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This category covers a broad range of aspects including transportation alternatives, parking, telecommuting, travel, green lodging, conference planning, indoor air quality, hybrids, office plants.
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Pollution Prevention, Buildings, Conservation and Recycling, Administrative Stuff

Pollution Prevention

Spotlight Your Green Program With an Annual Report

June 3, 2015

One of the most important things a green team can do to promote continued support from executive and office staff is to issue an annual progress report.  In fact, the investment in time and resources to establish the program requires an accounting of results.  To this end, program goals and objectives for green teams should be carefully tracked with data so that by the end of the year the progress that’s been made can be calculated.  The report itself matters.  It should be appealing to read, supplemented with charts and photos, and published timely.   One of the better vehicles to use to announce and release the report is the office newsletter to all employees. 

Two strong examples of a newsletter and annual report come from the University of Connecticut (UConn).  The university’s Office of Environmental Policy (OEP) publishes a periodic newsletter with interesting articles on events and activities related to the school’s nationally recognized commitment to sustainability.   The most recent issue is an overview of the past academic year.  In format and content, it is an outstanding example of newsletter journalism.
In the opening message from Rich Miller, OEP Director, he offers highlights of the newsletter’s content and references the first Sustainability Progress Report that was issued by the OEP last fall.  The report is an in-depth report on achievements, progress, and challenges related to the university’s sustainability goals and climate action plan.  The report is organized by subject areas—energy, transportation, purchasing, adaptation measures, food and dining services, water, waste management, buildings, and outreach.  The report is a relatively short ten pages, is well-designed, and is readable as an online document as well as a printed report. 
There is a lot of value in using both a newsletter and a report to keep people informed on the efforts and accomplishments of the green team.  A newsletter article, or even a monthly email, keeps the program visible and relevant.  An annual report is the summary of all that was done, what is ongoing, and the future objectives that will advance the office toward its ultimate vision for sustainability.
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Pollution Prevention, Administrative Stuff

Pollution Prevention

Wheels on the Ground and Think Farmacy

May 13, 2015

May 11-15 is National Bike to Work Week , the chief, but by no means the only celebration during May, National Bike Month.  The League of American Bicyclists sponsors and supports the many events and activities across the country.  The League has been in existence for nearly fifty years and aims to promote a bicycle-friendly America with safer roads, stronger communities, and a healthier environment for all.  Click here to learn what’s planned in your town and get ideas for staging bike awareness and riding events in your office this month.

Interested in knowing how your state ranks for bicycle friendliness in the annual states’ report card issued by the League?  If you live in Washington, Minnesota, Delaware, Massachusetts, Utah, Oregon, Colorado, California, or Wisconsin, your states are ranked among the top for “bikability”.  Click here for a complete list and rankings.
Switching up topics—have you ever wondered if charging your phone battery in the car consumes less energy than a conventional outlet in your home or office?  Wonder no more, Mr. Green, the sage of Sierra Club’s daily green tips blog, has an answer.  And the answer is “no”, not actually.  Read on…
GWG will resume its review of Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, soon.  Meanwhile, this short article by Dr. Mark Hyman, published in EcoWatch, is worth the read.  Entitled, “9 Ways to Skip the Pharmacy and Use Superfoods as Your Medicine”, the article details some of the best foods to boost health and has easy to remember tips for choosing (or not) foods in the supermarket.   A few—if there are more than five ingredients on a label, skip it.  Eliminate any food with the word “hydrogenated” on the label, and if you can’t recognize or pronounce the ingredients, walk away.  Dr. Hyman invokes Pollan’s advice, “If it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.”  This is a good article to share with employees in your newsletters, on the Intranet, or in a “daily tips” email distribution. 
See you on the bike trail!
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Splendour in the Grass*

