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Ethically Environmental: Patagonia’s Priority…The Planet

We don’t see many examples of companies taking a stand for their values, let alone the environment. Most companies are driven solely by profits rather than values. The way that company leaders view values and profits is usually that they belong in two different worlds –

Patagonia Founder, Yvon Chouinard

profits are the important and valuable aspect of business, while values are something that can be swept under the rug. But every once in a while, a company shines through the darkness of corporate hedonism and exemplifies honest values over profit mentality for the sake of humanity.

This past Wednesday, that values and ethically driven company shined it’s light upon the world. That afternoon word spread that the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, had decided to give up his $3 billion outdoor retail company… and not for a reason most people would think. Chouinard gave the outdoor apparel company away in order to help combat climate change. His announcement came via an open letter on the company’s website.

 

He announced that rather than selling the company or taking it public, the company is “going purpose” rather than “going profit,” by making Earth it’s one and only shareholder. 

The overview of the “sale” includes the following:

  • The company’s voting shares—2% of the company—went to the Patagonia Purpose Trust, a trust that is overseen by family and advisors that make important company decisions.
  • The other 98% went to the Holdfast Collective, a nonprofit that will distribute all profits—about $100 million annually—to environmental causes

“It’s been a half-century since we began our experiment in responsible business. If we have any hope of a thriving planet 50 years from now, it demands all of us doing all we can with the resources we have. As the business leader I never wanted to be, I am doing my part. Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth, we are using the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source. We’re making Earth our only shareholder. I am dead serious about saving this planet.” -Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia

 

His decision to choose the planet over profits, has sparked conversations and debates around  the world—from consumers scrambling to support the company’s cause to leaders and executives mulling over the idea of following in Chouinard’s footsteps.

It’s no lie that great companies—especially environmentally and socially responsible ones–are loved and respected for their values and the commitments they make to their communities, customers, and employees. The products they produce are great, but they have never put shareholder wealth at the top of the list.

Yvon Chouinard is a legendary rock climber, avid surfer, nature lover, blacksmith, and falconer extraordinaire. He has lived out of his car selling camping gear he made himself to get by, so he could continue to do the thing he loves to do—be in nature.

The birth of Patagonia came when he started selling rugby shirts after a trip to Scotland, where they proved to be extremely durable climbing shirts. The company was built in 1973 for the passionate climbers and outdoor enthusiasts everywhere that wanted products that were long lasting, durable, and environmentally friendly. Along with the launch, the company’s first catalog featured a leave-no-trace, responsible climbing manifesto.

Over the years Chouinard and the Patagonia brand have made it their mission to sell consumers durable clothing with a free fix guarantee to ensure that they never over produced apparel, or created an overconsumption trend with their consumers. They have continuously worked to make the world a better place by supporting social and environmental causes all over the world, as well as educating their employees and customers, and taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint. They are the poster child of socially sustainable business. There are numerous examples of how Patagonia has put purpose before profits when the issues are not impacting their company.

Patagonia

Patagonia sells out of “Vote the Assholes Out” Shorts

  • The company donates 1% of its sales (a self-imposed Earth tax) to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment, with over $140 million donated since 1985.
  • Chouinard and Craig Matthews, owner of Blue Ribbon Files, created the 1% for the Planet non-profit corporation made up of an alliance of businesses to encourage others to contribute to protecting the natural environment and pave the way for more corporate responsibility.
  • They offer an Iron Clad guarantee, that guarantees their customers replacement, refund, or repair if the clothing is damaged or doesn’t live up to their satisfaction.
  • Patagonia also has a hub that keeps gear in play, called Worn Wear, where they sell used Patagonia gear, offer trade-in credits for items that customers no longer use, provide DIY repair and care tips, and recycle items at the end of their useful lives. They believe that one of the best things they can do for the planet is cutting down on consumption and getting more use out of products that people currently own.
  • They have a venture fund that invests in start-ups that work on environmental issues, called Tin Shed Ventures, since 2013 they have provided over $20 million to 12 companies working for the social and environmental good of the planet.
  • They launched a food company, Patagonia Provisions, that offers organic and regenerative foods to help mitigate climate change.
  • They are a fierce defender of public lands, and in 2017, they sued the Trump
  •  Administration in an effort to protect the Bear Ears National Monument.
  • To ensure the sustainability and recyclability of their clothing, they permanently transitioned away from adding permanent branding or logos to their gear, since the additional non-removable logo reduces the garment’s life span by a lot.
  • Patagonia released a documentary called “DamNation,” that aims to mobilize support the removal of dams, especially those that are deemed harmful and obsolete on order to revive wild fish populations.
  • In 1996, after a group of employees were arrested for protesting against logging, they established a bail policy. This policy helps any employees who is arrested while peacefully protesting provided they take an optional nonviolent civil disobedience training.
  • The provide an Environmental Internship Program that allows employees to take a two month paid leave to work for any environmental group of their choosing.
  • They have never been keen on Black Friday. In 2011, they took out an ad in the New York Times urging people not to purchase their clothing for Black Friday to bring attention to the company’s Common Threads Initiative. And in 2016, they donated 100% of all Black Friday sales to grassroots organizations.
  • This past year, Patagonia donated $1 million to Black Voters Matter and the New Georgia Project to fight restrictive voting laws in Georgia.
  • They launched We The Power, a campaign and documentary film that shines a light on the citizen-led renewable community energy movement happening across Europe. They also became the first commercial customer in California to commit to purchasing 100% renewable energy.

