Whole Foods Invests in Mobile Slaughterhouses

Tori Okner | Thursday November 26th, 2009 | 3 Comments

rubber_chickenThis Thanksgiving, much attention has been paid to how your bird was raised, but how about the manner in which it was killed? The head meat buyer at Whole Foods, Theo Weening, made public the company’s effort to collaborate with both USDA and state regulatory agencies to develop certifiable mobile slaughterhouses for poultry. Before claiming a victory for the locavore movement, one has to ask, is this good news for family farmers?

First, understand that Whole Foods mobile units are a long way off. To begin with, the company must wade through USDA bureaucracy and has yet to identify an authority to approve a mobile poultry slaughter and processing facility. Whole Foods aims to overcome a barrier – the dearth of slaughterhouses – to a meet customer demand for local food products.

The number of USDA approved slaughterhouses has fallen dramatically over the last several years. The numbers vary; recent estimates cite a decline from 1,405 USDA approved slaughterhouses in 1992 to just 808 in 2008, with others as low as 550 in 2001 dropping to only 350 today. There is broad consensus in the sustainable food movement about improving the quality and quantity of slaughterhouses. Today, 99% of all animals raised for food are processed through the factory farm system. This consolidation of animal husbandry and continual agribusiness mergers has resulted in the channeling of the vast majority of meat through a few central slaughterhouses.

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Putting Deforestation into Focus at COP 15

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday November 26th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Rainforest degradation is the third largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and robs one billion of the poorest people on Earth from their source of livelihood. These are just two of myriad reasons that the world leaders meeting next month at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen must achieve some type of progress toward binding a international treaty to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Most pundits agree that COP15 is unlikely to produce a finalized treaty, but the work of Daniel Beltrá, a Spanish photographer living in Seattle, just might push the process forward. At the very least, it will remind the leaders of what they are trying to protect.

Some of Beltrá’s photographs are shockingly beautiful, but many are just plain shocking: images of burning, drought-stricken and clear-cut rainforests of Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia. The Prince’s Rainforests Project, an effort that Prince Charles of Wales established in 2007 in order to raise awareness about rainforest destruction and raise funds to support rainforest preservation, appointed Beltrá (through the Sony World Photography Awards) to photograph the world’s largest and most important rainforests as part of the campaign.

Now, some of these images—which show not only wide-scale damage to the rainforests but also vignettes of pristine sections—are collected in a limited-edition book, Rainforest: Lifebelt for an Endangered Planet, which key world leaders at COP15 will receive.

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German PV Solar Industry Is Thriving

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday November 26th, 2009 | 0 Comments


Germany will add up to three gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity this year due to a strong demand in the last part of this year, the head of Germany’s Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft (BSW-Solar) solar industry association announced. Germany is the world leader in photovoltaic (PV) solar panel power, with 5.3 GW installed. The world total of installed solar PV panels is 15 GW.

The German government promoted solar PV panels through feed-in tariffs and other incentives, but decreased them this year. The BSW-Solar cites the falling prices of PV systems surpassing the decrease in state-mandated feed-in tariffs as the main reason for the growth. A strong demand is expected to continue into next year. BSW-Solar expects solar power costs for consumers will decrease below the tariff level of conventional electricity providers by 2015.

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Black Friday? Buy Nothing Day? How About Buy Something Responsible Day?

| Wednesday November 25th, 2009 | 5 Comments


The idea of waking up at the crack of dawn the day after Thanksgiving to go shopping for trinkets among hordes of what seem like crazed zombies strikes me as a horrible kind of torture. Nonetheless, millions of Americans consider “Black Friday” a kind of celebratory tradition, with this year expected to be the biggest and craziest yet. Understandably, retailers and other merchants are delighted at the opportunity to cash in.

As an antidote to the madness, some folks stay home or actively participate in anti-shopping movements such as “buy nothing day” – a clever, mostly symbolic, attempt to reign some sense into the consumptive lifestyle.

