Behavior change and pollution prevention

September 17th, 2014 by

Word "Change" jigsaw puzzle pieces isolated on whiteWhat do employee engagement, management buy-in,  green consumerism, pollution prevention technical assistance, and supply chain sustainability have in common?

At the root, each depends on people modifying their behavior to create lasting change. Several years ago, GLRPPR established behavior change and sustainability as one of its primary focus areas. Some of the resources we’ve developed on this topic include:

Ultimately, successful implementation of pollution prevention projects requires people to change the way they do things. Getting people to make lasting change can be incredibly difficult and frustrating. Understanding the psychology of behavior change is a critical piece of the puzzle.

If you have a tip or resource related to behavior change, let us know in the comments.

 

5 Source Reduction Tips for Electronics Consumers

September 16th, 2014 by

SEI-LinkedIn-Logo-colorHappy P2 Week, from the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), GLRPPR’s partner in creating a sustainable future! P2, or pollution prevention, is defined by the U.S. EPA as “reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream.” Source reduction is a key element in P2.

So let’s talk about source reduction as it relates to electronics, and more specifically, electronics consumers. Not everyone reading this post is an electronics manufacturer, electrical engineer, computer scientist, electronics recycler, or someone else who might be involved the design, production, or end-of-life management of electronic devices. But you are all certainly electronics consumers, scanning these words on the screen of your smartphone, desktop, laptop, tablet, or other device. Given that, the following are five ways we can all practice source reduction in one way or another as we choose and use the gadgets that support our work and play.

1. Buy EPEAT registered products. Originally funded by the US EPA, Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool, or EPEAT, is a searchable database of electronics products in certain categories, which is administered currently by the Green Electronics Council. EPEAT criteria are developed collaboratively by a range of stakeholders, including manufacturers, environmental groups, academia, trade associations, government agencies, and recycling entities. Criteria for current product categories are based upon the IEEE 1680 family of Environmental Assessment Standards (IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, also known primarily by its acronym). The criteria include attributes from throughout the product life cycle–i.e. throughout the stages of design, manufacture, use, and disposal, including such relevant issues as reduction/elimination of environmentally sensitive materials, and product longevity/life extension. The EPEAT registry currently includes desktops, laptops/notebooks, workstations, thin clients, displays (computer monitors), televisions, printers, copiers, scanners, multifunction devices, fax machines, digital duplicators and mailing machines. New products may be added to the registry in the future as criteria are developed for them.

2. Buy refurbished devices. Maybe you’re concerned about the environmental and social impacts of manufacturing electronics, such as mining, use of potentially hazardous materials, labor issues, energy use (did you know that most of the energy consumption in the life cycle of a computer is in its manufacture, not its use?). You might also worry about the ever growing mountains of e-waste that society is generating. The surest way to reduce all of those negative impacts is to reduce the number of new devices that are produced to meet our consumer demand. No, I’m not suggesting that we must all turn our backs on technology and join a commune. But if you genuinely need another device, or  a replacement for one that finally gave up the ghost, remember you don’t have to buy something grand spanking new. And that doesn’t mean you have to take your chances shopping for used electronics, which may or may not end up functioning correctly, from some anonymous source on an online marketplace. Refurbished electronics differ from “used” electronics in a key way–they’ve been tested and verified to function properly. Often these are items that have been returned to a manufacturer or retailer because someone had a change of heart, or there was some defect found while the item was under warranty. In that case, the item could be like new, or is easily repaired, but it can’t legally be resold as new. So, once it has been checked for proper functioning and repaired if necessary, the item is designated “refurbished”–and sold at a discount. Refurbished items may also have been used as display units or even sent to an electronics recycler who determined that the device still functioned, or who returned it to full functionality through repair. Finding refurbished items is pretty easy. Ask the clerks at the electronics retail outlet if there are any refurbished items in stock. If you’re shopping online, most big electronics retailer web sites allow you to search for refurbished items in their catalogs, and may even designate them as “certified refurbished” devices, granting their personal assurance that they’ve thoroughly tested those items. And some independent electronics recyclers and asset management firms have their own online stores for selling items they refurbish. If you decide to go that route, start at the US EPA’s list of certified electronics recyclers to find responsible recyclers in your area, and check their web sites. You’ll rest easy knowing you extended the useful life of a device AND saved yourself some money compared to a brand new device.

