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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Shareholders to Chevron: Bar All Political Contributions

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Tuesday February 17th, 2015 | 1 Comment

Chevron_refinery_protest_planet-aTimes they are a-changin’. The unprecedented win by progressive candidate Tom Butt in the 2014 Richmond, California mayoral elections signaled a new, more determined outlook in the city that holds Chevron’s largest oil refinery.

Environmental groups, accusing the oil company of soaking the 2014 city elections with some $3 million in funding, are calling for Chevron to stop committing its money to local, state and federal elections. And to drive home the point, Sierra Club, Green Century Funds, local politicians and activists are backing a shareholder resolution to prevent the corporation from making political contributions.

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Indian Government Blocks Greenpeace Activist From Traveling

RP Siegel | Tuesday February 17th, 2015 | 0 Comments

mahan forestIndia and China both have high levels of poverty. Both are energetically pursuing policies of economic growth to both reduce poverty and avoid social unrest. In order to fuel this rapid growth, both have chosen to exploit domestic coal reserves as a readily available and inexpensive energy source.

This, despite the fact that coal is the largest carbon dioxide emitter of all fuels, is the cause of massive air pollution and is environmentally devastating in its extraction.

While both countries have pushed back against calls to reduce their coal burning, claiming that they would do so once they reached their economic targets, China, in response to major concerns over air pollution, has taken several actions. For one thing, they’ve banned coal burning in the city of Beijing. They’ve also made a major shift from coal to natural gas in their electricity generation sector. They’ve reduced court fees, making it easier for environmental groups to bring suit against companies, and they have also made a huge commitment to ramp up the deployment of renewable energy.

Not to be outdone, the Indian government, led by newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has announced a very ambitious program for renewable deployment that could, if achieved, potentially catapult the country to the front of the pack, with more renewable power generation capacity than anyone else.

So, with all this good news, it comes as a bit of a surprise to learn that while the Indian government is very progressive in its policies regarding energy, there is a hard stop when there is a perceived threat to economic growth.

Case in point: An Indian environmental activist named Priya Pillai, a member of Greenpeace India, was recently blocked as she attempted to travel to London, where she was scheduled to testify before Parliament about coal-mining activities in India’s Mahan forest. Arriving at the airport, she learned that her name had been added to the government’s no-fly list because her trip was considered “prejudicial to the national interest” and that it could damage India’s image abroad. The action has led to concerns that the Modi government is singling out NGOs that are seen as detrimental to the country’s economic growth.

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Sustainable and Seductive Architecture in Fire Island: Horace Gifford’s Legacy

Leon Kaye | Tuesday February 17th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Horace Gifford, sustainable architecture, Fire Island, Fire Island Pines, architecture, Christopher Rawlins, Modernism Week, gay culture, Leon Kaye

Christopher Rawlins’ work has revived the legacy of Horace Giffords.

Fire Island has long been known as a summer getaway for New Yorkers, who flock to the 30-mile-long, quarter-mile-wide sand bar that protects Long Island from the Atlantic Ocean. But this string of villages and resorts 50 miles away from New York City also became a laboratory for modern and experimental architecture. Many of the homes included sustainable and passive design features before those terms became part of our vocabulary. One talented architect, whose work until recently was largely forgotten, not only has left a lasting impact for his ideas on how homes could be sustainable, but also had a leading role in gay culture during what now are often seen as the halcyon days bookended by Stonewall and the 1980s AIDS crisis.

Horace Gifford was born in 1932 and was raised in Florida, where his family had developed the town of Vero Beach. His time growing up on Florida’s beaches left a lasting impact on him as he trained as an architect in college. He never finished his education as an architect so he had to rely on his peers to sign off on his work, but Gifford began to earn a stellar reputation after he arrived at Fire Island in the late 1950s.

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Dark Horse May Outdo Lithium-Ion Battery Storage

| Tuesday February 17th, 2015 | 54 Comments

vanadium pt Leading battery storage technology developers and emerging market players, including Elon Musk’s SolarCity and Tesla, are investing billions of dollars to improve the performance and lower the costs of manufacturing lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Along the way, they are promoting Li-ion battery storage as a cleaner, more efficient, sustainable and significantly less costly solution across a wide range of applications, from electric vehicles, homes and buildings on up to grid-scale energy storage and stabilization.

But Li-ion isn’t the only game in town when it comes to emerging advanced battery and energy storage technologies. And there are those who believe proponents are stretching their case too far in touting the advantages of Li-ion battery storage across such a broad range of applications.

Developers of flow batteries, for instance, say utilities and other large end-users would be ill-served by acquiring Li-ion battery storage, except for comparatively narrow and strictly defined cases. A developer of vanadium-flow battery storage systems, Imergy Power Systems, is taking its case to the market.

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Coalition Files Lawsuit to Stay EPA Decision on New Herbicide Combo

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday February 17th, 2015 | 15 Comments

crop dusterA coalition of environmental groups and farmers is trying to stay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s October 2014 decision to approve Enlist Duo, a powerful new herbicide.

