This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.


Green Newsclips - Eath Day After 2010 Edition
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Sustainability at Marks & Spencer - how do new promises shape up?
Mallen Baker considers how the company is setting new targets on sustainability, and looks at what the company has achieved to date
British retailer Marks & Spencer used to be best known as a pillar of the establishment.

No fiery wild-eyed radical, it would do a select number of good things for the community, and it would steadfastly refuse to beat its own drum about it. All that has changed, and the measure of just how much could be seen with the retailer's recent pronouncement that it is aiming to become the world's most sustainable retailer by 2015.

In the hands of some companies, such promises would be seen as pure rhetoric. M&S has done enough over the last three years - since it first introduced its 'Plan A' action plan - to be taken seriously.

Besides, very few companies will even tread into this kind of territory. If you asked the majority of CEOs whether or not they aspired to be the most sustainable company in their sector, most would ultimately concede that they didn't.

Not that they would want to be unsustainable. They just don't want to put themselves out in front. It's too exposed. There are too many people determined to catch you out. Much more comfortable to be near the head of the pack, but very much with the pack.

Upcoming Ethical Corporation conferences & events:

How to manage Social & Environmental Risk in the mining, oil & gas, steel and other heavy industries
London, 22-23 March 2010
The Responsible Business Summit 2010
Novotel West Hotel, London, 4–5 May 2010
The Inaugural Ethical Corporation Awards
Novotel West Hotel, London, Evening of 4th May 2010

The Awards will be held at the Responsible Summit - 
on the evening of the first day

The Corporate Social Media Summit 2010
From our sister company, Useful Social Media

15–16 June, New York City
How to protect your business and yourself – Your blueprint to eliminating corporate ethics & compliance risks
23-24 June, Washington DC

So when a company with the seriousness of purpose of M&S declares this to be its intent, it is news.

Of course, 'world's most sustainable retailer' is a relative term - there is no one benchmark of what it takes to achieve, and it is not a stable destination that stands still once you get there. Nevertheless, there must be some serious actions to deliver on this short term, so it's worth just looking beneath the surface to see what these are.

Customer relationships

The most intriguing of the company's new promises focus on its relationship with its customers. 

First of all, it says, it intends that all of its products will have "at least one Plan A quality by 2020". That is, by the way, an awful lot of products. 2.7bn to be precise.

What does it mean, to have a Plan A Quality? In most cases, it will be a "well recognised external environmental and sustainability standard. For example, fish products from a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) source."

This would, in itself, put Marks & Spencer into a different league to its competitors, assuming none of them could match the promise by the same deadline. It is true, of course, that having one externally recognised mark of social or environmental quality is not the same as every product being fully sustainable. The fact that such an ambitious undertaking - which will be a struggle to achieve by the deadline - might be dismissed by some as not sufficiently ambitious is simply an indication of how far we have to go to achieve sustainability.

The other commitments relating to customers are ... interesting. Potentially revolutionary, and potentially mundane. The devil lies in the delivery.


The second promise is that the company will help its customers to "make a difference to the social and environmental causes that matter to them". It will do this by supporting causes with charitable donations and cause related marketing partnerships. The target - �15m per year - is respectable. But it is, ultimately, just about giving away money. I hate to describe it as mundane - obviously it is about not just the cash but engaging customers in the causes as well. 

M&S found new ways to do this when it provided incentives for customers to take their second hand M&S clothes to Oxfam. It was a clever device which was about engaging and mobilising customers. That made it more interesting than simply giving cash. Are there more of these to come?

Sustainable living

The third promise is that it will "help our customers live more sustainable lives". The idea of companies that have a strong relationship with their customers using their influence to change people's behaviour is a very exciting one. But what does it mean in practice?

We don't really know. Customers will be encouraged to create their own 'My Plan A'. That could be interesting - or just a gimmick. They will be encouraged to act differently via a continuous programme of plan A marketing communications. Social marketing, in other words. This has to be handled incredibly carefully. Even loyal M&S customers won't want to feel preached at or told how to live their lives. 

But a really smart campaign ... well, it could be important. 

Other areas of note - one of the new Plan A objectives is to integrate the approach throughout the company's systems and processes. Of course, everybody says they aim to do that. So what does it mean?

Well - some very interesting things. The successful delivery of Plan A will become part of the bonus plan for the management, for instance. The company is intending to introduce an "internal price of carbon" - presumably to create a set of incentives within the business to go with lighter carbon options. That is something I haven't heard attempted before, and it would be interesting to see if a model can be developed that makes it work without creating perverse incentives.

Because that's the problem with a lot of this "incentivising the right behaviours" stuff. As soon as you incentivise something, you change it. And if you don't get the incentives exactly right, you can find that you actually end up with counter-productive results.

Suppliers count

If you are a supplier to M&S, this is going to be your revolution as well. All the company's food suppliers will be measured on social and environmental issues, with an aim that at least 25 percent will achieve a top level of performance for these by 2015. 

All 10,000 farmers who supply the company will be part of its Sustainable Agriculture Programme by 2012. Agriculture, of course, faces some of the biggest challenges on climate change in coming years with areas such as meat production under pressure from the sector's contribution to emissions. 

These are just key highlights. There are a lot more detailed commitments. Such as free home insulation for employees to help them cut their own carbon footprint. And biodiversity action plans for all new store construction projects.

The timing of the announcement of the new Plan A is in itself significant. Sir Stuart Rose, the CEO that has overseen the beginning of this process alongside a general revival in the company's fortunes in the high street, is stepping aside. Whilst he takes the chairmanship, a new CEO takes up the reins - Marc Bolland, formerly of competitor Morrisons.

Leadership matters, and it takes a CEO with courage, vision and commitment to head up an operation that manages to get into the media spotlight as often as M&S does - and to retain the high level of ambition and commitment for sustainability as it has. That the commitment level is ramping up must at least be an indicator that Bolland is clear that this will be part of the delivery package, and not just some momentary aberration that characterised Sir Stuart Rose's tenure.

One assumes that some of the other retailers will not be happy to sit idly by and to allow M&S to bag the 'most sustainable retailer' mantle. It would be good if we saw some competitive pressure brought to bear on making real progress on social and environmental issues. 

It may well be that M&S, once that most respectable and quiet of retailers, has just made the act of seeking front-runner status a mainstream thing. That could even turn out to be its biggest contribution to change.

PUE to Become Global Standard for Data Center Efficiency
By GreenerComputing Staff
Created 2010-04-05 13:00

PORTLAND, OR — The Green Grid today announced a global effort to develop an Energy Star-like rating for data center energy efficiency, using its popular power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratio as the benchmark for green data centers.

The Green Grid, a consortium of IT industry leaders that formed in 2007 to address IT energy use, is working with government agencies and departments around the world to create a consistent and reliable metric for measuring data center energy efficiency.

PUE divides the total amount of energy entering a data center by the amount going to power computing operations (as opposed to cooling and lighting and other non-computing functions) to come up with a single number for energy efficiency in data centers. A perfect PUE would be 1; major IT companies like Google and Microsoft have announced PUEs of around 1.12 in recent months, and one data center designer has claimed a 1.05 PUE for a data center.

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Among the partners for the effort are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the Energy Star program; the European Union's Joint Research Center Code of Conduct; the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's Green IT Initiative; and Japan's Green IT Promotion Council. Together, the groups will work to bring the PUE measurement to data centers around the world.

The agreement comes out of a February 2nd meeting of all the groups, where the following goals were set:

      1. Measure the actual IT work output of the data center compared to actual energy consumption. It is of note that in the process to define IT work output, the following interim measurements are being defined and / or validated:
           1a. IT - Measure the potential IT work output compared to expected energy consumption; and measure operational utilization of IT equipment
 Data center facility and infrastructure - Measure the data center infrastructure efficiency (PUE)
 Measure renewable energy technologies and re-use of energy to reduce carbon.

"The ultimate goal is to create a set of globally accepted metrics for data center energy efficiency," Tom Brey, IBM representative and Secretary of The Green Grid, said in a statement. "One of the first, and perhaps most important factors to successfully achieving this aim is establishing a unity of communication." 

