Monday, July 31, 2006

NY Times on Chicago Climate Exchange

I spoke about the topic of carbon credits before (see here and here and here and, finally, here). Yesterday's New York Times Magazine had an article about the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) titled, "Capital Pollution Solution".

It was an interesting article to me considering I am still having some difficulty getting my hands around exactly what it is. In short, it appears to be a market where companies and individuals can buy and sell carbon credits. For example, a company that owns or purchases land full of trees will get carbon reducing credits that they can sell to companies that will be introducing more carbon credits into the atmosphere than had been anticipated.

Such markets, I believe, were conceived when the Kyoto Protocol was being written. It is a requirement for companies to take part. Since the U.S. did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, the CCX is purely voluntary. Interesting, though, that many companies are participating.

The article speaks of some criticisms of the CCX. One such criticism is that the rules were not written in the open. There are competing markets popping up in the U.S. - one, the R.G.G.I. (regional greenhouse gas initiative) is a partnership among a number of U.S. eastern states. It's rules have apparently been more open.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Savings from More Responsible Supply Chains

Thank you to for pointing me to this article by Joel Makower on It speaks of how companies can save money by greening their supply chain. In particular, it tells of how Baxter Healthcare has saved millions of dollars by choosing a slightly more expensive, but much more energy efficient lightbulb. Baxter has made other changes to their supply chain as well.

The article also mentions, "the U.S. EPA's Green Suppliers Network, a public-private partnership, [that] aims to help suppliers and manufacturers eliminate waste, save money, and reduce their eco-impact."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Building "Green" Reaches a New Level

Developers and builders aren't joining the green revolution purely out of a sense that it's the right thing to do. They can't afford to be left behind.

I saw this while traveling back from a short vacation - it's an article from today's USA Today concerning the growing popularity of "green" building. It illustrates how Portland, in particular, is leading the way in green construction.

The article also highlights a couple of stats I find very interesting: by the end of the year, 6% of non-residential construction will be green, up from less than 1% six years ago; a McGraw-Hill Construction survey in March predicted that green building would reach a "tipping point" next year and that two-thirds of builders would be building green homes; and the premium for building this way is now only 1%-2%, which they say is made up quickly in energy savings.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

"The Coolest Little Startup in America"

I don't have much time time to write details about this article, but wanted to pass it along because I feel it's worth reading. It's an article from the July issue of Inc., a magazine for entrepreneurs. The article is about a young entrepreneur, Tom Szaky, who started a company, Terracycle, that makes plant food from worm waste. His product is being purchased by both Home Depot and Wal-Mart. Tests have shown that the product is as good or better than Miracle-Gro.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Six States May Have Minimum Wage Increases on Ballot

I've already written about minimum wage increases in North Carolina (signed by Governor Easley recently) and Massachusetts (passed by legislature, awaiting decision by Governor Romney). Apparently there is a possibility that six other states will have a minimum wage increase on the November ballot. Montana and Nevada already have a minimum wage increase on the ballot. Four others - Ohio, Arizona, Missouri and Colorado - are expected to have the issue on their ballot as well.

Other states this year have also passed minimum wage increases. Arkansas and Michigan's legislatures have passed increases. Other increases have come in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, and lawmakers in Delaware, Maine, and Rhode Island voted to boost minimum-wage levels.

According to the article, opponents of a minimum wage increase include chambers of commerce, restaurant associations and small-business owners. The argue that higher minimum wages will force employers to cut their work force.

Two from the Chicago Sun-Times

Fifth Third Bank of Chicago has found that reaching out to minority communities is the only way to grow their business. They make sure to have strong community outreach to ensure that growing minority communities have input into and knowledge of Fifth Third's services.

In addition, Fifth Third has a partnership with Chicago Public Schools that gives high school students mentors at the bank.

For a long time after I purchased my Civic Hybrid, many people asked if I had to plug it in (the answer is 'no'!). Now, Toyota is planning to produce plug-in hybrids, which will be able to travel longer distances before having to use the gas engine.

Toyota is also "strongly considering" developing flexible fuel vehicles in the U.S. capable of running on E85.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Ugly Impacts of Gold Mining in Ghana

The BBC website has some interesting pictures and commentary on the gold industry in Ghana. International companies are investing heavily, helping the area economically, but causing environmental degradation that cause serious health issues with the local population. These issues include poisoning the drinking water (which has also killed fish, a food source) and the air.

London Motor Show Focuses on "Green" Cars

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the increased emphasis on environmentally-friendlier and fuel-efficient cars at this year's London Motor Show is due to the auto industry's desire to "improve its green credentials".

Hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles and those powered by biofuel technology are prominently displayed.

Monday, July 17, 2006

More on Ford

Today, Ford announced that they will invest US$1.84 billion within six years on hybrid vehicles with the aim of producing a Focus model capable of delivering 70 miles per gallon.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Newsweek's Cover Story

Last week, Newsweek's cover proclaimed "The New Greening of America." The featured article is worth reading.

