Agriculture Drones Help Farmers Reduce Resource Use

Hannah Miller | Thursday February 19th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Map created by drone using near infrared

Drone-created map used to measure fertilizer needs.

Boulder, Colorado-based Agribotix is helping farmers save money and conserve water and resources in a new way: by flying drones over their fields to measure crop density, growth and many other factors. Why does this work? Because drones are able to see things that are not as obvious from the traditional line-of-sight on the ground.

Agribotix, founded last year, works with farmers in Colorado like this: They send up drones over a field, fly over and capture photo, infrared and other data, and then land after about 20 minutes. The data is then transformed into maps showing where the crops are thriving and where they aren’t.

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Sustainable Flower Growers Are a Few Roses Among Many Thorns

Leon Kaye | Thursday February 19th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Fair trade, flowers, sustainable flowers, floriculture, Leon Kaye, Columbia, slow flowers, Certified American grown program

Billions of flowers pass through the Aalsmeer Flower Auction in the Netherlands

If you are irritated because Valentine’s Day flowers are already dying, take a step back and consider the journey they took to get from farm to vase. In the U.S., most of the flowers sold are grown in Colombia and Ecuador; regular reports estimate that 80 percent of cut flowers sold in the U.S. are imports. Across the pond in Europe, the Netherlands ranks as the largest exporter, thanks in part to its enormous flower auction house in Aalsmeer, where flowers from elsewhere in Europe, Africa and Asia are traded and sold.

The fact you got flowers at all is the result of their journey by airplane, underlying the massive carbon footprint of the industry. But there is also a massive effect on people — and that footprint is more like a boot on the neck. As many journalists have demonstrated, most recently in the Guardian, the hours floriculture workers endure are long, the conditions often terrible and the pay low. So, if you’re considering flowers for upcoming Easter, Passover, Mother’s Day, or for that birthday or milestone, you may want to take a look at some of the more responsible flower vendors that are on the market.

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Seafood Distributor Makes Sustainability Policy Front and Center

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday February 19th, 2015 | 0 Comments

seafoodIt makes good business sense for a company that sells seafood to buy its products from sustainable sources. Sea Delight, a leading frozen fish distributor, recently made its sustainable seafood policy public — and front and center — on its website.

Sea Delight partnered with FishWise, a sustainable seafood consultancy, to develop the policy. Moving forward, FishWise will collect data on the seafood Sea Delight procures and use the data to assess, monitor and create an evaluation framework.

Sea Delight has set certain measurable goals for its supply chain, including:

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New Crop of OneEnergy Scholars Looks to Make a Net Impact

| Thursday February 19th, 2015 | 0 Comments

OneEnergyDorchesterMDSolar Job creation across the U.S. solar energy sector has been impressive. 2014 was the second year running in which solar energy sector job growth came in near or above 20 percent, according to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2014.

Interest in working and building careers in the U.S. solar, renewable energy and clean tech fields is broad and deep, particularly among young adults and college students. Securing employment and forging a career path is hindered by obstacles, however, including a lack of specialized, up-to-date, accessible and affordable training.

That’s a divide “mission-driven” solar and clean energy project developer OneEnergy Renewables, in partnership with Net Impact, aims to bridge with its OneEnergy Scholars program. Providing one-to-one mentorship to a small, chosen group of promising university students – primarily MBA candidates – over the course of one year, the OneEnergy Scholars program “is designed to accelerate the careers of high potential individuals that have demonstrated passion and commitment in the renewable energy field,” the company explains on its website.

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4 Trailblazing Green Companies

3p Contributor | Thursday February 19th, 2015 | 0 Comments

alternative-2489_1920By Lewis Robinson

Going green is a hot trend in the corporate world. This may be a result of consumer preference, the drive to be a good corporate citizen or simply as a means to improve profit by reducing costs. Whether or not the public continues to see value in green as a trend, the necessity of reducing costs by going green will continue to be an important business driver.

For the time being, customers are responding with their interest and wallets to green strategies, and these four companies are leading the charge.

