Sustainablog

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

3.10.08

Before you buy those organic bluejeans… Which is most ecofriendly, organic cotton or polyester? The answer may surprise you.


Before you buy those organic bluejeans…


Which is most ecofriendly, organic cotton or polyester? The answer may surprise you.
By Yvonne Zipp| Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor/ September 29, 2008 edition

Here's an ecoriddle for a concerned shopper: A store has two business suits for sale. One is made of renewable bamboo, the other of recycled polyester. Which is greener?
Before you start wrinkling your nose at petroleum-based products, wait a second. Despite the plant origins of the bamboo, the polyester wins hands down, says Pat Slaven, a textile expert at Consumers Union in Yonkers, N.Y., which produces Consumer Reports magazine. "Don't get me wrong," she says. "I love cotton, I love natural fibers, but polyester's going to clothe the planet."
As with organic produce, environmentally friendly garments are becoming easier to find and are coming down in price – although a buyer can still pay $290 for a pair of organic jeans.
The good news is there are many more ecofriendly options available – with everyone from Levi's to Target and Wal-Mart offering organic or recycled options. The bad news is that a consumer could be forgiven for thinking they need a degree in textile chemistry to sort out the shades of green.

Shoppers now face a wealth of questions that go far beyond "Does this make me look fat?" How many pesticides went into growing the material? (Approximately one-third of a pound for a conventional cotton T-shirt.) Does it have to be dry-cleaned? How were the sheep that produced the wool treated? If it's made of organic cotton, what kind of dye was used? How far did it have to be shipped before reaching store shelves?
Then there are a variety of new materials – from bamboo to soy, sasawashi to Tencel – claiming to be green and charging a premium accordingly.
"It's a huge shift in consciousness," says Rachel Sarnoff, founder of Ecostilleto, an online magazine for the environmentally concerned. "Even the fact that we have so many alternatives – two years ago, none of it was here. Now it's in Nordstrom."
Organic clothes hit the mainstream

One illustration of growth in ecofriendly clothes can be found in the fact that Wal-Mart purchased 10 million pounds of organic cotton last year. This has caused some concerns from environmentalists who say it may result in a diluting of what it means to be organic. But Todd Copeland of Patagonia, the Ventura, Calif., company that's long been recognized as an industry leader in ecofriendly clothes, would ask the naysayers to hang on a moment.

"We're pretty happy that Wal-Mart is now the biggest purchaser of organic cotton [in the US], because Patagonia was for years and years, and we're not that big a company," says Mr. Copeland.
Old material with a new name

This is not to say that "greenwashing" (making a misleading or unsubstantiated environmental claim about a product) isn't rampant. In some cases, experts say, the garments should come with a pair of the emerald spectacles they used in Oz. Ms. Slaven points out that some of the "new" fabrics actually have old names: Chemically processed bamboo, for instance, is virtually identical to viscose rayon. And the process used to manufacture it – involving acid, disulfides ("pretty nasty stuff," she says), and strong caustic – isn't her idea of environmentally friendly. "It's pretty outrageous at this point," says Slaven, who recently testified before the Federal Trade Commission on "Bamboozled by Bamboo."

"Almost all the bamboo that's on the market is essentially viscose rayon…. Consumers are paying a lot of money for it. It's a legitimate manufactured cellulose. But when consumers are paying half  again to double [the price for another fabric], that is not a value to a consumer," she says.
However, both Slaven and Ms. Sarnoff point out that manually manufactured bamboo – which feels like flax – doesn't deserve to be tarnished with the same label.
Before you give up and start weaving a hair shirt, analysts say it's a case of consumers figuring out what they already like to wear and how to take steps to make that greener. The answer is not to throw your old clothes out or fling money at the problem, figuring that the most expensive clothes must be the greenest.
"Personally, I shop a lot less," says Sarnoff. "I'll go and look around and realize that there's not many things [that] pass my test of things I want to support." When she does buy, she says that she wants to make sure her dollars go to help companies that are genuinely concerned.
But she acknowledges it can be difficult for consumers of limited budget who want to help the environment and still look stylish at work. "I wish there were a green Gap," she says.
If your clothing budget doesn't stretch to paying for high-end fashion – where ecofriendly is trendy – just head for the consignment store.

