Better Cotton and Ikea Report Shows Less Pesticide and Water Use

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday July 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Cotton_picking_in_IndiaCotton is a major world commodity, accounting for almost half of textile production. Traditional cotton farming is hard on the environment, however, as pesticide and artificial fertilizer use is heavy.

The crop accounts for 10 percent of global pesticide use and is grown in about 80 countries around the world. Cotton also needs much water: An average of 10,000 liters of water is used to grow 1 kilogram of cotton, but it can require three times as much if farming practices are poor. However, through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) farmers are reducing their pesticide, artificial fertilizer and water use.

In 2005, Ikea and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) started joint cotton projects, and both are founding members of the BCI. The purpose of the initiative is to develop more sustainable cotton production methods.

BCI started with just 500 farmers and a goal to develop more sustainable cotton production methods. Now, through BCI and its partners, 43,000 farmers in India and Pakistan alone are using more sustainable cotton farming techniques, as the latest BCI report shows. Project farmers in Pakistan were the first in the world to produce licensed Better Cotton.

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Detroit Suspends Water Shutoffs After Protests and U.N. Condemnation

Eric Justian
| Tuesday July 22nd, 2014 | 3 Comments

water rallyFollowing massive Friday protests that led to nine arrests, the city of Detroit announced on Monday it is suspending its sweeping water shut-offs for 15 days to launch a massive campaign to inform city residents of water assistance.

It’s difficult to get a full picture of the water crisis going on in Detroit. To date, the city has cut off water service to about 16,000 households, with another 324,000 overdue water and sewage accounts facing potential shut-off. That’s over 40 percent of the city. In response, the United Nations Human Rights Council recently condemned the city’s water shut-off campaign as a human rights violation and public health concern, as thousands of low income Detroit households and families are facing the absence of a basic necessity for every living creature on planet Earth.

The U.N. special reporter on extreme poverty and human rights, Leilana Farha, added that if it turned out the water shut-offs targeted African Americans it could be in violation of treaties the U.S. has ratified. It’s important to note that Detroit’s population is 83 percent African American.

It’s also worth pointing out that Michigan is the only state entirely within the Great Lakes water basin and surrounded by some of the largest fresh water lakes in the world. It’s not like water is scarce here.

But what the heck? The Detroit Water and Sewage Department is shutting off water for non-payment in a city that’s billions of dollars in debt. What do people expect, right? Once you reach the $150 delinquency amount, your water goes off.

Unfortunately, Detroit — long at the epicenter of industrial decline, offshoring and a crumbling auto industry — has experienced massive poverty, with more than 40 percent of the population at or below the poverty line. The people are broke. The city is broke. And while the city claims there are plenty of resources for people facing water shut-offs, they admit that they’re kind of short-staffed in the Notifying People of a Shut-Off department.

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Elon Musk Lays Out Future Plans for Tesla

RP Siegel | Tuesday July 22nd, 2014 | 76 Comments

Tesla logoElon Musk continues to defy the conventional wisdom of the armchair pundits, who claim that widespread adoption of electric cars is still decades away. They claim electric vehicles (EVs) are impractical, unappealing, too expensive, with no charging infrastructure, plus they take too long to charge. One by one he has removed these barriers with his Tesla cars.

His first two models are selling well, despite efforts on the part of several states to block the company’s direct-sale model. Despite this, and the lofty price tag, Teslas are consistently the top-selling electric cars on the market. (We’ll come back to that price issue in a minute.)

Tesla has set up a supercharger network across the U.S. that will allow transcontinental drives (as long as you follow certain routes). The supercharger technology is exclusive to Tesla cars which are configured to accept higher current levels, allowing them to charge relatively quickly, at least compared to other EVs.

Still, it can take an hour or more to charge up, more time than most people want to spend at a gas station. Sure, you can stop for lunch, if that fits into your schedule, but we Americans tend to be busy people who are in a hurry as often as not. Tesla has an answer to that, too.

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Shared Value: Double the Value?

3p Contributor | Tuesday July 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

Share By Lars Moratis and Ronald Jeurissen

The debate over the creating shared value (CSV) concept has recently gained traction after several years of relative silence since Porter and Kramer published their well-received Harvard Business Review article. While academics Dirk Matten and his colleagues have criticized CSV for its unoriginality and conceptual superficiality in a stinging California Management Review article, practitioners welcomed the concept — as it anchors corporate social responsibility (CSR) within a tradition of strategic management and provides an appealing, fashionable label that captures the essence of business-case approaches to CSR.

