EDF Climate Corps fellows – right where they need to be

EDF Climate Corps on Years of Living Dangerously

Watch the episode featuring
EDF Climate Corps
Monday May 26th at 8 pm on Showtime

When the producers of Years of Living Dangerously – Showtime’s groundbreaking new series about climate change – were looking for a story of hope, they turned to EDF Climate Corps. The series, which brings the reality of climate change into your living room every Monday night, does not spare the viewer the devastating impact on people of wildfires, superstorms and droughts. But it also shows how people can be part of the solution to climate change. The three EDF Climate Corps fellows featured in this Monday’s (5/26) episode are protagonists in that story of hope. They show how saving energy benefits both the environment (by cutting carbon emissions) and the bottom line.

One exchange that Showtime caught on camera goes something like this:

Jessica Alba:  “Can you can walk into any organization and tell them how to save energy and money?”

Climate Corps fellow:  “Yes.”

EDF Climate Corps fellows are turning up in all kinds of interesting places this year. In January, Tyrone Davis joined the first lady to watch the State of the Union address. This month, fellows will appear on television to give people hope about solutions to climate change. And this week, we announced the 2014 class of Climate Corps fellows – 117 top grad students chosen from close to 700 applications – all going to where the biggest opportunities are to save energy.

EDF Climate Corps Working in Key Geographies

This year, we’ll have six Climate Corps fellows in China, now the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gas. About two-thirds of our 117 engagements will be in the nine U.S. states that consume over 50% of the nation’s energy. And 16 of those will be in Chicago accelerating progress toward the city’s 20% energy reduction goal.

EDF Climate Corps Helping Key Sectors 

Climate Corps fellows continue to work in large commercial buildings like the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. But we’ve also expanded the sectors in which we work to include manufacturing (with Legrand, Lockheed Martin and Owens Corning), cities (Baltimore, Boston and Los Angeles) universities (Clark Atlanta and the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center), data centers (RBS Citizens and Comcast), utilities (Pacific Gas & Electric), and even military bases (US Army at Fort Bragg).

EDF Climate Corps Tackling Diverse Projects

The 2014 class of Climate Corps fellows are working on a wider range of projects than ever before. About half will be working on building energy efficiency. The rest of the projects include:

  • Energy strategy, data management and employee engagement
  • Water efficiency – implementing the unique toolkit that EDF developed with AT&T
  • Supply chain logistics – integrating our expertise in green freight and operating more efficient warehouses

EDF Climate Corps is recruiting, training and deploying the sustainability leaders of tomorrow; a viral solution that gives us hope that we can bend the curve on carbon emissions and avoid the worst impacts of a warming world. But don’t just take my word for it. Tune into “Years of Living Dangerously” on Monday May 26th at 8pm on Showtime. See for yourselves how our fellows helped Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Texas Southern University and Office Depot scale their energy management efforts.

 

Also of interest:

Years of Living Dangerously: Two producers, coffee and a vision for climate action

Behind the Showtime cameras with EDF Climate Corps fellows

EDF Climate Corps, creating a new generation of leaders

 

Start Me Up: The first Climate Corps fellow takes his knowledge to a startup

By: Jeff Crystal, COO of Voltaic Systems

In 2007, EDF Climate Corps helped launch me into my career at the intersection of business and the environment. When the opportunity came to work with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on an innovative new program called Climate Corps, I jumped at the chance. The team at the time was small, and the program wasn’t yet clearly defined yet, just filled with unknowns. Having been at four startups prior, this felt just like home to me.

As the unofficial first Climate Corps fellow, I spent that summer working on a financial model, while running EDF’s own energy audit and implementing changes to reduce the NGO’s energy consumption.

The next summer, EDF brought 7 official Climate Corps fellows on board to search for energy efficiency opportunities at leading companies on the West coast. Now here we are, three years later, and the program has expanded seven-fold – with more than 80 total Climate Corps fellows working at Fortune 1000’s around the country to identify projects that could avoid more than 557,000 metric tons of GHG emissions. Though it’s seen its share of tweaks, the financial model I developed that first summer has been used to analyze all of these projects along the way.

Climate Corps confirmed my love for “hands dirty” operational work, and almost immediately after I completed my fellowship, I joined a startup that focuses on producing small scale energy systems, Voltaic Systems. Voltaic designs solar chargers and solar backpacks for powering electronics from cell phones to laptops and will soon introduce solar lighting.

Longer term, the Climate Corps experience has opened up a network of technical resources, a framework for thinking about sustainability and the knowledge to talk intelligently about this topic with a broad range of people in the industry. This fellowship has also given me a whole new vocabulary supported by a background of training and hands-on experience. I love being able to talk about the need for proper ballast settings on a T5 bulb or about the payback period of an HVAC tuning session.

