Small Businesses: Here’s How To Act on Climate and Improve Your Bottom Line

Co-authored by David Levine, Co-founder and President, American Sustainable Business Council

Shari’s Café and Pies in Beaverton, Oregon, makes some great pies. Each of Shari’s 98 restaurants across the Pacific Northwest uses energy to make those pies. In fact, utility costs were their third highest expense, and the company went looking for a way to trim those costs. They realized they couldn’t control utility rates, but they could control their own energy and water usage.

Shari’s used the ENERGY STAR Guide for Restaurants and arranged for an energy audit. They also used the ENERGY STAR Lighting Options for Restaurants & Commercial Kitchens guide and the ENERGY STAR Commercial Kitchen Equipment Savings Calculator. Shari’s purchased ENERGY STAR certified appliances including griddles, refrigerators, freezers, water heaters, ice machines, dishwashers, fryers, convection ovens and pre-rinse sprayers. The purchase of ENERGY STAR certified appliances has earned Shari’s over $300,000 in rebates and incentives since 2010. In 2012, Shari’s estimated their electrical usage was down 6% and natural gas usage down 11%; their per-restaurant water consumption saw an 18% reduction. These changes allowed Shari’s to save $650,000.

Yes, a savings of $650,000.

Across the country, small business owners are gaining a competitive edge and improving their bottom line through energy efficiency. Many owners are even able to redirect cost savings to new investments or new positions. It’s a win-win; a win for the economy as well as the environment.

And we know that business owners are thinking about the harmful impacts from climate change, especially as climate change fuels more extreme weather events. Polling commissioned by the American Sustainable Business Council found that 87 percent of business owners named one or more consequences of climate change as potentially harmful to their businesses. These are owners from all political stripes — and they all get it.

EPA’s ENERGY STAR program partners with over 12,000 small businesses — from auto dealers and grocery stores to restaurants and lodging businesses — and is helping businesses reduce the pollution that fuels climate change while saving billions of dollars in the process. EPA resources like the new ENERGY STAR Small Business Action Workbook and EPA’s Greening Guide for Small Businesses, Smart Steps to Sustainability 2.0, can help business owners make these savings a reality.

Here are a few more examples of small business owners who are working with EPA to green their businesses:

Madam’s Organ — Washington, DC

“It’s an absolute no-brainer to sign up for [EPA’s] Green Power Partners program. The process is super simple, it saves money and we feel that we are doing our small part towards energy conservation.”

– Bill Duggan, Manager

 

Fine Violins — St. Paul, Minnesota

"One of the advantages of being a business owner is that you can mold your business to fit your values. During our lifetime we can work to make the world a better place. I've always enjoyed outdoor stamina sports, but I also have asthma so I'm extremely affected by air pollution. Using wind energy helps make a small dent in cleaning our air. Green power is good for business. Many of my clients mention their appreciation, and some have exclusively directed their purchases of several thousand dollar instruments based on our use of green power." - Andy Fein, Owner

“One of the advantages of being a business owner is that you can mold your business to fit your values. During our lifetime we can work to make the world a better place. I’ve always enjoyed outdoor stamina sports, but I also have asthma so I’m extremely affected by air pollution. Using wind energy helps make a small dent in cleaning our air. Green power is good for business. Many of my clients mention their appreciation, and some have exclusively directed their purchases of several thousand dollar instruments based on our use of green power.”
– Andy Fein, Owner

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Commitment and Innovation: Serving America at EPA

Every day, EPA employees go above and beyond the call of duty to protect public health and the environment. And three EPA all-stars, Bob Kavlock, Stephanie Hogan, and Jacob Moss, are truly exceptional. They are finalists for the 2015 Sammies (Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals), a highly respected honor with a rigorous selection process. Only 30 finalists are chosen from across the federal government.

I had the chance to meet with them recently and hear about their experiences at EPA and their commitment to public service. We had such an awesome conversation—and they had such great insight—that I asked them if we could share it publicly.

