First Green is Gold

Posted by e.taub@tvcnp.com | Posted in Carbon Neutral, Carbon Offsets, Green, LEED | Posted on 23-02-2010

Since 2008, TD Bank has taken solid strides toward reducing their footprint and just announced that, not only are they the largest US bank to achieve carbon neutral status, but their entire global operations are now carbon neutral. They achieved reductions through a comprehensive approach that included retrofitting and developing cleaner buildings, investing in wind, solar, and hydro power, and offsetting the remaining emissions that could not be eliminated.

In spring of 2010, they will open their first store to apply for the LEED Platinum certification. That store will serve as a prototype for all future stores. These buildings use 50% less energy compared to  previous branches and 20% of the energy will now be generated on-site via solar panels. The new buildings demonstrate a comprehensive and repeatable approach to energy savings.

With plans to open up to ten new LEED certified stores in 2010, it is clear that their energy saving activities have been a worthwhile and strategically sound investment…and they are not stopping there. “This is a significant milestone but we know there is still a lot to do…Thanks to the terrific effort of our employees as well as the helpful input we’ve received from environmental and community groups, TD is the first North American-based bank - and one of only a few banks in the world - to reach a carbon neutral goal. We look forward to engaging with key stakeholders as we continue to work on environmental issues.” Karen Clarke-Whistler, Chief Environment Officer, TD

The momentum and enthusiasm around this announcement demonstrates how truly engaged and TD Bank is with all levels of ethical business responsibilities. Not only do they strive for excellent customer service in a welcoming and clean environment, their employees now have one of the best work environments available. This year, TD will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of its TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, will pass a second year as one of the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World and was also recently named a Climate Disclosure Leader by the Carbon Disclosure Project.

In speaking about TD’s comprehnsive approach, Dr. Ron Dembo, Founder and CEO, Zerofootprint applauded: “TD is a pioneer. They’ve essentially built a roadmap for how large organizations can go carbon neutral and have proven there is a business case for going green.”

Green Runway

Posted by e.taub@tvcnp.com | Posted in Carbon Footprint, Carbon Neutral, Education, Green, Sustainability | Posted on 22-02-2010

Over the past few years, the fashion industry has been dipping its elegant toes into the waters of sustainability. The luxurious and extravagant nature of fashion has kept many from coming out about their environmental efforts, for fear of scorn about what they don’t do. On the other side, however, those wanting to talk-the-talk don’t have specific standards for walking-the-walk. There lacks, in fashion, a clear set of guidelines and certifications around different aspects of ethical, ecological, or system-wide sustainability.

This has lead to much confusion about what sustainability really means when speaking about fashion, as well as raised the issue of truthfulness versus the fantasy that is customarily bundled into the marketing of luxury items. However, even in the fashion industry-the center of the world of fads, ecologically-sound fabrication is not fashion, not a fad: it is the new center from which sustainable business necessarily operates. Though fashion is fantasy, clothing and accessories are a consumer good that will be held to the same accountability for verification and clear definitions as other products making sustainability claims.

As consumers we are daily more inclined to buy what is seen as sustainable, and mechanisms for environmental accountability are being put in place across industries and government to help us make these choices. So, despite the predominance of cutting-edge, “out with the old, in with the new” attitudes that drive fashion, there is a shift happening to gather the pieces of the sustainability picture together. It is a big picture. There are many choices made at all levels of the life-span of these items that can dramatically shift the footprint. Beyond sourcing, production, and distribution-things like laundering needs and the marketing of constantly changing fads affect consumers’ behavior. This is how even more ethereal concepts like “timelessness design” have come to form the basis of some designer’s definition of “sustainable fashion.”

Though this new focus on sustainability in an industry built on perpetual change is often being spoken about as a trend, these are actually the first steps toward defining, expanding, and standardizing best practices in fashion. A WWF report entitled Deeper Luxury, outlined the significance in the public shift in perception and the impact it would have on luxury items. “The definition of success - and the way it is perceived by others - is changing. Many successful people now want the brands they use to reflect their concerns and aspirations for a better world.” Moving forward, conspicuous consumption is out, ethical luxury is in.

Some exciting things are happening on this front, a couple of note:

This is the first year that New York Fashion Week is carbon neutral, marking a shift in the industry’s willingness to bring sustainability to the forefront. They also made other efforts at the event, like providing water to reduce the use of plastic bottles.

