Obama’s Pick to Decide the Future of Sustainable Food Policy

| Thursday December 11th, 2008 | 1 Comment

usda_logo.jpg As President-Elect Obama stands with Al Gore by his side for the world to see, vowing to combat climate change, a decision he will make in a matter of days will decide the future of federal policy towards sustainability, without most people even realizing it. Obama’s future cabinet is quickly taking shape, but one key position is still very much up in the air – The Secretary of Agriculture.
Since the moment that Barack Obama was elected our future president, several food activists – including Michael Pollan and Alice Waters – have been calling for a radical overhaul of the USDA, with Pollan even calling for the appointment of US Food Czar independent of the government organization. However, in as much as Obama vowed to buck Old Washington traditions and ring in an era of change, it seems that in this case, the President-Elect is unwilling or unable to do so.

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Van Nuys Airport Plans First “Green” Hangar, But Burbank Got Theirs First

| Thursday December 11th, 2008 | 3 Comments

Given my recent post about the first “sustainable airport” just opening in Indianapolis, this news item is hard for me to resist.

Maguire Aviation is negotiating with Shangri-La Construction to build Loas Angeles’ first “green” jet hangar at Van Nuys Airport.

The hangar at Van Nuys Airport will resemble another “sustainable” hanger unveiled by Shangri-La on Tuesday on neighboring Burbank airport (starting a “green hangar war” in southern California perhaps?), with both facilities designed to meet platinum LEED building specifications.

On hand for the unveiling of Hangar 25 at Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport, Los Angeles mayor told reporters that the building represented “the greenest aviation facility in the world” – apparently not reading my post last week about Indianapolis International Airport (and where was the mayor of Burbank?).

The boasts of politicians notwithstanding, Shangri-La construction sees the newly opened hangar in Burbank and the one planned for Van Nuys as a model of sustainable aviation facility construction. One they hope to bring to other projects throughout the country.

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Can Our Environment Support More Economic Growth?

| Thursday December 11th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Victor%20Managing.jpg At the intersection of a sinking economy and a new administration in the White House, there is no shortage of ideas on what the new president should do to rescue our butts from the abyss. Seems like all the pundits are formulating their “Letter to the New President” with their strategies on how we should proceed forward. But could the cure for our ills be no economic growth? To many this seems counter-intuitive, but this is the premise of Peter Victor’s new book “Managing without Growth – Slower by Design, not Disaster” (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2008). Victor, an economist on the faculty of Environmental Studies at York University in Toronto, believes the big problem we should be addressing is the Earth’s biophysical limits. Can our environment sustain continuing economic growth, thus far the basis for all Western economies, and for many the fix for our current crisis? Victor offers this opinion, “If the financial system breaks down, we’ll suffer for a while, but we’ll get through it. If we succeed in destabilizing the climate, we may not be able to get through it.”
In the book, Victor challenges the long-standing premise that constant economic growth must be the center piece of economic policy and is synonymous with progress. He also believes the concept of “sustainable development” that came from the 1987 Brundtland report (which popularized the notion of sustainability) has become mostly diluted and meaningless because it was never fully defined. The ensuing commitment from several governments to sustainable development has become “more of the same rather than a radical departure from economic growth as the top policy objective,” which is the departure Victor is advocating.

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What Are Responsible Purchasing Guides?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday December 11th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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Founded in 2005 by the Center for a New American Dream, the Responsible Purchasing Network (RPN) touts itself as the “first national network of procurement-related professionals dedicated to socially and environmentally responsible purchasing.” RPN publishes Responsible Purchasing Guides for everything from cleaners to water.
The Responsible Purchasing Guide for Cleaners describes the effects of the toxic ingredients found in traditional cleaners. Every year the industrial cleaning industry adds five pounds of chemicals to the atmosphere. People who work indoors are “particularly susceptible to the health risks posed by these products.” The list of health problems includes major organ damage, permanent eye damage, and asthma. The toxic ingredients can affect the public at large because they end up in bodies of water such as lakes and streams.