Among many other things, it mentions a couple of new buildings being erected in New York City for the Hearst Corporation and Bank of America that have "sustainability" built in; FedEx's Oakland hub that has 80% of its power needs generated by solar panels; the wind turbine that is being built atop the Daley Center in Chicago; some of the steps being taken by Wal-Mart meet their goal of reducing their carbon footprint by 20%; how, if Wal-Mart meets their 20% goal, that it will show more companies that reducing your carbon footprint is wise move financially; how Circuit City justifies all of their initiatives in financial terms; that Duke Energy CEO Paul Anderson advocates controlling greenhouse gas emissions and that Anderson says other CEOs agree with him in private, but hide this feeling in public; and Ford's River Rouge plant.

Good Article About Ford Motor Company

Today's NY Times featured a good article (registration required) about the Ford Motor Company.

Some highlights:

  • The article's contention that if Ford would have turned to hybrids sooner, they would have kept pace with Toyota, and Bill Ford would have been able to give bottom-line results to back-up his environmental values.
  • The article speaks of the new assembly assembly plant that has a "green roof", which is a part of Bill Ford's desire to build a "green" factory that helps to restore, rather than pollute, the environment.
  • Bill Ford has forgone his salary over the past year and intends to do so until he "successfully revived Ford's fortunes."
  • Bill Ford had to fight with management to go forward (and continue) the Escape Hybrid as well as the above-mentioned River Rouge plant.
  • Bill Ford is a vegetarian.
  • Ford did announce that they will no longer produce 250,000 hybrid vehicles by 2010 but, instead, will produce 2 million flexible vehicles by 2010 (and continue to produce hybrids).
  • Environmentalists have criticized Ford for also not fulfilling a promise to improve S.U.V. efficiency by 2005 - in 2002, he said that the technology was not in place at Ford to achieve that.

  • Saturday, July 15, 2006

    North Carolina Raises Minimum Wage to $6.15/Hour

    I guess we can expect the downfall of businesses that employ workers who receive the minimum wage. How ever will they survive due to the increase in the minimum wage?

    And it looks like the Massachusetts legislature is hoping for a minimum wage increase in Massachusetts, too. If Governor Romney approves it (or if the Democrat-controlled legislature overrides a Romney veto), I guess we can kiss Massachusetts economy goodbye as well!

    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    The "Sustainable Business" 20 has just released their list of their Top 20 publicly traded companies in terms of sustainability. The list includes companies dealing with renewable energy, land development, natural foods, banking and pharamaceuticals.

    Bayer Group Cuts Emissions

    Thanks to for pointing me to this article about Bayer. They've announced that they have cut their greenhouse emissions in 2005 by 7% even though they increased the volume of products sold by 9%. They also cut their energy use by 10% due to technical improvements and structural changes.

    The article also states that Bayer claims to have cut their greenhouse emissions by 70% since 1990. This, they say, means they have met the strict guidelines of the Kyoto Protocol long before the deadline.

    Bayer has spent about 50 million Euros on projects related to Corporate Social Responsibility in areas such as education and research, environmental protection, health and social care, sports and culture.

    Wednesday, July 12, 2006

    Business-to-Business Marketers Go Green

    "What companies are finding is that being environmentally sensitive is good for business and it's even better for people," said Bill Fields, president of Mintz & Hoke Communications Group

    I came across this article in 'B to B', "The Magazine for Marketing Strategists". It gives a high-level discussion of how a high number of companies and industries are turning toward marketing their environmentally responsible initiatives. The article does acknowledge the criticisms that some may just be "green washing".

    The article covers the energy industry, highlighting GE and its "Ecomagination" campaign in particular, the aviation industry, and the construction industry. It also briefly discusses how the media and marketing companies of these industries is dealing with their environmental issues.

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    Global Warming May Harm U.S. Wine Industry

    Rising temperatures may harm the premium wines of Napa, Sonoma and Santa Barbara Counties, according to a study released today. The study says that the U.S. could lose up to 81% of its premium wine growing land by the year 2100 with the greatest losses occurring on the West Coast and Southwest.

    The article does have opposing points of view from other scientists who are not as confident in the methods used to make the report's predictions.

    Business Week on Climate Change

    This week's issue of BusinessWeek (July 17, 2006) has an article titled, "Business On A Warmer Planet". The subtitle is "Rising temperatures and later winters are already costing millions. How some companies are adapting to the new reality."

    The article speaks of examples of global warming is having adverse effects on a number of businesses. One example features a diamond mining company, Diavik Diamond Mines Inc., which no longer can build "ice highways" over frozen rivers to deliver tons of equipment, fuel and supplies needed to run their business. Due to the higher temperatures in the area, the ice never got thick enough to support the heavy trucks. They had to choose between slowing their operations or investing a great deal more money to do same deliveries by air. They chose the much more expensive option due to the money they make mining diamonds.

    A new report by Lloyd's titled "Adapt or Bust" is also mentioned in the article. It basically states that with the predicted effects of climate change (rising sea levels, stronger storms and a shift in agricultural cycles), everyone - businesses, governments and individuals - will have to adapt.

