Alternative Building Method: Aerated Concrete

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday July 15th, 2014 | 4 Comments

4003684255_4228ea6cf6_zWhen I think of concrete buildings, I think of dense, heavy concrete with a high environmental impact: Cement manufacturing accounts for 5 percent of global CO2 emissions from human activity, a staggering total for one building material. But utilizing more environmentally-friendly alternatives, such as autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) blocks, does offer many benefits.

Chemical reactions with gases make autoclaved aerated concrete a lighter, more insulated and fire-resistant alternative to concrete. AAC blocks and panels can also be molded and cut into dimensional units. Generally, they’re more popular in post-war Europe than in the U.S. — and they have been widely used in the U.K. and Germany.

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Fortune 500 Companies, NGOs Unite to Address Renewable Energy Demand

| Monday July 14th, 2014 | 2 Comments

renewable energy buyers principlesThe growth in wind and solar energy over the past several years has been impressive, but the pace of change has been achingly slow for companies that want more renewable energy than the market can provide. With that in mind, 12 leading U.S. companies have partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the World Resources Institute to make one thing perfectly clear: There is a huge, unmet renewable energy demand by businesses, and a change in energy markets will be required in order to meet that need.

The linchpin of the collaboration is a set of strategic guidelines called the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles. Most of the 12 companies that have signed on are familiar names at Triple Pundit for their proactive approach to renewable energy or other sustainability issues, including Bloomberg, Facebook, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Novelis, Procter and Gamble, REI, Sprint and Walmart.

8.4 million megawatt-hours of renewable energy demand

According to WWF, the 12 companies signing on to the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles have calculated that their renewable energy demand adds up to 8.4 million megawatt-hours per year through 2020.

That’s just those 12 major companies, so 8.4 million is just for starters.

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Is Uber Exploitative? And What Does It Say About the Sharing Economy?

Raz Godelnik
| Monday July 14th, 2014 | 13 Comments

UberSometimes it looks like Uber has become the world’s favorite punching bag, from taxi drivers across Europe complaining that Uber is “not playing by the rules” to American customers annoyed with the company’s surge pricing tactics.

One of the latest punches came from Andrew Leonard, a staff writer at Salon, who compared Uber to John D. Rockefeller.

Why? Leonard didn’t like the fact that Uber significantly reduced the prices of UberX rides in New York and other cities, making them cheaper now than taxi rides. He suggested that Uber’s deep pockets (it just raised $1.2 billion) could enable the company to lose money on every ride, claiming this is an “anti-competitive market behavior.”

And the connection to Rockefeller? “The founder of Standard Oil built his monopoly by exploiting size to leverage discounted access to railroad transport. Such economies supported price cuts his competitors couldn’t match,” Leonard writes. He’s afraid that we’re about to witness a somewhat similar scenario in the taxi industry, where Uber will use its funds to drive taxis out of business, and then will increase prices, making its investors rich at the expense of the public.

Leonard, as well as others sharing similar concerns, questions the legitimacy or fairness of Uber’s business tactics, especially given the fact that it operates in many places within a “grey area” of the law. Yet, behind these arguments lie even more fundamental questions: Is Uber still considered part of the sharing economy? Is it exploitative? And if you answer ‘yes’ to both questions, what does it say about the sharing economy?

Let’s try to look at these questions one by one.

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How Cities and Businesses Are Working Together to Address Climate Change

RP Siegel | Monday July 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

City lightsThis is a little ironic; no, it’s more than a little ironic. Congress won’t act on climate change for fear of adversely impacting businesses. So, cities and states are picking up the slack, taking aggressive action, in order to protect their… wait for it…businesses.

A new report entitled Protecting Our Capital, released by the CDP, claims most cities recognize that climate change poses a considerable risk to their local businesses and therefore their economy and well-being. Of course, it’s only a small fraction of businesses that are actively lobbying against climate action — mostly those in the fossil fuel industries who have the most to lose. Most of them now acknowledge the problem and, even as they hope to slow government action, are moving to address the challenges.

The report, which is based on responses from 207 cities, documents the recognition of the interdependence between cities and businesses. Of those surveyed, 76 percent of cities said that climate change could impact business, while businesses said that 75 percent of their biggest climate-related risks could also be seen as threats to their respective cities.

What kinds of risks are they talking about? These could include rising insurance costs, loss of tourism, supply chain issues and a lack of raw materials. Drivers of these costs will stem from storms and flooding, sea level rise,  temperature increases, drought, and other weather-related disruptions and destructions.

A total of 757 carbon reduction drivers were reported.

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Apple’s Environmental Report Reveals Major Accomplishments, More Work To Be Done

Alexis Petru
| Monday July 14th, 2014 | 1 Comment

iPhone5cApple’s carbon footprint shrank 3 percent from 2012 to 2013. It’s a modest decline, but this is the first time the tech giant has seen a year-over-year decrease in greenhouse gas emissions since it started tracking them in 2009.

