The comparative environmental impact of e-mail and paper mail

August 14th, 2014 by

This post originally appeared on Environmental News Bits.

Several days ago, a friend made a sarcastic comment on Facebook about how much better e-mail is for the environment (in the context of spammers choosing e-mail over paper mail). That made me wonder about the relative impact of paper vs. electronic mail. So, I did what librarians do: I went to Google and started searching. Here’s what I found.

There have been a couple of life cycle studies of paper mail delivery. Pitney-Bowes published a study in 2008 which found that:

…the distribution of letter mail by the Posts generates, on average, about 20 grams of CO2 per letter delivered. In addition, a survey of more than a dozen studies shows that the indicative range of CO2 emissions associated with the upstream mail piece creation process is about 0.9 – 1.3 grams of CO2 per gram of paper. (p. 2).

The U.S. Postal Service commissioned a similar study in 2008, which found:

  • Total energy consumed by the four mail products accounts for 0.6% of national energy consumption, a figure that seems reasonable given the quantities of mail in the U.S. economy, and the energy-intensive nature of paper and board production, printing, and motor vehicle transportation.
  • At the household level, energy and CO2 emissions associated with the entire mail life cycle are roughly comparable to those from operating any of several common home appliances over the same period of time. (p.ES-2)

Both the Pitney-Bowes and USPS studies also looked at other environmental impacts, including waste generation and recycling rates. The Pitney-Bowes report also did a preliminary investigation of electronic communications compared to mail, which found that energy use of information communication technology is about 2% of total U.S. energy use, which is comparable to that of the paper industry. They were unable to calculate a comparative environmental footprint for the two methods.

In 2009, McAfee commissioned a report on the environmental impact of junk e-mail (spam). The results were eye-opening:

  • An estimated worldwide total of 62 trillion spam emails were sent in 2008
  • The average spam email causes emissions equivalent to 0.3 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per message
  • Globally, annual spam energy use totals 33 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), or 33 terawatt hours (TWh). That’s equivalent to the electricity used in 2.4 million homes, with the same GHG emissions as 3.1 million passenger cars using two billion U.S. gallons of gasoline. (Key Findings)

There are also several research papers which explore the overall environmental impact of electronic communications, including e-mail and e-commerce. These include:

Although on a per message basis, it appears that e-mail has a lower environmental footprint that of paper mail, the comparative ease and perceived low or no cost of e-mail makes it more likely that people will choose it over paper mail, which requires a stamp and a trip to a mailbox or post office. In aggregate, e-mail has a significant environmental footprint, which may be even higher than that of paper mail.

The bottom line: Although e-mail appears to be a better environmental choice than paper mail because there is no obvious up-front waste stream, the research paints a much more nuanced picture, particularly when the including the environmental impact of electronics manufacturing and data center operation.

Climate Ride Midwest: September 6-9

July 17th, 2014 by

In September, Climate Ride will be hosting their first-ever ride through the midwest. Climate Ride is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness for sustainability, active transportation, and other environmental causes with various bike ride fundraisers across the country. Starting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, this ride will wind its way along Lake Michigan, through the states of Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, coming to an end in Chicago. With Climate Ride carefully planning out the details of the route and the accommodations, participants simply have to focus on the riding portion. At 60-80 miles of riding per day, this ride will be a challenging, exhilarating way to contribute to a great cause.

For those who wish to participate in the ride or simply donate to the cause, visit the climate ride website. Each rider must raise at least $2800 by August 29 to secure their spot, along with paying the $100 registration fee. Spots are filling up quickly so register soon!

You can also follow the fundraiser progress on the website, to see how much has already been raised and how close the participants are to their goals.

New LibGuides available: Focus on resilient cities, environmental law

July 9th, 2014 by

GLRPPR staff have recently converted the Printing — Flexography and Printing — Lithography topic hubs to LibGuides. GLRPPR staff have been working for several years to migrate the topic hub content into LibGuides to integrate social features and multimedia, as well as improve the ability to update links and other information. We will have the Sustainable Schools and P2 in Art Education topic hubs converted by the end of August, which will complete the process.

