China announced this week that production and use of plastic bags in supermarkets and retail shops will be banned beginning June 1. This new law could have a considerably positive environmental impact, given that Chinese citizens “use as many as 3 billion plastic bags a day.” The law is part of a larger campaign to fight “white pollution” in China, which includes other forms of rampant plastic and styrofoam use as well.Click to continue reading »
TriplePundit: Reporting on the Triple Bottom Line & Sustainable Business News
Thus is the opening line in the introduction to, and the gist of, Michael Pollan’s new book In Defense of Food.
Pollan has a gift for taking simple concepts and expand them into the “Big Picture”. Many are surely aware of his previous book Omnivore’s Dilemma, in which he presented the reader with a simple question: “What should we have for dinner?” Following three food chains – hunter-gatherer, organic, and industrial – Pollan explored not only the environmental, but the health and national security risks of how we commonly answer that simple question.
Pollan continues in his theme “what to eat” in his latest book, suggesting, in part, that much of what we eat isn’t really food at all, but “food-like substances” of which the louder the health claim associated with it, the more wary we should be as to its actual healthiness.
Sustainable food production is certainly not a new concept to readers of this blog. Pollan is an eloquent and articulate proponent of a sensible outlook on food and agriculture, and other popular books, such as Fast Food Nation, also take a critical look at our food culture. (Pollan has a suggested reading list available on “sustainable eating” in pdf format)
In a recent article published in the New York Times Magazine last month Pollan warns of the danger of proffering certain terms so much as to render their continued use less and less potent – terms such as “sustainable” – even while the concept itself remains vitally important.
Sustainable agriculture is an idea few, if any, would publicly advocate against, but Pollan suggests that when pesticide makers and genetic engineers “cloak themselves in the term” we may very well have “succeeded in defining sustainability down…”Click to continue reading »
Click to continue reading »
At a New Year’s party I attended recently I was pleasantly surprised to find a green alternative at the bar. Purus vodka was the highlighted booze for those who wished to bring in the New Year with an inebriated bang! Purus is organic vodka made with water from the Alps and organic wheat from Northern Italy. The bottle is sleek and distincly shaped; composed of recyclable glass and a 100% sustainable farmed cork. Even the label is entirely tree free and utilizes soy based inks and water based adhesives.
Purus’s website features a “virtual forest,” where you can plant virtual trees that will ultimately lead to the planting of real trees through a smart and innovative forestation program. Purus has teamed up with American Forests, a group dedicated to ensuring healthy forest eco-systems in every community. Beginning just this past month of December 07,’ American Forests kick-started the Purus program by planting one tree on behalf of each of the first 100,000 adult visitors that register for the free program on the Purus website.
William Procter made candles, James Gamble made soaps and in The Panic of 1837 they competed intensely for the same resources. The two men happened to be married to sisters and their shared father-in-law sat them down and in pursuit of peace in the family, convinced them that collaboration was better than competition, and thus Procter & Gamble was born.
Today P&G is the world’s biggest consumer products corporation, with close to 300 brands that “three billion times a day touch the lives of people around the world, making life a little better every day.” Somehow I seem to avoid these odds, understandable considering that I don’t eat non-hydrogenated oils, so the Pringles are out, I opt for laundry detergent that is biodegradable and non-toxic, sorry Tide, I leave the Duracels on the shelf as I cycle rechargeable batteries through my solar powered charger, and I’m not fully clean until I am Dr. Brommers Magic Soap fully clean. However, P&G did make my life a little better one day at the end of October when it announced that it has a new goal and perhaps the seeding of a new culture of sustainable business.
Are you ambivalent about giving to charities? You’re not alone, and in fact, in an recent article in Ode magazine called “No More Charity Please!” they profiled the head of an organization that actively opposes charity. Why? As Moniek Zegers of Comit√© tegen Goede Doelen Gekte (“Committee against good-cause lunacy”) says,
Western idealists often know far too little about the local culture of the region they want to help. They usually live with other expats and the local elite in an upscale part of the city, while the biggest problems are concentrated in remote villages. Moreover, good causes keep themselves afloat. If their governing strategies were effective, everyone involved would be out of a job. But this keeps fundamental problems from being solved.
