3p Contributor: Sarah Harper

Sarah Harper is a professional writer based in San Francisco, California. Her interests include sustainability, government policy, and international politics. In her free time, Sarah enjoys toying with the idea of holistic health, overanalysis, and plotting world exploration.

Recent Articles

Could a Nobel Peace Prize Speed Up Climate Talks?

| Friday October 2nd, 2009 | 3 Comments

nobel-peace-prizeGuardians of the Nobel Peace Prize are getting creative in their attempt to speed up sluggish talks about climate. According to a Reuters report, the guardians are considering awarding an environmental Prize this year in order to prep world leaders for December’s UN Climate Conference and influence politicians dragging their feet on climate change. The thing is, the award would come just two years after the one awarded in 2007 (another was awarded in 2004). Would awarding another environmental Prize so soon have the desired effect?

Granting topical awards (e.g. environment, disarmament, human rights) to influence world events is an established tactic of the five-member Nobel Peace Prize panel. While some wonder whether handing out three environment awards in four years is excessive, others say the timing couldn’t be better. The prize would be announced on December 9th and handed over on the 10th – the anniversary of founder Alfred Nobel’s death – all amidst the Copenhagen Conference occurring between December 7th and 18th.

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Mercedes-Benz, Greenwashing, and the Boy that Cried Wolf

| Friday October 2nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

Mercedes-Benz was recently busted for greenwashing of sorts: advertising the carbon emissions data of its new E-class saloon series in misleading terms. As punishment, Mercedes is not allowed to show the misleading advertisement in its current form. The incident is more than unfortunate, I believe, since its implications for green business could be manifold – ranging from delays in the greening of the auto industry to a sort of “boy that cried wolf” effect among consumers. The episode also has me wondering: do we take greenwashing seriously enough?

According to a report by businessgreen.com, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), a UK-based advertising watchdog, busted Mercedes for advertising the E-class series’ CO2 emissions as being 139 g/km. In reality, the series’ emissions depend on a number of factors, including whether the car has a manual or automatic gearbox, and whether it runs on diesel fuel. Even when a consumer chooses the most fuel-efficient of these options, only two of the 24 available specifications boast 139 g/km.

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British Airways Increases Business Class Services despite Green Claims: What Gives?

| Thursday October 1st, 2009 | 3 Comments


A recent decision by British Airways (BA) has green lobbyists up in arms. Despite its pledged support for trimming the airline industry’s carbon dioxide emissions, BA added a new twice-daily business service (read: fewer seats) between London City Airport and New York. (The London City Airport also plans to increase its flights by 50 percent.) Environmental lobbyists are concerned that the decision is a step backward in curbing overall aviation emissions, which are a significant source of global emissions. Moreover, given the potential financial benefit (in the short term, anyway) of adding the flights, the debate could get pretty sticky. In a sense, it boils to down to a basic question: is sustainability a bigger-picture long-term goal, or is a nod to eco-consciousness sufficient, if it provides a much-needed short-term fix?

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China Caps Investment in Industry – May Limit Green Technology Development

| Thursday October 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments


China ordered sweeping limits on investment in cement, steelmaking, and other industries Wednesday, in an apparent effort to curb overexpansion and its snowball effect. (China’s hefty stimulus package, and a mandate that banks increase lending sharply in the first half of the year, spurred an investment boom that has analysts worried.) While preventing these issues is crucial, the investment limits could also decrease the country’s ability to create certain renewable energy technology. What impact will this development have on China’s expansion into sustainable industry?

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Democrats Boxer and Kerry to Introduce Climate Legislation in Senate

| Wednesday September 30th, 2009 | 2 Comments

john-kerry-barbara-boxerIf Democratic Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer are successful Wednesday, they might nudge Senate negotiations on climate change a bit closer to, well, starting. Kerry and Boxer are scheduled to introduce some global warming legislation – the Boxer-Kerry bill – on which they collaborated for some nine months. The Senators hope the bill will sway legislators who are hesitant to act on climate change.

According to a New York Times report, the Boxer-Kerry bill will build largely from legislation already approved in June (after quite a struggle and subsequent restructuring), although the similarities between the two are unknown at this point. (Sources do suggest the bill will seek an aggressive 20 percent emissions target for 2020 while remaining silent on how to divide up emission allowances.)

