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Archive for the ‘climate change’ Category

VIEWS: SSC at the World Water Forum (Part III)

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on March 24, 2009

Dispatch from SSC President Jennifer Woofter

I’m on the flight back home after my trip to Istanbul and the World Water Forum. I’m sure that in the coming week we will hear all about the sessions, working groups, panels, and “key messages” through such excellent sites as Grist and Worldchanging (two of my favorite sustainability news outlets). I’m also sure that others’ analysis will be more insightful and pithy than mine.

But as I Istanbul, what is sticking with me is the disconnect between what *I* know about water and it’s connection with sustainability (even basic societal survival!) and how everyday people think about water. I was asked more than a dozen times by the “average” Istanbul citizen what I was doing in the city, and it often led to a discussion of water. Here’s what I heard:

Taxi Driver – don’t you think this is something that politicians are using to get people riled up? Water is not a problem. Well, maybe in 100 years. But this is not something we should be concerned with today.

Carpet Shop Employee – it’s true that clean water is difficult, but bottled water is so cheap it is not really a problem for me. Maybe it’s more of a problem in the country.

Hotel Employee – this is a problem in Africa, right? Where there is no rain? Here we get lots of rain, so drought is not something we worry about.

I think if you asked people in any major city you would probably hear the same thing: it’s a political “much ado about nothing”, it’s about my own personal access to clean drinking water, or it’s a problem in areas with drought. Very few people seemed to see the larger picture – for instance about water privatization issues, or climate change implications, or even how the price of goods and services will rise as access to clean water becomes more expensive – or impossible to obtain.

As a sustainability consultant, it’s my job to help people understand how a simple-yet-complex issue like water can have real meaning to their lives and their livelihoods. I have to wear many hats – scientist, communicator, accountant, fortuneteller… I have to balance the realities of today with the uncertainties of tomorrow. I have to find the link between the “right thing to do” (e.g. access to clean drinking water for all) and what makes “good business sense” (e.g. let’s make sure our company’s supply chain is water-efficient). It’s complicated and fascinating work – and as I leave Istanbul I’m excited to get back to the SSC office and spend some time reviewing our consulting services to ensure that water concerns are integrated into every part of our analysis and planning engagements.

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EVENTS: Webinar – “Creating a Climate Change Strategy” on April 8, 2009

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on March 4, 2009

How are companies being held accountable for their carbon footprints? What are leading organizations doing to create a forward-looking climate change strategy? If you are a company just starting with a climate change strategy, where should you devote your time and effort? Join us for a call with Wood Turner, Executive Director at Climate Counts, an organization that scores companies annually on the basis of their voluntary climate actions and then publicizes those results to help consumers make carbon-sensitive buying decisions.

In this 60-minute presentation, you’ll learn about:
– The methodology behind the Climate Counts scorecard
– The power of climate benchmarking in motivating corporate action
– The most important climate change actions for “newbie” companies
– Emerging issues on the corporate climate responsibility front

The webinar is hosted by Jennifer K. Woofter, president of Strategic Sustainability Consulting (SSC). In the past three years, SSC has grown from a 1-person start-up to a consultancy drawing on more than 330 sustainability experts.

Cost: Free

Sign-Up on Our Website: http://www.sustainabilityconsulting.com (click Events)

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EVENT: Webinar – Understanding Carbon Offsets

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on October 2, 2007

Today, Americans introduce roughly 6 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually – over 25% of the 20 billion tons released worldwide – exacerbating the effects of global warming. Government initiatives such as the Kyoto Protocol attempt to curtail the impacts, but these initiatives are still years away from reaching full fruition. In the absence of effective government regulation, public demand for action has put a value on projects that reduce emissions, which in turn generate emission reduction credits. These credits are then used in carbon offsetting efforts.