The groups hope that by defining a consistent measurement for all data centers no matter where they're located, it will be easier to create widespread behavior change in the IT industry.

The Green Grid also announced today that it was opening a Program Management Office at the EPA's Energy Star program. The office will consist of members of the Green Grid's board of directors -- which include tech companies AMD, APC by Schneider Electric, Dell, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Oracle -- and will serve as advisors to the EPA's efforts to develop an official Energy Star rating for data centers.

The Energy Star program 
launched a rating for enterprise servers a year ago, although some industry watchers faulted it for falling short on key issues like blade servers. Energy Star is also currently at work on rating for data centers, which may be launched as early as this summer.

Canadian retailers see profits in going green

Reuters, 1 April 2010 - Canadian retailers have gone to great lengths recently to tout their environmental and social policies, motivated by the economic benefits as much as by altruism.

Wal-Mart Canada, Loblaw Cos and Canadian Tire are among the big retailers trumpeting aggressive policies to save energy and minimize packaging. Some are even publicizing efforts to protect depleted fish species and ensure decent working conditions at their suppliers.

The companies may have the best intentions but there's also no denying that green practices are simply good business. Saving energy cuts costs, while touting policies to protect the environment strikes a positive chord with consumers and investors alike.

"The primary reason is that they have come to recognize that there are significant business benefits in doing so. It is not altruistic," said Mel Wilson, who heads the sustainable business team at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Calgary.

"It's not like people just woke up one day and their personalities had changed. They have recognized that this is good for business."

Wal-Mart Canada, a subsidiary U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart Stores, said last month that it stands to save about C$140 million ($139 million) over the next five years through strategies aimed at energy reduction, waste diversion and its supply network.

"We continue to believe that sustainability is just as important to our business as it is for the environment," David Cheesewright, Wal-Mart Canada's president and chief executive, said at a recent conference in Vancouver dedicated to business and the environment.

Canadian Tire, the country's large automotive and household goods retailer, said last week that it would be among the first companies in the country to highlight its progress in its quarterly and annual reports.

"What we felt is that, if we ingrained it into the processes and how we do business, then sustainability in itself becomes sustainable," said Stephen Wetmore, the company's chief executive. "That's the way we've approached it, otherwise we didn't think we would have a long-term, viable approach to the environment."

Loblaw, the country's biggest grocery store chain, is working with environmental groups to ensure it only buys seafood that is sustainable and not at risk of depletion.


For most retailers, the simple cost of doing business is what has driven them to adopt the initiatives. With energy costs trending higher again, companies have looked to green forms of energy such as solar power to shave costs.

"What is driving it is the mechanism that gets their cost structure and their energy costs down," said Bill Chisholm, a retail analyst at Toronto investment adviser MacDougall, MacDougall and MacTier.

"It's a bit of PR in terms of being green, but at the same time they are hoping to get their energy costs down."

Wal-Mart Canada estimates it will save about C$70 million in costs over the next five years just with its energy-savings plan including low-wattage light bulbs, energy-efficient cooling systems and solar panels.

"Companies do realize operational efficiencies even when it comes to paying attention to energy use. Just what they can do in terms of reducing energy right away is a cost advantage," said Bob Walker, vice-president of sustainability at Northwest Ethical Funds in Vancouver.

"The investment industry now sees companies moving in this direction, not as a bunch of tree-huggers or communists, but as smart businessmen."

Indeed, socially conscious investment funds and consumers are pressuring companies to make changes, and will shun the products of those they don't think are up to standards.

"The current generation of consumers brings more to the table when making purchasing decisions than just the price," said Wilson."

"If all else being equal and you have two items of comparable price, but one was made in a very socially, ethically and environmentally friendly way, the general tendency of the consumer is to go with that one over the other one."

With the economic benefits far outweighing other issues, Wilson sees sustainability remaining at the forefront.

"The fundamental thing is that it is good for the balance sheet. There is compelling evidence that this enhances your revenue and decreases your costs, so it is good for the financials," he said.

"But also from the reputation side of things, which will typically translate into a premium on your share value, there is good evidence to suggest that investors like this as well. Your share value is enhanced."

7 Reasons Why Greening Up is Hard to Do
By Anna Clark
Created 2010-04-08 07:02

Green business owners beware: don't buy into your own press. Although we are wont to focus on the oft-cited LOHAS stat "1 in 4 adult Americans cares about health and sustainability," the real ratio is less favorable, especially in cases where the green label costs more. And that still leaves an uninterested majority. How much more progress could we make if we learned to engage the other 75 percent in the green conversation? 

I've been trying to uncover the reasons why the majority doesn't value sustainability since 2005, and through my search I've made some surprising discoveries about the obstacles that we're facing.

The systemic barriers to positive change are entrenched and insidious, stretching far beyond the usual culprits of big industry and hyper-consumerism. Although my study was more anecdotal than quantitative, it reflects an investigation of those attitudes that don't appear in surveys. 

Among the cumulative challenges these obstacles pose is the ability to easily, frustratingly, reduce sophisticated CSR programs to lip service. And many of the genuine issues preventing sustainability from taking root are exacerbated by the proliferation of green marketing strategies -- a sad irony. It calls to mind Einstein's warning, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." 

Despite the discouraging nature of these findings, they do present opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs and conscious companies who can help consumers translate environmental awareness into action. Here are some observations that represent the most inconvenient -- and still largely unspoken -- truths standing in the way of a sustainable America.

Green, American Style book cover

1. The socio-economic rise of women speeds consumption.
 Over the next five years, the global incomes of women are estimated to grow from $13 trillion to $18 trillion. That incremental $5 trillion is nearly twice the growth in GDP expected from China and India combined, making women the biggest emerging market ever seen. This means a huge opportunity for consumer products companies. 

As one marketing strategist points out, "We are continuously doing research on 'why she buys' to give us insight into the impact that female consumers have on the marketplace." He goes on to suggest that delayed marriage, lower birthrates, divorce and higher incomes make women prime targets for goods in the convenience, luxury and technology categories. This spells serious un-sustainability.
2. Conservation is antithetical to a consumer-based economy. 
When almost 70 percent of the economy is based on consumer spending, how can we expect people to understand conservation? Until we are no longer affected by the 3,000 advertising messages we inhale each day, we will continue to buy. When the economy is bad our consumption may decline, but this also makes people less willing to spend more for green. 

3. The environment remains stuck in the political divide. 
There remains a gaping chasm between the real and the pragmatic -- what should be done for the environment vs. what actually happens. But there is also the liberal vs. conservative divide. Many conservatives liken "enviro-preaching" to political correctness. Consequently, they react against things that are good, such as organic food and recycling. 

As long as people equate "green" with "left," we'll continue to see stymied sustainability strategies and ineffective environmental policies. 

4. Narrow-mindedness goes both ways. 
If in reading you are thinking how much you dislike conservatives, you are also part of the problem. Though I cannot relate to Fox News junkies as a group, on a personal level some of them aren't bad. My husband even watches it from time to time. While some of the headlines that come out of ultra-conservative news outlets are cringe-worthy, it's worth remembering that sometimes they are just filling a void in the mainstream media. 

When Climategate hit, the mainstream media did a less-than-effective job of reporting the story, leaving people to wonder, "If there was nothing to hide, why the silence?" This debacle only magnifies the research from groups such as the Pew Center, which find that belief in man-made climate change among Americans is sharply declining. 

5. Habits are hard to break.
 When I started my journey into sustainability, it was following the sickening revelation that, were my habits to be the norm, we'd be 
consuming five planets worth of resources

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Since that time, I've launched a sustainability consultancy, moved to a platinum-level LEED certified home, planted a garden, and adjusted my consumer habits considerably. I recently recalculated our ecological footprint to gauge how well I'm doing. Now we're down to three planets. 

