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When it comes to food packaging, what we don't know could hurt us

Green Business News - Mon, Oct 27, 2014 - 02:01 am

Recent analyses raise disturbing questions about the health and environmental effects of the stuff that encases our edibles.

When it comes to food packaging, what we don't know could hurt us
Categories: Green Business

Bruce Knight: Let's sow seeds for sustainable farm technology

Green Business News - Mon, Oct 27, 2014 - 02:01 am

The rancher and Capitol Hill insider finds that agriculture is suddenly "cool and sexy". That's one way to get started feeding 9 billion people.

 Let's sow seeds for sustainable farm technology
Categories: Green Business

Hidden inside this SF hotel, the past meets the future of energy

Green Business News - Mon, Oct 27, 2014 - 02:01 am

From the birth of the age of electricity to the onset of the age of the microgrid, This hotel has played a key role. This week it's home to VERGE SF.

Hidden inside this SF hotel, the past meets the future of energy
Categories: Green Business

How to get people into the EV driver's seat

Green Business News - Mon, Oct 27, 2014 - 02:01 am

What will it take to move the needle on mass adoption of electric vehicles? Hint: authenticity, happy customers and smart salespeople.

How to get people into the EV driver's seat
Categories: Green Business

Green bonds to exceed $40 billion in 2014

Green Business News - Mon, Oct 27, 2014 - 02:01 am

The first seven months of this year matched the dollar volume of the previous six years. Why are green bonds so hot — and are they growing unchecked?

Green bonds to exceed $40 billion in 2014
Categories: Green Business

How to engage millennials? Appeal to 3 core values, 3 core traits

Green Business News - Fri, Oct 24, 2014 - 11:00 am
How to engage millennials? Appeal to 3 core values, 3 core traitsBridget Croke9:00amFeatured Image: How to engage millennials? Appeal to 3 core values, 3 core traits featured image

Popular opinion says that millennials are different animal from the rest of the populace. And with millennials quickly moving through their 20s and 30s, the yet-to-be-definitively-labeled Gen Z'er is coming of age and becoming a more critical decision maker.

With all the conflicting information on millennials' relationship with social change, how do we successfully engage these generations in positive behavior change? Do they care about your brand's social impact? Do they actually align their spending with their values? Or are they so cash-strapped and overwhelmed with information that clicktivism is the most we can expect?

In reality, all generations share a set of core motivations that drive our decision-making (hint: it's not our rational thought). But millennials and Generation Z have grown up in a different context and with a new set of digital tools that also influence behavior.

To best mobilize this audience around your brand and mission, we need to understand what core values and trends that drive behavior change.

Core value 1: Belonging

This basic human instinct isn't something we comfortably discuss, but ultimately most people want to fit in. We want to be seen as socially conscious only so much as it sits within the expectations of our peer group.

Millennial embrace of the Toms Shoes brand is an example of a peer-driven business growth where social impact becomes synonymous with cool. Toms made it easy to take an impactful action, attracting a socially conscious millennial audience who take easy social actions such as online petitions, likes and shares.

Toms leveraged these influencers to mobilize their friends who wanted to be part of the club. The shoes became a proof of belonging.

Suddenly, the one-for-one model wasn't just another stodgy cause marketing program. One-for-one became a new category of social action, where the product becomes a badge of honor. With this in mind, we can treat behavior change like an innovative product launch, where we target early adopters first and use their influence to make that behavior feel like the default behavior in their community of peers.

Core value 2: Recognition

Within the confines of belonging, we like to also feel special and unique. If a particular behavior is perceived in our social circle as cool, we want to be recognized for that. Peruse your social media feeds and you'll likely notice your online community filled with "humblebrags" — casual shares of images and recent achievements that their peer group is likely to value and recognize through likes and comments.

 MaridavWant your audience to recycle? Recognize that action in contexts and sharable formats that make them look cool.Global Citizen and EKOCYCLE did this skillfully with their #ADayWIthoutWaste mug shot campaign, showing fun pictures of friends at trendy events like SXSW and the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park confessing their crimes of waste and pledging to go waste-free for a day. The content is sharable with a fun backdrop and the context of events that builds social currency.

Core value 3: Need for ease

Outside of our deep-seated values, we will take the path of less resistance — the default action given to us.

You want people to recycle? Make your package easily and clearly recyclable and work with communities to make recycling the default action. To get people to recycle, communities should make their recycling container bigger than the waste receptacle, make sure recycling is picked up as or more frequently than trash and properly incentivize the behavior.

None of this means that generational differences don't exist. There are also some characteristics and trends unique to millennials and younger audiences. A few examples follow.

Millenial/Gen Z trait 1: Natural hackers

This is a generation of makers with their own Etsy stores. They've seen a shift from Hollywood celebrity to young celebrity entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg. Teenagers are finding their own solutions global problems from the great Pacific ocean patch to clean water and energy .

 mangostock via Shutterstock

Unilever wisely leverages these great minds with their young entrepreneurs program, thereby driving greater youth engagement. Let them help create the solution and build far more brand relevance and likely impact. Otherwise they might leave your company behind and start their own businesses that solve social issues and change the behavior of their generation.

Millenial/Gen Z trait 2: Diminished influence of geographic borders

The sphere of influence of young people includes good friends, neighbors and their vast digital community. According to a ShareThis report , Millennials are 3.6 times more likely than their elders to share online, so peer pressure extends far beyond local communities. This generation has seen the advent of the self-made social media and reality TV celebs.

Influencer status is well within reach of the average social-savvy teenager and 20-something and therefore the line between leader and follower has blurred. Instead of focusing on a single celebrity to motivate consumer action, distribute the message amongst a larger number of everyday influencers with strong social followings. It's like the Avon model for the twenty-first century.

Millenial/Gen Z trait 3: New lifestyles demand less ownership

These generations are driving the sharing economy. Our population continues to urbanize and live a less traditional lifestyle. Older millennials are getting married less and are making major purchases like houses and cars at lower rates than older generations.

New lifestyles and limited budgets have paved the way for new business models that leverage a service-based economy, requiring less individual ownership. Growing businesses such as Rent the Runway, car sharing serviceGetaround, and emerging player Yerdle all succeed at driving new behaviors based on these trends. Brands need to appeal to these new lifestyles. Brands getting wise to this shift are the ones skillfully claiming this new audience and staying on trend.

Home Depot, Walgreens and BMW are some of the companies dabbling in this movement. But the trend of big brands participating in the sharing economy is still nascent. To engage millennials and Gen Z in behaviors you want to drive, ride the waves of new behaviors that are already beginning to take hold. To drive the greatest impact, be sure to understand and consider the core human values driving behavior and the new contexts shaping these generations.

Top image of young designers by Dragon Images via Shutterstock.

Topics: BrandingConsumer Trends
Categories: Green Business

How to engage millennials? Appeal to 3 core values, 3 core traits

Green Business News - Fri, Oct 24, 2014 - 11:00 am
How to engage millennials? Appeal to 3 core values, 3 core traitsBridget Croke9:00amFeatured Image: How to engage millennials? Appeal to 3 core values, 3 core traits featured image

Popular opinion says that millennials are different animal from the rest of the populace. And with millennials quickly moving through their 20s and 30s, the yet-to-be-definitively-labeled Gen Z'er is coming of age and becoming a more critical decision maker.

With all the conflicting information on millennials' relationship with social change, how do we successfully engage these generations in positive behavior change? Do they care about your brand's social impact? Do they actually align their spending with their values? Or are they so cash-strapped and overwhelmed with information that clicktivism is the most we can expect?

In reality, all generations share a set of core motivations that drive our decision-making (hint: it's not our rational thought). But millennials and Generation Z have grown up in a different context and with a new set of digital tools that also influence behavior.

To best mobilize this audience around your brand and mission, we need to understand what core values and trends that drive behavior change.

Core value 1: Belonging

This basic human instinct isn't something we comfortably discuss, but ultimately most people want to fit in. We want to be seen as socially conscious only so much as it sits within the expectations of our peer group.