Patagonia has made life-cycle information available on-line for of some styles, and there are a number of designers that are incorporating a broad range of production choices meant to decrease impact.

2010 is continuing a several year shift toward emphasizing less expensive accessories over whole garments, so the clothing stays and what you put over it rotates. This type of marketing trend that would serve to extend the lifetime of garments that may otherwise be retired.

In a world where “flawless” is the standard, it is promising to see those with the courage to dress-up and cat-walk toward sustainability, even if the runway looks more like a balance beam.


The Green Catwalk

Posted by e.taub@tvcnp.com | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 22-02-2010

Over the past few years, the fashion industry has been dipping its elegant toes into
the waters of sustainability. The luxurious and extravagant nature of fashion has
kept many from coming out about their environmental efforts, for fear of scorn about
what they don’t do. On the other side, however, those wanting to talk-the-talk don’t
have specific standards for walking-the-walk. There lacks, in fashion, a clear set
of guidelines and certifications around different aspects of ethical, ecological, or
system-wide sustainability.

This has lead to much confusion about what sustainability really means when speaking
about fashion
, as well as raised the issue of truthfulness versus the fantasy that
is customarily bundled into the marketing of luxury items. However, even in the
fashion industry-the center of the world of fads, ecologically-sound fabrication is
not fashion, not a fad: it is the new center from which sustainable business
necessarily operates. Though fashion is fantasy, clothing and accessories are a
consumer good that will be held to the same accountability for verification and
clear definitions as other products making sustainability claims.

As consumers we are daily more inclined to buy what is seen as sustainable, and
mechanisms for environmental accountability are being put in place across industries
and government to help us make these choices. So, despite the predominance of
cutting-edge, “out with the old, in with the new” attitudes that drive fashion,
there is a shift happening to gather the pieces of the sustainability picture
together. It is a big picture. There are many choices made at all levels of the
life-span of these items that can dramatically shift the footprint. Beyond sourcing,
production, and distribution-things like laundering needs and the marketing of
constantly changing fads affect consumers’ behavior. This is how even more ethereal
concepts like “timelessness design” have come to form the basis of some designer’s
definition of “sustainable fashion.”

Though this new focus on sustainability in an industry built on perpetual change is
often being spoken about as a trend, these are actually the first steps toward
defining, expanding, and standardizing best practices in fashion. A WWF report
entitled Deeper Luxury
, outlined the significance in the public shift in perception
and the impact it would have on luxury items. “The definition of success - and the
way it is perceived by others - is changing. Many successful people now want the
brands they use to reflect their concerns and aspirations for a better world.”

Moving forward, conspicuous consumption is out, ethical luxury is in.

Some exciting things are happening on this front, a couple of note:

This is the first year that New York Fashion Week is carbon neutral, marking a
shift in the industry’s willingness to bring sustainability to the forefront. They
also made other efforts at the event, like providing water to reduce the use of
plastic bottles.

Patagonia has made life-cycle information available on-line for of some styles,
and there are a number of designers that are incorporating a broad range of
production choices meant to decrease impact
.

2010 is continuing a several year shift toward emphasizing less expensive
accessories over whole garments, so the clothing stays and what you put over it
rotates.
This type of marketing trend that would serve to extend the lifetime of
garments that may otherwise be retired.

In a world where “flawless” is the standard, it is promising to see those with the
courage to dress-up and cat-walk toward sustainability, even if the runway looks
more like a balance beam.


Money First

Posted by e.taub@tvcnp.com | Posted in Congress, Greenhouse Gas, News | Posted on 19-02-2010

Looking at the past, it is easy to see the places where we made significant or life-changing decisions. While caught in the throes of daily existence, however, few maintain the ability to act from this broader, deeper vision. Clear vision of the present is further muddled when we multiply this tendency from the individual to an entire culture, divide response along political lines, add massive amounts of new or newly-revealed information, and subtract the rapid-response mechanism of a single, decisive mind.

Unfortunately, in looking at climate change, there is no “after-the-fact.” The science says that we must act immediately and that the bigger our mess, the slower our response; the more severe will be the outcomes we face. We have reached a point where the intimate link between human rights and environmental protection has emerged to the forefront and we know we are hurting ourselves with our actions. Our ability to justify a failure to respond for lack of crystal-clear present vision does not serve us. Though accepting the cost of transition is difficult, we must see a bigger picture and start acknowledging the cost of inaction.

