Is 2006 our year?

| Wednesday January 11th, 2006 | 1 Comment

Yesterday’s commentary by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is calling green the new red, white and blue: (article here)

Enough of this Bush-Cheney nonsense that conservation, energy efficiency and environmentalism are some hobby we can’t afford. I can’t think of anything more cowardly or un-American. Real patriots, real advocates of spreading democracy around the world, live green.

In today’s SustainableBusiness.com Update, editor Rona Fried, is calling this year the year of the greens:

2006 is definitely going to be “our” year – for so many of us that have spent our lives trying to help people of all kinds understand the importance of sustainability.

Last week Joel Makower gave us his top ten list: five reasons for optimism, and five reasons for concern, about the state of business and the environment. The State of Green Business: Good News and Bad is Joel’s synopsis of the last fifteen years of green business:

And despite the obstacles, I remain optimistic — indeed, confident — that the hard work of good people inside good companies will continue to raise the bar, the performance, and the appreciation of corporate environmental practices.

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Economist on Population Decline – Not Always a Bad Thing

| Wednesday January 11th, 2006 | 4 Comments

CLD099.gifOne of the great, fundamental problems with coupling economic and environmental progress is the “growth” problem. It has long been assumed that “growth is good” and that without “growth” some sort of universal decline results. This is especially problematic with regards to population. On the one hand, we’ve all been told a hundred times of the perils of unchecked human population growth and the resource depleation, crowding, poverty and conflict it might lead to. On the other hand, we brag of the population growth of such-and-such a city, while states like North Dakota give away free land to stop population decline for fear of economic collapse. It has long been assumed that population growth goes hand in hand with economic progress. Not only that, but it is also assumed to be inevitable.
Is it possible to have sustained economic prosperity without population growth? If not, then I don’t think there is any point in trying to hold back population. But I don’t see any reason why it has to be that way. The Economist agrees. This article from the latest issue wisely points out that although a shrinking population may indeed lower GDP, what really matters is GDP per person. This is my favorite kind of article.
Despite this kind of thinking, governments from Japan to Italy are panicking about declining populations. Some of this is because population slowdown results in a more aged population, but again, the Economist points out that miild adjustments in corporate structure can account for this problem. So what’s the big deal? It seems that over and over again, the result of massive prosperity, coupled with the liberation of women, results in lower birth rates, and the slowing, and sometimes the reversal of population growth. The causes of this are undoubtedly good, so why resist them? More to share among fewer people can’t be bad.

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GM Moving into Hybrid Territory

| Tuesday January 10th, 2006 | 0 Comments

Despite initially dismissing hybrids as a fad, GM has decided to get in on this automobile sector whose market share is expected to grow three and a half times its current level over the next six years, according to J.D. Power and Associates. At this year’s North American International Auto Show, GM will be introducing two new SUV hybrid models. On the one hand is the Saturn Vue Green Line, which will retail for under $23,000, making it the cheapest hybrid on the market. On the other hand is the Chevy Tahoe, which offers a more sophisticated, “two mode” hybrid system. GM intends to have 12 hybrid models on the road within the next four years. Read more

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Big “Green” House

| Monday January 9th, 2006 | 0 Comments

TAP_video.jpgCan a 15,000 square foot home that houses two people be considered green? Today’s front page of the Marin Independent Journal features a picture of Michael Klein’s rammed-earth home designed by Sim Van der Ryn, which will soon be open to the public for the first time.
The story got me thinking once again about my dream home and what can really be considered green. As an article from Salmon Nation pointed out last year, the important thing to consider is overall resource usage, not whether a particular green technology was utilized or not.
I support Klein’s right to live in whatever size house he cares to and, if he’s going to build a mansion anyway, I’m glad that’s he’s chosen environmentally friendly materials and technology. However, if we are to label a structure as green, then I believe we should look primarily at the per capita ecological footprint of the structure, not just its performance relative to other buildings of the same size.

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DriveNeutral in the News

| Friday January 6th, 2006 | 2 Comments

drive_neutral33.gif DriveNeutral the Presidio School of Management project that allows drivers to offset CO2 emissions made it to the pages of the Christian Science Monitor this week.
This is great news for our pet project of course but we also are gratified to see the idea of emissions offsets getting to such wide audience.