 

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the causes that Chouinard and Patagonia are committed to. Their website, part clothing store and part educational toolbox, boasts the support of even more of their activism initiatives. Whether or not you agree with their stand, it’s admirable, and honestly astounding that they take such a strong stand for issues aligned with their values especially when they aren’t directly tied to their financial model.

“Environmentalist David Brower was once asked, ‘Why are you conservationists always against things?’ He replied, ‘If you are against something, you are always for something. If you are against a dam, you are for a river.’ I’m also a lover of wild rivers. That’s why our company has been involved in trying to take out obsolete and damaging dams since 1993.” -Yvon Chouinard, Founder/Owner Patagonia

This year Patagonia was named one of the most reputable companies for things like product quality, trust, citizenship, and ethics. The have made their purpose clear and it’s one that extends beyond profits. Patagonia stands for something that people understand and are a very loved purpose-led organization.

We can only hope that Chouinard’s example propels other leaders to become positive influences and light the way for others to assume corporate responsibility and honor company values more than company profits. Because a value driven company always acts in tandem with its mission. And Patagonia has been a leading example in embodying their mission: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Kari Norvell. Please reach out to SUNTEX directly if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

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Sustainable Spotlight: For Days (4 the Planet)

The past few decades we have been living in a “throw away” society—from fast fashions to electronics, from vehicles to food and everything in between. Today we are going to take a deeper look into the fast fashion side of throw away culture and a company that is working to move us toward sustainable clothing.

Chile’s Atacama Desert: Where Fast Fashion Goes to Die

If you are unsure of what exactly fast fashion is, it is a type of fashion that is mass produced, extremely cheap, and on store shelves quicker than one can blink. Fast fashion has made consumers believe that we need to shop more and more to stay on top of current trends. This mindset has turned shopping into an everyday hobby rather than a seasonal event we looked forward to.

The idea behind fast fashion is to get current trends on the shelves of stores as quickly as possible so consumers can buy them up while still at the height of their popularity, and after a few wears (once the trends have changed) consumers discard these clothing items and the cycle starts all over again. This linear and destructive textile economy has led to a toxic system of overproduction and overconsumption, making the fashion industry one of the largest polluters in the world.

Fast Fashion Turning Ghana into Toxic Landfill

In 2018, in total 17,000 tons of textiles were generated, and out of everything that was produced only 2,500 tons were recycled; the remaining 11,300 tons ended up in the landfill. This means that about 85% of all textiles end up in landfills, most of these contain extremely toxic dyes that are either seeping into the ground or into our water. To put it bluntly, the average American throws away about 82 pounds of clothing a year!

Over the past few years, clothing companies have started to look at their fashion practices and have begun modifying them to be less wasteful and less harmful to the environment while other companies have begun creating 100% sustainable and recycled fashion.

Cue For Days.

For Days is a closed loop men and women’s sustainable fashion brand that was founded by Kristy Caylor and Mary Saunders in 2016. Their brand sells trendy and versatile clothes for everyone. All their items are 100% recyclable and produced in a zero-waste system.

Sustainable

They truly cater to the environmentally conscious consumer while helping to keep clothing out of landfills and supports the efforts to make the world more sustainable. The brand uses 100% recyclable materials, which helps the customer save 700 gallons of water every time they send in an item to be upcycled.

Sustainability is their number one principle. They use the highest quality eco-friendly materials while minimizing waste with reusable packaging which leads to company wide carbon offsets.

“We strongly believe that all fashion businesses must take responsibility for what happens to clothes after our customers love them and wear through them. Our job is to figure out how to make participation in the circular economy an easy, seamless and rewarding experience for all fashion lovers.” – Kristy Caylor, Co-Founder and CEO of For Days

 

 

How it works:

For Days will take back any of its clothes and either upcycle or recycle those materials into something new. And as a reward for returning your clothes (and keeping them out of the trash), they will give you store credit.

Don’t have any For Days clothing yet?! You’re in luck! They also accept all other unwanted or forgotten clothing you may have in your closet, regardless of brand or condition. All you have to do is order a Take Back Bag from their website, (you will instantly receive $20 Closet Cash Credit to shop with them) fill it up with any clothing or scraps you have and send it back to them. For Days will take it from there! With your items either being downcycled, recycled, or resold to partners that service lower income communities.

To date, For Days has 6.9 million pound of CO2, 9.45 million gallons of water, and 875,000 pounds of clothing waste from landfills. In 2019, they participated in the Los Angeles Renewable Energy Program and committed to the UN’s Women Empowerment Principles, and in 2020 For Days was officially a certified carbon neutral company.

Outside of creating an incredible and sustainable circular economy for fashion, they also support the Ellen McArthur Foundation, which also advocates for a circular economy model that keeps products and materials in use while designing to reduce waste and pollution. They have also partnered with beam so that 1% of every purchase is donated to a nonprofit of your choice, from Every Body Texas to SurfRider Foundation, to the Loveland Foundation and more!

For Days has been featured in Vogue, Fashionista, Inc. and Forbes magazines.

If you’re looking for someplace to send your clothes rather than let companies like goodwill profit off of your closet check them out! Even if you’re not looking to rehome some of your closet, they sell affordable clothing that will not only look good, but feel good too—physically, financially, and ethically.

What you buy is what the industry becomes. You have the power to change the way clothes are made. Shop sustainable.

