Former Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency Terry Tamminen came up with an interesting question the other day. In a post on Fast Company, the author and founder of the NGO 7th Generation Advisors asked a simple question regarding the carbon-producing fuels that we are now bent on relegating to the environmental trash heap: Can we really afford to divest from fossil fuels?
What a great question. It’s the kind that only one who has sat in the proverbial hot seat and lobbied for consensus and compromise would be asking right now.
Environmental groups have long been searching for a way to stop illegal deforestation in old growth forests. According to Interpol, up to 90 percent of the logging that takes place in tropical rainforest areas like Africa, Asia and South America isn’t by large corporations that own the tracks of land, but by illegal poachers who can use stealth and advance planning in dense areas where surveillance is difficult and costly.
The environmental advocacy organization Rainforest Connection (RainforestCx) has figured a way to get around this problem and make it easier for law enforcement agencies and advocacy organizations to stop illegal cutting while it’s happening. And like any great ecological brainstorm these days, they’ve also figured a way to underscore the importance of what musician Neil Young refers to as the connection between the “rainforest and you”: the cell phone.
For many of us, green building design is still a confusing concept. Even though LEED, the U.S. Green Building Council’s signature environmental rating system, has been around since the 1990s, figuring out what makes a “green building” and what steps are associated with meeting LEED requirements often seems challenging to prospective home owners.
That’s in part because of a simple, underlying principle of the LEED rating system, says Josh Jacobs, UL Environment’s technical information and public affairs manager: It’s always improving.
With the lines drawn over Vermont’s recent passage of a GMO labeling law, two advocacy organizations have announced that they will file a motion to intervene in a lawsuit launched against Vermont by national food manufacturers. A third has stated it will file an amicus curiae in support of the embattled state law. A motion to intervene is usually filed when an organization or person feels they would be affected by the suit, such as consumers, grocers and farmers in Vermont.
Paul Burns, executive director of Vermont Public Interest Group, said in an interview last week that VPIRG will be filing a motion to intervene in the lawsuit filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association et al. With approximately 30,000 members, VPIRG is one of the largest consumer and environmental groups in the state.
Last October we reported on an effort by JPMorgan Chase & Co. to donate money to the University of Delaware. The financial institution’s generous donation of $17 million wasn’t the reason it was in the news. After all, UD is already home to the JPMorgan Chase Innovation Center, and Delaware has received other donations as well from the institution. But the announcement set off warning bells when it became clear that the donation would be provided to fund a PhD program, and the financial institution would have the right to sit in on candidate selections.
Well, the concept seems to be gaining steam. Earlier this month, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) announced that it had received a donation of $25 million from Charles and David Koch, otherwise known as the Koch brothers.
According to the Charles Koch Foundation website, the funding was issued jointly by the foundation and Koch Industries. Of the $25 million, $18.5 million will go toward funding scholarship for “exemplary students with a demonstrated financial need” who are seeking to address specific topics related to entrepreneurship. Funding will also support school programs and other auxiliary projects. The remaining $6.5 million will provide general funding for historically black colleges and universities (HCBUs) and the UNCF, with $4 million going toward helping the institutions and students affected by funding shortfalls as a result of the Department of Education’s criteria change to the PARENTS PLUS program.
Has the sharing economy concept gone to far?
This week San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued a cease-and-desist demand to the mobile-to-mobile bidding app that’s been gaining a popular footing in the parking-poor Bay Area, MonkeyParking. The service, which is currently used on iOS devices, allows drivers to auction off their public parking places. As of this week, it was still available on the Apple Store, with the tagline that the app “lets you make money every time that you are about to leave your on-street parking spot.”
And that, says the city, doesn’t fly.
Naysayers, you’re on. If you’re convinced that climate change isn’t man-made, a physicist in Texas wants to hear from you. Bring your virtual chalk, polish up your math, hone your argument and prove your point. Your time won’t be misspent: If you can irrefutably prove your hypothesis, he’ll pay you $10,000.
Dr. Christopher Keating, author of “Undeniable: Dialogues on Global Warming,” has offered the challenge to anyone who can “prove, via the scientific method, that man-made global climate change is not occurring.” Keating, who is well versed in climate change research, has taught at the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
He’ll also pay $1,000 “to the first person to show there is any scientific evidence that refutes the conclusion of man made climate change.”
The recently launched, four-pronged suit against the state of Vermont’s genetically modified organism (GMO)-labeling law comes as no surprise. Last week, a group of the country’s largest grocery organizations filed suit against Vermont for its passage of a law (Act 120) requiring all manufacturers to label those products that contain GMO ingredients.
Big Food four stand up for GMO
The four “Big Food” companies — the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers — allege that Vermont’s newly minted law contravenes federal law and cites the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the right of free speech and the commerce clause. It also cites the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment for Act 120’s “vagueness” in its prohibition of the use of certain words, such as natural, and other descriptors that the Vermont law has deemed confusing to consumers.
Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh recently stirred up the airwaves when he announced that his Levi’s jeans hadn’t seen the inside of a washing machine for more than a year. His statement, which was made during a sustainability conference in California last month, had just the right effect: It reminded listeners that if there is one overriding hallmark associated with America’s iconic blue jeans, it’s sustainability.
