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

Has China Reached Peak Coal?

Alexis Petru
| Tuesday March 3rd, 2015 | 1 Comment
Chinese factory

Cement factory in southwest China.

Last fall, China made a historic climate agreement with the U.S., committing to reach peak carbon by 2030 and peak coal by 2020. And now it appears that the world’s top carbon emitter is starting to make good on its promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions and scale back on its reliance on dirty sources of energy.

According to energy data released by the Chinese government last week, the country’s consumption of coal fell by 2.9 percent in 2014 – the first dip in 14 years, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports. This drop in coal consumption has also led to the first decline in China’s carbon emissions this century – 0.70 percent – estimates Glen Peters, senior research fellow at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway.

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SunEdison Invests $5M To Boost Solar Workforce Diversity

Alexis Petru
| Monday March 2nd, 2015 | 0 Comments

Solar panel installationThe U.S. solar workforce grew nearly 20 percent faster than the national average employment rate last year, according to the Solar Foundation’s 2014 National Solar Jobs Census. But like the rest of the tech industry, this sector of the renewable energy field has a problem when it comes to diversity. Women make up only 22 percent of the solar industry, while 16 percent of the solar workforce is Latino, 7 percent is Asian and 6 percent is African American, last year’s Job Census found.

But a new program from renewable energy development company SunEdison and nonprofit solar installer GRID Alternatives aims to build a more diverse solar workforce. Last month, the organizations announced the launch of the RISE (Realizing an Inclusive Solar Economy) initiative, which will provide women and members of underserved communities with solar job training and job placement through GRID Alternatives’ workforce development program. SunEdison and its foundation will be contributing $5 million to the partnership – in both the form of funding and solar panels.

“The solar industry is adding jobs at a rate of more than 20 percent year over year,” said Erica Mackie, co-founder and CEO of GRID Alternatives, in a statement. “This is an incredible opportunity to connect an industry that needs good people with people that need good jobs, and that’s just what this partnership is doing.”

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Dietary Guidelines Consider Planet’s Health

Alexis Petru
| Friday February 27th, 2015 | 1 Comment

Vegetables“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” These seven words are author and sustainable food advocate Michael Pollan’s sage advice on how to eat a diet that is healthy for both people and the planet. And now it appears the U.S. government is poised to adopt similar nutritional recommendations.

Last week, the nation’s top nutrition panel, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, released its latest report — which argued for a “sustainable diet” high in plant-based foods and lower in calories and animal-based foods. The findings, which serve to provide the scientific basis for the next version of the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines (think the old food pyramid and now, MyPlate), urge Americans to consider the environmental impacts of their diets, saying that food that is more environmentally responsible is usually healthier for people.

This is the first time the advisory committee has incorporated the environmental impact of food production and consumption in its report, which is published every five years.

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BP: Put A Price on Carbon, Let The Market Cut Emissions

Alexis Petru
| Monday February 23rd, 2015 | 2 Comments

BP Gas StationOne of the world’s six major oil and gas companies supports a global price on carbon – and no, this is not an early April Fool’s joke.

In the latest version of its annual Energy Outlook report, BP recommends that governments set a meaningful global price on carbon emissions to level the playing field for businesses and let the market choose the best climate solutions.

The report, which analyzes long-term energy trends and makes projections for global energy markets over the next two decades, predicts global carbon emissions will jump 25 percent by 2035, climbing by 1 percent a year. This estimate is a cause for concern, putting greenhouse gases on a trajectory that is significantly – 18 billion tons of carbon, to be exact – above the path scientists advise to limit the global temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the study notes.

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Elon Musk’s Next Business Venture: Home Energy Storage

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday February 18th, 2015 | 12 Comments

Tesla FactoryHow do you keep your 100-percent-solar-powered home’s lights burning bright at night? How do you maintain electricity during a power outage or natural disaster? The answer: home energy storage devices, which represent a growing market for utilities looking to balance the supply and demand of electricity, as well as consumers that want to get the most out of their renewable energy systems.

And now Tesla, the automaker famous for its all-electric Model S sedan, wants to get in on the action. In an earnings call last week, CEO Elon Musk announced that the company will soon unveil a consumer lithium-ion battery that can be used to store energy in homes or businesses, according to Green Car Reports.

Musk noted that the battery pack’s design is complete and that he was pleased with the result. The Palo Alto, California-based company will start production on the consumer battery in about six months, he said.

