Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Ecovillage Movement

What is an Ecovillage?

"Ecovillages are urban or rural communities of people who strive to integrate a supportive social environment with a low-impact way of life. To achieve this, they integrate various aspects of ecological design, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices, and much more.
Ecovillages are living models of sustainability. They represent an effective, accessible way to combat the degradation of our social, ecological, and spiritual environments." -Global Ecovillage Network webpage

What is an
Intentional Community?
"Intentional Community is an inclusive term for ecovillages, cohousing communities, residential land trusts, communes, student co-ops, urban housing cooperatives, intentional living, alternative communities, cooperative living, and other projects where people strive together with a common vision."

This event took place on February 19, 2011 at
Bluestockings in NYC. (As a note, Bluestockings is collectively owned, so this model of community can be found in many more forms that one may think.)

1. Steve - Ithaca Ecovillage
The Ithaca Ecovillage has 2 co-housing neighborhoods (known as FROG and SONG) and another one in progress (which will be called TREE) on 70 acres of an ex-farm in Ithaca, NY. They have a 'U-Pick' berry farm, a large organic vegetable farm, and a pond (for fire protection).  They serve common meals a few times a week in the common houses, although each house has a small kitchen of its own. Members of the community recently built four solar ovens for collective community use, and they also share duties such as composting and laundry service. They have a cooperative government, which makes decisions by concensus and a village association that weighs in on all matters.

2. Susan Grossman and Michael Johnson (Founders, Ganas Community, 1980)
The Ganas community is located in Staten Island, NYC - showing that ecovillages are possible even in urban environments. They now have 8 houses with 75 people living as a "self-selected extended family." Their economy is based on the furniture store, art gallery, clothing store, book store, and thrift shop (creatively named "Everything Goes"). The core group shares everything including income, and the extended core group shares everything but income. The Core group meets for an hour and a half five days a week to discuss everything from planning the day to bigger issues. They have a "no non-negotiable negativity policy" to help prevent and resolve conflicts. Most couples have their own room, although a few share.

The ecovillage movement is about creating a sustainable lifestyle - not just environmentally sustainable, but in all aspects of life. Both of these ecovillages are open to visitors, typically on Fridays for their open community dinner. Contact them to arrange a visit.

Although the ecovillages presented above are secular, there are many IC's that are religiously based. They often run on different systems of self-government.

Questions for Consideration:
1.  What types of people do you see in these communities?

The speakers' answers: Nonjudgemental people, not controlling people, people who want to be around others but have trouble initiating connections, middle class. 
These groups are mainly made of middle class residents because the middle class has had the biggest loss of community. 
They also added that most ecovillages are entirely accepting of diversity.

2. What is your vision for the future of eco-villages? 

Obviously massive eco-villages cannot take over the country or the world because the whole concept of an ecovillage is that it is a small group of people working together (we've seen that this model does not work on a larger scale - communism).  
The speakers would love to see more ecovillages pop up around the country and the world. 

3. How would an expansion of the ecovillage movement change the role of the government?

The speakers' answer - it's too soon to tell. Expansion of the movement would take quite a while, so it is hard to tell what the state of the government would be at that point. 

4. Expanding the ecovillage movement is difficult and radical: how can we start changing the current mindset of materialism and the 'more is more' attitude that is infecting our country and the developed world? 

This is a difficult question, and, unfortunately, I wasn't able to ask the speakers for their opinions.
This is the topic for Annie Leonard's incredible series of videos
"The Story of Stuff." (Watch the videos here.)

Let's continue the discussion! Write a comment below to share your opinion on the topics presented above.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NYAGP Green Expo and Talks

This event happened on Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 6:15 at Amber (432 6th Ave., NYC)

About NYAGP: New York Association of Green Professionals was launched in November 2010 by Pankaj Gupta and has quickly grown to 185 "Green-tech lovers." Pankaj's goal is to
“We want to help small business in growing and developing. NYAGP is committed to make their products / services more visible through this event and it`s distinct features such as 'Green Expo' and 'Presentations'.”
`NYAGP is a distinct platform which provides great networking and learning opportunity to Green Professionals through conferences and networking events. 
NYAGP also helps innovators and entrepreneurs get their idea commercialized by providing help in finding a well- balanced team, writing business plan and generating seed funding.
Here are their sites:
Meetup (main site)

Their next Meetup is already scheduled for March 26 - check it out here.

Last night's event was mainly networking with 3 presentations in the middle. The following is my summary of the presentations.