3. Use multifunction devices. Another great way to reduce the number of devices you or your organization buy, and thus ultimately have to dispose of, is to use devices that can serve more than one purpose. Classic examples are devices that can perform various combinations of the following tasks: printing, copying, scanning, faxing, and emailing. Now  “2-in-1″ computers are also popular–converting between laptop and tablet configurations through detachable keyboards or screen flipping and folding gymnastics. Besides reducing the number of devices being used, there’s also potential space saving, power saving, and cost savings to consider in favor of multifunction devices.

4. Use networking to reduce the number of printers in your home or office. Odds are your office already uses networking to connect multiple devices to one printer, but at home you might still have separate printers for the kids’ bedroom and the office space the adults use downstairs, for example. You can set up networking at home too, and you don’t have to be “technologically inclined” to do it. Check out Microsoft’s guide to setting up a network printer or this guide from About.com that can address non-Windows devices as well. And at work, even if you have to print confidential information, you can still use a network printer and not have your own machine by your desk, by using confidential printing options available on modern printers. See the University of Illinois guide to confidential printing, or this guide from Office to learn how. If these don’t exactly address the make and model of printer you have, search the Internet for “confidential printing” plus the brand of printer you have, and you’ll probably find the help you need.

5. Repair instead of replace. Again, this is not something only the “technologically inclined” can accomplish. We’ve been trained to think of our devices as both literal and figurative “black boxes” which run on magic by the grace of fickle technological gods, never to be understood by mere mortals. Nonsense. Not only can you likely find plenty of computer/technology repair services in your area (which is great for your local economy), you can actually perform repair yourself–I know you can. Check out the iFixit web site for example. They provide an online community for sharing photo-filled, easy to follow repair guides, not just for electronics, but for all sorts of things. Did your smartphone screen crack? Search for it on the iFixit site before you replace it. You might not only find the guide to show you how to fix the problem, but the new screen and the tools you’ll need to do the work as well, which will likely be cheaper than the new device you might buy otherwise. The folks at iFixit also like to assign “repairability scores” to devices, which can help you purchase items that are easier to repair, and thus keep around longer. Of course tinkering with your device might affect the warranty, if one still applies. Be sure you understand the terms of your warranties first. There are some discussions on the iFixit site related to warranties, and you might also be interested in their commentary on some of the controversy surrounding what is known as “the right to repair.”

Do you have other source reduction suggestions related to electronics? Feel free to share them in the comments section.

Happy P2 Week!

September 15th, 2014 by

Pollution Prevention (P2) Week, held during the third week of September each year, highlights the efforts of organizations across the country in making pollution prevention a cornerstone of sustainability. The 2014 theme is “Pollution Prevention: The Clear Choice for Environmental Sustainability.”

The National Pollution Prevention Roundtable and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have information about events occurring throughout the country. NPPR also has a handy P2 Week Toolkit for organizations looking for ways to participate.

Within the region, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management will hold its  17th Annual Pollution Prevention Conference and Trade Show on September 17 in Plainfield, IN. The theme is “Thinking Global.” The conference will also include presentations of the Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is hosting a seminar entitled Sustainable Manufacturing: Leading the Way to Prevention, Profit and the Future, also on September 17. The event will take place at Western Michigan University’s Fetzer Center in Kalamazoo. Michigan’s governor has also issued a P2 Week proclamation. The Department has also compiled a P2 Week Planner, which includes a sample resolution and press release.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will be using press releases and Twitter to raise awareness of their P2 efforts.

Here at GLRPPR, we’ll be publishing a P2 related blog post each day and will also be spreading the P2 message on Twitter using the hashtag #P2Week.

What are you doing to celebrate P2 Week? Share your activities in the comments.

2014 P2 Week Poster

2014 P2 Week Poster from the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable

REGISTER NOW for the Indiana Pollution Prevention Conference and Trade Show

September 11th, 2014 by

The Indiana Partners for Pollution Prevention will be hosting the 17th Annual Pollution Prevention Conference and Trade Show next week. The event will take place at The Palms in Plainfield, Indiana on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM (EDT). With a growing interest in pollution prevention, the conferences have been extremely successful and beneficial for the companies and manufacturers that attend.  The conference will begin with a keynote speaker, followed by three breakout sessions and a trade show promoting P2-related products and services.

This year, the conference is honored to be hosting the presentation of the Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence. The Governor’s Awards recognize facilities and organizations in Indiana that have demonstrated their outstanding efforts for environmental preservation through the implementation of innovative strategies into their operations and decision making process.

Registration to be either a sponsor, an exhibitor, or an attendee at this event ends tonight, so register soon to ensure your spot! For more information about the conference, please visit the Partners for Pollution Prevention website.

 

Washington State Department of Ecology resources on chemicals in consumer products

September 5th, 2014 by

This post originally appeared on Environmental News Bits.

