So you’ve probably heard of the BRIC countries as discussion of the economic growth potential of Brazil, Russia, India and China has been all the rage, especially during the recession. While still critical to world economic growth, those countries are no longer the cutting edge of investment and sustainable opportunity.
Who knows what the EMICS are? How about Ethiopia, Myanmar, Iran and Colombia? I recently was invited to attend a very special conference held at this picturesque Swiss castle nestled among idyllic gardens near the Swiss-Austrian border. “Daring for Big Impact” was a most compelling and unusual confab, featuring a carefully curated group of international experts from industry, finance, government and philanthropy. Organized by Swiss-based global impact investment and strategy firm Impact Economy, the conference looked at several significant but seemingly unrelated topics, all of which are on the cutting edge of business innovation and investing for the 21st century.
“Our challenge going forward is twofold,” explained the conference’s host, Christian Kruger, who serves as Chairman of Krüger & Co., and owns and maintains Greifenstein Castle in his spare time.
First, to accelerate the pace of progress so we move from pilot to mainstream, and begin achieving demonstrable results on a massive scale. Second, we need to return to holistic thinking and consider what the good life means in the 21st century, and reflect upon what each of us can do individually to ground ourselves and contribute — so the good life is not just for the privileged few.
While covering topics ranging from how to meet the crushing demand for clothing and apparel throughout the developing world in a safe and sustainable way, to climate change and its ramifications, to the relatively new science of impact investing, the conference attempted to meld these seemingly diverse topics into a central theme: if we can work together productively and strategically, we can overcome the seemingly insurmountable challenges threatening our future. Overpopulation, water scarcity, fracking, electronic waste, rising temperatures and oceans, unstable and totalitarian governments… none of these externalities seemed to deter the enthusiasm for utilizing strategic investment not only for profit but to help deal with these threats to our very existence.
This seeming juxtaposition is perhaps best illustrated by Bangladesh: the apparel industry is growing by leaps and bounds there, accounting for 20 percent of its GDP. But this emerging country is also responsible for one of the worst industrial disasters in modern history, the April 2013 collapse of a large garment factory building in Dhaka, which killed over 1,100 workers. And herein lies the problem, and the opportunity which the fourth annual iteration of “Daring for Big Impact” addressed.
“Beyond catalytic countries that can drive wider progress, there are also countries whose success in modernizing could have wider geostrategic implications,” said Dr. Maximilian Martin, co-host of the conference as well as founder and CEO of Impact Economy. I had met Dr. Martin at a previous professional gathering and was taken with his keen insight and ability to analyze and translate the world’s sustainability problems into business innovations.
Dr. Martin explained why he believes the EMICs to be where the action will be going forward.
Ethiopia has been the fastest growing economy in Africa with a GDP growth rate of 10.7 percent in the past decade, which made it the 12th fastest growing economy worldwide. Myanmar has undergone important industrial reforms to allow more foreign investment to flow into the country. Iran is the largest economy in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia in terms of GDP (although sanctions make it off limit for investments at the moment). And Colombia’s vision to become one of the top three most competitive countries in Latin America by 2030 is supported by an expected GDP growth of 4.5 percent in 2014.
Indeed, the seventh World Urban Forum was recently held in Medellin, best known of course as world headquarters of the infamous drug cartels. However, as proof of Dr. Martin’s assessment, the murder rate there has dropped by 80 percent since its peak, and was rated the number one innovative city in the world by none other than the Wall Street Journal.
A critical message imparted by Dr. Martin throughout the conference is the need to integrate sustainable practices into key industries to enable their long-term competitiveness, especially fashion, retail and electronics — none of which, according to him, are on a sustainable track currently. This is an example of an area that business and investment leaders must work with NGOs and philanthropists to correct. The ramifications of the waste generated by these industries without proper forethought to using recyclable materials and getting those materials back into the recycling/remanufacturing supply chain will be disastrous otherwise. But if reused, they become a business opportunity.
