Connecting the Dots: Honey Export Loss Leads Mexico to Dump Monsanto’s GM Soy

RP Siegel | Wednesday August 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments

HoneyWith another school year about to start, it’s a good time to reflect on the basic sciences: physics, chemistry and biology, and how important our understanding of them can be in dealing with what have become substantial threats to our existence.

A relatively small change in the mixture of gases that constitute our upper atmosphere has altered an obscure physical property known as its radiative transmissivity. The additional gases are the byproduct of the fossil fuel energy sources that have made our modern way of life possible. The result is that heat emanating from our planet that formerly passed into space is now being reflected back to Earth, resulting in a warmer planet. While this might sound benign, it’s is causing massive melting of polar ice, releasing tremendous amounts of moisture into the ocean and atmosphere, and dramatically altering our climate. That’s physics.

Synthetic fertilizers containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, primarily produced from natural gas and ammonia, have powerfully enhanced our ability to grow food to feed our ever-increasing population. However, as soils have changed their composition in response this modified diet, their ability to hold moisture has lessened. This means that heavy rains produce runoff, allowing large amounts of these chemicals to be washed into streams, rivers and lakes, altering their composition and, in some cases, making the water unfit to drink. That’s chemistry.

Micro-organisms that survive by invading animal hosts in the wild sometimes evolve to live on human hosts as well. These new diseases can appear suddenly, as in the most recent Ebola outbreak, and given the speed and intensity which we now travel and interact, can also spread rapidly before any treatment or cure can be developed. Massive epidemics that can threaten the existence of entire populations are now increasingly possible. That’s biology.

These existential threats underscore the need for increased emphasis on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines that have been in decline here in the U.S. in recent decades.

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Israeli Scientists Develop Means to Slow Coral Reef Extinction

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday August 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Coral_EcoshootEfforts have been underway for some time now to find a way to save the world’s coral reefs. Coral, which is often thought of incorrectly as a marine plant, perform an essential symbiotic role in our oceans that often benefit other organisms. Their incredible diversity allows them to replicate in a variety of environments and makes them essential to the world’s oceans. Home to more than 800 types of coral, the world’s coral reefs support the existence of more than 4,000 species of fish, many of which provide essential food for human populations.

So, finding a way to stem the decline of coral reefs has been a priority for marine scientists for the past several decades – at least since the late 1990s when scientists attempted unsuccessfully to replant coral in the Great Barrier Reef. According to the World Resources Institute’s 2011 report, Reefs at Risk Revisited, 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs face extinction from climate change, coastal development, pollution and overfishing.

And they are more than a form of marine animal. Often likened to the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, “coral reefs are harbingers of change,” the reports authors highlight. The increasing extinction of coral is a clear indicator of the future of the world’s oceans.

The good news is that after years of research, scientists in Israel may have found a way to repopulate coral reefs. Dr. Baruch Rinkevich, senior scientist at Israel’s National Institute of Oceanography, and Dr. Shai Shafir, chair of the department of Natural Science and Environmental Education at Oranim Academic College, have developed a means by which to regrow coral in the laboratory and replant it places like the Mediterranean Sea.

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Michael Bloomberg and Genesis Prize Launch $1M Social Entrepreneurship Competition

Sherrell Dorsey
| Wednesday August 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments

michael bloomberg, genesis prize foundation, social entrepreneurship competition, global innovation competitionWhat price would you pay to help humanity? For former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Genesis Prize Foundation, $1 million dollars aptly foots the bill. Launched last week, the Genesis Generation Challenge aims to identify and provide seed-money for innovative projects to address the world’s toughest challenges. Ten awards of US$100,000 will be given to the engineers, artists, scientists and business people that can turn their ideas into scalable solutions that demonstrate significant impact in their particular issue area.

The competition will turn passion into reality for 10 winning teams connecting them to mentors and opportunities to convene and learn from one another. Benefits exist even for those teams that do not win; they will become part of an active network of forward-thinking and connected individuals from whom they can receive feedback and grow their ideas.

Monetary incentive aside, mentorship from politician, businessman and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg is worth its weight.

