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

Forest Stewardship Council Pulls IKEA Certification for Violations

Jan Lee
| Friday February 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments

IKEA_FSC_suspension_Christian_KoehnThe Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has withdrawn its certification of Swedwood, a forestry subsidiary of furniture giant IKEA (which also goes under the names Swedwood Karelia and IKEA Industry).

According to the FSC, a recent trip to the Karelia Forest in Russia revealed that the company has been harvesting old-growth trees in the protected regions of the Russian forest, which is located near the Russia-Finland border.

The subsidiary has leases to log 700,000 acres, as long as it does not cut down old-growth trees and trees in specified areas. According to FSC’s report  there were “major deviations”  from regulations that included the suspected harvesting of 600-year-old trees.

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Bhutan: Transforming the Environment One LEAF at a Time

Jan Lee
| Thursday February 27th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Bhutan_sustainable_leaf_mariordo59While world governments debate the best ways to reach the 2020 advisory of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Kingdom of Bhutan has quietly taken another strong step toward environmental sustainability.

Last week, the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay, met with Nissan’s Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn to hammer out a deal in which Nissan would supply all-electric LEAF cars to Bhutan to replace its conventional government and taxi fleets. The Royal Government of Bhutan wants to convert the nation’s capital, Thimphu, to a green-powered city. Transitioning its conventional vehicle fleet to EVs would bring it closer to that goal.

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Is the Sharing Economy Bad for the Real Estate Market?

Jan Lee
| Wednesday February 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Marfa_view_TX_Sharing_Economy_Daniel_SchwenIf you want to start a debate, just mention rent control. But if you want to find yourself in a battle, throw in the sharing economy.

That was the lesson last week when a Slate writer penned an article about her town’s misfortunes  due to the sharing economy. Rachel Monroe, resident of Marfa, Texas, explained why Airbnb and, by extension, the sharing economy began as a godsend for the small town of Marfa (population just under 2,000) but later became the possible “cause of Marfa’s housing shortage.”

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The Latest in Sustainable Textiles

Jan Lee
| Tuesday February 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

177861_10100462607228268_1728561023_oWe economize on our driving by using shared resources, or we bike to work, or walk to save on our carbon footprint. We reduce our energy usage where we can by buying appliances that conserve water and electricity and we lobby for energy-smart concepts like solar or wind energy production.

And yet, one of the world’s greatest culprits in environmental pollution is something we use every day and probably give the least consideration to its environmental impact: our clothes.

Conventional textile production is one of the most polluting industries on the planet. The World Bank estimates that the textile industry is responsible for as much as 20 percent of industrial pollution in our rivers and land.

Finding ways to curb the environmental pollution caused by textile production starts with finding new ways to produce fabrics that don’t require toxins and large amounts of water, and which minimize harm to local the ecology.

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Fracking Boom: Some North Dakota Rentals Now More Pricey Than NYC

Jan Lee
| Monday February 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

williston_nd_Target_Logistics_Bear_Paw_Lodge_fracking It’s a lesson that, not surprisingly, cuts across all segments of the oil industry these days and is as old as the Alaska pipeline: There’s always a price with fame, including fracking fame.

With a population that more than doubled since 2006 when the fracking fever gripped North Dakota, the town of Williston’s real estate prices have burst through the roof. Average monthly rents and leases now top those of New York City, making it the most expensive place to live in the country. An 800-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment will cost you somewhere in the range of $2,100 per month. A 1,400-square-foot plan, spacious in comparison, ranges around $3,500 a month. Add another $500-600 per month if you want it furnished.

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Monsanto Shareholders Defeat Resolutions for More Transparency

Jan Lee
| Wednesday February 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Monsanto_Alex_Baden-MayerMonsanto continues to stand its ground against disclosing information about the costs associated with the genetically modified crop (GMO) industry. On Jan. 28, Monsanto shareholders, at the urging of the company’s board, overwhelmingly defeated two resolutions that would have increased transparency about Monsanto products.

One resolution, re-filed by Harrington Investments Inc., called for the board to issue a report detailing the financial risks and operational impacts related to certain GMO production. The issues included the costs of “seed contamination of non-GMO crops” and “damage to farmers’ reputations, livelihood and standing in the community” resulting from lawsuits that have ensued with neighboring farmers.

