Carmel Family Collects Trash on Purpose

Traveling across the country with a minivan full of trash doesn’t sound like my idea of vacation, but that’s what one family from Carmel has done this summer – and for a good reason.

The Kendrick family is driving cross-country to Yosemite, California, and stopping at 11 national parks along the way, all the while holding on to their trash (including food scraps) for the first 10 days of their trip. For the last 20 days, they’ll be learning how to travel with zero waste.

Full disclosure – one of my daughter’s previous preschool teachers is the mom, Samantha, in this family. Her husband, Josh, is a seventh-grade teacher in Carmel and received a $12,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment for this project. One hundred K-12 teachers in Indiana received funding through the Teacher Creativity Fellowship grant program.

The pair and their two children, ages 13 and 10, are updating their blog along the way; read it here.

I’ve heard of people who live a zero-waste lifestyle, but I can’t imagine putting that into practice or even where to start such an initiative in my own life. That’s another of the messages from the Kendricks: They’re a typical Midwestern family with two children. If they can do it, maybe I can as well?

Or, can I at least consider what I’m throwing into the trash can?

The Indy Star has more on the family’s adventures:

It certainly was an eye-opening experience for Kendrick and his family as they inventoried their “landfill” Monday at Grand Teton National Park. 

Among their haul: numerous plastic food bags, tin foil for baked potatoes, ketchup splattered napkins, and lots and lots of straws and plastic cutlery. They’ve also kept all leftover food, such as french fries, apple cores, cantaloupe rinds and hamburger buns. 

After sorting through, the Kendricks composted the food and other items they could and recycled the materials that qualified at the park’s facilities. The family cleaned a few containers they plan to reuse and then had to toss the rest. 

With their bins emptied, all four are looking forward to the next 20 days and a trash free car. 

“Collecting everything is a pain and having to keep it all, it kind of puts you down to see that you use that much,” said Kendrick’s 13-year-old son, Nathan. “But it’s a wonderful trip, and I love the idea.”

His younger sister, Addie, echoed that sentiment. 

“At first I thought there was no way this was possible and that dad was just making up a crazy idea,” the 10-year-old said. “But it has been an eye-opening experiment.” 

That creativity and drive is a large part of what the Lilly Endowment saw in the Creekside Middle School teacher’s proposal, according to Endowment spokeswoman Judith Cebula. 

It’s about taking a commitment to the environment and learning more deeply how one person can make a difference,” she said. “Also, it reflects a commitment to taking what he learns this summer … and finding a way to share what he experiences with his students when he goes back to school in the fall.” 

Kendrick hopes to be able to show other families that they all can be more aware of what they are throwing away and the impact it has on the environment. He also wants to give examples of accessible changes a family can make to reduce its waste. 

Those ideas are still to come over the next 20 days as the Kendricks continue to the west coast and then make their way back to Indianapolis in July. 

“If we don’t change how we are living, these treasures of our national parks that we are showing our children and the water and the air will not remain the same,” he said. “So we need to change how we are doing things.” 

Short Session Starts With a Flurry of Activity

The Governor and General Assembly have continually heard from Hoosier employers on the need for a skilled workforce – and better aligning state programs with job demand. The good news is bills are being introduced to address those concerns. While only a handful of measures have been released to date, we are seeing legislation related to training tax credits and grants, as well as efforts to streamline current workforce programs. We anticipate a comprehensive workforce bill (1002) will be introduced in the House later next week.

The Governor’s computer science bill (SB 172) requires all public schools to offer a one-semester elective computer science course at least once each school year to high school students. We expect a hearing on this measure in the next two weeks. Both this and the workforce efforts are 2018 Indiana Chamber legislative priorities.

Senate Bill 257 has been introduced by Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle) to serve as the beginning of discussions on clarifying the exempt status of computer software sold as a service (SaaS) – a Chamber priority. Holdman is also authoring another major piece of tax legislation, SB 242, which contains a variety of tax matters. The House bills are coming in too, with a good number already filed addressing local tax issues.

Speaking of local matters, the Chamber is very pleased to see that the House Republican agenda includes a bill that will make township government more effective and efficient by the merging of townships (approximately 300) where less than 1,200 people reside. Such local government reform has been a longstanding Chamber goal.

In addition to SB 257, other technology-related bills include Rep. Ed Soliday’s (R-Valparaiso) autonomous vehicle (AV) proposal to position Indiana to safely test and implement AV technology with automobiles. The bill also will address truck platooning, which uses GPS and WiFi technology to allow trucks to more closely follow each other for greater efficiency, on Indiana roads.

