What do being socially minded, financially wise, and sustainable – and being in college – have to do with each other? A lot, as evidenced by the work of Debt Free U, a non-profit that helps college kids understand basic finance so they don’t wind up in unmanageable debt. If kids are the future, the future generation must keep sustainable business afloat, and being financially healthy is a prerequisite to keeping anything afloat. Debt Free U’s endeavors are likely to be a crucial component in the long-term viability of green business growth.
Debt Free U is a self-described “money-management resource geared toward young adults (instead of their parents), in whose hands the future of our economy rests”. The organization seeks to give youth the financial know-how necessary to manage that economy-supporting task, and it offers a number of tools toward that end. Its “CareOne” service providers – Debt Free U’s sponsors – supply exhaustive informational and interactive resources to help college kids stay in control of their finances.
One could argue that, if efforts like Debt Free U’s are successful, they will help prevent the “poverty mentality” that can lead to subsistence living (i.e. struggling to pay off one’s debt instead of envisioning and working toward a future-minded, built-to-last sustainable infrastructure). After all, having a huge debt hanging over one’s head isn’t the best energy-garnering tool.
Just days after Rasmussen reported that 47 percent of U.S. citizens suggested that it was OK to put the economy before climate change concerns, one of the key advisors to the German government suggested that North Americans know less about climate change than just about anyone else in the world.
Professor John Schellnhuber, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, is one of the world’s foremost climate experts. On the sidelines at a climate conference at Oxford University, he predicted that it will be several years before the U.S. will be able to get its house — or perhaps Senate — in order to join the world in cutting emissions. And until that happens, says Schellnhuber, developing countries like India and China won’t set hard emission targets. It’s a dangerous Catch-22. He’s hoping that most G20 economies will reach some measure of an agreement at Copenhagen, and the U.S. and Canada will follow in a few years time.
The G-20’s “pledge” to reduce subsidies for oil, coal, and other fossil fuels sounds more like a mumble. The group’s promise includes the “what” of the equation – a goal to reduce tax breaks and government assistance these types of fuels – it falls flat in other areas: the who, where, when, why, and how. Looks like creating immediate climate change solutions may not be a top priority for the G-20 – but does this mean it’s not a top concern for world leaders?
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, G-20 leaders pledged a “phasing out” of fossil fuel subsidies in nebulous terms Friday, promising to phase out subsidies in the “medium term, protect subsidies for renewable energy, and guard programs designed to help poor pay for energy. However, the pledge’s numerous gray areas leave some sustainability proponents worried. It did not set a date of completion, a clear definition of what subsidies it would eliminate (i.e. greenhouse gas emissions permits), or methods of policing global compliance. (These gray areas are not surprising, nor unrealistic, according to one Triple Pundit blogger.)
While the pledge’s significance for green business is to be determined, one could speculate wildly in the meantime. It could be building block toward success at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December. It could be a smart move in the chess game against fossil fuel lobbyists working hard to secure governmental protection. Or, it could be a treading-water-type move with little to no impact….
What do you think about the G-20’s decision (or lack thereof)?
Now that a third large utility has dropped out of the US Chamber of Commerce over its stance on climate change legislation, the question arises: is this just a passing squall or the beginning of a serious public relations brouhaha?
Exelon, the country’s largest provider of gas and electricity, has joined Pacific Gas & Electric of California, and PNM Resources of New Mexico, in withdrawing from the chamber in protest over the body’s opposition to the carbon cap and trade legislation slowly working its way through Congress.
“The carbon-based free lunch is over,” said CEO John Rowe, “But while we can’t fix our climate problems for free, the price signal sent through a cap-and-trade system will drive low-carbon investments in the most inexpensive and efficient way possible.”
As concepts go, it’s quite a concept. When BMW moved its Formula 1 engineers to a program that would develop cleaner, greener automobiles, many were skeptical, but the Vision Efficientdynamics Concept (VEC) that was shown at the Frankfurt auto show this month should change a few minds. The slick design features a 356-horsepower AWD plug-in diesel-hybrid concept that can go 31 miles on battery power alone. It also has a top speed of 155 mph, can accelerate to 60 in just 4.8 seconds, and bests the Prius by emitting just 99 g of CO2 per km (while attaining 62.2 mpg).
Venerable department store chain, JCPenney installed solar power systems on four stores in California in 2008. SunPower Corporation installed the systems, and under a power purchase agreement (PPA), owns and operates them. Each system on the California stores produces 3.7 megawatts, and will avert approximately 146,000 tons of carbon dioxide.
JCPenney also installed solar power systems on five stores in New Jersey which operate with a two megawatt capacity, and meet about 25 percent of a store’s needs. The systems were installed by SunPower, with financing from Integrys Energy Services. The installations were completed last December.
In 2008, JCPenney entered into an agreement with Broadstar Wind Systems for a pilot program to install wind turbines at a 1.6 million square foot distribution center in Reno, Nevada. The distribution center will have Broadstar’s AeroCam turbines which are smaller and expected to generate energy more efficiently.
New innovations are being created constantly to make everyday activities more sustainable. And yet at the same time, baby formula companies are pushing products that make life’s most sustainable activity (in every meaning of the word) less sustainable.