April 22, 2015
This week, GWG returns to The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  Previously, on December 10 and 31, 2014, and January 14, 2015 we reviewed highlights from Pollan’s exploration of industrial agriculture and our corn-based diet.  On February 18, we gained an overview of “Big Organic” and “Little Organic” farming.  Pollan heads back to Polyface Farm where he spends a week as a field hand and experiences life and work on a small farm.  Along the way, he learns that Polyface resembles what farming used to be, that natural agriculture is complex and worlds apart from industrial agriculture’s monoculture of the products and by-products from a single animal or crop that have come to dominate what we put on the American dinner table or what we wait for, motors running, in the drive-thru lane of some fast food outlet.
Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm is 100 acres of grassland and 450 acres of woodland that support an annual production for consumption of 30,000 eggs, 13,000 chickens, 25,000 pounds of beef, 50,000 pounds of pork, 800 turkeys, and 500 rabbits. Calling himself a grass farmer, he acknowledges what they are doing is more like farming the sun, but using information age technology it is a 21st century postindustrial enterprise. 
It’s hard to know where to start to describe the farm because everything is connected and cyclical.  It doesn’t really matter; eventually it all comes full circle.  But to start where Pollan does, he learns that the pasture is a salad bowl of grasses for the livestock, which provide different nutrients to the animals and grow at different times of the season.  The cattle are treated to new grassy pastures daily using portable fencing and management intensive grazing practices which ensure the grasses  recover and are harvested by the animals just following their ‘blaze of growth” and not under grazed which leaves woody stems and deteriorates the grassland.  It occurs to me this might also be why we are advised not to trim our lawns below two inches.  By following this pasture rotation, Polyface gets 400 grazing days a year when the country’s average is 70.  If the same acreage of corn were returned to grassland, about 16 million acres, it would save 14 billion pounds of carbon from the atmosphere and be equivalent to taking 4 million cars off the road.
Pollan examines why we moved from grass-fed cattle-raising to corn when more nutrients come from an acre of pasture than from corn.  That came about from a number of factors including the cattlemen who discovered that fattening livestock was faster and cheaper with corn,  and regional or seasonal differences in taste and production could be wiped out with standardization.  The government played a part by subsidizing feedlots with tax breaks and adopting a marbling grading system that favored corn fed cattle (think fat).  Feedlots were exempted from clean air and clean water laws.  Over time, small farms lost out to large-scale operations and feedlots and knowledge about grass farming was lost in the process.  Grass can’t be broken down as corn can be into its constituent molecules and reassembled as “value added” processed foods.   The 99 cent hamburger doesn’t take into account the true cost to the soil, public health, or the public purse that is never charged directly to the consumer but is indirectly and invisibly a cost to the taxpayer in the form of the subsidies, the health care system, and the environment. 
Back to Polyface Farm.  All the components of Polyface work together.  Salatin says he can’t change one thing without it affecting everything else.  The number of chickens is right-sized for the pasture it feeds on, the same for the pigs, cattle and other animals.  There is minimal or no expense for machinery, fertilizer or chemicals.  Its efficiency is the result of following a natural and complex, interdependent system of  agriculture, a polyculture, as contrasted to most of the efficiency in industrialized agriculture being achieved by simplification—a single crop or animal. 
This picture of agrarian self-sufficiency is a way of life, a 356 day a year job, and one that receives little institutional support or attracts many takers.  For those who do embrace it, Salatin believes that “one of the great assets of a farm is the sheer ecstasy of life.”   
Next time—food—you get what you pay.

*A nod to Wordsworth 

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Pollution Prevention, Buildings, Conservation and Recycling, Administrative Stuff

