This is the 9th post in a series on the business of sustainable agriculture by the folks at Bon Appétit Management Company, a company that provides café and catering services to corporations, colleges and universities. To read the earlier posts, click here.
By Dayna Burtness
I never knew that I had such a deep desire to break the law.
In fact, it’s my dream. Sometime in the next couple of years, I want to start the Twin Cities’ first rooftop farm. Between rows of raised beds full of heirloom tomatoes and herbs, I want to watch my farm interns learn the joys of getting their hands dirty and planting seeds. I want school kids to listen to the buzz of my rooftop beehives and help out by picking their own cucumbers. I want retired engineers to collaborate with me to design a hydroponics system that makes use of all the vertical space and sunshine of a warm, south-facing wall.
Rather, I wanted to do all these things right up until I attended workshop at the EcoFarm Conference last week in California entitled “Are Internships Illegal?” I was shocked to learn that the answer is yes, most of the time, as are volunteers on for-profit farms.
The fight against climate change must in some way involve changes in the energy performance of buildings. Addressing the basic rules that govern how buildings are designed and constructed is an important first step in the process. These basic rules, referred to more commonly as building codes, are updated by a group called the International Code Council (ICC). The ICC is currently at work on updates to model energy codes for release in 2012 and three national organizations, New Buildings Institute (NBI), the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), have jointly proposed comprehensive changes that would result in commercial buildings that are up to 30 percent more efficient than those built to today’s standards.
On January 12, 2010, California approved the most stringent, eco-friendly statewide building code in the United States. The new building code standard called “CALGreen” will take effect next January and lays out specific constraints for newly constructed buildings. The code was supported by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state Chamber of Commerce, as well as many builders and realtors, who argued it would only slightly increase initial construction costs. Private groups with green rating programs, including the U.S. Green Building Council, argued that it could lead to myriad standards and confusion.
You might think of a professional services firm or Big Four auditor. Today, the company has also put a big green stake in the ground, both looking internally to green its operations and as an offering in its consulting practice.
Two aspects of this work are worth noting: Deloitte’s internal green team, working to engage employees in sustainability, and its Green Sync™ tool.
I had the chance to have an e-mail exchange with Thomas Dekar, vice chairman of Deloitte LLP, regional managing principal of the North Central Region and corporate responsibility officer for the Deloitte U.S. Firms. He shed some light on the origins of Deloitte’s programs and offerings.
Read on to learn about Deloitte’s best green business practices for engaging employees in sustainability.
Clean energy has been a highly charged issue in legislation, but with Obama’s recent pledge to reduce CO2 emissions 28 percent by 2020, The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) Action Fund has stepped up with a celebrity campaign to educate consumers about the issue and urge them to email their Senators to pass the Clean Energy Jobs & American Power Act.
Say what you will about the stimulus package and government spending in general, there are some things that work well with government investment, and massive infrastructure projects are high on that list. Like Eisenhower in the 1950s, who kicked off the interstate highway system, last week’s (albeit 25 years late) investment of $8 billion in high speed rail will usher in a new era of efficient transportation, economic development, and a huge number of jobs.
The United States’ dependence on cars for transportation (face it, in much of the ex-urban US you would literally starve to death without a car) costs the economy billions and billions of dollars every year in lost productivity and unneeded spending. NBC News says the average American loses an entire work week annually due to congestion, adding up to $78 billion in lost productivity and 3 billion wasted gallons of gas.
Despite the erection of physical barriers and, as I noted in a post last week, the enterprising solutions aimed at overfishing them into extinction, it might already be too late to fully protect the Great Lakes from their next greatest threat: the Asian carp. The DNA of Asian carp have been detected in Lake Michigan.
Much of the ink on this story has been about the impact Asian carp could have on the Great Lakes fisheries—based on the assumption that the fish would out-compete native species for food. The fisheries have reason to worry, based on a long, ugly history of invasive species in those important bodies of water.
More and more of us are making an effort to live a more sustainable life. And yet, there’s this nagging sticking point. Packaging. So much of what we buy, particularly liquids, comes in packaging that is either from raw materials or is not recyclable. Or both.
Oakland based Ecologic intends to solve that problem.
You know the old saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same? As more and more car companies finally respond to our desire to kick the gas habit, many of them can’t seem to kick the habit of piling on luxury options to drive up the prices and the profits.
This can have the unfortunate effect of making the most affordable cars to drive the least affordable to buy. Fortunately, this is not always the case, as the Hybrid Scorecard, a new research report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), shows. The report also attempts to unravel the confusion over whether the additional investment in a hybrid results in a commensurate level of improvement in the vehicle’s environmental performance. The scorecard, which UCS claims is the only comprehensive ranking of hybrid cars in the US, ranks hybrids based on three attributes: Environmental Score, Hybrid Value and Forced Features.
