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News Archives

April 30, 2013

NYC expands plastics recycling, launches food waste challenge

New York City has put two initiatives into effect to improve its waste and recycling efforts. The first is an expansion of its recycling program to include the recycling of all rigid plastics, including such items such as toys, hangers, shampoo bottles, coffee cups and food containers.

The expansion of plastics recycling, which began last week, is part of the city’s Solid Waste Management Plan and is made possible, part, through a partnership with SIMS Municipal Recycling. SIMS’ recycling facilities are equipped to handle this broad range of plastic recycling, according to the city. The expansion is expected to result in more than 50,000 additional tons of waste a year no longer ending up in landfills. It will also save taxpayers almost $600,000 each year in export costs, says Mayor Bloomberg.

Mayor Bloomberg also announced the Food Waste Challenge, a new program aimed at reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills. The initiative is expected to help meet NYC’s goal of diverting 75% of solid waste from landfills by 2030. More than 100 restaurants will participate in the challenge and they have pledged to reduce 50% of the food waste they send to landfills through composting and other waste prevention strategies. Food waste comprises one-third of the city’s more than 20,000 tons of daily refuse and restaurants account for 70 percent of commercial food waste.

Read more at Environmental Leader.

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category : Topics

April 30, 2013

Brits’ love affair with renewable grows ever stronger

The survey of more than 2,000 people carried out by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) last month found that public support for onshore wind power reached a 12-month high.

The fifth Public Attitudes Tracking Survey, which DECC has been running since March last year, confirms support for the use of renewable energy rose from 79 percent at that start of the year to 82 percent in March. Significantly, onshore wind power saw support increase by four percentage points since the start of the year to 68 percent, meaning support is now at its highest level since the surveys began. Opposition to onshore wind power, meanwhile, has fallen two percentage points since January to 11 percent.

According to the survey, solar power remains the most popular renewable technology garnering 85 percent support, an increase on the 82 percent support secured last June. The survey also reveals a significant increase in public awareness of fracking, likely driven by a surge in media reports about the emerging technology and its potential to exploit UK shale gas reserves. Awareness of the practice rose to 52 percent, from 42 percent last year, but the survey did not ask whether people were in favor of shale gas development or not.

Nuclear power also saw levels of support rise three percentage points to 40 percent since the start of the year, although it also confirmed that 23 percent are opposed and 35 percent neither support nor oppose its use.

Read more at Business Green.

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April 30, 2013

Looking back on the limits of growth

Recent research supports the conclusions of a controversial environmental study released 40 years ago: The world is on track for disaster. So says Australian physicist Graham Turner, who revisited perhaps the most groundbreaking academic work of the 1970s, The Limits to Growth .

Written by MIT researchers for an international think tank, the Club of Rome, the study used computers to model several possible future scenarios. The business-as-usual scenario estimated that if human beings continued to consume more than nature was capable of providing, global economic collapse and precipitous population decline could occur by 2030.

However, the study also noted that unlimited economic growth was possible, if governments forged policies and invested in technologies to regulate the expansion of humanity’s ecological footprint. Prominent economists disagreed with the report’s methodology and conclusions. Yale’s Henry Wallich opposed active intervention, declaring that limiting economic growth too soon would be “consigning billions to permanent poverty.”

Turner compared real-world data from 1970 to 2000 with the business-as-usual scenario. He found the predictions nearly matched the facts. “There is a very clear warning bell being rung here,” he says. “We are not on a sustainable trajectory.”

Read more at Smithsonian Mag.

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April 29, 2013

Australia calls China global leader in climate change fight

A new report by Australia’s Climate Commission says that China is one of the world’s bright spots in global action to curb the effects of climate change. Though China remains the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, the report, The Critical Decade: global action building on climate change, found that in 2012, China reduced carbon intensity of its economy more than expected and almost halved the rate of growth for electricity demand.

Last year, China also cemented its position as a renewable energy powerhouse, expanding solar power capacity by 75 percent, and investing more than USD65 billion in clean energy, 20 percent more than in 2011 and far more than any other nation. The report predicts China could see its emissions peak sooner than expected if investement continues to accelerate, driven by new initiatives such as seven planned carbon markets that are due to launch from June in a number of cities.

China and US together produce approximately 37 percent of world emissions, but both nations are on track to meet their international commitments to tackle climate change, the report states. In recent months, they have each signaled they will be strengthening their efforts and in April they reached a historic agreement to tackle climate change together.

