3p Contributor: Harry Stevens

Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, TriplePundit, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens

Recent Articles

New York Startup Seamless and its Great Idea to Help the Environment

| Tuesday April 23rd, 2013 | 1 Comment
Seamless's eco-friendly ordering option has already saved more than one million napkins and sets of utensils in 2013.

Seamless’s eco-friendly ordering option has already saved more than one million napkins and sets of utensils in 2013.

The leading online service for ordering delivery and takeout food says that its customers are increasingly making “eco-friendly” orders, asking delivery drivers to hold the plastic utensils and napkins.

Seamless, a New York-based company that lets users order food from more than 12,000 top restaurants in the United Stated and the United Kingdom, announced this week that eco-friendly orders processed through the website increased by 155 percent from 2010 to 2011, and by another 216 percent from 2011 to 2012.

“Our ordering data shows that people are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of choosing eco-friendly options when they can, and we expect that trend to increase,” said Ryan Scott, vice president of marketing at Seamless, in an e-mail.

Seamless users, of which there are more than two million, can click a checkbox during checkout that says, “I’m eco-friendly! No plastic utensils or napkins, please.” Seamless also reminds users about its eco-friendly ordering option through social media channels.

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Whole Foods to Grow Produce on Roof of New Brooklyn Store

| Wednesday April 10th, 2013 | 3 Comments
This artist's rendering shows the forthcoming Whole Foods Market location in Gowanus, Brooklyn, complete with rooftop greenhouse.

This artist’s rendering shows the forthcoming Whole Foods Market location in Gowanus, Brooklyn, complete with rooftop greenhouse.

Whole Foods Market will build a greenhouse farm on the roof of its forthcoming store in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Scheduled to open this fall, the greenhouse will be the first commercial scale farm of its kind integrated within a retail grocery space.

Gotham Greens, a Brooklyn-based urban agriculture company that grows food for local restaurants and retailers, will run the 20,000-square-foot rooftop facility, which will grow pesticide- and GMO-free produce year round for the store in Gowanus and other Whole Foods stores throughout the city.

“Gotham Greens has been a valued local supplier of high quality, flavorful and fresh produce to Whole Foods Market since early 2011, making this greenhouse project a natural and extremely exciting next step in our relationship,” said Christina Minardi, president of Whole Foods Market’s northeast regional operations.

“We’re particularly excited to partner with a local organization with roots right here in Brooklyn and a mission in line with our own, in that we both care deeply about providing local, fresh and sustainably-produced food,” she added.

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U.S. Solar Record Set in 2012

| Friday March 15th, 2013 | 0 Comments

american flag sunInstallations of solar photovoltaics  in the United States grew by 76 percent in 2012, making solar the fastest growing energy source in the country, according to a new report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industry Associations (SEIA).

The report, U.S. Solar Market Insight: Year-in-Review 2012, shows that the U.S. installed 3,313 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2012, setting a new industry record.

“2012 was a busy year in the U.S. solar market,” said Shayle Kann, vice president at GTM Research, a division of Greentech Media that provides analysis of the sustainable technology market.

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‘Cloud Computing King’ Salesforce to Power Data Centers with Renewables

| Wednesday March 13th, 2013 | 2 Comments

serversSalesforce has announced an ambitious goal to fully power its data centers with renewable energy. The software-as-a-service company that Bloomberg Businessweek recently called “a cloud computing king” announced last week that it is “committing to work to steadily increase the amount of renewable energy we use in our data center operations, to reach our goal to be fully powered by renewable energy.”

The company will take a number of steps this year to begin making its data centers more sustainably powered. The company will research energy efficient data center technology and encourage its energy providers to increase the supply of renewable energy. The company will also convene peers, sustainability specialists and energy experts around data center energy issues.

“We see the development of renewable sources of energy as an important part of our sustainability strategy, and we believe the cloud should be powered by clean sources of energy,” the company said in a statement.

