French President Nicolas Sarkozy Urges Carbon Tax

| Saturday September 12th, 2009 | 2 Comments

nicolas-sarkozy

In a recent speech, French President Nicolas Sarkozy sought to convince compatriots of the need for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions by households and businesses. France’s imposition of a carbon tax would help the country reduce its greenhouse gas output in upcoming years, and it would make France the largest economy so far to impose such a tax.

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Starbucks Isn’t Alone: Local-washing Is the New Black

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday September 11th, 2009 | 12 Comments
photo from The Stranger

photo from The Stranger

Our post last week about 15th Ave Coffee & Tea—a coffee house that Starbucks opened this summer in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood but chose not to brand with its trademark sea creature logo—elicited a whole bunch of response from readers. Some of the readers stated that Starbucks is just plain evil. Others complained that it’s lame to hate on chains just because they are chains. But in writing the piece my intention was not to advance either argument. It was to highlight and extend the discussion that Adaptive Path’s Peter Merholz started in his blog, focusing on Starbucks’ strategy behind the 15th Ave Coffee & Tea. Merholz posited that for Starbucks’ attempt to paint 15th Ave as a one-off, small, neighborhood coffee joint, even though a massive corporation owns it, is a losing proposition.

“Faking it is not a good strategy in bed or in retail,” he wrote.

But in creating the 15th Ave Coffee & Tea shop, Starbucks is really just following a trend in marketing. Sure, the authenticity-imbued, non-chain feeling of the small coffee shop is an attractive element, but I think the bigger emphasis is on the local-ness of the place.  Marketers are starting to co-opt the recent focus on buying local—eating locally-grown food and patronizing locally-owned businesses. And as a result, we now all need to learn a new derivation of the word greenwashing: local-washing.

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Social Change Talk with Jon Kaplan, President of Walden University

| Friday September 11th, 2009 | 15 Comments

cause-marketing.gif
learn-main-photo A few weeks ago, I featured Walden University’s new advertising campaign, centering around their social change-focused brand positioning: “A higher degree. A higher purpose.” I was instantly struck by their TV spot because they put their money where their tagline is in demonstrating the end result of a Walden University degree, and spotlighting the change that is possible when you choose an institution aimed at serving the greater good.

The goal is to attract like-minded individuals whose core values align with Walden’s, and they are, in turn, committed to equipping those agents of change with the practical tools they’ll need toward becoming the leaders of tomorrow. The campaign is inspirational without coming off cheesy, so I decided to learn more about the vision behind it in an informative interview with President, Jon Kaplan. And with the level of dedication they put forth in facilitating avenues for positive change, the next time you meet someone who’s making a difference, they may just have a Walden University diploma hanging on their wall.

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Two Ways to Go Beyond Ecycling

| Friday September 11th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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ecycling cellphonesWhat do you do with your old electronics when you’re done? For most, they get stored in some back corner of your house, doing a great job gathering dust. Ecycling is a step beyond that, and has become part of the broader consciousness, with major office supply stores now collecting devices.

But ecycling comes with a big package of issues: Where does it get shipped to to have it done? Who does it? What conditions are the workplace where it’s done? Are workers getting poisoned as they do this work?

Despite assurances, in many cases what’s being promised is not what’s delivered when you do you think you’re doing your part in seeing that your old electronics get reused rather then disposed of.

How would you like to know for sure that your electronics are either benefiting those in need or benefiting your pocketbook by getting paid or reducing your costs? And we’re not talking only recent vintage, in demand gear either.

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Integrating Management into the Waste Stream

Wes Muir | Friday September 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment

waste-flowEveryday, each one of us creates four and half pounds of garbage, which collectively translates into hundreds of millions of tons of waste, generated across the United States.  Over the past few decades, governments, citizens and business have become increasingly concerned about the growing amount of waste being generated and the potential environmental impacts associated with this trend.  This concern led to the development of the hierarchical “3R” approach to waste management, which classifies waste reduction strategies according to their desirability: reduce, reuse and recycle.  These strategies first aim to generate the least amount of waste possible and then to extract potential benefits from unwanted materials.

