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Posts Tagged ‘USGB’

Reduce Food Waste

USGBC’s Senior Policy Counsel shares why she is motivated to reduce food waste.

The earth that gives us all this food,
The Sun that makes it ripe and good.
Dearest Earth and dearest Sun,
we will not forget what you have done.


As spring brings blossoms and ever-present birdsong to the metro D.C. region, I’m reminded of Earth Day of this blessing that has stayed with me since my child’s preschool years. It is a deceptively simple act to pause, reflect on and appreciate what the Earth and sun give us, but it is harder to practice in the bustle of everyday life. Personally, I derive disproportionate joy from seeing my small patch of lettuce sprout and then grow, visibly it seems, every day.

To those of us who have it in abundance, food is one of life’s pleasures and an important element of socializing and community. To others, food is about survival, economic stress, and helplessness. If our eyes are open, we need not look far to find individuals facing risks from food scarcity, often right in our neighborhoods, schools and communities.

Reducing waste, reducing CO2

The United States leads the globe in the efficiency of food production and in food exports, but there’s much we still need to learn to fulfill the responsibility of abundance. A new study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that U.S. consumers wasted about 150,000 tons of food per day—a quarter of the daily food available for consumption—representing the production from 30 million acres, or 7 percent of our cropland.

In this study, higher-quality diets were associated with greater amounts of food waste, especially fruits and vegetables, which are the most likely categories of food to be discarded. Even more is counted as wasted if we include products that don’t make it to market, such as those deemed unattractive because of bruising.

Wasted food has a significant toll on the climate from greenhouse gas contributions—both in the emissions from wasted energy and resources to grow, harvest and transport the unused food and in methane release from decomposition. Researchers have estimated food waste contributes 4.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide each year, nearly as much as emissions from road transportation.

Giving back to the Earth—and fellow humans

Climate impact alone provides strong motivation for many of us to reduce waste. But perhaps an even stronger motivation is our natural desire to give. Sharing our collective food abundance taps into our human impulse of generosity, which science shows contributes to individual happiness. Actions to help get food where it’s needed, and keep it out of landfills, are not just things we “should” do.

Opportunities to give, and to and reduce waste, are everywhere—at food banks, farmers’ markets, soup kitchens, community gardens and home compost stations. I’m excited by innovative models that are cropping up to match volunteer solutions with our human desire to help.

Also, new attention is being paid to the dual food waste/hunger challenge. For example, Baltimore-based Hungry Harvest sells “ugly” produce that would otherwise be thrown away and uses the proceeds to subsidize food access for those in need.Globally, Selina Juul has created a movement about stopping food waste.

Tangible ways to appreciate and share our abundance—to thank the earth and sun—are right in front of us, if our eyes are open. Earth Day, Earth Week and Earth Month are a terrific time to notice and take advantage of those chances to give back.

Built for Health

On this week’s podcast, learn how the urban farming movement is changing the food landscape for the better.

Diet has a great impact on the quality of human life—hence, the expression “you are what you eat.” Our diets suffer for many reasons, including our desire to be satisfied quickly. Many of us, especially in urban areas, also struggle with finding access to fresh fruits and vegetables, the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle.

With the advent of urban agriculture initiatives, that struggle is waning, and building owners, operators, and occupants have a significant role to play in bringing the farm to the table in cities and communities around the country.

On the newest episode of “Built for Health,” Dr. Michael Greger, a physician, author and professional speaker on public health issues, and Christopher Grallert, Partner, Advisor and Managing Director of Green City Growers, join host Flavia Grey for a discussion on nutrition and how the urban farming movement is changing the food landscape for the better.

Listen to “Built for Health: Nutrition and Food Production” for more on the connection between nutrition and health outcomes, strategies for onsite local food production and how edible landscapes can support your environmental goals.

Learn more about what our bodies need to be healthy and how buildings can help provide the means to cultivate an optimal diet. The episode is eligible for .5 CE hours on the Education @USGBC platform. Listen to the episode, and then take the quiz.




Recovery before Disaster Strikes


After the shock of a disaster has abated, the community begins to think about restoring normalcy. Bringing back school operation is a top priority since it allows faculty and staff to get back to work and brings students back to the city. But this can take time. After Hurricane Katrina, for example, it took several months for a few schools to return to operation and almost two years before there was enough building capacity to meet the demands of the families returning to New Orleans.