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Watchdog Group Calls Chevron’s $2.5m Super PAC Donation Illegal

| Thursday March 7th, 2013 | 0 Comments

chevronA collection of government watchdog and environmental organizations has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Chevron and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC to which Chevron donated $2.5 million during the 2012 campaign.

The complaint, filed by Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth U.S., Greenpeace and Oil Change International, alleges that Chevron violated a federal law that prohibits government contractors from making political contributions.  The complaint also urges the FEC to investigate whether the Congressional Leadership Fund broke the law by accepting the contribution even when it knew that Chevron was a federal contractor.

The provision in question is a section of the Federal Election Campaign Act which states:

 It shall be unlawful for any person who enters into any contract with the United States… to make any contribution of money or thing of value… to any political party, committee, or candidate for public office or to any person for any political purpose or use; or knowingly to solicit any such contribution from any such person for any such purpose during any such period.

The provision, also known as the “pay-to-play” prohibition, was initially enacted at the federal level in 1940. The ban was upheld as recently as Nov. 2, 2012, when the District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the ban does not violate either the First or Fifth Amendments (although it is unclear whether the Supreme Court would now uphold the ban given its permissive attitude toward corporate political spending).

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Government Considers Dropping LEED’s Preferred Certification Status

| Tuesday February 12th, 2013 | 3 Comments
The U.S. government is reviewing which of the green building certification systems it should use to certify federal buildings.

The U.S. government is reviewing which of three green building certification systems it should use to certify federal buildings.

A review of green building certification systems has some commentators worried that the federal government is about to weaken its green requirements for construction and upgrades of federal buildings.

Last week, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced it will be seeking public input regarding the federal government’s use of third-party green building certification systems. GSA published a notice in the Federal Register seeking public comments on which green building certification schemes, if any, “are most likely to encourage a comprehensive and environmentally-sound approach to the certification of green Federal buildings.”

At issue is which of three certification schemes the GSA will recommend: the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED 2009, the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes, or the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge.

Because buildings are responsible for around 40 percent of primary energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, the recommendation that GSA makes should prove significant. Currently, GSA uses LEED for new construction and modernization projects, but has indicated that it is open to change.

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Obama Taps REI Chief for Interior Secretary

| Thursday February 7th, 2013 | 2 Comments

At the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, CA.On Wednesday, President Barack Obama nominated REI CEO Sally Jewell to be the next Secretary of the Interior.

Jewell, who took over REI in 2005, has a record both as a successful businesswoman and a longtime conservation advocate. REI, which was founded in 1938, grew rapidly under Jewell’s tenure, and the company today operates over 100 stores in around 30 states.

Jewell’s resume, which includes a stint for the Mobil oil company as well as 20 years in the banking sector, belies simple categorization as a environmentalist. Still, Jewell’s record at REI suggests that she will add another environmentally conscientious voice to the group of advisors on which the president will rely when crafting U.S. energy policy during his second term.

Jewell has received a slew of accolades for her environmental leadership, including the 2009 Rachel Carson Award for environmental conservation from the Audubon Society and the 2009 Green Globe – Environmental Catalyst Award from King County, Wash., among others.

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World’s Greenest Auto Plant Has Massive New Solar Park

| Thursday January 31st, 2013 | 1 Comment
Volkswagen's ultra-green Chattanooga factory will receive power from an ocean of solar panels that lie on 33 acres to the north of the plant.

Volkswagen’s ultra-green Chattanooga factory will receive power from an ocean of solar panels that lies just north of the plant.

Volkswagen has flipped the switch on a gigantic new solar park that will help power its ultra-green Diesel Passat factory in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The park is the largest solar installation ever built in Tennessee. A veritable ocean of solar modules –  33,600 in all – occupy 33 acres and produce enough electricity to power 1,200 homes each year.

“We are proud to power up the biggest solar park of any car manufacturer in North America today,” said Frank Fischer, CEO and Chairman of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga operations.

The new solar system will provide 12.5 percent of the energy needs for the factory, which in late 2011 became the world’s first factory to earn LEED Platinum Certification and has been called “the world’s greenest auto plant” by the U.S. Green Building Council.

