business

Five services that make compost for you

Five services that make compost for you

Composting is one of those green activities that may still scare you a little: after all, don’t decomposing yard waste, food scraps, and other organic materials attract bugs and smell badly? Done right, you can compost just about anywhere with minimal problems. But if you’re not interested in a worm bin in the apartment or basement, or shelling out relatively big bucks for an electric kitchen composter, the trash can isn’t the only option left.

School fundraising goes green

School fundraising goes green

Though the kids are probably home for the summer at this point, the PTA, band boosters, or other school organization may already be discussing fundraising plans for the coming year. More efforts to get the kids knocking on doors to sell wrapping paper and nasty pizza kits, right?

Fortunately, a number of eco-entrepreneurs have gotten into the fundraising game, and created opportunities for either selling greener products, or leveraging activities like recycling to raise money for school activities and organizations. A few of the companies involved in this niche after the jump.

Michigan siblings upcycling aluminum cans into jewelry

Michigan siblings upcycling aluminum cans into jewelry

Most of your aluminum can likely go into the recycling bin (because we’re certain you don’t just throw them in the trash!). Scott Bertelsmeyer, along with his sisters Sue, Sherry, and Shannon, thought something even more valuable could be done with those recyclables: they could serve as the drivers for economic redevelopment in their hometown of Vassar, Michigan (which, like the rest of the state, suffers from high unemployment: currently 13.7%), while still keeping them out of the landfill. Their company Cangles makes jewelry from the cans… which is now sported by celebs ranging from Paris Hilton to Kelly Rowland to Ian Somerhalder.

The corporate garden: good CSR, or cheap employee benefit?

The corporate garden: good CSR, or cheap employee benefit?

It turns out colleges aren’t the only ones jumping into the community garden craze: according to yesterday’s New York Times, companies from PepsiCo to Best Buy to Kohl’s are putting in gardening spaces for employees to use.

So, what’s driving this movement towards corporate gardens? A push from employees? Sometimes. A desire for fresh food for the company cafeteria? Occasionally. But the big motivator? “As companies have less to spend on raises, health benefits and passes to the water park, a fashionable new perk is emerging: all the carrots and zucchini employees can grow.”

Major league baseball's green season

Major league baseball's green season

As Robert Redford notes in the video above, the environmental footprint of major league baseball (or any professional sport) is “formidable”: from the energy to run the stadium, to the gas consumed by fans traveling to a game, to water used in bathrooms and to keep field grass green, many resources go into the production of America’s national pastime. Yesterday, the partnership between MLB and the NRDC announced a significant initiative to assess and address that footprint: “…a comprehensive software system to collect and analyze stadium operations data to develop and distribute best practice information across the 30 Clubs” that will go into use this season.

Walla Walla's green junk yard

Walla Walla's green junk yard

In 1929, Emory Stubblefield opened a salvage yard; in 1944, he moved it to Walla Walla, Washington. Like most junk yards, Stubblefield’s was full of rusting cars, old tires, scrap metal… the typical detritus you’d associate with such a business. Just before Emory’s death at the age of 94 in 2008, he and his children took the business in a new direction: metal and scrap recycling… plus nature habitat.

Pedal-powered recycling pick-up… and more

Pedal-powered recycling pick-up… and more

Recycling does create energy savings overall, but if you watch those big trucks rolling through your neighborhood on pick-up day, you probably realize that there may be even more efficient ways to handle the collection of these materials. A couple in Northampton, Massachusetts, has found one: pick up those recyclables by bike.

Green documentary news

Green documentary news

Just came across several interesting tidbits on green-themed documentary films currently in the works, so thought I’d share them all at one time.

  • Crowd funding green films: Tree Media Group, which produced THE 11TH HOUR with Leonardo DiCaprio, is trying out a different mechanism for raising money for two planned documentaries: crowd funding. If you check out the sites for URBAN ROOTS, which follows the growth of urban farming in Detroit, or INTO EDEN, which explores environmental crisis from the perspective of human consciousness, you’ll see NPR-like fund raising appeals. This is a model that’s currently being tried for all sorts of media — Spot.us is a great example of crowd funding for journalism, for instance — so we’ll be interested to see how well this works.
Recyclebank & eBay collaborate to promote reuse

Recyclebank & eBay collaborate to promote reuse

Ever found it odd that, generally, you have to pay for recycling service? After all, the materials you place in those blue bins are commodities that your recycling service will sell. You might argue that paying people a cut of the revenues generated from the sale of such materials could work better to increase recycling rates (though, in fairness, the prices for such materials are relatively low… though they have been rising).

