Interview: Todd Taylor on Darden’s ‘Restaurants of the Future’

Mary Mazzoni
| Thursday October 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

olive garden It’s no secret that restaurants run on slim profit margins, and restaurants with tight budgets and minimal resources often put sustainability on the back burner. This often comes at a high cost to the environment – including unnecessary energy and water use, as well as exorbitant amounts of waste sent to local landfills.

Responding to these issues, Darden Restaurants, the Fortune 500 restaurant giant known for brands like Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze, has made a commitment to reduce the physical footprint and amount of resources used at its more than 1,500 restaurants across the country.

The restaurant chain has already begun constructing new restaurants using the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Whether a location is LEED certified or not, Darden’s commitment is carried through to its restaurant design elements, which include LED lighting, low-flow sinks, water efficient landscaping, energy management systems and more. Darden also recently launched restaurant Sustainability Teams — self-selected, passionate employees tasked with keeping the company steadfast in its conservation goals.

Darden has set out to utilize innovative technology in all corners of its restaurants, appropriately dubbed ‘restaurants of the future.’ Keeping an eye on the latest technology and the needs of its seven distinct restaurant chains — which also include Seasons 52, the Capital Grille, Eddie V’s and Yard House — Darden now utilizes sustainable technologies that were not available even a decade ago, such as water-efficient pasta cookers, recyclable carpet, automatic light dimmers and organic recycling processes, the company said.

I sat down with Todd Taylor, vice president of design for Darden Restaurants, to find out what these ‘restaurants of the future’ look like — and how the company hopes to expand the concept moving forward.

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Clear Product Standards Needed to Reduce Consumer Confusion

3p Contributor | Thursday October 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments
21st century enterprise is accelerating toward a new era of social good and climate justice.  Companies destined to survive in the long term welcome the opportunity to open their books to the idea of transparency.

21st century enterprise is accelerating toward a new era of social good and climate justice. Companies destined to survive in the long term welcome the opportunity to open their books to the idea of transparency.

By Jim Weglewski, Andersen Corporation

It is likely we have all, at one point or another, attempted to make a responsible decision with the best information available, only to find out later the product wasn’t quite what we believed it to be.  How do we inform and empower consumers to make the purchasing decision that truly reflects their values?

From box labels to acronyms, to hype from well-intentioned consumer groups, consumers can grow confused when trying to research and compare products. The available information can present incomplete or conflicting messages. Certifications portend to offer some direction, but most tend to be narrow in scope.  “Single attribute” certifications can play much like single-issue voters, maximizing one desirable attribute while obscuring the full, and far less desirable, implications of a product or service.

Environmental impact is a complex notion with many facets, and is something I like to refer to as kaleidoscopic. The view changes dramatically with small changes in perspective.  A clear set of standards is needed to simplify comparison across a balanced set of measures.  Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) do just this, while creating a common language that facilitates education and appreciation of the ever-widening impact of human activities.

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Intelligent Readers and the Climate Crisis

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday October 23rd, 2014 | 325 Comments

climateperil_berger_coverJust in time for Halloween comes one of the scariest and thought-provoking reads ever, and it’s not about zombies, vampires, Ebola or ISIS—it’s about climate change.

John Berger, author of Climate Peril: The Intelligent Reader’s Guide to Understanding the Climate Crisis takes the reader on a tour of all of the dangers facing the planet if nothing—or not enough—is done to address the impacts of climate change. This is a stark, necessary, heartbreaking and in the end, cautionary and hopeful book.

In succinct and accessible language, this short but powerful book pulls no punches: Climate change is the most critical threat to the planet today, and also the most complicated global issue. And, “like any critical threat it requires an emergency response.”

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What Emerging Economies Can Learn from Rwanda

| Thursday October 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This is part three in an ongoing series on Rwanda’s rise. Follow the series here.


Rwanda’s emerging reputation as a “rising star of Sub-Saharan Africa” is embodied by its extraordinary economic growth trajectory. One cannot deny the government’s instrumental role in crafting a public policy designed to cater to entrepreneurial growth. Rwanda continues its climb in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2014 Report, up to 32nd from 54th in 2013 (it now takes less than 3 days to start a business).

While government support cannot be understated, it can hardly begin to explain Rwanda’s burgeoning private sector. Having worked closely alongside many of Rwanda’s most talented entrepreneurs, I’d like to highlight several other factors that I believe have helped fuel Rwanda’s economic progress. While economic environments vary drastically across the world, the following are all characteristics which can be replicated to some degree by any developing country or community.

