Could banking crisis put climate change policies in the shade?
Tackling climate change will help, not hinder, governments’ efforts to overcome the global financial crisis, the EU’s environment chief said last month.
The 27-nation European Union has set ambitious goals to curb carbon dioxide emissions by a fifth by 2020, compared to 1990 levels, partly by making power generators and heavy industry pay for permits to pollute in its emissions trading scheme.
Critics say the financial crisis makes it very difficult for industry to make the necessary big investments in clean energy.
"We think this (climate) package is consistent with solving the financial crisis. At the moment, people are focused on the economic crisis, but our package is part of the solution," Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told reporters in Warsaw.
"Fighting climate change means investment in energy efficiency, promoting renewable sources and providing incentives to stimulate the economy and contribute to growth."
The EU also argues that moving to a low-carbon economy will create jobs and reduce the bloc’s exposure to volatile prices of fossil fuels such as oil and coal which lead to global warming.
Poland and other ex-communist EU member states have expressed concern that carbon dioxide (CO2) curbs will stunt their economic growth by sharply increasing energy prices.
Asked if the Commission was willing to make amendments to its package, Dimas said: "It is not for the Commission to accept amendments, it’s for the European Council (of national governments) and for the European Parliament.
"The package is just an instrument to achieve the climate change targets agreed by member states. The Commission can make changes which do not compromise the environmental objectives," he added.
Dimas said he was hopeful that France, the EU’s current chairman, could forge agreement among member states on the Commission’s climate package by the end of this year.
"This package is good for Europe because Europe’s economy will become more efficient," he said.
Dimas was in Poland, along with representatives of dozens of other countries, for preparatory talks ahead of a planned U.N. conference in the western Polish city of Poznan in December that is meant to pave the way for a new global climate deal.
The current Kyoto Protocol, which does not set CO2 emission targets for major emerging economies such as China and India, expires in 2012. The United States has also not joined Kyoto.
Referring to the talks in Warsaw, Dimas said: "Nobody has said we should cut down our efforts (because of the financial crisis). They all said we should continue. We need to send a strong signal from Poznan on fighting climate change."
Staples store takes the LEED in energy saving
Staples has opened its first LEED-registered store in the northeast of the United States. According to Staples, the store is one of the first stores in Boston to be registered with US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) programme.
Staples said in a press release: "Through the use of innovative features, such as an energy efficient roof with skylights that provide natural light for much of the store (pictured above), the new Staples will use 35 percent less energy than a standard Staples store and reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 105,821 lbs. per year. In addition, the store is estimated to save 20,325 gallons of water per year (56 gallons per day) compared to standard Staples through low-flow sinks and toilets."
Printing the green way
Xerox has unveiled a comprehensive programme of papers, resources and Web tools to help customers identify the right paper, the right supplies and the right way to print with the environment in mind.
"The paperless office is far from a reality as businesses still depend on the printed page for communications and information sharing," said Frank Edmonds, Senior Vice President, Xerox Supplies Business Group. "Our job at Xerox is not only to provide the best technology and services for managing documents but also to help our customers print what they need in the most environmentally responsible way."
To provide its customers with "greener" printing choices, Xerox is introducing additional papers in North America that are independently certified to sustainable forest management standards and new recycled papers designed for digital printing. One product in this new range is the new Xerox Color Xpressions Planet 20 Paper, a 20 percent post-consumer, recycled-content offering, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Xerox’s Paper and Supplies Sustainability Web portal provides easy-to-use resources to help customers assess their paper choices and the environmental impact throughout the paper’s lifecycle.
The environment and wireless technology key for consumers
When it comes to buying a printer, the environment is on the mind of US consumers, according to an online survey by Lexmark.
More than 80 percent of those who responded say a printer with an option for high-yield ink cartridges would have a positive influence on their purchasing decision.
The survey also found that paper-saving features are important to most printer owners.
The benefits of wireless technology also ranked high among consumers. Half of the respondents said wireless printing is more convenient than standard wired printing.
EU regulates to reduce energy use in equipment
EU regulations regarding eco-design requirements for standby and off mode electric power consumption of electrical and electronic household and office equipment have been approved by the EU commission.
If approved by the EU Parliament, the regulation would set maximum power consumption levels for electrical and office equipment when operated in standby and off mode. The range of products would include computers, televisions, ovens, and microwaves. The objective of the regulation is to establish an energy efficiency standard that must be met in order to market the product. Under current proposals the new standards would be phased in over four years. The Regulation is scheduled for formal adoption by the end of this year.
Recent discussions relating to the current limited scope of the Energy using Products (EuP) Directive have resulted in the likely amendment of the Directive to extend it to cover products with an indirect impact on energy consumption during use, such as water saving showerheads.
"These measures are concrete contributions to reaching the EU’s energy efficiency targets. Once they are in place, they will significantly reduce energy consumption, CO2 emissions and foreign dependency in a cost-effective manner," said Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.
The regulations are part of the implementing measures set out in the 2005 Framework Directive on Eco-design requirements for Energy-using Products (EuP), which stipulates that energy-efficiency improvements should be adopted on a product-by-product basis by a special committee of national technical experts.
After being given the go-ahead by the Parliament, the Commission expects the regulations to be formally approved by member states in January 2009. Meanwhile, Brussels is expected to propose further EuP implementing measures on product groups such as lamps used in the domestic sector in the next few months.
The loneliness of the early eco-friendly furniture maker
Taizen Industrial Corp started to engage in the manufacture of eco-friendly office furniture about 10 years ago, with such items having been gaining increasing attention in recent years. "Having been in the furniture industry for nearly three decades, I have experienced its ups and downs," says Chen Yung-chuan, general manager of the company.