Philadelphia-based Recyclebank was founded on this concept. While the company doesn’t actually pay people for recycling, it offers a rewards program similar to airline miles or credit card points.

Green companies: sustainability may be in the eye of the beholder

Green companies: sustainability may be in the eye of the beholder

Quickly: which company is greener? UPS or DHL? Stonyfield Farm or General Mills? Google or News Corp.? You may think all of these are no-brainers, but, in two of the three cases, your perception may not align with reality… at least in terms of action related to climate change. A new study, MapChange 2010, finds that, in many cases, there’s little alignment between real action by a company, and its “green” public perception.

Peer-to-peer product service systems

Peer-to-peer product service systems

Sustainability advocates generally love the product service system model because, in theory, it reduces consumption, and provides the owners of the products with incentives to maintain those items for as long as possible. You may associate this business model with movie rental (Netflix) or car-sharing (Zipcar), but the types of products offered on a “rental” model continues to grow: designer handbags and dresses, for instance, are now available in this manner.

"Picturing the Past 10 Years" by Phillip Niemeyer

"Picturing the Past 10 Years" by Phillip Niemeyer

It doesn’t have much to do with love or sex, but it being New Year’s Eve and all we couldn’t resist pointing out art director Phillip Niemeyer’s “op-chart” from Sunday’s New York Times called “Picturing the Past 10 Years” (especially if you missed fellow Sunfiltered blogger Matthew Rodriguez’s post about it a few days ago). Read…

How to pay for making biodiesel: sell soap

How to pay for making biodiesel: sell soap

Like many schools, the University of Florida has developed a number of programs and efforts to produce and promote renewable energy. Mechanical and aerospace engineering major Eric Layton saw an opportunity to learn in a proposed biodiesel plant, and threw himself into the project whole-heartedly: according to the Gainesville Sun, “He helped build and maintain the plant and served as the coordinator for more than 50 volunteers who learned about plant management and operations.” He even received an award for his efforts.

And then, last Spring, the funding ran out.

Hot guys + baby animals = genius

Hot guys + baby animals = genius

Somebody must have done this before. There’s got to be a 1978 calendar buried in someone’s basement  somewhere featuring topless guys in tight pants with lush mustaches and fluffy wittle kittens. But we’ve never seen it. So we’re kind of getting a kick out of Hot Guys and Baby Animals, the new Recess Peanut Butter…

Chatting with Ray Anderson, radical industrialist

Chatting with Ray Anderson, radical industrialist

Ray Anderson’s epiphany about his own role in environmental destruction after reading Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce has taken on mythic status in the fifteen years since. The “spear in the chest moment” he experienced transformed Anderson into a leader in sustainable thought and practice within American industry, and his company, Interface, Inc. (which manufacture modular floor covering primarily for business and institutional customers) is now recognized as a model of transformation. Named a “Hero of the Planet” by Time magazine in 2007, Anderson is constantly sought out for speeches, interviews, and even documentary film appearances (THE CORPORATION, and the new SO RIGHT SO SMART)
In September, Anderson (with Robin White) published his second book, Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Planet — Doing Business by Respecting the Earth. This wide-ranging work not only tells Interface’s story in detail, but also provides a blueprint for how a large, well-established company can literally reinvent itself as both a profitable enterprise and a business that learns to operate in harmony with natural systems.
The word “confessions” in the title is very appropriate: Anderson is very frank about Interface’s successes and setbacks in its climb up “Mt. Sustainability” (a phrase he coined). He also discusses the efforts of other companies, and makes bold, and hopeful, cases for environmental and social responsibility as pillars of successful business strategy in the 21st century. The book is an engaging and thoughtful read for business people, environmental activists, and consumers concerned about the impact of industry on the planet’s future.
I spoke with Anderson on the phone on Wednesday, November 4, 2009.
So much of Interface’s success in “climbing Mt. Sustainability” seems based in really common-sense approaches to design, manufacturing, and distribution. We Americans generally regard ourselves as practical, efficient, etc., yet we encounter such strong resistance on numerous fronts to these kinds of changes… they really seem to scare some people. In your experience, what’s the best way to approach this resistance to new ideas?

