Back to School Special: Sierra Club Names Top Ten Eco-Enlightened Schools

| Thursday August 20th, 2009 | 1 Comment

By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

Colleges are getting their green on.  From local, organic food to renewable energy to green building, for students who embody green values, the Sierra Club just announced the top ten eco-enlightened colleges, with the University of Colorado (CU) heading the pack. Go Ralphie (CU’s buffalo mascot)!

According to Sierra Club, “Back in the day, high schoolers looking at colleges were mainly concerned with three things: prestige, location, and whether the place had a rockin’ social life.

These days, however, applicants look for something more: a school with green credentials.”

For students who want to attend a school with a green track record, or for returning students interested in improving sustainability programs on their campus, the Sierra Club guide is a great resource. And hopefully by studying at a green campus all students will leave with a greener ethic to apply to their work and lives.

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Naturally Gorgeous? Sephora Has Their Own Definition

| Wednesday August 19th, 2009 | 8 Comments

sephora-natural A recent trip to Sephora to replace my favorite (and highly toxic) lip gloss sparked a question: What is “natural” beauty? I would define it as something unchanged by human hands, as in a sunset, a wild flower, or a good-looking person with no make up. Sephora defines it as make up containing “natural” ingredients.

But here’s where we start getting into trouble. There is no official definition of “natural” when it comes to beauty products. Unlike Certified Organic, there’s no USDA when it comes to cosmetics. The government regulates what passes through our lips, but not what we put on them. This leaves the door open to companies like Sephora to create their own definition of what  natural products are.

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American Petroleum Institute’s “Energy Citizens” Website Is Not a Pretty Picture

| Wednesday August 19th, 2009 | 10 Comments


When it comes to combating climate change legislation, the American Petroleum Institute (API) plays dirty (pun intended). In its efforts to prevent the climate bill from passing, the API recently launched a website – “Energy Citizens” – which allows site visitors to e-petition legislators and speak out against the bill. (API’s launching of the site is in line with recent goings-on at town hall meetings by (alleged) oil lobbyists and absurd “clean coal” advertising.) What kind of long-term social and economic effects will this “astroturfing” have?

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Dot Eco LLC Names Chief Environmental and Policy Officers

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday August 19th, 2009 | 2 Comments

We’ve been giving a fair amount of ink to the Dot Eco LLC plan to establish a green top-level web domain (TLD)–and to its battles against other groups attempting to do the same. Will this TLD unite or distract the environmental movement? Is Gore’s endorsement enough to save .eco from the dustbin of other TLDs, such as .mobi and .tv?

You’ll get different answers to those questions, but one thing is for sure: the PR machine at Dot Eco is bound to keep the news flowing. Dot Eco issued three press releases in the past week, the last two of which serve to introduce new appointees to the group’s management. (And it sounds like more appointments are coming soon.)

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UC Berkeley Prof Agrees: Green Manufacturing Is Essential to a Viable Business Strategy

| Wednesday August 19th, 2009 | 0 Comments


Environmental Leader recently posted an article with a theme near and dear to Triple Pundit’s heart: “‘Green’ Manufacturing Should be Part of Your Strategy” (the article’s title). Written by David Dornfeld, Department Head of UC Berkeley’s Laboratory for Manufacturing and Sustainability, the article emphasizes the importance of green manufacturing in business and commerce and of analyzing businesses holistically (i.e. in their entirety, not just their individual components). It also promises tools for those interested in taking the next step.

The article outlines a theoretical basis for the greening of manufacturing and provides concrete motivation for those in the industry to adopt a more holistic approach (Dornfeld’s definition of sustainability). Dornfeld concludes that, when it comes determining the most sustainable way to balance a system’s input, output, and profit, the best solutions involve examining all components of the process (versus simply trading off between the process’ economic, environmental, and social capital). Dornfeld maintains that manufacturing is a big part of that system.

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Do Offensive Advertisements Work?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday August 19th, 2009 | 24 Comments

peta-save-whales-billboard The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, commonly known by its acronym PETA, has stirred up a hornet’s nest of publicity with one of its billboards. The billboard is located in Jacksonville, Florida and features an overweight woman with the caption, “Save the whales. Lose the blubber: Go vegetarian.” Since the billboard debuted, there has been much criticism lobbied at PETA.

One blogger declares, “Well, you’ve got our attention, PETA.” She goes on to write, “And we are reminded why we don’t like you. It’s not funny to make fun of people’s weight problems, and to assert you know why they’re occurring is wrong-headed and judgmental and, well, just like you.”