Read more at CleanBizAsia.

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April 29, 2013

Global carbon dioxide levels set to pass 400ppm milestone

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached 399.72 parts per million (ppm) and is likely to pass the symbolically important 400ppm level for the first time in the next few days.

Readings at the US government’s Earth Systems Research laboratory in Hawaii, are not expected to reach their 2013 peak until mid May, but were recorded at a daily average of 399.72ppm on 25 April. The weekly average stood at 398.5 on Monday. Hourly readings above 400ppm have been recorded six times in the last week, and on occasion, at observatories in the high Arctic. But the major Mauna Loa station, sited at 3,400m far away from major pollution sources in the Pacific Ocean, has been monitoring levels for more than 50 years and is considered the gold standard.

CO2 atmospheric levels have been steadily rising for 200 years, registering around 280ppm at the start of the industrial revolution and 316ppm in 1985 when Mauna Loa observatory started measurements. The increase in the global burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause of the increase.

“The 400ppm threshold is a sobering milestone, and should serve as a wake-up call for all of us to support clean energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it’s too late for our children and grandchildren,” said Tim Lueker, an oceanographer and carbon cycle researcher with Scripps CO2 Group.

Read more at The Guardian.

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April 26, 2013

Sainsbury’s cleans up water footprint

Rainwater harvesting and car wash water reclaim systems have helped Sainsbury’s halve its water consumption across its stores over the last eight years. The company yesterday announced it has reduced its operational water use by 50 percent relative to its growth, resulting in water savings equivalent to nearly one million cubic meters of water annually, or 393 Olympic sized swimming pools.

Sainsbury’s said the achievement was made by finding and eradicating underground water leaks using automatic meter loggers, installing rainwater harvesting in all new stores as standard, and retrofitting rainwater harvesting units in existing stores. The retailer also installed water reclaim units at car washes in 66 of its stores, saving 22,674 square meters of water a year, while low flush toilets and pre-rinse spray taps have similarly helped to save water across its estate.

The efforts form part of Sainsbury’s long term strategy to source water sustainably across its supply chain by 2020. Sainsbury’s head of sustainability, engineering, energy and environment, Paul Crewe, said the strategy would help the company to reduce its impact on the environment and ensure the long-term sustainability of the business.

Read more at Business Green.

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April 25, 2013

Greenredeem acquires Recyclebank to create recycling superbrand

Schemes that encourage recycling by offering gift vouchers and rewards points could soon be rolled out more widely, after Greenredeeem today announced the acquisition of the UK arm of recycling rewards scheme operator Recyclebank. Greenredeem confirmed it had acquired the UK division of Recyclebank adding that the two firms will shortly combine to create a “powerful consumer superbrand” offering bespoke recycling services for the UK market.

Recyclebank’s UK operation, known as Recycle Rewards, offers households rewards, such as gift voucher and retail offers for recycling a range of different materials. The company works with a number of councils across the UK and this week launched a new scheme to encourage food waste recycling with the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead. In contrast, Greenredeem, rewards people who recycle on the go, by placing drinks cans and bottles in kiosks in public places, such as Legoland and Thorpe Park.

For the next few months, the two companies will continue to operate as normal, but later this year, they plan to launch a new service that rewards people for recycling both home and when out and about.

Read more at Business Green.

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April 25, 2013

UK company unveils ‘fully recyclable, carbon positive’ packaging

A UK company claims to have produced a new type of packaging that is not only 100 percent recyclable, but also actively removes CO2 from the atmosphere. The new Polyair material developed by Polythene UK is made from sugar cane and uses photosynthesis to capture CO2 and release oxygen. The company claims that for every one ton of the product manufactured, 2.5 tons of CO2 will be removed.

James Woollard, managing director at Polythene UK, said Polyair could be used in a range of products including bags, covers, tubes, films, wraps and stretch film, and reduces the amount of polythene waste these generate.

“Using a bio-based material, such as Polyair, at a percentage of 60 percent in film reduces the CO2 emissions to zero even when you take into consideration the energy used for manufacture and shipping,” he added in a statement. “Put simply, Polyair is truly the greenest material we know of.”

Woollard added that the company initially designed the Polyair material as a degradable polythene, but changed tack in 2011 after deciding the benefits of such material were limited. He said that having found an alternative, the company has now re-launched the product aiming specifically at FTSE500 companies looking to reduce their emissions.

