FEMA: Plan for Climate Change or Risk Emergency Funding

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday October 20th, 2014 | 6 Comments

climate_change_FEMA_usdaWith winter just around the corner and El Niño still a probable forecast, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has news for state governments: Prepare for climate change now or risk losing access to funding.

The agency has just released a draft of its forthcoming State Mitigation Plan Review Guide, which includes new guidelines in assessing and planning for climate change. Entitled a ‘Draft for Public Comment,’ the document highlights some key changes in FEMA’s regulations for those states receiving federal emergency funding – including the need to prepare for, and assess, climate change risk.

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General Motors Expands Zero-Waste Agenda Worldwide

Leon Kaye | Monday October 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments
General motors, GM, recycling, zero waste, waste diversion, Leon Kaye, John Bradburn, sustainability

Boxes of grinding wheels ready to be recycled in Grand Rapids, MI

General Motors (GM) continues to expand its global zero-waste program, inching closer to its goal of having 125 total facilities landfill-free by 2020. Eleven new facilities are now officially zero waste, and they range from assembly plants to regional headquarters. Following its own mantra of “reduce, reuse, recycle and compost,” GM has expanded this program to 122 facilities — over half of them outside of North America.

According to GM, the conversion of these factories and offices to landfill-free status helps the automaker prevent more than 600,000 tons of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere annually. At last count, the company estimates that 97 percent of all waste at its landfill-free plants is recycled or reused; the remainder is converted into energy within the plants.

The amount of waste GM recycles hardly is small change: The company in the past has estimated that it generates about US$1 billion in revenues from raw materials that do not end up going into cars. Three years running, GM’s zero-waste plan is a solid example of a company rolling out sustainability goals — and actually meeting them.

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Ford Edges Closer to ‘Growing’ Its Own Car Parts

Mary Mazzoni
| Monday October 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Is that popcorn? Nope, it's a batch of freshly made soy-based foam. Ford now uses this bio-based material in every vehicle sold in North America.

Is that popcorn? Nope, it’s a batch of freshly made soy-based foam. Ford now uses this bio-based material in every vehicle sold in North America.

Researchers at Ford Motor Co. have been working to replace petroleum-based plastic with renewable alternatives for nearly 15 years. Back in 2000, Debbie Mielewski, senior technical leader for sustainable materials at Ford Research, and her team devised a chemical formula to replace petroleum-based automotive foam with foam made from soybean oil.

It wasn’t always easy. As Mielewski explained to a group of journalists in the research lab last week, the first soy-based foam the team tested was “the most miserable, stinky, terrible foam ever. It smelled like burnt popcorn.”

But, she continued, the team had plenty of time to perfect the formula. Why? To put it bluntly: because the rest of the company wasn’t expecting much anyway.

“Way back in 2000, people said: ‘Why the heck do you want to do this? Petroleum is cheap; we’ve been doing it for 50 years with the petroleum-based chemicals. Why would we want to change it?'” Mielewski recalled that she and her colleague Ellen Lee were “thrown out of every conference room in the whole company.”

As the researchers continued their work, it often seemed as if the department wouldn’t live to see the results. But, in the innovative spirit of his great-grandfather, Executive Chairman Bill Ford wouldn’t hear of it. “Every time the project was about to be shut down due to resource constraints, we would hear from behind the scenes that Bill Ford met with somebody and that we were going to keep going,” Mielewski said.

Finally, after years in the laboratory, the team’s hard work paid off. In 2007, Mielewski, Lee and their colleagues completed a soy-based foam that met every specification Ford had in place for its automotive foam. “That’s when the magic sort of happened for us: Oil went from $40 a barrel to over $160 a barrel,” Mielewski continued with a smile. “The phones started ringing off the hook, and they said, ‘You know that really crappy idea? That’s a good idea.'”

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NOW Accepts $1 Million From Chevron, Defends Them in Pollution Case

Eric Justian
| Monday October 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment

10614976465_2b7e449a21_zSo, this seems kind of weird at first glance. Coincidentally, just months after Chevron donated a million bucks to the National Organization of Women, the legal arm of NOW filed a legal brief in favor of the oil company in its legal plight in Ecuador.