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A Clean Coal Reality Check

Jeff Siegel | Thursday December 11th, 2008 | 2 Comments

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This past Sunday I saw a very interesting commercial about clean coal. A group called, Thisisreality.org ran the spot during Meet The Press. Essentially, the ad calls out the coal industry for touting clean coal technology – which doesn’t actually exist in the U.S. Here’s a link to the clip if you haven’t seen it.
Now while I certainly enjoyed the ad, there’s only so much that can be said within 30 seconds. So in an effort to shed some light on the realities of coal – both environmental and economic – allow me to show you why coal-fired power plant operators are about to begin a long swim upstream against the backdrop of new climate change legislation and expedited depletion.

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“Clean Coal” Has Jumped the Shark

| Wednesday December 10th, 2008 | 2 Comments

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Tomorrow morning, Jeff Siegel will have some intelligent thoughts about clean coal here on 3P. In the meantime, prepare yourself for an experience that takes greenwashing to a whole new level – The Clean Coal Christmas Carolers. I’m starting to pity these guys.
Ed Note: Apparently, so many people complained about this campaign, including a hilarious mention by Rachel Maddow, that it was pulled. Read more and see the painfully hilarious videos on TreeHugger.

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The Village Green: Building Partnerships to Create Environmental Value

Tom Szaky | Wednesday December 10th, 2008 | 1 Comment

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They say it takes a whole village to raise a child. A child, like an idea, must be nurtured by many people working together for a common cause. So too must socially responsible companies join together if we are to achieve our common goal of a socially responsible, environmentally stable world.
Eco-friendly or triple bottom line start ups and small businesses face a steep climb to success. Traditional companies are able to make products and services faster and cheaper because they are not necessarily as concerned with the effect of their practices. So small start ups must find ways to compete with companies that have a well developed relationship with retailers and consumers, have more sales/marketing dollars, and only have one bottom line to reach.
I believe that to succeed “Green” must be a movement, a group of unified businesses that are willing to help, support and guide each other through the many challenges so that we all can reach our goals in unison. TerraCycle strives to do this through our Brigade programs, which we first launched with the help of Honest Tea and Stonyfield Farm. I think both of these partnerships represent a different, but important way that triple bottom line companies can partner.

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Sustainable Brands International Streaming Live from Miami

| Wednesday December 10th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Nick and I are currently in Miami attending the Sustainable Brands International conference. Check it out via live streaming video below, the next best thing to actually being here in the just-opened, uber swanky, W Hotel on steroids, Fontainebleau Resort Miami Beach.



Check out the schedule for Wednesday and Thursday and join the discussions online, even if your company slashed its travel and conferences budgets.

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The Financial Proposals At Poznan

| Wednesday December 10th, 2008 | 1 Comment

The ongoing global climate negotiations in the Polish town of Poznan are all about financing, insiders say. So what proposals are on the table? A roundup of some headline generating plans:
The future of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is at the heart of the discussions. New projects in this mechanism, which allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to sell credits to industrialized countries wishing to meet their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol, are worth $25 billion. Last year alone, $82 billion worth of carbon credits were traded globally. The certificates are aimed at boosting technology transfer to developing countries.

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Andy Funk: Entrepreneur Turned Socially Conscious Venture Capitalist

| Wednesday December 10th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Andy%20Funk%2C%20Funk%20Ventures.jpgThe story of Andy Funk left me impressed, amazed, envious and motivated. I think it will do the same for you. Funk moved to the US from Germany at the age of 19. Just six years later, without a formal college education, he had founded and sold 3 companies, and then became the youngest founding member of a venture capital firm in the country. His firm, Funk Ventures, is also one of the leaders in a new category of VCs that maximize social and environmental impact as well as financial return in its investments.

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Greenhouse: Innovative Waste-Based Building in an Urban Context

| Wednesday December 10th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Joost%20greenhouse.jpegDo you remember when you were a kid, making “houses” out of old boxes? Anything around you was fair game to be put into use, via your imagination. Well Joost, an artist and would be architect by accident never stopped. On display now in the middle of urban Melbourne is Greenhouse, a structure made almost entirely from repurposed waste, save for the 100% recyclable steel framework, which was uncoiled and cut on site.
The rest is composed of the now familiar strawbales for walls, and on into less familiar territory – using discarded scientific equipment for plates and “taste tubes,” street signs becoming chairs, fire hydrants turning into tables, and strawberries growing out of the walls in former plastic pallets. The living roof will supply produce for the fully functioning restaurant and bar running in the Greenhouse.
And it’s all going away by January, reappearing at the Milan Furniture Fair next year.

