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“Billions of dollars in stimulus, there must be tons of jobs in DC. How do I get a job with the Obama Administration?”
As K Street becomes the new Wall Street, socially conscious business folks are flocking to DC to find jobs with the new administration. There are a lot of green jobs supporting the federal government’s green goals, you just need to know where to look. Here are some tips from inside Washington for those who would like to get in on the ground floor in President Obama’s administration.
1) There are actually three types of workers at a place like the Department of Energy. At the top are Political Appointees, most of which still have not been appointed and confirmed by the Obama administration. They set the agenda and the direction of the department based on the current administration’s goals and objectives. In the middle are career Federal Employees, or “Feds”, who stay from administration to administration. Many are career bureaucrats, with varying degrees of expertise and passion for the mission of the department. At the bottom are contractors, who actually do much of the day to day work. In fact, many contractors sit in the DOE, have DOE e-mail accounts, computers, and even blackberries.
2) Contractors are the fastest way to get involved. I heard that as much as 90% of the DOE workforce are contractors, though I do not know the actual number. Current Secretary Steven Chu was actually a contractor when running Lawrence Berkley National Labs. Contracting firms can hire you quickly and pay you a competitive salary. They are given tasks by the Feds to fulfill, for example helping to run a rebate program or analyze aspects of the stimulus package. If the task is complete, the contracting company can assign you to something else in the department. There are down sides to being a contractor, but if your goal is to get involved quickly this seems to be the best approach.
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One of the primary benefits of a philanthropic business model is the ability to provide ongoing funds for nonprofit organizations. Fundraising is one of the most critical areas for nonprofits to be able to fuel their efforts in generating awareness of their cause, and affecting real change. Removing the need to fundraise so heavily allows organizations to re-allocate resources toward program implementation and volunteering with a steady steam of funds on which they can rely. But like any corporate giving or cause-related marketing campaign, there is no guarantee of ongoing support, and often, initiatives are geared toward several different organizations or causes over time, diluting the overall amount of funds any one nonprofit would receive.
In a unique twist on the concept of for-profit philanthropy, Cr8ing Digital Art, a web design firm in Pennsylvania, is launching an ecommerce site focused exclusively on building a brand new foundation called Be A Good Human that will focus on igniting good will through individuals, communities, and schools globally. The ecommerce end will be 100% focused on funding the Be A Good Human project, facilitating a turnkey — and permanent — flow of dollars to keep their efforts thriving through a percentage of all sales. Each retail division (apparel, books, etc.) will also then contribute a portion of the proceeds from their respective cost centers to established foundations with synergistic ties to the Be A Good Human iniatitives. This helps create partnerships, united around a specific cause, and will broaden reach and maximize the work that can be done in making a tangible difference through multiple, dedicated sources.
Unlike some cause marketing or ad hoc giving programs, their business is solely focused on building a vehicle for sustainable change that, through one singular foundation, can benefit many. You can’t put a price tag on consciousness, but you can on the purchases that trigger it. And the Be A Good Human project proves that you can spend wisely — and responsibly. Click to continue reading »
“Let it fly in the breeze and get caught in the trees / Give a home to the fleas in my hair…” So go the lyrics for the title track of the 1967 musical Hair. But a Florida company called Smart Grow has slightly different plans for human hair: rather than letting it fly in the breeze and catch in trees, the company sells a product that puts hair into the ground, where it acts as a fertilizer and weed deterrent.
Smart Grow is the brainchild of Phil McCrory, a former hair stylist who wanted to find a way to use all the locks that he’d been sweeping up and throwing out at his shop for more than a decade. Watching coverage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill had given him the kernel from which he grew his invention: he noticed that the wildlife such as otters coming out of the oil-slicks were covered in oil. Why not use human hair to soak up oil in the next big spill? He took some hair home, bound it up in a nylon stocking and experimented with the prototype. It worked quite well and a number of years later he earned a patent for his “hair mat.”Click to continue reading »
California Businesses Seek to Form Renewable Energy Partnerships in Emerging Markets
Emerging market countries offer fertile ground for the growth of renewable energy projects. They have ample supplies of renewable energy resources (solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, etc) matched by a rapidly growing demand for energy. But what they often lack are the government policies, technology and capital resources to make these projects a reality.
By contrast, many areas in developed countries, and especially California, offer an abundance of these resources, and are often best positioned to lend a hand. To bring together these California resources with emerging market demand, the California-based Center for International Trade Development (CITD) played matchmaker this week, hosting the inaugural Renewable Energy in Emerging Markets conference (REEM09) in San Francisco. The CITD is a non-profit association that serves as a bridge connecting California businesses with the global marketplace. Click to continue reading »
Any restaurant, caterer, CSA, farm, wholesaler, manufacturer or distributor of food that works in the sustainability arena can benefit from the use of simple statistics that their customers and the public can easily wrap their brains around. It’s a simple fact–people are busy, and we live in a sound bite culture. So if you can break down your eco-credentials in bite-sized chunks, customers are more likely to remember you.
