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The Times Business Section goes Worldchanging
Alex Steffen, 17 May 06

The Times Business page today has a great special section on the greening of the economy, which is chock full of worldchanging ideas and allies - it could have practically been written in house here. Not every piece in the section is equally good, but every one is worth a read:

An exploration of how corporations and environmental groups are learning to collaborate ("If politics makes for strange bedfellows, global warming, endangered forests, dwindling water supplies and scary new technologies have made for even stranger ones. Environmentalists and corporations are engaging in a new spirit of compromise. ... Environmental groups still wield the threat of public criticism, boycotts and lawsuits. But they are also willing to collaborate and give pats on the back. Corporations, under pressure to go green, are baring their souls and books to onetime critics, and asking them for help.") [For more, see The Transcommercial Enterprise or pretty much anything written by Joel or Gil]:

An interesting look at how the Food Service Technology Center is attempting to green U.S. restaurants ("[I]f restaurants were automobiles, they would be Hummers. That's because the restaurant business wastes more energy than any other industry in America. Experts say that 80 percent of the $10 billion annual energy bill for commercial food service is squandered by the use of inefficient equipment.") [see also Sustainable Restauranteuring and Wind-Powered Eats];

A sharp little piece on emissions trading "the crux of what makes trading work"? "[M]andated emissions requirements and a regulatory system that closely monitors compliance and metes out harsh penalties." [previously: Carbon Trading 101, Taxes, Credits and Going Carbon Negative and The Keys to Kyoto: A Climate Change Primer for Business];

A look at technology and the environmental future, which gives a fine intro to the debates around nuclear power, biotechnology and nanotechnology [we've obviously discussed all three quite a bit, but here's the essential coverage: nukes, biotech, nanotech];

A rambling and poorly argued bit on environmental efforts and the bottom line, which is worth reading for the tidbits of information it contains, but also is full of strange inaccuracies like the assertion "most of the green technologies that make money now are profitable only because of government tax incentives or subsidies," which is, um, just not true unless you don't categorize energy- water- and resource-efficiency technologies as green. [see also If It Makes Money, It's Not a 'Cost'!];

A fine through overly superficial survey of green-themed advertsising and branding efforts ("One reason G.E. likes the ecomagination theme, created by the BBDO Worldwide agency, is that 'it presents an optimistic point of view,' Ms. Hu said, 'as opposed to the negative aspects, the sacrifices people have to make, cutting back' [versus] being 'innovative, at the forefront of technology, making products that improve the quality of life, having a vision for the future, caring about the world you live in.'" [here, you'd frankly be better off reading Green Marketing and the '4/40 Gap, Green Marketing: Lessons from the Leaders and Reframing the Planet];

About architecture's difficult transition to sustainability ("[Oberlin's] David W. Orr says he thinks that teaching sustainable design requires a whole new educational approach, one that includes architecture but incorporates many other disciplines. 'If architectural schools turn out architects who build green buildings, it's still just a smaller piece of a much bigger puzzle of how we make a transition to sustainability.'" [see Taking the Temperature of EnvironDesign, Harare's Eastgate Building and the Perils of Thinking Small, EcoHouse Brazil and, well, just about anything with the word BedZED in it];

A piece on greenwashing and the need for third-party certifications [greenwashing, certification];

Feel-Good Investing, With Profits ("There has been a gain of about one degree in atmospheric temperature since shares of General Electric went on the market in 1892, and about 100 billion tons of carbon, more or less, have been added to the atmosphere. It has been hard for the public to grasp the consequences of those figures. But a growing number of investors are beginning to believe that climate change will have repercussions in industries from electric power to insurance. The forces that could move coastlines, they think, can easily move markets.") [see The Restless Growth of 'Patient Capital'; Clean Tech's Trillion-Dollar Markets and Social Investment, Social Capital and Social Action];

They Tilt and Whirl While Spinning Off Cash, about the windpower boom ('Wind power provides a risk-adjusted core return on capital, favorable accounting treatment for earnings and it is "good public policy,' said Michael O'Sullivan, senior vice president for development at FPL Energy. Mr. O'Sullivan emphasizes that earnings from wind power turn into profits quickly in the first years of operation because of tax breaks.") [see Catching Up with the Wind];

A well-written piece on the greening of Chicago ("The Daley administration has planted 500,000 trees, is putting up the most energy-efficient and environmentally sensitive municipal buildings in the country, has agreed to provide developers with much faster permits if they construct green buildings, instituted a $600-million-a-year program to repair neighborhoods and city parks, promised to obtain 20 percent of the electricity used by the city from clean and renewable sources, and converted hundreds of abandoned and contaminated properties into new businesses.");

And a great piece of reporting on one farmer's choice to go all-natural and cruelty-free on his pig farm ("In the spring of 1999, Mr. Kremer and a group of like-minded independent farmers formed the Missouri Farmers Union 'to protect and enhance the economic interest and way of life of family farmers and ranchers and the rural communities they represent,' according to the mission statement. Under the organization's guidance, 34 farmers formed the Ozark Mountain Pork Cooperative in 2001; they raised $790,000 and bought a small production plant in Mountain View. Operations began in 2002, with its products sold under the Heritage Acres label. All the members, including Mr. Kremer, adhere to strict protocols: animals must be fed a nutritious diet, free of additives; they must have access to the outdoors; and they must have shelter. Before slaughter, the pigs are handled without stress to the point of electrical execution, which is strictly monitored. 'The hog feels no pain,' said Mr. Kremer, who makes a weekly visit to the plant. 'And then he's dead.'") [see also heritage meats, Grow Organic, Grow Wealthy? and Community Supported Agriculture for Urban Lifestyles].

Well done, Times editors!

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I'm interested in tracking green marketing (as surveyed in one of the articles) a bit better, as in finding out when companies release new green marketing campaigns. It's just interesting to see the field grow. Any ideas for how to track that? Thanks!

Posted by: Corinna on 20 May 06



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