President Bans Oil and Gas Drilling in Bristol Bay Indefinitely

| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Salmon fisherman, Bristol Bay, Alaska, USA President Barack Obama took executive action yesterday evening, Dec. 16, to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay, instituting an indefinite ban on oil and gas drilling across some 5.6 million acres in what’s known as the North Aleutian Basin Planning Area.

One of the world’s most economically valuable fishing grounds, the waters of Bristol Bay yield up to $2 billion worth of wild-caught seafood every year. Visiting to partake of Bristol Bay’s natural splendor, recreational fishing and tourism adds another $100 million a year to Alaska’s economy and communities. Home to an American fishing fleet and community that supplies 40 percent of U.S. wild-caught seafood, one of the economic and social pillars of the community is Bristol Bay’s salmon run – the world’s largest – as well as a bevy of endangered marine and terrestrial species of plants and animals.

President Obama’s latest executive action assures that the Bristol Bay ecosystem will not be threatened by oil and gas drilling.  Further, it ensures local communities and businesses can continue to pursue eco-based livelihoods and lifestyles that reach back generations. Far above Bristol Bay, another environmental threat persists, however: the massive open-pit Pebble Mine project.

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Tom’s of Maine Awards $510,000 to Nonprofits in All 50 States

Mary Mazzoni
| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments
The Backyard Growers’ School Garden Program in Gloucester, Mass. has planted five gardens and harvested 500 pounds of greens for students with the help of $10,000 in Tom’s of Maine sponsorship funding received in 2013.

The Backyard Growers’ School Garden Program in Gloucester, Mass. has planted five gardens and harvested 500 pounds of greens for students with the help of $10,000 in Tom’s of Maine sponsorship funding received in 2013.

The votes are in, and 51 nonprofits from across the country will be able to give back more in their communities as winners of the Tom’s of Maine 50 States for Good community giving program.

Now in its sixth year, the 50 States for Good program rewards grassroots nonprofits with a total of $500,000 in project funding. Back in August, the natural personal care brand asked the public to nominate their favorite nonprofit organizations on social media, and thousands of entries poured in.

This year, for the first time, the program features 51 winners, one from each state and the District of Columbia — bringing this year’s project funding total to $510,000, with each organization receiving a $10,000 donation. (Scroll down for the full list of winners.)

“For the first time, we’re awarding more than $500,000 to support organizations and volunteers on the front lines of making communities stronger across the country,” said Susan Dewhirst, goodness programs manager at Tom’s of Maine. “Every community advocate we heard from – reflected in thousands of nominations – has a unique and special vision for bringing a lasting, positive impact to where they live.”

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Boeing and South African Airways Partner on Biofuel from Tobacco

Leon Kaye | Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Tobacco, biofuels, solaris, South Africa, Boeing, South Africa airways, aviation fuel, jet fuel, Sunchem, SkyERG, Leon Kaye

Tobacco could have a future as a jet fuel feedstock. 

It has been ages since you could light up on a flight, but there is a chance tobacco could become an aviation fuel of the future. Boeing and South African Airways (SAA) have announced that they are close to processing the first crop of tobacco plants for biofuel production. This pilot project, which both companies have publicly acknowledged for over a year, promises so much it almost sounds too good to be true.

This time the feedstock is Solaris, a nicotine-free tobacco plant developed and patented by the Italian biotech firm Sunchem. Instead of providing leaves for cigarette production, the Solaris plant offers flowers and seeds from which oil can be extracted for fuel production. Solaris is not genetically modified, it can grow on lands inhospitable to food crops, and its by-products are high in protein and can be used for animal protein. Its promoters say it will allow tobacco farmers to continue their lives’ work while supporting the national campaign to reduce smoking in South Africa.

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“Coal Means Death for Us”: Big Coal and Forced Evictions in Colombia

Michael Kourabas
| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments
According to a lawsuit filed in Colombia by La Guajira residents, between August 2001 and January 2002, the owners of the Cerrejón mine

According to a lawsuit filed in Colombia by La Guajira residents, the owners of the Cerrejón mine displaced indigenous populations by destroying local infrastructure.

