You may notice a lot fewer posts here over the next 10 days – I’m off to Mexico until the 10th for a little R&R which, of course, is essential for personal sustainability, which is required for any sort of eventual global sustainability. Bob Gower and Joey Feinstein are baby sitting the site till then, and hopefully will have some good stuff up to read! See you in January.
- Offshore Wind Farm
- SCS Global Services Releases Updated Recycled Content Certification Standard
- Live Twitter Chat: Kimberly-Clark Marks Fifth Anniversary Of Forest Conservation w/Greenpeace
- 20 Ventures Named to Accelerator Phase of Big C Competition to Change the Way the World Lives with Cancer
Something for your calendar: I will be part of a panel at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, January 31st. The topic is “Environmental Blogging” and I’ll be joined by Siel from Green LA Girl, Alex Steffan from Worldchanging, and Graham Hill (or Tim McGee) from Treehugger. Eric Corey Freed is the organizer and Gil Friend will moderate the panel. It’s a real honor to have been asked to help put this event together, and I think it’s going to be a very fun and interesting night! You can RSVP by visiting the Commonwealth Club website here (scroll down to the 31st). Please do so soon, as it’s likely to be full.
Can climate neutrality and the NFL go hand in hand? LOHAS directory reports that it is indeed possible! Last week’s game in St. Louis between the Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles generated an estimated 58 tons of carbon emissions – mostly to heat the domed stadium. An organization called StopGlobalWarming.org has arranged the purchase of an equivalent amount of energy from wind and methane to offset the game’s climate footprint. However, that amounts to only a tiny fraction of the more than 10,000 tons of CO2 generated by fans driving and flying to the game. The organization hopes that by publicizing their efforts, fans will take notice.
The battle over ANWR continues, as everyone has probably read by now, with a major victory for the refuge. The battle is likely not to be over, and I encourage you, once again, to pass around the video we made this summer called “Drawing the Line” – Jimmy Carter himself called it “… a good film”.
The message in the film is important and bridge building: That the issue is about much more than protecting a wildlife refuge, it’s about drawing a symbolic line that says now is the time when the United States makes efficiency and renewables the cornerstone of energy policy – for a more secure, and ultimately more profitable future. Opening ANWR stalls the innovation that the country needs now, and will more desperately need in the future. View it here.
This article in CMO Magazine is worth perusing for its insight on “green marketing” – what works, and what doesn’t. The article makes the point that deliberately branding youself as “Green” carries with it quite a bit of risk, especially if you have a checkered past (like Wal Mart). I looked at this recently in a post about the Beauty Engineered Forever brand of cleaning products, and the article also points out that nowhere in marketing material is the Toyota Prius ever referred to as “green”.
Ultimately this is a good thing because it reduces greenwashing and respects the intellegence of the public who are rightly skeptical of distracting “green” claims. It also reinforces the idea that ecologically intellegent innovations, particularily in efficiency ought to be commonplace and part of any sound business strategy.
Benjamin Friedman in The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth claims that economic growth is an imperative and morally necessary, particularly to raise the standard of living throughout the world. But is growth good?
Several readers responded to this question on the Harvard Business School publication, Working Knowledge. Apparently most of the responses indicate that the question should be re-phrased as, what constitutes good growth. Follow the link to read the responses.
Most responders, and by extension most readers who are well-educated managers, seem to hold socially responsible ideas indicating that many know the “right” thing to do (in our eyes). The question I have is, Why hasn’t there been a larger change? Why are economies still measured by gross domestic product? Why do shareholders still want corporations to raise quarterly earning? Why are managers motivated to improve productivity with the intent of reducing the workforce? Read the summary here.
- Ken Chung at InformedStrategy.com
ED NOTE – Ken’s article reminds me of one of my favorite quotes about this issue: “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell” – Edward Abbey
There’s an amusing article in this weekend’s SF Gate about the what many people see as quite a dillema – chosing a fake christmas tree over a real one. Personally, I can’t stand fake plants of any kind, so it’s real or nothing for me. Furthermore, I don’t think it’s all that big a deal to have a real tree anyway – it’s typically a local operation, and new trees are reforested to replace the ones that get cut. However, there are other options. Apparantly, the City of San Francisco will rent you a live tree for $90 which then gets planted somewhere in the city… of course, it’s not a pine.
Interesting idea. You could also, of course, convert to Judaism which, as pointed out in the article, “celebrates the miracle of a little bit of oil lasting eight days”. Talk about energy efficiency.