The Washington State Department of Ecology’s Reducing Toxic Threats Initiative is based on the principle that preventing exposures to toxics is the smartest, cheapest and healthiest way to protect people and the environment. It supports Washington State’s Children’s Safe Product Act, which requires manufacturers of children’s products sold in Washington to report if their product contains a Chemical of High Concern to Children.

As a result of this campaign, the Department has developed several useful resources on chemicals in consumer products. They include:

Tips for a More Sustainable Move-In

August 28th, 2014 by

The start of a new school year means millions of students are returning to thousands of college campuses across the country. Move-in day can be stressful, chaotic, and downright unpleasant, but that does not justify being careless with the disposal of the extraordinary amount of waste produced during this short period of time. The impact of move-in and move-out days typically includes streets being filled with overloaded trash cans and overflowing dumpsters, soon to be hauled away to the nearest landfill. To address this problem, many colleges and universities nationwide have begun to encourage new and returning students to green their move in with a few simple steps.

 

When purchasing items for your room, look for sustainable products.

From simply purchasing a reusable water bottle instead of bottles of water to purchasing items made solely from recycled materials, being environmentally conscious while shopping can make an extensive impact on the amount of waste produced that will be landfilled.

Pack with reusable containers whenever possible.

Not only will using plastic storage containers prevent cardboard boxes from ending up in a landfill, but they also will make move-in and move-out simple and convenient. Many storage containers are much easier to carry than cardboard boxes, especially if they are loaded with heavy items such as pots and pans. You will also be thanking yourself for this purchase in May, when move-out day comes around, and you already have everything you need to pack up.

Reuse or recycle any cardboard boxes.

If you must use cardboard boxes to move, be sure to reuse these boxes whenever possible. If you have the space, store the boxes to be used at the end of the year for move out. Another great way to reuse boxes is to use them to collect recyclables throughout the year. If reuse is not an option, be sure to break down the boxes before you recycle, to save room for others’ recyclables.

 

Many universities, such as University of Pennsylvania, Southern Illinois University, and Northwestern University, have more extensive programs to encourage a “green” move-in. From collecting unwanted items to be donated to charity to assisting students with recycling, these programs are highly successful in diverting waste from the landfill. Even if your school doesn’t have an official program for a sustainable move-in, encourage your friends and neighbors to reduce the amount of waste landfilled, as well.

University of Minnesota Institute on Environment’s Fall 2014 Frontiers in the Environment Series focusing on big questions

August 27th, 2014 by

Read the full post from the University of Minnesota Institute on Environment.

This fall, the Institute on the Environment is refreshing our popular Frontiers in the Environment series. We’ll ask some Big Questions and host solutions-focused conversations about the next wave of research and discovery.

Below is the schedule from the web site.

Frontiers in the Environment: Big Questions

Solutions-focused conversations about the next wave of research and discovery.

Wednesdays, 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. CST
IonE Seminar Room R380, Learning & Environmental Sciences Bldg., St. Paul
Free and open to the public; no registration required
Join us online via UMConnect

September 24 — Can We Build a More Resilient Food Distribution System?

Matteo Convertino, IonE Resident Fellow and Assistant Professor, School of Public Health; and Craig Hedberg, Professor, School of Public Health

Despite being a global concern, food safety is addressed in a systematic way only in some developed countries. We need an integrated ‘”system science” approach to managing the global food system that considers multiple needs and constraints, as well as an efficient system for transporting food and rapidly detecting food contamination and adulterations. Matteo Convertino and Craig Hedberg will describe a project that’s using computer modeling to predict and deal with food-borne disease outbreaks worldwide based on food supply chain structures and epidemiological data.

October 1 — How can the University of Minnesota assist the energy transition?

Hari Osofsky, IonE Resident Fellow, Law School Professor and Energy Transition Lab Faculty Director; and Ellen Anderson, Energy Transition Lab Executive Director

Our energy system is transitioning in ways that create critical challenges. Evolving approaches to sources of energy, electricity and transportation, energy infrastructure, energy efficiency, climate change, and environmental and energy justice affect every community and region and every sector of the economy. We need to remove barriers to needed change at local, state, regional, national, and international levels, and identify a holistic strategy for moving forward. Energy Transition Lab faculty director, IonE resident fellow, and Law School professor Hari Osofsky, and Energy Transition Lab executive director Ellen Anderson see Minnesota and beyond as a living laboratory for finding innovative solutions. They will explore how the lab will collaborate with business, government, NGO, community leaders, and university-based experts to make progress on these challenges.