1. Brett Anitra Gilbert, Ph.D. (Texas A&M University, Rutgers University): Challenges for Entrepreneurs in the Commercialism of Green Technologies
Brett Anitra Gilbert has a background in hydrogen fuel cell technology. Once she began to see how useful fuel cell tech. is, she wondered why is wasn't more widespread. Her presentation was aimed at showing the challenges faced by creators of green technologies in marketing their products. These challenges were divided into market challenges and then business challenges. (Arrows represent her ideas for solutions.)
  1. Lack of awareness of the environmental problem --> Educated the market place
  2. Apathy (people just don't care) --> Make the products convenient
  3. Cost (new products are ore expensive because they are not yet produced on a large scale), and limited value proposition --> Marketing
  4. Lack of infrastructure to support new technologies / insufficient supply chain (limited number of suppliers who control the market and can increase prices) --> Create aftermarket support
  5. Competing technologies (people don't understand the uses) --> Education
  6. Politics! 
    • Gilbert's claim was that the government is constantly changing preferences, like flavors, each year, so each year investments from the government shift. 
    • Big business prevents new technologies from coming up --> Entrepreneurs need to plug into their trade association to have support and lobbyists on their side. 
Questions for consideration:
  1. How efficient is hydrogen? (At the moment it is still being produced by coal plants, which is horribly inefficient.)
  2. How can we get past U.S. government subsidies for big business?
    • At the moment big business has so much control over the government that they effectively push down new, sustainable technologies because they fear the competition. 
    • Gilbert's answer was that only time will let this pass. If the people make a change in demand, then businesses will follow. However, I don't think this can come quickly enough. We need the government (not lobbyists) to step in and take control of the situation: to promote sustainable technology, and take away power from big business. 
    • Her other answer was a carbon tax. [My opinion] Carbon taxes have been widely supported, but big business is not going to tax itself, and, at the moment, they likely have too much power for the government to side-step them. In Maryland a carbon tax was imposed that was above the carbon output. When carbon output fell the tax remained at previous levels and was completely ineffective. 

2. Scott Van Pelt, LEED GA, Urban Green Energy: Advances in Small Wind
Since the first wind farm was started in New Hampshire in 1980, the wind turbine industry has been growing. Wind turbines use wind to move the coils of a generator rather than the traditional method of steam. There are 3 types of wind turbine - Horizontal axis (which whistles), the Savonious type, and the Darrieus type. The latter two are both on a vertical axis. Pelt's company, Urban Green Energy installs Darrieus type turbines on a small scale.

There are 3 things to consider when setting up a wind project: swept area, siting, and battery vs. grid tie. And there have been quite a few advances to the wind industry recently - venture capital funding is increasing, the federal government has increased funding, universities are creating majors based on sustainable energy, and improved siting technology.

It is also important to consider buyer motivations for wind energy: 1. living a more sustainable lifestyle (for the true tree-huggers among us) 2. LEED/marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility for businesses who want to have a 'green image' 3. Return on investment.

So, why wind? There are a number of benefits to wind energy: 1. Wind can be harnessed almost anywhere 2. Wind turbines have a smaller footprint than solar (claim by Pelt, although I am not sure of the data for this) 3. Lower cost 4. Wind-solar hybrid systems (these are very useful because on nice days it is sunny but not windy, and during storms it is windy but not sunny etc.)

Questions for consideration:
  1. What resources do we have here in NYC?
    • Wind is relatively viable in NYC and there are a few companies
    • Urban Green Energy is launching a pilot project in the Bronx

3. Christine Vescovo: Greensulate
Greensulate was founded by Amy Norquist and has won many awards. They focus on designing and creating green roofs and make very individualized projects. They work with the New York Restoration Project. Normal roofs have to be replaced every 10-15 years, but green roofs can last up to 100 years!
About Greensulate: "Greensulate is on the leading-edge of integrated design, engineering, installation and maintenance of Green Roof Systems for the residential, commercial, and industrial markets as well as public & private institutions. We partner with architecture firms, conventional roofing contractors, engineers, real estate owners & developers and facilities managers across the U.S. to design highly customized Green Roof Systems, manage their installation, and offer important on-going maintenance services. All Greensulate Project Managers are certified Green Roof Professionals (GRP’s) accredited by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities." 


