The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its list of the Top 25 cities with the most Energy Star-rated buildings this week, and Los Angeles, with 293 such structures, took top prize. Washington D.C., top-heavy with energy-efficient government-built buildings, came in second at 204. San Francisco garnered third with 173.
Per-capita however, D.C. and S.F. beat the pants off Los Angeles, since both cities have less than one-eighth the population. New York, America’s biggest city (with some of its oldest building stock) round out the top 10 with a mere 90 of the super-efficient buildings.
This is the second year the EPA has come out with its Top 25.
Millions saved, billions to go
In 2009 nearly 3,900 commercial buildings earned the Energy Star rating, according to Energy Star’s press release, saving more than $900 million in utility bills and 4.7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The number of these efficiency-rated buildings grew 40 percent last year, to a total of nearly 9000 certified nationwide since the program’s inception in 1999.
Energy use in commercial buildings accounts for about 17 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and energy efficiency in such buildings has been viewed as a low, or lower-hanging fruit in the fight to push down America’s carbon footprint.
Buildings can earn an Energy Star rating by finishing in the top 25 percent on the program’s Energy Performance Indicator for each building type.
What better way to ensure eternal peace than knowing you went out with a minimal carbon footprint?
Matthews Cremation, a subsidiary of The Matthews Corporation, now offers a combustion-free form of cremation to die-hard environmentalists. “Bio-Cremation”, as it is called, emits one tenth the carbon dioxide of traditional cremation, according to the company.
Saving the Planet, One Dead Body at a Time
In traditional cremation, the corpse is incinerated in a natural-gas fueled combustion chamber, releasing about 880 pounds of CO2 into the air – equivalent to the environmental impact of a 500-mile car trip, according to Reuters.
In addition, if the body has metal fillings, artificial joints or other non-organic ingredients, they are released as toxic gases.
Sometimes being neck-deep in the green business realm, you forget that the connections that make sense to you are foreign to others. Such was the case at the interactive (read: Geek Mecca) component of the South By Southwest interactive media conference, or as it’s known, SXSW.
But if Triple Pundit can help it, that will continue to change. Together with Ecopop TV and CREE Lighting, 3p hosted a Sustainable Media Happy Hour event at SXSWi, gathering major names in the realm, and building momentum for more sustainability to be a part of future editions of SXSW. GOOD Magazine hosted the social entrepreneur focused Good Capitalist Party.
And yet, from what I heard and read, it’s still a largely external component there. Sure, there were the showy retro futuristic solar powered electric bike chargers and composting/recycling stations along with the trash, but the few green related panels were under attended and often rudimentary. Brooke Farrell of RecycleMatch (disclosure: a client of mine) put it best when she wrote, “Unfortunately, preaching how easy it is to give up your plastic water bottles to a room of canteen-carrying believers was a missed opportunity.”
All across the United States, local governments, who carry the burden of waste disposal for their communities, have been overwhelmed by literal mountains of hazardous waste that are the byproducts—the unintended consequences—of our voracious consumer society. Because local governments are rarely if ever equipped to deal with a disposal problem of this magnitude, the result is that there has been a tremendous amount of dangerous substances leaching out from landfills, or out-gassing from incinerators into our air, our water and our bodies, taking a tremendous toll on our environment and our health. Some might say that the buck has been passed to them, both by the manufacturers who design these consumer goods, as well as the people who sell them and the people who buy them.
Robert D’Arcy, the Hazardous Material Manager for Santa Clara County, California said, “Local governments sit at the end of the pipe and unfortunately we fail miserably when it comes to managing these things, because we can’t effectively reach those people.”
In most industrial countries in the world, there are product stewardship laws that require manufacturers to bear responsibility for the ultimate disposition of their products, particularly if they contain toxic or otherwise dangerous components. But not here. Why? Because what little dialog there has been between the stakeholders in this issue— businesses, local governments, and environmental groups—has been suspicious, and contentious if not outright adversarial, so there has been little progress in coming up with a legislative solution. Until this week, that is, when Maine governor John Baldacci signed the “Act to Provide Leadership Regarding the Responsible Recycling of Consumer Products.” Representatives from several other states and D’Arcy were on hand to emphasize the national significance of the moment.
3p is excited to present a LIVE webcast event this afternoon on behalf of The Center for Social Value Creation at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.