“Competitions can provide the incentives and framework to help innovative ideas surface, so we created the Genesis Generation competition to empower young people who want to make the world a better place,” Bloomberg said. “The competition will spur collaboration across borders and regions, and it will encourage young people to find new and better ways to tackle our most pressing challenges.”

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China, The Nature Conservancy Work to Curb Pollution

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Chongqing_Sam GaoChina produces the most greenhouse gases in the world. But the country, in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy, is working to curb the causes and effects of climate change.

It might seem like a strange partnership between a nonprofit and a huge nation, but it might work. TNC’s Conservation Blueprint project identified 32 regions that the organization and the Chinese government believe are most vital to the country’s environmental future. Currently the U.S.-based conservation group is analyzing how ecosystem-based adaptation strategies “can help those regions thrive.”

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DOE Looks Beyond Lithium with ‘EV Everywhere’ Grand Challenge

| Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 0 Comments

EVEverywhereRptCvrAiming to advance development of efficient-vehicle technologies, the U.S. Department of Energy last week announced it will provide $55 million in funding for 31 projects “to accelerate research and development (R&D) of critical vehicle technologies that will improve fuel efficiency and reduce costs.”

Much of the funding is being devoted to projects that, in one way or another, will help realize the goals set out in President Barack Obama’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge. Announced in March 2012, the challenge aims to reduce the costs and improve the performance of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) to the point where they “are as affordable and convenient as today’s gasoline-powered vehicles by 2022.”

DOE has invested $225 million in EV Everywhere projects to date in order to lower PEV costs, increase range and develop a PEV charging infrastructure. Among other achievements, EV Everywhere R&D projects have cut the cost of PEV batteries nearly in half, to $325/kilowatt-hour (kWh), since 2010.

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U.S. Second in Installed Wind Power But Growth Uncertain

| Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 0 Comments

2013 Wind Technologies Market Report Cover_1 The U.S. continues to be a world leader when it comes to installed wind power capacity, ranking second worldwide, despite modest growth in 2013. U.S. installed wind power capacity met nearly 4.5 percent of total national electricity demand last year, and U.S. renewable energy electricity generation is poised to double again by 2020, according to two reports released August 18 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Persistence of key policy incentives is pivotal to ongoing growth in wind and renewable energy capacity, however, the DOE noted. With lobbying from Koch Industries’ Americans for Prosperity (AFP), Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas recently came out in favor of phasing out the federal wind energy production tax credit (PTC), which expired Dec. 31. Pushing for renewal of the wind energy PTC, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) recently ran TV and YouTube ads thanking members of Congress in Colorado and Iowa, for their strong, bi-partisan support of wind energy and the PTC renewal.

“As a readily expandable, domestic source of clean, renewable energy, wind power is paving the way to a low-carbon future that protects our air and water while providing affordable, renewable electricity to American families and businesses,” DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz was quoted in a news release. “However, the continued success of the U.S. wind industry highlights the importance of policies like the Production Tax Credit that provide a solid framework for America to lead the world in clean energy innovation while also keeping wind manufacturing and jobs in the U.S.”

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Salmonella Trial Illustrates Glaring Holes in Food Safety Control

Lauren Zanolli
| Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment

5613656967_969e5b7d4b_mAs the first federal criminal trial related to food-borne illnesses enters its third week, witnesses reveal a lack of regulatory oversight and unpalatable details of production at the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), the company responsible for causing a 2008-2009 outbreak of Salmonella that killed nine and sickened over 700.

Samuel Lightsey, former plant manager at PCA, returned to the stand on Monday for his seventh day of testimony on the case, which alleges that the company knowingly shipped contaminated products to its customers and lied to federal authorities. According to Lightsey, the company prioritized sales over food safety concerns and had a system for deceiving its customers that included using fake lab results for untested or tainted products.

In his testimony on August 8, Lightsey explained that PCA regularly shipped its peanut butter to Kellogg’s, which had requested Salmonella testing, with false test results. Lightsey said that Mike Parnell, food broker and brother of CEO Stewart Parnell, had told him: “I can handle Kellogg’s. We’ve been shipping to them with false COA’s (certificates of analysis) since before you got here.”

Prosecutors showed company emails that documented Parnell filling out COAs — official lab results — himself. Other emails documented CEO Parnell’s insistence that products known to be contaminated with rat feces be shipped anyway.