Millennial embrace of the Toms Shoes brand is an example of a peer-driven business growth where social impact becomes synonymous with cool. Toms made it easy to take an impactful action, attracting a socially conscious millennial audience who take easy social actions such as online petitions, likes and shares.

Toms leveraged these influencers to mobilize their friends who wanted to be part of the club. The shoes became a proof of belonging.

Suddenly, the one-for-one model wasn't just another stodgy cause marketing program. One-for-one became a new category of social action, where the product becomes a badge of honor. With this in mind, we can treat behavior change like an innovative product launch, where we target early adopters first and use their influence to make that behavior feel like the default behavior in their community of peers.

Core value 2: Recognition

Within the confines of belonging, we like to also feel special and unique. If a particular behavior is perceived in our social circle as cool, we want to be recognized for that. Peruse your social media feeds and you'll likely notice your online community filled with "humblebrags" — casual shares of images and recent achievements that their peer group is likely to value and recognize through likes and comments.

 MaridavWant your audience to recycle? Recognize that action in contexts and sharable formats that make them look cool.Global Citizen and EKOCYCLE did this skillfully with their #ADayWIthoutWaste mug shot campaign, showing fun pictures of friends at trendy events like SXSW and the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park confessing their crimes of waste and pledging to go waste-free for a day. The content is sharable with a fun backdrop and the context of events that builds social currency.

Core value 3: Need for ease

Outside of our deep-seated values, we will take the path of less resistance — the default action given to us.

You want people to recycle? Make your package easily and clearly recyclable and work with communities to make recycling the default action. To get people to recycle, communities should make their recycling container bigger than the waste receptacle, make sure recycling is picked up as or more frequently than trash and properly incentivize the behavior.

None of this means that generational differences don't exist. There are also some characteristics and trends unique to millennials and younger audiences. A few examples follow.

Millenial/Gen Z trait 1: Natural hackers

This is a generation of makers with their own Etsy stores. They've seen a shift from Hollywood celebrity to young celebrity entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg. Teenagers are finding their own solutions global problems from the great Pacific ocean patch to clean water and energy .

 mangostock via Shutterstock

Unilever wisely leverages these great minds with their young entrepreneurs program, thereby driving greater youth engagement. Let them help create the solution and build far more brand relevance and likely impact. Otherwise they might leave your company behind and start their own businesses that solve social issues and change the behavior of their generation.

Millenial/Gen Z trait 2: Diminished influence of geographic borders

The sphere of influence of young people includes good friends, neighbors and their vast digital community. According to a ShareThis report , Millennials are 3.6 times more likely than their elders to share online, so peer pressure extends far beyond local communities. This generation has seen the advent of the self-made social media and reality TV celebs.

Influencer status is well within reach of the average social-savvy teenager and 20-something and therefore the line between leader and follower has blurred. Instead of focusing on a single celebrity to motivate consumer action, distribute the message amongst a larger number of everyday influencers with strong social followings. It's like the Avon model for the twenty-first century.

Millenial/Gen Z trait 3: New lifestyles demand less ownership

These generations are driving the sharing economy. Our population continues to urbanize and live a less traditional lifestyle. Older millennials are getting married less and are making major purchases like houses and cars at lower rates than older generations.

New lifestyles and limited budgets have paved the way for new business models that leverage a service-based economy, requiring less individual ownership. Growing businesses such as Rent the Runway, car sharing serviceGetaround, and emerging player Yerdle all succeed at driving new behaviors based on these trends. Brands need to appeal to these new lifestyles. Brands getting wise to this shift are the ones skillfully claiming this new audience and staying on trend.

Home Depot, Walgreens and BMW are some of the companies dabbling in this movement. But the trend of big brands participating in the sharing economy is still nascent. To engage millennials and Gen Z in behaviors you want to drive, ride the waves of new behaviors that are already beginning to take hold. To drive the greatest impact, be sure to understand and consider the core human values driving behavior and the new contexts shaping these generations.

Top image of young designers by Dragon Images via Shutterstock.

Topics: BrandingConsumer Trends
Categories: Green Business

Why understanding the true value of water is smart business

Green Business News - Fri, Oct 24, 2014 - 10:00 am
Why understanding the true value of water is smart businessSteve Bolton8:00amFeatured Image: Why understanding the true value of water is smart business featured image

Concerns about water availability are increasing around the world. Water scarcity threatens the ability of companies and communities to operate as they have in the past. Business value may be at risk if they do not have insight into these natural capital considerations and adjust their operations accordingly.

Understanding the true value of water and pinpointing limits to growth is a growing global trend. Companies that quantify their natural capital dependencies will benefit from a more complete picture of the most effective ways to allocate water and other resources.

Current market pricing disconnected from risks

In many regions, the market price of water is inversely proportional to how much is available. For example, water-scarce regions of China can have a low price for water which does not reflect its relative availability. Forbes India magazine has an informative world map showing local water prices based on data from Global Water Intelligence.

The market also does not consider the risk to business value of water availability, nor the benefits that water provides communities and ecosystems. As water demand rises around the world resulting in shortages and increased operating costs, it will be difficult to conduct business in the same way as before. Without measuring the hidden risks to business value of insufficient water, a company cannot perceive the potential losses or respond to them.

The full value of water should be measured by incorporating its broader social and environmental significance within the market price. By using this value, companies can identify hidden water risks and make more informed decisions, such as locating facilities based on water availability and selecting water-efficient technologies to use in production processes.

Facing water scarcity

Trucost’s research for GreenBiz’s State of Green Business 2014 report found that the average US business uses over 49,000 cubic meters of water per million dollars of revenue. In a world faced by increasing water shortages, we must identify and implement ways of decoupling commercial growth from natural capital dependency, so that economic success does not overwhelm natural resource capacity.

This year’s drought in California reflects the impact of resource scarcity on quality of life, economic activities and public services. As of September 2, 2014, a total of 58 emergency proclamations for water conservation have been issued by municipalities, counties, tribal governments and special districts. The State Water Board is providing technical and funding assistance to communities facing drinking water shortages. The state also has responded to 25 percent more wildfires than during an average year, which have burned 15 percent more acreage, equating to increased costs for firefighting and natural resource damage.

Focusing on the true value of water

Water is not valued properly according to the gaps between supply and demand. For instance, the low market price of water in dry regions is a perverse incentive to grow water-intensive agricultural products despite the high risk of drought or damage to long-term water supplies.

Since market water prices do not capture the full costs of extracting water, these costs are borne by society and the environment — so-called ‘externalities.’ These externalities are becoming more visible as water shortages threaten local communities, ecosystems and economies, droughts shrink crop yields and increase food prices, and desertification takes over farm land.

Applying the true value of water for business growth

How do we monetize water risk so it can be factored into investment decisions and considered alongside other business metrics? Trucost estimates that the true value of one cubic meter of water ranges between $0.10 where it is plentiful and $15 in areas of extreme scarcity. Forward-thinking businesses should apply this true value of water to inform their operating strategies, such as aligning water use with its availability and evaluating new infrastructure investments, procurement strategies and product portfolios. Companies can focus on the true value of water to prepare for having to absorb costs that were once off the books, but are now being internalized due to new regulations, higher water prices or water shortages.

One example of this approach is work by Yorkshire Water in the U.K., which applied natural capital valuations to inform its 25-year corporate strategy so that it could meet the needs of one million new households. The company created an environmental profit and loss account so that it could allocate resources and manage commodity costs for the long term. In the EP&L, negative environmental impacts are shown as losses, such as water extraction, waste disposal and pollution, while environmental benefits are identified as profit, such as the company’s water recharge and energy recovery facilities. Applying monetary values helped the company communicate its water efficiency strategy to stakeholders, including suppliers, customers and regulators, in a way that is easy to understand.

Another example is the use of shadow water pricing by Nestlé, so that the company includes the full value of water in its operational decision making. A recent article in The Financial Times outlines how the food company applies an internal water value to spur more efficient use in its factories. Under this policy, water is priced at approximately $1 per cubic meter for facilities located where water is readily available and $5 in more arid regions. Nestlé applies this value when considering purchasing new equipment, making tangible the impact of water availability within capital expenditure decisions. Shadow pricing has also been applied to greenhouse gas emissions by Microsoft, Disney, and at least 27 other US companies, to factor climate impacts into their business decisions.

