Dr. Gershenson will moderate a panel entitled Planning for the Future: Sea Level Rise in California at the California County Commissioner’s meeting on Water and Innovative Land Use Planning.
EcoShift’s James Barsimantov quoted in this GreenTech Media article for analysis on CA residential electricity rate design
EcoShift Principal Dr. Mulvaney is one of five judges for the Intel Environment Award at the Tech Awards. The $75,000 award will go to a Laureate with the most promise to contribute to clean water, improved air quality, and sustainability.
In October 2009, California’s SB 546 was signed by then Governor Schwarzenegger. The bill provides an increased incentive to recycle and re-refine used oil and lubricants for reuse in the state. In connection with the deployment of SB 546, a life cycle assessment (LCA) of California’s used lubricating and industrial oil management process is required (see here for detail). The results of the LCA will be summarized for presentation to the California legislature, and will be used to enhance the effectiveness of used oil recycling in the state. As per ISO 14040, the LCA is subject to a neutral, third party critical review process. The review serves to ensure that the assumption, data and calculations in the LCA are transparent, reasonable, and justified. EcoShift was awarded a contract to serve as one of the critical review board panelists. The critical review has three phases plus a final review. In the first phase, EcoShift is examining the purpose, goals, and scope of the LCA plan, with particular attention on upstream and downstream boundaries, end-of-life characterization and the displacement method chosen for energy recovery. The second phase of review occurs after life cycle inventories have been completed. Here, EcoShift will concentrate on reviewing data and assumptions for precision, completeness, consistency, and suitability. After the life cycle impact assessment is complete, EcoShift will ensure that the environmental analysis methods and weightings are appropriate for the project. The challenge of this phase is in understanding the nuances of the materials being considered and their impacts in the context of the stated goals and scope of the LCA. The final review is a formal evaluation of the draft LCA report. EcoShift will verify that the results are technically sound and relevant to stakeholders for improving the environmental performance of used oil recycling. EcoShift will also ensure that the results are reported to interpret by policy-makers and stakeholders, without compromising accuracy of the information. Joining the EcoShift review team on this project are Joep Meijer, an LCA expert who work regularly with EcoShift on LCA projects, and Rob D’Arcy, a used oil and waste management specialist. Mr. Meijer brings more than ten years of experience in the LCA field, and currently sits on the board of the USGBC Materials and Resource Committee. Mr. D’Arcy has over 14 years of experience with used oil and is a program manager with the County of Santa Clara’s Hazardous Waste Recycling and Disposal Program. He is the current Chair of the California Product Stewardship Council and President of the California Chapter of the North American Hazardous Materials Management Association.
Storing carbon in natural ecosystems, particularly forests, is key to reducing human impact on global climate. In terrestrial ecosystems, about four times as much carbon is stored in soil, rather than in trees and plants. Although critically important, soil carbon dynamics are much more difficult to understand, assess, and monitor than aboveground dynamics. Despite these obstacles, since soil carbon stocks are likely to be disturbed during forest management, it is important to consider changes in soil carbon in forest carbon offset projects. For this reason, the Climate Action Reserve, with EcoShift’s support, has taken the bold step of including soil carbon dynamics in the latest version of its Forest Project Protocol. Version 3.3 of the Forest Project Protocol, still in draft form, includes lookup tables, based on soil type, management practice, and other factors, to easily calculate changes in soil carbon in forest offset projects. The Reserve is now in the process of finalizing the new version. Given scientific uncertainty and lack of comprehensive research, creating the methodology for including soil carbon was not an easy task, and the process started over two years ago. To initiate the effort, the Reserve contracted EcoShift to examine potential methods for accounting for soil carbon in the Forest Project Protocol. This first stage of the process resulted in a comprehensive white paper identifying the aspects of forest management and site conditions that could result in soil carbon losses. This white paper, Accounting for Carbon in Soils, also sought to develop a comprehensive set of recommendations to minimize the losses of, and in some cases increase, soil carbon in forests managed under CAR’s Forest Project Protocol. In the second stage of the process, EcoShift designed a lookup table and associated methodology to determine which types of management were likely to result in soil carbon losses at what time intervals, and to identify potential risk factors that would suggest significant potential for soil carbon loss. The updated Climate Action Reserve guidance for Soil Carbon Accounting in avoided conversion projects that incorporates EcoShift models can be found here.CAR used this information to create the draft of Version 3.3 of the protocol, which can be found here. The biggest challenge in developing models for changes in soil carbon is the fact that data for soil carbon dynamics in different systems remain sparse, and decisions often have to be made with incomplete information. In all cases, the Reserve and EcoShift used a conservative approach to assigning values in the lookup tables, and this approach ensures that actual carbon stored is likely greater that what is shown on the lookup table, rather than less. As better and more comprehensive research becomes available, we will have a better understanding of soil carbon dynamics, and this knowledge can then be incorporated into future versions of protocol. Although current scientific understanding is far from complete, continuing to ignore soil carbon dynamics in offset calculations carries a risk of gross inaccuracies – in both in additional gains and losses – in the largest terrestrial carbon pool.
