Tropical Countries Vow to Fight Deforestation at Lima Climate Conference

3p Contributor | Thursday December 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

15737021818_91ec093557_zBy Jeff Hayward

I recently returned to the U.S. from Lima, where I was part of a delegation to COP20 from the NGO Rainforest Alliance.  Coverage of it ranges from cheers and applause to anger and frustration, but my own experience is somewhere in between.

There is reason to criticize what the Lima agreement didn’t say.  It called for countries to submit their action pledges in advance of COP21 in Paris next year, but didn’t specify what those pledges needed to include or how they’ll be reviewed.  But it was progress that, for the first time, all nations agreed to take responsibility for their greenhouse gas emissions.  For all the delay and brinksmanship of the negotiations, COP20 was also an affirmation that all nations, developed and developing alike, have important contributions to make. 

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What Role Will Mushrooms Play in a Sustainable Future?

RP Siegel | Thursday December 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

static.squarespace.comAs we move forward to a more sustainable and flourishing future, we’re going to need to increase our understanding of our role in the biosphere and request the assistance of some of our fellow planetary occupants, many of whom can do things that we can’t.

One of these we’ll likely need are mushrooms. Of course they are delicious on pizza and in soup, but they also have some amazing properties that make them essential for the maintenance of the soil, on which we all depend. Not only are they one of nature’s best recyclers, breaking down waste matter into simpler compounds that feed the soil, but they can also break down toxins and render them harmless.

From this comes the idea of mycoremediation. That’s the practice of using mushrooms to clean up contaminated soil.

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International Law Silent on Climate Change Responsibility

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday December 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment

globe_with_flags_4m8p_1hus-235x236As global climate change increasingly affects everything from public health and species extinction to infrastructure and property destruction to migration patterns, well, who do you sue?

No one apparently. If you think the international response on what to do about climate change is pretty much a fragmented, inadequate mess, then international law on the subject is even messier. And weaker.

A recent article in the Guardian notes that international law “stays silent on the responsibility for climate change.” This might be important because if there were serious legal ramifications regarding climate change, faster action to mitigate its effects might occur. Or not.

“The global economy is underpinned by law, but you would think it had nothing to do with climate change,” the article by Stephen Humphreys says. “Climate-related cases have been absent from international courts – even from disputes involving human rights, investment or the environment. While there have been cases heard in some national courts, particularly in the U.S., they do not progress far.”

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5 Ways to Improve your Climate Risk Reporting

Emilie Mazzacurati
Emilie Mazzacurati | Thursday December 18th, 2014 | 2 Comments

More companies report climate risks, but few do it well

Climate Disclosure By S&P 500 Companies: 10-Ks Filed 2009-2013. Source: Ceres 2014.

Climate Disclosure By S&P 500 Companies: 10-Ks Filed 2009-2013.

According to Ceres, just shy of 60 percent of S&P 500 companies report climate risks in their financial disclosures (10-K), but the quality of disclosures is going down over time. “Most S&P 500 climate disclosures in 10-Ks are very brief, provide little discussion of material issues, and do not quantify impacts or risks,” writes Ceres in Cool Response: the SEC & Corporate Climate Change Reporting. Companies typically include no more than “one short paragraph or a couple of lines focused on climate-related risks or opportunities.”

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Dow Promotes the Importance of Handwashing

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday December 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment

handwashingDow Chemical Co. clearly knows that handwashing is an important thing for children to do. The company recently announced its affiliation with the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW) to promote the practice that can prevent diseases.

This is not the first time the company has partnered with PPPHW. Dow previously worked with the organization during Global Handwashing Day, a campaign that raised awareness about the importance of handwashing with soap and water. PPPHW started Global Handwashing Day to reduce child mortality rates related to respiratory and diarrheal diseases.