Read more at Business Green.

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April 22, 2013

India to show world way on ‘star-rated’ green homes

Time is not far when you would be living in a ‘five or three-star home’, certified by the government recognizing energy efficiency.

The Indian Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), under the Ministry of Power, has developed a star rating program for buildings which is based on the actual performance of a building in terms of its specific energy usage in kilo watt hour per square meter a year. As per the program, office buildings are given ratings from 1 to 5 stars based on their energy efficiency. Soon, this is likely to be applicable for homes. The rating is as per the Energy Conservation Building Code by the BEE.

Executive director of the International Energy Agency, Maria van der Hoeven, batted for more “visibility” on green initiatives by member countries. Following which the idea of giving “star ratings” for homes came up for discussions. Responding to this, the planning commission of India Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia indicated that India has already taken steps toward the concept of star-rated homes and has started implementing the “starring process first on government buildings”.

As an effort towards green buildings, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) through Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) is into the building of green homes which utilizes less water, optimizes energy savings, consumes less natural resources, brings better access to day-lighting and has enhanced construction management.

Read more at Business Standard.

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April 22, 2013

World’s tallest broadcast tower shows Tokyo’s green push

Builders of Tokyo Skytree, the 65 billion yen ($656 million) broadcast tower almost double the height of the Empire State Building, say they aim to make their mark on more than just the Japanese metropolis’ skyline.

The complex, the world’s largest broadcasting tower at 634 meters (2,080 feet), reflects pressure to conserve energy across Japan since the tsunami triggered by an earthquake in March 2011.

Tokyo Skytree, which was under construction before the earthquake, has the first district heating and cooling plant in the nation using a ground-source heat pump. A combination of heat pumps and water tanks for its district heating and cooling systems aims to reduce carbon emissions as much as 48 percent compared with similar projects without a centralized system, said Shinichiro Konno, the managing director of a company that helped developed the Skytree. “Having a central system for heating and cooling increases efficiency,” said Konno.

Tokyo Skytree is among 141 areas in Japan authorized to distribute heat under the country’s Heat Supply Business Act, according to the Japan Heat Supply Business Association. The heating and cooling systems at Skytree produce and distribute hot and cold water to the tower as well as shops, restaurants and offices in the 10.2 hectare area, located 5 kilometers (3 miles) northeast of Tokyo’s central train station, Konno said.

Read more at Bloomberg.

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April 19, 2013

Starbucks introduces reusable cups

The coffee chain Starbucks is introducing a reusable cup which UK customers can keep, in a move designed to encourage them to be more environmentally conscious while saving money. The reusable cup is based on the design of the brand’s distinctive white green paper cups and will cost £1.

Customers who use their reusable cup will receive a 25p discount off their Starbucks drink every time they use it. The cup is made of a high-quality material which is lighter than the Starbucks ceramic tumblers, which will still be available. The reusable cups will be available in selected stores nationwide from today but will be rolled out gradually elsewhere.

Ian Cranna, vice-president of UK marketing for Starbucks, said: “We know that our customers really care about saving money and doing their bit for the environment; between 2008 and 2012, the number of people using a Starbucks reusable tumbler increased by 235 percent and our new reusable cup is a low-cost, high-impact way to help make a difference on reducing waste.”

Globally, the chain is aiming for five percent of drinks made in its stores to be served in reusable cups by 2015 and the company says its move in the UK is a key step towards reaching this goal.

Read more at Business Green.

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April 18, 2013

Nation cuts down on plastic bag use

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has approved a plan to reduce the use of plastic bags in the country as part of the efforts to protect the environment.

Under the plan, by 2020, the quantity of plastic bags used at supermarkets and trade centers will be reduced by 60 percent against 2010 and by 50 percent at traditional markets. The plan targets the collection and recycling of 50 percent of plastic bags that are thrown away every day by 2020.

To meet the plan’s targets, several campaigns will be carried out to raise public awareness about the impact of plastic bags in the environment. Households, traditional markets, supermarkets and trade centers will be encouraged to use environmentally-friendly bags the production of which will receive considerable policy support.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has been tasked with implementing the plan in cooperation with relevant ministries, sectors, provinces and cities.

Read more at Vietnam News.