But why can’t progressive-minded business people suggest a saner alternative? After all, folks who understand the appeal of shopping locally, buying organic, and taking the time to understand where products come from and who makes them, already recognize that we vote with our dollars. When consumers line up at 4am at a big box store to buy next year’s landfill discards, they are voting approval of an economy based on thoughtless consumption, materialism and waste. Only by casting competing votes can we, and responsible business owners, change that tide.

I propose “Buy Something Responsible Day”.

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Obama Announces He Will Attend COP15 Climate Conference

| Wednesday November 25th, 2009 | 1 Comment

President Obama will travel to Denmark to attend COP15The White House officially announced today that President Barack Obama will go to Copenhagen to attend the COP15 climate conference, a commitment Obama has thus far been reticent to make, saying that he would attend only if his presence would help secure a successful outcome in the climate negotiations.

It now appears as if he feels his attendance will do just that. President Obama plans on giving a speech at the conference on December 9th as he makes his way to Sweden to pick up his Noble Peace Prize on the 10th.

The White House also confirmed that the US will finally agree to put “numbers on the table” in negotiations, with a proposal to cut emissions “in the range” of 17 percent below 2005 levels, in line with the targets mandated in the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill passed in the House of Representative this summer.
The reference year for the target is 2005, instead of the more internationally accepted 1990. The targets are below other developed nations target and are significantly off the 40 percent cut below 1990 levels that developing nations say is necessary to begin effectively dealing with climate change.

Nonetheless, Obama’s commitment to lend his presence to the process, and the firm targets proposed by the US, represent progress and leadership that has heretofore been absent in the negotiating process. It isn’t enough, but it is a start.

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KLM Flies into Sustainable Air Transport

Bill DiBenedetto | Wednesday November 25th, 2009 | 5 Comments

KLMMG_4909Is that the smell of bio-kerosene in the air? If you were one of the passengers on KLM Royal Dutch Airline’s first passenger flight powered by bio-kerosene this week, then you were also one of the first to get a whiff of this new sustainable fuel, if indeed it is whiff-able.

The Netherlands airline underscored its Boeing 747 biofuels test flight with an announcement that it has formed a joint venture to develop sustainable biofuels on a large scale. Called SkyEnergy, the consortium includes KLM, North Sea Petroleum and Spring Associates. In addition, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) will advise the consortium about the ecological aspects of the venture.

Peter Hartman, KLM’s president and CEO, says the airline wants to ensure “clean, silent and sustainable air transport worldwide. We have demonstrated that it is possible. Government, industry and society at large must now join forces to ensure that we quickly gain access to continuous supply of biofuel.”

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Why Traditional MBA Programs Still Don’t Get It

3p Contributor | Wednesday November 25th, 2009 | 6 Comments

see-no-evilBy Martin Melaver

Recently, I was invited to meet with the Dean of a prestigious MBA program. I didn’t haven’t the foggiest notion what he wanted from me. Still don’t for that matter. As I waited outside his office, I felt all of ten years old being called in to see the principal. His office reminded me of that line from The Great Gatsby: It smelled like money. As the Dean prattled with me over the ensuing hour in that sort of casual type of peripatetic chit-chat that told me I was being interviewed and somehow failing the test, I never did relax completely. He wanted to know things like my big-business experience (none) and the global scale of my company’s sustainable projects (not).

I knew, though, what I wanted: to convince the Dean that his school should grab first-mover advantage and become the first of the top ten MBA programs in the country to overhaul its curriculum so that sustainable principles suffused everything being taught. I was playing to a deaf audience.

The case seemed simple and obvious. For one thing, I had been a visiting lecturer at this school for the past three years (a business case study had been written about my company and one of our projects) and, in those three short years, you could see a sea-change in the students’ thoughts about sustainable business practices. Initially, sustainability was seen as a cross between something trendy and oddly curious. Now, the vast majority of students I spoke with and taught viewed sustainable principles as fundamental to running a business. In MBA jargon, the school’s customers were starting to demand a new product.

