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Recent Articles

Ecological Elevators: New Green Tech from Spain

| Wednesday April 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

MP%20elevator.jpg Just when you thought the stairs were your only option for arriving sustainably to your office chair, it’s time to think again. A Spanish company, MP Ascensores, has released its preliminary plans for the MP-E3 elevator that will operate using an integrated approach to green technology. These ecological elevators will bring a new element to green building practice and have the ability to substantially reduce high-rise building energy consumption.
The MP-E3 project has received financing from the Andalucia Technological Corporation so that the first ecological elevators can be up and running in 2011. The technology plans to incorporate a frequency inverter for motors that reduces energy consumption. It also proposes to use the motor itself as a kind of generator, taking advantage of the movement of the elevator to produce electricity that could be injected into the wider energy grid.

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Cultivating Change: Slow Money in Practice

| Monday April 27th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Slow%20Money%20Institute.jpgThe Slow Money movement calls for the creation of new capital markets–markets that channel the flow of investment to small enterprises to bring about sustainable growth in local economies. This grand vision strives to support “tens of thousands of independent, local-first enterprises at the base of the restorative economy.” And now, towards the middle of 2009, the practical fruition of this vision is beginning to unfold across the US.
Woody Tasch, chairman and president of Slow Money, argues that money moves too fast around the globe and that free markets don’t always know best. He dares us to step away from the overpowering “economic and fiduciary nonsense” that controls our financial system and reconsider how we invest for the rebuilding of communities and wealth, protection of the environment, and sustainable food production. Since our previous review of the pioneering book Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money, we can now see the snow-balling practical success of this initiative taking place throughout the nation.

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Bottleless Water: How to Sustainably Quench our Thirst

| Thursday April 9th, 2009 | 0 Comments

glass%20of%20water.jpg We drink bottled water because we are made to believe it is better for us–the liquid is somehow purer, fresher, and/or safer than water that comes straight from the tap. This is simply not the reality, and Quench shows us how water can be purified simply, economically, and more sustainably than bottled water options.
By consuming bottled water we contribute to a host of environmentally damaging activities. For example, we use around 1.5 million barrels of oil per year to produce plastic bottles in the States (not including transport services), we rarely recycle the bottles after we use them (only 1 in 5 on average), and we contribute to the depletion of remote natural water sources if the company is true to it’s bottle labeling. Not to mention that often the product is no better than regular tap water. Eric Goldstein from the Natural Resources Defense Council explains, “No one should think that bottled water is better regulated, better protected, or safer than tap.”
Bottle water aside, demand nonetheless exists for purified water. Quench brings a solution to this; a UV filtration system that is efficient, relatively inexpensive and is simple to have installed and maintained.

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Giving Plants Instead of Flowers

| Tuesday April 7th, 2009 | 1 Comment

giving%20plant.jpg Flowers show people that you care about them, but in doing so we show neglect for wider environmental and social issues related to the cut flower industry. Giving Plants, an online plant delivery service, offers customers the chance to give a long-lasting gift to loved ones in a more sustainable and socially responsible way.
The idea is to completely change how we gift give. Conveniently, the company organizes plant deliveries with online and phone orders, and organizes plants by occasion, price, holiday, and of course by the plant species itself. For example, if one wanted to mimic giving flowers, the “Flowering Plants” selection provides the option to deliver plants “in bud, ready to open, offering a colorful display that will brighten any home or office.” But giving plants goes beyond providing a convenient delivery service; it allows us to invest in a local business with high green credentials, a business that grows plants responding to the seasons in the United States, for distribution in the United States.
It’s is an economical and more ecological option for gift delivery, but best of all it allows us to move away from the cut-flower choice, where gifts may come loaded with uncertain impacts.

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SustainLane Launches Green Collar Jobs Board

| Friday April 3rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

sustainlane.jpegThe online media company SustainLane has recently launched a Green Collar Jobs Board, offering a tool to help you navigate your way down the path of a green career. The site shows us the kind of opportunities that are emerging in today’s job climate and, usefully, how we can be best prepared to position ourselves for such opportunities.
SustainLane streamlines the green job hunt process through it’s comprehensive nationwide listings, offers great job searching and application tips, but it is also frank in sharing the difficulties that are encountered in finding and securing a green job.
Green jobs expert and managing partner at Bright Green Talent, Nick Ellis explains that we are ¨early-on in the transition to a green economy,¨ which makes job-hunting, skill profiling, and interviewing to mention a few, difficult processes to do well in a very competitive market. In the context of national (and global) economic restructuring, he shares with us the hard reality of the situation: ¨There are few green jobs available right now, and whats more, there are too few qualified candidates for these jobs.¨ But there are opportunities and with this new job board we can learn how to go after them effectively in the rapidly expanding green economy.

