Posts tagged ‘sustainability’
We had a chat with Tracy Hepler this week, an entrepreneur trying to green LA:
Q1 What are you up to at the moment?
Right now I’m constantly working on growing my baby, yourdailythread.com which is an online community space for green, sustainable and local living in Los Angeles. Our goal is to bring green down to the local level. There are wonderful national and global sites out there right now such as treehugger.com or grist.org, but they usually don’t focus on neighborhood issues. We try to focus on things that you can do in your own back yard, from community gardens to local green events—we sift through all green marketing and green washing to bring our readers the crème de la crème of local green issues.
I have also recently co-founded LYFE (Leading Young Future Entrepreneurs) with Hillary Newman (the Ecowarriorr) and Rachel Hurn-Maloney of Vie Eco Fashion Boutique in Los Angeles. LYFE brings together young entrepreneurs who care about the environment and want to network both professional and socially.
I also do freelance writing/blogging for a few other green/cause oriented sites including the Huffington Post Green, Causecast.org and I’m working on a few more side projects including bringing green to the Latino mainstream.
Q2 Why do you do what you do?
After graduating college, I thought I really wanted to work in the entertainment industry as a writer. I soon realized once in the industry that my calling was to use my skills towards work that would help make the world a better place. As cheesy as that might sound, it is true. I feel that climate change and the environment is possibly the most pressing issue of our time and I want to do everything in my power to bring change and inspire everyone to do everything they can to conquer this problem.
Q3 What keeps you awake at night?
Haha, this is funny because I’m currently on vacation and I can’t be away Your Daily Thread for more than a few hours—that is my baby, if you will, and I am so inspired to see it succeed all the way through.
Q4 You mentioned that you’re doing a summer special with YDT – what tips do you have?
Well I missed the 4th, but our tips are applicable for the rest of summer. If I could suggest one big thing it would be to avoid using disposables. For one hour of picnicking or bbqing your plastic plates and forks will sit in the landfill for hundreds of years. I don’t care how tasty you burgers are—it’s not worth it. Bring your own plates from home or if you need to use a form of disposable, use compostable ones from companies like Earth Shell. They’re made in the USA from old potatoes and other scrapes and can be thrown into the compost bin. If you don’t compost and must throw them away, they won’t take nearly as long to biodegrade. You can view the rest of our green summer bbq tips here.
Q5 If you were a g(r)enie, what would you wish for?
I get three wishes I assume!
1) I’d wish for green to be a major priority across, political, social and all other spectrums. I’m happy with the amount of progress we’ve made in the last few years, but I think we’ve got a lot more to do and a stronger sense of urgency is needed.
2) That every household and business in America used a recycling and composting bin so that we would throw less into our landfills.
3) That we’d return to eating healthy real food. I have been a big fan of Michael Pollan for a while and recently saw Food INC—it’s shocking how much of what we eat really isn’t food. I’d wish for a return to more seasonal organic food that everyone could afford.
Penned by Christina
Last night I enthusiastically attended the book launch for Adam Werbach’s new book, Strategy for Sustainability. (For those of you who don’t know who Adam Werbach is, read on or learn about his company, Saatchi & Saatchi S). They had a ton of great speakers, drumming, drinks and fire dancers!
During the performance, the drummers talked about what culture really means, how critical it is for society and how it connects to sustainability. I can never hear enough of that type of thinking! I was also reminded that Saatchi & Saatchi S focuses on and problem-solves utilizing SEEC – social, environmental, economic and cultural dimensions. It really warmed my heart (and not only due to my proximity to the fire!) to see a thriving company that has pushed the boundaries of progressive business thinking.
(Photo by Nathan Wyeth)
Some thoughts from our founder, Paul Hannam, on why people are so intrigued and inspired by the idea of a green job.
Penned by Tom
It’s always good to look at the bottom-line when assessing the environmental movement. There are a plethora of interesting success stories which demonstrate to executives the importance and benefits of going green, even if you’re a climate-change denier. Here are a few examples from Sustainable Business Consulting:
- A Global cleaning products company maximized natural lighting, installed occupancy sensors and enabled employees to control heating and cooling at their work stations. The ROI: Saved nearly $100,000 a year.
- A Fortune 500 global technology company gave employees the option to telecommute from home. The ROI: Saved $67.8 million in real estate costs in just one year and reduced 29,000 tons of CO2 emissions, and increased worker productivity by 34 percent.
