Can Detroit Restart Its Engine?

Pinchot University
Pinchot University | Thursday August 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

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This post of part of a series sponsored by Pinchot. Read more here

Pinchot’s 2014 Summer Study Tour took Pinchot students, alumni and faculty to America’s “Rust Belt.” The group visited Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit to explore sustainable business opportunities at these significant sites of industrial success, decline and rebirth. In this series of blogs, participants share revelations and reactions along their journey.

Business moguls are investing heavily in downtown Detroit.

Business moguls are investing heavily in downtown Detroit.

By James Coburn

Detroit is a dichotomy.

The city’s innovative spirit that brought us the assembly line and the modern auto industry lives on in wildly successful new enterprises like Quicken Loans. Yet Detroit’s much-publicized poverty has spawned a depressed yet resilient culture that continues to struggle to pull itself out of the gutter.

Big ideas, modest progress

The macro thinkers of Detroit’s Economic Growth Corp. are focused on job creation. Their mantra is “one job creates many,” expressing their belief that jobs are an important way to get the city back on its feet. Yet the sheer scale of the municipality – 170 square miles – makes the pace of progress seem slow.

Place-making and art are happening all over the city: On the many abandoned properties, as well as downtown, through the efforts of Ford, Quicken Loans, and business moguls like Dan Gilbert and Mike Ilitch. These efforts are attracting young talent into a city center with many buildings that only five years ago were mere skeletons of themselves. Driven leaders like Mayor Mike Duggan are tirelessly pushing ahead to create innovation areas in the city to encourage new industry and create sustainable jobs. The city is also acting as fast as resources will allow to remove the remainder of the nearly 78,000 abandoned homes and putting in up to 800 street lights a week to create a safer city.

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Volkswagen Wins EPA Rain-Catcher Award for Chattanooga Plant

| Thursday August 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

2012AerialfromWestWetland restoration is an excellent means of water resource management and stewardship, due to its cost-effectiveness and sustainability. An April report from the Center for American Progress and Oxfam America revealed the remarkable economic value and benefits resulting from coastal ecosystem restoration projects around the U.S.

“We learned in a nutshell that there’s a win-win, if not a win-win-win, opportunity that presents itself when you invest in conservation. The economic benefits are remarkable … There’s a direct connection between what we’re doing to enhance the environment and what we’re doing to enhance economic opportunity,” summarized Mark Schaefer, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration assistant secretary of commerce for conservation and management.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and partner organizations have been promoting use of “green infrastructure” for years “as part of a comprehensive approach to achieving healthier waters.” Recognizing excellence in such initiatives for the first time, EPA on August 19 awarded Volkswagen Group of America (VW) with the EPA Region 4 Rain-Catcher Award, Commercial Category during an awards ceremony at the EPA Region 4 International Erosion Control Association Municipal Wet Weather Stormwater Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Stonyfield Collaborates With WikiFoods to Sell Package-Free Yogurt

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday August 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

Wikipearl yogurtPlastic is a part of our lives. It packages many of the food products we buy, encases our electronics and is even found in our cars. Plastic waste causes numerous environmental problems, particularly in the world’s oceans where it makes up about 90 percent of all trash floating around. The biggest plastic waste ocean site is in the North Pacific Gyre. Called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it is twice the size of Texas. Since plastic takes a very long time to degrade, some 500 to 1,000 years, it is impossible to completely clean up.

There are two companies that have created a way to reduce plastic waste by eliminating packaging. Stonyfield Farm and WikiFoods have collaborated to provide frozen yogurt encased in edible packaging made from fruit skin. The product is called Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls, and an edible packaging called WikiPearl packages the less than 30-calorie frozen treat. The companies started a test market in March at four Whole Foods stores in the Boston area with six flavors.

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Why Insecure Data Is Bad for the U.S. Economy

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday August 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Facebook_Custom_Designed_data_security_IFPDeep in the interior of British Columbia, Canada, in ranching country known for its short bursts of intense summer weather and dry, temperate winters, the makings of a quiet rebellion are taking root. It’s not the kind of thing that tech companies are prone to talk about here, except when it comes to lauding the growing success of Canada’s data services industry. Building a Canada-strong network in a market once ruled by U.S. expertise can be a political hot potato.

But check the register of IT companies for British Columbia’s popular recreational tourism corridor and the trend becomes clear. Kamloops, once dubbed the “Tournament Capital of Canada,” has a new marketplace taking shape, one that has less to do with hockey and yearly rodeos, and more to do with safeguarding proprietary rights.

