Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category

I’ve written before about the NAVY and how, with some of the best scientists and innovators, in addition to some weighty responsibilities, the organization is managing to pave the way with algae-based fuels and other sustainable technologies. Well, just in time for Earth Day this year, NASA unveiled their newest building, a LEED Platinum Sustainability Base that is the greenest federal building in existence.

Designed by William McDonough + Partners with integrated engineering by AECOM, the building generates more energy than it consumes using a photovoltaic array, a small wind turbine, and a Bloom Energy Box fuel cell. The building also utilizes a grey water recycling system, originally designed for the international space station, that has resulted in 90% less water consumption than a traditional building.  Through sensors, the building “smartly” monitors temperature and lighting needs and adjusts using abundant skylights and windows accordingly – reducing related energy costs and improving interior climate quality. All materials within the base (desks, bookshelves, etc.) are recycled and/or recyclable and are nontoxic.

The Sustainability Base is located at Moffet Field in Mountain View, California and integrates nicely into the surrounding landscape. Native and drought-resistant California plants were utilized to landscape the site, and the building’s unique exoskeleton makes it capable of withstanding seismic activity. McDonough describes the building as native to place, as it was built to suit the site, maximize efficiency, and create a positive impact on the environment.

Ultimately, the new NASA site provides an amazing example of how careful design, engineering and innovation can combine to create a building that is in complete harmony with the environment surrounding it and the people that work within it. To learn more and see detailed pictures, visit here.

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I recently stumbled across a Harvard Business Review article titled ”Creating Shared Value” which discusses the struggle companies have faced (and largely continue to face) when developing their sustainability strategies. It seems that while most of us consider terms like “corporate social responsibility,” “sustainable business,” and “corporate philanthropy” positive, a transcendence beyond their use may be more indicative of true success.

Sustainability and corporate social responsibility departments and initiatives, while focused on bettering the business and reducing its impact on the environment and involved communities, are inherently “other.” They are departments often do not have clear ties to traditional measures of organizational success (revenue, shareholder value, etc.).  In their current context, sustainability departments and endeavors work alongside a companies key functions, and for that reason, will never truly be successful at instilling an organization’s long term sustainability.

Enter what is referred to as “shared value.” Shared value is the marrying of economic and social success so that the value of a decision is determined using the costs and benefits related to both elements. In traditional capitalist business models, emphasis is placed solely on the short-term economic value of a decision, with perhaps a consideration of the social impact after. This, as the HBR article explains, is how so many organizations continue to operate in a way that is often unsustainable and damaging – to themselves and the surrounding environment.

Ultimately, there must be a large paradigm shift within the business world. At this moment, it is naive for an organization to think that they are above damages associated with inefficient resource allocations, human rights abuses, inefficient or polluting processes, etc. Success is inclusive of more than short term economic gains. And more and more organizations (including GE, Google, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé, Unilever, and Wal-Mart) are stepping up to the plate.

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Sustainability is not immune to the growing proliferation of gamification as a way to encourage desired behaviors through the allure of competition, rewards and fun. Cities, business organizations and product manufacturers, among others, have begun creating such games and incentives in order to more successfully meet their sustainability goals.

Here at EBSCO Publishing, we have all been given pedometers to track our daily steps. In addition to friendly competitions between co-workers to have the most steps, there is an additional incentive that involves earning up to $500 per year if we meet our daily step goals. The results (both personally and organizationally) have been positive with increased focus on our health and activity.

As highlighted in this article, car manufacturer Volkswagen created a contest called The Fun Theory which rests on the assertion that “fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better.” Volkswagen set out to recognize those ideas that were the most successful at proving the fun theory. YouTube videos which presented the contest through successful (fun) innovations went viral and illustrate the types of efforts considered:

Gamification is not all fun and games, though. It is important that an organization clearly identify its goals, understand the motivation it is seeking to tap into, develop intrinsic and extrinsic rewards that encourage long term behavior changes, and consider working with vendors that assist with implementing the project.

Do you have any experience with gamification? I’d love to hear about it, or about your ideas!

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With American Thanksgiving upon us, the holiday season is officially in full swing. Gift giving and buying, food preparation and consumption, party planning and attending, and travel logistics can leave us all feeling more stressed than festive. By integrating some of these sustainable ideas into your holidays, you can feel better about your choices and perhaps even foster a greater sense of holiday spirit!

  • Think about purchasing recycled or refurbished gifts – they often have a lot of character and a neat story, to boot!Some of my favorite sites include: Uncommon Goods, and Great Recycled Gifts.
  • When buying for and preparing holiday meals, be mindful of waste and excess. By purchasing locally and seasonally, you not only support local farms and businesses – the food is inevitably more fresh.
  • In the midst of the holiday craziness, make time to give back. Even just going through your old winter coats to be donated or picking up some extra canned goods to bring to food pantries is something. Every little bit counts!
  • eCards are readily available and can be just as personal as paper cards – plus, you’ll be saving paper, reducing waste, and won’t be reliant upon traditional mail transport.

I’d love to hear some of your sustainable holiday tips! In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving!

I believe it was Yogi Berra that said “the future ain’t what it used to be.” In true Berra nature, this quip can be taken a lot of ways. I’m going to choose to frame it in the lens of sustainability and our future, The Children.

We’re at a point in time where concerns pertaining to energy sources, resource depletion, pollution, and climate change hang heavy in our minds. Without a major change in our current course, the future looks like one that could be difficult in ways that we can’t fully fathom yet.

Enter: The Children. Now is the time to discuss sustainability with kids; in school, community gatherings, at home – anywhere that there is an opportunity for meaningful interaction. As perhaps the biggest stakeholders in the the state of our future, kids are often more optimistic and enthusiastic than adults about their ability to impact the future in positive ways.  They think innovatively and creatively and have a track record in persuasiveness (as most can attest). Kids are also becoming more and more internet and social network savvy which means that not only do they have access to powerful information, they have the ability to readily share their ideas and passions.

