Energy Efficiency Is Now Friends With Facebook: 3 Fellows Launch Treasure Hunt for Savings

By Cynthia Shih, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Facebook, MBA/MS Candidate at University of Michigan’s Erb Institute

MOVE FAST AND BREAK THINGS.
DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WEREN’T AFRAID?

These bold-lettered signs are all over Facebook’s Palo Alto, CA headquarters, and they’re a perfect crash course on the culture here. Relentless experimentation (“hacking,” as it’s proudly called) is the heart of the company: come up with a good idea, recruit smart people to help, throw something together, keep improving on it. Welcome to the force that’s built the world’s biggest social network.

Walking around during my first day, as one of three EDF Climate Corps fellows working to identify energy-saving solutions for Facebook this summer, I feel both exhilarated and anxious. The three of us Climate Corps fellows definitely intend to move fast and fearlessly—the company is relocating to a new campus soon, with design and construction decisions happening daily. But how quickly can we find out what programs are already in place, who the resident experts are, what needs to be measured, and when decisions are being finalized? And what does energy efficiency in office buildings mean for a young, growing company with employees who work around the clock?

Fortunately, EDF has provided an invaluable tool to get us started: its new “Barriers to Energy Efficiency/Company On-Boarding Conversation Guide” that every Climate Corps fellow will fill out upon starting at his or her host company. Last week, the Climate Corps fellow at PNC also blogged about her experience with this thorough questionnaire on corporate energy efficiency.

It’s a classic EDF win-win project: collectively, this year’s 57 Fellows will provide a snapshot of how Corporate America approaches energy efficiency, while highlighting common hurdles. At the same time, each of us gets a roadmap for orienting at our host companies so we can start asking the right questions from day one:

  • Does the company have an energy efficiency manager? If so, at what level, with what kind of decision-making power? If not, which departments are involved in energy efficiency, and how are people incentivized to take initiative?
  • What’s an acceptable payback period, and what kind of projects qualify?

Within an hour of sitting down with our supervisor with this document, we have contact info written next to every topic area, an informal organizational chart of who influences energy efficiency decisions, and a good understanding of how efficiency projects get financed. (We’ve scrawled plenty of question marks on there too, but done is better than perfect.)

Later that afternoon, we finally get a moment to work at our new desks. But not for long: one of us checks the computers’ energy settings, which default to “maximum performance” instead of “power saver.” And these big LCD monitors seem a lot brighter than they need to be…

Flashback to the EDF Climate Corps training the week before, where we learned how just changing the settings on computers and monitors can cut energy consumption by 20-40%. Multiply that across several buildings’ worth of desks—especially with Facebook’s people-dense, no-cubicles layout—and the impact on the utility bill adds up fast. This could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual savings, and that’s not even counting what we’d save from lightening the cooling load on the HVAC system, or any incentives that the utility might offer for reducing electricity demand. The best part? It wouldn’t cost a penny in capital expenditures.

I make a beeline for the IT help desk, and ten minutes later I have an appointment with the head of Deployment to discuss PC power management. This is par for the course, we’ve discovered: all the people we’ve met at Facebook are amazingly accessible, open to new ideas, and often have plenty of energy-saving ideas of their own. We’ve got an incredible opportunity to make an impact here, and that also means the bar is set high. On my way back to my desk, I pass another sign: EVERY DAY FEELS LIKE A WEEK. Bring it on.

EDF Climate Corps matches trained students from leading business schools with companies to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.

New Collaborative Efforts to Help Clean Up Port Pollution

By: Elena Craft, Air Quality Specialist, Climate & Air Program, EDF

EDF Staffers Marcia Aronoff (from left), Mark MacLeod, and Elena Craft (far right), join Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, at today's SmartWay press conference in South Carolina.

Today’s press conference in Charleston, S.C., marked another successful milestone toward reducing trucking emissions and improving local health in and around our nation’s ports.

