Green Infrastructure and Your Business

31. May 2011

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is rolling out a new plan this year to promote the use of green infrastructure. 

They will focus on cities and towns, and plan to work with the private sector to encourage the use of green infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff.

According to the EPA’s website, green infrastructure is “an approach to wet weather management that is cost-effective, sustainable, and environmentally friendly.”  Sounds like a win-win-win situation!

The website goes on to elaborate that, “Green Infrastructure management approaches and technologies infiltrate, evapotranspire, capture and reuse stormwater to maintain or restore natural hydrologies.” 

Green infrastructure can exist on many scales, and indeed works best when applied at multiple scales. 

From a building with a green roof to the preservation or restoration of floodplains and wetlands – all of these things help to reduce the amount of water that enters a city’s sewer system, thereby reducing the amount of wastewater processed at treatment plants, which ultimately results in lower operating costs, and subsequently lower cost to taxpayers. 

From the perspective of private entities, green infrastructure just makes sense, especially if you are constructing new buildings (though it is just as easy to incorporate green infrastructure into existing structures). 

Green roofs can reduce energy costs by 10-15 percent by providing increased insulation, resulting in lower heating and cooling costs.  Permeable paving materials used in parking lots or even walkways can help control localized flooding during rains as well as helping to filter the water and keep it from entering sewer systems. 

If a green roof isn’t an option, consider a rain harvesting system for your roof.  The amount of rainwater that can be collected from one storm can be substantial, and can be used to water surrounding landscapes, thereby reducing your water bill. 

Planting trees increases the aesthetic value of a property in addition to resulting in energy savings from shading and windblocking.

It seems likely that building codes will start to reflect the movement towards green infrastructure at some point in the future.  Why not get a jump on the game and start now?   

FDA Modernizes Food Safety Requirements

by  Citation Admin 16. May 2011

In January of 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act (Act) was signed into law by President Obama. The Act is considered to be the most significant update to food safety laws since the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938.

The legislation directs the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) to create a new framework for food safety oversight that is even more focused on the prevention of problems that can cause food-borne illness. 

The Act provides the FDA with more effective enforcement tools, mandates new inspections of food processing facilities and allows the FDA greater ability to control food products being imported into the United States.

Several parts of the Act caused immediate changes that regulated facilities should be aware of:
  • The FDA now has additional records access when a “reasonable probability” of “serious adverse health consequences” exists
  • The FDA now holds mandatory recall authority for food that is adulterated or misbranded, or food that may have serious adverse health consequences
  • The FDA will immediately increase facility inspection frequency.  Finally, the Act provides new whistleblower protections to protect employees that report violations or are involved in violation proceedings.

On May 4, 2011, the FDA issued its first new rules under the Act. Both of the rules are scheduled to take effect on July 3, 2011.

The first rule allows the FDA to “administratively detain” food that is believed to have been produced under “insanitary or unsafe conditions.”  Prior to the passage of the Act, the FDA could only detain those items when evidence suggested that a food product was contaminated or mislabeled and would present a “threat of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.” The rule will allow the FDA to detain products for up to 30 days to ensure that the products will not enter the marketplace.

The second rule requires importers of food into the United States to report to the FDA if their products were refused entry into any other country.  This will provide additional information about products, including food for animals, that may pose a significant risk to public health.  Information about previously refused products will allow the FDA to “mobilize and assist in the detention and removal of products” that may be harmful.

The Food Safety Modernization Act and the subsequent rules are all a part of the FDA’s approach to implementing new food safety laws. 

Gold Medal in Environmental Responsibility

by  Citation Admin 9. May 2011

By Phil Osterholt

Environmentally friendly roof from Vancouver Olympics, by Duncan RawlinsonAmidst a sea of snotty professional athletes (who probably think sustainability means driving a luxury sedan twice a week rather than a tricked-out, over-sized SUV) it's refreshing every two years when the Olympic Games occur and remind us just how "good" the world of sports, and the world in general, can be.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is an organization that has earned the respect of the world. And like the straight-A student who just haaaaadto put in more community service hours than everyone else, the IOC reminded us of its integrity during the 9th World Conference on Sport and the Environment last week in Doha, Qatar.

