Last week, sustainable business pioneer (and a personal hero of mine) Ray Anderson lost his battle with cancer. Founder and longtime CEO of Interface, Ray was a pioneer from the outset. A commercial flooring company, Interface brought the carpet square to the United States. At age sixty, after nearly two decades of success, Ray could’ve retired to a house on the golf course and lived out his golden years in luxury. Instead, after reading Paul Hawken’s “The Ecology of Commerce,” this established businessman had an epiphany (or, as he liked to call it, a “spear in the chest” moment): he had found success and made his fortune by plundering the Earth’s resources. Ray committed himself and his company to big, hairy, audacious goals concerning their environmental impact, and made amazing strides in an industry that’s traditionally been very resource and energy intensive.
Colleges and universities are hot spots for renewable energy installation and experimentation. From on-site energy generation to educational programs designed to train students for clean energy careers, schools are right up there with start-ups in terms of pushing renewable technology towards mainstream use. Last week, a community college district in Northern California set a new standard for renewable energy use in higher education, though: Butte College became the first “grid positive” school in the nation.
You might be surprised to learn that many so-called African fabrics – fabrics that you buy in Africa and are called African fabrics – are actually made outside of the continent. On a recent trip to Rwanda, designers Eugenia Morpugo and Maya Ben David were shocked to find out that none of Rwanda’s “local fabrics” come from Africa, let alone Rwanda. To find out why that was, Morpugo and Ben David founded Atelier Rwanda and launched a research project to explore the local materials and techniques available in Rwanda in order to create economic opportunities and support the identity of the local culture.
Have a hard time equating typical Jewish deli fare — say, the mile-high pastrami, or corned beef, or brisket sandwich — with sustainability? You’re not alone: huge servings of fatty meats don’t do much for our health or the planet. A few deli owners around the country are taking a hard look at the impact of the traditional menu associated with their establishments, and trying out an approach that some may literally consider heresy: sustainable deli food.
Last week Gilt Groupe had a sale on the fashionably recyclable picnic boxes made by Boxsal. Or wait, was it Gilt Home or Gilt Taste? Oh, who can keep track anymore. Unlike most Gilt deals, the sale didn’t actually save buyers any money – the picnic boxes still go for $25 on their own website, but at the price who’s complaining? No, the “sale” was really more of a promotion and, well, it worked.
Boxsal, which calls its products “part Oscar de la Renta, part Oscar Meyer,” claims to be “bringing the picnic back into fashion,” and with recyclable cardboard picnic boxes available in three different designs (see images below), it just might.
Modular, mobile living was a big theme in design this year, from prefabricated, shippable houses to small temporary rooms that can be set up anywhere you like, in the backyard or the backwoods. The front runner, however, has to be the log cabin designed by Piet Hein Eek.
It might be tempting to label the “journey across America in search of ______” motif a cliché… except it still resonates powerfully. From 19th-century travelogues to Kerouac’s On the Road to Albert Brooks’ Lost in America, the idea of traveling the US as a quest for meaning captures out imaginations, and gives us space for a bit of introspection.
Ryan Mlynarczyk and Mandy Creighton went beyond the dreaming about such adventures most of us do, and decided to set out on their own quest across the country… this time in search of sustainable community. In 2008, they ditched almost everything, and set off across the US on bikes to explore ecovillages, communes, collectives… every form of simpler, more sustainable communities they could find. They’ve visited over 100 communities across the country, and are now pulling footage of their journey into a feature-length film titled WITHIN REACH.
As we’ve noted before, the US military has been at the forefront of sustainability efforts for some time now… from green building to renewable energy, all branches of the armed forces see effective resource management as a top priority for security and readiness.
Energy’s been the top focus here, but now a new project at the Army’s Schofield Barracks in Hawaii experiments with another critical resource: water. The Army’s building a rainwater harvesting system for the building designed not only to save water and energy, but also to demonstrate how installation readiness goals can be met by taking the local resource base into account.
