Heroes of Sustainability: Ray Anderson’s Quest to “Close the Loop”

Most people don’t change overnight — but then again, most people aren’t like Ray Anderson. He was in his 60’s when The Ecology of Commerce, a book by Paul Hawken, fortuitously landed on his desk. The founder of Interface Inc., the world’s largest producer of commercial floor coverings, Anderson thumbed through it, hoping to glean a nugget of inspiration for an upcoming speech he was giving on his company’s environmental vision. What he found was more than a nugget — and way more than something for a one-time-only presentation.

Realizing that working in a sustainable way was not only good for the environment but made good business sense, Anderson asked Interface’s engineers to find out what resources had been stripped from the earth to make the company’s products and ultimately boost the bottom line. For around $800 million in revenue, they had used some 1.2 billion pounds of raw materials, most of it oil and natural gas. Of that finding, he’s said: “I was staggered. I wanted to throw up. My company’s technologies and those of every other company I know of anywhere, in their present forms, are plundering the earth. This cannot go on and on and on.”

Then he did something many other business leaders only talk about: He changed.

It started with Mission Zero, which is Interface’s promise to eliminate any negative impact the company has on the environment by the year 2020. So far, they’re on course to do just that, redesigning processes and products, creating new technologies, and increasing the use of renewable materials to get closer to the goal of closed-loop manufacturing.

Ray Anderson

It’s a remarkable feat in the carpet industry, one that relies so heavily on petroleum. But if the behemoth company with sales in 100 countries and manufacturing facilities on four continents can do it, others can surely follow suit.

Anderson makes it clear that while he may be an environmentalist who has traded in the luxury cars for a Prius and owns a solar-powered vacation home in the mountains, that doesn’t mean he’s not a businessman — something he writes about in his 2009 book, Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose—Doing Business by Respecting the Earth. Indeed, some of the changes Interface has instituted have been expensive up-front, but they’re all paying off in the long run.

In 1997, Anderson laid out the company’s vision, and over a decade later, it still resonates: “If we’re successful, we’ll spend the rest of our days harvesting yesteryear’s carpets and other petrochemically-derived products and recycling them into new materials and converting sunlight into energy, with zero scrap going to the landfill and zero emissions into the ecosystem. And we’ll be doing well … very well … by doing good. That’s the vision.”

To learn more about Interface’s sustainability initiatives, visit www.interfaceglobal.com.

Thomas Kemper

President and Founder, Dolphin Blue

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Top Ten Reasons To Be a Green Business

One of my employees recently challenged me to create a “Top Ten” reasons to work for, own, or operate a ecologically friendly, green business.  Here is my take:

10. Because our planet is our “garden”. Only with a totally healthy and productive garden will we be able to live healthy and sustainable lives.

9. Because we’re running low on clean, drinkable, non-chemically-contaminated water.

8. Because we’re quickly losing clean, breathable, non-chemically-contaminated air.

7. Because we’re depleting the minerals and healthy state of our soil. Without healthy soil, we won’t have healthy food. Without healthy food, we can’t have healthy bodies.

6. Because a healthy, sustainable planet will provide great rewards in reduced healthcare costs, healthy employees who are productive and present, and will be much better employees.

5. Because as the owner/CEO of a green business, you’ll sleep better at night, knowing you’re doing your part.

4. Because, as a parent, you’ll sleep better at night, knowing you’re leaving a sustainable planet for your children and future generations.

3. Because you will be happier and healthier, living on a planet that you know has a rich diversity of fellow species, all doing their part in maintaining the balance of nature.

2. Because customers/consumers are looking for businesses with which they have a “values alignment”.  People buy from people and companies they know and trust are doing good.

and most important. ..

1. Because your children deserve at least as much of a natural world we have had.

Here’s hoping you make green waves at work,

Thomas Kemper, Owner and Founder

www.dolphinblue.com

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CEO answers green cost questions

greenguideAfter a consumer downloaded our Green Office Guide, she mentioned that she had looked at the pricing on recycled paper and found it to be more expensive than Office Depot or Staples.

Our CEO provided the following response:

Office Depot and Staples are both $12-15 billion companies, doing more business in a single hour than Dolphin Blue does in a whole year. Both contribute greatly to the degradation of our planet by offering virgin-material products and products manufactured with no social nor environmental attributes in more than 90% of what they provide.
 
That being said, like in green-building, conventional (non-environmentally  responsible) materials and products are heavily subsidized, not only on the resource harvesting/extraction side of the equation, but also oneco_friendly the energy consumption, pollution/emissions side of the equation as well. No subsidies exist for recycled or environmentally responsible products.
 
We’re all paying the societal costs in loss of air quality, loss of fertile, productive soil and land, degradation of water quality, and, ultimately, higher costs for healthcare and healthcare premiums.
 