Oh, that question you're asking yourself, "What in the heck is the World Conference on Sport and the Environment?" needs to be replaced. "Why in the heck ..." is better suited. The answer: "The IOC does this to lead by example."

There was no international agency that tapped the IOC on the shoulder and said, "Eh-hem, to comply with XYZ regulations, you shall participate in a biennial meeting to establish progressive means in which the world of sports may demonstrate sustainability."

 

Well, let's not be too Polyanna about this. It’s probably not completely “just because,” as there are other "business" reasons for the IOC doing this sort of thing, mainly to maintain that sterling reputation and to generate some ink from time to time (happy to oblige).

 

In general though, it appears that this type of conference is essentially put on to benefit mankind.

 

The roots of the World Conference on Sport and the Environment are based in the 1992 "Earth Summit" held by the United Nations. The meeting prompted the IOC to consider the environment in its actions, and in 1994, the IOC made "the environment" the third pillar of the Olympic Movement while creating a branch of the organization to handle environmental issues. The IOC then teamed with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to host the first biennial World Conference on Sport and the Environment in 1995 in Switzerland.

 

And where has the IOC gotten to now? Let's look at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, for which the Olympic Village went on to be honored with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum rating...

 

Reduce: they warmed buildings using heat generated from raw sewage, lowering the need for traditional energy sources.

Re-use: they utilized wood from trees that had been killed by pine beetles in construction of the Richmond Olympic Oval [picture above], and collected rainwater from roofs to flush the toilets.

Recycle: they turned the venue into a community center upon completion of the Games.

 

Again, these were not things they had to, but things they wanted to do. When the eyes of the world are upon you, that's the right thing to do.

 

So whose eyes are on you? You’re following your EHS regulations and playing by the rules, but what little things could you, or your company, do to take it to the next level?

 

Maybe your company can reduce its paper output by converting its utility bills to paperless, or by offering direct deposit (it's not just abut the paper with direct deposit, but also eliminating employee's superfulous trips to their respective financial institutions).

 

Those are itsy bitsy teeny tiny things, and are "tired" thoughts at this point. In other words, those aren't "leadership" actions, but "follow-the-herd" actions. That’s not to say that the little things help change our world too, but leadership is about doing something huge.

 

And if "just because" doesn't float your boat ... try making an innovative change in the right direction, and see what it does for your "image."

 

And, again, think about whose eyes are on you.

 

If you’d like to increase the number of those who know of your good deeds, feel free to brag about something you've already done by leaving a comment below. It’s not just bragging, it’s sharing ideas so others can follow.

Recession Helps Clear the Air

3. May 2011

california smogOne interesting side effect of the economic downturn has been a decrease in industrialized nations’ greenhouse gas emissions. 

An overall decrease of 5.6 percent was reported in industrialized nations’ greenhouse gas emissions in 2009. 

In 2009, greenhouse gas emissions fell 6.1 percent in the U.S., 7.2 percent in the European Union and 3.2 percent in Russia.  During the same time period, the overall domestic product of industrialized nations decreased by 3.4 percent. 

Pep Canadell, head of the Global Carbon Project noted that the recession coincided with high oil prices, adding yet another hit to energy-intensive sectors. 

Mr. Canadell said that there is "a risk of complacency” among industrialized governments regarding the decrease in emissions.  He noted that the decrease was not a result of sustainable long-term emission reduction strategies. 

Indeed, there is already information showing that the emissions numbers are on the rise again.  The Global Carbon Project estimated that global carbon dioxide emissions were up 3 percent in 2010, after a fall of 1.3 percent in 2009. 

While the decrease may have been a temporary one, it was certainly an unanticipated positive outcome during an overall negative time.  Hopefully it prompted businesses to look at less expensive and/or more efficient ways of operating…something they can continue in the future. 

On a side note, this week, May 2-6 is Air Quality Awareness Week.  Please take a moment to think about your impact on air quality, and how you can lessen your footprint.  It could be by doing something as small as carpooling to work or as large as implementing new company-wide system changes. 

Big or small, every effort helps!