eco ramblings

a dialogue with an Eco Patriot

Archive for the ‘GHG’ Category

Why We Need Curbside Composting Programs and Where to Start

Posted by Luke on July 22, 2010

Today on TriplePundit.com, a site dedicated to news on the Triple Bottom Line of business, Dinesh Thirupuvanam wrote a great article on why we need curbside composting programs.  He outlined two steps that need to occur which include (1) a uniform labeling standard for compostable products, and (2) improving acceptance of compostable packaging at composting facilities (ensuring each facility doesn’t have their own standards or certification program).  I am in complete agreement with Dinesh’s approach.  It makes perfect sense.  And I appreciate Dinesh referencing my post about the debate over how to label compostable products.

I also think it’s important for municipalities who are considering curbside composting to take the plunge and just do it.  The benefits of such programs are immense.  In Boulder we have a bi-weekly residential curbside composting pickup and I now send very little trash to the landfill.  It feels great taking out the trash because I have so little to take out.  Not to mention that composting has an enormous impact on reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions.  34% of all human generated methane emissions are from landfills, and food waste comprises approximately 13% of total landfill mass.

My belief is that we shouldn’t wait for the silver bullet of a labeling standard.  It will take years, if not decades, for a common standard to be developed.  I’m on the Board of Directors for the Biodegradable Products Institute and I’m involved in this industry debate on several different levels.  We’re not going to find a solution overnight.  There are just too many stakeholders to have this occur as quickly as we’d all like.

The best way to learn is to just give it a shot.  We’ll have more people educated on the subject and more people working on finding the best possible solution.

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Posted in Boulder, compostable products, composting, GHG, Landiflls, packaging, zero waste | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Sustainability is a Journey… Part 2

Posted by Luke on June 30, 2010

A month ago I wrote a post on how sustainability is a journey.  The two main points I tried to get across were that (1) everyone defines sustainability differently and (2) sustainability isn’t something that happens overnight.  I am continually reminded of this at Eco-Products.

The challenge I face is that with a name like Eco-Products, people expect us to be the absolute, most sustainable business in the world (oh, and did I mention that everyone defines sustainability differently?).  We definitely want to be the most sustainable company possible, but it will take time.  Sustainability is a journey.

When Eco-Products built our brand of environmental products, like most young companies, we started at a sales level of nil.  We knew what we wanted to do – to green the packaging industry – but there was a long journey in front of us.  We knew we couldn’t change an industry over night.

One of the first steps we had to take in launching our brand was to find factories who were willing to bet on us.  They had to be willing to process new environmental materials on their multi-million dollar pieces of equipment.  We couldn’t tell them how much we’d be ordering because we had no idea.  Forecasting sales of a new product in a new market is nearly impossible.

These complexities narrowed down the field of potential factories very quickly.  We couldn’t find one manufacturer in the U.S. who was willing to bet on us.  The only companies who were willing to take a chance were in other parts of the world.  As we dug into this, we found that a global supply chain had some major benefits.

First, the energy used in some of the places we chose to manufacture was as clean or cleaner than in the U.S.  Second, we learned that the carbon emissions of shipping our products across the ocean was only 11% of the total carbon emissions of the product’s entire life cycle emissions.  Upon learning that, we made the commitment to invest in carbon offsets to completely offset the emissions from the transportation of our products.

Third, manufacturing in the U.S. would only yield a 1.6% improvement to our carbon footprint.  We hired BCS, Inc., an excellent independent environmental consulting firm, to do this analysis.  I was shocked at this number, but the reason it is so low is because we would have to truck products further distances which has more of a carbon impact than shipping containers on a boat that carries thousands of other products.

At the time, we didn’t have the sales volume that justified investing millions of dollars into U.S.-based manufacturing equipment (nor did we have the money), and we had to start somewhere if we wanted to green an entire industry.  Leveraging the technology and manufacturing capabilities overseas also gave us the opportunity to create nearly 50 jobs based in the U.S. at our headquarters doing sales, marketing, accounting, product development, and more.

All along, we have felt that if we could build enough critical mass we would be able to make even more meaningful changes to our carbon footprint when we could later afford to do so.  We essentially had to compromise early on.

George Siemon, the C-I-E-I-O of Organic Valley, talked about this very point in a recent interview.

“My enlightenment was to not try to do everything at once, but to build a broad, solid foundation, and then we would be able to do more of what our mission was, instead of trying to do it all at once, and failing—so we have found the happy medium. Now that we’ve reached maturity, we’ve been able to turn back and do some of the idealistic things we always felt were important.

Compromise is a part of doing business. A simple example would be we’ve hauled milk into North Carolina from Ohio and built up a business. And then we started working with farmers in North Carolina so we could start a local business. You could say it was a compromise to haul milk that far but we had market realities to address.

