February 2009

Are consumers and businesses “green” behind the ears?

Are consumers and businesses “green” behind the ears? Green efforts are taking place in homes, businesses, and communities across the globe. Green has several meanings depending on the context it is used in. When searching the Internet, accusations can be found pointing to green being an overused marketing term. Stories also suggesting evidence is available supporting green products are not as effective at cleaning as consumers are lead to believe. Lastly, some wonder if there is a “green-washing” of consumers occurring. Whatever the case might be, marketing efforts involving green terminology are primarily designed to pull customers in and land a sale, just like any other sales pitch.

Momentum grows for an official White House farmer

Momentum grows for an official White House farmer Think of all the resources absorbed by the lavish, well-manicured lawns and gardens surrounding the White House. The cost of all the water, fertilizer and labor involved must add up fast.

While the lush grass may be pleasing to the eye, a growing number of farmers and environmentalists are calling for President Obama to make a change.

They’re asking Obama to hire a full-time farmer to turn part of the White House lawn into an organic garden.

Author Michael Pollan proposed this while addressing the idea of a new food culture in an Oct. 8, 2008, New York Times piece. He said adding a staff farmer would symbolize a better relationship between Americans and their dinner plates by causing people to think about the sources of their food.

Heads Up! The small business carbon tracker is a copout

Heads Up! The small business carbon tracker is a copoutHeads Up! The small business carbon tracker is a copoutYet another company is trying to enter the market with a green scheme. It is really no surprise; companies are coming up with products and tool kits to help other companies eradicate poor environmental decisions from the past centuries. All sorts of solutions, or so they call them, are getting attention and sweeping through the business-to-business market. Commonly, however, green strategists focus on big corporate companies. They bring renewable, sustainable options that offer a bandage to an even larger environmental wound. Now, trends are shifting towards small businesses, and companies are cashing in on the temporary band-aid.

According to the last US Census, America has over four million small businesses. Not to mention, Obama’s administration is looking to continue to grow small businesses by offering tax breaks and incentives. The market is primed for a small business green revolution, right?

Not for a cheap solution.

It’s YOUR fault carbon emissions are up, China says to West

It’s YOUR fault carbon emissions are up, China says to West It’s a natural human reaction to deny responsibility when something goes wrong, and China is no exception. It blames countries in the West for its rising carbon emissions, and claims the only way to change that trend is for consuming nations to change their habits

That sounds like a convenient solution, because it essentially allows China to act as a terminal machine would on an old centralized server network. It accepts commands but runs none of its own software and stores no data permanently. But managing demand for products, something the server would do on the old network, is only half of the equation. The process manufacturing plants go through to create those products is equally as important. But not according to China.

Now that China has overtaken the United States in carbon emissions, it’s receiving more attention from the media. Frequently it’s criticized for some of its lax regulations on acceptable pollution outputs from manufacturing plants.

Europe strong arms U.S. airlines into carbon trading

Europe strong arms U.S. airlines into carbon trading U.S. airlines have vowed to fight the European Union’s decision to make airlines part of its carbon trading program.

But the EU seems intent on moving forward with the plan to force airlines into taking responsibility for their emissions. On Feb. 11, the EU Commission released a list of thousands of airlines, including all the biggest U.S. fleets.

The EU’s carbon trading program, which is the largest such scheme on earth, should be praised for taking on an industry that would just assume fly above the radar.

Under the EU’s Emission Trading Scheme, each airline with service to Europe will be partnered with an EU member country. That country is responsible for overseeing the carbon trading rules, and will likely profit from selling credits to the airlines.

YOUR chance to save the rainforest, hurry! Offer ends soon!

YOUR chance to save the rainforest, hurry! Offer ends soon! If you are thirsty for orange juice, head to your local grocer and pick up some Tropicana brand orange juice. Not only will you enjoy the taste, but the chance to save some precious rainforest is at your fingertips - quite literally. All you need is a computer with an Internet connection and the time to take part in this special offer that ends December 31, 2009. There’s no cost involved, except for purchasing the refreshing orange juice you enjoy so much. The packaging has a special code for the consumer to input at Tropicana’s website. At least, that’s what Tropicana wants you to think.

Ford’s Transit Connect could give GM and the Chevy Volt a knockout punch

Ford’s Transit Connect could give GM and the Chevy Volt a knockout punchWhile other major car manufacturers are pulling the plug on new and existing models, Ford is looking to the future to launch new, fully electric vehicles. The expansion is no surprise; Ford, similar to GM, realizes future profitability is in electric cars, but with GM facing severe circumstances, they may now have a competitive edge in the electric car industry.

Currently, GM and Chrysler are fighting to stay afloat. According to a recent Associated Press report, GM has requested an additional $16.6 billion from the Treasury Department—a staggering number considering it has already received $13.4 billion in bailout cash.

