3p Contributor: Jan Lee

Jan Lee Jan Lee is an independent journalist who lives in Idaho and British Columbia, Canada. Her articles on business, eco-travel, history and culture have been published in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Visit her blog at multiculturaljew.blogspot.com

Recent Articles

What Makes a Quality Carbon Offset

Jan Lee
| Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 3 Comments
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wind turbines in India

When critics want to show that carbon offset programs don’t work, they’ll often point at Coldplay’s first carbon offset investment. In 2002, the British rock band announced that to offset the environmental impact of their second successful album, a Rush of Blood to the Head, they planned to plant several thousand mango trees in southern India. The announcement was well received: Not only did Coldplay contribute, but fans logged in online to support to the investment. The planting of 10,000 trees was viewed as a worthy investment to balance the many units of carbon produced by the band’s increasingly successful, and carbon-dependant lifestyle.

Four years later, it was revealed that forty percent of the trees had died, allegedly from lack of water. The trees that were to provide carbon sequestration for all those hours of electricity usage, plane rides, performances and retakes were billed as a failed investment.

What critics often don’t relate is the second part to the story: Some years later, Coldplay returned to that initial vision and invested in a forest on the outskirts of an abandoned mine with other investors to transform a World War II armament site into an ecological preserve.

Both Coldplay and Carbon Neutral Company, the carbon offset provider they had contracted through, went on to invest in and manage numerous other offset programs. But, both learned a critical lesson from that initial, embarrassing failure: the necessity of due diligence and the value of adhering to every one of the principles of carbon offsetting.

What makes carbon offsetting work?

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EPA: Native American Tribes Hit Hard by Climate Change

Jan Lee
| Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 4 Comments

climate_change_epa_USACEDrought conditions in the Pacific Northwest aren’t letting up. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency forecasts that while there may be some improvement in Nevada and Arizona, the lack of rain will likely continue through the winter in California.

This is particularly bad news for the country’s Southwestern tribes, who have been hit hard by diminishing water levels and parched soil conditions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, some 44 tribes in California are in jeopardy of running out of water, as communities struggle to address drought conditions that now cover more than 60 percent of the state.

In response to these concerns, the EPA announced last Wednesday that it would award southwest tribal communities a total of $43 million to deal with improvements needed to counteract the drought conditions.

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FEMA: Plan for Climate Change or Risk Emergency Funding

Jan Lee
| Monday October 20th, 2014 | 13 Comments

climate_change_FEMA_usdaWith winter just around the corner and El Niño still a probable forecast, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has news for state governments: Prepare for climate change now or risk losing access to funding.

The agency has just released a draft of its forthcoming State Mitigation Plan Review Guide, which includes new guidelines in assessing and planning for climate change. Entitled a ‘Draft for Public Comment,’ the document highlights some key changes in FEMA’s regulations for those states receiving federal emergency funding – including the need to prepare for, and assess, climate change risk.

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Can Geoengineering Really Fix Climate Change?

Jan Lee
| Friday October 17th, 2014 | 56 Comments

climate_change_geoengineering_NASAEveryone seems to be wracking their brains about how to combat climate change these days. From the conservatively pragmatic to the impressively ambitious, there seem to be no end of theories on what will ultimately slow the heating of the atmosphere. While most of us have already heard of, and probably implemented, solutions like less driving and paring down on landfill refuse, there’s a whole lot of other ideas on the table these days that take a more imaginative tact.

One concept that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has proposed is called geoengineering: a fascinating collection of brainstorms that would mostly be relegated to the extreme of impressively ambitious goals. One approach that you probably heard about a few years ago involved wrapping Greenland in a huge blanket to reduce glacier melt.

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Berkeley Takes on the Sugary Drink Industry

Jan Lee
| Wednesday October 15th, 2014 | 0 Comments

sugary_drinks_supermarketBerkeley, California has been called the epicenter of many things. In the 1960s, it played a pivotal role in the anti-war movement, the counter-culture movement and the free speech movement. And as Robert Reich, University of California, Berkeley Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, recently pointed out in his blog, the area may soon have one more attribute to add to its fame: the first city to tax sugary drinks.

If this doesn’t seem like much of an accolade, consider New York. The indefatigable ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to push through a ban on sugary drinks a few years back and was soundly rebuffed by the courts for executive overreach. The credit for that failure was attributed to the soda industry, which lodged a vigorous campaign to stop the restriction and has been equally focused on dispelling criticisms of the sugar industry.

But just because New York is big, populous and has lots of lobbyists and good lawyers, doesn’t mean the fight is over concerning food regulation and sugar, apparently. After all, if our national neighbor to the south can push through a soda tax, well, why not a little American city with a world-famous research center?

