John Mandyck serves as Chief Sustainability Officer for United Technologies Corporation. A global leader in the aerospace, food refrigeration and commercial building industries, United Technologies provides high-technology systems and services that move the world forward with well-known global brands such as Carrier, Otis, Pratt & Whitney and UTC Aerospace Systems.
John chairs the Corporate Advisory Board of the World Green Building Council, and serves as chairman of the Board of Directors for the Urban Green Council in New York City. He is a member of the Corporate Council at the Harvard University Center for Health and the Global Environment. He is also on the adjunct faculty for the University of Connecticut School of Business. John is the co-author of the book Food Foolish, which explores the hidden connection between food waste, hunger and climate change.
Throughout his career, John has worked with governments, universities and organizations around the globe to accelerate environmental sustainability in an increasingly urbanizing world.
In 140 characters or less – what is sustainable urbanization?
Growing urban centers thrive and sustain themselves with green buildings, green aviation and avoidance of food waste to feed more people.
What was the driver for leading an initiative on sustainable urbanization– what gap did it fill?
Our population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion people by 2050, with nearly 70 percent of those people living in cities. Bigger cities require more buildings for housing and workspace. Because buildings consume 40 percent of the world’s energy, the future of buildings and the future of sustainability go hand in hand. With 35 percent population growth expected in just 35 years, we not only have more people to feed, but those people will be moving farther from their food sources through urbanization. Since we already grow enough food to feed 10 billion people today, we have to avoid the one-third or more of food that is lost or wasted to feed more people while saving water and avoiding greenhouse gas emissions. People will also become more mobile as they move across greater distances for work and family, increasing the need to sustainably transport people. With the number of commercial airplanes expected to double just in the next 20 years, a focus on green aviation will allow urban centers to connect themselves in a more sustainable way. Sustainable urbanization requires that we address all of these issues in tandem.
Who will it primarily serve?
More than two-thirds of our population is poised to live in cities by 2050, increasing demands on the environment and natural resources – we’ll need more energy to power buildings and transport people and food in and out of urban centers. Cities have the opportunity to take a lead in implementing energy-efficiency measures and adopting technologies that can transform urban infrastructure while preserving natural resources.
What difference does the initiative want to make?
UTC is helping to accelerate green building adoption around the world. Green buildings represent nearly 50 percent of U.S. commercial construction, but in most emerging economies adoption is just starting. To accelerate that momentum, UTC created the Distinguished Sustainability Lecture Series to bring green building experts to emerging economies to share latest data and best practices. Since 2011, UTC has hosted 29 lecture events in 13 countries reaching more than 3,500 building professionals. UTC also believes that data drives decisions, so we are committed to partnering with leading research institutions to provide cutting-edge research for a more sustainable built environment. Our sponsorship of Harvard University’s COGfx research is a good example, which shows that improved indoor environmental quality found in green buildings doubled cognitive function in the landmark study.
In the area of green aviation, UTC invested $11B to produce the greenest, cleanest, quietist jet engine in its class. The Geared Turbofan jet engine made by Pratt & Whitney, a division of UTC, reduces fuel burn by 16 percent, particulate emissions by 50 percent and noise footprint by 75 percent. This technology represents the future of green aviation driven by the expected growth in airline travel, with 3.5 billion passengers flying in 2015, a number expected to grow 4.8 percent annually through 2033.
What are the challenges to making that difference?
Governments and individuals must be aware of the importance of sustainable urbanization and of the actions they take that help or hinder our progress. For example, food waste – a widespread and common issue – has a big impact on the environment. If measured as a country, the carbon footprint of all the food wasted or lost would rank third in the world for global greenhouse gas emissions. In the U.S., the equivalent of all the water used by California, Texas and Ohio is used every year just to grow the food that is wasted. Small steps can make a big difference. Since one-third of all food that is wasted happens at the consumer level, awareness campaigns are needed like the UK’s WRAP program that has reduced household food waste 20 percent in the last ten years. With two-thirds of all food waste happening at the production and distribution level (mostly in emerging economies), access to capital and incentives is needed to modernize infrastructure and technology. Those resources could be available if we address food waste as the climate issue it truly is.
Who’s helping you overcome those challenges?
I chair both the Corporate Advisory Board of the World Green Building Council (WGBC) and the Board of Directors for the Urban Green Building Council (UGBC) in New York City. These organizations help cities operate sustainably, connect them to knowledge and support, and connect nonprofits and government with the private sector to compel change. Specifically, the WGBC strengthens green building councils in member countries and fosters new councils by providing them with the tools and strategies they need. The UGBC collaborates with professionals, policymakers and people to take steps to ensure that the buildings in one of the biggest cities in the world are operating as sustainably as possible.
Are governments doing enough to support sustainable urbanization?
The United Nations has established sustainability goals for countries around the world, including targets for 2020, 2030 and beyond that will help to alleviate climate change, such as the sustainable management of forests, responsible food production and consumption, creation of sustainable, resilient and safe cities, and ocean conservation.
Here at home in the U.S., the government has really just begun talking about important elements of sustainable urbanization, such as food waste. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Administration recently set the country’s first food waste reduction goal – a 50 percent reduction by 2030. Big goals are needed like that to drive awareness and innovation. Senator Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine recently introduced comprehensive legislation to encourage people to take common sense steps to reduce food waste and harmonize the many food expiration date labels.
How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about your initiative on sustainable urbanization?
We have a website, NaturalLeader.com, fully dedicated to UTC’s sustainability’s initiatives. This site outlines the important initiatives we’ve undertaken for our environment, our people and our communities, which include keeping food safe and fresh for consumption, building sustainable cities and more. My book Food Foolish also explores the relationship between food waste, climate change and hunger.
How do we know sustainable urbanization will work?
UTC is optimistic about sustainable urbanization because we know it works. UTC employs 200,000 people and owns or leases nearly 5,000 buildings around the world – making us our own virtual city, united by our commitment to reducing our environmental impact. And our ambitious goals have led to big results:
– We’ve tripled the size of our business in the last 20 years while reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by a third and water consumption by more than half.
– We’re on the path to reduce our carbon footprint by 80 percent by 2050, which supports the UN’s climate goals.
Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?
The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?
The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.
Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.
The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.
Introducing New Technology
The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.
- To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
- Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
- Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.
How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy
Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.
The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.
The Internet of Things
Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.
Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.
It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.
“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”
Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)
The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.
4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy
Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.
However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?
A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.
1. Boulder Nissan
When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:
- Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
- They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
- Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.
This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.
2. Valley Electric Association
In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.
“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”
The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.
This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.
3. Las Vegas Casinos
A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.
“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”
There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.
4. Boston College
Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.
Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.
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