How to achieve ZERO net carbon emissions from vehicles

It might surprise you that the cost to offset your vehicle emissions is only 2.5-3% of the annual fuel bill, much less than the average fluctuation in fuel prices experienced in the past 12 months.

Its easy to offset the greenhouse gases from the combustion of fuel in your company operated cars, trucks, mobile plant and other vehicles. Here are 3 simple steps to follow to obtain accurate emission estimates and achieve genuine carbon neutrality for your vehicle fleet.  The same steps can be applied to your private vehicles too. Note: to calculate emissions from vehicles your company doesn’t operate such as trains, planes, taxis and rental cars, there are different approaches which will be covered in a future blog.

 Step 1: Gather activity data

Gather all the fuel receipts for the previous financial year and total up the number of litres of each type of fuel used by each vehicle.  It is important to retrieve the data for ALL vehicles for the WHOLE year so the information is complete.   Do not use kilometres travelled and average fuel efficiency for this purpose.  Get the actual consumption of fuel to achieve the most accurate estimate. Do keep records for reporting and verification purposes.

Example: Small fleet of trucks

During the 2014-15 financial year a company purchased 100,000 litres of E10 petrol and 500,000 litres of diesel for the vehicle fleet.  The information was readily available from the fuel cards issued to staff with company cars and trucks.

Step Two: Calculate emissions

Next simply convert the number of litres into kilolitres by dividing by 1,000, then multiplying this figure by the emission factor in the table below to get the number of tonnes of CO2-e.  The little “e” means that the total will include the other greenhouse gases – methane and nitrous oxide as well as carbon dioxide. If any of the vehicles have used biodiesel such as B5, B20 or B100 or a petrol/ethanol blend such as E10, just calculate the proportion separately then add up the total. Too easy!

Example: Small Fleet of trucks

The table shows that the total emissions from the car fleet in the above example were estimated to be 1,565 tonnes.

Type of fuel used

Kilolitres of fuel

Proportion

Emission Factor GHGs *

Tonnes of CO2-e

Petrol*

100

 90%

2.38

  214.2

Diesel

500

100%

2.70

1,350.0

LPG

1.59

LNG (light duty vehicle)

1.44

LNG (heavy duty vehicle)

1.36

Biodiesel

0.12

Ethanol

100

10%

0.08

      0.8

Total

1,565.0

* Source of emission factors:  Table 4: Fuel combustion emission factors – fuels used for transport energy purposes. The National Greenhouse Accounts (NGA) Factors, December 2014  prepared by the Australian Government Department of the Environment for use by companies and individuals to estimate greenhouse gas emissions. 

Step Three: Purchase offsets

Go on-line to find a reputable carbon offset retailer, then purchase offsets for the number of tonnes you calculated in step 2.  To avoid the risk that the offset does not represent genuine emission reduction (or removal from the atmosphere), make sure that you only EVER purchase verified carbon offsets. Reliable verifiers include, but are not limited to, VCS, NCOS, Gold Standard, Gold Power and Greenfleet. Some sellers will allow you to choose the actual project that your money will help fund such as Tasmanian native forest protection, Australian wind energy or sustainable development projects in third world countries.  Currently carbon credits will cost between $13 and $33 per tonne. For more information and advice go to the independent source:  http://otter.org.au/carbon-offsets-how-to-choose/ 

Example: Small Fleet of trucks

The annual fuel bill in our example was $840,000 ($1.40/litre average fuel price x 600,000 litres) and at $15/tonne, the carbon credits will cost 2.8% of the total fuel bill .

How we can help

Enviroease can develop a carbon reduction program for your company and find projects that may be eligible for state or federal government assistance. We are familiar with the Emissions Reduction Fund, Renewable Energy Target and NSW Energy Savings Scheme and VictorianEnergy Saver Incentive. Feel free to send an email to me (Suzy) at suzanne@enviroease.com.au to find out more.

 

 

How do you take a life cycle perspective?

This article was updated to remove the word “draft” as the final version was published in September 2015.

