Adapting to Climate Change: the New Business Paradigm

It is a fact that more businesses on a world scale are finding ways to identify, manage, and reduce their impact on insuring the health of our planet. At the same time, there is also the hard fact that we will not necessarily see marked positive changes in our environment for another 30 to 40 years. Even as we slowly implement greener technologies, the climate continues to change, with its more obvious temperature fluctuations that lead to storms, floods, and other anomalies.

According to a Charted Management Institute survey, 29% of businesses throughout the United States were adversely affected by extreme weather last year. Another survey has revealed that up to 80% of businesses affected by major climate-related incidents never re-open or have to close their doors within 18 months after the disaster.

Many scientists are currently predicting that it may be too late for solutions to the global warming crisis. In meetings held outside of Mexico City with 17 of the world’s largest economic contributors, experts are discussing how to adapt to climate change while cutting greenhouse gas emissions. A future conference in Denmark will hopefully deliver solutions. Experts are also talking about creating an international adaptation fund as a part of the next United Nations climate treaty, whereby billions of dollars would be allotted to finance infrastructure, water, and agricultural technologies, especially in poor countries as they are hit with growing temperature fluctuations and catastrophic incidents.

One of the areas that is impacted the most has to do with water. In addition to protecting coastal areas around the world from rising tides, fresh water needs to be guaranteed to populations. According to Paul Schuler from General Electric’s Water Technologies unit, GE is working on technologies to ensure drought-prone areas of fresh water. This means investing in high-tech purifiers as well as the recourse to recycled wastewater.

Deutche Bank’s chief climate change strategist, Mark Fulton, says that the bank has created a $4 million climate fund to invest in renewable energy. The bank is now shifting some of these funds into adaptation technologies that will provide for future catastrophes. The global banking corporation HSBC has also invested in adaptation as strategists there recognize the reality of what is most likely in store as we wait for the planet to slowly recover from damage.

Because of the continued flow of information regarding climate change, businesses are now looking for methods whereby they can become more resilient. This means identifying both the risks and opportunities involved in adaptation to abnormalities. Water technologies such as desalination, filtration, reverse osmosis are just some of the areas where businesses are recognizing new opportunities. Emergency equipment is another area that promises a new market potential, with companies investing in mobile water filtration units and the like.

With foresight comes the ability to develop measures that can offer assistance to populations while creating revenue. As our natural resources diminish, we not only are discovering ways to slow down the decline, but also coming up with viable and profitable management techniques for surviving in a new global paradigm.

Source: http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/06/25/pm_adaptation_funds/

House of Representatives Passes Clean Energy Bill

In a victory for the Democrats, the House of Representatives has passed the Waxman-Markey Clean Energy Bill. Sponsored by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Edward J. Markey, Chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, the passage of the bill represents a large and important step towards completing the energy priorities of President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and others who believe that the emphasis on solutions for climate change are essential for our global future.

The Bill
The Clean Energy Bill has been devised to increase our energy security by reducing our dependency on foreign oil, put a cap on pollution, and revitalize the economy through the creation of millions of new jobs in the Green sector. Key measures in the bill are as follows:

Electric utilities will be required to meet 20% of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by the year 2020.

$190 billion to be invested in clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, including energy efficiency and renewable energy, carbon capture and sequestration, electric and other advanced technology vehicles, and scientific research and development .

New energy-saving standards to be mandated for buildings, appliances, and industry.

The reduction of carbon emissions from major U.S. sources by 17% by 2020 and over 80% by 2050 as compared to 2005 levels. (Includes the prevention of tropical deforestation).

Consumers to be protected from energy price increases. According to the Congressional Budget Office and the Environmental Protection Agency, the legislation will cost each household less than 50 cents per day in 2020 (not including energy efficiency savings).

Future Victories
Democrats are viewing the passage of the bill by the House as a direct reflection of how the American public feels about changing energy policy today. Chris Van Holen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee affirms this by saying, “the American people understand that we can no longer sweep big national problems under the rug and that we had to have an energy policy for the 21st century.”

Reducing our Carbon Footprint through Urban Living

Common thought has it that to live in a city is to contribute to a larger carbon footprint than you would living in the suburbs. Research has now proven this theory to be untrue.

