ICYMI: Kohl's, Legrand and others cash in on Better Buildings

In Case You Missed It

ICYMI: Kohl's, Legrand and others cash in on Better Buildings

Editor's Note: ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) is a regular GreenBiz feature recapping the highlights of corporate sustainability news from the past week.

Dear readers: Although there's rarely a theme that one can easily pluck from the torrent of sustainability news in a given week, over the past 10 days or so we've seen just a ton of news about greener buildings, smart buildings and the launch of a new USGBC partnership to take Greenbuild global. So while most of this week's news will fall under the "odds 'n' sods" category, let's start with a look at highlights from efforts to green the buildings where we live and work.

Banking on, and benefiting from, Better Buildings

Companies share their Better Buildings successes: The Department of Energy this week released the results from the first year of its Better Buildings Challenge, with data from three dozen companies, including Best Buy, GE and Macy's, showing that challenge participants have improved their energy efficiency by more than 2.5 percent in the first year. Among the success stories: Kohl's department stores reported a 7 percent improvement last year, and buildings infrastructure specialist Legrand has achieved a 29 percent reduction since its 2009 baseline year.

What would you do with an extra $34 billion? A new report from United Technologies explores just how much money the nation would save if everyone stepped up to the energy-efficiency challenge as Better Buildings participants have. The report shows that a 30 percent improvement in energy efficiency would create a $275 billion market for advanced building technology, U.S. businesses would save $34 billion per year and American households would save an additional $23 billion per year.

Training the next generation of Energy Execs: The National Renewable Energy Lab continues to train the business and civic leaders that can help the nation achieve these low-carbon and energy-efficiency gains: NREL announced the 2013 class of Energy Execs, who will take part in the five-month-long program to learn about the latest energy technologies. Among the participants are members of the U.S. GSA, National Instruments, Bank of America, the Sierra Club, Eaton Energy Services and the Denver Zoo.

Sharing sustainable food-production practices worldwide: The United Nations Environment Programme this week unveiled its Sustainable Consumption and Production clearinghouse, a database and social network where companies, governments and NGOs can share success stories about how to improve food production, reduce waste and generally guide the world toward more sustainable living. Projects already submitted to the clearinghouse include a Sustainable Rice Platform to improve rice-production methods; details of a plan to reduce plastic bag waste in Brazil by 40 percent in two years; and the highlights from Portugal's National Plan for Preventing Industrial Waste (PNAPRI), which is focused on reducing hazardous waste generated by industrial activity.

Green building photo by Marcin-linfernum on Shutterstock.

Putting the cloud to work: We've covered a few plans over the years to use the waste heat from data centers to heat buildings -- IBM discussed the plan back in 2008. But German start-up AoTerra is having a huge amount of success with a crowdfunded plan to provide in-home cloud computing services while also heating those homes with the servers. As David Meyer writes in GigaOM: "Property owners or developers pay €12,000 (US$15,500) for the system (about the same as a normal heating system), but they don't have any ongoing operating costs – from that point on, they get free heating and hot water. And AoTerra gets out of having to pay for air conditioning, which is a pretty major chunk of the cost of running a traditional data center."

Odds 'n' Sods

Fracking spurs infighting among green groups: The EDF recently signed on as a strategic partner to the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, a collaboration of energy companies and others to identify the best ways to develop shale-oil resources. Given the EDF's long history of working with sometimes-unexpected partners to achieve environmental ends (Walmart, to name just one example), the CSSD news isn't surprising, but that didn't stop a coalition of 67 green groups from blasting EDF in an open letter this week, saying in part that "It should be eminently clear to everyone that an economy based on fossil fuels is unsustainable." EDF's Fred Krupp responded with his own open letter stating that "if fracking is going to take place anywhere in the U.S. -- and clearly it is -- then we need to do everything in our power to protect the people living nearby. That includes improving industry performance in every way possible."

Unilever's Sustainable Living Plan update: The consumer-goods giant, which launched its Sustainable Living Plan in 2010, this week released its second progress update. Among the highlights that Unilever is reporting: CO2 intensity of its energy use has dropped almost 20 percent since 2011, down to 99.97 kg per ton of production; waste intensity is down over 20 percent, to 3.85 kg per ton from almost 5 kg per tonne in 2011; and water intensity also has dropped, down to 2.23 cubic meters per metric ton of production from 2.4 cubic meters in 2011.

Creating sustainable packaging by design: Last week, the International Safe Transit Association held a training in Austin, Texas, to take a deep dive into its new Responsible Packaging by Design Guide. In an interview with ISTA staff and members this week, Packaging World looks at what the guide can achieve, noting in part that "[o]ne could say that RPbD even makes the business case for more sustainable package design, as well as the case for concurrent product and package design for the most efficient operations."

Because there just has to be a dark side to everything: In closing, an interesting -- if somewhat depressing -- story about a troublesome byproduct of the Greek yogurt boom. For each ounce of (really, truly, amazingly delicious) Greek yogurt, there are 2 or 3 ounces of acid whey, a runny milky substance that dairies are having a hard time disposing of -- it can't be dumped or landfilled, and is being produced in significant enough quantities to cause headaches for yogurt producers such as Chobani. The report in Modern Farmer does highlight how at least one farmer in upstate New York is mixing the acid whey with manure and feeding it all into an anaerobic digester to make methane for energy (which reminds me of the one that Gill's Onions unveiled in 2009, which remains one of my favorite GreenBiz stories ever).