"Initially I made metal knockdown (K/D) furniture and school furniture for the domestic household and campus segments," Chen adds. "It was tough competing against my rivals who produced similar items of wood, as metals were simply more expensive.
"For years, I have been committed to producing quality metal furniture and believed in my choice, which has been proven a wise decision particularly in recent years when rising eco-awareness all over is slowing tree cutting, hence limiting supplies of lumber," Chen states. "As a result, many Taiwan furniture manufacturers have had to either move production to forest-rich Southeast Asia or totally suspend making wooden furniture, with some having been forced to turn to metal furniture.
"Even 10 years ago I foresaw the global momentum building behind eco-friendly furniture. As a pioneer in the line, I felt somewhat lonely and suffered a lot of frustration in promoting such furniture," Chen recalls.
"Choosing the right material is key to the successful development of eco-friendly furniture: We mainly use recyclable PE and metal for they are more durable than wood and rubber," Chen says.
In Taiwan, showing the official `green` label on your furniture is the seal-of-approval that such item is in fact eco-friendly. "So we spent about two years and considerable money to improve our products and finally received the first green certificate some eight years ago granted by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in Taiwan," Chen notes proudly.
"Our products became increasingly popular after being officially green-certified," Chen adds. "Today government offices are required to purchase furnishings with EPA green certificates."
Taizen subcontracts some of the manufacturing to its satellite plants in Taiwan. About four years ago, the company diversified into office furniture in addition to home and school furniture.
Credibility of FSC certificates called into question
Friends of the Earth UK (FoE) has become the first major international NGO to confirm that it no longer recognises the value of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certificates. FoE UK’s website is now advising states that it "is deeply concerned by the number of FSC certifications that are now sparking controversy and threatening the credibility of the scheme."
Friends of the Earth pioneered timber certification during the 1980s and was one of FSC’s founders, but FoE International in Amsterdam has confirmed that it is now "reviewing" its membership of the organisation.
Head of climate at FoE UK, Ed Matthew, said: "We have been involved with FSC for years and are a big supporter of the scheme.
"However, six months ago we decided to stop recommending it. We have the highest standards for recommendations and recently we have had problems with some of the certifications."
Rosie Teasdale, Marketing Manager, FSC told OPI that: "With regards the FSC and Friends of the Earth (FoE) situation, this story dates back to March this year and has just been raised again by the Ecological Internet press release. FoE England, Wales and Northern Ireland has not withdrawn its membership of FSC. FSC is in a dialogue with a group of environmental NGOs, including Friends of the Earth, and business representatives who are keen to see a number of improvements in the way FSC both carries out accreditation and deals with any complaints that arise from this process."
The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has said that its is reviewing its support for the FSC over concerns regarding what it calls FSC’s greenwashing of ancient forest logging. In a statement to Ecological Internet, and on its web site, RAN announced that it finds "certification of logging in such forests extremely problematic" and have "raised the matter with the FSC". RAN has embraced EI’s goal of working to end ancient forest logging, written to FSC with its concerns and to request more data. It has also indicated that FSC’s continued certification of ancient forest logging is problematic and threatens their membership. Based upon this progress, Ecological Internet has temporarily suspended the protest campaign.
"Global ecological sustainability depends critically upon protecting and restoring large, unfragmented, and intact forest and other terrestrial ecosystems across the globe to maintain all species, climatic processes, human habitat and the biosphere’s functioning. To this end, Ecological Internet’s demands to RAN, and other long-time appeasers of FSC’s ancient forest destruction, remain simple: either use your membership to get FSC to eliminate its sourcing of certified timbers from old-growth and primary forests, or resign immediately from FSC in protest and to end your complicity in ancient forest greenwash," explains EI President Dr. Glen Barry.
However Alison Kriscenski, Communications Manager, FSC International, described the new comments as "a rehash of the story first raised in March by the Ecology Internet." She did not know of any ongoing discussions. She added that "Friends of the Earth International have never been a member while Friends of the Earth UK are still members." The general assembly was due to be held this month (3-7 November in Cape Town). "This is the forum where stakeholders can raise criticisms and concerns and we do not know if concerns over certification could be brought up then," she told OPI.
Putting the Green Office on Facebook
Shoplet.com, one of the biggest online retailers for office supplies in the US, has announced what it describes as a first-of-its-kind relationship with Facebook.com, the world’s most popular social networking site.
In collaboration with Facebook, Shoplet.com has created a ‘Green Office’ Facebook application, which provides Facebook users with a quantified measurement of the positive impact they and their friends are having on the environment.
While some companies have linked to Facebook before, Shoplet.com is said to be the first in the office products industry to develop a special application to provide immediate and tangible feedback that directly link consumers’ actions to environmental impacts.
"We have long admired the Facebook community, which continues to remind us that making a difference does not mean drastically changing the way you work and live," said Shoplet.com founder and CEO Tony Ellison.
"It is about taking small steps that, cumulatively, can lead to major change," he said.
Hopeful on going green
Henkel is hopeful its recently launched range of environmentally friendly products for the mailing and packaging sector under the Caremail brand can help in the economic downtown.
"An increased awareness for our environment has played a role in sales increases seen in years past. Consumers, now more than ever, are highly focused on reusing and recycling mailing and shipping products," says Patti Sack, Communications Manager, Henkel. "Some companies have even set minimum sustainability standards for their purchasing departments."
These include Greenwrap protective packaging, Eco packaging and biodegradable peanuts for packaging and recycled boxes. Henkel says it is focussed on reusability, even for traditional supplies. Examples of this include Bubble wrap cushioning and recyclable Kraft paper.