Well, another week is here, another weekend is gone, and it’s time for another installment of AskPablo. I hope that some of you got a chance to see the West Coast Green Conference/Expo. Let me know if you had any suitable AskPablo questions come up. This week we will be looking at another comparison between two alternatives: incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Last year someone raised the point that CFLs contain mercury and asked me to justify his purchase of them. Do you really want the answer? Enter if you dare.Click to continue reading »
As Europeans headed for their long-awaited summer holidays, bankers had good reason to celebrate. The annual return across the board has been exceptionally favorable. For green and ethical fund managers it has been a bumper year. As of June 2005, there were 375 “socially responsible” funds available to investors in Europe, 6 % more than the year before, and this year promises similar growth in funds using ethical, social and environmental criterion for portfolio development.
From the second quarter of 2004 to the same period in 2005, managed “ethical” assets grew 27%, from 19 billion to 24 billion mid term 2005. The U.K. leads the ethical banking community in Europe. 33.2% of the SRI funds offered to the public are registered there. France is considered the strongest growth market based upon the value of assets under management and a 20% growth rate in the number of funds offered for the second consecutive year. Sweden and Italy make up another 10% of the market for SRI products.
Say what you will about the problems of aircraft emissions, but I was very pleased to find an excellent article on urban forestry in this month’s Hemispheres Magazine on United Airlines. The article, entitled “Save the Shade” is one of the best “entry level” articles I’ve ever read on the subject of urban trees – running down 6 major benefits that many people on board the flight had probably not considered, from the economic to the psychological. It’s an article worth saving and passing around to people who might not already be the ‘greenest’ folks in your network, and also a great piece to keep on file for your own reference.
Fair trade coffee is now a household word, but why not fair trade soccer balls? Although sports gear manufacturing may not impact as many people as the coffee industry, it’s a highly visible part of culture the world over with kids of all economic backgrounds involved in sports in one way or another. Making a statement with fair trade produced sports balls and other gear is bound to sink into the hearts and minds of the kids playing with the gear on all corners of the globe. Fair trade sports aims to make this happen with balls and other products supplied from sources with decent wages, health care, etc… Seems like a great business, although I haven’t seen any evidence of third-party verification of their practices.
According to Costa Christ, director the Bar Harbor, Maine Chamber of Commerce and expert in international travel, tourism currently represents 83% of worldwide export trade. To put this figure in a meaningful context, he adds that tourism is the largest non-military service sector in the world. Travel and tourism spending exceeded $6 trillion globally in 2005, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.
If you were a mayor of a coastal city or town anywhere in the world, on what would you base your community’s development strategy? Tourism, of course, which since the 1960´s has often meant creating pristine white beaches where nature never intended them to be and using mechanical sweepers to remove what the sea leaves behind every day at low tide. The French Conservatoire du Littoral, however, is campaigning to leave the beaches “au natural” and hopes that environmentally minded tourists will “vote with their flip-flops” for beach resorts that opt to let Mother Nature do her thing.
Some people are hard to satisfy – in one breath praising Whole Foods for their ability to mainstream organics and healthier food, in the other complaining about high prices and Whole Food’s effect on smaller local competition as if they were the next WalMart. Fair enough, if I were a small organic retailer in some place like Milwaukee I would certainly have concerns about the arrival of a gigantic fancy new Whole Foods store.
Nonetheless, at least in the Milwaukee example and according to this article, smaler retailers and co-ops are taking it all in stride. The smaller businesses say that they are seeing increased competition to sell organics and quality in general, so the arrival of Whole Foods is merely part of a trend they have been preparing for for quite some time. Secondly, smaller businesses may have greater ability to source locally and “raise the bar’ above what Whole Foods can do, becoming better stores an even more discerning public. Read the comments for more interesting perspectives.
Hello friends! This week we are talking about a subject that is very dear to my heart, beer (Hooray Beer!). This weekend I spoke to the students at Hunter Lovins’ “Principles of Sustainable Management” class at the Presidio School of Management about measuring sustainability as well as the Wuppertal Institute‘s “MIPS” Material Intensity Analysis method. I decided to create a hands-on example just to give them a taste of my favorite kind of headache… Since the results were interesting, and I’m too busy to do two MIPS analyses in one weekend, I am sharing it with you. Pop open a cold one (but only if it’s after five somewhere…) and enjoy!
Pablo’s Microbrew has a problem… They want to sell beer on the East Coast but need to select a container. Since they are a sustainable company they want to minimize their impact on the environment. Should they use aluminum cans or glass bottles?
From Parks and Rec in Europe to the Pittsburgh Pirates – Transforming supply chains through Ethical Procurement
In Europe, pressure to have verifiable quality ratings recognized throughout the European Union has corporations working hard to obtain the ISOs necessary to sell their goods throughout the E.U. and keep pace with the competition, but with increasing numbers of suppliers located in developing, non-unionized countries, certifying sources and achieving anything close to socially responsible procurement is still a problem throughout the continent.