The following statistics will particularly benefit organic and vegetarian-based businesses, but also small family farms, CSA, and farmer’s markets over factory farms.
I offer you, from David Suzuki’s Green Guide, part 2 of my series of eco-stats from the book review of this comprehensive book.
Eco-stats on food, in no particular order:
- Eating local, vegetarian, and organic can reduce the ecological footprint of our diet by 90%.
- A 2006 study found that children who switched to organics quickly stopped having detectable levels of pesticides in their urine.
- The first CSA (community supported agriculture) appeared in North America in 1985. There are now more than 1,000.
- Similarly, the number of farmer’s markets in the US doubled between 1994 and 2004.
- A Chicago study found that food in a supermarket traveled an average 1,500 miles to get to the store. By contrast, food at a local farmer’s market travels an average of 73 miles.
- Cows, pigs, and chickens produce 5 tons of manure per person in North America per year.
- As a consequence of the above, the EPA estimates agriculture is responsible for 70% of the water pollution in the U.S., much of it from concentrated animal feedlots (CAFO’s).
So far, we’ve learned how to create a sustainability vision for your organization using facilitated discussions and stakeholder engagement, and the importance of benchmarking your organization’s current sustainability standing. Now, it is time to use this information to create your organization’s sustainability goals.
Creating Your Green Goals
Use both your vision and assessment to help you determine your targets and what will be important to evaluate and change in your organization. Before writing down any goals, reread your vision and analyze this result of your assessment. Referring back to your vision – your organization’s sustainability compass – will ensure you are aligning your goals with your original intentions. Use the data gathered from your sustainability assessment to determine the most cost effective and influential areas for improvement.
When determining your goals, be realistic. There’s no point in making goals that are unattainable; this only leads to frustration and less support for your sustainability initiatives as you begin to implement them.
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In the media, from the geekiest of geeks to the most mainstream, cleantech is in the news. And in the minds of VC companies as well, even in the midst of the chaotic economy we’re experiencing. All well and good, but where’s the support for innovative green businesses that do more then create the latest vaporware wind turbine or wave powered biofuel factory? Not so much.
The New Venture Exchange, premiering at the upcoming Sustainable Brands conference, aims to remedy that, in a number of ways: It starts with who’s judging the initial crop of submitted entrants. Your submission will be seen by some of the best eyes to be seeing it, as they’re connected to so many others, including Boyd Cohn of 3rdWhale Media, Andrew Winston, co-author of Green to Gold, and Jonathan Greenblatt, co-founder of Ethos Water, among others.
Who can enter?
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced today their comprehensive Greenworks Philadelphia plan – which highlights their environmental efforts and strategy towards sustainability – with the goal to make Philadelphia “The Greenest City in America” by 2015.
Greenworks Philadelphia is the culmination of 10 months of work with contributions from city employees, nonprofit organizations, civic and business leaders. The plan is broken down into 15 key targets in five focus areas – energy, environment, equity, economy and engagement.Click to continue reading »
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By Sirid Kellermann, Ph.D.
I attended the Global Social Venture Competition’s symposium on social entrepreneurship this past Saturday at UC-San Francisco. The day was inspirational on so many levels. There was a big crowd of over 250 MBA students, social venture entrepreneurs, funders, and others who exuded energy and excitement. Finalists from the previous day’s competition were in attendance, including the winners, the EcoFaeBrik team from Indonesia.
The day’s discussion panelists included many successful and engaging individuals, such as Dan Crisafulli (Director, Ecosystem Investments and Partnerships, Skoll Foundation), Sara Olsen (founder, SVT Group), and Priya Haji (co-founder, World of Good). The symposium’s organizers selected an exceptionally charismatic keynote speaker, Jonathan Greenblatt, a social entrepreneur and “an acknowledged thought leader on corporate social responsibility, ethical branding and social entrepreneurship” (according to his bio on the Symposium’s Web site).
Mr. Greenblatt whipped up the audience with a motivational talk that posited that the question of our time is “Now what?” (as in Mr. or Mrs. Consumer saying, “I recycle my plastics, I drive a hybrid car, and I take shorter showers. Now what?”). You could look around the room and see people nodding their heads, eyes shining, riveted. Mr Greenblatt then went on to describe his own experience as the co-founder of Ethos Water, and here’s where things went downhill for me.
By Scott Cooney, M.S., M.B.A.
The Health Department is taking all the necessary steps in case the swine flu virus develops into a full-blown pandemic. Will American agribusinesses, who moved their swine operations to Mexico to avoid higher labor costs and environmental standards here in the U.S., have to pay the bill? My guess would be no. My guess is that they’ll use the economic convenience of externalities to dismiss their responsibility.
Here, I argue that as long as we continue to subsidize concentrated animal feedlot operations (CAFO’s) not just directly (which we do in a very real and substantial sense), but indirectly, as in this case, we cannot hope for a sustainable agriculture system.
