Labor Day Reflections On U.S. Healthcare

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday September 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Labor Day is more than just a mere day off, but a day to honor the men and women past and present who fought for labor reform. Part of the fight to obtain better working conditions and pay included the advent of Labor Day. In 1882, New York City workers took an unpaid holiday, calling it Labor Day. A year later, the Central Labor Union held a second Labor Day holiday. By 1885 Labor Day was “celebrated in many industrial centers of the country,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In 1898, four years after President Grover Cleveland signed legislation making the first Monday of September a holiday, Samuel Gompers called it “the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed.”

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“Solar Energy Initiatives” Capitalizes on Fed Stimulus

| Monday September 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

solarenergy_Powered_By_(Green)_copy_webready Concerns about employment have become even more prominent in the US in the wake of the bursting of the latest, and arguably the deepest, financial and real estate bubble since the Great Depression.

By way of overcoming the current economic downturn and setting the foundation for healthier, more sustainable development and growth in the 21st century, “Going Green” has become the mantra for those who would like to see the US wean itself off its dependence on fossil fuels. The idea: Stimulate the development and adoption of clean technology and renewable energy.

The message is a powerful one, and companies such as Solar Energy Initiatives are aiming to capitalize on it. Based in Ponte Vedra, Florida, the solar energy systems dealer and integrator’s overarching strategy is defined in its “Renew the Nation” campaign and mission statement—”to help redeploy a portion of the US workforce and focus on reducing the world’s dependence on fossil fuels by selling solar thermal and photovoltaic (PV) technologies.”

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Blu Skye Sustainability Consulting – Proving the Triple Bottom Line to Big Businesses

| Monday September 7th, 2009 | 1 Comment

blu-skye-sf-skylineIf more people perceived the word “sustainability” to be synonymous with “wealth creation,” I imagine many of the barriers to forming a green infrastructure simply wouldn’t exist. Blue Skye, a San Francisco-based sustainability consulting firm, is seeking to establish that synonymy, helping business leaders use sustainability to craft new, inventive wealth generating strategies. The message that environmental and social issues are part of the core of any green business – a message Blu Skye consultants convey to businesses big and small – has achieved significant results. If efforts like Blu Skye’s are successful, more companies – and job seekers – stand to benefit from the business possibilities inherent in sustainability.

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Van Jones Forced to Resign

| Sunday September 6th, 2009 | 7 Comments

van-jones-smileAmid growing “controversy” Van Jones announced late Saturday his resignation as special advisor for green jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

“On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me,” Jones said in a statement released to the press.  “They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide. I have been inundated with calls — from across the political spectrum — urging me to ‘stay and fight.’ But I came here to fight for others, not for myself. I cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. We need all hands on deck, fighting for the future.”

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Green Jobs Training: Emerging Opportunities To Leverage Stimulus Dollars

| Sunday September 6th, 2009 | 2 Comments


A centerpiece of the stimulus package is an effort to put 3 and 4 million people back to work over the next two years.

The site Recovery.gov includes a map of the U.S. with the estimated jobs expected under the Recovery Act superimposed over each state. California leads with 396,000 anticipated jobs, while North Dakota and Vermont expect the least job growth with 8,000 each.

I’v been curious to better understand who is leading the charge on training the workforce for the wave of new green jobs we are expecting.  Are companies taking the lead?  Federal agencies or state governments?  It seems to be a bit of a chicken and egg scenario.  If you deploy training programs without partnering with business, you will have a trained workforce, but no jobs.  And if you create the jobs, but neglect workforce development, critical shortage of specialists in growing professions could occur.

According to the National Renewable Energy Lab, the major barriers to a more rapid adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency in America are insufficient skills and training.

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Japan’s New Carbon Target – Good News or Bad News?

| Saturday September 5th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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This just in from the is-this-good-news-or-bad-news file: Japan’s incoming Democratic Party-led government has promised a more aggressive emissions-trimming policy than the outgoing government. However, the plan will hinge on the inclusion of China and India in an international climate change agreement. This could be bad news for the UN Climate Change Conference to take place in Copenhagen in December.