This critical issue was looked into more closely by Carlos Criado-Perez, former CEO of British retailer Safeway and before that operations director for Walmart International. Perez’s presentation made much of data points coming from Impact Economy and Ellen MacArthur Foundation research, for example that over $700 billion — yes with a “b” — could be saved if just half of what is sold annually by the apparel industry could be recycled for future use after its useful life, instead of ending up in landfill. Not to mention, the production of clothing is extremely water-intensive and Impact Economy estimates that up to 50 percent of the zillions of gallons required could be saved by use of sustainable manufacturing practices.
An interesting twist that separated “Daring for Big Impact” from the dozens of other “future-look” conferences was the inclusion of sessions like “The Pursuit of 21st Century Happiness” which featured Swami Nitya, spiritual guide from the UK, and Han Shan, a “guru” from Thailand, which related opportunities in global change to the personal level.
One other aspect of the conference that is close to my heart was remarks by David Gelber, formerly producer for Harry Bradley of 60 Minutes fame but more recently, creator of the important documentary series Years of Living Dangerously, which is airing on Showtime (perhaps they think it offsets the soft-core porn one usually finds there?). This production is one of the best ever made at illustrating the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change. We screened an episode and a very lively discussion followed, although not surprisingly, there is not much disagreement among this group about how critical it is to proactively respond immediately if civilization as we know it is to continue.
Suffice it to say that this conference stood out from the crowd. The firm Impact Economy and Dr. Martin in particular are to be commended for having the vision to show how different topics add up to a comprehensive picture and three days of intensive and provocative thought about where we go from here and how to do it in a way that will benefit all, not just investors.
Read more from Jennifer Schwab on her Inner Green.by Jennifer Schwab - June 27, 2014
By Neila Columbo
In recent decades, the monumental cause of conservation and global economic growth have seemed, at times, incompatible. Important, philosophical debates have characterized these discussions, and now beckon the attention of every facet of society—private industry, government institutions, environmental NGOs, and the public. Emerging from these discussions is the overarching discipline known as Corporate Social Responsibility, and it, too, still seems to be exploring its proper place in the whole of the complex conservation-sustainability-economic development model.
The California Redwood Company (CRC), a subsidiary of the Green Diamond Resource Company, serves as one case example for its approach and effort to strike a balance between environmental stewardship and corporate practice. Green Diamond Resource Company (GDRCo) owns and manages primarily redwood lands in California that supply CRC with logs to produce lumber. As a purveyor of redwood lumber products, CRC shared with SCGH that Green Diamond has 30 full-time staff in California dedicated to conservation planning to ensure its operations provide habitat across the landscape for the species that reside there. This team studies and monitors a variety of terrestrial (land-based) and aquatic (water-based) species and their habitats across the property. One portion of the team’s studies focus on the freshwater streams of the property also called the aquatic program. Set on the North Coast of California, the forest streams on the property are the spawning ‘homes’ for various salmonid species, which have seen its hatch rates and populations decline in the Pacific Northwest during the past century.
Matt House, Aquatic Biologist for the company clearly loves his job, “We have some of the most productive salmonid streams on the North Coast of California. Studying these species, and the streams they live in, is interesting not only for the conservation department employees of the company but also to the countless other scientists that we get to work with.”
The majority of salmonid species in GDRCo’s streams are defined as anadromous, meaning they return from the ocean as adults to spawn in freshwater environments, such as the Coho, Chinook, and Steelhead salmonid species–thus their life cycle as fish mostly occurs in the ocean. Consequently, it can be challenging for researchers to comprehensively study what is affecting changes in salmonid population levels, and, as well, to determine if the freshwater spawning habitat is adequate to maintain viable salmonid populations. However, GDRCo believes it can have an important influence on its surrounding freshwater environment, and its conservation planning group is extending significant effort to ensure its practices do not negatively impact the spawning and rearing habitat for these salmonid species.
Currently, GDRCo’s conservation team is closely monitoring fish on four tributaries in the Little River watershed involving several stages throughout annual spawning cycles. First, trained fisheries biologists survey and observe the primary fish-bearing streams during the winter to count the number and species of adult fish that are seen actively spawning, as well as indicating where there is evidence of salmonid redds (nests), where eggs are deposited. These indicate that fish have already spawned in the stream. These data have been valuable to determine the relative distribution and number of adults in a watershed.
