Teaching students how to save energy and help the environment provides lessons that can last a lifetime. That’s the biggest takeaway of our third annual Change Our 2morrow (CO2) Schools’ Challenge.
The 2013 Schools’ Challenge, an initiative of Alcoa Foundation and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions’ Make an Impact program, took place last month in seven schools across five states. Thousands of middle school students, their teachers, families and community members participated in interactive lessons, completed an energy-saving pledge list, and calculated their carbon footprint as part of the month-long program. Collectively, 10,433 people committed to take actions in their daily lives that will save more than 21 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s equivalent to taking 2,000 cars off the road for one year.
As we plunge into the holiday shopping season, take a minute to think about the things you can do to make searching for the perfect gift a little friendlier on the planet (and your wallet).
Here are nine ideas for making the holiday season a little greener and less stressful. Try one. And get more information on how you can save energy and help the planet at http://makeanimpact.c2es.org/
Over the past few weeks, college students have been shedding light on the future of solar energy on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Out of 19 teams from around the globe and 10 energy performance and livability contests, one overall winner emerged at the recently held U.S. Department of Energy 2011 Solar Decathlon. The winning WaterShed home design, built by students from the University of Maryland, was inspired by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. The house included a 9.2 kilowatt rooftop solar array and prominently featured storm water management and recycling components, such as a butterfly roof and pollution filtration.
“All kids growing up in this generation know how they’re impacting the environment. We’re teaching today’s kids about recycling and being responsible.”
- Shawn Kerr, eighth-grade science teacher at Alcoa Middle School in Alcoa, TN.
Fifteen schools participated in the Make an Impact: Change Our 2morrow (MAI CO2) schools’ challenge, an educational energy conservation competition led by the Center’s Make an Impact (MAI) initiative in partnership with Alcoa. Mr. Kerr’s words sum up the program’s outcome, in which Make an Impact, a corporate employee and community engagement program, expanded the reach of its energy efficiency message to middle and high schools in five Alcoa communities across four states this spring.
|Alcoa Middle School principle Jim Kirk holds up the $1,000 check that the school won for being named a regional runner-up in the MAI: CO2 schools’ challenge.|
We had high hopes for the MAI CO2 campaign, but our success at engaging a younger audience in acting on energy efficiency far exceeded our expectations. In one month, we reached more than 8,000 students/parents/teachers and motivated them to calculate their carbon footprint with the Make an Impact calculator. The program wasn’t just about students realizing their impact on the earth; we also tried to teach and empower these young individuals to make a difference – by saving energy, money, and the planet. Between March 14 and April 11, participants identified more than 14.4 million pounds of potential carbon savings and an estimated $1.75 million in energy savings.
Throughout the beginning of 2011, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) —the first mandatory carbon dioxide (CO2) cap-and-trade program in the United States—was successfully defended by state legislators in three states where attempts were made to remove those states from the program. In the second week of May, the states of Delaware and Maine defeated bills proposing withdrawal, while in New Hampshire, Senators did not pass the House’s version of a withdrawal bill. But on May 26, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced that his state will leave RGGI by the end of the year.
Participating RGGI states cap CO2 emissions from power plants (those with generation capacities of at least 25 megawatts) and auction most of the emissions allowances. (Each allowance lets a power plant emit one ton of CO2.) RGGI’s CO2 emission allowance auctions raised $789.2 million for the 10 participating Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states from 2008 to the end of 2010. Meanwhile, consumers on average saw their monthly utility bills increase by less than $1. As highlighted in a February RGGI report, this allowance auction revenue has benefited the 10 participating states via investments in clean energy technology and energy bill assistance. These investments are creating clean energy jobs, saving consumers money, and deploying technologies that reduce the environmental impact of power generation.
Ambitious Commitment Would Result in Cumulative 30 Percent Decrease in the Company's Emissions Since 2004, and Includes New Corporate Real Estate Portfolio Goal of 20 Percent LEED(R)-Certified Space
CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 18, 2011 -- Bank of America today announced an ambitious new goal to reduce its absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 15 percent from 2011 to 2015, based on its 2010 baseline. This goal spans all of the company's global operations in more than 40 countries and builds on its previous GHG reduction of 18 percent between 2004 and 2009, which had focused on legacy Bank of America operations in the U.S.
Through the Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Leaders program, Bank of America was one of the first global financial institutions to announce GHG emissions reduction targets in 2004, and the first to publicly report out on exceeding those goals within the commitment period.