“Young, creative, passionate college student wants to save the world…” Having been in this line of work for years now, I’ve received multiple emails that could’ve used some variation on those words for a subject line. So, when Caroline Savery first got in touch with me in 2008 about her Sust Enable project, a documentary series that would feature her efforts to live in a 100% sustainable manner, the usual two conflicting thoughts arose: “How inspiring!” and “Good luck with that…”
Today, British mobile network company O2 released its Eco Rating system, devised in conjunction with sustainable development organization Forum for the Future. The rating system is a laudable undertaking: cell phones use energy, can contain toxic materials, and provide yet another e-waste challenge… so having a “simple and transparent” system for sustainability information on phones can help consumers make smarter choices here.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to see how the O2 system really provides useful information in a transparent manner.
Making the shift to college life, whether as a resident or commuter student, is tough: from buying books to living with a roommate to optional class attendance, new students have a wealth of choices and responsibilities open to them (or thrust upon them). At many colleges and universities, another change may include sustainability policies and practices… and this may mean that a student’s navigating composting, organic food, and energy efficiency for the first time.
When my wife and I decided to buy a house in St. Louis, we wanted something older, with a little character… and easy access to the Missouri Botanical Garden. We found what we wanted… a mere two blocks from the US’ oldest continuously operated garden. MOBOT isn’t just a great place to escape the urban environment… it’s also become St. Louis’ premiere institution for promoting sustainability and green living. Now, I’m just as likely to spend my time in the Kemper Gardening Center for tips on better maintaining my little organic garden as I am enjoying the view in the Japanese garden.
The ECOWEEK logo and their cringe-inducing slogan. I was surprised to learn that ECOWEEK isn’t just a one week event, it’s the actual name of the NGO that hosts the weeklong conference as well as “eco awareness” all year long. To be honest, their mission statement is a bit naive: ECOWEEK was established because temperatures…
As with the past several Olympic games, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics have worked to incorporate elements of sustainability into this massive event. From building a framework for event sustainability to creating greener event venues like the Whistler Sliding Center for bobsled, luge, and skeleton competitions, the Vancouver Organizing Committee has worked hard to lighten the admittedly huge footprint of the upcoming games.
With the 2010 Winter Olympic Games opening on Friday in Vancouver, the warmer than usual weather of an El Nino winter is causing headaches for Olympic organizers.
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.
Got a favorite book on sustainability? One that changed your view of our relationship to the environment? In my case, Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce, Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael series, and Ray Anderson’s Mid-Course Correction all opened my eyes to ideas of more sustainable relationships between the economy and the environment.
Suzy Amis Cameron for Red Carpet Green Dress from Red Carpet Green Dress on Vimeo. If you’re an aspiring green fashion designer, and didn’t get picked for Franca Sozzani’s workshop in Biella, Italy, fear not: Suzy Amis Cameron — model, activist, and wife of some guy named James — is offering you a shot at…
The phrase “military sustainability” may strike you as an oxymoron: these guys are known for tanks, not treehugging. Over the past decade, though, the US armed forces have recognized the necessity of resource management to military readiness: various branches have tested out renewable energy, and the Army even released a sustainability report in 2007.
Hope can be a precious commodity in developing countries like Haiti. With 80% of the population living below the poverty level, residents will likely welcome any economic opportunity, regardless of social or environmental consequences. The documentary film BLOOMING HOPE: HARVESTING SMILES IN PORT-DE-PAIX documents efforts by a few Haitian citizens, community leaders, and aid workers to build financially, socially and environmentally sustainable business models in one of the country’s poorest region.
If you’re an urbanite, you likely think of nature as something that exists outside of the city limits. That thinking is prevalent, and may contribute to the growth of nature deficit disorder among our kids… and ourselves. “Nature,” however, is all around us, and city government officials, planners, and community advocates are realizing that actively incorporating green spaces into urban settings makes for more livable environments (remember the High Line?).
While certified green theatre may still be an anomaly, the live entertainment design community is discussing its environmental impact, as well as broader notions of sustainability, both online and in person. Yesterday, Live Design magazine published a blog post (the first in a series) from lighting designer and theatre consultant Curtis Kasefang on the concept of “sustainable theatres.” Kasefang’s notion of a sustainable performance space can be summed in up in one word: reuse.
Got a child looking at colleges? Or, are you looking for yourself? More and more, sustainability efforts may be one of the criteria you and others use to choose a “good” school. For several years, the Sustainable Endowments Institute has made the search for that information a little easier with the publication of its College Sustainability Report Card. The 2009 edition was released last week, and colleges and universities around the country are bragging (or not) about their “grades.”
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.