Enlist Duo is a combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate, and it’s approved to be used on genetically modified (GMO) crops in six Midwestern states. Enlist Duo approval is expected to expand to 10 other states.

The coalition argues that the EPA violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by not consulting with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service about the impact of Enlist Duo on two endangered species in those six Midwestern states, the whooping crane and the Indiana bat.

The whooping crane is one of the world’s most endangered animals. In 2006, there were only about 338 whooping cranes in the wild. The EPA admitted that during the whooping crane’s migration the birds “will stop to eat and may consume arthropod prey” that may have been exposed to Enlist Duo and that exposure is toxic to them. The Indiana bat could suffer reproductive damage from Enlist Duo exposure. Scientists cite pesticide contamination of their food supply as one of the reasons for their decline.

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3 Simple Ways Entrepreneurs Can Change the World

3p Contributor | Monday February 16th, 2015 | 0 Comments

2902267818_1134f6ce6e_zBy Kevin Xu

If you’re a successful entrepreneur, you’ve probably felt a pull toward philanthropy. According to a 2010 study, 89 percent of entrepreneurs donate money to charitable causes; 70 percent donate their time; and 61 percent believe they are more inclined to give to charity because they are entrepreneurs.

There’s no doubt philanthropy and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. An entrepreneur’s drive to pursue a dream is the same force that leads to giving back. By helping others, entrepreneurs generate good feelings that help them overcome daily struggles, and they get a sense of personal fulfillment.

But even if you feel compelled to give back, you might not know the best way to help. Or, if you currently donate your money or your time, you probably worry you’re not doing enough. After all, the world is a big place with a host of problems that need attention.

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Forbearer of Modern and Sustainable Architecture Moving to Palm Springs

Leon Kaye | Monday February 16th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Aluminaire House, Palm Springs, green building, aluminum, modernism week, Leon Kaye, Albert Frey, mid century modern, architecture, sustainable design, modular home, Joseph Rosa

The Aluminaire House in Islip, NY

When the Aluminaire House went on display in 1931, it started a long path from case study into a phenomenon that helped launch a new architectural movement in the United States. For 10 days during the Architectural and Allied Arts Exposition in New York City, 100,000 people filed through the beaux-arts Grand Central Palace to view what was inside: a stark contrast, what critics saw as an unprecedented and innovative 22 x 28 feet aluminum-and-glass structure. Architecture historians have generally recognized this structure for being the first all-metal modular home built in the U.S. After eighty years, during which it has moved, fallen into disrepair and then almost demolished, the Aluminaire House will soon find a new home in Palm Springs, the epicenter of mid-century modern architecture and design.

For its fans in the architecture and design world, the Aluminaire House is vindication for the International School of architecture, a movement that reached its peak in the 1960s. During the following decades this school of building design largely fell out of favor–then ridicule and for many buildings, demolition–but in the last decade has become vaunted again for its historical impact, practicality and minimalist aesthetic. But this house is also important because it was ahead of its time for its use of prefabricated, sustainable and lightweight materials as well as its ease of construction—the norm within today’s increased focus on green building and construction.

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Divestment Works: From Apartheid to Climate Change

3p Contributor | Monday February 16th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Feb. 25 issue of Green Money Journal

Tim Smith 2013

By Timothy Smith

The Episcopal Church made history in 1971 when it filed the first shareholder resolution by a religious organization. The company in question was General Motors, and the resolution called on the company to withdraw its business in South Africa. It was both church history and business history.

Religious organizations had publicly spoken out against South Africa’s repressive system of white supremacy before, but this was the first time that a religious organization had utilized the power of its stock portfolio to raise an issue for a vote by investors. While it was a front-page New York Times story, shareholder support was unenthusiastic, coming in at around 3 percent voting support. But in that moment, a new tool was created to present social and environmental issues to a company’s board and top management.

The Episcopal Church’s witness was quickly adopted by a number of other Protestant denominations including United Church of Christ, American Baptist Church, Presbyterian Church, United Methodist Church, Disciples of Christ and National Council of Churches, followed by Roman Catholic organizations. From a few dozen religious investors in the 1970s, today more than 300 religious organizations are part of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) with member assets of over $100 billion.

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Galapagos: Anatomy of an EcoCruise

| Saturday February 14th, 2015 | 0 Comments

The definition of “eco-tourism” is hard to nail down. If forced to, I’d probably say something like: Eco tourism is any travel whose primary purpose is the enjoyment of nature in its wild state and upon which special effort has been made to minimize negative externalities – and maximize the positive ones.  

As such, anything from a camping trip to the local state park to an elaborate international adventure would probably qualify.  In terms of grander trips, the Galapagos is probably one of the more well known eco-tourism destinations. So what are the basic ways tour companies are minimizing impact? And how are they going above and beyond?

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