If our prices are higher than what you’re looking at currently, then you might consider off-setting the higher cost with savings you’ll realize from the purchase of remanufactured toner cartridges from Dolphin Blue.
 
Do you have a question for Thomas? Send questions to thomas@dolphinblue.com.

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Proposed Effort to Slow Melting of Glacier in Antarctica

by Thomas Manaugh, PhD

kelloggI have written before about an “Energy Island” — a floating structure and integrated method of extracting large amounts of energy from the sun, from the wind, and from water waves and currents — and I believe it could be our solution to slow the melting of glaciers in the Antarctic.  

Here, it is proposed that an Energy Island could be used to provide massive amounts of energy for cooling seawater.  Cooling seawater in a key area off the western coast of Antarctica could slow the melting of glacial ice.

One effect of global warming is rapid melting of glaciers around the world. Melting of the glacial ice cap at the South Pole is of greatest concern because the ice that covers the Antarctic continent constitutes most of the glacial ice in the world.  Melting of ice on the continent of Antarctica would raise sea levels by a calculated 234 feet, flooding coastal areas and huge areas of low-lying lands around the world. (Calculation is based on numbers from NASA, referenced and quoted below).

Ground zero for concerns about Antarctica is now focused on an area in Antarctica’s western part.  That area contains Pine Island Glacier, a massive continental glacier that is slowly flowing into the Pine Island Bay on Antarctica’s western coast.  Undercut by warming seawaters, the glacier has been recently found to be melting four times faster than earlier estimated.  (See below reference and quote from research leader Professor Duncan Wingham, University College London.)

Could water off the western coast of Antarctica be cooled in a way that would slow melting of glacial ice in Antarctica?  If so, could such cooling give us a longer time to cope with and reduce global warming before catastrophic rises in sea levels would be otherwise predicted to occur?

It is proposed here that wind, wave, water currents, and solar energy could be used to power an effort to cool seawaters off the coast of a carefully targeted area of western Antarctica.  Cooling of waters in parts of Pine Island Bay could serve to slow the melting of glacial ice that is flowing into the bay.  In essence, the rapid melting of glacial ice would be slowed, the movement of the glacier into Pine Island Bay would be slowed, and more years (perhaps decades) would be granted to reduce global warming before catastrophic sea levels would otherwise inundate coastal areas around the world.

How hard would it be for an Energy Island to cool seawater that bathes the underside of glaciers that flow into Pine Island Bay?  Actually, the process is very simple — even less complicated than the task performed by your refrigerator if it automatically makes ice: the refrigerator controls a flow of water into the ice-making mechanism, cools the water by refrigeration, and discharges the resulting ice.

Similarly, Energy Island only needs to let fresh seawater flow for cooling into a refrigeration space — a space located within in the island’s structure.  The seawater is cooled to a temperature below 0 degrees Celsius (but not to a point of freezing).  It is then discharged from the bottom of the cooling space, and fresh water is allowed into the top of the cooling space to continue the process. 

If inlet and discharge processes were properly configured, it would be possible for the cooling process to operate continuously.

The discharged cooled seawater, now denser and heavier than the water around it, sinks toward the ocean floor.  The space between the glacier and the ocean floor is where the greatest glacier melting occurs.  The cooled seawater infiltrates that critical area and acts to slow the melting process.

Heat extracted from the seawater is dissipated from refrigeration condenser coils into the air.  That cooling process could be enhanced by also using water to cool the coils.  The result — warmed air that contains water vapor — would quickly cool in the frigid atmosphere of Antarctica, adding to snowfall.  Fresh snow adds to glaciers and helps protect glaciers from melting because snow is efficient at reflecting sunlight.

Dr. Thomas Manaugh is a frequent contributor to numerous blogs, including, Dolphin Blue, Inc. He is a leading expert in the ecosystem and climate and large advocate for anything helping lessen our carbon footprint. He can be contacted at manaugh@dolphinblue.com.

Reference and quote from NASA:

http://icesat.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ICESat_Brochure.pdf

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are an average of 2.4 km (7900 ft) thick, cover 10 percent of the Earth’s land area, and contain 77 percent of the Earth’s fresh water (33 million km3 or 8 million mi3). The Antarctic ice sheet has 10 times more ice than Greenland because of its greater area and average ice thickness. If their collective stored water volume were released into the ocean, global sea level would rise by about 80 m (260 ft).

Reference and quote from Professor Duncan Wingham:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6797162.ece

Satellite records show that if the melting of the Pine Island Glacier in west Antarctica goes on accelerating at current rates, the main section will have disappeared in 100 years, 500 years sooner than previously thought.

