Posts Tagged ‘green’

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Online Toolkit Helps U.S. Manufacturers Go Green

November 1, 2011

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The Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit, a new, free online resource developed with input from the International Trade Administration, can help U.S. businesses measure their environmental performance and thereby become more competitive.

by John Ward, a writer in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs.

This start-up guide is part of the new Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit, an online resource created with input from the International Trade Administration.

This start-up guide is part of the new Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit, an online resource created with input from the International Trade Administration.

Sustainable manufacturing—that is, the creation of products in an environmentally and socially responsible manner—has become a business buzzword lately. But as companies face increased costs for materials, energy, and regulatory compliance, sustainable manufacturing has also come to be recognized as a smart business practice, as more and more manufacturers realize that “greening” their processes can be a key strategy for achieving global competitiveness.

It was in response to a dearth of internationally comparable performance indicators for sustainable manufacturing that the International Trade Administration (ITA) joined with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international body headquartered in Paris, France, to develop the recently released Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit.

Guide and Portal

The toolkit consists of two parts: a 52-page start-up guide, which provides a step-by-step approach to measuring and benchmarking environmental performance, and a web portal, which supplements the guide with more technical guidance, data tools, and useful links.

The heart of the start-up guide is a series of seven steps that companies can take to prepare, measure, and improve their sustainable manufacturing processes. The discussion of these steps is enhanced by seven “good practice” profiles that highlight successful efforts undertaken by manufacturers from around the world, including three located in the United States.

The inclusion of the real-world examples is an important element, notes Andrew Wyckoff, director of the OECD’s Directorate for Science, Technology, and Industry. “We think it is important for [companies] to have the right tools, but also to be informed about what works. That’s why we have included .… [these] best practice case studies that illustrate the many benefits of sustainable manufacturing.”

How to Access the Toolkit

The Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit is available online at www.oecd.org/innovation/green/toolkit. Resources available on the site include a downloadable booklet, Start-up Guide: Seven Steps to Environmental Excellence, as well as a variety of links to technical advice and examples of good practices.

Focus on Needs of Smaller Enterprises

The global market for low-carbon products already exceeds $5 trillion, according to the OECD. Companies that can demonstrate green credentials will enhance their viability in the marketplace. But this can prove a particularly daunting challenge to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). According to the OECD’s Wyckoff, while SMEs account for approximately 99 percent of all enterprises, and two-thirds of employment, in the 34 countries that are members of the OECD, many have not yet embraced the opportunities that come with the adaptation of sustainable manufacturing processes. “They may be struggling with their short-term survival, or cost pressure from clients, or lack of knowledge and resources to invest in environmental improvement, or simply not know where to start.” Thus, the toolkit was especially designed with the needs of small manufacturers in mind.

Close Collaboration

The development of the toolkit was the result of a close collaboration between ITA and the OECD that began in 2006. The OECD was well situated to develop the toolkit due to its access to a wide array of public and private stakeholders and its unique collection of statistical data from around the world. This allowed for an unparalleled degree of comparability and applicability across borders.

For its part, ITA was able to draw on the knowledge and experiences of a large number of U.S. experts through its leadership in the OECD’s Committee on Industry, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. By providing access to both business practitioners and academic specialists active in the field of sustainable manufacturing, ITA was able to facilitate the development and refinement of the toolkit, thus assuring that it was both user-friendly and met the real needs of industry.

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Green Building Takes Root in Copenhagen

December 14, 2009

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Keith Curtis is a senior Foreign Service Officer currently based in the U.S. Commercial Service’s Office of International Operations. He is the Commercial Service’s senior advisor on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The atmosphere in Copenhagen is charged with activity.  Nobody is saving on personal energy – and everyone seems to be filled with a passion to make their point and make things happen.  At the U.S. Presence Center at Bright Green, the International Trade Administration (ITA) was making its point bright and early at the 9:00 Green Building Seminar and the 10:15 Bright Green, “Solutions at Your Doorstep” panel discussion.  Bringing the momentum of the Green Build Road Show to Copenhagen, we laid out for the delegates, NGOs, and students the wide and deep variety of everything going on in the States on Green Buildings.  The audience seemed to especially like the story of the Greening of the Empire State Building as told first hand by Clay Nesler, VP of  Johnson Controls (did you know Johnson Controls produced the first commercial thermostat?).  He described how the tens of thousands of windows would be replaced and lighting and installation changed office by office in the ¼ mile high icon of the American Industrial Age so that when done, they would be using 37% less electricity.  Roger Platt, VP of the US Green Building Council talked about how Green Building was spreading around the world, and the Department of Energy talked about how it was creating the first net-zero (uses no electricity from the Grid overall) large scale commercial building for their National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in Golden, Colorado.

