Intuit Gives a Voice to Local Businesses That Make a Difference

Leon Kaye | Wednesday April 21st, 2010 | 3 Comments

Since the B Corporation movement’s inception a few years ago, policy makers are closer to giving businesses the option to create an organization that can be profitable and do good:  currently the stark choice is to be solely a corporation or a non-profit.  The work and advocacy by B Lab, the organization behind B Corporations, is paying off:  California is among several states that will allow organizations to file as an “H-Corp,” allowing companies to function as a hybrid for-profit/non-profit entity.  B Lab’s success speaks for itself:  its registry includes over 300 companies, which together reach annual sales of over $1 billion.

Now, with the additional support of Intuit, B Lab is giving local businesses an opportunity to assess their overall sustainability.  Meanwhile, the Intuit-B Lab partnership is offering these businesses’ customers the chance to nominate them for at the very least, free advertising, and for the one judged as the most exemplar, a grant totaling $30,000.

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New Collaboration on Climate Journalism Launched

| Wednesday April 21st, 2010 | 2 Comments

The Climate Desk, an online collaboration between seven news organizations to provide integrated coverage of all aspects of climate change, launched this Monday.

Grist, Mother Jones, Wired, PBS’s Need to Know, the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Atlantic and Slate have combined resources and agreed to share stories created for the site, which has been called “crowd sourcing journalism with actual journalists.”

The site was created to address a number of emerging problems with reporting on climate change, including that coverage tends to be fractured between various news “desks,” such as business, environment or technology. Founders also realized that “climate change is slow-moving, vast, and overwhelming for news organizations to grapple with,” and that news room cuts just make matters worse, according to a Q&A on the website.

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Do You Know What Going to the Office Costs the Planet?

Jennifer Hicks | Wednesday April 21st, 2010 | 2 Comments

Do you long to telecommute?  Then, 21st Century Office—no, not the 21st Century office carbon emissions calculator screen shotrealty company, rather, an independent project sponsored by the World Wildlife Federation with a grant from Hewlett Packard—has an app for you and it will be available Thursday at the organization’s website that is not yet active. You can even download it to your iPhone.

Get all the details you need to convince your manager how much time and carbon dioxide emissions you could save by working from your home office.

Carbon emissions calculators

This is not the first emissions calculator.  Nature Conservancy has one that is very good at showing how good—or morosely miserable—you are at minimizing your carbon footprint.  Native Energy has one to make you wide-eyed about what your daily travel habits cost the planet. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has one to help offices understand their emissions—especially suited for those who enjoy mucking with spreadsheets.

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The Case for a Carbon Tax

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday April 21st, 2010 | 7 Comments

Bill Gross, the founder and CEO of eSolar, made the case for a carbon tax during an interview with Business Insider. Gross said there should be a tax on fossil fuels “only when it went down too low, to stabilize the price.” The tax could be refunded “in some form, whether it were payroll taxes or some other taxes.” Gross added, “If people knew there was a fixed price, that would be very helpful. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

“A carbon tax must be the central mechanism for reducing carbon emissions,” the non-profit organization, Carbon Tax Center states on its website. The costs associated with climate change are not presently included in the prices of fossil fuel which “suppresses incentives to develop and deploy carbon-reducing measures.” A carbon tax would also “infuse these incentives at every link in the chain of decision and action.”

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Once its Time Has Come (and Gone), Toss this Watch in the Compost

Bill DiBenedetto | Wednesday April 21st, 2010 | 8 Comments

For all you watch fanatics–you know who you are, you compulsively watch the watch shows on ShopNBC until all hours and compulsively buy them at the risk of solvency, credit score, marriage and good nutrition–there’s one more to add to the collection: A green watch that’s built with sustainability in mind. This timepiece is almost entirely biodegradable.

Meet Sprout Watches, an eco-friendly watch constructed from at least 86 percent sustainable materials. Each watch is made with naturally biodegradable materials: corn resin case and caseback, bezel, reflector ring, movement holder and buckle closure, certified organic cotton strap, natural bamboo dial, a mineral crystal and a mercury-free battery.

Even better, the packaging is made from at least 80 percent post-consumer materials and is 100 percent recyclable.

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Pentagon Puts a Hold on Nation’s Largest Wind Farm

| Wednesday April 21st, 2010 | 2 Comments

Concern that wind turbines could interfere with radar signals has prompted the Pentagon to halt development of a 909 megawatt wind farm in Oregon.

