The greening of small businesses across the country is a movement all its own. While it may be easy to dismiss the impact of small companies when compared to the big guys, consider the following stats from a GreenBiz.com article published today: “Small Businesses (defined as firms with less than 500 employees) employ half of the private sector workforce and use half of the electricity and natural gas consumed by the commercial and industrial sectors. In 2006, small businesses accounted for 99.9 percent of the 26.8 million businesses in the country.” Imagine the impact small businesses can have by collectively adopting eco-efficient technology and sustainable business practices. But how does a company start on this track, considering that most small business owners can’t afford to hire a “Green CEO” or “Director of Sustainability Initiatives”?Click to continue reading »
- Sustainable Brands® Announces 2014 Innovation Open Semi-finalists
- OF THE SEA, a new film about seafood & sustainability launches on Kickstarter
- Global Reporting Initiative celebrates new era for non-financial information disclosure in the EU
- More Renewable Energy Needed to Avoid Catastrophic Climate Change
Who has the final say in whether a new coal plant gets built? In Kansas, a serious debate is brewing over this very topic. Sunflower Electric Power Corp wants to build two 700-megawatt coal plants. Last year, the Kansas Secretary of Health and Environment, Rod Bremby, rejected the proposal because of “health risks associated with carbon dioxide emissions and global warming concerns.” But lawmakers in the Kansas house are trying to push the proposal through anyway. They voted 77-45 in a vote that took place yesterday, just shy of the two-thirds majority vote needed. Who is driving this push for coal? ENN reported that business groups and a Republican-led contingent of state legislators believe “the project would create jobs, provide badly needed energy for the area, and would keep electricity rates in check.” Is that so?Click to continue reading »
Difficult to uncover, lacking adequate disclosure, regulation and enforcement mechanisms and offering high rates of return now that climate change and environmental degradation are high up on the political agenda, corporate “greenwash” threatens the real and honest efforts of all those taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mitigate climate change and minimize environmental destruction.
Discouraging greenwash and rejecting a “perception is reality” mentality is vital if industry and commerce are to avoid provoking general public cynicism and backlash, note industry executives and academic researchers such as IBM’s Maureen J. Baird and United Nations University’s Ruediger Kuehr. The challenges are especially great, and pressing, in an age of instantaneous digital media communications and a growing, globally interconnected economic system of increasing technological and organizational complexity.
Progress on this front is being made, however. The initiative of growing numbers of top industry executives to address energy and environmental issues both inside their organizations and through international and intra-industry agencies, including participating in public and private carbon and greenhouse gas reporting and disclosure initiatives such as the United Nations’ StEP (Solving the E-Waste Problem) program and the Carbon Disclosure Project, are concrete steps that move us toward a global emissions regulatory system that includes adequate checks and balances.
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The introduction of LED light bulbs into the market has been hindered due to several factors. Namely: lumens (brightness) color (led produce blue radiance vs. white) market promotion and affordability. Although LED bulbs for residential and commercial applications are not quite where they need to be, they are starting to scratch their way into the market this year with more force than ever before.
Technology has brought the bulbs to a point where they are bright enough to compete with standard bulbs if not better. Also, the color that has plagued the bulbs for some time, being the hazy soft blue tones that are common has been dealt with as well, be it by a diffuser or through bulb technology itself.
As many of you know, I have been tracking the electric vehicle movement currently taking place in California. I put together this mini-doc that shows what entrepreneurs, social movement organizations, and policymakers are doing to make electric cars a reality. Enjoy!
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Analysts at New Carbon Finance foresee a national cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme emerging in the U.S. in 2012-2013, one that by 2020 has the potential to grow to $1 trillion, more than twice the size of the European Union’s.
Though the Bush administration has said that any such legislation would be vetoed, the chances of a national cap-and-trade scheme being put into effect by law, perhaps as soon as 2009, look likely with the election of a new president, though the positions of the candidates, as well as the two houses of Congress, encompass a range of attitudes and approaches, the analysts note.
As the US consumes 140 billion gallons of gasoline annually, the thought of transitioning to corn-based ethanol is a daunting one. If enormous quantities of land, water, pesticides, and food resources are dedicated to transportation fuel, the ramifications will be significant. Some have even called ethanol from food to be a crime against humanity.
A new technology is being fine-tuned by Coskata that can have global impacts on biofuels, with potential sources of fuel ranging from garbage to agricultural waste to construction debris. I was recently invited to tour the laboratory and I was struck by how this technology has the potential to shift the transportation fuel industry.
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Nearly half the water used in the home is flushed down the toilet. There are many solutions for under sink gray water units that help save and recycle usable water. A strong contender among the competition is the AQUS gray water system which efficiently captures the water from the sink and transfers it to the flusher. This handy unit can save up to 7 gallons of water per person each day, that figure adds up real quick.
The trick? The sink water first runs through a simplified dispenser or filter of sorts that houses bromine and chlorine tablets. These tablets kill the bacteria from the polluted sink water. A 5.5 gallon holding tank lies beneath your vanity and is attached to the dispenser. A modified p-trap directs the water from the sink through the dispenser and into the tank.
A fast favorite among green builders is the super durable HardiePlank siding. Not unlike the HardieBacker many of us are familiar with using when laying down tile. Composed of wood pulp, cement, sand and water, the end product will not rot, crack or split. The green benefits are many including the recycled components and the relative low embodied energy for manufacturing.
