May 20, 2013
March 30th, 2013 - Announcements
The World Bank recently released a report on municipal solid waste (MSW) bringing to light the extent of the existing challenge and its mounting growth. Currently, municipalities generate approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of MSW/year and it is predicted to rise to nearly double within 12 years. Scouring the globe for solutions, DG Networks brought together a panel of forward thinking and innovative leaders who discuss the dynamics of this industry and present inspirational solutions that have positive economic, social, and environmental benefits.
Narrator David William Gibbons masterfully draws out salient points from a diverse panel consisting of Buddy Boyd Founder Gibsons Recycling Depot, Dr. Jeffrey Morris Economist Sound Resource Management Group, Dr. Paul Connett Professor of Chemistry St. Lawrence University (Retired), and Erich Schwartz President of the Business Sustainability Consultancy Greenomics.
Broadcasting this Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 3:00 PM Pacific, 6:00 PM Eastern, and 11:00 PM Central European times the program will be available here. The show targets an international audience with focus on Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australia.
DG Networks was established in 2009 to provide legacy programming in world and current affairs, science, environmental and spiritual areas with educational and transformational content. Facilitation panels also act as a stage for inspirational and solution orientated discussion. With over six hundred hours of historical material, the broadcasting continues in providing deep dialogue and reference for academic and wide industry sectors.
March 28th, 2013 - Announcements
When we win – Everyone Wins!
For the past 10 years, Small Business British Columbia has recognized and celebrated the contributions of BC’s best small businesses through its “Successful You Awards” program. The province-wide contest recognizes and celebrates the important contributions of BC’s entrepreneurs to their local communities and the wider global economy. Since its inception, the Successful You Awards has attracted over 2,000 entrepreneurs in areas as diverse as retail trade, manufacturing, technology services, arts, entertainment and recreation.
One of the categories is Best Green Business, and we at Greenomics are very pleased to pass on the news that our business associate Gibsons Recycling Depot (GRD) won the award this year! This award recognizes the business that best demonstrates an outstanding commitment to energy and sustainability through leadership and actions that proactively influence green practices with evidence of long-term commitment to energy conservation and waste reduction.
The owners of GRD, Buddy Boyd and Barb Hetherington, started 10 years ago to transform their disposal business into a recycling, reuse and resource recovery business. They experienced that mental shift that occurs when we realize nothing’s garbage until it is buried or burned. They realized it just doesn’t make sense to keep sending discarded materials to a landfill or an incinerator when the materials that were being discarded were perfectly reusable. So, they bought 2.14 acres in Upper Gibsons British Columbia that was zoned and conveniently located on the shopping path for locals. They created the first Resource Recovery Center in BC. They now manage the recyclables & discards into different streams, with the waste stream being the smallest and getting smaller every day.
Their most recent additions include launching the first curbside recycling service in North America using Electric vehicles, installing 2 public EV charging stations. Future plans include adding solar panels, and mattress deconstruction! Their goal is to help create a Zero Waste community that uses discarded resources to stimulate local economic development.
Buddy and Barb demonstrated all the characteristics of wanting to be a sustainable business, and acted by developing commonsense practical practical solutions. The results are exceptional services provided to the people of the Town of Gibsons and the surrounding districts, a means to protect and enhance the environment, and a model for other communities who want to stimulate local economic development.
March 28th, 2013 - General
Running a business or working within one, what ever its size, benefits when we pause and reflect upon our actions and their results on profits, ourselves and other people, and the environment. I have worked in many environments ranging from the navy to restaurants to global corporations, all requiring me to focus on the tasks at hand. The tasks were diverse ranging from conducting gunnery exercises to flipping burgers to transforming enterprises. The gunnery exercises involved shelling gunnery range islands in the Philippines to ensure our state of readiness to defend or attack as determined by the politics of the day. Flipping burgers was a means to pay for my tuition at university. While transforming enterprises was to provide me with income while improving the profitability of a business for the benefit of its shareholders. Seldom did I reflect on the longer term social and environmental implications.
Beyond the immediacy of the situations, I did ponder how I was impacting the future. This led to looking into the past to gain context for my daily actions in search of wisdom for doing business with the future in mind. Some of our oldest cultures provide glimpses into wisdom that nurtures my personal desire to create a vibrant economy, a healthy society, and a robust environment. Specifically:
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” – Chinese proverb.