Buying vintage is one of the easiest ways to go greener, says Kristi Wiedemann, of GreenerChoices.org, an environmental website run by Consumers Union. With vintage clothes, there is no additional energy use or pesticides, she explains, since the clothing has already been manufactured and there are no further transportation costs, since the garments are already local.
"The question is consumption. The greenest shirt is the one you don't buy," says Ms. Wiedemann.
She also cautions against trying to compare different fabrics to try and figure out which one is the greenest. Instead, she says, it makes more sense to consider the spectrum of each cloth: For cotton, for example, the greenest option would be used clothing, then recycled, organic, and finally, conventional.
Part of the challenge is that there is currently no oversight governing manufacturers' claims, explains Jamie Bainbridge, director of textile and product development for Nau, an ecoclothier in Oregon that pledges to use no new oil in its garments and is working to set up a system whereby consumers will be able to trace the wool in its sweaters back to the source.
For example, a manufacturer can make a shirt of organic cotton, but the dye used in it doesn't have to be organic at all. "They can say anything they want to right now, because nobody's governing them," says Ms. Bainbridge.
"The consumer can't be as highly educated as they need to be," adds Bainbridge, a member of an ecological working group that's trying to devise ratings that are clear and consistent. They hope to come up with a way to tell consumers how green the garment they're buying is.
"We need to cut out the 'greenwashing,' and tell the consumer what they're really getting," she says.
"We have to build a rating system that's strong enough – it needs to be as simple as the LEED system [for green construction]," she adds. "That way a consumer can say, that's organic or it's not."
Editor's Note: There's more to green clothes than organic fabric. In the next story in our series on green clothing, we'll look at how the cleaning and care of clothing makes more of an impact on the environment than the type of fabric from which it's made.

For consumers, more incentives to go green -- Buy a computer, help plant a tree. Do such offers live up to their promise?


Companies selling carbon offsets invest in projects like this wind farm in Kasigluk, Alaska, which is partially funded by the New Hampshire-based Native Energy. (Intertribal Council on Utility Policy (ICOUP) / FILE)
For consumers, more incentives to go green
Buy a computer, help plant a tree. Do such offers live up to their promise?
By Christianna McCausland| Contributor of The Christian Science Monitor/ September 29, 2008 edition




Eliot Winks was buying a plane ticket when a chance to be environmentally responsible presented itself during online checkout. For an additional fee, about $25, Expedia.com offered to offset the carbon dioxide generated by his trip through its partnership with TerraPass, a carbon-offset provider.
"It was a nice added bonus to using the Expedia website, which I couldn't do if I'd bought the ticket directly on the airline website," explains the Rev. Winks, an Anglican priest with a young family in Towson, Md.
After a little research, he felt confident that his donation was going to meet with viable implementation.
"At the end of the day, though, people can say whatever they want to say, and unless I go to Nebraska to see the wind farm, there's a balance between trusting what you read and a leap of faith that your money is going where they say it's going to go."
The environment is the latest entrant in the field of cause marketing. Increasingly, consumers have the option to check a box and make a small donation to an environmental cause to offset the impact of their purchase. Companies such as U-Haul, Delta, Continental, Orbitz, and Travelocity all offer some form of incentive option. In Ticketing lets concert-goers plant "one tree per ticket" by adding $2.95 to their ticket purchase. From computers to cars, companies are greening their brands with environmental incentive programs. But in the absence of regulation, the onus is on consumers to make sure the company keeps its promise.
For some, incentives are an easy, affordable means to take action against large problems, such as global warming. Others are skeptical. Janna Howley, a marketing manager with FreshFarm Markets in Washington, D.C., skips the green-incentive option, though she describes herself as an avid environmentalist.
"If a business wants to become 'greener,' make it part of the core values of the company," she says, "Don't pander to me by attempting to convince me that the one tree you planted in my name is going to solve the problem. I'm perfectly capable of writing my own check to those local and national organizations whose track records of changing policy and making positive impacts are well documented."
An unregulated market

Currently, the Federal Trade Commission does not regulate green incentive programs, although it is reviewing its "Green Guides," an outline of principles for environmental marketing claims. There are some voluntary standards set for carbon-offset groups; the Green-E Climate Protocol for Renewable Energy, which certifies TerraPass, is considered one of the best.