The Social Enterprise Symposium: Transforming Business for the Global Good is an interactive evening event designed to introduce new approaches for making impactful, lasting social change around the world using market-based approaches. The event brings together private, public and nonprofit practitioners who are crossing traditional barriers to enable social and environmental change. Stay tuned right here until 5PM EST, 2PM Pacific to take part in the whole thing. The full schedule and more details are below.
By David Jay “Water is the next carbon” has become a go-to-soundbyte in the workshops and conferences I’ve been attending recently. But the closer I’ve looked, the more I’ve begun to uncover reasons why that’s just not true.
Why Water is Smaller than Carbon At first glance, managing water seems like a coming echo of the still-yodeling world of carbon accounting. Both have to do with the environment, and keep employees, customers, and stakeholders happy. Both are a way to stay ahead of regulation from Congress and the EPA. Both involve looking at your operations and supply chain, seeing where the most stuff gets used, and trying to use less of it. So what’s the big deal?
Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook (there were 3 of them), Director of Online Organizing for the Obama Campaign, and founder of brand new non-profit start-upJumo.com, spoke at Tuesday night’s Full Circle Fund meeting. Since I was lucky enough to attend, and Hughes had some greatly relevant nuggets of wisdom, I thought I’d share with you the key takeaways. Human behavior change is a central interest of mine (indeed I majored in psychology). and Hughes’ points all have major implications about what works when attempting to alter human behavior. He outlined 4 main learnings from the Obama campaign and Facebook:
People want to learn. We want to know what other people are up to, we want to be in touch. We also want to know what’s going on in the greater world around us. We want to know how we can help and engage.
People want to share. Using Facebook is one way that we define ourselves in a social context. The more comfortable we are online, the more we are willing to share and discuss our interests, values and more. The better the information we share, the greater our social capital becomes. Facebook created highly controlable privacy settings to ensure maximum comfort sharing.
As I stood and watched the line of 12 in front of me at Starbucks the other day, I daydreamed about the load of cups Starbucks must go through every day. A little googling turned up the fact that it’s actually 3 billion paper cups and 1 billion plastic cups a year. To put that in tangible terms, that’s 8,219,178 paper cups and 2,739,726 plastic cups a day. Wait, 10 million cups a day?
While I wait for those of you who spewed hot lattes onto your laptops to clean up after yourselves, please be assured certain groups are doing something about this. Starbucks annual shareholder meeting just ended Wednesday in Seattle. This meeting was entertainment-infused: Sheryl Crow sang some of her hits and informed the crowd that she “drinks Starbucks coffee every morning” (something tells me we will be hearing more Sheryl at our local Starbucks). But that’s not all. There was shareholder activism to witness. As You Sow Foundation , a shareholder advocacy organization put forth a proposal using shareholder advocate John Harrington’s shares, asking the board of directors to adopt a comprehensive recycling strategy for beverage containers. (Full disclosure: Harrington is my boss.) Although those baristas can stir up a mean mocha, Starbucks as a whole has a poor record when addressing recycling issues.
A senior corporate responsibility journalist has called Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s (formerly Corporate Responsibility Officer) 100 Best Corporate Citizens list “way off base” in a blog post published Tuesday.
Marc Gunther, who writes for Fortune and Greenbiz.com on CSR and environmental subjects said the inclusion on the list of oil companies like ExxonMobil (no. 51) and Hess (no. 10) and exclusion of the likes of Google and Whole Foods, seems bizarre.
As Gunther points out, coal-burning utility Southern Co. (no. 71) led the fight against the administration’s climate legislation, and Newmont Mining Co. (no. 16) operates mines in Nevada that have been a source of mercury poisoning.
Since the first Earth Day in 1970, progressives have wondered how to communicate the necessity for sustainable economies to a recalcitrant conservative element in this country. Bland Solar and Air, of Bakersfield, California, may well have found the answer with their “Buy Solar. Get a Gun.” campaign.
Bakersfield, in the conservative central valley of California (Kern County), is a region that is blessed with ample sunshine, much like the rest of California, but due to its location away from the coast, also has brutally hot summers and freezing winters. Conditions drive many utility customers’ electricity bills through the roof. Bland Solar offers a terrific alternative: put solar panels on that roof, and drive electric costs down to almost zero.
Of course, the demographic of Bakersfield is not much like the demographic in San Francisco, where solar installations sell like hotcakes. The conservative element in Kern County, like much of the conservative base in this country, does not necessarily believe in global warming, let alone buy carbon credits, organic food, or other “hippie” items like solar panels.
Enter Bland Solar’s innovative (and let’s face it, hilarious…hey, humor sells…) ad campaign. Has it been effective? Can other progressive businesses in conservative areas learn something from it?