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Beyond Organic – Looptworks Upcycles Textile Waste into Treasures

| Friday September 4th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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looptworks textile waste

Look at the shirt you’re wearing now.

What do you think happened with the material cut to make that shirt? Despite likely making every effort to be efficient in how much material is used, there is always extra. In some cases, one factory can produce 60,000 pounds of textile waste a week. Currently, nearly all of that goes to landfill. Or it goes overseas, dumped into communities of “need” that then devalues the market for domestic, locally made clothing there. In both cases, there’s an additional carbon cost, with transportation to their destination.

What’s a way to address this? Yes, buying organic is a solid step forward, reducing chemical inputs. And yet, did you know that one pair of jeans takes about 1800 gallons of water to manufacture?

What can you do? Aside from going naked, there’s Looptworks.

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Biofuel and Black Earth: Dynamotive Pioneers Updated Pre-Columbian Technology

| Friday September 4th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Terra_Preta Improving on an age-old method used in Pre-Columbian societies, Canada’s Dynamotive Energy Systems has developed a means of turning waste biomass into fuel and fertilizer. Significantly, “fast pyrolysis” of the waste feedstock Dynamotive is using also provides a long-term means of capturing and storing carbon.

Small groups of biochar proponents have been gathering together and discussing biochar’s potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve agriculture and benefit agricultural communities for years. They’ve been garnering a larger audience of late.

Language recognizing biochar as a qualified climate change mitigation and adaptation technology has been included in the working draft of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Similar proposals are being considered in US and Australian climate change pacts. Here in the US for the first time, the North American Biochar Conference was held at the University of Colorado’s Center for Energy and the Environmental Security in Boulder August 9-12, drawing 325 participants and 80 speakers.

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Looking For a Green Job? Grab Your Rain Boots

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday September 4th, 2009 | 3 Comments

green_jobs_waterIt’s been 200 days since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency says it has allocated 92 percent of the $7.22 billion Recovery Act dollars it is charge of allocating. And much of that money will be used for projects to improve water quality, wastewater infrastructure and drinking water infrastructure.

Specifically, $4 billion is going for assistance to help communities with water quality and wastewater infrastructure needs and $2 billion for drinking water infrastructure needs. A portion of the funding will be targeted toward green infrastructure, water and energy efficiency, and environmentally innovative projects.

On Thursday, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson ticked off a short lift of water-related projects that promise to create jobs, including a harbor cleanup in New Bedford, Mass. (270 jobs) and a Superfund cleanup project (more than 200 jobs) in at the Iron Mountain Mine in Redding, Calif., which used to discharge one ton of toxic materials into the Sacramento River every day. Once completed, the local hydroelectric power plant will use the restored waters to produce energy.

President Obama is requesting $475 million in next year’s budget for cleaning up the Great Lakes—and this would be just a small part of the funding if he makes good on his campaign promise of devoting $5 billion for Great Lakes restoration.

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CSR at Jack Daniel’s Is a Mixed Cocktail

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday September 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Jack DanielsBrown-Forman – parent of Jack Daniel’s and many other alcohol beverage brands – says in its second corporate responsibility report that after implementing a greenhouse gas reduction strategy last year, it reduced total energy use by 2.3 percent from its 2007 use.

That’s a start, but over the same 2007-2008 period the company reported that its GHG emissions jumped 9.3 percent to 189,233 metric tons. Water consumption meanwhile increased by 4.5 percent. The total GHG increase includes increases in both direct and indirect emissions and a slight decline in “optional” emissions.

It’s not until page 25 of the 28-page report, On Being Responsible, Our Thinking about Drinking, that environmental issues and results are addressed in some detail.

The company gets its energy from coal, waste wood, natural gas, fuel and electricity. Last year’s reduction in energy use came about from reduced production at some facilities and energy-efficiency moves such as lighting, heating and cooling optimization and the installation of a waste-to-energy process that will fuel a boiler at its tequila plant in Mexico with bio-gas generated as an energy byproduct at a new wastewater treatment facility there.