Jessica Tieman, a graduate student at the University of Illinois’ Graduate School of Library and Information Science, has developed a guide to Illinois environmental law, with a focus on pollution prevention and sustainability. The guide was originally a class project for LIS 525 — Government Information. She graciously allowed us to republish it in the University of Illinois’ LibGuides community so that it can be continuously updated. The serves as a reference aid for Illinois statutory law relating to environmental and pollution regulations, sustainability initiatives, and energy efficiency standards. Commercial groups are encouraged to use the guide to meet state requirements. Although the guide focuses on Illinois environmental law, it also includes more general compliance assistance and federal law resources.

The librarians at the Prairie Research Institute Library have developed a new guide to assist communities with becoming more resilient in the face of a changing climate and other threats. The guide includes information on:

  • strategies for identifying and responding to many barriers to resilient communities, including climate change, natural disasters, landscape and ecosystem, and infrastructure;
  • funding sources;
  • agencies and organizations that can assist;
  • current research at the University of Illinois; and
  • case studies.

For a more general discussion of LibGuides, see my 2013 P2 Week post on the topic. For a complete list of LibGuides that I’ve developed, see http://uiuc.libguides.com/profile/laura-l-barnes.

 

 

Brewers For Clean Water

July 7th, 2014 by

With water being the main ingredient in beer, having clean water is crucial to the brewing process. Not only can the slightest of impurities throw off the flavor of the batch tremendously, but it can also become a health concern. Dozens of craft brewers, many of which rely on water from the Great Lakes, launched a campaign last year with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), advocating for the strengthening of water quality policies. Attempts to lower the regulations on water in recent years has not only put the beer industry in jeopardy, but also threatens public health for many other industries. Watch this video to hear from the participating breweries about the campaign.

The campaign also has created a Facebook page to keep supporters informed of all updates regarding the campaign. From hosting sustainability talks with the breweries to creating petitions to be sent to the EPA, those who wish to support the campaign will find everything they need to become a part of the cause.

For more information and a complete list of local breweries involved in the campaign, visit the NRDC website.

To learn more about sustainability in other food processing industries, please visit the GLRPPR Sector Resource for Food Processing.

Call for submissions: Michigan Journal of Sustainability Special Edition on Climate Adaptation in the United States

July 2nd, 2014 by

The Michigan Journal of Sustainability is seeking high-quality work for inclusion in a special edition of our online, open-access, peer-reviewed Journal focused on strategies being taken, research underway, or promising practices to help different sectors and scales of society prepare for and build resilience to climate change. This Journal emphasizes the translation of academic sustainability research into formats that are useful and usable to practitioners and policy makers. As such, we invite abstracts that bridge the science-policy divide as it pertains to helping society adapt to existing and projected future impacts from disasters, climate variability, and long-term climate change. This special edition of our Journal is slated for release online in early 2015.

For this special edition, the Michigan Journal of Sustainability will accept timely, innovative, and informative articles translating scholarly research on efforts to prepare society and social-ecological systems more broadly, for climate change. Due to the crosscutting nature of the climate adaptation field, we strongly encourage articles that explore multi-disciplinary collaborations and articles that attempt to bridge sectoral or disciplinary divides.

Manuscripts for consideration in this special issue are due November 3, 2014 and should be submitted online at http://sustainability.umich.edu/webforms/mjs-submission.

View the complete call for papers at http://sustainability.umich.edu/mjs/submissions/.

GLREA holds Michigan Energy Fair June 27-28, 2014

June 9th, 2014 by

The Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (GLREA) is holding their 14th statewide energy fair on June 27-28 at the Ingham County Fairgrounds in Mason, MI. The 2014 Michigan Energy Fair will offer countless workshops to promote sustainable energy policies, technologies and projects to businesses and the community in the area. A complete schedule of workshops can be found here. Friday, June 27th will be geared towards professional attendees, such as facility managers, engineers, and educators, while Saturday will focus on the general public who may be interested in attending and learning more about renewable energy as a form of pollution prevention.

