What Makes a Quality Carbon Offset

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 3 Comments
carbon_offset_Yahoo-Vestas

wind turbines in India

When critics want to show that carbon offset programs don’t work, they’ll often point at Coldplay’s first carbon offset investment. In 2002, the British rock band announced that to offset the environmental impact of their second successful album, a Rush of Blood to the Head, they planned to plant several thousand mango trees in southern India. The announcement was well received: Not only did Coldplay contribute, but fans logged in online to support to the investment. The planting of 10,000 trees was viewed as a worthy investment to balance the many units of carbon produced by the band’s increasingly successful, and carbon-dependant lifestyle.

Four years later, it was revealed that forty percent of the trees had died, allegedly from lack of water. The trees that were to provide carbon sequestration for all those hours of electricity usage, plane rides, performances and retakes were billed as a failed investment.

What critics often don’t relate is the second part to the story: Some years later, Coldplay returned to that initial vision and invested in a forest on the outskirts of an abandoned mine with other investors to transform a World War II armament site into an ecological preserve.

Both Coldplay and Carbon Neutral Company, the carbon offset provider they had contracted through, went on to invest in and manage numerous other offset programs. But, both learned a critical lesson from that initial, embarrassing failure: the necessity of due diligence and the value of adhering to every one of the principles of carbon offsetting.

What makes carbon offsetting work?

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SolarCity Turns to Crowdfunding to Raise Money & Awareness

Leon Kaye | Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments
Solarcity, solar, clean energy, solar bonds, Leon Kaye, crowdfunding, investing, solar industry

SolarCity is now offering bonds and promising a respectable return

SolarCity is hot on Wall Street these days, judging by the fact its stock is holding steady and the company has no problem issuing bonds for its various investments. In fact, not only was the company the first in the U.S. to sell bonds backed by rooftop solar panels, it raised over US$200 million during its third debt offering on the markets in three months. Now SolarCity is turning to crowdfunding, albeit a tightly managed program, in order to raise more funds.

The system is akin to Kickstarter or Indiegogo meeting Fidelity or Vanguard. According to SolarCity, the offer to invest in Solar Bonds is relatively simple. You open an account, deposit some money and those funds in turn offer a return from the payments from residential and commercial projects SolarCity has all over the country. Unlike the growing solar crowd-funding juggernaut Mosaic, these funds are not for specific projects; rather they are akin to a mutual fund for current and future SolarCity initiatives. So should investors jump in, or is this the Amanda Palmer crowdfunding campaign of the clean energy sector?

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6 Ways Big Data Helps Improve Global Water and Food Security

3p Contributor | Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments
Jeff Raikes, Co-Founder of the Raikes Foundation, gives the plenary address about harnessing data for the poorest farmer. Water for Food. WFF conference October 20, 2014. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication

Jeff Raikes, Co-Founder of the Raikes Foundation, gives the plenary address about harnessing data for the poorest farmer. Water for Food. WFF conference October 20, 2014. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication

By Molly Nance

Jeff Raikes, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and co-founder of the Raikes Foundation, said it’s not hyperbole to say that global society is experiencing a data revolution. But that the revolution has yet to reach agriculture.

It’s not surprising the former Microsoft Corp. executive believes in the power of technology, and in particular Big Data. But it’s his experience as the son of a farmer that led him to focus on how technology can help farmers increase yields, improve their livelihoods and collectively meet the food production needs of the world’s people.

Raikes gave the keynote presentation at the 2014 Water for Food Global Conference, in Seattle, Wash. on October 20.

The demand for food is expected to double by 2050 as the world’s population barrels toward 9 billion people and increasing incomes allow many more to afford a better diet. Lack of water is a critical constraint.

To help solve this enormous challenge, the agriculture and water communities are harnessing Big Data to ramp up food production with less pressure on our water resources.

The conference is highlighting ways in which Big Data is helping create a more water and food secure world.

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How Natural Infrastructure Can Boost Climate Change Resiliency

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments
Restoring wetlands (like these wetlands at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts) can protect coastal communities from floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Restoring wetlands (like these wetlands at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts) can protect coastal communities from floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Are government officials doing enough to prepare their communities for natural disasters and extreme weather events – that are increasing in frequency and severity due to climate change? Not surprisingly, the answer is no, says a new report from nonprofit environmental organizations National Wildlife Federation and Earth Economics and insurance group Allied World Assurance Company Holdings.