With all the driving one has to do in the suburbs, it stands to reason that new surveys show that there are more CO2 emissions resulting from commuting and driving to and from for goods and services. On the other hand, with goods, services, work, schools, and recreation nearer and more accessible, a city dweller need only walk, ride a bike, or hop on mass transit to arrive at a given destination.

According to the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology, after looking at the CO2 emissions that came from vehicle travel in 55 major metropolitan areas across the United States, cities have 70% less emissions than suburbs. As transportation accounts for approximately 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., this statistic becomes more critical.

A study done by the Brookings Institute shows that the average American citizen is responsible for producing approximately 2.87 tons of carbon pollution per year. It then goes on to show that residents of 100 of the largest metropolitan areas in the States were responsible for only 2.47 tons of CO2 emissions yearly. West coast cities have an even lower amount than Eastern cities due to warmer climates, better energy management strategies, and a stronger reliance on hydropower as an alternative energy source.

In Toronto, Canada studies show that downtown residential areas are responsible up to 2/3 less emissions than those living in suburban areas.

With increased awareness as well as the implementation of cutting edge technologies, cities of the future will be created around highly functioning and increased public transportation, walkability, and vertical housing that utilizes building materials that have a low impact on the environment.

So, if you are wondering about where to live and want to be part of the climate change solution, think about moving to an urban area. You will drive less and certainly spend less on your transportation needs, saving up to $5,000 annually if you take advantage of your legs, a bike, and public transportation.

-Michele Kadison

Greenworks TM Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Today a great deal more manufacturers are coming up with cleaning formulae that protect rather than harm the environment. This means using non-toxic, petro-chemical free, biodegradable ingredients that do not disturb the earth’s balance. When these products are combined with recycled packaging along with the commitment to no animal testing, you can rest assured that you are looking at a safer product than conventional brands.

Greenworks TM Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner is an excellent choice for those of you who are converting to green cleaners. Working as hard and effectively as conventional cleaners to remove mineral deposits as well as hard water and rust stains, the formula is safe for septic tanks and plumbing systems. A natural cleaner, the formula consists of coconut-based cleaning agents, glycerin, lactic acid, citric acid, xanthan gum (a thickener), and natural colorants. It contains no phosphorus or bleach, emits no chemical fumes, and is 100% biodegradable. Simply place a small amount of the solution inside your toilet bowl and under the seat rim, let sit for a few minutes, scrub with a toilet brush, and flush.

Certified by Design for the Environment (DfE) and backed by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, Greenworks TM Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner is a great way to do your part in helping to clean up not just your toilet, but our world.

Dry Cleaning: The Old Way vs The New

Still taking your clothes to your local dry cleaners? Have you asked what type of solvents they use? Probably they are sticking to the tried and true, which is a method that includes a volatile toxic solvent called PERC, also known as perchloroethylene, PCE, or tetrachloroethylene. Labeled a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it is also a probable neurotoxin. Studies have exposed PERC as a link to cancer and reproductive problems among dry cleaning workers. Used by approximately 85% of dry cleaning services, the chemical is also used to degrease metal parts and can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, as well as skin, eye, nose, and throat irritations. As it accumulates in the system, it can also cause liver and kidney damage. Additionally it is a contributor to ground water contamination.

As these reports become better known, many dry cleaners are claiming that they are going greener. But often they have just exchanged PERC for another type of hydrocarbon solvent called DF-2000, which is a petroleum product and only slightly less toxic. Because new methods of true green cleaning require new equipment, many shops choose to stick with the old way. As of today, the industry is not regulated and so the health standard remains ignored.

The Organic Alternative
Many conscious dry cleaning store owners are now converting to a form of “wet” cleaning where a food-grade level of carbon dioxide, which at room temperature is normally a gas, is put under pressure. This converts the gas to a liquid, which then carries biodegradable soap to do the cleaning job. When the cleaning cycle is finished, the carbon dioxide turns back into gas, which can be reused. In this manner, clothes dry instantly and are odorless. Dry cleaning workers are not exposed to toxins, the machines are able to function at low temperatures, and carbon dioxide is a totally renewable resource, so the entire process works in harmony with solid green standards.

