3p Contributor: Jan Lee

Jan Lee Jan Lee splits her time residence between the rural lands of Idaho and Vancouver, 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.polestarpassages.com

Recent Articles

Boulder County Proposes Cannabis Carbon “Tax”

Jan Lee
| Tuesday November 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment

cannabis_carbon_taxMarijuana farms are growing by leaps and bounds in Colorado these days – and so are the concepts of how to capitalize on this new industry. From cannabis growers’ conventions to businesses that build temperature-controlled indoor environments for grass growers, and journalists that rate strains of the new aperitif on their appealing qualities, Colorado’s eastern slope seems to be busting with new ways to harness the impact of this growing industry.

But the new millennia fascination with the herb has also brought some headaches, as Boulder County has discovered over the past year. Located just north of Denver in a valley well known for both its hot, sunny summer weather and its unpredictable storms, Boulder County has become an epicenter of sorts for the New West’s burgeoning industry.

Colorado State Article 18, which went into effect this past January after voters agreed to overhaul the state’s cannabis regulations, allows for both private and commercial growing and use of cannabis within the state. What it didn’t take into account, the county notes, is the carbon emissions that are tied to warehouses with hundreds of thousands of square feet dedicated to hot, bright lighting and plants that normally grow fine outdoors. In hot, sunny climates, that is.

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Ikea Joins the Crowd and Heads for Greener Palm Oil Sources

Jan Lee
| Tuesday November 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment

IKEA_sustainable_palm_oil_OiMaxAn encouraging number of companies have jumped on the bandwagon for sustainable palm oil these days. Unilever, Mars, Nestlé and Starbucks are among some of the larger food companies that have picked up the trend in past years. Some have adopted their own strategies to ensure their sources are sustainable, while others have joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

But food isn’t the only place that palm oil is used, as the latest convert to this sustainable approach demonstrates. According to last month’s press release, Ikea has decided to make the switch.

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State Mandates for Clean Energy Improving But Not Fast Enough

Jan Lee
| Thursday November 20th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Alaska_clean_energy_AndreaPIn June of this year, the Obama administration announced new carbon standards for power plants. With the comment period for the proposed rules expected to close on December 1*, we thought we would take a look at how states are doing.

The innovative aspect of this plan is that it is tailored to the carbon emissions of each state through a progressive transition to renewable energy. So Illinois, for example, has a recommended goal of a 9 percent transition to renewable energy sources by 2030 (established by the Environmental Protection Agency). The state, however, has set its own goal of 25 percent renewables by 2026. Pennsylvania has set its goals above those of the EPA at 18 percent and 16 percent respectively, but the state is still struggling to cut its dependence on coal (39 percent of its power generation). California is aiming for a 33 percent benchmark by 2020; the EPA, however, set the bar at 21 percent by 2030.

Needless to say, not all states are making inroads as aggressively as California, which has its own clean energy initiatives already in the works. It trumps most states in its accomplishments right now, not only because of its proactive stance on renewable energy, but also because it has the resources at hand. Although a whopping 60 percent of its energy comes from gas, at least 14 percent comes from hydroelectric power and 4.9 percent from wind. Its solar is still fairly small (only 0.70 percent) but is liable to grow in coming years.

Then, there are those states that to date have not set goals.

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‘Friends of Science’ Not So Friendly, Blame Sun for Climate Change

Jan Lee
| Tuesday November 18th, 2014 | 44 Comments

Friends_of_Science_snowstorm_climate_changeLast summer, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was embarking on the final stages of its latest synthesis report, a billboard was being quietly erected on the outskirts of Calgary, Alberta. Home to the University of Calgary and the seat of much of the academic research related to oil and gas exploration in this bitumen-rich province, Calgary was the perfect place to pitch a controversial view of climate change.

With a carefully selected cadre of scientists behind it, Friends of Science made rapid headlines when it advertised its explanation for climate change. There was nothing new to scientists challenging the notion of man-made global warming. What snagged the attention of rush-hour motorists was its premise – one that could both explain the debate over a warming climate and seem almost palatable.

“The sun is the direct and indirect driver of climate change. Not you. Not CO2,” the organization asserted. The statement would seem like music to the ears of harried drivers, already dealing with unpredictable floods and diminishing snow pack in Calgary, who are genuinely skeptical of the barrage of political rhetoric coming over the Canada-U.S. border. This was, after all, a Calgary-based organization, near a publicly-funded research university.

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From Spin to Sea: Polyester Microfibers Clog Our Beaches

Jan Lee
| Thursday November 13th, 2014 | 3 Comments

plastic_microfiber_oceans_HillaryDanielsIt’s been said that there’s a downside to everything, and nowhere can you find a better example of that fact than in our clothes. We’ve mastered the art of doing more with less by recycling materials into duds that years ago were never thought of as wearable. Plastic bottles are the best example of this new recycling trend that has admittedly helped to keep millions of bottles out of the landfill.

But the latest research concerning the debris washing up on our shores suggests cutting down on pollution from plastics may not be that simple. Thanks to ecologist Mark Browne, companies that use plastics like polyester in clothing are becoming aware that their ingenuity doesn’t necessarily ensure that plastic microfibers won’t end up polluting another part of the environment – the ocean, for example.

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Report: Native Peoples at High Risk from Extractive Industries

Jan Lee
| Wednesday November 12th, 2014 | 2 Comments

native_peoples_dylanwaltersIndigenous rights and risks continue to gain attention these days, and no wonder. Global warming and land rights conflicts with industrial operations both continue to impact Indigenous people’s rights and way of life, according to a new report released by First Peoples Worldwide.

The Fredericksburg VA-based organization, which was started by Cherokee social entrepreneur Rebecca Adamson, looks at the impact of companies and government polices on native peoples worldwide. Their first report, released in November 2013 highlighted the fact that native communities in all nations surveyed faced some type of risk to their land and cultural way of life when industries like oil, gas and coal mining opened operations on or near their indigenous lands.

This year’s report, released last week, looked at 330 extractive industry projects across the world and their impact on the regions’ native communities.

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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
Antartica_Patagonia_Dimitry_B

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
carbon_offset_Yahoo-Vestas

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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