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NiSE at the Institute on the Environment

It’s in the Pint

January 7, 2013NiSEEvents, SustainabilityComments Off

It's in the Pint

By Holly Lahd

On Tuesday, November 27th NiSE and founding partner Stratford Companies hosted the first “Procurement in a Pint” mixer for area procurement and sustainability practitioners. We toured Fulton Brewery’s Minneapolis Brewery and Tap Room, learning how Fulton started from garage homebrew to opening Minneapolis’s first Brewery tap room serving thousands of Minnesota Twins fans and craft beer fans across the metro area.

As any good brewer knows the quality of beer depends on what you put into it. Product design and corporate sustainability programs are the same. Optimizing supply chains and procurement systems reduces waste, costs, and processing time, creating more efficient companies. But where to start?

NiSE’s Sustainable Procurement Initiative works to answer this question. We distill complicated sector and product life cycle assessment information to identify the top 3-5 hotspots and improvements companies can make in product sourcing, design, and distribution to improve sustainability performance. The initiative recently completed a project with the Sustainability Consortium’s Food, Beverage, and Agriculture Sector Working Group that connects life cycle hotspots and improvement opportunities for select food products via life cycle modeling.  We’re now refining the model to expand to products that are under development (biojet fuels) so that the findings can be incorporated in the design of these products supply chains.

We hope to raise a pint in celebration of more sustainable procurement successes in 2013!

Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society Press

The views expressed by the author(s) of this blog and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of NiSE at the Institute on the Environment or any employee thereof.

Happy Holidays from NiSE!

December 21, 2012NiSEUncategorizedComments Off

Happy Holidays

Exploring Plastics Recycling: A Multi-Perspective Approach

November 30, 2012NiSEFeatured, Recycling, SustainabilityComments Off

By Samantha Steinbring

On Friday, November 16, NiSE at the Institute on the Environment held its second Initiative inFocus webinar titled “A Focus on Plastics.” This webinar featured guest speakers Samantha MacBride, author of Recycling Reconsidered and assistant professor at CUNY—Baruch College, and Keefe Harrison, consultant at Resource Recycling Systems. Both speakers provided varying perspectives on the current state and future potential of plastics recycling—a very important issue with implications on not only the environment, but on society as a whole.

Samantha MacBride addressed plastics recycling from both municipal and sociological perspectives. The current strategies for increasing plastics recycling at the citizen-level, according to Samantha, are to increase participation in curbside recycling programs and expand the range of accepted plastics. But how can we address these issues? Recycling managers try to increase awareness, education, and understanding of plastics recycling at the citizen level. Nevertheless, “Citizen recyclers are confused,” she says, due to a lack of logic and consistency in collection programs and an incomplete understanding of the role of plastics in society. Currently, most citizen recyclers do so because they believe that recycling is good for the environment—but many do not consider the more complex challenges that we face with plastics recycling and the health and environmental impacts of plastics consumption overall.

Ultimately, Samantha stated, there is a need to be clear with the public about the future of plastics recycling. Many in the waste-to-energy industry envision that 60% of plastics recycling will be managed by conversion to electricity, fuel, or base chemicals. Other groups promote compostable bioplastics and/or policies to reduce plastic consumption. Either way, it is unlikely that recycling alone will be able to address problems related to plastic waste. “We need to accept that we face complex challenges with plastics recycling,” she said. And, in addressing these challenges and planning a sustainable future, we need to consider justness and equity to ensure a better quality of life for all.

Offering an industry perspective, Keefe Harrison provided insight on plastics recycling based on her work with Resource Recycling Systems. According to Keefe, many organizations are developing programs to increase recovery and accept more plastics in general. While the citizen-recycler plays an important role in the plastics recovery process, Keefe noted the opportunity that industry-level markets have to drive large-scale recovery efforts. Notably, organizations like Food Service Packaging Institute (FPI) and Plasticbagrecycling.org are figuring out improved recovery systems for take-out material (e.g. to-go boxes) and film.

However, while efforts are being made to advance industry-level plastics recycling, communication between sectors is still a barrier. Keefe proposed that to resolve miscommunications about the barriers to increased plastics recovery, sectors need to work together so that market demand for the materials can flow. If these issues are addressed, Keefe foresees a healthy and growing recovery market, with marketplace demand continuing to increase.

