Ever wonder exactly what happens to your tax dollars? This fantastic graphical chart (Click here for the full size view) gives a proportionally displayed breakdown of pretty much everything the US government spent money on in 2004. Not suprisingly, the department of defense gobbles up the lion’s share. It’s an interesting and rather illuminating picture!
TriplePundit: Reporting on the Triple Bottom Line & Sustainable Business News
America’s largest drugstore chain, Walgreen’s Corporation has taken a HUGE step this week in partnering with a Denver-based clean energy solutions company, ImaginIt Inc., to install solar electric systems in approx. 115 stores and distribution centers in California and New Jersey. The solar roof tiles will enable each Walgreen’s facility to generate between 20% and 50% of its own electricity on site. Read about it in GreenBiz.
Is it me or is clean energy, sustainable business, and CSR starting to become main stream?
Green Biz’s Gil Friend has a great primer called “The Nuts and Bolts of Carbon Trading” which is worth having a look at. It lays out the concepts and systems behind emissions trading, and offers some examples and critiques on the current schemes. Also pointed out is thie great Wikipedia entry – which states “Emissions trading is an administrative approach used to reduce the cost of pollution control by providing economic incentives for achieving emissions reductions.” Read on.
Renewable Energy Access just put out a pretty interesting report on the future of “ocean energy” – that combination of often forgotten ways of generating electricity that includes wave and tidal power. Despite the obvious enormity of the ocean’s energy, it’s been very difficult to capture economically. However, according to the report, 2006 is likely to be a landmark year in terms of new technologies and developments that may make it economically feasable in the very near future.
One can’t forget, however, that real energy progress is more likely to be made by a combination of “green” generation techniques and a more widespread adoption of efficiency as a priority. Continuing to be gluttons in one way or another will still have negative consequences.
(Story via The Future is Green)
Johnson Controls, one of the foremost makers of building interiors and mechanical & efficiency systems for buildings, has embraced an interesting growth opportunity where few major companies have trodden Specifically, with their “MetroMarkets” program, they aim to stimulate the troubled economies of American inner cities by spurring the construction of housing, schools, community & jobs centers, especially in hurricane ravaged New Orleans (article here).
The company obviously benefits by being the lead contractor on construction projects, but by championing projects the company benefits the local community as well. By recognizing and responding to the severe lack of basic infrastructure in blighted cities, a long term investment in the health of the community is made, and that’s a profit motive for all.
As widely reported (USA Today, Grist) Whole Foods Market will become the nation’s largest consumer of wind energy by purchasing credits equivalent to 100% of its estimated 2006 energy usage. That’s incredible news. A company with pockets as deep as Whole Foods’ may find this easier to do than other companies, and will enjoy an enormous PR benefit, but the net effect will most certainly benefit everyone else: Further encouragement for the development of the wind energy industry and cleaner air for everyone, not to mention cheaper wind power down the line – that’s a great investement any way you slice it.
Whole Foods is the first Fortune 500 company to make an investment like this and will undoubtedly soon have followers.
Big News: Despite a number of roadblocks, the California Solar Initiative has apparantly just been passed by the California Public Utilities Commission. The initiative is a $3.2 billion solar incentive program spread over 11 years that aims to create 3 Gigawatts of solar energy, or the equvalent of one million solar powered homes. Read more about it on the VoteSolar page here.
If you are in San Francisco, there is a party tonight at 4:30 at City Hall with Mayor Gavin Newsom, Bill Reilly and Elliot Hoffman. Details on this PDF.
Last Sunday’s NY TImes (requires login) has a great piece highlighting the emergence of the “Triple Bottom Line” philosophy as it is now being applied to business education. New College, Bainbridge Graduate Institute, and the Presidio MBA are singled out as the leaders in this new focus. Check it out.
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.
One 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.
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…
Can 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.
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.
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.
Now 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?