Monday, November 30, 2009

The Copenhagen Diagnosis - Interim Climate Science Report

A team of climate scientists has produced The Copenhagen Diagnosis, a summary of peer-reviewed science on the anticipated impacts of anthropogenic climate change.

The purpose of this report is to synthesize the most policy-relevant climate science published since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). Since then, many hundreds of papers have been published on a suite of topics related to human-induced climate changes. The report serves as an interim evaluation of the evolving science, and as a handbook of science updates that supplements the IPCC AR4. (IPCC AR5 is not due for completion until 2013.)

Despite recent revelations and controversy over some data sets and scientists’ actions, the report authors believe that world leaders still have plenty of topics to discuss during the UN Climate Change meeting that begins next week in Copenhagen.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Protecting Ecosystems Saves Money

Natural capital – ecosystems, biodiversity, and natural resources – underpins economies, societies, and individual well-being. And, according to a new study hosted by the UN Environment Program (UNEP), protecting ecosystems saves money. For example, the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study puts a $2 to 5 trillion price tag on the ongoing cost of forest loss and estimates that potential rates of return can reach 40% for mangrove and woodlands/shrublands, 50% for tropical forests, and 79% for grasslands.

The study highlights that losses in the natural world have direct economic repercussions that we systematically underestimate. Developing our capacity to measure and monitor biodiversity, ecosystems, and the provision of services is an essential step towards better management of our natural capital. Providing evidence of the value of our natural capital to decision-makers paves the way for more targeted and cost-effective solutions. Developing and strengthening policy frameworks to manage the transition to a resource-efficient economy is the way forward. Investing in natural capital can be a cost-effective response to the climate change crisis, support local economies, and create jobs.

Study leader, Pavan Sukhdev, a Deutsche Bank economist, said "We have now evaluated 1,100 studies ranging across different countries and different ecosystem services. And we find that with protected areas, for example, no matter how you slice the figures up you come up with a ratio of benefits to costs that’s between 25-to-one and 100-to-one."

Sukhdev added, "Now we can say quite confidently that there is a solid benefit from investing in protected areas…Establishing reserves, policing them and so on, would cost about $40-50 billion per year – and the annual benefit would be about $4-5 trillion."

Quick Survey = Chance to Win $200

Brighter Planet, a company that helps people manage and mitigate their environmental footprint, is offering folks a chance at winning $200 for completing a short survey.

The survey asks approximately 30 easy questions about your company's environmental commitments.

About Brighter Planet:
Brighter Planet offers a free social web application that allows anyone to measure their climate impact, discover tailored conservation tips to save energy and money, create emission-reducing strategies, and share their ideas and experiences. They offer no-fee Visa credit and debit cards that earn innovative rewards that help build renewable energy projects. They also provide offsets and organize web-based campaigns aimed at finding solutions to climate change.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mostly Good Intentions, Though...

Poll: Sometimes it isn't easy being green
H. Josef Hebert, Associated Press, November 17, 2009

A survey released today suggests people have largely embraced recycling and are inclined to turn down thermostats to save energy. But it also indicated that some paths toward a greener Earth aren't as easily undertaken.

The telephone poll, conducted for The Associated Press and NBC Universal, tries to gauge attitudes about the environment. It found that 60% of those surveyed felt either a "great deal" or "a lot" of personal responsibility to protect the environment, while 37% rarely, if ever, even thought about the environmental impact of their actions.

Other results:
  • 72% were very likely to recycle cans and bottles
  • 63% were very likely to turn down thermostats
  • 62% were very likely to buy energy-efficient appliances
  • 59% were very likely to use cold water for clothes washing
  • 59% were very likely to buy recycled paper products
  • 65% said it's more difficult to use less energy than to use less water
  • only 23% were very likely to eat less meat
NBC Universal's sponsorship of the poll was related to their Green is Universal week of programming about environmental issues.

Read the complete article here.

New Sustainable Remediation Resources

Several new sustainable remediation resources are available via the SURF website:

New LCA study (in "Links") - Life-Cycle Case Study Comparison of Permeable Reactive Barrier versus Pump-and-Treat Remediation, a November 2009 Environmental Science and Technology article by Monica R. Higgins and Terese M. Olson of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

New conference proceedings (in "Links") - GreenRemediation: Incorporating Sustainable Approaches in Site Remediation - International Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark, November 9-10, 2009

New paper/presentation on the application of "sustainability" in site cleanup (in "Library") - Developments in Sustainability Assessment within Contaminated Land Management, Perspectives of SuRF-UK and NICOLE, a 2009 paper and presentation by R. Paul Bardos, r3 environmental technology ltd (copyright r3 environmental technology ltd)

California's Mandatory Reported GHG Emissions for 2008

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) is making available to the public a summary of facility greenhouse gas emissions data reported pursuant to the California mandatory GHG emissions reporting program required by the 2006 California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32).