For full details, view the webinar recording here: https://umconnect.umn.edu/p70238502/

Photo courtesy of www.flickr.com/centralasian/

The views expressed by the author(s) of this blog and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of NiSE at the Institute on the Environment or any employee thereof.

Upcoming Initiative inFocus Webinar: A Focus on Plastics

November 9, 2012NiSEEvents, RecyclingComments Off

Initiative inFocus Webinar: A Focus on Plastics

Join us next Friday, November 16 from 12:00-1:00pm CST for this FREE and educational webinar!

In this upcoming webinar, we will focus on our Materials Cycling Initiative.

Less than 30% of plastics used in bottles and less than 9% of all plastic waste is recycled in the United States. While municipal recycling programs have traditionally focused on bottle recycling, other plastics – including film and rigid plastics – compose the majority of available plastic waste. As communities seek to reduce waste sent to landfills and meet higher diversion targets, there is increased interest in including these additional plastics in recycling programs. Through the presentations and discussion in this webinar, we hope to explore plastics recycling and its future potential from a variety of perspectives.

Joining us will be Samantha MacBride, assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs at CUNY – Baruch College and author of Recycling Reconsidered: the Present Failure and Future Promise of Recycling in the United States. Her current research is on the contested politics of municipal organic waste management in the U.S. and Canada. She focuses on how landfill gas recovery, industrial-scale composting and anaerobic digestion, and conversion technologies are differently understood and advocated for in relation to threats of climate change by social movements, business sectors, and the state.

Also joining us will be Keefe Harrison, consultant at Resource Recycling Systems, where she brings her direct experience in facilitating cross-sector solutions to the increased recovery and recycling of packaging.  Formerly, Keefe served as the director of communications for the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, the project director for the Southeast Recycling Development Council, and as a local government assistance team member for the North Carolina Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach.  She has worked in the waste reduction and recycling field since 1998 and is an active national speaker and published author on recycling issues.

Tim Smith, Director of the NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise, will facilitate.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @UMN_NiSE for news and updates!

Initiative inFocus is a dialogue-oriented program of NiSE at the Institute on the Environment aiming to surface new challenges and opportunities requiring collaborative inquiry. These webinars allow many ideas to enter the discussion and identify only the most likely avenues for fruitful research and practice. Outcomes from inFocus events will directly influence broader dialogue and research conducted at the NorthStar Initiative and partnering organizations.

Announcing GreenBiz’s VERGE SF @ Greenbuild Event!

October 25, 2012NiSEEventsComments Off

As a partner of GreenBiz Group, we want to keep you up to date on the latest trends in sustainability.  GreenBiz is presenting a conference in San Francisco on Nov 12-13, VERGE SF.  VERGE SF brings together business innovators, entrepreneurs, and leading public officials focused on the opportunities for radical efficiencies created through advancements in energy, buildings and transportation technologies.

Because we’re part of this exciting event, you can save $100 off the registration price by using priority discount code v12nise– bringing your registration down to $895.

VERGE SF features a diverse and exclusive group of executives in sustainability, government & policy, building and energy management, utilities, fleets & logistics, R&D, and corporate financing.

If you want to:

  • Discover the future of sustainability:  Smarter supply chains, energy and the cloud, next-gen buildings and facilities, connected vehicles, and cities 2.0.
  • Explore the new ecosystem. VERGE explores company engagement in a vast web of relationships to exploit convergence, from industry standards to employee engagement to NGO partnerships.
  • Join the innovators: Connect with the community of thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, and suppliers in the VERGE ecosystem.
  • Be inspired: Join some of the brightest minds in the new era of disruptive sustainability.

Learn More & register today!

NiSE Contributes to Biojet Project in Missoula, MT

October 17, 2012NiSEEvents, Featured, SustainabilityComments Off

By Samantha Steinbring

On September 13 and 14, a group of engineers, chemists, and economists gathered in Missoula, Montana as part of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA). The group aims to turn waste wood into jet fuel, an innovation that will prove advantageous for the biofuel industry as well as Montana’s remaining loggers.

The recent NARA conference served as an update on the first year’s accomplishments and scoped the next four years of the project. Representatives included researchers from the University of Minnesota, University of Washington, Washington State University, University of Oregon, University of Idaho, USDA representative Bill Goldner, U.S. Forest Service, and other stakeholders from forestry organizations.

