Posts filed under ‘Conservation’

What’s the Prognosis for Hydrofracking?

Dania Nasser

Today we are kicking off a new series on the Green Tie, featuring the ‘Emerging Leaders’ within our membership. Dania Nasser is a student member of NAEM, pursuing a master’s degree in Environmental Management at Yale University.

In the wake of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to consider lifting the ban on hydrofracking, it seems like the term and the debate have gone mainstream.

As you probably know, hydrofracking (hydraulic fracturing) is a method by which natural gas stored in layers of rock is extracted through the use of chemicals, water and pressure to break through the rock and recover natural gas.

While several states allow the practice, it has become a lightning rod issue for many communities. There is serious concern that disturbing the layers of rock and sediment to recover natural gas can result in drinking water contamination. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency is studying the general impacts of hydrofracking and looking to release a Federal report and possible guidelines in 2012.

Few things worth doing, however, pose zero risk. Risk should be monitored and tracked closely, but not automatically used as criteria for eliminating viable options.

I was recently discussing the issue of risk surrounding hydrofracking with a neurosurgeon friend, and it occurred to me the extent to which the practice might be compared with brain surgery. Take for example, a brain surgeon undertaking a patient suffering from an aneurysm. The source of the aneurysm is not always clear, and sometimes exploration for the source of the bleeding can cause more harm than good—but this is a major risk that doctors take. Doctors are able to take this risk because of all the risk mitigation that doctors take, such as years of practice and study, the latest equipment and time-tested procedures.

Hydrofracking poses a similar set of risks and obstacles. Just as with surgery, the risks must continue to be vetted and addressed. The same process is necessary to ensure proper practices and procedures set in place for hydrofracking.

If hydrofracking is increasingly seen as a viable option for recovering additional domestic energy, the concerns that have caused the controversy surrounding hydrofracking must be addressed.  Areas that must be further addressed to ease anxiety surrounding hydrofracking include readying infrastructure and monitoring technologies, developing best practices, as well as working to carefully plan and manage the impacts of hydrofracking.

How do you weigh the risks of practices such as hydrofracking? How do you address the concerns internally as well as externally?

Dania Nasser is a student member of NAEM, completing a master’s degree in Environmental Management at Yale University. She is currently Director of Environmental Affairs at a New York law firm specializing in environmental and construction law. She is a member of NAEM’s Emerging Leaders group and the Board of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Green Finance Committee.

August 18, 2011 at 9:00 am 2 comments

Tips for greening the workplace

Happy Earth Week! Below is the first of three videos featuring easy ways to minimize your environmental footprint from NAEM’s Green Tips Guide.

http://www.youtube.com/NAEMorgTV#p/u/30/BkFt0BRExGU

April 18, 2011 at 6:49 pm Leave a comment

It’s never been easy being green

Stephen Evanoff

Stephen Evanoff

Conventional wisdom laments that today’s political atmosphere has become so polarized that the nation isn’t able to establish consensus-based national policy on contemporary environmental and conservation issues like we did in the good old days when both major political parties and the public saw eye-to-eye.

My recent reading of Timothy Egan’s, “The Big Burn – Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America” reminded me that it has never been easy being green.

Egan, a Seattle-based, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, outdoorsman, and columnist for the New York Times, tells the story of the August 1910 wildfire that consumed an area the size of Connecticut. The fire swept through parts of Montana, Idaho, Washington and British Columbia in a matter of days, wiping out entire towns, and killing more than a hundred people.

Woven into the narrative of the events around the fire is the story of how President Theodore Roosevelt and Forest Service Chief Gifford Pinchot were able to establish vast national forests.  As they put it, these forests should be for the use and enjoyment of all the people, rather than for exploitation by wealthy individuals and corporations, which had been the case until then. Most of us take the concept of the National Forests for granted. Yet Egan explains how radical the concept was at the time, and points out that there were many powerful forces aligned against Roosevelt and Pinchot.

It makes the reader wonder, how on earth Roosevelt and Pinchot did it. But, Egan shows us that Roosevelt and Pinchot had powerful forces of their own: their vision of what was best for the long-term, well-being of the nation, their energy and personal commitment, and their trust in the American people. The battle of conservation of our National Forests versus consumption by private industry continued throughout the twentieth century. As the twenty-first century emerged, conservation had ultimately prevailed due to reasons both economic and ideological.

I found the story inspiring and relevant to today’s environmental challenges, be they global, national, or organizational. When applied wisely, the combination of a clear and unselfish vision, hard work, and belief in the decency and wisdom of others can overcome significant resistance.

We’ve all fought uphill battles, albeit not on the epic scale of Roosevelt and Pinchot. I’d like to hear your inspiring stories. How have you overcome resistance within your organization to proposed EHS policies? How have you persuaded entrenched interests to support EHS initiatives with long-term benefit to your organization?

January 24, 2011 at 10:37 am 2 comments

Toward sustainability: Interface Inc.’s ‘Mission Zero’ journey

In 1994, Ray Anderson, founder of Interface, Inc., outlined an ambitious new vision for his company: to achieve sustainability by 2020. Lindsay Stoda, a Senior Business Analyst with the company, spoke at the recent EHS Management Forum about the metrics Interface uses to measure its sustainability progress. This week, we caught up with Lindsay to learn more about the company’s Mission Zero goals.