If you are interested in preparing an exhibit for the fair, it is not too late the register! For more information on how to register, please visit the registration page.

New sector resource for Behavior Change & Sustainabilty

May 27th, 2014 by

What do employee engagement, management buy-in,  green consumerism, pollution prevention technical assistance, and supply chain sustainability have in common?

At the root, each depends on people modifying their behavior to create lasting change. In recognition of this, GLRPPR made behavior change and sustainability one of its focus areas several years ago.  To support this focus area, we’ve developed a new sector resource on the topic, as well as added Behavior Change subcategories to several existing sectors.

The new sector resource has several different subcategories, including:

Please take some time to explore the new content and let us know if there’s something we missed.

Improving Water Management in the Great Lakes Basin

May 14th, 2014 by

A team led by the Great Lakes Commission is working with communities in the United States and Canada to identify and test the ecological and financial rationales for pursuing water conservation and green infrastructure practices, and pilot how this information can drive better water management throughout the Great Lakes region.

In order to be effective in the Great Lakes Region, the project team believes that water conservation must include strategies that impact municipal supply, stormwater, and wastewater, which involve engaging a different set of stakeholders than traditional water conservation programs.

The team will pilot this approach in six communities (three in the U.S., and three in Ontario). Participating communities include:

  • The Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Ontario;
  • The City of Waterloo, Ontario;
  • The City of Guelph, Ontario;
  • The Township of Lyons, Michigan;
  • The Township of Commerce, Michigan; and
  • Southwest Oakland County, Michigan.

These communities extract water from a variety of ground and surface water sources and face challenges that are common throughout the basin. These  include the overuse of groundwater supplies, stream impacts from water withdrawal and discharge, and impacts related to stormwater runoff

A detailed impact and infrastructure assessment will be conducted in each of the six pilot communities. This will include:

  • Developing a set of management actions for each community that will reduce environmental impacts and decrease costs;
  • Tracking the rate at which the pilot communities implement the recommended actions and calculating the environmental and financial impacts; and
  • Creating and testing a series of knowledge transfer strategies that will help communities teach other communities.

The team will transfer the tools created in the pilots to communities throughout the basin. New communities of practice will be created around the most promising techniques that have ecological importance and basinwide applicability.

The project team has already facilitated a webinar entitled “Extreme Makeover: How Six Model Municipalities Are Greening Their Water Management Program and Their Bottom Line.” The archived webinar and presentation slides are available at http://glc.org/projects/water-resources/water-mgmt/water-mgmt-webinars/.

Contacts

For more information on this project, please contact John Jackson, Project Manager, jjackson@web.ca, 519-744-7503; or  Christine Manninen, GLC Project Manager, manninen@glc.org, 734-971-9135.

Two upcoming webinars in the P2Rx Behavior Change Webinar Series

May 8th, 2014 by

View archived webinars in the P2Rx Behavior Change Webinar Series.

Tools for Successfully Deploying and Measuring Behavior Change for the Littering Public
Tuesday, May 13, 2014 1:30-2:30 pm CDT
Register at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/378905274

Donna Walden will begin by presenting a step-by-step model on community based social marketing (CBSM) to help P2 programs properly selecting behaviors, establish a baseline, and develop strategies that can successfully measure behavior change.

Then UC Santa Barbara Masters candidates Jessica Midbust, Michael Mori, Paula Richter, and Bill Vosti will present a Master’s group thesis undertaken for the Algalita Marine Research Institute on reducing plastic debris in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel River Watersheds using some CBSM techniques.

Participants will learn some valuable behavior change techniques and hear recommendations made from the graduate students on how to change the behavior of the littering public.

Designing Employee Engagement Programs that Impact a Company’s Triple Bottom Line
Wednesday, June 4, 2014 1-2 pm CDT
Register at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/752485802

BAE Systems is a $14.4 billion multinational corporation that reduced its total utility costs by 48% over a three year period with a utility cost takeout (UCT) energy efficiency program.  This would not have been possible without first enrolling BAE’s 43,000 employees across the globe in its sustainability plan.