Caithness Energy‘s Shepherds Flat wind farm in the Columbia River gorge would be the nation’s largest if completed. The Pentagon moved to deny the wind farm a crucial Federal Aviation Administration permit last Friday, two weeks before the project was to break ground, and nine years after it was first proposed, the Washington Post reports.

If construction does not begin soon the entire project could be scrapped, because the farm needs to be completed by 2012 to qualify for federal stimulus funds.

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5,000 Plumbers in 40 States Show How “Going Green” Grows Client Base

Bill Roth | Wednesday April 21st, 2010 | 1 Comment

“In the 1930’s plumbers worked under the motto of protecting the nation’s health,” explains Megan Lehtonen, president of the GreenPlumbers . “GreenPlumbers’ goal is to equip today’s plumbers with the product knowledge and training to continue this mission by enabling their protection of our planet’s most valuable resource, water.”

According to the Water Footprint Network, water use has increased six-fold in the past century, more than twice the rate of the Earth’s population growth. The U.S. EPA calculates that the average American guzzles about 100 gallons of water daily. (Imagine the economic ramifications if water does become the “new oil” and is priced at $3 per gallon!) A United Nation’s study found that one flush of a toilet in the developed world uses as much water as the average person in the developing world allocates for an entire day’s cooking, washing, cleaning, and drinking. Evidence like this and the real world constraints on supply in locations from Atlanta, Georgia, to the central valley farms of California has moved water issues into the public policy spotlight.

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Nicaragua: Opportunities at the “Bottom of the Pyramid”

3p Contributor | Wednesday April 21st, 2010 | 2 Comments

Technician Enrique explains the solar charging system to students of Presidio Graduate School (Photo: Heartie Look)

By Rebecca Busse

In C.K. Pralahad’s 2004 book “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits,” Pralahad writes about what he sees as the most exciting growth market: the “bottom of the pyramid,” or the billions of poor people in developing countries. Far from being a “poverty pimp,” Pralahad posits that developing world ingenuity and resourcefulness can make for profitable and co-beneficial partnerships with the developed world. (Ed Note: C. K. Pralahad passed away on Monday).

As part of a Service Learning Trip with the Portland-based NGO Green Empowerment, business students from Presidio Graduate School saw firsthand how the “bottom of the pyramid” is increasingly turning toward alternative solutions for community development–and the opportunities those solutions can bring for developed world businesses. In many cases, developing in the traditional way (using national grid electricity or land line telephones) is simply not practical, so many developing countries are turning to off-grid electricity and cell phone technology because it is cheaper and easier to implement in rural areas. It’s not uncommon to see a Nicaraguan cowboy on horseback miles from a paved road chatting on his cell phone, or a solar array atop a rural house made of mud and corrugated metal.

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Deutsche Bank: The Payoff in Building Green

| Tuesday April 20th, 2010 | 3 Comments

Among the early highlights of last week’s German green building trip, organized by the Ecologic Institute, was a visit to Deutsche Bank’s renovated Frankfurt headquarters. With hard hats on, under a stiff spring breeze, we had a chance to hear Nils Noack, Deutsche Bank’s Green Building Manager, explain intricate details about the building, as well as why Deutsche Bank chose to go to the expense to make it “green.”

The so called ‘twin towers’ of Frankfurt are an epic love-it-or-hate it 1980s mirrored glass style that would fit in nicely in Dallas or most modern American cities. Though Americans are unlikely familiar with the buildings, they hold iconic status in Europe in the same way that the Transamerica Pyramid or the Citibank building do on our side of the pond.

Deutsche bank has spent upwards of €200 Million on a complete multi-year renovation project which will earn the company a LEED platinum rating for the million-plus square foot building–a rarity for a large skyscraper and arguably one of the “greenest” corporate headquarters in the world. We’re hardly the first of the fawning press to cover the building, but there’s more to the story that a simple architectural review.

Like most buildings that went up in the 80s, energy consumption and other “green” thinking weren’t especially high on the radar during design. So when new fire code requirements came into play in 2003, Deutsche Bank realized an opportunity to make bigger changes at the same time.

A few facts on the renovation:

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A Free Market Earth Day List

Jeff Siegel | Tuesday April 20th, 2010 | 1 Comment

Well it’s about that time again.

