By Kathleen E. McLaughlin – GlobalPost
TAIYUAN, China – The residents of Taiyuan measure their air pollution in dirty clothes.
In years past, when China’s boom created endless demand for this area’s coal, iron and steel, a white shirt stayed fresh only a few hours, turning black around the collar and sleeves before day’s end. When the government shut down hundreds of factories in and around Taiyuan ahead of the Olympics last year, clean shirts began to last two days. Now, six months into an economic slowdown that has snuffed demand for power and metals from China’s furnace, a man’s suit can stay crisp for three days without laundering.
“I don’t need to do so much laundry these days,” said Zhao Jihong, a 25-year-old environmentalist who works to encourage local companies to adopt pollution controls.
If there is a bright spot amid the global economic slump for China, it may be in the air – and in the water and soil. Dramatically slowed production in recent months has meant less pollution. In notoriously filthy places like Taiyuan, the capital of China’s coal country, that means more relatively blue skies and healthier breathing.
Bad Economy, Cleaner Clothes? A Surprising Upside of the Global Economic Crisis for Rural China’s Air Quality.
By Kathleen E. McLaughlin – GlobalPost
Whether you’re looking to change the world or want a career in an industry that’s only going to get bigger, solar may be for you. Along with wind, geothermal, and other clean tech industries, solar literally produces the power to change the world.
According to a 2008 economic study by Navigant Consulting, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008′s extension of solar tax credits through 2016 will lead to some 440,000 permanent jobs and $232 billion in investment. Greenjobs.com is even more optimistic, predicting that the solar sector could employ two million people by 2020: 60 percent in manufacturing and installation, 20 percent in sales and marketing, and 20 percent in engineering. And a report by the American Solar Energy Society and Management Information Services suggests the overall renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors could generate 37 million jobs by 2030, though solar will be a subset of that larger number.
Enterprise software industry leader SAP intends to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions from its worldwide operations by 51% by 2020 — the equivalent of 513,000 metric tons of CO2 — as compared to the 2007 baseline it has established. Doing so would bring emissions down to the 250,000-metric ton level of 2000.
The GHG abatement drive is part of a broader, organization-wide sustainability initiative that extends out to customers and supply chain partners by offering a range of information technology and services designed to help organizations reduce their carbon footprint.
SAP is using software solutions it has developed to monitor and manage its direct and indirect CO2 and GHG emissions, as well as those of its supply chain partners according to the criteria set out in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, an internationally used carbon accounting tool.
For some, giving back is a personal experience, finding small ways to positively impact the world in their daily lives. For others, it’s part of their business mission, using profits to contribute to charitable organizations and causes. And for one unique individual, Maggie Keenan, Ed.D., it’s her profession and life’s work to provide philanthropic strategies that teach businesses effective ways of giving back that benefit their communities — and the world — in authentic and actionable ways.
Through her work at Giving Advice™, Maggie guides businesses through a Six Step Giving IMPACT Strategy model™ to provide a blueprint and giving strategy that is personalized for each client. Her focus and determination helps businesses make stronger and more synergistic connections between their business and causes, and she has attracted clients all over the world through her passion and vision for what she sees possible for their contribution to the world. With an uncanny ability to connect ideas, people and causes, Maggie sees opportunities all around for anyone that desires to be a force for change. Click to continue reading »
By Steven Tiell
Most Americans can describe ways they are being screwed by the economic and political decisions our government is making. No matter which recovery or bailout plan you consider, there are significant flaws, and we’re left trying to figure out which option will screw us the least. This doesn’t leave us much hope for a stable future.
But what if there’s a way we can treat this current calamity as an opportunity to regain control of our monetary systems and provide hope for a secure, sustainable future for generations to come?
Looking at the current crisis, we can see the wagons circling around nationalization – or “temporary nationalization.” After all, this is what Sweden did and they managed a relatively quick recovery, albeit with an economy a mere 2.5% the size of ours and with only a handful of banks. Nationalization is basically what happens when the FDIC takes over a bank – this bankruptcy for a bank is called an “intervention.” The FDIC does it all the time for retail banks and there’s a neat and orderly process for everything. The problem is, however, we’ve never “intervened” with our investment banks – just the retail ones. Most investment banks are huge and their transactions can be measured in terms of the GDP. Many argue that these banks are simply too big to fail and that is why our government has been pumping money into them.