Monetary valuation for improved decision making

Monetary valuation enables a business to include the true value of water — not just its current market price—alongside traditionally priced items such as labor in capital budgeting, as well as adjusting the net present value of capital and operational expenditure. Applying monetary values to projected water consumption and deducting the environmental costs from future cash flows can reveal which option has a lower risk. By expressing all of its environmental impacts in the single metric of monetary value, a company can easily identify and manage its most significant environmental risks and opportunities. Water valuations also can be used to map commodity flows and quantify risks across a company’s brand portfolio or business unit.

As a result of understanding the true value of water, a company can make more informed decisions which maintain business value by avoiding or minimizing the risks associated with water scarcity and other natural capital constraints.

Top image by Wollertz via Shutterstock.

Topics: Water UseFood & AgricultureWater Efficiency & ConservationCorporate StrategyRiskNatural Capital
Categories: Green Business

Why understanding the true value of water is smart business

Green Business News - Fri, Oct 24, 2014 - 10:00 am
Why understanding the true value of water is smart businessSteve Bolton8:00amFeatured Image: Why understanding the true value of water is smart business featured image

Concerns about water availability are increasing around the world. Water scarcity threatens the ability of companies and communities to operate as they have in the past. Business value may be at risk if they do not have insight into these natural capital considerations and adjust their operations accordingly.

Understanding the true value of water and pinpointing limits to growth is a growing global trend. Companies that quantify their natural capital dependencies will benefit from a more complete picture of the most effective ways to allocate water and other resources.

Current market pricing disconnected from risks

In many regions, the market price of water is inversely proportional to how much is available. For example, water-scarce regions of China can have a low price for water which does not reflect its relative availability. Forbes India magazine has an informative world map showing local water prices based on data from Global Water Intelligence.

The market also does not consider the risk to business value of water availability, nor the benefits that water provides communities and ecosystems. As water demand rises around the world resulting in shortages and increased operating costs, it will be difficult to conduct business in the same way as before. Without measuring the hidden risks to business value of insufficient water, a company cannot perceive the potential losses or respond to them.

The full value of water should be measured by incorporating its broader social and environmental significance within the market price. By using this value, companies can identify hidden water risks and make more informed decisions, such as locating facilities based on water availability and selecting water-efficient technologies to use in production processes.

Facing water scarcity

Trucost’s research for GreenBiz’s State of Green Business 2014 report found that the average US business uses over 49,000 cubic meters of water per million dollars of revenue. In a world faced by increasing water shortages, we must identify and implement ways of decoupling commercial growth from natural capital dependency, so that economic success does not overwhelm natural resource capacity.

This year’s drought in California reflects the impact of resource scarcity on quality of life, economic activities and public services. As of September 2, 2014, a total of 58 emergency proclamations for water conservation have been issued by municipalities, counties, tribal governments and special districts. The State Water Board is providing technical and funding assistance to communities facing drinking water shortages. The state also has responded to 25 percent more wildfires than during an average year, which have burned 15 percent more acreage, equating to increased costs for firefighting and natural resource damage.

Focusing on the true value of water

Water is not valued properly according to the gaps between supply and demand. For instance, the low market price of water in dry regions is a perverse incentive to grow water-intensive agricultural products despite the high risk of drought or damage to long-term water supplies.

Since market water prices do not capture the full costs of extracting water, these costs are borne by society and the environment — so-called ‘externalities.’ These externalities are becoming more visible as water shortages threaten local communities, ecosystems and economies, droughts shrink crop yields and increase food prices, and desertification takes over farm land.

Applying the true value of water for business growth

How do we monetize water risk so it can be factored into investment decisions and considered alongside other business metrics? Trucost estimates that the true value of one cubic meter of water ranges between $0.10 where it is plentiful and $15 in areas of extreme scarcity. Forward-thinking businesses should apply this true value of water to inform their operating strategies, such as aligning water use with its availability and evaluating new infrastructure investments, procurement strategies and product portfolios. Companies can focus on the true value of water to prepare for having to absorb costs that were once off the books, but are now being internalized due to new regulations, higher water prices or water shortages.

One example of this approach is work by Yorkshire Water in the U.K., which applied natural capital valuations to inform its 25-year corporate strategy so that it could meet the needs of one million new households. The company created an environmental profit and loss account so that it could allocate resources and manage commodity costs for the long term. In the EP&L, negative environmental impacts are shown as losses, such as water extraction, waste disposal and pollution, while environmental benefits are identified as profit, such as the company’s water recharge and energy recovery facilities. Applying monetary values helped the company communicate its water efficiency strategy to stakeholders, including suppliers, customers and regulators, in a way that is easy to understand.

Another example is the use of shadow water pricing by Nestlé, so that the company includes the full value of water in its operational decision making. A recent article in The Financial Times outlines how the food company applies an internal water value to spur more efficient use in its factories. Under this policy, water is priced at approximately $1 per cubic meter for facilities located where water is readily available and $5 in more arid regions. Nestlé applies this value when considering purchasing new equipment, making tangible the impact of water availability within capital expenditure decisions. Shadow pricing has also been applied to greenhouse gas emissions by Microsoft, Disney, and at least 27 other US companies, to factor climate impacts into their business decisions.

Monetary valuation for improved decision making

Monetary valuation enables a business to include the true value of water — not just its current market price—alongside traditionally priced items such as labor in capital budgeting, as well as adjusting the net present value of capital and operational expenditure. Applying monetary values to projected water consumption and deducting the environmental costs from future cash flows can reveal which option has a lower risk. By expressing all of its environmental impacts in the single metric of monetary value, a company can easily identify and manage its most significant environmental risks and opportunities. Water valuations also can be used to map commodity flows and quantify risks across a company’s brand portfolio or business unit.

As a result of understanding the true value of water, a company can make more informed decisions which maintain business value by avoiding or minimizing the risks associated with water scarcity and other natural capital constraints.

Top image by Wollertz via Shutterstock.

Topics: Water UseFood & AgricultureWater Efficiency & ConservationCorporate StrategyRiskNatural Capital
Categories: Green Business

How Costa Rica has been unlocking the value of its rainforest

Green Business News - Fri, Oct 24, 2014 - 02:01 am

Payment for Environmental Services, a government-led initiative, has enabled the country to double the size of its forests while tripling its GDP per capita in the last 25 years.

How Costa Rica has been unlocking the value of its rainforest
Categories: Green Business

Vermont's largest municipal utility goes 100 percent renewable

Green Business News - Fri, Oct 24, 2014 - 02:01 am

Wind, hydro and biomass provide the bulk of electricity consumed in the city of Burlington.

Vermont's largest municipal utility goes 100 percent renewable
Categories: Green Business

New York pursues microgrids for widespread resiliency

Green Business News - Fri, Oct 24, 2014 - 02:01 am

Reinventing the state grid, the NYPA focuses on seven projects to keep hospitals open, prisons secure and other critical functions working during outages.

New York pursues microgrids for widespread resiliency
Categories: Green Business

Why stakeholder engagement is key to successful CSR programs

Green Business News - Thu, Oct 23, 2014 - 02:32 pm

Building online communities to engage with stakeholders conveniently, transparently, authentically and frequently is key to unlocking business value.

Why stakeholder engagement is key to successful CSR programs
Categories: Green Business

Eliot Coleman’s Guide to Creating a Root Cellar

Chelsea Green - Thu, Oct 23, 2014 - 11:24 am

As temperatures start to drop, make sure you are ready to preserve your root vegetable harvest in a soundly constructed, home storage system. In the following excerpt (adapted for the web) from Four-Season Harvest, Eliot Coleman shares his expertise on building a successful root cellar. For more step-by-step projects to jumpstart your season extension plans and prepare […]

The post Eliot Coleman’s Guide to Creating a Root Cellar appeared first on Chelsea Green.

Categories: Sustainability

For Sprint, communications is core to climate resilience

Green Business News - Thu, Oct 23, 2014 - 10:45 am
For Sprint, communications is core to climate resilienceAnn Goodman8:45amFeatured Image: For Sprint, communications is core to climate resilience featured image

In what surely is a glaring understatement, Tanya Jones, manager of Sprint Corp.’s vital Emergency Response Team Operations, observed, “We learned quite a bit from Hurricane Sandy.”

