McDonalds Offering Toy Hummers With Happy Meals

| Tuesday August 15th, 2006 | 3 Comments

mchummer.jpgIt’s easy to pick on McDonalds, so when tempted, I try to do so with a grain of salt. Still, for a company who is doing the right thing in so many places, it’s rather ironic to see them giving away toy Hummers in happy meals. It’s not quite as bad as giving away, say, cigarettes, but it definitely sends an odd message from a company that claims publicly to have environmental and social interests at their heart.
Although a toy Hummer might not *really* be such a big deal, finding one in your happy meal just adds weight to he Hummer’s inescapable symbolism in a way that’s almost cliche. Sending a message of gluttony to kids just ain’t right. I’m guessing GM shelled out a lot of cash for this, which puts some shame on them as well, but sheesh, I’m surprised McDonalds went ahead with this program knowing the glaring target it makes them. See Ronald McHummer for more.

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Ford’s “Bold Move” – The First Cluetrain Ad?

| Tuesday August 15th, 2006 | 1 Comment

fordlogo.jpeYou may have seen advertisements on this and other sites touting Ford’s “Bold Move”, a marketing foray aimed at dramatically illustrating Ford’s attempts to publicly admit their faults and ask for public guidance to move the company in a greener, more successful direction. The ad itself derides Ford as having the “worst fuel efficiency records of any car company” and links to a smartly designed page with videos showing Ford’s management in frank discussion about the company’s weaknesses and the challenges in faces, not only environmentally, but also in terms of management, labor and more.
BlogAds founder Henry Copeland refers to this ad as being the first “Cluetrain Ad” – the first, and hopefully not the last example of a company ditching canned corporate-speak and attempting to open themselves up to a “real conversation”. Jalopnik rightly points out that buying up the blogosphere is a strange way to go about this, but it certainly has garnered the campaign a lot of attention and started innumerable conversations here and elsewhere.
Although it’s obviously an expensive PR campaign, it’s a pretty interesting site that seems to have been created with new ideas in mind, even if they do go a little over the top dramatizing it. If the “conversation” that’s occuring on the Ford site itself is still a little bit forced, perhaps by creating it, the less-canned conversations on this site and elsewhere will indeed spawn ideas that Ford may monitor and take to heart.

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Burning Man to Cool Off With Cooling Man

| Monday August 14th, 2006 | 0 Comments

burning_man.jpgThe annual west coast celebration of counter cultural creative exuberance known as Burning Man will enjoy carbon offsets this year courtesy of a project known as, you guessed it, Cooling Man. The event features 30,000 (give or take) participants who gather in the Nevada desert in what is meant to be a “leave no trace” event. For the most part, the event is astonishingly smoothly run in terms of cleaning up after itself and embracing a positively environmental philosophy (despite the torching of many a large piece of art). Nonetheless, the folks at the Cooling Man project have created an online tool at that will help festival goers estimate the pollution footprint that their participation generates – and offers various options to help offset it.

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Fast Company Blog-a-thon Brimming With Innovation

| Monday August 14th, 2006 | 0 Comments

fastcompany.jpgThough not specifically related to environmental or social sustainability, the Fast Company Blog-a-Thon is underway and is well worth checking out. It’s a 2 day carnival of sorts at what is arguably one of the most important new business publications out there featuring posting by the likes of Joel Makower, Craig Newmark, Lloyd Alter and many more. There are already about 20 great posts up there worth reading and plenty more are coming in the next 24 hours.

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Carnival of the Green #40 at Camden Kiwi

| Monday August 14th, 2006 | 1 Comment

cotg.gifIt’s that time again – Monday – time to check out the weekly carnival of the green! This time the carnival remains in London and is dealt out at the hands of a Kiwi known as The Camden Kiwi (for the London neighborhood, Camden). As usual, the carnival is a great little wrap up of green posts and news from various blogs around the world. Be sure to check it out! (link here)
PS – I’ll be autoposting today and tommorow as I’m off in the Sierras having a smashing little vacation.

