Can the Cement Industry Reduce CO2 Emissions?

Photo of Blue Circle Southern Cement factory near New Berrima, New South Wales, Australia, by WikiMedia Common contributor AYArktos

Portland cement is named for the area in England where it was first made almost three-hundred years ago, and is the standard ingredient used to create concrete around the world. Despite being a very useful building material that can be applied in a variety of ways without expensive technology, cement production is associated with carbon dioxide emissions, primarily from when the original limestone is decarbonized and from the massive amounts of fuel needed to fire up the kilns to make cement. Robert Hutchinson of the Rocky Mountain Institute writes an informative piece for GreenBiz on how the industry might change, and why:

The toughest climate challenges involve large global industries, with no good substitutes. One of these produces the material literally under our feet — concrete. Every year, each of us in the U.S. uses about one-third of a ton. Fast-growing developing countries use far more. Globally we produce over 4 billion metric tons of Portland cement per year — the key ingredient in concrete and responsible for the majority of its CO2 footprint — driving over 5 percent of total anthropomorphic CO2.

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Farm-to-Car Research by Ford Motor Co.

Photo of an agave plant by Stan Shebs via WikiMedia Commons

Plant-based plastics and the circular economy are both concepts that we like but have not seen enough of since their introduction into the discourse of sustainability and the collective fight against climate change. Below, Lauren Hepler from GreenBiz reports on Ford’s continued research in “farm-to-car” materials like soy-based foam and car parts reinforced by castor oil byproducts, rice husks, and other recycled waste, but we can’t forget that despite the carbon and petroleum saved by these changes, the use of gasoline as fuel is still the biggest problem:

With thick, spiky leaves that can grow up to 7 feet tall, so-called “blue agave” is a hearty plant that grows in high-altitude desert climates. The succulent’s claim to fame: being the essential ingredient in authentic Mexican tequila.

Luckily for distillers such as Jose Cuervo, agave grows well when cultivated in arid regions such as Southern Mexico. Still, with a processing volume of 200-300 tons per day, the company is often left with considerable waste from the 90-plus-pound plants — which is exactly what appealed to the company’s unlikely new business partner.

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GreenBiz Interview with CEO of Audubon

We like the Audubon Society, the publications they produce, and of course, the artist himself. Over the last half decade, a new CEO for the Society has rewritten their strategic plan and seen overwhelming success in involvement of all sorts. Elsa Wenzel interviewed this CEO, David Yarnold, for GreenBiz:

The Audubon Society appears to be doing everything right in social media and marketing. It’s got apps, maps, a buzz on social media, an engaging website and a funny blog. It’s hip to crowdsourcing and citizen science: In just one weekend, 163,000 of its volunteers recorded on smartphones their sightings of more than 5,000 bird species. Audubon said its digital platforms reach a million people, a staggering climb from just 35,000 a couple of years ago.

Much credit for this goes to David Yarnold, CEO and president. He joined Audubon in 2010 after a long career in journalism at the Pulitzer-winning San Jose Mercury News, and a stint as president at the Environmental Defense Fund.

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Methane from Livestock Has Yet to Decrease

via GreenBiz

A few weeks ago we posted bad news about the higher release of methane gas from cows treated with antibiotics. Data published relatively recently by the U.N. is showing that greenhouse gases produced by livestock and crops are still increasing, unfortunately. John Upton reports for GreenBiz:

As signs emerge that the global energy sector is beginning to rein in what once had been unbridled levels of climate-changing pollution, new United Nations figures show pollution from farming is continuing to get worse.

Greenhouse gases released from the growing of crops and livestock directly increased by a little more than 1 percent in 2014, compared with a year prior, the newly updated data shows.

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Biomimicry Institute Ideas

Illustration by Franz Eugen Köhler via Wikimedia

Just a few days ago we shared a piece on biomimicry, and two weeks before that, this little drone showed the advantage of copying flying animals’ ability to perch. Today, via, we heard from the Biomimicry Institute about three ways that asking nature “how do you make energy?” can potentially help industries like construction, transportation, and energy:

Humans are becoming increasingly dependent on our ability to connect via technology and easily access the energy grid. Practically every facet of our lives is somehow plugged in and powered up. Yet as our demand for power increases, so must the innovative and life-friendly ways we access and use that energy.