Today, factoring in the addition of Countrywide and Merrill Lynch, the new target represents an overall global reduction in aggregate GHG emissions of more than 30 percent from the 2004 baseline. This is equal to annual emissions of more than 700,000 metric tons CO2-equivalent or said another way, equal to eliminating the annual GHG emissions from more than 124,000 passenger vehicles.
"Reducing our emissions not only lessens the environmental impact of our global operations, but enhances our efficiency and delivers tremendous value for our company and shareholders," said Global Technology and Operations Executive and Bank of America Environmental Council Chair Catherine P. Bessant. "Continuing to achieve a GHG reduction of this magnitude requires fundamental changes spanning our entire organization, from our global real estate portfolio to the individual workspaces our employees occupy."
Like most companies, the vast majority (90 percent) of Bank of America's GHG emissions derives from energy consumption. To accomplish its GHG goal, Bank of America will focus on lowering its energy consumption by:
- Expanding and enhancing energy management systems and technology.
- Increasing computing efficiency in data centers and desktop/laptop computers.
- Improving overall equipment efficiency in areas such as HVAC and lighting.
- Optimizing office space.
- Identifying and implementing emerging technologies as they become commercially available and/or viable.
- Educating employees on how they can modify their behaviors to support the goal.
Leaders in LEED(R) certification
To further advance its GHG reduction goals, Bank of America also announced today that 20 percent of its corporate workplace real estate portfolio will be certified under the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED(R) (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system by 2015. Currently 11 percent of the company's workplace portfolio, 13.2 million square feet, is comprised of LEED-certified space. LEED-certified space will include new construction, core and shell construction, commercial interiors, retail spaces and the operations and maintenance of existing buildings.
"Bank of America is an industry and corporate leader in applying LEED to achieve improvement to their global corporate footprint," said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). "The company has systematically leveraged every aspect of green building practices throughout their entire workplace building stock to help them standardize their energy efficiency and achieve their carbon reduction goals."
Additionally, the company recognizes the important role that employees have in contributing to the company's comprehensive GHG emissions reduction goals. By instituting robust employee programs, the company is better able to achieve this specific goal, as well as reduce its overall indirect GHG emissions.
Through a comprehensive employee educational program, and a partnership with the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, the company is providing training, education and resources to help employees find ways to save energy and money, while reducing waste, improving their workplace and communities, and engaging with their teammates in market-specific opportunities. Employee training sessions in 2011 will focus on overall energy conservation, sustainable transportation, LEED building enhancements and recycling.
Under the company's Hybrid Vehicle Reimbursement program, eligible U.S.-based employees can receive up to a $3,000 reimbursement toward the purchase of a new hybrid, highway-capable electric or compressed natural gas vehicle. Initially launched in 2007, more than 3,800 employees have replaced conventionally powered vehicles which, on average, doubled their fuel economy and prevented the release of nearly 4,000 tons of annual CO2 emissions from employee commuting.
Third party partners
Bank of America also engages leading, independent partners like the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and Ceres, throughout the entire lifecycle of its emissions and other environmental goal setting, benchmarking and reporting. To track its progress on this and other environmental commitments, the company continues to complete CDP's comprehensive annual carbon survey, adhere to Global Reporting Initiative sustainability reporting standards, and submit its GHG emissions data for independent, third-party review.
"As a global company, Bank of America is to be congratulated for its past achievements and impressive new goal, as well as demonstrating how effective management of their emissions and environmental footprint makes both business and environmental sense. It is clear that the effective management of these issues has a direct impact on a company's ability to compete and grow," said Paul Simpson, chief executive officer, Carbon Disclosure Project, a global, independent, not-for-profit organization that monitors and encourages company disclosure on carbon dioxide emissions. "They have made significant progress in engaging suppliers, employees and leadership on climate change and this announcement speaks to their long-term commitment."
About Bank of America's Environmental Commitment
Understanding the important role it plays in helping clients and communities address climate change, Bank of America continues to establish itself as an environmental leader in the financial services sector. In 2007, Bank of America embarked on a 10-year, $20 billion business initiative to address climate change through lending, investments, capital markets activity, philanthropy, and its own operations. Delivering $12.1 billion in four years to hundreds of clients in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and markets across Asia, Europe and Latin America, Bank of America is focused on reducing its environmental footprint while aligning its global financial products and services to help advance energy efficiency and low-carbon energy markets, including wind, solar, biomass, other emerging technologies. For more information about Bank of America's environmental commitment, visit www.bankofamerica.com/environment.
