Month <span class=April 2016" src="/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/cropped-office-building-secondary-1.jpg">

Month April 2016

Earth Month Spotlight: Cultural Institutions

Tara Hughes April 29, 2016 Distinguished Programs No comments
Photo courtesy of asla.org

Photo courtesy of asla.org

Earth Day has come and gone, but we aren’t quite finished with our Earth Month coverage. For our last segment, we look at how cultural institutions are trying to embrace sustainability despite considerable challenges.

Museums, especially art museums, tend to have very demanding and precise requirements for temperature and humidity control, making certain sustainability practices, and LEED certification, difficult. Some are taking strides, however, to show that it can be done: Museums can go green.
When the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) was to be relocated, the museum board opted to create a museum that was not only beautiful, but sustainable as well. GRAM reopened in late 2007 as the world’s first LEED Gold certified museum. Its climate control system includes a high-efficiency HVAC system that features an “energy recovery wheel”: As warm air is cycled outside, heat and humidity are transferred to incoming air, regulating temperature.

The museum makes strategic use of large windows and top-lantern skylights to garner 70 percent of its light from natural sources, as well as to connect the art to surrounding urban life. An on-site rain and greywater reuse system and water-efficient fixtures help to reduce water consumption by 20 percent.

The California Academy of Sciences is the world’s first LEED Double Platinum museum, and the largest Double Platinum building in the world. The museum approached sustainability from the beginning, recycling 90 percent of demolition materials from the 12 buildings that previously stood at the site. Rather than using standard fiberglass insulation in the construction of the building, the academy opted for thick cotton batting made from recycled blue jeans—which actually holds heat and absorbs sound better. Floor-to-ceiling windows made with low iron content provide extra clarity and allow visitors to see Golden Gate Park from almost any point inside the museum.

Read More

Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog for April 2016

The SSC Team April 28, 2016 Tags: Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Each month, we highlight some of our more popular content on the SSC blog!

In case you missed them, here's a round-up of our most popular blog posts from this past month. These are the articles that received the most attention from our online audience. Check them out!

If you like an article, please consider sharing it online via your favorite social media platform. Helping us grow our audience is the #1 way you can show your support for the work that we do.

Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog for April 2016

The SSC Team April 28, 2016 Tags: Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Each month, we highlight some of our more popular content on the SSC blog!

In case you missed them, here's a round-up of our most popular blog posts from this past month. These are the articles that received the most attention from our online audience. Check them out!

If you like an article, please consider sharing it online via your favorite social media platform. Helping us grow our audience is the #1 way you can show your support for the work that we do.

Solutions for Replacing Spreadsheets in Your Sustainability Reporting Practices

The SSC Team April 26, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

The old saying goes “If it is important, you must manage it; if you want to manage it, you must measure it,” but too many companies today use spreadsheets to track their environmental impacts.

Would you use a spreadsheet to track your corporate finances?  To monitor your inventory?  To log all of your personnel data?  Using a spreadsheet may seem like the simplest way to track your sustainability reporting, but in reality using this as part of your process is risky.

Don’t get us wrong, we love Excel as much as the next person, but for sustainability tracking, a spreadsheet is cumbersome and prone to errors. Whether you make a data entry mistake while flipping back and forth between screens or you simply have incorrect data to start, once you get it wrong in a spreadsheet, it is difficult to figure out where exactly you went astray. After all of that work, why risk losing all that information, inaccurate information, or user confusion?

Fortunately, an entire industry of software providers has cropped up to combat the problem of spreadsheet-based sustainability reporting, each promising to streamline the data collection, validation, and reporting of all things sustainability-related for you. These programs come in all shapes, sizes, specifications and styles. Some of these software platforms are fabulous; some, not so much. While many of the systems are more appropriate for big companies, some of them will be just right for you. Here are some questions you might want to start asking yourself in your hunt for a provider:

Do you know what you will be measuring and reporting on with this software? Your intent may range from being able to perform life cycle analysis (LCA) for your product supply chain to fulfilling a need to report on your carbon emissions to a customer such as Walmart onward to one of various international reporting protocols. Maybe you are being audited by an NGO or other stakeholder group. Knowing the reason for making your purchase will be essential to making the right decision as every package provides some or all of these functions to varying degrees. Plus, if you have a specific use in mind, you may be able to more easily narrow your list of vendors to review.

What are your customers, suppliers, competitors, friends and neighbors using? It’s unlikely that your business is operating in a complete bubble isolated from any other enterprise carbon accounting software users. Assuming that you are on good terms with at least some of these folks, it probably makes sense to reach out to them and see what direction they’ve chosen. For your customers and suppliers, it may make sense to select an option that aligns more easily with their own selections. With regards to your industry, you may be able to pick something that gives you a competitive advantage – at least in the near term – until the competition buys the same software. In any case, take advantage of what other smart people know and use that knowledge to your advantage.