My point? Natural living doesn't come naturally for most Americans, no matter how hard we may try. It requires change, which statistically only 2 percent of us will embrace. I happen to be one of the few that thrives on change, but consistently living green still challenges me. No matter how much we talk up benefits and allude to the triple bottom line, conscious behaviors for a healthier planet on the part of humans are far from habitual. 

6. Individuals are catalysts for change; institutions are not.
 Apathetic voters and zombie consumers are in effect leaving the future of the environmental up to institutions that are inherently anti-social. Where individuals have a conscience, large organizations must balance competing interests; frequently, money prevails over the interests of the public. 

From corporate America to Congress, people of power and influence easily fall prey to the belief that the rules don't apply to them, a phenomenon that author Terry Price describes as "exception making" in his book Understanding Ethical Failures in Leadership. No amount of green window dressing can overcome an unethical foundation in an organization (case in point, before Enron collapsed, it had a stellar sustainability program). 

As bad as gross negligence is, it has often been the catalyst to motivate companies to turn themselves around. However, many others continue to fly under the radar, undermining their sustainability departments with business-as-usual tactics from execs in pursuit of self-interest. No amount of good deeds on the part of large institutions can absolve individuals from personal responsibility. So far, mainstream consumers have yet to accept this.

7. Climate change creates inertia.
 With so many benefits we can promote on behalf of sustainability, why continue to harp on this hot-button issue? I speak as someone who entered this realm specifically for the purpose of stopping the Arctic from melting. 

I'm stubborn, but I finally realized that other issues are equally, if not even more, pressing: world hunger, habitat loss, and toxins in our air, food and water, for example. By talking up these other points and offering concrete, doable solutions that can be scaled up, we can push people towards positive action regardless of their political affiliation or financial situation.

What might environmental advocates gain when we extend a thoughtful and flexible approach towards those who are different, dare I say conservative? By waiting for them to get it, we sacrifice the opportunity to expand our market.
Many other issues -- such as cheap energy, a car-based culture, and even our democratic system of government -- hamper sustainable development. Ignorance and good old-fashioned greed are also to blame. But condemnation is unproductive in a world so desperate for solutions. 

Three Steps to Move Forward

Fortunately, the steps to a sustainable America are simpler than we think, and the positive ripples have the potential to put profits into our businesses, bolster our economy, increase national security, and improve our environment. 

These common-sense solutions cost companies little while fostering a sustainable future and restoring us to a position of leadership for the long haul:

1. Become energy efficient.
 Companies that reduce their energy consumption by 30 percent can add 5 percent in operating capital to their budgets. According to a 
McKinsey report, the U.S. economy has the potential to reduce annual non-transportation energy consumption by roughly 23 percent by 2020, eliminating more than $1.2 trillion in waste – well beyond the $520 billion upfront investment that would be required. The reduction in energy use would result in the abatement of 1.1 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions annually -- the equivalent of taking the entire U.S. fleet of passenger vehicles and light trucks off the roads. 

2. Practice conscious capitalism.
 The land of opportunity can be a profound lever of social change when we apply American ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit to solving the world's most pressing problems. Businesses like 
TOMS, which purchase a pair of shoes for impoverished villagers for every pair it sells, prove that having a mission can drive success, not hinder it. 

Helping busy consumers make a difference through their purchases equals profit and positive change. Women, for example, make over 80 percent of the buying decisions in their households. Marketing good green ideas and healthy sustainable products to them helps channel their formidable spending power into a more sustainable society.

3. Don't divide, multiply!
 Don't get stuck in your silo marketing to a narrow group. Use your company's platform to build virtual communities among employees, colleagues, industry leaders and other stakeholders. Large companies such as 
Seventh Generation are creating interactive, virtual communities that are inclusive, educational and fun. Small companies can now do this online with a Facebook page and Twitter. 

Don't forget about your community, too. Many a local school or non-profit would be grateful for your company to support their green efforts. I recently spoke at a symposium hosted by Lakehill Preparatory School sponsored by Professional Bank, a local Dallas business. Not only did the event raise environmental awareness, it raised visibility for the school, dozens of vendors, and the bank itself. 

Of all the solutions I found in the various sectors I have explored, it is the personal and community levels -- where motivated individuals make simple changes in themselves and within their circles of influence -- where have I seen the greatest potential for genuine change. 

This experience has renewed my faith in the power of individuals to make a profound difference. My new book Green, American Style, is a testament to the many -- from CEOs to soccer moms -- whose contributions as leaders and consumers are creating the potential to move markets and transform our culture. 

Making informed decisions and incremental changes while reaching out to new people can improve matters considerably. The competitive advantages inherent in common-sense sustainability more than compensate for the cost in addressing the problems. Not everyone will follow through, but those who do are poised to profit. 

Anna Clark is president of EarthPeople, LLC and the author of Green, American Style. She contributes the Eco-Leadership blog on Visit for more on all things green

Ice Cap Thaw May Awaken Icelandic Volcanoes
Date: 19-Apr-10
 Alister Doyle

Ice Cap Thaw May Awaken Icelandic Volcanoes Photo: Arni Saeberg/Handout
An aerial handout photo from the Icelandic Coast Guard shows melting ice caused by a volcanic eruption at Eyjafjalla Glacier in southern Iceland April 14, 2010. The volcanic eruption on Wednesday partially melted a glacier, setting off a major flood that
Photo: Arni Saeberg/Handout

A thaw of Iceland's ice caps in coming decades caused by climate change may trigger more volcanic eruptions by removing a vast weight and freeing magma from deep below ground, scientists said on Friday.
They said there was no sign that the current eruption from below the Eyjafjallajokull glacier that has paralysed flights over northern Europe was linked to global warming. The glacier is too small and light to affect local geology.
"Our work suggests that eventually there will be either somewhat larger eruptions or more frequent eruptions in Iceland in coming decades," said Freysteinn Sigmundsson, a vulcanologist at the University of Iceland.
"Global warming melts ice and this can influence magmatic systems," he told Reuters. The end of the Ice Age 10,000 years ago coincided with a surge in volcanic activity in Iceland, apparently because huge ice caps thinned and the land rose.
"We believe the reduction of ice has not been important in triggering this latest eruption," he said of Eyjafjallajokull. "The eruption is happening under a relatively small ice cap."
Carolina Pagli, a geophysicist at the University of Leeds in England, said there were risks that climate change could also trigger volcanic eruptions or earthquakes in places such as Mount Erebus in Antarctica, the Aleutian islands of Alaska or Patagonia in South America.
"The effects would be biggest with ice-capped volcanoes," she said. "If you remove a load that is big enough you will also have an effect at depths on magma production."
She and Sigmundsson wrote a 2008 paper in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters about possible links between global warming and Icelandic volcanoes.
That report said that about 10 percent of Iceland's biggest ice cap, Vatnajokull, has melted since 1890 and the land nearby was rising about 25 millimetres (0.98 inch) a year, bringing shifts in geological stresses.
They estimated that the thaw had led to the formation of 1.4 cubic km (0.3 cubic mile) of magma deep below ground over the past century.
At high pressures such as under an ice cap, they reckon that rocks cannot expand to turn into liquid magma even if they are hot enough. "As the ice melts the rock can melt because the pressure decreases," she said.
Sigmundsson said that monitoring of the Vatnajokull volcano since 2008 suggested that the 2008 estimate for magma generation was "probably a minimum estimate. It can be somewhat larger."
He said that melting ice seemed the main way in which climate change, blamed mainly on use of fossil fuels, could have knock-on effects on geology. The U.N. climate panel says that global warming will cause more floods, droughts and rising seas.

Planet Earth's oceans now have a second confirmed garbage patch filled with plastic detritus.