But new standards and certifications pop up all the time, and it's hard to track how many of these programs exist, how many customers are participating, and the effectiveness of the programs.
"It's kind of like the Wild West out there, and that's why we're glad that there's this credible certification program [Green-E]," says Julia Bovey, media relations manager for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "That's why we have to reiterate to people that purchasing offsets is not a panacea, and the first course of action for those who want to fight global warming or save energy or save the planet is to make changes in their daily lives."
The green incentive process is multi-tiered. Most companies partner with a nonprofit organization or other entity that actually does the good works for which consumers are paying. Programs may offer to plant a tree on the customer's behalf or to work with a carbon-offset provider to make the purchase as carbon-neutral as possible.
At Expedia.com, for example, customers can add $6.99 per person for a short-haul flight or up to $28.99 per person for an international trip to have TerraPass use that cash for offsetting programs. Though an Expedia representative says the program is not its most popular product, it has grown steadily. In the two years since the company first offered the program, customers have booked 88,843 flights with the TerraPass option – a tiny fraction of the close to 17 million tickets Expedia sold in the United States last year.
Activists like Ms. Bovey are concerned that consumers could take these incentives as a cure-all for issues such as global warming. "If you're really toying with whether or not to spend this $15, I think the first thing you can ask yourself is 'what if I bought $15 worth of highly efficient light bulbs?' " she says. "Now if you already have a pantry full of efficient light bulbs and recycled paper towels and toilet paper, maybe you want to spend the $15, but it makes a lot of sense to do the really real actions in your daily life first before you talk about doing offsets."
For Winks, his Expedia purchase was one of many steps he's made to reduce his carbon footprint, such as buying a fuel-efficient car. "At least for me, this has got to be part and parcel of a more integrated approach," he says.
Consumer attitudes, company response

Bovey states that NRDC research shows that companies aligning with a green message are raising their image with consumers as knowledge and concern about issues like global warming rise.
Dell launched "Plant a Tree for Me" in the US in January 2007 and has since rolled it out in Europe and Canada. Customers can add a donation of anywhere from $4 for a laser printer to $40 for a server, and Dell's fulfillment partners, The Conservation Fund and Carbonfund.org, will use the money to plant trees that offset the carbon dioxide produced by powering the equipment.

"This program is consistent within a much larger framework of commitment that we have towards climate leadership, and it's not a gimmick at all," explains Mark Newton, Dell's environmental policy manager. "It's a way for us to tee up a really meaningful conversation with our customers, and they have responded extremely well towards it."
Dell will not disclose how many customers have signed up for the program; instead, they quantify its success in trees planted. The year 2007, the firm says, netted donations to plant over 100,000 trees.
Mr. Newton underscores that their collection of donations is governed by standard SEC reporting and that their fulfillment partners are independently vetted, and Dell provides detailed information about its program and partners on its website.
It's a level of transparency not all companies share. For customers to learn how their funds are being used and if they are going to what are termed "additional" programs – emissions reductions that only occurred because of the presence of incentives – requires research that can confound the average consumer.
The Shelton Group, an ad agency in Knoxville, Tenn. focused exclusively on energy, energy efficiency, and sustainability, recently wrapped up an independent study on consumer attitudes toward green marketing.
"What we see is just the average middle-income, middle-class consumer who is interested in doing the right thing," says Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of the company. "They can Google stuff, and they can poke around, but until they have some authoritative voice telling them 'yes, this is green' and 'no, that's not' they feel ill equipped to really do it."
In the absence of hard and fast regulation, many consumers buy with their gut.
"I think it's about who's doing the talking," Ms. Shelton continues. "It works as a great brand enhancer for a company that is already perceived to be green, but I don't think that it really serves as viable proof in a consumer's mind for a company that's not seen to be green as a core brand value."
Buy for Good
Thomas Lyon, director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan, agrees that consumers need to be wary of taking companies' claims at face value. "I think companies, if left to their own devices, have incentives to tell you part of the truth, but not the whole truth," he says.
But Mr. Lyon also contends that skeptics shouldn't sacrifice doing good in the absence of the best solution.
"There are a lot of good-hearted people out there who want to do the right thing, and they haven't known how to do it, so companies are making it easier for them," he says. "I don't think these sorts of things are going to be 'the' solution. We definitely need government action, too. But they help us move down the road."
How to find a reputable incentive program
• Look for transparency. Is there easily accessible information about the program on the company website? Do they divulge the names of the fulfillment partners?
• Good partners, good program. Bad partners … Most firms use fulfillment partners to administer their environmental programs. Find out who the partner is, and what certifications/accreditations that organization has. Green-E is a widely accepted certification for carbon offsetting. Other nonprofits can be checked out through sites such as charitynavigator.org.
• When in doubt, do it yourself. Instead of going through a marketing program, donate your money directly to an environmental nonprofit.

2.10.08

good information on "Vertical-Axis Wind Turbines"


Thanks to Frank for this one

Hello to all,

during my search on the web I cam across this web side.   " http://www.quietrevolution.co.uk/ "
From what I have seen so fare it  provide some good information on "  Vertical-Axis Wind Turbines", although  the products mentioned are not cheep.

This might be a very  good addition to one of the last news Letters about " Want Your Own Wind Turbine? Here's Our Guide "

Regards  
             Frank

Frank Schallmoser
PAN IOT System x Service Planning Representative
Pan IOT - Front Office Advisor  / EMEA Tape Advisor
ITS EMEA Wintel Technical Support Centre
Tel.: +44 - 01475 - 555255