This isn’t as out of left field as it might seem. But the mountain of cash to NOW sure raises eyebrows, particularly among Ecuadorian women whose children and their own bodies became cancer victims because of hundreds of toxic waste pools left in the Ecuador rain forest, draining into the water supply and soil.

Money really complicates something that should seem simple and raises questions of corruption. NOW may have had good intentions, but that million bucks sure makes it seem like quid pro quo. Ironically, that sort of corruption is one of NOW’s reasons for siding with Chevron, as the organization cites the integrity of RICO injunctions as their reason for getting involved at all — RICO being the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and “corruption” traditionally defined as “dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.”

So, NOW taking a million bucks to uphold the integrity of the RICO Act sure would be … I guess … kind of funny. And definitely ironic.

Let’s back up a bit with a little history:

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American Petroleum Institute Accused of Sabotage, Trademark Infringement

Leon Kaye | Monday October 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment
https://www.chooseenergy.com/blog/municipal-energy-aggregation-expiring/

Confusion over chooseenergy.org and chooseenergy.com has led trademark litigation

Last week the American Petroleum Institute (API) was sued for trademark infringement by Choose Energy, Inc. For 10 years, San Francisco-based Choose Energy has been operating an online marketplace that allows consumers to compare home and business power options from natural gas to solar. In a lawsuit filed last week in a California federal court, Choose Energy, which operates the website ChooseEnergy.com, accuses the API’s launch of ChooseEnergy.org of confusing consumers and harming the company’s goodwill, or in layman’s terms, the company’s reputation and therefore its customers’ confidence.

The suit claims API’s site has confused Choose Energy’s potential customers, especially those who contact the firm through its chat interface, call center and via social media interaction on the Choose Energy’s Twitter account. The bulk of Choose Energy’s business is from working as a broker offering various energy options in the 10 states and the District of Columbia that have deregulated energy markets. So, API’s launch, the company insists, is having an adverse impact on its business. Considering API’s past use of fake Twitter accounts and litigation over renewable energy regulations in the past, this may not be too big a surprise to observers.

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Solving Food Waste and Hunger Through Food Rescue

3p Contributor | Monday October 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Editor’s Note: This summer, Tamanna Mohapatra, a master’s student in Columbia University’s Sustainability Management Program, took a ride with City Harvest and got an up-close look at food waste and hunger in New York City. This is the first post in a two-part feature detailing her experience.

10653858_10152643938156181_8329167458577434949_nBy Tamanna Mohapatra

Lincoln Hernandez, originally from the Dominican Republic, now calls Queens, New York his home. He drives a truck on the east side of Manhattan for City Harvest, a New York City-based food rescue program, every weekday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On a Tuesday in August, he arrived at 8:30 in the morning to pick me up from Trader Joe’s grocery store on Broadway and 14th Street, so I could observe him in his rounds of food collection. Mr. Hernandez has been with City Harvest for close to four years now.

“You can remember my name because I am the 16th president of the United States,” he joked. Kidding aside, when asked about how he liked working at City Harvest, he said, “I feel more good working here than when going to church. I feel so great collecting and distributing food.”

We are both immigrants, he from the Caribbean and I from India. Food waste as a concept was relatively alien to us before arriving in the United States, especially the astronomical proportions found here.

That Tuesday morning, we both did our part in trying to make a dent in this very noticeable yet unchallenged social, economic and environmental issue by hauling bag after bag of fresh and one-day-old food, and lots of bread, into the mid-sized refrigerated City Harvest truck. Our stash at the end of just one trip was 2,600 pounds of edible, wholesome food! This is food that would have been thrown away if not for City Harvest’s food rescue program.

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‘Flourish and Prosper’ Takes Sustainability to the Next Level

RP Siegel | Monday October 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 10.56.19 PMThis week I had the opportunity to attend the Third Global Forum for Businesses as an Agent of World Benefit at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. The theme for this year’s forum is ‘Flourish and Prosper.’ The event, which was pioneered eight years ago by David Cooperrider — best known for his work on appreciative inquiry.

As Barbara Snyder, Case Western president said, “We’ve come a long way from talking about sustainability to talking about flourishing.” That sentiment was repeated several times on this first day — that it is time to reach beyond merely sustaining, and time to stop thinking in terms of trade-offs. We need to be smart enough to include the considerations of people, profit and planet in everything we do, to synthesize these requirements into smart solutions.