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Your Seafood: Now Fair Trade Certified

| Wednesday February 18th, 2015 | 5 Comments
Hayunan Wangse flys a kite with a fishing lure that mimics a flying fish on the surface , 11th July 2014, Waepure, Buru Isand, Indonesia.  He hopes 'Fair Trade' will bring improvements to his village.

Hayunan Wangse flys a kite with a fishing lure, which mimics a flying fish on the surface, on July 11, 2014 in Waepure, Buru Island, Indonesia. He hopes ‘Fair Trade’ will bring improvements to his village.

Look out Whole Foods: Safeway is pulling ahead when it comes to seafood transparency.

Whole Foods met its match when Safeway was ranked slightly ahead for seafood sustainability by Greenpeace back in 2011. Both retailers had much to celebrate when they came out with the NGO’s first ever seafood rating of “good.”

Safeway hasn’t taken its foot off the gas pedal in recent years, though. The company has continued to push ahead toward an audacious goal of 100 percent sustainable sourcing for all fresh and frozen seafood by the end of this year. The grocer’s latest commitment brings it up to par with your local farmers market when it comes to worker transparency.

Sustainable seafood awareness and availability have moved in leaps and bounds thanks to the hard work of organizations like Marine Stewardship Council, Monterey Bay Aquarium and Future of Fish. These organizations work simultaneously on consumer education and seafood supply issues to ensure that when consumers set out to make a responsible purchase, they find good product availability on the shelves. But much of that seafood advocacy work has focused on environmental issues. Social issues — from forced labor and child labor to a lack of workplace safety precautions — remain a huge area of concern worldwide. Which is why the latest partnership between Fair Trade USA and Safeway is so exciting.

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Elon Musk’s Next Business Venture: Home Energy Storage

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday February 18th, 2015 | 12 Comments

Tesla FactoryHow do you keep your 100-percent-solar-powered home’s lights burning bright at night? How do you maintain electricity during a power outage or natural disaster? The answer: home energy storage devices, which represent a growing market for utilities looking to balance the supply and demand of electricity, as well as consumers that want to get the most out of their renewable energy systems.

And now Tesla, the automaker famous for its all-electric Model S sedan, wants to get in on the action. In an earnings call last week, CEO Elon Musk announced that the company will soon unveil a consumer lithium-ion battery that can be used to store energy in homes or businesses, according to Green Car Reports.

Musk noted that the battery pack’s design is complete and that he was pleased with the result. The Palo Alto, California-based company will start production on the consumer battery in about six months, he said.

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GM Adds Wind Energy to Power Factories in Mexico

Leon Kaye | Wednesday February 18th, 2015 | 1 Comment
GM, General Motors, climate change, renewable energy, wind power, wind energy, Palo Alto, Mexico, clean energy, renewables, Enel Green Power, Leon Kaye

GM is partnering with Enel to use wind power to power its factoris in Mexico

Yesterday General Motors (GM) announced it will add wind power to its energy portfolio for the first time in the history of the company. The construction of the 34 megawatt wind farm in Palo Alto, 325 miles (526 km) from Mexico City, will begin during the second quarter of this year.

When complete, 75 percent of the wind farm’s energy will power GM’s 104 acre factory and plant facilities in Toluca, an hour’s drive west of Mexico City. The wind energy will also provide some electricity for other GM plants in Silao, San Luis Petosi and Ramos Arizpe. Enel Green Power, the US$2.3 billion dollar renewable energy company based in Italy, has designed and will build the plant as directed in a purchase power agreement signed with GM.

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Lead and Cadmium Found in Popular Chocolate Candies

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday February 18th, 2015 | 3 Comments

ChocolateThere’s just nothing like a bar of chocolate. As a consummate and passionate chocolate lover, I am dismayed to learn that I might be ingesting lead and cadmium when I eat a chocolate bar.

The nonprofit foundation As You Sow tested 42 chocolate products for lead and cadmium, and found that 26 of them (62 percent) have lead and/or cadmium in levels that violate California’s Proposition 65 law. Under Proposition 65, companies are required to warn consumers about significant amounts of chemicals present in the products they buy. Proposition 65 also requires the state to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. Both lead and cadmium are on the list.