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Mythbusters: Combating Climate Change is an Economy Killer

| Tuesday December 9th, 2008 | 0 Comments

cop14_logo_166x214.jpg Combating climate change is a pro-growth, pro-economic recovery policy according to a survey of decision makers conducted by GlobeScan and released at the UN Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Poznan, Poland.
Three-quarters of the 1,000 experts from 115 countries agreed that “equitable economic growth and development and significant progress in combating climate change can be achieved at the same time,” according to the survey, which was conducted over a one month period in cooperation with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the International Development Research Center, Local Governments for Sustainability, the United Nations Environment Program and the World Bank, among others. Only 11% disagreed.
Those surveyed ranked improving energy conservation and efficiency as having the greatest potential impact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short term among 17 specific approaches put forward. They ranked the removal of subsidies for carbon-intensive activities second.

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Read Seventh Generation’s CSR Report and Win $5,000

| Tuesday December 9th, 2008 | 2 Comments

svg_logo.jpg In July of this year, Seventh Generation released its 2007 Corporate Consciousness Report, a wrap up of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Named the Number One Best Company on Earth by the Better World Shopping Guide, the Corporate Consciousness Report discloses where they are on the “journey of sustainability” and how their employees and stakeholders are getting them there.
To celebrate the CSR Report, and citing the journey of sustainability is one that can’t be embarked upon alone, Seventh Generation launched The Sphere of Influence Contest. Announced with the report’s release and running until the end of the year, the idea is simple. Read the report, and then submit the best and most inspiring idea you thought they had. If yours is selected, you win $5,000 to make that idea a reality next year.

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How a Local Firewood Cooperative Can Lower a Nation’s Carbon Footprint

| Tuesday December 9th, 2008 | 1 Comment

burning-wood.jpgIt’s one of the biggest issues currently being addressed in Poznan: How can we stop the burning of forests as poor people burn firewood to make a living? Wood is also increasingly popular as a biomass fuel. So what’s the deal? Can we burn wood and not impact the environment?
The quick answer is that so long as the wood comes from a well managed forest, you’re more or less in the clear. And in case you are worried about the ecological impact of the smoke and the carbon dioxide emissions, this recent article in The Telegraph newspaper points out that because wood is a biomass fuel, burning is is carbon neutral – when you burn wood, it releases the exact amount of carbon dioxide that it absorbed when growing. It may actually be better to burn wood in some cases because when wood decomposes, it slowly lets go of the carbon it soaked up, a process which in many cases goes by unaccounted for (also read my article Clearing Forests Of Dead Wood Prevents Massive CO2 Emissions). So long as replanting matches harvesting your burning it will not lead to an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. Far more serious is what happens in the rainforests in Asia. The impact of people’s burning of firewood is dramatic because it leads to the loss of natural forests.

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Bringing Alternative Fuel Technology into Large Scale Production – Triple Pundit to Attend First-Ever Biofuel Summit

| Monday December 8th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Beyond the challenges of researching viable alternative second generation biofuels is that of bringing those technologies from the test tube to full-scale commercial production. Determining best practices and reducing risks are essential elements for bringing biofuel technology into mainstream use and meeting the increasing demand for energy.

In their just-released World Energy Outlook report, the International Energy Agency predicts a worldwide shortage of more than 28 million barrels of oil a day by 2030, making crystal clear (if it wasn’t already) the importance of alternative and sustainable sources of fuel to fill the gap.

This is the focus of a first-of-its-kind BioEnergy Summit this coming Thursday, December 11th in Madison, Wisconsin.

Emerson Process Management will host the event, bringing together researchers, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and policy wonks to converse, learn, and exchange ideas on how best to bring about what is essentially a revolution in alternative (some call it imperative) fuel development

TriplePundit’s own Sarah Lozanova will be attending the Summit. She’ll have access to key personalities, providing firsthand insight into the future of biofuel and bioenergy development and production.

In the meantime, to whet your appetite for Sarah’s reporting later this week, I had an opportunity to speak with Alan Novak, Emerson’s Director of Alternative Fuel Alan Novak, about the upcoming summit and the future of biofuel development in general.

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