Carbon offsetting is a relatively new concept for most people and, as such, has generated a good amount of debate. While simple at first glance, the market mechanisms supporting the generation and sale of offsets, as well as the way in which this activity results in actual emission reductions, are somewhat complicated. That’s why we are pleased to offer:

Understanding Carbon Offsets, An Online Webinar

Location: Online, At Your Desktop
Cost: $50
Sign Up: Here

In this webinar we will explore how emission reduction credits are generated, tracked, and “retired”. At the end of this webinar, you will:

— Have a clear understanding of the voluntary carbon offset market;
— Understand how carbon credits are generated, traded, and “retired;”
— Know how to accurately quantify an organization’s carbon footprint;
— Be able to identify key criteria for procurement of high quality, unassailable carbon offsets;
— Possess the ability to take an organization carbon neutral.

This webinar is co-hosted by Alex Szabo of TheGreenOffice.com, a company dedicated to accelerating the transition to sustainability in the workplace. Through the online sale of green office products, expert sustainability consulting, and strategic carbon offsetting, TheGreenOffice.com works to make office greening easy and cost effective.

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NEWS: The Economist’s Report on Business and Climate Change

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on June 22, 2007

In Early June The Economist featured a cover story entitled, “Cleaning Up: A 15-page report on how business is tackling climate change. The report included several articles on how big companies are going green and why. The report discussed that the driving force toward green energy is not just moral pressure, but there is growing economic pressure as well. In spite of the current interest in greenhouse-gas emissions, emissions are continuing to rise:

“If greenhouse-gas emissions are to be stabilized, then the carbon price or the support mechanism for clean energy, or both, will have to rise or be adopted worldwide, or both. And if that happens, the returns on clean-energy investment will increase even further and the companies that have already invested in such businesses will have a head start over those that have not.”

Therefore, customers, businesses and governments are realizing solving the climate change problem will provide new markets, technologies, business, and money to be made.

The Economist report featured:

This article explains how a new business is forming out of the carbon market. More and more companies involved in power generation that once believed climate changed was the work of fiction, are coming out of the woodwork to create their own emission control promises and encouraging government regulation. Since states like California have created regulations or are working on creating them, companies are encouraging a federal government policy that is universal within all the 50 states. The companies however are not just interested in a cleaner environment or a universal policy to make paperwork easier, there profit involved:


“There is money in it, (federal regulation) too. If the American government adopts a cap-and-trade system, it will hand out permits to pollute. They are, in effect, cash. According to Paul Bledsoe of the National Commission on Energy Policy, those allowances are likely to be worth in the region of $40 billion. Companies therefore want to be involved in designing those regulations.”

A Swedish power utility company, Vattenfall, is working on quantifying what ways of cutting carbon are cheaper. Insulation improvement, Fuel-efficient vehicles, Lighting system, Water heating, and sugar cane biofules, can both cut emissions and save money for people and business. However, the immediate savings are too small and the effort involved talks to much work, and electricity bills are too “boring” to think about. Also, people responsible for these changes may not have the knowledge or capital to make the initial investment to change.

Worldwide, 13% of the world’s energy needs are supplied by renewable resources. The three biggest sources are currently geothermal, hydro-electric power, and biomass. However, these sources aren’t perfect. Geothermal energy is limited by geology. Hydro-electric power is limited by building dams, use of large amounts of land, and government participation in large-scale production. Biomass is limited by the expense of long-distance shipping and old technology. Wind and Solar energy become next best expandable renewable resources. Countries that currently engage in large scale use of solar power, include Germany, Denmark, and China. Advanced technology and economies of scale have both dramatically reduced the price of solar cell technology, thus making solar power a more viable option for consumers. As with all things in life, minor setbacks do occur. One such example was a recent shortage of silicon, which inflated the price of solar cells. The silver lining in that cloud is that it forces companies to invest in thin-cell technology, which uses much less silincon, which, overall, is better for the environment. Energy tariffs have also made renewable energy more complex than need be. Nevertheless, big energy players have begun to invest in renewable energies. Such companies include GE and BP. Another factor in the future of renewables is politics. Luckily, wind and solar energy is less politically-risky, and can thus be shielded from partisan strategy.