While presenting a series of one day courses on behalf of SAI Global entitled “Preparing for the transition to ISO14001:2015″

I became aware that one of the concepts in the Standard is new to many people. Its the taking of a “life cycle perspective”.  So, what does this mean?

A life cycle is defined in the Standard as the consecutive and interlinked stages of a product system, from raw material acquisition or generation from natural resources to end-of-life treatment.

Life cycle assessment has been around since the 1990’s and is often called the “cradle-to-grave” approach for assessing industrial systems. This begins with the gathering of raw materials from the earth to create the product and ends at the point when all materials are returned to the earth.
LCA enables the estimation of the cumulative environmental impacts resulting from all stages in the product life cycle, often including impacts not considered in more traditional analyses (e.g., raw material extraction, material transportation, ultimate product disposal, etc.). By including the impacts throughout the product life cycle, LCA provides a comprehensive view of the environmental aspects of the product or process and a more accurate picture of the true environmental trade-offs in product and process selection.

It should be noted that a full LCA on each product will not be a requirement of the new standard. The introduction of the term “life cycle perspective” will simply translate into a stronger expectation for companies to consider how their decisions impact further upstream or downstream of the company’s operations. They will need to demonstrate how they used their influence on suppliers, contractors, customers and consumers to improve sustainability across the supply chain.

How can Enviroease help?

If you are thinking of developing an Environmental Management System or need ideas on how to integrate life cycle thinking into your existing EMS, I can offer help you directly.

I can also arrange for an LCA to be conducted on one or more of your products by an associate, Dr Suphunnika Ibbotson, is an experienced LCA practitioner. Suphunnika has completed a number of peer reviewed LCA projects using Simapro while part of UNSW faculty of Sustainable Manufacturing Engineering and Life Cycle Engineering Research Group.

What makes effective training?

This article was reviewed in July 2018 to update the last section on experience

Deciding how much and what type of environmental training to conduct in your workplace can be a daunting task. Here are 5 tips to guide you through the maze.

1. Focus on high risk
Refer to the site’s Aspect Register or Risk Register to establish the workplace tasks that may cause a significant environmental impact. Determine the roles or job function of people commonly undertaking those tasks. There should be written procedures that outline the steps to take and the operating criteria that must be in place. These can form the basis of the training program.

2. Make the training measurable
Develop competency criteria for each of the high risks tasks that may cause a significant impact. Ask “What should any person be able to do before they are allowed to work without supervision? What do they need to know? What level of language, literacy, and numeracy is required for them to function effectively?” Create a minimum set of performance criteria and a method of assessing individuals against them. For example: an observational checklist or a verbal or written test.

3. Cater for individual differences
Individuals who will be acting in the above roles may have been assessed as having skills and knowledge at a lower level than the minimum acceptable standard. Decide on the best method to address any identified weaknesses. Different approaches include one-to-one supervision or mentoring, tool box talk, an in-house group training course or a public training course by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO).

Recognise existing knowledge, skills and job-related experience when planning the approach to training and assessment. Develop training materials that are tailored to the learner’s level of LLN. In mixed groups this can be a challenge so include alternative techniques to support those with LLN difficulties.

4. Keep records
Keep records of the results of competency assessments and the actions taken when the learner was regarded as not yet competent. Retain records of training content, training provider’s qualifications and participant’s names. Even if the training is a simple “toolbox talk” you must keep a list of attendees with their signatures to confirm that they received the training.

Remember: “If there are no records, it didn’t happen”

5. Evaluate the effectiveness of the training
All elements of the training program should be evaluated to determine whether the goals of the training have been met. Are people competent? Have there been any incidents or near misses? Are people aware of how their workplace tasks may cause a significant environmental impact?

Change the training content, techniques or provider to correct any weaknesses or deficiencies so that the training program improves over time.

Enviroease has 17 years experience in Environmental training delivering on-site customised courses direct to clients. We also conduct Nationally recognised management system courses (ISO14001:2015;  ISO45001:2018 and ISO19001 auditor training) on behalf of Exemplar Global accredited RTOs such as NCSI (now BSI) and SAI Global.

Call me, (Suzy) to discuss how I can help with training and workshops for staff at all levels, including Senior Management teams through all levels of the organisation. .

