Sustainability author at the UI: "Cut your emissions, drive your savings"

BY ERIC CLARK | OCTOBER 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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Sustainability and energy efficiency loom large in today’s society. At least that’s what L. Hunter Lovins, president and founder of National Capital Solutions, said as she addressed both topics during her lecture and KRUI radio appearance at the University of Iowa on Thursday.

She addressed the argument energy efficiency is difficult to obtain, especially in the large buildings that make up the UI campus.     

“Efficiency is the low hanging fruit that grows back,” she said. “The more the students get into squeezing waste out of the buildings, the better.”

Lovins said many people focus on the idea of obtaining more energy, rather than on energy efficiency.

“You don’t want the energy,” she said. “What you want are the services it gives you.”

George McCrory, communications specialist for the UI Office of Sustainability, said bringing Lovins to the UI was not only about students with interests in energy efficiency.       

McCrory said numerous student organizations were involved in the planning of the event, including ECO Hawk, the UI Environmental Coalition, Net Impact, and others.

“We wanted to focus the lecture on both business and M.B.A. students,” McCrory said. “We wanted to show how business and sustainability can work together, all while keeping business profitable.”

Lovins said resources, if used efficiently, would make businesses more profitable, and also would “buy time” for the Earth.

“We’re losing all of our major ecosystems on our planet,” she said. “The real value of efficiency is buying time by pushing off these crises.”

Taking aim at global-warming skeptics during her lecture, Lovins said the data supporting global warming cannot be ignored.

“This is business,” she said. “This isn’t about faith. Save faith for your mosques, synagogues, and churches.”

Addressing the fact that many businesses are resistant to the transition to energy efficiency, Lovins shared insight from her experience as a business efficiency consultant.

“These investments are some of the best you can make in this economy,” she said. “Energy efficiency investments pay you back forever after.”

Lovins praised the UI’s 2020 Sustainability Vision, which intends to make the UI 40 percent energy efficient by 2020.  UI Office of Sustainability Director Liz Christiansen estimated the UI currently uses between 9 and 13 percent renewable energy.

UI President Sally Mason also endorsed the Office of Sustainability and their efforts to make the UI greener during her introductory speech on Thursday.

“I’m very pleased with our progress in establishing sustainability programs,” she said.

National Capital Solutions, which Lovins founded in 2003, is no stranger to big business. The organization has worked with companies such as Clif Bar, Royal Dutch Shell, and Wal-Mart.

“If you’d have told me five or 10 years ago that we’d be working with Wal-Mart, I’d have offered to eat my hat,” she said.

According to Lovins, Wal-Mart has plans to become 100 percent renewable and they have also pushed their suppliers to become more efficient.

“We work with companies on the leading edge of the economy,” she said. “And we have a heck of a lot of fun doing it.”

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