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Green Living: HBS Students and Corporate Partner to Offset Their Carbon Emissions

The HBS Green Week carbon neutrality initiative concluded last week when the Business and Environment Club received sponsorship from Waste Management, Inc., the leading provider of comprehensive waste and environmental services in North America. Together, HBS students and Waste Management will purchase and retire Chicago Climate Exchange Carbon Financial Instruments, representing 700 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This amounts to taking 140 new cars out of the streets (Source: Environmental Defense’s Automakers’ Corporate Carbon Burden, 2003).

During Green Week, “Green Week Reps” gave presentations on global warming in each section and advised students to take action to reduce their “carbon footprint”, and neutralize their remaining carbon emissions by retiring CO2 emission credits from the Chicago Climate Exchange. Although there is currently no regulation on CO2 emissions in the US, the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) already trades CO2 emission permits, and companies such as Waste Management, Ford, and IBM, universities, including Tufts and the University of Iowa, and cities like Chicago are already members. CCX members receive a quota of CO2 credits based on their past emissions and voluntarily agree to decrease their emanations by 1% a year. If members manage to exceed the required decrease, they can sell their extra credits to companies that did not meet their reduction objective. As a consequence, the overall CO2 emissions of CCX members is expected to go down by at least 1% a year.

In April, the CCX recorded its greatest ever trading volumes for the month of April, demonstrating that US companies and institution are embracing trading to reduce their CO2 emissions. The trading levels for last month reached 1,069,400 metric tons carbon dioxide. This number surpasses the total March 2006 volume of 607,000 metric tons of CO2, making April the month with the highest trading volume since the creation of the CCX in 2001. April is also the first month that volumes broke the one million ton mark.

In Europe, Japan and Canada, this cap and trade system has come into law, following the ratification of the Kyoto Treaty. In the US, Senators Lieberman (D) and McCain (R) are working on bipartisan legislation that would create a similar cap and trade system. At the state level, the California State Assembly proposed a bill last month that would force the State to cut its CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Sponsors of the bill explain that this would amount to a 25% reduction compared with a “do-nothing” situation. Additionally, the legislation would require major greenhouse gas emitters to report their emissions annually.

Individuals emit CO2 mostly through transportation (automobiles, motorcycles, airplanes, etc.) and electricity usage (fossil-fuel burning power plants). On average, US citizens generate about 20 tons of CO2 per year. If you are interested in calculating your own CO2 emissions, you can do it at //safeclimate.net/calculator/.

With this carbon neutrality initiative, the BEC wants to raise awareness about global warming, an issue that Former President Clinton said “is the only problem that has the power to fundamentally end the march of civilization as we know it, and render all other efforts we are making irrelevant and impossible.”

Easy Actions You Can Take to Decrease Your CO2 Emissions

Use sleep-mode on your computer.

Turn off your computer and monitor when not using them for two hours or more.

Put your computer and other electronic devices on a power strip, and turn them off at the strip when leaving for an extended period of time.

Unplug your adapters and other chargers when not in use.

Change two or more frequently used light bulbs to energy efficient compact fluorescent ones.

Turn off all the lights and appliances when your leave the apartment.

Run the dishwasher and washing machine only with full loads.

Wash clothes in cold or warm water instead of hot.

Take public transportation instead of a cab/car 50% (or more) of the time.

Select the most energy efficient (ENERGY STARr) appliances when making a future purchase.

Turn down the heat when leaving for a long weekend or vacation/break.

Tell your family, friends and colleagues about the benefits of energy efficiency.

May 8, 2006
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