A view from the inside

Successful audits are a win-win for the community and for businesses wanting to prove to themselves and others that they do what they say they do . By examining a business from the inside out an auditor confirms that the company is meeting the expectations of all interested parties.

Let’s think of the analogy of clothing.

When garments are viewed from the outside in there may be a glossy brand image, attractive packaging, convenience features.  Only when the clothes are turned inside out do the seams, patterns and structure become visible and understood.

What you see is the other side of the same thing. The garment hasn’t been deconstructed – just viewed in a different light, in all its reality, worts and all. The strengths and positives are seen and admired – the reinforced seams and new, unfaded materials and the creative effort gone into its design. But a closer look reveals some weaknesses – the fraying hems, broken stitching, worn fabric and repaired holes.

Just like a jumper that looks OK when its being worn, the deterioration of a company’s standards relating to environmental protection are not immediately apparent to key stakeholders – senior management, customers, the community, financial institutions and government regulators. Not until something unfortunate happens.

Like a loose button or pulled thread there’s been a deterioration – a few people left untrained, a couple of procedures not followed, a key piece of pollution control equipment not maintained. And so forth.

The loose thread may be spotted and repaired in time but when left unattended, things begin to unravel. In time the loose button will fall off  – there’s a major pollution incident or regulatory breach along with the high price of clean up, medical costs, fines, legal fees and loss of company reputation.  Ouch!

All elements of an Environmental Management System – like the level of training and competence and the effectiveness of operational controls – need to be rigorously checked by a program of regular internal and external audits.

The close scrutiny of a good auditor will warn the business owner(s) of weaknesses and threats so that corrective action can be taken before it is too late.

If your company’s management system does not adequately cover environmental issues at present we recommend an Initial Environmental Review. This is the first step towards developing an Environmental Management System (EMS). In many cases an EMS can be most simply and effectively implemented by integrating Quality and/or Workplace Health and Safety.

How we can help

Enviroease consultants have years of experience in both auditing and system design. Please feel free to contact me (Suzy) by email at suzanne@enviroease.com.au to discuss your needs for independent EMS, EMP or environmental compliance audits.

 

 

Get ready for risk based licensing

Failure to develop and implement an Environmental Management System (EMS) at each site could become a costly exercise in 2014 as the NSW EPA progresses towards its risk based licencing system.

The EPA will change the calculation of licence administration fees by introducing an Environmental Management Category – either A, B, C, D or E. The Category will act as a multiplier to the fee, resulting in either an increase, decrease (or no change). For example any sites classified as “E” will have their fee doubled, those classed as an “A” will be recognised as having the highest level of performance and receive a 5% reduction.

New approach under the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Amendment (Licensing Fees) Regulation 2013

  • Each licence will be allocated an overall risk level of 1, 2 or 3. A higher risk level may result in more intensive monitoring and reporting obligations on the licensee.
  • Each site will be allocated an environmental management category considering the site’s enforcement history and regulatory actions, if any.  Answering “yes” to the question “Does the licensee have an EMS certified to ISO14001?” provides an automatic reduction of 40 points.  If the EMS is not certified, certain elements of a system such as records of regulator training earn points.

Two things to do right now

1 Arrange for an independent initial environmental review (IER) of air/odour, water, noise and waste.  This will identify environmental aspects and residual risks after controls; legal requirements related to the environmental aspects; pollution incidents and spills; the concerns of stakeholders and the community plus any other issues of note.

2 Use this information to inform the development or enhancement of an existing EMS.  I recommend building on Quality and Workplace Health and Safety Systems to integrate the management of environmental risks within the company’s existing risk framework.

For further information on the changes to the licencing system and how we can help please contact Suzy Orme.

Don’t just survive….thrive!

People often ask “what is sustainability?” It means maintaining the quality or condition of something into the future. But  this begs the question – “what is it we are trying to sustain?”

Economists may focus on maintaining economic growth and place a high value on GDP and jobs. Conservationists may desire to maintain environmental quality and place a high value on species and ecosystem biodiversity.  Social justice advocates may desire to maintain social systems and place a high value on human rights, equality and the eradication of poverty. So in recent years the word “sustainability” has come to mean a basic level of economic AND social AND environmental sustainability.