Indeed, Sprint, like all telecommunications carriers, lost cell sites on the northeastern seaboard and in New York City in the 2012 superstorm, which hurt its cellular operations. Fortunately, Sprint’s ERT was able to provide critical communications services to various first responders and emergency agencies using vehicles such as COWS (Cell On Wheels) and COLTS (Cell on Light Trucks), including those near the World Trade Center in New York, where the vehicles were parked right in front of the Freedom Tower, after police blocked it off for the Sprint workers.

Among the key learnings from the debacle, said Jones: How better to rebuild; where better to stage; how better to “future-proof our technology to ensure our equipment is upgraded and our personnel equipped” for disaster.

Her team of disaster emergency workers in multiple U.S. locations, including Dallas and Sterling, Va., is at the center — and on the front lines — of Sprint’s emerging approach to climate resilience. Having overseen the company’s disaster response for 10 years and found herself on the spot during 2,500 events — from hurricanes to fires to tornados to floods — her interpretation of such events is telling:

“While a disaster is a disaster, I subscribe to the theory that the climate is changing weather patterns. You see more forest fires in the west and more hurricanes; you see increased water and air temperatures and storm activities; and there’s been an uptick in severity of storms,” Jones said.

A communications approach to resilience

Jones’ thoughts on disaster and climate echo the observation of Sprint's director of corporate responsibility and sustainability, Amy Hargroves, who heads the company’s approach to climate resilience: “The same risks exist for climate-related events as for other disasters, but there’s a greater range of events and more of them.”Amy Hargroves

Of acute importance, Hargroves noted: “In our field, as a communications company, disaster resilience has to be core to our business, because there’s so much dependence nationally on communications.”

Indeed, while now majority owned by Japanese parent Softbank, Sprint’s network is United States-centric, serving federal, state and local governments as well as emergency responders — and, of course, the company’s 50 million-plus business and individual customers.

Because emergency response is at the core of Sprint’s resilience approach, the company is always at the cutting edge of communications technology: “LTE, high-speed data, 4G, emergency response — we can provide that now, but most of what we do is make sure we’re on top of technology, because it’s not if but when a disaster will happen,” Jones explained.

Keeping its emergency response team up to date with special equipment and mobile communications — as well as learning from each disaster — is only one part of Sprint’s four-pronged approach to implementing climate resilience, a business priority of Hargroves’ sustainability team, which has won the company a number of accolades, including the recent Compass Intelligence Eco-Focus and EPA Climate Leadership awards.

Other priorities in Sprint’s resilience approach include:

• Frequent assessments of the company’s network risks.

• Improving backup power with less carbon-intensive sources, including research on hydrogen-fuel cells, in part with the Department of Energy.

• Reviewing lessons learned to find new business opportunities, including those related to customer offerings.

Overarching goals include reducing the company’s greenhouse gas emissions and electricity use by 20 percent by 2017 from 10 years earlier and ensuring 90 percent of its supply chain meets Sprint’s environmental and social criteria. The goals are complementary, particularly given Sprint’s massive network overhaul, at a cost of nearly $5 billion over three years, now coming to an end.

That renewal has allowed Sprint to achieve its 2017 GHG reduction goal and come within 1 percent of its electricity reduction goal. Sprint provided free guidance on greenhouse gas measurement, reporting and reduction strategies to its top suppliers, including those involved in the network overhaul.

Network risks: cell sites, signaling, fleets, response prioritization

To ensure the network stays up to date — and up and running — in case of disaster, the company runs quarterly risk assessments. And Sprint expects more extreme events.

On planning for potential climate risks, Hargraves noted that since Sandy, “it’s not so much that we’ve done anything new, but that there’s increased risk recognized through insurance [coverage] and assessment. That’s how we adjust and plan.”

Fleets: Network risks also include the company’s fleet of vehicles for a range of conditions that could affect the cell sites, the most vulnerable part of the network. Fortunately, Hargroves noted, insurance companies have been building climate risk into their corporate risk models, assessing the level and nature of risk per site. With that information, Sprint can determine which sites may be most vulnerable and potential candidates for relocation. “We look at 500-year flood levels when we build our sites,” she said.

Cell sites: With some 55,000 cell sites across the country, Sprint has a lot to keep track of. The signal from the site must be accessible in order for wireless customers to complete calls. Cell site traffic is aggregated at over 100 major satellite switching sites that allow calls to be terminated between various wireless and wire-line networks. Much of the IP-based (Internet Protocol) control functionality is handled by some 30 Core sites that act as traffic directors for voice and data services.

“Networks are complicated beasts, and risk varies according to the site,” said Hargroves. “But the most important parts to protect are the switch sites, mainly because they aggregate traffic from thousands of cell sites. A single switch outage can isolate a complete market, leaving customers without critical wireless services over a large geographical area.”

Emergency response: Of rising importance to the company’s resilience plan, said Hargroves, is the sort of emergency response to disasters that Jones manages. “We anticipate greater demand for the services of our Emergency Response Team because of the increase in the number of disruptive events,” Hargroves said.

Essential to the response is the specialized mobile equipment, such as mobile communications centers, including COWs and COLTs. These are whole vans or trailers especially useful in places that are hard to access. “Demand for COWs and COLTs has increased over the past several years, so our fleet has been [growing] and is expected to continue to grow in response,” she explained.

A big part of emergency response is sequencing and prioritization: That entails determining who is “in charge” of disaster management (from a government perspective), which communications capabilities are intact and which are needed — and then developing a prioritized list of communications services and infrastructure that the company will provide.

Sprint may send out its ERT to work with government and provide critical communications services initially for the first responders — government personnel, military, FEMA, Red Cross — to enable them to communicate, especially if a lot of infrastructure, such as cell site towers, signal repeaters or switching centers, has been disabled. The Sprint ERT always works with local government, including sheriffs and firefighters. Next in line are customers.

Risk, site planning and backup power: response to storms, fires, flooding

While Sprint always has had backup power initiatives, those have expanded throughout the United States over the past few years — as has the need for backup, which has risen, along with the frequency of disasters.

“Provision of backup power is very much motivated by both natural and manmade disasters,” said John Holmes, who, as Sprint’s manager of network planning, is responsible for the company’s strategic planning efforts involving backup power, energy efficiency and sustainability for the company’s network.

The need for backup power varies by region. “In the eastern and southern coastal regions, hurricanes and tropical storms can cause widespread damage,” he said. “In the Midwest and upper Midwest, ice storms can result in widespread outages.

“Wildfires can be a problem anywhere there’s a combination of very dry weather and a lot of combustible ground or tree cover. As a general rule, they are more frequent out west. Places like California or the Pacific Northwest are susceptible to earthquakes.

“Also, don’t count out tornadoes. Heavy rainfall can result in flooding, and many times that will occur downstream of where the majority of the rainfall occurred."

Sometimes the power stays on, but Sprint “can still have widespread outages, if, say, a major backbone fiber carrying multiple backhaul circuits (which connect the BTS equipment to the switches) is cut,” Holmes pointed out. “That would prevent calls from being completed … and is often manifested to the wireless subscriber as a fast busy signal.”

What’s more, Hargroves added, the question of where to build cell sites has been complicated in recent years by the increase in frequency and severity of storms, as well as the availability of energy and water sources.

“A few years ago, we studied the impact of climate change on water scarcity and cost in the U.S. The results were shared with the C-suite and operational teams so they could use it as input for site planning. For instance, if you need a big building, you should expect it to have a water chilling system, which is a big driver of water use. If you know where water will be scarcer, and thus more expensive, you should avoid building in those areas,” Hargroves explained.

In 2013, water cost the company a mere $1.2 million, compared with $300 million for energy, “so it’s a far lower economic priority,” she said. “However, given the importance of water globally, it would be foolish not to consider drought forecasts in your site-planning process.”