 

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Kari Norvell. Please reach out to SUNTEX directly if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

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5 Quick Ways to Reduce Your Company’s Carbon Footprint (Part 3 of 3)

Thanks for coming back for the final portion of this blog series! In the previous two posts we have discussed a few different ways to lessen your company’s carbon footprint—switching your company fleet to electric vehicles, installing solar panels, repurposing old buildings for your company needs, and looking into banking intentionally. The last, but not least, way you can reduce your ecological impact on the world is to switch over to sustainable packaging. I know some company’s offer services instead of products, and in that case buying from companies that use sustainable packaging whenever possible. Let’s dive in!

5. Use Sustainable Packaging

Cutting out single use packaging is paramount to reducing your carbon footprint in today’s world. From plastic bubble wrap to Styrofoam, single use plastics to cardboard, the materials used in product packaging plays a role in our daily lives and impacts the environment in a negative way. Our culture has become reliant on convenience and cheap and quickly made products, which makes it difficult to lead a zero-waste life. Using ecofriendly packaging in your companies’ operations is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.

Carbon FootprintIn 2018, the EPA reported that containers and packaging make up 28.1%—that’s 82.2 million tons—of total waste generation. Out of the 82 million tons generated, landfills received 30.5 million tons of packaging waste that year and 10 million tons of it was plastic containers and packaging.  The packaging materials that end up in the landfills are lost forever as a resource leading to more environmental waste.

Another report done by the Organisation Economic Cooperation and Development in 2022, estimates that the total amount of global waste will almost triple by 2060, two-thirds of it being made up of short-lived items such a plastic packaging. Aside from that, plastic leakages are expected to double by 2060, furthering concerns about plastic pollution in our soils and marine ecosystem.

We can do our part in helping to reduce the amount of packaging that ends up in landfills or in the oceans by switching to eco-friendly packaging. There are a few things to look for when it comes to choosing packaging that is sustainable. Some things to pay attention to when shopping around for ecofriendly packaging are:

  • Raw or 100% recycled materials
  • Choose paper over plastic

Paper is renewable and biodegradable, which makes it a great place to start.

  • Look for FSC certified paper

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies that any product that has come from a forest has been sourced in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible way.

  • Paper with safe non-toxic dyes

Steer clear of toxic dyes like petroleum-based ink, and dyes that are natural and non-toxic such as soy.

  • Aim for acid-free paper

If you use paper for packaging, look for paper that is acid free; not only does it last longer than acid-based papers but it can also be reused more often.

  • Avoid excess packing materials

Less is more in today’s world, especially when it comes to packaging. If you need to use more materials, try to use materials that can be reused instead of new packaging.

To really go the extra mile, aim for truly compostable synthetic alternatives to packaging, while it is more difficult to find truly biodegradable packaging it is out there. Instead of using stryofoam you can use corn foam; which is biodegradable, water dissolvable, and even edible. It can be used to make biodegradable packing peanuts and is also an excellent alternative to bubble wrap.

If you’re packaging breakables, try using mushroom packaging such as, MycoComposite. It’s made from mushrooms and it’s C2C Certified, flame and water resistant, and also biodegradable. You can also look into packaging that has been recycled packaging that is compostable! Some other forms of ecofriendly packaging are corrugated packaging, glassine packaging, and cellulose packaging; which is a great alternative to plastic packaging because cellulose is biodegradable and compostable!

Some of these options may cost a little extra but look at it as an investment to humanity’s future while creating a loyal customer base. PackHelp found that 30% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that deliver on sustainability claims and 37% prioritize sustainability when making purchasing decisions. Keep that in mind the next time you are packaging your products or purchasing products from other companies.

By switching to sustainable packaging or buying from companies that use sustainable packaging you’re taking a step in the right direction of reducing the number of materials that end up in landfills and our environment. Using packaging that can be reused creates a circular economy around the packaging, which extends its life cycle and usability.

 

I know there are plenty of additional ways to reduce your carbon footprint, these five were ones that I felt to be the most important from a company viewpoint. Some of you may be asking ‘why do I need to reduce my carbon footprint?’ The reality of the situation is that climate change is too extreme to ignore anymore and the links between climate change and greenhouse emissions is too evident.

By lowering your carbon footprint, you can help contribute to the overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.  When companies start reducing their ecological footprint, consumers will follow suit and start taking steps to reduce theirs. If you are curious to know what your companies or even your own personal carbon footprint looks like, you can find out here. Hopefully these tips have helped to start your journey to living a net-zero life. With our powers combined, we can save the world!

 

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Kari Norvell. Please reach out to SUNTEX directly if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

 

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5 Ways to Quickly Reduce Your Company’s Carbon Footprint (Part 2 of 3)

Welcome back everyone! On our previous blog post, we discussed the first two ways to quickly reduce your company’s carbon footprint—transitioning your company fleet from fossil fuel vehicles to electric vehicles and installing solar panels—today we will touch on two more ways that can quickly reduce your carbon footprint.

Like I mentioned in the previous post, getting to net zero will take everyone working together to achieve this goal. Once businesses—from small businesses to large corporations—start exhibiting these behaviors, it will be easier for their customers and competitors to follow suit.

Now, the third way to reduce your footprint is by repurposing existing office spaces. This is one of my favorites and we will dive further into this one in a future blog post.