Together with the Coalition for Responsible Transportation, Environmental Defense Fund and the Port of Charleston announced an agreement today to join forces with the Environmental Protection Agency on a new goods movement initiative called the U.S. EPA SmartWay Drayage Program. This program builds a partnership between the retail industry and the trucking and port communities, among other stakeholders, to solve a critical health and environmental challenge: how to reduce harmful air emissions from port trucks.

Dray trucks, typically older and more polluting than long-haul trucks, operate in and around port areas and represent one of the largest sources of port diesel emissions. Consequently, EDF appreciates EPA’s significant efforts in developing tools and funding opportunities that will help secure better environmental performance of trucks that operate at these ports.

We also appreciate the strong leadership from our nation’s top retailers in committing to hire trucks that meet specific environmental performance standards. In a statement released today, Target’s Director of Import Operations and President of the CRT said, “This partnership will generate private sector investment in clean technology, improve the environmental quality of our nation’s port communities and demonstrate the commitment we have made as the shipping industry’s leaders to emissions reductions.”

As you’ve read on this blog before, EDF has been working with CRT for some time now on a “clean trucks initiative” building a partnership between the retail industry and trucking and port communities. Such collaboration, often including port authorities, truck owners, retailers, local agencies and more, is cropping up at ports across the U.S. helping drivers meet new requirements.

The launch of a similar effort was just made today in Maryland, for example. The University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association have created the Mid-Atlantic Dray Truck Replacement Program, which will offer financial support to replace trucks serving the Ports of Baltimore, Virginia, Philadelphia and Wilmington.

Complex issues require collaborative solutions. As the hazards of air pollution and the effects that air pollutants on human health become more evident, creative partnerships are necessary to solve the most difficult environmental challenges like port truck emissions.

The real victory in such partnerships is the immediate and lasting health benefits for the people who live in and around U.S. ports. Fewer deaths, fewer asthma attacks, fewer lost workdays and schooldays, and reduced health care costs are just a few of the rewards that we can look forward to as a result of our collective efforts.

This content is cross-posted on Texas Clean Air Matters.

Lessons from the Corps: A look inside an EDF Climate Corps fellow's toolkit

By Kerry Downing, Intern, Corporate Partnership Program, EDF

**This is the first of a series of blog posts EDF will run throughout the summer to disseminate energy efficiency tips from EDF Climate Corps fellows. We hope you will find these tips helpful and incorporate them into your organization’s energy management initiatives.

As is clear by the recent blogs from this year’s EDF Climate Corps fellows at REI and PNC, the 2011 Climate Corps is already diving into the depths of corporate energy efficiency.

The first step for most of them: energy monitoring. It’s a simple enough task, but the abundance of  energy monitoring options on the market can make it tough to figure out which gear to seek and where to find it. Given their recent encounter with the topic, we turned to Climate Corps for some quick tips. Here’s what many of our fellows recommend:

Starting your search: Check to see if your utility has tools for loan. For example, PG&E has a tool lending library. It offers thousands of pieces of equipment and can ship anywhere in the U.S. It categorizes the various tools by (1) what you are attempting to measure (i.e. light, power, etc.), (2) the unit you would like the results to be displayed in and (3) the particular brand you are looking for.

Logging the data: As all good business students know, you can’t measure what you don’t monitor. Here are a few of the key devices EDF Climate Corps fellows have used to help monitor their host companies’ energy use.

  • Leviton Light Loggers monitor lighting and occupancy in a given space or room. Many fellows have benefitted in particular from Leviton’s Light Logger Loan Program, which offers a free case of loggers for up to 45 days.

  • Kill A Watts can be plugged into appliances to display consumption by the Killawatt-hour just like a utility measures it. Kill A Watts can calculate expenses of an individual appliance by the day, week, month or year and can monitor voltage, line frequency and power factor.

