The Closed Loop Fund Helps Cities Increase Recycling

Sherrell Dorsey
| Thursday October 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Closed-LoopThe biggest barrier facing most cities when it comes to providing the level of innovation and infrastructure needed to reduce waste and increase recycling rates often boils down to one factor: Money—or specifically, the absence of it. As budgets dwindle, missed opportunities to leverage problems in waste diversion cost cities millions of dollars in potential revenue each year.

In 2013, low recycling rates caused cities to collectively spend billions of dollars on landfills and lose over $11 billion in commodity revenue from the sale of recyclable material sent to landfills.

Enter Ron Gonen — co-founder of RecycleBank and former deputy commissioner of sanitation, recycling and sustainability for New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration.

Last week, the recycling maverick took the stage at the Municipal Waste Management Association (MWMA) Fall Summit (the environmental affiliate of the United States Conference of Mayors) to announce his latest project, the Closed Loop Fund — a consortium of large corporate companies that plan to invest $100 million over the next five years to support the development of recycling infrastructure and services.

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Harley-Davidson to Plant 50 Million Trees

Leon Kaye | Thursday October 30th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Harley Davidson, The Nature Conservancy, tree planting, Leon Kaye, Geof Rochester, Renew the Ride, Plant a Billion Trees, Brazil, Virginia

50 million trees by 2025, says Harley and TNC.

The Nature Conservancy and Harley-Davidson are now partnering with a commitment to plant 50 million trees worldwide by 2025. Yes, I gave this one a double-take, too. The pairing sounds about as natural as Rand Paul writing for Scientific American, so I dug in to find a little more information on this one. Yesterday I had an interview with Geof Rochester, Managing Director of The Nature Conservancy, to learn more about this unusual team.

It turns out the partnership is not as odd as one may have thought. Harley-Davidson has embraced sustainability in recent years, risked committing heresy by launching an electric motorcycle this summer and has indicated it takes climate change seriously. Tree planting is just another cog in the company’s plan to engage its loyal fans and raise awareness about environmental issues many consumers care about—but just do not know how to go about confronting them.

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Chevron Tries to Buy Local City Election

| Thursday October 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments
The 2012 fire at the Chevron refinery, as viewed from 15 miles away in Larkspur, CA

The 2012 fire at the Chevron refinery, as viewed from 15 miles away in Larkspur, CA

Chevron is spending big bucks — $3 million to date — on the outcome of mayoral and city council elections in the town of Richmond, California, a city with just over 100,000 residents. You’ve got that right — the company has spent about $30 per resident.

Why all the muss and fuss over a local election? Well, Richmond is the home of a major refinery for the oil and gas producer. The refinery was the site of a 2012 explosion and fire that sent over 15,000 area residents to the hospital with respiratory distress, rashes and other ailments. In 2013, the city of Richmond sued the corporate giant, alleging that the blaze was the result of  “a continuation of years of neglect, lax oversight and corporate indifference to necessary safety inspection and repairs.” (as quoted in SF Gate).

At the time, Chevron promised to vigorously fight the lawsuit, claiming that it is “a waste of the city’s resources and yet another example of its failed leadership,” claiming that the lawsuit was designed to shift focus away from a “dysfunctional” city council.

Well, it seems that vigorous fighting includes trying to buy a Chevron-friendly city council that will be more magnanimous to the local employer. According to KQED, “A new council majority sympathetic to Chevron could squelch the suit or pave the way for a settlement more favorable to the oil giant.”

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Why Rwanda’s Youth Are ‘Wired’ to Lead Africa

| Thursday October 30th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Editor’s Note: This is part four in an ongoing series on Rwanda’s rise. Follow the series here.

HeHe2They say that home is where the heart is. For many of us, the idea of ‘home’ conjures feelings of comfort and convenience — the good life. But what if home is where heartache is?

After residing in Uganda for most of her young life, Clarisse Iribagiza returned to her home in Rwanda kicking and screaming. “When my family moved back, I had no choice,” she reflected. Like many young Rwandans, Clarisse believed that she would only achieve her dreams away from home.

As a small, landlocked country with limited natural resources and a tragic history, Rwanda is often regarded as a place of little opportunity, especially for its youth. Rwanda currently registers a 42 percent youth unemployment rate, and 67 percent of the population is under the age of 25. For years, Rwanda’s youth – alongside neighbors throughout sub-Saharan Africa — have scrambled for opportunities elsewhere, many thirsting to further their education in the U.S. or Europe.