3. Reuse Existing Office Spaces

 Most people never think about what goes into creating a building from the ground up, but a vast amount of energy goes into a building creation—from extracting and processing raw materials required for construction, to hauling and disposing waste from a job site—also known as “embodied energy.” This embodied energy is projected to make up 49% of the total carbon emissions of global new construction between now and 2050, according to Architecture 2030.

Adaptive reuse instead, focuses on taking a building that’s past its prime and renovating it for new purposes in line with current technological and social needs. If we want to make our cities more sustainable, adaptive reuse is one of the best strategies that we can implement. It also bridges the gap between the old and the new to create more unique and memorable spaces.

NYC – the historic Farley Post Office Building transformation into the new Moynihan Train Hall—a part of the Penn Station redevelopment

By choosing to adaptively reuse buildings, we are actively bypassing the cost of demolition and construction while extending the lifespan of already existing resources. A Deloitte blog post states that “compared with a new construction, adaptive reuse and restoration can be 16 percent cheaper in terms of construction costs and take 19 percent less execution time.”

Climate change has made adaptive reuse a more viable option, now more than ever before. It is also a compelling one in terms of business and finance too. On top of saving costs, there are also federal tax initiatives for creating sustainable and economically valuable alternatives to new construction thanks to the Tax Reform Act of 1976.

In a report on the global status of buildings and construction, The International Energy Agency found that the building and construction sector worldwide emitted 39% of all global carbon dioxide emission in 2019. On top of that, according to ArchDaily, it could still take anywhere from 10 to 80 years to zero out the carbon costs that come from construction even if choosing to build with energy efficient technology.

Carbon emissions are not the only thing that makes construction problematic; waste from a new build is also a massive issue. For example, when a 50,000-square-foot commercial building is torn down, about 4,000 tons of material end up in the landfill. Aside from that, demolishing a building wastes its initial investment, and a building can only be considered truly sustainable if it is in use long enough to justify the resources used for its creation.

Retrofitting existing buildings to meet high-performance standards is the most effective strategy for reducing near- and mid-term carbon emissions, the most important step in limiting climate disruption.”Kermit Baker, American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chief Economist

In 2014, the construction and demolition industry generated 534 million tons of debris, based on Dorma Kaba’s recent research; and a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report shows that building related construction and demolition debris accounted for 26% of all non-industrial waste generated in the United States.

“As more cities each year pledge to cut carbon emissions, adaptive reuse is an essential component of sustainable development. Creative solutions to renew the buildings we already have will make the difference in the fight against climate change.” – Frank Mahan, Design Principal, Adaptive Reuse Practice Leader at SOM, an innovative architectural firm.

It’s not that it doesn’t take energy and resources to restore an existing building — but rather, that it takes far less of both compared to constructing a new building and when we shift our thinking from “new is best,” to “reuse what’s left;” we are actively considering the environmental impacts associated with demolition and building anew. So, let’s put our hard hats on and tackle this together!

4. Bank Intentionally

When thinking of how to reduce your carbon footprint, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not who you bank with; especially when looking at climate solutions and environmental justice. Oddly enough, intentional banking is one of the easiest and most effective ways each of us can quickly create positive impact.

By banking intentionally, consumers can choose a bank that favors investing in renewable energies and socially responsible businesses over businesses that are destructive to the environment, like fossil fuel companies. These banks pledge their commitment to sustainability principles and align themselves with environmentally conscious customers and investors; helping them to fund a low-carbon future.

Banks play a major role in the American economy; each year trillions of dollars flow through them to fund the growth of various industries—whether that industry or company invests in fighting climate change or worsening climate change. Where banks decide to give their loans helps determine the direction of the economy, and to some extent, the future of our societies.Carbon Footprint

In 2020 alone, natural disasters accounted for about $210 billion in damages around the world. The challenges brought about by climate change and the pandemic have led to increased calls for banks to take a greater role in addressing where money is flowing to.

Climate change has been a top agenda for several banks. A growing number of financial institutions have realized that financing fossil fuels, and other projects that harm the environment, is bad for their long-term future. An Ernst & Young report found that in 2020, 52% of banks considered climate change as a key risk to their business within the next five years. Climate change development – such as the wildfires in Australia, winter storms in central Texas, the unprecedented London heatwaves, and the historical flooding in Pakistan – have created a sense of urgency that impact the growth or business and threaten company and client assets.

Banking on Climate ChaosConsider looking into which banks finance fossil fuel companies and instead, banking with one that supports green financing, fights climate change and aligns with your own personal values. By doing this, you are ensuring that your deposits are being put towards building the tomorrow you want to live in.

There are a few groups of banks that have come together to help align customers and investors with banks and financial institutions that are working toward a sustainable future. One of these groups is The Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV). The GABV is a network of independent banks using finance to deliver sustainable economic, social, and environmental development. You can find a bank that invests in fighting climate change and aligns with your personal values by visiting their website in the link above.

Another group that has come together to help the banking and financial sector is The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI). The UNEP FI was created when six banks came together at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit with the same concerns regarding sustainability and the state of the global climate. There are now more than 450 financial institutions that are members of the UN’s largest partnership with the finance industry. In the past year, member banks have given 113 million customers access to financial services and advised over 15,000 companies on their climate strategies.

By choosing to bank with financial institutions and demanding that these institutions uphold environmental standards; you’re not only helping people and the planet, you’re also helping secure the future of financial stability. With their cooperation, banks can help to finance companies, projects, and loans that support a green economy and help reduce our carbon footprint. Their role should not be underestimated when working towards a more sustainable future.