- A 41-story, Class A+ office building with 1,000,000 square feet of office space located in the US reduced unnecessary after-hours and weekend lighting and initiated a high efficiency lighting retrofit. The ROI: Saved $386,000 in annual operating expenses.
- A Global cleaning products company restored native and drought tolerant plants, such as prairie grass and wild flowers, to the site. ROI: Saved $2,000 per acre in annual maintenance costs.
- A Global forest products company encouraged employees to commute using vanpools, carpools, walking or biking. ROI: Reduced total vehicle miles driven by 1.2 million and reduced emissions by 66,884 pounds of CO2 in one year.
- A US-based independent federal agency developed an advanced preventative maintenance inspection process for its delivery fleet. The ROI: Saved $3 million and 330,000 quarts of oil to date.
- A Cancer research center utilized off-hour lighting, fan shutoffs, occupancy sensors, high-efficiency chillers, L.E.D. exit signs, heat recovery from washers and efficient lighting. The ROI: Saved $317,000 annually, which is enough electricity to power 1,200 homes annually.
- A Medical center sent used toner cartridges to a recycling company that refurbishes and refills them. The ROI: Saved $20,000 annually.
- A Healthcare company recycled more than 6,000 tons of paper, plastic, glass and aluminum waste. The ROI: Saved more than $300,000 in disposal costs, diverted more than 18,000 cubic yards form landfills.
- A Major US-based retailer changed the specifications for individual item packaging and reduced the quantity of excess pins clips, bags, paperboard inserts, tape and tissue paper in its items. The ROI: Saved an estimated $4.5 million in labor costs and eliminated approximately 1.5 million pounds of waste.
Paul made the media rounds during Earth Week as everyone was wondering where green jobs are and whether they’ll live up to all the hype. Paul speaks here with San Diego News Network; he also spoke on Saturday at the San Diego Green Careers Conference.
Penned by Carolyn
Okay, so the WHOLE WORLD is warming up: polar bears are drowning off their melting icebergs, our kids will never know what a glacier is, and Florida (Disney World!) is going to disappear completely underwater. But these huge issues beg the question: what am I, as an open-minded but admittedly lazy college kid, supposed to do about it?
Luckily, there are a lot of little ways that we can change our habits, without having to chain ourselves to ancient redwoods or eat granola for every meal. Here’s a list of ten easy things you can do this Earth Day to make a little bit of difference- and if enough of us get on board, we might just save a few polar bears along the way.
1. Let’s start easy: turn your lights off when you’re leaving a room for more than 15 minutes. Most college dorms still use incandescent lightbulbs – which have not significantly advanced technologically since they were invented 125 years ago (around the same time as the telegraph and the steam locomotive.) If you don’t want to install CFL bulbs (which are 75% more efficient than traditional incandescents), turn your lights off when you’re not going to be around. During the day, use windows and natural lighting instead of electricity.
Your computer also uses an absurd amount of energy, which you can cut down on by setting your computer to go to sleep automatically during short breaks. And as sweet as those flying toasters might be, don’t use a screen saver: they use almost ten times as much energy as a computer in sleep mode. When you go to sleep, turn your computer off—it is an urban legend propagated by evil tree-haters that turning your computer on and off repeatedly hurts the machine.
2. Bring your own coffee mug.
In 2005, Americans used and discarded 14.4 billion disposable paper cups for hot beverages. If put end-to-end, those cups would circle the earth 55 times. Based on anticipated growth of specialty coffees, that number will grow to 23 billion by 2010- enough to circle the globe 88 times. Plus, those coffee cups are lined with petrochemicals in order to keep them from leaking. Based on hot cup usage in 2005, the petrochemicals used in the manufacture of those cups could have heated 8,300 homes for one year. If you bring your own to-go mug, most places will offer you a 15 or 25 cent discount. Or save that embarrassingly exorbitant $4 you’d spend on a latte, and just make a drink at home before you go.
3. Take a shorter shower.
Every 4 minutes in the shower, you use up 10 gallons of precious fresh water. Plus, heating water accounts for up to 25% of the total energy used in a single-family home – that’s more energy, on average, than is needed to drive a medium-sized car 12,000 miles. Shorten your shower and spend less time standing in all that gross fungi. Or, alternatively, shower with a friend – more good incentive to economize.
