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Coal Gets Burned

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Author: the Inkslinger

In Tuesday’s post about Staples terminating a relationship with an environmentally suspect paper supplier, Jeffrey noted that “the potential cost (to business) of failing to be responsible or transparent… can be high indeed.”

Apparently some of the biggest financial firms agree. A couple of days ago, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley announced that they’ve developed a new set of standards by which investors can assess the regulatory and financial risks of coal-related projects. The firms hope that these so-called Carbon Principles will become a framework that the entire investment community can use to encourage “responsible” coal development, which is probably one of the larger oxymorons you’ll encounter today. As GreenBiz notes, the new standards don’t forbid investment in coal-burning schemes, but they do place them under additional scrutiny. They’re also voluntary, which means any bank is quite free to ignore them as Bank of America, perhaps the largest financer of coal plants, seems so to be doing judging by its conspicuous absence from the proceedings so far.

So while this is not exactly another nail in coal’s coffin, it’s certainly another hammer blow or two on those nails already there. It sends the clearest message yet to the investment community that there’s a growing risk in projects that generate carbon dioxide and that, as Jeffrey says, the potential costs of failing to be responsible can be high. Clearly the landscape is changing and clearly climate crisis concerns are (finally) penetrating the halls of financial power.

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Of Cabbages and Kings…

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Author: the Inkslinger

Continuing to wade through the accumulated digital clippings here at my perch in the Vermont clouds, where a foot and a half of snow over the last two days has made the task a bit easier by slowing life down considerably. So let’s continue with some more recent dispatches that have caught my eyes and ears of late…

You probably don’t know it (I sure didn’t) but our entire lifetimes and those of all other human beings throughout human history have been spent in the geological era called the Holocene, that period of time that followed the retreat of the ice age glaciers 12,000 years ago. Now, however, some geologists are suggesting that the Holocene Era is over and the Anthropocene Era has begun, a new geological age in which human activities not natural processes are the force responsible for shaping the surface of our world. It’s a semantic change, really, but it’s a very, very interesting notion, a bit of perhaps necessary symbolism if you will, that I think deserves some consideration if only for the attention it would bring to the tremendous impact people are having on the state of the Earth. We’ve now surpassed all of nature itself as the dominant force in the world. It’s the first time in billions of years of geological history that a single species has achieved such utter and overwhelming dominance. Truly we are as gods and surely that’s worth some discussion. Declaring the dawn of the Anthropocene Era would certainly be one way to start it.

Okay. This is just funny. And perfect. And brilliant. And you should watch it right now.

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Bye-Bye Biofuels?

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Author: the Inkslinger

Biofuels took a big hit yesterday with the release of two studies that clearly show they release more CO2 than conventional fuels once their entire life-cycle is taken into account.

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What is the Story of Stuff?

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We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth saying again: The Story of Stuff is a film you’ve got to see.

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MIPs WITH TIM GREINER

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This year 7th Gen's Corporate Consciousness department (quasi-department) worked with Tim Greiner from Pure Strategies on a traceability study.

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Winning One for the World

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Author: the Inkslinger

We’ve known it was coming for awhile but today it’s official so we can finally share the good news: Seventh Generation has won a 2008 Fast Company Social Capitalist Award. Sponsored by Fast Company Magazine and the Monitor Group, the awards honor those leading businesses and non-profit organizations who are harnessing the tools of the marketplace for the greater good and helping solve some of today’s most urgent challenges in the process.

We’re pretty psyched to have been recognized by the business community this way. As Jeffrey says in our press release, we’re living proof that a company can be a powerful force for positive in the change in the world and still make a profit. The two aren’t mutually exclusive propositions and receiving an award like this is one of the best ways to broadcast that vital message to the rest of the world.

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Overstuffed

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Author: the Inkslinger

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And I don’t just mean the arrival here in the Far Northern Hinterlands of the season’s first big snow. I mean the scene out at the mall and inside the SuperMegaMonsterMart, where our great nation is currently engaged in the fine art of spending an estimated $474 billion holiday bucks on, well… just stuff.

It’s a weird phenomenon, this shopping thing. I never did quite get it. Though I confess I can browse a good book store or record shop for days, I can’t see the appeal of general shopping as entertainment. I like to know what I need, make sure I really do need it, then go in, get it, and get out fast. I cringe every time I hear an economist talk about how consumer spending is the lynchpin of the American economy. We’re all depending on shopping?! That’s the gas in our collective economic engine? That’s a little weird. Because all the stuff people are buying has to come from somewhere, be made of something, and go some place when it dies.