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Sprint Offers $5K to Students Who Find Innovative Ways to Recycle Smartphones

Alexis Petru
| Friday February 6th, 2015 | 1 Comment

SmartphonesHave a bright idea for a new way to recycle an old smartphone? This week, Sprint launched its first-ever Smartphone Encore Challenge that invites students to come up with innovative and profitable ways to give new life to these unwanted devices or their components – for the chance to win $5,000 to turn their business plan into reality.

The wireless carrier launched the competition on Monday. It’s open to teams of undergraduate and graduate students who are members of corporate social responsibility (CSR) nonprofit Net Impact’s 155 collegiate chapters across the United States. To participate, students will develop and submit a product concept and business pitch using secondhand smartphones and accessories provided by Sprint and wireless distributor Brightstar.

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Recycling Startup: Market Should Be ‘Main Driver’ of Environmental Change

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday February 4th, 2015 | 0 Comments

LandfillLeftover pizza dough into ethanol fuel and old uniforms into pet bed stuffing – where some peek into a business’ dumpster and see only trash, Rubicon Global finds opportunity.

The Atlanta-based waste management company wants to help corporations cut their waste streams, find innovative recycling options for their unconventional waste materials and slash their garbage bills by as much as 20 to 30 percent, Rubicon told the New York Times.

Founded in 2008, the company has nabbed contracts with 7-Eleven, grocery chains like Wegman’s, big box retail stores, hospitals and even several Fortune 500 companies, the New York Times reported. Rubicon acts like a waste consultant – studying a business’ waste stream and cataloging the data into its proprietary software platform, called Caesar.

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Report: Food Industry Needs to Take Responsibility for Its Packaging Waste

Alexis Petru
| Monday February 2nd, 2015 | 2 Comments

Starbucks Coffee CupsNearly a third of the United States’ solid waste stream is product packaging – Capri Sun drink pouches, Starbucks coffee cups or  Arrowhead water bottles – according to nonprofits As You Sow and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). But Americans only recycle an estimated 51 percent of these packaging materials, the organizations say, and less than 14 percent of all plastic packaging – the fastest-growing type of product packaging.

And leading companies in the fast food, beverage and consumer goods/grocery industries are falling short when it comes to addressing the environmental impacts of their packaging, the two groups say, releasing their findings in a joint report last week.

The study, Waste and Opportunity 2015: Environmental Progress and Challenges in Food, Beverage and Consumer Goods Packaging, reviews the packaging practices and policies of 47 major companies and evaluates them by four standards: reducing waste at the source of the packaging (using reusable packaging or choosing packaging with less material), using recycled-content material, designing packaging for recyclability, and supporting recycling collection efforts for packaging materials.

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Report: Pollution is the Leading Cause of Death in the Developing World

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday January 28th, 2015 | 1 Comment

Indian PollutionIt was only after Seynabou Mbengue saw five of her 10 children die that she realized the culprit: her job extracting lead from used batteries by hand. The Senegalese mother watched as her five youngest children, all born after she started her toxic recycling job, began to have seizures and convulsions until they finally passed away before their second birthdays.

Unfortunately, the tragic deaths of Mbengue’s children are not uncommon. Pollution is the leading cause of death in low- and middle-income countries, according to a report from the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), an organization whose members include the World Bank, Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and various United Nations’ bodies and national governments.

In 2012, pollution – in the form of contaminated soil, water, and both indoor and outdoor air – was responsible for 8.4 million deaths in developing countries, finds Pollution: The Silent Killer of Millions in Poor Countries. That’s almost three times more deaths than those caused by malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined: Malaria claimed 600,000 lives in 2012, HIV/AIDS caused 1.5 million deaths and tuberculosis killed 900,000 individuals.

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Report: U.S. Lags on Embracing the Sharing Economy

Alexis Petru
| Monday January 26th, 2015 | 1 Comment

Sharing EconomyApproximately 80 million Americans took part in the sharing economy last year – from donating unwanted clothes to renting movies from Netflix, marketing firm Leo Burnett estimates. But sharing, borrowing and renting may not be as popular as the media buzz around collaborative consumption would have us believe. According to a new report from the global advertising agency, over 50 percent of U.S. adults surveyed said they would still prefer to own, rather than share.

In The Sharing Economy: Where We Go From Here, Leo Burnett aimed to delve deeper into the findings from a recent worldwide Nielsen survey, in which the company discovered that Americans lag far behind other countries in our participation in the mesh economy.

“Given the United States represents the largest economy in the world and the third largest population, and given the wealth and access to innovation in the U.S. economy, one might have expected the country to be a leader when it comes to the emerging phenomenon of the sharing economy,” the study’s authors wrote.

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

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 1 Comment

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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