In the last year, we’ve seen a lot of extreme weather events. Hurricanes, heat waves, hellish Western wildfires, withering droughts and more. If you’re like me, you might be tempted to attribute these weather events to climate change.
But are the number and severity of extreme weather events truly increasing? And is climate change responsible?
According to a recent article from Scientific American, the answer is yes.
Droughts, wildfires, heat waves, intense rainstorms—these are all extreme weather phenomena that occur naturally. But climate change is now increasing the frequency and magnitude of many of these events.
According to the article, scientists in the burgeoning field of attribution science “can now tell people how climate change impacts them, and not 50 or 100 years from now—today.”
This is implicating indeed given the preponderance of evidence pointing to our role in accelerating climate change.
Climate Leadership At A Crossroads
So how can you respond to this?
At DCI, we’ve always felt that it’s critical to build furniture in a way that never jeopardizes the sanctity of Life. For us, that translates into a fierce commitment to sustainability and mitigating our impact on the climate.
Historically, the furniture industry has been guilty of some terrifically poisonous practices which contaminated people and places with toxic chemicals.
Whether it’s formaldehyde or toxic flame retardants, poisoned air and poisoned waters, the list of transgressions against ecological and human health is pretty long.
But the industry has slowly, if reluctantly, lifted it’s standards. This is mostly due to increasingly sensible human health policy backed by science and regulations that have mandated and enforced improvements.
But today we stand at a crossroads. It’s clear that over the next four to eight years, policy, regulations, and federal enforcement won’t be enough. More than ever, it’s going to be up to all of us, as individuals and institutions, to support sustainable practices, policies, and businesses.
Why? What’s different?
What’s The Big Deal?
So what are we talking about anyways?
And is this just alarmism?
There are a few key issues.
First, the current administration is rolling back environmental policy at a rate we’ve never seen before. Both the Guardian and the NY Times have recently catalogued the long list of Obama-era environmental protections that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has rolled back under direction from the President.
And second, the EPA is now led by a fossil fuel industry lobbyist, Scott Pruitt, who is methodically neutralizing the agency with respect to enforcing climate change policy.
This is concerning.
Let’s start with the systematic rollback of environmental protections.
Former New Jersey Governor and EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman said that the scale of this rollback has no precedent. She worked under President George W. Bush, and during her tenure as EPA head, she said:
“We looked at 60 or 70 rules [from the previous administration] and we upheld them all, whereas this administration seems to think everything done in the last administration was bad.”
Indeed, the list of rules that are recently defunct will give you pause. If you’re like me, they will confound you. These are regulations crafted to protect against immediate threats to human health.
Former EPA science advisor Tom Burke put it this way:
“There’s a very obvious shift at the EPA to make it more business-friendly. Maybe that’s not a bad thing for the business community, but I am very concerned this will impact the health of millions of people…The EPA’s mission is to protect public health and the environment, not to protect corporate earnings. It’s very concerning to see.”
At the same time as this rollback is in effect, the new head of the EPA is an avowed climate denier. According to Scientific American:
[Scott] Pruitt, 48, is a climate change denier who sued the agency he now leads more than a dozen times as Oklahoma’s attorney general. He said he was not convinced that carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal is the main cause of climate change, a conclusion widely embraced by scientists.
Indeed, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, there are several studies on scientific consensus related to Climate Change. Independent studies show that 97% of climate scientists agree that Climate Change is real and caused by human activity.
And although debate around the scientific veracity of climate change appears to split along political lines—Democrats believing the science and Republicans doubting it—it’s not completely true. According to Time, more than 40% of republicans are worried about climate change based on a recent Gallup poll.
That partly explains why it’s such a confusing and disorienting turn of events.
Who Can Make a Difference?
Stepping back, it’s clear that sustainability has made tremendous strides over the last few decades at the state level, in corporations, and among influential institutions.
1. States Providing Climate Leadership
At this point, we need leadership from new quarters. For one, we need leadership from cities and states.
When it comes to states, that leadership is in full effect. California is perhaps the best example. It’s the fifth largest economy in the world. As such, it has always enjoyed an outsized influence in establishing progressive environmental policy.
The truth is, businesses can’t afford to opt-out of California’s economy, so the business world falls into step with California’s regulations, independent of federal powers.