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How to Change Careers: “Job’s Aren’t Hot, People Are.”

Frank Marquardt | Wednesday November 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments

hcicc1An increasing number of job seekers have been attending green jobs conferences and networking events and reading a burgeoning list of green career guides as part of an effort to transition into a job where they feel good about their work.

Too often they run into one of several common challenges that end up derailing their search and undermining their confidence: They’re rejected, find employers indifferent to their resume, or are totally ignored by headhunters or the companies to which they apply.

If this sounds familiar, Nick Corcodilos’s 36-page e-book, How Can I Change Careers? might help. Organized as a series of topical essays with a crib sheet at the end, it offers easy to read, harder-to-apply advice that goes beyond the simplified and watered-down ideas in many career guides to get to the truth of what makes a career switcher a good hire. Corcodilos, author of the excellent Ask the Headhunter career guide and curator of a rather busy website, also shows you how to get there.

While short, this “answer kit” is to the point and offers a smart strategy for career change—and should be very useful for those already passionate about working in some sector of the green economy. And while $12.95 may sound like a lot for such a short book, it offers narrowly focused, actionable advice from an expert in the process of career change that make it a worthwhile investment for the right buyer.

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Global Carbon Emissions Increased Despite Recession

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday November 25th, 2009 | 2 Comments


Despite an economic crisis dubbed the “great recession,” carbon emissions grew last year by two percent, to a total of 8.7 billions of carbon. Last year, every person in the world produced an average of 1.3 tons of carbon, according to a report by the Global Carbon Project. During 2000 to 2008, the growth rate of atmospheric carbon increased 1.9 parts per million (ppm) a year, up from 1.3 ppm during 1970 to 1979.

This decade, emissions grew at an average rate of 3.6 percent a year, up from one percent a year in the 1990s. Carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production in 2008 were 41 percent higher than 1990. Since 2000, the combined emissions from fossil fuels and land use increased by over three percent a year, up from 1.9 percent from 1959 to 1999. The growth of carbon emissions, according to the report, is driven by population, per capita GDP, and the carbon intensity of GDP.

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How a Subaru Plant Achieved a Zero Landfill Status

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday November 25th, 2009 | 1 Comment


The Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA) manufacturing plant in Lafayette, Indiana, became the first auto manufacturing plant to achieve a zero landfill status. None of the plant’s manufacturing waste goes into a landfill, because all of it is recycled and reused.

SIA recycles 99.3 percent of its of excess steel, plastic, wood, paper, glass and other materials. The remaining 0.7 percent is shipped to Indianapolis and burned to help generate steam. In 2006, SIA recycled 11,411 tons of scrap steel, 1,537 tons of cardboard and paper, and 963 tons of wood—equivalent to conserving 31,040 mature trees, 31,572 cubic yards of landfill space, 711,631 gallons of oil, and 10,759,000 gallons of water.

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Rethinking Landfills as Wildlife Refuges

Wes Muir | Wednesday November 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments

landfill-wildlifeBy Wes Muir, Director of Communications, Waste Management

Increasing urbanization has led to an increased desire for environmental conservation. Across the country, areas of land are being cleared and filled with blooming landscapes to attract various birds and wildlife. Some house butterfly gardens and walking trails, while others host bird and bat houses, comparable to that of the local zoo.

While these parks, gardens and other habitat areas may seem commonplace, you may be surprised to learn what lies beneath some of these wildlife habitats. Some of these areas are built upon landfills, and organizations like the Wildlife Habitat Council and Waste Management are helping to create these new habitats.

Landfills already manage the waste that cannot be reused or recycled. But in addition to those uses, landfills can also serve to beautify and unite the local community, as well as to offer refuge for a variety of plant and animal life.

