Water and water bottles seem to be flowing into headlines as often as healthcare these days. But activists in the Northern California town of McCloud are claiming victory in a six-year battle to block Nestle Waters North America from erecting a water bottling plant at the site of an old mill in the once-prosperous logging town. Nestle announced on September 10 that it is bagging the proposal.
When first introduced, Nestle’s proposal was for a 1 million square foot facility that would bottle a mind-boggling 521 million gallons of water a year, pulling it from the town’s watershed and then trucking it as far south of Los Angeles. The plant would also employ 240 people, it said. Nestle later revised the scope down to 195 million gallons, and a plant with a smaller footprint (and a reduced workforce of 100), but the company had already raised the ire of McCloud residents—some of whom were pitted against each other on the issue—and had become a focus of the Think Outside the Bottle campaign of the watchdog group Corporate Accountability International.
There are many features of Hawaii that make the 50th state utterly different from the other 49. Probably one of the most obscure, however, is that it generates nearly 80% of its electricity from imported oil, mainly from Indonesia. When oil prices shot up in 2008, consumers in the state were paying around 50 cents per kilowatt hour — five times the national average.
The state’s tenuous reliance on oil has put added momentum behind the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, launched in January 2008, which calls for the state to generate 60-70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, through a combination of new development and energy efficiency measures.
But as planners across the country have found, switching to renewable energy is not as simple as planting wind turbines and solar panels, even when the impetus behind it is pressing.
Copenhagen’s upcoming bike share competition is a glimpse into the City’s vision for itself: that of a “modern city, with emphasis on effective and environmentally-friendly transport forms,” the CPH bike share competition website says. The primary goal of the contest is simple: To conceptualize and implement a custom-made-for-Copenhagen bike share program that will help the City meet its sustainable development goals. In doing so, the contest will help build a green, dynamic City that is workable for Copenhagen residents, commuters, and tourists. It will also cement sustainability into Copenhagen’s transportation system while (its creators hope) making the City a model of green transport development. But will the program result in financial benefits substantial enough for other communities worldwide to follow suit?
The House of Representatives is considering expanding government-led research into fuel efficient vehicle technology while increasing research dollars for auto parts suppliers, the Star Tribune reports. The expansion would boost funding for the auto industry, helping the industry meet tougher fuel economy standards and potentially creating more green jobs.
Contrary to popular belief, a good living can be made on an organic farm. What’s required is farming smarter, not harder. Farmer Richard Wiswall is here to tell the world it’s possible to start an organic farm, enjoy it, and make a profit. Like any other business, organic farming has ups and downs. But Wiswall (who’s been farming in Vermont for 27 years) offers a hopeful and useful model to ensure a sustainable business that puts some money in the bank.
He says: “My goal is to see more happy, prosperous farmers. I see too many farmers work too hard for little money and burn out because of it. I would love it that farmland shouldn’t compete for developments because developments pay more. I want it that farms remain in farmland because it’s economically viable to do so. And I think that’s the way it should be.”
Chelsea Green recently produced an original video to introduce readers to this organic farmer and author.
Watch the 4-minute version:
For the super enthusiastic, there’s also a 30 minute version:
One of these days, 3p will get invited to the TED conference. In the meantime, their presentation videos are continuously phenomenal. In case you’re not familiar with the format, TED videos are all ~19 minutes long and feature leading thinkers from around the world working on ideas to solve humanity’s biggest problems.
Sit back and watch Dan Pink talk about how narrow-minded financial incentives can paradoxically decrease performance in the workplace. It really adds extra question marks to the incredible rewards given to some CEOs lately, especially in the financial sector.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Walmart has made extraordinary strides in advancing principals of sustainability into their operations. Among the most powerful economic forces in the world – when Walmart makes even a tiny, incremental change, the world takes notice. The Walmart force is especially strong when measured across its supply chain, an enormous network of small and large companies over which Walmart exudes considerable influence.
Earlier this year, Walmart announced their very own “Sustainability Index” – a way to measure the impact of companies and products that Walmart deals with. Now, companies (Walmart partners and otherwise) are poised to make changes in their operations in order to comply with Walmarts sustainability demands – a complicated logistical, legal, and philosophical challenge.
Our friends at GreenBiz have put together a live webinar to be held at 12 noon Eastern Time on September 24th. The venerable Joel Makower will host Walmart’s Rand Waddoups, EORM’s Tim Mohin, and Morrison & Foerster’s Christopher Carr in a conversation aimed at getting down to the details of Walmart’s index and its implications on the entire Walmart supply chain.
The EPA and Department of Transportation (DOT) recently released new vehicle standards, which would make new vehicles’ fuel economy the highest seen in over 30 years. Sustainability groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), are urging the Obama administration to finalize the standards (and prevent loopholes), a UCS press release reports. If finalized, the proposed standards would potentially benefit the environment, consumers’ finances, and the nation’s energy security.
For an average of 60 cents per gallon, the DewPointe DH9 Atmospheric Water Purification System extracts water vapor from the air and converts it to pure drinking water. The system uses similar technology as some home dehumidifiers to pull the moisture from the air.