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April 18, 2013

Sustainable urban infrastructure can foster economic growth

Developing sustainable urban infrastructure benefits not just the environment, but can also boost economic growth and social stability, according to a United Nations report which stresses the need to transition to resource-efficient technologies in cities, given scarce natural resources.

“To date, the trend towards urbanization has been accompanied by increased pressure on the environment and growing numbers of urban poor,” said the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, Achim Steiner, at the launch of the report in Nairobi, Kenya. “But unique opportunities exist for cities to lead the greening of the global economy by increasing resource productivity and innovation, while achieving major financial savings and addressing environmental challenges,” Mr. Steiner said.

The report, ‘City-level Decoupling: Urban Resource Flows and the Governance of Infrastructure Transitions,’ argues that sustainable city infrastructures can sustain economic growth while using fewer resources. The study says much greater effort is needed to support new and improved infrastructure for water, energy, transport and other sectors ? generally located in and around cities ? to wean the world off unsustainable consumption patterns and avoid serious economic and environmental implications for future generations.

The report, which was produced by the UNEP-hosted International Resource Panel (IRO), features 30 case studies around the world that show how sustainable infrastructures have created scores of green jobs and reduced environmental degradation. The report also provides recommendations for city planners to minimize environmental damage and maximize the potential or using resources more sustainably.

Read more at UN News Centre.

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April 17, 2013

Clean energy progress too slow to limit global warming

The development of low-carbon energy is progressing too slowly to limit global warming, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said. With power generation still dominated by coal and governments failing to increase investment in clean energy, top climate scientists have said that the target of keeping the global temperature rise to less than 2C this century is slipping out of reach.

“The drive to clean up the world’s energy system has stalled,” said Maria van der Hoeven, the IEA’s executive director, at the launch of the agency’s report on clean energy progress.

Global clean energy investment in the first quarter fell to its lowest level in four years, driven by cuts in tax incentives at a time of austerity, according to a separate report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The IEA said that coal-fired generation grew by 45% between 2000 and 2010, far outpacing the 25% growth in non-fossil fuel generation over the same period.

With the world still reliant on fossil fuels, the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is critical, but there are no commercial plants in operation. The IEA has envisaged that CCS, which buries and traps CO2 underground, should play a major role in cutting global emissions and had forecast 63% of coal power plants should be equipped with the technology by 2050. However, there are only 13 large-scale demonstration projects in operation or being built, with the capacity to store about 65 million tonnes of CO2 a year. This represents only a quarter of the storage capacity needed by 2020.

Government policies and the EU’s emissions trading scheme need to be strengthened to enable more energy efficiency and clean technology uptake, the IEA said.”Unless we get (carbon emissions) prices and policies right, a cost-effective clean-energy transition just will not happen,” the report said.

Read more at The Guardian.

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April 17, 2013

Business urged to assess nature-related risks and opportunities

Just how a company assesses, measures and values the natural resources it relies on every day can have major impacts on its bottom line, and presents significant opportunities for improving sustainability outcomes, according to a new report released by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

The report, Eco4Biz ? Ecosystem services and biodiversity tools to support business decision-making , encourages companies to explore the tools that can help them better incorporate nature into business decision-making. The guide has been developed as a ‘one-stop resource kit’ to help environmental managers and companies navigate and choose from a range of available tools in order to better understand how they rely on nature, leading to more informed and better sustainability decisions.

“Assessing the impact and dependence on nature and natural capital may be complex, but it can also pay very good long-term dividends, both for the company bottom line and for our global environment,” said Eva Zabey, WBCSD Manager, Ecosystems and Natural Capital.

Eco4Biz features a decision tree, which helps cluster tools around the scale of assessment that an organization may need and the type of outputs the organization would prefer. Tools are identified primarily focusing on either ecosystem services or biodiversity. The toolkit will be updated on a regular basis to keep pace with developments as more companies proactively measure, manage and mitigate their impact and dependence on nature.

Read more at WBCSD.

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April 15, 2013

Business outlines a smarter, more sustainable water management approach

A changing climate with more frequent weather events requires today’s businesses to plan for an unpredictable and inconsistent water supply via more sophisticated water management practices, according to a new report released by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

Sharing Water: Engaging Business, emphasizes the crucial role of business in ensuring responsible management of water resources and encourages greater collaboration across sectors. The report finds that leading companies have begun shifting their perspective beyond merely managing operational water use to becoming more conscious of how corporate actions impact local and regional water resources and, conversely, how water resources and watersheds impact business.