This ongoing exodus is popularly referred to as ‘brain drain.’ In 2010, the total diaspora of Africans living outside of Africa totaled 30.6 million, according to the World Bank. A hefty percentage of Africa’s diaspora is highly educated, as demonstrated by UNESCO reports. In the U.S. alone, 50 percent of the African diaspora possesses at least a bachelor’s degree.

Yet a shift is underway across young Africa. According to a 2012 survey by Jacana Partners, a pan-African private equity firm, 70 percent of African students studying at top 10 American and European business schools plan to work in Africa following graduation. No place does the yearning for home seem greater than in Rwanda, thanks to a generation of innovators like Clarisse.

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World Vasectomy Day Pushes Men to Take an Active Role in Family Planning

Alexis Petru
| Thursday October 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments
A doctor performs a vasectomy as part of last year's first-ever World Vasectomy Day.

A doctor performs a vasectomy as part of last year’s first-ever World Vasectomy Day.

Last year, 100 physicians in 26 countries performed nearly 100 vasectomies on Oct. 18. The occasion? The first-ever World Vasectomy Day, an idea dreamed up by documentary filmmaker Jonathan Stack and urologist Doug Stein to bring more attention to – and to dispel myths around – this permanent form of birth control.

And this year, Stack and Stein are at it again, aiming for 250 doctors in 30 countries to carry out 1,500 vasectomies on Nov. 7 for the second World Vasectomy Day. This year’s World Vasectomy Day will be headquartered at Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando’s new health center in Kissimmee, Fla., where Stein will be performing and live-streaming free vasectomies for 25 men. In addition to broadcasting Stein’s “vasectomy-athon,” the live webcast will feature feeds from other participating doctors and interviews with family-planning leaders.

Stack and Stein came up with the idea of World Vasectomy Day when the Emmy Award-winning, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker was shooting a documentary about global population and met and traveled with Stein, the world’s leading provider of vasectomies. The pair realized that a film could only do so much to highlight vasectomies, so they hatched a plan for a global day dedicated to the important family-planning procedure.

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KKR Green Portfolio: A Sustainable & Lean Private Equity Machine

Leon Kaye | Thursday October 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments
KKR, private equity, green portfolio, CSR, ESG, Dollar General, waste diversion, Pets at Home, Leon Kaye, Ali Hartman

Dollar General is one KKR company to go through the Green Portfolio Program.

What do Dollar General and the U.K.’s Pets at Home have in common? They are among the 27 companies that have been through the KKR Green Portfolio Program. Launched back in 2008 in a partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund, KKR designed the program to optimize financial and environmental performance within its portfolio. With revenues close to $3.4 billion, the 38 year old private equity firm has been not only a pioneer in the leveraged buyout industry, but in transforming companies into leaner and more sustainable operations to make them attractive to future buyers. KKR recently announced the program’s most recent results for 2013.

Considering the gut reaction many of us have to the words “private equity,” one big question comes up: why would a firm such as KKR take on such a task in the first place? Most of us do not plunk CSR or ESG (environmental, social and governance, the term our friends across the Atlantic prefer), in the same thought or sentence when describing these types of companies. So to find out, I had an interview with KKR’s Vice President for ESG Strategy & Communications Ali Hartman.

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Change.org Extends Gender-Neutral Parental Leave Policy

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday October 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments

babyChange.org announced recently that it will amend its parental leave policy. The site that allows users to create petitions will increase the paid time an employee can take for the birth of a child from six weeks to 18 weeks. This is extended to both fathers and mothers. The new policy also includes people who adopt as being eligible for leave. Change.org has about 200 employees, and about 51 percent are women.

The company’s new policy goes further than federal law. Although the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides job protection so parents can take leave, there’s no guarantee of pay during time off. Jennifer Dulski, president and CEO of Change.org, told CNN Money that “giving people unpaid leave only solves half the problem.” The company’s goal was “to create a generous and equal leave policy that supported all parents,” she said.

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North Carolina Cigarette Plant to Switch to Producing Batteries

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday October 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments

wind farmFormer Philip Morris cigarette plant in Concord, North Carolina will produce batteries to store energy for wind and solar farms, Fortune reports. The Swiss owned startup Alevo, which manufactures batteries, bought the 3.5 million square foot plant. The batteries are lithium-iron-phosphate and can be charged within 30 minutes, run 24/7 and last for 40,000 charges.

