More than 20 years ago, David Wirth, at the time a senior attorney at the NRDC, wrote about the imperative of climate protection in global politics. “The international community cannot afford to delay elevating the greenhouse effect to the top of the foreign-policy agenda,” Wirth wrote in Foreign Policy.
The editor’s note of Endgame, the latest installment of Dispatches, a quarterly focused on issues ranging from the environment to the economy to the war in Iraq, opens with this historical claim of the importance of environment in the world’s socio-economic discourse. Two decades ago, people were saying practically the exact same thing as we are now. Though the lexicon of Wirth and James Hansen and several other notable environmental commentators from the time has slightly shifted—now the lingo is climate change or global warming—the underlying notion is still very much intact: The way we live our lives is unsustainable.
Today marks the start of UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, or COP15 as it’s widely known. A culmination of years of planning, months of lobbying by pressure groups such as those coordinated by TckTckTck. There’s a lot of anticipation and speculation as to what’s going to happen. Not all of it optimistic.
While the outcome of these meetings isn’t clear, one group is doing its best to offer hope, knowledge, and actions for us mere mortals. Ode Magazine has created The Solutions We Need Now, a publication it will be distributing 50,000 copies of to delegates and participants in Copenhagen. A free digital version of it is available to everybody else for a limited time here.
It pragmatically addresses these solutions in three sections: What needs to be done; how to do it; and what you can do.
Sustainability heavyweights such as Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, Al Gore and Lester Brown weigh in here with encouraging words and big ideas, but it’s the real world examples happening globally that are intriguing:
Sustainable Silicon Valley (SSV), a cross-sector collaboration of more than 100 leading businesses, governmental agencies and NGOs working to improve Silicon Valley’s environmental quality, and Hara, the providers of a comprehensive carbon and water footprint tool (click here to read an earlier 3P post on Hara), today announced a new partnership at SSV’s Water Summit. The partnership is aimed at helping SSV partners reduce carbon emissions, water use and waste.
SSV partners are encouraged to measure and report on sustainability efforts and resource consumption through a regional registry. With today’s announcement, SSV will be transitioning to a data collection system powered by Hara’s Environmental and Energy Management (EEM) solution.
According to the Hara web site, the EEM gives organizations “auditable transparency and control of their ‘organizational metabolism’— the collective resources consumed and expended by an organization — including energy, water, waste, carbon and other natural resources.”
In case you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt been aware of a fiasco which emerged in the last few weeks from the University of East Anglia in the UK concerning unprofessional bickering between climate scientists exposed by an apparent email hacker. The FOXNews crowd is calling it proof that climate change (at least the human induced kind) is a hoax perpetrated by a grand conspiracy among corrupt scientists bent on installing a global uber-government and so on and so forth… It’s therefore not the least bit coincidental that the conspiracy has emerged immediately before the COP15 talks in Copenhagen.
First things first, some of this is a really big screw up, and some of these scientists should be disciplined or fired (as well as whoever was behind the illegal hacking). But at the end of the day, the controversy only proves that some scientists, like some people, can be petty chumps who bicker and cheat. Not cool, but hardly proof that global warming is a hoax. And more importantly, hardly an argument against reducing our burning of fossil fuels and many of the other sustainability efforts 3p argues for. “ClimateGate” is 95% engineered distraction by an unfortunate part of the business community who prefer kicking and screaming to evolution.
The end of this year has been a return to our roots for TerraCycle in many ways. First with the opening of our first retail store a few blocks from where I first had a basement “office,” and now we’re going north to Canada–where I grew up and where we had our first major sales of product, to The Home Depot and Walmart Canada.
This new Canadian endeavor is, in fact, with Kraft–the first company with which we made a major agreement to collect branded waste in order to upcycle it into new products. In two years, our US partnership withKraft on Capri Sun juice packs has resulted in more than 35,000 collection points, millions of pouches collected, and more than $250,000 donated to a variety of causes.
So working in Canada is just a matter of replicating what we’ve done down here in the US, in a different longitude, right? Not quite.
Ever take a side road out of town and stop for a bite at a truly charming restaurant and wonder how it stays in business? How it competes with the chains? The answer may lie with a rewards program run by Original Restaurants. Just two years old, it aims, “to promote unique, local restaurants,” a mission increasingly embraced by customers and small restaurant owners across the United States.
Entrepreneur Kermit Austin witnessed firsthand the struggles independent restaurant owners faced; he worked his way through college as a busboy, waiter, and bartender. He hunted for local restaurant specials – trying to save a buck in the Tuscon restaurant scene. With a Management Information System’s degree from the University of Arizona, Austin developed expertise in web design. The relationships he developed landed him website projects, work that helped pay for his degree, and paved the foundation for future successful businesses.
At the 2ndCorporate Footprinting Conference, which took place this week in San Francisco, big brands in the beverage industry were front and center, presenting sophisticated “bleeding edge” strategies for addressing their water footprints. Water, for obvious reasons, is critical to these players, and they sent executive directors to report on their progress, challenges, and learning. Each did their dog and pony slide-ware show, speaking to the global water crisis, and how it is has become crystal clear that without water, bottom line, they have no business.