By contrast, Sprint has a strong economic incentive to reduce its energy usage, which is primarily electric. The company has cut its internal electricity use by 22 percent since 2007 and reduced its electricity costs by $87 million annually. Including Clearwire, acquired — along with its emissions output — in 2013, Sprint’s electricity costs are still down by 19 percent.

Power backup and hydrogen fuel cells

When disaster strikes, electrical power from traditional sources is likely to go down, as recent climate-related events, including Superstorm Sandy, have shown. That’s why backup power is essential for telecommunications providers such as Sprint. A backup plan is needed for all critical components in the network. Because Sprint is committed to lowering carbon emissions, the company looks to cleaner backup power sources.

“Our second priority for carbon reduction is back-up power, which is a leading contributor to Sprint’s Scope 1, or direct, emissions,” said Hargroves. “Scope 1 emissions represent only 3.5 percent of our aggregate Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Within the 3.5 percent, 10 percent is emissions from back-up power sources, such as diesel fuel and propane.

“Sprint includes its Scope 1 emissions in its goal to absolutely reduce GHG emissions by 20 percent by 2017, and in fact, has reduced them by more than 41 percent so far. Increasing our use of hydrogen fuel cells and propane — and decreasing use of diesel generators — as backup power sources at cell sites has contributed to this success.”

Hargroves noted that Sprint’s fleet, with 1,000 vehicles, has a substantially smaller GHG footprint than the fleets of its direct competitors, which have 40,000 or more vehicles.

“When we talk about network resiliency, we mean the ability of the network to maintain power and functionality, particularly at the switching and cell site level,” she said. “There are multiple lines of defense, the first of which is batteries. Since we have the greatest dependency on batteries, much of our focus is on reducing the environmental impact and duration of use of our network batteries. We have partnered with the National Renewable Energy Lab and the Department of Energy on battery technology, which is so critical for a communications company.”

The second line of defense is using both a diesel generator and natural gas feeds, even propane and methanol, to access multiple core electricity streams in a single place to provide backup power. While solar and wind power are sparsely used where possible, neither technology is practical, given risks (when wind is strong, a disaster could be in the making), lack of continuous availability of energy and cost-benefit balance.

Sprint is maximizing its use of hydrogen fuel cells in part through work with the DOE, whose $7.3 million grant in 2009 has supported the company’s development and deployment of 260 additional fuel cells to support its backup power systems, network planning manager Holmes said.

The innovative fuel cells use an on-site, refillable, medium-pressure hydrogen storage system, which has eliminated bottle swaps, required in earlier generations of the technology, while boosting the standby runtime of the cells to parity with that of other backup solutions such as diesel generators. The company’s 500-plus hydrogen fuel cells help Sprint ensure that its Scope 1 emissions related to back-up power stay low despite significant increases in network resilience, achieved via more sites with longer back-up power.

Customers and business opportunity

Perhaps the biggest business opportunity in climate resilience for the company is on the consumer side of the business, said Hargroves. “We’re trying to identify additional services we can provide to help customers” understand and prepare for potentially disruptive events.

So far, most of the company’s focus has been on the “survivability of network infrastructure,” Hargroves said. The company’s Japanese parent Softbank has exceptional experience in this arena, gained during the Great East Japan earthquake of March 2011.

Explained Hargroves: “Up to now, the main things we’ve done involve the survivability of our services, directly helping first responders, supporting customers on billing, and managing our service, versus providing information that can help them manage through the disaster — things like how to extend the life of your phone battery and recharge with limited electricity sources available, which is different from relaying information during a disaster, as people become more and more dependent on cell service.”

But the company imagines the opportunity to change that. Sprint may have a competitive advantage in consumer engagement, if it can leverage some other assets of Softbank such as Yahoo (in Japan) and provide disaster-related content on its customers’ phones.

She added: “We do think there are some interesting opportunities with emergency alert systems and disaster content support. So if someone can figure out a good way to do it, this is a terrific opportunity.”

Top image of Sprint store in New York City by Northfoto via Shutterstock

Topics: ClimateComputersFleets
Categories: Green Business

For Sprint, communications is core to climate resilience

Green Business News - Thu, Oct 23, 2014 - 10:45 am
For Sprint, communications is core to climate resilienceAnn Goodman8:45amFeatured Image: For Sprint, communications is core to climate resilience featured image

In what surely is a glaring understatement, Tanya Jones, manager of Sprint Corp.’s vital Emergency Response Team Operations, observed, “We learned quite a bit from Hurricane Sandy.”

Indeed, Sprint, like all telecommunications carriers, lost cell sites on the northeastern seaboard and in New York City in the 2012 superstorm, which hurt its cellular operations. Fortunately, Sprint’s ERT was able to provide critical communications services to various first responders and emergency agencies using vehicles such as COWS (Cell On Wheels) and COLTS (Cell on Light Trucks), including those near the World Trade Center in New York, where the vehicles were parked right in front of the Freedom Tower, after police blocked it off for the Sprint workers.

Among the key learnings from the debacle, said Jones: How better to rebuild; where better to stage; how better to “future-proof our technology to ensure our equipment is upgraded and our personnel equipped” for disaster.

Her team of disaster emergency workers in multiple U.S. locations, including Dallas and Sterling, Va., is at the center — and on the front lines — of Sprint’s emerging approach to climate resilience. Having overseen the company’s disaster response for 10 years and found herself on the spot during 2,500 events — from hurricanes to fires to tornados to floods — her interpretation of such events is telling:

“While a disaster is a disaster, I subscribe to the theory that the climate is changing weather patterns. You see more forest fires in the west and more hurricanes; you see increased water and air temperatures and storm activities; and there’s been an uptick in severity of storms,” Jones said.

A communications approach to resilience

Jones’ thoughts on disaster and climate echo the observation of Sprint's director of corporate responsibility and sustainability, Amy Hargroves, who heads the company’s approach to climate resilience: “The same risks exist for climate-related events as for other disasters, but there’s a greater range of events and more of them.”Amy Hargroves

Of acute importance, Hargroves noted: “In our field, as a communications company, disaster resilience has to be core to our business, because there’s so much dependence nationally on communications.”

Indeed, while now majority owned by Japanese parent Softbank, Sprint’s network is United States-centric, serving federal, state and local governments as well as emergency responders — and, of course, the company’s 50 million-plus business and individual customers.

Because emergency response is at the core of Sprint’s resilience approach, the company is always at the cutting edge of communications technology: “LTE, high-speed data, 4G, emergency response — we can provide that now, but most of what we do is make sure we’re on top of technology, because it’s not if but when a disaster will happen,” Jones explained.

Keeping its emergency response team up to date with special equipment and mobile communications — as well as learning from each disaster — is only one part of Sprint’s four-pronged approach to implementing climate resilience, a business priority of Hargroves’ sustainability team, which has won the company a number of accolades, including the recent Compass Intelligence Eco-Focus and EPA Climate Leadership awards.

Other priorities in Sprint’s resilience approach include:

• Frequent assessments of the company’s network risks.

• Improving backup power with less carbon-intensive sources, including research on hydrogen-fuel cells, in part with the Department of Energy.

• Reviewing lessons learned to find new business opportunities, including those related to customer offerings.

Overarching goals include reducing the company’s greenhouse gas emissions and electricity use by 20 percent by 2017 from 10 years earlier and ensuring 90 percent of its supply chain meets Sprint’s environmental and social criteria. The goals are complementary, particularly given Sprint’s massive network overhaul, at a cost of nearly $5 billion over three years, now coming to an end.

That renewal has allowed Sprint to achieve its 2017 GHG reduction goal and come within 1 percent of its electricity reduction goal. Sprint provided free guidance on greenhouse gas measurement, reporting and reduction strategies to its top suppliers, including those involved in the network overhaul.

Network risks: cell sites, signaling, fleets, response prioritization

To ensure the network stays up to date — and up and running — in case of disaster, the company runs quarterly risk assessments. And Sprint expects more extreme events.

On planning for potential climate risks, Hargraves noted that since Sandy, “it’s not so much that we’ve done anything new, but that there’s increased risk recognized through insurance [coverage] and assessment. That’s how we adjust and plan.”

