3p Contributor: Carly Smolak

Carly has a BA from Stanford and recently finished her MBA in sustainable management at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. Her interests revolve around sustainable food production, sports, renewable energy, finance, and sustainable business consulting. She lives in Oakland where she spends her spare time cycling, home brewing, gardening, cooking, and surfing (when she can make it over the bridge).

Recent Articles

Scraper Bike Culture Provides Lessons for Sustainable Businesses

| Thursday January 27th, 2011 | 1 Comment

Scraper bikes are built of old discarded parts. Image via Bikehugger

Oakland resident Tyrone “Baby Champ” Stevenson, inventor of the “scraper bike,” may not have known how big his idea would become when he rolled out his first prototype. Or perhaps he did. His creativity led to a scraper bike movement that is not only gaining momentum in the Bay Area, but is quickly becoming a global phenomenon. By addressing the issue of scarcity in a way that was meaningful to him and his community, his innovation led to a more affordable, sustainable form of transportation and self-expression while also promoting non-violence. And these bikes are really friggin rad.

The scraper bike movement is a microcosm of the larger sustainability imperative because they both share a common driver:

Scarcity.

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What Does the Catholic Church Have to do with Carbon Offsets?

| Monday April 26th, 2010 | 2 Comments

The Catholic Church more or less invented offsets in the Middle Ages when it put a price tag on sin and sold forgiveness in the form of “indulgences.”  While the practice was condemned by many Christians and helped fuel the Protestant revolution, we find ourselves, once again, trying to buy our way out of our “sins” against the planet—this time in the form of carbon offsets.

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Bollocks! The Green 2010 FIFA World Cup Is Half Empty

| Saturday April 10th, 2010 | 6 Comments

The World Cup is the planet’s largest sporting event, more popular than the Olympics and the Superbowl…. combined.  It’s a celebration of the world’s favorite game and an opportunity for people to express their national pride.  But as we lurch towards a more globalized sense of community, expressing the collective direction of our species is becoming as important as celebrating nationalism.  Or at least should be.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup will have the greatest carbon footprint of any sporting event “committed” to climate neutrality. “Committed” would be in quotations because the organizers don’t really say what they are actually doing, nor do they even identify who is really responsible for implementing sustainability measures.

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Quantifying Progress: Whole Foods vs. Milton Friedman

| Thursday February 25th, 2010 | 5 Comments

five year anniversary

Spooner's Milton Friedman

Five years ago, 3p founder Nick Aster covered the exchange between Milton Friedman and John Mackey featured on Reason.com. On one side of the ring was Friedman, swinging away on behalf of profit at all social and environmental costs, echoing his infamous assertion that the only “social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.”  On the other side was Mackey counter-punching, explaining that by focusing on creating value for all of its stakeholders instead of just shareholders, Whole Foods built a lucrative empire of happy people and shareholders alike.

Aster asked, “[Profit] is certainly a lot easier to quantify than something like ‘happiness’, but the intangible benefits of good, honest business clearly go way beyond pure finance….Must the word ‘profit’ always refer to money in the strictest sense?”

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B9′s Carbon Free Cargo Ships: Wind and Biofuel Powered Shipping

| Friday February 12th, 2010 | 0 Comments

While many of us greenies espouse the virtues of supporting local economies, occasionally we (ehem, I) want that Piemonte Barolo or a block of Basque blue cheese. And with China leading the global charge in production of renewable infrastructure and equipment, it’s looking like going green will far from diminish the need for international commerce.

Today, international shipping is an extremely unregulated and dirty industry that is responsible for between three and four percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. However B9 Shipping, a subsidiary of the UK’s largest independent operator of wind energy, is embarking an a new voyage to “demonstrate the potential of embracing a commercially viable carbon free future to deliver clean shipping solutions for a cleaner planet.”

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The Skinny On Whole Foods’ Anti-Fat Policy

| Tuesday February 2nd, 2010 | 22 Comments

Some people just don’t like carrots, but nobody likes a stick.  This is what John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods and notorious health care blow hard, doesn’t seem to get.  In an attempt to reduce the cost of health care for its employees, Whole Foods created a new policy to offer deeper discounts on food to employees that can squeeze into the company’s [narrow] definition of health. The “Team Member Healthy Discount Incentive” is a voluntary program that evaluates the health of employees based on Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol, and nicotine-use.  Based on these specific criteria, employees can qualify for an additional 2-10% discount on top of the 20% discount all employees already receive.