Morgan Rooney, Sustainability Communications Specialist for BAE Systems was responsible for initiating and running the employee engagement program to support BAE Sustainability goals.  Morgan will share her strategies and successes for getting employees to buy into a corporate sustainability mandate for the long haul and how this affected and continues to affect BAE’s triple bottom line.

Webinar attendees will learn education tactics, how to set up a task force or green team, employee challenges, and awards and recognition programs that work towards initiating and sustaining behavior change for large communities.

Sustainability Awareness Promoted by Major Music Festivals in the Great Lakes Region

May 6th, 2014 by

The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer, and music festival season is rapidly approaching. Every year, music festivals across the country attract hundreds of thousands of music enthusiasts. Many of these festivals are taking action to become more sustainable and encouraging their attendees to do so as well.

Summer Camp Music Festival – Chillicothe, IL – May 23-25, 2014

Summer Camp Music Festival has a team of volunteers that help collect and sort trash, as well as educate festival attendees about the recycling and composting programs that are offered. With color coded trash bins and portable recycling bags, Summer Camp makes it easy for fans to help keep the festival clean. Moreover, the festival requires that all vendors use compostable materials, greatly limiting the amount of trash that ends up in a landfill.

Every year, Summer Camp brings in numerous nonprofit organizations to promote sustainability, renewable energy, and carbon offsetting amongst the festival-goers. Attendees learn about many different ways that they can lower their impact on the environment, even after the festival is over.

Working with engineers at Caterpillar, Summer Camp has been able to use a higher concentration of biodiesel in their generators for all electricity needs, which significantly lowers their use of traditional energy sources. For the past three years, the festival tracked and offset their estimated CO2 emissions to reduced their environmental footprint.

To learn more about this eco-friendly festival’s sustainability initiatives, visit the Summer Camp Music Festival website.

Pitchfork Music Festival – Chicago, IL – July 18-20, 2014 

Through recycling programs, purchasing carbon offsets, and using sustainable power, Pitchfork Music Festival takes responsibility for their environmental impact, and acknowledges the importance of encouraging their fans to participate in the efforts to become a clean, green festival.

Recycling crews work with vendors to separate the trash generated at the festival, sending food waste to composting facilities and recycling as much as possible. Additionally, the festival has reduced oil demand and carbon emissions by powering the festival entirely with biodiesel and using hybrid vehicles for festival and musician transport. Pitchfork understands that being an international music festival creates the need for a lot of travel, which is why the festival has decided to buy carbon offsets to cover the transportation of all of their musicians. Purchasing these carbon offsets help fund projects to reduce CO2 emissions, so the festival strongly encourages attendees to purchase their own as well.

Visit the Pitchfork website for more information.

Lollapalooza – Chicago, IL – August 1-3, 2014

Lollapalooza is constantly seeking new, eco-friendly businesses to join the ‘Green Street Art Market’. Local businesses, as well as artisans from across the globe, are encouraged to promote their environmentally responsible goods to the thousands of fans that walk by throughout the weekend.

For the past few years, Lollapalooza has partnered with Camelbak to provide free, ice cold water to festival-goers at several filling stations throughout the park. This encourages the use of reusable water bottles and hydration packs and prevents up to 3.2 million disposable water bottles from becoming waste at the end of the 3-day festival. Lollapalooza also has hundreds of recycling bins located throughout the entire park, many of which are accompanied by a volunteer to inform people of what types of trash should be discarded into each container.

The festival implemented these programs not only to prevent the festival from causing harm to the environment and promote environmental awareness, but also to encourage volunteers from the Chicagoland area to be a part of the Environmental Initiatives programs. The application will become available mid-May, so check the volunteer information section of the FAQ page often throughout May because positions fill up quickly!

More information about the festival can be found on the Lollapalooza website.