What business processes will you need to adapt to your software? What business processes will your software need to fit? Understanding both the flexibility of you and your company in terms of implementing a new system is critical. Unless you are developing your own custom sustainability software solution that exactly fits your business process, you will most likely need to be able to change your process or customize the software somewhat. Understanding the ease and cost of going in either direction is important to your final decision. At the end of the day the cost of purchasing this system must be outweighed by some combination of cost savings and other benefits if you are to pull out the corporate credit card and make a purchase.

Looking for more guidance?  To help you find the right solution, we’ve combed through a myriad of different sustainability software options and took a look at best practices in software selection. Our white paper “Choosing Sustainability Management Software for Your Business” provides a process for determining what type of sustainability software provider can meet your needs. To help you find a program that is the perfect fit for your business, download this complimentary white paper here to get started and find out more!

Solutions for Replacing Spreadsheets in Your Sustainability Reporting Practices

The SSC Team April 26, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

The old saying goes “If it is important, you must manage it; if you want to manage it, you must measure it,” but too many companies today use spreadsheets to track their environmental impacts.

Would you use a spreadsheet to track your corporate finances?  To monitor your inventory?  To log all of your personnel data?  Using a spreadsheet may seem like the simplest way to track your sustainability reporting, but in reality using this as part of your process is risky.

Don’t get us wrong, we love Excel as much as the next person, but for sustainability tracking, a spreadsheet is cumbersome and prone to errors. Whether you make a data entry mistake while flipping back and forth between screens or you simply have incorrect data to start, once you get it wrong in a spreadsheet, it is difficult to figure out where exactly you went astray. After all of that work, why risk losing all that information, inaccurate information, or user confusion?

Fortunately, an entire industry of software providers has cropped up to combat the problem of spreadsheet-based sustainability reporting, each promising to streamline the data collection, validation, and reporting of all things sustainability-related for you. These programs come in all shapes, sizes, specifications and styles. Some of these software platforms are fabulous; some, not so much. While many of the systems are more appropriate for big companies, some of them will be just right for you. Here are some questions you might want to start asking yourself in your hunt for a provider:

Do you know what you will be measuring and reporting on with this software? Your intent may range from being able to perform life cycle analysis (LCA) for your product supply chain to fulfilling a need to report on your carbon emissions to a customer such as Walmart onward to one of various international reporting protocols. Maybe you are being audited by an NGO or other stakeholder group. Knowing the reason for making your purchase will be essential to making the right decision as every package provides some or all of these functions to varying degrees. Plus, if you have a specific use in mind, you may be able to more easily narrow your list of vendors to review.

What are your customers, suppliers, competitors, friends and neighbors using? It’s unlikely that your business is operating in a complete bubble isolated from any other enterprise carbon accounting software users. Assuming that you are on good terms with at least some of these folks, it probably makes sense to reach out to them and see what direction they’ve chosen. For your customers and suppliers, it may make sense to select an option that aligns more easily with their own selections. With regards to your industry, you may be able to pick something that gives you a competitive advantage – at least in the near term – until the competition buys the same software. In any case, take advantage of what other smart people know and use that knowledge to your advantage.

What business processes will you need to adapt to your software? What business processes will your software need to fit? Understanding both the flexibility of you and your company in terms of implementing a new system is critical. Unless you are developing your own custom sustainability software solution that exactly fits your business process, you will most likely need to be able to change your process or customize the software somewhat. Understanding the ease and cost of going in either direction is important to your final decision. At the end of the day the cost of purchasing this system must be outweighed by some combination of cost savings and other benefits if you are to pull out the corporate credit card and make a purchase.

Looking for more guidance?  To help you find the right solution, we’ve combed through a myriad of different sustainability software options and took a look at best practices in software selection. Our white paper “Choosing Sustainability Management Software for Your Business” provides a process for determining what type of sustainability software provider can meet your needs. To help you find a program that is the perfect fit for your business, download this complimentary white paper here to get started and find out more!

TED Talks Sustainability: Tshering Tobgay: This Country Isn’t Just Carbon Neutral – It’s Carbon Negative

The SSC Team April 21, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Nothing inspires us like a good TED talk, and here’s one of our favorites. Enjoy it!

About the speaker: Tshering Tobgay is the prime minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan. He is the second democratically elected prime minister, a social media star, and is leading his country based on principles of sustainability, well-being, and “Gross National Happiness.” Tobgay, an optimistic leader in tumultuous global environment, is focused on stability and sustainability in Bhutan.

