2012 Presentations: View or Download HERE
A Good Conference – for a Change
By Nikki Florio, Green with NV
During a recent conference in Sacramento, several state leaders and a variety of environmental agencies came together to help propel the region forward in the areas of toxic pollutant prevention, energy and water conservation, and smarter procurement of products. As leadership groups ranging from Cal Recycle, to Department of Toxic Substances, WSPPN and EPA came together, their relationship spoke of their combined goal: New Partnerships for a Healthier Environment. The cornerstone of this conference was its focus on the first of the Three R’s of sustainability; Reduction. For those who are unfamiliar, the three R’s of environmental sustainability include, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle; the latter of which, is the most widely known, however, not the principal of the three – regarding effectiveness.
The minimization of the use of resources has the most immediate, and long term positive impact(s) on the environment. Reuse of resources has the dual effect of not using new resources, and, keeping waste out of the waste-stream. And finally, recycling; taking a product out of the waste-stream and creating a new product of equal value via the use of energy/water/fewer resources. Up-cycling is preferred – taking a waste product and creating a new, more environmental preferable product; and closed loop/cradle-to-cradle production and processing, lowering the impacts even further.
Why is this important? As we have securely entered into our second decade of the new millennium, with all of our national and global environmental initiatives, we are still facing extraordinary global environmental devastation. In every area, from plastics and eutrophic zones in our oceans, to desertification where great forests once stood, human impact has been negative. As a species, we have spoken often, about what we should do to help the planet, but are still lacking in relation to practice.
The conference included a variety of workshops including the design, use, and effectiveness of E-waste programs, used oil regulation and enforcement, producer responsibility, motivating behavioral change, consumer safety regulations, pharmaceutical ordinances regarding disposal legislation, and a host of other informative and important issues.
The keynote speakers, ranging from leading limnologists and chemists, to global coffee procurement and sustainability representatives, presented on the creation of “healthier” chemicals and policy reform, the Lake Tahoe/World Water Crises, and the challenges of a global coffee company on its quest to become more sustainable.
The WSPPN/HHW/Used Oil Conference provided agencies and individuals with tools and resources needed to rejuvenate sustainable actions. The conference played host to some of California – and Nevada’s – most influential policy makers and game changers, including: Debbie Raphael (Director Department of Toxic Substances Control), Caroll Mortensen (California Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery), and Jared Blumenfeld (Regional Administrator for US EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region).
Jared Blumenfeld, spoke of the link between environmental and human rights; and how they have become more clear over the last twenty years. “In a recent EPA poll”, he stated, ” the environment is a top issue for people”. Adding later that, “the strength of what we do as an environmental community, has to do with place.” As leaders in industry/government, he let attendees know that their attention to packaging reduction – in all industries – is important on a local/regional level. These reductions will save resources, money, and jobs. His challenge to the group was to see what they could do on a local level to reduce packaging and the impacts related to it.
All areas of environmental degradation on the planet can be traced back to humans. Our unconscious consumerism and lifestyle habits have created problems that affect our food and water systems, our air quality, biodiversity, and of course, our health.
The importance of education and leadership conferences such as WSPPN/HHW/Used Oil, will help decrease the impacts, and one day help stabilize the problems we are creating as a species.
Nikki Florio is a sustainability consultant and educator. She founded and directed the Tahoe Regional Environmental Education (TREE) Program; a tri-branch environmental program which included Environmental Education (Sustainable Living and Natural Sciences), Community Outreach, and Green Business (promotion and connection). During the decade it ran, TREE educated more than 30,000 students, community and business members regarding sustainable business, lifestyles and education, in the northern Sierras. Currently, Nikki is the president of Green with NV, and works as an integrated sustainability consultant, and strategic green business advisor.
Starbucks: Coffee Cups, Consumption, and Conflicts
By Nikki Florio, reprinted with permission
As the irrefutable champion in global coffee industry, Starbucks has been looked at skeptically by sustainability professionals everywhere. Being one of the skeptics myself, when I had the opportunity to attend a recent conference where their CSR Director was presenting, I decided to attend and do an article.
Starbuck’s Director of Environmental Impact, Jim Hanna, presented as a keynote speaker during the recent 2012 Used Oil + HHW + WSSPN Conference in Sacramento. The conference focused on reduction of resources and chemicals in industries ranging from used oil to pharmaceuticals; with other work- shops related to sustainable packaging, recycling, up-cycling & more.
