Over the past weeks, the nation has been in a deep freeze and speculation has surrounded whether or not the Super Bowl XLVIII would be upstaged by the polar vortex. According to the National Weather Service, the game is now expecting a high of 29 degrees in the evening with zero chance of precipitation. With Super Bowl Sunday coinciding for the first time with Groundhog Day, climate is no longer a ‘tree hugger’ topic as weather conditions continue to force it into the mainstream.
For years, the NFL Environmental Program and the host cities community partners like the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee have been hosting community events as part of a larger environmental movement around green games, green stadiums and the wiser use of resources. Events connect people and communities, and through this bond neighborhoods build awareness for boosting their sustainability efforts. These events included the Super Community Coat Drive, e-waste recycling in Times Square, 61 sustainability measures at MetLife Stadium and stewardship projects that added 27,000 trees and shrubs to the city.
Credit: Green Restaurant Association
Engaging the local community is a great step for creating a ‘new normal’ where citizens become part of the solution in building toward a sustainable future. If you are thinking of incorporating green behaviors in your community or organization, here is a simple guide to making it a success:
Step 1: Make a Commitment and be a Game Changer.
Just like publicizing your New Year’s resolutions, making a commitment public is a great way to stick to your plan. As colleges and national sports organizations continue to compete to be the greenest and establish green teams to implement sustainability policies, these steps become real when the campus or community is aware and participating.
Step 2: Do a Needs Assessment.
Prior to taking steps for change, it is wise to assess what is needed and to determine a baseline or benchmark to identify opportunities for improvement and savings. A good example is the amount of electricity consumed by an NFL football stadium and the potential to offset this by adding LED light fixtures and 1,350 solar PV panels.
MetLife Stadium, Credit: NRG, Energy Inc.
Step 3: Set Goals.
In an effort to bring awareness to reuse in communities, Tradepal, set a dual goal, this year, to implement its technology in 100 campuses nationwide and save 20,000 metric tons of carbon by June 2014. This is part of a larger effort focusing on our carbon footprints by quantifying the impact of reuse and offering communities a cost-effective carbon reduction initiative.
Step 4: Create an Action Plan.
Once the goals are established, clearly define the steps and establish the respective roles of members. Preparing best practices will help boost everyone’s efforts. Once everyone is onboard, the plan is communicated and goals are set, it is time to incentivize and encourage others to be part of the solution. A tracking system with metrics is beneficial to track and monitor progress.
Step 5: Evaluate Progress and Recognize Achievements.
Measuring the results and reviewing the action plan will help to evaluate whether any adjustments are needed in order to reach the goal. This may include adding more partners to keep the momentum up. Creating awareness for excellence by publicizing the achievements of partners and recognizing the efforts of individuals is also important.
Collectively the many organizations, partners and teams have taken effective steps toward reducing their carbon emissions and that of the host cities and area communities this Super Bowl. Through community events and lessons from the sports industry, neighborhoods can experience first-hand the benefits of building a cultural shift toward environmental awareness.
No matter which team wins Super Bowl XLVIII, both the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks have made great strides in raising the bar on sustainability.
by Tamar Burton
When I reflect on the past year of traveling through communities dotted with farms and cities sprawling with shops and attractions, I am reminded of the impact we have on our planet. The weekly accumulation of recycling for the weekly pick up always catches my attention as I view all the waste on the curb. While I find some relief knowing communities are recycling, so many opportunities to do more to reuse and reduce are ignored.
In the new year, I vow to continue to find ways to reduce my carbon footprint and share these experiences with others. If we take a minute to make small changes, we could have a big impact on a daily basis. Simple changes to our daily routines, such as replacing plastic bags and styrofoam cups with a personal carry all or refillable bottle, have a huge impact. Another easy target is the stockpile of unused items hidden away in our garages or self-storage facilities. The new year offers the perfect opportunity to take an active stance to make a change. By simply compiling the unused or outgrown items in our closets down to a pile of items to reuse via swap and giveaway provides both financial and emotional rewards. I vividly remember friends and family members who happily received items and the sense of satisfaction that followed from removing clutter while offering a great gift.
What if you could quantify the environmental impact from the pile of items? The diagram below is the carbon savings derived from selling my bedroom set, my couch, various furnishings and giving away clothing, electronics and household items on Tradepal. With each listing, I am shown the carbon savings derived from each item by choosing to promote reuse — and not landfills. The CO2 calculator helps users to quantify their CO2 footprint savings directly with every barter, giveaway, buy or sell on Tradepal. And with each transaction, the individual carbon savings score quickly accumulates into an even bigger number with a greater impact by promoting reuse.