There is another dimension to this, as well. The idea of flourishing, says Cooperrider, means that the energy for innovation must come from an intrinsic caring. It must acknowledge the interconnectedness of all things. Citing the Dalai Lama, when asked about corporate social responsibility (CSR), he said that ‘responsibility’ is not the right word. It’s intimacy.

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Unpacking the Layers of Life Cycle Assessment

3p Contributor | Monday October 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Life Cycle Thinking, as defined by the UNEP's Click to enlarge (scroll to page 18).

Life Cycle Thinking, as defined by the UNEP’s Life Cycle Initiative. Click to enlarge (scroll to page 18).

By Jeff Yorzyk

We have all heard the old axiom that states, “What gets measured gets managed.” But sustainability practitioners are frequently confronted with a tough question: “How do I measure that?” Furthermore, the definition of sustainability metrics also runs into the challenge of recognizing how the capital “S” of Global Sustainability distills down to specific sustainability priorities for any individual organization. Life Cycle Thinking is an approach that helps answer both of these questions.

Life Cycle Thinking is defined by the United Nations Environmental Program’s Life Cycle Initiative as “going beyond the traditional focus and production site and manufacturing processes to include environmental, social and economic impacts of a product over its entire life cycle.”

While the quantitative process of Life Cycle Assessment is not explicitly required to do this, it is a strong supporting tool. The fundamentals of both Life Cycle Thinking and Life Cycle Assessment include mapping the value chain and identifying inputs and outputs at each stage – an exercise that takes an organization well beyond the “boundaries” it typically considers for its operations.

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3p Weekend: 5 Things Employers Need to Know About Millennials

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday October 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Want to learn more? Join TriplePundit, SAP and our special guests at #SAPsocent on October 23 at 9 a.m. PST / Noon EST for a special Twitter Chat about millennials and social entrepreneurship. Click here for more info.

Business MeetingWith a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

According to a study conducted in 2012 by leadership strategist Erica Dhawan75 percent of the global workforce will be made up of millennials by 2025. We all know millennials love their smartphones and are more likely to shun car-centric suburban life in favor of big cities — but those aren’t the only things that make this generation tick.

If employers are looking to attract and retain top talent, they’d be wise to learn these five things about millennials.

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Can Geoengineering Really Fix Climate Change?

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Friday October 17th, 2014 | 48 Comments

climate_change_geoengineering_NASAEveryone seems to be wracking their brains about how to combat climate change these days. From the conservatively pragmatic to the impressively ambitious, there seem to be no end of theories on what will ultimately slow the heating of the atmosphere. While most of us have already heard of, and probably implemented, solutions like less driving and paring down on landfill refuse, there’s a whole lot of other ideas on the table these days that take a more imaginative tact.

One concept that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has proposed is called geoengineering: a fascinating collection of brainstorms that would mostly be relegated to the extreme of impressively ambitious goals. One approach that you probably heard about a few years ago involved wrapping Greenland in a huge blanket to reduce glacier melt.

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DOE and Abengoa Launch Biorefinery in Kansas

Leon Kaye | Friday October 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Abengoa, Department of Energy, biofuels, clean energy, cellulosic ethanol, corn stover, Hugoton, Kansas, food vs fuel, Leon Kaye, Chris Standlee

The new Abengoa biorefinery in Kansas.

Kansas is a political mess right now, and its leaders have hardly been hospitable to sustainable development, but a new biofuels project underway, close to the border with the Oklahoma panhandle, shows that new clean energy technologies do have a future. This morning the Department of Energy and the Spanish multinational Abengoa are officially kicking off the company’s first commercial-scale biorefinery in Hugoton. Once known as Kansas’s natural gas capital, this town of 4,000 may very well become known as the catalyst for next-gen biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol, finally scaling and becoming cost-competitive with other fuels.

So why would a €7.8 billion (US$10 billion) company be bothered with this corner of the prairies? A conversation I had with Chris Standlee, Abengoa’s executive vice president of global affairs, shed some light on the future of cellulosic alcohol—which could finally play a role in diversifying our country’s energy portfolio, reduce carbon emissions and generate revenue for farmers. According to Standlee, Albengoa’s investment in the Hugoton plant reflects the company’s confidence that cellulosic alcohol is finally becoming a more cost effective option.