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Masdar To Develop 50 MW Wind Farm in Oman

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday October 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

MasdarThe Sultanate of Oman will have a 50 megawatt (MW) wind project online in early 2017. Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, signed a joint development agreement with the Rural Areas Electricity Company (RAECO) to build the first large-scale wind farm in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The wind farm will be built in the country’s Dhofar Governorate. It is estimated that it will produce enough electricity to power 16,000 homes. It will represent seven percent of total installed power generation capacity in the Dhofar region or about 50 percent of Dhofar’s winter energy use. Consisting of up to 25 wind turbines, the wind farm will have a daily production estimated to be 1,200 megawatt hours (MWh). Construction will start in the last quarter of 2015, and Masdar will fund the $125 million project.

The Middle East region is “rapidly adopting renewable energy as a viable solution to meet growing electricity demands and to address long-term resource security,” said H.E Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE minister of state and chairman of Masdar. Al Jaber sees the Oman wind project as being a “prime example of how clean energy can deliver reliable power supplies and improve energy security, while also supporting a transition to a low-carbon future.”

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Ikea Considers Price On Carbon

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday October 23rd, 2014 | 54 Comments

IkeaThe Ikea Group may be putting a price on carbon emissions, Reuters reports. “There was a lot of discussion about carbon pricing and putting an internal price on carbon,” Chief Executive Peter Agnefjall said at the Reuters Global Climate Change Summit. “That’s definitely something we bring home and that we will analyze in the coming months.”

The company is making great strides to become more sustainable. It has committed to investing €1.5 billion until 2015 in renewable energy, mainly wind and solar power. The goal is for the company to become energy neutral by producing as much renewable energy as it consumes in its operations. By 2015, Ikea aims to produce at least 70 percent of its energy consumption from renewable sources.

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Emerging Technologies Seek to Reduce Environmental Impact

3p Contributor | Thursday October 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

renewable energyBy Jessica Oaks

Look around. So much of the technology you see would have been considered part of the sci-fi realm just 20 years ago. Thousands of books or hundreds of movies can fit on a computer that slips easily into a jacket pocket. Humanity can manipulate the genome, leading to amazing advances in medicine and industry. Technology has improved our lives in innumerable ways. But is it doing the same for the planet? The most truthful answer is probably a thoroughly divided “yes and no.”

The negatives of our tech-fueled world are complex. For instance, phones and tablets are making information more accessible, careers more mobile and people more connected than ever before but more than 400,000 mobile devices are trashed every day – sometimes for no sin more egregious than being the wrong color. Recycling programs exist but according to the EPA only 10 percent of phones are recycled. The rest end up as over 65,000 tons of e-waste.

It would be easy, therefore, to look into a future awash with technology and see bleakness. But on the other side of the equation there are emerging technologies that are not only less impactful but may also have a positive net effect on the earth.

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SXSW Eco interview: Janice Person, Monsanto

| Thursday October 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

This post is part of Triple Pundit’s ongoing coverage of the SXSW Eco conference. For the rest, please visit our SXSW Eco page here.

Monsanto_logoAlthough they are a company that is not without controversy in sustainability circles, Monsanto turned out in great numbers for this year’s SXSW Eco conference in Austin.

I had a chance to talk with Janice Person about why Monsanto came to SXSW Eco, what they’re learning from their trip, and how the company hopes to open up to deeper dialogue with the wide variety of stakeholders at the conference and beyond.

See what Janice had to say in the interview below:

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What Makes a Quality Carbon Offset

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 4 Comments

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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SolarCity Turns to Crowdfunding to Raise Money & Awareness

Leon Kaye | Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment
Solarcity, solar, clean energy, solar bonds, Leon Kaye, crowdfunding, investing, solar industry

SolarCity is now offering bonds and promising a respectable return

SolarCity is hot on Wall Street these days, judging by the fact its stock is holding steady and the company has no problem issuing bonds for its various investments. In fact, not only was the company the first in the U.S. to sell bonds backed by rooftop solar panels, it raised over US$200 million during its third debt offering on the markets in three months. Now SolarCity is turning to crowdfunding, albeit a tightly managed program, in order to raise more funds.

The system is akin to Kickstarter or Indiegogo meeting Fidelity or Vanguard. According to SolarCity, the offer to invest in Solar Bonds is relatively simple. You open an account, deposit some money and those funds in turn offer a return from the payments from residential and commercial projects SolarCity has all over the country. Unlike the growing solar crowd-funding juggernaut Mosaic, these funds are not for specific projects; rather they are akin to a mutual fund for current and future SolarCity initiatives. So should investors jump in, or is this the Amanda Palmer crowdfunding campaign of the clean energy sector?

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6 Ways Big Data Helps Improve Global Water and Food Security

3p Contributor | Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment
Jeff Raikes, Co-Founder of the Raikes Foundation, gives the plenary address about harnessing data for the poorest farmer. Water for Food. WFF conference October 20, 2014. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication

Jeff Raikes, Co-Founder of the Raikes Foundation, gives the plenary address about harnessing data for the poorest farmer. Water for Food. WFF conference October 20, 2014. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication

By Molly Nance

Jeff Raikes, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and co-founder of the Raikes Foundation, said it’s not hyperbole to say that global society is experiencing a data revolution. But that the revolution has yet to reach agriculture.