States have an opportunity to assist communities in their efforts to rebuild better than before. All federal disaster funds flow through states to local communities, and most local communities are unprepared because they do not manage these funding sources on a regular basis. States are well positioned to provide technical expertise to local leaders and to help manage recovery and envision what the future can hold for a community, including its school system.

State governments should support efforts at the local level not only to recover from a disaster but also to ensure community resilience after future events. Based on my experience in rebuilding the school system after Hurricane Katrina, here are a few recommendations for how states can assist.

1. Help local governments develop and adopt a master plan immediately.

One of the major obstacles to rebuilding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was the lack of a comprehensive rebuilding plan. School reconstruction had to wait until the city’s plan could be decided, thus delaying when students could safely return to school.

Many federal funding streams require the existence of a community-wide plan, developed with community input. This process can be lengthy and contentious. In New Orleans, it took two years to develop a plan for the city, then another year to develop a plan specifically for the schools, which had not had a master plan since the 1950s.

Prior to Katrina, the Recovery School District of Louisiana—a statewide school district of underperforming schools established in 2003—only operated a handful of schools in New Orleans. The Orleans Parish School Board operated a portfolio of buildings that had 50 percent more capacity than enrollment. If a master plan for optimizing these facilities, including new construction and major renovations, had been in place prior to the storm, the rebuilding process could have been initiated far more swiftly, and schools could have been a powerful anchoring force for community health and recovery.

2. Establish minimum standards for greener, more resilient school buildings.

A 2015 national independent poll commissioned by USGBC found that 92 percent of Americans believe that the quality of public school buildings should be improved. To do this, we need standards that align policy with contemporary expectations for healthy, green and resilient school buildings. Federal disaster funding, too, requires building standards as part of project formulation.

However, many small rural and large urban districts do not have the time, resources or expertise available to evaluate or establish standards that prioritize community health and resiliency. Among other benefits, standards that include measures to enhance resilience, such as USGBC’s resilience-focused tools, can prepare buildings to serve as emergency shelters during future events. Here again, states can help by providing guidance and resources well in advance of any urgent need.

3. Provide technical assistance and advocacy.

Except for limited funds provided by the U.S. Department of Education, there are very few opportunities for school districts to manage federal grants. States can act as collectors of local knowledge and offer training to local officials on developing successful applications for funding. Specifically, states can help by

  • Conducting a thorough review of state procurement laws, comparing requirements outlined by the funding source with the options available to municipalities and state agencies. When barriers are discovered, states should negotiate a solution on behalf of the applicants, rather than requiring applicants to manage this on their own.
  • Frequently convening a cross-section of applicants to identify common problems and to facilitate sharing of best practices.
  • Creating a list of the common barriers to recovery across the portfolio of applicants. This could advance state-level policy and serve as a model for other states.

4. Assist with cash flow.

Many municipalities and local subdivisions are strapped for cash, limiting their flexibility to quickly invest in critical infrastructures, such as schools, in a timely manner. States should have a process to advance or loan money, as well as one to hasten reimbursement of expenses. Since most federal disaster grants are reimbursements, states should consider a revolving loan process for eligible work, to help municipalities that don’t have the cash flow to get started.

When states support municipalities in rebuilding local infrastructure, local efforts are amplified. For schools, this support is especially critical, because they serve as cornerstones of their communities. With states and municipalities working together, schools cannot just return to normalcy but can emerge more resilient than ever before.

Advocacy Day

The event featured policy briefings and discussions on water, energy, air, land, transportation, and health.

Feature image photo credit: Climate + Energy Project.

On March 15, USGBC Central Plains participated in an environmental education and advocacy day, titled “WEALTH Day,” at the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka. The event was hosted by the Climate + Energy Project. The nonprofit organization’s goal is to “dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in America’s Heartland through the ambitious deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy, in policy and practice.”

The event featured policy briefings and topical discussions on the six subjects suggested by the WEALTH acronym: Water, Energy, Air, Land, Transportation, and Health.