The North Carolina plant used to manufacture a billion cigarettes annually. However, smoking is not as popular and many Americans are either smoking less or quitting altogether. Years ago, Philip Morris stopped producing cigarettes at the plant. Now, it will produce batteries and create jobs while doing so. Alevo says it will hire 500 people in the next year, and within three years it will create 2,500 jobs. When the plant produced cigarettes, over 2,000 people were employed there.

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The Business Guide to Talking About Carbon

Mary Mazzoni
| Wednesday October 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments

8211403515_09f016001a_zCarbon offsetting gained international awareness back in 1997 with the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, which sanctioned offsets as a way for governments and companies to meet their greenhouse gas emission targets.

After a few years, offsets gained something of a stigma in the environmental community. Thoughts drifted to wealthy celebrities using offsets to justify weekly use of private jets or Coldplay’s infamous mango tree debacle, and critics were quick to bemoan offsets as an easy pathway to greenwashing or a half-hearted attempt to quell eco-guilt. But the market has changed drastically in the past 17 years.

“I know you mentioned in an article about the Coldplay thing, and that’s the ugly elephant in the room that nobody likes to talk about who’s in this industry,” Nancy Bsales, manager of carbon solutions for TerraPass, said with a laugh in a recent interview. “But over the years the transparency and the quality of offsets has improved tremendously. There are so many strong standards out there that a company or an industry can be very confident that what they’re doing is real.”

Rather than a bandage tasked with covering up environmental indiscretions in one fell swoop, today’s carbon market actually offers a deeper fix. “On a corporate level, when companies look at [offsets], they look at them as a way to bridge the gap,” Bsales continued. Even for companies that are on top of their game as far as efficiency and utilizing new technologies, emissions are still created, she noted, and that’s where offsets come in.

“So what do you do with what’s left? And that’s when you take into account the market-based tools of renewable energy credits or carbon offsets,” Bsales said. “And then the real approach is supposed to be: On a yearly basis [companies] are supposed to become so much better at efficiencies and technologies that [they] need less and less offsets. That is the true goal that we want everyone to look at.”

Despite these changes in the marketplace, some companies may hesitate to incorporate offset decisions into their sustainability communications — whether it’s because they’re new to sustainability or simply worried of being nailed for greenwashing. We sat down with Bsales to get her top tips for sharing your offset decisions effectively — and making them a highlight rather than an afterthought in your sustainability communications.

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Antarctic Melting Prompts South Miami to Secede

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday October 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Antartica_Patagonia_Dimitry_B

Glaciers outside of Patagonia, Chile.

It’s official, folks: The Antarctic polar ice cap is melting faster. After years of debate, scientists have confirmed that within the next couple of hundred years, coastal cities across the world will see a dramatic change to their beachfront with a sea level rise up to 10 feet.

And nowhere in the U.S. is this change liable to be more evident than on the flat, semi-tropical shorelines of Florida, where cities were literally built to the water’s edge, taking advantage of the state’s flat-as-a-pancake vistas.

Not surprisingly, one small city in South Florida isn’t happy with this news. The city of South Miami, a comfortably residential area that has recently been deluged by flooding from hurricanes, has developed a climate change strategy.

It plans to secede from the state of Florida.

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Should We View Meat As a Luxury?

Leon Kaye | Wednesday October 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Meat, animal welfare, slow food, meat as a luxury, Lindy and Grundy, Belcampo Meat, Anya Fernald, fast food, Leon Kaye

Should we only eat grass-fed beef, as done in Uruguay?

The discussion over whether we should eat meat foments all kinds of passion. Obviously the moral arguments have long been there, whether the focus is on what happens on factory farms or the outrage over Whole Foods going retro and selling rabbit meat. Ethics aside, the environmental facts are hard to ignore. More land is devoted to growing feed for livestock than food for humans. The global meat industry overall is a bigger polluter than the transportation sector.

Then you have the health arguments: meat consumption in the U.S. has almost doubled during the 20th century, hence the public health concerns over obesity and heart disease. Most medical professionals would advise small portions of meat occasionally has minimal, or even a positive effect, on one’s health, provided you limit those portions to four ounces (113 grams). But in an era where fast food restaurants are ubiquitous and steakhouses pitch the 16 ounce manly-man steak, it is not always easy to avoid meat.