Fleets: Network risks also include the company’s fleet of vehicles for a range of conditions that could affect the cell sites, the most vulnerable part of the network. Fortunately, Hargroves noted, insurance companies have been building climate risk into their corporate risk models, assessing the level and nature of risk per site. With that information, Sprint can determine which sites may be most vulnerable and potential candidates for relocation. “We look at 500-year flood levels when we build our sites,” she said.

Cell sites: With some 55,000 cell sites across the country, Sprint has a lot to keep track of. The signal from the site must be accessible in order for wireless customers to complete calls. Cell site traffic is aggregated at over 100 major satellite switching sites that allow calls to be terminated between various wireless and wire-line networks. Much of the IP-based (Internet Protocol) control functionality is handled by some 30 Core sites that act as traffic directors for voice and data services.

“Networks are complicated beasts, and risk varies according to the site,” said Hargroves. “But the most important parts to protect are the switch sites, mainly because they aggregate traffic from thousands of cell sites. A single switch outage can isolate a complete market, leaving customers without critical wireless services over a large geographical area.”

Emergency response: Of rising importance to the company’s resilience plan, said Hargroves, is the sort of emergency response to disasters that Jones manages. “We anticipate greater demand for the services of our Emergency Response Team because of the increase in the number of disruptive events,” Hargroves said.

Essential to the response is the specialized mobile equipment, such as mobile communications centers, including COWs and COLTs. These are whole vans or trailers especially useful in places that are hard to access. “Demand for COWs and COLTs has increased over the past several years, so our fleet has been [growing] and is expected to continue to grow in response,” she explained.

A big part of emergency response is sequencing and prioritization: That entails determining who is “in charge” of disaster management (from a government perspective), which communications capabilities are intact and which are needed — and then developing a prioritized list of communications services and infrastructure that the company will provide.

Sprint may send out its ERT to work with government and provide critical communications services initially for the first responders — government personnel, military, FEMA, Red Cross — to enable them to communicate, especially if a lot of infrastructure, such as cell site towers, signal repeaters or switching centers, has been disabled. The Sprint ERT always works with local government, including sheriffs and firefighters. Next in line are customers.

Risk, site planning and backup power: response to storms, fires, flooding

While Sprint always has had backup power initiatives, those have expanded throughout the United States over the past few years — as has the need for backup, which has risen, along with the frequency of disasters.

“Provision of backup power is very much motivated by both natural and manmade disasters,” said John Holmes, who, as Sprint’s manager of network planning, is responsible for the company’s strategic planning efforts involving backup power, energy efficiency and sustainability for the company’s network.

The need for backup power varies by region. “In the eastern and southern coastal regions, hurricanes and tropical storms can cause widespread damage,” he said. “In the Midwest and upper Midwest, ice storms can result in widespread outages.

“Wildfires can be a problem anywhere there’s a combination of very dry weather and a lot of combustible ground or tree cover. As a general rule, they are more frequent out west. Places like California or the Pacific Northwest are susceptible to earthquakes.

“Also, don’t count out tornadoes. Heavy rainfall can result in flooding, and many times that will occur downstream of where the majority of the rainfall occurred."

Sometimes the power stays on, but Sprint “can still have widespread outages, if, say, a major backbone fiber carrying multiple backhaul circuits (which connect the BTS equipment to the switches) is cut,” Holmes pointed out. “That would prevent calls from being completed … and is often manifested to the wireless subscriber as a fast busy signal.”

What’s more, Hargroves added, the question of where to build cell sites has been complicated in recent years by the increase in frequency and severity of storms, as well as the availability of energy and water sources.

“A few years ago, we studied the impact of climate change on water scarcity and cost in the U.S. The results were shared with the C-suite and operational teams so they could use it as input for site planning. For instance, if you need a big building, you should expect it to have a water chilling system, which is a big driver of water use. If you know where water will be scarcer, and thus more expensive, you should avoid building in those areas,” Hargroves explained.

In 2013, water cost the company a mere $1.2 million, compared with $300 million for energy, “so it’s a far lower economic priority,” she said. “However, given the importance of water globally, it would be foolish not to consider drought forecasts in your site-planning process.”

By contrast, Sprint has a strong economic incentive to reduce its energy usage, which is primarily electric. The company has cut its internal electricity use by 22 percent since 2007 and reduced its electricity costs by $87 million annually. Including Clearwire, acquired — along with its emissions output — in 2013, Sprint’s electricity costs are still down by 19 percent.

Power backup and hydrogen fuel cells

When disaster strikes, electrical power from traditional sources is likely to go down, as recent climate-related events, including Superstorm Sandy, have shown. That’s why backup power is essential for telecommunications providers such as Sprint. A backup plan is needed for all critical components in the network. Because Sprint is committed to lowering carbon emissions, the company looks to cleaner backup power sources.

“Our second priority for carbon reduction is back-up power, which is a leading contributor to Sprint’s Scope 1, or direct, emissions,” said Hargroves. “Scope 1 emissions represent only 3.5 percent of our aggregate Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Within the 3.5 percent, 10 percent is emissions from back-up power sources, such as diesel fuel and propane.

“Sprint includes its Scope 1 emissions in its goal to absolutely reduce GHG emissions by 20 percent by 2017, and in fact, has reduced them by more than 41 percent so far. Increasing our use of hydrogen fuel cells and propane — and decreasing use of diesel generators — as backup power sources at cell sites has contributed to this success.”

Hargroves noted that Sprint’s fleet, with 1,000 vehicles, has a substantially smaller GHG footprint than the fleets of its direct competitors, which have 40,000 or more vehicles.

“When we talk about network resiliency, we mean the ability of the network to maintain power and functionality, particularly at the switching and cell site level,” she said. “There are multiple lines of defense, the first of which is batteries. Since we have the greatest dependency on batteries, much of our focus is on reducing the environmental impact and duration of use of our network batteries. We have partnered with the National Renewable Energy Lab and the Department of Energy on battery technology, which is so critical for a communications company.”

The second line of defense is using both a diesel generator and natural gas feeds, even propane and methanol, to access multiple core electricity streams in a single place to provide backup power. While solar and wind power are sparsely used where possible, neither technology is practical, given risks (when wind is strong, a disaster could be in the making), lack of continuous availability of energy and cost-benefit balance.

Sprint is maximizing its use of hydrogen fuel cells in part through work with the DOE, whose $7.3 million grant in 2009 has supported the company’s development and deployment of 260 additional fuel cells to support its backup power systems, network planning manager Holmes said.

The innovative fuel cells use an on-site, refillable, medium-pressure hydrogen storage system, which has eliminated bottle swaps, required in earlier generations of the technology, while boosting the standby runtime of the cells to parity with that of other backup solutions such as diesel generators. The company’s 500-plus hydrogen fuel cells help Sprint ensure that its Scope 1 emissions related to back-up power stay low despite significant increases in network resilience, achieved via more sites with longer back-up power.

Customers and business opportunity

Perhaps the biggest business opportunity in climate resilience for the company is on the consumer side of the business, said Hargroves. “We’re trying to identify additional services we can provide to help customers” understand and prepare for potentially disruptive events.

So far, most of the company’s focus has been on the “survivability of network infrastructure,” Hargroves said. The company’s Japanese parent Softbank has exceptional experience in this arena, gained during the Great East Japan earthquake of March 2011.

Explained Hargroves: “Up to now, the main things we’ve done involve the survivability of our services, directly helping first responders, supporting customers on billing, and managing our service, versus providing information that can help them manage through the disaster — things like how to extend the life of your phone battery and recharge with limited electricity sources available, which is different from relaying information during a disaster, as people become more and more dependent on cell service.”

But the company imagines the opportunity to change that. Sprint may have a competitive advantage in consumer engagement, if it can leverage some other assets of Softbank such as Yahoo (in Japan) and provide disaster-related content on its customers’ phones.

She added: “We do think there are some interesting opportunities with emergency alert systems and disaster content support. So if someone can figure out a good way to do it, this is a terrific opportunity.”