Canada’s data security conundrum

Kamloops’ data services industry was already in the making when whistleblower Edward Snowden made his landmark announcement last year that the National Security Agency was accessing customer data. The revelations haven’t hurt Canadian companies like Telus, Rogers and Canada Bell, who have been working steadily to woo data customers.

But it has hurt relations between American telecommunications companies and international clients who anticipated that their data would remain a private matter under U.S. law.

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Zero-Waste-to-Landfill Gets Certified

| Wednesday August 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments

manf_facility_ZWTL_shutterstock_140718298 For reasons economic, social and environmental, a drive to boost efficiency and drastically cut down on waste of all types – materials, water and energy – is afoot across the U.S. Accurate, comprehensive and timely measurement and assessment of waste streams are prerequisites in order for any such plans to be realized successfully. Organizations such as UL Environment are stepping into the breach, establishing the tools, methods and standards necessary to measure, assess and drastically reduce waste streams across an expanding range of products and processes, as well as throughout organizations.

When it comes to reducing and managing solid waste streams, the UL ECVP 2799 “Zero-Waste-to-Landfill” validation refines the somewhat nebulous and variously defined concept of “zero waste.” With UL 2799, UL Environment sets out a comprehensive, rigorously-defined and independently-verified set of metrics and processes that a variety of leading companies are using to dramatically cut down the volume of solid waste being sent to landfills. In some cases, landfill waste has effectively been reduced to zero.

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Buddy Cianci Pasta Sauce: The Latest Cause Marketing Failure

Leon Kaye | Wednesday August 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Buddy Cianci, pasta sauce, cause marketing, Rhode Island, Providence, scholarships, Leon Kaye

Buddy Cianci Pasta Sauce is a cause marketing failure for the two-time Providence mayor.

Rhode Island politics are certainly colorful. While some surveys suggest the state has cleaned up its act after enduring a reputation of corruption for decades, the state’s politicians certainly hold their own with their counterparts in Illinois, New Jersey and Florida.

Now the latest flack in the country’s smallest state is over two-time Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci’s pasta sauce. Cianci touts his pasta sauce, and charity’s work, as reason enough to run for mayor of Providence again this year — even though his two previous administrations ended with resignations after felony convictions. Never mind that he first quit after pleading guilty to assault and then again years later after he was charged for 27 crimes, including racketeering. So selling jars of pasta sauce, which purport to fund scholarships, would be a sweet way to atone for past sins, correct?

Well not quite: It turns out the Associated Press investigated the mayor’s claims, and found that from 2009 to 2012, the pasta sauce made a profit of $3.

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Poll Clears Up Misconceptions: People of Color Concerned About Climate Change

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday August 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments
A protest against a proposed incinerator in Baltimore.

A protest against a proposed incinerator in Baltimore.

Earlier this month, hundreds of community activists gathered near the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, Calif., to mark the two-year anniversary of the facility’s explosion that sent more than 15,000 individuals from the surrounding community to the hospital. These campaigners – which included residents of this racially diverse, low-income city to the east of San Francisco – were passionate about the issue of climate change, announcing they had also come together to brainstorm local solutions to the climate crisis.

Despite this rally in Richmond and the long-standing environmental justice movement, the misconception that people of color don’t care about environmental issues remains. But a new poll commissioned by the nonprofit Green For All reveals what we should have known all along: Communities of color are not only concerned about the environment, but also view climate change as an imminent threat.

According to the survey, 68 percent of African American, Latino and Asian likely voters think climate change is an issue that Americans need to be worried about right now – not a problem we can put off in the future. And a whopping 75 percent reported that they are following new information on climate change more closely than in the past.

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Consumer Brands Face Tax Haven Pressure While B2Bs Get Free Pass

Mary Mazzoni
| Wednesday August 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments

14148600379_144b7f4eb9_zLast month, Andrew Ross Sorkin reported in the New York Times that Walgreens was “considering moving the company’s headquarters to Switzerland as part of a merger with Alliance Boots, a European drugstore chain. Why? To lower Walgreens’ tax bill even further.” The news struck a nerve with many of the pharmacy chain’s regular customers, including Triple Pundit contributor Raz Godelnik.

On August 6, CEO Greg Wasson announced that Walgreens would move forward with its merger with Alliance Boots. But, in the face of mounting consumer pressure, Wasson hastened to add that the company would keep its incorporation in the U.S., foregoing an estimated $4 billion in tax savings over five years.

Corporate responsibility advocates were quick to label the story a win from a stakeholder engagement standpoint, and it surely shows what can happen when consumers take action. But it also begs the question: Why Walgreens?