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Sustainability is a National Security Priority

| Wednesday August 9th, 2006 | 0 Comments

bombs.jpgAlex Steffan has a great piece on WorldChanging today about the misguided idea that fighting terrorism should take priority over advancing sustainability in the context of national security. In it he sites the Cato Institute’s excellent piece (PDF here) on the exageration of terror as a threat.
For one thing, it’s great to build common ground between advocates of sustainability and a very conservative organization such as Cato (conservatives are often accused of lack of interest on the subject). It’s also heartening to bring this discussion to the forefront of costly issues like security, which are too often dominated by a “bomb first, think later” mentality that, these days, seems to bring less security, not more. The point, however, is that by embracing the tenets of sustainabilty as a priority we’re less likely to get to a place where military action need even be considered.
Sustainability weens us from our overly intensive use of resources and related conflicts. The likelyhood of wars for resources like oil (and possibly water in the near future) are inversely related to our ability to find new technologies and use resources more efficiently. Sustainability in the context of bringing peace goes beyond the avoidance of disasters and war. Such was the reasoning behind the Wangari Maathai’s nobel peace prize: Recognizing the inseperable bond between the health of society, the economy, and the environment is the key cornerstone of sustainability and once people “get it” the solutions start rolling in.

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Carnival of the Green #39 Rolls Back to Its Roots

| Monday August 7th, 2006 | 0 Comments

cotg.gifIf it’s Monday, then it must be time for a carnival of the green! This time, the carnival rolls back to CityHippy – the home of the very first carnival of the green. This week the carnival looks at practical solutions to every day problems, politics, and more topics to discuss over a pint. Check it out.

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Al Gore’s Penguin Army Sheds Light on Exxon PR

| Monday August 7th, 2006 | 9 Comments

exxon_linux.jpgIf you’re familiar with the infamous “CO2: We Call it Life” advertisements put out by CEI, then you’ll find “Al Gore’s Penguin Army” much less funny (it stinks, actually), but no less odd.
All you need to know is the film was not produced by amateurs. It’s an example of “astroturf”, a production meant to look like it came from some quirky individual but actually originating from a PR firm and quietly posted onto “YouTube”, the popular video hosting site. A Wall Street Journal investigation discovered that the film was actually engineered (at great expense most likely) by public relations firm DCI who “just happen” to count Exxon among their larger clients. Though this doesn’t prove Exxon was directly involved, the word on the street is leaning pretty strongly in that direction.
This video is so bad and has been met with such negative response that it proves that global warming denialists are on their last legs. But why is Exxon’s PR firm still spending time and money to pretend that global warming is a spoof?
DCI are probably no dummies and are certainly monitoring the reaction to their experiment. What sorts of conclusions will they draw? Will they decide that it’s time for Exxon to make a bold statement accepting global warming as a problem and proclaiming the company’s intention to follow in the footsteps of BP and Shell in pursuing alternative sources of energy? Or have they decided that Exxon’s best interest lies in being the maverick denialist who fights cowboy-style to the bitter end?
And on a humorous side-note – will the guys who created Linux sue?

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McDonalds Blog on Green Packaging

| Friday August 4th, 2006 | 23 Comments

mcdclamshell.jpgMcDonalds, like Wal Mart is often scapegoated into a corner as an uncaring behemoth. I’m not going to debate that because what’s more important is the scale of change that such a large company can produce. Anyway, McDonalds has an interesting and quite transparent “corporate social responsibility” blog which is actually worth reading and participating on. Recently they ran a little piece on packaging which lays out McDonald’s environmental policies in that regard. They’ve come a long way from the days of styrofoam and point out the following recent accomplishments:

  • Napkins are smaller and contain recycled content.
  • Happy Meal boxes are made partly from recycled newspapers.
  • Our trayliners have recycled newspaper content too.
  • We’ve trimmed the amount of material used in our French fry and McNugget cartons.
  • Our straws use less material.

So is McDonald’s doing enough? When you’re as big as they are, you’re bound to be held to a higher standard and I’d like to see a whole lot more post-consumer material. In fact I’d like to see the word “recycled” eliminated unless it specifically refers to post-consumer content. There are not a great many specifics on the current blog post, such as just “how much” recycled content there is in the packaging either.
One of the great ironies about this is the fact that most people who care about McDonald’s packaging are unlikely to eat there anyway. Perhaps I’m making a snooty demographic judgement here, but McDonald’s has to take into consideration that the extra costs involved with improved packaging may not be appreciated by much of their regular clientele who don’t know enough to notice. Rather, the payoff comes in terms of less hassle from environmentalists and, hopefully, some personal satisfactoin.
How would you advise them?