Lindsay Stoda

Q: Where did the Mission Zero goal come from?

LS: Sparked by questions from customers and the ideas he encountered in Paul Hawken’s book, “The Ecology of Commerce,” our founder Ray Anderson realized that business and industry were part of the larger system that was damaging the environment and that it was not going to be a sustainable future if business continued in that direction.  And realizing that it was someone’s job to lead industry down that path, he decided to ask his company and his employees to be that leader.

Q: How do you measure success against your Mission Zero Goals?

LS: We’ve always followed the “What gets measured gets managed” philosophy, so our way of being able to track and ensure that we’re making progress is through four different measurement platforms:

  • Eco Metrics: Measure environmental impact
  • Socio Metrics: Measure social impacts
  • Quest program: Measures waste elimination
  • Ecosense: Measures the activities on a plant-level that contribute to our sustainability goals

Q: How did Mission Zero change the work of Interface’s EHS department?

LS: Prior to Ray’s epiphany, we had a more traditional manufacturing environment, health and safety (EHS) department focusing on safety and compliance.  Today, it’s typically the same folks because the tracking of that kind of information all kind of overlaps with the sustainability roles, except that people’s EHS roles developed a sustainability-minded focus.

Q: Can you tell me about some of your efforts toward creating closed loop products?

LS: We have a strong push to create closed loop products using recycled and bio-based raw materials. This process basically involves returning the materials in used finished product back to raw materials.

For carpet tile, there are two main components: There’s the face fiber and the fluff — the surface  that you walk on — and then there’s the backing, which is different from residential carpet in that it’s a vinyl backing and it’s heavier, to hold the tiles to the floor and give them dimensional stability.

We had previously been able to cut the fibers off the front, take the backing,  crumble it up, melt it down and return it to backing. But now we’re able to take the nylon fibers from the face of the products, shave them off and return them to our fiber suppliers to create new face fiber with post consumer recycled content.

We bring back both our carpet as well as competitors’ products through ‘ReEntry’—our recycling program. We collect used product back from the marketplace, run it through our process, and return backing to backing and fiber to fiber. Since the program began, we have diverted more than 100,000 tons of material from landfills.

Q: One of the goals you’ve identified is providing Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for all of your InterfaceFLOR products by 2012. What does that entail?

LS: We have used life cycle assessment (LCA) for several years now as we’ve tried to evaluate different materials and processes for manufacturing our products.  The Environmental Product Declaration is a 10-15 page summary of the life cycle assessment results, everything from global warming potential to toxicity to resource use throughout the entire life cycle of the product. There is a lot of different environmental information out there and we thought the most useful thing for our customers would just be to give them the facts they need to make the decisions about what type of products they’d like to purchase. So it’s really the good and the bad. It’s just the facts. We collect the data and have it third-party verified to ensure it is complete and accurate.

You can hear Lindsay talk more about using metrics during “Defining the Metrics that Matter,” part of NAEM’s Best of the 2010 Forum webinar series, on Tuesday, Nov. 16. To register, visit www.naem.org.

November 11, 2010 at 3:24 pm 1 comment

Waste Management for the 21st century

 

Mike Lloyd

 

If you stick around in any profession long enough you will notice the latest fad is very similar to something that you have worked on before. When I first started doing environmental work, waste minimization was the big thing. These days environmental teams are challenged to lead  programs such as closed loop, cradle-to-cradle, LEAN, trash-to-cash, waste-to-gold and zero waste.

But what does it all mean, why do we care and how can we excite people about stuff that few see the value in, or that sometimes causes embarrassment when you start sharing data?

No matter what we call it, zero waste programs refer to designing and managing products and processes to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste and material, as well as the recovery of otherwise unused material.  Reduce, reuse, recycle is the foundation of many programs. The challenge is not in understanding the terms but reaching into the organization and collaborating with those able to drive change.

That change includes new approaches to product design, processes, systems and work method. It also means getting people to measure, segregate waste and start thinking about all material as having value rather than just the stuff we hide out back.

If your organization exists to sell stuff, then most likely your customers have asked about your waste. If not, then someone in the supply chain has sent you one of those questionnaires asking how much solid waste is generated and whether you have reduction targets in place?

Depending on where you operate, local governments and other stakeholders also may have an interest. And if someone outside the organization is paying attention, then we probably should too.  If this is not reason enough, then handling, storing and moving stuff  that is not part of your finished goods or has no value is  a recipe to hemorrhage money. On a positive note, there are many companies that have embarked upon the “zero waste journey”, so there are many success stories and lessons learned out there for us.

At this year’s EHS Management Forum in Indianapolis I will join representatives from  Burt’s Bees and the Shaw Industries Group to share some of these lessons as we discuss “Waste Management for the 21st Century” . We will describe the journey and answer such questions as how to get started, how to get leadership endorsement and how to transform these concepts from  paper to practical process. We also will talk about how our sustainability programs have translated into profitability and how these efforts have impacted the environmental footprint of our products.