The report cites alarming findings from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that, under business as usual, water demand will increase by 55 percent globally by 2050, leaving little scope to meet increasing water demands while respecting the needs of ecosystems. With no improvement in the management and use of freshwater resources, the world could face a 40 percent supply gap by 2030.

According to the report, the challenge of water management is complicated by the localized nature of water quality and quantity, which are determined by a range of local factors including geography, geology, climate, demography, infrastructure, competition and regulation. No two watersheds are the same, and, as such, some regions are less susceptible to water constraints while others face scarcity and pollution challenges.

“Collaboration is urgently needed. Business alone cannot ensure sustainable water use across a watershed,” said WBCSD President Peter Bakker. “To accelerate the impact of a watershed approach, companies must advocate for and contribute to an efficient regulatory environment that governs all water use in a watershed.”

Read more at WBCSD.

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April 14, 2013

Jakarta set to see high-rise ‘green’ buildings

Developers and owners of high-rise buildings will have their building permit applications denied if they fail to comply with the “green” building code that will take effect by the end of the month.

Jakarta Building Supervision and Regulation Agency head, I Putu Ngurah Indiana, said on Friday that the environmentally-friendly building code, which is basically a 2012 gubernatorial regulation on green buildings, would be incorporated in the building permit application process and would be mandatory for office buildings, shopping mall and apartments with more than 50,000 square meters in total area; hotels and health facilities that are bigger than 20,000 square meters; and educational facilities that are bigger than 10,000 square meters.

“Commercial buildings of certain sizes will have to comply with the criteria stipulated in the regulation,” he said in a discussion jointly organized by the International Financial Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s commercial financing arm, and the city administration at the Jakarta Convention Center in Central Jakarta. He said the regulation also stipulated energy and water efficiency requirements for buildings to reduce emissions and waste, which would help reduce climate change impacts.

Read more at Jakarta Post.

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April 13, 2013

US companies issue declaration urging government to act on climate change

US companies are flipping the script: instead of lobbying government to relax environmental regulation, a corporate group is urging Washington to enact strong policy aimed at curbing climate change. Their climate declaration, in addition to making an eco-appeal to the scientific consensus that excessive carbon emissions cause climate change, also makes a clear-eyed business case. “Tackling climate change is one of America’s greatest opportunities of the 21st century,” it says.

The 33 signatory companies, who already integrate climate management into their policies and practices, believe that wagering the business-as-usual economy, which benefits from society footing the bill for companies externalizing pollution, is already on the way out of the door. The future portends a carbon-constrained economy that prices greenhouse gas emissions.

These companies ? which include Unilever, Nestle, Swiss Re, Intel, Nike and Starbucks ? are already preparing for a carbon tax (or similar pricing mechanism) by embracing clean energy, boosting efficiency, and limiting carbon emissions. And now, they’re calling on Congress to enshrine such practices in law books.

The declaration is taking a grassroots approach, encouraging other companies ? as well as individuals ? to sign on, as a means of documenting the kind of broad support needed to convince legislators to act.

Read more at The Guardian.

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April 11, 2013

Soaring hybrid demand accounts for fifth of all Toyota sales in Europe

The growing popularity of green vehicles was hammered home again as manufacturing giant Toyota reported a record of 82 percent increase in sales of its bellwether hybrid cars. The company confirmed sales of its hybrid Toyota and Lexus brands rose 82.3 percent year-on-year to over 38,000 units during the first quarter, accounting for a fifth of total sales for the first time.

The company said that since 2000, it has now sold over 500,000 hybrids in Europe, accounting for around 10 percent of Toyota’s total hybrid sales and result in carbon emissions savings of approximately 3.4 million tonnes.

The surge in sales was largely the result of the continuing expansion of the company’s hybrid portfolio, which has sought to build on the success of the high profile Prius. The company is now looking to build on its success in the hybrid segment with a plug-in version of the Prius that is currently in the pipeline.

Read more at Business Green.

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April 11, 2013

Record-breaking Portugal generates 70 percent of power from renewables

Almost three quarters of the electricity consumed in Portugal during the first quarter of the year came from renewable sources, according to new figures from the country’s grid operator REN.

The company confirmed this week that the combination of favorable weather conditions and the country’s investment in wind and hydro-electricity capacity meant 70 percent of electricity was generated by renewable technologies during the first three months of the year.