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Cisco Pays Employees Not to Work at Cisco

| Friday September 4th, 2009 | 4 Comments

How the Computer Networking Giant Encourages Non-Profit Service

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CiscoA few years back, the Financial Times told the story of Peter Santis, a regional sales manager for computer networking giant, Cisco Systems. When he was let go, according to the article (links to articles dating before 2004 aren’t available on FT.com), Santis was presented with a unique proposition. Instead of walking away with a pink slip and a severance package, he was given the opportunity to remain a part of the Cisco family working for a non-profit.

Peter Tavernise, now a senior manager at Cisco’s Corporate Affairs Group, found himself in a similar position in 2001. When he was laid off, Tavernise was offered one-third of his former salary with full benefits to become a Cisco Fellow and spend the next year as planner and fundraiser for a North Carolina-based public affairs group. Since returning to the company, Tavernise has used what he did for that non-profit to help shape what he is doing now.

These days the program is called Cisco Leadership Fellows, and it is more focused on employees with potential as a way to, as the company asserts, bring people and technology together to make a difference and help a community prosper.

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Green Job Training – A Much-Needed Solution Or a Drop in the Bucket?

| Friday September 4th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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If a new green jobs program unveiled by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Monday has its intended effect, lack of ability will no longer stand in the way of many Californians’ efforts to join the green work force. The $75 million plan would train more than 20,000 workers for jobs in the clean energy sector, thereby somewhat alleviating (in theory) the state’s history-making unemployment rate. Yet I’m unconvinced: will these effects be a mere drop in the bucket called “California’s job market”?

Schwarzenegger revealed the plan in Los Angeles’ Trade-Technical College, the Los Angeles Times reports. The program is intended to train both young workers and the unemployed in green building design and weatherization and solar installation. A $20 million injection from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and funds from the California Energy Commission, community groups, and educational institutions, will fund the program.

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NYMEX’s The Green Exchange Cuts Emissions Traders a Deal

| Friday September 4th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Reuters reported good news for the carbon traders of the world today. For three months (beginning September 2nd), NYMEX’s The Green Exchange will waive trading fees for all emissions futures and options, including European Union carbon permits.

NYMEX (the New York Mercantile Exchange) launched The Green Exchange in 2008, partnering with Evolution Markets, Morgan Stanley Capital Group, Inc., and other heavyweights, in an effort to tap into the $126 billion carbon trading market. (NYMEX was the first exchange group after the Chicago Climate Exchange to launch a U.S. carbon exchange.) According to its website, the Exchange is committed to operating as a 100 percent carbon-neutral corporation.

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Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to Sacramento’s Unemployed: Help Is On the Way…?

| Friday September 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

banner-green-labor-dayhilda-solis The fact that California is in dire straits (economically speaking) is no new news. But for anyone wondering just how bad it is, a recent visit by Obama’s newly sworn-in Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, to Cali’s capital should clarify the issue. Solis visited Sacramento Friday on a promissory tour. If Solis’ consolations are true, help should be on the way for Californians and businesses struggling in the current economy. But what does this mean for the state’s sustainability efforts?

According to a report by The Sacramento Bee, Solis is touring the country in an effort to promote Obama administration’s stimulus plan nationwide. She stopped at a Sacramento Employment and Training Agency job search center in Foothill Farms because, of the numerous American communities hard-hit by the recession, Sacramento is one of the hardest hit. (Last January, the city’s unemployment rate reached 10.4 percent, a high not seen there since the 1980’s. [The national unemployment rate is 8.1 percent.]

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Building Sustainability Into Your Operations: The Importance of Governance

| Friday September 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

stick figures pictureDriving sustainability into the operations of a company is an oft-stated goal for sustainability departments. How many times have you heard (or said!): “My vision is that one day our department will go away…and sustainability will be just part of everyday business, and the sustainability department will be out of a job.”  But how do we actually make that happen? How do we ramp up a sustainability program from a departmental focus to an organization-wide set of capabilities? And how do we move from many disparate efforts to a cohesive set of coordinated initiatives? The answer is an effective sustainability governance solution.

So what to do?

To solve these challenges, a “governance” solution is required that addresses both the diffusion of sustainability into the organization (from the sustainability department into general operations) and sustainability collaboration across the organization (to establish synergies such as the sharing of best practices, resources, tools, etc.).

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