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How to interpret eco labels

The SSC Team March 9, 2017 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

 

SSC President, Jennifer Woofter, was quoted in an article in Recyclebank about how to better understand eco labels on products in order to make wiser product choices.  This is what Jennifer had to say:

“There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace about which certifications are credible and which are fluff. Shoppers who do want to choose environmentally friendly products are throwing their hands up and saying ‘How do I choose?’”

A major cause for confusion is the broad scope of the labels. Jennifer adds, "...labels are applied in roughly three ranges: by product, by company, and by facility. When we see a label on a product, we understandably assume that the label says something about the product, but that’s not always the case. For example, a pint of ice cream might have a B Corps seal, but that doesn’t mean that specific pint of ice cream is sustainable. That’s because a B Corps certification applies to the entire company, not its products. A certified B Corps company has met the threshold for responsible business as defined by B Lab, the 501(c)3 nonprofit that developed and assesses B Corps standards."

Read the entire article in Recyclebank here.

Interested in sustainability strategies in product packaging?  Read our white paper, Cut the Wrap! Packaging Waste and Strategies for Mitigation and Reduction.

 

EPA and Waste Management Webinar Recap: Putting a Price Tag On Emissions Reduction

The SSC Team August 16, 2016 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Last Tuesday, GreenBiz hosted the first in a two part webinar series on the emissions impact of recycling and Sustainable Materials Management (SMM).

SMM can be generally described as active management of a product’s life cycle to reach sustainability aims.

The webinar began with an overview of the EPA’s work on SMM/LCA advocacy. Essentially, the EPA sees its role as advancing LCA and SMM as integral business practices. Because LCA and supply-chain work is so crucial to truly moving the bar on reducing emissions, it’s heartening to know that the EPA has made this a priority in their policy, oversight, and research work.

From lifecycle to the trash

After the EPA presentation, the talk shifted from life-cycle studies directly to the end of the life cycle and the work of Waste Management, the American comprehensive waste and environmental services company. Waste Management has undertaken a massive effort calculate the actual dollar cost of reducing emissions waste by method of disposal.

As a side note, the presenters did not do a great job of clearly making this transition from LCA work to emissions reduction cost calculating. But, it seems that the overall point was two-fold:

1.     Most organizations look at their carbon footprint – which is business operations – and what comes up most commonly is that the largest emissions source for most businesses is energy use. So, companies focus on energy reductions initiatives, essentially passing their product emissions - natural resources, product use, and product disposal –  onto suppliers and consumers. This needs to stop. More organization need to look up and down a product’s life cycle to really engineer, source and plan in ways that reduce the overall impact of the entire product to move the bar on sustainability.

2.     As organizations begin to engineer products with a focus on SMM, it would be helpful to know the GHG emissions resulting in end of life (i.e. GHG emissions of landfilling versus single-stream recycling) and the cost in real dollars of each of the processing methods. That’s where Waste Management stepped in.

Waste Management’s work calculating the price of reducing GHGs in the waste management industry delivers a cost per ton of GHG emissions through various waste processing techniques. (The most reduction for the lowest cost goes to – residential and commercial single-stream recycling!)

The Waste Management process, prioritization, and graphical representation on how they calculated cost/benefit is pretty fantastic. Definitely consider downloading the slides.

But questions remain.

How can organizations and policymakers work to reduce the cost of the other types of GHG emissions reduction technologies (e.g. anaerobic digesters)? Is there talk about subsidizing them? How can businesses be incentivized to use materials that can be sent into the low-emissions/low-cost single-stream recycling category and/or eliminate materials that can’t? Is there talk about banning certain materials? Are there waste processing technologies that need research funding that provide low-cost emissions reduction?  

Calculating cost and cost benefit is important from an engineering standpoint, but only if your organization is somehow incentivized or driven to engineer with the life cycle in mind. Without pressure – regulatory or otherwise- companies are still largely driven by the biggest incentive of all: producing products for the lowest actual cost and passing any environmental costs onto the planet, via the consumer.