The future of GM-designed electric cars is dependant on this cash. Since the Chevy Volt was introduced at the Detroit Auto Show a few years ago, it has been a highly anticipated vehicle.

Resident beaver says Detroit river is “livable” again

Resident beaver says Detroit river is “livable” again Despite all of the double-talking present in the green movement, it’s important to recognize true victories on occasion no matter how small. A beaver has taken up residence by an intake canal on the Detroit river and that’s a sure sign that the ecosystem is improving enough to support life again.

That means efforts toward sustainability and green living are paying off at least in some small way. It’s been 75 years since the last time a beaver was spotted on the Detroit river. While many of us may not acknowledge that we haven’t respected our environment for a long time, the general absence of animals in large cities is a testament to that fact.

A single beaver choosing to make its home on a previously polluted riverbank isn’t a major milestone, but could it be a sign that we’re ready to take responsibility for our environmental footprint?

Solar power recharges Samsung’s new Blue Earth mobile phone

Solar power recharges Samsung’s new Blue Earth mobile phone Anyone who’s traveled knows that low batteries on mobile phones happen at the worst times. Samsung is fixing that problem and going green at the same time by turning to solar energy. The new Blue Earth mobile phone draws power from solar panels on the back, and is made from recycled water bottles. But what about days when there isn’t enough sunlight?

The Blue Earth is prepared. It also comes with a regular charger, so drawing power from the traditional power grid is still an option on dreary days. Samsung is heeding the popular trend right now by providing green products and it stands to profit handsomely from listening to customers. But even with a novel power source, the Blue Earth will need to provide some whizbang features to pull users away from their beloved Apple iPhone.

Fruit for thought: reducing the carbon footprint of wine one step at a time

Fruit for thought; Reducing the carbon footprint of wine one step at a time. Though a glass of wine may have health benefits according to reports from various doctors and writers, getting the wine to your glass leaves a lasting carbon footprint on the earth – several, actually. This is because of the distance between the producing vineyards on the West Coast of America and the majority of thirsty consumers living east of the Mississippi. According to Tyler Colman, who teaches classes on wine at New York University and the University of Chicago, trucks transporting wine release greenhouse gasses more harmful than the fertilizers and the fermentation processes used when producing wine.

Bad economy could kick recycling programs to the curb

Bad economy could kick recycling programs to the curb As politicians look to the green movement to jumpstart the economy, many recycling programs are gasping for breath.

The value of recyclable commodities has gone down the drain as a result of the current international downturn.

The trashy market has forced recycling yards to either sell their scraps for pennies on the dollar or stockpile the materials until prices rise. Some cities have actually been forced to pay to get rid of what used to bring in a profit.

“It’s challenging for everybody,” said Kerrin O’Brien, director of the Michigan Recycling Coalition. “This could put some small recycling upstarts to rest, but we certainly hope that is not the case.”

While few have folded so far, the current strain on recycling programs could force some cities to cut recycling budgets, according to Ed Skernolis, director of the National Recycling Coalition in Washington, D.C.

Best in show green companies need to save dazed and confused consumers

Best in show green companies need to save dazed and confused consumers Companies throughout the world use unfair leveraging techniques to gain publicity in the global market with green marketing schemes. It has only gotten easier for companies to buy labels, PR releases, and non-profits to bolster their label. In fact, Tainted Green has already uncovered a variety of companies and non-profits that have unjustly organized campaigns by using misleading information. Perhaps, however, with the right company, a positive campaign is possible by developing a relationship that provides enough information for consumers to make intelligent decisions about companies upholding a strong green standard.

Currently, there is no shortage of consumers who are buying green products with the idea that they are bettering the world. Whether it is for nutrition, social justice, or just an internal conviction, consumers are still buying green products—even with the current conditions of the economy.

Fuel cells dream big but start small, with mobile phones

Fuel cells dream big but start small, with mobile phones Fuel cells and traditional batteries have a lot in common because they both use chemical reactions to produce energy. But fuel cells generate water as waste and supposedly can use elements available in the atmosphere to refuel: hydrogen and oxygen. They also convert energy from the chemical reaction directly to electricity instead of relying on a combustion or heating process.

That sounds great, but fuel cells trend toward providing a steady stream of low power rather than shooting out bursts of energy needed by something like an accelerating car. That’s why companies like Medis Technologies are starting with cell phones, which can benefit from that sort of power source. Plus, the star power of a device like an iPhone carries good incidental marketing. Some initial fuel cell products certainly aren’t the miracle power source some scientists have toted though.

Ugly jatropha plant may produce green jet fuel of the future

Ugly jatropha plant may produce green jet fuel of the future Solutions to problems often come from inconspicuous places, and the jatropha plant seems to be one such occasion. It isn’t a pretty plant, and its innards contain toxic chemicals. So maybe it’s no surprise that after processing, the jatropha plant yields a highly effective jet fuel.