In the final research stages, population levels are estimated using traps to capture and then release smolts—juvenile fish that have become physically ready to enter the ocean environment—as they move downstream toward the ocean from their freshwater habitat. These surveys, although labor intensive and expensive to conduct, provide GDRCo’s research team valuable information for how many smolts are being produced in the freshwater environment. Comparing the survival rates between summer populations and smolts migrating to the ocean also helps determine the limiting factors for smolt survival.
Matt House sums it up like this, “These are challenging species to study because the fish spend a few years as young in the streams on our property. There we have some idea what is happening with the population and then they swim out to sea for a couple of years. That is the big unknown while they are in the ocean. A few years later they return from the ocean to spawn in the stream where they hatched and we can gather some numbers on that cohort again. In between though very little is known about what happens while they are out in the ocean.”
These monitoring efforts are part of 50-year contract with federal agencies, which took 10 years to develop to ensure protection of aquatic resources on the property. In June 2007, Green Diamond, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, signed the Aquatic Habitat Conservation Plan, a 50-year contract, to enhance habitat for six cold-water fish and amphibian species.
“The company has a comprehensive monitoring program in place to study salmonid and other aquatic species on the property that was crafted with state and federal agencies. It has been a great collaboration coordinating with the agencies on these projects,” says Keith Hamm, Conservation Planning Manager for Green Diamond.
To read further about Green Diamond’s Aquatic Habitat Conservation Plan, as well as all of its California management plans and monitoring reports, go to — http://www.greendiamond.com/responsible-forestry/california/by Neila Columbo - April 28, 2014
By Neila Columbo
The ubiquitous phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” has made an important leap in recent years from formal dictum by environmental advocates to an engaging pop culture movement that can be viewed as inspiration for the zero-waste concept. A number of industries are beginning to connect the dots between recycling of its materials and the dividends of sustainability initiatives. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, industrial facilities in the United States generate 7.6 billion tons of industrial waste in land disposal units annually, thus as individuals begin to find ways to “reduce, reuse, recycle” in their daily lives, consumers are now looking to companies to contribute their part as well.
Zero waste programs are in a state of evolution as new technologies and start-ups emerge to address the needs of recycling large-scale waste, and such programs will likely need to be designed according to industry-specific needs. To illustrate, in the architecture and building community, the U.S. Green Building Council issues guidelines for LEED rating systems in environmental building design, yet what about the recycling efforts of companies which source building materials?
While reduce, reuse, recycle is a new concept to some companies, it has been a long-standing practice with The California Redwood Company (CRC), a subsidiary of the Green Diamond Resource Company, which provides such materials to architects and developers. CRC has invested time in training on quality control and improving preventive and predictive maintenance planning activities. These methods have been used to improve efficiency and performance as part of its sustainability program. “This approach improves equipment reliability and reduces manufacturing defects that result in having more on-grade, shippable lumber available to customers and less going to waste as chips” according to Bill Highsmith, VP of Manufacturing.
In the mill, CRC has laser-scanning systems that are melded with computer optimization to precisely measure the logs and lumber to ten thousandths of an inch. This allows CRC to quickly decide how to edge and trim the boards into narrower pieces and shorter lengths. This helps to minimize the amount of waste CRC has on the boards and to gain more boards per volume of logs that come into the mill.
The process is such that approximately 60 percent of a log will be made into lumber because logs are round, truncated cones and lumber is square –thus unfortunately a portion of the lob will be waste, so about 32 percent will become chips and generally another seven percent of the log becomes sawdust. The bark is removed from the outside of the log and is then sold to other manufacturing companies. What chips and bark aren’t reused in CRC’s landscaping will then be transferred to a biomass electric generator. As for the sawdust, it is used as an amendment to soil enhancers and shavings in the generation of steam for drying the lumber.
CRC considers itself a zero waste manufacturer—in addition to lumber, the company states it utilizes every part of its logs for biomass electric generation, landscaping, soil amendment, heating, as well as boilers to generate steam for drying.