Rural broadband, high-speed internet and small cell wireless structures technology all will be topics for the Legislature to debate. Certified technology parks also will be discussed with the idea to have an additional capture of sales and income tax revenue for those complexes that perform well.

In health care, enabling employers to ask prospective employees if they are smokers not only heads the Chamber’s wish list but also appears to be gaining traction this go-round. Eliminating the special protections (currently in state statute) for smokers is found in SB 23 and will be guided by Sen. Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne). The bill has a pretty good chance of getting a hearing in the Senate – which would be a first. Previously, a measure was taken up in a joint hearing in the House.

Increasing the tobacco tax and raising the legal age for smokers to 21 are policies that likely will be included in a bill to be introduced by Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary). The Indiana Chamber is supportive of both.

Nine utility-related bills are on our radar screen at this point. They range from tweaks of last year’s big legislation (like SB 309, which addressed rising energy costs and a long-standing struggle between the investor-owned electric utilities and larger consumers of energy) to compulsory sewer connection, excavation for infrastructure, regulation of solar energy systems in homeowners’ associations and new water legislation. Separately, Sen. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend) has a proposed ban on coal tar pavement sealer, which we oppose.

There are also a number of bills proposing changes to Indiana’s alcohol laws including: Sunday sales, cold beer sales by grocery and convenience stores, and increases in fees and penalties.

The Chamber will be providing more details on all of these bills as the session progresses.

For anyone who wants a refresher about how legislation becomes law, the Chamber has a handy guide free of charge. It includes a diagram of the bill process, a glossary of often-used terms and a look at where bills commonly get tripped up.

Additionally, the Chamber will be providing updates and issuing pertinent documents throughout the session at www.indianachamber.com/legislative.

Chamber Unveils Podcast: EchoChamber is Now Live!

EchoChamber is a new informal discussion with Indiana leaders in business, education, technology, politics and much more. We’ll begin with the following three outstanding guests in as many weeks before reverting to a biweekly format:

  • Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation and one of the foremost minds in the world on education and workforce policy and initiatives
  • Lee Hamilton, an 17-term U.S. representative who remains a thoughtful voice on state, national and global issues
  • Graham Richard, the innovative one-time Fort Wayne mayor who is now guiding efforts at a national organization called Advanced Energy Economy

Subscribe at iTunes, GooglePlay or wherever you get your podcasts to be notified about the latest interview.

IDEM Seeks Nominations for 2017 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence

The following is a release from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM): 

IDEM is seeking nominations for the 2017 Indiana Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence. This award is the state’s most prestigious environmental recognition.

The Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence is open to any Indiana citizen, business, nonprofit organization, school, or government agency. All projects submitted must demonstrate significant, measurable results that positively impact Indiana’s environment. Nominated projects must be sustainable, innovative, exemplary, and thoroughly documented. Nominations must be received by IDEM no later than 5 p.m. (EDT) Friday, July 28, 2017.

To learn more about the Indiana Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, including past awardees and the nomination process, please visit http://www.IN.gov/idem/GovAwards or contact Justin Paicely, IDEM’s Program and Compliance Director, at 800-451-6027 or GovAwards@idem.IN.gov.

Gear Up for May Safety and Environmental Training

The road to creating and maintaining a safe workplace can be a bumpy one. Put your team in the driver’s seat by attending Indiana Chamber training programs in May.

First up is the most complete and comprehensive permitting and reporting course offered in the state of Indiana. Sponsored by KERAMIDA, the Environmental Permitting and Reporting Conference will take place May 16-17 at the Ritz Charles, Carmel.

Highlights include:

  • Understanding your wastewater permit and water balance
  • Emission inventory: how to develop an inventory
  • Hazardous waste changes
  • Recent and upcoming regulatory changes impacting permitting and reporting

Two additional EHS (environmental, health and safety) training programs, presented by Bobbi K. Samples, can help your employees maintain OSHA standards and keep your workplace safe! Both will be held at the Indiana Chamber Conference Center in Indianapolis.

Forklift Safety: Train the Trainer (May 23) will feature topics such as safe truck operations, performance certification, inspection requirements and how to dispel myths. Receive a hard copy of all materials presented – including a disk with additional fillable forms for creating a customized safety program for your facility.

OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards Seminar (May 24) is a new seminar. Don’t miss insights into new – and soon-to-be-required – training regarding fall protection. Hear an overview of the new standard, participate in a group practical exercise, obtain a checklist for compliance going forward and more.

Register online at www.indianachamber.com/conferences or by calling Nick at (800) 824-6885.