  • Watts Up? Pros connect to a power outlet and monitor the energy use of whatever is plugged into it. It tracks and averages Watts used over time and comes with a software that allows the user to graph energy use over a given period. This data can be loaded onto a computer and then pasted in a spreadsheet for analysis.

  • HOBO Data Loggers monitor temperature, humidity, energy, light, etc. Fellows like them because they can record 30+ days of data and can be set at different intervals for logging.

As our fellows continue to monitor energy use to identify energy-saving opportunities for this year’s Climate Corps companies, we hope you too will continue to monitor our blog to see what they find. More to come!

NOTE: EDF does not endorse any of the products mentioned above. These products have simply been recommended by one or more EDF Climate Corps fellows to help monitor energy use.

EDF Climate Corps matches trained students from leading business schools with companies to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.

Power Company Trades Your Jobs And Our Health For Its Profits

Over a decade ago, EPA began developing new regulations to cut dangerous pollution from power plant smokestacks. These plants churn out most of the mercury, acid gas and arsenic pollution in our air, and the new rules will dramatically slash this pollution, saving up to 17,000 lives and preventing 120,000 asthma attacks each year.

Most power companies have prepared for these changes by improving the efficiency of their plants and investing in cleaner fuels and new control technologies. But not American Electric Power. Instead, the company is threatening to shut down dozens of plants and lay off hundreds of workers unless EPA delays its clean air standards.

This means that while other companies were preparing for the future, AEP was pocketing the profits now while cynically assuming it could change the rules later. How do we know this? Because just last year, AEP filed a report with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in which it noted that while the new rules could take effect in 2015, "for planning purposes" it was assuming that the rules could be "extended and staggered" beyond the end of 2015.

And that's not all. A recent New York Times editorial noted that the units AEP says it would close because of the EPA rules are, on average, 55 years old and running well below capacity, with many slated for retirement anyway.

Normally, I write about working with corporations, and the leverage they can have to help create a more sustainable world. My experience has been that most companies are responsible, and that most of the people who work for them care as much about the future as I do. But it's hard to see any of that motivation in AEP's recent actions.

If these plants do close and jobs are lost, it's not because of EPA regulations, but because AEP made a bet against our health and lost. The short-terms gains that AEP and its shareholders made as a result of that bet should go to offset any losses in community jobs and health benefits.

This content was originally published on Huffpost Green.

Monday: Kramer Brings "Shared Value" to Conference Call

Alert: This call has been delayed 15 minutes (until 4:15pm ET)

Join the Call

June 27, 2011 at 4pm ET (1pm PT).

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

Mark Kramer, founder of consulting firm FSG and senior fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School, will join us on Monday, June 27 at 4pm ET (1pm PT) for this month's Future of Green Open Conference Call.

Kramer is co-author with Michael Porter of the provocative Harvard Business Review article Creating Shared Value [Requires Registration] and with John Kania of "Collective Impact" in a recent issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

The idea of business focusing on creating shared value has stimulated discussion at EDF and elsewhere including by SustainAbility's Michael Sadowski and Paul Klein on Forbes. The idea of creating "collective impact" by crossing organizational boundaries to respond to the social challenges we face is near and dear to my heart and the activities of the Innovation Exchange.

We'll discuss both articles and Mark's efforts to realize his thinking. Please join us by dialing:

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

Only One Week at PNC and Three Resources Strong

By Amber M. Sprague, International MBA, IE Business School (Class of 2008), 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at PNC Financial Services Group

With both the EDF Climate Corps training and my first week onsite with PNC Financial Services Group (PNC) behind me, there are three things that have stood out about my experience thus far: community, conversation and knowing the lingo.

1. The value of the being part of a larger fellowship group.

My task at PNC this summer is to identify and develop a company-wide energy awareness program that engages PNC's 51,000 employees to take action and help reduce the company's carbon footprint. And by the end of my second day, I couldn't wait to pick the brains of other Climate Corps fellows who are also working on employee engagement projects at their respective companies.