4. Only do your laundry when you have a full load (as if you needed encouragement on this one).
It takes 40 gallons of water to do an average load of laundry with a top-loading washing machine, and 86% of energy consumed by washing goes into heating the water. How to cut down? Wash only your really disgustingly dirty clothes in hot water. Most clothes can safely be washed in cold, and this alone could eliminate up to 1,600 pounds of yearly CO2 emissions in the average household (just think about how much more a dorm emits). As for the dryer, the lint filter on your dryer can decrease the energy used per load by up to 30 percent, so make sure to clean it before you start a load. Finally, you have an excuse for your girlfriend for why you haven’t done your laundry in a month.
5. Unplug stuff.
Think about how many things are plugged in but not in use in your room right now: speakers, printer, computer, lights, hairdryers, cell phone chargers, your new Wii… “Vampire power” (as us eco-alarmists like to call it) is actually draining a lot of energy and money without you ever noticing. Cost estimates for this wasted electricity range from $1 billion to $3.5 billion annually. The biggest energy wasters are audio equipment, DVD players, and cordless phones. If you use a power strip, it’s easy to fight back—just switch off the strip when you’re not using it. And when you’re not using your fridge (i.e., when it contains only half-eaten sandwiches you bought three months ago), unplug it, and you’ll also save yourself from that annoying buzzing sound it always makes when you’re trying to fall asleep.
6. Print double-sided, or on old scrap paper.
Here’s the whirlwind of statistics:
Over 40% of the world wood harvest ends up as paper. Last year, the United States threw out 20% of all the paper made in the world. One fifth of all the tropical rainforests in the world disappeared between 1960 and 1990. It takes about 31 million BTU’s to make a ton of paper: enough energy to power a U.S. home for 2 months. The average cost of a wasted piece of paper is $.06.
Borderline overwhelming, I know. So what can you do to save all those cute jungle monkeys and thousand-year-old trees? When you’re buying printer paper, buy recycled. Set your printer to print double-sided, or feed it scrap paper that you don’t need anymore. And think twice about printing things: are you one of those compulsive hi-lighter kids, or could you just read or store it on your computer instead? Once again, not too hard.
7. The environmentalist broken record: recycle.
It is some poorly-paid environmentalist’s job to come up with statistics like this one: “Did you know that the nearly 50 billion aluminum cans trashed in 2005 could have saved enough energy to power 1.3 million American homes if they had been recycled?” Because aluminum is one of the most energy-intensive industries in the world, each can you toss in the trash wastes as much energy as pouring out half a can of gasoline. A lot of energy and landfill space also goes into plastic, glass, paper, Styrofoam, and cardboard, and these are all widely recycled. Recycling saves 95% of the energy in aluminum production and 60% of the energy needed to make paper.
Recycling is usually located right next to your trash dumpster, or you can cash in by bringing bottles back for the deposit at your local grocery store or dump. Given how much Coke you probably drink, 5 cents a can in returns can add up quickly.
8. Take one trip a week that you’d normally take by car on your bike or walking instead.
Come on, that’s not asking that much. Figuring just a 2.5-mile round trip commute, you riding your bike to class 50 times a year (that’s once a week, or a little more) saves 125 pounds of carbon. Think about it next time you run to the grocery store or the post office. Enjoy the fresh air and the exercise, save money on gas, and spend less time sitting in your dirty dilapidated car.
9. Use a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water.
First of all, bottled water is ridiculously expensive: you’re paying up to 2,000 times the price of tap water, when often, the water they’re selling you is just tap water. As if that weren’t embarrassing enough, Good Morning America did a blind taste test of snobby bottled water versus tap water in New York City, and tap water solidly beat out all the other varieties for taste. So where are all your crumpled dollars going when you buy bottled? To over-pumping of springs, habitat disturbance, and packaging that, if not recycled, creates a big waste problem. In fact, more than 8 billion gallons of bottled water are consumed annually in the U.S. – that’s 25 billion plastic water bottles, 90% of which get thrown away.
Cheaper, cleaner, easier. No college kid can argue with that.