Tomorrow, I will be taking part in a local Sustainability Fair geared towards children (and their parents) K-8. I’m excited to speak with the kids about the types of things we can all do to be more sustainable. But, I’m even more excited to hear about the types of things these kids care about and how they implement sustainable practices into their own lives.  I’m going to make it a point to highlight the positive “can-dos” and will make sure to listen and support what will inevitably be some great ideas from the participants.

This will be one small step in ensuring that the future won’t be what it used to be.

It may be the lack of daylight or the somewhat frantic pace of this work week but I fear that abstraction is beyond me today. Maybe you too? Instead, I’ve decided to share some interesting links to various sustainability-related articles that I found interesting. Feel free to share your own links in the comments!

Over the past five years, membership within the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)has increased by over 2,000%.  Three quarters of all sustainability-related positions on college and university campuses were created after 2007. It is clear that colleges and universities are becoming serious about both their environmental impact and the course offerings that support the proliferation of sustainability.

However, as it is with businesses and individuals alike, the scope of sustainability reaches far beyond the campuses themselves. Institutes of higher education have a large impact on the surrounding communities and populations. In order to truly embrace sustainability in its whole sense, these institutions must place emphasis upon safeguarding and improving surrounding communities – a practice that has largely been neglected.

In Ohio, Oberlin College has committed to improving the sustainability of the college as well as the 8 mile radius surrounding it. Initiatives include the creation of a 20,000-acre agricultural green belt and an educational partnership among four local schools, the redevelopment of a 13-acre green arts district and hotel downtown, the use of food from local farms, job openings for local youth and funding support for businesses that open within the area.

At Tufts University in Massachusetts, students and faculty have identified the link between social justice and sustainability. Analyses related to tenure and earnings by ethnicity, average income disparity between the highest and lowest paid Tufts community members, and the number and frequency of hate crimes on campus or involving the outside community were conducted. This effort not only helped to illuminate the true sustainability of the campus, but also illustrates the true depth and diversity of being “sustainable.”

In the spirit of engaging in (what at this time, at least) is somewhat lighter fare, pun intended, I thought I would delve into the world of artificial meats. What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of such a thing? Well, fear not, friends. In an effort to develop a solution to the mounting problems of food costs, carbon emissions and ethical concerns regarding animal treatment, scientists have been experimenting with the creation of artificial meat products.

Now, as a vegetarian, I have experienced my fair share of faux meat products (veggie dogs covered in veggie bacon? bring it on!).  While there are some fairly good substitutes for the real thing, I tend to stay away from the stuff merely because of the oodles of processing and ingredients involved.  Still, what American in her right mind can persist the smells of a bbq without rushing, veggie burger in hand, to the coals?

Regardless, for some reason, the idea of a faux meat product that is made to emulate, nearly identically, the make up of the cow or pig or chicken that it would normally come from scares me a bit. And, have you heard about this?

I definitely agree that something needs to be done about our current food constraints. But, what do you think? To eat, or not to eat artificial meat? That, is quite the question.

The Guardian is a large and well-reputed British newspaper that has become intimately involved in reporting on sustainability-related news and events. In the United Kingdom, as in most of Europe, political-, security- and economic-based concerns have led to a greater focus on sustainability within business and politics than here in the United States.  While there is a long way to go for all of us, much can be learned from the strides being taken in Europe towards a more sustainable future. The diversity of viewpoints, experiences and legislative actions originating from the United Kingdom all serve to inform the greater body of sustainable research, thinking and practice.  In this vein, and with business operations in mind, The Guardian has expanded its information services to include Guardian Sustainable Business Intelligence. We are proud to say that our Sustainability Watch reports make up some of the content provided and know that this unique resource will help to proliferate sustainable thinking and safeguard a future we can all be proud of.

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The London 2012 Olympic Games stands to be the very first Olympic Games with the lofty goal of infusing sustainable ideas and practices throughout. The London 2012 committee dons inspiration from the idea of One Planet Living which was conceptualized by World Wildlife Fund along with sustainable entrepreneurial charity BioRegional. According to BioRegional, worldwide resource use exceeds the planet’s ability to renew or absorb it by 40%. One Planet Living hopes to spread the idea and practice of optimizing and reducing resource use so as to live within the means of our planet.

To align itself with this goal, the 2012 Olympic Games are being prepared so as to come as close to meeting One Planet Living’s ten point framework for sustainable development as possible:

  1. Zero carbon
  2. Zero waste
  3. Sustainable transport
  4. Sustainable materials
  5. Local and sustainable food
  6. Sustainable water
  7. Land use and wildlife
  8. Culture and heritage
  9. Equity and local economy
  10. Health and happiness

The official sustainability plan for London 2012 can be broken down into three main areas: preparation, event staging and building a lasting sustainable legacy.  In preparing the demolition, remediation, design and construction required for the games, sustainable best practices and standards have been closely followed.  With regards to event staging, sustainability is a fairly new concept. As such, new initiatives have been planned for; progress will be measured and results reported with the hope of providing a model for future events. Creating a sustainable legacy has been a goal of the London 2012 games since bidding. The games are being held in East London where regeneration is necessary and welcomed for the European citizens (some of the most deprived in the country) that live there. Additionally, the games are being planned with an overarching focus on sustainability – from concern for reduced carbon emissions, energy- and water-efficiency to helping and inspiring individuals within East London and the country at large and finally to creating a model that serves as an example of sustainability in practice to the world at large.

You can learn more about the full London 2012 Sustainability Strategy here.

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