Buzz up!
The discovery of the first garbage patch is credited to Charles Moore, an ocean researcher who discovered the large patch of plastic floating in the Pacific in 1997. Now, the Atlantic can lay claim to a human produced waste patch of its own.
Wife and husband team Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in February between Bermuda and Portugal's mid-Atlantic Azores Islands. In the middle of the Atlantic is the Sargasso Sea, an area surrounded by various ocean currents, including the well known Gulf Stream. The pair took samples ever 100 miles (160 kilometres) and each time they pulled up their trawl it was full of plastic.
"We found the great Atlantic garbage patch," said Anna Cummins. "Our job now is to let people know that plastic ocean pollution is a global problem – it unfortunately is not confined to a single patch."
Why the importance on letting people know that this is a problem? Because there is no feasible way to go about cleaning up the ocean garbage patches.
This is not a new discovery, but rather a confirmation of long held beliefs and smaller studies. One such study is that by undergraduates at the Woods Hole, Massachusetts-based Sea Education Association, who have been collecting more than 6,000 samples on trips between Canada and the Caribbean over two decades. The lead investigator, Kara Lavendar Law, said they found the highest concentrations of plastics between 22 and 38 degrees north latitude, an offshore patch equivalent to the area between roughly Cuba and Washington, D.C.
"It's shocking to see it firsthand," Cummins said. "Nothing compares to being out there. We've managed to leave our footprint really everywhere."
Putting aside the sheer absurdity that humans believe we can just pollute the planet until it dies, these garbage patches provide a huge danger to animals, both water based and air based. Plastics entangle birds while fish unwittingly mistake small bits of plastic for plankton and other edible treats. Countless stories exist of fish being caught and their bellies being full of plastic debris.
Don't care about the animals? Listen to Lisa DiPinto, acting director of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "That plastic has the potential to impact our resources and impact our economy."
So pay attention next time there's a recycle drive in your area, or when you're down at the beach and finished with your bottle of water.

How To Go Green Easily And Cheaply
Kari Molvar, 
04.20.10, 5:30 PM ET

Here's a surprising benefit of going green--and it doesn't involve composting or taking much more than a few minutes out of your busy day. Being more eco-conscious can actually save you time and money if you're smart about it.

Elizabeth Rogers, author of the penny-pinching eco-guide, Shift Your Habit, credits a desire to lower her bills and eliminate unnecessary clutter in her life as the real inspiration behind the book. "Helping the planet was the cherry on top," she says.

At the end of the day, being responsible should simplify your day, not add more stress to it. Read on for 12 simple ways to green-up easily and cheaply.

Approach your green makeover like a diet

Begin with some small changes--drastic measures can be daunting--to your basic, everyday habits, says Rogers. "Laundry is an easy one. Wash your clothes with cold water instead of hot. You'll save about $130 per year, since 90% of the energy used by a washing machine goes toward heating the water. And your clothes won't fade, so they'll last longer."

Think before you toss

"About 14% of the food we buy lands in the trash each year, which is such a waste for your wallet and the environment," says Rogers. Instead, freeze the last bit of pasta sauce in the ice cube tray for cooking later. Take leftovers to work in a glass container to re-heat for lunch and (we love this trick) bring stale cereals and chips back to life by baking them on a cookie sheet in the oven for a few minutes ("You'll get three extra days out of them," says Rogers). If your frugality helps you skip one $10 meal per week, that adds up to $520 per year.


Trim food costs and beat the supermarket lines

You can easily go broke shopping at organic and natural food markets, wonderful as they might be. Instead, head to a nearby farmer's market to buy local fruits, vegetables, baked goods and homemade jams for lower prices. And as a general rule, food that's traveled less distance to reach your table will be fresher and taste 10 times more delicious than anything sitting under florescent lights for weeks, says green author, TV host and restaurateur Renée Loux.

Dig in and grow your own

Speaking of food, you don't need to be a barefoot contessa to grow something easy like tomatoes. In fact you don't even need a backyard--a simple pot in a sunny spot will do. "Once you taste a juicy, fresh tomato you'll never go back to store-bought," says Rogers. "I actually bring tomatoes as a hostess gift instead of wine, so that's a savings and less stress right there." And if you feel inspired to grow more produce, you can upgrade to a garden or rent a community plot.

Tackle your heating and utilities efficiently

Program the thermostat to remain at 68 in the winter and 78 in summer, depending on where you live. Don't touch it and don't think about it, says Paige Wolf, a green lifestyle expert. To conserve energy and prevent air from escaping, caulk and weather-strip your windows. It's easier and less costly than buying and installing insulated windows and it does the trick.

Forgo the flush 

The bathroom might sound like a green line you don't want to cross. But Rogers has this life-changing advice: "Three words: toilet bowl bags." Let us clarify. Drop one (price is in the $3 range) in your toilet tank and it expands so your tank doesn't fill up with as much water every time you flush." Doing so saves you about $35 per toilet per year (depending on your flush frequency). "In a home with four or five toilets, that's significant," says Rogers. 


Transform the office into a green zone with a few clicks

For starters, put your computer in sleep mode each night (powering down requires more power to reboot, but sleep mode conserves energy), says Loux. Opt for double-sided printing and photocopying to save on paper, and adjust your printing color settings from black to gray to use less ink. You can even expand your margin widths to maximize page space. "And if you're getting half as many spam faxes as I am, only plug in the line when you're expecting something important," says Wolf.

Hydrate wisely

If you buy just one 16-oz bottle of water each day at $1.50 or more, you'll spend about $550 a year, not to mention the cost to the environment with all that plastic, says Wolf. Switch to a reusable steel or aluminum bottle and fill it with filtered tap (cost: $0 + price of bottle).

Go for the best of both worlds: green beauty

No matter how cheerfully green a beauty product is, it's useless if it doesn't work. Thankfully strides have been made since the days of funky rock deodorant and patchouli toothpaste. Reformulated organic and natural goods have longer shelf lives (for a range of options, search here), and shops like Origins offer incentives to recycle bottles from any brand in exchange for free samples. Consider it the kinder alternative to the old-school "gift with purchase" department store days.


Fill it with regular

Speaking of gas, buying premium grade isn't doing the earth or your credit card any favors. According to the EPA, unless your ride requires high-octane fuel (i.e., it has a turbo-charged, 12-cyclinder engine--not your average Jetta), it may cause more pollution. The reason: High-octane fuel requires more refining, which may not burn entirely and leave deposits in the engine that make it run less efficiently and generate more emissions.

Hitting the road, protecting the air

Not to drone on about your carbon footprint (enough already!) but here are some less obvious eco-solutions you might not know about. For starters, book early morning flights. The global warming effect of the plane's contrails is twice as high at night as it is during the day. On the road, Loux recommends you fill your gas tank in the early a.m. or late p.m. when it's cooler outside. High temps cause fuel to evaporate faster, pumping out fumes and chemicals into the air, she notes. Lastly, driving between 55 to 65 mph on the highway burns less gas (and saves you countless speeding tickets).

Give up your television

What are you? Crazy? Amish? "Wait, I'm not suggesting you swear off TV shows but instead watch them on your computer," says Rogers. "It minimizes the amount of electronics you own, and I find that when you disconnect from your television set, you actually spend more quality time with friends and family."

Sounds pretty revolutionary.

Empty skies proved that airports cause pollution, say researchers
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor and Phil Boucher
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Scientists have used the no-flying period caused by the ash cloud to show for the first time that airports are themselves significant causes of pollution. Although long suspected, the fact that mass take-offs and landings are large pollution sources could never be proved before, because aircraft pollution could not be measured as separate from the pollution caused by vehicles operating near by.
But an analysis of the first three days of the unprecedented closure of UK airspace, at Heathrow and Gatwick, shows that there is a definite air pollution caused by air traffic in the vicinity of airport hubs.
Related articles

Pollution near both airports dropped significantly during the first three days of the shutdown. During last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, levels of two major pollutants, NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) and NOx (the generic term for oxides of nitrogen, taken together) fell virtually to zero.
Such nitrogen pollutants can exacerbate breathing difficulties in older people and those suffering from cardiac conditions, and can react with sunlight to form an even more damaging pollutant, ozone, which causes the sort of "urban smogs" seen in Los Angeles. NOx and NO2 are particularly associated with jet aircraft, as they are produced by the high-temperature mix of aviation with fuel.
The new analysis has been produced by Ben Barratt and Gary Fuller of the Environmental Research Group at King's College, London. The group said yesterday: "This period of unprecedented closure during unexceptional weather conditions has allowed us to demonstrate that the airports have a clear measurable effect on NO2 concentrations, and that this effect disappeared entirely during the period of closure, leading to a temporary but significant fall in pollutant concentrations adjacent to the airport perimeters."
"We have always been fairly confident that there was this 'airport effect' but we have never been able to show it," Dr Barratt commented. "The closure gave us the opportunity to look at it, and there is a very strong indication that it is the case."
The researchers are also going to study the pollution effects of the fall in airport motor traffic during the shutdown. Ed Dearnley, of Environmental Protection UK, which specialises in airquality campaigning, said yesterday: "This has been an excellent opportunity to find out exactly what the environmental impact of airports really is."