Listen to the recap here, and log in today at 1pm Eastern for the second webcast, Setting Goals: Have We Reached the Limits of Recycling?, where presenters look at SMM through waste reduction efforts and give guidance on how to set effective waste reduction and recycling goals.

Are you ready to take a more advanced approach to understanding and reducing impact through a product life-cycle assessment? Check out our LCA overview information and contact us for a brief discussion of the benefits and challenges. 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

TED Talks Sustainability: Metali and Isabel Wijsen: Our campaign to ban plastic bags in Bali

The SSC Team March 17, 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: Sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen launched an island-wide campaign to ban plastic bags, inspired by bag bans in other parts of the world. They share their inspirational story that has resulting in a commitment from Bali’s governor to ban bags by 2018. What will they tackle next?

About the talk: If you live in the middle of the ocean, then ocean health is always a consideration of daily life. When teen sisters Metali and Isabel Wijsen realized the harm that plastic bags were doing to their island home of Bali, they went on strike – literally a hunger strike – to push the Balinese governor to ban plastic bags. Their inspirational message about sustainability and activism is shared in this great TED talk.


TED Talks Sustainability: Metali and Isabel Wijsen: Our campaign to ban plastic bags in Bali

The SSC Team March 17, 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: Sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen launched an island-wide campaign to ban plastic bags, inspired by bag bans in other parts of the world. They share their inspirational story that has resulting in a commitment from Bali’s governor to ban bags by 2018. What will they tackle next?

About the talk: If you live in the middle of the ocean, then ocean health is always a consideration of daily life. When teen sisters Metali and Isabel Wijsen realized the harm that plastic bags were doing to their island home of Bali, they went on strike – literally a hunger strike – to push the Balinese governor to ban plastic bags. Their inspirational message about sustainability and activism is shared in this great TED talk.


Workplace Movement Toward Environmental Sustainability – Pt. 2

The SSC Team May 7, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
By: Alexandra Kueller Two weeks ago, we introduced the Retail Industry Leaders Association’s (RILA) brand new Retail Sustainability Management Maturity Matrix. The Matrix hopes to be a tool that will be used by sustainability executives, individual companies, and industry-wide. We also noted that while the Matrix is designed with the retail industry in mind, we think that is has a wide applicability beyond just the retail sector. Last week, we discussed the first three sectors that are featured in the Matrix. Today we are focusing on the final four of the seven sectors. Hoping to provide a more in-depth look at how RILA hopes to benchmark across the industry in terms of environmental sustainability, we are going to look at what it would take for a company to become a leader in that sector.

Retail Operations

Environmental sustainability extends to all aspects of a company, including their retail operations. Whether it is a store or corporate offices, a company should be putting in effort to make these areas as sustainable as possible, such as having facilities be LEED certified. Other ways to make your retail operations more "green" can include incorporating green standards for all new warehousing and participating in the ENERGY STAR program. The Retail Operations sector has three different dimensions:
  • Store/Corporate Offices
  • Warehouses/DCs
  • Data Center & Applications

Supply Chain

Supply chain sustainability might not be the first aspect of a company's sustainability plan to come to mind, but it is no less important than any other aspect. To be a leader in the retail industry when it comes to supply chain sustainability, a company must demonstrate the reduction of environmental impact through the optimization of transportation, work closely with suppliers to help improve their sustainability metrics, and be more transparent when it comes to audit statistics (e.g., percent of non-compliant factories). The Supply Chain sector has three different dimensions:
  • Transportation/Logistics
  • Supplier Engagement
  • Supply Chain Transparency & Traceability