October 8 — How Might the Twin Cities Help Catalyze Needed Global Urban Innovations?

Patrick Hamilton, Ione Resident Fellow and Director, Science Museum of Minnesota’s Global Change Initiatives; Anne Hunt, Environmental Policy Director, City of Saint Paul; Peter Frosch, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Greater MSP; and Mike Greco, Lecturer, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

By 2050, more than 6 billion people will live in cities. The quality of life in these cities of the future — and, by extension, our planet — is being shaped by decisions we make today. Patrick Hamilton will engage panelists Anne Hunt, Peter Frosch, and Mike Greco in a lively discussion of how the Twin Cities — one of the healthiest, wealthiest, best educated, and most innovative, creative and connected urban centers in the world — might use its considerable academic, nonprofit and business acumen to shape initiatives that directly benefit its residents while also helping to advance creative urbanism everywhere.

October 15 — Should Society Put a Price Tag on Nature?

Steve Polasky, Ione Resident Fellow; Project Lead, Natural Capital Project; and Professor, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Natural environments such as grasslands, forests and wetlands provide ecosystem services —benefits such as clean air and water and eye-pleasing landscapes. We value these amenities in the abstract, yet rarely figure them into a budget or balance sheet when developing a shopping mall or planting a cornfield. Steve Polasky will moderate a discussion about whether society could or should place a monetary value on nature — and if so, how to incorporate that value into decisions about resource management, conservation and environmental regulation.

October 22 — What Does a Sustainable Clean Water Future for Minnesota Look Like?

Bonnie Keeler, Lead Scientist, Natural Capital Project; Deb Swackhamer, Program Director, Water Resources Center; and John Linc Stine, Commissioner, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Minnesota has a reputation as a land of abundant, high-quality lakes and rivers. But is our water clean enough? Addressing surface water quality problems is expensive and not without trade-offs, such as lost industry, agricultural production and development. Bonnie Keeler, Deb Swackhamer and John Linc Stine will share their visions of a sustainable clean water future for Minnesota.

October 29 — What Is the Role of the Environment in This Year’s Minnesota Elections?

David Gillette, Special Correspondent, Twin Cities Public Television; Amy Koch, Small Business Owner and Former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader; and Mark Andrew, President, Greenmark

With all the statewide constitutional offices up for grabs — plus a federal senate seat — it’s a busy election year in Minnesota. Surveys show that while people care about the environment, they often don’t make it the top issue when voting. How important are environmental issues in this fall’s elections? How are environmental issues being framed? What impact might the election have on environmental policy in the state? And what can University of Minnesota faculty, staff and students do to help voters understand what’s at stake?

November 5 —  How Can We Make the Most of the Agriculture’s 21st Century Transformation?

Nicholas Jordan, IonE Resident Fellow and Professor of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; and Carissa Schively Slotterback, Associate Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Agriculture is in the midst of a revolutionary transformation. Output is rapidly shifting from a few predominant crops and commodities to a wide array of new foods, feeds, bioproducts and biofuels. At the same time, emphasis is shifting from minimizing adverse impacts to capitalizing on the potential of agriculture to improve soil, water, biodiversity and climate. Nicholas Jordan and Carissa Schively Slotterback will describe emerging opportunities and explore how one initiative in southern Minnesota is bringing science, social science and humanities together to develop and test a process for helping rural communities make the most of the economic and environmental benefits of the new bioeconomy as it develops around them .

November 12 — How Can We Help Children Connect to the Natural World?

Cathy Jordan, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota Extension Children, Youth, and Family Consortium

These days, kids spend more time staring at a computer monitor or playing with electronic games than they do interacting with nature. Cathy Jordan will address questions such as: What effect does this have on children’s well-being and, ultimately, the well-being of our planet? What are the benefits of connecting children to nature? What can urban planners, landscape architects, educators and parents do to foster engagement between children and the natural world?

November 29 — Environmentalists and Corporations Make Strange Bedfellows . . . Or Do They?

Steve Polasky, Ione Resident Fellow; Project Lead, Natural Capital Project; and Professor, College Of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences with [panelists to be named]

When we think of a group of environmentalists fighting to protect fragile habitat, we may imagine an angry mob outside the gates of a manufacturer, chanting and waving signs. Or circulating an online petition. Or maybe boycotting a product. But the times, they are a-changin.’ Modern-day environmentalists are taking seats in boardrooms and influencing business practices on a global scale. Steve Polasky and panelists will share insights, challenges and successes in this lively conversation about these 21st century partnerships.

