Being Green Just Got Easier: A fellow's recap of Climate Corps training

By Peter Petropoulos, MBA, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago, 2010 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Pepsi Co, Member of Net Impact

Kermit’s famous lament on the difficulty of being green rings a little less true for me today.

As a 2010 Climate Corps fellow for PepsiCo, I just completed EDF’s intense energy efficiency boot camp. As I sit at LaGuardia listening to random announcements over the airport loudspeaker and watching the hustle and bustle go by, I can’t help but think about the 50 other Climate Corps fellows participating in EDF’s program this summer.

The Climate Corps class of 2010 will be hosted by some of the world’s most influential companies this summer, all charged with uncovering energy efficiency opportunities that could increase companies’ bottom line while also reducing their carbon footprint.

I was already very excited about my summer project before arriving in NYC, but the Climate Corps training illuminated an important value-add of EDF’s program: the amazing network I just made.  Over the last several days, I met the most dynamic group of go-getters, all attending top business schools around the country who share my passion for achieving sustainability without sacrificing profits.   In the past, I have felt isolated as an environmentalist among my business school peers. I know now that there are many others that share my worldview.  Climate Corps will help me and my fellow future business leaders to tackle one of today’s most pressing issues. Read more

And Away They Go! First Wave of EDF Climate Corps Fellows Complete Training

Last Thursday in San Francisco, Environmental Defense Fund set 24 MBA students loose into the wilds of corporate America. This group of students represents half of our popular summer fellowship program known as EDF Climate Corps. Tasked with cutting carbon emissions and energy costs for some of the largest and most innovative corporations in the world, each MBA fellow will play an instrumental role in the growing energy efficiency movement. Hailing from business schools at top-tier universities such the University of Michigan, Duke and Yale, these fellows gathered for a three-day intensive energy efficiency training hosted by EDF’s Climate Corps staff.

The fellows were shy and humble at first but like old friends by the end – already planning reunions. Over the course of the training, they took tours of downtown San Francisco skyscrapers and spoke with building engineers who explained building components from lighting to elevators, water boilers to chillers and the composition of a one-car-garage-sized absorber.

This year’s class listened to alumni fellows recall the barriers they faced during their Climate Corps fellowships and the solutions they uncovered. One fellow jokingly tugged his collar and whispered “Pressure’s on,” to his neighbor as he learned that every Climate Corps fellow has paid for him or herself a hundred times over in identified savings. The same fellow grinned as Emily Reyna told of the $8 million in energy savings she discovered during her fellowship with Cisco Systems in 2008. Read more

Hail to the Chief, Indeed: President's truck order will bring fuel-saving technologies to scale

There is no question that tools exists today to significantly reduce fuel consumption by medium and heavy-duty trucks. The recent National Academy of Sciences’ report on reducing emissions from these vehicles explored this in-depth as did another recent report from NESCAUM. The key question is: can we deploy these tools at an acceptable cost?

The answer is closer to “yes” than ever before, thanks in part to President Obama’s statement last week instructing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop rules to reduce emissions from medium and heavy-duty trucks – which consume over a quarter of the nation’s liquid fuels.

The most advanced of our fuel-saving tools, such as the hybrid system for medium-duty trucks, face a significant upfront cost barrier. While these systems can payback over the lifetime of the vehicle, the ROI timeline is too extended for most businesses to justify the cost without external incentives. Other, more incremental strategies such as single-wide tires face cultural and cost barriers as well. The resulting upfront capital cost versus long-term operating savings conundrum slows the adoption of these tools and delays emission reductions. Read more

EDFix Call #13: Challenges and Opportunities Electrifying Corporate Fleets

How will the introduction of plug-in hybrids and other electric vehicles impact commercial fleets?  Light-and-medium duty electric vehicles are either now on the market or soon will be. Companies with vehicle fleets have opportunities to help develop the market for these vehicles and make strides toward achieving their corporate sustainability goals.

Environmental Defense Fund is hosting a call series to explore opportunities to cut greenhouse gas emissions from corporate fleets. Please join us for the next call in our series when we will look towards the coming years and ask: What models are now or will soon be available for fleet use? Which duty-cycles match-up best with these vehicles? Are there challenges that are unique to corporate fleets in deploying electric vehicles?

Leading this discussion will be Mike Millikin, founder and editor of the online publication Green Car Congress (GCC).

The call is on May 24th at 12pm ET.  To join, call:

  • Phone number: +1 (213) 289-0500
  • Code: 267-6815

We look forward to having you join us in tackling these tough questions.

EDF Climate Corps: Building a movement for energy efficiency in business

This summer, 51 Climate Corps fellows will take their places on the front lines of a new movement for energy efficiency in business – a movement grounded in smart economics and fueled by the talents of the next generation of business leaders.

It’s a movement whose time has come.  Climate change is the environmental challenge of our generation, and the need for action has never been greater.  The catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has focused the nation on the need to confront our reliance on fossil fuels.  And that has renewed hope for swift action in the Senate on a climate bill.

But there’s one solution to the climate crisis that we don’t need to wait for — energy efficiency.  The opportunity is enormous: a 2009 McKinsey report estimates that by 2020, the United States could reduce its annual energy consumption by 23% through energy efficiency measures alone.  This would cut greenhouse gas emissions by over a gigaton – that’s a billion tons – and cumulatively save companies and consumers over a trillion dollars.