Top image of Sprint store in New York City by Northfoto via Shutterstock

Topics: ClimateComputersFleets
Categories: Green Business

Denis Hayes: From Earth Day to the Bullitt Center

Green Business News - Thu, Oct 23, 2014 - 09:30 am
Denis Hayes: From Earth Day to the Bullitt CenterMike Hower7:30amFeatured Image:  From Earth Day to the Bullitt Center featured image

Catch Denis Hayes in person at VERGE SF 2014, Oct. 27-30.

The Seattle Bullitt Center has been touted as one of the world's greenest commercial buildings. Spearheaded by the Bullitt Foundation, which offers grants to organizations working to advance environmental initiatives in the Pacific Northwest, the six-story, 50,000-square-foot building was completed last year and is undergoing certification for the Living Building Challenge — a standard more ambitious than LEED.

To be declared a Living Building, a structure must be self-sufficient for energy and water for a full year and meet standards for the materials used and the indoor environment. The standard also requires that the building helps restore the natural environment.

The Bullitt Center is the brainchild of Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation, who has been at the forefront of the sustainability movement since serving as national coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970. Since then, he has fought countless legislative, cultural and courtroom battles and authored several books and articles aimed at advancing the interests of human, urban and industrial ecology.

Next week at VERGE SF, Hayes will showcase the Bullitt Center and how it embodies the concept of human, urban and industrial ecology. I recently had a chance to chat with Hayes to learn more about the project ahead of his presentation.

Mike Hower: Can you please explain how the Bullitt Center is a 'living building'?

Denis Hayes: The Bullitt Center is an example of biomimicry in the built environment. It more or less functions like an organism. For example, it has a nervous system that senses what the temperature is outside, what the temperature is inside, whether the wind is blowing, what direction it's blowing from, how fast it's blowing, whether or not it's raining, how intense the sunlight is and how much carbon dioxide is built up inside. Just like your autonomic nervous system, the computer absorbs all of this information and plugs it into a few fairly simple algorithms that determine whether the external venetian blinds should be up or should be down and — if down — whether they should be shut or angled upward, whether they are trying to keep heat out of the building or merely reflect light further into the building and eliminate glare. The same system determines whether the windows should be open or shut just like the pores on your body.

Like an ecosystem, the Center gets all of its energy (and in fact, it's net energy positive) from sunbeams that fall on its roof in Seattle. It is a six-story office building that last year produced 50 percent more electricity than it used. It captures rainwater that falls on the roof, filters it, uses it for all purposes, including potable drinking water. It's the first commercial building in America that treats gray water and re-injects it right into the soil and the water table, right inside a city.

 cactusbones via Flickr

Hower: What other sustainable features does the Bullitt Center boast?

Hayes: We identified 362 materials that are harmful for people and other living things that are common in buildings — things that are carcinogenic or mutagenic or endocrine disrupting or something — and we kept them all out of the building. The facility has composting toilets and uses a flush toilet system that is foaming, so that in a typical flush, it uses less than a half a cup of water. All of the waste is composted right on site. It's the first office building in the United States to be project-certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which is to say every piece of wood in the building is FSC-certified, so it's from a forest that has much larger buffers around its drains, doesn't cut any old growth, has longer rotation times, doesn't use herbicides and should be able to produce wood 1,000, 2,000 years from now, unlike a typical industrial forest model.

Hower: A key objective of VERGE SF is creating a dialogue between cities and tech companies to help scale solutions that ultimately will help them achieve their sustainability and resilience goals. What do you personally believe it means for a city to be resilient?

Hayes: It means that the city is redesigning itself with an awareness that the world around it is now inevitably changing and will continue to do so no matter what we do for several more decades into the future, as a consequence of changes that already have been made in the atmosphere. A resilient city is able to accommodate those — whether it's floods or droughts or hurricanes or whatever the changing climate throws at it. Resilience in human ecosystems, just as in natural ecosystems, is a measure of the flexibility to endure and prosper, regardless of what challenges arise.

 Eugene Kim via Flickr

Hower: How do you believe cities can develop successful public-private partnerships and create a marketplace for things such as smart city products and services?

Hayes: There are several things within the city that historically have been and continue to be public sector responsibilities, such as roads, transit, sewage systems, water mains. There are opportunities to privatize some of that, but it's not clear that there is much advantage in doing so, at least in American cities today. But there are a bunch of other places in the built environment, and especially in buildings and cultural institutions that give life and dynamism to a city, where the private sector, if not influenced by incentives and disincentives, will be driven by market forces to something suboptimal. The typical developer, to be financially successful, spends no more than is absolutely necessary to produce a building that will attract the tenants that it's designed to attract. He can then fully lease up the building and flip it, ideally within a year or two, to an insurance company or real estate investment trust. The developer moves on to the next project — so it's about minimizing a building's initial cost, without regard to its lifetime operating costs. That's why, for example, cities have energy codes and fire codes, and why America banned lead paint.

We have an enormous amount of wood in our building; the ceilings are all wood and the substructures of the floor underneath it and the external beams are all wood. It's the first wood beam construction in Seattle for a six-story building since 1927. We paid 10 percent more for all of that wood because it is all from FSC forests. If you're a tenant and you look at it, what you see is simply wood. If you're a structural engineer looking for its characteristics, it has the characteristics of wood. All of the additional benefits accrue to the forests where it came from and to the workers in those forests; none of them adhere to the developer or the tenants in the building. Yet if we want to continue to have forests 1,000 years from now, we need to have something that incentivizes that.

So you can have governments that encourage developers to use wood that is sustainably harvested, either by providing them a swifter path through the regulatory maze or providing them a little bit of additional space on the lot, transferable development rights, some kind of preferential treatment in real estate taxes. There are all kinds of tools available to cities, and they use them for a variety of good purposes. They use them principally for low income housing, but also to bring parks and recreational space into underserved neighborhoods. Some cities insist upon urban art.

Only rarely do cities use their tools to promote resiliency and sustainability. But the same tools should be used for those purposes, in a partnership where the private sector can say that "we would love to do this but we can't make it pencil-out unless we have this incentive." As long as everyone is honest, it can be a pretty productive partnership.

Top image of Denis Hayes by David Hiller.

Topics: Architecture & DesignBiomimicryStandards & Certification
Categories: Green Business

Denis Hayes: From Earth Day to the Bullitt Center

Green Business News - Thu, Oct 23, 2014 - 09:30 am
Denis Hayes: From Earth Day to the Bullitt CenterMike Hower7:30amFeatured Image:  From Earth Day to the Bullitt Center featured image

Catch Denis Hayes in person at VERGE SF 2014, Oct. 27-30.

The Seattle Bullitt Center has been touted as one of the world's greenest commercial buildings. Spearheaded by the Bullitt Foundation, which offers grants to organizations working to advance environmental initiatives in the Pacific Northwest, the six-story, 50,000-square-foot building was completed last year and is undergoing certification for the Living Building Challenge — a standard more ambitious than LEED.

To be declared a Living Building, a structure must be self-sufficient for energy and water for a full year and meet standards for the materials used and the indoor environment. The standard also requires that the building helps restore the natural environment.

The Bullitt Center is the brainchild of Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation, who has been at the forefront of the sustainability movement since serving as national coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970. Since then, he has fought countless legislative, cultural and courtroom battles and authored several books and articles aimed at advancing the interests of human, urban and industrial ecology.

Next week at VERGE SF, Hayes will showcase the Bullitt Center and how it embodies the concept of human, urban and industrial ecology. I recently had a chance to chat with Hayes to learn more about the project ahead of his presentation.

Mike Hower: Can you please explain how the Bullitt Center is a 'living building'?

Denis Hayes: The Bullitt Center is an example of biomimicry in the built environment. It more or less functions like an organism. For example, it has a nervous system that senses what the temperature is outside, what the temperature is inside, whether the wind is blowing, what direction it's blowing from, how fast it's blowing, whether or not it's raining, how intense the sunlight is and how much carbon dioxide is built up inside. Just like your autonomic nervous system, the computer absorbs all of this information and plugs it into a few fairly simple algorithms that determine whether the external venetian blinds should be up or should be down and — if down — whether they should be shut or angled upward, whether they are trying to keep heat out of the building or merely reflect light further into the building and eliminate glare. The same system determines whether the windows should be open or shut just like the pores on your body.