It’s not surprising the former Microsoft Corp. executive believes in the power of technology, and in particular Big Data. But it’s his experience as the son of a farmer that led him to focus on how technology can help farmers increase yields, improve their livelihoods and collectively meet the food production needs of the world’s people.

Raikes gave the keynote presentation at the 2014 Water for Food Global Conference, in Seattle, Wash. on October 20.

The demand for food is expected to double by 2050 as the world’s population barrels toward 9 billion people and increasing incomes allow many more to afford a better diet. Lack of water is a critical constraint.

To help solve this enormous challenge, the agriculture and water communities are harnessing Big Data to ramp up food production with less pressure on our water resources.

The conference is highlighting ways in which Big Data is helping create a more water and food secure world.

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How Natural Infrastructure Can Boost Climate Change Resiliency

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 2 Comments
Restoring wetlands (like these wetlands at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts) can protect coastal communities from floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Restoring wetlands (like these wetlands at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts) can protect coastal communities from floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Are government officials doing enough to prepare their communities for natural disasters and extreme weather events – that are increasing in frequency and severity due to climate change? Not surprisingly, the answer is no, says a new report from nonprofit environmental organizations National Wildlife Federation and Earth Economics and insurance group Allied World Assurance Company Holdings.

Released Monday, “Natural Defenses from Hurricanes and Floods: Protecting America’s Communities and Ecosystems in an Era of Extreme Weather” details the growing threat of climate-related calamities and calls on elected officials and policy makers to make their communities more resilient to climate change’s impacts.

But government agencies shouldn’t necessarily rush to strengthen seawalls, install levees or build new “gray” infrastructure, as part of their emergency preparedness efforts, according to the report’s authors. Instead, communities can achieve resiliency by protecting and restoring natural infrastructure, including wetlands, riparian zones and barrier islands, as well as by designing infrastructure that mimics natural systems such as engineered oyster reefs or dunes.

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Five Reasons To Stay Corporate and Ignore Your Higher Calling

3p Contributor | Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 2 Comments

Man Balance Mountain - Paxson Woelber

By Phil Preston

Ask around and I reckon you’ll be hard pressed to find a corporate professional who doesn’t see his or her job as a stepping-stone to a higher purpose or cause. Is it possible to stay in a corporate role and achieve more?

Here’s the standard playbook:
• Climb the corporate ladder to build up your earning power
• Develop your contacts and skills while paying down some of your debt; and then
• Move into a job that is more aligned with your personal values

Or there is the knuckle-down strategy, where you commit to working like a dog for the next ten to twenty years in the hope of building your wealth, retiring early and then giving back.

Do you really want to wait that long?

It also begs the question: If you were debt free with fully funded health and retirement benefits, where would you be working today?

Family and financial obligations can make us feel trapped in the corporate machine. As a result, we put off making a difference for another day.

Throwing it all in for a radical life or career change is one option, but it’s not the only option. Here’s five ways to make a bigger difference as a corporate employee:

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Cambodian “Reintegration” Program Sends Sex Workers to Sweatshops

Michael Kourabas
| Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 4.17.22 PMIn case you still weren’t sure how you felt about labor practices in Cambodia’s growing apparel manufacturing sector, maybe this will help get you off the fence.  According to a short video posted by VICE News last week, female sex workers arrested in Cambodia are being forced into jobs in the country’s infamously inhumane garment industry.  If this is true, what to make of it?

The VICE documentary

Here’s how the claim arises in VICE’s “The High Cost of Cheap Clothes” mini-documentary, in which VICE founder, Suroosh Alvi, travels to Cambodia’s capital to investigate “what is happening to those swept up in the country’s trafficking crackdown.” The video opens with Alvi reminding us that, although Cambodia is one of the capitals of the sex tourism industry, the country has been cracking down on the sex trade since 2008 when, at the supposed behest of the U.S., the government initiated an “aggressive” anti-trafficking and prostitution campaign.

Alvi’s investigation takes him first to a ride along with the anti-trafficking unit of the Ministry of the Interior, which quickly turns into the raid of a building allegedly housing sex traffickers.  The raid leads to a few very young-looking women (girls?) being handcuffed.  Over screams and much crying, we are shown a tiny room, barely illuminated by a creepy, red light.  On the floor are a few mattresses and a roll of toilet paper.  “This is about as dark as it gets,” Alvi says.

After the girls have been rounded up, Alvi turns to one of the cops and asks, “Where will you take the girls?” The cop responds that they will first be brought to the “anti-trafficking department,” then on to the unfortunately named “re-education training department.”

And now we have arrived at what Alvi tells us is the “crux” of Cambodia’s anti-trafficking program.

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EPA: Native American Tribes Hit Hard by Climate Change

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 12 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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