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Lifecrete: Genuine Eco-Masonry for Your Home and Office

| Thursday March 26th, 2009 | 2 Comments

lifeblock.png Gone are the days that we have to use toxic ingredients to build our homes and work-spaces. Lifecrete offers a new alternative for construction materials, one that ticks the boxes on the sustainability front for both a product and business model. But what does Lifecrete offer to make this choice attractive for builders and consumers?
In today’s building industry, going ¬®green¬® is paramount. In 2007, the National Association of Home Builders reported that 90% of builders incorporated green elements into their projects, reflecting a trend that we all want to live — or at least strive to live — more sustainable lives. But much of the green elements incorporated into construction are secondary aspects, such as solar panels, water management systems, or energy-saving white goods, and little has been done regarding the actual building shell.
As well, many green construction products are damaging to the environment, using the tag ¨energy efficient¨ to grab consumer attention but utilizing such elements as toxic plastic sealers, chemical conditioners, Styrofoam, and traditional concrete, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gas. LifeCrete changes this trend, bringing to the market an affordable choice in masonry, the LifeBlock, that is a genuinely green product.

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Bringing Farm Flavors to the City: Mission Pie, San Francisco

| Tuesday March 17th, 2009 | 1 Comment

mission%20pie.jpgThis caf√© offers it all: great food in a sustainable business context with a friendly atmosphere to enjoy it all in. Whether it’s the apple, walnut, or banana cream pie you’re treating yourself to, you can feel assured that your efforts are benefitting a sustainable business, with an emphasis on city-rural relationships and youth development as well.
Mission Pie in the Mission District has grabbed our attention for its wholesome and genuine approach to sustainable food production and we’re delighted to share their story with you.
The Mission Pie story began in 2005 when a group of youths visiting Pie Ranch expressed that they felt disconnected from the farming world and lacked the means to visit Pie Ranch to bridge this divide.
Since the beginning of 2007, Mission Pie has created an inner-city extension of the Pie Ranch, creating the store front to serve pies using ingredients harvest from the ranch just several miles south of the city, employing neighborhood Mission High School students, and even running programs to take students to the ranch to learn where what we eat actually comes from. It encourages city folk to embrace

“intimacy with their food through live relationships with the people and places that grow the ingredients.”

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Renewable Energy Program Stimulates Growth & Sustainable Business Activity in Peru

| Monday March 16th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Peru.jpg Renewable energy programs are blossoming throughout Latin America as the continent strives to meet basic living standards for many remotely located communities. From the southern tips of Patagonia to northern Mexico it is possible to find research activities and programs focused upon energy provision; anything from solar initiatives, wind technologies, and hyrdo-power projects. Such projects are leading to the creation of more efficient logistic systems, energizing remote communities and creating unprecedented business opportunities throughout Latin America.
One project in particular calls our attention. It is last year’s winners of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Sasakawa Prize: the NGO Project Action’s hydro-power program, which brings clean power to the eastern slopes of the Peruvian Andes region. Since 1992 the organization has installed over 47 micro hydro-electric systems within the region that propel water to create energy. The technology has been adapted from larger scale hydro-schemes to introduce micro energy stations.
This Peruvian model is recognized as an innovative technology that is sustainable and potentially replicable in other remote communities around the world where hydro electrical potential exists. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said that NGO Practical Action is “showing tremendous leadership in bringing clean energy to remote communities in Peru, and in doing so [is] setting further examples of the energy alternatives available to the developing but also the developed world.”

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Is Clorox’ Green Works Range as Green as They Claim?

| Friday March 6th, 2009 | 0 Comments

clorox.jpg Household cleaning is turning more and more into an arena where product choice is an environmental decision. The Clorox Green Works product range is one of the largest and most affordable in the natural cleaning market, but is it a genuinely “environmental” product range or has it been greenwashed? If it is the real deal, how are the products changing the quality of our environment, how can people be sure that it’s as effective as traditional cleaners, and why, if it is a success, does is not replace the whole Clorox range?
According to the company’s website, the product is made from biodegradable ingredients and is not tested on animals, meeting its own sustainability goals. In a market where a standardized industry definition of “sustainable” does not exist, this appears to be a strong step towards producing environmentally responsible products. The Sierra Club has endorsed the product range in line with one of its primary goals “to foster vibrant, healthy communities with clean water and air that are free from pollution.”

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World Social Forum 2009 Makes “Another World Possible” Amidst Economic Crisis

| Wednesday March 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

As the world strives to comprehend and adjust to a plunging economy, a debate with a positive spin is emerging around the framework of socially responsible development models. From the World Social Forum (WSF) last month, attended by both Presidents and the penniless, a strong movement has materialized to recognize today’s global economic crisis as a renewed opportunity to pursue different forms of growth and development, with overlapping themes of social and economic relevance.
The Forum was held in the tropical city of Bel√©m, Brazil and included human rights groups, trade unions, environmental and community organizations, as well as political representatives (including 5 Heads of State). The theme of shaping a “post-crisis world” resonated throughout the numerous forums, roundtables, debates, and presentations as a matter of utmost importance to many economies, including the host region of Latin America.