But his admission delivered another interesting impact as well: It jump-started a conversation on how easy it can be to live sustainably. Granted, not everyone seems to have bought the idea of freezing their favorite pair of denim in lieu of washing them. But the simple, almost incidental mention of this unorthodox technique jump-started a conversation that has inspired jean-lovers across the country to come clean with their best sustainability secrets, and why decreasing the use of water isn’t so hard after all.
It’s a great time to be a green manufacturer. Environmental consciousness continues to grow, not just here in the U.S. but globally. Consumers realize that there are more than a few reasons to purchase a green product. It may be good for the environment, but it’s also often perceived as good for their families and their communities’ wellbeing. But for many manufacturers, figuring out how to correctly communicate the sustainable benefits of a product is still a challenge.
Scientists have known for years that injection site activity for hydraulic fracturing can cause earthquakes. A study conducted by Southwestern Methodist University and the University of Texas in 2010 found that there was “plausible” evidence that injection wells were causing earthquakes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
But nine different studies looking at recent earthquake sites in north, central and south Texas have now confirmed that suspicion. Some of the quakes have been strong enough to damage houses and infrastructure. That includes the most recent swarm of quakes around the city of Azle, where a team of researchers have been mobilized to measure and pinpoint the cause of hundreds of events in the area. The increase has also alarmed residents in nearby Reno, where residents – including one mom nicknamed “The Digger” for her ability to push the limits on this issue – and the town mayor are stepping to the forefront to call for more investigation into why sinkholes and tremors are occurring near fracking sites.
Now scientists are warning that repeated wastewater injection necessary as part of hydraulic fracturing can increase the chance of quakes in areas where fault lines haven’t been taken into consideration.
How do you measure sustainability? Most of us would have two to four quick answers: Energy usage, quality of materials, longevity or carbon footprint.
Now, how exactly do you quantify that? In other words, how do customers figure out if a clothes dryer is going to use an affordable amount of energy and be worth the purchase? How do they know if that lotion or conditioner they bought is really made of ingredients that are not only healthy but okay for the environment once rinsed down the drain? What if they need construction materials that are mold resistant and won’t create allergens or decompose from humid weather?
Ed note: This article is part of a short series on financing smart city infrastructure, sponsored by Siemens. please join us for a live Google Hangout with Siemens, PwC and Berwin Leighton Paisner on June 12 at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET, where we’ll talk about this issue live!
Cities are changing the way they do business. And with shrinking budgets and consequently smaller access to resources, it makes sense for burgeoning metropolitan governments to find new ways to upgrade technology, expand infrastructure, and provide new and better transportation options for their residents: the new urban dynamic.
A new report put out by three organizations – engineering and electronics corporation Siemens, law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, and professional services network PwC (also known as PricewaterhouseCoopers) – suggests that for cities to meet the demands of increasing populations and demand on land, water and resources, sustainable infrastructure is critical. And to accomplish that goal, innovative approaches that not only satisfy the needs of city residents but also inspire investors to take an interest in contributing to the urban dynamic are quickly becoming a requirement in today’s marketplace.
Being ahead of the sustainability curve isn’t unusual for International Paper (IP). Over the last few years, the company has proven that sustainability goals are just markers to be surpassed. This year, with the release of the 2013 IP sustainability report, the company proved yet again that environmental stewardship is possible in the forestry sector and, in fact, is really what sustains business success. And it’s proved that all stakeholders, including consumers, play a direct role in creating that success.
In 2012, IP’s company goals included increasing its certified fiber content by 2020. Fifteen percent certified fiber was a reasonable target for the 70,000-employee company that maintains operations on five continents, but as Teri Shanahan, IP’s vice president of sustainability, pointed out: Reaching that goal seven years early and exceeding it by more than 5 percent reflects IP’s historic focus on sustainable forestry practices.
“We’ve been working on wood fiber certification for about 20 years. So it isn’t a new concept for us,” said Shanahan, who noted that of the 71 million tons of wood IP it buys, a lot of it comes from the U.S., where it has invested significant resources into the certified wood market.
“[The] wood that we buy supports the existence of 21 million acres of forest in the U.S. So our wood comes from well managed, healthy forests that are going to remain forests as long as there is an economic use for those forests.”
If the Keystone XL pipeline goes ahead, TransCanada will have to step up its safety measures. That’s the word from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which instituted two new regulations to address issues like bad welds and defective pipeline coating that were found in Keystone’s southern leg.
Keystone XL inspections: Faulty welds
Inspections by PHMSA revealed that there had been an inordinate number of welds that required repairs. This was revealed in two warning letters issued last year, which highlighted the need to increase safety measures. One of the letters, issued last September, noted a 72 percent repair rate for welds conducted over a one-week period. During another week, 205 of 425 welds had to be redone.
According to the letter, PHMSA alleges that TransCanada is hiring welders who don’t have the specialized experience for this work, and are consequently using the wrong welding techniques. Welders are apparently required to pass a test demonstrating their familiarity with pipeline construction work.
A November 2013 report also highlighted an exceptional number of times in which construction workers were required to dig up and repair defects in the pipes themselves. According to PHMSA records, workers were required to remove and repair piping 125 times that was at risk of bending or sagging, causing increased risk for spills.