Pollution Prevention

Business Faces New Environmental Challenges and Opportunities in 2015

March 25, 2015
For twenty five years, GreenBiz has been a catalyst for thought leadership at the intersection of business, technology, and sustainability through its website, events and peer network.  This past month, their eighth annual report was released on The State of Green Business—2015.  This link takes you to a page where you will be asked to fill out a short form and you will be sent a link to the free report.  It was completed in partnership with Trucost, a company that works with companies, investors, governments, and academics and thought leaders to understand the economic consequences of natural capital dependency.
What follows is a brief overview to this comprehensive and eye-opening report.  Why should sustainability officers be interested?  For several reasons, including the value of staying informed and current on the big picture of trends and innovations in business and industry, being aware that governments at all levels are working with corporations on projects and problems of mutual interest and concern such as energy and water, and recognizing that we are doing business every day with companies whose sustainable business goals and practices are impacted by our volume of business with them and the expectations we bring to our dealings with them over how their products are sourced, processed, manufactured, and delivered to our doors. 
This year’s report indicates that companies remain committed to sustainability and in particular, the focus on natural capital dependency risks and opportunities has grown 85% in the past year to include 350 companies.  Natural capital refers to the stock of resources and ecosystem services on which all companies depend for their success.  As Trucost explains, it isn’t “all about carbon” and traditional fossil fuel concepts such as oil, coal, and natural gas; it’s about water, land use, waste and pollutants. It’s about which raw materials are used and where they are sourced, from energy and water to metals, minerals and agricultural products.  Business is looking at the price tag of their methods of production and seeking ways to minimize the real business risks of relying on unsustainable practices in the face of tougher regulation and catastrophic environmental conditions, such as severe water shortages.
The good news is that many of the largest companies in the US and globally are making big changes.  Interface, Shaw, Puma, Nike, General Mills, Philips, Adobe, BMW, Coca-Cola, and Nestle, to name just a few. 
Here are some of the ten green business trends discussed in the report, which also includes helpful graphs and video clips of business leaders discussing their views and actions.  Unlike the past, companies are now sharing their knowledge and lessons learned so that innovation in sustainability is being accelerated.  The Rocky Mountain Institute is a great resource to learn more about how they are driving advances working with groups in industry sectors.  Big business is leading the way for renewable power—think IKEA and the solar roofs on 90% of its US stores.  Attention to water risks has grown into action.  Example—Nestle is now using water extracted from milk it uses to convert it to use for cleaning, a savings of 1.6 million liters of water a year.  Companies are valuable catalysts for change in cities, developing partnerships to bring intelligent design into use for traffic lights and smart parking, among other things.  How about that?  An app for finding the nearest parking space.  Saves on gas, wear and tear on the vehicle, and time. From the city’s perspective, pollution is decreased and parking meter revenues upped with less down time from vacant vehicles.

This report is not a quick read, but it breaks down in easily digestible and highly readable chapters.  Take the time to read it and GWG thinks you’ll be well-informed and inspired to tackle your green goals knowing that you’re in good company. 

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It's Our Turn to Lead

March 11, 2015
Earth Day, on April 22, is the most important day of the year for green office teams.  It is the ideal day to launch a sustainability program or project, to stage an event, and to reignite interest and support for the green team’s objectives.    The Earth Day website practically scripts it for you.  The toolkit includes specific ideas for projects and activities, content templates, messaging suggestions, and everything else needed to make this year’s Earth Day celebration a success.
The Earth Day Network places special focus on April 22, the date of the first Earth Day in 1970.  Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day to build support for national action on air and water pollution and environmental protection.  The time was ripe.  A few years earlier, Rachel Carson’s best seller book, “Silent Spring”, raised awareness and concerns about living organisms, the environment, and public health.  With bi-partisan support, the first Earth Day drew 20 million Americans into the streets to demonstrate and protest environmental degradation.  It led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clear Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. 
This year marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day.  The theme is “It’s Our Turn to Lead”.  Among continuing goals, such as A Billion Acts of Green and The Canopy Project, this year aims to collect signatures and donations to urge world leaders to sign a binding climate change treaty in Paris by year’s end.  One of the biggest gatherings will be on Global Citizen Earth Day, April 18, Saturday, in Washington, DC.  This day-long event on the National Mall will bring together global policymakers, finance ministers, environment and development NGOs, industry executives and high-profile entertainers including a large public attendance.  Globally, nearly 200 countries and a billion people participate in Earth Day.
Green teams can participate in Earth Day’s global objectives or use the occasion to encourage attention on local action and changing personal habits.  Whether it’s organizing a litter clean-up and tree planting at a local park or collecting pledges from employees of one thing they will do to lower their personal carbon footprint, capitalize on Earth Day events from April 18 to April 26, around the world and in your hometown. 

Read more about the history of Earth Day.