An interesting point of view. However it overlooks many organizations who are taking an active, hands on, and integrative approach to helping people help themselves, rather then being the white knight who rushes through, without concern or awareness of the relevance of their efforts.Click to continue reading »
Click to continue reading »
Given last week’s surge in oil prices at the pump, more Americans can be counted on to explore hybrid vehicle options. Toyota plans to capitalize on this development by introducing a hybrid option for every model they make by 2010. Toyota President, Katsuaki Watanabe, recently made this announcement as part of Toyota’s plan to become a socially and environmentally responsible corporation.
Thanks to readers like you, AskPablo has enjoyed overwhelming success over the last 66 weekly columns. Since we began tracking readership in April we have received over 50,000 unique readers with a peak day of over 13,000. From his early days blogging on Triple Pundit to the genesis of his own “Ask Pablo” column, Pablo has generated thousands of readers on and appearances in publications from DowJones MarketWatch, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Chicago Tribune, Fast Company, ENN, and TreeHugger.com.
Now we are pleased to announce a new validation of Pablo’s efforts to the list. Beginning next week, AskPablo will begin to reach an even bigger audience as a weekly column at Salon.com. Not only is this a coup for Pablo, but it’s a great validation for the appeal of common sense thinking about environmental issues and will undoubtedly bring in a huge new audience.
You will still be able to read Ask Pablo in the usual place on Triple Pundit (so don’t go anywhere, there will be excerpts and links), but it’s new official home will be be the venerable Salon.com
Congrats to Pablo on this new paid publishing position and kudos to everyone who read 3P to make it happen!
We’ve done it. We’ve finally reached the psychologically important $100/barrel oil. The recent surge that got us there is more likely due to the plummeting dollar than other factors, but nonetheless will ultimately impact the price paid for gasoline at the pump. But even as the price goes higher, there are additional costs that are not paid at the pump. What are they, and who’s paying them?
In addition to the internalized cost of fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel we must also consider the many significant externalized costs. Of these externalized costs some are internalized by tax-payers (oil industry subsidies, military patrols of oil shipping lanes, etc.) while others are left for the global population and future generations to bear (climate change damages, global health effects, etc.).
Let’s take 2005 numbers because that’s what I have available (the thought process is what matters):
The average US retail gasoline price during 2005 was $2.240. During that same time period the retail price of US No. 2 diesel (on highway) was $2.402. Additionally, the subsidized rate for agricultural (off highway) diesel was $1.65 in 2005. Since agricultural diesel is essentially the same as on-highway diesel (except for the addition of red dye), the US government (i.e. taxpayers) subsidizes $0.752 of every gallon ($2.402 – $1.65).Click to continue reading »
Click to continue reading »
In my Jan. 2 post, I brought up the issue of the evidentiary case for climate change and global warming, and how new scientific theories, particularly such far-reaching and profound ones, typically take decades, if not longer, to gain mainstream acceptance. While it appears that a majority of the lay public in the US intuitively finds reasons to agree with and accept it, whether or not global warming is taking place, and more particularly whether or not man-made carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions are the primary agents accelerating the process, the issue is not yet settled within the scientific community.
It is clear from from U.S. Dept. of Energy data (see graph, Jan. 2 post), as well as that from other leading government and scientific organizations with access to our most accurate and extensive CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions data sets, that such emissions have increased dramatically since 1860. According to the best data available, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by approximately 25% since the beginning of the industrial age, from about 280 parts per million to over 370 parts per million. The largest increases occurred in the last decades of the 20th century, with CO2 now accumulating at an annual 2 ppm rate.
The most plausible and likely reason for this appears to be the rapid increase in man-made, or anthropogenic, emissions related to industrial activity and transportation. Man-made increases in carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, along with changes in land use (clearing of forests for agriculture and development) stand out like a sore thumb as the most readily apparent large-scale change in carbon sources and sinks.
Climate science is relatively young and its methods and techniques new, however. Though evidence for accelerating global climate warming over this period has become sufficiently documented and explained to capture the attention and sway the opinion of political leaders and policy makers worldwide, whether or not anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions is the cause has been even more hotly disputed.
Click to continue reading »
IT industry leaders are increasingly finding that going “green” is good business. In addition to increasing the energy efficiency of its operations and making use of more economically viable renewable power sources, companies such as HP are expanding their recycling programs.