10. Paper or plastic? Neither, thanks.
Try this for shock factor: the world consumes 1 million plastic bags per minute. Plastic deteriorates, but never fully decomposes – this means it will sit in a landfill forever, taking up space. If the plastic doesn’t end up in the landfills, it becomes a huge litter problem. In every square mile of ocean, there are 1 million pieces of plastic, which cause the deaths of 100,000 marine animals per year, including CUTE BABY SEALS. Plus, plastic is made from fossil fuels, and requires a lot of energy to process.
As for paper, paper bags use high amounts of wood, petroleum, and coal for production and processing. In 1999, U.S. use of 10 billion paper grocery bags resulted in the felling of 14 million trees.
So bring your own bag to the grocery store, or if you’re not buying too much, just carry it out by hand. Not doing so is the equivalent of being a baby-seal-clubber – let’s leave that to the Canadians.
Unfortunately, global warming’s a lot like the pile of dirty laundry in the corner of your closet: if we don’t deal with it now, it’s just going to keep piling up, until the rotting stench is so unbearable that we have to just give up and throw it out. And that’s the catch – we’ve only got one planet to work with, so we’ve got to deal with these issues now. Plus, I tricked you. This list got rid of all your excuses about saving the environment being too hard – it could actually be pretty easy. So get on it: it’s time to clean up our act.
PS: Oh, and one last one: look for a green job! Depending on how many years you’ve been in school, your brain’s worth somewhere in the hundreds of thousands of dollars by this point. Put all that value and know-how to work for the planet!
Penned by Christina
You may have noticed that we recently added a tag line on to our job descriptions, along the lines of “1% of the proceeds from this search will be reinvested in Solar Richmond, our non-profit partner.” While we’re glad to be able to financially support SR’s work (you should check out their site and learn about their amazing model), we are also committed to finding other ways to share our resources and knowledge of the green jobs space with our new partner.
So, on Friday, Nick and I went over to Solar Richmond to do just that. We conducted and recorded mock interviews with students of the program that will be utilized as training materials for future classes. Afterward, we also got the chance to see a live installation project where Solar Richmond had partnered with Grid Alternatives.
Our partnership with Solar Richmond in and of itself represents a sort-of culmination of a lot of concepts for me. Back in 2005 when I first discovered Van Jones, it felt like he was the only one out there trumpeting the ideas that our social issues are intricately connected to our environmental ones. I spent three years in grad school trying to connect those ideas in an academic context (which totally worked), but it has always been difficult to find the application of these ideas in a real-world context. It was amazing for me to actually experience and really feel the dual focus that Solar Richmond places on teaching the technical skills necessary for their students to succeed coupled with “fuzzier” concepts like personal accountability, empowerment, teamwork and community. Witnessing this model succeed literally brought me to tears.
Being able to apply the work I do through BGT’s green career coaching to this partnership was truly a moving experience and I thank Solar Richmond for letting us be a part of their amazing vision!
Photo: Me with Angie of Solar Richmond at the installation
Penned by Nick
Earlier this week, we partnered with Wal-Mart to find them a Sustainability Manager for their China operation. Despite their efforts to improve their environmental practices, many folks still view Wal-Mart as guilty and negligent:
“Before Wal-Mart Hires a Sustainability Manager, they need a Morality Manager to assure that their painted toys do not contain lead, that their milk does not contain toxins, and other crimes that we are not aware of. After they make significant progress in this area and their environment is not held hostage along with their sweat shop workers are treated with respect, then we can address sustainability issues.”
The quote above came from an individual who’s sincerely concerned about corporate practices, and whether or implied or otherwise, this quote strikes at the core of what we do at Bright Green Talent.
At Bright Green Talent, our credibility is our currency. To the extent we work with organizations who have questionable environmental or ethical practices, we risk tarnishing our own reputation.
“Reputational risk” is often overlooked and hugely under-apppreciated. Living up to Wal-Mart’s sustainability standards means we have to raise our bar — if we’re going to represent them and find them the greenest of employees, we need to be better recruiters ourselves.
I always joke that I love my job so much because it makes me be a better person. In the professional context, my personal life is just as much part of the story as anything else. And so, when we work with someone like Wal-Mart, it’s not because they are the most green of all employers (though they are up there), but because we believe in the vision they’re pursuing. Removing lead from toys and toxins from milks is what this relationship is about.
Casting stones is no way to engage people in the environmental dialogue — whether it be personally or professionally. If we’re going to talk, lets talk about how to make it better and be part of the solution, and in the process, keep everyone’s reputation intact.