At the same time, these companies are well aware of their customer’s evolving concerns. In a late 2009 survey spanning 15 countries, water pollution and fresh water shortages were the respondents first and second most serious environmental concerns. Climate change and global warming ranked a surprisingly distant sixth. The study also revealed that the public holds water companies second only to the government in terms of their responsible for ensuring clean water. No water/no business, combined with clear customer stakeholder attitudes as to water/beverage companies responsibilities, pushes and pulls these companies to take the lead in addressing their water impacts across their supply chain and product lifecycle.
Nuuksio National Forest on the Outskirts of Helsinki
I’m on the eve of my return home to San Francisco from a lovely time in Finland.
Our wonderful hosts at Finnfacts planned a special last day for us in Nuuksio National Park where we hiked in the woods, smoked our own venison sausages over the fire, and dipped ourselves in a frozen lake and then raced into the sauna.
It was amazing. I gained a new understanding for the deep connection Finns have to the natural world. Don’t get me wrong, Metso the biomass company still has some work to do on its environmental initiatives, but on my tour today I felt like the woods would never end and I saw them as a source for fuel and life-sustaining energy in a way I haven’t ever quite before.
By Jonathan Mariano The Toyota Production System has garnered praise and accolades not only in the realm of automobile manufacturing, but in the realm of operational efficiency. Similar to how individuals interested in sustainable business focus on the the 3P’s, the triple or integrative bottom line of People, Planet, and Profits, the underlying elements of the Toyota Production System can be summarized in the 4P’s: Philosophy, Process, People & Partners, and Problem Solving. The 4P’s are at the heart of what Toyota wants to be culturally. Furthermore, there is much crossover in the fundamental framework of the Toyota Production System and Sustainability. On another note, the visible actions of Toyota are not the core of the Toyota Production System. As Stevens and Kent state, “Toyota does not consider any of the tools or practices – such as kanbans or andon cords, which so many outsiders have observed and copied – as fundamental to the Toyota Production System.” Rather, it’s the underlying cultural framework of the Toyota Production System that enables Toyota to outperform western production methods.
A full scale wind farm is not a subtle piece of landscaping, and many folks express concern over losing their view, their rural character, or *gasp* their property values. As the number of communities considering wind energy development grows, the need to empirically investigate these concerns does, too.
Good news, as far as property values are concerned, comes from a new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and coauthored by Bard Center for Environmental Policy (A 3p Partner), which finds no widespread impact of wind facilities on residential property values. The report, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, constitutes the most comprehensive and data-rich analysis to date on the potential impact of U.S. wind projects on residential property values.
“Neither the view of wind energy facilities nor the distance of the home to those facilities was found to have any consistent, measurable, and significant effect on the selling prices of nearby homes,” says report coauthor Ben Hoen, a consultant for Berkeley Lab, and a Bard graduate. “No matter how we looked at the data, the same result kept coming back: no evidence of widespread impacts.” Gautam Sethi, coauthor of the study and Hoen’s master’s thesis adviser at the Bard CEP, said Berkeley’s is the first large-scale study that investigates such a long-standing claim in a rigorous fashion.
As we’ve been reporting, some bike-sharing programs (well, okay, mostly the Velib system in Paris) have been navigating rough stretches of road, due to everything from vandalism to poor logistics to class distinctions. But that didn’t keep the curiously-named startup Oybike from introducing a bike rental system in the UK.
What makes its system unique is the price to hire a bike: zero dollars (pounds, to be precise). A couple of caveats: the free rentals are subsidized by adverts printed on placards that cover part of the frame, and the freeness lasts for 30 minutes—after that fees kick in, starting at £0.50 for the second half hour. Okay, a third caveat: it’s not really free because one must pay a registration fee online before even getting on the bike. These run from £5 for a week to £18 (roughly $30 USD) for a year. Oh, plus cell phone usage (more on that later). But still, it would make sense for frequent, short trips.
Who knew a red shirt would become a life-changing event for Jeremy Litchfield? On a hot and humid morning back in 2007, Litchfield went out for a run. Wearing a brand new performance t-shirt, the runner was gearing up for an upcoming marathon. By the time he finished his morning jaunt, red stain from his new shirt covered his shorts, socks, shoes and lower body.
Concerned about the red dye on his body, Litchfield began researching performance apparel. It became clear that the apparel contained products that were potentially harmful to the environment as well as people. While sportswear is breathable and helps prevent the body from overheating, he discovered the material was often treated with chemicals, heavy metals and was not biodegradable. According to Litchfield, that red shirt he was wearing that muggy morning also included dioxins, AZO dyes and nearly one-tenth of a gallon of petroleum, among other things. Frustrated and wanting to make a difference, Litchfield quit his day job and launched Atayne, despite knowing nothing about performance sportswear.
If the Copenhagen climate conference has managed to do anything (even before it begins), it has managed to divide. It has facilitated the formation of two neatly antithetical groups of people: those who think nothing will result, and those who are hopeful as to what could happen.
“See You in Copenhagen” is a campaign of short films and ads produced by Found Object Films, in cooperation with the UN Foundation and TckTckTck, to raise public awareness leading up to COP15. It would fit firmly in the latter camp, featuring a certain cautious optimism. We may be sliding down a slippery slope, and Copenhagen may be just a time for political power plays, meaningless gesturing, and the biggest green networking event ever to take place. But it could also be a turning point.
In this video, Better Place innovator, Shai Agassi, talks about cleantech’s role in building the new clean economy, and those implications at COP15.
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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