Posts Tagged ‘water’

Playing with Water

October 28, 2014

Playing with Water

FaucetThe last week of October is one of those rare weeks where all four major professional sports leagues are in action. Tonight is Game 6 of MLB’s World Series, this past Sunday was Week 8 for the NFL, the NHL began its 2014-15 regular season a couple of weeks ago and the NBA season starts as well this week. For this last week in October, all 4 leagues have in common that they are in action.

Beyond this one common week of meaningful games in October, the 4 leagues also have in common an increasing interest in sustainability. Many stadia and arenas have some combination of extensive recycling programs, renewable energy programs, various LEED certifications from the US Green Building Council, environmental promotions for fans, reclaimed building materials, etc.

A growing manifestation of sustainability in action in these stadiums (especially in the West) is the conservation of water. The New York TImes had a phenomenal article about this a couple of weeks ago. The article (Water Waste: Going, Going…..) outlines some of the many ways teams are saving water. These range from simple things like low-flush toilets and sensor activated faucets to more sophisticated techniques like monitoring the moisture levels of the field of play. In at least one case (Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco), the (vast) majority–85% of the water used in the stadium is actually recycled.

These off the field water saving techniques are very interesting, but it is now time to get back to watching Game 6 of the World Series. I am not sure what I like more–the increasing use of sustainable facilities management in sports stadiums, or the great play at third I just saw on TV.

New York TImes Water Waste: Going, Gone…. article–

(www.nytimes.com/2014/10/08/business/energy-environment/water-waste-going-going-.html)

Philadelphia’s Citizen’s Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field

(https://sustainablewritings.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/updates/)

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Holiday Time

November 30, 2013

menorah-mdNow that Thanksgiving has passed, we are now officially in the holiday season. In an extra special coincidence, Hanukkah also is occurring as I write this. So there are plenty of holidays to go around, and still more to come in December (Christmas, Kwanzaa) and a whole bunch of other ones around the world that center upon creating light in the darkness.

Lots of holidays, lots of stuff–too much stuff, actually. Fortunately, there are many “guides” and “tipsheets” oriented around a more environmentally sensitive holiday season. I liked the one in my wife’s All You Magazine in particular. This one was pretty cool because most of its tips were both pretty simple and widely applicable.

giftsOne example is something as simple as repurposing newspaper into customized wrapping paper. My wife had used this one in some of her classes. She also had our son put his handprints on used newspapers–and voila! personalized wrapping paper! Another benefit is that there is no question of whether this wrapping paper can be recycled.

faucet-mdAnother personal favorite of mine is tap water. As in serving tap water at holiday parties vs. bottled water. A huge amount of bottled water is basically processed municipal water transported hundreds of miles anyways—better to save the environmental impact to taking water from your own tap. And if you are still concerned about quality or taste, get a filter. This will be far less environmental impact than using bottled water.

For many people, the holidays are all about shopping. If you are not waiting until the last minute (and are shopping online), you can save both money and carbon emissions by choosing ground shipping vs air. Or, if you are in the store, many store cashiers accept images of coupons on your smartphone (or tablet)–thus avoiding the hassle and paper of regular coupons–the vast majority of which are not redeemed anyways. Actually, from a marketing point of view, a significant amount of coupons are only offered via mobile device. So if you have a smartphone or mobile device, it would behoove you to check the relevant app.

festive-lights-3-mdOne depressing feature of the holiday season is that it gets dark so early. This is why cultures all over the world have some kind of lights as part of the season. In the United States, many people put up holiday lights. (I’ve promised my son a drive to see some cool ones). While many strings of lights of lights are the older incandescents, LED technology has come a long way, especially in terms of cost. LED lights are significantly more efficient than incandescents.

I like the holiday lights. They really brighten up the darkness of the season. Another thing that brightens up the season for me is the personal aspect. Call me out of touch with the times, but I kind of like the idea of making the holiday about connections with people (and community), while minimizing gifts in the first place. Maybe that is the most sustainable option of all…

Inquiring Shareholders Want to Know

April 22, 2009

Many companies have their annual meeting of shareholders at this time of year. Amongst them is a company I happen to have a little bit of stock in, Aqua America. Aqua America provides (tap) water services to about 2,500,000 customers (including me) in about 13 states. Many township and governments provide water services to their citizens as a public good (ie, the Philadelphia Water Department). Other townships, like mine, have contracted out or sold their water services to private companies like Aqua America. In many cases, this was due to the massive capital investment needed to upgrade the water pipes and associated infrastructure. This is especially important in the Philadelphia area. Providing drinkable water sourced from the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers (and others) is really nothing short of a miracle, so all the Philadelphia area water companies deserve a shout out for that.

I found a very interesting shareholder proposal in this year’s Aqua America annual meeting packet. The Calvert Social Index Fund has put out a proposal to require the company to produce a sustainability report that will describe “corporate strategies to sustainably manage water use” …and detail how the company (Aqua America) will address greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, waste management, and employee and community relations. And, the report should contain the company’s definition of sustainability and include a company-wide review of company policies, practices, and metrics related to long-term social and environmental sustainability. One of the reasons Calvert gives for their proposal is that 80% of the Global Fortune 250 companies release corporate responsibility data, an increase from 64% in 2005.

Aqua America’s Board of Directors recommends that I vote NO on this proposal. They feel that the very nature of their business keeps the water infrastructure sustainable. I’ll grant them that. I am always seeing someone from Aqua America fixing water pipes somewhere. They also mention the fact that they have to go before varied state utilities commissions and “recover” the rates customers pay to support the capital investments required to keep the water pipes in good shape. They feel that a) the costs of the sustainability report would not be recoverable and b) no state utility commission is requiring it anyways.

As more people focus on water issues, the state utility commissions just might start asking questions about a given utility’s sustainability practices. I am not in regulatory affairs per se, but I would think that having an answer in advance to a question that could easily be asked is better then scrambling around after the fact. It is certainly possible that state utility commissions, (like the World Bank) will start attaching environmental criteria to their rate case reviews.

The company also notes that the guidelines Calvert recommends are lengthy, complex, and in places unclear. However, there is nothing saying Aqua couldn’t define and implement sustainability in its own way. Aqua is also concerned about how much it would cost to produce such a report. They also wonder how much good will actually come out of it. These are valide concerns per se. On the other hand, there are certainly companies out there that have discovered significant operating costs savings by adopting sustainability practices—if they are open to it.

After reading all this, I’ve decided to vote my 50 shares FOR the Calvert proposal. There are approximately 135 million shares outstanding, so I am not expecting my shares to tip the balance; but I think it is important that management know that some people really care about this.

Addendum

I am voting AGAINST management on the sustainability proposal. However, I am voting FOR management when I buy more stock. Part of sustainability is economic sustainability and profitability. Aqua America has raised their divided for the past 10 years by over 5% year to year. Further, their stock price held essentially even in 2008 (ok, it lost 2%, vs. 40% for the rest of the stock market). So on one hand, I am not thrilled about rate increases, but the investor piece of me is happy. Sometimes sustainability creates divergent interests—even in the same person.


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