John Harrington, CEO and president of Harrington Investments, charged that the board “increasingly keeps stakeholders in the dark, about the true financial risks of GMOs … The corporation spends an incredible amount of shareholder money to prevent American consumers from knowing the extent to which it controls our national food supply.”

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Research: Crime Stats, Staffing Problems Plague Walmart

Jan Lee
| Tuesday February 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Walmart_Nicholas_EckhartWalmart’s grip on the retail market may be slipping these days. Three unrelated reports just released suggest that America’s box store giant has some improvements to make both inside and outside of its stores.

Last week equity researchers at Wolfe Research (WR) in New York downchecked the superstore from a “market perform” to an “underperform” rating for its current staffing and stocking practices.

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Proposed California Bill Goes After Sugary Drink Makers

Jan Lee
| Tuesday February 18th, 2014 | 4 Comments

sugary_drinks_California_legislation_moneyblognewzIf a California state senator has his way, sugary drinks will eventually be treated the same way that regulatory agencies treat cigarettes: as a health risk.

Sen. Bill Monning of Carmel, Calif., has introduced a bill to the state Senate that calls for warning labels to be placed on all sugary drinks. That includes drinks sold in vending machines and distributed in school cafeterias.

The new bill, which proposes to add an article to the state’s Health and Safety Code called the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Safety Act, would be California’s latest attempt to regulate food and drug merchandizing. The Sherman Food, Drug and Cosmetic Law of 2008 (which regulates the branding of food among other items) and the Pupil Nutrition, Health and Achievement Act of 2001 both preempt federal food and drug laws and control what food manufacturers do to market items in the state. The two acts also make businesses that sell those products (either across the counter or in a vending machine) responsible for knowing what is being sold on their premises.

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Lean In’s Sheryl Sandberg and Getty Take On the Sexist Image

Jan Lee
| Thursday February 13th, 2014 | 4 Comments

Lean_In_Sheryl_Sandberg_business_women_Financial_Times Nothing tells a story better than a picture, and as advertisers have discovered, nothing sells a product more than an edgy photo–even if it is sexist.

Whether it’s a businesswoman in a tight miniskirt and heels, on her back in an alluring pose that seems to have nothing to do with the professional subject matter, or a nude model holding an automotive wrench over her ample frontage, suggestive imagery still sells.

And it sells the wrong message, says Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg. The founder of the women’s advocacy organization Lean In, Sandberg has made it her mission to rebrand the sexist, stereotypical way that she feels women are viewed both in and outside the workplace.

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Mobile Technology: Helping to Stop Homelessness

Jan Lee
| Thursday February 6th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Manhattan_Early_Morning_Alamo_mobile_technology_David_Shankbone For many of us, our cell phone is our lifeline to the outside world. These days we can use mobile technology to pay bills, make a reservation, reorder medications or check for callbacks from a prospective employer or a future landlord. We can monitor our checking account, keep up with news and local happenings and stay in moment-to-moment contact with loved ones at home.

While it’s hard at times to think of life without our little transportable backup, the truth is mobile technology has revolutionized the way we live our lives, both at home and while on the go.

Mobile Technology and Homeless Populations

And it also plays an indispensable role in the daily lives of those who don’t have a place to call their own. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are more than 600,000 people without a home in which to sleep on any given night. That includes not only people who live on the street or in shelters for long periods of time due to unemployment, illness or financial problems, but those who are temporarily without a place to live. For the homeless, the tangible access to a phone can mean the chance to reserve a bed in a shelter or find a place to get a warm meal. It ensures a way to call for help in distress or medical need. And it means that someone who doesn’t have an address to put down on an application can receive that all-important call for work that may give them the funds to eventually find a place of their own.

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Organic and Enviro Groups Call for GMO Labeling by Feds

Jan Lee
| Thursday February 6th, 2014 | 3 Comments

Oregon_Tilth_GMO_Regulation_Ecotrust Organic food producers and environmental organizations have a persuasive request for President Obama: Require labeling for GMO foods.