Overall the event went very smoothly. It was great to be able to talk to everyone, rather than the general format in which everyone sits down and listens to a few panelists and then leaves without having connected. I think this sort of even will be very important for connecting the environmental community and increasing collaboration. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Today in History - February 22

On February 22, 2002, the General Accounting Office sued Vice President Dick Cheney in an attempt to find out who he met with while developing the national energy policy.  (Source)

Two federal courts later ruled that Cheney was not obligated to turn over the private energy task force meeting documents. This decision was marked as controversial by some who argued that it went agains the public's right to know.

In another federal ruling a lawsuit filed by the organizations Judicial Watch and Sierra Club (mandating that the White House produce energy task force documents about its meetings with the industry) was indefinitely suspended. (Source)

These rulings conspicuously show the power big industry has over government, and this type of corruption continues today.

Waste Land Documentary Review


I give Waste Land 5 stars! This was an incredible movie - a must-see. While it didn't directly address solutions to sustainability issues, it is the type of art we need to help stimulate more discussion world wide.  Waste Land is an Academy Award nominee for best feature documentary. Vik Muniz capture the hope and despair of the pickers. 

Waste Land tells the stories of the "pickers" of Jardim Gramacho [Gramacho Gardins] - where 70% of Rio's garbage ends up, and the largest landfill in the world.


2500 pickers search through the landfill for recyclable materials, which independent companies pay them (by weight) to collect.

The pickers make $20-25/day. 

Artist Vik Muniz spends time getting to know the pickers and picks a few of them for his latest art project - portraits made from garbage.

He pays the pickers to collect the materials he will need from the landfill and then to lay out the garbage recreating their portraits. 

Visit the official website here

"Filmed over nearly three years, WASTE LAND follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of “catadores”—self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives."
-More about the film here

Read the New York Times review here

Friday, February 18, 2011

New York City: The Future Metropolis (II)

This panel was put on by Solar One and took place on Thursday, February 17, 2011 at The Education Alliance.

Format: 10 speakers, 20 slides and 7 minute limit each.
Here is the official page for the event with information about each speaker.

Theme: Infrastructure

-In NYC we have twice the amount of solar we need to be completely powered by solar.
-Gross solar usage doubled last year in NYC
-Renting and multi-unit housing makes solar difficult
-Solar Map Project Online
-1 Blog Off the Grid

Jeff Perlman
-Right now we have a dumb grid! - with individual meters and meter readers on each building
Moving to a smart grid means having building that communicate with each other automatically and have energy score cards (among other advances)

Deirdre Lizio (Pratt Institute)
-We need to retrofit NYC block by block

Jackie Brookner
-Artist - "biosculpture"
-Her website here

Dawn Henning and Jaime Stein
-NYC has a single sewage pipe where sewage and extra water combine (and overflow)
-When this overflows (often) it dumps into the rivers - 27 Billion gallons/year!

Amy Bucciferro
-"Floating Food" - using the waterways around NYC to transport food (short sea shipping)
-This would alleviate truck traffic and truck pollution
-Boats could bring backhaul (such as compost) back to the farms

Kubi Ackerman
-Columbia University food-shed initiative
-Earth Institute - Urban Design Lab

Janette Kim 
-Columbia - Urban Landscape Lab
-Underdome project

Diallo Shabazz
-Green career training at Solar 1
-We have to think about the triple bottom line - societal, economic, and environmental sustainability

It was a great presentation! Each of the speakers could have had an entire hour long presentation all to themselves (so time was a little too tight for some).  It was great to bring specialists in such diverse areas together.

One question that was brought up was how we can bring together everyone working together on these issues. 

Battery Day

When: Always February 18th
People get a charge out of National Battery Day. We are absolutely energized about the many uses and applications. It's an opportunity to celebrate a vital invention. Batteries are used everywhere, from the battlefield to smoke alarms to headsets. They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and power capacity, to fit a wide array of needs.
Just imagine where the world would be without batteries. We'd still be using a crank to start our automobiles. We'd have to cart around long extension cords to bring the boombox to the beach. And, forget about hand-held games. They'd never be popular tied to an electrical outlet.
Yesiree, batteries are electrifying!Today is a good time to appreciate the  the power of batteries in our everyday life. 
Origin of National Battery Day:
Our research did not find the creator, or the origin of this day.  Most likely, this day was created by a national association or a battery manufacturer.
This is referred to as a "National" day. However, we did not find any congressional records or presidential proclamations for this day.
Several site visitors have suggested that this day is in honor of Alessandro Volta, Italian physicist and inventor of electric battery, who was born on this day in 1745.