Intel Amends Charter – Sustainability Now a 'Fiduciary Duty'
Posted By Environmental Leader On March 31, 2010 @ 7:04 am In Finance & ReportingFinancialGreen Marketing | 1 Comment
intel-logoResponding to pressure from an environmental investment group, Intel said it would include "corporate responsibility and sustainability performance [1]" in the committee's overall policy responsibility. The company's charter now says it has a "fiduciary duty" to do so.

Intel had been pressured by a shareholder resolution from Harrington Investments. For the second year in a row, Harrington submitted a resolution to amend Intel's bylaws to create a "Board Committee on Sustainability."

At first, Intel opposed the resolution but after engaging in dialogue with Harrington, the computing giant agreed to change its corporate charter to require its Governance and Nominating Committee instead serve in that capacity.

Now the Governance and Nominating Committee will "review(s) and report(s) to the Board on a periodic basis with regards to matters of corporate responsibility and sustainability performance, including potential long and short term trends and impacts to our business of environmental, social and governance issues, including the company's public reporting on these topics."

Intel sought an outside legal opinion on Delaware Law, finding that directors have a fiduciary duty to address corporate responsibility and sustainability performance as specified in the committee charter.

"Intel has acknowledged in their committee charter, that directors must take into consideration corporate responsibility and sustainability performance, including long and short term trends and impacts on Intel's business, as part of their fiduciary duty," said John Harrington, President and CEO of Harrington.

Intel also had its outside legal counsel, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, construct a legal opinion confirming that pursuant to Delaware law, corporate responsibility and sustainability reporting based upon the committee's charter was part of the "fiduciary duty of company directors."

After that, Harrington said it would withdraw its bylaw amendment resolution.

Earlier in March, it was revealed that U.S. investor groups have filed 95 global warming shareholder resolutions [2] with public corporations, a 40 percent increase over last year.

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Greenpeace Says Cloud Computing GHGs to Triple by 2020
Posted By Environmental Leader On March 31, 2010 @ 7:53 am In ChartsData CenterEmissionsHi-TechResearch & Technology | No Comments
cloudGreenpeace predicts that greenhouse gases associated with cloud computing functions will triple by 2020, according to its "Make IT Green [1]" report.

Cloud computing is projected to consume nearly 2 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity a year by 2020.

Expect Greenpeace to use this information to encourage emissions cutting at data centers, as well as adoption of renewable energy.

"Companies like Facebook, Google, and other large players in the cloud computing market must advocate for policy change at the local, national, and international levels to ensure that, as their appetite for energy increases, so does the supply of renewable energy," Greenpeace said in the report.

Citing information from the SMART 2020 [2] e-sustainability initiative, it's predicted that PC ownership will quadruple to 4 billion units between 2007 and 2020.

Mobile phone ownership is expected to double to 5 billion users by 2020, but that alone is expected to cause only a 4 percent rise in emissions. However, use of broadband for the devices is expected to double the emissions related to telecom infrastructure.

But others point out how cloud computing benefits the environment.

Emma Stewart and John F. Kennedy, both of Autodesk, in an Environmental Leader guest column [3] last year, made the following points:

  • At the macro-economic level, cloud computing helps achieve economies of scale by centralizing compute power and democratizing access.
  • At the CIO level, cloud computing helps shift the mindset to commoditize computing power, not servers, and therefore drive efficiencies via virtualization and greater utilization rates which allows systems to scale up or down due to load fluctuations.
  • At the data center level, cloud computing's drive towards consolidation paves the way for new standards for energy efficiency.
  • At the R&D level, cloud computing creates incentives for software engineers to code more efficient applications, as often their company will become the host for said applications,
Recently, IBM launched a new energy efficient data center [4] that, in turn, lowers the carbon footprint of clients who use it for cloud computing, compared to using an on-site data center.

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Arctic Thaw Frees Overlooked Greenhouse Gas: Study
Date: 06-Apr-10

Arctic Thaw Frees Overlooked Greenhouse Gas: Study Photo: Andy Clark
A large iceberg is seen on the edge of a morning fog over Frobisher Bay, Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic August 21, 2009.
Photo: Andy Clark

Thawing permafrost can release nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, a contributor to climate change that has been largely overlooked in the Arctic, a study showed on Sunday.
The report in the journal Nature Geoscience indicated that emissions of the gas surged under certain conditions from melting permafrost that underlies about 25 percent of land in the Northern Hemisphere.
Emissions of the gas measured from thawing wetlands in Zackenberg in eastern Greenland leapt 20 times to levels found in tropical forests, which are among the main natural sources of the heat-trapping gas.
"Measurements of nitrous oxide production permafrost samples from five additional wetland sites in the high Arctic indicate that the rates of nitrous oxide production observed in the Zackenberg soils may be in the low range," the study said.
The scientists, from Denmark and Norway, studied sites in Canada and Svalbard off northern Norway alongside their main focus on Zackenberg. The releases would be a small addition to known impacts of global warming.
Nitrous oxide is the third most important greenhouse gas from human activities, dominated by carbon dioxide ahead of methane.
It is among the gases regulated by the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol for limiting global warming that could spur more sandstorms, floods, heatwaves and rising sea levels.
Nitrous oxide comes from human sources including agriculture, especially nitrogen-based fertilizers, and use of fossil fuels as well as natural sources in soil and water, such as microbes in wet tropical forests.
The scientists said that past studies had reckoned that carbon dioxide and methane were released by a thaw of permafrost while nitrous oxide stayed locked up.
"Thawing and drainage of the soils had little impact on nitrous oxide production," Nature said in a statement of the study led by Bo Elberling of Copenhagen University.
"However, re-saturation of the drained soils with meltwater from the frozen soils -- as would happen following thawing -- increased nitrous oxide production by over 20 times," it said.
"Nearly a third of the nitrous oxide produced in this process escaped into the atmosphere," it added.
(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Researcher finds people will forgo luxury for green products when status is on mind
March 15th, 2010 in Other Sciences / Social Sciences
Environmentally friendly products are everywhere one looks. Energy efficient dishwashers, bamboo towels, the paperless Kindle and, of course, the ubiquitous Prius are all around. But why do people buy these "green" products? Do they care about the environment or is there something else at play? "Green purchases are often motivated by status," says Vladas Griskevicius, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. "People want to be seen as being altruistic. Nothing communicates that better than by buying green products that often cost more and are of lower quality but benefit the environment for everyone."
In the recently published paper "Going Green to Be Seen: Status, Reputation, and Conspicuous Conservation," Griskevicius and co-authors find that people will forgo luxury and comfort for a green item. The catch? People will forgo indulging for themselves only when others can see it. "Many green purchases are rooted in the evolutionary idea of competitive altruism, the notion that people compete for status by trying to appear more altruistic," says Griskevicius. His research finds that when people shop alone online, they choose products that are luxurious and enhance comfort. But when in public, people's preferences for green products increases because most people want to be seen as caring altruists.
Nowhere is this clearer than the highly visible and easily identifiable Toyota Prius, which essentially functions as a mobile, self-promoting billboard for pro-environmentalism. "A reputation for being a caring individual gives you status and prestige. When you publicly display your environmentally friendly nature, you send the signal that you care," states Griskevicius.