“We are proud to supply a product that is not only renewable and sustainable, but is also produced in a zero-waste facility. It really doesn’t get any greener than that,” Highsmith says.by Neila Columbo - April 28, 2014
Guest blog post by Jerry Meunier of Creating Your Desired Life.
The definition of sustainability by the United Nations Brundtland Commission is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.” There are many examples of this definition in today’s world; i.e., wind & solar energy, water conservation, recycling and environmentally-friendly building materials.
For me, the definition of sustainability as it relates to our emotional happiness and well-being is “personal and professional goals and desires that are achieved and the ability for them to continue forever.” There are many common goals and desires we humans share; relationships, careers and finances to name a few. I believe we are all responsible for creating and sustaining our desired life. I also believe that what we think, say, do and feel is a direct reflection of the life we are living. These are my life learnings that have allowed me the ability to sustain my goals and desires.
Belief – Beliefs (positive or negative) are simply thoughts that have been acquired from various sources. Your family, friends and environment have all contributed to your beliefs. You will know when a limiting belief is not serving you because you will feel the uncomfortable feeling within yourself. When this happens, look at the belief that is causing the uncomfortable feeling and challenge where that belief originated. If it was from a person or situation in your past or present that you don’t agree with, then change that belief into one that is positive and will serve you well. If you’re thinking right now, “sure, that’s easier said than done”…that’s a belief and you can change it to one that will bring you positive reinforcement and well-being.
Perception – Perception is a key ingredient to sustaining a feeling of well-being. Perceptions are a direct reflection of our beliefs. You always have the option of perceiving any situation as a lesson, gift or positive momentum towards something good. Remember you always have the choice. You can choose to see the gray clouds or the blue skies and sunshine in any situation. Which perception makes you feel good?
Appreciation – Having and showing appreciation for the way your life is now allows for sustained happiness. Giving thanks to yourself, people, the Universe or to your God is very powerful. Showing appreciation can be done in many ways, and by doing so, you are telling the Universe, “more please!” Be specific about what you are appreciating from yesterday, today or tomorrow. For tomorrow, always visualize what you want and feel the feeling of the end result of what you want. From there, you allow it to manifest at the right time. Feeling the appreciation of having received your desire before it has appeared in the present is powerfully sustaining. I inspire you to keep a written list daily, weekly or monthly of what you appreciate in your life.
Unconditional Love – Having unconditional love for yourself first is very empowering. Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. Remember, you can’t give to someone else what you can’t give to yourself. This will build confidence and will rid the desire to judge yourself and others. Always being the person you want to be with (whether it’s a romantic partner, boss/employee, family or friend) is a true achievement. This is emotional sustainability at its best!
Self-Worth – Having a strong foundation of self-worth is a key ingredient in emotional sustainability. The environment you grew up in, the conditioning and learning you’ve experienced since day one have both contributed to the person you are today. If there’s anything in your life that has threatened or is threatening your foundation of self-worth, change it. You have the power and control! There are new ingredients (tools/processes) and emotional well-being recipes I’ve created that you can learn and begin practicing today. All of these ingredients are accessible to you in abundance, they simply take practice….and practice makes permanent!
Awareness – Be aware, conscious and truthful about the actions you are taking daily to sustain your desired life achievements. When you continue to positively nurture your relationships and connections, there will be no end. They may change in some way, but they will not end.
Achieving sustainability as it relates to our environment and our personal emotional happiness and well-being will result in the continuation of all that is good and wanted in our lives and on earth. These two types of sustainability go hand in hand and we can do it together! The energy, creativity and collaborative efforts of ten like-minded people are more powerful than a million that are not.
Mastering the ability to sustain your emotional health and well-being is a win-win in every area of your life. If you need any additional proof of sustainable well-being in business, look no further than the #1 New York Times bestseller, “Delivering Happiness” by Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh. Tony brilliantly describes how building and sustaining a happy and joy-filled work environment produces amazing employee engagement and satisfaction, which results in excellent and exciting productivity and profits.