It has also been argued that CSV should be an integral part of business school curricula. Interestingly, the aspects of instrumental versus ethical CSR and the lack of interaction between business and academia have hardly received any attention in this debate.

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Kung Fu and the Art of Living in Systems

GreenFutures | Tuesday July 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

7912377858_42c1b23e3a_zBy Jeremy Mathieu

I have been training in Kung Fu and Tai Chi for 10 years now. That makes me a beginner in that field, as the traditional Chinese martial arts are pathways of cultivation that take a lifetime to learn and grow into.

A student would traditionally follow the master for years to learn the style, by repeating set movements and absorbing the way the master lives, thinks and talks. Complete devotion would be expected of the student, for by taking on the responsibility of learning a style, he or she becomes part of a lineage — an unbreakable chain connecting the past teachers to the future generations. The student holds the responsibility to learn well so that he or she can one day pass the style correctly onwards.

This traditional concept of filial piety is central to the practice of martial arts, giving the student a place within a wider system. It can be difficult for modern westerners to grasp and to accept. Seeing ourselves as independent individuals is so closely linked to our ideal of unrestricted personal freedom.

Through our current social and environmental crises, we are starting to see the limits of this mindset of separation and unrestricted individuality. Many in the sustainability movement have started to realize how interdependent we truly are, with human systems connecting us all economically, politically and culturally, while being fully embedded into natural systems.

We are part of those systems, those physical and social webs of life. While they could be thought of as a stifling limitation to our ideal of freedom, being mindful of our interconnections allows us to take our place within those systems more responsibly. I would argue that we can learn from martial arts to realize ourselves even more completely as individuals, by becoming more mindful of our participation within all these systems. Their connecting chains can help us go higher and further together, rather than keeping us prisoners.

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British Supermarket Powered By Food Waste

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday July 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

SainsburyThe British supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s announced that one of its stores will be powered by its food waste. All of the electricity used by the store in Cannock, England will come from what’s called anaerobic digestion, which turns food waste into bio-methane gas that is used to generate electricity. Sainsbury’s partners with Biffa which has anaerobic digestion facilities. Through its use of bio-methane gas, the store is able to come off the national grid for its electricity use. Biffa is one of the leading waste management companies in the UK. The company operates a number of food waste treatment facilities in the UK which recycle or reuse 100,000 tons of food waste a year.

The food waste that powers the stores comes from Sainsbury’s stores across the UK. Any food waste that is not fit for charitable donations or animal feed is sent to the anaerobic digestion facility in Staffordshire and is converted into energy. The electricity for the Cannock store is sent directly through a new 1.5 km long electricity cable from the Staffordshire facility, which opened in 2011. The Staffordshire facility is the largest one in the U.K. that uses food waste, and is licensed to process 120,000 tons of food waste a year.

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Obama: Climate Change Is a Threat to U.S. Infrastructure

Alexis Petru
| Monday July 21st, 2014 | 3 Comments
President Barack Obama met with the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience last week.

President Barack Obama met with the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience last week.

More extreme droughts, floods and wildfires – these are just some of the impacts of climate change that won’t just occur in the distant future to our great-great grandchildren, but are happening now. To address the changing climate’s current effects on communities in the U.S., President Barack Obama announced a plan to strengthen national infrastructure and help cities, states and tribal communities better prepare for and recover from natural disasters.

“Climate change poses a direct threat to the infrastructure of America that we need to stay competitive in this 21st-century economy,” Obama said last week at a meeting of the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. “That means that we should see this as an opportunity to do what we should be doing anyway, and that’s modernizing our infrastructure, modernizing our roads, modernizing our bridges, power grids, our transit systems, and making sure that they’re more resilient. That’s going to be good for commerce, and it’s obviously going to be good for communities.”

Obama unveiled over $260 million in federal funds to help communities build their climate adaptation and resilience. The U.S. Geological Survey and other federal agencies are dedicating $13 million to develop an advanced 3-D mapping tool of the country that communities can use to identify which areas and infrastructure are at risk from changing climatic conditions, the White House said in a statement. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will also be spending $236 million to improve rural electric infrastructure in eight states – an investment that will not only allow the deployment of smart grid technologies, but can also attract businesses and residents to these communities, according to the White House.