SOURCE: Bank of America
Reporters May Contact:
Britney Sheehan, Bank of America, 1.206.358.7563
At the moment, our attention is riveted by the events unfolding at a nuclear power plant in Japan. Over the past year or so, major accidents have befallen just about all of our major sources of energy: from the Gulf oil spill, to the natural gas explosion in California, to the accidents in coal mines in Chile and West Virginia, and now to the partial meltdown of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactor. We have been reminded that harnessing energy to meet human needs is essential, but that it entails risks. The risks of different energy sources differ in size and kind, but none of them are risk-free.
A small company finding it hard to sell its residential energy usage monitoring devices starts a “parent-teenage contract” marketing campaign. The teenager gets the parents to buy the device, and then they both sign a contract stipulating that the teenager will keep half the money saved on reduced energy usage. As the savings start to roll in, the teenager becomes more motivated to improve the household’s energy efficiency as do the parents, while the company points to this positive experience as it seeks additional customers for its monitoring device. This model has achieved success on a small scale, but could it be adopted on a wider level as it is driven by a business case, contains ingredients for cultural transformation and taps into incentives that appear to be driving action?
This was one of the many thought-provoking anecdotes shared at the ninth Green Innovation in Business Network (GIBN) Solutions Lab held in Boston where the 90 or so participants spent the day coming up with solutions to barriers faced by companies pursuing energy efficiency. The Pew Center on Global Climate Change was a co-sponsor of the event, along with the Environmental Defense Fund, Ashoka, Microsoft, Net Impact Boston, and many other partners. (For more information on GIBN Solutions Labs and the topics discussed at this specific event please click here.)
The GIBN Solution Labs are one-day workshops structured in an “unconference” format where participants are divided into small groups of about eight or less. Each group brainstorms solutions to a specific issue or barrier and reports back to the whole group at the end of the day. With the umbrella theme of overcoming barriers to energy efficiency, the Boston GIBN Solutions Lab focused on 14 specific topics, such as financing, making the business case and motivating the public on energy efficiency. Participants including companies, consultants, academics, and non-governmental organizations spent the morning exploring a variety of topics and then chose one in the afternoon to focus on in depth through a problem identification and solution design process.
Peter Senge, founding chair of Society for Organizational Learning and senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, kicked off the workshop with a thought-provoking speech that emphasized the need for a comprehensive vision for energy efficiency instead of piecemeal solutions. By the end of the workshop some pieces of the vision had emerged: establish energy efficiency as a social norm; create business models that support energy efficiency investments; and design methods to more effectively communicate the benefits of energy efficiency.
The day was filled with a constant buzz of conversations out of which emerged some “out of the box” ideas as well as best practices. The group tackling the issue of motivating the public on energy efficiency proposed a K-12 energy efficiency curriculum that would result in children passing along the learning to their parents. Interestingly, the group on improving energy efficiency of buildings also saw children as key players. It proposed student projects involving energy audits and efficiency implementation measures for school buildings. A “just do it,” results-oriented approach was suggested to get senior management buy-in for energy efficiency projects: do the energy audit (which many utilities will provide free of charge) and then use the results of potential energy savings to convince senior management to implement the energy efficiency measures. Creative employee communication methods were also suggested such as distributing figures on how much paper and printer toner is being used by the office or putting up a sign next to the printer asking “Do you really need to print this?” There were also some “out of the box” topics: one group looked at the water-energy nexus and noted that understanding the relationships between water usage and energy could spur new technical innovations such as water-less laundry systems.
Discussions also emphasized known best practices, which were useful to participants just getting started on energy efficiency and sustainability issues. For example, developing a detailed work plan and timeframe when proposing an energy efficiency project to senior management was essential in getting their approval to move ahead. Additionally, continuous monitoring and progress reports are critical in maintaining momentum and receiving the okay to pursue more projects in the future. Recommendations for embedding energy efficiency within corporate supply chains included clearly communicating energy efficiency expectations to suppliers; helping them find the right resources to implement energy efficiency measures; and auditing suppliers to ensure implementation and maintenance.
The end-of-day presentations highlighted that while each group was tackling different topics related to energy efficiency they struggled with some common barriers. For example, financing and communicating energy efficiency were issues that almost all groups found necessary and yet difficult to overcome.
