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I’ve got to hand it to Monsanto. After years of alienating food-conscious consumers with genetically-engineered crops, destructive farming practices, and toxic waste, the agricultural company has performed a complete 180. As of today, Monsanto is ditching GMO crops completely. The company is also launching a permaculture design service to help its GMO-reliant farmers transition to organic practices.
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Starting next month, American Airlines will replace jet service on the transatlantic sector with solar powered LZ-2 airships – at zero emissions. The new 100% photovoltaic powered vessels will transport up to 500 people in the lap of luxury, featuring private suites, bars and restaurants, spectacular lounges, and an 18-hole frisbee golf course.
Twenty five years of cooperation between Boeing and the Poof Slinky company reduced even the manufacturing process of the LZ-2 to a zero emissions, zero waste process based on recycled material gathered in the North Pacific Gyre and re-purposed to aircraft specifications.
On a maiden test flight between New York and Helsinki last week, American Airlines CEO Gerard J. Arpey shared champagne with company spokesman Robert Plant remarking:
American Airlines is proud to usher in a new age of travel where humanity can once again relax – free from leg cramps, nonexistent overhead bins, and inedible snak paks.
To which Plant replied, “I believe I’ve lost my frisbee.”
To save additional resources, passengers may disembark over any landmass by ejecting in parachute bound pods.Click to continue reading »
Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Carol M. Browner announced on April 1st that former president George W. Bush will lead the U.S. negotiating team this December at the UN COP15 climate talks in Copenhagen
Some journalists fainted upon hearing the announcement, one reporter was rushed to the hospital, suffering what hospital officials termed “acute disbelief shock syndrome,” and others could only gasp an astonished what the…?”
The venerable and unflappable Helen Thomas, who has served in the White House press corps since the Kennedy administration, was the only reporter with the mitts to ask Browner how the Obama administration had come to such a decision:
“Did someone drink the kool-aid?” asked Thomas. “Isn’t it a bit… counterintuitive to choose someone that has championed… well, I’m not quite sure what Bush has championed exactly… but what gives? Aren’t we concerned about climate change anymore?”
“Now more than ever,” replied Browner, “And that is exactly why the choice of Bush as lead negotiator in Copenhagen makes perfect sense.”Click to continue reading »
Roche CEO Franz Humer said during a press release yesterday: “A lot of people talk about how they can change their practices – recycling, driving hybrid cars, eating organic food – but I feel like no one is focusing on the core of the problem: people. We realized as one of the world’s leading healthcare companies, we had the power to make a difference in the world, not only for ourselves, but for our children’s generation, and their children’s generation after them.”
A report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 stated that human emissions of CO2 were estimated to be 26.4 Gt per year, up from 23.5 Gt in the 1990s. “Our breakthrough new medication will allow the human body to process its own waste, self-sequestering harmful carbon gases we emit on a daily basis by neutralizing them in the body’s various organs,” Humer added. Click to continue reading »
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T. Boone Pickens, one-time oil tycoon, has realized that the movement toward clean technology and sustainable business practices holds more than financial promise. The Texan says he has discovered a new appreciation for wind and other alternative energy sources – an appreciation that goes well beyond his conviction that he’ll make Prius-loads of money by promoting the Pickens Plan to establishing massive energy systems independent of foreign oil.
In addition to solar panels and wind turbine, he is using a small generator mounted on a stationary bicycle to power his off-the-grid Texas home. As part of his daily exercise routine, Pickens spins away on the bike each morning, powering up his orange juicer enough to fill two glasses of OJ – one for him and one for his fourth wife Madeleine Pickens.
Yesterday, Congress voted to legalize marijuana. President Obama said he will sign the bill into law, which creates a federal agency, the Cannabis Agency, to oversee the production and sale of marijuana. By legalizing marijuana after being in office a little over two months, Obama is following in the footsteps of Franklin Roosevelt who legalized beer after being in office a few months.