Earth Day is around the corner, so get ready for those obligatory Earth Day Resolution lists that will inevitably saturate the Internet on April 22.

Some will suggest turning off the water while brushing your teeth or lowering your thermostat. Others will tell you to try carpooling or recycling. And these are all great ideas. But at the end of the day, I’m still convinced that the best way to do right by Mother Earth is to use your power as a consumer.

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Michigan’s Ambitious Green Job Strategy: An Interview with Stanley “Skip” Pruss

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday April 20th, 2010 | 4 Comments

With the highest unemployment rates in the country, Michigan is in dire need of an effective economic revival strategy.  The state is looking to green jobs largely to realize this, with an emphasis on clean energy.

I recently interviewed Stanley “Skip” Pruss,  Director of the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth and the former Deputy Director of the Department of Environmental Quality. He holds a strong vision for transforming the Michigan economy, while leveraging its strengths.

Sarah Lozanova: Why are green jobs a good tool for economic development?

Stanley “Skip” Pruss: We think there is a lot of evidence that green jobs provide a great opportunity to diversify our economy, secure new investment, and ultimately build new jobs.  The reason is that there are several interrelated drivers that make this trajectory irresistible.

In Michigan, we are decades overdue to diversify our economy. We were overly dependent on one industry essentially. The world from our perspective is on the cusp of a global clean energy revolution.  That provides great opportunities, and not only just for Michigan, because the opportunity will be so robust and sustained.

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Can Cap and Dividend Save Cap and Trade?

| Tuesday April 20th, 2010 | 1 Comment

There is no doubt that “cap-and-trade” has joined “liberal” on the list of terms conservatives have effectively tar-and-feathered. It’s also clear that a market-based system is the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The term needs political rehabilitation, for the planet’s sake. But how?

A recent study by NYU Law School’s Institute for Policy Integrity shows how a different take on cap-and-trade, known as “cap-and-rebate” or “cap-and-dividend,” could be the answer.

The study is actually an analysis of the CLEAR Act, ghg reduction legislation introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA)  and Susan Collins (R-ME) last year which has, at least right now, taken a back seat to the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill due out April 26.

But that bill, known as KGL in lobbyist circles, will probably incorporate a version of the cap-and-dividend plan that is in the CLEAR Act. And if it doesn’t, it should. Here’s why.

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US to Latin America: We Can’t Get Off Fossil Fuel, But We Will Advise You How You Can

Leon Kaye | Tuesday April 20th, 2010 | 3 Comments

Over the weekend, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced growing cooperation between the United States government and that of other Latin American nations to find common ground on climate change and renewable energy policies.  The Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) aims to address clean energy, energy security, and other issues including sustainable land use, and poverty issues related to the lack of an energy infrastructure.

The press releases sent out by the Departments of State and Energy tout many lofty goals.  But from many Latin Americans’ point of view, can the United States genuinely lead on climate change and energy policies?  And considering the history between these countries and their powerful—and often meddlesome—neighbor to the north, can the United States be trusted?  Quite bluntly, is the ECPA just another window through which American corporations can profit and even exploit these economies?

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US Greenhouse Gas Emissions Dropped 2.9 Percent in 2008

| Tuesday April 20th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States dropped 2.9 percent from 2007 to 2008, according to the 2008 National Greenhouse Gas Inventory finalized by the EPA late last week.

The downward trend is attributed to a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions associated with the higher cost of transportation fuel in 2008, the agency reported. Gas prices spiked in 2008, reaching $5 a gallon in some places.

Globally, approximately 30,377 million metric tons of CO2 were released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels in 2008, of which the US contributed 19 percent, according to the report, which is available here.

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BP Oil Sands Resolution Defeated As New Pipeline Moves Forward

| Tuesday April 20th, 2010 | 1 Comment

BP shareholders overwhelmingly rejected a resolution that would have required the company to report on the environmental, financial and reputational risks of developing Canadian oil sands projects. The resolution was rejected by 85 percent of shareholders voting.

The news comes as a proposed pipeline to deliver crude from oil sands in Canada to Texas passed an important environmental hurdle.

BP was one of four major oil companies involved in oil sands extraction to be targeted by such shareholder resolutions. The other three, Shell, ConocoPhillips, and ExxonMobile, have their shareholder meetings next month.

Besides being more expensive to extract, crude oil derived from oil sands, also known as tar sands, emits 20 percent more CO2 over its life cycle than oil from conventional sources.

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