I posted a discussion thread on the Climate Corps fellows' online discussion forum and within hours, people were responding with both encouragement and resources. It was a great reminder that while I might be the only Climate Corps fellow at PNC, I am by no means alone. I'm excited to be able to tap into the "57 heads are better than 1" group this summer!

2. The usefulness of EDF Climate Corps' "On-Boarding Conversation" tool

Let me first explain the "On-Boarding Conversation" tool. It is 28 pages of questions for us EDF Climate Corps fellows to ask during our first weeks on the job, delving into everything from the companies' energy and carbon goals to mapping decision makers and understanding their financial measurements.

When I first perused this massive list of questions, I must admit I grimaced. "How on earth would I get through this list and how quickly would I become annoying as I pepper colleagues with this deluge of specific questions?," I thought. But I rapidly learned that this epic list of questions served two extremely useful purposes:

  • It became the perfect way to systematically gather the information I will need to develop project ideas during my fellowship, helping me to immediately understand areas where I could add value at PNC this summer.
  • The people I talked to were all very receptive to the thorough list of questions, and I was able to create valuable relationships with key employees from the get-go.

3. The power of knowing the meaning of a "foot-candle" (and other terms I learned in training)

Before starting my fellowship at PNC, I attended the training event hosted by Environmental Defense Fund specifically for this year's class of fellows. During the training, we were given a landslide of energy efficiency information and terminology and (thank goodness) a detailed handbook [PDF] for further review.

At the time, trying to soak in all the information was rather overwhelming. However, the payoff was amazing when I was able to discuss in-depth the lighting retrofits that PNC is already doing. Just to be able to ask pointed follow-up questions about how the company determined its new lighting specifications was a great feeling.

Granted, now that I know that PNC is already focused on its lighting and has done a comprehensive analysis of its options, it does mean that I will have to work harder to find other energy efficiency opportunities. But with a great handbook (and a mountain of additional materials from EDF's training), the in-depth and detailed information I gathered via the "On-Boarding Conversation" tool, and an amazing group of fellows on my side, I am looking forward to the challenge.

EDF Climate Corps matches trained students from leading business schools with companies to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.

This content is cross-posted on Greenbiz.com.

What Do Showerheads, Eggs and Clothing Labels Have in Common? Walmart.

When working with the world’s largest retailer, you come to expect the unexpected. But what’s truly exciting is to help drive the unexpected.

Last year, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) worked with Walmart on a goal to reduce 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its supply chain and product lifecycles over the next five years. This innovative program reaches beyond Walmart’s operations and into its vast supplier base and extensive product offerings.

The walmart chronicesBecause of the program’s scope, Walmart has been creative in finding ways to meet its climate goal by working on a multitude of unique projects. The projects highlighted below not only tackle reductions in four very different products but also find reductions in various stages of the products’ lifecycles.

Showerheads
One of the efforts appearing on shelves in Walmart stores right now is a showerhead that reduces water use (and, of course, the hot water and energy used to heat that water). By redesigning a basic product and following up with proper marketing and product placement, Walmart can change water use in millions of homes across the world. This project has the potential to cut millions of tons of GHG emissions annually and significantly reduce the consumption of one of our most precious resources, water.

Eggs
Walmart’s ability to drive change is also evident in its grocery department. The nation’s largest grocer is testing an egg etching program where tracking, product, and expiration information will be etched on to individual eggs. This additional information will allow Walmart to replace the broken eggs in a carton instead of throwing out entire cartons due to a few broken eggs. While this project is based on a relatively simple concept, the potential environmental gains are staggering. This process could eliminate the unnecessary disposal of over one million eggs a day, save one billion gallons of water annually, and reduce GHG emissions by 100,000 metric tons a year.

This project proves that sustainability is a win-win for business as well – egg etching can potentially reduce production costs for Walmart by $50 million a year. It also demonstrates that there are carbon reduction opportunities throughout the production process (from the chickens, their feed, transport, and the energy in each of those components).