September 19, 2012. An increasing number of companies collecting and reporting sustainability information according to one or multiple environmental performance standards. The challenge for sustainability and corporate social responsibility managers is that these standards continue to proliferate and evolve, and it is not clear when they will stabilize. This article explores the evolution of sustainability reporting standards and metrics, and what this means for those who are or will be participating. The first article in this series explored the targets and types of sustainability indicators that businesses are incorporating in sustainability programs. The take-home messages, from our perspective at EcoShift, were: (1) Think hard about your goals before embarking on a particular reporting standard (2) Choose the most appropriate indicators based on the best available standards and science in your sector We’ll apply those lessons in this second installment. From Disclosure to Performance An important thrust in the evolution of reporting standards is a gradual shift in focus from disclosure to performance. In a department too often at the periphery of corporate decision-making, it is often easier for sustainability professionals to focus on data collection instead of structural improvements in performance. When reporting standards only ask for disclosure information and do not rate companies based on performance, there is less pressure on companies to become more sustainable. Some say that the act of data collection and disclosure leads companies to begin improving, but with no benchmark to measure the extent or quality of performance improvements, focusing solely on disclosure is insufficient. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), two of the most recognized reporting frameworks that initially focused solely on disclosure, are now working to include performance metrics in their protocols, and this is a trend that is certain to continue. This will make the information in sustainability reporting frameworks much more useful to stakeholders interested in corporate social responsibility, and encourage a race to the top for sustainability initiatives and practices at firms. Convergence & Divergence of Standards Sustainability standards continue to proliferate. For example, there are several different standards by which a firm can measure its impacts on water, from the Water Footprint Network to CDP’s Water Disclosure Project. Since many sustainability issues are specific to a particular industry, sector-specific standards are necessary, and this approach continues to proliferate. Meanwhile, general standards are becoming more refined and accepted, even though they may overlook critical issues in a given sector. How should a business navigate this simultaneous divergence and convergence? Continue reading this article
Read part 2 in our series on sustainability metrics, indicators, and reporting: Where to Report and Why?
Transportation fuels generate greenhouse gas (GHG) and air pollution emissions across their entire life cycle, not just when they leave the tailpipe. The life cycle emissions are referred to as the “well-to-wheels” emissions (or “seed-to-wheels” by the biofuel industry). Modeling these life cycle GHG emissions is challenging because there are numerous steps, inputs, and resources involved in making transportation fuels. But these modeling efforts are critical because it is important to compare the impacts of various fuels. Scientists at Argonne National Labs developed the GREET (Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation) model to respond to this challenge. The model helps assign GHG or “carbon” intensity values for almost all fuels including ethanol, biodiesel, gasoline, or natural gas made from various feedstock such as corn, sugarcane, algae, and/or fossil fuels. It also allows users to model the GHGs from various vehicle and fuel combinations. EcoShift uses GREET to conduct life cycle assessments for clients who are interested in the “well-to-pump” carbon intensity (usually for fuel producers as required by various regulatory agencies) or the “well-to-wheels” carbon intensity (usually for policy makers, automobile manufacturers, or automobile fleet owners). The US Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board are just two regulatory agencies that use GREET to assign carbon intensity values to transportation fuels for the purposes of emissions trading schemes and to qualify as renewable or advanced biofuels. As low carbon fuel standards evolve, GREET will be a critical for demonstrating regulatory compliance. For more information, read about Alternative Fuels LCA, see our service offering on transportation fuels, or contact us.