The American electricity grid is a century old. There are approximately 157,000 miles of high voltage electric transmission lines in the U.S.. Since 1990, electricity demand has increased 25 percent, but construction of power plants has decreased 30 percent. As the Department of Energy (DOE) states, the biggest challenge for electric distribution is “responding to rapidly changing customer needs for electricity.” Enter a smart grid.
The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) defines a smart grid as an “improved electricity supply chain that runs from a major power plant all the way inside your home.” A smart grid provides many benefits, according to the DOE, including:
1. Relieve transmission congestion
2. Relax transmission reliability limits
3. Transmission capital deferral
4. Substation peak load and backup
5. Voltage support
6. Reliability enhancement
Part of a series of posts by John Gartner of Matter Network:
While the federal government is engaged in an overhaul of the banking industry, e3bank wants to redefine how banks interact with their customers.
The bank, to be headquartered in suburban Philadelphia (Malvern), will actively encourage its customers to live sustainably by offering preferential rates on green investments. E3bank chairman Sandy Wiggins says lending based on the sustainability of a project is “a powerful opportunity to leverage change [that] was sorely needed.”
Wiggins, who worked in real estate for 30 years, had a sustainable “awakening” in 1996 that led him to commit to building green. His adherence to the triple bottom line principle led him to become chair of the U.S. Green Building Council.
After leaving the post he was contemplating retirement, but got a call from veteran banker Frank J. Baldassarre, who is now e3bank’s President and CEO. Though never imagined working in the financial industry, he signed on with the company in 2008.
The bank’s principles, which tout the goals of enterprise, environment and social equity, are evident in their lending guidelines, which give preferential treatment to loans for green projects. Wiggins says finance rates for a loan will be reduced as projects reach higher levels of sustainability. For example, as a new building or retrofit attains higher levels of LEED certification (silver, gold and platinum), the interest rate drops.
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Striving to create a virtual world that is also virtuous, Lee Fox developed KooDooZ, an online forum where each user interaction forwards the development of humanitarian values and promotes philanthropic efforts. Currently by invitation only, the concept is such that users can be exposed to a wide variety of topics and connect with like minds on important social issues. By linking motivated users to forward-thinking foundations, nonprofits, and even celebrities with the reach to spark mainstream attention around key causes, KooDooZ becomes a catalyst for change amongst a conscious community.
A passionate entrepreneur and humanitarian, Lee Fox has enjoyed walking the tightrope of innovation at the intersections of technology, new media and entertainment where she has taken title of CEO (internet/mobile), VP of Marketing (professional services), Content Creator (brand management) and Writer (consumer TV). Lee actively sits on for-profit and non-profit boards and currently chairs the American Technology Association’s Los Angeles council. She also sits on council for the Santa Monica Boys & Girls Club and continues to volunteer, coach and mentor youth-led initiatives alongside her husband and three children.
As the Founder and Chief Innovation Officer for KooDooZ, Inc., Lee’s mission is to spread the word about KDZ (“kids”) programs which are designed to teach youth how to innovate goals to help further a cause in partnership with for-profit and non-profit organizations.
Joel Makower Sounds Off on the Irrational Exuberance of Green Consumers Joel does a review of the landslide of surveys we’ve seen about consumer behavior in the eco shopping landscape in the past few month and finds that when the research methods are exposed to the cold harsh light of a winter’s day, they kinda shrivel up in fear.
Evian Maker Pledges to Buy Up All that PlasticIt’s a bit of tricky accounting, but the company has pledged to buy as much plastic as it sells in the UK, and it will go toward making their bottles 50% recycled content. I guess that’s because the water is sold outside the UK. The move will save the company $360,000 in the first year.
PG&E and Dell Bet Big on Renewables Dell has partnered with a local utility to supply its Oklahoma City campus with 100 percent wind power. Meanwhile, PG&E announced plans to develop 500 megawatts of solar power over the next five years. PG&E’s big array will power 150,000 homes!
Bordeaux Wine Pledges 20% Reduction in Carbon Emission The Bordeaux wine industry produces about 203,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, with the majority of the carbon emissions linked to the fabrication and transportation of bottles and cardboard boxes, as well as the fuel used by tractors in the vineyard. Bordeaux Wine Trade Board pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent before 2020. Does this move represent an increase in consciousness or simply an effort to regain relevance among the LOHAS crowd?
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We often talk a lot about the high or volatile cost of oil, and how this impacts consumer and investor behavior. For instance, when gasoline crossed the $4.00 per gallon mark, demand for hybrid vehicles soared, and millions in funding started to flow into the high-performance battery sector.