Products

When someone thinks of a retail organization and sustainability, often times their first thought is "how sustainable is the product?" RILA recognizes that product sustainability is a key component in a company's overall environmental sustainability and offers some suggestions on how to be a leader when it comes to making a company's product more sustainable. Some examples are using renewable energy sources during manufacturing, offering take-back services, and designing products with a "cradle to cradle" outlook. The Products sector has three different dimensions:
  • Product & Packaging Design and Development
  • Owned Manufacturing/Production
  • Product & Packaging End-Of-Life Stewardship

Environmental Issues

And finally, true environmental sustainability cannot happen if a company does not focus on the environmental issues at hand. How a company addresses these issues - energy, waste, recycling, etc. - in the context of the retail sector is telling, and some industry leaders are already paving the way. Some of these companies are implementing leading waste technologies and policies, establishing green chemistry programs that helps reduce toxins, recycling and reusing water, using alternative energies, and more. The Environmental Issues sector has four different dimensions:
  • Energy & GHG Emissions
  • Water & Wastewater
  • Waste & Recycling
  • Chemical & Toxics
Last fall we attended the annual RILA Sustainability Conference. Read about some of our thoughts on the conference here.

Five of the Best Sustainable Packaging Resources

The SSC Team May 5, 2015 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
Enjoy this blog post from the SSC archives: There is a TON of really annoying packaging getting in the way of sustainability. (And here is a list of 12 great examples, just in case you needed a refresher.) To combat the problem, we're rounding up a list of our favorite smart packaging resources:

1. Consumer Goods Forum

In November 2011, the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) released its, “Global Protocol on Packaging Sustainability (GPPS).” The 74-page guide on packaging sustainability not only aims to help companies reduce their carbon footprint but also serves as a step in the right direction to increase efficiency and effective communication by creating a common language that consists of a framework and a measurement system. (Read our complete review here.)

2. "Cut the Wrap!" White Paper

Cut the Wrap! Packaging Waste and Strategies for Mitigation and Reduction” is one of our most popular white papers, and for good reason.  Packaging waste is an issue that affects almost all businesses, from food and beverage to electronics. Unfortunately most of the materials used in packaging is discarded in ever-growing landfills or burnt, causing severe pollution. This paper explores the various ways businesses can reduce or even eliminate their packaging waste, make smarter and more sustainable packaging choices, and utilize packaging alternatives.

3. Sustainable Packaging Coalition

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) is an industry working group dedicated to a more robust environmental vision for packaging. Through strong member support, an informed and science-based approach, supply chain collaborations and continuous outreach, SPC endeavors to build packaging systems that encourage economic prosperity and a sustainable flow of materials.  The SPC makes available a broad range of publications and resources to further the vision and ever-evolving implementation of sustainable packaging.

4. COMPASS

COMPASS (Comparative Packaging Assessment) is online design software that allows packaging designers and engineers to assess the human and environmental impacts of their package designs using a life cycle approach. COMPASS helps packaging designers make more informed material selections and design decisions by providing quick visual guidance on a common set of environmental indicators.  COMPASS provides consistently modeled data sets for USA, Canada and Europe as well as tailored for materials and processes used for packaging to allow reliable apples-to-apples comparisons of multiple scenarios. In addition, regionalized solid waste modeling provides a waste profile of each scenario to help understand the end-of-life (EoL) implications of packaging designs.

5. “Balance: Efficiency or Sustainability?

This article by Katherine O’Dea is a great article on the current "sustainable packaging" debate. "A couple of weeks ago, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released a report titled, “Sustainable Packaging, Myth or Reality.” It seems, however, the report doesn’t really debate the myth or reality question, but jumps right to the conclusion that “sustainable packaging is dead” and is being replaced by “efficient packaging.” How fortunate that would be for the “business as usual” crowd if it were true. But, having worked in the sustainability field for 20 years with a good deal of focus on sustainability in packaging for the past five years, I think PwC got it wrong." (Read the whole article here.) What are some of your favorite sustainable packaging resources? Leave a comment or join the conversation with SSC President Jennifer Woofter on Twitter (@jenniferwoofter).