Contributed by U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR
From the February 2017 Issue
While those outside the buildings industry might not think about buildings as polluters, the places where we work, shop, and learn offer a significant opportunity to save energy, save water, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce waste. And, for many buildings, measuring and tracking energy and water use has become standard operating procedure.
Waste and materials are another story, however. Materials can include items such as furniture, construction materials, and equipment. Up to this point, there hasn’t been an easy or consistent way to track waste in commercial buildings and manufacturing facilities. That’s a problem since these facilities are responsible for nearly half of the 167 million tons of waste that wind up in incinerators or landfills each year.
Material recovery and waste reduction are essential components to the productive and sustainable use of materials across their entire life cycle to conserve resources, reduce waste, slow climate change, and minimize the environmental impacts of the materials we use. EPA’s 2009 report, Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices, shows that approximately 42% of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are associated with materials management. Since new and existing buildings include materials such as furniture, construction materials and equipment, buildings represent a good opportunity for improvement and GHG reductions.
That’s why two years ago EPA began collaborating with leading building owners, managers, and waste haulers to identify key metrics and waste management options to add to ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, the Agency’s online energy and water measurement and tracking tool.
Portfolio Manager is actually the industry standard energy measurement and tracking tool for commercial buildings in the United States and Canada. More than 450,000 U.S. buildings, representing over 45% of the nation’s commercial building space, have been benchmarked in Portfolio Manager, as well as more than 10,000 buildings in Canada.
These buildings are already using the tool to benchmark and improve performance, prioritize investments, and verify reductions in energy and water use across these tens of thousands of buildings.
Portfolio Manager now includes a new waste and materials tracking feature. It’s designed in a way that allows for flexibility and basic comparative analysis, recognizing that the type and quality of available waste and materials management data vary widely.
With the addition of waste and materials tracking in Portfolio Manager, building owners and managers can now apply their energy management techniques holistically to reduce not only waste, but also the associated carbon footprint that results from landfill decomposition and incineration, as well as the costs of disposal.
Put The Plan In Motion
Getting others involved and following an action plan helps ensure the success of any waste reduction program.
Leverage an existing team. Consider adding a focus on waste reduction to your organization’s existing green team. This may mean bringing in additional team members with a focus on waste and recycling.
Create a new team. If your organization doesn’t have a green team, consider creating a group responsible for planning, designing and implementing waste reduction activities. Additional tips for creating a team include:
- Get support from management.
- Recruit representatives from different areas of your organization. A broad-based team will offer a variety of perspectives, creative problems-solving techniques and likely identify more opportunities for improvement.
- Relate the size of your team to the size of your organization and gather representatives from as many departments, tenants or functions as possible.
As the team comes together, it is important to identify its responsibilities:
- Setting short-term and long-term waste reduction goals
- Gathering and analyzing information related to the design and implementation of your planned activities
- Securing management participation in endorsing program goals and implementation, communicating the importance of reducing waste within the organization
- Promoting the program to employees and educating on ways to participate
- Offering employee incentives
- Engaging employee to seek suggestions and create recognition and awards
- Monitoring progress
- Reporting the status of planned activities to management
- Reporting the organization’s waste reduction efforts to all employees.
Find out more about ENERGY STAR Portfolio for buildings, including the waste tracking module.
Composting: Green Containers Boost Effective Collection?
Contributed by Keep America Beautiful
National nonprofit Keep America Beautiful and the United States Composting Council (USCC), along with five other nonprofits and government agencies, recommend designating green as the voluntary container color standard for organics collection containers. The voluntary standard has been established to address one of the key barriers to more effective recycling and organics collection. Key factors supporting the recommendation of green as the preferred container color for organics collection containers are:
- A distinct, consistent color for organics containers provides a visual cue for program participants that studies indicate will likely increase recognition of the purpose of the container and the quality of recovered material;
- A distinct color that is different from the color used for trash and recycling collection containers can increase recovery; and
- Consistency in messaging across jurisdictions—including the use of container color—helps to minimize confusion and contamination.
The initial organizations joining Keep America Beautiful and USCC in recommending this voluntary standard include: the City and County of San Francisco, GreenBlue, National Recycling Coalition, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Seattle Public Utilities and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. Additional organizations are expected to join the “Organics Collection Container” working group and support adoption of the voluntary standard throughout the year.
Says Brenda Pulley, senior vice president, recycling, Keep America Beautiful. “While consumers’ first effort should be to reduce food waste, once the food waste is generated we’ll improve organics collection by taking the simple step of standardizing the color of the organics collection containers.”
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