HP operates recycling centers in more than 45 countries. In 2006, it recovered 187 million pounds of electronics globally, 73% more than IBM, its closest competitor, effectively closing the electronic product lifecycle loop. Having reached the 1 billion pound recycling mark in 2004 the company plans to double its recovery rate and hit a cumulative 2 billion pound target by year-end 2010.
Looking to do its part in rapidly industrializing China, HP in September announced that it would extend its recycling program beyond corporate customers to include consumers and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). “HP has established a network of 30-plus drop-off points nationwide where consumer/SMB customers can elect to return HP (hardware) products,” Jean-Claude Vanderstraeten, president, environment for HP Asia Pacific told Triple Pundit. “HP collects the returned products from the drop-off centers and recycles them. The program was launched last September and is being expanded.”
Click to continue reading »
San Francisco planners have decided to make Treasure Island a model of urban sustainability. For those of you unfamiliar with Treasure Island, it is an entirely man-made 400-acre property in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. Originally built in 1939 from sea bottom, quarried rock, and loam, it is currently home to an abandoned naval base and a small number of low- and middle income residents. The new Treasure Island, however, is set to become a hotbed for eco-living. Check out the Treasure Island interactive city map that shows just what planners intend to do.
Although Triple P author Lexington Blood wrote about this project last month, I am wondering whether, in fact, the plans can really become a reality.
The Long Tail is one of the most interesting business concepts to come out of recent years – stating that in many markets there is more to gain from selling “less of more”. But that’s got nothing to do with this post. Chris Anderson, the concept’s originator, has an otherwise brilliant blog which seems to have woefully blundered last week. Chris proposes that the print magazine business is less carbon intensive than publishing online. It doesn’t take a lot of thinking to suspect there’s no way this could be true, but there are indeed enough variables to keep a calculator busy for a while if you really wanted to do a comparison. And I won’t belabor it here – take a look at his post to see the depth, or lack therof, that was considered, then look at the comments.
Everyone makes some bad assumptions from time to time, but the universal de-bunking in the comments makes me really happy. Many people in business use less-than thorough thinking to make decisions about their environmental footprint (among other things). If one of the leading thinkers around can do this, imagine how common it is.
Through the pioneering work of Dr. Cristiano Facanha of ICF International and Dr. Arpad Horvath of the University of California at Berkeley, ShipGreen.net now offers a web-based program that integrates with retailers’ online shopping carts, enabling consumers to easily – and accurately – offset the carbon produced from product life-cycle shipping emissions.
Facanha and Horvath’s combined experience in life-cycle assessment, supply chain, and freight transportation has allowed the pair to develop the most accurate algorithm yet possible in determining the carbon footprint of products from manufacture to delivery at the consumer’s door.
The program easily integrates with a retailer’s shopping cart, giving the customer the option to offset the carbon produced in shipping their purchases. Due to the accuracy of the algorithm developed by Facanha and Horvath, the average cost of an offset is only .29 to .49 cents. The modest cost may help bring some of the “almost greens” into the “bright green” category I spoke of in a previous post.
The offset programs funded through the program are verified in accordance with Kyoto Protocol requirements and, according to ShipGreen, to “The Gold Standard (f)or the Climate, Community & Biodiviersity Alliance, taking into account cultural, environmental, social and economic issues”.
Humans are tool-makers. This, according to many in the sustainable business field, is our greatest asset for building an innovative and sustainable society.
While most of us read and write about the latest green inventions on the Triple P site, here is a unique opportunity to propose your own idea for a green gadget. A new design contest for the development of green electronics is now open as part of the Greener Gadget Conference in New York City, scheduled for February 1, 2008.
It’s easy to forget that many of what scientists and many laypersons now take as scientific givens – a heliocentric solar system, plate tectonics, evolution – initially faced fierce and strident opposition that persisted over decades if not centuries – and to this day remain outside the world view of large numbers of people. Such is the case when it comes to global warming and climate change, which has taken several decades – and sharp spikes in fossil fuels and commodities– to win the minds and hearts of what James Lovelock terms “scientific middle management” as well as a broader public.
That’s certainly not to say that there is unanimity in the scientific community or the broad population – as can be seen in some reader comments– when it comes to acknowledging that we are on the brink, or perhaps in the early stages of a global warming period and that man-made emissions of carbon dioxide is the primary accelerant. And it remains very much in doubt as to whether or not governments, industry, NGOs, local communities and individuals can respond as widely or as urgently as may be necessary to even at least ameliorate the adverse effects.