A few weeks ago I drove up into the mountains near Los Angeles to go skiing with a friend. We were luckily headed against traffic, but across the median, pointed towards Los Angeles, was one endless stream of cars. I expected it, but it was still astonishing to see: we had been driving away from LA for 45 minutes at 60 or 70 miles an hour, and the traffic was still stop-and-go going the other way.
These xtreme “drive till you qualify” homesteaders — ie, drive away from the metro center until you can afford the real estate — seemed, at first blush, completely insane to my friend and I, both urban apartment dwellers. But neither of us have families, or that primal urge to have our own house and backyard. What did we know? Maybe it’s worth it.
Now a comprehensive new study (PDF) from the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), analyzing data in 337 metro regions, suggests that in 6 out 10 communities it isn’t.
The British government unveiled Wednesday a Green Investment Bank that will have £2 billion ($3 billion) to invest in “high risk” green projects.
A similar proposal was floated in the United States Congress last year before that institution became completely obsessed with..what was it?..oh yeah.
The British version was unveiled by Finance minister Alistair Darling as part of the latest budget from the current Labour government. Labour has been trailing in the polls, and it’s certain the green bank will be popular with its left-wing base.
But the investment cash is also important if that country is going to meet ambitious carbon-reduction targets: a 34 percent cut in emissions from 1990levels by 2020.
Salt is the latest battle in the quest to turn around Americans’ appalling health statistics. New York, which led the nation with its ban on trans fats in 2006, has again won attention thanks to a state assemblyman’s suggestion that salt shakers be banned from New York restaurants. It turned out Felix Ortiz’s suggestion was more of a publicity stunt, but TV pundits mocked him, while chefs raised their spatulas and whisks in anger and incredulity. Meanwhile, companies like PepsiCo and Kraft are sidestepping the debate, taking a different approach. PepsiCo, for example, is testing a salt reformulation that will reduce sodium in its Lay’s Potato Chips without sacrificing taste.
Whether you think restricting salt in food is more nanny-statism or a path towards improving public health, the stubborn fact remains that Americans ingest too much salt. The maximum daily required amount of sodium is 1500 milligrams, or less than one teaspoon of salt. Most Americans, however, consume twice that amount daily, which can lead to hypertension and eventually, coronary disease. But we all know that fat, sugar, and salt are the evils behind the foods we crave, which is why PepsiCo’s re-engineering of salt in its potato chip product line is an experiment worth watching.
I’ve been a huge fan of Geneva’s Motor Show for a long time, but to me this year’s exhibition marked a transition between the past and the future. In its last few shows I got used to my eyes bulging at the latest super-powerful sports cars, or the newest models from both mass and upper market makers, all inevitably featuring sporty versions (my favorite) with high acceleration – and fuel consumption – figures. This year was different: a slew of new electric and hybrid models flooded the Geneva “Salon Auto”.
Virtually every major carmaker put on display one or more plug-in cars. What matters most, those vehicles were the ones which generally grabbed the public’s attention. If style is what always attracts show-goers first, the technology lying beneath the skin is the next wonder. And plug-in vehicles are starting to deliver: from production-ready models like the Nissan Leaf EV to mind-blowing concepts as the Porsche’s hybrid prototype Spyder 918, Geneva’s pattern was clear.
Last night I dropped in at “Swagapalooza“, a live marketing experiment put on by startup firm Launch Hear. The idea: Pack a fun venue with bloggers, and invite entrepreneurs to take 5 minutes each to sell their idea to the room. Free product samples (and quite a lot of free beer) were given out to those in attendance amid the expectation that glowing reviews would result.
Although few of the ideas had any real cred in terms of sustainability, the overall idea was brilliant. Marketing, if that word still applies, is changing. The good word of an influential online maven can go a long way for a little cash, especially for risky, new products. But the pitch has to be believable and compelling. As Tom Foremski noted, most of the pitches went off more like comedy sketches than seriously rehearsed presentations. That’s something that cost some of the presenters and, perhaps ironically, helped others.
New York, NY: May 14 – May 16 Sustainable Cosmetics Summit Taking place in New York City on 14-16th May, the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit will showcase major developments in green ingredients, distribution, social and customer impacts. Register here.
San Diego: Jun 1 – Jun 4 Sustainable Brands 2015 Reinvent yourself in response to changing norms. The demand for brands to deliver purpose is soaring. Get a 20% discount with the code "NW3pSB15sd"Register here.
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