It requires a considerable amount of patience, and also persistence. I know in bringing our people along, it was one mind at a time. It’s not something you could dictate, and everyone accepted immediately. Or, it’s not something you can dictate and everybody ever accepted, for that matter. It’s one mind at a time.

How to build business sustainability from your cubicle: Tim Sander's Saving the World at Work

How to build business sustainability from your cubicle: Tim Sander's Saving the World at Work

What were you thinking about on September 16, 2008? Green business ideas probably weren’t at the top of the list… September 15 was the day that Lehman Brothers went belly up, and you were probably more focused on your portfolio and savings. As such, Tim Sanders’ book Saving the World at Work (released on — you guessed it — September 16) got buried under talk of a second Great Depression.
Sanders and publisher Doubleday decided to give the book another go, and relaunched it on September 16th of this year. I’m glad they did: while the title led me to believe I was going to be reading another “how to” book on greening the workplace (which is not a bad thing), Sanders goes well beyond tips on saving paper and electricity.

Green theatre comes to Berkeley

Green theatre comes to Berkeley

If you take a look at the current season for Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre Company, none of the plays should strike you as particularly “green.” Yet on September 29, Aurora became the first professional residential theater company in the Bay Area to be certified as a green business by the Alameda County Green Business Program and the Bay Area Green Business Program. The Company accomplished this not by staging plays on climate change and recycling, but by implementing some major changes in operations, including:

Compatible carpooling

Compatible carpooling

Carpooling is a great way to cut both your transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, and your gasoline spending. You probably associate it most with commuting to and from work: a few co-workers get together and agree to share costs (and the headaches of driving in rush hour traffic). But what about trips into town for a museum visit, or a ballgame, or shopping?

Fill your water bottle on the go: TapIt

Fill your water bottle on the go: TapIt

Bottled water contributes to a host of environmental challenges — you know that. But, let’s face it — bottled water is also incredibly convenient, especially if you’re on the go a lot. A refillable bottle is environmentally preferable, but if you’re out and about, and run out of water, you may also find yourself out of luck in terms of refilling it.

Pope Benedict calls for sustainable business, development models

Pope Benedict calls for sustainable business, development models

Pope Benedict XVI added to his growing reputation as the “green Pope” yesterday (July 7) with the release of a new encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth). A call for sustainable development in the broadest sense, the Pope’s letter addressed the human and environmental costs of “business as usual,” and established “doing well by doing good” as the business philosophy most consistent with Church doctrine and Biblical teaching.

Bottled water: can it ever be green?

Bottled water: can it ever be green?

Still have bottled water as a regular item on the grocery list? Or just pick up the occasional bottle when you’re out? It’s so convenient…

As you probably know, that convenience comes at an environmental and social price: documentaries such as FLOW and Thirst, organizations such as the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund, and even a few of us lowly bloggers, have reported on the costs created by water’s transformation from a freely-available resource to a multi-billion dollar commodity. That bottle of water you buy now contributes to the world’s third-largest industry.

Twenty social enterprises tackling sustainability in the developing world

Twenty social enterprises tackling sustainability in the developing world

Can business save the world? Those who answer “Yes” don’t just include industry trade groups and chambers of commerce: the SEED Initiative, a joint project of the United Nations’ Environmental Programme and Development Programme, along with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, “identifies, profiles and supports promising, locally-driven, start-up enterprises” in the developing world that are focused on alleviating poverty and managing natural resources more sustainably.

Sell your energy savings?

Sell your energy savings?

While many of us buy carbon offsets and similar products from companies like Terrapass and NativeEnergy to achieve “carbon neutrality,” producing and selling these credits has generally been limited to bigger players. Earth Aid Enterprises, creators of the Earth Aid Kit,  would like to change that equation. A new service from the company allows Earth…