Global Handwashing Day recognized a technology created by Dow that makes soaps last longer while feeling better on the skin called Dow Polyox Water-Soluble Polymers. The technology is used in Unilever’s Lifebuoy soap. In 2011, Unilever asked Dow to help a new formulation for its Lifebuoy soap brand. The two companies came up with a soap that people in developing countries could afford and would last longer than other soaps.

Dow’s partnerships with PPPHW and Unilever help the company meet its sustainability goals for 2015. One of those goals is achieving at least three breakthroughs by 2015 that will help solve world challenges in certain areas, including health.

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Stories and Beer: Creativity and Sustainability

Marissa Rosen
| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

storiesandbeerlogoWe hosted another monthly “Stories and Beer Fireside Chat” on Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 6:30 p.m. PST at the Impact HUB San Francisco – and online via web cam. 

How can creativity and design thinking solve problems of sustainability?  

It might seem obvious that creativity is part of any problem-solving process, but it’s not always obvious how to create the conditions wherein creativity can thrive. How can these conditions be stoked? More importantly, how can sustainability be injected into the creative process so that any problem solving design is thinking about the long-term sustainability challenges of our world and society?

On Dec. 17, TriplePundit’s founder, Nick Aster, engaged in conversation with Joe Speicher, executive director of the Autodesk Foundation. They took an up-close look at the connection between creativity and sustainability. After the dialogue, the floor opened up for audience questions and participation.

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President Bans Oil and Gas Drilling in Bristol Bay Indefinitely

| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 4 Comments

Salmon fisherman, Bristol Bay, Alaska, USA President Barack Obama took executive action yesterday evening, Dec. 16, to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay, instituting an indefinite ban on oil and gas drilling across some 5.6 million acres in what’s known as the North Aleutian Basin Planning Area.

One of the world’s most economically valuable fishing grounds, the waters of Bristol Bay yield up to $2 billion worth of wild-caught seafood every year. Visiting to partake of Bristol Bay’s natural splendor, recreational fishing and tourism adds another $100 million a year to Alaska’s economy and communities. Home to an American fishing fleet and community that supplies 40 percent of U.S. wild-caught seafood, one of the economic and social pillars of the community is Bristol Bay’s salmon run – the world’s largest – as well as a bevy of endangered marine and terrestrial species of plants and animals.

President Obama’s latest executive action assures that the Bristol Bay ecosystem will not be threatened by oil and gas drilling.  Further, it ensures local communities and businesses can continue to pursue eco-based livelihoods and lifestyles that reach back generations. Far above Bristol Bay, another environmental threat persists, however: the massive open-pit Pebble Mine project.

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Tom’s of Maine Awards $510,000 to Nonprofits in All 50 States

Mary Mazzoni
| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments
The Backyard Growers’ School Garden Program in Gloucester, Mass. has planted five gardens and harvested 500 pounds of greens for students with the help of $10,000 in Tom’s of Maine sponsorship funding received in 2013.

The Backyard Growers’ School Garden Program in Gloucester, Mass. has planted five gardens and harvested 500 pounds of greens for students with the help of $10,000 in Tom’s of Maine sponsorship funding received in 2013.

The votes are in, and 51 nonprofits from across the country will be able to give back more in their communities as winners of the Tom’s of Maine 50 States for Good community giving program.

Now in its sixth year, the 50 States for Good program rewards grassroots nonprofits with a total of $500,000 in project funding. Back in August, the natural personal care brand asked the public to nominate their favorite nonprofit organizations on social media, and thousands of entries poured in.

This year, for the first time, the program features 51 winners, one from each state and the District of Columbia — bringing this year’s project funding total to $510,000, with each organization receiving a $10,000 donation. (Scroll down for the full list of winners.)

“For the first time, we’re awarding more than $500,000 to support organizations and volunteers on the front lines of making communities stronger across the country,” said Susan Dewhirst, goodness programs manager at Tom’s of Maine. “Every community advocate we heard from – reflected in thousands of nominations – has a unique and special vision for bringing a lasting, positive impact to where they live.”