As part of this five-year, $40 million research project, NiSE director Tim Smith and graduate research assistant Rylie Pelton are developing a life cycle assessment which will inform the project by providing an assessment of process steps and material input flows. This recent meeting allowed NiSE researchers to connect with fellow researchers regarding other aspects of the project and identify contacts from which to gather information necessary to conduct the life cycle assessment. The methodology developed

for the Sustainable Procurement Initiative is being further tested through NiSE’s work on the NARA biojet project.
To learn more about the project, visit the NARA website or consult the recent articles published in Missoula press (below).

“Biojet Project Takes Off in Missoula” in MissoulaWorks.org.

“Northwest researchers look to turn waste wood into jet fuel” in Missoulian.com.

The views expressed by the author(s) of this blog and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of NiSE at the Institute on the Environment or any employee thereof.

What’s New with NiSE — October 2012

October 4, 2012NiSENewsletterComments Off

Network Updates

Leading Edge Consortium Virtual Forum | There’s still time to register for the Leading Edge Consortium VirtualForum on Environmental Sustainability at Work: Advancing Research, Enhancing Practice! The topic emphasizes the business case for environmental sustainability, and how sustainability can become a competitive advantage, as well as specific issued relevant to I-O practitioners.

Join us at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environmental on Friday, October 19 to engage in this cutting edge symposium on the latest research and developments in environmental sustainability. At 90% off the cost of regular conference registration, you will have the opportunity to view a live projection of the conference as it takes place in New Orleans, LA and interact with speakers via Twitter and Facebook. Learn more.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!

Best Buy: Sustainability Amidst Turmoil | Despite recent shifts  in leadership and business development, NiSE Founding Partner Best Buy is rising to the top when it comes to sustainability efforts. With Leo Raudys as the Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability, the company has developed an environmental program built around clear business objectives, according to journalist Marc Gunther. The company aims to recycle 1 billion pounds of consumer good by 2014, reduce its carbon footprint by 20% in 2020, and initiate new energy-efficient store designs, among other impactful goals. Learn more

Do you know of  a company doing great work in sustainability? If so, send us an e-mail!

Sustainability News

Global Initiative on Financing Sustainability | We are exploring the barriers and opportunities to industrial energy efficiency projects in small and medium enterprises through a small exclusive symposium October 22-24 co-hosted with the Environmental Defense Fund and The Johnson Foundation. The purpose of this symposium is to discuss how supply chain coordination can facilitate and incentivize industrial energy efficiency initiatives in small and medium enterprises.

The symposium will convene key visionaries and thinkers to chart a course toward widespread energy efficiency deployment across the supply chain. Additionally, we will highlight opportunities and barriers to energy efficiency aggregation and finance while identifying the next steps to capture more of these opportunities and overcome the barriers. While the scope is global, there will be many examples from those working in China. Stemming from this event, we will launch a parallel research initiative to build consistent data infrastructure and offer integrative methods of analyzing supply chain coordination, financial risk and governance required across the value chain for enhanced energy savings, productivity and profitability.

Sustainable Procurement Initiative | How can we develop sustainable supply chains for bio-aviation fuel? The Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) is an alliance of private industry and research institutions aiming to develop a solution to this pressing issue. NiSE is currently working on a life cycle assessment as part of the project. The methodologies developed in conjunction with this project will help inform our Sustainable Procurement Initiative. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog about the recently-held NARA Conference. Learn more

Materials Cycling Inititaitve | Save the date! Our first Initiative inFocus Webinar of the series will take place on November 15! This webinar will relate to the Materials Cycling Initiative.

Sustainability Around Campus

Check out what’s happening in sustainability at the University of Minnesota.

Frontiers in the Environment | The Institute on the Environment is proud to announce its exciting fall lineup for its Frontiers in the Environment speaker series! The Frontiers series brings together engaging speakers with thought-provoking topics to illuminate the forefront of ideas and frontiers in various environmental fields. The talks are free and open to the public, can be viewed live online at UMConnect, and are also archived on the Frontiers website.

