PIK Sustainable

Power In Knowledge

Archives 2015

PIK Completes Life Cycle Assessment for Denver Biodiesel Cooperative

PIK is pleased to announce the completion of its Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) project on Biodiesel for the Denver Biodiesel Cooperative (DBC). Based in Denver, CO, DBC is committed to making biodiesel available to passenger vehicles in Colorado and to increasing knowledge and awareness of biodiesel in the community. Because it employs a comprehensive life cycle perspective to scientifically evaluate the environmental dimension of sustainability, LCA was deemed uniquely suited to fulfill the objectives of this project: to gain a deeper understanding of the environmental impacts that occur throughout the “cradle to grave” life cycle of a gallon of biodiesel, produced from waste vegetable oil (WVO) collected by the DBC. PIK completed this LCA project utilizing world-leading life cycle assessment software (SimaPro) following ISO methodology (International Organization for Standardization) and with guidance from EarthShift Inc.

Upon reviewing the LCA, DBC expressed its plans to act on the report’s findings to further improve its WVO collection and biodiesel distribution processes. It is our expectation that the results will serve as a valuable guide as DBC continues to serve its members and educate the public about the many benefits of this renewable fuel.

Please contact PIK for more details about the LCA process and how a targeted LCA study can help your organization obtain valuable insight into its products and processes, to better inform your sustainability strategy, and gain competitive advantage by succeeding sustainably.

Waste Auditing: How well do you know your waste?

I recently participated in a LEED waste audit training at an office complex in Broomfield, CO. Conducted by Ampajen consulting in cooperation with the Colorado chapter of the USGBC, the audit enabled approximately 10 participants (including myself) to analyze the waste stream of a commercial building pursuing LEED certification. If you’ve never conducted a waste audit and can handle the sights and smells that accompany the sorting of garbage (all participants wore protective gloves), I highly encourage you to do so. The audit results were both revealing and thought provoking: 80% of the waste generated at this particular office complex is currently sent to a landfill. Yet, 80% of that (nearly 65% of the office’s total waste stream), could either be recycled or composted.

This is what a waste audit looks like!

Carefully sorting, weighing, and recording…with smiling faces (and some crinkled noses!) — this is what a LEED waste audit looks like.

IMG_20150619_151901125_HDR IMG_20150619_151905961_HDR

Although this LEED O+M (LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance) training specifically addressed waste at commercial buildings, the basic approach is consistent with methods designed for other industry sectors, including food service. The sobering results support the perspective that real challenges to reducing landfill waste, and to improving the performance of waste management practices in general, exist and are shared by organizations across the country. The fact is that while our nation’s waste management practices have improved significantly over the years, overall performance remains poor: Collectively, Americans recycle and compost less than 35% of the more than 254 million tons of trash we generate annually (US EPA). This has serious implications for resource efficiency, environmental, and human health.


US EPA: Total MSW Generation (by Material), 2013 254 Million Tons (before recycling)

As a business consultant with a strong interest in food sustainability, the extent of food waste is particularly troubling. In the United States it is estimated that between 30% and 40% of all the food produced is wasted. That equates to approximately 40 million tons of food wasted annually. In the restaurant sector, research conducted by the NRDC in 2012 revealed:

  • US households and food service “lost 86 billion pounds of food in 2008, or 19 percent of the total U.S. retail-level food supply”
  • Between “4 to 10 percent of food purchased by restaurants becomes kitchen loss, both edible and inedible, before reaching the consumer”
  • In addition, diners on average “leave 17 percent of meals uneaten and 55 percent of these potential leftovers are not taken home”
  • Other factors contributing to food waste at restaurants include: “large portions, inflexibility of chain-store management, and pressure to maintain enough food supply to offer extensive menu choices at all times”

Analysis by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, an association of major grocers and food service companies, shows that significant barriers to food donation, recycling, and composting exist. But, restaurants and other food service companies can and should play a major role in addressing this problem by:

  1. Verifying their facility’s performance by conducting a waste audit
  2. Implementing measures to address food waste strategically (actions should be prioritized: see EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy below)
  3. Tracking waste performance using spreadsheets or more sophisticated technology (e.g. LeanPath) and managing for continual improvement

Related free tools and guidelines for waste management at restaurants are available at:

Both individually and collectively, we need to get a better handle on our waste problem, including food waste. The good news is that society’s awareness of the problem is increasing as are cost-effective options to address it. Please contact PIK Sustainable LLC to learn more about the best strategies and tools available to optimize waste management at your business and to improve the overall sustainability of your operations.

PIK Completes Sustainability Roadmap for Sazza

PIK is pleased to announce the completion of the Organizational Readiness Assessment (ORA) for Sazza. Based in Greenwood Village, CO, Sazza is a restaurant known for making some of the region’s best gourmet pizzas and salads using the finest local, organic, and natural ingredients. It’s also known for it’s steadfast commitment to sustainability. With cooperation from their wonderful staff and suppliers, Sazza’s owners, Jeff and Jenni, participated in PIK’s 2-month process of assessment, research, reflection and action planning to bolster Sazza’s existing sustainability efforts. It is our expectation that the resulting roadmap will serve as a valuable guide as Sazza continues to delight and inspire through its delicious food and admirable business practices.

Please contact PIK for more details about the ORA process and how a customized sustainability roadmap can help your business succeed sustainably!

PIK to conduct Life Cycle Assessment on Local Biodiesel

Denver Biodiesel Cooperative (DBC) engages Denver based sustainable business consultancy, PIK Sustainable LLC (PIK), to Conduct Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) on Biodiesel – March 18, 2015

Utilizing world leading LCA software in compliance with ISO methodology (International Organization for Standardization), PIK will conduct a detailed investigation into the activities in the life cycle of a gallon of biodiesel, produced from waste vegetable oil (WVO) collected by the Denver Biodiesel Cooperative. The objective of this project is to determine which activities in the product life cycle contribute the most to the environmental impact associated with this renewable fuel.