The research showed that the ice surface is dropping at a rate of 16m a year.The faster melting affects 5,400sq km of the glacier, containing enough water to raise world sea levels by 3cm, said Professor Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds, a member of the research team. The glacier’s melting could also expose stationary ice behind it to warm seawater, and if that ice were to melt, it could raise sea levels by another 25cm. The research, led by Professor Duncan Wingham at University College London and published in Geophysical Research Letters, is based on satellite observations of the glacier over 15 years. Professor Shepherd said: “Being able to assemble a continuous record of measurements over the past 15 years has provided us with the remarkable ability to identify both subtle and dramatic changes in ice that were previously hidden. “Because the Pine Island Glacier contains enough ice to almost double the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s best estimate of 21st-century sea level rise, the manner in which the glacier will respond to the accelerated thinning is a matter of great concern.”  Professor Shepherd said: “This is unprecedented in this area of Antarctica. We’ve known that it’s been out of balance for some time, but nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this.”

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Everything old is new again

Plastics recycling can have a big impact on our resources.
26Shopping bags, liters of soda, cereal box lining, and lots and lots of water bottles — it’s easy to amass plastic in today’s world, given its omnipresence in the products we use. Most of that, though, goes straight into plastic trash bags and heads to a landfill. (The rate of recycling plastic bottles has held steady since the 1990s at about 24 percent.)
 
Why Recycle Plastic?
When contemplating whether recycling plastic is really worth it, consider the following:
 
– It costs more money to drink bottled water than to put gas in your car — up to five times more — due mainly to its packaging and transportation, says the Earth Policy Institute.
 
– Recycling 1 ton of plastic saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space.
 
– The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes.
 
– More than $1 billion worth of plastic is wasted each year.
 
– Recycled plastic can turn into a whole host of new and useful products, including durable building and construction products, fiber for carpets, tote bags, beverage bottles, recycling bins, shipping envelopes, and tableware (cups, plates, and utensils). Dolphin Blue carries a complete line of post-consumer recycled plastic tableware, which you can find here.
 
How to Recycle Plastic
Fortunately, 80 percent of Americans have access to a plastics recycling program, and more than 1,600 businesses are involved in recycling post-consumer plastics. There are seven types of plastic, and not every community’s curbside program recycles all of them, so first, learn what’s what with the handy chart from the American Chemistry Council, found here. Most likely you have #1 (water bottles, peanut butter jars), #2 (plastic bags, shampoo bottles), and #6 (packing peanuts, yogurt containers).
 
Many stores will recycle plastic bags for you, so check with your favorite grocer, or visit PlasticBagRecycling.org for a list of locations in your state that offer drop-off bins for recycling plastic bags.
 
When it comes to water bottles and other containers with lids, take the tops off before throwing them in a recycling bin. Lids are usually made of a different type of plastic than bottles, and the recycling facilities aren’t going to take the time to take off billions of lids — and likely will reject the bottles for recycling.
 
For more information, watch a short video here about the process of recycling plastic.
 
The DIY Guide to Reusing Plastic
There are ways to make good use of plastic once you’re done with it other than sending it to a recycling facility. Keeping plastic bags on hand and reusing them as long as they’re functional is a great way to reduce your impact. To make it convenient, try storing bags in empty tissue or garbage-bag boxes. This keeps the clutter at bay, and it makes the bags accessible when you need them. Just pull a bag out of the parachute hole and go.
 
For those with an artistic side, look at plastic products in a new way and see what you can come up with. You might just end up with something as fun and elegant as these cascade chandeliers. And although crocheting is usually done with yarn, when plastic bags are the material, it’s environmentally friendly and pretty darn cool. Check out one woman’s creations here.
 
Last but not least, it’s simple and easy to stock your office kitchen or home pantry with Preserve Tableware, made of post-consumer recycled yogurt cups, available on Dolphin Blue’s site here.

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Round UP, Impact DOWN

RoundUpLogo_260x113pixI’m excited to announce that we signed a memorandum of understanding today with Renewable Choice Energy to participate in their “Round UP, Impact DOWN” carbon offset project.
 
What this means is that anytime a customer of Dolphin Blue purchases an item, they have an opportunity to offset the carbon emissions associated with their purchase by “rounding up” their purchase price to the nearest dollar amount.
 
Through Dolphin Blue’s participation in the Round Up program our customers have an opportunity to offset a portion of the carbon emissions associated with shipping their order.
 
The extra charge collected by Dolphin Blue when a customer chooses to “round up” is invested in a carbon reduction project administered by Renewable Choice Energy.
 
And here’s what we promise to do for you – all Round Up contributions received will be matched 1-for-1 by Dolphin Blue.
 
Together, we can and will make our world sustainable for future generations.

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