As voter-led initiatives ramp up nationwide, some of the country’s largest environmental organizations and most popular organic  brands are leading their own campaign to urge federal labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMO).

More than 200 of the country’s largest and smallest voices in the environmental movement have penned a letter calling on the federal government to require labeling of GMO foods. Food manufacturers like Amy’s Kitchen, Ben & Jerry’s and Eden Foods have been joined by environmental farming, research and advocacy groups that include As You Sow, Oregon Tilth, Sierra Club and Center for Environmental Health in this latest call for federal oversight.

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Keystone XL Report: Is It Really About the Environment?

Jan Lee
| Monday February 3rd, 2014 | 2 Comments

Keystone_XL_proposed_State_DeptIt’s here. The long-awaited report by the State Department on whether the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would have any detrimental impact to the environment arrived last Friday. As American households were buying up the beer, chips and last-minute preps for Super Bowl Sunday, arguably one of the country’s most popular annual holidays, the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs dropped their newly minted report onto the airwaves.

Environmental organizations that have been hoping that the project would be rejected were quick to highlight the finer details of the report, which pointed out that there would be environmental impact from Keystone – a reasonable assumption for an 875-mile pipeline that would become the expressway for heavy crude and an increasing dependence on carbon-emitting technology.  During operation it would add the equivalent of 300,000 cars to the road, or 71,298 houses using electricity for one year. It would also have other potential effects that could ultimately contribute to climate change.

But anyone who read the fine details of the 44-page report realized within the first few pages that those points were extraneous and not relevant to the takeaway message of the report.

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Target’s Latest Insurance Move: A Bust for Workers?

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

Target_healthcare_SarahGilbertTarget recently announced that it is dropping its part-time store employees from its health insurance. The statement has been used recently to bolster accusations by critics who say that the Affordable Care Act is a drain on U.S. taxpayers and is forcing employers to shirk their own responsibility to provide healthcare coverage.

Others say that the disqualification of part-timers by employers like Target, Walmart and Trader Joe’s undercuts the effort to force the employers of some of the country lowest paid workers to improve how they do business.

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FlightCar: Sharing Economy Takes Another Legal Hit

Jan Lee
| Wednesday January 29th, 2014 | 2 Comments

SFO_CarFlight_Manuel_CalaveraThe sharing economy may have been a raving success with consumers last year, but not necessarily with big city governments. First there was Airbnb’s dustup with the city of New York. Now there is FlightCar and its legal challenges with San Francisco and Millbrae, Calif.

Probably one of the most innovative sharing economy models to come along, FlightCar was started by three college dropouts: Kevin Petrovic, Shri Ganeshram and Rujul Zaparde (actually Petrovic and Zaparde didn’t even make it to orientation). It’s the quintessential proof that sometimes ingenuity, drive and moxie can carry you almost as far as a degree.  Their idea was to offer the harried airline passenger a way to avoid parking their car at the airport, where fees mount up and become an added overhead to vacations and business trips.

“FlightCar lets people parking at the airport rent their vehicles out to other travelers,” says the company website. To ensure that there are no liability hassles, every car is insured with a $1 million policy. The renter pays a nominal cost for the use, and the owner gets a free car-cleaning and 20 cents per mile. In a metropolis like San Francisco, that change can add up.

Their idea was so popular that it garnered $5.5 million in venture capital and a roll-out at SFO, which is owned by the city. As the trio quickly found out, not everyone is fond of the sharing economy concept.

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Victoria’s Secret: Lost Opportunity to Support Nursing Mothers

Jan Lee
| Monday January 27th, 2014 | 5 Comments

New_Victoria_Store_Smarty9108 It’s been a rough few months for America’s largest lingerie retailer. In November, after Victoria’s Secret’s jaw-dropping annual fashion show, the company was forced to apologize to Native American communities for its decision to send a model out onto the runway clad in bikini underwear and a Native American headdress. Thousands of people visited the VS Facebook page to complain.

Last week the retailer was forced to offer a mea culpa again after an employee in its store in the upscale Domain Shopping Center in Austin, Texas, told a nursing mother to breast-feed her child in the alley.

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