Gross National Happiness vs. GDP

| Wednesday October 5th, 2005 | 0 Comments

money_happiness.gifEveryone knows that a certain amount of money can bring happiness. But we also know that life is more complex than that, and many factors that cannot be quantified in economic terms play a role in ensuring a satisfying livlihood. Free time, good health, an intact environment, and other factors are important too. So why do we insist on using Gross Domestic Product – essentially the sum of all money spent in an economy – as our primary indicator of progress?
The New York Times reports on the efforts of the nation of Bhutan which despite having one of the world’s lowest GDPs has made great leaps in terms of life expectancy, stability, and environment. The Bhutanese are attempting to quantify their progress as a country using not only GDP, but also “Gross National Happiness” as a measurement.
Another effort to provide a fuller picture of the state of society is the “Genuine Progress Indicator” (GPI) which has gathered some support of economists and “considers the value of housework, caring for children and the elderly, volunteerism”. It also counts spending due to crime as a negative number.

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An Open Letter to Citibank (UK)

| Wednesday October 5th, 2005 | 4 Comments

citibank.gifDear Citibank UK –
I don’t know how far this message will get, but I really would love it if I had the option of NOT receiving paper statements every month. I am happy to consult my statements online, and I’m sure that a lot of your customers would. As it stands, I get a large envelope every month with pricey international postage informing me of my massive account balance of £16.26 – it goes straight into the bin.
I imagine you would save hundreds of thousands of £££ per anum on paper costs and postage if you gave people the option of ending paper mailings. The environment would also win big. Why don’t you offer this?
Many thanks!
Nick Aster
ED NOTE: Oct. 6 I actually got a reply from Citibank! They were kind enough to say that this was going to their “senior management”, but also mentioned the following:

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Endangered Species Act Overhaul

| Wednesday October 5th, 2005 | 1 Comment

eagle.jpgKim Fox for 3p: Representative Richard Pombo’s (R-Calif) startling Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act bill passed the House last week on Capital Hill. The bill would overhaul the 1973 Endangered Species Act, which is credited for protecting 1,268 U.S species of plants and animals and 466 critically sensitive habitats. The new proposed law would eliminate the critical habitat designations and remove pesticide controls near threatened species.
Also, the Department of the Interior Secretary (a political appointee) is granted authority to designate the scientific data methods that drive the government’s decisions under the law. The biggest debate in the House was over the proposed plan to pay farmers and developers for economic losses from the US Fish and Wildlife rulings that would limit development plans due to the presence of a threatened species, potentially costing the government billions of dollars.

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Get On Board the Bike Bonanza

| Tuesday October 4th, 2005 | 4 Comments

bmx.jpgAs reported on Treehugger and many other sources, bicycle sales in the US have overtaken sales of cars. High fuel prices have a lot to do with it and apparantly the boom approaches that which took place during the 1970s oil embargo. To me, this is actually evidence that higher fuel prices might strengthen some parts of our economy – people won’t give up their cars alltogether, they’ll just buy a bike for that extra convenience.
The more people discover the benefits of occasional or full time bike commuting and recreational use, the more they will demand better bike infrastruture – paths, rights-of-way, parking etc. They’ll also discover better health and energy and tell their friends. In other words, they’ll create a huge business opportunity! What better way to help people, environment and profits alike than getting into bicycle related business? This has my gears turning…

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Presidio’s Jørgen Vos on Future Marketplaces

| Tuesday October 4th, 2005 | 0 Comments

jorgen.jpgPresidio School of Management’s Jørgen Vos is the featured columnist on GreenBiz’s Sustainable MBA Column this week. In the article, Jørgen talks about the opportunities and risks that are faced by business people eager to promote a greener marketplace. Of the major opporunities he mentions, targeting the “non-consumer” stands out as most important – the idea is to operate under the radar with a product offering that is “good enough” for those who are not otherwise commited to a given market in order to become established. (Full article here).

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DriveNeutral Launches – Neutralize your Car’s Carbon Footprint

| Monday October 3rd, 2005 | 1 Comment

drive_neutral.gifFor about the cost of a tank of gas, drivers can now do their part to fight global warming. DriveNeutral is a program run by a group of Presidio School of Management students in conjunction with the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX).
Drivers can purchase one of three tiers of decals certifying they have neutralized the impact of their vehicles’ greenhouse gas emissions for an entire year. The program is similar to Wharton’s Terrapass, but instead of investing in green energy projects, the non-profit DriveNeutral program purchases Carbon Financial Instruments—or “credits”—through the CCX. The credits will then be “retired” on the exchange – simultaneously reducing emissions and driving up the price of credits which will encourage more companies to engage in emissions reduction programs. Give it a try!

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Ford Discontinues Excursion

| Monday October 3rd, 2005 | 2 Comments

ford_excursion.jpgCiting lagging sales of large SUVs, Ford has killed the massive Excursion product line. The last 19-foot Excursion rolled off the line in Kentucky on Friday. It’s an obvious sign of the times, when lower incomes, combined with high gas prices reduce the demand for massive trucks – but hopefully there’s a little bit of eco-vision mixed in with the decision. Story via Treehugger.