Since the 1990s, community groups have engaged in individual campaigns primarily aimed at boycotting both European and foreign manufacturers who violated human rights or harmed the environment. These actions made companies and consumers aware of the social liability of doing trade with ethically dubious corporations, but did not result in stronger networks that worked with and rewarded compliant suppliers. Local and regional governments began to respond to citizen pressure for ethical practices in government procurement and since 2003, an increasing number of local governments throughout Europe have been working jointly to establish and enforce mandatory ethical standards for their suppliers. One such network is “Clean Clothes Communities“, which is focused on workers´ rights in the textile trade.Click to continue reading »
IBM is currently running something they call the “Innovation Jam” an online event that purports to be a sort of “giant brainstorm” for IBM and various invited participants. Among the issues discussed are energy and social & environmental sustainability, and how IBM can get involved and thrive. The cynics on Digg have basically dismissed it as a ploy to get free consulting, but even with a selfish motive there is still some interesting conversation coming out.
Jeff Osborne at Plan Resonate has been keeping a pretty solid tally of what’s been discussed that has relevence to those of us interested in sustainability. Among the better conversations are “implementing sustainable management at IBM” and “incentives for IBM to become involved in the carbon markets”.
Three cheers for Concha Guerra, Vice-Consul for Economics and Technology Innovation for the Community of Madrid and Leonor Perez Pita, director of Madrid’s “Pasarela Cibeles”, Spain’s top fashion show. Reacting to protests against the gaunt image projected at last year’s Cibeles, they announced this week that new health guidelines would be enforced for screening models participating in this year’s event. As part of an integral plan to address a growing epidemic of anorexia and bulimia in Europe, models participating in future editions of Madrid Fashion Week will now be screened according to an acceptable body mass index. Application of professional medical criterion has eliminated 30% of the models expected to work the catwalks of Cibeles, including supermodels Kate Moss and Esther Canadas. Elite, and other top modeling agencies worldwide are up in arms, wailing that they are victims of scapegoating, but Guerra and Perez Pita stand firm for a new healthy image for Spanish fashion.
Cibeles is the third largest fashion event in Europe, on par with Paris and just behind New York and Milan. In fact, the mayor of Milan, Letizia Moratti, has spoken in favor of Guerra’s decision and may introducing similar measures for Milan fashion shows. London is monitoring the industry and public feedback to events in Madrid and initial scoffing has given way to serious consideration of implementing changes there.Click to continue reading »
Since the umbrella most of us know is a cheap disposable poster child for poor design and wasteful manufacturing, I.D. Magazine, The Sustainable Style Foundation, and TreeHugger asked for a smarter version. Our rockin’ Umbrella Inside Out judges (including Cradle to Cradle co-author Bill McDonough!) spent the last week evaluating over 100 incredible entries from around the globe to bring you these innovative tools for keeping dry.
It is once again time to explore the wonderful world of sustainability metrics. This week I am going to tackle the myth of the meat-powered cyclist. Here’s the story: A friend of mine once told me that it is more efficient to drive a car over a certain distance than to ride a bike over that same distance if your calories come from beef. Before passing on this great anecdote on the inefficiency of beef production I thought I would run the numbers myself. Join me this week in another exciting installment of Ask Pablo.
First we need to examine just how inefficient the conversion from fossil-fuel > fertilizer > grain > cow is. According to an article in Harpers, “It takes thirty-five calories of fossil fuel to make a calorie of beef.” While it is certainly tastier than eating spoonfuls of fossil fuels, this is pretty inefficient. By comparison, organic broccoli requires zero fossil fuel calories per calorie, except for a negligible amount for transportation.
Golf has, for many years, been the de-facto sport of choice among corporate executives around the world. In many circles it’s almost criminal not to love golf and play it every weekend – the golf course has become the informal boardroom where deals and relasionships are really made. And why not? It’s a fun enough game with challenges both physical and mental and it amounts to a nice walk in the park.
Of course, the golf industry uses wild amounts of pesticides and fertilizer to maintain the illusion of perfectly controlled nature. In places like Arizona and Nevada, golf courses use obscene amounts of water, creating a totally artificial world that has no place in the desert.
Enter the corporate bike outing. A story in yesterdays Milwaukee Journal Sentinal entitled “Is Bicycling the New Golf?” has really got me excited. A number of companies are now sponsoring cycling events for employees, collegues and partners as a way to connect socially – the same sort of thing that has been done for years with golfing events. Cycling is a far more environmentally sustainable sport than golf, and if it gains popularity among the corporate elite, then the likelyhood of improved cycling infrastucture in our cities and suburbs is bound to improve, not to mention our health. Bring it on!