Another blogger writes, “The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an animal rights organization, has really done it this time. It has obviously stepped out-of-line and doesn’t seem to know the difference between animals and women.” She adds, “PETA should stick to its Mission Statement regarding saving animals and leave exploiting women to Hugh Hefner.”

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Filling the Sustainability Information Gap: The CARES Project

3p Contributor | Wednesday August 19th, 2009 | 1 Comment

By Tobias Schultz

My uncle has nearly 100 acres of open land in the mountains east of San Diego, arguably some of the best territory in the country for both solar and wind energy generation; a rare combination. He’s a rabid do-it-yourselfer, and hoping to reduce his energy bills and mitigate the pesky blackouts he experiences in the summertime heat, he took out a bank loan to install solar panels.

But three years later, the bank loan still sits untapped. Why? “I don’t know which solar panels to buy, or what inverter to go along with them,” he told me. “It’s not like buying a car, where you can search online and find out all about a particular model before you buy it—there’s no information easily available.”

This is a perennial problem for the sustainability movement, not just limited to those looking to install solar panels. Which residential wind turbine is really the most durable and safe? Which solar hot water installer in your area is trustworthy, and which just looking to make a quick buck?

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Greenwashing: New Report Offers Tips for Staying Out of Trouble

| Wednesday August 19th, 2009 | 0 Comments

BSR greenwashBy Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

Greenwashing is telling “little green lies.” Or, according to the Seven Sins of Greenwashing, it is “the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.”

A new report Understanding and Preventing Greenwash: A Business Guide from Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and Futerra Sustainability Communications outlines key environmental marketing mistakes and strategies to avoid greenwashing. The report can be downloaded from the BSR or Futerra web sites.

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BP does a 180 on Green

| Tuesday August 18th, 2009 | 2 Comments

bpsignThere was a moment in time (last Spring, roughly) when you couldn’t turn on the tv, open a newspaper or stroll down the block without seeing a glossy, greenwashed ad for British Petroleum‘s “Beyond Petroleum” campaign – often with dancing children, blossoming logos and the promise of a bright, portfolio-diversified future for the oil giant who tried to be green.

It’s safe to say the actual technological and strategic innovations behind the campaign were always left up to question – but those of us who took the optimistic route hoped that, over time, more budget would be funneled into renewables, less into oil sands.

Alas.  A change of guard ushered in new CEO Tony Hayward who put the focus on “Safety” (read oil independence) and, as the BBC puts it, “brought the green era to a close” for its brand, its business and its reputation.  And although BP insists that their new direction only builds on the company’s preexisting “green values,” things like the shutting down of their renewable headquarters, firing their clean energy director, slashing alternative energy budgets in half (which were already small)  and shuttering their US and Spanish solar operations this year, it kinda makes you think twice.

What’s challenging here is much bigger than about-face on a greenwashing campaign.  Is this recession causing a certain myopia among oil giants (and others) that steers us away from the bigger picture?  Is the “safety” platform Hayward is touting in effect a relapse to mid-Bush-era oil policy – i.e. defining “safety” as “enough oil” as opposed to a clean and diverse portfolio?  Are more lapses in the progress we’ve been making on “green” imminent?  And if we say nothing, will regressions like this pass us by undetected and set us back?

How can a strong sustainability strategy that rides out the recession be the harbinger of heroism and success for those companies and brands who were courageous enough not to throw in the towel too soon?  This is perhaps the greatest challenge we will face in the latter half of this year.

- Kate Cook, Brand Strategist, Saatchi & Saatchi S

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Tappening: Bottled Water Made from Melted Ice Caps and Polar Bear Tears

| Tuesday August 18th, 2009 | 0 Comments

More articles on the controversy surrounding bottled water can be found here!

Tappening_small Founded in 2007, Tappening is an educational campaign designed to encourage the public to drink tap water whenever possible, and to send a message to the bottled water industry about its unnecessary and extreme waste of fossil fuels and resultant pollution of the Earth. Recently, they’ve taken aim at how bottled water is marketed.

Veterans of the advertising and branding industry, the folks behind Tappening launched an advertising campaign late last month to challenge what they call “the notion of Truth in Advertising while embracing an opposing concept. Lying.” Undoubtedly inspired by the Truth anti-smoking campaign, they are claiming that filtered tap water marketed with luxurious cascades flowing from snow-covered mountain-top springs is as much malarkey as the idea of smoking a Marlboro is a) cool and b) will equate you to a rugged, all-American cowboy impervious to all danger.