But instead of acting as an incentive, the program may have the exact opposite effect and act more like a punishment for larger-bodied employees who already have to deal with living in a society whose last acceptable “–ism” is hating on fat people.  The issue here is not about companies encouraging the well-being of their employees.  The issue here is that a large company is adopting a prescriptive definition of what health means for all people and bodies, and  imposing that criteria upon its employees.

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Power to Your Pedals: Bike Powered Cell Phone Chargers in Kenya

| Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Two electrical engineering students at Nairobi University, 24 year old Jeremiah Murimi and 22 year old Pascal Katana, have developed an innovation to literally bring power to more people in Kenya.  Using salvaged parts from old televisions and radios, the duo retrofitted the dynamo attached to all bikes sold in Kenya so that cyclists can charge their cell phones as they ride.

Charger

Charger

Of Kenya’s 38.5 million people, it is estimated that roughly 17.5 million own a cell phone.  However, many Kenyans lack access to the necessary electrical infrastructure to charge their phones, forcing them to travel great distances and pay steep prices to juice up their phones at charging stations (around $2 a charge).  This new device, which is small enough to fit in a pocket along with a mobile device, will sell for about $4.50, meaning that consumers will recover the purchase price by the third charge.

As a species, humans are living in an increasingly industrialized habitat—one crammed full of complex machines designed to perform often mundane tasks that we once accomplished with the twist of a wrist (electric can openers?) or ancient technology (plug in air fresheners?).  In such an environment, it is easy to forget that our bodies can do more than consume.

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Top Five Reasons to Like Rickshaw Bagworks

| Monday November 9th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Picture 1Mark Dwight, former CEO of Timbuk2, has taken his vision of sustainability and experience in messenger bag industry and spun it into San Francisco’s newest bag company- Rickshaw Bagworks.  Rickshaw is a relatively new company, and operates out of a two year old factory situated in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood.  Rickshaw comes after a long line of San Francisco messenger bag companies- most notably Timbuk2 and Chrome.  Although not the first bag company in the city by the bay, Rickshaw is the first to embed sustainability into the culture of the company.

If you haven’t familiarized yourself with its offerings, here are five ways Rickshaw distinguishes themselves from the proverbial messenger bag pack:

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US Chamber Will See Yes Men In Court

| Wednesday October 28th, 2009 | 4 Comments

yesmenIf you are a fan of the Yes Men, you probably ought to go see their newly released movie, The Yes Men Fix The World.  Multiple times.  With all of your friends and family.  The Yes Men will need all of the backing they can get, financial and otherwise, to fight a lawsuit filed by the US Chamber of Commerce against the group for copyright and trademark infringement.

Last week the Yes Men staged a fake US Chamber of Commerce press conference to announce that the world’s largest business federation would reverse its previous denial of climate change.  Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum, impersonated a representative of the Chamber’s CEO, Thomas J. Donohue, addressing a number of reporters who attended the event under the false pretense that it was an official briefing.  The Yes Men also created a fake US Chamber of Commerce website.  The media was, by and large, unaware that this was staged- Fox News interrupted programming to broadcast the phony announcement, and Reuters ran the press release as an authentic news item.  It’s hard not to laugh.

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Smart Choice Label Fails Industry, Consumers, FDA

| Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 1 Comment

San Fran 08 075_thumbOn Friday, the highly controversial Smart Choice food labeling program announced it will voluntarily “postpone active operations” three days after the FDA unveiled its plans to review any health claims displayed on the front of food packaging. While this means there will temporarily be no new processed junk food added to the list of “smart choices,” many existing products will continue to boast the deceptive label.

That’s weird. Why would a label that claims to be “coalition-based” run for the hills upon the FDA’s announcement that it will begin to vet nutritional claims found on the front of food packaging? If “scientists, academicians, nutrition educators, public health organizations, food manufacturers, retailers and government observers came together to create a robust system designed” for the consumer, if they were truly “transparent,” and if their standards were sufficiently “comprehensive” to apply to the “diet and health needs of the entire U.S. population,” then there should be no cause for concern.