While we may not have been euphemistically planting trees 20 years ago, it is not too late to start, and pursuing sustainable business practices can start today. In some sense I am doing this for myself to assuage my conscience, but I am also doing it for a future in which I will not exist. To draw further from the past:
“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”. -Greek proverb
This concept of cultivating the future extends beyond my immediate family of course. When I review the great struggles of the past and how humanity has overcome the numerous adversities, I see continuous progress and feel we are on the verge of becoming truly remarkable. While there have been leaders in the past who have led us to destruction and ruin, the spirit of humanity has always triumphed. So too shall we overcome today’s challenges and false leaders by affirming that which we hold most sacred – life.
While there are many obstacles and morasses to overcome, by staying focused and determined we will succeed.
“Just as tall trees are known by their shadows, so can good men be known by their enemies.” – Chinese proverb
There is further foundational guidance from the past as drawn from the medical community’s Hippocratic Oath. This oath dates back to the 5th Century BC and is sworn to by physicians and health care professionals to practice medicine honestly and ethically. The business community would benefit from a similar oath that can be incorporated into existing businesses, governments, and business schools as part of their graduation ceremonies.
I propose a 21st Century Business Oath that is based on honesty, integrity, and sustainable practices that benefit all.
A Business Oath for the 21st Century
I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant for conducting my affairs:
I will apply measures equally to profit, people, and planet for the benefit of the whole according to my ability and judgment. I will do no harm to society or the environment, and if inadvertently so done will take corrective measures to rectify my transgressions.
I will only make products, services, and by-products that do not cause illness to people or pollution to the environment. I will conduct my business and those with whom I do business with honesty, integrity, and sincerity and encourage others to do the same. I will withdraw from those who pursue business otherwise.
Where ever my business impacts society or the environment I will ensure it is to their benefit as well as mine, remain free of all intentional injustice, and of all mischief particularly to those who are downtrodden or vulnerable.
I will demonstrate the benefits of conducting business in the interests of myself, society, and the environment and will keep to myself that which is conducted by others shamefully.
I shall view all people and all environments as equally worthy of expression and will work to further their fulfillment as if they were my own.
By fulfilling this path and not violating it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honoured with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.
February 24th, 2013 - General
Building a “green” economy requires a vision that fairly balances economic, social, and environmental factors. This is well understood by forward thinking economists and environmentalists; it is superficially understood by the general population. While the benefits of this broader perspective spread, there is a core systemic challenge that prevents our politicians and businesses from fully embracing this evolution of capitalism.
That systemic challenge is overcoming the need to deliver immediately results every few years. For politicians it is to get re-elected, and CEOs it is to deliver results every quarter. This leads both camps to search for short term solutions to problems requiring strategic solutions. A very clear example of this need to deliver results now can be observed with the evolving discussions pertaining to waste management in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland. Businesses are looking for the next big sale and politicians are looking for a good news story.
Both these drivers have led to the simplification of a complex issue and to the dissemination of inaccurate and incomplete information.
A Complex Issue
Options for managing waste are typically simplified into landfills versus waste to energy plants. Landfills are labelled as bad because they are expensive, emit the greenhouse gas methane, and of course no one wants one in their backyard. So, landfills bad.
Waste to Energy (WTE) plants are typically presented as being less expensive than landfills, emit fewer greenhouse gases, and can address the residual waste that is a little challenging to divert. So, waste to energy better.
However, what is seldom mentioned is the fact that most technical WTE solutions still need landfills. In fact, depending on the WTE plant, they can still generate waste water, toxic chemicals, GHG emissions, and ash and other residuals that must be land filled.
One alternative that Zero Waste Canada advocates along with Zero Waste Alliance International is simply Zero Waste. Zero Waste in principle means NO waste and the logic is simple. If there is no waste, there is no need for landfills or WTE. Building WTE into any Zero Waste (ZW) program will inherently undermine it as the WTE component will need the continuous generation of garbage or get shut down. This is already being experienced in Sweden which has been so effective in pursuing its ZW goals it has to import garbage from other countries.
If an entire country can achieve this kind of success so can a cluster of municipalities in the Lower Mainland. It just needs leadership that thinks strategically, rather than simply the next municipal election.