Light bulbs
Another effort focuses on getting the highly successful American compact florescent light bulb (CFL) project implemented in Mexico. In the United States, private label CFLs were created and aggressively marketed by Walmart to drive sales. CFLs have proven to be environmentally superior and more cost effective than many alternative lighting products. Now Walmart is strategically marketing CFLs in Mexico and looking for similar success abroad.

Clothing Labels
In January 2011, Walmart changed the care label on millions of clothing products to specify that they be washed in cold water. With the quality of laundry detergents available today, washing in cold water has proven to be effective as, and more energy efficient than, using hot water. This is another way that Walmart is utilizing its products and its influence to change consumer behavior and help its customers embrace energy savings. If only 5 percent of Walmart customers follow the new instructions and wash their laundry in cold water, this project could realize GHG reductions of 2 million metric tons a year. Customers could also save up to $124 a year on their energy bills.

When you’re working with a global retailer that serves 200 million customers a week, getting even a small percentage of consumers to change their behavior or purchase environmentally preferable products will lead to significant greenhouse gas savings. Some changes are relatively simple, while others are more complex. In the end, when you team innovation up with Walmart’s scale, any effort can have a potentially profound ability to impact behavior and reduce emissions.

This content originally appeared on Greenbiz.com

5 Key Takeaways From Those Who Built the Business Case for Energy Efficiency

Building the business case for energy efficiency has been a priority for Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Climate Corps program for a long time – working with leading companies across the United States to unearth significant cost and energy savings.

Identifying these energy opportunities and overcoming barriers that prevent companies from investing in energy efficiency would not be possible without the efforts of highly-qualified MBA students who have participated in EDF Climate Corps each summer since 2008.

EDF Climate Corps fellows are the heart of the program. They are trained by EDF and placed in leading companies to become champions of energy efficiency, analyzing energy-saving opportunities, and developing customized energy efficiency investment plans.

In just three years, these fellows have been responsible for developing hundreds of energy projects that could potentially save $439 million in net operational costs. To date, participating companies report that projects representing 86 percent of the energy savings identified by Climate Corps fellows are complete or underway – proof that the program is helping make “green” business the new business as usual.

With the program embarking on its fourth summer with 57 fellows working at 49 companies, EDF invited several alumni Climate Corps fellows to share their experiences with the program as part of the recent EDF Climate Corps training event at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Trish Kenlon, a New York University MBA graduate and 2009 fellow with TXU Energy; Ian Lavery, a MIT MBA graduate and 2009 fellow with EMC Corporation; and Eva Zlotnicka, a Yale MBA graduate and 2010 fellow with Genzyme discussed how they worked with their respective companies to build the business case for energy efficiency. Here are five key takeaways from their work:

  1. Talk in terms of financial benefits: Operational costs, payback periods and return on investments are all terms that business leaders understand and are the driving force behind any good business strategy. The most successful Climate Corps fellows are ones that are able to speak the business language and identify energy savings in terms of financial opportunities. After all, it’s the strong financial backgrounds that tie this diverse group of students together. So tap into your financial vocabularies when making the business case for energy efficiency investments.
  2. Share what energy efficiency means for both business and the planet: While it’s essential to understand the business benefits, for Climate Corps fellows, it’s even more important to share why these opportunities make sense for the environment. Trish and Eva spent much of their time debating the impact of climate change and the role of companies on the issue. Although some of the employees they worked with didn’t necessarily see eye to eye on all issues, the results of Trish and Eva’s work were a vital proof point on how business and environmental leadership can go hand-in-hand.

To keep reading, please visit In Good Company: Vault's CSR Blog.

America's next generation of chief green officers

By Dominique Browning is a writer, editor and consultant in the newspaper and magazine fields.

Recently, I attended the kickoff for an EDF Climate Corps training session in Boston. Sitting in a classroom full of disconcertingly young and bright MBA students, we were presented with this question:

Do you know the difference between energy conservation and energy efficiency?