According to the EPA, my overall carbon savings is the equivalent to the carbon sequestered by 2.8 acres of a forest in one year, or the carbon emissions from consuming 387 gallons of gasoline. An individual impact of 3.5 metric tons is really powerful, but think of the combined impact of a residence hall, a campus or a college town that fully adopts reuse.
In the coming year -
“May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall soft upon your fields …”
― Irish Blessings
Zhu Jinshi, Boat, 2012, Xuan paper, bamboo and cotton thread. Rubell Family Collection
Incubating Consumer Behavior Change By Making Student Reuse On Campus Convenient
by Tamar Burton
The lesson of The Three R’s - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle helped us shape our view of the environment. Building sustainable communities is an important challenge faced by millennials and requires innovation to enact consumer behavior change. America’s college students have embraced new solutions pertaining to reducing and recycling, but the area that hasn’t been addressed properly is reuse.
According to research by the NPD Group, the average U.S. household has over $7,000 worth of unused merchandise ranging from electronics and furniture; to textbooks and sporting goods. Overall, this excess merchandise accounts for $1 trillion worth of idle surplus. Think about reuse, everybody does it, right? Typically, the response given is: yes, I promote reuse on these websites. But, probe further and inquire when they last engaged reuse, and the response is a surprisingly dated: a year ago, two years ago, or I don’t recall. Clearly, reuse is not an adopted behavior although subconsciously it is.
Tradepal’s one-click technology seeks to remedy this by making reuse easy and convenient. The platform simplifies the reuse process to enable users to list items in seconds, broadcast their virtual sale to their campus and friends, and seamlessly buy, sell and barter with peers. It also gamifies reuse as students are able to quantify their environmental impact through a dedicated carbon savings calculator.
Tradepal has recognized the problem with stuff and set its mission to make reuse as easy as recycling. Several colleges and universities have embraced the initiative to offer a convenient way for students to promote reuse by launching a campus reuse network on Tradepal. Tradepal made a commitment to action with CGI America to deploy its reuse platform to 100 college campuses and derive 20,000 metric tons of carbon savings from reuse by June 2014.
Millennials hold the key to a sustainable and resilient future. By integrating innovation on campus, higher education provides students with opportunities to experiment and determine the best methods for introducing sustainable solutions. These experiences will prove pivotal in scaling consumer behavior change beyond college campuses and into the mainstream.
"We are paying the price, the cost of carbon, but our economic system, our market system does not contain a price on carbon pollution. So it is effectively invisible in our economic calculations. It is an externality." - Al Gore
A recent Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBY) study suggests that millennials are retreating from big ticket purchases. After examining the trends, the study found that student debt reduces other types of borrowing such as mortgages and auto loans. After taking a closer look at the student debt numbers, it appears that the buying power of millennials has been significantly impaired. The majority of students are now graduating college with a negative net worth. This purchasing behavior shift could also be a symptom of the ongoing decline in disposable income growth.
The following statistics from FRBNY frame the issue students are facing:
student debt has increased from $260 billion in 2004 to $1.2 trillion in 2013
an estimated 37 million Americans have outstanding student loans
the average student debt upon graduation has increased from $9,000 in 2004 to $30,000 in 2013
Matt Taibbi’s article Ripping Off Young America: The College-Loan Scandal, in the August 2013 edition of Rolling Stone magazine, sheds light on the hardships facing college graduates as education costs are spiraling out of control.
It is worth noting that seven million of those 37 million borrowers are currently in default. The outstanding student debt now dwarfs both outstanding auto loans ($800 billion) and credit card debt ($700 billion). As student debt levels have quintupled over the last decade, it is fair to assume that it’s having a significant impact on the U.S. economy and the way millennials will consume in the future. The real question is whether this is a permanent or a temporary shift in consumer behavior?
Over the past decade, brands have made a shift to balance profitability goals with having a mindful purpose. A study by the University of Iowa found a direct correlation exists between brands with extensive corporate social responsibility and lower stock risk during down economic cycles. This brand loyalty is particularly found with brands that support environmental issues.
As millennials account for the over 95 million digitally connected Americans, they also possess a keen desire or ‘socially conscious’ to make a difference. Recently a growing number of studies have reported on the strong desire of millennials to embrace brands that support a cause they hold dear. Some studies have even labeled millennials the most aspirational generation.