The world finally got its first glimpse of the newest gadget in town, the iPad. Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs, unveiled the new tablet computer earlier this week in San Francisco.
Weighing less than two pounds, the iPad is less than 10 inches tall and is only half an inch thick. But besides its super-sleek design and advanced technologies, the iPad also includes several eco-friendly features as well.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted yesterday to issue interpretative guidance on what public companies must disclose to investors concerning climate change risks. A press release issued by the SEC states that the interpretative guidance is meant to clarify “certain existing disclosure rules that may require a company to disclose the impact that business or legal developments related to climate change may have on its business.”
SEC Chairperson Mary Schapiro said in a speech before the vote that an interpretative release “does not create new legal requirements or modify existing ones — it is merely intended to provide clarity and enhance consistency.” Schapiro added that the SEC “is not making any kind of statement regarding the facts as they relate to the topic of climate change or global warming.”
I have to hand it to Audi. Their upcoming “green police” advertisements (destined for the super bowl) are absolutely hilarious. This could be the first big environmental meme of 2010 – the perfect mix of “Reno 911″ style comedy and enough subtle cynicism to actually get people to think. If you haven’t seen them yet, just watch. I can’t stop laughing at this one:
The only problem, what does this have to do with Audi?
Is there anything sustainable about a business model focused on exploiting a resource until that resource is gone?
When considering, say, the mining of natural resources, of course you would say no. But what about using this approach to curtail the introduction of an invasive species that threatens not only one of the world’s most important ecosystems, but also major industries?
The invader in question here is the Asian carp. The ecosystem is the Great Lakes.
I think we all know that in order to make the transition to a truly sustainable society, we need to learn to look at things differently. But how—or where —can we get that new perspective?
Recology, San Francisco’s recently rebranded waste and recycling management service (formerly NorCal Waste Systems), is providing a lens for seeing things differently through its Artist In Residence Program. In this program, artists work to show us the inherent beauty in objects that had previously been deemed worthless—and in the process inspire us to recycle more and conserve natural resources, thereby reducing the amount of waste we generate.
“I am visually narrating a beautiful dream battled by an undercurrent of destruction,” says Erik Otto, a current Artist in Residence. “My work critiques not only the detritus produced by the media industry, but the consumers of these products as well,” says David Hevel, a former one. The program provides local artists with access to materials, a work space, and other resources. It originated in 1990 with a mission of turning “trash to treasure,” creating art from what would have been sent with the rest of San Francisco’s trash to landfills across the Bay or recycling plants across the nation.
By Lee Barken With southern California in the midst of thunderstorms and flash-flooding, attendees at the 6th Annual Clean-tech Investor Summit listened intently – among occasionally flickering lights – to conference chairman Ira Ehrenpreis remind the audience that “we choose Palm Springs as the conference location for the past 6 years because of the wonderful weather here.” Despite the cancellation of 3 speakers due to weather related travel problems, the January 19-21 summit convened over 400 industry professionals to reflect on 2009, opine on 2010 and network with piers.
Networking, as it turns out, was a major attraction for attendees. As one Private Equity managing partner said to me: “I’m here to meet up with colleagues and see old friends.” Another popular theme, as shared by one clean tech company exec I met: “We’re here to look for funding.”
Flipping through the conference attendee list (provided to all participants) reveals an eclectic mix with concentrations in two communities: Capital Providers (Venture Capital, Private Equity) and Entrepreneurs. The other notable presence: attorneys. Lots of attorneys. Now, imagine adding cocktails, a few hors d’oeuvres and then swirling them all together in one big room. It’s party time.
Operators of energy-intensive US industrial facilities, having benefited from years of USEPA ‘enforcement light,’ now face an old-fashioned onslaught of environmental reporting requirements. USEPA is poised for action – gathering what information it needs before revised or new regulations are published. Even though new industry rules by EPA – reporting previous year’s carbon emissions for operating sites, or estimating prospective site clean-up costs, for two examples – seem reasonable, meeting the Agency’s deadlines may be a serious challenge for many operating sites and for overseeing corporate staffs. Why?
No one left to delegate to
Over the last 8 to 10 years, corporate-level Environmental, Health, & Safety (EHS) staffs have been thinned past the bare bones stage. I’m not talking about the happy talk “Sustainability VP,” a slot usually disconnected from regulatory compliance. (That will change.) I’m talking about the loss of seasoned regulatory professionals who’d spent their careers learning how to measure emissions, apply for and receive operating permits, testify at public hearings, and answer questions from plant neighbors. This stuff is definitely not taught in college.
San Francisco: Jan 21 – Jan 22 Sustainable Food Summit Explore new horizons for eco-labels and sustainability in the food industry by discussing key industry issues. TriplePundit reader discount of 30%. Register here.
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