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The Mustang Gets an EcoBoost for Its 50th Birthday

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday October 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

2014-10-14 14.44.29I’ve always wanted a Ford Mustang. As a youngster, I often daydreamed about cruising down the highway with the top down and the wind in my hair. Many a homeroom game of MASH ended in disappointment — not because I got stuck living in a shack or married to a boy who pushed me down at recess, but because the luck of the draw left me with something other than a Mustang.

I never would have guessed that the first time I’d sit behind the wheel of my dream car would be as an environmental journalist — about to punch the pedal of the most fuel efficient Mustang ever made.

For the model’s 50th birthday, the folks at Ford Motor Co. decided to do things a bit differently by launching the first Mustang with EcoBoost. Available with both manual and automatic transmissions, the EcoBoost model promises 32 miles per gallon on the highway. Now, before you get too excited, I’m not talking about the V8 version — or even the V6. The 2015 Mustang EcoBoost comes equipped with a 4-cylinder engine. But at 2.3 liters and 310 horsepower, it still has a good deal of pep. The 320 pound-feet of torque doesn’t hurt performance either. In fact, the EcoBoost produces more horsepower and torque than the Mustang GT engines did just 10 years ago.

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Retailers Cite Low Wages as Major Threat to Business

Eric Justian
| Friday October 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

burger king home of the whoperTwo-thirds of America’s largest retailers, most of which pay minimum wage, are citing “flat or falling disposable incomes” as a serious risk factor to their business models. This according to a report by the Center for American Progress. The report isn’t based on squishy personal corporate responses from public relations staff. No … It’s based on the actual Securities and Exchange Commission filings for these companies as they cite risk factors to their businesses. These 10-K filings show that major retailers are highly concerned about how low and stagnant wages among consumers are a threat to business.

Median household incomes are not doing well. In 2013 they were 8 percent lower than in pre-recession 2007 which, according to the report, “leaves the median married couple with two kids with $5,500 less to spend annually on food, clothes and other essentials that retailers sell.”

Low estimates are that the middle class accounts for 30 percent of the 115 million American households. That’s about 35 million households, times $5,500 less per year, for a total of about $193 billion less in available funds each year that could be going to Walmart, Burger King, Kohl’s, Sears or whatever favorite retailer you might have. That’s a huge hit to America’s retailers, and it’s got Wall Street worried. While our leaders in Washington, D.C. keep insisting on the merits of trickle-down economics, retailers, restaurants and Wall Street economists are starting to notice that not only is money not trickling down — but it’s also no longer trickling up.

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Method’s New Factory to Host World’s Largest Rooftop Farm

Alexis Petru
| Friday October 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments
A drawing of Method's planned manufacturing plant.

A drawing of Method’s planned manufacturing plant.

Back in March, eco-friendly cleaning supply company Method broke ground on its first U.S. manufacturing plant, set to be built on Chicago’s South Side. Now the San Francisco-based company has revealed more details about the green roof planned for the factory: Through a partnership with urban farming company Gotham Greens, the facility will boast the largest rooftop farm in the world, producing up to 1 million pounds of produce each year.

Gotham Greens will design, build and operate the 75,000-square-foot greenhouse, the Brooklyn-based company announced in a joint press release with Method in early October. The pesticide-free produce harvested from the urban rooftop farm will be distributed through local Chicago retailers, restaurants, farmer’s markets and community groups – bringing fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables to the food desert that is the Windy City’s South Side. The greenhouse can also provide full-time green collar jobs for residents in the community, Gotham Greens’ Marketing and Partnerships Manager Nicole Baum told Method in an interview on its blog.

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SXSW Eco Interview: Jeff Cheney, Earth911

| Friday October 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

This post is part of Triple Pundit’s ongoing coverage of the SXSW Eco conference. For the rest, please visit our SXSW Eco page here.

earth-911-tv-229x150We’ve been fans of Earth911 since back in the day when they were merely a recycling services directory.  Now the site has grown into a major player in eco-friendly news and information and has just launched their first ever eco-marketplace, YouChange.

By encouraging consumers to “vote with their dollars,” the YouChange platform will offer thousands of vetted products that will not only make you feel better about where your money goes, but will also reward companies that are doing the right thing vis a vis the environment.

I had a chance to talk to the “president of earth” himself, Jeff Cheney, last week in Austin…

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