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San Francisco Law: Airbnb Wins, Vacation Rentals Lose

Jan Lee
| Tuesday October 14th, 2014 | 1 Comment

San_Francisco_residence_Airbnb_DOhmerAirbnb has finally gotten a break. After years of increasing scrutiny by cities like New York — which has contended that the sharing economy business has, in some cases, been operating illegally within the metropolitan area — Airbnb can finally chalk one up on its side.

The coup may not help its legal woes in New York, but it’s bound to make San Francisco home-sharing advocates a bit happier. On Oct. 7, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to legalize home rentals of 30 days or less for the city’s permanent residents.

Residents were previously restricted from renting out their homes for periods of less than 30 days, according to a law that the city said protected housing rates and helped to regulate property rentals. The new law allows residents who live in the city for a minimum of nine months of the year to rent out rooms or residences for short stays for up to 90 days of business per year.

Sharing economy advocates fought hard for the change, arguing that the rentals helped cash-strapped homeowners make their mortgages. As of next February, residents who register with the city, agree to pay hotel tax on their rentals and carry a minimum of $500,000 liability insurance can now legally rent out their digs.

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Not Your Grandparent’s Workplace: What Makes Millennials Tick

Jan Lee
| Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 4 Comments

Join TriplePundit, SAP and our special guests for a Twitter Chat about millennials and social entrepreneurship. Follow along at #SAPsocent on October 23 at 9 a.m. PST/Noon EST.

woman on computer
The global workplace is a changing dynamic these days, and no sector of the population knows this better than the millennial generation. Born at the tail end of the 20th century, a time best known for the advent of the clunky but versatile personal computer, the Walkman and equally hefty video cassette recorder, millennials have inherited a global workplace that belies a the personal me-ism of yesterday’s standards.

In fact, the workplace of today is increasingly more diverse, digitally adept and technically focused than ever before. And the 20 to 35 year-olds that are currently driving that innovation, says Nicolette Van Exel, SAP’s head of the Emerging Entrepreneur Initiative, know this high-paced arena is no longer their grandparent’s marketplace.

“[This] millennial generation grew up with access to information like never before,” said Van Exel. “It is a very, very conscious generation.”

The use of mobile devices like the cell phone, laptop and iPhone were really coming into prominence as this generation was heading off to school. By the time they were entering college, social innovations like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn were becoming a versatile part of school curricula. So for the millennials, technical innovation and social networking have an integral role not only in today’s marketplace but in the millennials’ vision of what really is important to their world. And as van Exel explained, that goes beyond the more rudimentary focus of the standard 9-to-5 job that dominated the economy in their grandparents’ age.

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California Governor Vetoes Antibiotic Resistance Bill, Critics Cheer

Jan Lee
| Tuesday October 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Feeding bunks at a dairy in California.Responding to pressure from environmental groups, last week California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a controversial bill that was designed, on the surface, to regulate antibiotic use in livestock.

In a short statement released Sept. 29, Brown stated that the bill did little more than “codify a Federal Drug Administration standard [Guidance 213, or GFI 213] that phases out antibiotic use for growth promotion.” Reinforcing the standard was necessary, said Brown, “because most major animal producers have already pledged to go beyond [it].”

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North American Beekeepers Sue to Stop Pesticides

Jan Lee
| Wednesday October 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments

honey_bee_beekeepers_ Rakib_Hasan_SumonLast year, beekeepers and environmental organizations took to the court in what was to be one of the first legal efforts to protect declining bee populations. The move was bold: Citing the Environmental Protection Agency’s purview over the approval of a class of chemical pesticides called neonicitinoids (neonics), they sued the EPA for circumstances that they say led to Colony Collapse Disorder. The suit maintained that through the approved use of pesticides like clothianidin and thiamethoxam, the EPA failed to prevent conditions that have led to mass deaths of bees and untold financial losses for beekeepers.

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Seattle Assesses Fine to Homeowners for Wasting Food

Jan Lee
| Thursday September 25th, 2014 | 4 Comments

640px-Garbage_Truck_landfillThe push for increased sustainable methods can be seen everywhere these days — certainly when it comes to local efforts to pare down on what we toss in the landfill.

Massachusetts’ ongoing effort to increase composting throughout the state is one such example, which will require any company or facility that disposes of at least a ton of organic material a week to compost its food scraps and other compostable materials. The disposal ban takes effect on Oct. 1 and affects more than 1,500 businesses, hospitals, public offices and facilities. Connecticut and Vermont have similar bans for wasting food that exceeds a 2-ton limit on organic waste per week.

The city of Seattle has also embraced the composting idea with a bit more of a creative edge: In an effort to encourage residents to stop wasting food, the city council passed an ordinance this last Monday that allows households to be fined $1 each time that garbage collectors find more than 10 percent of organic waste in their garbage bins.