As we prepare for the conference, what questions do you have about waste management? What efforts is your company making to re-think how you use materials?

Mike Lloyd is the Director of Global Environmental Services for the Kimberly-Clark Corp. He will be speaking about at the 2010 EHS Management Forum in Indianapolis on October 14th.

October 11, 2010 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

Valuing ecosystems services

Andrew Mangan

Ecological balance is one of the three pillars of sustainable development and without it, business cannot function. All companies affect ecosystems and benefit from the services they provide, such as fresh water, fiber, and food. They also rely on regulatory services, like climate regulation, flood control and waste treatment.

Over the past 50 years, human activity has altered ecosystems faster and more extensively than ever before. That finding was supported by the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment – a four-year, international, scientific appraisal that was completed in 2005. It concluded that most of the critical ecosystem services assessed are being degraded or used at unsustainable levels and that this will accelerate, diminishing sustainable development options and business opportunities.

Both the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD) have been working on ecosystems issues for 10 years. The overarching goal is that all stakeholders – including business – recognize the real benefits of ecosystems and that the true value of ecosystem services be accounted for. We’ve used gaming theory, collaborative projects and measuring tools to move toward this goal. The value and sustainable management of ecosystems must become a more integral part of economic planning and decision-making; otherwise nature will always play second fiddle to social and economic development.

With today’s communication tools, we have a unique opportunity to help business leaders understand the value of ecosystem services and their local opportunities.  The current efforts of the WBCSD are focused on identifying risks and opportunities (using the Corporate Ecosystem Services Review) and quantifying the economic value of ecosystem services and strategies to businesses. The US BCSD was one of 16 WBCSD companies and regional councils that participated in a “road test” of the WBCSD Ecosystem Valuation Initiative in 2010. A guide based on that initiative describes the effectiveness of various ecosystem valuation models and tools. The final guide is expected to be published in 2011. Details will be laid out at the fall meeting of the US BCSD in Indianapolis on October 12 and presented at the 18th annual EHS Management Forum on October 14.

The US BCSD plans to establish working groups with volunteers from interested companies to help identify projects, set implementation plans, evaluate potential funders and reach out to relevant university programs.  Using a project-based focus that builds on its ecosystem experience, including the US BCSD’s green brownfields project and its afforestation efforts in the Lower Mississippi River valley, the council plans to play a role in supporting healthy ecosystems for a long time to come. After many years, it appears that today, the business community, NGOs and academics are gradually realizing they share the same concerns, but simply approach them in different ways.

Andrew Mangan is the Executive Director of the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development. He will be speaking about ecosystems services at the 18th annual EHS Management Forum, October 13-15 in Indianapolis.

September 23, 2010 at 12:16 pm Leave a comment

What are the green metrics that really matter?

Carol Singer Neuvelt

The world of environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance analytics is exploding at a breakneck speed.  What once was a niche field of socially responsible investing (SRI), is transforming into a vast marketplace of financial ESG-oriented indices, ratings firms, carbon reporting and mass-market editorials like Newsweek’s Green 100 ranking. Today the trend toward broader ESG and sustainability reporting is beginning to expand into auxiliary areas such as supplier questionnaires and product labeling.

With all this activity, it seems like everyone has an opinion about which metrics determine a company’s “greenness.” What remains unclear, however, is whether these types of ratings schemes can truly illustrate competitive eco-advantage in today’s complex global marketplace, or even reliably reflect strong EHS and sustainability management within a company.

When this movement took hold a decade ago, many corporate environmental leaders were excited that the external world was finally paying attention to the value their efforts contributed to the bottom line.  Indeed, the establishment of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, the growth of financial firms such as KLD and even the creation of the Carbon Disclosure Project were viewed as affirmations of their professional focus.

But recently, my conversations with corporate EHS leaders seem to reflect a frustration with the ever-growing number of requests.  As environmental managers spend more and more time crunching data, they do so with little insight into who the requesting firm is, what their business interests are or how the mountains of data will eventually be used. What we do know is that some of this information is being used to make material judgments about a company’s long-term prospects. Yet does any of this data really indicate true progress?

I believe there is a need for a clear, thoughtful approach to ESG and Sustainability reporting that reflects the performance metrics that are both meaningful to a company and useful to its C-suite leadership,  and relevant to external stakeholders.

To address this issue, NAEM has launched its ‘Green Metrics that Matter’ program, an audit of the field of ESG and Sustainability analytics.  Our final report will identify the key players, the proprietary benefits of participating with them and the core metrics EHS leaders send to their C-suite. We believe this insight will help promote better decision-making by both corporate users and the broader ESG community.

As we continue our research, we would like to invite you to share your key metrics with us through our confidential online survey. We’d also love to hear your thoughts on this project. How are sustainability analytics changing how you manage?  Are the questions you’re being asked the right ones for determining the extent of your environmental stewardship? Is this information truly helping the public better understand whether your products are sustainable? Or is it just an additional paperwork burden?

September 21, 2010 at 1:53 pm 3 comments

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