Like an ecosystem, the Center gets all of its energy (and in fact, it's net energy positive) from sunbeams that fall on its roof in Seattle. It is a six-story office building that last year produced 50 percent more electricity than it used. It captures rainwater that falls on the roof, filters it, uses it for all purposes, including potable drinking water. It's the first commercial building in America that treats gray water and re-injects it right into the soil and the water table, right inside a city.

 cactusbones via Flickr

Hower: What other sustainable features does the Bullitt Center boast?

Hayes: We identified 362 materials that are harmful for people and other living things that are common in buildings — things that are carcinogenic or mutagenic or endocrine disrupting or something — and we kept them all out of the building. The facility has composting toilets and uses a flush toilet system that is foaming, so that in a typical flush, it uses less than a half a cup of water. All of the waste is composted right on site. It's the first office building in the United States to be project-certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which is to say every piece of wood in the building is FSC-certified, so it's from a forest that has much larger buffers around its drains, doesn't cut any old growth, has longer rotation times, doesn't use herbicides and should be able to produce wood 1,000, 2,000 years from now, unlike a typical industrial forest model.

Hower: A key objective of VERGE SF is creating a dialogue between cities and tech companies to help scale solutions that ultimately will help them achieve their sustainability and resilience goals. What do you personally believe it means for a city to be resilient?

Hayes: It means that the city is redesigning itself with an awareness that the world around it is now inevitably changing and will continue to do so no matter what we do for several more decades into the future, as a consequence of changes that already have been made in the atmosphere. A resilient city is able to accommodate those — whether it's floods or droughts or hurricanes or whatever the changing climate throws at it. Resilience in human ecosystems, just as in natural ecosystems, is a measure of the flexibility to endure and prosper, regardless of what challenges arise.

 Eugene Kim via Flickr

Hower: How do you believe cities can develop successful public-private partnerships and create a marketplace for things such as smart city products and services?

Hayes: There are several things within the city that historically have been and continue to be public sector responsibilities, such as roads, transit, sewage systems, water mains. There are opportunities to privatize some of that, but it's not clear that there is much advantage in doing so, at least in American cities today. But there are a bunch of other places in the built environment, and especially in buildings and cultural institutions that give life and dynamism to a city, where the private sector, if not influenced by incentives and disincentives, will be driven by market forces to something suboptimal. The typical developer, to be financially successful, spends no more than is absolutely necessary to produce a building that will attract the tenants that it's designed to attract. He can then fully lease up the building and flip it, ideally within a year or two, to an insurance company or real estate investment trust. The developer moves on to the next project — so it's about minimizing a building's initial cost, without regard to its lifetime operating costs. That's why, for example, cities have energy codes and fire codes, and why America banned lead paint.

We have an enormous amount of wood in our building; the ceilings are all wood and the substructures of the floor underneath it and the external beams are all wood. It's the first wood beam construction in Seattle for a six-story building since 1927. We paid 10 percent more for all of that wood because it is all from FSC forests. If you're a tenant and you look at it, what you see is simply wood. If you're a structural engineer looking for its characteristics, it has the characteristics of wood. All of the additional benefits accrue to the forests where it came from and to the workers in those forests; none of them adhere to the developer or the tenants in the building. Yet if we want to continue to have forests 1,000 years from now, we need to have something that incentivizes that.

So you can have governments that encourage developers to use wood that is sustainably harvested, either by providing them a swifter path through the regulatory maze or providing them a little bit of additional space on the lot, transferable development rights, some kind of preferential treatment in real estate taxes. There are all kinds of tools available to cities, and they use them for a variety of good purposes. They use them principally for low income housing, but also to bring parks and recreational space into underserved neighborhoods. Some cities insist upon urban art.

Only rarely do cities use their tools to promote resiliency and sustainability. But the same tools should be used for those purposes, in a partnership where the private sector can say that "we would love to do this but we can't make it pencil-out unless we have this incentive." As long as everyone is honest, it can be a pretty productive partnership.

Top image of Denis Hayes by David Hiller.

Topics: Architecture & DesignBiomimicryStandards & Certification
Categories: Green Business

Stericycle, DOT and CDC help hospitals prepare for Ebola waste

Green Business News - Thu, Oct 23, 2014 - 09:15 am
Stericycle, DOT and CDC help hospitals prepare for Ebola wasteJanet Howard7:15amFeatured Image: Stericycle, DOT and CDC help hospitals prepare for Ebola waste featured image

How do hospitals prepare for the potential Ebola virus waste stream with science-based decision-making and start off with a best management approach to this waste?

While this is an emerging topic with evolving practices, the most important resource is The Center for Disease Control and Prevention Web page for interim guidance on the best approaches for protective equipment, segregation, storage, packaging and removal of this Category A infectious material. While this waste stream may not become an issue for most hospitals, preparedness is key.

Special process for waste disposal

Stericycle, a member of Practice Greenhealth, began working with the CDC and the Department of Transportation in August when the first Ebola case entered the United States. As a result of the collaboration, DOT released a special permit process along with requirements for proper segregation, containment, packaging and removal of this Category A infectious waste to address the needs of Dallas Presbyterian Hospital while maintaining overall public safety.

Stericycle, DOT and CDC continue to work together to evaluate the process and prepare to address additional Ebola-related waste needs. At present, each incident is addressed on a case-by-case basis.

To prepare for waste disposal, hospital staffers should work with their waste hauler for specific packaging procedures and ensure appropriate supplies are on-hand in the hospital and that their hauler is prepared to manage waste removal and disposal. Additional special permits likely will be required from the Department of Transportation to remove the Category A infections waste (PDF), a different category from traditional infectious material (Category B).

The CDC reports that Ebola requires standard, contact and droplet precautions. It is spread by contact with one or more of the following: infected animals; blood or body fluids (including urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk and semen) of a person sick with Ebola or objects (such as needles and syringes) contaminated with the virus.

Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bush meat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only mammals (humans, bats, monkeys and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.

According to the CDC site providing guidance for clinicians, the Ebola virus enters the patient through mucous membranes, breaks in the skin or other parenteral means. It infects many cell types, including monocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, endothelial cells, fibroblasts, hepatocytes, adrenal cortical cells and epithelial cells. The incubation period may be related to the infection route (six days for injection versus 10 days for contact). Ebola virus migrates from the initial infection site to regional lymph nodes and subsequently to the liver, spleen and adrenal gland.

 vm via Shutterstock

The CDC reports on the details regarding personal protective equipment. For waste collection, environmental services staff are recommended to wear, at a minimum, disposable gloves, gown (fluid resistant/ impermeable), eye protection (goggles or face shield) and face mask to protect against direct skin and mucous membrane exposure of cleaning chemicals, contamination and splashes or spatters during environmental cleaning and disinfection activities.

Additional barriers (leg covers, shoe covers) should be used as needed. If reusable heavy-duty gloves are used for cleaning and disinfecting, they should be disinfected and kept in the room or anteroom. Be sure staff is instructed in the proper use of personal protective equipment including safe removal to prevent contaminating themselves or others in the process, and that contaminated equipment is disposed of appropriately (included in the Category A waste collection). Any mattresses or pillows that are not covered with an impermeable plastic covering should be treated as Category A infectious waste, as well.

Check the CDC website frequently for any updates. The CDC also recommends that any room with a patient on isolation for the Ebola virus should be free of cloth materials such as carpeting, curtains or furniture. EPA-registered hospital disinfectants with a label claim for a non-enveloped virus shall be used on all surfaces and all waste should be collected as Category A regulated medical waste, including reusable linens.

Sustainability and infection control

Sustainability teams, led by infection control, work together to educate new and existing employees, develop posters, strategically place waste bins and monitor waste segregation practices.

According to the Practice Greenhealth Sustainability Benchmark Report, award-winning hospitals average a 9 percent regulated medical waste generation with top performers at a 2.3 percent compared to total waste. With waste fees at least five times more than for solid waste, it's worth the effort, saving anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in waste removal and treatment fees.

Top image of biohazard symbol by Maxal Tamor via Shutterstock. This article first appeared at CSRwire.

Topics: VirtualizationHealth Care
Categories: Green Business
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