Becoming more environmentally sustainable requires us to redesign our company’s business models and turn towards the adaptive reuse of buildings and learning to bank intentionally to forecast the future. These two ways of reducing our carbon footprint have shown that this decade is critical to the determination of the future of this planet and it’s in our hands to act now and provide a sustainable and responsible framework for other companies to follow.  The last part of this blog series will be posted Monday, so make sure to check back for the final tip on reducing your company’s ecological footprint.

 

 

 

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Kari Norvell. Please reach out directly to SUNTEX if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

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5 Quick Ways to Reduce Your Company’s Carbon Footprint: Part 1 of 3

Now, more than ever, our world is being impacted by climate related mega disasters, due to extreme climate change. We as a whole, need to act quickly to lessen our carbon footprint to save the planet, otherwise there will be dire consequences.

Over the past two weeks, five areas across the United States alone, have experienced flooding that happens once every thousand years. Areas in Dallas, St. Louis, eastern Kentucky, Mississippi and southeastern Illinois have been inundated with historic levels of rainfall. According to the Washington Post, this amount of rainfall usually has a .1 percent chance of happening in any given year; it has happened in five different areas in less than two weeks!

This type of flooding and other massive natural disasters is not uncommon for people to experience anymore. Natural disasters have been gradually getting worse while becoming more frequent as global temperatures continue to rise, in fact the United States experiences the highest number of natural disasters every year.

Carbon FootprintTo reduce the number of natural disasters and lessen their impacts, we need to balance the carbon equation. Per the Paris Agreement, the United States has pledged to eliminate its emissions and work towards capping the global temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2050 before climate change turns calamitous. If we fail to reach this goal the natural disasters happening around the world will be amplified to biblical proportions.

There’s good news though, we as consumers and businesses can help to reach this goal! It will require radical and rapid changes across the entire American economy, but by working together to reduce our ecological footprint we hold the keys necessary to counteract climate change.

According to Seth Godin, best-selling author of The Carbon Almanac, states that “it’s not too late.”  He believes we can start to solve the problem of reducing our carbon footprint with businesses leading the charge in sustainability and ecological innovation and technologies. With businesses spearheading this revolution, consumers will start to follow suite until it’s a normal idea to support companies that are backing green initiatives.

Building businesses that create more demand for carbon-zero products or services is not something that can be accomplished overnight, but there are ways you and your company can quickly take steps in the direction of reducing your carbon footprint. By supporting sustainable causes and ideas, we can all start building a sustainable and hopeful future.

In today’s blog post, we are going to look at the first two ways you and your company can start reducing your carbon footprint!

1. Buying Electric Vehicles

Our first way to help shrink your ecological footprint is to look into switching fleet vehicles your company currently uses from gas to electric, especially if those vehicles put on a lot of miles in a year.

Transportation is a growing source of global greenhouse emissions that is helping drive climate change. A PBS article on global warming states that, “in 2019, 23% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions came from transportation and contributed to 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.”

Not only can switching to electric vehicles cut emissions by 60% over fossil fuel vehicles, but they can also save an average of 1.5 million grams of carbon dioxide! Since electric vehicles do not have tailpipes, they emit nothing when operating, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, most models can go more than 200 miles on a fully charged battery.

In other great news, EV batteries can now be recycled! The Department of Energy (DOE) recently launched the first lithium-ion battery recycling center, The ReCell Center, in hopes of creating a profitable method to improve recycling rates and reduce the reliance on supplies from foreign countries. Recycling EV batteries reduces the production costs by 10 to 30% along with reducing emissions, waste, and the need for new materials.

Outside of government incentives that lower the price of purchasing electric vehicles, they also have a lower operating cost. The DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center states that “the operation and maintenance costs of EV’s averages about 3 cents per mile and they achieve their best fuel economy during stop-and-go driving conditions.”

While some companies don’t need a fleet of vehicles; the ones that do have fleet vehicles should take consideration into moving the company fleet to electric. There are a wide range of electric vehicle options available from your typical run of the mill electric vehicle to off-road EVs, forklifts, mowers, tractors, school buses, and public transit.

If we work towards transforming how we fuel our transportation needs, electric vehicles could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions anywhere from 80 to 90% of current levels by 2050!

2. Installing Solar Panels

The second way to reduce your carbon footprint is to harness the suns energy by installing solar panels. What’s cool about solar energy is that it’s completely renewable and one of the cleanest sources of energy out there.

The best part about shrinking your carbon footprint with solar energy is the reduction for demand of fossil fuels and less greenhouse gas emissions are produced. By going solar, users can eliminate the same amount of carbon emissions that would result from burning over 5,000 pounds of coal each year.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) also found that widespread adoption of solar energy can significantly reduce nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter emissions.

Solar energy is becoming one of the fastest growing sources of sustainable energy. According to the International Energy Agency, “solar and wind energy account for almost 10% of total electricity generation.” The U.S. is now the third largest market in the world for solar energy. 23.6 gigawatts of solar were installed in the U.S. in 2021. The United States receives so much solar energy that an array of solar panels in the Mojave Desert could generate a year’s worth of our energy needs in a single day.

In fact, solar power will account for almost half of United States’ new electricity generation this year. At the beginning of 2022, The U.S. Energy Information Administration expected solar generating capacity to grow by 21.5 gigawatts, which would surpass last year’s 15.5 gigawatts of solar capacity additions, with many of these additions in Texas (6.1 gigawatts, or 28% of the national total).