Here’s a sad truth: The displacement of indigenous populations as a result of international corporate development projects is a relatively common practice. A mining or agricultural company needs land, so a deal is struck with a corrupt government providing land to the corporation, whether or not it is occupied. Those with the misfortune of living in the way of the project are forced to leave, under the threat of violence or an approaching bulldozer; development begins while insufficient attention is paid to environmental concerns, leading to the pollution of local water sources; people die, either from disease or violent clashes with security forces.

Sound familiar? It should, because in weakly-governed states in Africa, Asia and South America, where governments are more interested in attracting (and siphoning off) foreign investment than in protecting the land or the people, this happens every day.

The story of the Cerrejón mine in the the Guajira region in Colombia is one such story, and it carries a simple lesson: In La Guajira, Colombia, the resource beneath the ground is more valuable than the people who live above it.

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Manufacture NY: The New Model for Sustainable Innovation

| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

static.squarespace_350 New York City’s apparel manufacturing sector is about to get a makeover: To reignite local fashion manufacturing and spur economic development, the city recently announced it will invest $3.5 million to help launch the fashion incubator Manufacture New York, a co-location center with sustainability in its DNA.

Founded by Bob Bland, a Brooklyn-based fashion designer, entrepreneur and community organizer, Manufacture NY will be the country’s first fully-integrated facility with on-site, on-demand manufacturing – taking the term “Made in the USA” to the next level. Part production hub, part incubator, part learning lab, part R&D lab, the 160,000-square-foot Brooklyn facility will advance sustainably-minded research, design and manufacturing for emerging designers, manufacturers and entrepreneurs in apparel, textiles and wearable tech.

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Utility-Scale Solar Photovoltaics Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels in Chile

| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 2 Comments

chile-solar With energy demand rising and energy imports meeting as much as 70 percent of its needs, Chile has put itself on the “fast track” when it comes to developing an abundance of clean, renewable energy resources. Recent changes in energy market regulations are proving to be keys to unlocking Chile’s distributed renewable energy potential, and more broadly speaking, its sustainable development.

The same confluence of market regulatory changes, lower costs and technological advances is driving rapid renewable energy growth in the U.S. The birthplace of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, U.S. solar energy technology and project developers are venturing overseas in efforts to expand their businesses. Given the changes recently made to the market regulations governing its energy sector, Chile has become a “hotspot” for solar and renewable energy project developers.

Case in point: SunEdison on Dec. 15 was awarded 15-year power purchase agreements to supply 570 gigawatt-hours of electricity to Chile’s National Electricity Commission. Highlighting just how fast solar has become competitive with fossil-fuels in Chile, this solar energy will come at a lower cost than electricity generated by fossil-fuel combustion – and that’s without subsidies or incentives.

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Your Investment Portfolio’s Naughty and Nice List for 2014

Dale Wannen
Dale Wannen | Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

naughty-or-niceAs most of us rush to get our holiday shopping done over the next week (or chose to do so while sitting with our tablets at the kitchen table), we’ll be checking off our lists of who has been naughty or nice. You know who you are! One item to possibly check off your list is to figure out which companies in your portfolio are being naughty or nice.

SustainVest Management continues to monitor sustainability criteria for clients’ positions in their portfolios, keeping a keen eye on which companies are performing well and also the ones that are doing poorly. The below is referenced from a recent Consumer Reports list. After reading the info below, you can show off at your family holiday gatherings with some interesting information, both good and bad!

Enjoy…

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Uber: Driving for Child Hunger and Gouging During a Crisis

Leon Kaye | Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Uber, sharing economy, carsharing, social media, Sydney, hostage crisis, gouging, Leon Kaye, surge pricing

Uber may have outworn its welcome in Sydney

In many ways, this is a great time for Uber. The carsharing service keeps expanding (210 cities worldwide) and has recently been valued at over $40 billion. But it also has taken a PR beating in past months, from reasons including thin-skinned executives threatening journalists to thuggish tactics in undermining its competitor, Lyft. Nevertheless, in many cities Uber has become the transport of choice. And it has tried to show a softer side, as in its current campaign to take action against childhood hunger. Fine, Uber is not donating the money, but the company is lending its technology to allow riders to kick in another $5 to their ride fares and help fund No Kid Hungry. Unfortunately for Uber, no one is talking about the rides-for-hunger campaign: the buzz is on the company’s surge pricing, or as some say, price gouging, during the tragic hostage crisis earlier this week in Sydney.