That’s big news to an industry hypnotized by the rise and fall of prices in kerosene and crude oil. Airlines are like many other businesses right now trying to find a way to go green, ostensibly in a sustainable way. Manufacturing jet oil from the jatropha plant on any sort of large scale isn’t that easy though.

Under natural circumstances it takes 2-3 years for a new plant to produce its first fruit, and each bloom occurs sequentially instead of all at once. That makes harvesting by machine nearly impossible. But now that humans have taken an interest, the jatropha may take on some new characteristics.

Organic certifiers snubbing small farms

Organic certifiers snubbing small farmsCertified Organic labels are sometimes just a way to make shoppers feel good about a purchase.

But truly purchasing food with the goal of decreasing your carbon footprint is much more complicated than simply scanning the grocery aisle for USDA symbols.

How many such labels do you see at a local farmers market, for example? While farmers markets often have criteria to make sure farmers aren’t reselling produce, they rarely use USDA certification.

Small operations often avoid certification because of the time and money it takes. And according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, the costs are only going to rise.

But that doesn’t mean a certified organic banana from Costa Rica is better for the environment than an uncertified apple off a local farm.

Senator Kerry says, “Frankly the science is screaming at us.”

Senator Kerry says, “Frankly the science is screaming at us.” Unfortunately, most consumers can’t hear the science screaming, nor do they listen to politicians. But thank you, Senator Kerry, for this wake up call to Washington D.C. and people around the world.

President Obama has recently announced that he is looking to create 460,000 jobs through clean energy investments, improving fuel-efficiency in vehicles, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the President hopes to invest $150 billion of taxpayer money into private companies that can lead the way to a more environmentally friendly future.

Super bowl stadium forgets that fans don’t care about the environment

Super bowl stadium forgets that fans don’t care about the environment As people piled into the stadium for the biggest event in sports, stadium officials tried to gear up for a push towards green. How? Prior to the event at Raymond James Stadium, one of the most spectacular stadiums in all of professional sports, stadium operators tried to cut costs in lighting and cooling while at the same time recycling all of their left over waste. The intent was good and the fact that they were able to power the stadium and its events with renewable energy was impressive, but once the game started, efforts seized.

The lure of the event is so impressive that it is hard to take one’s eyes off everything that is happening. In the span of a few hours, fans see multiple performances by major recording artists, F-16 fighter jets fly overhead, fireworks go off, and much more. The fact is, no matter what stadium operators do, fans are consumed by the game and not their social conscience to recycle.

Green energy starving in a fallow credit market

Green energy starving in a fallow credit marketGreen energy developers are no exception when it comes to sourcing cash for their initiatives: everyone is starving. Prices are falling for wind turbines and solar panels, and factories workers are facing cutoffs. Industry experts are expecting drops in demand for installations by 30 to 50 percent.

That comes as a surprise to many who thought that the green energy movement would be a pillar of success amid a rotting economy. Banks are playing a large roll in that decline because they aren’t willing to provide financing. Losses in a variety of markets from housing to automotive have made financial institutions cautious about extending credit. But hoarding wealth isn’t the solution.

World’s first smog treasure hunt to unveil new secrets

World’s first smog treasure hunt to unveil new secretsMufflers puffing out fumes on their way to work every day, smoke stacks from coal power plants belching out heat and chemicals, the smoke from semis billowing upward as they carrying their precious cargo up and down our roadways – where do all of the fumes go? Into the atmosphere, but where in the atmosphere?

It’s the question scientists working on a new atmospheric survey project are trying to answer. In order to combat global warming intelligently they need to understand where carbon and other greenhouse gases are entering and exiting the atmosphere. That’s where the supercharged Gulfstream jet enters the scene.

Scientists have outfitted a Gulfstream jet to capture and measure atmospheric composition and they’re flying it through various slices of the sky over the next couple of years. The data it gathers will be used to fine tune future predictions on how greenhouse gases will impact our climate in the future.

Green expos a sham for lazy companies seeking a free ride

Green expos a sham for lazy companies seeking a free ride It’s tempting. Send a representative of a company to a Green Expo for a whole array of simple, cheap ideas for how to be green. While there, stop by a booth and get an information packet about recycling or a quick lecture about how turning green can benefit a company financially.

Don’t forget to network with all the other company representatives that want to jump on the green bandwagon and find a quick, marketable solution. It’s tempting and maybe a start, but it’s not enough.

In a society of green pressures coming from consumers, business partners, and even legislation, it has been a challenge for businesses to develop green practices when the company only had one objective: to create the greatest profit margin, no matter what the cost. Now, it is a game of catch-up.

In order to react to the changing trends, companies are searching for basic practices to mold their company into a green company. What better place for that to happen than a Green Expo. Right?