Of course, there’s also the excessive environmental costs that are too high to even attempt to quantify accurately. From the obvious public health-related issues to the massive loss of natural capital, these are costs that are very real, but are not likely to ever be fully accounted for both in Washington and in the private sector.
And what about the costs associated with maintaining our nation’s vast and complex system of roads and highways? Given today’s economic environment, coupled with a call to invest heavily in infrastructure projects, these costs are now being scrutinized. And it’s not looking pretty.
For those of you looking to tap into a network of like-minded people focused on the socio-economic aspects of mitigating climate change and fostering biodiversity, renewable energy, clean technology, and the like, you may find it worthwhile joining the Sustainable Development list-serve (SD-L) launched today by the International Institute of Sustainable development in collaboration with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Division for Sustainable Development (UNDESA-DSD).
‘Triple Bottom Line’ by another name, “the Sustainable Development (SD) model is based on the notion of a harmonious balance struck between the social, environmental, and economic spheres of development,” IISD writes in an email announcing the list-serve’s launch.
Photo credit: Nick Dunlop
With cause marketing becoming an increasingly hot topic, many companies are “cause washing” their brands, similar to that of greenwashing, in an attempt to create the perception of social consciousness without an authentic connection to the cause. Other companies use charitable donations as a promotion to increase sales with only a very small percentage of the purchase actually benefitting the cause. And in both scenarios, there is little to no impact to the cause, and more often than not, any positive contributions are counteracted by unethical business practices or negative environmental effects, putting the net social good of those efforts in the red.
But there are organizations who are deeply committed to the cause they support, where every facet of their business is aimed at alleviating the problem, and through which the cause itself becomes the very manifestation of their brand. Burning Hawk Wines is the epitome of that concept, whose story is even more powerful than the significant change they are creating, and whose vision for a world that respects — and protects — its wildlife is their sole purpose.
Moved by the incident upon which the winery was built, I reached out to founder, Nick Papadopoulos, to recount his experience, and share the many ways in which he is striving to protect hawks from the same fate that sparked the brand. Click to continue reading »
Click to continue reading »
On Earth Day 2001, Hunter Lovins wrote the following memorial to Dana Meadows, a true hero of the planet. Dana Meadow’s writings can be found at the Sustainability Institute website.
Donella (Dana) Meadows
(March 13, 1941 – February 20, 2001)
On this Earth Day, as we gather to celebrate our love of our home, let me share with you the celebration of someone I always just thought of as a friend of mine. At this time, in gatherings all over the world, people are coming together to remember Dana Meadows.
Dana died recently, suddenly. Bacterial meningitis. She was 59 years old. To me it was a crushing loss.
I no longer remember when I first met Dana. 20 years ago, 30…. Somewhere on the road, some conference, some speaking gig. It just seemed she’d always been there, always been my friend. Hers was the quiet voice of reason, of impeccably documented science, proving that the time is very short for us to learn of the limits and to put into practice what we already know about how to live within them.
We all know what it means to have safe sex. But what does it mean to have responsible sex? Be it during moments of intimacy or not, it could be safe to assume that very few of us think of how the average prophylactic was produced, where it came from, and its environmental impact.
Since 2007 and from a small team of three, The French Letter Condom Company Ltd has brought ethical condoms to the European market. French Letter Condoms (which was named from the British colloquialism “french letter” for condoms) reaches a market where choice of condom brand is possible and where sustainability, even in the bedroom, is relevant. But what exactly what makes a condom “ethical,” and importantly, can they be as good as the rest?
Most utility companies are encouraging their customers to conserve energy. But from a business point of view, there’s a down side to energy efficiency: selling less power also means less revenue for the utility companies that provide the power. And the less a utility earns, the less it is likely to invest in new, cleaner forms of energy. So in order to insulate utilities from this outcome and encourage them to invest in cleaner energy, a number of states have enacted policies that effectively “decouple” a utility’s revenue from its profits, while ensuring a flat rate for customers.
Decoupling was introduced in the late 1970s and early 1980s (for gas and electricity, respectively) in California, where it is widely deemed a success. Power consumption in California has remained flat since decoupling was enacted, despite the state’s population growth, while power use nationally doubled, per capita.
That said, decoupling is not universally embraced. Critics say it’s not fair to consumers, since those who make the greatest efforts to conserve pay the same rates as those who do not. Still, individuals and companies have other means of reducing their energy costs, such as by using two-way meters and participating in demand response programs in which they pay lower rates during periods of low demand.