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Sustainable Shipping Initiative: a maritime sea change



According to the European commission, emissions from the global shipping industry amount to around 1 billion tonnes a year, accounting for 3% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Though the maritime industry can make a case for being among the most energy efficient forms of freight transport, its current trajectory needs to change given the threat that is climate change.

This article originally appeared in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Transport 2014.

However, a unique initiative is plotting a change of course for the maritime industry. The Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) – a collaborative project originally launched by Forum for the Future but now operating independently – has an alternative vision of the industry’s future.

Its mission: to have established a sustainable and profitable maritime industry by the year 2040. In working towards this ambitious goal, the initiative has assembled committees of cross-industry members, including consumers, ship owners, shipbuilders, insurers, engineers and NGOs, to discuss trends, challenges and possibilities. But how does the SSI define sustainability? 

“Sustainability is not just about CO2 emissions, it is the whole picture, it is human, it is financing, it is – of course – also environmental impact including greenhouse gases and things like that, but you have to look at it from a holistic view”, says Helle Gleie, director of the SSI.

The SSI counts among its responsibilities tackling fraud and bribery, improving labour standards and health and safety, reducing waste and noise as well as reducing the industry’s contribution to climate change. 

“Of course when we look at the hard stuff – the steel and the iron of the vessels – a lot more can be done to develop new vessels, to come up with new engine designs and find new types of fuels – something which a lot of people are doing nowadays – but I think the maritime world is very aware of these possibilities and they are already moving towards that,” says Gleie. 

“Fossil fuels might not disappear from vessels for many years, but that does not mean that we should stop looking into alternatives. To the contrary, we have an obligation to do what we can to find new ways of moving cargoes at sea – at the same time [making sure] what we come up with can actually be picked up practically and is financially beneficial to invest in.” 

Though fossil fuels might not disappear, advances can still be made. Last year Maersk Line, an SSI member and the world’s largest container shipping company, announced that it reached its target of reducing carbon emissions by 25% from 2007 levels eight years early. This was done simply through improving efficiency. To keep up the momentum, the company raised its 2020 target to a 40% reduction. 

“We see an increased environmental awareness among our customers, so when we improve our environmental performance, we also improve our customer relationships”, explains Morten Engelstoft, chief operating officer at Mearsk Line. “Cutting CO2is a benefit for our business, not a threat to it.

Such advancements have sometimes been held back by questions of finance. Though owners are under pressure to charter efficient vessels, they are often unsure that the investment needed to retrofit technologies will generate worthwhile returns – as the charterers recoup any fuel savings.

The SSI has created a financial model, titled Save As You Sail (SAYS), to overcome this. The SAYS model allows an owner and a charterer to work out potential fuel cost savings and the returns on investments for different efficiency measures. These are used to negotiate the charter hire rate. The owner can also access a loan to afford the upfront costs. The model is an example of what can be achieved through industry co-operation.

Gleie says that convincing companies of the financial benefits of sustainability will be the key to her initiative’s success: “If you can’t put in a benefit, then it won’t fly. It is a corporate and financial focused world we’re living in; it’s not just enough to say you have to do this because your conscience tells you, or your intelligence tells you that we need a green planet. That won’t drive the maritime industry.” 

She predicts that those who are slow to be convinced will lose out: “I think we will see that those in the industry that are really picking up on it, that are paying attention, and are taking the opportunities to follow and listen, they will have a great advantage. Then there will be some of the quicker followers than will manage to pick up and adapt, and then I think – sadly to say – there will be some that we will lose down the way, because they simply won’t pick it up quick enough.” 

Alongside Mearsk Line, the current crop of SSI members include leading names such as Cargill, Wärtsilä and Lloyd’s Register – companies already making strides in the sustainability space. For new enterprises to even be considered for membership, Gleie says they must be “walking the talk already”, or able to demonstrate that they have a plan in place for how they are going to.

She admits that of the companies already involved, not everybody is doing everything. “But we are a mirror of the real world here”, she adds, “We just maybe have come a step further, the groups that are sitting here, trying to lead others.” 