Not only is solar energy great for the environment, but it’s beneficial to its users too! Solar energy is the most affordable source of energy in the world and the coast of solar panels has dropped by 80% since 2008. In December 2016, the cost of building and installing new solar electricity generation dropped to $1.65 per watt; it’s renewable counterpart—wind—was $1.66/watt.

Aside from solar energy being extremely affordable, there are also incentives to switch to solar power. Users can receive 30% system costs back from equipment and installation as a federal income tax credit, along with receiving Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) by selling any excess energy produced to utility companies.

In order to reach our goal in 2050 set out by the Paris Agreement, almost 90% of global electricity generation needs to come from renewable sources, with solar PV and wind together accounting for nearly 70%.

 

Now that we’ve covered the first two ways you and your company can decrease your ecological impact, come back Saturday for the second portion of this post! I’ll be detailing three and four in how to quickly reduce your company’s carbon footprint!

 

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Kari Norvell. Please reach out to SUNTEX directly if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

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Living Sustainably, Since We May Soon Have N0 Choice

Sustainable Living

We’ve discussed how to live sustainably on this blog plenty of times – just check out the following links to see what I mean:

However, we’ve really only mentioned the ‘Why’ to this question a couple of times, so this week we’ll dig a little deeper on why we recommend working and living sustainably, and just what it means to do so.

What is Living “Sustainably”?

To learn more about this movement and where it first began, we consult the help of UNICEF to explain what sustainable development looks like and how we can achieve it. Check out the link, here: https://www.unicefusa.org/stories/guide-sustainable-living/35821.

The most simple definition I can think of is that ‘Living Sustainably’ involves consuming as little energy via fossil fuels as possible, to undergo your normal daily routines (I specifically mention fossil fuels here because if you use a renewable energy source such as wind, solar, or hydro-power, you can still live sustainably even if you consume a lot of energy).

Why Live Sustainably?

Climate change, climate change, climate change! If you haven’t heard this phrase by now, you must be living in a hole, because newsrooms, science labs, classrooms, and the workplace – have all been inundated with this phrase and the insundry implications that accompany it. Take a look at our previous blog posts on the subject to get an idea of what Climate Change is, and why it’s occurring: https://suntexllc.com/?s=climate+change.

Living Sustainably is Cheaper

Though I’ve worked in green energy for a few years now because of my own personal desires to “make the world a better place,” most people choose to ‘Go Green’ because it’s actually cheaper for them financially! How is this possible? Read the following article to see why, however in many times the simple answer is that you’re using less, and choosing a more efficient means of producing energy for consumption when you do – Eco Friendly Home Improvements.

SustainablyLiving Sustainably is Greener

Of course, as I already mentioned, even if you’re a traazillionaire, and your goals do not include saving money, living sustainably is much greener, and therefore healthier for the environment. By using fewer fossil fuels, or using fossil fuels more sustainably, you’re actually reducing your own carbon footprint, thereby mitigating some of the greenhouse gases and other types of pollution in the environment, all on your own!

How can you measure your own carbon footprint? For the answer to that question, we turn to Nature.org to help us out: Calculating Your Carbon Footprint.

Living Sustainably is Cooler

While I don’t always adhere to the latest trends, I do think it’s important to note that one common reason why people may paint the exterior of their homes, or adorn more and more Christmas lights in their display each year is the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Understandably, this thought might just make you cringe a little – after all, we’re all unique individuals living our own lives, right? Of course it can be a bad thing, if it leads to debt or buying things you don’t need – check out the following article to see what I mean: Keeping Up with the Joneses is a Terrible Pursuit.

However this psychological phenomenon is something we are all guilty of to an extent, and while it can have some negative implications, it’s not always a bad thing. The following article explores where this phrase came from, and what it really means: How the Jones Effect Can Help Brands Better Understand Consumers.

Particularly as it pertains to not buying material goods, but living sustainably and minimally, this trend is one that can be helpful for your pocketbook, as well as de-cluttering your space and mind (see Marie Kondo’s method of de-cluttering your home and your life: https://konmari.com/about-the-konmari-method/), so I for one hope this trend remains for a long time, so that hopefully, we won’t be forced to live sustainably by climate change.

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Texas Energy: Riding through Texas with my Woes

If you’re a Drake fan you’ve likely heard this line, but in all reality we were too excited about the month long adventure to focus on any ‘woes’. Since I promised Alejandra (my boss) I would relate these posts back to the energy grid somehow, today we’ll explore the energy make-up of Texas, and then we will focus on New Mexico, and finally the Colorado energy grid — with a particular emphasis on green energy production in each state.

TEXAS ENERGY PROFILE 

As a Texan working for a Texas-based energy company, we’ve focused a lot on the local energy grid and how it’s managed in previous blogs – see below links for reference:

Including where we currently stand and what updates (if any) have happened to improve the grid since the February freeze, here…

Texas Energy Grid Updates

 

However, today we’ll focus on the energy grid at large, and really highlight the major benefits of the Texas energy market as a whole.

For starters, say what you will about the climate crisis (and there is a LOT to say for sure), however since in the past century we’ve been collectively focused as Americans on mass production, much of the economic gains could not have been possible without the Texas oil and gas industry. For an interesting history of the oil boom, check out the following article from the Texas Almanac: https://texasalmanac.com/topics/business/oil-and-texas-cultural-history. To see a little more about oil production in the Lone Star state, I turn to our friends at the Energy Industry Administration, https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=TX.