Interestingly, the study also shows that status motives increased desirability of green products especially when such products cost more—but not less—relative to non-green products. This explains why the Prius price tag and why old-fashioned items like hand operated reel lawn mowers are holding their price. "When you are motivated by status, you will forgo luxury features to obtain an inferior green product that tells others that you care," Griskevicius says.
For entrepreneurs and companies looking to capture the green market, the key may be getting the product to be purchased and used in public. When others can see you do good, both you and the environment benefit. But in the privacy of ones home, luxury and comfort is still the winner.
Vladas Griskevicius's teaching and research utilizes theoretical principles from evolutionary biology to study consumers' often unconscious preferences, decision processes, and behavioral strategies. The paper "Going Green to Be Seen: Status, Reputation, and Conspicuous Conservation," published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, was co-authored by Joshua Tybur (University of New Mexico) and Bram Van den Bergh (Rotterdam School of Management).
More information: The paper and more information on Professor Griskevicius can be found at
Provided by University of Minnesota
"Researcher finds people will forgo luxury for green products when status is on mind." March 15th, 2010.

ICT is Green Technology
By Lynda Leonard, Senior Vice-President, ITAC
The ICT industry faces significant challenges relative to our environmental impact and our contributions to a more sustainable life here on earth.
First is the challenge of getting our own house in order. We have benefited from the acquisition of a relatively benign environmental reputation. We're not seen as a "smokestack" industry and that has bought us some grace. Let's hope our halo holds up until we can fully address the reality of our situation... which is that we are a serious emissions contributor (some servers can pump out carbon like an SUV). Fortunately we prize our green reputation and hold our reputation for non-complacency even higher. So there has already been a major effort across the whole industry to shrink this footprint as quickly as we can. Sustainability and energy efficiency feature prominently in the R&D programs and market engagements of virtually all major and many smaller ICT firms.
A second challenge lies in the proliferation and increasing superannuation and disposability of the tools and devices we use to connect our wired world. The alchemy of computing has involved some pretty nasty ingredients (like lead and cadmium). We can't be dumping that into landfills here or anywhere else. So once again we return to the lab to discover new ways to weave our magic with friendlier (and fewer) materials.
A third challenge lies in firmly establishing our place in the ranks of environmental technologies. With controversy swirling (yes, that was a pun) around the negative impacts of wind farming or around the actual yield from solar technology, it seems to me that ICT is the only environmental technology with a proven track record... producing greater efficiencies in power generation and distribution, conserving energy through sensor networks in smart buildings and by displacing the need for carbon-spewing commuting and business travel. As the OECD's Environmental Technologies Action Plan has observed... "the (ICT) industry can provide the tools to contribute to energy savings both within its own sector and in other areas. Even at a very basic level the energy management, monitoring and awareness-raising potential of ICTs mean they can offer huge savings across almost every industry."
The environmental issues confronting our industry are weighty and complex enough to fill days of discourse. So we thought we'd hold at least one. On April 27 we will hold the first ITAC Executive Forum on Green ICT. To give you a sample of the discussions we will have there, this issue of ITAC Online features three of our speakers. I hope you enjoy meeting them, either here or in person on the 27th.

Making the Business Case for Green IT
Melissa Alvares, Sustainability Programs Manager, Softchoice
Melissa Alvares, Sustainability Programs Manager, Softchoice

For any person or company looking to become more environmentally friendly, there are endless options for where to begin. And people like Melissa Alvares, Sustainability Programs Manager at Softchoice, can help.
Melissa's work with Softchoice was internally-oriented in the beginning: she lead a "Green Team" of 10 volunteers and created corporate recycling, energy use reduction, and transportation programs. But after researching the ICT industry's impact on the environment a little further, it quickly became apparent that the company could make its biggest green impact by reaching out to customers.
"We came across the scary stat that the IT industry actually contributes the same amount of carbon emissions as the entire airline industry," Melissa said. "We then realized that Softchoice, as an IT solutions provider that works with over 15,000 customers across North America – many of them a lot larger than we are – could have a much larger impact if we were able to help them green their IT departments, and use our knowledge and connections in the industry to change the way these customers do things in their IT departments. We also realized that there is a lot of information out there, and for many customers it becomes overwhelming, so our goal is to make it simple and get people started. Putting solar panels on your roof is not going to be the first thing you do; it'll be turning off your lights. So we want to help people discover their easy wins, then help them to build their entire green IT foundation."
To do this, Softchoice has divided the realm of green ICT into six categories: Energy Reduction, Paper Reduction, Travel Reduction, EcoMade products (i.e., anything designed from the start to be environmentally friendly), S.A.F.E. (Secure and Friendly to the Environment) Hardware Removal, and Data Centre Efficiency. Based on these categories, the company performs one-hour "EcoTech"
consultations with their customers, free of charge, with the goal of inspiring their clients to become more energy efficient. In the end, Melissa provides these clients with a report, outlining suggestions, tools, white papers, carbon calculators, or any other resource they need to get started.

Melissa said keeping environmental goals as top priorities has done wonders for her company's relationships with clients.
"With the customers we already have, it's definitely helping deepen our relationships, because instead of us trying to sell something, we're both in there together trying to solve a problem. That's what makes it such a different conversation," she said. "Anytime I'm on a call with a sales rep, and we're talking with a customer about their EcoTech Assessment, the sales rep is always so amazed by how engaged the customer is, because we're not trying to push a product. Instead, we're saying, "Okay, what problems are you having in your data centre around energy, space, power cooling? And are you having problems measuring that? Do you have a green strategy that you're trying to measure and report on carbon? Let's figure out a way to do it." A lot of what we talk about during these assessments doesn't give us any product sales. It's more a way to get them listening."
Melissa said she has learned a lot about the structural obstacles within many organizations trying to go green. For instance, IT departments are not often in close contact with those who manage an organization's facilities, so if an IT manager never sees a power bill, where does the motivation come from to reduce the company's technology-related energy use?
Melissa said the opportunities in green ICT are infinite, and that she thinks the industry must head in this direction – but it hasn't always looked this way.
"It's funny, in 2009, everyone that was focused on green when the hard economy hit thought we were all going to lose our jobs, that green initiatives would be the first things on the chopping block," she said. "But according to a report called 'The State of Green Business,' the focus on green actually remained quite consistent even during the economic downturn. I think that what most people don't realize about going green is that – while in the 1990s it was all about "hippies" and going organic, and you had to pay a premium if you wanted to go green – now, green is really about saving resources. In a time when the economy is tight, you don't want to waste things like energy, paper, travel for meetings and training; you want to reduce your impact because that is going to reduce your costs. Green is so aligned right now with efficiency, that it just makes business sense.
"At the same time, people are getting much more educated on these issues, and there is also much more government pressure, as both the Canadian and US governments are putting along of incentives and laws in place. For example, large corporations are going to have to start measuring carbon, probably within the next five to 10 years, so a lot of companies want to get an early start on this and figure it out. IT has got to lead the way when it comes to measuring the data and being able to figure out a carbon footprint. Data centres and PCs are going to make up a huge portion of a lot of businesses' carbon footprint that are not in manufacturing, so people have to figure out a way to measure and reduce it. It's becoming top of mind, as the laws, government, and corporate culture moves toward wanting to do things in a more environmentally sustainable way."
As is often the case with any type of widespread cultural change, Melissa says the biggest challenge right now is getting the right information to those in decision-making positions, and raising public awareness of the issue at large. And this means more than simply developing slogans for a marketing campaign.
"In terms of communication, and getting this information out to customers and having them easily find information about products' green attributes, that's really lacking. We find awareness is really low. People will talk about green in a marketing campaign, but green is a word that's slapped on so many things. People love to call things eco-friendly, but there's not a lot of regulation, and I think people need real information, calculators, and people that say, "This is what makes this green; this is the energy in kilowatts that's been reduced; this is the percentage of recycled material." In order for people to take these green products more seriously, we need to be more transparent in the reporting and benefits."
Green 2.0
Peter Corbyn, CEO, GreenNexxus
Peter Corbyn, CEO, GreenNexxus with Al Gore

