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And a greener new year

There is certainly a feeling of promise that accompanies the start of every new year. That fresh calendar of uncharted days beckons to be filled with good deeds and grand accomplishments. This makes it a good time to ponder how we can, as companies and as individuals, make decisions that will make our planet a healthier home in 2012.

As businesspeople, we may consider environmental decisions at a macro level. Government policymakers have implemented many strategies which empower our industry to provide greener services.

When the United States opted not to sign the Kyoto Protocol in 2005, the U.S. Conference of Mayors decided to formulate its own Climate Protection Center and Agreement. A press release issued by the Conference of Mayors explains that participating cities commit to:

  • Strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets in their own communities, through actions ranging from anti-sprawl land-use policies to urban forest restoration projects to public information campaigns;
  • Urge their state governments, and the federal government, to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the greenhouse gas emission reduction target suggested for the United States in the Kyoto Protocol – 7 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2012; and
  • Urge the U.S. Congress to pass the bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation, which would establish a national emission trading system.

As of December 16, 2011, the mayors of 1055 cities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico have joined the initiative. I have not been able to find a current accounting of the Center’s progress toward its 2012 goals, but no doubt one will be forthcoming.

Meeting and convention planners may visit http://usmayors.org/climateprotection/climatechange.asp to determine whether a destination city has committed to the agreement. Many of these mayors have outlined policies and resources that make zero-carbon events possible in their cities.

In September 2010, the U.S. General Services Administration issued a new set of travel regulations for federal employees. The purpose of Bulletin FTR 10-06 is to assist agency employees in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and save taxpayer dollars during travel planning and execution.

In the same spirit, President Obama enacted Executive Order 13514, which directs agencies to implement “strategies and accommodations for transit, travel, training and conferencing that actively support lower-carbon commuting and travel by agency staff.”

Policy changes like these have certainly incented the lodging, tourism and convention industries to make eco-friendly changes in order to satisfy federal guidelines. The pleasing side effect has been more favorable options for non-government travelers as well. Numerous new LEED projects are in the works, along with enhancements to existing hotels and convention centers across the nation.

Clearly, government leadership in these areas has impacted cultural change that we hope will lead to lasting improvement in our environment and our societal values. As businesspeople, we can conscientiously implement these policies when making fiscal purchasing and planning decisions for ourselves and our clients in 2012.

The new year also provides us with an opportunity to consider our decisions at a micro level. It was an eye-opening experience for me to evaluate my own carbon footprint at www.myfootprint.org. While I think of myself as fairly eco-conscious, this tool helped me to identify many areas where I could improve my personal habits and choices.

Tools like this one provide work groups, families and community organizations with a chance to team up and make changes that will lower their collective carbon scores. Why not make raising awareness and shrinking your carbon footprint a part of your list of New Year’s resolutions? Set goals to lower your individual and group scores, and check in on a monthly basis throughout the year. Accountability to others can make a big difference in actually achieving the goals that we set for this year.

Green Tip for January:
If a real Christmas tree is still lingering in your home or office, please visit www.earth911.org and enter a zip code search to find a recycling option in your area.

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