From the day we are born, we all are emotionally programmed for the wanting of love and belonging. One of my daily intentions is to give and receive love and peace, both within myself and externally. This can be done in many forms and shapes. I want to inspire you to do this for one day. From the moment you wake up until the time you go to sleep, show yourself and everyone and everything around you love and peace. You’ll be amazed at the fun, joy, peace and beauty you experience all day. This is emotional happiness & well-being sustainability at its best! Remember, practice makes permanent!
If you’d like to learn more about the topics in this article and others, along with “Emotional Happiness & Well-Being Recipes”, please contact Jerry “The Life Coach Chef” at [email protected] or www.creatingyourdesiredlife.com.Related Articles
By Heather Logan
TOKYO, JAPAN – I’ve recently returned from an explorative journey to Japan as part of Panasonic’s eco press tour to discover the latest and greatest innovations to make your home easy to care for. Below are the top 5 technologies to come from Panasonic’s showcase center and Eco Ideas Home. This zero-emission smart house combines science and nature’s elements to make an intelligently designed home that is unlike anything we’ve seen before.
From one side, it looks like a modern kitchen counter. On the other side, you can feed your family from your own hydroponic garden. Vegetable cultivation conditions are monitored on a 24-hour basis with smartphones or computers fitted with network cameras. This monitoring even allows growth records to be shared. Now everyone can have a green thumb.
This groundbreaking innovation from Panasonic uses LED technology to allow you to extract color from one object and impart it in another object instantly. With the use of color extraction tubes, you can change the look of a LED-equipped wall or furniture piece at a whim. The company is keeping mum as this technology is in development, but from what we’ve seen so far, this is painting of the future.
This hybrid air-conditioning system uses both natural and mechanical ventilation to maximize air temperature control and energy efficiency. The system detects people’s movements throughout the home to direct air where it is needed most.
The Wind Passage Tower can measure the differences in temperature between indoor and outdoor air to bring in cooler ground air in the summer and warmer air in the winter through an underground duct.
With sensors to detect any wastage of energy, now you don’t have to stress about a light being left on. Did I mention this works in harmony with their floor heating system? I’m feeling comfortable already.
Panasonic’s Smart Home Energy Management System (SMARTHEMS) will make you feel like you’re living in a smartphone app. It links all appliances and energy supplies into one central network. The program, which can be accessed by a TV or smart device, visualizes the energy, gas, and water consumption throughout the home. It acts as your personal energy consultant, displaying the progress made towards energy-saving targets and providing advice to support energy-saving activities.
If you live in a community with other smart homes, you can link your system to the Community Energy Management System (CEMS) for the town, as seen in the Fujisawa Smart Town in Japan. With CEMS, residents can share excess energy, respond to energy needs, and track community usage trends in an effort towards electricity conservation.
This small, easy on the eyes energy storage cell from Panasonic uses high-capacity lithium-ion batteries to store electricity. It provides electricity at night from energy created from the home’s solar panels during the day and offers up to 3 days of energy independence during natural disasters.
These smart home technologies are demonstrative of a world where beauty, creativity, and innovation are bringing us back into balance with nature and a higher quality of living. To learn about more smart home technologies, follow my posts as I explore how sustainability and technology converge.
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In 2006, Susan Hunt Stevens embarked on a healthy green lifestyle makeover but couldn’t find the resources she needed. After lots of digging, reading, and blogging—and taking on a graduate program in Sustainable Design—she created Practically Green to help people who want to live healthy, sustainable lives…but aren’t sure where to start. SCGH.com interviewed Susan to learn more about how Practically Green brings environmental education to the interactive social space—and beyond.
Where did YOU start? What resources did you pull together, and how did you go about developing this solution for “greening people”?
I began as a mother with an almost two-year-old diagnosed with serious food and environmental allergies. I started reading labels and researching ingredients I didn’t know, and was frankly shocked at what I was finding. Then I started reading anything I could, including books and magazines. I found that blogs were the most helpful, which gave me the idea to start blogging about the changes we were making in our own family.
About half way through a major “green renovation” of a historic home, I enrolled in a graduate program in Sustainable Design. In my third course, we were exposed to the LEED system and I kept thinking, “Why isn’t there a LEED for daily living?” That was the original vision for Practically Green. However, given my background in digital technology, I also knew it would never work if it didn’t leverage great content, real science, and the power of social and game mechanics to drive real-life behavior change.
