Renewable Energy Rising Across All Spheres of U.S. Society

| Friday January 9th, 2015 | 0 Comments

100GreenPowerUsersOrganizations across the U.S. are coming to grips with our fossil-fuel addiction and the escalating, often hidden, true costs of fossil-fuel production, distribution and combustion.

Registering another record-setting year in 2014, the U.S. solar energy industry is looking forward to another banner year in 2015, while the recent extension of the federal wind energy production tax credit is expected to boost growth across the wind sector.

A mix of supportive government policies and R&D investments, along with energy market reforms, ongoing technological advances and new financing vehicles, is proving to be a potent and self-reinforcing combination for allocating public- and private-sector resources for public good. As a result, the costs of renewable energy generation and energy efficiency upgrades are expected to continue on their downward trend — and installations continue to grow — despite the recent sharp drop in oil prices.

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Beef Industry Having a Cow over Potential USDA Recommendations

Leon Kaye | Friday January 9th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Beef industry, beef, USDA, National Cattlemens Beef Association, my plate, food pyramid, big government, Leon Kaye, lobbying

The USDA may soon recommend eating less red meat in a roundabout way

Americans’ consumption of beef has been declining at a steady rate since the 1970s, but the beef industry is still a powerful lobbying force in this country. So watch for an onslaught of propaganda if a U.S. Department of Agriculture panel makes new recommendations for dietary guidelines in the near future. In a move that will bring screams of nanny state-ism, socialism and “Blame Obama,” the Associated Press has reported this advisory panel is close to recommending a diet that is both higher in plant foods and reduces its overall environmental impact.

Clearly that suggestion is a shot at the beef industry, which at a global scale has a massive effect on land use and carbon emissions. True, the industry is making a nudge towards becoming more sustainable, but big beef’s impact on water, land and air is hard to ignore. Plus considering Americans’ generation-long struggle with obesity, a diet heavy on produce, whole grains, nuts and other plant-based products is not a bad idea. So that “My Plate” icon, which replaced that disastrous “food pyramid” suggesting we heap on the carbohydrates at meal times, could soon have less room for meat.

Naturally, the beef industry is not having it.

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White Castle Bets on Veggie Sliders

Eric Justian
| Friday January 9th, 2015 | 1 Comment

79257821_a51251a593_zNews has been spreading of White Castle’s new veggie sliders. Why should we care? Because we care about broader acknowledgement of health and sustainability. Not that a company particularly cares about either, but it acknowledges that customers want those things … even if the actual product isn’t healthier.

White Castle is diving into a market other fast food chains have tried out but with limited customer buy-in. When McDonald’s gave it a go back in 2000, they reportedly sold about four veggie burgers a day. Burger King sells them, but I’ve yet to hear or read a great review. And yet, White Castle is forging ahead.

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Cultivating the Next Generation of Leaders Through Social Entrepreneurship

3p Contributor | Friday January 9th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Professor Christine Mahoney in the classroom.

Professor Christine Mahoney in the classroom.

By Bruce A. Vlk

Within public policy schools, social entrepreneurship is a relatively new addition to curriculum. Traditionally, society has considered solving social problems the domain of governments and philanthropy. The emerging field of social entrepreneurship has introduced business tools and unlocked global capital markets to solve major social problems, with the promise of building enterprises that are both financially sustainable and solve the great social challenges of our time.

“It seems difficult in the short or medium term to see major changes through public policy alone. Our students look at government and they see it’s broken,” says Christine Mahoney, associate professor at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and faculty director of the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative at the University of Virginia.

Professor Mahoney further states, “The problems are massive, and even government and philanthropy together is not going to be able to meet the demand. These massive institutions cannot be changed easily. And so if they cannot be changed, you either give up or, in an entrepreneurial spirit, you go around it and come up with a different solution.”

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Venture Capitalists Inject $27 Million Into Stem’s Distributed Energy Storage Tech

| Thursday January 8th, 2015 | 0 Comments

stem.batteryx519 Fueled by power market reform and technological advances, investor enthusiasm regarding the commercial prospects of advanced energy storage technology is on the rise. A study by the Electric Power Research Institute and the U.S. Department of Energy determined annual savings of $50 billion could be realized by deploying energy storage systems across the U.S. power grid.

Savings of this magnitude, along with market researchers predicting rapid growth in revenues, is stoking investors’ appetite for pioneering young companies that have proven their advanced energy storage solutions commercially. Among this small but growing set is Millbrae, California-based Stem, whose technology is capable of managing fleets of distributed energy storage systems so as to meet or exceed grid operators’ needs and yield attractive financial returns and environmental benefits.

On Jan. 7 Stem announced it had closed a $27 million equity financing round. Constellation Technology Ventures and Total Energy Ventures joined earlier investors, including GE Ventures, that see energy storage playing a growing role in the U.S. power grid, both in front of and behind the meter, and Stem’s technology helping drive that growth.

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Larry Summers Calls For a Carbon Tax Now

RP Siegel | Thursday January 8th, 2015 | 2 Comments

Shell Gas PumpIn a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence “Larry” Summers makes the point that, with gasoline taxes at levels not seen in years, this would be an excellent time to implement a carbon tax.