As 3p’s Raz Godelnik pointed out, the pharmacy chain is hardly alone: According to a June report published by Citizens for Tax Justice and the U.S. PIRG, at least 362 companies, making up 72 percent of the Fortune 500, operated subsid­iaries in tax haven jurisdictions as of 2013. Among these companies you can find top labels like Apple, Nike and American Express, along with huge money-makers that exist mostly outside of the public eye, such as Pfizer, Air Products and Chemicals and Amgen. So, what was it about the Walgreens case that created such a stir?

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Connecting the Dots: Honey Export Loss Leads Mexico to Dump Monsanto’s GM Soy

RP Siegel | Wednesday August 20th, 2014 | 13 Comments

HoneyWith another school year about to start, it’s a good time to reflect on the basic sciences: physics, chemistry and biology, and how important our understanding of them can be in dealing with what have become substantial threats to our existence.

A relatively small change in the mixture of gases that constitute our upper atmosphere has altered an obscure physical property known as its radiative transmissivity. The additional gases are the byproduct of the fossil fuel energy sources that have made our modern way of life possible. The result is that heat emanating from our planet that formerly passed into space is now being reflected back to Earth, resulting in a warmer planet. While this might sound benign, it’s is causing massive melting of polar ice, releasing tremendous amounts of moisture into the ocean and atmosphere, and dramatically altering our climate. That’s physics.

Synthetic fertilizers containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, primarily produced from natural gas and ammonia, have powerfully enhanced our ability to grow food to feed our ever-increasing population. However, as soils have changed their composition in response this modified diet, their ability to hold moisture has lessened. This means that heavy rains produce runoff, allowing large amounts of these chemicals to be washed into streams, rivers and lakes, altering their composition and, in some cases, making the water unfit to drink. That’s chemistry.

Micro-organisms that survive by invading animal hosts in the wild sometimes evolve to live on human hosts as well. These new diseases can appear suddenly, as in the most recent Ebola outbreak, and given the speed and intensity which we now travel and interact, can also spread rapidly before any treatment or cure can be developed. Massive epidemics that can threaten the existence of entire populations are now increasingly possible. That’s biology.

These existential threats underscore the need for increased emphasis on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines that have been in decline here in the U.S. in recent decades.

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Israeli Scientists Protect Coral by Taking Rainforests Underwater

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday August 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Mid-water coral nursery-Eilat2_smallEfforts have been underway for some time now to find a way to save the world’s coral reefs. Coral, which is often thought of incorrectly as a marine plant, perform an essential symbiotic role in our oceans that often benefit other organisms. Their incredible diversity allows them to replicate in a variety of environments and makes them essential to the world’s oceans. Home to more than 800 types of coral, the world’s coral reefs alone support the existence of more than 4,000 species of fish, many of which provide essential food for human populations. Other coral communities, such as those in the Red Sea, are also essential to marine life.

So, finding a way to stem the decline of coral has been a priority for marine scientists for the past several decades – at least since the late 1990s when scientists attempted unsuccessfully to replant coral in the Great Barrier Reef. According to the World Resources Institute’s 2011 report, Reefs at Risk Revisited, 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs face extinction from climate change, coastal development, pollution and overfishing.

And they are more than a form of marine animal. Often likened to the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, “coral reefs are harbingers of change,” the WRI states. The increasing extinction of coral is a clear indicator of the future of the world’s oceans.

The good news is that after years of research, scientists in Israel may have found a way to repopulate coral reefs. Dr. Baruch Rinkevich, senior scientist at Israel’s Institute of Oceanographic and Limnological Research, and Dr. Shai Shafir, chair of the department of Natural Science and Environmental Education at Oranim Academic College, have developed a means by which to regrow coral and replant it in its natural habitat.

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Michael Bloomberg and Genesis Prize Launch $1M Social Entrepreneurship Competition

Sherrell Dorsey
| Wednesday August 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments

michael bloomberg, genesis prize foundation, social entrepreneurship competition, global innovation competitionWhat price would you pay to help humanity? For former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Genesis Prize Foundation, $1 million dollars aptly foots the bill. Launched last week, the Genesis Generation Challenge aims to identify and provide seed-money for innovative projects to address the world’s toughest challenges. Ten awards of US$100,000 will be given to the engineers, artists, scientists and business people that can turn their ideas into scalable solutions that demonstrate significant impact in their particular issue area.