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A Look at the History of the B Corp Movement

Ryan Honeyman | Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 2 Comments

This is the second in a weekly series of excerpts from the upcoming book “The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good.” (Click here to read the rest of the series.)

By Ryan HoneymanAND1

I first discovered the AND 1 mixtapes in the late 1990s.

The mixtapes were a series of basketball “streetballing” videos, created by the popular basketball shoe and apparel company AND 1, that featured lightning-quick ball handling, acrobatic slam dunks and jaw-dropping displays of individual talent.

I was a huge fan of the AND 1 mixtapes because the players used flashy, show-off moves that were very different from the more traditional style of basketball played in college or the NBA at the time.

Many years later, I was quite surprised to find out that two of AND 1′s cofounders, Jay Coen Gilbert and Bart Houlahan, along with Andrew Kassoy, their longtime friend and former Wall Street private equity investor, were the people who created the Certified B Corporation (also referred to as just B Corporation, or B Corp).

I learned that Gilbert’s and Houlahan’s experiences at AND 1, and Kassoy’s on Wall Street, were central to their decision to get together to start B Lab, the nonprofit behind the B Corp movement.

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SAK House: Making Green Home Kits Affordable

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 0 Comments

energy efficient houseWhen green building consultant Ricky Cappe set out to build his own green home on a modest budget, he wondered how it was possible. He found it very time-consuming to research the endless options, many of which weren’t sustainable, and he found working with architects both expensive and time-consuming.

“You can pay anywhere from $5,000 to $75,000 to have your home designed by an architect,” says Cappe. “Why do we need to reinvent the wheel every time we build?”

This quandary inspired him to start a company called SAK House, which sells sustainable, affordable house kits. These green home packages cost between $5,900 and $9,500 and include a set of building plans, green supplier contact information, material recommendations, a building timeline and technical support from Cappe. The homebuilder merely selects one of  five customizable models, hires the contractor and selects the finishes.

Cappe says this can save thousands in architectural fees and many hours of research. The finished product is a customizable home, for a fraction of the cost, in a shorter time frame.

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Adapt to Crowd-Sourcing or Risk Losing Relevancy

3p Contributor | Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 0 Comments

shutterstock_171265247By Jennifer Tuohy

The advent of the Web brought about the greatest shift in business since the Industrial Revolution. Companies had to adapt or die, and many have suffered in the face of online competition (Barnes & Noble, Circuit City, etc.).

However, as with all great revolutions, the Internet revolution generated an unintended consequence: crowd-sourcing. The collaborative power of the people is growing, and it is perfectly poised to bite big business once again.

Collectively described as the “collaborative economy,” the various Internet-powered methods people are using to get what they need from each other (instead of from traditional businesses) include crowd-funding, the sharing economy, the maker  movement and peer-to-peer lending. From using someone’s bedroom instead of staying in a hotel, to asking thousands of people you’ve never met to fund your idea for the ultimate cooler instead of going cap-in-hand to the bank, the collaborative economy is leaving big business out in the cold.

“The 20th century economy was powered by big corporations that standardized everything because they never really knew their customers,” explains Brian Chesky, the 32-year-old founder of sharing economy darling AirBnB. “The 21st century economy will be powered by people.”

Once again, it’s time to adapt or die.

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3 Tips for Transforming Hospital Food Into Something More Sustainable

3p Contributor | Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Deborah Fleischer

Sustainable Food DFThe University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is world renowned for its cutting-edge research and medical care. It is also a leader in sustainability, modeling healthy, sustainable food choices for patients, staff and visitors. In the recent 2014 townhall (see minute 21.20), an attendee asked University of California Office of the President (UCOP) President Janet Napolitano about UCOP’s sustainable food initiative, advocating for a move away from an animal-based diet. She responded that while UC is not moving toward a total vegetation approach, campuses are adjusting their procurement process to buy food from smaller, organic growers. Napolitano commended UCSF for its sustainable food efforts, notably efforts to eliminate antibiotics from the meat it serves at UCSF Medical Center.

