Book Review: Natural Capitalism

3p Contributor | Thursday March 8th, 2007 | 2 Comments

natcapbook.jpgNatural Capitalism was published at a poignant moment in human history. As we edged toward the new millennium, it appeared that the unintended consequences of industrialization were finally getting the spot light: the U.S., along with several other countries, was on the verge of joining the Kyoto Protocol; electric and hybrid cars had hit the market and gained popularity, and Ray Anderson of Interface Carpet became the poster child of the business case for sustainability.
There is no doubt that this monster of a book contributed significantly to the sustainability movement that was gaining huge momentum (and continues to do so today). At the time it was written, when others felt the need to be revolutionary, Natural Capitalism was evolutionary. Without leaving the capitalist system, it gives us a framework to re-organize our market-driven economy around valuing all forms of capital: natural, human, manufactured, and financial. Hawken and the Lovinses propose Natural capitalism as the means to have both a prosperous economy and thriving natural environment, while meeting all human needs.

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Oops…that’s a Plastic Bag, not a Jellyfish

| Wednesday March 7th, 2007 | 3 Comments

plastic_bag.jpgBYOB’s not what it used to be; at least not at IKEA. Their new mantra is “Bring Your Own Bag” and it is music to my ears. For years I’ve endured the look of surprise or scorn when I’ve answered the inevitable “paper or plastic?” with a third unspoken option “I brought my own.” I even typically bag my own since it takes the bagger a while to contemplate my words, having never been trained for this alternative customer response. I’ve found that if I stop the bagger after they’ve put one item in the plastic bag, the bag is thrown into the garbage, defeating the whole purpose my not wanting the bag :(
So, how many plastic bags do we use? According to ReusableBags.com, each year 500 billion to 1 trillion bags are consumed worldwide – that is 1 million per minute! They are seldom reused and billions end up as litter each year. The U.S. discards 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags annually. The cost to retailers to provide plastic bags is $4 billion per year.

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Green Index Launches on TreeHugger

| Tuesday March 6th, 2007 | 2 Comments

What you see above is a collaborative project between TreeHugger and Daylife. It’s an index of the frequency with which certain key terms appear in the press and online media. It’s not exactly scientific, but it gives a fun look at the zeitgeist of green.

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Book Review: The Next Sustainability Wave

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 6th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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In The Next Sustainability Wave, Bob Willard gives us an overview of the drivers for sustainability in the corporate world. This is Willard’s second book on outlining how to build the case for sustainability in business ( The Sustainability Advantage, his first, was published in 2002). The book is written for corporate business leaders, and Willard clearly knows his audience. It is particularly formatted for executives or those who like their information is bit-sized parcels (on the right side is text, with bold headers; on the left are quotes, cartoons, or anecdotes pertaining to the header). Willard argues that although there are executives that have a personal passion for sustainability, businesses need a great deal more leadership in this arena. His arguments center on the bottom-line impact, but he also suggests that as the popularity of “sustainable” grows, firms that do not adopt sustainable practices will eventually have a public relations crisis. His stance is that social and environmental responsibility is not a moral imperative, but a business solution.

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AskPablo: Glass vs. PET Bottles

| Monday March 5th, 2007 | 21 Comments

PET.jpgChris McLaren, owner of Lush Beverages of Ottawa, Canada, sent this week’s question. He changed his packaging from glass to PET this year, partially for environmental reasons. But to date no one has been able to quantify those reasons for him. I will give it the old Boy Scout try to see if I can substantiate his decision numbers.

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Blue and Yellow Make Green: GE and Union Pacific Team-Up for a Win, Win, Win

| Wednesday February 28th, 2007 | 1 Comment

ge1.jpgFreight trains are already three times more fuel efficient than over-the-road trucks, and 400 miles or less seems to be the only place where trucks beat trains in overall efficiency. Yet the times necessitate innovation and invention from all.
Union Pacific, GE and Mother Nature teamed up in Oakland on Friday morning for an outstanding presentation of joint efforts in the Green Locomotive Technology Tour. With the cost of energy wearing our wallets ever thinner, our planet less and less sustainable and our cultures less amenable, it was heartening to see two giants in the infrastructure and transportation fields promote their recent efforts in Green Technology.
The old fashioned whistle stop tour has not lost its charm amongst the industries innovations. While attendance was spotty, those who braved the bright sunshine and crisp gentle breezes were treated to a well researched and thoughtful tour, complete with an engineer’s simulator experience.

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AskPablo: Is Netflix saving the world?

| Monday February 26th, 2007 | 5 Comments

netflix.gifCould it be true? Is Netflix helping to solve the global climate catastrophe? This weekend Netflix reached an impressive milestone; one billion DVDs sent. Could the resulting reduction in personal vehicle trips to the video rental store make a difference in the battle against climate change? Well, read on…
A DVD weighs about 16g with its mailing sleeve. Netflix has 42 facilities placed strategically around the country so that greater then 90% of their customers are within one shipping day, probably averaging around 200 km (125 miles) from facility to customer (if anyone from Netflix reads this and has better data, please let me know…). Since commercial vehicle/truck emissions are often calculated in g/tkm (grams of CO2 per tons x kilometer) we need to determine the tons shipped since they first began shipping DVDs. One billion DVDs would weigh about 16 Billion grams (16,000 tons). Multiply this by 200 km average shipping distance and you get 3,200,000 tkm.