Steam Cleaning
Dry or wet cleaning is not always necessary for getting clothing clean. Many consumers are opting for steam cleaning their clothing at home with available steam cleaning kits that do the job extremely well. Less expensive, this is the ultimate eco-friendly way to treat your garments.

The Future
As people become more aware of the hazards of conventional dry cleaning, demand will be made for regulations and standards, much like we see with organic food labeling and the like. When dry cleaning practices become more transparent, we will have a clear way to make our eco-friendly choices when it comes to our garments and our health.

Notes:

Besides being toxic, conventional dry cleaning also creates wear and tear on your garments over time.

Recycle your metal hangers back to the store.

-Michele Kadison

Window Film: The Efficient Way to Insulate Old Windows

While you wait to afford those new energy-efficient windows, you can still do your part to reduce energy bills and enhance your eco-friendly home. If you are renting and your landlord is not yet on the green track, installing window film is a way you can get the benefit without home remodeling.
Low E-coating (which stands for low “emissivity”) plastic film is an easy and inexpensive way to insulate your old windows against heat or cold. Covered with a thin metallic coating, these plastic sheets are designed to keep the heat out during the summer and the cold out during the winter months. Preventing drafts while deflecting or reflecting the sun is a great way to reduce your need for excess air-conditioning or heat.

Easy to install, the coated sheets are designed to place on the outside of your windowpanes during the summer to keep the sun’s heat out. When the cold weather comes, you simply flip the sheet over to the inside of your window to keep the heat inside.

Low E-coating window film generally comes in a kit that can be found in hardware and home supply stores. The kit contains a large sheet of plastic shrink-to-fit film that will cover five standard size windows, along with one or two rolls of double-sided adhesive tape. All you will need is a scissors or razor and a handheld hairdryer and you’re good to go.

How to Install Low E-coating Plastic Film
The first thing you need to do is remove shades, curtains, or blinds covering your windows. Then clean the window frames thoroughly, making sure they are bone dry before you start applying the plastic film. Then:

• Measure the dimensions of your window frames
• Cut adhesive strips to match the length of all four sides of your window frames
• Apply adhesive strips to all four sides of your window frames, making sure there is no bubbling of the material.
• Wait 20 minutes to allow the adhesive to set securely. Leave the backing on until you are ready to apply the plastic film
• Take the plastic sheeting and cut a piece that is large enough to create a one inch overlap on all sides of your window
• Now take off the plastic backing from the tape you have applied to the window frames.
• Attach the upper corners of the plastic sheet to the adhesive that borders the top of the frame.
• Secure the top area by pressing all along the top strip to adhere it to the adhesive.
• Repeat for each side of the window frame, doing the bottom area last.
• Take your hairdryer and set it to the highest setting.
• Apply the heat to one corner and move the dryer slowly across the film until all of the wrinkles are ironed out. Do not touch the dryer to the plastic.
• Take a scissors or razor blade and trim off the plastic overhang.

Once you have accomplished the above, you only need to re-hang your curtains, shades, or blinds and enjoy your self-applied weatherproofing as your home stays temperate and your energy bills go down.

A readily available do-it-yourself kit is sold by 3M on Amazon.

-Michele Kadison

Commercial Green Cleaning Products: Don’t Assume, Read The Labels

Now more than ever it is essential to read the labels on your cleaning products. Even supposedly “green” cleaning agents can contain toxic substances. So before you assume that the product advertising its contents as eco-friendly means all is well, look at the ingredients before you buy.