Inaccurate and Incomplete Information
Unfortunately, instead of strategic leadership we are being presented a sort of “fait accompli” that we can only address remaining waste issues through expensive, environmentally and health damaging incineration. Further, the information provided is inconsistent and tends to represent the individual’s interest rather than an objective view. In other words, it is intended to persuade rather than allow the reader make decisions based on an unbiased presentation of available information.
For example, Tom Lyons of Covanta, which runs 44 WTE plants worldwide claims that their plant in the Lower Mainland is one of their best performers. Yet, it still runs at an annual deficit of $8,000,000. At the same time, the business case for the construction and operation of a new $4,000,000 plant is projected to have a $20,000,000 return on investment (ROI) after 35 years. The credibility of such a slim ROI is seriously undermined given the performance of existing plants, and realistically a business case that extends out to 35 years is highly unlikely to be accurate if not simply fanciful.
Further, the actual amount of future waste is in question given Greg Moore, chair, Metro Vancouver Board of Directors and Malcolm Brodie, chair, Metro Vancouver Zero Waste Committee (both politicians) argue that we will be generating 750,000,000 tonnes of garbage every year. Meanwhile, Paul Henderson Solid Waste Manager for Metro Vancouver conservatively estimates 340,000,000. Whose numbers are correct is not really that important as again it reflects the nature of the projections, in that such long term estimates are unlikely to be accurate anyway, and they should be presented as guesses. So why the exaggerated garbage projections from the politicians as compared to the Solid Waste Manager? To persuade.
Minister of the Legislative Assembly, John Les suggests “The half-billion dollar cost of this potential project really has the beginnings of boondoggle written all over it.” In other words, someone is going to benefit from a very expensive project that is likely to have significant overruns, which again puts the projected $20M ROI in 35 years into question. But those are just the financial projections. It does not factor for environmental and human health impacts.
Zero Waste Alternatives
While Moore and Brodie claim they have conducted extensive community consultations, many community representatives claim they have gone to great lengths to present alternative options and have never received any responses. Buddy Boyd, Owner Operator of Gibsons Resource Recovery Centre, states, “We have made many efforts to contact Moore and Brodie and their representatives to present them options, and have not even received a courtesy reply!”
There are alternatives that have very nominal impacts on the environment and our health, can stimulate the emerging green economy by keeping resources within local communities, and are more cost effective than WTE.
Zero Waste provides municipalities with the opportunity to create local jobs, and save money in handling waste. At the same time it reduces environmental and health impacts and practically eliminates GHGs. However, to achieve these results requires leadership that seeks long term solutions rather than costly quick fixes.
February 12th, 2013 - Articles
by Erich V. Schwartz
Sustainability has been discussed for at least one full generation with various historical highlights along the way; however, no quantifiable progress has actually been made. Yes, it is good that there is greater awareness and many environmental groups and activists are beating the sustainability drum but that has not been enough. Greenhouse gases continue to concentrate and our emission rates steadily rise with. As well, our global economy is pumping out unprecedented amounts of pollution that’s causing increases in our health issues, and threatening our water supply, food supply, and standard of living. We know this and we hear the doom and gloom every day, so why aren’t we aggressively tackling the issues before the damage is so severe and our response is too late?
We know what we need to do, but it will require a massive and unprecedented transformation of ourselves as individuals and our businesses on a global scale.
What Must Be Done
We need to immediately transition to a Zero Carbon and a Zero Waste Conservation Economy while simultaneously embracing Global Social Equality.
Why Zero Carbon? Very simply, we’ve hit 400 PPM of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and the rate of concentration continues to increase with no signs of slowing down. The science is clear. We are rapidly heading toward run-away global warming which will trigger the demise of our civilization. Assuming we wish to continue to improve our quality of life and build upon all the gains we’ve made we need to stop emitting greenhouse gases. In fact, many argue we need to develop solutions that reverse the current concentrations down to 350 ppm. To achieve this we need to stop burning fossil fuels that we currently use for the majority of our transportation systems, our heating and cooling in our buildings, and the generation of electricity. In other words, all the energy we use needs another source for generation. This is monumental.
Why Zero Waste? Well, our current municipal and industrial solid waste management model is linear. We extract resources to manufacture the goods we want, which are then distributed and purchased by consumers. Once used (literally used once) they are thrown into the garbage and end up in landfills, incinerators, and the environment. This process pollutes our environment, depletes our resources, and negatively impacts human health. Zero Waste creates a cyclical pattern where our means of production conserve natural resources, and are designed for reuse, repair, recycling or composting. The materials that we used to throw away become local assets that benefit people, the planet and the economy.