While this study is primarily concerned with accounting for the environmental impact of biodiesel using the DBC model, it will also seek to describe some change-oriented consequences of shifting from biodiesel derived from Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) to WVO-derived biodiesel produced entirely in the state of Colorado. The DBC LCA project results are anticipated in early summer, 2015.

About the Denver Biodiesel Cooperativebiodiesel logo final 450x450

DBC distributes ASTM certified biodiesel fuel at cost (usually made from Waste Vegetable Oil feedstock). DBC is committed to making biodiesel available to passenger vehicles in Colorado. It is increasingly difficult to find B100 at retail gas stations and we measure success in gallons of petroleum diesel offset.

Denver Biodiesel is always looking to increase knowledge and awareness of biodiesel in our community. Members are rewarded for their participation—attending fairs, presenting at schools, signing up restaurants, or collecting oil—with fuel credits to purchase biodiesel from DBC.

About PIK Sustainable LLC

Based in Denver, CO, PIK Sustainable LLC is a consultancy that provides professional services to Colorado’s business community. PIK Sustainable LLC’s services include sustainability assessments, strategic planning, project management, reporting, communication, and product development.

PIK stands for Power In Knowledge. Whether an organization is advanced in its practice of sustainability or just beginning, PIK will supply data-driven knowledge, technical know-how, and real-world options for success. With PIK, you decide what’s right for your organization to succeed sustainably.

Fear mongering or truth telling? The use of fear in environmental journalism.

On the subject of employing fear in environmental journalism, I am often dismayed by journalism that’s heavy on fear and light on solutions. However, I find willful ignorance—that overexploitation of ecosystems can somehow continue without serious environmental and socioeconomic consequences—even more dismaying. The fact is that superior management alternatives often exist, they’re just not compatible with economic priorities. I proposed one such solution–Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM)–as a possible approach to address water management amidst intensifying drought in California.

On this growing crisis, Daniel Wood of the Christian Science Monitor writes: “Californians are wondering if the government, the media, and residents could be doing more to ensure that reserves last long enough to sustain the state through another year of drought.”

Perhaps a healthy dose of fear could help motivate California’s citizens (including its farmers) to find common ground and take the difficult but necessary steps toward sustainability?

California’s agricultural miracle… may be nearing its expiration date.

Recent articles in the Christian Science Monitor and Huffington Post indicate that California’s drought situation is extreme, with record breaking heat continuing, Sierra Mountain snowpack at a pittance of long-term averages, and the vast majority of reservoirs throughout the Central Valley region at 40% capacity or considerably less. In addition, over allocation of surface waters (apparently 5 x what the state actually has), inadequate conservation efforts, and the drilling frenzy depicted in the original article, are conspiring against effective solutions. Incredibly, California lacked groundwater regulation until last fall—three new bills were introduced to the CA state assembly last September and subsequently signed into law by Governor Brown. The trouble is that implementing the regulations could take years! It may be too little too late. Incidentally, I think Erica Gies’ article “As water crisis deepens, California finally passes groundwater regulation” provides an excellent background on the challenges to conservation in CA’s agriculture sector.

To me, an ecosystem-based approach like Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) offers a sensible solution, particularly in water-stressed regions like California and the Southwestern USA. It’s being applied to varying degrees in river basins around the globe, including the Missouri and Columbia Rivers in the US, and most extensively, in the Murray-Darling Basin of Australia. This kind of management prioritizes in-stream flows (to maintain environmental flows necessary for river system health), takes into account tributaries, ground water supplies, as well as other components of the hydrological system, and integrates ecological needs and human needs into river basin/water resource management.

CA should follow the Murray-Darling Basin’s lead by implementing a cap on total withdrawals from surface and ground water supplies, a market to enable trading and allocation of water resources to where they’re needed most, and ecosystem-based management protocols. The sacrifices necessary in such lean times will be shared by all stakeholders, but will likely impact the agricultural sector hardest. It may be the only path to a sustainable future for farming in the Central Valley.

Farmers in California’s Central Valley get a harsh lesson on ecological limits, but will they learn?

In today’s edition of the Guardian, Rory Carroll describes how farmers in California are drilling ever deeper to postpone what may be inevitable: the re-desertification of our nation’s most productive agricultural region. Unfortunately, the drought situation is so severe and mismanagement of water resources so entrenched, that we may be witnessing the beginning of widespread ecological and socio-economic collapse in California’s Central Valley. It’s tragic when so many livelihoods are on the line, but after decades of overexploitation of fragile water resources for agricultural development, California has only itself to blame.

If too many farmers resort to such desperate measures, an already dire situation will only get worse…ground water sources will be irreversibly depleted with far-reaching effects on the environment and economy of California. This is not even considering the uncertain, but predictable damage from widespread use of fossil water that may be highly saline and/or laden with heavy metals and other compounds toxic to surface ecology.

This is the time for our government–at both state and federal levels if necessary–to intervene, with regulations, financial assistance, and guidance founded on ecosystem-based Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), to help farmers and non-farmers alike transition to a new reality of water scarcity.

If water management continues to be prioritized for economic outcomes, the gains (if any) will only be short lived and California’s agricultural sector will collapse…end of story. Policies must make a clean break from past and current practices, which continue to support consumption beyond what is ecologically sustainable. IWRM could help reorient management to current ecological realities while restoring damaged ecosystems to health. California’s future depends on it.