Participating on behalf of USGBC Central Plains were Jennifer Gunby, USGBC State and Local Advocacy Manager; Julie Peterson, USGBC Director of Community for Central Plains; and Josh Thede of Henderson Engineers, USGBC Central Plains Emerging Professionals Chair–2018, and City of Mission, Kansas–Sustainability Commission.

USGBC is monitoring two particular energy efficiency bills and met with Gov. Jeff Colyer’s staff on expanding the benefits of energy efficiency and green buildings in Kansas.

  • KS SB347—Utilities and demand-side programs: Changes how benefits of energy efficiency programs are calculated by replacing the state’s current tests with one based on the National Standard Practice Manual.
  • KS SB 322—Utilities and the net metering act: Would revert state law to 2009 regulations that protect Kansas residential distributed generation (DG) from demand charges. This would apply only to investor-owned utilities’ residential solar customers.

Human Performance Measured in Buildings

Aclima’s Scott Andrews talks about designing for IAQ data.

This article is written by Scott Andrews, LEED AP BD+C, Director, Aclima, Inc. In this series, speakers from USGBC Northern California’s GreenerBuilder conference, held July 13, 2017, at the Zero Net Energy Center in San Leandro, share insights from their sessions. Interested in supporting GreenerBuilder 2018 as an event sponsor or exhibitor? Please contact Brenden McEneaney.

USGBC’s Pacific Regional Director, Brenden McEneaney, and the President and CEO of USGBC and GBCI, Mahesh Ramanujam, kicked off GreenerBuilder 2017 with two very important concepts: First, that we must remember that green buildings are always about people, and second, that data is a natural resource in itself. Therefore, it was fitting that the first session of the morning, “Science and Practice of Measuring Human Performance in Buildings,” focused on the collection and application of environmental data to improve our buildings for people, who spend up to 90 percent of their days living, working and learning indoors.

Recent research shows that there is an undeniable correlation between measurable indoor air quality (IAQ) conditions and human cognition. This unleashes an entirely new set of economic considerations in managing commercial property. With new definitions of what constitutes an optimal indoor environment, tenants are beginning to look past aesthetics to the sizeable economic gains that healthier office environments can offer. This session, which included Lane Burt (North America Lead for Buildings Alive), Simon Turner (President and CEO of Healthy Buildings), and moderator Scott Andrews (a director at Aclima), took the audience through the science to the economics and into practice.

And fortunately, just as the deep relationship between IAQ and human health and wellness is becoming more widely understood, so too are our desires and abilities to empower facility managers to gather reliable, hyperlocal data to optimize building environments for health and well-being. The panel explored the question of how we will design, construct and operate buildings in five years. It was proposed that buildings might look more like a computer, with software controlling the building and adjusting to climate, health and other conditions in real time to optimize spaces for our most important resource: our people.

Although the panel agreed that some version of this new era of smart buildings may soon be a reality for many properties, thanks to the democratization of data that companies like Aclima are delivering to the marketplace, it will remain an imperative to train our facility managers. After all, not all aspects of a building can be automated, and this newly available data is only as valuable as the people and systems in place to analyze and apply it. FM, along with their consultants and internal teams, represent the critical last-mile delivery service for applying data analytics to make IAQ improvements and co-optimize the indoor environment and energy performance.

Distributed real-time sensor networks with parameters like CO2, VOCs, and comfort indicators such as temperature and sound levels represent the missing meter to measure how our buildings turn energy and water inputs into desired outputs. This includes a close review of building systems and potential outside factors that could impact IAQ, which can also be measured with on-site outdoor sensing equipment. There is a need to connect good intentions with measured outcomes, and new products and services are making this possible like never before.

How LEED combats climate change

One of the goals that guided the development of LEED v4 was reversing a LEED building’s contribution to global climate change.

The Earth’s climate is changing, and 97 percent of climate scientists agree that it is likely due to human activities. So where does that leave us and the rest of the building industry?

Buildings account for more than one-quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), according to the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction. Add in other infrastructure and activities, such as transportation, that is associated with buildings, and that number jumps.

By building green, we can reduce the impact our buildings have on contributing to climate change, while also building resilience into our homes and communities.

LEED vs climate change

One of the goals that guided the development of LEED v4 was reversing a LEED building’s contribution to global climate change. High-performing green buildings, particularly LEED-certified buildings, play a key role in reducing the negative climate impacts of the built environment. For this reason, 35 of the 100 total points in LEED v4 are distributed to reward climate change mitigation strategies.