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The French Condom Company Redefines the “Ethics” of Sex

| Friday February 27th, 2009 | 3 Comments

French%20Letter%20Condoms.jpg We all know what it means to have safe sex. But what does it mean to have responsible sex? Be it during moments of intimacy or not, it could be safe to assume that very few of us think of how the average prophylactic was produced, where it came from, and its environmental impact.
Since 2007 and from a small team of three, The French Letter Condom Company Ltd has brought ethical condoms to the European market. French Letter Condoms (which was named from the British colloquialism “french letter” for condoms) reaches a market where choice of condom brand is possible and where sustainability, even in the bedroom, is relevant. But what exactly what makes a condom “ethical,” and importantly, can they be as good as the rest?

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Business and Government Tackle Pollution Together in Mexico

| Thursday February 26th, 2009 | 1 Comment

vertical%20gardens.jpeg Mexico City is one of the largest urban agglomerates in the World and as such suffers from extreme atmospheric contamination. It contributes 1.5% of the worlds total greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, conditions are so bad that around 4,000 people die every year as a direct result of air contamination and last year the Human Right Commission of the District Federal declared the city in “violation of the right to a healthy environment“.
The project “Sustainable Housing Units” seeks to tackle air pollution with design and engineering measures for residential building, so that residents may one day breathe more easily and see more clearly in a restored and vegetative urban environment.
Over the last decade some major environmental problems have emerged and received considerable coverage in public media. These situations, such as the extinction of many bird species from the contamination levels, have motivated actions from civil society groups, international organization, and more recently, the Mayor’s Office of Mexico City. This latest project seeks to achieve a greener and healthier urban environment for citizens through innovative measures such as the installation of “vertical gardens,” rain water filters, and solar panels in buildings.

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Carbon -The Largest Commodity Market?

| Monday June 30th, 2008 | 2 Comments

carbon.jpg Carbon may become the world’s largest commodity market, according to recent investigations. The Financial Times reported late last week reported that the carbon market could “outstrip the conventional commodities markets” and other estimates of more than $3 trillion in 2020 have been cast, by Point Carbon for example, dependent on US participation. Bart Chilton, commissioner of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission has estimated that

“even with conservative assumptions, this could be a $2 trillion futures market in relatively short order.”

The carbon market emerged after the UNFCCC conference in Kyoto 1997, where over 30 nations adopted GHG reduction schedules. The Kyoto Protocol introduced emissions reduction trading using free market economic mechanisms which allowed the commencement of international carbon reduction transfers. Hence the emergence of a commodities market that is now rapidly escalating in value.

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Great Wines and Sustainable Farming in the Central Coast

| Monday June 30th, 2008 | 0 Comments

wine.jpg The Central Coast Vineyard Team is at the forefront of green viticulture, comprising an active network of local farmers committed to best practice wine-making. For nearly 15 years the Team has been developing and promoting sustainable methods of farming within the region. But even better, they have a profitable business model that produces flavorsome wine grapes whilst putting the environment first. It is a leading practice setting admirable standards in the wine industry.
The Team is a non-profit outfit; a collaborative partnership of scientists, growers, wine makers, researchers and natural resource professionals. Their mission is to promote sustainable winegrowing and they work in a dynamic industry that requires flexibility and innovation to tackle the complexities of environmental management. The diversity of programs undertaken by the Team and the ever-evolving nature of their practice has given them a wide range of experience, and now, the wines and the Team’s reputation are reaping the rewards.
The Team has been recognized as an innovative leader by regulatory agencies, educators, and environmental activists and has received awards from the US Environmental Protection Agency, CA Department of Pesticide Regulation, Regional Water Quality Control Board, SLO Community Foundation, and the SLO Air Pollution Control Board – as reported on their website.

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Paul Polak on Poverty Alleviation

| Friday June 27th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Paul Polak, founder of International Development Enterprises (IDE), has released an enriching addition to the poverty debate. ‘Out of Poverty’ clearly elucidates some of the great myths of traditional development approaches and, best of all, will have you thinking optimistically about solutions.
Polak’s work provides an innovative and well grounded approach to addressing poverty; a revolutionary style that recognises the competencies and enthusiasm of the poor as subjects in the development process.

It is “a wise and engaging new book” (The Economist) that offers “optimism not just for those fighting poverty and those fighting to get out of it, but for any company interested in a basically untapped 1 billion-person market” (BusinessWeek).

For Polak, small farmer prosperity represents a great opportunity to end rural poverty and because of this, development initiatives should maintain a focus on rural development through investment within these communities. In doing so we must move away from the ‘business as usual’ approach and reject 3 great myths surrounding poverty alleviation, which are that:
1. We can donate people out of poverty;
2. We can end poverty through national economic growth; and
3. Multinationals as they are now will end poverty.
He elaborates on the significance of these myths within the book and also provides an outline in his latest IDE presentation, which can be seen on this youtube video:

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