By pulling moisture out of the atmosphere, the DH9 is said to eliminate virtually all contaminants that might otherwise occur in groundwater. The device then further purifies the water to eliminate 99.99% of contaminants. There’s an electrostatic air filter to remove small airborne particles like pollen and dust, a germicidal uV light that destroys bacteria and other microorganisms, a coconut hull filter that eliminates heavy metals, chlorine residuals and mineral salts, and a reverse osmosis (RO) filter to remove any remaining pathogens or fine particles. Unlike other RO filters, where the wastewater is then flushed (so that the user drinks one purified gallon for each six to ten that are wasted), the DH9′s revolutionary RO filter reprocesses it so that no water is lost. A gravity-fed storage tank holds 6.5 gallons that would be accessible even in the event of a power outage.
As if our obsessive-compulsive nutrition culture was not frenetic enough with the deluge of conflicting reports and industry funded studies about diet, a new food labeling project called “Smart Choices” has recently unveiled its pseudo certification to help shoppers identify “smarter food and beverage choices.”
“Smarter Choices” for consumers include Froot Loops and Cocoa Crispies. Yes, that’s right, sugar-laden cereals are considered smarter dietary choices according to the certification. Ellen T. Kennedy, a researcher from Tufts who presides over the “Smart Choices” board (apparently unpaid), defended products endorsed by the label in a New York Times interview, arguing that sugary cereals are a better choice than a donut.
Right. And a donut is better than a bag of crack. Perhaps they should reconsider blacklisting fried, sugary confections.
Employee engagement is a growing strategy for driving performance and building competitive advantage for companies with a commitment to sustainability.
“The engaged workforce will find more opportunities to get lean and identify more opportunities to innovate and create products and services that lower customers’ environmental impacts. All of this work will improve the top and bottom lines,” comments sustainable business expert Andrew Winston, in his recent book Green Recovery.
Based on his book, and some of the other recent literature available, I offer the following three tips for engaging employees in sustainability:
Look at the big picture and identify your greatest impacts across the value chain;
Involve staff in sustainability on multiple levels, both at work and at home; and
Integrate sustainability into operations and everyday decisions on products throughout their life cycle.
Catalyzing your employees to integrate sustainability into both their lives and work decisions can be a low-cost strategy for saving money, driving innovation and keeping employees happy.
2010 is widely expected to be a break-through year for solar power. Cheap PV, new financing models, a rebounding economy, increased consumer awareness, and strengthened government support could combine to push rooftop solar panels fully into the mainstream — like buying a new car, or remodeling the kitchen.
The question is: do people care who they buy their solar panels from?
Brands matter, but their importance in the residential and commercial solar power industry is up for debate. The stakes are high: if they do matter, then companies like Sun Power, who are spending heavily to promote their brand identity, could take a commanding lead as the industry grows.
Author John Updike once described Canada as a cool, chaste country, but that’s not how Greenpeace sees it. Earlier this week, the environmental warriors issued a harsh report that described Canada an international carbon bully.
Sooner or later, that description is going to stick. Over the last two and a half years, several different environmental groups have used that exact word to characterize one of the world’s most peaceful nations, and they do have a few inconvenient facts to buttress their claims. In the Greenpeace report called Dirty Oil: How The Tar Sands Are Fuelling the Global Climate Crisis author Andrew Nikiforuk argues that Canada has been working with Japan to deliberately undermine progress at the international climate talks for several years. Certainly, that devil could be in the details. The Alberta Tar Sands already release more greenhouse gases than several smaller European nations and — if planned expansion to 2020 goes ahead — the tar sands alone will produce more greenhouse gases annually than either Austria, Ireland, or Belgium.
On Monday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed the French national statistics agency on the adequacy of GDP in measuring a country’s economic well-being. He requested that the agency give greater consideration to factors such as quality of life and the environment (versus solely relying on GDP’s reporting of goods and services produced) in determining the nation’s fiscal health. If realized, what effect would this mentality have on sustainable development in France and worldwide?
According to a report by the New York Times, Sarkozy made the request after reviewing a report by a panel of top economists, which he commissioned in February 2008 to evaluate the adequacy of GDP as a fiscal standard. (The report is known formally as “The Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress Revisited.”) According to the report, while GDP accurately gauges an economy’s overall growth or reduction, it is a poor measurement of social health – a vital component of national well-being. GDP measurements ignore damage to society and the environment by unsustainable activities, and they do not always accurately reflect average citizens’ disposable incomes. Moreover, disproportionate focus on GDP metrics by policy makers (to the exclusion of data indicating increased unsustainable indebtedness of households and businesses – precursors to the recession) contributed to the current financial crisis’ onset.
Ford closed its Wixom, Michigan plant in 2007, but last week the company announced it will become a renewable energy park in 2011. That is the year when the redevelopment of the plant by two renewable energy manufacturing companies is slated to be finished. Last week, Ford announced that Clairvoyant Energy (Santa Barbara, CA) and Xtreme Power (Austin, TX) are buying the Wixom plant.
Clairvoyant Energy will manufacture solar panels in the plant, while Xtreme Power will make turnkey power systems for wind and solar projects. Clairvoyant Energy will have the capacity to produce over 2.5 million panels a year in the Wixom plant. When the redevelopment is completed, the plant will be one of the largest renewable energy manufacturing parks in the U.S., according to a press release.
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