What does this mean for Australian businesses?

Business owners may desire to sustain an income to retirement, pass a viable business onto family members or protect shareholders’ investments and value. So it follows that, as a minimum, businesses must be economically sustainable to simply survive.

But businesses that embrace social sustainability tend to thrive. They maintain mutually beneficial relationships with employees, contractors, suppliers, customers and the local community. These relationships often have the financial benefit of increasing sales and the environmental benefit of a green supply chain. They create a positive company profile and customer and community support.

Businesses that embrace environmental sustainability  tend to thrive even more. They minimise their use of resources such as energy, raw materials and water.  They eliminate or reduce the amount of hazardous materials, emissions and waste. They in turn, reap financial benefits from reducing input costs and waste disposal fees through to eliminating the high cost of clean up, lost time, rehabilitation, fines, legal fees and customer backlash.

Increasingly business owners and shareholders are taking a broader view of risks by considering the effect that a business may have on the environment and people.   They aim to continually improve their performance in order to thrive in today’s complex and demanding world.

 

Are we exposed to too much lead?

Lead is a highly potent nerve toxin that has been known for decades to have devastating effects on human health and wildlife as well as strong links with violent crime. While the phase out of lead in petrol has been an outstanding success globally, there is still a long way to go.  Technical innovation, stricter controls of industrial emissions, a ban on certain imports and exports together with the enforcement of more stringent air quality standards are required to protect people in all towns and cities. Whether you and your family are exposed to too much lead depends largely on what job you do and where you happen to live.

Like other heavy metals, lead is hazardous to animals and dangerous to humans as it accumulates in soil, livestock, fish, mammal, human tissue and blood. At all levels of exposure it can cause adverse and often irreversible health impacts to the nervous, immune, reproductive and cardiovascular systems.

Even very low levels of lead in infants can have serious and permanent effects on IQ, a link that is well documented.  Lead impairs the development of parts of the brain that regulate behaviour and mood – the anterior cortex and prefrontal cortex. As early as 1943 studies showed that infants that had chewed lead off the side of their cots were highly predisposed to aggression and violence, years after the exposure.  Some interesting studies indicate that 20 years after lead had been banned in many cities there was a noticable reduction in violent crime.

A 2011 article in Journal of Environmental Health by authors Tsai and Hatfield estimated the economic benefits of the phase out of leaded petrol and consequent reduced health risks to be worth US$2.5trillion/year, or roughly 4% of global GDP.

The bad news is that lead is ubiquitous in our society. It is still commonly used in pigments, dyes, some paints, coatings, batteries, ammunition, metal products and devices to shield X-rays. Lead compounds are used in the manufacture of matches, ammunition, fireworks, explosives, pottery glazes, ceramics, brake shoes, flame retardants, electronic parts, plastics, rubbers and as catalysts for industrial production and epoxy curing agents.

People who work in industries that manufacture or use these components may be at greater risk of exposure as are those living near large point sources of lead emissions. At Port Pirie, 250km north of Adelaide 25% of children aged under 5 were found to have blood levels in excess of 10 micrograms per decilitre of blood.  Despite all the research highlighting the dangers, Australian exposure levels for children aged 3 – 14 years remains at the level set in 1993 by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). This is 10 micrograms per decilitre of blood, well above the USA of less than 5 micrograms and Germany, less than 3.5 micrograms.

I support the recommendation made in the Medical Journal of Australia for a standard of one microgram per decilitre of blood together with improvements in how lead sources are identified and controlled. 

The problem of toxic air emissions is more acute in developing countries. For example, fewer than 1 percent of the 500 Chinese cities studied by the Asian Development Bank and Tsinghua University met the air quality standards recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Poor air quality is caused by coal fired power plants, other industrial sources and vehicles exhaust.

To ensure that the world develops on a sustainable path, research, innovation and technology transfer are now urgently required to phase out toxic substances. Substitutes for lead must be found if we are to protect the air we breath, our wildlife and the world’s children from the devastating effects of lead poisoning.