“Puffery is one thing, but some advertising is simply lies. I’ve observed that there are two types who perpetrate this: Those who admit it and those who don’t,” noted Tappening co-founder, Mark DiMassimo in a press release. DiMassimo’s partner added: “We’re not just admitting it up front, we’re bragging about it. We want people to know we’re blatantly lying in our new campaign…and, most importantly, that everyone should pay close attention to what’s factual in marketing and what’s – not so much.”

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Small Auto Makers to Compete with Large Firms in EV Race

| Tuesday August 18th, 2009 | 0 Comments


Big auto companies aren’t the only ones competing in the electric vehicle (EV) market. Coda Automotive, a 41-employee company without its own factory, designers, or dealer network, claims it will beat General Motors and other large firms in the EV market. Coda’s affordable, all-electric automobile (built for the “average American,” the Washington Post reports) is the product of inspiration – at the possibilities in the growing EV market.

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Marcal Speaks Out: The Bottom Line on TP

| Tuesday August 18th, 2009 | 8 Comments

baby bottomBy Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

Earlier this month I wrote on the Kimberly-Clark Greenpeace agreement, calling it a success. However, a few days later I was contacted by Marcal, a tree-friendly paper goods company that sells only 100% recycled paper products, calling it greenwashing.

Yesterday I had the chance to speak directly with Marcal’s CEO Tim Spring, as well as with Greenpeace, NRDC and Kimberly-Clark. Needless to say, the devil is in the details when it comes to this agreement.

Isn’t it ironic?

Greenpeace’s Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide penalizes Marcal because their  post-consumer content is not high enough (see Green Flushes).

“The celebration of the agreement with Kimberly-Clark is so much lower in altitude, it is an obscene double standard.”

While the agreement is a success for getting Kimberly-Clark out of old growth forests, there is more to the story.

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E-waste Offsets: A Good Idea but How Effective?

| Monday August 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments

ewaste-neurtral In response to the ever-expanding challenge of electronic waste (e-waste), most developed countries have enacted legislation that mandates the responsible disposal and safe handling of discarded electronics within their own borders. (Thankfully, the US is catching up with the rest of the developed world, state by state.) But what happens to your old TV, computer or cell phone after you drop it off at your local “green” recycler?

Sadly, and according to the latest estimates from the EPA, much of the e-waste handled by “responsible” recyclers will eventually make its way to the third world, where anything of value is extracted in ways hazardous to humans and the planet.  The reverse supply chain, as the recycling waste stream is known, is long and opaque with materials moving from handler to handler with little oversight.

The recently launched Ewaste Foundation thinks they have a better approach, by offering E-waste Certificates, which are essentially offsets to pay for responsible handling of e-waste material that ends up in developing countries. When you purchase a certificate through their website, they will move a corresponding amount of e-waste from a developing country and send it back to the EU or move it to one of their certified recyclers in country.

Sounds like a good idea, but for me it raises many of the same issues inherent in other forms of offsets, namely: verification (how to verify that the downstream recycling partner meets standards), additionality (some e-waste is recycled responsibly and doesn’t need to be “offset”), and incentives (we should be working instead on reducing the amount of electronics that enter the waste stream).

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LEED: Follow or Blaze Your Own Green Trail

| Monday August 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments

blueprintBefore delving into the issues associated with USBGC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building system, a disclaimer might be warranted. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who opposes the idea that buildings should be more efficient, have less environmental impact and be better for society. Though LEED has the potential to achieve these goals, there are still issues that prevent the system from being more than a de facto standard. Users of the LEED program have complained about confusing documentation requirements, underestimated costs and a lack of hard science backing the consensus driven process. It is important to note, however, that the LEED system is evolving and updates in LEED version 3.0 reflect some of concerns expressed by critics, like a greater emphasis on energy and water, as well as ongoing reporting requirements, but problems still persist.

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USGBC: True Green LEEDership.

| Monday August 17th, 2009 | 3 Comments


Photo Credit: Metropolis Magazine and Envision

LEED-Certified “green buildings” consume less energy, require fewer resources to build, and generate less waste than conventional buildings.  Oh, and they have higher market value.  And did I mention their occupants are happier, healthier, and sometimes even smarter?

That’s not some hippie propaganda.  Those are all findings from well-documented studies including a (lengthy) one from the GSA—the “landlord” of most non-DoD government property.

According to Ashley Katz, Manager of Communications for the USGBC, “green buildings save 30-50% of energy, 35% of CO2 emissions, 40% of water and 70% of solid waste.”

So where is the controversy?

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