Here are some of the common substances found in many green cleaning products on the market:

Glycerin
A moisturizer used to prevent the loss of moisture from a product
• Helps to condition skin
• Decreases thickness of the product
• Safe, biodegradable in water and soil
• Does not build up in living organisms
• Use vegetable based only

Glyceryl Oleate
Used in washing machine cleansers
A plant-based compound to prevent excess foaming
• Low acute oral toxicity (the adverse effects from single exposure)
• Biodegradable

Glycol Ether
A solvent and thinner that prevents moisture loss
Used in hand surface cleaners
• Dissolves other substances
• Decreases thickness of the product
• Non toxic
• Biodegrades rapidly in soil and water
• No build up in living organisms

Hexahydro – 1,3,5-Tris (2-Hudroxyethyl)-S-Triazine
Prevents growth of bacteria, yeast, and fungi
• Maintains a product’s integrity by preventing contamination and growth
• Is a known carcinogen
• Affects the neurological and reproductive systems
• Toxic to humans and aquatic organisms in high doses

Hydrogen Peroxide

• Removes stains
• Oxidizes and bleaches
• If used at 3-4% levels, there is no toxidity
• Can irritates the eyes and skin
• Not harmful to the environment

Hydroxyethylcellulose

A plant derived cleaning agent
• Helps water to mix with oil and dirt for rinsing
• Low acute oral toxicity
• Non irritating
• Biodegradable

Inert ingredients
Ingredients that do not contribute to the function of product
• Used to add bulk
• No requirement by the EPA to state their components on the label

Lactic Acid

Found in all purpose cleansers
A naturally derived alpha-hydroxy acid
• Used for exfoliation, adjusting pH, conditioning skin, prevent moisture loss
• Removes lime scale and soap scum
• Maintain a product’s pH and kills microbes,
• Low toxicity
• Can irritate skin and eyes
• Biodegradable

Lauaminopropylamine oxide
A synthetic chemical
Used in cleaning, laundry, and dishwashing products
• A preservative, antimicrobial, and anti-static agent
• Helps water mix w oil and dirt for rinsing
• Toxic to aquatic life

Lauryl polyglucose

A plant derived cleaning agent
• Helps water mix w oil and dirt for rinsing
• Low acute oral toxicity
• Bio-degradeable

-Michele Kadison

Expanded Tips for Recycling

As responsible citizens who recycle our trash into curbside bins, we often stop after separating the paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum. But there is a wealth of other materials that can be recycled. As reducing waste and creating less burden in our landfills becomes more of a priority, more are turning to the various drop-off locations in our cities and towns where discarded junk can be turned into something viable and usable. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 75% of what we throw out can be recycled in some fashion. Items such as batteries, compact florescent light bulbs, paint, motor oil, tires, electronic items, and pesticides are all recyclable. Many auto parts stores will take used automotive parts, cell phones can be mailed back to their manufacturers or donated to various organizations, and electronics can be recycled through stores such as Best Buy or the EPA’s eCycling Program.

You can also apply some consciousness before materials become trash by buying items that come with minimal packaging or packaging made from recycled materials. The best way is to buy in bulk, using your own containers to hold merchandise as you shop.

If you are buying plastic, buy only plastic that is easily recycled, such as those materials marked #1 and #2 inside a recycling symbol found on the bottom of the product. Remember that it takes 700 years for a plastic bottle to decompose inside a landfill.

If you are buying paper, look for the highest percentage of post-consumer waste content to ensure that you are not supporting the unnecessary desecration of trees.

Don’t buy what you don’t need. Advertising is designed to tempt you into thinking that you lack something. Ask yourself the right questions and look for satisfaction with what you already own. Repair rather than throw away.

Recycling Terms
There are many new terms that define our recycled materials. Once you know what each means, it becomes easier to understand what you are getting and where it comes from. Following is a short list of some common terms:

Recyclable Products
Those products that can be made into new products. These products are not necessarily made of recycled materials, but can be recycled after use.

Recycled Content
These products are made from products that have been recycled such as newspaper, aluminum cans, and the like. Recycled content can also be made from used products such as computers and toner cartridges. More and more products are made of recycled content, with many containing at least some recycled materials.

Post Consumer Content
This is material that is used in a different manner than it was used originally.

For information on recycling centers in your area, go to: Earth 911

Air Conditioning: Keep Your Cool the Eco-Friendly Way

Let’s face it, keeping cool in hot summer weather is good for our health, mood, and productivity. But with air-conditioning systems consuming up to 5% of electricity used in our homes, we are definitely pumping way too much carbon dioxide into the air. In the United States alone, this means upwards of 140 million tons, which is a huge contributor to global warming. One of the most important ways to cut down on harmful emissions is to make sure that air-conditioning units are not over used, are well maintained, and function to the maximum of efficiency.