With that in mind, California Governor Jerry Brown has vowed to take up the mantle of climate commander in chief. He recently flew to New York for the United Nation’s annual General Assembly and was joined by Governors from the states of Washington and New York.
There, they pledged their climate change leadership to world leaders.
“We are a political and economic force; and we will drive the change that will get us to the climate goals that we have to reach,” Brown said at the press conference.
2. Corporate & Business Climate Leadership
Many companies have not only embraced the tenets of sustainability (climate neutrality chief among them), they’ve baked it directly into their brands. The truth is, many businesses want to act responsibly.
And beyond being responsible, Harvard Business Review notes that many business leaders are simply embracing the business advantages of responding to climate change.
One obvious example of this is Elon Musk and Tesla’s non-polluting electric cars. Musk’s cars incredibly stylish and futuristic. Teslay has made sustainability hip and cool.
And given that CO2 from cars is considered one of the leading causes of man made climate change, this is no small feat.
But perhaps more importantly, Tesla is demonstrating to the rest of the automobile industry that selling cars based on higher human values is viable and profitable.
There are countless examples of this, from BMW and Siemens to Unilever and Ikea (which has a 2020 goal of producing more energy than it uses)—all corporations with robust sustainability programs and lead the global list of 100 most sustainable companies.
3. Climate Leadership from Academia
In addition to State leadership, we also need leadership from powerful academic institutions like yours. In many way, academic institutions can have a huge effect on the future of the planet by leading through example.
Students are young and impressionable. Leading by example with green principles and practices is an effective way to spread sustainable values and educate students about climate change. Indeed, there are many schools who have embraced this mission wholeheartedly.
For example, every year Sierra Club publishes its list of “cool schools“—the top 20 greenest schools in the nation.
The 2016 winner is the College of the Atlantic. Here’s why they won.
At least 75 percent of COA’s faculty is engaged in sustainability research. More than 35 percent of the classes offered are related to environmentalism. And a full 100 percent of the campus’ electricity comes from renewable sources (93 percent from wind, 7 percent from solar). In 2013, the university divested its endowment from all fossil fuels.
4. Climate Leadership at DCI
As part of our sustainability mission, we take climate change very seriously.
As a residence life or housing administrator, you can support sustainability and combat climate change by partnering with us. How?
For one thing, we build the most sustainable furniture in the residence hall market.
When it comes to reducing our carbon footprint, there are three major areas where we mitigate our carbon output.
1. Clean Fuel
We use 100% renewable biomass energy at our zero waste furniture manufacturing plant in New Hampshire. We capture all our sawdust (we create ALOT) and burn it in our boilers to power our entire operation.
By using a wood boiler to run our kilns and heat our factory and offices, we are saving an average of 68 gallons of petroleum oil an hour or over 200,000 gallons of oil per year.
2. Transport Delivery
We also reduce our carbon footprint through our logistics operations by shipping our product by rail.
A fully loaded container of DCI furniture weighs 10 tons. If the distance is 3,000 miles by rail (Lisbon, NH to San Diego, CA), we are only using 60 gallons of diesel fuel to move one of our containers across the country. This calculation is based on information provided by CSX Rail Transportation.
3. Local Supply Chain
DCI is a locally-owned family business based in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. One big way that colleges and universities can use their purchasing power to prevent climate change is to buy residence hall furniture with a short supply chain and which is sourced and manufactured here in America.
At DCI, we control every stage of our very short supply chain. We make our furniture from solid hardwood and harvest our logs from within 100 miles of our own sawmill. Those logs then travel a short distance to our manufacturing facility.
If you compare this vertically integreated supply chain to companies who import wood, plastics, and furniture from Asia, there’s no comparison in terms of the carbon footprint. Through our local supply chain, we eliminate a huge source of carbon emissions and fossil fuel consumption.
Committed To Sustainability
Today we remain fiercely committed to the practice and principles of sustainability and will take every possible step to lift our standards even higher.
When you partner with us and furnish your residence hall with our climate friendly furniture, you’re not just buying beautifully crafter hardwood furniture. You’re safeguarding the planet for future generations.
Stand with us and stand with the planet. Buy local. Buy sustainable.