Your approach utilizes gamification, social media, and interactive technology as a vehicle for sharing sustainability knowledge. Can you explain this approach?
We use game mechanics to create a shared framework for people to share, compare, compete and collaborate because unlike weight loss or fitness, there is no shared scale or national guidelines for sustainability. The game framework provides that scale and then encourages ongoing participation and motivation.
The social mechanics are equally powerful because they address the issue of visibility. Most sustainable choices are invisible. My colleagues and friends likely have no idea if I’ve turned down my power settings on my computer, switched to an LED light, or signed up for eBills or green power. By bringing visibility to who in your social network has done these things, it can leverage the power of social norms to drive change. If I see that 85% of my colleagues have switched to eBilling, I’m likely to switch too.
How is it unique to other forms of “environmental education”?
It’s similar to the changes occurring in all education, not just environmental. It’s moving it online and going from one-way transmission of information to an interactive, engaging, social experience that is more effective. What we also believe we’ve done well is taking what can oftentimes be hard (and even guilt-inducing) information and making it more accessible and solution-oriented.
For many of us, sustainability isn’t something that we grew up learning about in school. So there is a huge population that really would like to do something, but they are busy, have other priorities, and no idea where to start or the time to figure it out. We use the power of discovery and social recognition to inspire that first step. When people see both positive reinforcement from peers and the real time impact they are making, they are more likely to take another steps—and another.
You work with companies all over the world to engage and educate their employees, members, and customers. Can you disclose the names of any of your clients?
We have more than 17 global clients, including Fortune 500 companies, as well as sustainability leaders like Seventh Generation. Our clients range from companies that want to start a sustainability program, to others that want to enhance an existing program.
Please share one of your greatest success stories.
I think one of our biggest successes to date has been the growth of our employee engagement platform. Having CSOs and business executives tell us that they love what we are doing and want to make it available to their employees or customers wasn’t something I expected at the outset. But companies are really the pioneers in sustainability and it’s been amazing to see how our solution is helping them achieve their sustainability goals.
How does your success directly relate to your mission to make healthy green living the conventional way of life?
If you had told me ten years ago that I would be a big time tree-hugger, I would have laughed out loud. What I realized after making many of these changes personally is that sustainable, healthy living is just smarter living for the 21st century. It saves money, but I also honestly believe many of these choices can make people and families happier and healthier. Companies have figured this out too.
However, I truly understand that it is really hard for people to change. It’s so NOT easy being green when you first get started. The challenges can feel daunting because it touches everything: your food, your transportation, your home, and anything you purchase. If we can provide a solution that makes these choices simpler, faster, and way more fun—and people get access and encouragement to participate at work—I think that will reach more people more quickly.
How does the social element come into play with colleagues at a workplace?
Social is a huge part of the success of Practically Green. The people you work with often become influencers in your life, mostly because you spend so much time together. So when someone finds a new coffee shop around the corner that gives a ten-cent discount for brining in a reusable mug and they share that information as part of an action they take, it is adding to your overall arsenal of sustainability knowledge.
For businesses, what are the advantages of Practically Green compared to an in-person seminar or workshop?
The biggest advantage is that you can participate in Practically Green 24×7, 365 days a year, from any digital device. As a result, every employee can participate at a time and place that works for him or her, from any office location you have. We also cover a wide variety of topics, and employees can choose what they are most interested in versus having one topic that may or may not excite people. It is customized to the goals of the company, as well as the individual, and allows both the company and employee to see the real-time metrics of the actions that they are taking. It finally gives context to the age-old sustainability question: “Does it even matter if I do this?” Because individuals and companies can see that yes, it does actually make a difference if you carpool to work one day a week, or shut down your computer each night before leaving the office.
For individuals who decide to join (independent of a businesses or invitation from a friend), what advice can you give for making the most of Practically Green?