The competition will turn passion into reality for 10 winning teams connecting them to mentors and opportunities to convene and learn from one another. Benefits exist even for those teams that do not win; they will become part of an active network of forward-thinking and connected individuals from whom they can receive feedback and grow their ideas.

Monetary incentive aside, mentorship from politician, businessman and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg is worth its weight.

“Competitions can provide the incentives and framework to help innovative ideas surface, so we created the Genesis Generation competition to empower young people who want to make the world a better place,” Bloomberg said. “The competition will spur collaboration across borders and regions, and it will encourage young people to find new and better ways to tackle our most pressing challenges.”

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China, The Nature Conservancy Work to Curb Pollution

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Chongqing_Sam GaoChina produces the most greenhouse gases in the world. But the country, in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy, is working to curb the causes and effects of climate change.

It might seem like a strange partnership between a nonprofit and a huge nation, but it might work. TNC’s Conservation Blueprint project identified 32 regions that the organization and the Chinese government believe are most vital to the country’s environmental future. Currently the U.S.-based conservation group is analyzing how ecosystem-based adaptation strategies “can help those regions thrive.”

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DOE Looks Beyond Lithium with ‘EV Everywhere’ Grand Challenge

| Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 0 Comments

EVEverywhereRptCvrAiming to advance development of efficient-vehicle technologies, the U.S. Department of Energy last week announced it will provide $55 million in funding for 31 projects “to accelerate research and development (R&D) of critical vehicle technologies that will improve fuel efficiency and reduce costs.”

Much of the funding is being devoted to projects that, in one way or another, will help realize the goals set out in President Barack Obama’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge. Announced in March 2012, the challenge aims to reduce the costs and improve the performance of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) to the point where they “are as affordable and convenient as today’s gasoline-powered vehicles by 2022.”

DOE has invested $225 million in EV Everywhere projects to date in order to lower PEV costs, increase range and develop a PEV charging infrastructure. Among other achievements, EV Everywhere R&D projects have cut the cost of PEV batteries nearly in half, to $325/kilowatt-hour (kWh), since 2010.

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U.S. Second in Installed Wind Power But Growth Uncertain

| Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment

2013 Wind Technologies Market Report Cover_1 The U.S. continues to be a world leader when it comes to installed wind power capacity, ranking second worldwide, despite modest growth in 2013. U.S. installed wind power capacity met nearly 4.5 percent of total national electricity demand last year, and U.S. renewable energy electricity generation is poised to double again by 2020, according to two reports released August 18 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Persistence of key policy incentives is pivotal to ongoing growth in wind and renewable energy capacity, however, the DOE noted. With lobbying from Koch Industries’ Americans for Prosperity (AFP), Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas recently came out in favor of phasing out the federal wind energy production tax credit (PTC), which expired Dec. 31. Pushing for renewal of the wind energy PTC, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) recently ran TV and YouTube ads thanking members of Congress in Colorado and Iowa, for their strong, bi-partisan support of wind energy and the PTC renewal.

“As a readily expandable, domestic source of clean, renewable energy, wind power is paving the way to a low-carbon future that protects our air and water while providing affordable, renewable electricity to American families and businesses,” DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz was quoted in a news release. “However, the continued success of the U.S. wind industry highlights the importance of policies like the Production Tax Credit that provide a solid framework for America to lead the world in clean energy innovation while also keeping wind manufacturing and jobs in the U.S.”

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Salmonella Trial Illustrates Glaring Holes in Food Safety Control

Lauren Zanolli
| Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment

5613656967_969e5b7d4b_mAs the first federal criminal trial related to food-borne illnesses enters its third week, witnesses reveal a lack of regulatory oversight and unpalatable details of production at the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), the company responsible for causing a 2008-2009 outbreak of Salmonella that killed nine and sickened over 700.

Samuel Lightsey, former plant manager at PCA, returned to the stand on Monday for his seventh day of testimony on the case, which alleges that the company knowingly shipped contaminated products to its customers and lied to federal authorities. According to Lightsey, the company prioritized sales over food safety concerns and had a system for deceiving its customers that included using fake lab results for untested or tainted products.

In his testimony on August 8, Lightsey explained that PCA regularly shipped its peanut butter to Kellogg’s, which had requested Salmonella testing, with false test results. Lightsey said that Mike Parnell, food broker and brother of CEO Stewart Parnell, had told him: “I can handle Kellogg’s. We’ve been shipping to them with false COA’s (certificates of analysis) since before you got here.”

Prosecutors showed company emails that documented Parnell filling out COAs — official lab results — himself. Other emails documented CEO Parnell’s insistence that products known to be contaminated with rat feces be shipped anyway.

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