Released Monday, “Natural Defenses from Hurricanes and Floods: Protecting America’s Communities and Ecosystems in an Era of Extreme Weather” details the growing threat of climate-related calamities and calls on elected officials and policy makers to make their communities more resilient to climate change’s impacts.

But government agencies shouldn’t necessarily rush to strengthen seawalls, install levees or build new “gray” infrastructure, as part of their emergency preparedness efforts, according to the report’s authors. Instead, communities can achieve resiliency by protecting and restoring natural infrastructure, including wetlands, riparian zones and barrier islands, as well as by designing infrastructure that mimics natural systems such as engineered oyster reefs or dunes.

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Five Reasons To Stay Corporate and Ignore Your Higher Calling

3p Contributor | Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Man Balance Mountain - Paxson Woelber

By Phil Preston

Ask around and I reckon you’ll be hard pressed to find a corporate professional who doesn’t see his or her job as a stepping-stone to a higher purpose or cause. Is it possible to stay in a corporate role and achieve more?

Here’s the standard playbook:
• Climb the corporate ladder to build up your earning power
• Develop your contacts and skills while paying down some of your debt; and then
• Move into a job that is more aligned with your personal values

Or there is the knuckle-down strategy, where you commit to working like a dog for the next ten to twenty years in the hope of building your wealth, retiring early and then giving back.

Do you really want to wait that long?

It also begs the question: If you were debt free with fully funded health and retirement benefits, where would you be working today?

Family and financial obligations can make us feel trapped in the corporate machine. As a result, we put off making a difference for another day.

Throwing it all in for a radical life or career change is one option, but it’s not the only option. Here’s five ways to make a bigger difference as a corporate employee:

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Cambodian “Reintegration” Program Sends Sex Workers to Sweatshops

Michael Kourabas
| Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 4.17.22 PMIn case you still weren’t sure how you felt about labor practices in Cambodia’s growing apparel manufacturing sector, maybe this will help get you off the fence.  According to a short video posted by VICE News last week, female sex workers arrested in Cambodia are being forced into jobs in the country’s infamously inhumane garment industry.  If this is true, what to make of it?

The VICE documentary

Here’s how the claim arises in VICE’s “The High Cost of Cheap Clothes” mini-documentary, in which VICE founder, Suroosh Alvi, travels to Cambodia’s capital to investigate “what is happening to those swept up in the country’s trafficking crackdown.” The video opens with Alvi reminding us that, although Cambodia is one of the capitals of the sex tourism industry, the country has been cracking down on the sex trade since 2008 when, at the supposed behest of the U.S., the government initiated an “aggressive” anti-trafficking and prostitution campaign.

Alvi’s investigation takes him first to a ride along with the anti-trafficking unit of the Ministry of the Interior, which quickly turns into the raid of a building allegedly housing sex traffickers.  The raid leads to a few very young-looking women (girls?) being handcuffed.  Over screams and much crying, we are shown a tiny room, barely illuminated by a creepy, red light.  On the floor are a few mattresses and a roll of toilet paper.  “This is about as dark as it gets,” Alvi says.

After the girls have been rounded up, Alvi turns to one of the cops and asks, “Where will you take the girls?” The cop responds that they will first be brought to the “anti-trafficking department,” then on to the unfortunately named “re-education training department.”

And now we have arrived at what Alvi tells us is the “crux” of Cambodia’s anti-trafficking program.

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EPA: Native American Tribes Hit Hard by Climate Change

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 4 Comments

climate_change_epa_USACEDrought conditions in the Pacific Northwest aren’t letting up. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency forecasts that while there may be some improvement in Nevada and Arizona, the lack of rain will likely continue through the winter in California.

This is particularly bad news for the country’s Southwestern tribes, who have been hit hard by diminishing water levels and parched soil conditions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, some 44 tribes in California are in jeopardy of running out of water, as communities struggle to address drought conditions that now cover more than 60 percent of the state.

In response to these concerns, the EPA announced last Wednesday that it would award southwest tribal communities a total of $43 million to deal with improvements needed to counteract the drought conditions.

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A Tale of Two Clean Energy Cities: Boulder and Minneapolis

| Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

Xcel and Centerpoint Clean Energy PartnershipThe city of Minneapolis, Minnesota has just entered into a first-of-its kind Clean Energy Partnership with its two utilities, Xcel Energy and the natural gas company CenterPoint. The new agreement renews the city’s franchise agreements with both utilities to include more consumer choices for clean energy, more support for renewable energy development in Minnesota, an increased focus on energy efficiency, and a more vigorous program to transition municipal facilities into more clean energy and improved efficiency.