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Lineage Wine Imports: Does Importing Sustainably Produced Goods Negate Their Green Factor?

| Wednesday September 30th, 2009 | 4 Comments

wine-glassesMost 3p readers would agree that sustainably produced items are preferable to the alternative. And most business people (I imagine) would agree that it’s better to sell more of a product than less of it. So the question that follows is something of a doozie: does importing a sustainably crafted wine negate its green cred? I asked this question when a company called Lineage Imports was brought to my attention. According to its website, Lineage Imports seeks to provide high quality, sustainably produced wine while funding solutions for pressing social issues (for example, the economic development, natural resource conservation, and cultural preservation of rural communities in Mexico, Honduras, and several other countries). Although these goals are indeed environmentally and socially conscious, and the company is small and family-run, the nit-pick in me wonders nonetheless: why import?

Lineage Imports, which is based in California, partners with several hand-picked wineries in New Zealand, all of which (the website says) operate relatively sustainably (i.e. they use minimal-impact fertilizing, heating and cooling, insulating, watering, and harvesting techniques while maintaining or seeking CarbonZero certification). The symbiosis is simple: Lineage Imports sells the wine (at low prices, it advertizes), and the wineries donate a portion of the profit to Lineage Import’s causes.

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Debt Free U – Social Responsibility, Debt Management, and the Long-Term Green Picture

| Tuesday September 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

debt-burdenWhat do being socially minded, financially wise, and sustainable – and being in college – have to do with each other? A lot, as evidenced by the work of Debt Free U, a non-profit that helps college kids understand basic finance so they don’t wind up in unmanageable debt. If kids are the future, the future generation must keep sustainable business afloat, and being financially healthy is a prerequisite to keeping anything afloat. Debt Free U’s endeavors are likely to be a crucial component in the long-term viability of green business growth.

Debt Free U is a self-described “money-management resource geared toward young adults (instead of their parents), in whose hands the future of our economy rests”. The organization seeks to give youth the financial know-how necessary to manage that economy-supporting task, and it offers a number of tools toward that end. Its “CareOne” service providers – Debt Free U’s sponsors – supply exhaustive informational and interactive resources to help college kids stay in control of their finances.

One could argue that, if efforts like Debt Free U’s are successful, they will help prevent the “poverty mentality” that can lead to subsistence living (i.e. struggling to pay off one’s debt instead of envisioning and working toward a future-minded, built-to-last sustainable infrastructure). After all, having a huge debt hanging over one’s head isn’t the best energy-garnering tool.

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The G-20’s Fossil Fuel Subsidy-Reducing Pledge: Where’s the Who, Where, When, Why, and How?

| Tuesday September 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments


The G-20’s “pledge” to reduce subsidies for oil, coal, and other fossil fuels sounds more like a mumble. The group’s promise includes the “what” of the equation – a goal to reduce tax breaks and government assistance these types of fuels – it falls flat in other areas: the who, where, when, why, and how. Looks like creating immediate climate change solutions may not be a top priority for the G-20 – but does this mean it’s not a top concern for world leaders?

According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, G-20 leaders pledged a “phasing out” of fossil fuel subsidies in nebulous terms Friday, promising to phase out subsidies in the “medium term, protect subsidies for renewable energy, and guard programs designed to help poor pay for energy. However, the pledge’s numerous gray areas leave some sustainability proponents worried. It did not set a date of completion, a clear definition of what subsidies it would eliminate (i.e. greenhouse gas emissions permits), or methods of policing global compliance. (These gray areas are not surprising, nor unrealistic, according to one Triple Pundit blogger.)

While the pledge’s significance for green business is to be determined, one could speculate wildly in the meantime. It could be building block toward success at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December. It could be a smart move in the chess game against fossil fuel lobbyists working hard to secure governmental protection. Or, it could be a treading-water-type move with little to no impact….

What do you think about the G-20’s decision (or lack thereof)?

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Is Arnold Schwarzenegger a Renaissance Man in the Green Fight?

| Saturday September 26th, 2009 | 1 Comment

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is geared up for the green fight, Reuters reports. The actor-turned-politician recently told sources he’s ready to use his resources – whether they be political or Hollywood-related – to help the Obama administration succeed in creating a more sustainable world. His comments underscored both the U.S.’s role in the worldwide green movement and Schwarzenegger’s own stance on global sustainability.