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Europe Takes a New Look at Nuclear

| Friday January 6th, 2006 | 6 Comments

According to The Christian Science Monitor the European Union’s Energy Commissioner stated last Wednesday that, Europe needs to “look at nuclear power and at renewable energy,” to reduce dependence on imports.
With Russia cutting the flow of natural gas into Europe, nuclear is getting some new positive press. Some are even arguing that in order to meet CO2 reductions mandated by the Kyoto Protocol, nuclear is the only option.
Though renewables are also getting attention it is clear that, 20 years after Chernobyl, nuclear is once again being actively pursued in Europe.

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How Would You Feel About Profiting from War?

| Friday December 30th, 2005 | 2 Comments

camelbak.jpgNow here’s something interesting to think about over the new year: What to do when your company is offered a lot of money to sell to the US Military in the middle of a highly controversial war. It’s not an easy question, and I for one, see valid arguments both for and against entering into a military contract. Some people are rightly disgusted by the idea, and others see it as a normal business transaction that will keep troops well equiped and less likely to get injured.
Some companies are caught in the middle due not only to their own principals but also due to the constituency of their customers. Outdoor equipment companies, for example, sell a lot of products to the so called “LOHAS” market – folks who enjoy things like camping and outdoor recreation, and are, generally speaking, outspoken against war in general and the situation in Iraq in particular. Those same companies, in many cases, happen to make prodects that are very useful to soldiers such as excellent boots, hydration systems, sunglasses, and backpacks. Hence the dilemma.
Brands such as Oakley, The North Face, Camelbak and Arc’Tryx are among them, as reported on the Get Outdoors blog and in USA Today.
Although some see a bit of irony in this, I would be surprised to see mass outcry against, say, Camelbak. For one thing, supplying troops with something that’s going to help them survive is hard to see as immoral. It’s not like they’re manufacturing land mines. The other side of the coin is, of course, the idea that dependance on military contracts encourages companies to actually see a profit motive in continuing warefare – and that’s a problem. What do you think?

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Triple Pundit On Vacation

| Thursday December 29th, 2005 | 0 Comments

sayulita.jpgYou 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.

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3p Founder Nick Aster at Commonwealth Club Jan 31st

| Wednesday December 28th, 2005 | 1 Comment

commonwe.jpgSomething 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.

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Rams, Eagles Play “Climate Neutral” NFL Game

| Tuesday December 27th, 2005 | 2 Comments

rams_eagles.jpgCan 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.

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Another Victory for ANWR, and Hopefully Sound Energy Policy

| Friday December 23rd, 2005 | 0 Comments

TAP_video.jpgThe 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.

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Great Green Marketing Article in CMO Mag

| Thursday December 22nd, 2005 | 2 Comments

green_wheat.jpgThis 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.

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Is Growth Good?

| Wednesday December 21st, 2005 | 2 Comments

growth.jpgBenjamin 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

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Milton Freidman vs. Whole Foods on Reason.com

| Tuesday December 20th, 2005 | 5 Comments

the social responsibility of businessIf you’ve ever grappled with the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility, you’ve undoubtedly encountered a certain degree of cynicism along with naivete. You may also recall Milton Friedman’s famous quote “the Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits” which is precisely the way many business people think about it. But check out this fantastic exchange between Friedman and Whole Foods Founder John Mackey at ReasonOnline.
Mackey’s take on Friedman’s vision is that it’s simply too narrow and basically old fashioned. Friedman says Mackey is just adding fluff to what is basically the same philosophy he has. I think it’s mostly a language barrier, and a matter a of exactly how you define “profit”. Must the word “profit” always refer to money in the strictest sense? It’s certainly a lot easier to quantify that something like “happiness”, but the intangible benefits of good, honest business clearly go way beyond pure finance. The question is, must we obsessively try to quantify it somehow, or is there language that can describe it accurately enough in non-abstract terms to arrive at some sort of agreement?
Check out the exchange, it’s very thought provoking.

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The Great XMAS Tree Debacle – Real vs. Fake?

| Monday December 19th, 2005 | 6 Comments

xmastree.jpgThere’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.

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