The performance is likely to have resulted in significant emission reductions, given output from coal and gas-fired power stations fell 29 and 44 percent respectively, compared with the first quarter of 2012. The surge in renewable power also offered a boost to Portugal’s economy as it allowed the country to export electricity equivalent to six percent of national consumption.

Read more at Business Green.

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April 10, 2013

Smartphones: the latest products to get certified

Smartphones are the latest products to be certified, allowing buyers to choose devices based on environmental and social criteria.

TCO Development, which certifies IT products worldwide, is adding smartphones to the list. With their PC-like power and functionality and worldwide annual sales growth of around 50%, smartphones are the fastest growing IT product. An estimated one billion smartphones will be sold during 2014.

But this explosive growth also brings with it sustainability challenges such as hazardous substances, a rapid replacement rate, e-waste and sub-standard working conditions in factories. There is a need for greater responsibility in how we design, manufacture and use these products as well as handle them at their end of life.

The certification will focus on driving greater social responsibility into manufacturing smartphones as well as reducing their impact on the environment and human health. Examples of criteria include manufacturer commitment to international labor conventions, reduction of hazardous substances such as heavy metals, beryllium, nickel and phthalates, as well as energy efficiency and ergonomic design.

Read more at Sustainable Business.

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April 10, 2013

Waste power plant in two years

Plans to use household rubbish to produce electricity could come on stream within two years, with WA’s environmental regulator poised to endorse the State’s first so-called waste-to-energy plant.

Perth company New Energy has moved to plug a looming shortage in Pilbara electricity supplies by proposing to build a $180 million power station at Port Hedland fuelled by gas from waste. Under the plan, the company would take about 100,000 tonnes of municipal waste a year from across the Pilbara and turn it into enough electricity to power up to 21,000 homes and businesses.

The group would use a process called low temperature gasification, which effectively harvests gas from decomposing waste before using it to generate heat and electricity which would then be fed into the grid.

Read more at Eco Business.

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April 10, 2013

Asia’s future prosperity requires a major change in energy use

Asia is moving along a dangerously unsustainable energy path that will result in environmental disaster and a gaping divide in energy access between rich and poor unless the region dramatically changes course, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.

Asia’s Energy Challenge, the special theme chapter in ADB’s Asian Development Outlook 2913, highlights the complex balancing act the region faces to deliver energy to all its citizens while scaling back its reliance on fossil fuels. If by 2035 Asia merely expands energy access without fundamentally changing the way it consumes, the report predicts the region’s oil consumption will double, natural gas consumption will triple, and coal consumption will rise a whopping 81 percent, with costly and devastating environmental impacts.

Asia’s limited indigenous energy resources present an additional challenge. With only 9 percent of proven global oil reserves, the region is currently on track to almost triple oil imports by 2035, rendering it significantly more vulnerable to external supply shocks.

Carefully designed support for renewable energy technologies must be stepped up. Next generation wind, solar and biofuel technologies, which are expected to be more cost competitive than current options and do not compete with food crops, offer potential solutions.

Read more at CleanBiz Asia.

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April 9, 2013

In warming, Northern Hemisphere is out pacing the South

If global warming were a race, the Northern Hemisphere would be winning. It is warming faster than the Southern Hemisphere, with some of the most rapid warming rates on Earth located in the Arctic, where the sea and land ice is shrinking and thinning. Not only is the North winning now, but projections show that, largely due to the influence of manmade greenhouse gas emissions, it is likely to widen its lead in the coming decades.

Two new studies shed light on this disparity and how it could have profound consequences for tropical rainfall. According to one of the studies by a group of researched based at U.C. Berkeley and the University of Washington, the Northern Hemisphere has led the Southern Hemisphere in its rate of warming since about 1980, largely because the Northern Hemisphere has more land and less ocean than the Southern Hemisphere, and oceans warm relatively slowly.

The second study by researchers at the Potsdam institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, implicates global ocean currents as another factor contributing to the Northern Hemisphere’s warming lead. These currents transports heat away from the southern waters and into the North Atlantic and North Pacific, helping to warm nearby land areas in the north even more.

In an “emerging indicator” of global warming, both studies found that the temperature difference between the two hemispheres has grown since 1980, and climate model projections show the Northern Hemisphere will continue to pull away from its hemispheric counterpart in the coming decades. The exact magnitude of the temperature difference will depend on the emissions of greenhouse gases, among other factors.