We have a saying that Practically Green without friends is NO fun. Get your friends to join, set goals, and take some actions. Remember: you don’t have to do everything all at once. We also have a great product directory that is something that we vet and curate on an ongoing basis. It’s a way to help you navigate the world of green products, which can oftentimes be confusing.
How many people now work at Practically Green full-time?
We have 16 full time and 3 part time employees. It’s amazing for me to see our company, which literally started at my kitchen table, move into a beautiful new office space in Boston and quadruple in size!
Can you disclose your revenue numbers?
I can say that last year was our most successful year to date. We continue to see an influx of businesses looking to engage employees in a real and measurable way, and that is what they are able to achieve with our program.
Since starting Practically Green, how has your experience influenced/inspired/changed your dreams about sustainable living?
For me, it’s a journey that has no defined end. I have been creating goals for myself for over five years now and still have so much to do! The innovations in this space are truly remarkable, and I think will give all of us plenty to do for years to come. That said, I think I respect even more the need for people, companies and governments to work together to make it easier for people.
For related articles, see:
© 2013 SCGH, LLC.by SCGH - February 12, 2013
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By Kristina R. Anderson
November 5, 2012
We all have ideas as to how we would like to see society change. But how does one become a doer, a changer, an activist? How do we create change? While many of us dream of influencing large changes, of having a great big voice that triumphs over the rest, that’s not always possible for everyone. Most of us have jobs we must do and people who rely on us, so “activism” comes second to our obligations. But does this mean we cannot affect change at all? Of course not! There are so many ways to be an activist and change the world without making a huge time commitment or taking a radical stance. Often, it’s the small steps that matter the most. With that said, what can you do to make a difference?
“That’s the number one question: ‘What can I do to help?’” says Charles Hambleton, producer of two acclaimed documentaries, The Cove and The Big Fix, and another about the executives at Britesol, a company committed to changing the world through technology. “The answer is: look in the mirror. What is it you do in your daily life?”
Think about it for a few minutes. What are your sustainability shortcomings? Is it the disposable coffee cup from your daily Starbucks run? Do you leave lights on when you are not home? By the same token, what areas of your life are you using to mitigate your impact? Maybe you pick up litter by the side of the road once a week, or perhaps you take public transit to work instead of driving. Take an inventory of your habits. What do you do?
“Every single time we make a choice, we make a difference,” says famed tree-sitter and activist Julia Butterfly Hill. “Because we do not live in a vacuum, every single choice has an impact and therefore, it is not only spiritually impossible to make no difference, it is scientifically impossible to make no difference! Ever!” she says. “Therefore, seven BILLION of us … are actually ‘activists.’ The difference is are we being conscious or unconscious activists with each and every thought, word, and action.”
Ready to take control of your power to affect change? Here are 15 simple actions that you can take to be a more conscious activist in your everyday life:
You are an activist. You make a difference. What conscious actions will you take or are you already taking to steer your world in the right direction? Comment below.
© 2012 SCGH, LLC.by Kristina Anderson - November 05, 2012
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Green building is taking the construction industry by storm, and its benefits are perhaps best seen in disaster-related rebuilds. The pros of sustainable and energy-saving construction are easy for most to identify. Reducing energy consumption with efficient building materials, household appliances, and heating and cooling systems benefits the environment and saves the building owner money. Green buildings often last longer, too, meaning they won’t require frequent updates and remodels.
However, most people become initially concerned with green building startup costs. In this sense, disaster zones can be something of a blank slate for developers: When towns or cities need rebuilds, developers often have an easier time incentivizing home and business owners to construct with water and energy efficiency in mind. As a result, the documented success of these redevelopment projects in many ways is spurning the growth of the green movement across the board.
While most of the structures now standing in the United States lack efficiency, it’s simply because they were constructed in an era that prized grand structures and speed of building over energy conservation and responsible sourcing. Today’s energy landscape is much different than it was even just 20 years ago. Inefficient buildings are one of the biggest hidden costs in our economy, and even small changes can add up to dramatic savings—for both the planet and the pocketbook.
Money savings almost always lead to economic advantages, but the results are particularly noticeable after a disaster. When an F5 tornado leveled most of Greensburg, Kansas in 2007, city officials made a commitment to building back all official structures according to the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. The immediate savings were dramatic, but an even more telling part of the story is that those savings stuck.