Under the program, California's largest industrial GHG emitters were required to report their emissions for the first time in 2009.

The 2008 GHG emissions data represent the reported emissions from electricity retail providers and marketers and six industrial sectors: cement plants; oil refineries, hydrogen plants, and stationary combustion sources (emitting 25,000 metric tons CO2 or greater per year); and electricity-generating facilities and cogeneration facilities (≥1 megawatt generating capacity and emitting 2,500 metric tons CO2 or greater per year).

The emissions reported by facilities through the Mandatory Reporting Program represent approximately 40 percent of California's statewide greenhouse gas emissions.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sharing Environmental Patents

The Eco-Patent Commons, launched by IBM, Nokia, Pitney Bowes, and Sony in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), was founded on the commitment that anyone who wants to bring environmental benefits to market can use these patents to protect the environment and enable collaboration between businesses that foster new innovations. The objectives of the Eco-Patent Commons are :

  • To provide an avenue by which innovations and solutions may be easily shared to accelerate and facilitate implementation to protect the environment and perhaps lead to further innovation.

  • To promote and encourage cooperation and collaboration between businesses that pledge patents and potential users to foster further joint innovations and the advancement and development of solutions that benefit the environment.

Since the launch of the Eco-Patent Commons in January 2008, one hundred eco-friendly patents have been pledged by eleven companies representing a variety of industries worldwide: Bosch, Dow, DuPont, Fuji-Xerox, IBM, Nokia, Pitney Bowes, Ricoh, Sony, Taisei, and Xerox.

For example, DuPont has shared a method for better detecting pollution in soil, air, or water by using a microorganism that produces light when exposed to a pollutant.

Another environmental licensing initiatives is also in the works: Creative Commons, the non-profit developed to share creative and scientific content, is collaborating with Nike and Best Buy to create Green Xchange, which will include options for charging users annual fees and restricting competitive use of patented technologies.

Read more about patent commons in the New York Times.

Is Brown the New Green?

Urban Brownfields Make Way for Research-Oriented Mixed-Use Communities
McGraw Hill Construction Continuing Education Center, Nancy B. Solomon, November 2009

Urban brownfields have become increasingly attractive sites for redevelopment; companies seeking to create the next designer drug or the slickest software are transforming the areas into a new kind of urban research park. Woven into the fabric of a mixed-use, walkable community, these research parks stand in sharp contrast to more traditional ones, which are typically sited on sprawling suburban campuses and relatively isolated from the hubbub of daily commerce. Given the important role that research and technology play in today's highly competitive global economy, interest in such urban research parks is bound to increase.

Cleanup costs and liability risks historically associated with brownfield redevelopment have lessened now that the assessment and cleanup tools are largely in place, the regulatory framework has improved, and developers have become more familiar with the process. "Local governments have also become more effective at making these sites shovel-ready," says Christopher De Sousa, associate professor at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and Department of Geography at UW-Milwaukee and co-director of the Brownfields Research Consortium. In many urban districts, public money is typically part of such a redevelopment process.

Although the specifics of each project vary, urban brownfield research parks share certain similarities. The redevelopments, for example, tend to be located near a hospital or university or both (e.g., University Park at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts; South Lake Union between downtown Seattle and Lake Union, Washington; Piedmont Triad Research Park in Winston-Salem, North Carolina).

Various developers stress the value of collaborating early on with all stakeholders to get their input and buy-in and downplay the technical challenges of remediating their respective sites. However, no matter what the targeted use, De Sousa believes that the main challenge facing urban brownfield redevelopment in the US "is the ease with which we can still develop on greenfields."

Read the complete article and take the continuing education test here.

Corporate America Moving Sustainability Initiatives Forward

A 2009 study commissioned by Siemens Building Technologies and conducted by McGraw-Hill shows that three out of four executives view sustainability as consistent with their company’s profit mission and engage in sustainability activities, double the amount in 2006. Over half (58%) believe sustainability will serve the financial performance of their company, up from 31% in 2006.

The economic crisis has supported and not deterred sustainability activity in the firms represented in the study. Over half (57%) believe sustainability practices are either unaffected or aided by a down economy. Only 32% view an economic crisis as an obstacle.

Energy savings is the most important driver toward sustainability, with 75% citing it this year, and 73% in 2006. Government regulations decreased as a driver with only 29% citing it, down from 40% in 2006. However, 72% expect it to become a requirement.

Over 80% of larger firms believe sustainability provides market differentiation, and over 70% expect sustainability efforts to retain and attract customers and reduce the costs of doing business. Almost a third reported dedicated funding for sustainability.