As stated before on this blog (), the EIA.gov website is an incredible useful source of information when it comes to US energy production and consumption rates, and there are a few bullet-points on the Texas Profile & Energy Estimates page that bear repeating (https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=TX):

  • “In 2020, Texas accounted for 43% of the nation’s crude oil production and 26% of its marketed natural gas production.”
  • “The 31 petroleum refineries in Texas can process almost 5.9 million barrels of crude oil per calendar day, which was 31% of the nation’s refining capacity as of January 2020.”
  • Texas produces more electricity than any other state, generating almost twice as much as Florida, the second-highest electricity-producing state.”

While the “oil and gas state” is certainly an accurate trademark, Texas is starting to make waves in the renewable energy market as well, as EIA.gov will also tell you:

“Texas leads the nation in wind-powered generation and produced about 28% of all U.S. wind-powered electricity in 2020. Wind power surpassed the state’s nuclear generation for the first time in 2014 and produced more than twice as much electricity as the state’s two nuclear power plants combined in 2020.”

It goes without saying that I have to quote the most recent numbers for the amount of solar capacity in the state, however sadly I must report that while we are improving, the total solar energy production in the state is still pretty dismal (see photos to right and left, or check out the original charts in the following link: https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/solar/where-solar-is-found.php).

If you have been following along with this blog for some time, you already know the capacity this state has for solar power. Why aren’t we achieving that yet? Feel free to post your ideas below, and hopefully together we can find the solution to getting more solar installed in the state of Texas! In the meantime, I’ll continue to support solar growth by: 1) working for a reputable solar company with a drive towards superior products and outstanding customer service, i.e. SUNTEX, and 2) continue my civic engagement by contacting local and state representatives to help support solar policies that help home owners like myself go solar. I hope you do the same, so that we can continue to support the nations’ energy demand as we move into the next phase of the Texas energy future.

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Home Gardens: Farm to Table

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to live on a farm, and the idea of plucking my own eggs each morning, and harvesting fresh herbs for spaghetti still excites me. Luckily, the farm to table movement is already underway, and even though it seems ‘trendy,’ (as we learned in yesterday’s blog post) this practice is centuries old.

People aren’t just thinking of ways to improve curb appeal anymore — we’ve also started to see an emerging trend of community gardens cropping up (pun intended), as well as a resurgence of local farmers and artisanal markets. What’s causing this recent demand for local produce? If you’re likewise a fan of Chef’s Table, you might credit Dan and David Barber of Blue Hill Farms for really promoting this idea, which aligns perfectly with their slogan, “Great cooking starts with great ingredients” (https://www.bluehillfarm.com/know-thy-farmer).

Farm to Table: Sunflower Garden

So what exactly is farm-to-table food? Check out a helpful link explaining the overview of the modernized movement, including some of the earlier roots of the movement: https://www.webstaurantstore.com/blog/postdetails.cfm?post=1532. One major piece of the food-supply-chain puzzle is processed foods, particularly in the United States where convenience is king, and as companies have discovered more and more re-heatable recipes, processed foods have increased all over the world, with health taking a backseat to pace. For this reason, as well as the environmental costs associated with large-scale farming and slaughtering practices, people are seeking out ways to mitigate these factors as a part of their diets.

Recently, I was introduced to someone who has a small plot of land (less than an acre) in a neighborhood right at the tip of metropolitan Austin. You can see the Austin skyline from a couple of blocks from her home, yet she has pet chickens that produce eggs for her family daily! Now, admittedly, when she told me this, and then handed me a carton of eggs with three different colored varieties, it was safe to say I was a little nervous to try them — after all, they’re not even FDA approved. Having done her research, she rattled off the names of each breed of chicken and their corresponding egg, and also provided several personal case studies of delicious breakfasts and chicken-pot-pie recipes that would impress any Top Chef, while briefly noting the perk of Homestead Tax exemption as the cherry on top (I’ll have to get the specifics on the applicable exemptions, but for a short list of Homestead exemptions in Texas see here: https://www.traviscad.org/forms/forms-exemptions/).

Home Gardening

At the end of her speech I was hooked — and dying to try one of the fresh eggs she’d supplied us. The next morning my husband and I cooked eggs, toast, and bacon — in attempt to really highlight the flavor of the eggs — and I was pleasantly surprised with, no joke, one of the best tasting eggs in my entire life.

So is farm to table truly worth it? In my opinion, and not just on the egg harvest but also based on my own small garden, I’d definitely say so! Whether you’re raising one, or fifty goats for milk and cheese, or growing your own veggies or herbs to spruce up dinner, your farm to table experience is awaiting you, and is probably a lot easier than you think. What plants are local in your area? How much space do you have? Researching the answers to these questions will be your very first step in creating your at-home-farm. What will you grow next? Feel free to add comments about your farm-to-table experiences below!

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Managing the Farm: Home Gardens

While it didn’t feel appropriate to call this blog post part of the “Right to Capture” series, the theme is similarly linked by reducing your overall cost of living, and/or carbon footprint, using techniques that have been around for centuries. This blog post focuses on an ancient favorite: the Home Garden!

The worlds very first ‘home garden’ — think hunting and gathering humans — is thought to have been developed around 9000 BC, according to gardenvisit.com (The World’s First Garden, according to BBC). While the tools used to build today’s home garden may have changed drastically, the practice of growing flowers and (fruits, and) vegetables really hasn’t.