Compared to other siding options this product stands out as the main contender for a sound and sturdy green building material. It is also versatile; it can be faced to resemble that of stucco wood clapboards or cedar shingles. HardiePlank can also be pre-painted at the factory for those ready to install and walk away. In a world where wood siding needs constant maintenance and vinyl siding is toxic and flammable HardiePlank is the easy choice. The big kicker is it comes with a 50-year warranty. When green builders weigh the costs with the reward, HardiePlank seems to tip the scale in its favor. What potential homeowner is going to complain about an eco-friendly, low-maintenance, durable , and good-looking buidling material that lasts and lasts?? Just another smart way to provide sonsumers with something better while profiting at the same time.
What does “natural” mean anymore in the world of personal care products? According to a recent article on Fox Business, natural body care products are growing five times faster than conventional products. Without any regulatory body to certify what “natural” means, however, many consumers unwittingly buy products with ingredients they wish to avoid. So how does a company that is committed to using non-toxic ingredients differentiate itself from the phonies? Burt’s Bees is launching a new campaign this month that aims to do just that. Ecopreneurist called the strategy, “Attack the Ingredient, Not the Brand.”
“How do you get all the soft without the suspicious?” asks the Burt’s Bees ad in my Yoga Journal that arrived a few days ago. The ad depicts a tasteful picture of a woman’s naked body against a green nature background. The text superimposed on her skin reads, “Milk & Honey Vs. DMDM Hydantoin.” Under this heading, the benefits of milk and honey (“trusted ingredients that nourish and moisturize skin naturally”) are contrasted with the consequences of DMDM Hydantoin (“a chemical preservative linked to skin irritation” “can release formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen”). The tag line at the end says, “Have you read your body lotion label lately?”
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One cold day last Fall, I was coming out of Briar Patch Co-op, the first LEED certified commercial building in Grass Valley, California. Outside was a pack of bikers, who seemed to have that “biker shine,” that ineffable energy that they have, and this grouchy writer was having none of it. Or tried not to. Somehow, their charged energy felt different. You could say it seemed like they were on a mission.
Now, months later, I find that they were indeed on a mission. You see, they all had those extra long, extra useful, XtraCycle attachments on their bike, and they were the Ginger Ninjas, together with Shake Your Peace.
Who? Well amongst the ranks of these two bands were many from Xtracycle, based out of the renegade outpost known as North San Juan, California. And what were they doing? Going on a 5000 mile concert tour, entirely on bikes. Including their equipment. All part of what they call the Pleasant Revolution.
What’s so pleasant about it? Well this seems to sum it up well:
If your organization has ever attempted to calculate its eco-impact, then you know that this can be a time-consuming and expensive process. A new program, the “Footprint Scanner,” promises to change that. Using an improved methodology for analysis, the “Footprint Scanner” can deliver faster and more accurate results than traditional methods. So, how does it work and how can your organization benefit? I spoke with Jorgen Vos, of Sustainability Planning Partners, to find out more.Click to continue reading »
By Nathan Shedroff
Like the, now mythical, debate about Hummers vs Priuses, nuclear power is an issue who’s pros and cons largely can’t be addressed without an LCA (Life Cycle Analysis). Sure, Nuclear reactors, without a doubt, produce fewer carbon emissions than coal and other traditional power plants in their use phase – (actually, natural gas and hydro, both of which can be considered “traditional” as well, probably beat nuclear, not to mention renewable energy sources like solar and wind). But coal is the big, dirty source of power that makes nuclear look good so let’s stick with it, for now.
What this view of nuclear power doesn’t show us, however, is the massive impacts on the environment that nuclear has before and after its use phase. From the mining of the uranium and it’s sad, continuing legacy of heart-breaking heath effects and irresponsible history of safe-guarding local communities, to the refining and transportation of the fuel, to the building of the power plants themselves to the lack of viable, long-term options to deal with the waste – stretching into the thousands of years – nuclear powers’ impact vastly outweighs coal and dwarfs the impact of most other energy sources.
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A collaboration of physicists, scientists and businesses have teamed up to create cheap and highly effective solar cells on a nanoscopic scale. Spearheaded by the Idaho National Laboratory, this team is onto a fresh way of producing solar panels that can continue to absorb energy even after the sun has set. The technology, not only efficient at nearly 80%, will also be cheap to manufacture, at estimated pennies a yard.
A specialized manufacturing process will stamp tiny square spirals of a conducting metal onto a think sheet of plastic that have been coined “nanoantennas.” At the slight width on the order of 1/25 the diameter of a human hair, these nanoantennas can absorb energy produced through the infrared spectrum. Infrared energy is produced in massive quantities by the sun, a portion of which is absorbed by the earth only to be released as radiation after the sun has set. These nanoantennas can absorb energy from both the rays of the daylight sun and the heat radiated from the earth at a higher efficiency than modern solar cells.
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A recent survey of corporate executives published in the latest McKinsey Quarterly indicates that though climate change is considered important and awareness is high, relatively little is being done in terms of building climate change mitigation, energy usage and emissions reduction into corporate decision-making or operational processes. And yet while a large majority expect some form of regulation coming in their home countries, one-third see opportunities and risks equally balanced and more than one-third believe the effect on profits will, to varying degrees, be positive on the whole.
Sixty percent of respondents view climate change as an important consideration in determining overall strategy and nearly 70% consider it important for managing corporate reputation and brands. Yet 44% responded that climate change isn’t a significant item on their agendas. Moreover, many stated that their companies consider climate change only occasionally when managing corporate reputation and brands, developing new products or even managing environmental issues, according to the report.