It’s not likely that a 25-cent-per-gallon surcharge to help offset the impacts of resulting carbon emissions will draw outrage at a time when gas prices have fallen by over a dollar. Yet, this is the amount that a proposed $25-per-ton carbon tax would cost. The $1 trillion collected from this could be used to fund aggressive development of cleaner technology and to help prepare cities and towns for the many changes that have been predicted.

Summers points out that,  “The core of the case for a carbon tax is the recognition that those who use carbon fuels or products do not bear all the costs of their actions.”

Indeed, the only realistic possibility for a successful market-based approach to combating climate change is some mechanism that reflects the full impact of each transaction. “Free” market forces that pro-business advocates often cite are not sufficient because the impact of today’s actions may not show up until years from now and in some locale thousands of miles away. Indeed, buying and burning carbon fuels like gasoline, diesel and natural gas today is a bit like driving without a speedometer — in that we have no feedback on how quickly we are adding carbon into the atmosphere.

Filling up your SUV today could contribute to coastal flooding in Florida 10 years from now, but neither you nor the people who sold you the gas have any connection to this outcome without a mechanism in place to effect this.

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Top 3 Sustainable Supply Chain Trends for 2015

3p Contributor | Thursday January 8th, 2015 | 1 Comment

By Elisabeth Comere

Sustainable business strategies seem to be the focus of customer companies today, and companies will continue to move forward with full integration across their supply chains in response to the resource crunch. Here are the top three trends for 2015.

 1. Better resource management

Currently companies are facing major barriers to adopting responsible alternatives, like bio-based plastics and FSC-certified fibers, because demand simply isn’t strong enough to put them on a level playing field with conventionally-produced materials. So, how do we raise the bar?

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Paranoia or Flight Risk? United Fires 13 Flight Attendants over “BYE-BYE” Images

Leon Kaye | Thursday January 8th, 2015 | 3 Comments
United Airlines, airport security, OSHA, Hong Kong, San Francisco, flight attendants, Leon Kaye, security, airlines

The graffiti that canceled a flight with 300 people aboard

Earlier this week 13 flight attendants filed a whistleblower complaint with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) against United Airlines. The 26-page document claims that United fired them illegally in retaliation for refusing to fly on a 747 from San Francisco to Hong Kong last summer because of suspicious images and a message scrawled on the tail of the airplane. According to the Chicago Tribune, the flight attendants had a total of almost 300 combined years of experience—not that it mattered to the airline.

According to the complaint, the combination of “BYE BYE” and one face that looked “devilish” worried the crew enough to request that United complete a thorough inspection of the 747 to make sure no explosives were planted within the aircraft. The airline refused, the flight attendants refused to board the plane . . . and then all of them were fired for insubordination.

Are we talking about cautious professionals during an uncertain time, or was this a total overreach?

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Oil Spill in Singapore Strait Puts Endangered Turtles at Risk

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday January 8th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Singapore_Strait_oil_spill_RobertLoweOil spill response companies are rushing to clean up a large oil spill in the Singapore Strait, off the coast of Indonesia, in the hope of stopping the oil slick before it reaches protected turtle nesting areas on Bintan Island, Indonesia.

On Jan. 2, an estimated 4,500 tons (or 33,000 barrels) of crude oil were spilled when the Libyan oil tanker Alyarmouk and a Singaporean cargo ship, Sinar Kapuas, collided approximately 11 nautical miles from the territorially-disputed shoreline of Pedra Branca, Indonesia, northeast of Singapore.

The accident has been classified as a major spill — and one of the largest to have hit the area in years. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPAS) said that satellite images taken over the last few days did not find any evidence that the oil spill had reached the resort beaches of Bintan Island (which is also home to several rare species of turtles), but the agency has not ruled out the possibility that it would make landfall this weekend.

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Bipartisan Group Of Senators Pushes For Distributed Wind

3p Contributor | Thursday January 8th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on CleanTechnica.

1800-570x427By Nick Blitterswyk

A group of Senators recently urged the U.S. Department of Energy to continue funding programs for the domestic distributed wind energy industry.

The bipartisan group, led by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), wrote a letter highlighting the clear potential for distributed wind power to “contribute many gigawatts of electricity similar to other renewable technologies.”

Reactions have been mixed, and that’s understandable. The distributed wind industry has faced a good deal of critique (some of which is warranted). Nevertheless, the senators are correct: Distributed wind is a useful technology, with useful applications, and it stands to benefit from the increasingly attractive economic conditions for distributed generation.

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NRDC Files Lawsuit Over Toxic Pesticide Used In Pet Flea Control Products

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday January 8th, 2015 | 2 Comments

flea collar When we put flea control products on our pets, we want to kill the fleas on our four-legged friends — not expose ourselves to toxic pesticides. That’s why the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit this week against the Environmental Protection Agency.