The Berkeley study projected that if emissions remain on their present upward trajectory, the average temperature difference between the two hemispheres could be about 1.6 degrees Celsius or about 3 degrees Fahrenheit. This would be sufficient to alter tropical rainfall patterns, which could affect everything from rice cultivation in India to the health of the Amazon Rainforest.

Read more at Climate Central.

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April 8, 2013

Energy-related CO2 emissions hit lowest levels in 2012

US energy-related CO2 emissions dropped in 2012 to their lowest levels since 1994, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Last year’s emissions at 5.3 billion metric tons of CO2 represent about a 4 percent decline over 2011’s 5.5 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions. With the exception of 2010, emissions have declined every year since 2007, the EIA says.

The largest drop in emissions in 2012 came from coal, which the EIA says is used almost exclusively for electricity generation. During 2012, particularly in the spring and early summer, low natural gas prices led to competition between natural gas and coal-fired electric power generators. Lower natural gas prices resulted in reduced levels of coal generation, and increased natural gas generation ? a less carbon-intensive fuel for power generation, which shifted power generation from the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel (coal) to the least-intensive fossil fuel (natural gas).

Other factors contributing to the lower emissions include decreased demand for transportation fuels and mild winter temperatures that reduced the demand for heating. The warm winter months during 2012, particularly in the first quarter, more than offset a slight increase in cooling-degree days during the summer months.

Read more at Environmental Leader.

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April 8, 2013

Northern Ireland launches plastic bag levy

Retailers from Northern Ireland will start charging at least five pence for each retailer bag handed out to customers, as part of a drive across the province to reduce plastic waste.

The Northern Ireland Executive has introduced the Carrier Bag Levy, in a move designed to significantly reduce the 250 million carrier bags distributed in the country each year. Northern Ireland follows in the footsteps of Wales, which introduced a similar charge in 2011 and subsequently cut handouts of bags dramatically, with some retailers virtually eliminating the use of bags within a few months of the launch of the levy.

The Northern Irish levy will cover all single use carrier bags, including those made from paper or plant-based materials such as starch, on the grounds that alternatives to plastic bags also have environmental impacts. However, the levy will not apply to reusable bags and some small paper and plastic bags, such as those used for medicine or hot food.

The move will increase pressure on the Westminster government to take action, as it leaves England as the only country in the United Kingdom to have taken legislative steps to curb plastic bag use ? Scotland is currently working on plans to follow Northern Ireland and Wales with the introduction of a bag levy or ban.

Read more at Business Green.

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April 8, 2013

London’s cooking waste to fuel power station

Cooking waste from thousands of London restaurants and food companies is to help run what is claimed to be the world’s biggest fat-fueled power station. The energy generated from the grease, oil and fat that clogs the capital’s sewers will also be channeled to help run a major sewage works and a desalination plant, as well as supplying the National Grid, under plans announced by Thames Water and utility company 2OC.

The deal, worth more than £200 million over 20 years, has made possible the building of the £70 million plant at Beckton, east London, which is financed by a consortium led by iCON Infrastructure. It is due to be operational in early 2015. The plant will produce 130 Gigawatt hours (GWh) a year of renewable electricity ? enough to run just under 40,000 average-sized homes, say the planners.

Read more at The Guardian.

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April 6, 2013

EU carbon data signals airlines may need to buy permits

Airlines in Europe may need to buy carbon permits or pay fines after data showed the carriers’ emissions in 2012 exceeded their allocation of free allowances by about 30 percent, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest low-cost airline emitted 34 percent more than its free permits and EasyJet Plc’s U.K. account indicates it needs 25 percent more allowances while Aer Lingus Group Plc has a shortfall of 24 percent, based from preliminary data from the European Union.

Under the Europe’s carbon program, emitters must match emissions with EU allowances or United Nations offset credits by the end of April each year or pay a fine of 100 euros a ton. Polluters can top up their free allocation with allowances bought in the market.

Read more at Bloomberg.

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April 5, 2013

Is there a business case for building green?

It is a question that is often asked in the building industry: Does green building pay off, and if it does, for whom? A new comprehensive report released from the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) may have the answer to that question.