Such a measured approach is surely the only way forward for the SSI. In terms of emission reductions, it is impossible to miss the sense of urgency transmitted by the dire warnings of science, but an industry cannot be revolutionised overnight – particularly in a challenging economic climate.

If the myriad challenges facing the industry can be overcome, Gleie argues that shipping can play a massive role in a sustainable future:I’ve been in shipping since 1977, and I know for a fact that once the shipping industry gets the point – and they will start moving – they are fast movers. They will put all their energy into it, and they are very strong communicators. If we do this right […] I think we can take the lead on innovation, and setting new ideas and new frames for how to work with sustainability.” 

While there is clearly a long way to go, the SSI can already stand as an example to other industries. If the world is to keep within the near universally agreed target of 2C of global warming, unsustainable practices in all sectors must be stopped.

If Gleie and her colleagues can successfully inspire such a fundamental change in thinking throughout the maritime industry, the world would do well to watch and learn.

Further reading:

The road to nowhere: a call to arms for sustainable transport

Sustainable transport: why it matters

The return of the airship: under the bonnet of the world’s longest aircraft

Norway experiences electric car boom in sustainable transport revolution

The Guide to Sustainable Transport 2014


How Home Automation Can Help You Go Green



home automation to go green

The holidays are an exciting, nostalgic time: the crispness in the air, the crunch of snow under your boot, the display of ornate holiday lighting up your home like a beacon to outer space, and the sound of Santa’s bell at your local Walmart.

Oh, yeah—and your enormous electric bill.

Extra lights and heating can make for some unexpected budgeting problems, and they also cause your home to emit higher levels of CO2 and other pollutants.

So, it’s not just your wallet that’s hurting—the planet is hurting as well.

You can take the usual steps to save energy and be more eco-conscious as you go about your normal winter routine (e.g., keeping cooler temperatures in the home, keeping lights off in naturally lit rooms, etc.), but these methods can often be exhausting and ultimately ineffective.

So what can you actually do to create a greener home?

Turn to tech.

Technology is making waves in conservation efforts. AI and home automation have grown in popularity over the last couple of years, not only because of their cost saving benefits but also because of their ability to improve a home’s overall energy efficiency.

Use the following guide to identify your home’s inefficiencies and find a solution to your energy woes.

Monitor Your Energy Usage

Many people don’t understand how their homes use energy, so they struggle with conservation. Start by looking at your monthly utility bills. They can show you how much energy your home typically uses and what systems cost you the most.

monitor energy usage

Licensed from Shutterstock – By Piotr Adamowicz

The usual culprits for high costs and energy waste tend to be the water heater and heating and cooling system. Other factors could also impact your home’s efficiency. Your home’s insulation, for example, could be a huge source of wasted heating and cooling—especially if the insulation hasn’t been inspected or replaced in years. You should also check your windows and doors for proper weatherproofing every year.

However, waiting for your monthly bill or checking out your home’s construction issues are time-consuming steps, and they don’t help you immediately understand and tackle the problem. Instead, opt for an easier solution. Some homeowners, for example, use a smart energy monitor such as Sense to track energy use in real time and identify energy hogs.

Use Smart Plugs

Computers, televisions, and lights still consume energy if they’re left on and unused. Computers offer easy cost savings with their built-in timers that allow the devices to use less energy—they typically turn off after a set number of minutes. Televisions sometimes provide the same benefit, although you may have to fiddle with the settings to activate this feature.

A better option—and one that thwarts both the television and the lights—is purchasing smart plugs. The average US home uses more than 900 kilowatts of electricity per month. That can really add up, especially when you realize that people are wasting more than $19 billion every year on household appliances that are always plugged in. Smart plugs like WeMo can help eliminate wasted electricity by letting you control plugged-in items from your smartphone.

Update Your Lighting

Incandescent lightbulbs can consume and waste a lot of energy—35% of CO2 emissions are generated from electric power plants. This can have serious consequences for increased global warming.

To reduce your impact on the environment, you can install more efficient lightbulbs to offset your energy usage. However, many homeowners choose smart lights, like the Philips Hue bulbs, to save money and make their homes more energy efficient.