Here’s a light bulb idea: how does nature make energy? For the billions of species that have existed on planet earth, humans are the only ones who have placed such a premium on unsustainable and non-local sources of energy. How then, does nature balance its energy books while producing relatively little energy waste?

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Ecosystem Services in Paris Agreement

We’ve reviewed ecosystem services several times over the years, including payment for them, the potential for ecotourism as a service, and we’re glad to read that the idea is becoming popular again with the new Paris Agreement. Kelly Barnett reports for GreenBiz, starting with coverage on the Adaptation Futures conference in Rotterdam:

In just three days here, roughly 40 presentations focused on the subject of “ecosystems and ecosystem based-adaptation,” and they focused on everything from the restoration of salt marshes that protect coastal communities from rising tides to the protection of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, which supports a massive agricultural economy.

The event comes just two weeks after Earth Day, when 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement to combat climate change   in part by “ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including oceans, and the protection of biodiversity, recognized by some cultures as Mother Earth.”

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“Certified Transitional” Ingredients

An interior view of Clif Bar headquarters in Emeryville, California. Photo © GreenBiz Group

We put a lot of stock in organic farming, as well as eating and drinking. If companies do it right, sourcing organically can make a difference. So it’s uplifting to read that two companies we support by buying their delicious products, Clif Bar and Kashi, are making an effort to bolster the organic ingredient supply chain by leading a new category for crops produced by farmers who are in the three-year process of switching from conventional agriculture to an organic label; it’s called “Certified Transitional.” Lauren Hepler reports for GreenBiz:

Inside an airy, post-industrial space situated on the East side of the San Francisco Bay, several brightly colored mountain bikes and the sail of a kite surfing set hang from a lofted ceiling above some 350 employees sprawled across the 150,000-square-foot headquarters of Clif Bar.

Outside, a small organic gardening plot has been set up next to the free daycare center for the children of employees at the famously outdoorsy food company.

“We start ’em young,” jokes Dean Mayer, Clif Bar’s communications manager.

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Rainforest Alliance and Sustainable Agriculture Network

Among the farms that the Rainforest Alliance certifies are those that produce bananas, coffee, tea, pineapples, cocoa, flowers and palm oil. Photo by Flickr user Sally Crossthwaite

The Rainforest Alliance and Sustainable Agriculture Network have been doing good work, mostly in developing countries, for over twenty years to improve agricultural practices and protect natural forests. The two groups published an Impacts Report not long ago that reviews their progress, and two executives wrote an article summarizing those impacts on

Independent, third-party certification has grown phenomenally since 1993, when the Rainforest Alliance certified the first banana plantation to meet Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards.

The standards prohibit conversion of forests or other natural ecosystems to cropland, protect workers and wildlife, regulate the use of chemicals and other farming practices. Today they cover more than a million farmers on Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, most of them smallholders, cultivating 100 crops on a total of 7.4 million acres (about the size of Switzerland) across 42 countries.

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Newer Clean Energy Use by Big Companies

At peak production, Intel’s new solar carport can carry half of the campus’ electricity demand. Photo by Intel via GreenBiz

Businesses are finally seeing the sense of clean energy, which we try to share about as much as possible when it comes to savings and renewables or alternative sources. Heather Clancy at GreenBiz reports on the use and investment of clean energy by several big US businesses, like GM with landfill gas, Intel with solar panels, and Google with renewable energy contracts:

Despite uncertainty surrounding the future of the Clean Power Plan and contractual nuances that make even the smallest project feel unnecessarily complex, big businesses seem more committed to renewable energy than ever.

“This time it’s not about fashion, it’s about real economics, about real business opportunity,” said economist Mark Kenber, CEO of the Climate Group, during a keynote interview at last week’s GreenBiz 16 conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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