S.E.C. Chairperson, Mary Schapiro, stated the S.E.C. was not taking any particular political side by adding climate risk to the disclosure list, investors and environmental groups did petition the agency to have this item added to what companies need to disclose and hence stay warned.

The Petition for Interpretive Guidance on Climate Risk Disclosure can be read here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kraft Sheds 150 Million Pounds of Packaging

Guest post by Rancharese Whitaker

Kraft Foods has found a way to reduce material from its supply chains, targeting 150 million pounds two years ahead of schedule. Kraft Foods is using a new tool, the "Packaging Eco-Calculator,” to help it design packaging more efficiently, said Jean Spence, Executive Vice President, Research, Development & Quality.

As an example, Oscar Meyer Deli Creations now uses less paperboard, which reduces 1.2 million pounds of packaging out of landfills annually. In Europe, removing packaging layers from Milka chocolate bars reduces 60 percent of the shipping weight. In the UK, Kenco coffee is now offered in refillable bags along with the traditional glass jars instead of cans. Speaking of coffee cans, Maxwell House, Yuban and Nabob no longer use them either. Instead they’ve gone to paper board to reduce weight. In Australia, Kraft salad dressing bottles were redesigned and eliminated 100,000 pounds of plastic a year.

Kraft has partnered with RecycleBank and TerraCycle to improve the recycling rate in the U.S.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Green Electronics

Guest post by Latasha Pinkney

Residential fuel cell systems, projectors made without mercury, and outlets that can be controlled through the Web were just some of the most sought after green consumer electronics at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show.

Panasonic's residential fuel cell systems can be controlled through a home energy management system, generate electricity and heat through fuel cells and store solar power in lithium-ion batteries.

Another example is ASUS' Super Hybrid Engine technology, which reduces power usage 43 percent below the Energy Star specifications for PCs.

Casio's green lean high-brightness projectors are the first to get rid of the "unfriendly mercury" and function with a hybrid LED and laser light source.

ThinkECO is an electronic outlet that can be controlled from a Web-based application, allowing users to set schedules for whatever is plugged into the outlet.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

FDA and Industry Lobbyists on BPA concerns

Guest post by Sheneaka Murphy

The FDA has expressed concerns about the safety of Bisphenol A. Bisphenol A (BPA) is used in plastic containers such as baby bottles, sippy cups, sport bottles and other plastic food containers and even the linings in canned food items.

There has been growing evidence which has linked to a broad array of health effects in low doses during critical windows of development. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) stated on the developmental effects of BPA exposure that it had "some concern" for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current levels of human exposure.

Companies will be now facing a situation where they must find new ways of producing their products with an alternative for Bisphenol A. Companies may reduce the amount of BPA placed in their product. Other companies will experience a slow transformation as the research and cost for substitution for epoxy resins containing BPA that are used as can linings will be an obstacle. Cost factors involved in this substitution can easily be overcome by scale economies.  For example, Heinz is already using a substitute to BPA in some of its can linings.

There is always a friction between the industry lobbyists and the FDA. Companies eager to gain market share and competitive advantage can take advantage of the wave of growing consumer awareness.  The reputation of retailers is better retained by adopting a proactive approach thereby earning customer-loyalty and citizenship.

Monday, April 26, 2010

UPS Brings it by Bike

Guest post by Jennifer Shelby

In California and Oregon, a few UPS district managers made a decision on a local level to use bicycles with a trailer attached to deliver packages during the Christmas of 2009.

By making the decision to switch to bicycles, UPS could have saved $45,000-$50,000 in truck rental fees, maintenance, and fuel expenses. The bicycles took the place of 20-25 trucks that would have had to be rented for the extra workload of the Christmas season. Not only did this save UPS money (UPS declined to give actual figures), but it is predicted that just using bicycles in those few local markets will have an impact on the overall efforts of UPS to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

UPS has been looking for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions since 2008; however, using bicycles are not in that plan presently on a corporate basis. In 2008, the fuel from delivery trucks accounted for 33% of the greenhouse emissions. Since that time UPS has implemented a software program that eliminated left hand turns. By eliminating left hand turns UPS saved 3 million gallons of fuel and 28 million miles.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Solar Plays role in Haiti Relief Efforts

Guest post by Elizabeth Borovcik

Sol, Inc., a solar lighting systems provider, is donating $400,000 with aid from suppliers and a solar light matching program to Haiti victims. Solar powered lighting system contributed by Sol will help hospitals, food distribution centers and relief camps to operate even after the broad day-light. In addition, one thousand solar-powered phones were contributed by Intivation and Digicel to help earthquake survivors and to help aid workers communicate.

For more information of the timeline of Sol's Haiti recovery efforts, please click here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis powered by Solar Panels

Guest post by Elizabeth Borovcik

Royal Caribbean, the world’s second-largest cruise company, is high on solar panel investments for its cruise ship, Oasis. The 21,000 square feet of thin solar film produces enough power to light the ship’s Royal Promenade and Central Park areas. The goal is to make energy efficient lighting of cruise ships, reduce emissions, and do “future proofing,” or utilize existing technology as a bridge while waiting for better future technology.