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Boeing and South African Airways Partner on Biofuel from Tobacco

Leon Kaye | Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Tobacco, biofuels, solaris, South Africa, Boeing, South Africa airways, aviation fuel, jet fuel, Sunchem, SkyERG, Leon Kaye

Tobacco could have a future as a jet fuel feedstock. 

It has been ages since you could light up on a flight, but there is a chance tobacco could become an aviation fuel of the future. Boeing and South African Airways (SAA) have announced that they are close to processing the first crop of tobacco plants for biofuel production. This pilot project, which both companies have publicly acknowledged for over a year, promises so much it almost sounds too good to be true.

This time the feedstock is Solaris, a nicotine-free tobacco plant developed and patented by the Italian biotech firm Sunchem. Instead of providing leaves for cigarette production, the Solaris plant offers flowers and seeds from which oil can be extracted for fuel production. Solaris is not genetically modified, it can grow on lands inhospitable to food crops, and its by-products are high in protein and can be used for animal protein. Its promoters say it will allow tobacco farmers to continue their lives’ work while supporting the national campaign to reduce smoking in South Africa.

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“Coal Means Death for Us”: Big Coal and Forced Evictions in Colombia

Michael Kourabas
| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 2 Comments
According to a lawsuit filed in Colombia by La Guajira residents, between August 2001 and January 2002, the owners of the Cerrejón mine

According to a lawsuit filed in Colombia by La Guajira residents, the owners of the Cerrejón mine displaced indigenous populations by destroying local infrastructure.

Here’s a sad truth: The displacement of indigenous populations as a result of international corporate development projects is a relatively common practice. A mining or agricultural company needs land, so a deal is struck with a corrupt government providing land to the corporation, whether or not it is occupied. Those with the misfortune of living in the way of the project are forced to leave, under the threat of violence or an approaching bulldozer; development begins while insufficient attention is paid to environmental concerns, leading to the pollution of local water sources; people die, either from disease or violent clashes with security forces.

Sound familiar? It should, because in weakly-governed states in Africa, Asia and South America, where governments are more interested in attracting (and siphoning off) foreign investment than in protecting the land or the people, this happens every day.

The story of the Cerrejón mine in the the Guajira region in Colombia is one such story, and it carries a simple lesson: In La Guajira, Colombia, the resource beneath the ground is more valuable than the people who live above it.

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Manufacture NY: The New Model for Sustainable Innovation

| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

static.squarespace_350 New York City’s apparel manufacturing sector is about to get a makeover: To reignite local fashion manufacturing and spur economic development, the city recently announced it will invest $3.5 million to help launch the fashion incubator Manufacture New York, a co-location center with sustainability in its DNA.

Founded by Bob Bland, a Brooklyn-based fashion designer, entrepreneur and community organizer, Manufacture NY will be the country’s first fully-integrated facility with on-site, on-demand manufacturing – taking the term “Made in the USA” to the next level. Part production hub, part incubator, part learning lab, part R&D lab, the 160,000-square-foot Brooklyn facility will advance sustainably-minded research, design and manufacturing for emerging designers, manufacturers and entrepreneurs in apparel, textiles and wearable tech.

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Utility-Scale Solar Photovoltaics Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels in Chile

| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 10 Comments

chile-solar With energy demand rising and energy imports meeting as much as 70 percent of its needs, Chile has put itself on the “fast track” when it comes to developing an abundance of clean, renewable energy resources. Recent changes in energy market regulations are proving to be keys to unlocking Chile’s distributed renewable energy potential, and more broadly speaking, its sustainable development.

The same confluence of market regulatory changes, lower costs and technological advances is driving rapid renewable energy growth in the U.S. The birthplace of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, U.S. solar energy technology and project developers are venturing overseas in efforts to expand their businesses. Given the changes recently made to the market regulations governing its energy sector, Chile has become a “hotspot” for solar and renewable energy project developers.