Sixty-nine percent reported that their firm employs three or more sustainability practices. The most common sustainability practices are:
  • Recycling
  • Employee engagement/activities
  • Green building
  • Initiatives with NGOs/voluntary government programs
  • Publication of annual sustainability reports
Read the Executive Summary of the study here, and click here to download the complete report.

LEED Certification Now Comes with Monitoring and Reporting Requirement

LEED certification can now be revoked by USGBC
Dani Grigg, Idaho Business Review, October 19, 2009

A green building can have its certification revoked in the newest version of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building standards.

New rules require building owners to submit performance data on an ongoing basis for five years after certification. If they don't comply, their project's LEED status can be rescinded.

The USGBC has said this change was spurred by studies showing some LEED buildings were not performing up to expectations.

Some developers might be worried about the new requirements - it's a financial investment to get LEED certification.

The Living Building Program, which is a program designed by the Cascadia chapter of the USGBC, already requires buildings to wait a year after opening before earning certification. At that point, there's enough data on energy usage to make a determination about performance.

Read the complete article here.

Looking for New Solutions in Water Efficiency

Imagine H2O, a national non-profit, hopes to inspire and empower people to solve water problems. Imagine H2O offers prize competitions and mentoring support to help innovators and entrepreneurs turn ideas into real-world solutions that ensure clean water and sanitation.

The inaugural Imagine H2O Prize Competition is accepting entries until November 16, 2009. The focus of this year’s competition is water efficiency — a timely topic considering that water scarcity is an urgent problem in the US and the world. Business plan entries may focus on the efficient use and supply of water in agriculture, commercial, industrial, or residential environments.

Participants will not only help solve a global issue, they will also receive assistance to bring their business idea to market. A total of $70,000 in cash prizes and in-kind services will be awarded, including legal, tax, and accounting services.

Imagine H2O’s incubator resources will provide winners with direct and ongoing assistance from leading water, business, and legal experts, including Cooley Godward Kronish LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and the National Water Research Institute, who will help entrepreneurs develop their winning ideas into products or services that have commercial potential and social value.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Legislature Passes $11B Water Package

Legislature passes water-system overhaul
Wyatt Buchanan and Marisa Lagos, San Francisco Chronicle, November 4, 2009

The California Legislature has passed a sweeping, multibillion-dollar overhaul of California's water system that will affect how Californians will receive and use water.

Legislative leaders have worked for weeks on the final deal, which includes an $11 billion bond measure that passed by slim margins in both the Senate and Assembly. The bond must go before the voters to win approval.

The water package consists of five major parts:
  • A new seven-member board to oversee the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
  • A 20% conservation mandate for urban areas, with credits for cities that have made significant conservation efforts. Agricultural entities will have to follow best practices for water use.
  • New regulations to monitor groundwater levels throughout the state.
  • Increased penalties for illegal water diversions.
  • A $11.1 billion bond to pay for the overhaul, $3 billion of which would be set aside for new water storage, and more than $2 billion for restoration of the delta ecosystem.
Read the complete SF Chronicle story here.

Read more in the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times.

World's Largest Carbon Capture and Storage Project

Chevron Australia has awarded General Electric (GE) a contract for the world’s largest carbon capture and storage (CCS) project off the West Australia coast’s Gorgon natural gas field. Chevron estimates the CCS project will sequester four times more carbon than any other project. The project is a joint operation with the Australian subsidiaries of ExxonMobil and Shell. The Gorgon field is believed to contain about 40 trillion cubic feet of gas, about eight percent of the current global capacity. The Gorgon project is estimated to cost approximately A$43 billion for the first phase of development and about A$50 billion overall. The GE contract alone is worth over $400 million.

GE will supply six units capable of injecting captured carbon 1.3 km underground the Gorgon field. GE will also supply three refrigerant units that will chill and pump 15 million tons of natural gas a year from the Gorgon field through sub-sea and underground pipelines to gas treatment and liquefaction facilities on Barrow Island off Australian coast. Before liquefaction, the carbon will be taken out of the natural gas and injected into depleted natural gas wells.

The West Australia branch of World Wildlife Federation (WWF) opposes the Gorgon CCS project. WWF’s Paul Gamblin said, "We believe it is a substantial threat to one of Western Australia’s most important environmental icons."

Others are critical of CCS projects in general, believing that they encourage fossil fuel production.

"The main objective to mitigate climate change should be cutting carbon dioxide emissions at point of origin," said geologist Gabriela von Goerne of the German branch of Greenpeace. "By reducing fossil fuel consumption, the demand naturally shifts toward energy sources that don’t produce carbon dioxide, like solar, wind and hydro energy."

Read more here, here, here, and here.