Recent Happenings in Federal Affairs: Gorsuch Sworn in with Donnelly’s Support

Senator Joe Donnelly joined a select few Democrats last week to announce support for President Trump’s pick to the U.S. Supreme Court: federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch.

Donnelly stated, “I have said consistently that part of my job is to carefully review, debate and vote on judicial nominations, including nominees to the Supreme Court. It is my obligation as senator to consider the qualifications of each nominee that comes to the Senate floor to determine if he or she can faithfully serve on our nation’s highest court. I take this responsibility very seriously.

“After meeting with Judge Gorsuch, conducting a thorough review of his record and closely following his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I believe that he is a qualified jurist who will base his decisions on his understanding of the law and is well-respected among his peers.

“I was deeply disappointed by the way the most recent Supreme Court nominee, judge Merrick Garland, was treated by the Senate, but as senator, I can only vote on the nominee that comes to the Senate floor. However, I believe that we should keep the current 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees.”

Gorsuch was sworn in on Monday.

In other news:

  • Responding to the requests from a bipartisan cohort of Indiana elected officials, newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced he will visit the U.S. Smelter and Lead Superfund site in East Chicago on April 19. Senators Donnelly and Todd Young, congressman Pete Visclosky (IN-01) and Gov. Eric Holcomb each had invited Pruitt to visit after his appointment to the position. The area has been the focus of concern for local, state and federal officials since the magnitude of the environmental (water) lead contamination became clear.
  • Representative Luke Messer (IN-06) last week called on Congress to come back, instead of breaking early for Easter, to repeal and replace Obamacare. In a floor speech addressing his colleagues in the House, Messer said, “Congress is leaving for Easter break with work undone. For seven years, we’ve told the American people we would repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better, and we have legislation that provides that opportunity. … We need to do what we said we would do.” Earlier, Messer joined members of the House Republican leadership – led by Speaker Paul Ryan – to announce an amendment to the American Health Care Act that safeguards patients with pre-existing conditions in a way that will also lower premiums. This amendment creates the $15 billion new federal risk-sharing program that will help states reduce premiums by reimbursing health insurance issuers for high-cost individuals beginning in 2018. The proposal by congressmen Gary Palmer of Alabama and David Schweikert of Arizona is modeled after a program in Maine.
  • Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03) has introduced the Head Start Improvement Act, a bill to reform the Head Start early childhood education program. The legislation would give states increased flexibility in spending the Head Start dollars they receive from the federal government to better meet the specific needs of low-income children. The bill would provide Head Start block grants directly to eligible grantees, which include states, territories and federally-recognized Indian tribes. He got the idea from state Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville), who has suggested this as part of the larger pre-K pilot program at the state level. “As a father of three young girls, I understand the importance of making sure our kids receive the best education possible,” said Banks. “Unfortunately, Head Start is failing to make a significant contribution to student development, and it is clear that Head Start needs a new start. Giving states, local officials and parents greater control over the Head Start program will result in better tailored pre-K programs for Hoosier students.”

CSR Not Always Easy to Accomplish

University of Michigan researchers break down the corporate social responsibility efforts of public vs. private companies.

When companies make public declarations of social responsibility, it can be hard to tell whether they actually change practices or if they exaggerate the impact — a practice known as greenwashing.

Most of the attention has focused on company financial effects and stock price reaction of corporate social responsibility initiatives. But new research by professors Jun Li and Andrew Wu examine the social outcome of corporate social responsibility efforts.

They found a striking difference between public and private companies’ behavior after signing onto the United Nations Global Compact program. Their analysis shows private companies are significantly more likely to follow through on their promises than public companies.

“There do seem to be conflicts for public companies when it comes to corporate social responsibility,” says Li, professor of technology and operations. “They are constrained by shareholders and by law to maximize profits. If the CEO of Patagonia wants to buy organic cotton, he can make it happen even if it means lower margins. A public company has to justify that to shareholders.”

Li and Wu developed a novel method to find a common corporate social responsibility proxy and track the outcomes. They examined the 6,420 companies that signed onto the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) between 2007 and 2016. It covers a broad array of responsibility goals — such as labor standards, environmental, and corporate governance — and it’s a unified set of standards.

They then matched those companies with reports from RepRisk, a third-party firm that screens more than 80,000 media, regulatory and commercial documents in 15 languages each day for negative events regarding company-level environmental, social and governance events.

Li and Wu found that private companies that signed onto the UNGC reduced their negative impacts, as reported by RepRisk, by 6.3 percent per month. There was no change for public companies, though in some cases the negative impacts increased slightly.

