Reflecting on No Impact Week: Economic Growth and Sustainability

| Wednesday October 21st, 2009 | 3 Comments

LM flotsamEver considered going on a weeklong carbon cleanse?  On October 18th, in partnership with the Huffington Post, the No Impact Project launched No Impact Week, a seven-day guided experiment in sustainable living.  Each day focuses on a different topic:  Consumption, Trash, Transportation, Food, Energy, Water, and Giving Back.  The goal is to help the average consumer, not just “tree-hugging, bicycle-riding, canvas-bag-toting, eco-warriors,” explore the benefits and reflect on the challenges of reducing his or her environmental impact.

Biking from my house to downtown Oakland, I bore witness to the purged flotsam of the recent downpour.  Floating in gyres at the perimeter of Lake Merritt was a stinking, oily, sludge soup of polystyrene instant noodle cups, to-go boxes, and countless coffee cups.  As I reflected on the first four themes of No Impact Week–consumption, trash, transportation, and food–I realized that they were all swirling together in that rotating constellation of trash, inseparable from one another and indistinguishable from the mess.

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eBay, Others, Offer Strategies for Turning Customers into Allies

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday October 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

Triple-bottom-line businesspeople aren’t just in it for the money; they seek to satisfy social and environmental bottom lines, as well. And generally, the same can be said of their patrons. That shows up in consumers’ willingness to pay premiums for fair trade, responsibly-sourced products. But the relationship between company and customer does not—and, many would argue, should not—end in a financial transaction. So how can socially- and environmentally-responsible firms go about turning their customers into advocates?

That question was posed to three panelists—Danny Kennedy, founder and CEO of Sungevity; Ron Gonen, cofounder and CEO of Recyclebank; and Amy Skoczlas Cole, director of citizenship outreach at eBay—during the JustMeans Social Media for Sustainability conference on Monday, in San Francisco.

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Sigh of the Times: German Bordello Uses Green Incentives

Bill DiBenedetto | Wednesday October 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment

berlin22-405x303-customBike to work, bike to the workout, and now bike to work it. The world’s oldest profession, once considered recession-resistant, is going green–in Germany at least, and largely out of economic necessity.

The country’s flaccid sex-for-hire industry could follow the example of one flagging bordello in Berlin, the Maison d’Envie (House of Desire) which is offering discounts to customers who pedal their bicycles to the door.

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BizTechDay: Helping Start-ups Succeed

| Tuesday October 20th, 2009 | 2 Comments

BizTechDay_newLater this week I’ll be writing from BizTechDay, which is billed as the most powerful entrepreneur and small business conference.  Two days long, the schedule is jam-packed with successful entrepreneurial speakers.  I’ve recently joined a start-up, Viv, and naturally have loads of questions about launching and building a business that I hope will be answered.

With so many start-ups failing, I’m excited to learn from leaders of some who’ve succeeded.  The conference is broken into 3 tracks: fundraising, social media, and marketing/selling, all of which pertain to your start-up or small business.

While this conference doesn’t bear an explicit sustainability focus, I would argue that entrepreneurs with a leaning towards doing good need to learn these lessons more than the rest, to enable maximum uptake and maximum impact.  There are very few businesses with killer value propositions that also solve environmental and/or social problems.  Those that do are among my favorite businesses of all time (e.g. RecycleBank, TerraCycle, Shorebank etc).

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Would the Real Chamber of Commerce Please Stand Up?

| Tuesday October 20th, 2009 | 1 Comment

eminemSince it was founded in 1912, the US Chamber of Commerce has stood for a bunch of white-haired men in seersucker suits smiling benignly as they lead American commerce into the future. But in the last month, this patriotic institution — as American as Mom, apple pie, and campaign contributions — has found itself increasingly under attack.

The latest salvos have sought to knock the pillars out of this pillar of civil society, and while it is too late to know what lasting effect they will have, it seems likely that many people’s view of the Chamber of Commerce will never be quite the same.

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Postal Service Reveals Results of Carbon Emissions Audit

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday October 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

usps_ffv_rocklin2The US Postal Service has been called a laggard for failing to capitalize on the changing ways in which we communicate—it failed to jump on electronic mail when it became obvious it would forever change mail service, for example. But when it comes to reducing its carbon footprint, the agency is rather proactive, at least among federal agencies.

Since last year, the USPS has launched a number of initiatives aimed at auditing and lowering its energy consumption, ranging from a pilot program to track energy use at its facilities, to incentive programs designed to encourage employees to conserve energy and planting a green roof at a mail processing facility.

And last week, the USPS released findings from its energy audit, disclosing an inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions.

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Shock and Awe: EPA Halts Largest Mountaintop Coal Mine

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday October 20th, 2009 | 1 Comment

MTNblast_osmThe Environmental Protection Agency is serious: It really is taking on Big Coal in a big way.

Following up on word last month that it would delay action on 79 mountaintop coal mining projects (EPA Takes on the Coal Industry), the agency on Friday moved to halt the Clean Water Act permit for the nation’s largest proposed mountaintop removal coal mining site, the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia.

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Why A Movement Is Needed To Mitigate Climate Change

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday October 20th, 2009 | 3 Comments

3347453775_d45f9301a8_o“This is the fall when humanity will make some very critical decisions; both in Copenhagen and in the House and Senate,” said Dr. Eban Goodstein, the moderator of the Bard Center for Environmental Policy’s bi-weekly National Climate Seminar.

Two weeks ago, Bill McKibben was the featured speaker. The environmentalist, journalist and author began his talk by discussing the organization he founded,, to mobilize a climate change movement.