I’ve sung a lot of praise for the so-called “$100 Laptop” project spearheaded by MIT – the idea is to produce a simple laptop that can be sold in bulk to developing countries for about $100 each, then distributed to kids in schools. By all accounts, it’s an amazing idea, and an amazing example of leapfrog technology and inspiration.
However, at the risk of raining on the parade, there are possible downsides which do not seem to be getting much attention. EWasteInsights has a great piece on the most obvious one: a lack of discussion on how to dispose of the laptops at the end of their lives. Indeed, it’s strange that little mention is made about the potential “e-waste” problem a massive distribution of laptops presents, particularly in countries with poor waste handling infrastructure. Has disposal/reuse been worked into the design at all? It seems picky to bring this up, but with the incredible level of innovation that has gone into it, it’s disappointing to see no mention of the machine’s longevity or post-use possibilities. It’s a perfect chance to help kids leap frog into new technologies, but it’s also a great chance to demonstrate the principals of sustainable design, which are every bit in keeping with the project’s philosophy.
WBCSD, which incidentally is one of my favorite sources for news, has a great article today about the slowly growing awareness of environmental costs in China. Despite the obvious damage that has been done to health and ecology as a result of breakneck economic growth, not to mention a less-than-cooperative governement that tends to cover things up, the articles talks about slowly improving transparency and a slowly growing awarenss of renewable energy. It’s not much, but it’s a start.
Sustainable Ventures is offering a $10,000 prize to anyone who can measure the “true costs” of a loaf of bread. The idea is an exercise to produce metrics and frameworks upon which people can make more informed choices. Given the zillions of types of bread consumed around the world, a “true cost” will be pretty varied, but the way the cost is calculated and the areas for “savings” exposed are likely to be similarly useful.
The added costs in question would probably be derived from oil used in transport and fertilizer and associated externalities as well as the theoretical costs of things like low or high wages.
There’s a nice little article in the JSOnline about “earth friendly” holiday gifts for kids. There are a lot of ideas in it from buying antiques, to giving immaterial items like museum memberships or art classes. But what’s interesting to me is that the article points out that many “green” products don’t proclaim their “greenness”. This goes back to my ideas on “green marketing” being, on occasion, a detriment. What’s most significant is that when a low-end (no offense, JSOnline) mainstream publication starts pointing things like this out to people, it improves people’s awareness as follows. One – it makes people who would be fearful of the “green” label feel as though they have company. Two – it makes people think to themselvelves that ecological consiousness is so mainstream that it’s matter of fact, which makes them far less likely to hesitate in making a “green” purchase.
I came across the term “pyromarketing” in this week’s Economist as I was reading about the growing trend of reconciliation between religious and corporate America which intrigued me and I wondered how it might fit with “green” or sustainable marketing.
Pyromarketing is a term coined by Greg Steilstra, formerly the chief marketer for Zondervan, a religious publishing house owned by Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins which oddly enough also owns Regan books which publishes “How to Make Love Like a Porn Star”, but that’s another story in of itself. Instead of using traditional mass marketing media, like television, pyromarketing relies on “consumer evangelists” who spread the word (like fire) among like-minded people. Greg uses the metaphor of the steps it takes to start a fire to describe his process for pyromarketing. It is very similar to viral marketing or “buzz marketing, but so far I’ve only heard it used in the context of marketing religion.
Recently I saw a Bank of America commercial that didn’t look like a commercial at all. The commercial looked like an advertisement promoting a new town image resulting from an urban renewal program. The commercial showed a city center with many historical buildings in various stages of renovation. The narrator started with a litany of facts regarding historical buildings and districts in the United States, and then followed by the numbers of buildings, historical sites this organization has been directly involved in preserving and renovating. In the closing moments the final statement was one related to the cost of renovation projects and at that moment the B of A logo comes on the screen. When the logo was at the center of the screen then the narrator mentions Bank of America as long time contributor to this organization contributing to the preservation of American heritage.Click to continue reading »
There’s a pretty good article in last week’s Business Week (article here) that highlights the ways that companies are reducing CO2 and other emissions in anticipation of the challenges of climate change. The article’s principal thesis is that companies ought to start making big changes now because regulation, especially in a post-Bush administration, is inevitable and likely to be severe. In reality, there are innumerable other reasons why companies ought to take a pro-active approach to reducing their emissions, my favorite being the adage that “pollution is a design flaw” that literately represents lost efficiency and lost product.
But – I think for the mainstream audience, scaring them a little bit with the threat of regulation seems to be an effective way to start the process of evolution to truly clean industry. Some people will go down kicking and screaming, but most of them will notice what the more thoughtful competition is doing, and eventually start “getting it”.