The outrage stems from Uber’s use of algorithms to set “surge pricing” into effect during rush hours, holidays, hectic Friday nights and bad weather. Uber users have long railed against this business practice, and in fairness much of that noise is an insufferable stream of whining—after all, some public transport systems like the Washington, DC Metro increase fares during peak commuting times while municipal taxi services boost fares late at night. Uber is a business, not an entitlement program for those who do not have a car.

What caused the outrage, however, was when Uber rides out of Sydney during that awful day increased as much as four-fold as the chaos in that downtown café unfolded.

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Western New York: 2030

RP Siegel | Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

RochesterIt used to be too cold up here in Western New York to ride a bike in early April, but winters have gotten shorter. I also have a lot more flexibility now than at my old job. I work at a freelance co-op where a bunch of us share office space and equipment. So, I’m out for a ride on a weekday morning.

I’m on what used to be the Inner Loop expressway. It was filled in 10 years ago and now there are trails, community gardens, playgrounds and other common spaces. One trail circles the city, while others form commuting corridors that connect a number of neighborhoods with a now-thriving downtown. Many people walk, bike or take electric buses, many from net-zero homes. There are tubes that shield intrepid bikers and walkers from the elements.

The city has grown a lot in the past decade. People are attracted by the moderate temperatures and abundant water supply. Plus, this has become a high-tech hub. Even though so much is done now using virtual worker networks and 3-D printing, the presence of major universities still attracts a skilled workforce. People have come to realize that there’s a limit to what virtual tools can provide and that there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction when important matters are at hand.

This is part of a trend emphasizing the human side of business: People are realizing that intangibles, like the richness of one’s social network, meaningful employment and the depth of sharing, are far stronger drivers of happiness and well-being than material wealth. That realization has been a key driver in our transition.

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How Toms Shoes and Warby Parker Give Differently

3p Contributor | Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Lucky-ping-pong_duos

Co-founders and co-CEOs Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa of Warby Parker.

By Josh Caplan

In a time where the global economy is still reeling from the effects of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression and tension between socio-economic classes are running high, capitalism is undergoing an examination. Is this economic system — which, according to Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, has in the span of 200 years shrunken the number of people living on $1 per day from 85 percent to 17 percent — too flawed or in large part obsolete?

This is not the correct question, even though it is asked daily by academics, politicians, businesspeople and thinkers alike. I am of the view, like John Mackey, that capitalism requires not a structural reformation, but a philosophical rewiring. Companies like Toms Shoes and Warby Parker are leading examples of how businesses can become successful while taking on specific issue areas where leadership gaps exist.

Lifting the “hood” on the issue of how companies fulfill their higher purpose is perhaps more substantive of a topic than why a specific issue area is of interest to the company and its founders. Culture is an invaluable trait of any successful company, but strategy is the bridge between dreams and reality. So, what are the two chief corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies that companies execute?

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How the 2014 Oil Price Collapse Threatens Sustainability

Bill Roth | Tuesday December 16th, 2014 | 2 Comments

8364696_1afaaf5c75_z1980 was the last time we had an oil price collapse. Americans buying fuel-efficient vehicles created the 1980 oil price collapse, just as they have contributed to today’s oil price collapse. But what consumers did in response to lower pump prices during the 1980s does not bode well for today’s pursuit of sustainable solutions for our economy and climate change.

Will history repeat itself, where the 2014 oil price collapse undercuts our adoption of sustainable technologies?

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Could Spray-On Solar Change the Game?

RP Siegel | Tuesday December 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments

IllanKramerWe’ve heard a lot about falling solar prices. Some of that is due to dumping of low-cost panels from China. But there is also a great deal of research being done here in the U.S. and elsewhere that is attacking the problem from many different directions. This is helping to not only reduce cost but to increase efficiency as well.