12 Alameda County Firms Win StopWaste Awards

Competitive Advantage Cited as Top Reason for Going Green

At a recognition event on October 16, local public agency StopWaste.Org honored twelve Alameda County companies with the 2009 StopWaste Partnership Business Efficiency Awards for outstanding achievements in enhanced operational efficiency, environmental performance and waste reduction.

The winners are:
  • Bayer HealthCare, LLC (Berkeley)
  • 555 12th Street by Shorenstein Realty Services (Oakland)
  • Boston Scientific Corporation (Fremont)
  • Carl Zeiss Meditec (Dublin)
  • Costco Wholesale (Livermore)
  • La Tierra Fina (Union City)
  • Golden Gate Fields Racetrack (Albany)
  • Lucky Supermarkets (Alameda county stores)
  • US Postal Service's Oakland Processing and Distribution Center
Emerald Packaging (Union City), Heat and Control, Inc. (Hayward), and Peterson Holding Company (San Leandro) received Honorable Mentions.

Speaking to a full house, StopWaste.Org Executive Director Gary Wolff praised the leadership demonstrated by the recognized firms and emphasized their competitive advantage. "The companies we are honoring today are not only saving money and protecting the environment," Wolff said. "By making their operations more efficient, often involving the entire supply chain, these forward-thinking businesses have significantly reduced their vulnerability to economic shocks. In today’s economic climate, that’s valuable."

The 2009 award winners substantiate industry experts' claim that environmental responsibility positively impacts the bottom line. For example, the US Postal Service's Oakland Processing and Distribution Center has realized annual savings of $90,000 through increased recycling and waste prevention efforts, and Boston Scientific Corporation has slashed their disposal services bill by 50 percent. Expanding efficiency efforts beyond their own company, Bayer HealthCare LLC is working intensively with their suppliers while Costco Livermore is promoting their successful waste reduction program companywide.

Contact Justin Lehrer at StopWaste for more information.

USGBC Super Heroes of Green Building

The 3rd Annual Green Building Super Heroes Award Gala was held on October 30, hosted by the US Green Building Council, Northern California Chapter (USGBC-NCC). The event, attended by 800 people including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and USGBC CEO Rick Fedrizzi, honored the achievements of the green building community.

Honorees included:
  • The Community Service Award went to Green Building in Alameda County, a program of
  • The David Gottfried Special Achievement award went to Anthony Bernheim of AECOM Design
  • The Green Team Award went to the David Brower center, another phenomenal building made possible by the collaboration of 10 groups of designers and contractors
  • The Green Groundbreaker Award went to Integrated Design Associates (IDeAs)
The evening ended with a keynote from Steve Westly, former State Controller and CFO of California and Managing Partner of The Westly Group, a clean tech investment firm. He called for the need to pass climate change legislation, postulating that within one generation we should be capable of regenerating communities and the built environment such that they can sustain the health and vitality of all life.

Creating Policy and Building Infrastructure for Local Hire Programs

Wednesday, November 18th, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley, California

Local hire requirements have the potential to be a powerful mechanism by which multiple sectors can work together to advance socioeconomic equity in urban communities. But how can we ensure that local hire programs benefit poor communities and communities of color in the long term, with lasting, quality jobs that lead to a reduction in poverty and that sustain community growth over time?

This event will engage with four local hire experts who will share case studies and demonstrate the importance of making sure that local hire requirements are not only clearly and strongly articulated, but also that local hire programs include key infrastructure features - such as well funded training pipelines, city staff buy-in, monitoring mechanisms, and consequences for lack of compliance - for effective operation that puts local residents to work in good jobs and responds to local socioeconomic needs in poor communities.

Confirmed speakers include:
  • Julian Gross, Attorney, Community Benefits Law Center
  • Marie McKenzie, Redevelopment Manager, City of East Palo Alto
  • Alex Paxton, Special Assistant to Deputy Chief of Operations, Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles
  • Bernida Reagan, Director of Community and Client Relations, Merriwether & Williams Insurance Services
RSVP to guarantee your reservation. Seating is limited.

Opportunity Green - UCLA, November 7-8, 2009

Opportunity Green business conference will bring together the brightest innovators leading the growth of the new green economy. Explore the latest in sustainable strategies and best practices, and get the inside view on the hottest topics, trends, and technologies focused on creating new opportunities through sustainability.

Opportunity Green events are designed to provide business professionals the insight, inspiration, tools, and resources to create and implement sustainable business solutions. Meet supply chain vendors, find individuals who need your service, explore joint venture or business partnerships, and learn from professionals being hired and companies finding top quality talent.

Speakers include:
  • Annie Leonard, Producer/Writer/Founder, The Story of Stuff
  • Adam Lowry, Co-founder/Chief Greenskeeper, Method Products, Inc.
  • Alex MacDonald, Economist, NASA Ames Research Center
  • Peter Diamandis, Founder, X Prize Foundation
  • Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles
Register and learn more here.