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Reflecting on No Impact Week: Economic Growth and Sustainability

| Wednesday October 21st, 2009 | 3 Comments

LM flotsamEver considered going on a weeklong carbon cleanse?  On October 18th, in partnership with the Huffington Post, the No Impact Project launched No Impact Week, a seven-day guided experiment in sustainable living.  Each day focuses on a different topic:  Consumption, Trash, Transportation, Food, Energy, Water, and Giving Back.  The goal is to help the average consumer, not just “tree-hugging, bicycle-riding, canvas-bag-toting, eco-warriors,” explore the benefits and reflect on the challenges of reducing his or her environmental impact.

Biking from my house to downtown Oakland, I bore witness to the purged flotsam of the recent downpour.  Floating in gyres at the perimeter of Lake Merritt was a stinking, oily, sludge soup of polystyrene instant noodle cups, to-go boxes, and countless coffee cups.  As I reflected on the first four themes of No Impact Week–consumption, trash, transportation, and food–I realized that they were all swirling together in that rotating constellation of trash, inseparable from one another and indistinguishable from the mess.

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Friends Might Start Letting Friends Drink Starbucks

| Friday October 16th, 2009 | 8 Comments

Starbucks-logo

Coffee accounts for 80 percent of all Fair Trade certified products sold in the US, and with 40 million pounds of Fair Trade coffee purchases in 2009, Starbucks is by far the largest buyer of Fair Trade coffee on the planet. Starbucks’ commitment to Fair Trade is commendable, and in fact seems exceptional, in a world where the vast majority of companies engage in less-than-ethical business practices.  TransFair USA, the only third-party Fair Trade certifier in the US, calls the relationship between the non-profit and Starbucks “deeply transformational” to thousands of farmers and their communities.

In honor of Fair Trade Month, TransFair USA CEO, Paul Rice, and Starbucks senior vice president of Coffee & Tea, Dub Hay, met on Monday to discuss the virtues of Fair Trade and how the relationship between the non-profit and the world’s most well known coffee slinger has grown in recent years.  The discussion was broadcast live over the Internet,  with Rice and Hay fielding questions submitted via Twitter, Facebook, and live chat.

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The Cost of McDonald’s Free Burger Giveaway

| Monday October 12th, 2009 | 4 Comments

McdoLogoCorp1[1]During the month of September, a McDonald’s promotion gave away free Angus beef burgers and paid the fares for public transportation users in six US cities– Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, and Washington DC.

Such news elicited an emotional cocktail of optimism and skepticism.  With Nike, Apple, and PG&E recently forfeiting their membership to the US Chamber of Commerce citing differing views on climate change, this seemed as if another major corporate player was starting to acknowledge the business imperative of sustainability. At first glance, the program almost seemed to be rewarding public transportation users for their climate conscious choice.

But don’t get too excited.  It appears that this marketing campaign has more to do with ‘giving Americans a break’ during these economic hard times than sustainability. The president of the Greater Atlanta McDonald’s Operators Association explains, “The McDonald’s owner/operators enjoyed giving back to the community this summer with free McCafé coffees and paying peoples’ toll booth fees, and now we want to give downtown commuters some economic relief and a free sample of our new premium Angus burgers.”

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Coke’s UK Recycling Bins Will Offset the Company’s Carbon

| Friday October 2nd, 2009 | 2 Comments

Coca Cola RecyclesCoca Cola is rolling out a new consumer focused recycling program in the UK in an attempt to address the company’s carbon emissions.  Along with the Southampton city council, the company will jointly fund a citywide recycling program that entails placing branded recycling bins in areas of heavy pedestrian traffic.  This will be the country’s first city center Recycle Zone, a part of a larger initiative that coincides with a national ad campaign geared toward boosting consumer awareness and recycling.

Over the past year, the partnership between Coca Cola and the Waste and Resources Action Programme has been responsible for recycling 20 tons of material. “We are looking to work with companies that are our customers to jointly develop zones that make it easier for people to recycle,” a company spokeswoman said. “We have 21 zones currently and another 59 planned by the end of 2011.”

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