Tips for greening office workplaces in new Guide

green office toolkitThe Canadian Coalition for Green Healthcare, in partnership with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and others,  recently published the  Green Office Toolkit ,  which provides practical tips and examples focused on improving energy and water conservation, handling of toxic materials, and  workplace transportation, as well as the topics of creating, organizing and motivating a workplace “green team”.  Although it is intended for health care clinics and medical offices,  like Confronting Climate Change on Campus , (published by the Canadian Association of University Teachers in 2018),  the Green Office Toolkit  is easily adaptable to other office workplaces beyond the medical office or university setting.

The Guide falls squarely within the interest area of the Canadian Coalition for Green Healthcare , established in 2000, and which is the lead agency managing the Green Hospital Scorecard  program, “ the only comprehensive health care benchmarking tool in Canada measuring energy conservation, water conservation, waste management and recycling, corporate commitment and pollution prevention.” The CCGH publishes an electronic newsletter, Green Digest , with news from Canada and the U.S. , and other resource guides and tools.

One of the other partners in the publication of the Guide is the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment  , best known for its increasing advocacy related to the health impacts of climate change – such as  air and water pollution, toxic chemicals, health effects of wildfires and natural disasters.  The other partner organizations are McMaster University Hospital (Hamilton, Ont.), Women’s College Hospital (Toronto, Ont.) and  Synergie Santé Environnement (Quebec).

Environmental Psychology: Motivating behaviour change and coping with the fear of climate change

A new environmental psychology study released in December concludes that the most effective programs to encourage climate-friendly behaviour such as reducing energy consumption are those in which financial incentives (rebates, or cheaper prices) are paired with appeals to personal identity and values.  The authors of  Social Mobilization: How to Encourage Action on Climate Change  review  four decades of  psychological research and find  strong empirical support for employing a number of strategies : providing tailored information, soliciting commitment (e.g. pledges), recruiting leaders from within social networks, giving feedback,  and using a variety of other social influence strategies .  This report highlights several successful large-scale programs as models – mostly by utility companies in the United States .  The study was financed and published by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS), University of Victoria.  A related, longer report by one of the authors, Reuven Sussman, was  published in October 2016 by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.  Behavior change programs: Status and impact  is here  (registration required, free).

Another recent study of found that the moral values of compassion and fairness influenced an individual’s willingness to take personal action to mitigate the effects of climate change.  The authors, from Cornell University, showed that participants who were younger, more liberal, and reported greater belief in climate change, also showed increased willingness to act on climate change.  Ingroup loyalty and authority were not supported as important predictor variables. However, the authors state  :   “Our finding that willingness to take action on climate change was related to moral values embraced by both liberals and conservatives suggests that it is too simplistic to use political ideology alone to predict support for climate change action. ”  The full article, “Which Moral Foundations Predict Willingness to Make Lifestyle Changes to Avert Climate Change in the USA?”  appeared in  PLOSOne in October 2016, and was summarized by the Huffington Post in “ Why some people take action on climate change – and others don’t” (November).

Environmental psychology is also turning attention to the growing mental health issues caused by climate change.  The  first-ever International Conference on Building Personal and Psychosocial Resilience for Climate Change was held on November 3-4, 2016 in Washington D.C.  .  Climate Progress reports on the conference  in  “How to stay sane in the face of climate change” ,   and quotes psychiatrist Lise van Susteren: “before people let their fear turn to hopelessness …  it’s critical to tell them that there are actionable things they can do, in their everyday life …. — measuring your own carbon footprint, putting solar panels on your own home, or paying for carbon offsets to counteract your own travel — can help a person take their fear and transfer that energy into positive action.  And that in turn can help mitigate the mental trauma of the reality of climate change.”   Climate Progress also quotes consultant Bob Doppelt, who told the conference  “Psychological traumas of more frequent storms, floods, and fires associated with climate change, as well as toxic stresses — long term heat waves and droughts, food shortages, involuntary migration, loss of community and breakdown of culture — are eroding personal protective systems, amplifying preexisting mental health problems and creating new mental health issues.” Doppelt has recently published Transformational Resilience: How Building Human Resilience to Climate Disruption Can Safeguard Society and Increase Wellbeing .

Setting the record straight on Economic Analysis of Energy Efficiency Programs

On April 16, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released a White Paper, Critiques of Energy Efficiency Policies and Programs: Some Truth But Also Substantial Mistakes and Bias . The paper examines recent U.S. studies of energy efficiency programs , “ … pointing out  a variety of recurring mistakes, such as misunderstanding the programs and markets they are examining or unreasonably extrapolating their findings to areas they did not study.”  The accompanying blog provides additional links and highlights a new study about Ontario,  by the Fraser Institute.  Demand-side Mismanagement: How Conservation became Waste  examines energy conservation programs in Ontario and concludes that they have not saved money for consumers, but according to the ACEEE , “Their conclusion is not based on data from Ontario, but cites previous critical studies of other programs, in particular a controversial study from 1992. Their analysis ignores or downplays other more recent studies that found much lower costs.”

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy  also launched a new website in April, providing detailed energy efficiency metrics for the United States , as well as overview measures for the international community , including Canada.

New Workforce Certification Guidelines for U.S. Commercial Building Occupations

The National Institute of Building Sciences and the U.S. Department of Energy have developed voluntary national guidelines to improve the quality and consistency of commercial building workforce credentials. The Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines     were introduced  in March  2015 and cover four energy-related occupations: Energy Auditor, Building Commissioning Professional, Energy Manager, and Building Operations Professional.   See the press release here.

Ontario Updates its Long-Term Energy Plan

On December 2, the Ontario government waded into the highly-politicized and controversial field of energy in the province, with the release of Achieving Balance, its updated long-term energy plan which emphasizes energy conservation, maintains the policy of ending coal-generated electricity, and holds the line on investment in new nuclear power facilities. The plan acknowledges Ontario’s reduced energy demands and sets a target of about half of Ontario’s installed generating capacity to come from renewable sources by 2025. See the Ontario government news release, with links to supporting backgrounders at: http://news.ontario.ca/mei/en/2013/12/ontario-releases-long-term-energy-plan-1.html

The Plan, Achieving Balance is at: http://www.energy.gov.on.ca/docs/LTEP_2013_English_WEB.pdf

A series of Backgrounders focusing on topics such as Conservation initiatives at:
http://news.ontario.ca/mei/en/2013/12/conservation-and-demand-management.html, First Nations and Metis initiatives at: http://news.ontario.ca/mei/en/2013/12/first-nation-and-metis-communities.html, and Northwestern Ontario programs (to support mining projects and First Nations) at:   http://news.ontario.ca/mei/en/2013/12/meeting-northwestern-ontarios-energy-needs.html.

Reaction from Environmental Defence is at: http://environmentaldefence.ca/articles/statement-gillian-mceachern-environmental-defence-regarding-ontario%E2%80%99s-new-long-term-energy-; From the Pembina Institute at: http://www.pembina.org/media-release/2508, and from the Society of Energy Professionals at: http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1272509/long-term-energy-plan-is-low-voltage-say-energy-professionals: “The Society of Energy Professionals supports the government’s decisions to continue with plans for nuclear refurbishment at Darlington and Bruce Power, maintain Pickering until 2020, and move forward with the conversion of the Thunder Bay Generating Station from coal to advanced biomass.”