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Concern Remains as NY Times Downplays Significance of Environment Desk Closure

| Monday January 21st, 2013 | 1 Comment
While the New York Times says the closure of its environment desk will not affect coverage, others remain unconvinced.

While the New York Times says the closure of its environment desk will not affect coverage, many remain unconvinced.

The New York Times is closing its environment desk in coming weeks, assigning its seven reporters and two editors to other departments and eliminating the positions of environment editor and deputy environment editor. While the paper has insisted that the closure will not affect its environmental coverage, many remain unconvinced.

“This change to our environmental coverage is purely a change in the architecture of the editing,” Eileen Murphy, Vice President of Corporate Communications for the New York Times Company, told TriplePundit in an email.

The Times’s environmental coverage has generally outpaced other media outlets in recent years. A recent analysis by The Daily Climate found that media coverage of climate change has steadily declined since 2009 even as the incidence of extreme weather events has dramatically increased.

The U.S. paper of record said it decided to close the desk because environmental stories are always related to other news categories — national, foreign, economic, and so on — and so “it makes sense to have reporters on all relevant desks covering a wide range of environment issues,” according to Murphy.

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In a Blow to Car Dealers, Court Affirms Tesla’s Right to Operate Company-Owned Stores

| Tuesday January 15th, 2013 | 1 Comment
A Tesla store at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Calif. A Massachusetts court has ruled that such stores do not violate car dealership franchise statues.

A Tesla store at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Calif. A Massachusetts court has ruled that such stores do not violate car dealership franchise statues.

A lawsuit brought by Massachusetts auto dealers against Tesla Motors seeking to prevent the company from selling its electric vehicles in company-owned retail stores has been dismissed.

The suit, brought by the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association (MSADA) in Norfolk County Superior Court, alleged that Tesla was violating state franchise laws by opening a company-owned store in Natick, Mass., last September. Judge Kenneth Fishman dismissed the case based on the auto dealers’ lack of standing and failure to state a claim.

“We are delighted by the outright dismissal of this case and the validation that we are operating our business in compliance with the laws and expectations of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Elon Musk, Tesla co-founder and CEO.

The suit is the latest in a series of legal challenges brought against Tesla for pursuing an unusual company-owned store model “to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicle technology.” Car dealers in New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and Oregon have sued the company for opening company-owned stores that compete with dealerships, which they say is illegal.

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Notbox Sustainable Packaging Solution Coming to North America

| Monday January 14th, 2013 | 1 Comment

notboxThe Notbox Company, a seven-year-old venture led by former Wall Street financier Thomas Hellman, has announced that it is bringing its “leaner, meaner and greener” packaging solution to North America. The London-based Notbox, which has been serving European clients for several years, offers reusable packaging products that provide alternatives to unsustainable cardboard packaging.

“Currently, cardboard is used to ship 90 percent of all products in the U.S. but the growing focus towards sustainability by businesses and consumers makes this the perfect time to bring Notbox to the market,” said Hellman, who spent 25 years as an institutional trader on Wall Street. He hopes his innovative products will help his company grab a piece of the $119 billion North American packaging market.

“Reducing corrugated cardboard excess is one of the fastest and most effective steps a company can take to reduce waste and is high on the corporate agenda,” he said. “We can demonstrate not only the environmental benefits of using Notboxes but also the cost advantages, especially for the supply chain sector where vast quantities of products move in cycles between distribution centers and retail stores.”

Compared with a cardboard box, which is usually used for one trip before being discarded, a Notbox can make 20 or more trips, providing financial and environmental benefits.

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Don’t Blame Google and Starbucks For Minimizing Their Tax Bills

| Thursday January 10th, 2013 | 3 Comments
Corporations cannot be expected to pay more taxes than legally required. To increase public revenue, governments must amend tax codes.

Corporations cannot be expected to pay more taxes than legally required. To increase public revenue, governments must update tax codes.

