The ever-growing amount of e-waste generated by our increasingly computer-driven, network-connected societies poses significant economic and product design challenges, as well as environmental and health problems, in countries the world over. The US Environmental Protection Agency reported that electronics, or e-waste, is among the fastest growing components of municipal solid waste streams, accounting for around 2% of them at present. Some 157 million computer products and 126 million cell phones were discarded in the US in 2007, according to the EPA. Since 2000, air freight and logistics industry giant UPS has been tackling the issue by closing the “production-consumption-disposal” loop and building an e-waste disposal supply chain. More than 25 million pounds of e-waste have been processed since the program’s start, with the annual average falling between 2 million and 3 million pounds, Robert Gamer, UPS’s e-waste coordinator, told Triple Pundit. *Photo courtesy UPS Click to continue reading »
Most Ethics classes would have you believe that an ethical dilemma is a choice between two seemingly right things – like stealing bread to feed your family and obeying the law. In fact, most ethical business dilemmas have a clear right or wrong: should we manufacture using child labor? Should we use toxic dyes that pollute 3rd world rivers? Yet, business leaders make the wrong choice every day in order to keep prices low and increase shareholder returns. When these people go home, they’ll encourage their children to say please and thank you and follow the golden rule– they wouldn’t think to model their bad ethical choices at home, but in the office it becomes “just business.” When a business leader has different set of ethical standards at home than he does in the office, there is obviously something rotten in the state of Denmark. Yet that’s the current paradigm for the sustainable business movement.
What do Nike, Symantec, eBay, Aspen Skiing Company, Clif Bar & Company, Seventh Generation, Levi Strauss and Co., and Starbucks have in common? They are all members of BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy) and signatories of a recent full page ad in the Wall Street Journal showing business support for U.S. action on climate change and clean energy legislation this year. Dear President Obama and Members of Congress The ad, addressed to Obama and members of Congress, stresses, “We need you to swiftly enact comprehensive legislation that will cut carbon pollution and create an economy-wide cap and trade program.” While not named in the ad, they are referring to the current cap-and-trade plan sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.). It argues that such legislation will drive investment into cost-saving, energy saving technologies, create the next wave of jobs in the new energy economy, catalyze investment in clean-energy technologies and increase business productivity.
Continuing a line of previous posts on terrific eco-stats coming from David Suzuki’s Green Guide (on energy, food, and travel), here is a summary of eco-stats related to the ecopsychology (mental health results of living a green lifestyle) that can be used by any green business in the wellness industry. First of all, what is ecopsychology? According to Ecopsychology.org: At its core, ecopsychology suggests that there is a synergistic relation between planetary and personal well being; that the needs of the one are relevant to the other. And while I don’t have a psychology degree, I can say with virtual certainty that it is just really good for your mental health to go outside, breathe deeply of crisp, fresh air, walk around in the woods and listen to the birds, go for a swim in a warm ocean or a cold mountain lake, enjoy a beautiful sunset from Corona Heights Park in San Francisco, or simply go and read a book in a city park. Just thinking about it, you’re already noticing your heart rate and blood pressure dropping, and your breath deepening, aren’t you? Oooooommmmm…… So here’s your eco-stats, courtesy of David Suzuki:
“Bribery has become a $1 trillion industry,” according to the World Bank. A 2007 survey of business executives found that 43 percent of respondents believed they lost business because a competitor paid a bribe. FSG Social Impact Advisors estimates that corruption costs $2.6 trillion globally. Almost 80 percent of the respondents in a recently released survey conducted in November 2007 by PricewaterhouseCoopers International said their company has some form of program in place to prevent and detect corruption. However, only 22 percent are very confident that it identifies and mitigates the risk of corruption.
Mashable.com just posted their list of the top green tweeters. Personally, I still don’t spend much time on Twitter. I found it a great tool at Sustainable Brands, where 700 people could have a side conversation during speakers without getting asked to be quiet. Who are the microbloggers we should be listening to?
“Best tasting.” “Preferred by doctors.” “Will change your life forever.” When it comes to advertising, brands are obviously not allowed to say anything they feel like. And yet when it comes to environmental claims, many still seem to think that they can. Sadly, they often get away with it. Look at 7-Up with their “100% Natural Flavor” or Campbell’s Soup with their “100% recyclABLE packaging.” I’m sorry, but last time I checked, high fructose corn syrup wasn’t exactly “natural.” And wow, Campbell, your all-metal can is recyclable? That’s not exactly an environmental claim, and putting it on cans is a blatant attempt to fool the customer into thinking it’s recyclED. Luckily, however, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is cracking down on some of these semi-true claims with their Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims.
The Free Design Clinic is an ad hoc group of architects and creative professionals providing pro bono services to non profits, small businesses, and communities in the Bay Area. The Clinic is an extension of a course run by the UC Berekely Extension program entitled “Architecture as Activism.” According to the site, the six week-long clinic is a “chance for the Architectural profession to walk-the-walk and actively engage with its community.” Non-profits, shelters, SROs, and small business owners can come on a drop-in basis and receive free sustainable design consultation from the instructor and the 15 professionals involved in the clinic. Though the course has already started and the enrollment is full, it looks like they are still looking for more clients to work with. If you are a small business, start-up, or non-profit in the Bay Area, check out the Free Design Clinic’s website for more info.
