Galapagos: Post Office Bay

| Friday February 20th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Fun post for Friday: An interesting human behavior story from the Galapagos. Post Office Bay, on the Island of Floreana, has been serving as an improvised message board for travelers since the 19th century. Ships would periodically stop by and leave messages in the hopes that another ship might pick them up and take them to their intended destination in distant lands.

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How Sprint Supports Net Neutrality

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday February 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment

SprintAn open Internet is something that is important to me as a freelance journalist, and apparently it is important to one of the major telecommunications companies, too: While AT&T, Verizon and Comcast have made things difficult for supporters of net neutrality, Sprint is taking a different tack.

Sprint Chief Technology Officer Stephen Bye spoke to Reuters: “It’s one of those topics that is highly charged, highly politicized, and we took a step back and said it works in the interest of our customers, our consumers and the industry. And we frankly found some of the arguments (of our competitors) to be less than compelling,” Bye said. “Our competitors are going to continue to invest so they are representing a situation that won’t play out.”

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Citigroup Launches $100 Billion Sustainability Drive

| Friday February 20th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Citigroup-logoAmerica’s largest banking groups are increasingly incorporating environmental and social considerations into lending and investment practices. They are also bringing sustainability in-house, launching initiatives to make greater use of clean energy, enhance resource efficiency, and reduce waste and pollution.

On Feb. 18, Citigroup made a landmark commitment to finance sustainable development across its worldwide business footprint. Management announced the group would “lend, invest and facilitate a total of $100 billion within the next 10 years to finance activities that reduce climate change and create environmental solutions that benefit people and communities.”

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A Brief History of Sustainable Fashion

| Thursday February 19th, 2015 | 3 Comments
ad

An ad printed in the pages of Vogue magazine in 1967 inviting consumers to think of fashion as an investment.

Type the words ‘future’ and ‘fashion’ into any search engine, and you’ll get a stream of results on 3-D printing, wearable technology and e-commerce websites – sustainability is but a mere mention. Yet, the S-word has undeniably made its way into the modern apparel-making process and increasingly influences what lands on runways and store racks.

The fashion industry’s growing focus on sustainable practices has even prompted business publications such as Forbes to hail “Green is the New Black.”

Through innovative business practices, the fashion industry has come a long way in improving environmental and social conditions along complex global supply chains. Still, it has a way to go. A brief look into the industry’s storied past illuminates how corporate style setters have responded to shifting consumer demands, market trends and natural resource constraints over the years – signaling what the future of sustainable fashion might hold.

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China Leads in Contributions to Pacific Garbage Patch

RP Siegel | Thursday February 19th, 2015 | 0 Comments

garbage patch mapWe’ve all heard a lot about plastic pollution, which has led to a movement away from plastic shopping bags and bottled water in the U.S. A principal driver of these actions has been a growing awareness of the so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a floating island of plastic twice the size of Texas. This unplanned floating dump, also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex, comes about because of swirling ocean currents known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. The full extent of the patch stretches from just off the U.S. West Coast to the East Coast of Japan.

A recent study in Science analyzed the contents of the patch. The study determined that in 2010 there were 275 million metric tons of trash found in the patch. The team, led by Jenna Jambeck from the University of Georgia, estimated that an additional 4.8 million to 12.7 million metric tons were being added to the patch each year. So, the question is: Where is all that trash coming from?

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4 Strategies for Building an Efficient Home

Sarah Lozanova | Thursday February 19th, 2015 | 1 Comment

belfast ecovillageI’m visiting  Ecuador at the moment, and I’ve been struck by the fact that most of the homes on the coast and in Quito have no heating or air conditioning systems. Straddling the equator, much of the country has a relatively mild climate, with a wet and dry season. This allows many people to have a small energy footprint. Relying on ventilation from windows and doors alone, homes are relatively comfortable throughout the year. This is not the case in the United States, where most people heat or cool their homes much of the year.

Back in Midcoast Maine, we live in a high performance house in Belfast Ecovillage, a 36-unit community built to the Passive House standard (but not certified). While neighbors in our cold climate pay thousands of dollars to heat their homes, we pay just a couple hundred. Our home has generous amounts of insulation, triple-pane windows and doors, and is air sealed, so little heated air escapes to the outside. Because the home is nearly airtight, we have a Zehnder heat recovery ventilation system to continuously bring fresh air into the home, while recycling the heat from the exhaust air.  Numerous qualities set high performance homes apart from their code-built counterparts.

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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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