The carbon market is a place where traders can buy and sell non-carbon in the form of carbon credits. The purposes of the market are to establish a price for carbon and to allow companies to cheaply buy carbon credits. Carbon credits primarily come from two sources. The first is from corporate allowances. The second is certified clean mechanisms in developing countries. Such an example would include capturing methane gas from pig stool to create electricity. In fact, last year alone, developing countries accounted for 562 metric tons of CO2 [$5.33 billion] traded. China is an up and coming polluter, and appropriately, last year, purchased over $4billion worth of carbon credits. Europe is still having a tough time in cutting emissions, partly due to the continued use of coal.

Nuclear energy in wealthy nations is responsible for a large chunk of energy: 18% in Britain, 19% in the U.S., and a whopping 80% in France. However, the nuclear society in America has been buzzing with activity of recent, for three reasons. First, the nuclear approval process was reformed in the 1990’s. Second, global warming has increased the need to find energies that emit less carbon dioxide. Third, the Energy Policy of 2005, which provided the nuclear industry with a tax credit, provided for $1.25 billion for innovative technologies, as well as another $2billion in insurance for regulatory issues. The application deadline is the end of next year, and so far 22 companies has applied to build 32 new nuclear plants. There are three problems that still remain. The first is waste removal. There is no long-term waste solution, but nuclear experts agree that waste can be safely stored in dry-storage casks surrounded by inert gases for about 100 years until a solution is found. Second, terrorism is still a worry. While plants are build strong enough to survive most routine attacks, plants can never be completely ready for innovate attacks. Third, costs for nuclear energy are higher than that of coal, by about 2KWH. However, new technologies may help to reduce the costs, and new plants with new technology appear to be the only viable way to gauge real-world cost savings.

Statoil, a Norwegian oil company, collects oil, but doesn’t contribute to atmospheric global warming. This is because the company pumps the carbon dioxide back into the ground. This innovation, called Carbon Capturing and Storing, or CCS, is considered a quick fix for global warming. While standard pulverized coal can be burned more cleanly at higher temperatures, energy demands are too burdensome for this technology alone, which is why CCS is getting a closer look. CCS is currently being done in three places: Norway, Canada, and Algeria. According to the International Energy Agency, about 15 new CCS power plants have been approved for production. The abundant use of coal is a good reason to further investigate the use of CCS.

Greenhouse emission cuts and fuel standards are beginning to toughen up. The EU has enacted mandatory fuel efficiency laws, and now more governments are following suit. In January 2007, California announced its goal to reduce carbon emissions from fuels by 10% by 2020. Hybrid cars, while a current quick fix, are not the answer, as their carbon savings will soon be offset by the overall increase in global car ownership. Some real changes have to take place. One change is ethanol, which gives off CO2 , but, in theory, soaks it up through the plant’s photosynthesizing phase. There are three problems with ethanol. First, the market is currently limited. Most American cars can take E10 fuel [10% ethanol] but only about 6 million cars are currently “flex-fuel” ready, and can support E85 [85% ethanol]. Second, ethanol is expensive. While competitive with gasoline in price at the pump, subsidies cost the American taxpayer billions, and import tariffs keep out cheaper ethanol, such as that from Brazil which is made of sugar cane. Third, ethanol isn’t very green. Some experts believe that ethanol, due to its energy use for growth, releases more emissions than saves. Celluosic ethanol, or ethanol made from anything with cellulose in it, may be a better, greener ethanol. Other ideas that are still alive are electric and hydrogen cars. However, hydrogen is currently very expensive to produce, costs about the same as gas at the pump, and there are only 3 fueling stations in the world: one in Iceland, one in Washington, DC, and one opening in California. Hydrogen fueled cars cost about $1million to produce. Other ideas include cars ran on Lithium-Ion batteries, similar to those in laptop computers, only much bigger.