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Greenpeace India: Tea Leaves Show DDT Pesticide Residue

Jan Lee
| Wednesday September 24th, 2014 | 7 Comments

Greenpeace_India_pesticides_GPITea is a $2 billion industry in India, which is the fourth-largest producer in the world of the sought-after beverage. The rich, fragrant chai is also unquestionably a domestic market-driver, since more than 80 percent of the product grown in India is sold at home. So when Greenpeace recently released a report stating that tested samples of India’s most prolific brands had traces of pesticides – including the banned substance DDT – well, you can imagine it wasn’t an easy swallow.

The India Tea Board immediately released a statement that all samples met India’s stipulated limits of pesticides and were within safety parameters. With equally rapid speed, Crop Care Federation, which represents the country’s agricultural-chemical industry, demanded a retraction — asserting that Greenpeace had made up the numbers. Within days, Crop Care launched a suit against Greenpeace, stating that the environmental organization had refused to share data with outside sources.

“Greenpeace’s effort to keep essential data away from Indian experts is a clear indication that the report is not just unscientific and fabricated but also done with malicious intent to harm Indian economy at the behest of its foreign donors,” said Crop Care Chair Rajjul Shroff.

This statement piqued our interest. Why would Greenpeace do the extensive research it boasted, and yet refuse to share data with outside sources?

The fact is, it did share the data, said Neha Saigal, senior campaigner for Greenpeace India’s sustainability campaign.

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Companies Sign on to Report on Climate Change

Jan Lee
| Tuesday September 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

climate_change_monopoly_philip_taylor

As we’ve observed in several posts this week, one of the really beneficial outcomes of the increased focus on the United Nations summit on climate change, which launches today, has been the groundswell of companies that have been willing to publicly step up or announce their efforts to offset global warming.

The Climate Disclosure Standards Board and its consortium of signatories has actually been in place since 2007, but its most recent statement is an example of the kind of momentum that is continuing to gain speed from the private sector.

Members of the CDSB have agreed to “to report and make use of climate change information in mainstream corporate reports (such as an Annual Report) to support the U.N. climate change negotiations,” Michael Zimonyi, a Project Officer with the CDSB Secretariat, said in an email.

CDSB offers a suggested Climate Change Reporting Framework that will allow shareholders to have a better sense of how their investments impact or are impacted by climate change, but signatories are not required to use this framework. The CDSB signatories, says the announcement, “believe shareholders and plan beneficiaries have an inherent interest in the completeness and comparability of climate-related information available in annual and other mainstream corporate reports.” The reporting framework also has the support of the U.N. Environment Program.

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University of California Commits $1 Billion to Climate Research

Jan Lee
| Monday September 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

University_California_climate_change_CharlieNguyenYesterday’s People’s Climate March was predicted to be a game-changer for climate policies across the globe. While nearly 400,000 attended to make their wishes known, unfortunately there can sometimes be a big divide between public demands and institutional action. One public entity in California is already making plans to dramatically increase its support for improved climate initiatives.

The University of California has announced that it will commit $1 billion to climate change research initiatives. And with a $91 billion portfolio behind it and some of the top researchers in climate technology on its payroll, the state university system is in a unique position to lend weight to this endeavor.

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Celebrities Line Up for Global Climate Change March

Jan Lee
| Friday September 19th, 2014 | 7 Comments

peoples_climate_marchSome of the world’s top politicians will meet in New York City this week to discuss global temperatures. If they want any proof that climate change is impacting the globe, they only have to look at the map.

The People’s Climate March, which was organized for Sunday, Sept. 21, to coincide with a U.N. climate meeting in New York City this week, is now set to take place in more than a hundred locations across the globe. Host cities range from San Francisco to Alausa Lagos, Nigeria. Even smaller events, designed to reinforce the global nature of concern, have sprung up in cities on every continent.

But, as is often the case, the largest attractor to this cause may be the names that are lending their weight to the march. More than 50 celebrities, from Prince Albert II of Monaco to actors like Willem Dafoe, Susan Sarandon and Brad Pitt, are stepping up to support the effort — which has garnered the endorsements of more than 1,000 environmental, labor and civil rights organizations.

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Labor and Environment Issues Plague Apple for Third Year

Jan Lee
| Wednesday September 17th, 2014 | 3 Comments

apple_china_annette_bernhardtInternational commerce can be a real headache. It can be especially vexing when your head offices are in California, your primary manufacturers are in China, and environmental watchdogs are everywhere.

Such is the lesson that Apple is learning these days, as it tries to navigate the sticky waters of high-speed manufacturing in developing countries, where prices may be cheap, but laws and employment customs aren’t necessarily in sync with the expectations of its North American customer base.

The problem that seems to have Apple’s management stymied however is that it’s an issue that, well, just doesn’t seem to go away.

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