The Green Building panel was followed by a second discussion organized by ITA to explain the wide range of bio-fuels, energy efficient manufacturing, and renewable energy technologies that the U.S. is delivering to the world. Kirsty Mac Donald of Intel talked about the modernization of the grid and all the intelligent hardware that will go into homes and vehicles.  Did you know that every wind turbine has a half a dozen IT chips in it?  Honeywell told how their bio-fuels are now being tested in regular commercial airlines for trans-Atlantic flights.  The audience was curious and impressed, but the students, who sported T-shirts saying, “How old will you be in 2050?” added a special sense of urgency to the challenges we were all talking about, although the industry presentations pointed them to ways that U.S. technology is already creating real change and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

And we heard our second Cabinet official, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, speak to a full house as we looked forward to hearing our own Secretary Gary Locke speak tomorrow.  There is certainly a lot going on already at the COP15 even before the 100 Heads of State arrive.

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Green Build Wrap: The Commercial Service Steps Up

November 16, 2009

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Daniel Harris has been a Foreign Service Officer for over 25 years serving at posts in Europe, South America, Africa, and Washington, DC, most recently as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Operations, U.S. Commercial Service.  He currently serves as the chief of the Commercial Section and the senior representative of the U.S. Department of Commerce in the U.S. Mission to France.

At the end of two weeks of living and breathing “Green,” our Commercial Service travelers feel exhausted but happy.  The adrenaline high that comes from pushing into new markets and meeting many innovative companies overcomes the fatigue.  We also feel proud of our organization.  This whole experiment – the Green Build Road Show, our partnerships with the private sector and our participation in the Green Build Show in Phoenix — was driven by the “field” – that is, the Commercial Service people overseas and in the national offices.  Several of us in Europe grasped that Green Build was a growth opportunity and started developing the notion of a Road Show.  Our colleagues in the United States jumped on board and our folks in Headquarters supported us.  Then we went to the private sector to find marketing partners and their positive response confirmed we were on to something.

What’s so cool is that we brought this together in a very 21st Century style – we coalesced around the power of an idea and we pieced the rest together as we went along.  Dozens, maybe hundreds, of people collaborated across nine time zones, with no guarantees of success or promises of particular reward.  The Commercial Service DNA seems to include genes for both entrepreneurship and altruism.

We’ve learned a lot from thinkers at Carnegie Mellon, the National Renewable Energy Lab, the Green Build Council – and of course from the companies we met.  Our challenge is helping them succeed in overseas markets, and for that we can draw on years of experience.  It feels really good when you offer  ideas and see lights flashing in an entrepreneur’s eyes.  On Wednesday, I told a start up that they were selling themselves short – that we could help them take a much more ambitious approach to the European market, despite their limited resources.  After talking to a couple of my colleagues, they circled back to tell me they wanted to go for it!

Al Gore and Sheryl Crowe energized several thousand Green Build participants on Wednesday night – giving us a sense that, through supporting American innovation, we’re making our own contribution to saving the planet.

All of us sense that the Road Show is just the beginning. This sector is still ramping up – and we want to be players.  So, where do we go from here?  Already we have a couple of big events on the horizon – the Bright Green Pavilion at the COP 15 in Copenhagen and the Green Industries Trade Mission we’re doing with FedEx in April.  Beyond that, we want to expand and deepen our partnerships with top research institutions, with our private sector partners and with associations.  For the rest, we’ll move with the needs of American companies as this exciting sector continues to unfold.

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The Green Wave Reaches Phoenix, as the Greenbuild Expo Opens

November 16, 2009

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Keith Curtis is a senior Foreign Service Officer currently based in the U.S. Commercial Service’s Office of International Operations.  He is the Commercial Service’s senior advisor on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Reaching the Green Goal, the Commercial Service’s Greenbuild Road Show has arrived at its final destination:  the Greenbuild Conference and Expo, the country’s largest sustainable building event based in Phoenix this year.  This wildly popular event is hosting 1,800 exhibitors and expected to attract upwards of 25,000 of visitors over the next three days.  At its pre-show program, delegations from 90 countries came to International Day, creating the “buzz heard ‘round the world” about Green Buildings.  CS Abu Dhabi Senior Commercial Officer Laurie Farris brought a delegation of 95 buyers and planners ready to build green in the Middle East, which was the largest group among the dozens of countries present.