U of M to Study Interactions Between Water and Land-Use Systems | The University of Minnesota has recently received a $4.3 million Water Sustainability and Climate grant over five years from the National Science Foundation to lead a study on the interactions between climate, water and land-use systems. The grant will specifically examine impacts of land use and climate change on water quality and ecosystem health using the Minnesota River Basin as a prototype. Learn more

Engineering Professor Appointed to Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board |The White House announced that President Barack Obama will appoint Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, a civil engineering professor in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering, as a new member of the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. Foufoula-Georgiou is one of only eight individuals nationwide who will be appointed to the board, which is responsible for providing independent scientific and technical oversight of the Department of Energy’s program for managing and disposing high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel. Learn more

To learn more about the latest University news, click here.

What’s New with NiSE — September 2012

September 13, 2012NiSENewsletterComments Off

Network Updates

Leading Edge Consortium Virtual Forum | On Friday, October 19, you are invited to attend a special Virtual Forum of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology’s 8th Annual Leading Edge Consortium titled Environmental Sustainability at Work: Advancing Research, Enhancing Practice. At the Virtual Forum, you will have the opportunity to view the conference taking place in New Orleans via a virtual projection at the University of Minnesota. Registration for the Virtual Forum is 90% off of regular conference registration. Learn more.

Early registration has been extended to October 5! REGISTER NOW to receive the special early bird rate!

Creating Effective Networks: A Virtual Education Program | With two well-known experts, The Network University (TNU) in partnership with Networking Action is offering a set of virtual courses for people who are working in, for, or with networks. These can be networks that comprise as their main “unit” individuals or organizations; single-sector (business-government-civil society) or cross-sector; local, national, regional or global. Participants will learn core concepts and tools to support development of networks’ effectiveness. To register and learn more, click here.

Company Highlight | Congratulations to Ecolab for publishing its 2011 Sustainability Report. This year’s report focuses primarily on the Positive Impact on sustainability that Ecolab has made through customers at more than one million locations globally. The report showcases how Ecolab and Nalco are making strides toward their vision of helping provide the world with clean water, safe food, abundant energy and healthy environments.To learn more about the achievements detailed in the report, click here.

View the Ecolab 2011 Sustainability Report video!

Do you know of  a company doing great work in sustainability? If so, send us an e-mail!

Sustainability News

Global Initiative on Financing Sustainability | On Thursday, October 4, Research Fellow Jennifer Schmitt will be giving a talk at the SXSW Eco Conference held in Austin, Texas. In her talk titled “The Sharing Economy for Sustainable Development,” Jennifer will discuss the emergence of “collaborative consumption” and its potential environmental impacts in the context of the developing world. Learn more

Sustainable Procurement Initiative | Director Tim Smith and Research Assistant Rylie Olson have recently traveled to Missoula, Montana to meet with fellow NARA (Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance) researchers regarding current life cycle assessment projects and research findings. Knowledge obtained from this meeting will help inform our Sustainable Procurement Initiative. Learn more

Materials Cycling Inititaitve | Save the date! Our first Initiative inFocus Webinar of the series will be on November 15! This webinar will relate to the Materials Cycling Initiative.

Sustainability Around Campus

Check out what’s happening in sustainability at the University of Minnesota.

“Friend” a Package, Save the Planet? | What if your cell phone and social network could help deliver packages for you? This may be more likely, easier and more beneficial to the environment than you might think, researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and Seoul National University report in the current issue of Environmental Science & Technology. Learn more

New U of M Faculty Collaborate on Sustainability Issues | As the global population moves toward 9 billion, the need to find sustainable ways to support the human race grows more urgent. To stimulate innovation and meet these challenges, the University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences is launching a new initiative to develop team approaches to research in key areas of biology. The college will hire 16 new faculty to form six collaborative research clusters spanning themes across the biological sciences. Learn more

Study Offer New Hope for Increasing Global Food Production |
Can we have enough to eat and a healthy environment, too? Yes– if we’re smart about it, suggests a study published in Nature this week by a team of researchers from the University of Minnesota and McGill University in Montreal. The paper, based on analysis of agricultural data gathered from around the world, offers hope that with more strategic use of fertilizer and water, we could not only dramatically boost global crop yield, but also reduce the adverse environmental impact of agriculture. Learn more

To learn more about the latest University news, click here.