We’ve now reached the point where we are looking throughout the company for more opportunities to do things and invest more in sustainability.”

Eco-Products seems to be at a similar place to Organic Valley in our company’s evolution.  We have matured to the point that we are on the cusp of being able to make significant changes to our carbon footprint and invest more in sustainability.  We have had to make compromises early on to get us to that point, but we are nearly there.  And there’s no doubt that sustainability will continue to be a journey.

Posted in containers, Eco-Products, foodservice, footprint, GHG, green jobs, management, packaging, shipping, sustainability | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Meddling in Vancouver

Posted by Luke on February 27, 2010

With this year’s games having been the greenest ever, Eco-Products was proud to play a role.  Our cups, plates, utensils, and other products were widely used at the various venues.

Through the use of our products made from renewable resources and recycled materials, the event saved the equivalent of the following:

  • 16,216 gallons of gasoline, enough to drive a car from NYC to L.A. and back 44 times
  • 197,214 pounds of ozone-depleting greenhouse gases
  • 341 trees, approximately 2 acres of forest

Congratulations to the City of Vancouver and thanks for minimizing the event’s impact.

Posted in compostable products, event, foodservice, GHG, renewable resources, resources saved | Leave a Comment »

Another BS call…

Posted by Luke on February 24, 2010

Hopefully this is my last BS call for a while…

An article on GreenUpGrader.com claimed that bioplastic cups might be bad for the environment because they drive up corn prices, don’t actually biodegrade, and cause issues in recycling facilities.  Below is my response to Becky (the writer) which was also submitted as a comment on the GreenUpGrader website.

The claims in this article are, plain and simple, inaccurate. PLA/bioplastics do not impact corn prices. I am involved in the industry and have seen the data. Stating otherwise is untrue. Also, bioplastics are not causing an issue in the recycling industry as of now because there isn’t enough in the recycling stream. I’m involved in recycling industry trade associations and know this first hand. Don’t make bioplastics out to be bad when they actually save resources, emit fewer greenhouse gases , and have a significantly better life cycle and carbon footprint than conventional products.

I’m happy to go into more detail with anyone on this topic.

Posted in BS, compostable products, corn, cups, GHG, recycling | 1 Comment »

Time to call BS

Posted by Luke on February 23, 2010

It’s amazing how much crap is out there. I keep stumbling across articles that contain outright false information.  Wouldn’t an Information Police Force be nice?  Sadly, consumers have to be incredibly smart to know what is BS and what isn’t.  Well, I’m ready to start calling BS on ill informants.  

The latest BS I’m calling out relates to this article in the Washington Post that falsely stated that “biodegradable” cups emit methane gas in landfills.  There appears to be a huge misnomer that PLA (the corn plastic used to produce compostable cups) emits methane when disposed of in a landfill, thus some writers claim it’s worse for the environment than plastic made out of petroleum.  Politely, I’m calling Bullshit. 

(Sidenote: if you’re not a PLA nerd like me, PLA is made from corn and will turn back into dirt if composted in a commercial composting environment, of which there are too few, which means that most PLA products are disposed of landfills like the majority of conventional products.  As a result, there are some people who refuse to use the material unless it is composted.  This ignores the front-end benefit of PLA which is that it’s made from an annually harvested plant instead of oil, and it emits fewer greenhouse gases to produce than oil-based plastics – it has a smaller carbon footprint.) 

Plain and simple, PLA does not emit methane into the atmosphere if disposed of in a landfill.  I won’t bore you with the science, but you can read more details in this presentation.  Besides, the Clean Air Act requires landfills to capture their methane which would mean that if science were proven wrong and PLA broke down after several decades in that environment, the methane would be captured and wouldn’t be released into the atmosphere.  Also, if you want to read more about PLA not biodegrading in landfills, similar to how other conventional products don’t biodegrade in landfills, you can read more about it here.  I’ll talk more about my thoughts on the benefits of PLA in future posts.

Posted in BS, compostable products, cups, GHG, Landiflls | Leave a Comment »

Why didn’t I think of that?

Posted by Luke on February 8, 2010

If you ship products across the ocean by cargo ship, you’re going to say to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?” when you read this article

A dutch company called Cargoshell invented a collapsible shipping container.  It takes one person only 30 seconds to break it down and it occupies 1/4 of the space of a normal steel container.  It’s also much lighter which means if you’re inland you can stack several of these on top of one another and truck them back to the port in a much more fuel efficient manner.  Their composite material provides better insulation in hot temperatures, and they are equipped with floatable bags on the side if a ship ever capsizes – they will float instead of sinking your cargo to the bottom of the ocean.  If that isn’t enough bells and whistles, they come with GPS.

Posted in China, GHG, logistics, shipping | Leave a Comment »

 
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