According to the Reuters report, Schwarzenegger, who is arguably the biggest environmentalist in the Republican Party, has called Washington out for not taking more of an aggressive role in combating global warming. Rather than quarrel with other countries about climate change, the U.S. should set an example, he reportedly said – pointing to his own state’s aggressive climate change policies. (Interestingly, Schwarzenegger reportedly plans on vetoing two pieces of renewable energy legislation, which would likely improve the state’s economy by requiring that 33 percent of utility companies’ electricity come from alternative energy sources by 2020 [most of which should come from in-state energy providers]. He reportedly plans on mandating the changes through an executive order instead.)

Schwarzenegger will be forced out of office in late 2010 (per term limits), but he does not plan to quit the fight then. Rather, he plans on remaining available for the green movement, whether as a global “green” ambassador, Hollywood actor, or Obama administration official.

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Senate Blocks Proposal to Keep Bush-Era Offshore Drilling Policy

| Friday September 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments


The issue of whether or not to drill for oil and gas along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts has come to a head again, this time in a Senate’s vote Wednesday against keeping the Bush-era offshore drilling policy in place. Could it be that, by shooting down this policy, Senators opened the door for a new, greener Obama-era offshore drilling policy?

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Florida’s Progress Energy Seeks Tax Increase – Could Save Energy; Worth the Money?

| Thursday September 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments


According to a report by the St. Petersburg Times, Florida utility Progress Energy is seeking to increase the base utility tax rate by about 30 percent. It says increasing the tax could save energy and boost local governments’ tax collections next year (for governments that charge utility and franchise taxes). Would taking this measure have enough benefit for the state’s sustainable growth to be worth taxpayers’ money?

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Recession Cuts Emissions: Good News or Bad News?

| Thursday September 24th, 2009 | 1 Comment


The recession has caused a 2.6 percent drop in carbon dioxide emissions – the biggest drop in 40 years, Environmental Leader reports. Although this sounds like great news for the environment, some analysts worry about what effect it could have on nations’ motivation to further curb emissions. Are these figures good news or bad news?

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eBay Announces First Greenhouse Gas Reduction Target: 15 Percent by 2012

| Wednesday September 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments


eBay Inc. recently achieved a first among internet companies: it was the first such company to disclose greenhouse gas figures in 2009 to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), an S&P 500 Report-affiliated ranking of corporations’ sustainability efforts. (The disclosure was also the first of its kind eBay has made.) What does the move suggest about eBay’s evolution as a company, and its potential impact on the world of green internet commerce?

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Obama’s UN Climate Summit has Some Sustainability Proponents Worried

| Wednesday September 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments


Several world leaders met in New York Tuesday for a UN climate summit in New York. While many of the leaders indicated that they would continue to work together on an international climate pact, others expressed visions for climate change that have some analysts concerned. One of these was President Obama.

According to a Washington Post report, Obama emphasized steps the U.S. has already taken to reduce its carbon footprint, including investing in clean energy, setting new fuel economy standards, and *cough* (Obama’s) pressing the House for passage of a cap-and-trade emissions regulation system.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, too, promised to make trimming carbon emissions a national priority by implementing a number of domestic measures.

While these measures would be better than nothing, some would argue that Obama’s and Jintao’s speeches signaled a divergence from the ideal climate solution: a pact in which nations would cut greenhouse gas emissions, in compliance with an international legal treaty. Now, it appears some nations are taking a team-of-one approach, with which some in attendance expressed concern. For example, Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama stipulated that Japan would trim emissions on the condition that other industrial powers make CO2-trimming commitments. French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on industrial leaders to strike a deal by the UN Climate Change Conference in December. And UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged governments to look beyond their own national interests and make uncomfortable compromises to guarantee a climate deal by the end of 2009.

What do you think – should we be concerned about some nations’ apparent movement toward an individualistic approach to global climate change?

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New Green Rankings in Newsweek, S&P 500

| Tuesday September 22nd, 2009 | 2 Comments


This is shaping up to be a big week for corporations seeking recognition for their sustainability efforts. Both the Carbon Disclosure Project, or CDP (which is affiliated with the S&P 500 Report) and Newsweek’s 2009 Green Rankings were released, both of which highlighted leaders in climate change and other sustainability endeavors. These reports’ figures could be a jumping-off point for measuring corporations’ transparency and eco-mindedness in years to come.

According to a PR Newswire report, the CDP results were announced in New York Sunday as part of New York Climate Week. The winners – US corporations showing efforts to tackle climate change – included Cisco Systems, Boing, Pepco Holdings, Consolidated Edison, E.I. du Pont de Nemours, Hewlett Packard, PPG Industries, and Transocean.

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