One area that has shown promise is that of colloidal quantum dots (CQD). These tiny nanotech wonders have a theoretical efficiency of 45 percent, surpassing that of silicon, though no one has come close to achieving that yet. What has been done, however, by researchers at MIT, is the development of production techniques that allows quantum dots to be produced without elevated temperatures or vacuum conditions. That means low cost, with a present conversion efficiency of 9 percent.

One thing to keep in mind with solar is that, given the fact that sunlight is free, the efficiency by which it can be converted into electricity is less important than it is with other sources that require you to pay for the energy. Where it does matter is in two areas: the system cost and the amount of area required.

So if the system cost is low — allowing you to cover your entire roof at a reasonable price — which provides enough power even at low efficiency, then who cares? Still, you have all that mounting hardware and labor to install it, right?

The cool thing about quantum dots is that these solar cells can theoretically be sprayed on, eliminating all that mounting hardware and labor and also permitting the cells to conform to irregular and uneven surfaces.

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Upsolar Promotes Energy Freedom with New Home Solar Loans

| Tuesday December 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments

upsolar rooftop U.S. solar power installations are on track to post another year of record growth. Enough solar power capacity – 1.354 gigawatts – was installed in the U.S. in Q3 2014 to power some 3.5 million homes, according to the latest quarterly report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research.

More affordable and as emissions- and pollution-free as ever, U.S. home and property owners are installing solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems at an unprecedented pace. An industry first, more than 300 megawatts of residential PV went into operation in Q3. More than half of that was installed in states that don’t offer any incentives, SEIA and GTM highlighted.

That’s encouraging news for players all along the U.S. solar industry value chain, particularly in light of ongoing international trade tensions and a scheduled scaling down of the federal investment tax credit (ITC) at year-end 2016.

Facing stiff competition for residential customers, downstream solar PV finance-and-installation companies are turning to home solar loans as opposed to the third-party leases that have galvanized growth in recent years. Upsolar America believes it has a winning lifelong solution with its zero-down, 20-year, 5.99 percent fixed rate home solar loan program.

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16 Major Companies and Agencies Say No to Chemical Flame Retardants

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Tuesday December 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments

chemical_flame_retardants_Ada_BeThe debate over chemical flame retardants seems to be heating up. The Center for Environmental Health, which helped encourage a rewrite of California’s regulations regarding safety standards in furniture manufacturing, announced last week that 16 major furniture manufacturers have now sworn off chemical flame retardants.

The companies, which include Facebook, Staples, Autodesk and Blue Cross Blue Sheild of Massachusetts, have pledged to stop buying furniture with chemical flame retardants in them. Several of the companies, like Staples and HDR Architecture, North America’s second-largest architectural firm, are national brands.

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Sustainability-Focused Innovation: Key to Growth at Alpine Waste and Recycling

Sustainability4SMEs
| Tuesday December 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments
In 2007, Alpine Waste & Recycling became the first company in the Denver metro area to create its own organic waste processing facility (pictured).

In 2007, Alpine Waste & Recycling became the first company in the Denver metro area to create its own organic waste processing facility (pictured).

By Graham Russell

Often overlooked in all the sustainability literature on risk management, internal cost savings from reduced energy or water usage, improved employee loyalty and productivity due to better working conditions, wellness programs, etc. is the concept of sustainability-focused innovation in products or services as a source of market opportunity and new revenues.

This type of externally-focused approach to sustainability as a driver of improved financial performance is just as much a part of the overall business case for corporate sustainability as these internally-focused initiatives. Few companies illustrate this market-driven sustainability approach as clearly and successfully as Alpine Waste & Recycling.

Founded in 1999 in Denver, Alpine is the largest independent waste collection and recycling company in Colorado with current revenues of $34 million and a staff of over 200. Founder and CEO John Griffith explains that, unlike many other companies with a stellar sustainability track record, Alpine’s own sustainability strategy has been shaped almost entirely by market and revenue expansion opportunities rather than by risk mitigation or internal cost-saving drivers.

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