While green thinking has greatly increased over the past few years, more so in the last year alone, some worry that being green could be a trend that could die off. One risk could be the loss of greenness as fashionable. For example, it may only be a matter of time until Hollywood mega stars move one to the next big thing, and leave their hybrid cars behind. The second risk is oil prices. While they have been high for some time, if the price per barrel were to come crashing down, so would the hopes of expanding alternative energies. Third, politics can interfere. Companies are banking of alternative energy tax breaks and incentives to help. The best way to ensure that the green revolution becomes a permanent fixture and not a trend is to vote in officials who will continue to implement green policy, and to buy from companies who are committed to green ideologies. Carbon prices must be set, and the richest and developed countries must take the plunge to permanency before developing countries can follow suit.

Venture capitalists of the internet boom of the 90’s are now trying their hands at alternative energies. At the other end of the spectrum are established companies looking for new markets in new energies. An example is GE and its Ecomagination campaign. While the venture capitalists claim that alternative energy is geared to small business, pointing out the number of small wind and solar powered farms, the alternative energy market is still dominated by incumbent companies who have the capital to move mountains and market new ideas.

SSC can help your organization understand what these new developments means for your organization and can assist your business in navigating the carbon market.

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RESOURCES: Climate Change for Small Business

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on June 14, 2007

Individual small business owners often have difficulty imagining their role in managing climate for the simple reason that it’s hard to measure climate impact on such a tiny scale. But the total climate-related impact (or “carbon footprint”) of small businesses certainly add up. While your small business may produce actual greenhouse gas emissions, it certainly has an indirect impact on climate: electricity, heating, cooling, and transportation all translate into BTUs with global warming potential.

So begins Climate Change for Small Business, a background brief from ClimateBiz.com. This 5-ish page document outlines why small businesses should care about their contribution to climate change, steps for calculating a small business’s climate change impact, and a list of resources for further information.

If you’ve seen An Inconvenient Truth but aren’t quite sure what YOUR business can do to help combat climate change, this white paper is a great place to begin. Once you’ve read it, we’re convinced that you’ll want to take the next step in calculating your office’s carbon footprint.

That’s where we come in–Strategic Sustainability Consulting now offers Office Carbon Footprinting. In addition to measuring your climate change contribution, we’ll also recommend ways to go carbon neutral in the most cost-effective and credible way possible.

Contact me at jennifer@sustainabilityconsulting.com or 202-470-3248 for more information–let’s talk!

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NEWS: Green Energy for Your Home

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on April 9, 2007

Mike Tidwell of Takoma Park. Maryland has decided to go green. Tidwell has outfitted his home with solar panels on the roof, soy-based insulation, a corn-burning stove, and energy efficient appliances. Concerned about his contribution to greenhouse gases, Tidwell has made great strides to reduce his carbon footprint. Tidwell said to the Washington Post, “”I’m not living in a cave and freezing to death. The point is, this is do-able.” What happens on cloudy days when Tidwell can’t collect enough solar power? Simple. Tidwell also has backup power connected to his home from Washington’s energy supplier PEPCO. PEPCO has green alternatives to “standard” electricity. Buyers can choose from 100% wind-generated energy or 100% green-electricity.

This wave of “greening” the home isn’t just restricted to Tidwell. Washington area-based Chesapeake Wind&Solar, a company that installs solar panels, has seen business double every year for the last three years.

Tidwell hold open houses every two months to showcase his green home to others interested in the community. What does Tidwell have to say to the world? “There are people who say it cannot be done. I’ve done it, and I’ve done it on a budget, and I have a great life.”

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EVENT: Webinar: Caring for Creation (Sustainability for Faith Communities)

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on February 4, 2007

Climate change, the conflict in Sudan, poverty—faith communities are increasingly turning their attention to “big” issues surrounding ecological stewardship, social justice, community service. But while most spiritual groups acknowledge the imperative to “care for creation”, figuring out how to get started and how to maximize their group’s effectiveness can be challenging.

SSC is pleased to offer Caring for Creation, an interactive “webinar” focusing on simple and cost-effective ways to help your faith community in its journey towards environmental and social responsibility. In this 90-minute presentation, you’ll learn:

¨ Key social and environmental issues where faith communities can have an impact.