This is what comes to mind as I read about the flush of senators who have jumped on the disapproval bandwagon to deny the EPA’s finding that GHGs are a threat to human health. When looking at the cost of waiting versus acting it is obvious to act. I am interested to see what they will say when they look back at the effect of waiting.

It reminds me of people saying smoking is not harmful to your health. If we had acted earlier then millions may not have died. I do wonder how these elected officials can be oblivious to the damage that is being done to people today. I must remember to never underestimate the power of people to ignore things that contradict their short-term financial interest.

Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

Posted by e.taub@tvcnp.com | Posted in Carbon Footprint, EPA, News, Supply Chain | Posted on 17-02-2010

According to a 2010 Supply Chain Report by the Carbon Disclosure Project, suppliers will need to start to performing detailed assessments about their current capabilities in terms of climate change and carbon emissions management. They will also need to set ambitious targets for reducing their emissions in order to remain competitive.

Supply-chain emissions account for a significant portion of total emissions, but currently, most suppliers lack Scope 3 emission information. The report found that 56% of the CDP’s member companies would eventually stop using suppliers who fail to meet carbon management criteria while Google, Dell, PepsiCo and Cadbury are among 6% that would immediately stop doing business with suppliers that did not manage their carbon. CDP’s head Paul Dickinson expects to see this trend growing across the whole business sector.

Some important reasons for monitoring supply-chain emissions include:

  • Customer demand - and - Stakeholder pressure
  • Growing public awareness means that companies can differentiate themselves by disclosing this information supporting the development of low-carbon products. To do this, companies need to trace supply chain carbon emissions to ensure supplier compliance.

“Climate change could result in changes in consumer preferences and retail customer demands – we must anticipate and react to such changes to maintain the demand for our products.” - PepsiCo

Supply chain risk management - and - Joint process improvement
Improved asessment and communication allow businesses to better judge supply chain risks, improve collaboration, find efficiency improvements and reduce costs throughout the chain.

“We recognize from our own experience, that working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can drive innovation and enable cost savings. Through our Supplier Sustainability Assessment, we are asking suppliers to publicly report their GHG emissions, reduction strategy and actions to the Carbon Disclosure Project. By doing so, we gain a better understanding of our supply chain footprint and help suppliers realize the business advantages that accompany efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” - Matt Kistler, Senior VP of Sustainability, Walmart

The U.S. Security and Exchange Commission has clarified companies’ responsibilities to disclose climate change risks in their annual reports. This, combined with growing demand for supply chain awareness and transparency, is marking a new era of business. Collaboration and innovation are stirring across industries to increase efficiencies and find new models for cutting costs while also decreasing wasteful practices. Companies who are taking leadership in the movement to to become aware of, disclose, and actively decrease impacts are demonstrating their readiness to protect shareholders by protecting the world they live in.

The Next Frontier

Posted by e.taub@tvcnp.com | Posted in Climate Change, EPA, Energy Efficiency, Financial, Green, Greenhouse Gas, News | Posted on 16-02-2010

Calpine is going where no power company has gone before by initiating the first power plant that will be more efficient than proposed GHG emission reduction criteria at both the federal level and at those of California cap-and-trade regulations set to go active Jan 1, 2012. Construction is set to begin next year on the 600-megawatt natural gas-fired plant. The Russell City Energy Center, spanning 15-acres, will reside just east of the San Francisco Bay.

With the EPA moving toward GHG regulation from large emitters under the Clean Air Act, and cap-and-trade on the horizon, Calpine is taking the lead by developing in a direction makes them both more ecologically as well as economically sustainable. Calpine is already one of the worlds largest geothermal producers, and by advancing gas-fired power generation that produces GHG emissions at less than 50% that of coal-fired power plants, they are poised to be the company that helps California achieve it’s energy needs for the future and leads the way for power providers nationally.

The Russell City plant will handle base load power demand, but Calpine is promoting use that is supplementary to other cleaner and more renewable technologies as they evolve and roll out. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the purchaser of the electricity, will have the option of balancing and dispatching from all energy sources and using the gas-fired plant when solar and wind cannot meet demand or are unavailable.  Sierra Club chief climate counsel David Bookbinder said “Calpine is leading the way and showing how it’s possible to generate all the electricity that America needs with half the greenhouse gases.” Linda Adams, secretary of the California EPA commended, “We applaud the BAAQMD and Calpine for going beyond existing federal law and being the first in the nation to require an enforceable greenhouse gas limit.”