In addition to the huge benefit that breastfeeding has on health (including significantly reducing infant mortality), breasts and human nipples are natural and entirely reusable, not to mention completely free! Think of all the resources saved. All the shipping and packaging of formula – totally unneeded. So why are breastfeeding rates dropping, especially in developing countries such as Vietnam where it’s needed most?
It’s pretty amazing that people would spend their hard earned money producing videos like the one above. In this case it’s Houston gas man H. Leighton Steward messing with the minds of voters in Montana and New Mexico. The idea: To derail any climate change legislation currently in the Senate.
As usual, these things would be funny if you saw them in the Onion, or in a Paul Verhoeven film, but it’s not so funny when you see it dumped on people in the real world. Many business now favor climate change action – partly for common sense moral reasons, but also because action on climate change and the economic restructuring it requires represents a tremendous business opportunity. There’s even a pro-business rally in DC next week on the matter. Only a gas man with his head stuck in very oily sand could fail to see that.
Last week Joel Makower of Greenbiz.com hosted a webinar with Rand Waddoups, Senior Director of Strategy/Sustainability from Walmart, to help put some structure to the Sustainability Index Walmart announced about ten weeks ago.
Realizing that the demands of the customer are changing, Walmart is focusing on “innovation and supply chain transparency.” Citing programs like Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles and SC Johnson’s What’s Inside, Mr. Waddoups referred to sustainability and transparency in business and product sourcing as the “new normal” in customer expectations.
It seems as if every gathering of more than two political leaders these days is being trumpeted as an opportunity to advance the fight against global warming, and when those said leaders go home without having secured any sort of promise or commitment on that front, the meeting is seen as a failure.
The most the G20 gathering could manage this time around on the climate front was a solemn nodding of the heads when Obama suggested that it would be a great idea if they phased out subsidies for fossil fuels. Governments spend about $300 billion a year on subsidies, and leaders said they’d like to “phase out and rationalize over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies,” in a statement released after the summit was over. Not exactly a firm commitment.
Additional initiatives, such as providing aid to developing countries for renewable energy and energy efficiency separate from other aid, were kicked down the road until the next meeting of finance ministers.
Frustrated with the lack of progress cutting the cost of solar thermal energy, Google, a prominent supporter of the technology, is privately working on ways to lower cost.
Google’s Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl says it is working on lowering the production cost of the mirrors that are a primary component of solar thermal power by at least a factor of two, “ideally a factor of three or four,” according to Reuters.
Weihl says Google will not be working with any other companies on the technology — an odd decision, given that Google has already invested in two solar thermal companies that use mirrors to produce power.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final ruling for mandatory reporting of greenhouse gases (GHG) from large emissions sources in U.S. on September 22, 2009. The EPA calls the ruling a “comprehensive, nationwide emissions data.” Facilities that emit 25,000 metrics tons or more of carbon dioxide a year will be required to report their emissions with the first report due on March 10, 2009, and published a month later on the Federal Register. Facilities and suppliers will begin collecting data on January 1, 2010.
A 2008 congressional mandate in the Consolidated Appropriations Act directed the EPA to issue regulations “mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions above appropriate thresholds in all sectors of the economy.” The mandate relies on the authority of the Clean Air Act.
This is the this is the third post in a series on the business of sustainable agriculture by the folks at Bon Appétit Management, a company that provides café and catering services to corporations, colleges and universities. To read past posts, click here.
By: Carolina Fojo, Bon Appétit Fellow
People picking the food we eat everyday have been chained up, abused, forced to work, and left without pay. The 2004 study “Hidden Slaves: Forced Labor in the United States” found that 10% of documented, forced labor in the US is in the agricultural industry. You can imagine how, hidden as it is, the modern slave industry—yes, slave industry—is not easy to track. So if 10% is the documented statistic, how many more are actually enslaved? And how many more are “merely” exploited?
As a Fellow for Bon Appétit Management Company, I will be looking into labor practices at the farm level this year. The problem has existed for a long time; what I want to know is: Why?
It’s More than Just Money. One admirable response to this problem has been the “penny per pound” initiative by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). However, while “penny per pound” is certainly a good start, I see it in some ways as a Band-Aid to a larger problem. These workers are not exploited because they are paid low wages; they are paid low wages (or not paid at all) because they can so easily be exploited. So we can make sure to pay them, and pay them more—and we should, because poverty is no trifling thing—but unless we address WHY the system is such that people can get away with cheating their workers in the first place, we’re not really addressing the problem.
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) had a vision for how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) could benefit the urban core of Kansas City, Missouri, where he served as mayor from 1991 – 1999. The city would create a 150-block “Green Impact Zone,” where federal dollars could spur the renewal of a poor and dilapidated area by creating a program to put residents to work weatherizing thousands of neighborhood homes.
“The key is we are investing federal money wisely and building an inclusive green economy strong enough to create jobs for residents,” Cleaver told the Kansas City Star in April.
Carbon Footprint Verification is the process of weighing the carbon impact of a product or service through its lifecycle. In the case of a television set, this would include the impact of the extraction of raw materials, manufacture, distribution, consumer usage and the eventual recycling or discarding of the TV.
Since there is no one internationally agreed standard for measuring carbon footprint, AUO’s claim is only as solid as the PAS 2050 standard. The actual measurement of the television’s carbon footprint was conducted by SGS, a global certification company, and the purpose of the UKAS project is to essentially certify the certifiers, like SGS, according to unspecificed “global standards.”
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