¨ Practical tips about choosing which issues to focus on.

¨ Suggestions for setting up volunteer programs for maximum long-term effectiveness.

¨ A list of SSC’s favorite resources and relevant case studies.

Cost: $60

Register at: www.sustainabilityconsulting.com (click “Events”)


Space is limited to 20 people to ensure an interactive experience where you can ask questions and get real answers, so reserve your space today. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll receive an email with log-in and call-in details.

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VIEWS: The Biggest Trends In Small Business

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on January 10, 2007

A colleague recently pointed me to an article in USA Today on the Top 10 Trends Shaping Small Business in 2007. Of particular interest to me were #4 and #1. Read on to find out why…

No. 4. Green revolution

We seem to have reached a critical tipping point, and there’s no turning back: green is good. And as nearly every large company now has a sustainability or corporate social responsibility program in place, smaller companies are starting to see the value in environmental excellence too.

Whether it’s GM unveiling an all-new electric concept car last week, or Whole Foods markets becoming nearly ubiquitous, or the rise of sustainable development, there is no doubt that there is an increased desire on the part of businesses and consumers alike to go green. For the small business owner, the green revolution presents opportunities: It can mean helping other companies be more environmentally-friendly, or catering to the desires of your customers to be more organic, or offering green products, and so on, but whatever the case, this may be a chance to do good and do well at the same time.

At Strategic Sustainability Consulting, we’re delighted to be on the front crest of the green revolution for small business. Not only are we on the receiving end (just check out our own environmental initiatives), but we’re also uniquely positioned to help other small companies green their own operations.

No. 1: Global warming may put you out of business

It’s no surprise to us that global warming is happening…and it seems like most Americans now “get it”. But that doesn’t mean we’re prepared.

According to a report from the British government written by former World Bank economist Sir Nicholas Stern (“The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change”), “Climate change could devastate the global economy on a scale of the two world wars and the depression of the 1930s” (CNN.com, October 30, 2006.)

Yup—it’s true. The scary truth is that we are facing a catastrophe that’s moving towards us like a monster in slow motion. We can see it coming, and yet are doing very little to stop it. At Strategic Sustainability Consulting, one of the most important services we provide is consultations on climate change management. So if your organization doesn’t have a plan for how to deal with the realities of global warming, contact me at jennifer@sustainabilityconsulting.com for a free consultation.

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NEWS: "Carbon Neutral" Word of the Year

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on December 18, 2006

The New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2006 is Carbon Neutral.

Being carbon neutral involves calculating your total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reducing them where possible, and then balancing your remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset: paying to plant new trees or investing in “green” technologies such as solar and wind power.

For small and medium size organization, carbon offsets are the easiest way to go carbon neutral—and there are a number of “voluntary carbon markets” (think of them like stock exchanges for carbon emissions) springing up to help. According to a December 5th article in GreenBiz:

The International Emissions Trading Association and World Bank estimate that the market for carbon credits has increased to US$2.3 billion in the first nine months of 2006 and that the overall carbon market is now worth more than US$21.5 billion.

At Strategic Sustainability Consulting, we went carbon-neutral by purchasing carbon offsets from Carbonfund.org, and we’ve been very pleased with their service, credibility, and flexibility.

Want to learn more about carbon offsets, and if they are right for your organization? Email me at Jennifer@sustainabilityconsulting.com for a complimentary consultation!

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RESOURCE: Climate Change for Small Business

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on November 24, 2006

Have you ever wondered, “What can my small business do about climate change?” ClimateBiz now has a dedicated section of its website devoted to helping answer that question.

Individual small business owners often have difficulty imagining their role in managing climate for the simple reason that it’s hard to measure climate impact on such a tiny scale. But the total climate-related impact (or “carbon footprint”) of small businesses certainly add up. While your small business may produce actual greenhouse gas emissions, it certainly has an indirect impact on climate: electricity, heating, cooling, and transportation all translate into BTUs with global warming potential.


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