The company has not just limited itself to solar panels, but also has reduced emissions by using smokeless gas-turbine engines which can reduce the exhaust emissions of nitrous oxide by 85 percent and sulfur oxides by more than 90 percent. Other sustainable efforts are air-conditioning systems that can turn off automatically when balcony doors are left open too long.

BAM Solar Power, certified distributors of BP Solar and GE Energy, provided the lead on the Royal Caribbean $750,000 installation.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Repurpose Your Used Pens, Markers and Other Writing Instruments

Guest post by Jacinda Gregory

TerraCycle has teamed up with leaders in the writing instrument industry such as Sharpie, Paper Mate, and EXPO to be the first to create the world’s first program to collect and reuse writing instruments. It will reduce the amounts of these products that end up in landfills around the world while raising funds for schools, charities and other non-profit originations. Each collected instrument is worth two cents and will be paid to the organization of the participant’s choice.

Participants will start by setting up collection centers called “Writing Instrument Brigades” at large corporations and schools around different areas. Once the collections have been made, each collection centre will have the opportunity to print off pre-paid shipping labels from TerraCycle’s website allowing them to be sent back, disassembled and reprocessed to make new products.

TerraCycle has also teamed up with other consumer goods manufacturers including 3M, Mars and OfficeMax, to collect and recycle their products.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hybrids Featured at the Detroit Auto Show

Guest post by Diane Barber

Car companies are working toward the goal of a cleaner car market by offering new hybrid vehicles and  electric vehicles with zero emissions to the general public. Some of the concepts shown at the 2010 North American International Auto Show were real vehicles that can be purchased now; others were conceptual cars and will possibly be offered in a few years. One concept car featured a gas-powered engine that shuts off when it is not needed, allowing the vehicle to run solely on the electric motor.

Ford Motor Company is one of the leaders in green technology and showed its continued commitment by announcing plans to increase current investments in cleaner technology vehicles to almost one billion dollars.

Toyota has had success with its Prius hybrid and announced plans to create an entire line of plug-in hybrids, all-electric vehicles and fuel-cell vehicles. Hyundai is on track to achieve a fleet average of 35 starting miles per gallon by 2015.  Audi, Volkswagen, and Honda have also entered the race to bring more green cars to market.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Green Fashion

Guest post by Michael Bradshaw

"The fashion industry leaves behind a huge trail of environmental spillover, from the pesticides used in cultivating cotton and the leached chemicals from the toxic dyes, to the landfill impact of clothes that wear out and the energy required to produce each unit," according to TreeHugger.

Instead of conventional cotton, people should use more sustainable fabrics sourced from bamboo and hemp in order to offset carbon and chemicals. People should also make an effort to stack their closets with Cruelty-free and Fair-Trade labeled clothes.

Proponents of green fashion in a lot of ways will do justice to humanity and animals as well. Buying organic and renewable fibers will reduce toxicity and waste and will do more good to the planet Earth in terms of energy and resources savings. Cold wash with biodegradable detergents and keeping the dryer and dry-wash at bay is the other side of the coin.

Thrift store shopping can serve as a true green fashion idea. These thrift stores often resell older, vintage items as well as some newer eco-friendly pieces. Cool fashion trends and more commonly Halloween costumes that have only been worn once can be found with ease, which undoubtedly saves a lot of money and time by not having to wait in incredibly long lines at other Halloween Superstores.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Walmart Fleet Runs Hybrids

Guest post by Ben Jackson

Wal-Mart continues pursuing its goal of doubled fuel efficiency of its fleet since2005. It will test four new types of hybrid and alternative-fuel heavy-duty commercial trucks and pledge to double its fleet efficiency by 2015 from a baseline the company set in 2005.

Wal-Mart is testing several fuel efficiency options within its fleet including dual-mode diesel-electric , reclaimed grease fuel made with waste cooking oil from Wal-Mart stores, 80/20 blend of biodiesel made of reclaimed yellow grease waste, liquid natural gas in larger metropolitan areas like Detroit, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Apple Valley, California, Atlanta, and the Washington-Baltimore region.
Wal-Mart improved the efficiency of its private fleet by more than 25 percent and attributes its success mainly to the use of new fuel efficiency technologies.

Wal-Mart’s new CEO Mike Duke asserted during a conference that efforts such as cutting waste and energy use and requiring suppliers to do the same would continue under his leadership.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Florida Making Headlines in Sustainability Budgets

Guest post by David Hancock

Florida’s Governor Charlie Crist has signed three executive orders directing cuts in Florida’s greenhouse gas emissions and put $2.1 billion into efforts to promote clean energy and protect the state’s resources.

According to the state’s 2010 budget, Florida’s primary focus appears to be on the utilization of solar power, to the tune of $44.4 million dollars, which includes solar panel installation for education facilities and tax rebates for solar energy. Other aspects of the budget’s energy initiatives were clean energy from such sources as natural gas fueling stations, providing clean energy grants, and wastewater treatment to which Florida allotted upwards of $50 million.

Wastewater treatment was of particular concern due to the survival of an ecosystem that covers nearly a quarter of the state, Florida’s Everglades region. The state is proposing spending $20 million in matching funds on projects related to wastewater management and water quality programs.

As we continue restoring America’s Everglades and investing in renewable energy, Floridians will gain a cleaner and safer environment that will endure for generations to come,” Crist said, in a statement.

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