BlogSammiesBelow I’m proud to pass on their reflections—in their own words—on their time at EPA and the crucial work our agency does. We’re extremely proud of them, and we’re thrilled they’re being recognized for their great work. – Gina

Bob Kavlock

It’s fascinating to me to look back on a single day and realize how it changed my life. It was a Friday afternoon during my senior year in college when a friend asked me if I wanted to keep him company when he went to apply for a job. We drove down to the edge of the Everglades and went into the Perrine Primate Pesticide Effects Laboratory. While he was applying, the women asked if I was interested too, as they had a number of positions. Without thinking too much about it, I filled an application, and needless to say, was hired to work in a laboratory studying the effects of pesticides on fetal development. The rest is history. I wound up changing my graduate school research emphasis to developmental toxicology (from Everglades ecology), although I lost the job when the laboratory was moved to Research Triangle Park as part of the consolidation of the newly formed EPA research facilities. I did, however, manage to rejoin EPA upon getting my PhD and have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated my career here ever since. Having been a work study student, a principal investigator, section chief, branch chief, division director, and center director, I have seen many levels of the EPA, albeit within the relatively sheltered confines of our Office of Research and Development (ORD). At least that was until I moved to headquarters three years ago to become the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science in ORD, when I really got to experience the remarkable organization that is EPA. What we do affects virtually every person every day in positive ways, and I much more now appreciate the strength, intelligence and diligence of our remarkable workforce. I can’t imagine having spent a career anywhere else.

Stephanie Hogan

I’ve had a longstanding interest in environmental issues, so I welcomed the opportunity to work at EPA four years ago. I was fortunate to be asked early in my career at EPA to work on important Clean Air Act issues including the challenging question of how to regulate pollution originating in one state that affects air quality – and therefore public health — in another state. Before joining the agency, I was working for a small public interest law firm that represented communities affected by toxic pollution. I appreciate that my work had the potential to directly benefit those communities and that now, at EPA, I contribute to and defend agency actions that provide even more substantial environmental and public health benefits. Above all, I value working with a supportive, creative, and motivated community of colleagues across the agency.

Jacob Moss
I got fascinated at how environmental pressures shape our lives while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. I came back and worked on a range of water, air quality, and waste issues at the state and local level, and eventually decided to join EPA to explore opportunities to solve these problems on a national scale. Working at EPA has been a joy in so many ways: I’m passionate about the mission; I love the people; and I thrive on the culture of solving important environmental problems in innovative, yet practical ways. But what’s been most amazing for me personally has been the risk the agency took with regard to my cookstoves work. Neither my superiors nor I were sure we could succeed, but our collective risk has paid off in a meaningful way.

We still have a long ways to go, but I’m not sure there are many other organizations who would give an employee the time and freedom to try something so unusual and ambitious.
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These exceptional public servants represent the best EPA has to offer, and we wish them luck at the award ceremony this fall.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Preparing Communities for the Impacts of Climate Change

The Earth’s climate is rapidly changing. Temperatures are rising and precipitation patterns are changing. We’re seeing more storms, floods, and droughts, and the frequency of intense weather events is increasing. Sea levels are rising more rapidly and storm surges are becoming more severe.

These changes are concerning because they can affect our health, rivers, beaches, and access to food, water, and energy. All of these risks can also lead to significant economic damages if communities are not adequately prepared. For instance, hurricane Sandy caused approximately $65 billion in damages to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. More frequent droughts are also a cause of more wildfires that are destroying homes in many parts of the country and increasing the costs of fire suppression to federal, state and local governments.

We must take action now to protect public health, the environment and the economy. We have an opportunity to slow the rate of climate change and make it more manageable by cutting emissions of the carbon pollution that contributes to global warming. At the same time, we have an opportunity to anticipate, prepare, and adapt to climate change to protect the things we care about.

Photo of a coastal town

Communities like this are vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surges, which can threaten homes, businesses, and ecosytems.

 

EPA is taking action now in three important ways to help states, tribes, and local communities anticipate and prepare for climate change. First, we are working to increase people’s awareness and understanding of how climate change can affect the things they care about and the actions they can take to avoid negative impacts. For example, as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, EPA is releasing an online training module to help local government officials take actions to increase their communities’ resilience to a changing climate.

Second, we are providing financial resources to communities to help them identify common sense solutions. In Connecticut, the Bridgeport Regional Planning Authority is using brownfields funds to identify the risks posed by sea level rise to clean up sites and to help avoid redeveloping in harm’s way. Finally, we’re providing communities with the tools and technical assistance they need to make a difference. For example, EPA’s Climate Resiliency Evaluation and Awareness Tool helps drinking water and wastewater system operators understand, assess, and evaluate alternative strategies for delivering services to their communities even as the climate changes.