As You Sow filed notices of legal action with 16 manufacturers for not providing the required warnings that their chocolate products contain lead, cadmium or both. The companies include Hershey, See’s Candies, Mars and Godiva. The reason As You Sow filed the legal notices is because “consumers need to know that chocolate may contain heavy metals,” Eleanne van Vliet, As You Sow’s toxic chemical research director, said in a statement.

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Visiting the Indigenous Ecuadorian Highlands

Sarah Lozanova | Wednesday February 18th, 2015 | 3 Comments

Otavalo ecotourism

During our ecotourism adventure in Ecuador, my family found ourselves in the highlands of the Andes, along the slopes of the now dormant Cotacachi Volcano. This area around Otavalo, Ecuador is dotted with adobe villages with large indigenous populations, where the Kichwa language and traditional dress are widespread. Oven-baked adobe bricks, elders carrying firewood through the countryside barefoot and large family gardens abound.

In recent decades, however, many people have left the area to seek educational and employment opportunities — resulting in greater wealth but also a loss in cultural heritage. Use of the Kichwa language is in decline, as many young people do not learn the language.

Runa Tupari is a community-based tourism agency with a vision for creating economic opportunities in these rural indigenous communities, while celebrating the local indigenous cultures in a respectful cultural exchange. The organization is creating economic opportunities in the community that help affirm this sustainable way of life, where homegrown native foods, community bonds that span generations and a vibrant culture can thrive.

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Growth Financing for Social Enterprises: 5 Options and How to Make Them Work for You

3p Contributor | Wednesday February 18th, 2015 | 3 Comments
A regional food hub funded by RSF Social Finance, Common Market in Philadelphia has grown rapidly through a series of integrated capital financings.

A regional food hub funded by RSF Social Finance, Common Market in Philadelphia has grown rapidly through a series of integrated capital financings.

By Don Shaffer

Social entrepreneurs seeking growth funding often get caught up in the culture of venture capital: They position their enterprise as a rocket business, look for a miracle angel investor and start giving away equity. They’re not thinking about how the investors will get their money back, or whether other options might better support their goals.

At the same time, conventional funders often see social enterprises as too risky or too hard to understand, especially if they’re building a new supply chain, sacrificing some profit to maximize social value or using a hybrid business model.

Fortunately, there are ways around traps and barriers like these for social enterprises that are past the bootstrapping stage. First, here are a few general guidelines:

  • Before you seek financing, define what you ultimately want to do. Are you planning to sell this business? Do you see it as a legacy business that you’re building to last? A long-term, slow-growth plan won’t nix your chances for funding; you’ll just need to look at different kinds of funding.
  • Seek out funders that focus on social enterprises and that have expertise in your field. They’ll have a better understanding of the market opportunity, and they won’t expect your business to compromise its mission in order to grow.
  • Expect a funder to add value beyond financing, such as connections to a network of advisors or technical assistance.

Below are the ins and outs of five funding options — some top of mind, and some you may not have considered.

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In the Scheme of Things: What the ‘War on Drugs’ Can Teach Us About Keystone XL

3p Contributor | Wednesday February 18th, 2015 | 2 Comments

Keystone XL Debate Rages 6 years and counting By Joe Madden

Like every other American with media access, I have no choice but to acknowledge the Keystone XL “debate.” It is everywhere … and it has spurred impassioned pleas from environmentalists, patriotic calls to duty from conservatives and even one of Jon Stewart’s more exhaustive rants.

Now a bill authorizing the completion of the pipeline is poised to pass both houses and is awaiting a likely veto from President Barack Obama. Opponents argue that the pipeline will not add to U.S. energy independence and that it will contribute to climate change and a multitude of other negative environmental and social outcomes. Transcanada, the company seeking rights to build the pipeline, says: Keystone XL Pipeline will be the safest and most advanced oil pipeline operation in North America. It will not only bring essential infrastructure to North American oil producers, but it will also provide jobs, long-term energy independence and an economic boost to Americans.”