People often find their calling by encountering a problem that needs fixing. That's what happened to Peter Corbyn, CEO at GreenNexxus.
"Online carbon calculators bothered me," Peter explained, "because they ask you to input all your information, then they tell you, 'your carbon footprint is 20.6 tons buddy – you're a pig!' The reality is that none of those sites motivate an individual or a company to realize that if they do something, they can reduce that footprint by x or y. So my first idea was to create what was initially called 'Green Energy Challenge,' where we focused on little things people could do to go greener, and quantify what those little actions are. So if I change a light bulb, I reduce my carbon footprint by 100kg, for example."
Peter is in charge of green initiatives, landing him the title of Chief GreenNexxian. And as he took their 'Green Energy Challenge' into the public realm, people quickly saw GreenNexxus to be equally innovative with their service design as they are with their vocabulary.
A few months later, Ryan Groom, GreenNexxus CTO, offered up the idea of adding a social networking functionality to the 'Green Energy Challenge,' an idea Peter latched onto, and resulted in the current form of the GreenNexxus website and online community.
Among the first clients GreenNexxus presented their product to were Cisco Systems and the CBC; he thought it was a perfect product to handle the back-end of Cisco's "One Million Acts of Green" campaign. "We showed Willa Black at Cisco, and George Stroumboulopoulos and the CBC team, and they said it was exactly what they needed – next thing you know we're doing business with them."
"We now provide Web 2.0 platforms for corporate and non-for-profit clients," he said. "We power micro-sites, or landing pages, for corporate and non-profit clients, and we maintain a brand. We are in the process of establishing our brand as the property of choice for building green social media campaigns.
"The benefit of working with us versus a "white label" back-end is this: picture a great big ball in the middle which is the entire GreenNexxus community, and then a bunch of portals or doorways into that community from different corporate clients. You get the experience of sharing information and such with people that came into the community from different portals, and we can offer all the functionality for clients that's already built, but also a branded experience for the user. For example, the GreenNexxus banner can change depending on which the portal from which the user enters."
Working with this current iteration of the service, Peter's reference list became only more impressive: GreenNexxus' first client to sign on to use the service was Al Gore and his non-profit organization, the Climate Project (TCP). After establishing this relationship, Peter and GreenNexxus built the back-end for TCP for Canada and India so that presenters of "The Inconvenient Truth" could communicate with one another, and so that people around the world could download the accompanying Power-Point presentation.
The bulk of the company's work, meanwhile, remains focused on helping their clients measure the impact they have on the environment, or better yet, the improvements they are making toward lightening their carbon footprint.
"We have customers who are doing similar project to the Million Acts of Green, but are doing it in-house. The general public would not know that these portals exist – they do it because pretty much every organization today wants to have a credible green story. So what we're capable of providing is an in-house, grassroots campaign to rally the employees and the troops. So to look at this in two phases: part A is to make sure we're on board in-house – and not just from your typical management systems, but employees are really getting it – and once you're confident your environmental commitment is in order, to take the story externally. Part B is the merging of social media and social networking. Since social media has really taken off, timing has served us well; we can offer a client something far beyond sticking something on Facebook. Plus they've got the ability to control their brand within our community as opposed to, say, a Facebook group."
A second area for environmental gains is in improving how the ICT industry disposes of its dying hardware, he said.
As for what keeps Peter motivated to keep fighting the green fight, it's simple:
"My daughter – she's eight. That's the personal motivator. The professional motivator is that I do not like waste, and we waste so much stuff it's scary. I've been involved in the environmental field for 20 years, and it was a job; it became personal in 2001 when Paige was born. So I'm motivated because I'm a father, and from the IT perspective, I'm excited by the fact that a team located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, can make an impact globally through the use of IT. For us to be able to extend our work globally is a pretty neat thing to do, and to do it in line with our passion for doing the right thing for the planet, what's more fun than that?"
Greening the Desktop
Mauro Lollo, co-founder, Unis Lumin Inc., Genuit Corp., NCS Corp.
Mauro Lollo, co-founder, Unis Lumin Inc., Genuit Corp., NCS Corp.

The worlds of virtualization - that is, the abstraction of computing resources – and remote collaboration are nothing new to the ICT industry. The full extent of the potential impact these operational models can have on the environment, however, is.
Mauro Lollo is a co-founder at Unis Lumin Inc., Genuit Corp., and NCS Corp., and much of his work revolves around delivering desktop platforms which significantly reduce a company's carbon footprint and operational overhead.
"We're heavily promoting and integrating unified collaboration systems for our clients –in essence, a platform that allows people to collaborate to enhance both the productivity and value of work teams," Mauro said. "By doing so, that productivity can be achieved pretty much without a fixed location. So mobility and telecommuting are very important things coming up, which quite probably have the biggest potential impact in the world of green. By switching people's work habits and enabling them to collaborate no matter where they might be – in particular, staying at home more often instead of running into an office every day – we can have a positive impact."
While remote collaboration represents one particularly rich area for potential steps toward a greener industry, Mauro's products also pay other environmental dividends.
"Look at information and technology infrastructure in and of itself, and the life cycle of products and technologies that are used in IT. Many organizations are obviously using full-blown desktop PCs today, which tend to be power-hungry devices, and as I see it, an old model of delivering applications and information out to workers. While that model has been around since about 1980 or so in its current iteration, it's ripe for change for a lot of reasons. Not only is it crazy overhead to maintain full desktops and everything around them, which has been well-demonstrated many times in the past, but from the green perspective we're talking about an energy footprint that's problematic. There are a whole bunch of other facets to that, but we're ideally driving toward a lighter, cleaner, greener desktop."
He says the ICT industry is taking steps in this direction, but not at the pace – or necessarily for the reasons – he would like.
"I don't believe the industry has been self-policing well enough. Most of it has been mandated from other sectors. So IT really has to start doing this, and I believe we're starting, at this point, simply because it's important to people's brands to be green. So in the world of IT, vendors especially need to recognize that they have to do more than just being forced to be 'Energy Star compliant' – because if they weren't necessarily forced to do that, they probably wouldn't, because there are costs involved in doing those sorts of things. But every change results in some amount of cost to be born by the people making the change."
Mauro said marketing-related benefits are not the only reasons why an ICT firm should want to position its brand as a leader in environmental sustainability. Other benefits from taking this approach to business, and implementing products and services like those Mauro's companies provide, also include reducing total costs of ownership of IT infrastructure, and enhancing data security.
"We can dramatically help reduce the cost of operational support of the standard desktop by slimming the desktop down, through thin client technology; and also, increasing the level of security – so basically managing information, and keeping information safe within a data centre as opposed to leaking it all over the place, on every desktop. It's just a by-product of keeping the data within the data centre, as opposed to having it stored on thousands of hard drives, laptops, and desktop machines.
"If you go back to the 60s and 70s with green screen terminals and such, apart from taking a photograph of the screen and writing it down yourself, you really couldn't extract data out of a mainframe – you had to have IT to do that for you. So that was a very secure environment, but obviously not necessarily user-friendly entirely productive. Now we've come full circle on that; it's now gone too far. We find ourselves looking for solutions to prevent data loss, so data loss prevention is an up and coming area, and that's a beneficial by-product of what we're talking about in this case."
For Mauro, greening the ICT industry is not something a few companies can take on alone – it must be a widely shared mission across the whole industry.
"We all have to live on the planet, so we all need to do our part. We have a responsibility, not only to customers and to ourselves, but to the world, to try and reduce the impact we have on the environment; and the best way we can do that is by minimizing our carbon footprint with energy reduction programs. Those types of programs would manifest themselves through certain types of ICT technologies – thin client and virtualization on the desktop, and of course virtualization in the data centre, being very important – which pretty much leads to private and public cloud computing. A lot of it is happening today – not necessarily because people want to be green, but because it makes so much economic sense to virtualize, lighten up, and get better usage out of the resources they have. So let's do our part to try and make that happen."