Despite this and other accomplishments detailed in Apple’s 2014 Environmental Responsibility Report released this week, the company acknowledged it has a long way to go to reduce its environmental impact, including tackling emissions from its manufacturing partners and addressing its recent increase in water consumption.

The greenhouse gas emissions from Apple’s energy consumption fell by almost a third over the last three years, the report found, even though the tech giant’s overall energy use jumped 42 percent during the same time. These avoided emissions are equivalent to taking 75,100 cars off the road or powering 49,100 homes for one year, according to the report.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company said its investments in clean energy were responsible for the impressive drop in its energy-related carbon footprint: All of Apple’s data centers – which run services like Siri, the iTunes and App stores, and Maps – run on 100-percent renewable energy sources, including solar, wind and geothermal power.

“So every time a song is downloaded from iTunes, an app is installed from the Mac App Store or a book is downloaded from iBooks, the energy Apple uses is provided by nature,” the reports authors wrote.

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Foster Farms Recalls Chicken, Sues Insurer for Rejecting Claim

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday July 14th, 2014 | 17 Comments

Foster_Farms_chickenFoster Farms has a problem, a big problem.

No, it isn’t its long-standing battle with Salmonella Heidelberg infections in the chicken in its processing centers, or the ongoing investigations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose enforcement arm announced a recall of Foster Farm chicken the day before the Fourth of July holiday.

Its looming problem is with its insurance carrier, which is refusing to accept a claim for the $14.2 million that the manufacturer says it has lost from tainted chicken.

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Coming to a Store Near You: Ch-Ch-Ch Chia Seeds!

Leon Kaye | Monday July 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments
ch ch ch chia seeds

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia seeds!

What? Ch-ch-ch Chia Seeds?

If you didn’t have a Chia Pet at some point growing up, then you were denied a normal childhood (unless you’re from the Bay Area, where owning a Chia Pet would have denied you the “hipster” label for life). These lovable terra-cotta figurines, which have spanned the animal kingdom from hippos and gnomes to Newt Gingrich and Barack Obama, brightened up many a room with their fast-growing chlorophyll afros.

After almost 40 years of selling these equally coveted and mocked figurines, Joseph Enterprises, the keeper of Chia Pets, has entered the health food business. The company has finally started to market chia seeds. And not just any chia seeds: Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Seeds!

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Book Review: Sustainability Careers for MBAs

Sarah Lozanova | Monday July 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

profession and purposeFrom finance to operations, there is a “dizzying landscape of options” for MBA careers in sustainability. Many MBA candidates who are entering the sustainability job market are on uncharted waters. Katie Kross provides clarity, tips and resources for navigating the diverse paths to sustainability careers for MBAs in the soon-to-be released second addition of her book, “Profession and Purpose: A Resource Guide for Careers in Sustainability.”

Kross states that the path for sustainability careers can take numerous off-campus routes, diverging from a largely on-campus career search for many traditional MBA careers. Her book is bursting at the seams with job hunting tactics and inspirations, providing structure to a potentially daunting task. It is written both for people just beginning their careers or those wishing to switch careers after earning an MBA.

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Case Study: How to Grow Without Compromising Your Mission

3p Contributor | Monday July 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Alter Eco's chocolate products are not only tasty and fairly traded, but they also come in compostable packaging.

Alter Eco’s chocolate products are not only tasty and fairly traded, but they also come in compostable packaging.

By Gary Groff

The organic and Fairtrade food company Alter Eco has boosted revenues by more than 40 percent annually, from $7 million in 2012 to a projected $14.5 million in 2014 — while actively advancing its mission. How did the company do it?

A key factor for any sustainable business is getting financing right. That means not only choosing the right mix of financing — equity, debt, nontraditional alternatives — but also choosing funders that understand opportunities in your sector and support your mission. The following examples show how three mission-driven companies that have used this strategy successfully.

Alter Eco: Mission-aligned investors enable impact to rise with revenue

When Alter Eco began vying for supermarket shelf space nine years ago, the company’s biggest asset was a passionate pitch. “We wanted to show that we could be a profitable business while having a positive impact on our ecosystem, our planet and the people who live on it,” said Edouard Rollet, Alter Eco’s co-founder and president.

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3p Weekend: 5 Companies with Exemplary Customer Service

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday July 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

7639756506_f7f0db8f85_zWith a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

In a world where terms and conditions pages read like Russian novels, it’s unfortunate that exemplary customer service is more the exception than the rule. But Friday isn’t a day to focus on the negative.

With that in mind, this week we’re tipping our hats to five companies that prove the stereotype wrong and are rewarded with happy customers and healthy bottom lines.

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Why World Population is a Human Rights Issue

3p Contributor | Friday July 11th, 2014 | 7 Comments

Image credit: Population Institute

By Jennie Wetter

Today was World Population Day, and the planet celebrated by registering 165 new births every minute.  Global population is currently 7.2 billion and counting, and projected to grow to 10.9 billion by 2100.