Assuming that both of the utilities deliver on their promises, Minneapolis energy consumers can probably thank the good people of Boulder for helping to bring the Clean Energy Partnership into being. Boulder also has Xcel as its utility, but Boulder voters have taken an entirely different route toward bumping their energy supply into 21st-century renewable sources. It seems that Xcel is determined not to let the same thing happen in Minneapolis.

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“Flourish and Prosper” Part 2: Moving Ideas to Action

RP Siegel | Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Flourishing1The Flourish & Prosper conference held last week at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland sought to distinguish itself by moving from ideas to action. With an array of over 40 sustainability notables in attendance, including Naveen Jain, Bart Houlahan, Andrew Winston, Raj Sisodia, Peter Senge, Michael Braungart and many more, there would not only presentations and talks, but also a number of design summits intended to wrestle with a some of the most critical and relevant challenges facing the sustainability movement today.

Day two kicked off with a rousing talk by Raj Sisodia, co-author, along with John Mackey of Whole Foods, of the book Conscious Capitalism First, he went through a brief history of the world, before and after 1989, which, he claims was a massive turning point (fall of Berlin wall, Tiananmen Square, Exxon Valdez spill, Ayatollah Khomeini, the invention of the World Wide Web, and the first time the median age in the U.S. exceeded 40). Then he talked about business as a force and said that “making money is like making red blood cells, we need both to live, but that’s not why we live.” We have the opportunity today, he said, “to lead the most meaningful life humans have ever lived.”

Next, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, former Chairman of Accenture and Royal Dutch Shell spoke about the great challenge that occurs when government doesn’t function. Business cannot address this alone. We need partnerships between business and civil society. He spoke of the importance of the UN Global Compact, in which Case Western’s Weatherhead School of Business played an early role. This is the largest corporate citizenship initiative, with 8,000 companies signed up to report against 10 criteria. If they don’t report they get kicked out.

Harvard’s Jane Nelson, talked about how, “This is the generation that for the first time has the means to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity.”
Opportunity was a key theme throughout the conference, which consisted primarily of business leaders, business school personnel and consultants.

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SXSWeco Interview: Andrea Learned on Twitter

| Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

This post is part of Triple Pundit’s ongoing coverage of the SXSW Eco conference. For the rest, please visit our SXSW Eco page here.

twitter-bird

From the days of the Cluetrain Manifesto, social media experts have tried to emphasize that successful online communication means letting go of the committee-driven thought process that companies often cling to in their communications. Rather, letting go of the reigns and allowing a more free-form dialogue to emerge about their companies is a more effective strategy.

I had a talk with social media expert Andrea Learned about the use of Twitter as a tool for companies at SXSWeco this year.  She emphasized that companies who want to successfully use Twitter should let go of over-thinking the medium and let key individuals have the freedom to connect with folks on twitter in an honest and open way.  This practice is the best way to provoke open and productive dialogue.

Hear it from Andrea in the video below:

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Major Apparel Brands Join Forces for Responsible Down

| Tuesday October 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

urlTextile Exchange, a global nonprofit dedicated to sustainability in the apparel and textile industry, announced today that leading fashion, footwear and outdoor brands, including H&M and Eddie Bauer, will join The North Face in adopting the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) – a third-party certified animal welfare and traceability standard that upholds the ethical treatment of animals along the down and feather supply chain. The North Face initially worked with Textile Exchange and Control Union Certification, an accredited third-party certification body, to design version 1.0 of the standard, which was launched earlier this year.

Upon completion of the RDS in January 2014, The North Face gifted the standard to Textile Exchange to administer and evolve it as needed, as well as work with more brands and down suppliers to implement the standard. As part of this effort, Textile Exchange is evolving the standard through a stakeholder feedback process that includes input from brands and NGOs such as Adidas, Outdoor European Group, Outdoor Industry Association, and Four Paws.

“As more brands adopt the RDS, it will bring improved animal welfare conditions and better traceability in the down supply chain at a much larger scale than any one organization or one supply chain could accomplish alone,” said Anne Gillespie, Director of Industry Integrity of Textile Exchange.