Grass-Fed Beef Packs A Punch To Environment
Date: 09-Apr-10

Grass-Fed Beef Packs A Punch To Environment Photo: Mike Blake
Cows feed on grass as they roam the hills near Pleasanton, California March 23, 2007.
Photo: Mike Blake

Gidon Eshel is a professor with the Physics department of Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. He is currently researching diet's effects on the environment. The views expressed here are his own. -
First it was slow. Then local, then organic. Now it is firmly grass-fed.
As a rare geophysicist studying diet's environmental consequences, I am asked daily by my colleagues - a bit bemused by my new field yet quantitatively astute and environmentally concerned - about the latest claim made about impacts of food production on the physical environment.
In this role, I get to keep a sensitive finger on the envirofood pulse. Unambiguously, grass-fed beef is all the rage now. Even the New York Times Op-Ed page featured a recent piece extolling the virtues of grazing cattle.
Depending on your guiding environmental objectives, grass-fed beef may indeed be the greatest thing since Guns n' Roses or the environmental equivalent of entrusting former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with military preparedness.
Yet on reasonably balancing the main geophysical dimensions of dietary choices, grass-feeding loses most of its touted allure, relegating its role in a rational food production system to the margins.
To be sure, the flesh of a healthy, thriving animal is clearly nutritionally superior to the biochemically compromised, microbiologically teeming ecosystem that is the bulk of the nation's meat supply.
Grass-feeding is also biogeochemically sensible. Unlike mammals, bacteria in the ruminants' digestive system can decompose cellulose, the sugar-based rigid structure into which most of the solar energy the biosphere absorbs is converted.
This decomposition converts the otherwise unavailable energy locked in the cellulose structure into metabolically readily available glucose. If it weren't for the absorption of glucose liberated by bacteria mediated cellulose breakdown inside ruminant bodies, most of this energy would have bypassed the animal kingdom altogether.
These demonstrated virtues, however, pale in comparison to overwhelming environmental liabilities.
To begin with, there is greenhouse gas emissions, the argument most often invoked to promote grass-feeding. Yet grass-fed meat is more, not less, greenhouse-gas intensive.
In this, simple chemistry is the Draconian ring master, dictating that every decomposing carbon-containing molecule ends up as methane if the decomposition is anaerobic, as it is in the largely oxygen free rumen, and as carbon dioxide if the decomposition occurs in the presence of oxygen, as befalls most cellulose not digested by ruminants.
Since grazing animals eat mostly cellulose-rich roughage while their feedlot counterparts eat mostly simple sugars whose digestion requires no rumination, the grazing animals emit two to four times as much methane, a greenhouse gas roughly 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
This, and the faster weight gain by feedlot animals, result in significantly higher greenhouse gas emissions per pound of meat by grass fed animals than by feedlot ones.
This is true, to variable a degree, for organic and non-organic, large- and small-scale grazing operations in the U.S. and overseas.
Then there is land. Upward of a quarter of the entire U.S. surface area is pasture or grazeland.
Grazing animals produce at most a quarter of the calories per acre typical plant based production systems do. While these facts are well established, they are often dismissed as irrelevant to the grass feeding question on the (partly correct) grounds that much grazing occurs on land that would otherwise produce no human destined calories.
But do we need more calories?
In recent decades, the U.S. has been consistently producing 3,800 kcal per person per year, almost twice the average person's needs.
Given biodiversity declines due to dwindling, fragmented, wilderness, allocating all this land to inefficiently producing needless calories is foolhardy.
Even if you irrationally consider those extra calories indispensable, because of corn's unrivaled caloric yield it makes more sense to produce them as a corn derivative on a fraction of the land, and still have some left for species protection.
Grazing cattle also compromise river systems in the fragile arid and semi arid environments in which they are disproportionately ubiquitous, and accelerate soil erosion.
Because they eat much more dry matter then feedlot animals, they also pressure dwindling local water supplies exactly where they are most vulnerable.
While some of those adverse impacts can be minimized by adequate management, most rigidly reflect cattle biology and north American geography.
Grass-feeding produces unnecessary low-quality calories at ostentatious environmental costs while displacing threatened wildlife.
While some grass-feeding may be reasonable on marginal lands near population centers in the rainy eastern U.S., the logical number of grazing cattle in the western U.S. is zero.
What we need is not grass fed cattle, but quantitative sophistication that readily distinguishes elixirs like grass feeding from actual environmental solutions.

IBM Demands Smaller Supply Chain Footprint, 14 April 2010 - IBM's 28,000 suppliers will need to start tracking, reporting and reducing their environmental impacts, reports The New York Times. 

The company's suppliers, spread across 90 countries, will need to monitor their energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, waste and recycling with data management systems, and then turn around and ask their subcontractors to track their own performance as well. 

IBM is not setting any specific reduction targets, but suppliers will need to set goals on those main topics and publicly show their progress. 

John Patterson, IBM's global supply vice president and chief procurement officer, told The New York Times' Green Inc. blog, "We will be amongst the first, if not the first, with these broad-based markers on our supply base and we're going to have to spend an appropriate amount of time and money to help our suppliers do what we're asking them to do." IBM buyers and procurement engineers will be the main contacts working with suppliers on the project. 

IBM's new initiative is similar to Walmart's broad supplier-focused efforts like its
Packaging ScorecardSustainability Index (for rating individual products), and its latest push to have suppliers cut 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions out of product lifecycles and supply chains by 2015. 

Just as suppliers that rate subpar on any of Walmart's assessments might no longer see their products on store shelves, IBM suppliers that perform poorly might find themselves cut out of the company's supply chain. 

"Ultimately, if a supplier cannot be compliant with requirements on the environment and sustainability, we'll stop doing business with them," Patterson told Green Inc.

Letter from IBM Chief Procurement Officer to suppliers on supply chain and environmental responsibilities
Dear IBM Supplier:

IBM has expected its suppliers to operate in an environmentally responsible manner for decades. Accordingly, our management system has included various environmental and supply chain social requirements for our suppliers. In addition, in 1998, IBM explicitly encouraged its suppliers to align their own environmental management systems with International Standards Organization (ISO) 14001 and to pursue registration under this international standard. In 2004, IBM published its 
Supplier Conduct Principles to articulate the company's overall supply chain social and environmental requirements.

These early initiatives and actions - taken well before the present day focus on "green" -- have served IBM and its suppliers well, underscoring how effective environmental management makes good business sense. As we begin a new decade and in recognition of the continually growing imperative for environmental and corporate responsibility across supply chains, I am writing to inform you about some new requirements we are now setting for our suppliers in this important part of business. 

Specifically, IBM will now require all of its suppliers to:

  • define, deploy, and sustain a corporate responsibility and environmental management system;
  • measure performance and establish voluntary environmental numeric goals
  • publicly disclose results associated with these voluntary environmental goals and other environmental aspects of the management system

Many of you have already been doing this for several years, and you have recognized -- like IBM -- that environmental leadership fosters business efficiency and effectiveness. You have also accepted that environmental responsibility and accountability resides at home, in your own business operations. For others, these requirements may represent a new way of doing business. Nevertheless, we trust you are familiar with the underlying issues since we previously wrote about ISO 14001 and IBM's Supplier Conduct Principles. What may be new, therefore, is taking the next steps to establish a formal management system, measure performance, set goals, and disclose results. 

There are certain basic elements that are necessary to put these requirements into action. We have stated them in the attachment below. IBM's own practices are built upon them, yet they are certainly not exclusive or limited in applicability to any one company or any particular industry sector. Although we are now asking you to include these elements in your work, we are not prescribing a uniform set of programs and goals. We realize there is not a "one size fits all" solution. Instead, we ask each supplier to deploy a management system, measure performance, set goals, and disclose results in a way that reflects your company's particular intersections with corporate responsibility and the environment.

Whether these requirements are new to you or not, IBM believes they are important and expects its suppliers to meet them. Questions pertaining to these requirements should be directed to your IBM procurement contact person.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

John Paterson
Vice President, Global Supply and Chief Procurement Officer