The name of the organization comes from the target set by NASA scientist, James Hansen for the level of atmospheric carbon, 350 parts per million (PPM) needed to sustain life as we know it. Currently, carbon is at 387 ppm.

“One part of any political strategy has to be building enough of a movement to give us enough of a political counter pressure to counter the vested interests,” McKibben said. The movement he helped create is now global. He issued a call for help to listeners of the seminar, proclaiming that “We will only get started [reducing carbon] if we make enough noise”

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Microlending: Panacea or Patchwork?

Chris Kaiser | Monday October 19th, 2009 | 5 Comments


Microlending has been hailed as the panacea of poverty.  They theory is simple:  lend the poor a small amount of money so they can start/grow their business, charge tiny interest rates (microcredit), then once business starts booming, the borrowers can easily pay the loan.  Woosh! Just like that, poverty disappears.  Or does it?

The Boston Globe recently had a story on microlending and two new research papers soon-to-be published by economists affiliated with MIT’s Jameel Poverty Action lab reveal that microcredit really doesn’t do all that much to provide a path out of poverty.  Is microlending a patchwork solution that just temporarily solves the ills of the poor?  Could it be that while microcredit can be an effective medicine against poverty, that it may just be treating the symptoms and not the disease?


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DHL GoGreen Debuts in North America

Bill DiBenedetto | Monday October 19th, 2009 | 1 Comment

DHL-Go-Green-LDHL’s much-ballyhooed GoGreen climate change program has finally reached North America. A year after the launch of the huge German package express delivery and logistics company’s initiative, it’s now available in Canada.

DHL Express Canada launched the GoGreen service this week. It’s described by the company as a “carbon-neutral” shipping option that “enables Canadian businesses of all sizes to ship their goods internationally without leaving an environmental footprint.”

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Bioneers: Morph or Die–The Transformation of Journalism and Media

| Monday October 19th, 2009 | 0 Comments

morphBy Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

I have to say I’m chuckling at myself this morning. I was a bit of a Bioneers consumer yesterday. As I ponder what highlights from Bioneers would be of most interest to Triple Pundit readers, I am listening to the new world beat CD I purchased from Sound Spaces, after trying a few drop of  a healing plant-based tonic made by Al-kemi.

Morph or Die–The Transformation of Journalism and Media

One of my favorite sessions, called “Morph or Die–The Transformation of Journalism and Media,” was hosted by Mother Jones and its publisher Jay Harris. The panel included Annie Leonard, the creator of Story of Stuff, Ken Rother from TreeHugger and Josh Silver of Free Press, a media reform organization.

The gist of the session wasn’t new news–we are living through a fast moving transformation of  how we receive our news. But the session was lively and had a few interesting takeaways:

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Turning Waste into Renewable Energy Treasure

Wes Muir | Monday October 19th, 2009 | 2 Comments

By Wes Muir, director of communications, Waste Management

With Energy Awareness Month in full swing, it’s important to recognize all the ingredients of America’s renewable energy recipe. The potential for securing a more sustainable energy future in this country is boundless, and includes many moving pieces. This puzzle is heavily dependent on the available and developing energy technologies, such as wind and solar power that have dominated recent discussions about renewables. But one resource that is markedly missing from these conversations can be found right in your home – your trash.

Trash is an ever-present source, especially in the U.S. On average, Americans throw away 4.7 pounds of garbage each day – which equates to about 254 million tons of waste each year. While recycling and composting have proven to divert some of this waste, landfills and waste to energy remain necessary for housing the remaining waste that can’t be recycled – and using it to produce energy.

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Clean Careers: Clean Tech Job Trends 2009

Frank Marquardt | Monday October 19th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Finding a clean tech job just got a little easier.

CleanEdge’s excellent new report, Clean Tech Job Trends 2009, which is a sort of companion to its annual Clean Energy Trends report, offers those looking for a clean tech job—as well as those curious about the sector—an excellent introduction to the trends and opportunities ahead, as well as key resources for getting one’s search in motion.

Written by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder, authors of The Clean Tech Revolution, the report details an increasingly well-funded area of industrial activity that’s growing at above average rates. And with clean-tech job growth a focus of the Obama Administration as well as that of Chinese President Hu Jintao—and aggressive clean-tech job creation going on in the Brazil, the European Union, India, and Japan—this growth is certain to continue.

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Conscientious Capitalism: The B Corp Annual Report

Frank Marquardt | Monday October 19th, 2009 | 3 Comments

adimage-bcorp2Corporations solve problems. Their solutions address human needs: A better running shoe, a faster search engine, a renewable way to produce energy. Sales—ultimately, profits—provide the primary measure for determining the success of these solutions.

But a corporation’s solutions (whether a product or service) do much more than simply produce profits. Sometimes for better and sometimes for worse, the activities of a corporation also significantly affect the environment and the lives of the people in the communities where the corporation operates.

Still, the metrics for corporate success remain financial. Companies that make money: Good. Companies that lose money: Bad.

Laws back up the financial metric. In states that include California and Delaware, when companies go up for sale, board members are required by law to consider what will bring the highest financial return. Issues like social good or environmental stewardship are simply not part of the equation.

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Michael Pollan at Bioneers: How Much Oil Are We Eating?

| Saturday October 17th, 2009 | 3 Comments

burgeroilBy Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

The 20th Bioneers, a three day conference celebrating breakthrough sustainability solutions, kicked off on Friday in Marin. The agenda is chock full of speakers on a wide range of topics, from the arts, indigenous knowledge and restoring our ecosystems to youth and women’s leadership.

I was excited to hear Michael Pollan speak, a leading critic of our industrial food system and author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire (you can listen to his talk here). For those of you who aren’t attending, you can catch some of the keynotes via live webcast.

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