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Proctor & Gamble Realize Million Dollar Savings from Efficiency

| Monday October 3rd, 2005 | 0 Comments

pg.jpgAs reported in GreenBiz, a variety of nationwide energy-efficiency plans at Proctor and Gamble plants will save the company at least one million dollars. Efficiency is often the first step in reaching a more ecologically sound operation – and it’s also the first step in realizing the cynergy that exists between environmental consiousness and making a profit. That latter connection is easy to see since using less energy to get the same job done is obviously good for any bottom line you measure.

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Johnson Controls Looks to Cash in on Hybrids

| Friday September 30th, 2005 | 0 Comments

jon_con.jpgNot long after being named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, Johnson Controls will make a push to dominate the battery technology associated with new hybrid vehicles – article here. The company has made a $4 Million investment in a new laboratory at their Glendale, WI headquarters and will us it as a “proving ground” for new battery technology.
Regardless of how you feel about hybrid technology, this sort of investment is a great example of how new, non-fossil-fuel based technologies can strengthen the backgound of the new economy.

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Looking for Funding? 24 Hours Left in the PSFK Idea Hunt

| Friday September 30th, 2005 | 1 Comment

psfk.jpgGlobal Trends Blog PSFK has an offer to help 25 entreprenures gain access to a “speed-investing” session in the next few weeks in New York. The idea is that you submit a proposal in 300 words or less about what you would do with a potential investment. If selected as an applicant, you get 5 minutes with about half a dozen investors to state your case. Not a bad way to spend your afternoon. For more details, check out the post on PSFK.

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Hybrids vs. the Honda Jazz

| Thursday September 29th, 2005 | 20 Comments

hondajaxx.jpgRod Edwards for Triple Pundit: Across the web, last week’s comments by Nissan/Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn on the hybrid business model have polarized the green community. Ghosn explained Nissan’s lack of hybrid technology (Toyota licensed Altima-hybrid excepted) as a reflection of the fact that hybrids are a low-volume, high-investment product with benefits that can be met in less expensive ways. Fuel-efficiency can be achieved, suggests Ghosn, by continuing to evolve cars and internal combustion engines (ICE) – resulting in less expensive vehicles for consumers, and sparing shareholders the expense of investing in a new family of technologies. Responses to Ghosn’s position have ranged from the expected “Ghosn is a tool – hybrids are the future – Nissan is going down” to “Perhaps Ghosn has a point.”
My own position – as contrarian as it may seem, coming from a green writer – sides with the latter group.

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European Airlines Join EU Trading Program

| Thursday September 29th, 2005 | 0 Comments

klmaf.jpgWith rising fuel costs, and high burn rates (literally) Airline participation in a carbon reduction program is potentially difficult. Nonetheless, Europe’s airlines have been included in the EU trading plan to cut CO2 emissions. Some airlines, such as British airways welcomed the plan, calling it “environmentally effective and economically efficient”, but others critisized the plan for not addressing road traffic as aggressively. At the momment, it only applies to intra-EU flight, but could be extended to intercontinental flights for all airlines, not just EU-based carriers. (thx Victoria!)

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Beauty Engineered Forever – Hip, Effective, and Green

| Wednesday September 28th, 2005 | 5 Comments


One of the problems with “green marketing” is that, ironically, appearing “too green” can scare away a sizable segment of the market. See the story about Philips “earth bulb” light bulbs on Joel Makower’s recent blog post for an example.
Household cleaning products are a commodity that has seen a number of “green” entrants, such as Seventh Generation, Simple Green, and Dr. Bronner’s just to name a few. These products vary quite a bit in terms of their actual chemical nature. Some vaguely calling themselves “bio-degradable” and others going into great detail about only containing certain essential, natural oils. But with few exceptions “green” is central to their marketing and branding, with “works great too” somewhat secondary.
Beauty Engineered Forever is a brand of ecologically sound cleaning products currently available only in New Zealand. Their approach to branding has been refreshingly different, well recieved, and has positioned them well against traditional cleaning products in a highly saturated market.

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Safeway Commits to Major Renewable Energy Purchase

| Wednesday September 28th, 2005 | 3 Comments

safeway.jpgSafeway, one of the largest supermarket chains in the US has made a major commitment to renewable energy. According to GreenBiz, the company will convert all 15 San Francisco stores to 100% renewable energy, as well as all 270 fuel stations in the US. I didn’t even know Safeway operated “fuel stations”, but the supermarket conversion alone is a massive coup for alternative energy. The energy (78 Million KwH of wind energy) will be purchased via the EPA’s Green Power Partnership program.

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National “Downshifting” Week Gains Steam

| Wednesday September 28th, 2005 | 2 Comments

downshift.jpgNational Downshifting Week” is a successful campaign in the UK to encourage simpler living, embracement of pro-environmental pricipals, a saner use of time, and investment in family and community. It’s a “nice idea” and hopefully will catch on. A one week program like this, if it achieved critical mass, could really make a difference on a large scale – think the ultimate non-commercial holiday. As a recenly afflicted workaholic, this comes none too soon!

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