In terms of specific solutions, not everyone went home with sure-fire answers to how they were going to fund their energy efficiency projects or convince senior management to make energy efficiency a priority. However, most participants did leave with at least a few new ideas to try out and the understanding that in order to be an effective component of the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency required a comprehensive, system-based approach.
Aisha Husain is an Energy Efficiency Fellow
This month I joined John Donahue, the CEO of eBay, at a National Press Club event to discuss the climate benefits created by small, online retail businesses. The retail sector—and the private sector more broadly—has a huge opportunity to innovate and drive us toward a more climate-friendly clean energy economy, and we are encouraged that eBay is stepping forward to make this point.
Active business community engagement is fundamental both to achieving effective climate policy and to achieving real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Industry must work with their employees, their supply chain, and policy makers to make the case that addressing a changing climate is essential and can be good for business—providing policy certainty, leading to innovation and investment, and ultimately helping to move our economy towards a low-carbon future.
According to the new eBay-commissioned white paper, small e-retailers facilitate the reuse of products and eliminate the need for carbon-intensive brick-and-mortar stores, both of which are climate-friendly compared to big box retail. For instance, it suggests that since eBay’s founding 15 years ago, the infrastructure savings from its online marketplace alone have cumulatively displaced emissions equivalent to approximately 4 million tons of CO2 per year, or the annual output of 760,000 cars—roughly the number registered in the state of Kansas or West Virginia.
In our current period of policy uncertainty, one thing we do know is that energy efficiency matters and it works. We also know from the work we do on employee engagement that individuals and consumers are a huge untapped resource in the effort to seriously address our energy-climate challenges. It’s clear that the key role for retailers—both online and “offline”—is to connect consumers to low-emission/energy-efficient goods and services, and companies such as eBay and Best Buy, a featured case study in our recent report on corporate energy efficiency, are doing just that.
Eileen Claussen is President
Despite the uncertain future of comprehensive federal climate legislation, states continue to move forward with energy policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save consumers money on their electricity bills. One policy in particular is quickly gaining traction in the states: Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, programs. Twenty-three states plus Washington, DC, have PACE legislation, and 13 others have proposals on the table including Kentucky, South Carolina, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania.
PACE is an innovative funding mechanism that addresses many of the financial barriers to energy efficiency and renewable energy retrofits on residential, commercial, and industrial properties. In general through PACE states delegate authority to local governments to designate an improvement district and issue bonds, which provide low-interest, long-term loans to property owners for energy saving measures. The loans are paid back through an addition on the property tax bill and often over a 20-year period. If the property is sold, the debt transfers to the new owner. PACE programs usually create a lien on properties that is “senior” to (i.e., takes precedence over) other obligations on the property.
Because PACE is run by local governments, there are different styles of implementation for the various program elements including: program administration, underwriting criteria, source of funds, eligible measures, and quality control. For example, San Francisco uses a third party for administrative functions and issues “mini-bonds” to be purchased by a pre-determined investor, while Babylon County, in New York, uses in-house staff to administrate and has repurposed an existing solid waste fund for financing.
The White House strongly supports initiatives that make it easier for homeowners to get loans for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements, and PACE programs have benefited from $150 million in stimulus funding. In an effort to standardize best practices and ensure that PACE is good policy for all stakeholders, the White House released a Policy Framework for PACE Financing Programs in October 2009. The measures initially accelerated the adoption of PACE and served as a guide for the second generation of PACE programs.
However, both existing and developing programs have been slowed or halted entirely due to opposition from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. In May, both agencies sent letters to mortgage lenders reminding them that an energy-related lien may not be senior to a federally backed mortgage. The letters place a burden on the lender to determine if they originate mortgages in any state or locality that permits a first lien priority on energy loans. Proponents of PACE and its senior lien provision say it is a necessary requirement for local governments to raise funds.
Following Freddie and Fannie, on July 14 the Federal Housing and Financing Agency (FHFA) released a statement of their opposition to PACE. As a result, the California attorney general’s office has sued the FHFA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac for their actions and unwillingness to guarantee properties with PACE assessments. The July 14 lawsuit asks the court to declare that PACE does not violate the standards of Fannie and Freddie and also requests an injunction to prevent the agencies from taking action against home owners with PACE loans. Congress is also working on legislation that would require Freddie and Fannie to use underwriting standards that would facilitate the use of PACE programs. With a scarcity of financing options that overcome the high upfront cost of retrofits, this is an issue worth watching closely.
Olivia Nix is the Innovative Solutions intern