Returning to a previously helpful site, check out the City of Arlington website for some great ideas about planting edible home-gardens: Here – I mention edible, because if you’re treating the soils and pests naturally, you’ll get better produce! The first few steps really outline my own personal philosophy on maintaining a healthy home garden, so I’m adding it the excerpt below for reference:

“Step 1: Plant Healthy

Build and maintain healthy soil. It is important that you know your soil. Homeowners should order or purchase a simple but reliable soil test to find out what essential nutrients are currently available in their soil and to determine what additives may need to be added to provide the environment for a healthy landscape. For more information about soil testing procedures and prices go to soiltesting.tamu.edu. If you use fertilizers to add nutrients look for products that contain natural organic or slow-release fertilizers. Your yard is made up of a community of beneficial organisms that can help maintain your landscapes and the improper use of fertilizers can damage beneficial organisms in the soil which are essential for healthy soils and plants. Composting helps certain soil types hold nutrients and water, loosens clay soils which allows air and water into the soil and strengthens root growth. It also feeds the beneficial organisms so they will feed and protect your plants. Mulching stabilizes soil temperatures, prevents weeds, conserves water and helps feed soil for healthier plants. For more information on local Composting classes visit City of Arlington Recycling and Garbage. Plant Native – Planting with native or adaptive plants will provide beauty all year round in your garden.
Make sure your plant selection is appropriate for your region. Develop a placement plan that uses native plants and drought tolerant species to decrease maintenance requirements. Seek the advice of a Texas Master Gardener, local nursery or local garden club about what plants or grasses are right for your landscape and soil type.”

Click the following link for the City of Arlington, Integrated Garden and Pest Management system: Here.
Home Gardens: Vertical Farming

The additional steps outlined in this article are useful so please do continue on using the links provided above, but also note that you’ll likely need to read about what plants are local to your area, and when it’s best to plant them — along with some trial and error — as you get started on your own home garden! For example, while I’m by no means a green thumb yet, this year I’m experimenting with winterizing my tomato plants in hopes of re-using the same plant that grew tomatoes for us all summer long. I’ll keep the blog updated sparingly as we winter the winter together this year, though so far I’m planning to keep the tomatoes inside in the southern-facing window(s) of our home just in case we experience any fluke freezes this year!

Keep in mind also that there are a ton of ways to garden outside of adding a garden box to your backyard! There is also hydroponic and/or vertical farming (featured left) — which is a particularly helpful option to those with smaller yard space or for people living in apartments. Additionally, vertical gardens can be really effective in helping you offset not only your cost of veggies year-round, but also are effective in managing the adverse effects of poor weather, since they’re slightly more mobile than your typical raised bed.

For those of you advanced gardening students that are ready to move on to the full farm-to-table lifestyle, please continue to read on this week for more tips!

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Earthly Innovations to Celebrate Around the World

Everyone wants to build their own home, or must, to survive the earthly elements – try being in a hail storm, for example, without even a tarp over your head. When we ask ourselves what our ideal homes would look like, how many of us ask what the ideal energy solution would look like too? For example, you might want vaulted ceilings and marble flooring – and all of the latest Energystar rated appliances, of course – but how many architects are ensuring that these tall-walled rooms are bright and warm in the winter, and lit but cool in the summer? By design, and perhaps a couple of windows/sky lights in the right place, and you’re set! When you apply then the carbon footprint cost, how many of us decided to build our homes with locally-sourced materials?

Some people are clearly making this connection, like the woman in Kenya who created her own recycled bricks using locally sourced materials. Nzambi Matee’s buildings are not only structurally sound, but installations of art as well: “Kenyan woman’s startup recycles plastic into bricks that are stronger than concrete”(https://www.designboom.com/technology/gjenge-makers-recycled-plastic-bricks-kenya-02-08-2021/). According to the article on Designboom.com, “before creating gjenge makers ltd, nzambi matee majored in material science and worked as an engineer in kenya’s oil industry. in 2017 she quit her job to start creating and testing pavers, which are a combination of plastic and sand. she gets the waste material for free from packaging factories and also buys it from other recyclers. through experimentation, she understood which plastics bind better together and then created the machinery that would allow her to mass produce them.”

For another example of a local innovation, check out the young entrepreneurs featured (right) whom created a solar-powered cooking station! According to his account on Twitter, Mr. Usman Dalhatu and partners had this to say of the collaboration, “We met with Dalsman Technologies Limited, creators of the iCart Solution. We explored areas of mutual interest, and avenues to empower petty traders in Kaduna. iCart is a solar powered, compact kiosk targeted at small businesses including Shayi, Suya and Kosai vendors,” and also the following: “The journey from ideation to final development of products is a truly fascinating one. It was delightful to discuss with @KadunaMarkets, our dev’t vision for Kaduna through deployment of the iCart. Looking forward to the exciting implementation journey that lies ahead.” https://twitter.com/UsmanDalhatu5

What’s in your area, or in your home, that could be re-purposed into something sustainable? It could be something as complex as designing a brick for a home using locally sourced materials and keeping natural heating and cooling elements in mind, or a solar-powered food-cart instead of using a gas or electric-powered stove – to something as simple as a dish-rack, for example – which is a much more sustainable way to dry your plates and dishes, and costs little to nothing to purchase and use. What else will make a difference in energy consumption in your home, your schools, in your business?

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