Why should sustainability change agents care about executive sponsorship? Because as sustainable business matures, those of us working in sustainability will find that after eco-efficiency, the next great step will come by leveraging sustainability on a strategic level to truly transform our businesses. Just like the Internet before it, sustainability will grow beyond its roots to become much broader, mission-driven, and transformative. And at that point, sustainability change agents won’t just be dealing with light bulbs or solar panels, but driving true strategic change. In numerous benchmarking studies on the critical success factors to implementing successful strategic change, active and visible executive sponsorship heads the list. With sustainability, the need for strong executive sponsorship is enormous. In any large organization, some people at every level of the organization will be unconvinced that sustainability is affordable, or view such efforts as simply “greenwashing.” A well-placed, articulate and influential sponsor has the unique ability to both motivate and compel these people to support your efforts, especially as you transition from the operational to strategic realm. The executive sponsor leading the effort needs to be a passionate advocate, believing that sustainability is an imperative – an imperative based on a powerful business case. The sooner you can find a strong executive sponsor, the better positioned you will be for taking sustainability to a strategic level. Click to continue reading »
Most of us are unaware that we are religious fundamentalists – market fundamentalists… in the “religion” of traditional economics. The values of the current economic system are rarely in question of us operating in the global economic system. Many of us rarely consider whether or not concepts of limitless growth, ruthless competition, more stuff and other “fundamentals” of today’s business environment are even up for question. And most of us don’t think twice when we hear that, according to modern economic thinking, that our primarly role in society is limited to a role “consumers” – mere functionaries in vast economic machine for the “growth” and the accumulation of money. And to boot, when we hear the growth of the economy we may not consider what is growing, and at what cost. More? Always good? At what cost?
By Wes Muir, Director, Communications, Waste Management Just this week, TV land will witness a dramatic change in the way it operates. As of Friday, June 12, all television stations will make the transition from analog to digital broadcasting, leaving many outdated television sets in the dust. But trashing these old TVs doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll go to waste. With all broadcast signals available in digital format only, there’s no longer use for your analog television. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) estimates that 95 percent of unused analog TVs will be sold, donated or recycled following the DTV transition. Many of these are expected to enter the typical waste stream, i.e. left on the curb for your garbage man to collect.
I came upon an interesting contraption on the exhibit floor at Waste Expo this week: a solar-powered trash compactor. It’s the brainchild of Needham, Mass.-based Big Belly Solar and uses a 30-watt solar panel that charges a battery that in turn compacts trash as it accumulates inside the bin. Waste Management recently partnered with Big Belly to distribute the bins in the places it operates in North America, and they are already being used by many schools, parks departments and zoos around the country – in fact Philadelphia is installing 500 of the compactors on its streets as part of its Greenworks project. The bin contains an electronic eye that spans the top of the 32-gallon barrel inside the unit. Once enough material accumulates to block the beam, it triggers the compactor to engage, using 1250 pounds of force to ram the trash into the barrel. In total, the barrel can hold roughly 150 gallons of compacted waste. Also, the unit contains a small display that shows when the barrel is nearly full and when it is completely full. A wireless link to the municipality allows dispatchers to send trucks to the cans only when they are full.
Incorporated in September 2006, San Diego’s Helix Wind is looking to leverage the novel design of its growing line of vertical axis wind turbines to secure a place in the rapidly growing market for small wind systems. Less efficient than their horizontal axis counterparts, vertical axis wind turbines are nonetheless gaining credibility across a wide range of applications and sites, from densely populated urban areas to rural and remote installations. Aesthetic, rugged and practical with a small physical footprint, it’s the proprietary, helical design of the company’s small-scale VAWTs–which maximize surface area and capture wind blowing from any direction–that enable them to make the most of light, as well as strong and variable wind conditions, according to the company. Interest in the company’s products is surging. Management announced two contracts so far this month, its first two production runs have sold out, and it’s sitting on an order backlog of $11.3 million, with forward sales of 4,500 units spread over the next few years. Click to continue reading »
Other than a rock concert, there are few events that drain resources or produce more excess waste than conferences. From packing materials to elaborate displays to overflowing amounts of swag-stuffed goodie bags among throngs of people, trash accumulates in epic proportions. This is one of the reasons Gary Survis started Go Green Displays, focused on eco-friendly exhibits from booths to lighting to banners and everything in between. Click to continue reading »
OpenBrands is a new start-up that makes brand monitoring on Twitter a “social sport.” It has the potential to make the random stream of Twitter’s chatter far more readable and produce powerful data about what people really think of companies, ideas, and brands. This is exactly the kind of information one needs to judge the sustainability merits (or any merits for that matter) of any given company or brand. Open Brands isn’t the first company to try and make sense of brand reputation via the internet. A few years ago, Saatchi and Saatchi published a fascinating website about brands called “hierarchy of respect is then developed based entirely on that social data and conversation ensued between participants. Google’s Zeitgeist automatically allows one to monitor the frequency with which search terms are typed into Google. For example, the spread of the flu can be tracked across the globe as sick people use Google to find relief. The same technology can be applied to brand monitoring, giving companies the tools to see when their brand becomes a heated topic. Click to continue reading »
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