3p Contributor: Alexis Petru

Alexis Petru Passionate about both writing and sustainability, Alexis Petru is freelance journalist and communications consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area whose work has appeared on Earth911, Huffington Post and Patch.com. Prior to working as a writer, she coordinated environmental programs for various Bay Area cities and counties for seven years. She has a degree in cultural anthropology from UC Berkeley. Connect with Alexis on Twitter at @alexispetru

Recent Articles

Poll: Energy Efficiency is America’s No. 1 Housing Concern

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 0 Comments

Home InsulationSafety, affordability and privacy – it’s no surprise that these were some of top housing needs identified in a recent national survey of more than 10,000 households. But the No. 1 unmet housing concern, which the Demand Institute that carried out the poll defined as the “satisfaction gap” between what respondents actually have and what they said was important, was not as easily expected: energy efficiency.

Survey respondents were given a list of 52 housing and community concerns and asked to rank them, on a scale of 1 to 10, by how important they felt the issues were and how much their current home satisfied these needs. The result: 71 percent of U.S. households polled placed a great deal of importance on energy efficiency, but only 35 percent felt their homes were very energy efficient with low monthly utility costs (the respondents making up percentages answered these questions with an 8, 9 or 10 ranking).

Based on these numbers, energy efficiency was the housing concern with the largest gap between the rates of importance and satisfaction – beating out consumer needs and wants for updated kitchens, storage space, safe neighborhoods, affordability, landlord responsiveness and more.

Why the strong desire for energy-wise homes?

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Photo Gallery: Levi’s Turns Donated Denim into Field of Jeans

Alexis Petru
| Tuesday December 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Field of JeansIf you build it, they will come. In this case, the “it” was a series of bright red drop-off bins installed at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. on Nov. 2 – set up by the iconic jeans maker and Goodwill to collect enough old denim to cover the stadium’s field and build a “Field of Jeans” to bring attention to the enormity of the country’s textile waste.

And, true to the famous movie quote, they did come. Fans who gathered to watch the San Francisco 49ers play the St. Louis Rams brought old pairs of jeans and other unwanted pieces of clothing to donate, as did Bay Area residents who dropped off their used apparel at Goodwill stores as part of the two-week campaign. In exchange for their donation, participants were rewarded with a special Levi’s discount coupon.

Altogether, the used clothing drive collected more than 18,850 pairs of jeans – 12 tons of denim that otherwise might have ended up in the landfill. The unwanted jeans saved from the dump also prevented 171,000 pounds of carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere – the equivalent of the pollution emitted from driving a car from San Francisco to New York for 36 round trips, Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) said.

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December Guide to Buying Used Clothing

Alexis Petru
| Friday December 5th, 2014 | 0 Comments

GoodwillWant to save 700 gallons of water for under $10? The next time you buy a new shirt, make sure it’s secondhand. That’s right: According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, it takes 700-2,000 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make your average cotton T-shirt. And growing cotton is just one small part of the tremendous overall environmental and social impact that the garment industry has on our planet.

But buying used clothing is a great way to opt out of the not-so-green fashion industry – and it’s often more affordable than purchasing environmentally and socially responsible new clothes, which can be quite pricey. Whether you’ve decided to start thrifting because of environmental or financial concerns or you just love the thrill of the hunt (or a combination of all these reasons), TriplePundit is here to help you get started, with our guide to buying secondhand.

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Report: How Organizations Can Turn Slacktivism into Clicktivism

Alexis Petru
| Monday December 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments

Digital Activism Study InfographicThe term, “slacktivism” – defined as “informal actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement” – has become so common in modern parlance that it was one of the runners-up for the Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of 2014. But the stereotype of a slacktivist tweeting outrage about the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls under the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag – and then not doing anything else about it – may have to change, according to a new report that examines the ways technology and social media are altering Americans’ engagement with social and environmental causes.

Prepared by public relations and marketing firm Cone Communications, the “2014 Cone Communications Digital Activism Study” found that when individuals educate themselves about social or environmental issues through online channels, they are more likely to take action. Close to two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans say that after “liking” or “following” a nonprofit or corporate social responsibility program (CSR) online, they are more inclined to support a cause by volunteering, donating and sharing information.

The study, which surveyed a demographically representative sample of 1,212 adults, also discovered that once individuals “like” or “follow” an organization online, they are also far less likely to disengage from the particular social or environmental issue. Sixty percent will continue to read content and engage with the organization, while only 12 percent will ignore content and 6 percent would “unlike” or “unfollow” the organization within the next 12 months.

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Does a Company’s LGBT Policies Apply to Its Workers Abroad?

Alexis Petru
| Friday November 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

LGBT rainbow flagMost leading U.S. corporations now have LGBT nondiscrimination policies in place for their American gay and lesbian employees, according to Shelley Alpern, director of social research and shareholder advocacy at socially responsible investment firm, Clean Yield Asset Management. But it’s unclear if these policies extend to the companies’ employees in countries outside the U.S. – an issue that becomes particularly important in parts of the world that are culturally and legally hostile to LGBT individuals.