So, should we start to view meat as a luxury?

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Photo Gallery: How e-Golf Batteries Are Made

Mary Mazzoni
| Wednesday October 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Christian Buhlmann (center), Volkswagen Product Communications, shows a cut-away model of a completed e-Golf battery to a group of journalists at Volkswagen's battery plant in Braunschweig, Germany.

Christian Buhlmann (center), Volkswagen Product Communications, shows a cut-away model of a completed e-Golf battery to a group of journalists at Volkswagen’s battery plant in Braunschweig, Germany.

Last month, I was lucky enough to be one of the first Americans to hop behind the wheel of the 2015 e-Golf, Volkswagen’s first fully-electric vehicle for the North American market. The car offers a smooth ride and a good deal of pep, with a best-in-class torque of 199 foot-pounds (the standard torque measure).

Its 24.2 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery is no slouch either, providing 70 to 90 miles of range on a single charge. Like the e-Golf’s electric motor and transmission, the battery was developed in-house and is made at Volkswagen’s manufacturing facility in Braunschweig, Germany.

The Braunschweig plant, the oldest in operation for Volkswagen Group, has been manufacturing conventional batteries for more than 75 years. Eighteen months ago, it began producing batteries for the automaker’s first electric vehicle, the E-Up! (available in European markets only). Earlier this year, Braunschweig added batteries for the European and North American e-Golf models to its portfolio, and it’s now the only plant to churn out batteries for Volkwagen’s two electric vehicles.

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Beetcoin: A New Way to Invest in Local Agriculture

3p Contributor | Wednesday October 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in “The Millennials Perspective” issue of Green Money JournalClick here to view more posts in this series.

TaschPhoto1 By Woody Tasch

For the past five years, Slow Money has been working along the boundaries of angel investing, impact investing and philanthropy to catalyze the flow of capital to small, organic food enterprises that are rebuilding local food systems. As the preceding sentence implies, this work takes a number of different shapes, including local networks, investment clubs, pitchfests and, very recently, our Beetcoin campaign. The campaign combines online donations with event-driven, interest-free loans to create what we hope will become a long-term, scalable funding resource deployed alongside local Slow Money investing activities.

As of mid 2014, more than $38 million has flowed into small food enterprises in the U.S., Canada, France and Switzerland, via 21 local networks and 13 investment clubs. Our first Beetcoin campaign began Oct. 1 and will end Nov. 12, at Slow Money 2014 Gathering in Louisville, Kentucky, where 21 entrepreneurs will present on stage and the top two vote-getters will share Beetcoin proceeds. (More details here.)

The overall context for Slow Money, and the introduction of Beetcoin, are described below, which is excerpted from Commons nth: Common Sense For A Post Wall Street World,” a pamphlet available free from Slow Money.

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Volkswagen Launches New Auto Apprenticeship Program

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday October 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments

ApprenticeAcademy_VWVolkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant is well known for its accomplishments in environmental sustainability. It claims the record as the world’s first Platinum LEED certified automotive facility, and its 9.5 million watt solar array, cool building strategies and water catchment systems have garnered environmental awards and global recognition. Just as importantly, the plant’s design has proven to industry leaders that sustainable approaches can have a place in high-energy-usage industrial settings.

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James Beard Foundation Examines Food and Health

Tori Okner | Wednesday October 29th, 2014 | 1 Comment

JBF Conference LogoHealth & Food: Is Better Food the Prescription for a Healthier America? – a two-day conference hosted by the James Beard Foundation (JBF), showcased the good food movement’s effect on the culinary world. JBF, a revered culinary arts institution, brought some of the biggest names in food advocacy before an audience of advocates, entrepreneurs, civil society leaders, industry reps, producers and, yes, chefs.

JBF put together an all-star line up to stimulate dialogue on the health impacts of the modern American diet. Ezekiel Emanuel, former senior health policy advisor on health care for the White House, gave the keynote. His speech was followed later by Laurie David, executive producer of “Fed Up,” and Marion Nestle, food politics author and professor at New York University. On day two, the crowd heard from Sam Kass, President Barack Obama’s senior policy advisor for nutrition policy, and author Michael Pollan. Yet, it was the lesser-known voices that stole the show.

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