The appreciation I maintain for sustainability is evident, not only in my company’s end-products but in all aspects of our business. Voltaic is constantly looking at ways to make our products more environmental friendly. We try to use fabrics and materials that use less energy to produce and require fewer (or no) toxic materials in their production process. I’ve kept in touch with former colleagues at EDF who have advised me on packaging providers that are doing interesting things with recycled PET, the limits of a Material Safety Data Sheet and emerging standards on phthalates.

When discussing my job opportunity with Voltaic, one question  that came up was whether that team could have a big enough environmental impact. EDF’s staff tends to think in terms of policies and programs that can remove millions of tons of carbon. Could a startup producing solar products make a dent? When we think about introducing new products that could have a negative carbon impact and potential ways to pressure our suppliers to use more recycled materials, EDF is in the back of my head, urging me to do more.

Hunting for environmental hotspots in Walmart products

At Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), our work with Walmart focuses on leveraging the company’s buying power to reduce the environmental impacts of consumer goods. One of the clearest points of leverage is Walmart’s own store brands—Great Value, Sam’s Choice, Equate, and others that account for a sizable and growing percentage of the company’s sales. An internal team in Bentonville, where Walmart is headquartered – is responsible for designing private brand products, making sourcing decisions, and overall wielding substantial control over products from manufacture to the retail shelf.

In recent months, EDF has been working with the Walmart team responsible for the food and consumables division of Private Brands—the grocery side of Walmart—to assess seven private label products.

Our goal was to understand the environmental and social impacts across the life cycle of the following products:

  • Sour cream
  • Dish soap
  • Canned tomato sauce
  • Cereal
  • Sliced turkey breast
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Cashews Read more

EDFix Call #10 Afterthoughts: Developing a Vision for Greener Fleets

EDFix Call #10 – Summary (11 min.)
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EDFix Call #10 – Full (52 min.)
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We hit the road April 12 with a series of open conference calls regarding a pressing matter in greening business – truck fleets and logistics in general. We had a fodder-filled discussion on the issue co-hosted by Jason Mathers, who leads Environmental Defense Fund’s work to promote greenhouse gas management in corporate fleets. We talked through two particular sectors of interest for fleets – light-to-medium-duty vehicles and heavy-duty on-road tractor trailer vehicles.

Already having conducted a considerable amount of work in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from light-to-medium-duty fleets, our current challenge is to maintain the momentum EDF has created in this area while shifting our focus to heavy-duty fleets. On the lighter side of fleet vehicles we have found a number of opportunities to reduce greenhouse gases including right-sizing vehicles, but are faced with the challenge that these options do not work for the heavy-duty vehicles which are responsible for 80 percent of emissions from corporate owned-vehicles. Read more

What Should the Innovation Exchange Do?

No, really, we're asking you – what should the EDF Innovation Exchange do? We're going through a strategy and planning exercise that will guide our work for the next few years and we'd like your input.

The objective of this effort is to"grow and strengthen a 'problem solving' network that can generate rapid and widespread adoption of environmental innovation in business." The bottom line is to help make sure that both the economy and the environment are sustainable. Of course, the devil is in the details.

Over the past two decades EDF has worked directly with a number of large corporations including McDonald's, FedEx, and now others like Wegmans, KKR, and PHH Arval. We've had great success with these engagements and are proud of our work, but think we need to do more. As Joel Makower said in a recent post, "The point is that time is short, and getting shorter. In that light, where's the urgency? Where's the audaciously big thinking? Where's the scale?"

So, for Innovation Exchange planning, what are the big opportunities we should jump on? Do we need new software infrastructure, bigger online communities, better training, closer partnerships, more conferences? Should we share patents, share data, share lessons, share ideas? Are there weaknesses in our knowledge base or our networks that EDF can help solve? What sectors are most critical and which are most open to our engagement? We know lots of other individuals and groups are working on related problems. Who, in particular, should we partner with? Are there specific contributions we can make that will have broad impact? What special value can we create?

I hope that you will join us in thinking about and discussing this problem. Our draft planning materials are online for your review and comment (you have to sign-in to comment). If you prefer, send your thoughts directly to me or post comments below.

Thanks in advance for your help.

And We're Off: Launch of the EDF Innovation Exchange

I confess, it was the title in the job posting that caught my eye first – Director, Innovation Exchange for Environmental Defense Fund. I wanted a business card that said that.

Reading the actual job description didn't hurt either. I'm a "big thinker with a solid track record" who can "build a new initiative that will inspire, inform and engage Fortune 1000 companies in reducing their environmental footprint" right? What could be better than spending my days building a human network, thinking about "innovation," focusing on environment issues, working with influential businesses and doing it for a well respected non-profit?

However, the real clincher has been getting to know the Corporate Partnerships team inside of EDF, the group I work most closely with. These folks are good. Of course, they are smart, dedicated, imaginative and (bonus!) fun to work with. But even better, they've been producing solid results for years. Read more