Here’s a test: Which actions have to do with efficiency?

EDF's Climate Corps fellows: They make things better
  • Installing solar panels
  • Using different bulbs for the same amount of light
  • Wearing sweaters
  • Using the best technology [check]
  • Making fewer copies of documents
  • Properly using existing equipment
  • Installing sensors for lights

There was a buzz as the students responded. Hands went tentatively up and down. But within 15 minutes, they (and I) were getting it — the key to one of EDF's most innovative projects is helping companies maximize energy efficiency.

"You are creating a movement," Victoria Mills, EDF's managing director for corporate partnerships told the 57 new Climate Corps fellows. "Business is an important force for change, especially at a time when legislative activity around climate change is stalled." (Read Victoria Mills' reflections on three years of EDF Climate Corps results.)

Her message fell on receptive ears. "We need change," said Esra Kucukciftci, who was looking forward to evaluating the energy efficiency of Facebook's new headquarters in Menlo Park, CA, this summer. "We need to reach a tipping point on energy use. We need social momentum. What better place to get that conversation going?"

Being a change agent is a high-flown ambition. But at Climate Corps, that means getting down to the nitty-gritty. The summer program embeds MBA students, called Climate Corps fellows, at major corporations, where they ferret out opportunities for increasing energy efficiency.

As soon as they arrive at their sponsoring companies, the fellows dive into the daily, even hourly, details of heating and cooling systems, when and what lights are on or off, what sort of automated controls govern computer terminals.

They must find mentors, partners and guides on the inside, who will help them understand the infrastructures they are dealing with, and champion their cause with other employees. They are expected, at the end of their ten-week stint, to submit a formal report to their superiors, with a list of energy-efficiency recommendations and estimates for how much money and carbon pollution will be saved if they are adopted.

Continue reading on Personal Nature.

EDFbiz Says: The Social Media Scene Gets Green

We live in the age of social media.  An age where unlimited, up-to-date information travels the net and hundreds of millions of people are engaged with a wide online community. Today’s media outlets provide haven for millions looking to reconnect, network and share information.

Two of these most popular outlets, Facebook and LinkedIn, continue to demand an ever growing audience. What’s interesting is not their growing popularity, but the new wave of groups to which they’re appealing. Environmental, innovative, sustainable-driven groups are gaining presence on these social media outlets.

Facebook has come a long way since its creation in 2004. Once simply a space to share posts, photos and videos with all your ‘friends,’ today’s Facebook includes “groups” which allows users to share information with a specific community. Offering more than the traditional Facebook, group participants are not only able to share posts, photos and videos; but can also create and edit group documents, “engage in real-time group chat” and send “emails to the entire group using a custom e-mail address” according to Yahoo! News.

According to Facebook, the “average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events.” Where exactly do environmentalists tie in? Well, search Facebook for less than a minute and you’ll be introduced to a plethora of green, innovative groups.

Take the group Green Business Innovators; fostering an audience of nearly 3,000, this group provides a forum for green innovators to share, learn and collaborate on how to enhance business sustainability. Group members offer each other personal tips, raise questions for debate and are informed of upcoming related events. Though generating a smaller, yet active, following, the groups Green Business and Green Business Networking echo similar messages.

But Facebook certainly isn’t the only networking tool to catch green; LinkedIn has developed quite the green scene of its own; geared more towards business professionals, several groups dive into CSR, sustainability and triple bottom line type issues.

With over 5,000 members, the Sustainability Working Group offers exciting discussions and networking with leading professionals committed to sustainability. If environmental sustainability is up your alley, countless other groups provide forums to network and discuss all sorts of green issues, including:

With over 500 million Facebook users and over 100 million LinkedIn members globally, it’s no secret where our audience is and environmentalists are catching on. While social media isn’t the be-all-end-all, it is one powerful tool; a tool that provides excellent networking, sharing and crowdsourcing opportunities, which foster growth, development and innovation.