    Some things being seen needing adjustments include a whole town in Alaska that may have to be moved at a cost of $100 million; trees being decimated in British Columbia due to the rising temperatures not killing mountain pine beetles as had occurred; snails that carry parasitic disease in China not being killed due to rising temperatures; and a great deal of salmon in Alaska being too diseased to be sold due to higher temperatures in the Yukon River that spreads a salmon parasite. The last example has caused upstream fisheries to be decimated. This has caused an overall decline in commercial fishing.

    The rice growing season in Mali has also been cut short of late. The rainy season has decreased by more than a month over the past several decades due to an increase in temperature.

    I recommend reading the article as it goes in more detail and gives more examples of how businesses, governments and individuals have already had to adjust to changes caused by global warming.

    Monday, July 10, 2006

    Another Large Donation to Charity

    The founders of Golden West Financial Corp., which recently announced a merger with the Wachovia Corporation, donated $1.3 billion in stock to charity last month. The charity in this case is unnamed; however, Golden West founders Herbert M. Sandler and Marion O. Sandler, have donated a substantial amount to Human Rights Watch and California's promoters of stem cell research.

    The article also states that a Golden West Corp. board member also made a large donation recently. Bernard Osher gave about $470 million to unnamed charities last month.

    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    Equator Principles to be Expanded

    The Equator Principles are a guideline for financial institutions to follow when financing projects. It's aim is to help manage environmental and social risk related to project financing.

    Today, the Equator Principles Financial Institutions (EPFIs) revised the guidelines to reflect the 41 member institutions. The original EPFIs contained ten institutions when the Equator Principles were introduced three years ago.

    One of the main revisions is that the principles had only been applied to projects over $50 million. The revisions lowered that figured to projects over $10 million.

    Levi Strauss to Introduce 100% Organic Cotton Jeans

    Levi Strauss & Co. will introduce 100% organic cotton jeans in this year's fall line. The line will be called Levi's (R) Eco and will be used in a number of already established Levi's styles, such as the Red Tab and Capital E lines.

    You can find a list of a number of other retailers who offer clothing made with organic cotton on this page from the The Center for a New American Dream.

    The page with the retailers also gives some of the reasons that its important to grow, use and purchase organic cotton and products made with organic cotton. For example, it's been estimated that 25% of the world's insecticides and 10% of the world's pesticides go into the production of cotton. In the U.S., the amount of pesticides used for for conventional cotton production was second only to the amount used for corn production (think, by the way, of how that will only increase if ethanol made with corn becomes the alternative fuel of choice!). The site has links to other good resources as well.

    Another retailer not listed on that page that I'd like to mention is American Apparel. They use organic cotton for a number of their products and they manufacture all of their products in downtown Los Angeles.

    I feel giving new parents clothing made with 100% organic cotton for their new baby is a great gift. Wearing fabrics made without insecticides and pesticides is certainly better for the baby.

    Wednesday, July 05, 2006

    Illinois to Give Grants to Car-Sharing Companies

    The state of Illinois is starting a program that will give grants to car-sharing companies - both not-for-profit and for-profit - such as I-Go and Zipcar.


    The New York Times printed this article about biodiesel and Willie Nelson's involvement in its production through his BioWillie brand (see BioWillie's site for facts about biodiesel including how to make it). It also mentions that having Willie Nelson support the industry has helped it tremendously.

    I need to look into biodiesel further. The article has a quote from Willie Nelson's wife that says, "It didn't take him but a minute to figure out how much sense it made for family farmers. And if you support farmers, you support the nation." If that is true and if biodiesel can be made on large scale, it seems that we'd be better off if biodiesel was the alternative fuel of choice over ethanol. I realize I am simplifying the issue greatly - that is one more reason I need to look further into it. But my thought is that if family farms truly will be helped and if it's cleaner to produce than ethanol and it can be produced in mass quantities, then I'd need to find reasons against biodiesel to understand why ethanol is a better choice. When I think of ethanol, I only think of the corn lobby helping themselves (corporate farms not family farms).

    Tuesday, July 04, 2006

    Socially Responsible Mutual Funds of Note has posted this article, which speaks of the growing popularity of socially responsible investment (SRI) funds and lists five solid performers.

    Monday, July 03, 2006

    What Brown Can Do For You? Go Green!

    Thank you to for pointing me to this article. UPS, along with the U.S. EPA, has developed the most fuel-efficient, cost-effective delivery vehicle. The UPS trucks use, "EPA-patented hydraulic hybrid technology that increases fuel efficiency by 60-70% in urban driving while lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 40%."

    Tests have shown that these new trucks can reduce fuel usage by up to 1000 gallons a year per vehicle.

    UPS and the EPA are also speaking with Daimler Chrysler to obtain knowledge about using fuel cell technology for operating a commercial delivery fleet.

    Saturday, July 01, 2006

    BP Charged With Illegal Price Manipulation

    The Department of Justice has charged BP with illegally manipulating the price of propane. They allegedly bought up a dominant position in propane and held back some of the supply to force prices up. One BP employee has pleaded guilty and faces jail time and a large fine.