A recent Nielsen survey found that 42% of 18- to 34-year-old millennials believe a response following a posting a complaint or comment regarding a brand should be received on social media within 12 hours. While millennials may not have the cash flow of older customers, brands have realized the possible consequences a negative comment could have on their brand image and sales and have taken greater steps to please millennials and to intercept their complaints prior to becoming viral.
This new shift in conscience capitalism is evident not only in what we purchase, but also how we cater to our customers. As is evident by the U.S. auto industry bailout in 2008 as GM, Chrysler and Ford were trying to avoid financial disaster. Feeling the effects of the financial collapse and burdened by gasoline prices hovering near $4 a gallon, consumers were ready for new solutions. Yet these industry giants lacked innovation and failed to listen to their customers as they continued on the path of business as usual.
During this time, Elon Musk, TESLA Motors CEO and Chairman, was on a mission to replace fossil fuels by changing the world by offering clean and renewable energy sources and reintroducing the electric vehicle. The EV1, sold during the late -1990’s to 2002 was not as fortunate as evidenced in the 2006 documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?. When you contemplate the fact that more solar energy strikes the surface of the earth in a single hour than is provided by all the fossil energy consumed globally in a year, then the answer seems obvious. Now fast forward from the 1990’s and in a little over a decade, innovation may win this time around, and older brands may start offering the solutions that consumers are demanding rather than remaining on a path of resistance.
Public relations firm, Edelman conducted a global survey in 2012 and found that 72% of consumers responded they would recommend brands to others if they supported a good cause. Given this strong statistic, marketers should be keen to ignite corporations to evolve the various ways they envision, produce and market their products. The main selling point being, if they don’t, they will fall by the wayside.
By Tamar Burton
A new shift is occurring as universities around the world have set their sights on attracting students from abroad. In a quest to cultivate knowledge-based economies, governments around the world are making huge investments to improve the quality of their universities. The new bar is academic excellence. In the new global economy, to be considered well-educated, one must be exposed to ideas and people and transcend national boundaries. Human capital is being cultivated as global universities compete for the best and brightest. According to the NAFSA: Association of International Educations, it is estimated that international student enrollments contributed $21.81 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2011-2012 academic year.
Global Educational Forecast by 2025:
50% - almost all of this rapid growth will occur in the developing countries, with more than 50% in India and China alone.
350,000 students - the combined capacity to attract international higher education to foreigners in this decade by traditional source countries, with Jordan and Malaysia each hoping to attract 100,000 each by 2020 and Singapore, hoping for 150,000 by the year 2015
8 million - the projected number of students to travel to other countries to study abroad by 2025 - almost 3 times today’s numbers.
262 million students - the projected number of students seeking global enrollment in higher education by 2025
“Something big is happening…Making the most of human capital—a key to competitiveness and prosperity—is more and more the work of globalized universities competing for the best thinkers and the best ideas.”
- The Wall Street Journal, May 2010
Author: Tamar Burton
The new year has arrived with a renewed hope for the environment as the private and public sectors direct their attention to the growing shift from “business as usual” to renewable energy technologies. Sustainability initiatives and climate change garnered mainstream attention following last year’s increase in natural disasters. It also positioned 2012 as the most extreme weather year on record for the lower 48 states, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
In the months following Sandy, the second costliest hurricane following Katrina with an estimated $62 billion in damage, many neighborhoods are still reeling in the after affects. Natural disasters have provided the needed catalyst for sustainability initiatives as great turmoil resulted in a newly discovered interest in the growing climate problem. The extreme weather events in 2012 summarize what scientists are predicting to be the “new normal” as the climate continues to warm. As city officials in New York and New Jersey focus on rebuilding, the Clean Tech Revolution is gaining relevance. An example of one opportunity that is focused on smart growth is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Cleaner Greener Communities Program. Launched in 2011, the program has established $100 million in competitive grants and plans to use innovative technologies to improve its economic, energy and environmental development while building sustainable communities.
With the advancements in clean technology, comes a need for greater social responsibility and increased stakeholder engagement. In the past months, we at Tradepal have engaged with various corporations, agencies and institutions to explore best practices to bridge the sustainability gap between consumers and businesses. The greatest disconnect we have noticed following the influx of social media and technological advancement, is how to accelerate consumer behavior change. According to psychologists Wendy Wood and David Neal, consumers often “act like creatures of habit, automatically repeating past behavior with little regard to current goals and valued outcomes.” When considering the adoption of new behaviors, it seems to come down to the intent and behavior of the individual.