Green Festival Chicago 2014

August 20th, 2014 by

America’s largest and longest-running sustainability event is coming to the Great Lakes Region from October 24-26 with the 13th Annual Green Festival. This event will be held at Navy Pier in Chicago for anyone interested in living a healthier, more sustainable life. Bringing together the world’s most innovative businesses, local artisans, and environmentally conscious consumers, Green Festival is an ideal place to promote the best in green living and offer a wide selection of products and services focused on fair trade, renewable resources, and organic foods. Attendees can enjoy vegan and vegetarian cooking demos, choose from a variety of inspirational speakers, and shop a unique marketplace of more than 250 sustainable businesses. Admission to the festival can be purchased online or at the door.

If you or your company has an interest in speaking at the festival, submit the application by early September to ensure consideration. Green Festival is also accepting applications for volunteers for the weekend. Volunteers must work at least one 4.5-5 hour shift and in return, they will receive free admission into the festival. For more information about the festival, please visit the website.

The comparative environmental impact of e-mail and paper mail

August 14th, 2014 by

This post originally appeared on Environmental News Bits.

Several days ago, a friend made a sarcastic comment on Facebook about how much better e-mail is for the environment (in the context of spammers choosing e-mail over paper mail). That made me wonder about the relative impact of paper vs. electronic mail. So, I did what librarians do: I went to Google and started searching. Here’s what I found.

There have been a couple of life cycle studies of paper mail delivery. Pitney-Bowes published a study in 2008 which found that:

…the distribution of letter mail by the Posts generates, on average, about 20 grams of CO2 per letter delivered. In addition, a survey of more than a dozen studies shows that the indicative range of CO2 emissions associated with the upstream mail piece creation process is about 0.9 – 1.3 grams of CO2 per gram of paper. (p. 2).

The U.S. Postal Service commissioned a similar study in 2008, which found:

  • Total energy consumed by the four mail products accounts for 0.6% of national energy consumption, a figure that seems reasonable given the quantities of mail in the U.S. economy, and the energy-intensive nature of paper and board production, printing, and motor vehicle transportation.
  • At the household level, energy and CO2 emissions associated with the entire mail life cycle are roughly comparable to those from operating any of several common home appliances over the same period of time. (p.ES-2)

Both the Pitney-Bowes and USPS studies also looked at other environmental impacts, including waste generation and recycling rates. The Pitney-Bowes report also did a preliminary investigation of electronic communications compared to mail, which found that energy use of information communication technology is about 2% of total U.S. energy use, which is comparable to that of the paper industry. They were unable to calculate a comparative environmental footprint for the two methods.

In 2009, McAfee commissioned a report on the environmental impact of junk e-mail (spam). The results were eye-opening:

  • An estimated worldwide total of 62 trillion spam emails were sent in 2008
  • The average spam email causes emissions equivalent to 0.3 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per message
  • Globally, annual spam energy use totals 33 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), or 33 terawatt hours (TWh). That’s equivalent to the electricity used in 2.4 million homes, with the same GHG emissions as 3.1 million passenger cars using two billion U.S. gallons of gasoline. (Key Findings)

There are also several research papers which explore the overall environmental impact of electronic communications, including e-mail and e-commerce. These include:

Although on a per message basis, it appears that e-mail has a lower environmental footprint that of paper mail, the comparative ease and perceived low or no cost of e-mail makes it more likely that people will choose it over paper mail, which requires a stamp and a trip to a mailbox or post office. In aggregate, e-mail has a significant environmental footprint, which may be even higher than that of paper mail.

The bottom line: Although e-mail appears to be a better environmental choice than paper mail because there is no obvious up-front waste stream, the research paints a much more nuanced picture, particularly when the including the environmental impact of electronics manufacturing and data center operation.

Climate Ride Midwest: September 6-9

July 17th, 2014 by

In September, Climate Ride will be hosting their first-ever ride through the midwest. Climate Ride is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness for sustainability, active transportation, and other environmental causes with various bike ride fundraisers across the country. Starting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, this ride will wind its way along Lake Michigan, through the states of Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, coming to an end in Chicago. With Climate Ride carefully planning out the details of the route and the accommodations, participants simply have to focus on the riding portion. At 60-80 miles of riding per day, this ride will be a challenging, exhilarating way to contribute to a great cause.

For those who wish to participate in the ride or simply donate to the cause, visit the climate ride website. Each rider must raise at least $2800 by August 29 to secure their spot, along with paying the $100 registration fee. Spots are filling up quickly so register soon!

You can also follow the fundraiser progress on the website, to see how much has already been raised and how close the participants are to their goals.