“If you think about corporate social responsibility, it’s mostly a diversion of resources,” says Wu, professor of technology and operations and professor of finance. “Not only from company shareholders to other stakeholders, but also from short-term to long-term. But public company managers tend to focus more on the short term and are incentivized as such.”

The exceptions they found among public companies were ones that own customer-facing brands. In those cases the value of corporate social responsibility is aligned with shareholders, since consumers often punish companies for irresponsible behavior.

Positive Aspects of SB 309 Overshadowed by Confusion Over Solar Energy Production

Three amendments were recently offered to SB 309 and approved during last week’s hearing – two by Rep. David Ober (R-Albion) and one by Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville). One amendment clarified who qualified as an applicant for a CPCN, one for the study of self-generation by schools and one changes the deadline of installation to receive the 30-year grandfathered rate to December 31, 2017.

The Indiana Chamber testified in support of the bill and tried to clarify some of the confusion over net metering (no one is trying to kill the solar industry). We also expressed some of the concerns that some members have over co-generation (that they would like more flexibility). We emphasized that we do not want the bill to fail because it is truly a compromise of long-standing issues that industrial users and businesses, as well as residential ratepayers, have had with Indiana’s investor-owned utilities. It will not fix all concerns our members have expressed, but is a first step in helping businesses control costs and building a statewide energy plan. It will serve as a building block of the Chamber’s efforts to maintain Indiana’s competitive edge when looking at energy costs that have risen over the past decade.

On March 22, the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee heard nearly a day of testimony on this bill in a full House chamber from many groups and individuals, both in support and against the bill. No vote will be taken until Wednesday.

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WOTUS Executive Order Highlights Recent Federal Activity

  • On February 28, the White House announced that President Trump signed an executive order directing the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works (Corps of Engineers) to review the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule and restore the rule of law. Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03) praised this action that would ensure the rule promotes economic growth and minimizes regulatory uncertainty: “I hear repeatedly from my constituents that the main thing holding back small business owners and farmers is over regulation. The WOTUS rule is an example of Washington overreach that is affecting businesses, utilities, manufacturers, farmers and land owners across northeast Indiana. I’m pleased to see President Trump make the review and revision of this rule a priority.” As a reminder, the Indiana Chamber mentioned WOTUS as a burdensome regulation in its list of regulations we sought repeal of in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and sent to the delegation.
  • The White House sent its initial budget guidance to federal agencies this week, outlining a $54 billion increase in defense spending and corresponding reductions to most non-security agencies. An Office of Management and Budget official told reporters that the Trump administration will propose a 10% increase in defense spending and funding bumps for national security-related efforts. But that will mean cuts to domestic programs as well as foreign aid.
  • Former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats – President Trump’s nominee for director of national intelligence – faced questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee as phase one of his confirmation process.
  • Hoosier Seema Verma moved another step forward in her confirmation as the next administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee voted 13-12 in support of her nomination, which now goes before the full Senate.
  • Senator Todd Young recently introduced the Investing in Student Success Act of 2017 as an out-of-the-box method of financing higher education. According to the Washington Examiner, “…the funding would not come from the federal government, but private companies who sign ‘income-sharing agreements’ with students. As the name implies, the investor finances the student’s tuition, in exchange for a percentage of the individual’s income for a set number of years after graduation.” According to Sen. Young, “Big picture here: There’s currently $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt held by the federal government, and 43% of the roughly 22 million Americans with loans weren’t making payments as of Jan. 1. There’s certainly a need for some sort of way to finance your college education that does not place the risk on taxpayers.”
  • Congresswoman Susan Brooks (IN-05) invited former Indiana Chamber board member and current Indiana Economic Development Corporation President Elaine Bedel to be her guest at President Trump’s speech this week to the joint session of Congress.
  • I recently visited D.C. and met with the offices of congressional representatives Banks, Brooks, Bucshon, Hollingsworth and Messer. We discussed repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, regulatory reform and our D.C. Fly-in event in September. Look for more in-depth information on my visits in next week’s report.

Bill to Allow IDEM to Adopt EPA Guidelines for Coal Combustion Residuals Now Law

HB 1230 (Regulation of Coal Combustion Residuals) was signed into law by Gov. Holcomb last Thursday.

The Chamber testified in support of this bill during the committee hearings and continued to advocate for its passage. This bill makes corrections to existing law to allow the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to have delegated authority from EPA regarding disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCR).

The EPA had primacy over Indiana businesses that have CCR disposal issues.