Despite the widespread adoption of the 3R approach, landfilling remains the most common form of waste management and achieving diversion targets continues to pose a challenge, especially since there is no consistent universal method for calculating diversion rates across jurisdictions.

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Local Power Shines as Crayola Goes Solar

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday September 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment

crayolaThere might be a new emphasis on yellow and maybe even burnt sienna from Crayola now that it’s engaged the sun to help it make about one billion crayons annually.

The colorful maker of children’s art and stationery products, based in Easton, PA, is going solar in a big way.

It recently signed an agreement with with two local companies, PPL Corporation of Allentown and UGI Energy Services Inc. of Reading, to build a 15-acre solar panel park aadjacent to the Crayola’s main plant in Forks Township.

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Back to the Future: The Binishell Returns

| Friday September 11th, 2009 | 17 Comments

startup-friday.jpg

binishell-palmspringsIf the drawing to the right looks like something out of the Jetsons, you’re not far from the truth.

It’s a schematic of a home to be built in Palm Springs this winter made out of Binishells, self-supporting concrete shells erected in hours using only air pressure. The technology was invented by architect Dante Bini in the 1960s, and received widespread attention in the era of Buckminster Fuller and Saarinen’s swooping TWA terminal.

Now, Dante and his son Nicolo hope to re-introduce the Binishell as an efficient, low-cost and low-carbon building technology to a world strapped for resources and concerned about pollution.

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Plastic “Temple of Trash”—Upcycling, the Arts, and Making the Case for Sustainability

| Friday September 11th, 2009 | 0 Comments

temple-of-trash “What will future generations think of us when they uncover our landfill waste?” The question is just one of many that have inspired artists, including Salig Design, to create art out of up-cycled plastic bottles. Last year, Salig Design created the Temple of Trash (in Rotterdam, Netherlands) constructed of 100 tons of PET bottles pressed into bales. While the Temple is no longer standing, it was a visual representation of what sustainable business proponents already believe: that waste and overconsumption is not inconsequential. Pieces like these also highlight the role of artists in raising awareness about the importance of global sustainability.

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REI’s Annual Stewardship Report: Recycling Versus Carbon Neutrality?

| Friday September 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment

REI-logo

The 2008 stewardship report of Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) proves that recycling and carbon-neutrality don’t necessarily go hand in hand – and that growing businesses may face additional challenges in becoming or remaining sustainable. The report indicates that while REI is on track for meeting its zero-waste-to-landfill goal by 2020, it also fell short of its greenhouse gas goals last year, with emissions rising by 11 percent.

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Startup Manna Energy Seeks to Use Carbon Offsets to Provide Drinking Water for Rwanda

| Friday September 11th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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manna-energy-logo-rwanda

Manna Energy, a Houston, Texas-based water technology startup, is seeking to put carbon offsets to an innovative and life-saving use: providing water – sustainably – for Rwandan communities. In addition to addressing the country’s interrelated problems of water shortage, climate change, and non-sustainable development, Manna Energy is making the case for sustainable growth in developing countries.

Manna’s Rwanda Natural Energy Project is still in-progress. When complete, it will provide clean, drinkable water for more than 250,000 teachers, students, and staff at more than 400 secondary schools throughout Rwanda, GreenBiz.com reports. It will do so sustainably, replacing traditional water-purification techniques at those schools (typically, boiling water by burning wood, thus creating carbon emissions) with green water treatment plants, which will purify water using gravity filtration and solar power. In addition, the Project will also employ a workforce in Rwanda and utilize local materials, thereby supporting local economic growth and stability.

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Iceland’s Financial Woes – Economy, Sustainability, and Safe Growth

| Friday September 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment

iceland-flag Iceland’s financial history – and its current (disastrous) state of affairs – is proof that faster and bigger isn’t always better – faster economic growth, bigger banks, or quicker wealth accumulation. According to a Vanity Fair report, Iceland is massively bankrupt, its currency valueless, its debt 850 percent of its G.D.P., and its people desperate for food and funds. Iceland went bankrupt due largely to its uncontrolled growth earlier in the decade. While the story itself is both sad and intriguing, could it also have implications for the dynamics of sustainable business growth?