Energy efficiency is doable right now, it’s cost-effective, and it’s absolutely critical to slowing climate change.  But it’s not happening fast enough.  To truly take energy efficiency to scale, we need a national movement that captures the imagination of people from dorm rooms to boardrooms across the country. Read more

The Gulf Oil Spill : A Strong Case for Mainstreaming Environmental Data and More

While BP was benefiting from the revenue upside of drilling the world’s deepest wells, were any analysts, investors and its Board wondering about the risks associated with this strategy?  Could this questioning have avoided what is proving to be one of the largest environmental disasters of our time, not to mention the untold economic ripple effect throughout our still struggling economy?  Possibly — which begs the question as to why environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues are not a common part of the analysis of companies.

These questions and others were discussed during panels at two recent global conferences – the 2010 Skoll World Forum panel  “Social Good with Market Returns?” and the 2010 Ceres Conference panel “Canaries in the Data Mine: The Information Boom in ESG Data.” Read more

Business and NGO Forum on Safer Chemicals Reform

This is a guest post by Richard Denison, Ph.D., Senior Scientist for Environmental Defense Fund's Health program.

I thought you may be interested in this forum on the Toxic Substances Control ACT (TSCA) reform which features a keynote by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Business and NGO Forum on Safer Chemicals Reform

June 3, 2010- Washington, D.C.


The Business and NGO Forum on Safer Chemicals Reform will gather business leaders and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Washington, D.C. to discuss how proposed federal legislation to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) can meet the needs of and create new opportunities for downstream users of chemicals. Read more

The Starbucks Cup Summit: Rethinking the Recycling System

When I got the invitation to Starbucks’ second Cup Summit in April, I was struck by the ambitiousness of the agenda.  According to the email, the purpose of the meeting was to help the company meet its goal of making its hot and cold single-use cups “recyclable in form and practice” by 2012.

What that means is not just that the cups are made of recyclable material but that they also get recycled.  As Jim Hanna, Starbucks’ Director of Environmental Impact said, “We have to ensure our customers actually have access to recycling services at their homes, at work, and in our stores.”  Given how widely the availability of recycling varies by city and county across the US, this is indeed a tall order.

The Cup Summit is the latest step on a journey that Starbucks began in the late 1990s, when the company partnered with EDF to reduce the environmental impacts of serving coffee.  Starbucks went on to introduce the first-ever recycled-content disposable cup in 2006. Closing the loop by making its cups recyclable is the next logical step. 

Designing a recyclable cup essentially means redesigning the recycling system in the US.  And that involves changing lots of people’s minds about what’s possible.

What Starbucks is really trying to do is to create a new paper and plastic recycling system.  This means not just changing the operations of countless players in the supply chain but also changing the way people think about the system and their roles in it.

So on Earth Day at MIT, Starbucks brought together over a hundred people from all corners of that system, including paper and plastic suppliers, cup manufacturers, waste haulers and recyclers, competitors and municipalities. Peter Senge – the father of systems thinking and our facilitator for the day – challenged us to think big:  “What can each of you contribute to making this system work?  And what does each of you need to make the system work for you?” Read more

Show me the metrics! Walmart’s Sustainability Report Released

This week, Walmart released its third sustainability report.  Since Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and our team in Bentonville, Arkansas, works daily with Walmart, we want to share our thoughts on the environmental portion of the report.  Because we don’t take money from Walmart – or any of our corporate partners – we can be candid about what’s working and what’s not.

This is our fifth year working with Walmart, and throughout that time we’ve been pushing the company hard to take aggressive goals and to be transparent about its results – clearly disclosing progress and the data to back it up. With this report, it is evident that the message is starting to sink in.

The report gives a complete accounting of all of the sustainability goals to which Walmart has committed, with a detailed progress update for each.  The sheer number and scope of the goals is notable, as is the actual progress that the company has made on most of them.  To be honest, I find it even more impressive that Walmart is also candid about where they are falling short of a goal.  Most companies I know don’t want to talk about what’s not working.  But taking risks and setting high goals is what we need more of – it’s the only way to achieve transformational environmental change.  And in the context of progress on many other fronts, a struggle here or there seems just about right.

One great move forward since last year is Walmart’s new climate goal to reduce 20 million metric tons of carbon pollution from its products’ lifecycle and supply chain over the next five years.  This fills the biggest hole in the scope of the sustainability program. Read more

Raising the bar for chemical safety will spur, not stifle, innovation

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist for Environmental Defense Fund's Health program.

An emerging chemical industry talking point in TSCA reform is the claim that imposing new requirements on new chemicals will somehow stifle innovation.  The milder manifestation of this perspective emanates from those who oppose requiring a safety determination for new chemicals unless they raise major red flags in an initial review.

But some in the industry go further, arguing that even requiring safety data for new chemicals would put the big chill on development of new chemicals.

I beg to differ with both arguments.  This post will make the opposite case, and will also argue that true innovation embraces rather than shuns safety, and demands the information needed to demonstrate it.

Doesn’t safe mean … uh, safe?

The chemical industry has fought hard for a provision in TSCA reform legislation that would allow new chemicals onto the market without first having to undergo a safety determination.  That approach has crept into the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010:  The new TSCA section 5(a)(1)(B)(ii) would allow a new chemical to enter the market and remain there for an indeterminate length of time, as long as EPA finds that it does not and is not expected to flag any of several criteria.

These criteria include:

  • high-volume production or environmental release;
  • evidence that the chemical does or may possess certain toxicity;
  • evidence that the chemical is both persistent and bioaccumulative; and
  • detection of the chemical in biomonitoring or in food, drinking water, air, soil or house dust. Read more