If that sounds like a lot, consider this:   Those estimates are only valid if fertility rates, which have declined in recent decades, continue to drop.   That’s a big “if.”   If fertility rates fail to decline further,  the world population could soar to 27 billion!  Here is a new set of shareable infographics and short information that explains this.

The infographics make it clear that there’s a vital link between keeping birth rates falling and fighting hunger, poverty and environmental damage.  Rapid population growth has already complicated efforts to reduce poverty and eliminate hunger in Africa, whose population of 1.1 billion is expected to more than double by 2050.

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Walmart Sees Gold in Small Neighborhood Grocery Stores

Eric Justian
| Friday July 11th, 2014 | 4 Comments

walmart marketGo small or go home. That’s my motto. Or it would be if I had a motto. And it seems that’s something Walmart is embracing — to the benefit of walkable communities and of those in food deserts where lower-income people suffer limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Walmart has announced it will nearly double its number of “small format” stores in unconventional locations, adding up to 300 more units around the U.S. focused on “perishables” such as fresh fruits and vegetables and meats. One of the major factors in the format’s success is how it uses pharmacies — another benefit to communities with walkability issues — as traffic builders.

This is not to say that the stores are specifically intended to address food desert issues. Back in 2011, Walmart committed to building stores in rural and urban food deserts, but that didn’t include the smaller format stores. However, the company did say stores like Walmart Express “will likely” serve food deserts. Ultimately, though, the intent of the smaller stores is to get a foothold in dense urban centers that aren’t cut out for the huge, sprawling format. Heck, some cities like Chicago have been downright politically hostile to Walmarts within the city limits.

The new format seems to be a huge hit, already. Walmart expects to see up to $20 billion in growth each year from these wee little outlets by 2018.

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Are We Really Ready to Divest from Fossil Fuels (and Plastics)?

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Friday July 11th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Divestment_fossil_fuels_plastic_industry_Cpj24Former 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.

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Redwood: The Natural Solution to a Man-Made Problem

3p Contributor | Friday July 11th, 2014 | 3 Comments

Sustainably managed redwood forests pull carbon out of the atmosphere and store it throughout their life.

By Charlie Jourdain

Mankind is ingenious if nothing else; and such inventiveness has allowed us to make incredible advances in science, technology and other pursuits that have made life easier. At the same time, some of our leaps and breakthroughs have resulted in unintended consequences that haven’t been kind to the environment.

At the California Redwood Association, we embrace science and technology, but we also believe that in many cases using products grown by nature can be the best decision for the environment and for the end-user. Sometimes, man does not need to add to what is already wonderfully designed.

We’ve discovered this as we’ve analyzed building products – most notably lumber used in decking. Though likely with the best of intentions, there are companies that try to use recycled plastic to create lumber (a composite, synthetic mix), but in doing so, contribute to carbon emissions through the use of fossil fuels. And just as unfortunate, composite lumber often gets dumped in landfills, where it doesn’t go away.

In the end, through what we’ve experienced and through an extensive Life Cycle Assessment and Environmental Product Declaration, we’re convinced that whenever possible we should responsibly use what the Earth has already provided. If so, we are much closer to being truly sustainable than cooking up products in the lab.

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Harnessing Young Talent for the Impact Sector

3p Contributor | Friday July 11th, 2014 | 1 Comment

generation-innovation-millenialsBy Shannon Houde

In many ways, millennials are the hope of the 21st Century — and they’ve got a lot to teach us about social innovation. But to get them on board, business has to speak their language

“The youth of today” — it’s a typically derisory comment that anyone under the age of 30 will have undoubtedly heard from older people in their circle. Addicted to social media, valuing job satisfaction over job security, prizing individuality above conformity … “The youth of today” wouldn’t know real work if it jumped out of their tablet screen. But there’s another way of looking at the millennial generation, and business leaders run the risk of losing out by not paying attention to them.

A fascinating report from my previous-employer, Deloitte, surveyed 7,800 members of the millennial generation across 26 countries, and the results were summed up as ‘big demands and high expectations.’ Millennials will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025, and the findings show that they want to work for organizations that make a positive contribution to society by addressing global challenges of resource scarcity, climate change and income equality. They also want to work for companies that support innovation, and identified the biggest barriers to innovation as management attitude, operational structures and procedures, and employee skills, attitudes and diversity. What’s more, the report states that they are “ready to work independently if their needs are not being met by a traditional organization,” implying an entrepreneurial spirit and attraction to alternative working structures.

This means big things for the impact and sustainability sectors. A young global generation — connected culturally and spatially through technology, motivated by social good and seeking careers that facilitate innovation — is exactly the kind of leadership business must harness if it is to adapt to the triple bottom line of economic, social and natural capital in coming decades.

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