Armed with a directional power-point presentation, Mr. Hanna covered issues related to Starbucks overall energy consumption, new store energy and water conservation measures, community outreach, and cups. The latter of which, remains a looming issue as Starbuck’s customers go through roughly 4 billion cups per year. Starbucks, Mr.Hanna says, is aware of the impact of these cups, both in the fact that they do not require cup manufacturers to source from FSC certified forests, and in the fact that they all have the potential to be recycled. One of the steps Starbucks had made already, is to insure their cups contain 10 percent post-consumer content. Starbucks is right on track with their napkins, made from 100 percent recycled paper; manufactured in a Wisconsin plant where recycled content comes from a variety of resources within a 500 mile radius.
For the cold/iced drinks, Starbucks uses a #5 plastic (polypropylene) which currently has a lower initial/manufacturing footprint than a #1 or #2. Mr. Hanna also says that, “With current recycling systems, they are just about as recyclable as #1 PET cups. Any community that accepts “mixed plastics” (usually #3-#7) in their systems can recycle our PP cups…” adding, “The beauty of PP is that it is a much more forgiving plastic in the recycling system, so you can mix various sources of PP without contaminating the whole load.”
One of the biggest problems in current plastic cup recycling waste-streams, is the contamination of corn-based bio-plastics. In addition to having different melting points, it can introduce new chemicals that make the final product weaker, or even unstable. Corn-based compostables, in general are a bad thing because they come from primarily GMO sources which in and of itself, is extremely oil and chemical intensive, as well as being a bio-contaminant.
As the lead sustainability director for the company, Mr. Hanna is currently seeking better ways to inspire and encourage customers to use and purchase reusable cups/mugs. Due to time constraints, Mr. Hanna did not have time to present sustainability information regarding Starbucks primary product, coffee. As a water, chemical, and human intensive product when it is farmed conventionally, coffee is considered a dirty industry when it comes to social and environmental responsibility. However, when farmed sustainably, and with social/ environmental impacts in mind, it can be a economically, environmentally, and socially, positive crop.
I spoke with Mr. Hanna after his presentation regarding this issue, asking about Starbucks coffee, in relation to its particular sustainability measures. After several questions on both sides related to the definitions – and certifications – related to organic, sustainable, Fair Trade, local/national/international certifiers, I was told that they do have a relatively small percent of organic and Fair Trade certified coffees, however, in terms of non-certified organic/sustainable/fairly traded/community supported coffees, Starbucks CAFE program, currently covers about 200 indicators for sustainability and social equity. CAFE (Coffee and Farmer Equity) program is a self-regulated verification program. While I would rather see a (third party) certified program, Mr. Hanna states that while “fair trade is an amazing certification for raising awareness for farmers and agricultural practices… the transparency stops at the co-op”. Further stating, “…for us, CAFE demands transparency back to the picker [farmer]“.
“Starbucks”, Mr. Hanna reiterates, “is consistently working on ways to better its products and lessen its impacts.”
2012 WSPPN TRAINING AND CONFERENCE:
The Western Sustainability and Pollution Prevention Network (WSPPN) and The Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) are pleased to announce that registration is now open for the 2012 Used Oil + HHW + WSPPN Training and Conference, May 15-17, 2012 at the Sheraton Grand in Sacramento. The theme for the joint conference is: “Come Together – New Partnerships, New Strategies for a Healthier Environment.”
This conference brings together federal, state and local agencies; nonprofit organizations; and businesses to share information and attend technical training concerning pollution prevention, resource conservation and the appropriate management of used oil, household hazardous waste, and other toxins.
Download registration brochure.
Pollution Prevention (P2) Track. Sessions provide information on source reduction of air pollutants, waste water and storm water discharges, toxics in products, solid and hazardous wastes, and conservation of natural resources such as energy or water. Provides attendees with information on P2 practices/technologies that can be applied across a variety of types of businesses, or to key business sectors with numerous facilities.
Hazardous Household Waste (HHW) Track. The Hazardous Household Waste (HHW) track includes basic sessions pertaining to the implementation of HHW programs, new California statutes for paint and carpet, regulatory changes that affect HHW programs, and model HHW programs to implement.
Used Oil Track. Sessions include information pertaining to the implementation of Used Oil programs, best management practices, legislative changes that affect the program, research topics for used oil, and administrative issues.
Joint Offerings Track. Sessions focus on topical and emerging issues such as green chemistry, universal waste, extended producer responsibility, problematic waste streams such as sharps and pharmaceuticals, legislative issues, program measurement, and effective communication for behavior change.