About the talk: The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small Himalayan country of 700,000 people centered between China and India. The small nation has a commitment to remaining carbon neutral “for all time.” Learn about how the monarchy, and now this new democracy, has adopted a holistic look at development, favoring “Gross National Happiness” over gross national product.  

Earth Month Spotlight: Real Estate

Tara Hughes April 20, 2016 Distinguished Programs No comments

Earth3Earth Month continues with a look at the commercial real estate sector, where strides are being made in reducing the industry’s collective carbon footprint, particularly in Class-A office buildings in top-tier cities. Investors, developers, managers, and corporate tenants throughout the country have embraced the concept of sustainability—due in large part to the efforts of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and its Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, the standard by which all commercial space is measured.

The best sustainable architecture goes far beyond a few rooftop solar panels. Let’s take a look at three standard-setting buildings across the country.

The Bank of America Tower in New York City, which earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Core & Shell Platinum certification, has sustainability in its DNA. The building uses an onsite natural gas-fueled power plant to provide 70 percent of annual electrical power needs. In a process called cogeneration, waste heat from the power plant is used to make steam that powers chilling machines to cool the building and hot water for heating.

Read More

If LeBron Drove a Prius, Would You? Celebrity Endorsements for Green Products

The SSC Team April 19, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Athletes and celebrities have been pitching consumer products for what seems like … ever. But instead of pushing tennis shoes and Cadillacs, what if athletes and celebrities were pushing hybrids, smart thermostats, energy-efficient light bulbs- or pushing the idea of not purchasing anything at all?

An entrepreneur in New Zealand has centered an entire business model, Project LiteFoot, around getting the nation’s most famous athletes and sports clubs to compete (naturally) in a carbon footprint reduction contest, effectually modeling behavior and encouraging green purchasing habits of their biggest fans. They’re seeing results in New Zealand, but would it work in the U.S.?

Maybe. We definitely have a celebrity-focused culture. Elle is already tracking our “greenist” celebrities. And we do love our athletes. Already the EPA is working with sport organizations to “green” the in-game experience and SXSW hosted a ‘greening the big game’ session at its annual conference.

But are these activities leading to meaningful behavior changes for U.S. consumers? Or is this just a waste-reduction/waste-diversion effort benefitting teams and facilities, but not filtering into consumer behavior?

At this point, the potential of green products marketed by celebrities – promoting lasting green behavior – remains untapped here in the U.S. 

It’s exciting to see club-level and league-level activities moving toward waste reduction and energy efficiency at the massive spectacles of our sporting events, but using celebrity endorsements to mainstream the idea of adopting green technology could be a big boost in getting the “average” person into the “eco” column.

Have you seen a great celebrity endorsement that could help mainstream green purchasing? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Delight guests with sustainability and reap benefits

Tara Hughes April 18, 2016 Distinguished Programs No comments

Colorful garden and pathThe Green Edge By Dina Belon

If you look at sustainability from an operating savings perspective, you are overlooking its biggest value: Creating extraordinary moments with your guests.

Guests want individualized experiences, and a sustainability strategy is one of the best ways to create these customized experiences. Here are opportunities that hoteliers overlook every day:

Energy management systems

Energy management systems (EMS) are evaluated through return on investment from energy savings, and they easily pay back the investment in one to three years. What are you missing? Their biggest value: They give your guests an opportunity to feel good and individualize their experience. The EMS isn’t just an internal system – it’s an amenity and an opportunity to engage with your guests. Imagine the power of telling every guest that your property offers a system that allows them to fully customize their room comfort (and here’s the kicker) from their cell phone. They may or may not care that the EMS will reduce the carbon footprint of their travel, but they will love their customized experience. And, if they do care about carbon, then you can give them real-time feedback of their CO2 savings. If they don’t want to customize their room comfort, there are easy ways to set it to default settings and just save you money.

Read More at Hotelsmag.com

Report Worth Reading: 2016 State of Green Business

The SSC Team April 14, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Green Biz delivers again on its 2016 State of Green Business report, assessing its own predictions and setting out 2016 trends. 

We love this report, both for its exciting and optimistic look at what we should see in the coming months, and for the critical look at how companies are actually performing on sustainability metrics.

  • Trends to look out for in 2016:
  • Talk about the circular economy
  • Increased focus on green infrastructure
  • Carbon recycling
  • Microgrids
  • The b-to-b sharing economy
  • Intense focus on our oceans

Corporate performance gets a mixed bag. As we all know, we’re nowhere near where we need to be to consider human activities sustainable, so look at this report to see where gains are being made (and where they’re still not enough).

Finally, what’s going to continue to drive sustainable investment? In part, the money.

Check out the State of Green Business

What is the trend you’re most excited to see come to the center of the sustainability conversation?  Let us know in the comments.