Filed in federal court, the lawsuit challenges the EPA’s decision to allow the pesticide tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) to be used in pet flea control products. The lawsuit petitions the court to “review and set aside the final order of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency denying NRDC’s request to cancel all pet uses of the pesticide tetrachlorvinphos.”

NRDC has long been concerned about the pesticide. The organization conducted a study in 2007/2008 that found the levels of TCVP residues on the fur of pets wearing flea collars to be unsafe for toddlers. In 2009, NRDC filed a formal petition with the EPA asking the federal agency to not allow TCVP to be used in pet products. NRDC didn’t receive any information about the status of its petition. In February 2014, the organization filed a lawsuit that requested a mandate that the EPA respond to its petition. In May 2014, the EPA promised to respond by the end of October, and in November the federal agency published a safety assessment that, according to the NRDC, “ignores the science and fails to account for the increased vulnerability of kids.”

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The Quick & Dirty: 9 Distractions We Can All Do Without in 2015

Henk Campher
| Wednesday January 7th, 2015 | 3 Comments

15962683759_84742da69a_zI know you are going to be flooded and fooled by a million pieces of cool new trends for 2015. Yawn … How about trends we want to see the end of in 2015? Here are the few I would really like to wave goodbye to this year.

1. The circular distraction

Can we stop making up new jargon for old and tested ideas? Just because some hipster and cooler-than-us-old-skool-sustainability-nerds kid comes up with a fancy new name doesn’t mean it is actually a new idea. A few years ago it was “shared value” that got under my skin – packaging what we’ve been doing for a while into a brand new box. Now everyone is on about the circular economy … Really? Nice that the rest of the world is catching up with what has been at the forefront of sustainability thinking since John Elkington and others opened Pandora’s sustainability box. It’s not new. Just a shiny new name but really a circular distraction.

2. “Everything is sustainable”

No it isn’t. Sustainability is a simple concept of making sure the impact we have today does not impact the ability of future generations to enjoy living on this earth and using those same resources. Simple, right? Then how can tobacco companies call what they do sustainability? They know what the end product does actually kills future generations of potential users. That’s the easy one. Same goes for companies dependent on fossil fuels for their existence. You take stuff from the ground and then use it in a way that doesn’t make it possible to use it again. Yeah, that’s not sustainable. You can be a responsible company, but your main product is not sustainable.

Let’s not confuse the issues, and let’s call it what it is. A hat is a hat. A dog is a dog. Sustainability is sustainability. CSR is CSR. Stick with the accepted definitions. Leave it to politicians to redefine language each election cycle.

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Conditions at Wet Seal Stores Leave Employees Feeling Clubbed

Leon Kaye | Wednesday January 7th, 2015 | 1 Comment
Wet Seal, retail, social media, twitter, the American worker, chain stores, Leon Kaye, layoffs

No mincing words — Wet Seal employees feel screwed.

It is not easy being a mall these days, nor is it easy being a mall store. And it certainly is not easy being a mall store employee with the low pay and lack of benefits that are trademarks of working in retail. Wet Seal, once a symbol of “mall rat” culture, is the latest clothing company to struggle with a shift in consumer shopping trends.

Unfortunately, like other struggling retail chains, Wet Seal is not managing its demise with much grace. After a long court battle, the tween and young women’s clothing company settled a multimillion dollar lawsuit alleging it discriminated against black employees for not fitting the company’s “brand image.” California employees also sued the company over policies such as being forced to purchase Wet Seal clothes and not being reimbursed for travel between locations.

Then there are the mounting financial problems: Wet Seal has lost over $150 million in the past two years, and it recently defaulted on a private placement deal to the tune of $28 million. As the company prepares to close as many as 60 stores by the end of the month, its CFO scored a $95,000 raise.

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Sustainable Packaging Trends for 2015: All About Millennials

3p Contributor | Wednesday January 7th, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Elisabeth Comere

As packaging innovators, it is in our best interest and in the interest of our customers to monitor emerging trends in the industry.

I compiled three distinct ways packaging could evolve in the coming year which have been primarily influenced by millennials, the largest generational group of socially-aware consumers globally.

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California Governor Calls for 50 Percent Renewables By 2030

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday January 7th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Solar panelsOn Monday, California Gov. Jerry Brown gave the inaugural address for his fourth gubernatorial term. During the address he praised California’s progress during the last 40 years. He also used the speech to call for new environmental targets — most notably increasing the state’s electricity from renewable sources to 50 percent by 2030.

California first established a renewables portfolio standard (RPS) in 2002, accelerated it in 2006 and expanded it in 2011. Under the current law, all utilities and electricity providers must source 33 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

As Brown pointed out, California is a leader in renewable energy with the “most far-reaching environmental laws of any state and the most integrated policy to deal with climate change of any political jurisdiction in the Western Hemisphere.” Since the state is “on track” to meet its 2020 goal, it’s time for new challenges, including increasing the RPS because, as Brown put it, “These efforts, impressive though they are, are not enough.”

In addition to increasing the RPS, Brown proposed two other 2030 goals: reducing the petroleum used in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent, and doubling the efficiency of existing buildings and making heating fuels cleaner.

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