Is Tree Guilt Justified?

| Monday April 19th, 2010 | 0 Comments

If you read the New York Times online (who doesn’t?) you can’t have missed Starbuck’s Make A Difference campaign on April 15th. The coffee company bought the Times home page for the day, with a double-wide banner ad at the top of the page, featuring the Make A Difference “film” (or what used to be called a commercial).

The film showed, in a series of swiftly moving images, New Yorkers of all stripes exchanging their paper cups for plastic reusable mugs, then placing the paper cups, coffee inside, on the ground to form a huge pixelated tree (a redwood, I think).

Besides a bit of missing logic (they appeared to be exchanging a full paper cup for an empty plastic mug) the ad was quite successful in tapping into a simple desire of Homo Greenus: to Save the Trees by using less paper.

But a growing array of studies on paper versus digital communications, combined with push-back from paper suppliers, seeks to counter this instinctive reaction.

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Tax Day No Big Deal For ExxonMobil, GE

RP Siegel | Monday April 19th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Anyone who has read a little Shakespeare knows that it was the Ides of March when Julius Caesar had that one bad day. But for most of us Americans, it’s the Ides of April, the 15th that is, that brings us pain. That is, of course, when our income taxes are due, and when all that most of us can hope for is to get back some portion of what we put in over the course of the year. We have our deductions, of course; indeed, it is perhaps the only time when those kids might actually save us some money.

But even though our current Supreme Court seems to think that corporations are the same as people, that doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to paying taxes.

Take Exxon Mobil for example. This past year the company earned a sizable $19.42 billion in profit, down from $45 billion the year before, but still more than any other corporation in the world.

The company paid a lot of taxes for 2008, $17.6 billion, in fact, or 47% of its pre-tax earnings. But, according to Mother Jones,  none of it went to the IRS.

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We Hardly Know You, Help Us Change That!

| Sunday April 18th, 2010 | 0 Comments

If you are a frequent reader, you might have noticed a monkey pop-up at the bottom of your screen when you visit our site. It’s reader survey time. We haven’t done a survey for a few years now, and they are really useful in helping us determine who is in our audience, what your interests are, and how we can best serve you. It will literally take you 2 minutes, and you have my permission to consider it your good deed for the day.


Click here to take our survey

Readers who enter their email addresses on the second page of the survey will receive a some-e-card personally chosen and delivered by 3p founder and publisher Nick Aster

Thanks y’all!

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What Would an Icelandic Volcano Do to American Transportation?

| Sunday April 18th, 2010 | 4 Comments

I’m stuck in Berlin on an indefinite journey that was supposed to end today, were it not for the interference of an Icelandic volcano known as Eyjafjallajokull.

Before we get to that, a little perspective. I’ve just finished a fantastic week-long tour of Frankfurt and Berlin, organized by the Ecologic Institute, an EU think tank, to study examples of German green building. We had the opportunity to visit Deutsche Bank’s renovated LEED Platinum headquarters, talk finance with KFW, a development bank whose sustainable ideals impressed the whole group, travel the high speed ICE train, talk policy with high level ministers and a lot more. I’ll be spending the next week telling you all about it.

But here I am, with some unexpected time on my hands in one of Europe’s greatest cities. The volcano and the stranding of literally millions of people is the talk of the town, as it seems to be in the US judging by the emails and text messages I’ve been getting. Nonetheless, intra-European travel has only been moderately affected as people take to (somewhat overcrowded) trains and carpools. Many have reflected on how nice and quiet things are without jets landing above their homes. And most, my group included, are taking it all in stride. Chris Hume of the Toronto Star, who was part of the trip, points out that, “There are worse places in the world to be stuck.” And with readily available Internet, communication is hardly a problem.

But what would happen in the United States, given a similar shutdown?

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Study: Calif. Climate Law, AB32, Will Improve Public Health

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Saturday April 17th, 2010 | 2 Comments

The merits and/or pitfalls of deploying and/or repealing California’s landmark climate law, AB32, have been argued, it seems, eight ways to Sunday. But while most of the recent arguments and research focus on how the law will impact our economy and employment numbers, the public health and environmental justice implications have been largely overlooked.