The LEED process addresses a structure’s planning, design, construction, operations and end of life as well as considering energy, water, indoor environmental quality, materials selection, and location. Green buildings reduce landfill waste, enable alternative transportation use and encourage retention and creation of vegetated land areas and roofs.

LEED rewards thoughtful decisions about building location, with credits that encourage compact development and connection with transit and amenities. When a building consumes less water, the energy otherwise required to withdraw, treat and pump that water from the source to the building are avoided. Additionally, less transport of materials to and from the building cuts associated fuel consumption.

Here are some of the ways that LEED weighs the various credits and strategies so that LEED projects can mitigate their contribution to global climate change:

  • GHG Emissions Reduction from Building Operations Energy Use: To target energy use reductions directly associated with building operations. This includes all building systems and operations within the building or associated grounds that rely on electricity or other fuel sources for energy consumption.
  • GHG Emissions Reduction from Transportation Energy Use: To target energy use reductions associated with the transportation of building occupants, employees, customers, visitors, business travel, etc.
  • GHG Emissions Reduction from the Embodied Energy of Materials and Water Use: To target GHG-emissions reductions associated with the energy use and processes required in the extraction, production, transportation, conveyance, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, use, posttreatment, and disposal of materials, products, and processed water. Any measures that directly reduce the use of potable water, non-potable water, or raw materials (e.g. reduced packaging, building reuse) will indirectly reduce energy as well because of the embodied energy associated with these product life cycles.
  • GHG Emissions Reduction from a Cleaner Energy Supply: To target actions and measures that support a cleaner, fewer GHG-emissions intensive energy supply and a greater reliance on renewable sources of energy.
  • Global Warming Potential Reduction from Non-Energy Related Drivers: To address the non-energy related climate change drivers (e.g. albedo, carbon sinks, non-energy related GHG emissions) and identifies actions that reduce these contributions to climate change (e.g. land use changes, heat island reduction, reforestation, refrigerant purchases).

Some of the top credits in LEED v4 BD+C, ID+C, and O+M that are associated with mitigating global climate change:

  • LT Credit: Surrounding Density and Diverse Uses
  • LT Credit: Access to Quality Transit / Alternative Transportation
  • WE Credit: Outdoor Water Use Reduction
  • WE Credit: Indoor Water Use Reduction
  • EA Credit: Optimize Energy Performance
  • EA Credit: Renewable Energy Production / Renewable Energy and Carbon Offsets
  • EA Credit: Enhanced Refrigerant Management
  • EA Credit: Green Power and Carbon Offsets
  • MR Credit: Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction / Interiors Life-Cycle Impact Reduction

A goal of USGBC Central Pennsylvania

In March of 2016, USGBC Central Pennsylvania identified an opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity of Harrisburg on a rewarding project: a duplex that was going to be given to a military veteran’s family, which had suffered from a fire. The goal of the project was to provide a low-cost and healthy home that operated sustainably to keep day-to-day costs for the family very affordable.

USGBC Central Pennsylvania worked with Habitat for Humanity by providing technical consultation and identifying potential suppliers to offer discounted materials and services. Several USGBC Central Pennsylvania board members conducted site visits and provided architectural, energy-related and green-building recommendations, including:

  • Insulation types and installation methods
  • Low-usage plumbing fixtures
  • Paints with less than 50 grams per liter of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Asbestos testing
  • With new roofing and windows, and a complete remodel of the interior by Habitat for Humanity volunteers, the property will soon be a beautiful home to a happy family. The space has energy-efficient windows donated by Plygem, upcycled cabinets, and countertops from the Habitat ReStore and bamboo and cork flooring donated by Calibamboo.
  • USGBC Central Pennsylvania is looking forward to more projects in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity in the coming years.  We are also glad to support other community-focused organizations that are interested in sustainability. Please email Heidi Kunka, the community’s director, or phone 202.706.0836, if you have a project in mind.

LEED Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non profit organization that certifies sustainable businesses, homes, hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods. USGBC is dedicated to expanding green building practices and education, and its LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™.

Chemline, Inc. is a member of The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and has the potential to provide LEED points.