Case in point: SunEdison on Dec. 15 was awarded 15-year power purchase agreements to supply 570 gigawatt-hours of electricity to Chile’s National Electricity Commission. Highlighting just how fast solar has become competitive with fossil-fuels in Chile, this solar energy will come at a lower cost than electricity generated by fossil-fuel combustion – and that’s without subsidies or incentives.

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Your Investment Portfolio’s Naughty and Nice List for 2014

Dale Wannen
Dale Wannen | Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

naughty-or-niceAs most of us rush to get our holiday shopping done over the next week (or chose to do so while sitting with our tablets at the kitchen table), we’ll be checking off our lists of who has been naughty or nice. You know who you are! One item to possibly check off your list is to figure out which companies in your portfolio are being naughty or nice.

SustainVest Management continues to monitor sustainability criteria for clients’ positions in their portfolios, keeping a keen eye on which companies are performing well and also the ones that are doing poorly. The below is referenced from a recent Consumer Reports list. After reading the info below, you can show off at your family holiday gatherings with some interesting information, both good and bad!


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Uber: Driving for Child Hunger and Gouging During a Crisis

Leon Kaye | Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Uber, sharing economy, carsharing, social media, Sydney, hostage crisis, gouging, Leon Kaye, surge pricing

Uber may have outworn its welcome in Sydney

In many ways, this is a great time for Uber. The carsharing service keeps expanding (210 cities worldwide) and has recently been valued at over $40 billion. But it also has taken a PR beating in past months, from reasons including thin-skinned executives threatening journalists to thuggish tactics in undermining its competitor, Lyft. Nevertheless, in many cities Uber has become the transport of choice. And it has tried to show a softer side, as in its current campaign to take action against childhood hunger. Fine, Uber is not donating the money, but the company is lending its technology to allow riders to kick in another $5 to their ride fares and help fund No Kid Hungry. Unfortunately for Uber, no one is talking about the rides-for-hunger campaign: the buzz is on the company’s surge pricing, or as some say, price gouging, during the tragic hostage crisis earlier this week in Sydney.

The outrage stems from Uber’s use of algorithms to set “surge pricing” into effect during rush hours, holidays, hectic Friday nights and bad weather. Uber users have long railed against this business practice, and in fairness much of that noise is an insufferable stream of whining—after all, some public transport systems like the Washington, DC Metro increase fares during peak commuting times while municipal taxi services boost fares late at night. Uber is a business, not an entitlement program for those who do not have a car.

What caused the outrage, however, was when Uber rides out of Sydney during that awful day increased as much as four-fold as the chaos in that downtown café unfolded.

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Western New York: 2030

RP Siegel | Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

This post is an entry in the Masdar Engage Blogging Contest.

It used to be too cold up here in Western New York to ride a bike in early April, but winters have gotten shorter. I also have a lot more flexibility now than at my old job. I work at a freelance co-op where a bunch of us share office space and equipment. So, I’m out for a ride on a weekday morning.

I’m on what used to be the Inner Loop expressway. It was filled in 10 years ago and now there are trails, community gardens, playgrounds and other common spaces. One trail circles the city, while others form commuting corridors that connect a number of neighborhoods with a now-thriving downtown. Many people walk, bike or take electric buses, many from net-zero homes. There are tubes that shield intrepid bikers and walkers from the elements.

The city has grown a lot in the past decade. People are attracted by the moderate temperatures and abundant water supply. Plus, this has become a high-tech hub. Even though so much is done now using virtual worker networks and 3-D printing, the presence of major universities still attracts a skilled workforce. People have come to realize that there’s a limit to what virtual tools can provide and that there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction when important matters are at hand.

This is part of a trend emphasizing the human side of business: People are realizing that intangibles, like the richness of one’s social network, meaningful employment and the depth of sharing, are far stronger drivers of happiness and well-being than material wealth. That realization has been a key driver in our transition.

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