In an effort to ignite behavior change, former President Bill Clinton appealed to advertising agencies last June at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France. He asked advertisers to leverage the power they have to transcend their messaging and assist in shaping the future of our planet. In the digital age, sustainability is no longer a tree hugger concept. Organizations including start-ups, large corporations and state and local governments are embracing renewable energy, green transportation, electric motors, recycling and reuse initiatives as a means to create efficiencies while reducing our environmental footprint.
As we embark on 2013, the following concepts offer suggestions for transitioning consumers toward positive behavior change:
Video: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Author: Tamar Burton
Wishing you a very happy holiday with those you hold dear.
Happy Holidays from your Pal’s at Tradepal!
We are all familiar with the terms climate change and global warming, yet the process of identifying the cause and then effectively agreeing on best practices to reduce the issue has been an ongoing dialogue for over three decades. While commitments to reduce environmental impacts vary, it is important to achieve a declining average carbon intensity, or amount of carbon emitted per unit of energy consumed, from primary energy over time. These primary energy sources include fossil carbon fuels, solar energy, gravitational and rotational forces of tides and oceans, geothermal heat and wind energy are converted into energy carriers and then energy services. A major contributing factor to decarbonization is the substitution of cleaner fuels with low carbon content, with fossil fuels having a high carbon content.
How to limit warming to 2ºC
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) newly-published fourth edition of the Low Carbon Economy Index, we have not taken the necessary steps globally to increase the rate of emissions cuts in major emerging economies to effectively slow down the warming trend. The PwC points out the brevity of the situation in a world that is far from being on target to achieve a sustainable or resilient energy future:
"Our Low Carbon Economy Index evaluates the rate of decarbonisation of the global economy that is needed to limit warming to 2ºC. This report shows that global carbon intensity decreased between 2000 and 2011 by around 0.8% a year. In 2011, carbon intensity decreased by 0.7%. The global economy now needs to cut carbon intensity by 5.1% every year from now to 2050. Keeping to the 2ºC carbon budget will require sustained and unprecedented reductions over four decades. Governments’ ambitions to limit warming to 2ºC appear highly unrealistic.”
Each year the global carbon budget is evaluated to assess the amount that has been ‘spent’ and how much emissions reductions are needed to achieve below the 2 target. The internationally agreed upon warming target of 2ºC above the pre-industrial levels which, according to analysts, is the threshold that could prevent the world from experiencing ‘at least six degrees of warming’ by the end of this century. The critical issue is that the 2º scenario is no longer valid. The PwC research stated that even if we achieve an improvement in our rate of decarbonization by six-fold, we still gain only a 50% chance of avoiding the 2 degree threshold. Note that an increase by 6ºC of warming is the equivalent to 10.8ºF.
An area of concern stems from the growing energy demands of emerging economies such as Russia, Mexico, and India. The rising GHG emissions from emerging economies have far exceeded the record decarbonization levels of industrial countries such as France, Germany and the U.K. According to the International Energy Agency, its figures published in May stated that CO2 emissions in 2011 rose to 31.6 gigatons, an increase of 3.2 per cent from 2010. Although many countries have stepped up their efforts to reduce emissions, without a radical policy shift we are on track for a warmer planet.
Opportunities for Low Carbon Technologies
For countries seeking new sources of economic growth, the next wave of growth could be derived from investment in low carbon technologies such as solar panels, electric cars, carbon capture and storage and innovation in biofuels. According to Reuters, in late 2010, China has committed to an investment of $1.5 trillion toward the advancement of seven strategic sectors through 2015. They identified several emerging sectors that accounted for approximately 3 per cent of the GDP at the end of 2010 which outpaced the growth of traditional industries. The strategic sectors include low carbon technologies, renewable energy, new-energy vehicles, bio-technology and next-gen IT.
PwC concluded that business-as-usual is not an option and cites the need for more urgency on climate policy. Much of the reporting on climate change is calmly described through published studies and scientific journals hoping to garner the attention of those who will change the predicted outcome. Upon reading the Rolling Stone article, Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, one feels a jolt to reality and thinks beyond the daily bubble where we filter out the negative realities of life. What rings true is we have only one planet. As extreme weather events become more and more common, it is no longer someone else’s problem or experience we are reading about. Climate change has hit home and is the responsibility of consumers, policy makers and business as we enter a new age of uncertainty.