“The Business Case for Green Building: A Review for the Costs and Benefits for Developers, investors and Occupants” examines whether it’s possible to attach a financial value to the cost and benefits of green buildings. It argues that green buildings can be delivered at a price comparable to conventional buildings and investments can be recouped through operations cost savings ? and with the right design features, can create a more productive workspace.

Key findings of the report tackle design and constructions costs, asset value, operating costs, workplace productivity and health, and risk mitigation. The report concludes by illustrating that by greening our built environment at the neighborhood and city scales, the green building industry can deliver on a large-scale economic priorities such as climate mitigation, energy security, resource conservation, job creation, long-term resilience and quality of life.

Read more at GreenBiz.

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April 4, 2013

P&G achieves zero waste to landfill in 45 manufacturing sites

Procter & Gamble has eliminated the amount of manufacturing waste they are sending to land fill in 45 facilities worldwide. In 45 of their sites in Asia, Europe, North and South America, manufacturing waste is recycled, repurposed or converted into energy.

The company, which serves approximately 4.6 billion people around the world with its brands, has a long-term vision of sending zero manufacturing and consumer waste to landfills over the past 5 years. P&G’s work to find worth in waste has created over $1 billion in value of the company.

“There are well-defined systems for recycling materials like paper, plastic and glass, but our product portfolio is incredibly broad, resulting in diverse set of waste streams to find sustainable solutions for,” shared Dr. Forbes McDougall, who leads P&G’s global zero manufacturing waste program.

The company first achieved zero manufacturing waste to landfill in 2007 at a site in Budapest. Since then, through quality assurance, packaging reduction, compaction and recycling efforts, the company now ensures that 99 percent of all materials entering their plants leave either as finished product or is recycled, reused or repurposed.

Read more at EcoSeed.

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April 3, 2013

71% of consumers think green when purchasing

A record-high of 71 percent of Americans consider the environment when they shop, up from 66 percent in 2008, according to research from Cone Communications. Some 7 percent consider the environment every time they shop, while 20 percent consider it regularly. Forty-four percent consider it sometimes, according to the 2013 Cone Communications Green Gap Trend Tracker.

Even as thinking “green” is increasingly at the forefront of consumers’ minds, Americans still struggle with their role in the lifecycle of products with an environmental benefit. Nine in 10 respondents say they believe it’s their responsibility to properly use and dispose of these products, but action isn’t aligning with intent: only 30 percent say they often use products in a way that achieves the intended environmental benefit and some 42 percent say they dispose of the products in a way that fulfills the intended environmental benefit.

Despite the lack of consistent follow-through, consumers are showing an inclination to learn more. Nearly all respondents (85 percent) want companies to educate them on how to properly use and dispose of products, but they identify significant barriers to doing so, as well. One-third of consumers (33 percent) cited not having the adequate resources, such as disposal bins and community access, as the primary reason for not disposing or using products as intended, while 20 percent stated they simply do not know how to do so.

Read more at Environmental Leader.

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April 1, 2013

EPA targets smog with updated vehicle standards

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed last Friday a set of new standards to reduce smog-causing sulfur in gasoline and tighten emissions regulations on cars and trucks beginning 2017 that would increase gas prices by less than a penny per gallon and add $130 to the cost of a vehicle in 2025.

The proposal slashes a range of harmful pollutants such as smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent. It also establishes a 70 percent tighter particulate matter standard and decreases fuel vapor emissions to near zero. The EPA estimates the proposal’s total health-related benefits in 2030 will be between $8 and $23 billion annually and will help avoid nearly 2,400 premature deaths and 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children. The rules will also benefit more than 50 million Americans living, working or going to school near public roads.

If implemented, the EPA claims that the standards will reduce gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 percent to 10 parts per million. Decreasing sulfur in gasoline enables vehicle emission control technologies to perform more efficiently, meaning even cars and trucks built before 2017 will run cleaner on the new low-sulfur fuel.

The proposed mandate comes as part of the Obama Administration’s national program for clean cars and trucks, which also includes unprecedented fuel efficiency standards. The proposal will work alongside California’s clean cars and fuels program to create a cohesive national vehicle emissions program that would enable automakers to sell the same vehicles in all 50 states. The scheme also supports efforts by states to reduce harmful levels of smog and soot and eases their ability to attain national air quality standards to protect public health, while also maintaining flexibility for small businesses, including hardship provisions and additional lead time for compliance.

Read more at TriplePundit.

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