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California City Blocks New Power Plant, Cites Climate Change

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday July 21st, 2014 | 6 Comments

oxnard_climate_changeWhen it comes to updating your neighborhood power plant these days, nothing is certain. But for NRG, California’s largest power plant operator, that message came home last month with an odd twist: The city of Oxnard voted to place a moratorium on the construction of a plant that would replace the current structure at its oceanside location. The reason? Climate change.

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More Millennials Are Living With Their Parents: Is It Hurting the Economy?

Raz Godelnik
| Monday July 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment

MillennialsA growing number of millennials are living with their parents. This is one of the findings of a Pew survey on Americans living in multi-generational family households.

According to the survey, young adults ages 25 to 34 (aka millennials) “have been a major component of the growth in the population living with multiple generations since 1980 — and especially since 2010. By 2012, roughly one-in-four of these young adults (23.6 percent) lived in multi-generational households, up from 18.7 percent in 2007 and 11 percent in 1980.”

It’s not necessarily that millennials love their parents nowadays more than ever and have hard time leaving the house. Apparently, there are number of reasons for this phenomenon, including millennials’ delayed entry to adulthood, but also, and probably mainly, economic reasons.

According to a State of the Nation’s Housing report released last month by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University “tight credit, high unemployment and record levels of student loan debt are moderating growth and keeping young people and other first-time homebuyers out of the market.”

So, this is good news, right? Millennials seem to adopt a more responsible economic behavior, avoiding the same reckless financial decisions that got so many people in trouble only a few years ago. And besides, aren’t multi-generational households more sustainable? After all, they use resources more efficiently, serve as an economic safety net and may even help family relationships.

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Giving a Pass to Corporate Polluters

Michael Kourabas
| Monday July 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

1383478361_260969c3f6_zHas there ever been a better time to be a corporation?  I doubt it.  Corporations might disagree, and we’re all familiar with corporate lamentations regarding the increasingly challenging web of federal regulations (Dodd-Frank; the FCPA) they supposedly struggle to navigate.  Yet, it’s hard to dispute that these are good times for big business, and “Exhibit A” could easily be the utter dearth of criminal prosecutions for corporations that are guilty of pollution.

Funding Woes.  According to a recent study published by the Crime Report (TCR), criminal prosecutions of corporate polluters are becoming less and less common by the day.  One explanation for this phenomenon is the dwindling funding allotted to the government entity responsible for the protecting the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In case you missed it, Congress has made a recent habit of slashing EPA funding.  (Yes, this is the same do nothing Congress that is currently contemplating spending American tax dollars on a lawsuit against the President.)  Unsurprisingly, these cuts have come primarily at the hands of Congressional Republicans, whose most recent transgression has been the approval of a 9 percent decrease in EPA funding, but President Obama has done some damage as well (the President’s proposed 2015 budgetlowered EPA funding by some $300 million).  And this is not just a 2014 trend.  As Congressional Republicans boasted when the federal government nearly imploded (again) in January, they have successfully cut the EPA’s funding by 20 percent since 2010.

One result of these money troubles is a serious lack of manpower.  For instance, the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section is equipped with just 38 prosecutors, and the EPA’s Environmental Crimes Section has just 200 agents.  These are the folks who are given primary responsibility for monitoring environmental violations across the country.  Yet, with such a pitifully understaffed roster, the federal government’s capacity to pursue America’s worst environmental offenders is seriously hampered.

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No Tesla Charging Stations? Chinese Business Man Builds His Own

Bill DiBenedetto | Monday July 21st, 2014 | 2 Comments

tesla_chinaYou bought that spiffy new all-electric Tesla Model S, so why not build the charging stations to go along with it?

This is what Chinese businessman Yi Zong decided to do after he purchased his Tesla earlier this year. He realized that charging his vehicle would be a problem in China because, well, there are few stations in that country. Zong installed recharging facilities on his own dime, or yuan as the case may be, in 16 cities between Beijing and his home in Guangzhou — a 3,573-mile corridor.

Zong, one of the first Chinese owners of the Model S, calls his project the country’s “first electric-charging road,” according to a report at Caixin Online, a Beijing-based media group.

