The Business of Organic Farming (Watch and Learn)

3p Contributor | Thursday September 17th, 2009 | 4 Comments

By: Makenna Goodman, Chelsea Green Publishing

Contrary to popular belief, a good living can be made on an organic farm. What’s required is farming smarter, not harder. Farmer Richard Wiswall is here to tell the world it’s possible to start an organic farm, enjoy it, and make a profit. Like any other business, organic farming has ups and downs. But Wiswall (who’s been farming in Vermont for 27 years) offers a hopeful and useful model to ensure a sustainable business that puts some money in the bank.

He says: “My goal is to see more happy, prosperous farmers. I see too many farmers work too hard for little money and burn out because of it. I would love it that farmland shouldn’t compete for developments because developments pay more. I want it that farms remain in farmland because it’s economically viable to do so. And I think that’s the way it should be.”

Chelsea Green recently produced an original video to introduce readers to this organic farmer and author.

Watch the 4-minute version:

For the super enthusiastic, there’s also a 30 minute version:

Wiswell’s forthcoming book, The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook: A Complete Guide to Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff—and Making a Profit, is now available for pre-order.

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How Financial Incentives May Actually Stifle Business

| Thursday September 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments

One of these days, 3p will get invited to the TED conference. In the meantime, their presentation videos are continuously phenomenal. In case you’re not familiar with the format, TED videos are all ~19 minutes long and feature leading thinkers from around the world working on ideas to solve humanity’s biggest problems.

Sit back and watch Dan Pink talk about how narrow-minded financial incentives can paradoxically decrease performance in the workplace. It really adds extra question marks to the incredible rewards given to some CEOs lately, especially in the financial sector.

What do you think?

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Coming Up: GreenBiz Webinar on Walmart Sustainability Index

| Wednesday September 16th, 2009 | 0 Comments


Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Walmart has made extraordinary strides in advancing principals of sustainability into their operations. Among the most powerful economic forces in the world – when Walmart makes even a tiny, incremental change, the world takes notice. The Walmart force is especially strong when measured across its supply chain, an enormous network of small and large companies over which Walmart exudes considerable influence.

Earlier this year, Walmart announced their very own “Sustainability Index” – a way to measure the impact of companies and products that Walmart deals with. Now, companies (Walmart partners and otherwise) are poised to make changes in their operations in order to comply with Walmarts sustainability demands – a complicated logistical, legal, and philosophical challenge.

Our friends at GreenBiz have put together a live webinar to be held at 12 noon Eastern Time on September 24th. The venerable Joel Makower will host Walmart’s Rand Waddoups, EORM’s Tim Mohin, and Morrison & Foerster’s Christopher Carr in a conversation aimed at getting down to the details of Walmart’s index and its implications on the entire Walmart supply chain.

3p will be covering the event and we’ll report on it later next week, but don’t miss the chance to drop in live on September 24th. A $99 registration fee is required.

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New Vehicle Standards Make Huge Efficiency Improvements

| Wednesday September 16th, 2009 | 0 Comments


The EPA and Department of Transportation (DOT) recently released new vehicle standards, which would make new vehicles’ fuel economy the highest seen in over 30 years. Sustainability groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), are urging the Obama administration to finalize the standards (and prevent loopholes), a UCS press release reports. If finalized, the proposed standards would potentially benefit the environment, consumers’ finances, and the nation’s energy security.

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Making Drinking Water From Thin Air (Literally)

Scott Cooney | Wednesday September 16th, 2009 | 55 Comments

dew-pointe-deviceFor an average of 60 cents per gallon, the DewPointe DH9 Atmospheric Water Purification System extracts water vapor from the air and converts it to pure drinking water. The system uses similar technology as some home dehumidifiers to pull the moisture from the air.

By pulling moisture out of the atmosphere, the DH9 is said to eliminate virtually all contaminants that might otherwise occur in groundwater.  The device then further purifies the water to eliminate 99.99% of contaminants.  There’s an electrostatic air filter to remove small airborne particles like pollen and dust, a germicidal uV light that destroys bacteria and other microorganisms, a coconut hull filter that eliminates heavy metals, chlorine residuals and mineral salts, and a reverse osmosis (RO) filter to remove any remaining pathogens or fine particles.  Unlike other RO filters, where the wastewater is then flushed (so that the user drinks one purified gallon for each six to ten that are wasted), the DH9’s revolutionary RO filter reprocesses it so that no water is lost.  A gravity-fed storage tank holds 6.5 gallons that would be accessible even in the event of a power outage.

Too good to be true?