On a national level, EPA has proposed the Clean Power Plan, which for the first time seeks to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. The proposal, which we will finalize later this year, will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.

Some communities across the nation are already preparing for climate change. We cannot afford to wait, because the longer we do, the harder and more costly it will be to adapt and avoid the negative impacts of climate change. The good news is that everyone can make a big difference in simple ways. There’s a perception that the climate change problem is so huge that the actions we take as individuals can’t make a difference. That’s not the case. In the same way that all of our individual actions added up to cause the climate to change so rapidly, we can all be part of the solution. When we do things like conserve water, buy Energy Star labelled products, and take public transportation we can slow the rate of climate change and help prepare for its impacts.

Working together, we can make a difference to deal with the climate change problem. That’s why EPA is taking action now.

More information on how to slow the rate of climate change and anticipate and prepare for its impacts: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Safeguarding Public Health by Addressing Climate Change

In his State of the Union Address this year, President Obama said, “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” The science is clear and getting clearer: climate change threatens our health, our economy, our environment and our way of life in dangerous and costly ways – from superstorms and heat waves to devastating droughts, floods and wildfires. At EPA, our mission is to safeguard public health and the environment and addressing climate change is major priority.

The more we learn about climate change’s impacts on our health, the more urgent the need for action becomes. We know that impacts related to climate change are already evident and are expected to become increasingly disruptive across the nation throughout this century and beyond. That’s why, under the President’s Climate Action Plan, we are taking action now to reduce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons. These pollutants trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, fuel climate change and lead to health-threatening consequences for the United States and the rest of the world.

Climate change is expected to worsen air quality, including exposure to ground-level ozone, which can aggravate asthma and other lung diseases and lead to premature death. The number of extremely hot days is already increasing, and severe heat waves are projected to intensify, increasing heat-related mortality and sickness. Changes in temperature, precipitation patterns, and extreme events can enhance the spread of diseases carried by insects, animals, food and water. Climate change also contributes to longer and more severe pollen seasons, increasing the suffering of people with allergies. Climate change is expected to lead to more intense extreme weather events, which can result in direct health effects, while also affecting human health and welfare long after an event, through the spread of water-borne pathogens, exposure to mold, increased mental health and stress disorders, and weakened health and response systems.

And our most vulnerable populations – like children, minorities, communities already overburdened with pollution or poverty, and older Americans – are at greater risk from these impacts.

The good news is that we have a long history of working with states, tribes and industry to protect public health by reducing air pollution. Together, by implementing the federal Clean Air Act, we have reduced air pollution from motor vehicles and smokestacks by nearly 70 percent since 1970. Fewer emissions means less exposure to harmful pollutants such as lead, smog, or soot that directly threaten people’s health. And we’re using similar approaches to reduce the pollution affecting our climate.

We are moving forward with common-sense, cost-effective solutions that will improve Americans’ health and environment. Standards for cars, trucks and heavy duty highway vehicles will eliminate six billion metric tons of greenhouse gases, while saving consumers $1.7 trillion at the pump by 2025.

The proposed Clean Power Plan will cut hundreds of millions of tons of carbon pollution and hundreds of thousands of tons of harmful particle pollution, sulfur and nitrogen oxides now emitted by fossil-fuel fired power plants.

Together these important programs will help our economy grow and our communities thrive while protecting the health of American families now and in the years to come. Learn more about the impacts of climate change and things you can do to shrink your carbon footprint.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Acid rain, toxic leaded gas, and widespread air pollution? Not anymore. Thanks to EPA.

Acid rain. Dangerous DDT. Toxic leaded gas fumes. Rampant air pollution. These environmental challenges once seemed impossible to meet, and they put our nation’s air, water, and land at risk—not to mention our families’ health. The dangers they posed were real, but you probably haven’t heard about them in a while. There’s a good reason for that.

We put smart policies in place to fix them.

So this Earth Day, here’s a reminder of a few of the environmental challenges our nation has conquered with EPA leading the way, and where we’re headed next.

Acid Rain

Caused by air pollution mixing with water vapor in the atmosphere, acid rain was once poisoning our rivers and lakes, killing fish, forests, and wildlife, and even eroding our buildings.

The 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act gave EPA the authority to regulate sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, the pollutants causing acid rain, from power plants. The EPA developed the first market-based cap-and-trade pollution reduction program, and guess what—it worked.