The legalization of marijuana is not only good news for the legions of its smokers in the U.S., but the depressed economy. A September 2007 study by Jon Gettman, senior research fellow at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy estimated the cost to local, state, and federal governments of marijuana being illegal to be $41.8 billion.
Terracycle, the company made famous for its gardening products made from “worm poop” and packaged in previously used soda bottles, has decided to take a radical shift in their business model, merging with Scotts Miracle-Gro, and will be producing a mostly synthetic line of plant food made from a petroleum based formulation, citing the under utilization of it in automobiles leading to a plentiful “waste” stream of unused source.
Asked why they chose to do this, the characteristically loquacious CEO, Tom Szaky, initially had no comment. But with some prodding, he had this to say:
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In line with our focus on being distributed in big box stores, we were tired of fighting off the multiple lawsuits from Scotts, and thought, why not make money from working with them rather than spending it against them?
Technology development in the solar industry continues to accelerate at an unprecedented rate. Over $3 billion was invested in new companies and technologies in 2008 alone, and investments in solar have doubled every year for the last five years.
Manufacturers of traditional photovoltaic (PV) panels continue to drive improved efficiencies, inverter manufacturers boast higher reliability, and as in the case of micro-inverters even offer a different take on older technology– producing AC current at the panel or string level. A variety of innovative new thin film technologies and material systems are also emerging with the potential to offer unprecedented new and lower cost structures. Entrepreneurs are addressing the balance of system as well–looking for ways to reduce costs and accelerate the deployment of PV systems while also increasing quality and reliability.
All of this investment is aimed at reaching renewable energy’s holy grail– grid party, the point at which solar power becomes less expensive than traditional polluting sources of energy. The Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) for solar is rapidly closing in on traditional power due to increasing fuel costs for carbon-based energy sources joined with the introduction of new technologies reducing total solar system costs. Click to continue reading »
A month ago, I attended a Pitch-A-Thon the Future Leaders Institute (FLI) hosted in which students pitched their ideas for building a better tomorrow and received feedback from community leaders (respondents) in the sustainability and social change fields. FLI challenges students to research and identify societal problems, and come up with a plan for how to address them through efforts in their classroom and their community.
I sat, somewhat stupefied, as student after student 20 years my junior took the stage and gave a powerpoint presentation about problems as diverse as Darfur and melting polar ice caps, and tangible solutions they could help enact in their own community. I couldn’t help but think that my own career in the green business community would have started 10 years earlier had I only had a FLI of my own where I grew up. Each respondent was matched with four students for purposes of giving them feedback, and I honestly felt that despite a pretty substantial resume as a green business author, a sustainability consultant, and serial ecopreneur, I should be the one taking feedback–from Eve Cowen, Executive Director of FLI, for what she’s been able to accomplish.
Van Jones recently recommended Cowen for the prestigious Harold J. McGraw (of McGraw-Hill fame) Prize in Education. I’ve learned to listen to Jones, and when he says that the FLI “can no longer be education reform’s best kept secret”, and that we need to create far more evangelists so the promotion can be done by and from many angles, I make a mental note to help FLI spread its mission (and later, write a blog post about it).Click to continue reading »
These days, it’s not just about following the money. More importantly, it’s also about finding the best way to find the money that’s out there while making the process more visible and transparent. That’s a tall order for companies trying to do the right thing on the sustainability front while delving into the murky world of finance and investment for funding, which by its very nature is prone to opaqueness, complexity, and secrecy. Simply put it’s tough to reach investors even in a solid financial and economic environment. So dotting the i’s on sustainability is becoming a crucial piece of the funding puzzle.
That’s where the Global Reporting Initiative, an Amsterdam non-profit, enters the picture. It has developed a framework for disclosure on environmental, social, and governance data – also known as ESG disclosures or sustainability reporting – and in a report this week says that companies that fail to link their sustainability reporting and activities to an overall corporate strategy likely will fail to connect with investors.