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“Smart Choices” Food Label Recommends “Froot Loops”

3p Contributor | Wednesday September 16th, 2009 | 7 Comments

smart-choice-toucanBy Carly Smolak

As if our obsessive-compulsive nutrition culture was not frenetic enough with the deluge of conflicting reports and industry funded studies about diet, a new food labeling project called “Smart Choices” has recently unveiled its pseudo certification to help shoppers identify “smarter food and beverage choices.”

“Smarter Choices” for consumers include Froot Loops and Cocoa Crispies. Yes, that’s right, sugar-laden cereals are considered smarter dietary choices according to the certification. Ellen T. Kennedy, a researcher from Tufts who presides over the “Smart Choices” board (apparently unpaid), defended products endorsed by the label in a New York Times interview, arguing that sugary cereals are a better choice than a donut.

Right. And a donut is better than a bag of crack. Perhaps they should reconsider blacklisting fried, sugary confections.

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Three Tips for Engaging Employees in Sustainability

| Wednesday September 16th, 2009 | 5 Comments

workers-208x300Employee engagement is a growing strategy for driving performance and building competitive advantage for companies with a commitment to sustainability.

“The engaged workforce will find more opportunities to get lean and identify more opportunities to innovate and create products and services that lower customers’ environmental impacts. All of this work will improve the top and bottom lines,” comments sustainable business expert Andrew Winston, in his recent book Green Recovery.

Based on his book, and some of the other recent literature available, I offer the following three tips for engaging employees in sustainability:

  • Look at the big picture and identify your greatest impacts across the value chain;
  • Involve staff in sustainability on multiple levels, both at work and at home; and
  • Integrate sustainability into operations and everyday decisions on products throughout their life cycle.

Catalyzing your employees to integrate sustainability into both their lives and work decisions can be a low-cost strategy for saving money, driving innovation and keeping employees happy.

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Do Brands Matter in Solar Power?

| Wednesday September 16th, 2009 | 0 Comments

cocacola 2010 is widely expected to be a break-through year for solar power. Cheap PV, new financing models, a rebounding economy, increased consumer awareness, and strengthened government support could combine to push rooftop solar panels fully into the mainstream — like buying a new car, or remodeling the kitchen.

The question is: do people care who they buy their solar panels from?

Brands matter, but their importance in the residential and commercial solar power industry is up for debate. The stakes are high: if they do matter, then companies like Sun Power, who are spending heavily to promote their brand identity, could take a commanding lead as the industry grows.

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Tar Sands Emissions Make Canada A Carbon Bully

Richard Levangie | Wednesday September 16th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Alberta Tar SandsAuthor John Updike once described Canada as a cool, chaste country, but that’s not how Greenpeace sees it. Earlier this week, the environmental warriors issued a harsh report that described Canada an international carbon bully.

Sooner or later, that description is going to stick. Over the last two and a half years, several different environmental groups have used that exact word to characterize one of the world’s most peaceful nations, and they do have a few inconvenient facts to buttress their claims. In the Greenpeace report called Dirty Oil: How The Tar Sands Are Fuelling the Global Climate Crisis author Andrew Nikiforuk argues that Canada has been working with Japan to deliberately undermine progress at the international climate talks for several years. Certainly, that devil could be in the details. The Alberta Tar Sands already release more greenhouse gases than several smaller European nations and — if planned expansion to 2020 goes ahead — the tar sands alone will produce more greenhouse gases annually than either Austria, Ireland, or Belgium.

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy: GDP Is Inadequate for Measuring Economic Health

| Wednesday September 16th, 2009 | 4 Comments

GPD-map On Monday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed the French national statistics agency on the adequacy of GDP in measuring a country’s economic well-being. He requested that the agency give greater consideration to factors such as quality of life and the environment (versus solely relying on GDP’s reporting of goods and services produced) in determining the nation’s fiscal health. If realized, what effect would this mentality have on sustainable development in France and worldwide?

According to a report by the New York Times, Sarkozy made the request after reviewing a report by a panel of top economists, which he commissioned in February 2008 to evaluate the adequacy of GDP as a fiscal standard. (The report is known formally as “The Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress Revisited.”) According to the report, while GDP accurately gauges an economy’s overall growth or reduction, it is a poor measurement of social health – a vital component of national well-being. GDP measurements ignore damage to society and the environment by unsustainable activities, and they do not always accurately reflect average citizens’ disposable incomes. Moreover, disproportionate focus on GDP metrics by policy makers (to the exclusion of data indicating increased unsustainable indebtedness of households and businesses – precursors to the recession) contributed to the current financial crisis’ onset.