Despite the turbulent energy environment, it is not surprising that Calpine is being discussed as a top stock pick.

In 2004, Peter Cartwright, founder and CEO of Calpine, earned recognition as a Business Leader of the Year by Scientific American. They noted the companies outstanding environmental record, dramatically lower emissions relative to the rest of the industry, and a stated commitment to cut those emissions even further for all future developments. The company was also recognized for their use of combined-cycle technology that captures energy that is wasted in the single cycle systems that currently predominate.

Then in 2005, they became the first independent power producer to achieve the distinction of Climate Action Leader and voluntarily disclose GHG emission information to the public. In the press release, Neal Pospisil, Calpine’s vice president of safety, health and environment stated: “Being at the forefront of environmental accountability is a priority for Calpine and taking inventory of our carbon emissions profile is one of the first steps in finding new ways to manage our carbon dioxide emissions…Having a third party certifying that inventory further ensures that Calpine’s reporting meets objective, uniform standards.

Calpines steady efforts and climb to leadership shows that it really pays off to find out where you are and take a good look around so that you can move confidently to where you want to go.

Waiting for A Buzzer Beater

Posted by e.taub@tvcnp.com | Posted in Cap & Trade/Carbon Markets, Greenhouse Gas, News | Posted on 15-02-2010

Though the Obama administration committed at Copenhagen to cut emissions by about 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels as well as allocated billions to clean energy investments through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he left out of next year’s budget the portion of the $646 billion expected to result from a carbon trading program over the course of 2012-2019. Moving forward, the administration is looking to encourage a market based system for cap and trade.

Not only is a climate law crucial to Obama’s efforts to build international momentum to manage global warming but it is happening elsewhere and we are losing business to other countries who are moving faster to develop the infrastructure.

Richard Sandor, founder of the Chicago Climate Exchange, warned at the State of Green Business Forum that a carbon trading system is necessary for the future, carbon-constrained world and that if the US does not soon develop a national cap and trade program, we will lose competitiveness in the international market. Citing examples of growing carbon credit trading in other countries, he said that we risk falling behind. He notes that there are steps to the process of building a cap and trade system that will work for us and is strongly urging moving forward so as to maintain a leadership position in industry. Playing on Voltaire, he warned “Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

It feels like we are waiting to the last second to react. Well, a buzzer beater is not your best shot for success.

Faith and the Environment

Posted by akeenan | Posted in Education, Energy Efficiency, Green, Greenhouse Gas | Posted on 12-02-2010

I’m not a super religious guy but I have long wondered about the disconnect between sometimes wasteful practices, and the stewardship ethic emphasized in religious communities. The vast majority of our population subscribes to some sort of religious teaching, and all of these teachings expect some level of stewardship and respect for the earth and creatures that make up our home. If so many truly believe in the inherent goodness of the world, how can we also conduct our personal and business lives in a way that’s so destructive to the links that hold the world in balance?

Well, I got an answer. Recently featured on WABE, Alexis Chase, the Executive Director of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light was promoting a National Preach-In on Global Warming. The event runs this weekend of February 13-14th and encourages congregations to focus on the faith community’s stated ethic of resource protection. They are providing a wealth of resources and launching a multifaceted campaign to unite congregations in learning about and taking direct action on issues of energy efficiency and global warming. As of the interview, IFPL had 350 congregations signed up to do something over the event weekend.

The organization is non-denominational and is heavily focused on energy efficiency and helping congregations improve their energy infrastructure. Ms. Chase emphasized in the interview that, through this movement, people of all practices are coming to that “aha moment,” when lines come down and they recognize that as people of faith, generally, they are supposed to be responsible stewards of natural resources. The IFPL is not directly focused on political advocacy, though they are encouraging environmental love letters to politicians over the event weekend. When asked about approaching climate change as a religious vs. political issue and any potential resistance among those who equate environmentalism w/ political radicalism or liberalism, she stated that we need all kinds of strategies, that “we need all of us doing our best.”

Reverend Sally Bingham, the founder of Interfaith Power and Light, is responsible for the movement occurring through IFPL. She noticed that people of faith were not really talking about protecting creation, and confronting the need in her parish and community, she co-founded the Regeneration Project 1993. That organization now maintains IFPL as its main focus.