There’s an excellent new film premiering online today that looks at all this. It’s a 20-minute documentary from activist Annie Leonard called the Story of Stuff that examines the real costs of consumption and the sort of big giant hamster wheel that we’ve become trapped on.

Check it out, pass it along, take it viral. (The website also has some good resources and other ideas to explore.) There’s a lot more people could be doing than shopping and they’d be a lot happier doing it. (What say we build our economy on environmental restoration, for example?) Sure we need some stuff. But we’re way overdoing it and paying for all the things we buy in a lot more ways than one.

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For A Season of Global Giving

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Author: the Inkslinger

We got this guest post in this morning from our friend John Heckinger at Global Giving. They’ve got a cool new idea brewing over there, and I think it’s an inspired way to start the week and to celebrate the season.

Last week, GlobalGiving introduced a whole new way to give others a whole new way to give – GlobalGiving Gift Cards. They’re the size and shape of a normal credit or gift card, but they’re 100% biodegradable. These little pieces of wallet candy are made out of corn and can be used exactly like the gift cards you purchase from a retail store, but with much greater benefits:

GlobalGiving Gift Cards make it easy, and maybe even stylish, to help others close to home or in remote parts of the developing world, in a direct and real way. When you give a GlobalGiving Gift Card, you’re giving someone the ability to give someone else in the world something extremely meaningful– an education, a livelihood, clean water, or a safe place away from conflict.

Many of us are fortunate that we can worry about installing high-efficiency light bulbs, choosing renewable energy, and buying hybrid cars. Many others around the world deal with much more immediate problems, and giving a GlobalGiving Gift Card is a way to engage others is solving them.

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Shopocalypse

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Author: the Inkslinger

Talk about giving thanks…Thankfully, I can’t see it from here, but today is Black Friday, that deeply spooky day-after-Thanksgiving, when Americans who scare me flock to stores and malls well before the sun has even risen for what’s become a thoroughly bizarre national tradition: An institutionalized day of mass overconsumption on a grand scale.

I guarantee you that before the day is out I will have seen film footage of someone getting seriously injured in a 4:00 am Florida Wal-Mart stampede for poor quality LCD TVs priced like Pop Tarts. I will have seen video of my fellow citizens locked in fisticuffs over the last remaining box of the season’s hottest must-have toy. And I will have watched a mall parking lot interview in which Mom, Dad, and the kids stand beside a carload of freshly acquired stuff and declare how much fun it is to come together as a family like this.

I have nothing against against the holidays. I like to share a nice Thanksgiving turkey like anyone else, and Christmas is a magical time of myth and imagination for my daughter. But elsewhere in the country a strange madness seems to have taken hold, a frightening disease that makes people want more and more and more until now the holidays have been transformed into a celebration of needless acquisition that, disturbingly, is happening earlier and earlier each year. Those quiet days of peace and family I remember growing up have become all about eating too much and buying too much and spending too much, and the earth is groaning under the insane weight of it all. I think it's time to ask ourselves: Do we really need to go out and stuff our shopping carts less than 12 hours after we’ve finished stuffing our faces like it was our last supper? (Someone told me yesterday that Americans consume between 5,000 and 7,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day. That’s like 3 days worth of eating! What’s up with that?) Do we really need a "shopping season"? Where does it all end?

For my family, it ends before it starts. We’re celebrating Buy Nothing Day today. We’re staying home and eating leftovers. Curling up by the fire and reading a good book. And then we’re going to spend some quality time with our good pastor, Reverend Billy. Here’s hoping more of our fellow country men and women see the wisdom of his sage advice soon and that weird symptoms of unsustainability like Black Friday and the binge era of overconsumption it so perfectly encapsulates go the way of the dinosaur.

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Big Rays of Hope

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Author: the Inkslinger


Kaye Evans-Lutterodt/Solar Decathlon

Technology fetishists (like me) will recognize the name of David Pogue, technology writer for the New York Times. He can usually be found in the paper’s Circuits section opining on the latest gizmological gadgetry. That’s hardly a green subject, especially given all the crazy materials they put into e-things and iToys these days, but Pogue also has a blog in which the “e” in electronics occaisionally crosses paths with the “e” in environment and Pogue can be found ruminating on what happens when it does.

His latest post covers the Solar Decathalon, a biennial event in which design teams from all over compete to build a complete off-the-grid house that runs totally on renewable energy. The hitch is that in order to qualify each house must allow its occupants to live “normally,” i.e. be able to shower, cook, watch TV, do laundry, maintain a comfortable temperature, etc.

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