Smart lights can be controlled from your smartphone, and many smart light options come with monthly energy reporting so you can continue to find ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Take Control of the Thermostat

Homeowners often leave the thermostat on its default settings, but defaults often result in heating and cooling systems that run longer and harder than they need to.

In fact, almost half the average residential energy use comes from energy-demanding heating and cooling systems. As an alternative to fiddling with outdated systems, eco-conscious homeowners use smart thermostats to save at least 10% on heating and roughly 15% on cooling per year.

Change your home’s story by employing a smart thermostat such as the Nest, ecobee3, or Honeywell Lyric. Smart thermostats automatically adjust your in-home temperature by accounting for a variety of factors, including outdoor humidity and precipitation. A lot of smart thermostats will also adjust your home’s temperature depending on the time of day and whether you’re home.

Stop Wasting Water

The average American household uses about 320 gallons of water per day. About one-third of that goes to maintaining their yards. Using a smart irrigation systems to improve your water usage can save your home up to 8,800 gallons of water per year.

Smart irrigation systems use AI to sync with local weather predictions, which can be really helpful if you have a garden or fruit trees that you use your irrigation system for  water. Smart features help keep your garden and landscaping healthy by making sure you never overwater your plants or deprive them of adequate moisture.

If you’re looking to make your home greener, AI-enabled products could make the transition much easier. Has a favorite tool you use that wasn’t mentioned here? Share in the comments below.

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Working From Home And How It Reduces Emissions



Many businesses are changing their operating model to allow their employees to work from home. Aside from the personal convenience and business benefits, working from home is also great for the environment. According to, if employees with the desire to work from home and compatible jobs that allowed for this were allowed to do so only half the time, the reduction in emissions would be the equivalent of eliminating automobile emissions from the workforce of the entire state of New York. Considering the stakes here, it is vital that we understand how exactly working from home helps us go green and how this can be applied.

Reduction of automobile emissions

Statistics by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that the transportation sector is responsible for about 14% of the total Global Emissions of greenhouse gases, which is a very significant percentage. If employees work from home, then the need to travel to and from their workplace every other day as well as other business trips are reduced considerably. While this may not eliminate the emissions from the transport sector altogether, it reduces the percentage. As indicated in the example above, a move to work from home by more businesses and industries cuts down automobile emissions to as much as those from an entire state.

Reduction of energy production and consumption

According to Eurostat, electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning accounted for as high as 26% of the Greenhouse gas emissions from the EU in 2014. EPA stats are also close at 25% of the total emissions. This makes energy production the single largest source of emissions. Working from home eliminates the need for large office spaces, which in turn reduces the need for electricity and heating. Similarly, the need for electrical office equipment and supplies, such as printers and computers, is also greatly reduced, which reduces the emissions from energy production in offices. Additionally, most households are now adopting green methods of energy production and implementing better ways of energy usage. The use of smart energy-efficient appliances also goes a long way in reducing the energy production and consumption levels from households. This, in turn, cuts down emissions from energy production from both the home and office fronts.

Reduced need for paper

Paper is also a huge source of emissions, considering that it is a carbon-based product. EPA stats show that carbon (IV) oxide from fossil fuel and industrial processes accounts for 65% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Working from home is usually an internet-based operation, which means less paper and more cloud-based services. When everything is communicated electronically, the need for office paper is reduced considerably. Moreover, the cutting down of trees for the sake of paper production reduces. All these outcomes help reduce the emissions and individual carbon footprints.

Effective recycling

While businesses make an effort to recycle it is not as effective as homeowners. Consider everything from the water you drink to office supplies and equipment. While working from home, you have greater control over your environment. This means that you can easily implement proper recycling procedures. However, at the office, that control over your personal space and environment is taken away and the effectiveness of recycling techniques is reduced. Working from home is, therefore, a great way to go green and increase the adoption of proper recycling.


Even though the statistics are in favor of working from home to reduce emissions, note that this is dependent on the reduction of emissions from home. If the households are not green, then the emissions are not reduced in the least. For instance, if instead of installing a VPN in the router to keep the home office safe, an employee buys a standalone server and air gaps it, the energy consumption is not reduced but increased. Therefore, it is necessary that employees working from home go green if there is to be any hope of using this method of operation to cut down on the emissions.

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