Despite the doomsday warnings from some in the power industry that the regulations would cause electricity prices to spike and lead to blackouts, over the last 25 years, acid rain levels are down 60%—while electricity prices have stayed stable, and the lights have stayed on. Thanks to hard work by EPA, states, and industry, our nation has put policies in place to solve the problem over the long haul.

Leaded Gasoline

For decades, leaded gasoline threatened the air our kids breathed. Lead from polluted air was absorbed into their bloodstreams, endangering their brain development and risking consequences like permanent nerve damage, anemia, and mental retardation. So EPA phased out leaded gas. Back in the late 1970s, 88 percent of American children had elevated levels of lead in their blood. By the mid-2000s, that number had dropped to less than 1 percent.

DDT

The bald eagle once faced extinction. The culprit was DDT, a powerful pesticide that made birds’ eggshells too weak for the chicks to survive, and also caused liver cancer and reproductive problems in humans. EPA banned the use of DDT in 1972, and since then, bald eagles have made a huge comeback—they were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007—and our families are safer from harmful chemicals.

Air Pollution

A newspaper headline once called the smog shrouding Los Angeles “a dirty gray blanket flung across the city.” L.A. and many other cities like this one were choked by severe air pollution—leading to asthma, respiratory illness, and certain cancers. But over the last 45 years, we’ve cut air pollution 70 percent, while our nation’s economy has tripled. It goes to show that a strong economy and a safe environment go hand in hand.

Breathing Easier

Every day, EPA works toward cleaner air. One recent study found that thanks to the strides we’ve made in cutting air pollution in just the last 2 decades, children’s lungs in Southern California are 10% bigger and stronger today than they were in children 20 years ago.

Last fall, we built on that success by proposing stricter standards for ozone pollution to protect those most vulnerable—children, the elderly, and those already suffering from respiratory illnesses like asthma. For our kids, that means avoiding up to a million missed school days, thousands of cases of acute bronchitis, and nearly a million asthma attacks. Adults could avoid hundreds of emergency room visits for cardiovascular reasons, up to 180,000 missed work days, and 4 million days where people have to deal with pollution-related symptoms. Every dollar we invest in these standards would return $3 in health benefits.

Looking Ahead

And now, EPA is taking action on another major environmental challenge—climate change. The carbon pollution driving it comes packaged with other dangerous pollutants like smog and soot that can cause asthma and certain cancers, especially for those living in the shadow of polluting industries.

When we finalize our Clean Power Plan this summer, we’ll not only cut carbon pollution from power plants, our nation’s largest source, but we’ll also reduce those other dangerous pollutants and protect our families’ health. When we act, we also help safeguard communities from the impacts of climate change—like more severe droughts, storms, fires, and floods.

Time after time, when science has pointed to health risks, EPA has obeyed the law, followed the science, protected public health, and fortified a strong American economy. We’re doing the same thing today. Our track record proves that when EPA leads the way, there’s no environmental challenge our nation can’t meet.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Communities are Leading the Way on Renewable Energy

By switching to green power, cities and towns across the country are taking a leading role in taking action against climate change. Green power is electricity that comes from a subset of clean, renewable resources like solar or wind power. Many communities have discovered these clean sources of energy are important tools in cutting their carbon footprint, supporting a growing domestic clean energy economy, and better protecting our air and public health.

Today, fossil-fueled power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to a third of the U.S. total emissions. Most electricity generated today comes from fossil fuels but a small and growing percentage is generated using renewable sources. Since President Obama took office, wind energy has tripled and solar has grown ten-fold. In 2015, a full 60% of the new energy that gets added to our electrical grid will come from wind and solar. The costs have come down, too.

CPP

Our Green Power Partnership tracks trends in voluntary green power usage. Not only have we seen steady growth in local government partners (135 and counting!), but more and more often we’re seeing that local governments, businesses, and residents are voluntarily joining together to use green power at levels that earn the distinction of an EPA Green Power Community.

EPA Green Power Communities both large and small are proving they can have a big impact by using green power. For instance in Evanston, Illinois, the residents and businesses and the local government collectively use more than 228 million kilowatt-hours of green power annually, making up more than 30 percent of Evanston’s total electricity usage. The local government runs on 100 percent green power and generates power from the Evanston Water Treatment Facility’s rooftop solar energy system. Washington, D.C., is the largest EPA Green Power Community in terms of total green power usage, with more than one billion kilowatt-hours of green power being used by District residents, businesses, institutions and government entities. Collectively, green power now supplies more than 12 percent of total electricity use in the District.