Iceland’s economic problems began, ironically, when its three biggest banks’ sought substantial and unparalleled growth. Although the country is about the size of Kentucky, and these banks had assets of just a few billion dollars (about 100 percent of Iceland’s G.D.P.), the banks succeeded (at first). Over the next three and a half years, the banks’ assets grew to over $140 billion in the most rapid expansion of a banking system in history. Meanwhile, stock values increased nine-fold and real estate values and the average Icelandic family’s wealth threefold. The economic growth all stemmed, in one way or another, from the investment-banking industry. The country adopted global financial ambitions, which seemed to prosper – until fall of 2008.

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Planet Metrics: Helping Companies Reduce Their Risk from Embedded Carbon and Energy

| Friday September 11th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

Planet Metrics is a relatively new start-up with a solution to help corporations model and analyze the life cycle of carbon emissions and energy use throughout their entire supply chain, from cradle to grave. Fast Company covered the start-up  in June and called their Rapid Carbon Modeling “a potentially powerful tool.”

What makes Planet Metrics stand out from the crowd of carbon management tools? For one thing, they secured $2.3 million in Series A funding from angel investors and Draper Fisher Jurvetson about nine months ago. They also are working with several large clients, including Method, an environmentally-friendly cleaning product company, a large Canadian retailer and an automobile manufacturer.

The pricing of the software is not public. There is an upfront fee in addition to an annual subscription fee for continued access to the software. They are targeting larger retail, manufacturing and consumer packaged goods companies with complex supply chains, committed to getting started on addressing Scope 3, indirect emissions.

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Business Not As Usual: Chinese Environmental Activists Riot, And More.

John Laumer | Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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If you’re in the business world, here are five recent TreeHugger.com posts we think you’ll appreciate seeing.  Note the rating system introduced in this post ’roundup’ to help you grab the items  that mesh with your needs in product design, market development, and corporate management systems.  Business “criticality” (C) and “urgency” (U) are each ranked, subjectively, on a scale of 1 through 5, with 5 being the highest, and 1 the lowest. Instructions on how to put the rankings  to use are at the bottom of this post.

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Can a Global Company Be Local?

Tom Szaky | Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 1 Comment

tesco-bagGlobalization has long gotten a bad rap. And for good reason. So many companies arrogantly decide that, one way or another, what they create will become what people desire, unaltered, in countries around the world. And in many cases, it’s worked, homogenizing cultures, at least on an aesthetic level, with no real benefit to the people on an economic or environmental level. It’s largely pop culture crap that ends up adding to landfills when done.

What if globalization could be flipped on its head, taking a business model and localizing it wherever it is, glocalizing if you will? That’s what we’re attempting to do with our upcoming launch in the UK in September together with Kraft UK. Customizing a business to be culturally sensitive and appropriate in other countries is nothing new, but what might be new is to what depth it’s being done here.

On a surface level, we are replicating what we’ve succeeded in doing here in the US – collecting waste with the help of the public and companies, and upcycling it into both product packaging as is, repurposed, and entirely new executions by turning layers of material into sewable fabric.

But things differ vastly from there.

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The Wild, Wild (Green) West

| Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

hollywood & green

Filmmaker David Dibble checks his Super 8 mm camera during a film festival promo shoot in Hanford. <em>Photo credit: Hanford Sentinel</em>

Filmmaker David Dibble checks his Super 8 mm camera on during a film festival promo shoot in Hanford.

Recently I covered the launch of the Going Green Film Festival, spotlighting sustainable cinema and filmmaking practices that preserve and protect the environment. The first of its kind, it’s shining a light on Green Hollywood, and bringing this important category to the foreground, right down to their advertising. Literally.

Building on the festival’s slogan of “Rethink, Replenish, Recommit,” David Dibble, an LA-based filmmaker and his crew are re-enacting the wild, wild west. With an eco-conscious marshal. “It’s a typical high-noon Clint Eastwood situation, where you’ve got a marshal and a bad guy’s coming into town,” Dibble said. But in this town, the outlaws recycle.

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