In a recent post on his blog, BusinessGreen, James Murray argues that Google’s and Starbucks’s use of “complex accounting techniques” to minimize their tax bill undermines their efforts to “position themselves as… environmentally and socially responsible businesses.”

Murray claims that despite Google’s investments in clean tech R&D and Starbucks’s success in sourcing ethically produced coffee, to name just two examples of the companies’ responsible activities, these companies “deserve the public condemnation that is coming their way” unless they pay more taxes than required by law.

Murray’s indignation notwithstanding, he missteps by assigning blame to actors obeying the rules of the system in which they operate, failing to identify the system itself as the proper target of scorn. Publicly traded companies like Google and Starbucks are fiduciarily beholden to their shareholders to maximize profits and minimize losses. Companies that fail to take advantage of tax loopholes made available by governmental tax codes are remiss in their financial duties and might even be subject to commensurate legal repercussions.

The most compelling corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs are as justifiable in business terms as they are in social and environmental ones. Shareholders and board members should embrace a company’s CSR initiatives with an enthusiasm greater than or equal to that of environmentalists and human rights advocates.

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Joining the Sharing Economy Has Never Been Easier

| Monday January 7th, 2013 | 1 Comment

sharing-economy-topper-grey

The sharing economy is ripe for rapid growth.

The sharing economy is ripe for rapid growth.

Why build new hotels when millions of rooms in private homes around the world are left empty? This simple question led Brian Chesky to found Airbnb, a service that matches people seeking short-term accommodations with private hosts who have unused space to rent.

In four short years, Airbnb has become the most successful of a bevy of companies that comprise a new movement known as “the sharing economy.” Across the world, entrepreneurs are embracing the concept of the sharing economy, starting business that use resources that already exist instead of depleting increasingly scare reserves.

In the process, practitioners of the sharing economy are challenging traditional capitalist assumptions, preserving the environment while creating platforms for communities to become more connected.

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Record Number of U.S. Companies Issuing Sustainability Reports

| Wednesday December 26th, 2012 | 1 Comment
Investors on Wall St. are beginning to see a correlation between sustainability and financial performance.

Investors on Wall St. are beginning to see a correlation between sustainability and financial performance.

2011 was the first year ever that a majority of companies in the S&P 500 publicly disclosed their sustainability performance, according to new research from Governance & Accountability Institute (G&A Institute). Moreover, companies that issued sustainability reports enjoyed higher financial returns than their non-reporting competitors.

In the analysis (somewhat gauchely titled “2012 Corporate/ESG/Sustainability/Responsibility Reporting – Does It Matter?”), G&A Institute states that 53 percent of the 500 companies indexed by Standard and Poor’s issued sustainability reports in 2011, a drastic increase from 2010, when only around 19 percent of the companies reported.

“The lesson for corporate management and boards: If you are not reporting, your competitors and peers almost surely are,” observed Louis D. Coppola, a partner and senior vice president at G&A Institute. “The task of ‘catching up’ will only grow larger. And, those companies reporting for a longer period of time have a definable lead on their peers.”

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Union Pacific Delivers Cargo Load of Innovation to Meet EPA Emissions Standards

| Tuesday December 18th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Union Pacific Corporation, the company that owns and operates the iconic Union Pacific Railroad, has added a new locomotive to its ultra low-emission diesel fleet at the Chicago rail yard.  With the addition of the new locomotive, Union Pacific has now unveiled seven of the so-called “Genset” (short for generator-set) switcher locomotives in Chicago.

The company began development of the Genset locomotive in 2002, and has now deployed 172 of the ultra-low-emission locomotives in California, Texas and the Chicago area.

“Union Pacific is committed to preserving our environment by reducing emissions to help improve air quality and conserve fuel,” said Bob Turner, senior vice president of corporate relations at Union Pacific.

The 2,000-horsepower locomotives are powered by three engines that reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) by 80 percent and particulate matter (PM) by 90 percent, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 37 percent compared to older switching locomotives.

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