Regardless of where one stands on the issue, the focus of the current debate is misplaced.

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Save a Seat: Make Room for Millennials at the Investment Table

3p Contributor | Wednesday February 18th, 2015 | 0 Comments

8629478147_d41d33382b_zBy Chat Reynders and Patrick McVeigh

As millennials come of age in the business and financial landscape, they are approaching the terrain with a unique, evolved mentality. Today, the world’s first socially-networked generation is demonstrating they are also the world’s purest generation of socially responsible investors.

In contrast to what we’ve seen with baby boomers, millennials often approach investing with a social mindset. They recognize the need to generate returns, but they are just as concerned with the value and impact their investments can make. In fact, a 2013 study by Spectrem Group found that “45 percent of wealthy millennials want to use their wealth to help others and consider social responsibility a factor when making investment decisions.”

This creates a fascinating social investing opportunity and is reflective of a sea-change from previous decades. For this generation, the traditional goal of maximizing returns has taken a seat next to goals with deeper meaning.

For millennials who are ready to embark on a sophisticated investment strategy, there are a few ways to maximize social impact while generating sound financial returns:

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Is Charismatic Leadership Still Alive?

3p Contributor | Wednesday February 18th, 2015 | 0 Comments

10141810486_f1228801ba_oBy Daryl Horney

A colleague and I were discussing charismatic leadership over lunch. Mind you, my colleague is in the early stages of writing her doctoral thesis on the subject, evidently a topic dear to her. She proposed two questions for me: “Does charismatic leadership create greater levels of performance amongst their followers? Is charismatic leadership still alive?” I was perplexed.

If I recall correctly, and attribute charismatic leadership to traditional leadership — a trendy and hot topic of study that was popular during the late 1980s and into the 2000s — then I would say, “Unfortunately, charismatic leadership is still being practiced in many organizations unfamiliar with the progression in leadership trends around them.”

The trend has certainly shifted from that traditional style of leadership toward a manifestation of what many authors and business leaders are referring to as, “leaderful leadership.”

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The Rise of Sustainable Fibers in the Fashion Industry

Leon Kaye | Tuesday February 17th, 2015 | 4 Comments
Sustainable textiles, textile recycling, sustainable fibers, Levis, fashion, fashion industry, HM, Marks and Spencer, Econyl, Aquafil, Nike, bamboo, hemp, sustainable cotton initiative, fast fashion, Leon Kaye

These nets will eventually be churned into recycled textile fibers by Aquafil

Listen to the generations before us, and our elders will tell us how instead of a walk-in closet full of clothes, they had a tiny crevice in their room, or a wardrobe, where they stored a few garments: One nice coat, maybe a handful of shirts, and a couple of pairs of trousers were the norm for men, for example. Clothes were not always washed, but often brushed to keep clean, and shoes were polished daily. Fast forward to today, and fast fashion is all the rage. It is common to have several colors of the same shirt or pants, and many consumers do not think twice about discarding a garment — not to Goodwill or charity, but literally into the trash can — after a few wears.

Finally, the fashion industry realizes we cannot continue this trend in a world where the rising population will have to devote more land to food — or even energy. We cannot continue to grow cotton like mad, nor can we endlessly spin fossil fuels into polyester or other synthetic fabrics. The road toward more sustainable fibers will be a long one with plenty of failures and misses, but it is one we need to take. That is, at least, absent a total rethink of how many clothes we really need in our closets — a discussion the large global clothing chains want to avoid.

To skirt that problem, more clothing companies are focusing on sustainable fiber. Levi Strauss, for example, has modernized and transformed its brand in part by emphasizing sustainability in everything from its garments’ origins to long after the sale. The company has spun recycled plastic bottles into its iconic denim jeans and has worked with other countries to launch the Better Cotton Initiative.

While there’s still plenty to be done, the use of sustainable fibers is on the rise. Read on to learn more about how five textiles are shaping sustainability in the fashion industry.

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