Air-conditioners do not have to be used on a daily basis. If your home is properly insulated so that heat does not seep in through leaky ducts, your home will stay cooler. Closing your shutters and drapes on sunny days is also a help. Use overhead fans to circulate air, which consumes a fraction of the energy it takes to run an AC. Place a good working fan in the attic and you can cut your energy costs up to 30%. Use bathroom and kitchen fans to cut down on humidity.

Plant trees in front of your windows to provide your home with shade. In the winter when the leaves fall away, you will then get the benefit of the sun’s warmth. If you are in the market for new windows, purchase double glazed models with a coating that helps to reduce the sun’s heat. If you have individual air-conditioners, turn the ones off that are in unoccupied rooms. Place your units in shaded areas so they don’t heat up from the sun. If you have central air-conditioning, shut the registers in your unoccupied rooms. Make sure you keep your windows and doors closed while your AC is operating.

Keep the temperature set at a reasonable degree. 78 degrees F is a good average temperature for a home. If you are used to lower temperatures, just raising your thermometer by one degree can help reduce your bill from 3 to 5% while cutting down on emissions. When you go out, raise the temperature to 85. If you have a timer on your unit, you can set it to bring the temperature down just before you arrive home.

Maintenance is key to keeping your AC functioning optimally. Here are some simple tips on keeping your air-conditioner clean:

  • Remove and rinse the filter each month
  • Clean all registers, inlets, and outlets to keep mold and dust out
  • Check that the unit has proper air flow
  • Have your condenser cleaned every other year by a professional
  • Get a tune up and inspection every three years to ensure that your AC’s refrigerant level is operating properly. If it is too low, you are wasting 20% of the unit’s energy
  • Replace your unit if it is more than 10 years old
  • Purchasing New Units
    If you have the opportunity to replace your individual air-conditioning units with a central system, this is ideal for both energy and cost efficiency, especially if you have a large home.

    Look for units that are EPA approved with an Energy Star rating, which will save you up to 25% on energy output. If you are buying a window unit, look at the energy efficiency rating (EER), which is the BTU rating divided by the wattage. The rating should be at least 10. For central AC unites, the rating system is called SEER, which stands for seasonal energy ratio. This is the total cooling output divided by the total electrical output. Old systems generally have SEERs of around 5 or 6. New systems have a minimum of 13, with 21 being an excellent high-efficiency number.

    Avoid using Freon. This noxious gas depletes the ozone layer and will be completely phased out of air-conditioners by the year 2010. Ask your technician if you can use R-410, which doesn’t harm the ozone, in your old system or buy a new model that uses this instead of Freon.

    -Michele Kadison

    Ecover Glass & Surface Cleaner

    If you are not making your own surface cleaning formula, one of the most responsible products in the marketplace to date is Ecover Natural Household Products Glass & Surface Cleaner.
    As an environmentally aware and eco-friendly company, Ecover has created a product that cleans all water-resistant surfaces such as glass, enamel, tile, mirrors, chrome, and acrylic. Ideal for kitchen and bathroom use, the formula is streak proof and leaves no residue on your surfaces. In fact, all you need to do is spray and wipe clean. Absolutely no rinsing is necessary.

    Ecover Natural Household Products Glass & Surface Cleaner cuts through grime, while at the same time is safe to use around food and beverages. Because it is phosphate-free and uses mostly plant-based ingredients, the product is completely biodegradable, safe for septic tanks, and provides your home with a clean, fresh scent. With no animal testing, the product has minimal impact on aquatic life, which makes it an excellent alternative to commercial cleaners.

    Ecover is committed to extending its eco-consciousness to its packaging. All bottles and labels are made of polyethylene and the non-drip spray is made of polypropylene and polyethylene, which are 100% recyclable.

    When you need to replenish your conventional glass and surface cleaner, Ecover makes a sound choice. It may be a bit more expensive than the brands you are used to, but a little goes a long way and the investment in a clean, fresh, chemical free home and environment is well worth the investment.