But new research performed by researchers and professors from three California colleges, and paid for by William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, considers the impacts that reducing the levels of CO2, nitrogen oxide and dangerous levels of particulate matter would have on the health of those who live closest to the biggest producers of these pollutants and greenhouse gases.

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce Continues to Trivialize Renewables

Jeff Siegel | Friday April 16th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Karen Harbert, the president and CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy (which is an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce), met with the House Ways and Means committee this week, where she cited the Chamber’s support of the 8-year renewable energy tax credit extension, noting a phase out over four years.

I think I smell something fishy, and it ain’t salmon!

Certainly we’re happy to see the Chamber of Commerce offer any kind of support for renewables. But as far as I’m concerned, the Chamber’s support of a long-term, sustainable clean energy economy is questionable.

Here’s why. . .

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McDonald’s Opposes Shareholder Proposal for Cage Free Eggs in US

| Friday April 16th, 2010 | 0 Comments


McDonald’s
fast food restaurant’s board of directors is recommending shareholders vote down a proposal to require five percent of the company’s eggs come from free-range hens. The change was proposed by the Humane Society of the United States.

The McDonald’s board said “the science isn’t there” to support the benefits of cage-free living for chickens, reports the New York Times. This despite the fact that McDonald’s is moving towards 100 percent cage-free eggs in Europe.

Instead, the board recommended (PDF) in a proxy statement suppliers continue to use “battery cages” for their hens, the most common housing for chickens in the US, but which the Humane Society and other groups say do not allow chickens to fully stretch their wings. Such cages, which provide about 72 square inches of space per hen, will be banned in the European Union starting in 2012.

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Energy Star Revamped Following Undercover Exposé

| Friday April 16th, 2010 | 2 Comments

from autoblog green

The Department of Energy announced changes to the Energy Star program this week, following a damaging undercover investigation by the Government Accountability Office, which successfully submitted a phony gasoline-powered alarm clock to the energy efficiency program.

“These changes accelerate steps DOE and EPA have initiated over the past several months to bolster the verification, testing and enforcement aspects of the ENERGY STAR® program,” the DOE said in a press release.

Effective immediately, manufacturers must submit complete lab reports and results for review and approval by the EPA before a product can be approved for the Energy Star label. Previously, the EPA had relied on an automated approval process. The GAO report exposed major flaws in that process after investigators successfully submitted a gasoline powered alarm clock for Energy Star approval.

By the end of the year, those test results will have to be from an “approved, accredited lab,” presumably independent from the manufacturer, although the press release does not use the word “independent,” potentially leaving wiggle room for manufacturers to be accredited to test their own products. Energy Star already requires some products, including windows, doors and compact fluorescent lightbulbs, to be tested in accredited labs.

Gregory H. Friedman, the Energy Department inspector general, who oversaw the recent audit, told the New York Times “if executed as described in the press release, it looks like this is a significant change to the process.”

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Efficiency Can Do More Than You Think

RP Siegel | Friday April 16th, 2010 | 0 Comments

A recent report by the National Academies of Science and Engineering had some interesting things to say about America’s energy usage, starting with the fact that not only do we use more than anyone else, our usage has doubled since 1963.

Among developed countries, the US uses more energy per person and more per dollar of GDP than most of our peers. A good portion of this difference lies in the use of energy efficient technologies. Examining a wide range of these technologies, the report finds that Americans could reduce energy usage by 17-22% by 2020 and by 25-31% by 2030.

That alone would be more than enough to eliminate the need to increase electric generating capacity in spite of both economic and population growth. And that’s before we even start talking about transportation or industry.

The report shows reductions of 35% with advanced lighting technologies such as CFLs and LEDs. Similarly, advanced cooling technologies like driving absorption chillers with waste heat could yield an additional 36% reduction. Some of the barriers keeping this from happening sooner lie in the way that incentives are aligned, often separating the person making the investment from the person receiving the benefit.