As part of the educational program designed for the hundreds of international buyers, Paris SCO Dan Harris moderated a panel on retrofitting buildings to lower their carbon footprint and enhance their green credentials.  Here we are now down to the core of the core of the immediate problem.  From the speakers on this panel we learned an incredible amount:  40 per cent of Green House Gas (GHG) comes from buildings; 70% of our electricity is used in buildings; and, the low hanging fruit of GHG mitigation can come from increasing efficiency in buildings –the kicker is that these reductions come at cost savings, so whether you believe in climate change or not, it makes sense.  Dan’s panel pointed out the next step; this problem is not going to be solved by new buildings because the turnover takes too long.  Most of our buildings are “old” and will remain that way for a while.  But we can put new “skins“ on buildings, and we can “green” existing buildings, like the Clinton Climate Initiative is doing with the Empire State Building.  And, the most important thing we learned – the final point beyond the point – is that in the end it comes around to the people in the buildings, because green buildings have to be used right or they are no good.  Green buildings are performing way below expectations, it turns out, because of improper use.  So monitoring becomes key, as are systems that tell you how the building is performing in actual use, and what you need to correct.  Now, here at the Greenbuild Expo, it seems we are arriving at the set of solutions needed to really address climate change.

And the buzz is building and building.  We started the day at the office of the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Scottsdale which has a growing set of export-ready clients – our European SCOs reached out to these Phoenix-area companies from a wide range industries who are interested in the European markets;  some of these folks later joined us at the Greenbuild show to check out the excitement.  As the International Day seminars came to a close and the Show officially opened in the evening, gleaming with beautiful carpets and a feast of food and drink, we started meeting a host of U.S. firms who hold the solutions to mitigating climate change and enhancing energy efficiency.  These are the companies we want to help introduce to international markets.  Now we look forward to a whirlwind of buzz as we head toward the penultimate events of the tour.

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Thinking About Europe From San Francisco on the Green Build Road Show

November 10, 2009

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Dorothy Lutter is a Senior Foreign Service Officer currently serving as the Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in London.  She has previously been posted in over half a dozen other countries and has served as the U.S. Commercial Service‘s Regional Director for the Western Hemisphere.

Green Build Roadshow Stop Four – Today’s event was held in beautiful San Francisco, appropriately enough in the LEED-certified green offices of local sponsoring partner, Nixon Peabody.  Completed in 2007, the office cost 1.75% more to create a green space, but according to one of the senior partners already created energy savings and savings in terms of increased efficiency, effectiveness, and worker productivity.  David Gensler, Executive Director of the architectural firm that designed the space, noted that sustainability now permeates 100% of their business in the U.S. and around the globe.

One of the common themes along the way has been that the green building market is here to stay in Europe and will only continue to grow with increased EU initiatives and regulation.  Barry Lynham of Knauf Insulations reinforced this message today.   He noted that the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is under review with stronger measures expected to be adopted by December.  Key drivers are governmental concerns over climate security, energy security and fuel poverty.  Key features will be more ambitious standards, renovation standards for all buildings, a low energy strategy, increased certification and increased inspection and enforcement.

Our “quotable quote” of the day came from my colleague Dan Harris, SCO Paris, who noted that with this momentum in Europe, not only are European companies leading the way there, but are also increasingly looking at the growing green building market in America.  U.S. companies need to think offensively, positioning themselves not only in the U.S., but in Europe as well.  “A U.S. company that operates only in the U.S. is like a football team that is playing the game with only defense.”

As we now head to the GreenBuild Show in Phoenix, our hopes are high that we will be able to encourage and assist more U.S. companies to strategically position themselves in the dynamic and growing European green building space.

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Do You Know the Way…to San Jose’s “Green Hub”?

November 10, 2009

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Federico Bevini is the Commercial Specialist responsible for the building products, construction equipment and architectural, construction and engineering services sectors for the U.S. Commercial Service at the U.S. Consulate in Milan, Italy. Federico has been a part of the U.S. Commercial Service since 2003.

After the excellent programs in the green cities of Pittsburgh and Denver, the participants in the Green Build Road Show found their way to San Jose and discovered that Silicon Valley has a green heart. Mayor Chuck Reed, who opened the day’s program in  the San Jose City Hall (a LEED Platinum – certified building), actually described San Jose as an “ecosystem” of entities, among them the City government, that are cooperating in making San Jose the world center of clean technology innovation.  It is very well known that the high technology industries have been bringing talent and jobs to the San Jose area over the years but, in the Mayor’s words, the challenge is now to capture the next wave of innovations in clean technology and facilitate the exporting of those technologies to the rest of the world.  To be sure, many local companies already derive most of their revenues from foreign markets, but many more can benefit from exports and Mayor Reed stressed how important it will be to inform the 6,000+ hi-tech companies in the area about the opportunities highlighted by the Green Build Road Show.

