Being Green is good businss. At least that was the conclusion of sustainability experts at the fourth annual Green Washington awards banquet Wednesday night. But many of the experts attending the event, which was attended by 350 people involved in sustainability, argued that companies must do more if progress is to be made in battling global warming and other environmental challenges.
Many panelists focused on the importance of public-private partnerships the have emerged in Washington state.John Lamb, COO of UNICO Properties said he is working collaboratively with other business owners to improve the efficiency of Seattle high rises because such improvements are a “group win” for the region. Such efforts are also an answer to the question: “How can we
market the Puget Sound beyond our own region?”
Participating in a panel discussion at the event were Lamb of Unico, Robin
Babbitt, Walmart's senior manager for sustainability, Perry England, vice president at MacDonald Miller, and Amy Bann, Director of Environmental Policy at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The panel was
moderated by Ross MacFarlane of Climate Solutions. Among the issues raised:
While much of the focus of green
building has been on construction materials and supply chain, England pointed
out that the real key to building sustainably lies in operations, not simply
design. Because buildings are constructed for extreme conditions—that is, the
hottest or coldest day of the year—their HVAC systems are often not optimized
for the building’s normal rate of consumption. England gave an example of one
building that had an EnergyStar rating of 88. MacDonald Miller serviced the
building and brought its performance to a 100-level rating. While England
expected a three year ROI on the project, to his surprise the ROI was only 1.7
years. The systems approach had worked.
Lamb agreed that such an approach
was exciting, and described UNICO’s participation in the Seattle 2030 District,
the first of its kind in the country. This high-performance building district
will cut its carbon dioxide emissions in half by 2030. The
program revolves around collecting energy consumption data and using technology and building upgrades to boost the efficiency of building operations. About 40 percent of the nation's greenhouse gases are produced by office buildigns.
Addressing the Supply Chain
For many large corporations, the biggest challenge is addressing carbon emissions of their many business partners. Since 90 percent of Walmart’s environmental impact is the result of actions by companies in its supply chain, improving the sustainability of the company's suppliers has been a major focus of the company. Walmart has introduced a 15-question supplier assessment to help both
its manufacturing and retail partners better understand areas of impact.
Starbucks’ vice president of global responsibility Ben
Packard said it took a concerted effort by the company to take on the complex task of making its paper cups recyclable. When the company finally decided to take on the challenged, it turned for help to a systems expert from M.I.T. Starbucks could not depend on the cup manufacturers to do this alone. Instead, the company brought together into one room every company involved in every stage of the life cycle
of a paper cup to explore tha many challenges and possible solutions to addressing those challenges. Starbucks is now well on its way to meeting its target of making cups at all its retail outlets recyclable by 2015.
Whereas many large companies have to worry about the environmental impact of their suppliers, Boeing's biggest challenge is addressing the environmental impact of its customers, the plane manufacturers. To be sure, the company does focus on sustainable materials and lightweight design—Bann called
the Dreamliner a “gamechanger” because it cuts fuel consumption by 20 percent. Gasoline usage, she said, is equivalent to a Prius. She said Boeing spends 75 percent of its R&D
on improving the efficiency of its products. Because
aircraft are in development for over 15 years and often in the market for an
excess of 30, Boeing has to think in advance and design for emissions
constraints many years in the future.
But the bigger challenge for Boeing is addressing the energy consumption by the Airliners. One approach Boeing is taking to reduce is carbon footprint is to develop a new generation of jet biofuels. These are special biofuels that wouldn't require any change to
current fueling infrastructure. Commercial flights began in July to test the
use of these biofuels in Boeing’s planes. The needed diversification of aviation
fuels has led to the creation of Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest, a
collaboration of more than 40 organizations led by Boeing, Alaska Airlines,
Washington State University and the Portland, Seattle and Spokane airports.