To open up a dialogue on this subject, Clean Yield and a group of other socially-minded investment firms sent letters last week to some of the country’s largest publicly-traded corporations, like Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Target, encouraging the businesses to make sure their LGBT employee protection policies apply abroad.

The investor group, which collectively owns or manages $210 billion in assets, wrote to approximately 70 companies in the S&P 100 that were identified by the Human Rights Campaign’s 2014 Corporate Equality Index as having strong nondiscrimination and equal benefits policies for their U.S. employees.

There is currently no federal law that shields gay, lesbian and transgender individuals from employment discrimination, including not being hired, fired or otherwise singled out because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 29 states lack regulations explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 32 states have no such legislation regarding gender identity.

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Philadelphia More Than Doubles Recycling Rate

Alexis Petru
| Monday November 17th, 2014 | 2 Comments

PhiladelphiaJust in time for last week’s America Recycles Day, the city of Philadelphia announced an impressive achievement in waste reduction: The City of Brotherly Love has increased the amount of materials it recycles by 155 percent over the past six years.

The city collected a record amount of recyclables – 128,000 tons – through its residential curbside recycling program, as well as from city buildings and public spaces during the latest fiscal year, according to the city’s recycling office and mayor’s office of sustainability. That means Philly kept 21 percent of its residential discards from ending up in the dump in the 2014 fiscal year – a 4.6 percent increase over last year’s diversion numbers.

Philadelphia’s recycling efforts had additional environmental benefits beyond the ones most commonly associated with recycling, such as keeping materials out of the landfill and saving resources by reprocessing goods already in the system. The city’s recycling program also cuts its carbon footprint by nearly 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, the city said in a statement.

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After the Thrift Store: What Happens to Your Donated Clothes?

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday November 5th, 2014 | 4 Comments

Goodwill StoreThis past weekend, thousands of fans crowded Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, to watch the San Francisco 49ers play the St. Louis Rams. Many of these attendees showed up to the game with old jeans and other unwanted articles of clothing, donating them in exchange for a special Levi’s discount coupon, as part of a used clothing drive sponsored by Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co) and Goodwill.

Since Levi Strauss announced the collection event in late October, the iconic jeans maker has received 15,500 unwanted pairs of jeans – 10 tons of denim – dropped off at Goodwill stores for this campaign and at this weekend’s game. Goodwill will sell those jeans and other donations to fund its job training program.

Later this month, LS&Co will cover the field of its stadium with the donated denim, creating a “Field of Jeans” to visually express the enormity of the country’s textile waste – 26 billion pounds sent to the landfill every year, according to the denim giant – as well as to demonstrate an example of how we can find a new use for that material. LS&Co’s partner Goodwill will be responsible for sorting and reselling all jeans and clothes collected through the “Field of Jeans” event.

But what happens to used clothing that can’t be resold – not just from this “Field of Jeans” clothes drive, but from other nonprofit charities, for-profit thrift stores and collection events?

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A Brief History of the Plastic Bag

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday November 5th, 2014 | 8 Comments

Plastic bag litterCalifornia made headlines this fall when it became the first U.S. state to place a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags. But how did we get here: from just a few grocery stores offering customers plastic bags in the late ‘70s to today, with Americans using 100 billion plastic bags each year? Just how did the plastic bag become both so popular in our society and so problematic to the environment?

In 1965, Swedish company Celloplast came up with the design on which all modern plastic shopping bags are based: a tube of plastic sealed at the bottom to allow for the packaging of goods, an open top to insert such items into the bag and handles for convenient carrying. This model bag, which later became known as the “T-shirt plastic bag,” was made from high-density polyethylene, or No. 2-type plastic – the same used to produce plastic bottles and plastic lumber.

ExxonMobile was responsible for introducing the plastic shopping bag to the U.S., and the bag debuted in American grocery store checkout lines by the late 1970s. But the T-shirt plastic bag didn’t really start encroaching on the paper grocery bag’s territory until 1982, when two of country’s largest supermarket chains, Safeway and Kroger, made the switch from paper to plastic.

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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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How Natural Infrastructure Can Boost Climate Change Resiliency

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 2 Comments
Restoring wetlands (like these wetlands at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts) can protect coastal communities from floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Restoring wetlands (like these wetlands at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts) can protect coastal communities from floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Are government officials doing enough to prepare their communities for natural disasters and extreme weather events – that are increasing in frequency and severity due to climate change? Not surprisingly, the answer is no, says a new report from nonprofit environmental organizations National Wildlife Federation and Earth Economics and insurance group Allied World Assurance Company Holdings.

Released Monday, “Natural Defenses from Hurricanes and Floods: Protecting America’s Communities and Ecosystems in an Era of Extreme Weather” details the growing threat of climate-related calamities and calls on elected officials and policy makers to make their communities more resilient to climate change’s impacts.

But government agencies shouldn’t necessarily rush to strengthen seawalls, install levees or build new “gray” infrastructure, as part of their emergency preparedness efforts, according to the report’s authors. Instead, communities can achieve resiliency by protecting and restoring natural infrastructure, including wetlands, riparian zones and barrier islands, as well as by designing infrastructure that mimics natural systems such as engineered oyster reefs or dunes.