Markets are conversations. So explains the famous Cluetrain Manifesto which continues:
…learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about “listening to customers.” They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.
A corporate blog, if done properly, can bring back the kind of real human voice that companies have forgotten about over the last generation. If a CEO can blog casually and uninhibitedly (as Jeffrey Hollender does so well for Seventh Generation), or if employees are empowered and encouraged to participate as themselves in blogging and discussions (as the Zappos team does so well) then the result will likely be more honest, more productive dialogue between all stakeholders.
Generally, the larger the company the more inertia, so I’m impressed to see FedEx has a corporate blog. I’m even more impressed at the quality of voice and the variety of subjects and authors featured.
The closest most of us get to the farmers that grow our food is when we’re on our way to somewhere other than their farms – as we cruise down highways and byways adjacent to their acreage. But there’s a movement afoot that would make Farmer John less of a stranger. And by making the supply chain that serves up our meals more transparent, we might just end up with safer food. That’s the hope, anyway.
Pistachios are just the latest food in a long string of safety recalls in the last few years, indicating that our massive food-processing industrial complex has some major gaps in safety. What if wheat – the building block of so many of the foods we eat – became tainted? It could sicken or kill millions of consumers. In an effort to prevent such a lapse in safety, Stone-Buhr flour has launched Find the Farmer, a website that allows consumers to (virtually) meet the farmer responsible for the bag of flour of a special “Washington White” product they’ve taken home, by logging onto findthefarmer.com and keying in the lot code printed on the bag.
Last week, electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors made headlines with the unveiling of its long-anticipated Model S sedan. The elegantly-styled four-door hatchback has some extremely impressive statistics. As a matter of fact, the stats are so good that it makes me wonder if this could be the beginning of the end for the Big Three. While Ford, GM ,and Chrysler are mired in government bailouts and don’t appear to be offering much in the way of real change, it looks like Tesla is about to prove that it can not only build a niche sports car for an elite few, but can build one that is much more mainstream.
The annoucement of the new Tesla sports sedan had pundits from across the interweb gushing abut its sleek styling, range, charging times, and cargo capacity. The car sports smooth, aerodynamic curves, with a look reminiscent of high-end BMWs or Mercedes.Click to continue reading »
Might cities one day close their streets off to personal vehicles, instead running or providing fleets of high-efficiency compacts, plug-ins and electric vehicles through third-party providers on a pay-as-you-go basis? That may not be such a far-fetched idea.
Cities around the country are trying to come to grips with traffic congestion and all the emissions, heat, noise and safety issues associated with personal vehicle use.
Mayors around the country have committed to the Clean Cities program, and federal agencies have just released funding to support energy efficiency and emissions reduction efforts promised by recently passed “green” stimulus legislation.
The issue is also attracting interest from the private sector, both from outside and within the auto industry, including the likes of Germany’s Daimler AG.
Corporate sustainability is about more than just environmental concerns. It’s also about creating a livable, open, and creative corporate environment – for both customers and those inside the company. Though it might be a silly advertising stunt, Jet Blue’s recent online campaign is more than just hilarious. It’s effective and catchy, likely boosts internal morale and positions the company as a free thinking innovator (if you’re a Jet Blue employee feel free to pipe in).
The ad campaign,Welcome Big Wigs, is a series of videos featuring a snooty corporate exec teaching others how to fly coach for the first time. In light of the endless corporate scandals and excess of the past few years, his faux attitude may be less preposterous than that of some our real corporate players. Needless to say, it’s partly such outrageous, myopic attitudes that have landed our economy in its current state.
Amazingly, the National Business Aviation Association (who represent private, general aviation travel) felt compelled to write a scathing letter insisting that Jet Blue pull the campaign on the grounds that it maligned their industry out of context.
Pity the big wigs. If today’s CEOs can’t take a joke, then we’re in worse trouble than I thought.