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Closed Ford Plant Becoming Renewable Energy Park

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday September 16th, 2009 | 0 Comments


Ford closed its Wixom, Michigan plant in 2007, but last week the company announced it will become a renewable energy park in 2011. That is the year when the redevelopment of the plant by two renewable energy manufacturing companies is slated to be finished. Last week, Ford announced that Clairvoyant Energy (Santa Barbara, CA) and Xtreme Power (Austin, TX) are buying the Wixom plant.

Clairvoyant Energy will manufacture solar panels in the plant, while Xtreme Power will make turnkey power systems for wind and solar projects. Clairvoyant Energy will have the capacity to produce over 2.5 million panels a year in the Wixom plant. When the redevelopment is completed, the plant will be one of the largest renewable energy manufacturing parks in the U.S., according to a press release.

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Mission Motors Keeps Moving: All-Electric Bike Tops 150MPH

| Tuesday September 15th, 2009 | 2 Comments


We first introduced TriplePundit readers to San Francisco-based Mission Motors back in February after the quintessential whiz-kid start-up unveiled the Mission One motorcycle at the TED conference in Long Beach (and followed-up this summer after it raced at the TTXGP carbon-free grand prix).

The Mission One is ostensibly a high-performance, all-electric motorcycle, but it really is more than that. Like any great entrepreneurial start-ups, it begins with a vision. As we said back in February, that vision for founders Forrest North, Edward West, and Mason Cabot is to show the world that high-performance and cutting edge design need not be mutually exclusive with sustainability. If you think that you need to putter about town on a scooter in order to have a clean machine, the Mission One is out to prove you wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, like the Tesla (for whom North once worked), it doesn’t come cheap. You’d likely not get a Mission One just to tool about town. But the idea is to push boundaries, break new ground, and blaze a path for others to follow.

And earlier this month the Mission One pushed another boundary on the salt flats of Utah.

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Boots on the Roof Offers Green Job Training

Scott Cooney | Tuesday September 15th, 2009 | 0 Comments

BootsontheroofThe interest in creating green jobs at the state and federal level has not diminished, nor has the interest by job-seekers in finding a green job.  California recently announced $75 M in training for green job programs.  Community Colleges in Oregon found that green job training was one of the fastest growing and most requested offerings their industry was seeing, despite the gloomy economic outlook.

The need for green job training is clear.  Wind and solar provide limitless free energy.  When compared to the costs of producing electricity by burning coal, there are higher up-front costs of setting up renewable energy like wind, solar, and geothermal.   But the ongoing cost is considerably less, as the “fuel” is plentiful and free.  Workers also benefit with jobs that are harder to export than manufacturing and other sectors.

A number of organizations are setting up green job training in their communities.  Boots on the Roof is an organization founded by two groups of people:  experienced green businesspeople and professional educators.  This convergence is one of Boots’ strengths, as students receive training from qualified industry professionals at the same time as professional educators that can help enhance the learning experience.

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EPA’s Green Power Leadership Awards – Rewarding Baby Steps or Greenwashing?

| Tuesday September 15th, 2009 | 0 Comments


When the EPA recently announced the 2009 winners of its Green Power Leadership Awards, the list included a number of corporate heavyweights (including Wal-Mart, Deutsche Bank AG, and Intel Corporation) as well as several smaller companies. These companies aren’t typically the first to come to mind when I think of environmentalism. Are the awards a step in the right direction in terms of making sustainability more mainstream, or are they awarding close-but-no-cigar “sustainability”?

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Bon Appetit on the Business of Sustainable Agriculture

3p Contributor | Tuesday September 15th, 2009 | 4 Comments

tomato-bigEd Note: This is the first 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. We invited Bon Appetit to lead this conversation because they want to focus on difficult questions to which they don’t have answers. We think it’s a bold step when a company puts itself on a line to seek answers to tough questions. We may not solve them all, but we hope we’ll make a start.


At Bon Appétit Management Company we track our progress in sustainable food sourcing via a living document called the “COR Matrix.” COR stands for Circle of Responsibility and refers to our sustainability-related commitments. As a food service management company with over 400 cafes on corporate and school campuses across 30 states, we needed a way for us to track our promises and our dreams. Borrowing the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch stoplight system, the Matrix has three categories:

Green - commitments we’ve made publicly; system-wide policies for all our 400 accounts such as buying at least 20% of our food from small, local farms or artisans
Yellow – initiatives that we’re working on behind the scenes but haven’t announced yet (i.e. before we spoke externally about our Low Carbon Diet we gave our chefs and managers a full year to meet several purchasing initiatives so we knew our program would mean change in the supply chain, not just marketing fluff)
Red – issues we’d like to tackle but don’t know where to start

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