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

Chevron Lobbyists Lose Richmond Election Bid

Jan Lee
| Monday November 10th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Chevron_refinery_Richmond_SharonHahnDarlinFor many organizations concerned about the environment and the impact of global warming on their communities, last week’s mid-term election results were a disappointment.

Organizations like NextGen Climate Action spent millions of dollars in an effort to combat candidates it felt wouldn’t take action on climate change. The League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club also went to the mat and lost in a number of states, including Oklahoma, where victor Sen. James Inhofe has called climate change a hoax. In Florida, a state literally divided by climate change impact and an election that had Gov. Rick Scott in a tie with challenger Charlie Crist, environmentalists lost as well.

One surprising bright spot for environmentalists, however, was Richmond California, where voters turned down the heavily financed appeals of their neighbor Chevron Oil and elected the well-known Democrat Tom Butt as mayor. His overwhelming win over Republican Nat Bates is the result of a trend that has reshaped Richmond’s image in recent years. Initiatives like banning petroleum-based plastic bags and creating bike lanes and green city concepts were all part of a platform that spoke to Richmond voters.

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Could Hydrogen Peroxide Stop Global Starvation?

Jan Lee
| Friday November 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

hydrogen_peroxide_starvation_usdaHydrogen peroxide (H2O2) has long been used by produce distributors to reduce spoilage during shipment. The oxygen-rich substance apparently helps slow bacteria growth and acts as a natural preservative for fruits and vegetables.

Assuming we’re eating the food we put in our fridge, many of those products should have a healthy, ecologically-safe shelf life. Studies show that despite the handy preservative, an amazing amount of the food we buy here in North America (40 percent) goes to waste.

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Report Singles Out 32 Countries Most at Risk from Climate Change

Jan Lee
| Thursday November 6th, 2014 | 1 Comment

IPCC_total_anthropogenic_GHG_IPCCrptAll eyes are on the IPCC report this week. But the global panel isn’t the only one sounding the alarm. Last month, as if in anticipation of the IPCC’s latest release, the Pentagon did its own alarm-sounding: Climate change issues are a real risk and need to be considered in the interest of national security.

Now, I know what you are probably thinking: the Pentagon? When has this country’s military nerve center ever sounded out about climate change?

But really, who else is going to have the finger on the pulse when it comes to the political and social impacts of global warming?

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The Container Store’s $50,000 Retail Staff

Jan Lee
| Friday October 31st, 2014 | 1 Comment

Feel free to use this image just link to www.rentvine.comAs stores and restaurants ramp up for the Christmas season, the eye is naturally on the bottom line. And even though the National Retail Federation is forecasting a bumper sales record, Kip Tindell, CEO of the Container Store, has a message for the fast-food industry: Pay your employees well, very well, and they will return it in profits.

His concept isn’t new. Costco, Trader Joes and the Gap have all listed the benefits of paying their workers a living wage.

But Tindell’s approach, which he has detailed in the book “Uncontainable,” goes far beyond that initiative, since he effectively pays them more than twice the national median salary. According to ThinkProgress, sales staff at the Container Store earn around $48,000 a year, rather than the median salary of $21,410.

“[One] great person can match the business productivity of three good people ,” Tindell explained in an article for Inc. It’s a strategy that has defied the common American ethic of paying low for jobs that are perceived to be entry level, such as restaurant servers, stocking clerks and sales representatives in large department stores.

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McDonald’s to Customers: Ask Me Anything!

Jan Lee
| Friday October 31st, 2014 | 0 Comments

McDonalds_PointnshootThe Internet has reshaped how we do business in amazing ways. It’s provided a pipeline that has made it easier for companies and NGOs to reach out to consumers. It’s bolstered charity efforts by making them more accessible. And it has made it easier for consumers to find and reach all of those services.

But I often think the true value of the Internet is in the education it can share. It makes it easier for us to learn about the companies we’re considering doing business with and the products they offer. It also increases transparency when it comes to the initiatives we’re asked to donate to. In many ways, it’s truly made the world smaller and less complex.

But can a company ever share too much information?

Or put another way: Is there ever a time when a consumer’s question (and the answer) is better left unpublished?

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Antarctic Melting Prompts South Miami to Secede

Jan Lee
| Wednesday October 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Glaciers outside of Patagonia, Chile.

It’s official, folks: The Antarctic polar ice cap is melting faster. After years of debate, scientists have confirmed that within the next couple of hundred years, coastal cities across the world will see a dramatic change to their beachfront with a sea level rise up to 10 feet.

And nowhere in the U.S. is this change liable to be more evident than on the flat, semi-tropical shorelines of Florida, where cities were literally built to the water’s edge, taking advantage of the state’s flat-as-a-pancake vistas.

Not surprisingly, one small city in South Florida isn’t happy with this news. The city of South Miami, a comfortably residential area that has recently been deluged by flooding from hurricanes, has developed a climate change strategy.

It plans to secede from the state of Florida.

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Volkswagen Launches New Auto Apprenticeship Program

Jan Lee
| Wednesday October 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments

ApprenticeAcademy_VWVolkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant is well known for its accomplishments in environmental sustainability. It claims the record as the world’s first Platinum LEED certified automotive facility, and its 9.5 million watt solar array, cool building strategies and water catchment systems have garnered environmental awards and global recognition. Just as importantly, the plant’s design has proven to industry leaders that sustainable approaches can have a place in high-energy-usage industrial settings.

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What Makes a Quality Carbon Offset

Jan Lee
| Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

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 | 13 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 | 14 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 | 51 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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