Pioneering the Next Frontier of CSR

September 5, 2012NiSEBusiness, FeaturedComments Off

By Samantha Steinbring and Michelle Linhoff

With the ubiquity of social media, new digital platforms, and an ever-changing communication landscape, companies must continue to evolve their CSR efforts. Corporate social responsibility, in the traditional sense of the term, refers to a company’s commitment to creating a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, and stakeholders. While this traditional definition holds true today, CSR efforts have become more important than ever, particularly in employee engagement. Enter, the next frontier of CSR.

A survey conducted by the nonprofit Net Impact revealed that 53 percent of workers said that “a job where I can make an impact” was important to their happiness, and 72 percent of students entering the workforce agreed. Of those graduating students, 45 percent said they would even take a pay cut to be able to make more of a difference through their job. According to Liz Maw, CEO of Net Impact, “employees who say they can make an impact while on the job report greater satisfaction than those who can’t by a 2:1 ratio.” Now more than ever, people are eager to connect with causes and to make a difference. And what better place to help make a difference in the world than in the workplace, where many of us spend the majority of our waking hours? Considering the results of this survey, it is clear that companies have a huge opportunity to leverage their CSR efforts to engage employees.

With traditional pen-and-paper corporate communications going the way of the milkman, social media has provided the ideal portal through which companies can broadcast their environmental efforts and engage employees around particular causes. A report issued by New York University’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising states that “82% of social network users and 85% of Twitter users are group participants. Of those in groups, 22% work with charitable or volunteer organizations… Specifically, Internet users report higher rates of charitable donations, volunteering, attending meetings and events, and taking leadership roles.” So, how can companies utilize the social web to rally employees around CSR efforts and causes most important to them? Let’s look at several companies that have successfully forged ahead in this new frontier.

1. In 2010, Western Union introduced its “50 Days of Givinginitiative, which encouraged customers and employees to vote daily for their charity of choice, while the participating nonprofits received a donation to participate. Further efforts include added a blogging and “communities” function to its intranet so that employees can virtually gather around causes.

2. AdvancedMicroDevices (AMD) touts findings from their CSR reports via Facebook and Twitter and has released condensed versions of their findings via their own apps for iPad and Android. They engage with employees and consumers through these platforms, creating greater awareness and stimulating conversation around their CSR efforts.

In both examples, social media is critical in communicating CSR efforts. Considering that more than 65 percent of online adults use social networking sites (according to a Pew Internet report), communicating with employees and customers in solely traditional ways would ignore a much broader audience. Employees want to make a difference through their company, and they want to connect with causes in convenient and engaging ways. For happy and satisfied employees, pioneering the next frontier of CSR is paramount.

How is your company leveraging the next frontier of CSR to engage with employees?

This question and others were asked at the NiSE Network Meeting May 23, 2012, the working meeting that followed the Solutions Summit. The focus group explored the topic of organizational capabilities for sustainability. Common to all leaders in attendance was the belief or understanding that a cohesive message around sustainability, and its importance to the organization, needs to match the actions and opportunities for employee engagement within the organization–and their job descriptions. Culture does not change overnight, but social media may be a useful tool in leveraging existing capabilities and accelerating employee engagement. After all, it is common knowledge that to foster involvement from your constituents, customers or employees, you need engage with them in the ways and places that they are comfortable with.

Do you have examples of other companies making exemplary efforts to rally employees around causes and volunteerism in the digital era? How do you or your company leverage social media for sustainability? Leave your comments below!

The views expressed by the author(s) of this blog and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of NiSE at the Institute on the Environment or any employee thereof.

NorthStar Researcher Holly Lahd talks Managing Upstream Waste

August 29, 2012NiSEEvents, SustainabilityComments Off

On August 16th NorthStar Researcher Holly Lahd presented at Environmental Initiative’s Business and Environment Series. The focus of the event was on upstream waste in supply chains with a cradle to gate perspective. Holly presented with Madalyn Cioci of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on the evolution of waste management approaches, tools on quantifying the environmental impacts of generated waste, and how life cycle assessment can be a useful tool in reducing waste and upstream purchasing costs. The event was hosted at the Donaldson Company, and NorthStar members Stratford Companies and Tennant Company were in attendance.

For a summary of the event and copies of the presentations please visit: http://www.environmental-initiative.org/events/event/from-cradle-to-gate-managing-upstream-waste

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