Green Power Communities are using green power to support their economic and climate goals. Oak Ridge, Tennessee, set an ambitious goal of reducing the community’s greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2030 from 2004 baseline levels. The city launched a community challenge to encourage greater participation in their local renewable energy program, resulting in community-wide green power use of 5.5 percent, and a participation rate nearly three times the rate at the start of the challenge. The City of Beaverton, Oregon, purchases enough wind energy to power all of its facilities and operations and also invests in on-site generation, with a solar array on its main library building. The Beaverton City Council recently approved the construction of a 433 kW solar photovoltaic array, which is expected to provide approximately 55 percent of the facility’s annual power needs.

Our proposed Clean Power Plan seeks to build on this trend. Our proposal identifies tailor-made carbon pollution reduction goals for each state, but it’s up to states to choose their own low-carbon path to get there. One clear choice is to use low or zero emission sources like wind and solar. And thanks to the many cities and towns that have already blazed the trail and are currently building and using more renewable energy, we know this shift can be made.

So when you see that windmill farm or big solar array, you can feel good knowing that some of the energy used in your community is coming from homegrown, clean, sources that help protect our climate for generations to come.

And, I’m happy to report that we run on 100 percent green power!

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Climate Action Is Driving Innovation, and Our Economy

Forty-four years ago this month, EPA announced its first set of national air quality standards under the Clean Air Act. That’s 44 years of people breathing easier, staying healthier and for many, knowing they can walk outside and see the beauty of the mountains and blue skies that surround them.

There’s another big benefit of these standards and other actions we’ve taken under the Clean Air Act that we don’t talk about enough: They help grow our economy.

For every dollar we spend on clean air, our economy and our health reap huge benefits. Since the Clean Air Act passed, we’ve cut air pollution by 70 percent, and at the same time our economy has tripled in size. Cleaning up our air has contributed to that growth.

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA proposed a Clean Power Plan last summer, to cut the harmful carbon pollution fueling climate change from our largest source—our power plants. The Clean Power Plan will encourage investment in cleaner energy technologies and sources. It will boost our economy by helping us move towards a modern energy system that creates good jobs and new opportunities, and unleashes American innovation that will help us continue to lead globally.

The opportunity to act on climate is already shifting the way Americans do business. More than 1,000 of the world’s largest multinational companies call climate change “one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of this century,” and major banks like Citi Group are investing hundreds of billions in climate and clean energy financing.

Clean energy is growing like never before. Since President Obama took office, wind energy has tripled and solar has grown ten-fold. In 2015, a full 60% of the new energy that gets added to our electrical grid will come from wind and solar.

Energy12
That growth expands industries and creates an abundance of opportunities, not only for entrepreneurs, but for people who are seeking good jobs that help them make a difference in their communities. About 2.7 million people now make a living from the clean energy economy, and that number is constantly growing. These people are developing clean energy projects, crafting more energy-efficient appliances, constructing green buildings and retrofitting existing buildings, and more – saving consumers money and driving down the carbon pollution that is fueling climate change.

The Clean Power Plan sends a clear signal to the market, so our nation’s business leaders and innovators can think ahead to the technologies and investments of the future, rather than stay stuck on those of the past. A modern economy needs a modern energy system. The Clean Power Plan is key to seizing our clean energy future, while protecting our health, our environment, and our way of life from the risks of climate change.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Your Input is Shaping the Clean Water Rule

Skokomish River in Olympic National Park

Water is the lifeblood of healthy people and healthy economies. We have a duty to protect it. That’s why EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are finalizing a Clean Water Rule later this spring to protect critical streams and wetlands that are currently vulnerable to pollution and destruction. On April 3 we sent the draft rule to the Office of Management and Budget for interagency review. Since it’s not final yet, we can’t speak to every detail. But the spirit of this rule boils down to three facts:

First, people depend on clean water: one in three Americans get their drinking water from streams currently lacking clear protection.

Second, our economy depends on clean water: manufacturing, farming, ranching, tourism, recreation, and other major economic sectors need clean water to function and flourish.

Third, our cherished way of life depends on clean water: healthy ecosystems support precious wildlife habitat and pristine places to hunt, fish, boat, and swim.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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