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”?Click to continue reading »
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Ed 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
California lawmakers passed legislation Friday that would bolster the state’s already-ambitious renewable energy goals – a potential victory for clean energy proponents in California and nationwide. However, the bill hangs in the balance, awaiting Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision about whether or not to veto it.Click to continue reading »
Over the last few years, bisphenol A (BPA) has become a green-household word, thanks to government and academic studies that link the monomer—a building block in many plastics we use every day—with developmental and other human health problems. Concerns over the chemical’s safety led to regulators in many states proposing bans on BPA in food and beverage containers, and many packaging manufactures started removing BPA from their products voluntarily—or at least it led them to profess the safety of their products.
One such company, Sigg, suffered a backlash earlier this month after its CEO admitted that the company hadn’t really been above board on the whole BPA thing… You can read more about that dust-up here. But consumers aren’t the only ones who feel shafted by Sigg’s reversal. Outdoor clothing and gear company Patagonia announced last week that it had terminated its partnership with Sigg, through which it had developed a co-branded water bottle. (It is also offering consumers full refunds for their Patagonia-branded Sigg bottles.)
In a statement, Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s VP of environmental initiatives, said the retailer asked Sigg on a number of occasions whether its water bottles contain BPA (in the bottle liner) and that Sigg “clearly said there was not.” Later in the statement he refers to this as “thorough due diligence.”
I called Jen Rapp, Patagonia’s director of communication, to ask whether there was more to this due diligence process, outside of making these queries of Sigg. There was not, she told me.Click to continue reading »
If you’re reading this, it’s pretty likely you recycle. You sort. You do your best (most of the time) But what about those plastic Scotch Tape dispensers you use? Most recyclers don’t take them. You don’t have much use for them, being empty. What do you do? Toss them in the recycle bin and hope for the best, or just toss them out in the trash?
We’d like to propose a different option, one we hope encourages other companies to do the same. Starting in September we will be collecting Scotch Tape dispensers from the public, giving them the choice of which charity 2 cents for each goes.
But instead of doing what we’re known for, taking packaging and finding a different use for it as is or sewing it like fabric into bags, umbrellas etc—we will be giving them back to 3M to use for the exact same use they were before—tape dispensers. This is as close to Cradle to Cradle design as we’ve seen, but without the need to radically redesign the product packaging. Or redesign at all, in this case.Click to continue reading »
Alcohol service may seem like the least likely industry to be taking up the challenge to go green, but increasingly, bars are seeing good return on investment for a variety of sustainability initiatives. Getting bars to understand the win-win involved in waterless urinals, energy efficient lighting and sound systems, organic beer and wine, and going zero waste have all been the goal of Green and Tonic, a San Francisco-based group founded by return Peace Corps Volunteers.
This coming Saturday September 19th, Green and Tonic is inviting green-minded socialites to join them for an event designed to raise awareness and provide market-based incentives for bars to join the cause and go green. The event, informally known as “Get (Zero) Wasted”, is a pub crawl of three of San Francisco’s greenest bars, and will raise funds through a live auction to help more bars go green. A previous fundraiser in April 2008 for one of the bars now participating in the pub crawl has allowed that bar to divert 10,000 gallons of compostable waste and 6,000 gallons of recyclables from the landfill and give those items another life.Click to continue reading »
The Guardian newspaper, in partnership with the Cleantech Group, have announced the Global Cleantech 100, which they are calling “the first global, peer-reviewed look at the industry.”
The list is the result of a survey of hundreds of cleantech experts, and thousands of companies, looking for those with the best commercial potential. A panel of 35 experts then narrowed the list down to the top 100, which included some surprises.Click to continue reading »
The Brits have been obsessed with overpopulation since at least Thomas Malthus. Now comes a new report (PDF) commissioned by the Optimum Population Trust and conducted by the London School of Economics, which says expanded access to family planning and contraceptives is five times cheaper than low-carbon technology in reducing greenhouse gases.
According to the study, $7 spent on family planning would reduce carbon emissions by one ton, by reducing the number of people emitting carbon. By contrast, low carbon technologies cost an estimated $32 per ton reduced. The authors are quick to note that the study considers only non-coercive forms of birth control. We’re not talking about mass sterilizations. Yet.Click to continue reading »
Airplanes are one of the leading contributors of green house gases, so it should come as no surprise that environmentalists are furious at Delta Airlines for flying empty jumbo jets across the Atlantic.
The airline has been sending the “ghost flights” from the US to Heathrow Airport in the UK to meet Australian disinfection regulations, according to a report this week in the Guardian. Australia’s Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) requires inbound planes to be sprayed with insecticide to ward off malaria and dengue fever. Such spraying is not allowed in the US, so the planes fly to the nearest authorized facility, across the pond.Click to continue reading »
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.Click to continue reading »
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.Click to continue reading »
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.Click to continue reading »
What 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.Click to continue reading »
Everyday, 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.Click to continue reading »
There 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.Click to continue reading »