“Five years after the violent event, the town is now saving $200,000 in annual energy costs for thirteen buildings,” Green Tech Enterprise reported in August 2012. “Greensburg is now providing measured building performance that proves the benefits of sustainable design.”
Similar green rebuilding initiatives were spearheaded in New Orleans after the wake of Hurricane Katrina; in Haiti after a devastating 2010 earthquake; and in parts of Victoria, Australia after a spate of heavily destructive wildfires. Increasingly, city governments and local officials are incorporating energy-conscious construction into their disaster recovery plans. In the United States, much of the incentive for these programs comes at the urging of the U.S. Department of Energy.
“Instead of reflexively reinstating the choices of the past, why not rebuild today to better position your community for tomorrow?” the Department asks in a resource pamphlet prepared for local government officials. “Reframe that shattered glass as a clean, new window of opportunity. You can choose to make this catastrophe into an opportunity … not just to return to the status quo, but to grow and change,” the Department suggests.
In disaster situations, local governments can often collect federal relief money to help offset the cost of eco-conscious building. Charitable organizations and environmental groups have also traditionally been generous in sponsoring and helping fund green building. However, this is not always the case for those simply looking to remodel or update existing structures in an efficient way. The high startup costs for green building stand as one of the biggest hurdles to construction managers in non-disaster zones.
Nevertheless, just because funding is harder to come by does not mean that it is impossible to procure. A number of state and federal grant programs exist to help incentivize more sustainable building, and tax breaks and other deferred benefits are also available in many places. Researching the options and charting out a plan often takes time, but the benefits can be substantial. By looking at disaster rebuild projects years later, we can see that green building does make a difference. Getting started may be a challenge, but the upfront time and resource investment almost always pays great dividends in the end.
Looking to take advantage of these benefits by greening your own home? Sierra Club Green Home offers a great collection of resources including home renovation helpers, energy audits, and more in our Learn More section.
Noelle Hirsch is a freelance writer and researcher who works with constructionmanagement.net, a site that helps students sift through information regarding a potential or current construction management education. Read more of her writing at Construction Management.
© 2012 SCGH, LLC.by SCGH - October 25, 2012
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By Erika F. Washington
Sept. 13, 2012
Imagine if you could own a successful business that not only made a profit, but also helped better the environment and your employees. What would that look like and how hard would it be to keep that business prosperous?
These questions are answered in the brand new game GBO Hawai’i. GBO stands for Green Business Owners and its primary focus is to make the state of Hawaii a model of sustainable business ownership for the world.
The creator, Scott Cooney, teaches courses on sustainability for the MBA program at the University of Hawaii’s Shidler College of Business. He has spent many years teaching and writing about green projects and ‘ecopreneurship.’ He is also the author of “Build a Green Small Business.”
Cooney chose Hawaii as the game’s setting because despite having an abundance of natural resources including wind, solar, and geothermal activity the island state heavily depends on fossil fuels and imported goods.
Like Monopoly, the game has a banker and money and businesses can exchange hands. The difference is that in Monopoly, the object of the game is to be the one with the most money and property. In GBO Hawai’I, the winner is the player who succeeds at having the most business properties, cash on hand, eco-credits and created the most green jobs. The goal is also to learn the importance of investing wisely based on their resources and government policies while still achieving a positive social impact.
Instructions are included with the game but are also available online and include a video, which is quite helpful for first time players. The game is set up for 2-4 players. Having four players is ideal to get the most out of the game. This way, players will have more challenges to overcome such obstacles as business loss and dealing with lobbyists who represent the oil and gas industries.
The game is structured for adults 13 and up and is well suited for high school or college business/government classes. Students can learn the ins and outs of business ownership and how personal decisions affect individuals, local communities, and natural resources. The board game, as well as the card game version, is available for purchase on the GBO Hawai’i Website and would make an excellent gift for eco-minded friends and family.
© 2011 SCGH, LLC. All rights reserved.by Erika F. Washington - September 13, 2012
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