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Johnson Controls Launches Energy Blog

| Thursday August 3rd, 2006 | 3 Comments

jon_con.jpgJohnson Controls is the kind of company that ought to be a major leader in green building and sustainability in general. The are the biggest makers of hybrid car batteries in the US and responsible for the plumbing, electric and circulatory systems of many a massive building project. To their credit they talk a whole lot about energy efficiency, but the company website and sustainability reports are eerily silent when it comes to things like LEED certification, green building, and concepts like cradle-to-cradle and carbon emissions. Perhaps that will change as they become one of the few Fortune 100 companies to have a public facing blog –
Anyone who’s perused the ideas set forth in the Cluetrain Manifesto can appreciate the importance of this kind of development. What’s better in this case is that the blog doesn’t appear to be a super-polished corporate mouthpiece, and as far as I can tell is not screening comments. That’s a good thing. Too often, major companies are too scared to open themselves up to this kind of unscripted real-time communication – they fear not being able to handle any sort of negative commenting. This paranoia may ultimately spell the downfall, or at least seriously hinder the growth, of companies too slow to embrace the new global conversation. Fortunately for Johnson Controls, they’re finally moving ahead of the curve.
More on WBCSD.
Ed Note: The blog seems to have vanished (something funny going on?), but you can sneak a peek at the google cached version in case you think I was making it up.

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Vail Goes for Wind Energy

| Wednesday August 2nd, 2006 | 0 Comments

vail.jpgAt some point I’ll probably stop reporting about these sorts of announcements, which will probably be a good sign that “going green” has become so commonplace it’s no longer newsworthy. Nontheless, Vail Resorts announced they’ll be switching to 100% wind energy for all their ski areas and associated businesses. That’s not just in Colorado, the company also runs Heavenly at Lake Tahoe and a resort in Jackson Hole, WY. It’s also not a small deal – they’ll be the 2nd largest corporate buyer of wind power in the country after Whole Foods, and presumably someone who will make a statement about it. I’d like to see little signs on all the lift-poles between the ads for lip balm announcing the deal. Article here.

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Sub Pop Rocks With 100% Green Energy

| Wednesday August 2nd, 2006 | 0 Comments

subpop.jpgSeattle’s Sub Pop Records will “go green” by buying green tags to fullfill 100% of the record company’s energy needs. It couldn’t be a more perfect match between alternative energy and one of the originators of the idea of “alternative” music (if that genre really means anything these days). The company president was “shocked” to see how easy is was to support renewable energy which just goes to show that even in green-Seattle, many people are still “in the dark”.

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New Mexico Commuter Rail Goes BioDiesel

| Tuesday August 1st, 2006 | 1 Comment

railrunner.jpgA new commuter rail line (RailRunner) opened up a couple of weeks ago that runs north and south from Albuquerque and will eventually connect to Santa Fe. This is significant news in and of itself – especially in the car dependant sun belt. But the most amazing thing about it is that the system will run on biodiesel (see page here). That’s pretty darn neat. There’s no mention on whether that’s pure biodiesel or some kind of blend but it’s a very significant, if largely symbolic move by the NM government and transit authorities. Bravo!

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OpEd: Struggle for Better Transit Exemplifies Governmental Inefficiencies

| Tuesday August 1st, 2006 | 3 Comments

brt44.jpgOn Saturday, July 29th, there was a town hall style meeting to discuss the state of research into a bus rapid transit system along Geary Boulevard in San Francisco. A lot of community members turned out, and there was a productive conversation. If you’d like some context, here’s Nick’s introduction to the proposed Geary BRT.
The planners and consultants involved in this process should be commended for identifying a great opportunity. Their presentation was impressive. BRT is not a major change – in fact it conservatively builds on infrastructure and capacity that already exists. Lovely. Let’s get it done.

Click to continue reading »

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Empowering Indian Farmers With Mobile Phone Market Applications

| Monday July 31st, 2006 | 2 Comments

mobile_phone_app.jpgAzeem Azhar brought to my attention a very interesting project that he’s been working on with Indian farmers that exemplifies the best of leapfrog technology. It’s a system to provide accurate weather forecasts, as well as pricing data for their crops, sent to their mobile phones. The pilot project, detailed in the London Times, is being implemented by Reuters. Among the benefits are better preparedness for monsoon rains as well as better data about where and when to take crops to market. Currently, an astonishing 1/3 of vegetables grown in India fail to reach market before they rot – a result of a myriad of inefficiencies. This sounds like a great business opportunity for eveyone involved, particularily the poor and hungry.

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