The U.S. Commercial Service Green Build Road Show crew with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

The U.S. Commercial Service Green Build Road Show crew with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)

Many of those local companies actually attended the day’s program and from the Q&A sessions it became clear that quite a few had not been involved in exports but were now considering exporting as a result of the very effective (as usual) presentations delivered by the Commercial Service and its partners in the Road Show, as well as by Knauf Insulation, which was part of the panel and was very persuasive in demonstrating that driving energy efficiency in buildings is good for climate, energy, economy, jobs (a “win win win win” situation).   During the Q&A session, members of the Small Business Administration and the Exim Bank had an opportunity to highlight their organizations’ financing programs aimed at increasing local companies’ participation in foreign trade shows and at furthering developments in renewable energies.  The audience’s interest in the day’s program was exemplified by the eagerness of representatives from the Greater San Jose Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to be involved in the FedEx Green Trade Mission and in the Hannover Fair.

On a personal note, the afternoon meetings with local companies interested in starting or expanding their presence in Europe confirmed my initial impression that San Jose and Silicon Valley are home to innovative, open minded and ambitious entrepreneurs who are not looking to make a quick profit but, at least in the area of green building, really want to contribute to reducing the carbon footprint in the USA and abroad.    Excellent!

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The Green Build Road Show Hits the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

November 6, 2009

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Frank Carrico is the Regional Senior Commercial Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden. He has also served the U.S. Commercial Service in Iraq, Brazil, Ukraine, Japan, and Germany.

We’ve had a great stop in Denver.  Our Commercial Service office here, under expert guidance from Paul Bergman, coordinated an in-depth visit to Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) today.  While on the road, the Commercial Officers are not only highlighting market opportunities in Europe to the sustainable building clients we meet, but we’re learning an incredible amount about the green technologies that make the United States a global leader in this area.  That’s why we’re at NREL.

We’ve had briefings on NREL’s programs that were focused on development and commercialization of new technologies in building energy efficiency, biofuels, and alternative power production, with particular emphasis on integrating innovative photovoltaics to yield lower and more competitive cost of production of solar cells for kilowatt hours (Kwh) of energy.  NREL is DOE’s only laboratory of its twelve research facilities that is focused on developing energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies (EERE).  A critical part of the lab’s mission is the acceleration and transfer of NREL technology into existing energy markets.  NREL’s Partnership Development programs for its industry partners foster the integration and application of NREL’s R&D.  These programs are allowing nascent renewable energy companies to accelerate entry into the private marketplace; become cost-competitive; work with worldwide partners in renewable energy; and, expand markets in the U.S. and overseas.

NREL’s $460M budget for 2009 includes $110 million of funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which is being used to increase collaboration through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) and to expand international cooperation with foreign governments.    Most recently, NREL has become a founding partner of SolarTac Technology Acceleration Center for establishing a major commercialization center in Aurora on the outskirts of Denver for integrated photovoltaics and energy efficiency technology commercialization. Other founding partners include SunEdison, Xcel, and Abengoa Solar of Spain.  NREL expects that at least 30 companies will become part of SolarTac within the next year.

Commercial Officers and Specialists offered suggestions on how our domestic and international offices could assist NREL and DOE with its work in overseas markets and to open international markets for U.S. companies working with NREL on innovative technologies.  DOE is already working with CS Stockholm and Copenhagen on special presentations at its Bright Green trade event in December in Copenhagen during the UN COP-15 Climate Change negotiations.

Commercial Service Senior Commercial Officerss speaking with Colorado Governor Bill Ritter

Commercial Service Senior Commercial Officerss speaking with Colorado Governor Bill Ritter (right). (Photo Department of Commerce)

Following our whirlwind site visit at NREL, Paul Bergman and the CS office took us downtown for a special visit with Governor Bill Ritter.  Each of us had the chance to introduce our work in our markets to the Governor and to explain how we could help with increasing export sales for Colorado companies.  In particular, we had the opportunity to explain how the Fedex-sponsored April trade mission to Europe would be especially valuable for Colorado companies.  The Governor promised that his office would follow up with us on the trade mission and will explore closer cooperation on our export programs.

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