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Can We Trust CSR Checklists? Where is the Transparency?

Jennifer Hicks | Friday April 16th, 2010 | 2 Comments

Lists that tout companies that engage in corporate social responsibility are “advantageous” says Dal LaMagna, who founded Tweezerman, a Long Island, N.Y.-based beauty products company formed 21 years ago.  “Lists let companies market to their customers and help consumers pay attention.  They show those customers that the company doesn’t exploit.”

But he notes that there is a significant drawback to such lists: “You really can’t say you are a socially responsible corporation, because you aren’t.  The practice of CSR is an ongoing process, not an end-point.  It’s an intention and if the company has that intention, then it is trying to practice CSR and who’s to say it isn’t?”  

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Yogo: The Path to Mass Electric Vehicle Adoption?

| Friday April 16th, 2010 | 4 Comments

ban-startup-friday
You live in a city. You don’t need a car. A scooter seems like a good idea, but they produce nasty emissions. Electric scooter? Not going to cut it, because you’d have to plug it into an outlet and don’t have a garage.

This is the scenario many urban dwellers with a sustainable mindset face. Fortunately, London’s Econogo has a different option, called the Yogo, that solves this dilemma.

How?

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Green Marketing is the New Black

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday April 16th, 2010 | 2 Comments

At the “base” conference in London, according to Business Green, a panel of marketing experts “predicted that the next year will see a shift in companies’ environmental advertising and communications strategies.” In other words, within the next year, green marketing will become the rage.

“It’s inconceivable now that new brands can launch without green credentials,” said Giles Gibbons, founder of consultancy Good Business. “We have even seen Ferrari recently launching its first car with green credentials – you may regard that as greenwash, but it highlights the extent to which green marketing has entered the mainstream.”

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Garments From Yak Wool Offer Himalayan Hope

Leon Kaye | Friday April 16th, 2010 | 0 Comments

ban-startup-friday

It’s not often that clothing manufacturing can achieve a social purpose.  Clothing and footwear companies somehow find a way to draw activists’ ire, due to everything from labor violations to questionable sourcing of raw materials.  One company, however, brings together social entrepreneurship and luxury adventure-wear.

Khunu, with offices in Hong Kong and Colorado, uses yak wool for its line of men’s knitwear.  Its product wins on several counts:  yak wool is warmer than sheep wool; chemical dyes are avoided most of its products; yak wool is gently brushed off rather than cruelly sheared (placating animal rights activists); and the Himalayan people benefit economically.

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Weight Watchers, Abercrombie and Fitch Top Least Transparent Companies

| Friday April 16th, 2010 | 0 Comments

I really don’t know what to make of Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s lists.

Earlier this year, the magazine released the eleventh edition of its 100 Best Corporate Citizens. The list has become the industry standard for corporate social responsibility measurement, closely watched by corporate PR departments. But it’s also been criticized for whitewashing corporate behemoths’ bad behavior and for allowing corporate PR departments to game the list.

Then this week, perhaps in response to such criticism, CR for the first time gave us the Black List, a much shorter dishonor roll of corporations with the least amount of transparency. The thirty or so companies on the list, including Weight Watchers and Abercrombie & Fitch, were chosen because they have little or no publicly available information on environmental impact, labor policies and other corporate behavior.

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Solar Electric Capacity Grew 37% Last Year — Residential PV Doubles

| Thursday April 15th, 2010 | 2 Comments

Electricity generated by sunlight grew 37 percent in 2009 to a total of 2,108 megawatts of capacity nationwide, according to an advance copy of the US Solar Industry Year in Review, to be released today by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Overall solar energy capacity — which includes solar hot water heaters — grew 5 percent to 25,952 megawatts. But that modest figure hid the real action, which was in the photovoltaic panel market.

Residential roof-top PV installations grew by 156 MW in 2009, an astonishing 101 percent increase over 2008. That growth was helped in part by the removal of a $2,000 Investment Tax Credit cap.

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