For example, at the Alliance Landfill in Taylor, PA, the engineered appearance of the landfill’s slopes concerned residents, leading to the creation of Alliance Landfill’s Community Landscape Project. Several plots of land capping the landfill site were tested to see which types of vegetation could be viably grown. Once the appropriate species of plant life were determined, community members set to work planting native trees, plants, shrubs and grasses. One man, George Dunbar, has even planted more than 1,500 deciduous and evergreen trees at the site.

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Careers in Wind Farm Development: Meteorological Tower Services

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday November 24th, 2009 | 1 Comment

met towerThis is the third article in a seven part series on careers in wind farm development. The first and second parts can be viewed here.

Wind energy data is collected and analyzed to determine the wind resources of a given site. This involves erecting a meteorological tower with anemometers, wind vanes, a data logger, and a device to transmit the collected information, such as a cellular modem. A standard tower is 198 feet, and instruments are typically placed at various heights at a designated orientation.

wind farm developmentMeteorological tower installation and maintenance is not an easy task- technicians must work under extreme conditions and stay mentally sharp. Jason Vidas, owner of Pioneer WindWorks seeks employees who are physically fit, able to work in all weather conditions, and stay mentally strong during long, physical days. Attention to detail is essential, as instruments need to be placed and documented with high accuracy to ensure quality data. A background in engineering, computer and math skills, and technical abilities are desirable.

The data collected from meteorological towers is the foundation for the energy and financial analysis of the potential wind farm. As the industry advances, so does the necessity to gather accurate information.

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Green Car Rally: The Rookie Chevy Volt Versus the Veteran Toyota Prius

| Tuesday November 24th, 2009 | 15 Comments

volt_priusGeneral Motors has been inundated in recent years with nothing but bad news. After filing for bankruptcy and receiving a controversial government bailout, the ailing car maker is trying to revolutionize the auto industry and breathe life back into its deflated sails with the introduction of the Chevy Volt. Considered to be an “extended-range electric vehicle” or E-REV, the Volt is set to go on sale late next year and is unlike today’s hybrids. A lithium-ion battery powers the Volt for the first 40 miles of a trip and then the gas engine kicks in to create more electricity to keep the car rolling. If recharged every 40 miles, the Volt’s owner may never need to go to the pump again. The Volt is slated to receive a 230 mpg rating (through a bit of creative math), which is impressive, but we wanted to know how it stacks up against the current hybrid front runner, the Toyota Prius.

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The Eight Biggest Myths About Sustainability in Business

| Tuesday November 24th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Vijay Kanal of
Kanal Consulting just posted a piece on GreenBiz.com titled The Eight Biggest Myths about Sustainability in Business.

He kicks the piece off by saying, “Sustainability should be considered not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because it makes business sense. If an initiative cannot be justified from a strategic, financial, operational, marketing, or employee recruitment/retention perspective, don’t do it. But we have found that in almost every corner of an organization there is a fundamental business reason for being more sustainable.”

For each of the eight myths identified he presents details from companies in the green trenches, such as HP, P&G and Numi Tea, to counter the misrepresentations.

The short piece is a great overview of the business case for going green.

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Postal Service Releases First Sustainability Report

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday November 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

chrysler-uspsThe US Postal Service is in financial dire straits. It lost $3.8 billion in its most recent fiscal year, ending September 30th, and its available coffers are dangerously low. And then there’s the agency’s business model, which many argue is antiquated and unsustainable. But, according to its recently-released (and debut) sustainability report, the post office is making some strides in terms of its environmental sustainability—strides that may take the edge off some its financial woes.

The USPS set the stage for its sustainability work through an audit  of the greenhouse gas emissions that it and its contractors release.

The sustainability report focuses on two main areas: energy reduction and recycling. In terms of energy reduction, overall energy consumption was down in 2008 due both to policy changes inside the agency—such as refiguring truck routes to save on fuel—and reduction in the number of mail it delivered. (In 2007, it delivered 212 billion pieces of mail. That dropped in 203 billion in 2008.)

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