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Nice Trim

| Tuesday February 20th, 2007 | 42 Comments

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“Nice trim,” I was told. “Is that coyote fur?” It took me awhile for his words to sink in. I don’t wear fur. How in the world did I end up buying a coat with a coyote-trimmed fur hood? I didn’t know U.S. clothing retailers are not required to label fur if the fur is valued at less than $150.
Don’t get me wrong. I love fur; I love fur on live animals, not dead ones. Sure, in some societies, people wear bison or deerskin, of animals they’ve killed to eat. So where is fox, beaver, mink, chinchilla, or raccoon on the restaurant menu?
Liz Jones, the UK’s Daily Mail fashion columnist, penned a “must-read” column on fur in the fashion industry providing an astute first-hand account of designers and consumers of fur.

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Green Mountain Coffee wins Best Corporate Citizen for 2007

| Tuesday February 20th, 2007 | 4 Comments

gmcoffee.jpgEveryone loves top 100 lists, and the “100 Best Corporate Citizens” according to Corporate Responsibility Officer magazine has just been released with Vermont’s Green Mountain Coffee topping the list for the second straight year. GreenBiz has details about how the ranking was pulled together. If you want to go straight to the list, click here for the PDF. It’s important to note that only companies listed on various major indexes were eligible for the prize.

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AskPablo: Electric Hand Dryer or Paper Towel?

| Monday February 19th, 2007 | 15 Comments

cnt00125.jpg So you’re standing in a public bathroom, having just washed your hands. You look to the paper towels, you look to the electric hand dryer on the wall, which one do you choose?

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“EcoHangars” Improve EcoEffectiveness of DryCleaning

| Friday February 16th, 2007 | 5 Comments

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In all honesty, the idea of yet another ad in my face makes me cringe a little bit, but I have to hand it to the makers of the EcoHanger, that they’re onto a pretty neat idea – provide dry cleaners with free hangers to replace the rather wasteful metal hangers they always send you home with. The catch – the hangers have advertisements on them. They’re also made of biodegradable recycled paper. Here’s the site.
Of course, I don’t see anywhere on their site that mentions that 100% recycled includes post consumer content – the only real definition of recycled. There’s also not much explanation of exactly what the ink in the ads is made of. And with a useful shelf life of just 8 weeks, they won’t be replacing real hangers any time soon. But still, probably a better option than the wire version. If only looking at those ads would reduce my bill… hmm..
via springwise, thx Jamie!

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Editorial: Steven Puma on a New Business Paradigm

| Wednesday February 14th, 2007 | 1 Comment

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In the book ” Collapse“, Jared Diamond outlines 12 major problems which threaten human civilization: destruction of natural habitats, depletion of wild foods (fish, etc), loss of genetic diversity, soil erosion, fossil fuel depletion, shortage of fresh water, the photosynthetic ceiling (100% use of the sun’s energy for human purposes), pollution from toxic chemicals, species transfer, global warming due to human activity, population growth and the rising per-capita impact of population. He goes on to state that “our world society is on a non-sustainable course, and any of our 12 problems of non-sustainability…would suffice to limit our lifestyle within the next several decades. They are like time bombs with fuses of less than 50 years.” No one problem stands out as greater than all of the rest. “If we solved 11 of the problems, but not the 12th, we would still be in trouble, whichever was the problem that remained unsolved. We have to solve them all.”
Big business has had the dubious distinction of taking all of these problems and accelerating them. Corporations aren’t “to blame”, necessarily, because they are simply doing what they were designed to do: convert capital, natural, human or otherwise into something useful for human beings, and to do it in the most efficient way possible. Companies are required by law to be efficient, and they have gotten so good at it that they threaten to destroy the very things they were designed to serve: human beings. It is almost like the movie “Terminator”, where men create machines that begin to operate on their own then turn on their creators.

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Getting Kids to Help – Another Brick in the Wall?

| Wednesday February 14th, 2007 | 0 Comments

This post deviates a little from the usual business side of things, but I thought it would be a fairly rocking way to start the week. Take a Pink Floyd classic and tie it in with master DJ Eric Prydz and you get a rocking rendition inspiring kids to get involved with resource conservation and have some fun while they do it. I wouldn’t be one to say you don’t need an education, but it’s great to see this issue as something that’s just common sense, that anyone can understand…

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Smithfield Foods Phasing Out Gestation Crates

| Tuesday February 13th, 2007 | 9 Comments

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My colleague emailed me last week, “I never thought I’d see this, not in my lifetime.” On January 25, 2007, Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the U.S., announced it will be phasing out hog gestation crates over the next decade.
Several days later, Maple Leaf Foods, Canada’s largest pork producer followed suit.
Before we go any further, are you familiar with a gestation crate? According to Bgunzy Humeston, an Iowa farmer: “Picture a sow in a steel bar crate with 3″ of room on each side and about 9-12″ from front to back to move. The animal can’t turn around – she’s always facing the same direction, with her feed and water at her face.” In the crate; for life. The lives of breeding sows are spent repeatedly getting pregnant through artificial insemination and giving birth (as are the lives of dairy cows who must have a calf in order to continue to produce milk, but I digress…)

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AskPablo: Home Energy Saving Tips

| Monday February 12th, 2007 | 2 Comments

Marketwatch.jpgLast week I was invited to the home of Stacey Delo of DowJones Online to film a segment on home energy saving tips to be aired this week on MarketWatch. We looked at a whole bunch of energy saving measures, and this week I will show you how I got some of the numbers behind them. None of these particular facts made the final cut but they are worth reading.

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