Externalities are the economic costs of an operation that do not show up on the bottom line of the company or country that produces them. In other words, a company that produces widgets has costs like the material required to produce a widget, the labor, and the electricity needed. But the widget itself also produces waste at the end of its life because it needs to be disposed of. This is a classic externality: a cost of doing business that is not borne by the business itself, but rather externalized and borne by others. Pollution is a classic example of an externality. Companies are allowed to pollute the air and the water at a cost much higher than they directly pay.
The externalities of a business like a CAFO include the air and water pollution, public health problems associated not just with their industrial waste but also in antibiotic resistance, obesity caused by meats laden with chemicals and grown in conditions that produce weight in the fastest manner possible, and other health problems arising from their unhealthy products. And, of course, creating an environment in which disease like the swine flu can flourish, mutate, and multiply.
There’s algae and switchgrass – now add camelina to the roster of second generation biofuel crops. Camelina is an herb originally from the Mediterranean that has recently been used for its oil, similar to flax.
Camelina seed could become a major player in the realm of aviation of fuels if Sustainable Oils has anything to say about it. And the Bozeman, MT renewable fuel company most certainly does. It says the results of a life cycle analysis of jet fuel derived from camelina seeds show that the fuel reduces carbon emissions by 84 percent compared to petroleum jet fuel.
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Nestle considers itself to be a health and wellness company. Nestle Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe explained that the company changed from a “strictly food and beverage company” to a health and wellness company because the “quality of calories matters.”
Letmathe pointed out that life expectancy and calorie intake go together. Looking at history, the more calories people receive the longer they live. However, around the year 2000 a “splitting point” occurred where people began to take in more calories than ever before. He said that if “caloric intake continues to increase, life expectancy will decrease.”
Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of hybrid vehicles I see driving the streets here in Boulder, Colorado. Maybe it’s just a heightened awareness due to those special “alternative fuel vehicle” parking spaces now in place at the new 29th Street Mall shopping area; but at times, it seems to me that I encounter at least one Toyota Prius at every stoplight.
This observation got me thinking: how environmentally-friendly is it to replace a perfectly functional vehicle with a brand-new car (albeit a hybrid?)
This issue was previously discussed on this site via a July 2007 post, which looked at the Hummer H2, the Toyota Highlander (both regular and hybrid), and the Toyota Prius, comparing the energy consumed by each vehicle during the manufacturing process as well as throughout the estimated life of each. The conclusion? “Continuing to drive an older car with poor fuel economy is less environmentally friendly than getting a new car that gets drastically better fuel economy.”
Based on the vehicles used for these particular calculations, I absolutely agree with this conclusion. However, what about a comparison between a new Toyota Prius and a smaller, older vehicle, say, a 1992 Honda Accord (my ride for the past 15 years.) Would we still reach the same verdict? According to many of the follow-up calculations and evidence provided in response to the original post, it seems that the answer may be “no.”
Sustainability and efficiency are getting a lot of buzz of late, but for international architectural and design firm HOK, the only thing new is the buzz, not the concepts driving it.
“We’re early adopters,” says HOK’s director of sustainability, Mary Ann Lazarus, referring to the company’s adoption back in 1993 of sustainability and efficiency as core components of HOK’s mission. Back then, the idea of less is more may not have carried quite the same cachet it does today (the long journey ahead notwithstanding), but HOK has been content to pursue their commitment to efficient and sustainable design for the past 15+ years, understanding that, sooner or later, the rest of the world would catch up.
They are in the company of many others who have understood all along that the key to getting more is by using less. Organizations like the Rocky Mountain Institute, who we’ll look at shortly, or AgileWaves, a lean-and-green startup who we’ve written about here and here.
To say that a recessionary economy can be challenging for all players in society is to risk the sin of understatement; to say that with challenges come opportunities is to risk the offense of clich√©. Despite that risk, and as readers of TriplePundit are well aware, the point remains that the recent economic upheaval brings with it opportunities commensurate with the trial – opportunities to build a better world on the rubble of a broken and dysfunctional economy, one more in tune with the natural resources and systems about which all human endeavor is ultimately based.
And so it is that Lazarus sees before us a “perfect storm” for sustainability fueling her cautiously confident optimism she defines simply as a “glass half full” approach to dealing with hard economic times.Click to continue reading »
Last week I read a post on Environmental Leader about Microsoft slashing their CSR PR budget in favor of product promotion for Windows 7, Office and Xbox. While the cuts are currently in Europe, the post went on to say that Asia was next and that the U.S. would be “imminent.”
A budget cut in and of itself isn’t all that interesting — or newsworthy. Corporate budgets get cut all the time, and marketing and PR are typically the first to go, often regarded as extraneous spending by shareholders in mahogany boardrooms atop lofty ivory towers. But what’s interesting about this re-allocation of dollars is that they’re essentially shifting PR to… PR. Take a moment to let that sink in.
They’re taking money from PR efforts that help advance environmental awareness and social responsibility in a market in which they have mass reach to more heavily promote themselves and their own products. So, it begs the question if Microsoft is truly committed to sustainable business practices and furthering programs that serve the greater good, or if it is merely a PR tactic designed create the perception of social responsibility while their consumer capitalist agenda reigns supreme. Click to continue reading »