Close to home, Georgia Interfaith Power and Light http://www.gipl.org/home.html is starting an energy efficiency assistance program for congregations called Power Lines. They provide church energy audits, project management to strategically implement the saving recommendations, grant assistance of up to $25,000 for retrofits, and a training program so that congregations can bring home what was done in the church.

It Was a Very Good Year

Posted by e.taub@tvcnp.com | Posted in Carbon Offsets, Energy Efficiency | Posted on 11-02-2010

The most recent offset report from the Chicago Climate Exchange shows significant growth in offset project registration in the last quarter of 2009. The largest growth in registration was for Agricultural Soil Carbon, with nearly half of the total 2009 projects coming in during the 4th quarter. The number of Forestry and Renewable Energy Projects each grew about by about 1/3 during the same time period.

  • 26 new Offset Providers and Aggregators joined the CCX in 2009, bringing the total to 110 entities currently enrolled in CCX to provide offsets.
  • The CCX also approved 5 new organizations to provide verification services for offset projects.
  • 68% of registered projects are in the United States. Asia accounts for 18%, Latin America 11%, and Africa 3%.
  • 2009 annual registrations represent 26.309 million Mt CO2e, the second highest amount since the start of the program.

CCX is also reviewing a highly productive public/private partnership that is carrying out a massive multi-family housing retrofit program in the city of Chicago. Through a multi-layered retrofit program including energy audits, individualized efficiency solutions, and performance reports, the the partnership expects to achieve emission reductions of 4.77 metric tons of CO2e per apartment per year. The “Energy Savers Program” is currently undergoing validation review by the CCX Offsets Committee.

All these initiatives reaffirm that the CCX is the center of the Carbon Markets. We are proud members of the exchange and expect this growth to continue as the markets get more robust over time.

Truth in (Green) Advertising

Posted by akeenan | Posted in Consumers, Education, Supply Chain | Posted on 10-02-2010

In response to the explosion of green marketing in recent years, the FTC is revising its Green Guide for the first time since 1998. Since then, consumer expectations about corporate environmental responsibility has changed significantly and the revision is meant to ensure that the Green Guide is responsive to the current marketplace and newer language. These days, not only are people talking about and expecting more of companies, their interest in communicating about these products is propelled by the Internet and a culture of social networking. The environment is something that a lot of consumers care about and, believing they are acting with their dollar, they are currently flocking to “green” products.

“Truth in advertising” is something that I personally have long passed over as a catch phrase, as most implications about emotional benefits of products—like fitting in or getting ahead, becoming more attractive, or achieving self-esteem—are exaggerated or even straight fantasy. Environmental marketing brings the importance of this issue to a whole new level. California and Indiana have both incorporated the Green Guide into their own state environmental marketing laws and defer to the Green Guides whenever certain environmental marketing claims are made, opening up violators of the Green Guides to criminal penalties and civil suits.

As people at both public and private levels of are working nationally and globally to understand and manage the multifaceted issue of climate change, the integrity of green statements by companies is of vital importance. Consumers are becoming more savvy each day, in part because of the actions of those companies who are setting high corporate environmental responsibility standards, and are following them. The difficulty can come in determining which products are really moving toward sustainability. The FTC recently sent a letter to 78 companies regarding green claims about bamboo-based rayon. Though bamboo is used in many eco-products, making rayon of it is not any more eco-friendly than making rayon out of other plant fibers.

A 2009 Report that outlines “Seven Sins of Greenwashing” lists the the most common problematic practices. Of the 2,219 North American products surveyed in the report, over 98% committed at least one of the Sins of Greenwashing below. Kids toys, cosmetics, and cleaning products had the highest frequency of greenwashing incidents overall.

The Hidden Trade-off: Focus on a narrow set of attributes while ignoring other important environmental issues.

No Proof: Claims are not substantiated by supporting information or reliable third-party certification.

Vagueness: Claims are poorly defined or so broad that the real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer. ‘All natural’ isn’t necessarily ‘green’.

False Labels: A product that, through either words or images, gives the impression of third-party endorsement where no such endorsement exists..

Irrelevance: An environmental claim that may be truthful but is unimportant or unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products. ‘CFC-free’ is a frequent claim despite the fact that CFCs were long ago banned by law.

Lesser of Two Evils: A claim that may be true within the product category, but may distract the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole.

Sin of Fibbing: Flat out lying about the product.

The University of Oregon has posted a greenwashing index to help consumers track and discuss products green claims. Consumer Reports has posted a site as well to help consumers stay up to date and informed about products.