Green-collar workers on the rise

21 11 2008

Birkenstocks meet business suits. The “green” movement has moved beyond the Sierra Club to Wall Street.

Fortune 500 corporations and small companies are making sustainability a part of their game plans. It’s become good business to meet the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

“Environmentalism used to be out of the mainstream. Now venture capitalists are putting one-third of their capital toward green technologies,” said Gayle Oliver-Plath, CEO of G3 Agency, a recruiting firm for green jobs, and founder of http://www.careereco.com. “They’ve woken up and seen that solving challenges like dwindling resources and changing climates is good for the economy and the planet.

“These problems are changing companies, spawning new companies and creating a ton of new business opportunities. We’re going to see a lot more green-collar jobs in the future.”

Oliver-Plath founded CareerEco, an online community where environmentally conscious companies, university researchers, government agencies, organizations and job seekers can exchange ideas and information.

“What we’re seeing is a great opportunity for capitalists and environmentalists to get on the same page,” she said.

It can be a win for both, said Melissa Vernon, director of sustainable strategy for InterfaceFLOR, the U.S. commercial carpet division for Interface Inc. Founder Ray Anderson built the first plant in LaGrange in 1973 intending to make carpet and money. Other than complying with government regulations, he gave little thought to environmental issues until he read Paul Hawken’s “The Ecology of Commerce” in 1994.

“He said it was like a spear in his chest,” Vernon said. “He saw that his industry was plundering the Earth to make a product and then throw it away. He realized that we couldn’t look to government to save us. We had to look to business.”

That epiphany changed the path of the company and its culture.

“We found that we could save a lot of money by reducing waste and how we used resources,” Vernon said. “Now we consider ourselves a sustainability company that makes carpet.”

As the company rethought its designs, processes and products, it found that many of the creative ideas came from its own employees. The company now runs its plants with renewable energy such as solar, wind and landfill gas. Waste elimination activities have totaled $107 million since 1994, and the waste cost per unit of production has been reduced by 48 percent. InterfaceFLOR designs its carpet so it can take it back. Its recycling plants create jobs in Georgia and around the world. It has invented the technology to use recycled fibers in new carpet.

The company’s showroom in Atlanta was the first space in the country to receive a platinum rating with the Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System for commercial interiors.

Read on here.

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Foreclosures leave erosion problems

21 11 2008

By Debbie Gilbert |  The Times, Gainesville

The foreclosure crisis has been devastating to the U.S. economy, and now it appears the environment is suffering as well.

Bert Langley, manager of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s Mountain District in Cartersville, said he’s seen numerous cases where a developer or builder abandoned a property, leaving no one to monitor erosion control at the site.

“It’s a situation we’ve never dealt with before,” he said. “We have cases where massive amounts of sediment are going into streams.”

Normally, once the EPD becomes aware of a problem, an inspector visits the site and notes any violations. A consent order is then issued, requiring the responsible party — usually the developer — to correct the problem and sometimes pay a fine.

But now, it’s difficult to figure out who’s in charge. “From a regulatory standpoint, it’s a very confusing set of circumstances,” said Langley. “The former owner is often in bankruptcy and the chance of recovering any money is very slim.”

If the property is already foreclosed on, the bank assumes responsibility.

“But the bank may have no record of what’s been done on the site,” said Langley. “And the EPD in general will not be looking for a bank to pay a fine for something they didn’t do. Our main interest is getting the site into compliance.”

Environmental attorney Jimmy Kirkland said the situation is creating yet another headache for banks.

“It’s an issue that all lenders are facing now, having to take back properties that are partially constructed,” he said. “Banks aren’t accustomed to dealing with environmental permits. They need legal advice, but they also need assistance from consultants on developing plans for stormwater and erosion and sedimentation control.”

Kirkland was hired by BB&T to help the bank handle this issue. “The banks now own lots of properties that I’m sure they wish they didn’t,” he said.

Environmental problems occur when a developer clears and grades a property, but then abandons it before most of the construction is done.

Read on here.





Lanier water releases reduced

21 11 2008

Gwinnett Herald

The amount of water being released from Lake Lanier will be reduced, at least through April, in anticipation of drought conditions continuing into 2009.

State officials asked for a temporary reduction in the minimum flow requirement at Peachtree Creek, and the measure was approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In its request, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division indicated the flow reduction has the potential to add more than 11 billion gallons of water in storage at Lake Lanier.

The request to reduce flows from 750 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 650 cfs was coordinated with other state and federal agencies, as well as basin stakeholders, and was determined to have no long-term significant environmental or human impacts. More than 700 comments from concerned stakeholders from throughout the basin were received and evaluated as part of the analysis of the GA EPD request.

Corps hydrologic modeling shows that only minor differences in river flow would occur between Lake Lanier and West Point Lake for the reduced flows and no changes downstream of West Point Lake. Depending on the precipitation that occurs between now and April 30, the reduced flows could result in a higher lake level of 0.8 foot to 1.1 feet at Lanier with minimal impact, one to two inches lower, on lake levels at

West Point. GA EPD analysis also showed that water quality should not be adversely affected by the request.

“Our analysis shows that the flow reduction can occur during the cooler time of the year without adversely affecting water quality,” said E. Patrick Robbins, Public Affairs Officer, Mobile District. “In addition, GA EPD will implement additional monitoring and reporting requirements at downstream locations during the period of reduced flows and utilize an adaptive management approach during the period of reduced flows. In light of the continuing drought, the measure should help improve storage at Lake Lanier without adversely affecting the basin.”

Georgia EPD’s request represents a temporary contingency measure in response to drought conditions experienced beginning in 2007 and the possibility of continued drought conditions into 2009.





State is called 1 of ‘dirty dozen’

21 11 2008

 

— Based on emissions at two of its three coal-fired power plants, Arkansas is among the nation’s “dirty dozen” states when it comes to mercury pollution, says a group founded by a former Environmental Protection Agency official.

Arkansas joins Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina and Wisconsin in having two plants rated among the nation’s 50 biggest mercury emitters, according to the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C.

Texas is at the top of the list with seven coal-fired plants among the top 50, followed by Pennsylvania with five plants and Alabama and Georgia with four each. Ohio, Indiana and North Dakota have three such plants apiece.