I had the opportunity to speak with Dan Henroid, the medical center’s director of nutrition and food services, to reflect on UCSF’s successes and challenges as it moves the needle on sustainable food. Based on our discussion, I offer the following three tips for other hospitals and institutions seeking to improve the sustainability of the food they serve:

  1. Reduce conventional meat consumption in order to purchase more sustainable meat;
  2. Collaborate to promote sustainable food practices; and
  3. Get your local team on board.
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Ford to Launch Largest Solar Array in Michigan

Leon Kaye | Monday August 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Ford, Ford Motor, renewables, clean energy, solar, solar carport, Leon Kaye, Detroit, Clean Technology, DTE Energy

The solar array at Ford’s HQ will shade 360 cars.

Ford Motor Co. has been one of the more interesting automakers to watch as it has increased its focus on sustainability in recent years. Now the company is ramping up its solar portfolio to match its efforts on recycling and using more “greener” materials within its cars.

Last week the Dearborn, Michigan-based company announced it will work with DTE Energy, a Michigan electric utility and energy services firm, to build what the companies say will be the largest solar array in Michigan. Scheduled to start construction next month with a finish date targeted for early 2015, the carport at Ford’s global headquarters will be the second-largest solar carport in the Midwest. After completion, DTE will continue to operate and maintain the installation for 20 years.

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EPA Launches Criminal Investigation Against Tyson Foods

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday August 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Tyson_Monett_wastewater_3_MoDNRPoultry producer Tyson Foods has announced that the Environmental Protection Agency is launching a criminal investigation into last May’s wastewater discharge at Tyson’s Monett, Missouri plant.

The information was revealed in Tyson’s Aug. 7 Securities and Exchange Commission filing, in which Tyson acknowledged that it is also being sued by the state of Missouri for the company’s part in allegedly causing a massive fish-kill in Clear Creek in May of this year.

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4 Lessons from Burger King’s Decision to Stop Serving Low-Calorie Fries

Raz Godelnik
| Monday August 18th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Satisfries Last week Burger King had some news for us: The fast food chain announced it will stop serving Satisfries, its lower-calorie french fries, at most restaurants.

The reason?  Apparently, most customers didn’t like this low-calorie option. “More than 100 million customers had tried the fries, but that sales were too weak to continue offering the item throughout its United States stores,” the company told the New York Times.

But this wasn’t the only fry news Burger King had last week – one day before it waved goodbye to Satisfries, the company announced on the return of “the great-tasting Chicken Fries”!

The reason? Again, it was all about the customers. “Sparked by an overwhelming number of enthusiastic tweets, petitions, dedicated Tumblr and Facebook pages, and phone calls from devoted fans, these voices are the reason this cult favorite menu item is back.,” the company reported.

So, in most of Burger King restaurants, customers will keep enjoying the same number of options after these changes, only instead of one with 270 calories, 11 grams of fat and 300 milligrams of sodium (aka Satisfries), they will have one with 290 calories, 17 grams of fat and 780 milligrams of sodium (aka Chicken Fries).

However, there’s more to this story than just calorie, fat and sodium accounting.  Here are four lessons we can learn from last week’s news:

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Pushed by New York, ConAgra Shifts to Sustainable Palm Oil

Leon Kaye | Monday August 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments
ConAgra Foods, Con Agra, Palm Oil, Sustainable Palm Oil, New York State Retirement Fund, Green Century Capital Management, transparency, Leon Kaye

ConAgra joins the sustainable palm oil bandwagon.

ConAgra Foods is now the latest large food company to adopt a more sustainable palm oil policy. The $13 billion giant, whose packaged food brands include Healthy Choice, Slim Jim, Marie Callendar’s and Libby’s, has agreed to use only sustainably-sourced palm oil in its products.

Soon after the company announced its new policy late last week, the US$177 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund announced it would withdraw a sustainable palm oil shareholder proposal it had filed with Green Century Capital Management.

While ConAgra previously stated it was committed to the development of sustainable palm oil, and is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, its stance did not go far enough to satisfy a wide range of environmental activist groups. Critics accused the company of focusing more on purchasing “GreenPalm Credits” instead of working harder to prevent purchasing palm oil from suppliers that were responsible for deforestation, most of which is occurring in southeast Asia.

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