Why Global Social Equality? It is clear that a relatively small percentage of humanity is living off the backs of the majority. Altruistically this is not fair and there is a rising swell of pressure to ensure the goods and services we receive are acquired ethically. The fight against ‘blood diamonds’ is one extreme example. But far more damaging than the ‘blood diamond’ market is the extraction of resources such as oil that devastates the local environment and citizens into ruin as demonstrated in the Nigerian delta. Informed and concerned people do not want this on their conscience. From a security perspective, developed nations are becoming increasingly under threat as those whose backs we live upon become better educated, more empowered, and are demanding and fighting for their rights. This has always been a key ingredient for the collapse of empires when the oppressed rise up. Signs of people rising up and throwing off their chains are more prevalent today than full scale wars, and are reaching into the hearts of developed nations through “terrorist attacks”.
The key question is if we know what we need to do, what is stopping us?
The Scale We Must Achieve
First, we are still in the denial phase as we have not accepted the magnitude of the challenge is like nothing we have ever encountered. Our global economy is based on a linear production process that leads to resource depletion, pollution, human health degradation, and threatening our water supply, food supply, and standard of living. We need massive change in all sectors that include retooling, behavioural changes, and leadership by our elected officials.
Why Retooling? Fundamental to all of our industrial/business activity is the dependence on cheap and abundant energy which is currently provisioned through the burning of fossil fuels. While we have experienced some energy shocks and much talk about diminishing supplies and threats like “Peak Oil”, the reality is we will burn off our atmosphere before we run out of fossil fuels. Meaning, we will pump so much greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that we will create run-away global warming and energy supplies will be the least of our worries. More immediate issues will include food and water security and probable wars as nations fight for dwindling resources to maintain civil rest. As such, we need to get off the fossil fuel bandwagon and either find clean and abundant energy to serve our needs or significantly reduce our energy demands, or more likely a combination of both.
Why Behaviour Change? Bottom line is no one wants to be changed except a baby with a wet diaper. Further, the need for behaviour change is difficult to accept given the apparent abundance of food in grocery stores. Produce from around the world can be bought everyday of the year. For example people in India can purchase fresh blueberries from Canada that are delivered by air. This seems like the good life, but it can only exist because the true costs are externalized and hidden. That is, the actual cost is not paid by the consumer or the producer it is incurred by everyone. The release of greenhouse gases in the transportation of produce is a significant contributor to climate change. The true cost is being deferred and will be paid for in the future.
On an individual level, there is much push back against companies who are trying to implement some basic steps to reduce their impacts. For example, one way to reduce overall company related greenhouse gas emissions is to encourage employees to pursue commuting options such as public transit, riding bikes, or walking. One “stick” oriented way to reinforce this policy is to reduce or eliminate company parking stalls. The backlash by employees has led many companies to retreat from this idea, especially given some people’s perceived sense they earned the “right” to drive their car and park in a reserved stall. We have to change our sense of entitlement and balance it against our obligation to society.
Why Political Leadership? Fundamentally, governments play an important role in creating an environment for businesses to operate. Current policies at the international and national levels encourage the extraction of fossil fuels for energy and are often in conflict with other stated goals. For example, in British Columbia the government is pushing for a carbon neutral public sector, while at the same time courting the extraction of natural gas through hydraulic fracturing (fracking) techniques. Fracking not only has significant demands for water and causes ground water contamination, it also releases greenhouse gases through its extraction, processing, and burning. However, it also delivers significant revenue for a “cash strapped” government. Clearly, these conflicting needs must be aligned for both to be successful. However, political leaders have yet to establish and enforce the policies necessary to meet the longer term goals against the immediate perceived need of cash flow. There is no vision or leadership.
So, how do we overcome our personal, political, and business dynamics to survive?
Fundamentally, we all must focus on the real priorities and assume responsibility for our individual, social, and institutional actions. We need to shift from being ‘smart’ to being wise. Many ancient cultures profess wisdom in statements such as “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”. In the articles to follow, we will explore in practical terms how this concept could become the cornerstone for our future. With an overarching theme of sourcing our goods, our daily behaviour, and the bi-products of our actions, how an individual, our society, and our businesses and institutions can create the future we want and avoid the future we are creating.
"Garbage Gold Rush"
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