Down and feathers that are used in apparel, bedding and home goods are traditionally sourced from geese and duck that are grown for the food industry — and in recent years animal welfare groups have raised concerns about live-plucking and force-feeding practices found among certain suppliers. In response, Textile Exchange and its partners worked with a diverse set of stakeholders and did extensive research, including visiting the sourcing regions in remote areas of Europe and Asia, to fully understand conditions and address issues along the global down supply chain in its creation of the standard.

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Tomorrow: Stories & Beer: The State of the Sharing Economy

Marissa Rosen
| Tuesday October 21st, 2014 | 2 Comments

logo-2It’s time for another “Stories and Beer” Fireside Chat on Wednesday, October 22 at 6:30 p.m. Pacific (9:30 Eastern) at the Impact Hub San Francisco – and online via web cam.

The “sharing economy” describes a type of business built on the sharing of resources – allowing customers to access goods when needed. Think AirBnb or Zipcar. While sharing goods has always been a common practice among friends, family and neighbors, in recent years, the concept of sharing has moved from a community practice into a profitable business model.  But is “sharing” really the right word to describe these new companies?

Now that many sharing economy companies are maturing, is sustainability still at the core of their philosophy? Is “sharing economy” still the right term to describe these companies, and have their benefits been truly triple bottom line?

Please join us along with folks from AirBnB, Lyft and Yerdle on October 22 to discuss this and more!

Schedule

  • 6:30 – 7:00 – beers and networking
  • 7:00 – 8:00 – fireside chat and Q&A
  • 8:00 – 8:30 – networking

TriplePundit’s Founder, Nick Aster, will lead the discussion with Molly Turner, Rachel Barge and Emily Castor.

To attend the event in person in San Francisco, please register here.

To watch online, return to this page on Wednesday, October 22, at 6:30 p.m. PST / 9:30 p.m. EST.  

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The North Face Launches Collaborative Standard for Responsible Down

| Tuesday October 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

urlDay-to-day, a rotating list of companies announce their latest efforts to set new sustainability industry standards, from game-changing initiatives such as Walmart’s Sustainability Index and Puma’s triple bottom line accounting system to a spectrum of brands broadcasting new metrics, programs or platforms that advance their corporate sustainability goals. Setting the pace for industry-leading change has become an industry standard. While this type of leadership is commendable (and necessary), it does not always guarantee systemic change. This is one important distinction between two standards recently launched by two outdoor apparel giants: Patagonia’s Traceable Down Standard and The North Face’s Responsible Down Standard.

Patagonia, which launched its new standard last November and announced that from fall 2014 forward all its down-insulated products will contain only 100 percent “traceable down,” is certainly an exemplar of all-things-good for the outdoor and apparel industry. As Patagonia has done in the past with its commitment to organic cotton and recycled polyester, the company hopes its new down traceability standard will “inspire other companies to look closely at their own down supply chains and utilize the model.”

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Photo Essay: How Workplaces Reflect Company Goals

3p Contributor | Tuesday October 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Todd Burns

new report from the World Green Building Council (WGBC) and Jones Lang LaSalle, titled Health, wellbeing and productivity in offices: The next chapter for green building unearths the connection between green workplaces and employee productivity, provides “overwhelming evidence” that indoor air quality, thermal comfort, access to natural light and other elements of green office design make employees not only feel better, but also more productive.

Following are a series of projects completed by JLL for businesses across the U.S. These images illustrate how each company’s unique workplace reflects its sustainability and employee productivity goals. Click the first image after the jump to open the gallery.

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Vermont Prison Becomes a Recycling and Composting Trailblazer

Leon Kaye | Tuesday October 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments
Prison, recycling, Vermont, composting, Leon Kaye, waste diversion, Northwest State Corrections Facility, sustainability

This Vermont prison is now a recycling leader

We spend so much time here at TriplePundit talking about how companies and universities are becoming more sustainable, it is easy to forget the sustainability agenda is going on everywhere, and yes, that includes government. To that end, more prisons are making moves to become more environmentally responsible. The latest is the Northwest State Corrections Facility in Swanton, Vermont. Recently the women’s prison, which incarcerates over 200 prisoners, announced it had become compliant with the state’s 2012 solid waste and recycling law.

Considering the depressing statistic that almost one in 100 American adults is behind bars, there is plenty of work to do on this front. From deliveries to food to water consumption, these facilities, operating 24/7 just as a small town does, provide plenty of opportunities to reduce waste and save money. Washington State, for example, partners with one of its state universities to implement recycling and sustainability programs within its correctional facilities. So what exactly is going on in this corner of New England?

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