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

Alexis Petru
| Friday October 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment
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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Is Jessica Alba’s Diaper Company ‘Honest’ About Its Eco-Credentials?

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday October 15th, 2014 | 4 Comments

Jessica AlbaThe Honest Company, a line of eco-friendly baby, personal care and cleaning products dreamed up by Jessica Alba, has become wildly popular among parents looking for an alternative to Pampers and Johnson & Johnson. But, in a marketplace overcrowded with questionable celebrity products – from Suzanne Somer’s ThighMaster to Jessica Simpson’s line of edible cosmetics – is it any wonder a conscious consumer would approach a company created by a Hollywood actress with a heavy dose of skepticism?

To find out if the Honest Company is serious about sustainability, a good place to start is its origin story. Alba said the idea to create her own baby product line came to her when she was pregnant with her first child: Alba’s mother recommended a laundry detergent specially formulated for babies that she had used during Alba’s own childhood, Alba said in an interview with the Thomas Reuters Foundation. But when the “Sin City” actress used the detergent, she broke out into a rash – which motivated her to investigate the health effects of chemicals in everyday consumer products.

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Two Years After Sandy: NYC Plans for Transportation Resiliency

Alexis Petru
| Monday September 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a short series on creating resilient cities, sponsored by Siemens. Please join us for a live Google Hangout with Siemens and Arup on October 1, where we’ll talk about this issue live! RSVP here.

New York City Transit employees pump water out of the subway tunnels, after flooding from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

New York City Transit employees pump water out of the subway tunnels after flooding from Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

When Superstorm Sandy swept through New York City on Oct. 29, 2012, the storm completely upended one of the busiest transportation networks in the country — flooding and cutting off power to streets, tunnels, subway stations and airports. Even after the flood waters receded, it took city workers up to two weeks after the storm hit to get almost all of the Big Apple’s transit network up and running again – although some services, including portions of the subway system, are still out of commission to this day.

According to the city’s estimates, Superstorm Sandy resulted in a whopping $8 million of physical damage to the region’s transportation infrastructure and affected nearly 8.5 million public transit riders, 4.2 million drivers and 1 million air travelers.

But nearly two years after Sandy, New York City has not only worked to repair and restore its transportation infrastructure from the storm’s damage, but is also taking steps to improve the resiliency of its transit network. The city outlined its plan to better prepare for future natural disasters – including the effects of climate change – in its report, A Stronger, More Resilient New York, released in June 2013.

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Carbon Offsets 101: A Simple Guide to Buying Quality

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday September 24th, 2014 | 2 Comments
The Arcata City Forest Barnum Tract is a community forest located in Northern California creating verified carbon offsets through the Climate Action Reserve’s (CAR) Forest Project Protocol. The land was purchased from a timber company and was determined to be at high risk of intensive harvesting or cutting.  Image courtesy Terrapass.

The Arcata City Forest Barnum Tract is a community forest located in Northern California creating verified carbon offsets through the Climate Action Reserve’s (CAR) Forest Project Protocol.

Carbon offsets used to be maligned as a way for individuals to assuage their eco-guilt or for companies to falsely promote a green image without changing their behavior – a system no better than the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences during the Middle Ages. But the market for carbon offsets has come a long way in recent years, and now, with more regulation and oversight, carbon offsets are a valid way to reduce your individual or company’s carbon footprint, as long as they’re accompanied, of course, with measures to green your personal lifestyle or business operations.

As TriplePundit launches its new series this week – a business buyer’s guide to carbon offsets – we thought we’d start with the basics, reviewing what exactly a carbon offset is, how the market works and how companies can go about purchasing offsets.

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Study: Cats, Cell Towers are More Deadly to Birds Than Wind Turbines

Alexis Petru
| Monday September 22nd, 2014 | 3 Comments

wind turbinesWind energy has famously pitted environmentalists against each other – renewable energy and climate action advocates vs. wildlife conservationists concerned about wind turbines injuring or killing birds. But a new study, funded by the American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI), reveals that bird fatalities resulting from collisions with wind turbines are extremely low; in fact, cell towers and cats kill a far greater number of birds than wind turbines do, the peer-reviewed report found.

Wind turbines are responsible for an estimated 214,000 to 368,000 bird deaths each year, according to A Comprehensive Analysis of Small-passerine Fatalities from Collision with Wind Turbines at Wind Energy Facilities. This is a small fraction of bird fatalities compared with the 6.8 million annual deaths caused by collisions with cell and radio towers and the 1.4 to 3.7 billion fatalities from cats, say the report’s authors, environmental consulting firm West, Douglas Johnson from the U.S. Geological Survey and Joelle Gehring of the Federal Communications Commission.

The report, which focuses on passerines (small birds such as songbirds), is the most comprehensive study of the impacts of wind turbines on small bird populations, said Taber Allison, AWWI director of research and evaluation, in a statement.

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