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Maryland Offshore Wind Auction Date Set, New Jersey Auction Proposed

| Monday July 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment

denmarkoffshorewindfarmkayakNews of further follow-through on President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan broke over the course of the past two weeks: The Department of Interior and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced plans to auction nearly 80,000 acres of Atlantic Ocean waters off the coast of Maryland and proposed leasing another 344,000 acres off the New Jersey coast for offshore wind energy development.

BOEM has awarded five commercial offshore wind energy leases off the Atlantic Coast so far, part and parcel of the Obama administration’s Smart from the Start sustainable offshore wind energy development program. Collectively, these span more than 277,500 acres and have brought in over $5 million in high-bids for the U.S. Treasury.

Researchers at Stanford University have determined that Atlantic offshore winds could yield enough renewable electricity to power at least one-third of the entire U.S., or the entire East Coast from Maine to Florida. The challenges associated with turning this promise into reality are numerous and varied, however.

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Kroger Cuts Energy Use By 35 Percent, Ramps Up Sustainability Efforts

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday July 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

KrogerThe Kroger Co. has reduced energy use in its stores by 34.6 percent since 2000, saving more than 2.5 billion kilowatt hours (kWh). That’s enough electricity to power every home in Charlotte, North Carolina for a year — or the equivalent of taking 362,000 cars off the road for a year. The largest supermarket chain in the U.S. and fifth-largest retailer in the world, Kroger recently published its eighth annual sustainability report, which includes its energy usage reduction efforts.

Kroger’s manufacturing plants also continue to reduce their use of electricity and gas. As of this year’s report, they have saved enough energy to power 8,411 American homes for a year, and cut enough gas to power 442,446 American homes for a year.

Its manufacturing plants are also reducing water use: In 2013, Kroger manufacturing plants reduced water use by 61 million gallons of water. That is equivalent to the annual water use of 1,455 American homes. Additionally, water use at stores in four of its western divisions was reduced by 7.6 percent last year. These figures crushed an initial 5 percent company-wide reduction target for 2014.

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3p Weekend: 5 Cities Already Feeling the Effects of Climate Change

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday July 18th, 2014 | 18 Comments
A local man paddles past submerged cars on South Beach in Miami in 2009. Locals say the rising tides are only getting worse.

A local man paddles past submerged cars on South Beach in Miami in 2009. Locals say the rising tides are only getting worse.

With 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.

While some still view climate change as some distant or unidentifiable threat (and others simply argue its effects “won’t be so bad”), the impacts of rising tides and surging temperatures are already changing lives around the world. From South Florida to the Pacific Islands, this list represents thousands of lives that are forever altered by the warming climate — and a threat to millions more unless something changes quickly.

1. Miami, Florida, United States

“Climate change is no longer viewed as a future threat round here,” atmosphere expert Professor Ben Kirtman, of the University of Miami, told the Guardian in a recent interview. “It is something that we are having to deal with today.”

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Smartphones Are Everywhere … But Where Are the Standards?

| Friday July 18th, 2014 | 2 Comments

electronics cord_thinkstockThe electronics industry has become the de facto face of innovation in the post- WWII era.

When it comes to sustainability in the electronics industry, much attention is being paid to e-waste and energy efficiency. However, there is much more to making a sustainable smart product in the 21st century. That’s why UL – Underwriters Laboratories – through UL Environment developed the UL 110 standard for mobile phones, tablets and other “smart” products.

The UL ISR 110 standard is points-based and devices that receive the certification must:

  • contain environmentally preferable materials;
  • be manufactured using environmentally and socially responsible practices;
  • be recyclable at end-of-life;
  • make use of recycled and recyclable packaging;
  • have minimal environmental impact;
  • have minimal human health risks;
  • perform efficiently; and
  • demonstrate innovation in sustainable manufacturing.

Mobile devices create a unique challenge from a sustainability certification perspective. They are complex pieces of equipment, contain metals that may have come from conflict regions and chemicals that may be harmful to human health; they are also difficult to recycle given the high number of components they include, and at the end of the day, each one only gets used for an average of 18 months.

Yet, creating a greener product can provide a competitive advantage, as Scot Case, UL Environment director of markets development, explained in a 3p interview.

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