I found a great article by The Daily Green on National Battery Day. 

Why Rechargeable Batteries Are Smarter

You'll save money and resources, as well as reduce pollution.

"Mind is the battery cell, Intelligence is the switch." ~ Sri Sathya Sai Baba

No, National Battery Day is not meant to give you permission to assault people. Thankfully, there is no holiday when that is acceptable. This year's National Battery Day (February 18) was brought to you by the companies that produce those things that are "not included" whenever you buy your kid a toy that needs a power source.

Yearly, Americans buy approximately three billion batteries to juice-up their cell phones, computers, radios, toys, watches, hearing name it. At an average length of two inches, strung end to end, those "disposable" energy sources would be 94,700 miles long -- enough to circle the equator almost four times!

Happy Battery Day!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sustainability Practice Network Panel Discussion - Sustainability in Underserved Communities

The panel took place on Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at the NYU Center for Global Affairs (15 Barclay St., NYC) from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Panel Description: "Sustainability and environmentalism have often been portrayed as benefiting affluent sectors of society while not addressing the real unmet needs of low-income communities. Compared to other challenges such as poverty, health and crime, creating sustainable communities has not been a high priority in our cities.
On this panel, we will seek to move beyond this false trade-off to discuss how sustainability is being integrated into the fields of community development and environmental justice. Examples include the creation of affordable and supportive green housing, healthy foods funds for people living in food deserts, and green job training in low-income neighborhoods. Participants will include community development practitioners as well as philanthropic, private and public investors who are supporting initiatives which improve both standards of living and environmental quality."

The Panel

Moderator: Steve Godeke (Principle Godeke Consulting, founding member SPN)
  • It is people and the planet, not People vs. Planet
  • Sustainability = social, environmental, and economic

Henry Lenere
(Forsite Street Advisors, background in community economic development)
  • The fastest and cheapest way to deal with the energy crisis is to retrofit (using private capital) 
  • We should create a new energy efficiency credit to attract private capital 

Penny Fujiko Willgerodt (Executive Director of the Prospect Hill Foundation)
  • Works for the Gulf Coast Fund for Community and Ecological Health (established after Katrina)
    • Regional grant making institution that gives money to local groups - their resources are directed by gulf coast people

Abbie Westbrook
(Forsight Street Advisors)
  • There is a cooperative component to community development

Judith Kende
(director NY Region for Low Income Investment Fund, background in transit oriented development)
  • There should not be a trade off between sustainability and poverty - sustainability is fundamental to poverty aleviation
  • Low Income Investment Fund is a CDFI, non-profit bank for lending

James Patchett
(Goldman Sachs)
  • Part of the (25 person) urban investment group at Goldman - working on urban revitalization projects
  • The mission component of their group is very important, but they are still looking for a return on investment
  • They work on comprehensive community development, not just housing

James and Judith are both working on the New York Healthy Food and Healthy Community Fund.

Questions for Consideration:
  1. Does there have to be a trade off between sustainability and poverty alleviation? 
  2. How do you measure success in these something as abstract as poverty alleviation and sustainability? 
    1. Henry: retrofits are successful if they save money
    2. Penny: more esoteric - making new partnerships, etc.
    3. Abby: small goals to keep growing on the bigger ones, money, employees
    4. Judith: Square footage, number of jobs created by her projects
    5. James: Square footage, jobs, funding 
  3. How will the President's budget cuts influence the environment and sustainability sector? 

Sustainability Practice Network: "Established in 2004, the Sustainability Practice Network (SPN) is a New York-based interdisciplinary community of professionals who seek to learn and share knowledge to advance sustainable development across sectors and disciplines. We mobilize our members to practice sustainability in their lives and work. Our mission is to raise awareness of the importance of individual and corporate sustainability and thereby create a more stable and equitable world." More about SPN

Kyoto Protocol Day

Kyoto Protocol Day is celebrated on February 16 - the day in 2005 when it became legally binding.  It is an amendment to a treaty passed at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and aims to cut green house emission from the industrialized world by 5.2% by 2012.  More than 150 countries have signed the treaty, and the U.S. is the only industrialized nation not to have.

The protocol states that developed countries must reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by at least 5% below their 1990 levels.  Not meeting this standard would result in a fine.

Developing countries do not have to lower their emissions because, quite simply, they don't produce that much. They were, however, given tradable carbon credits to encourage them to reduce emissions.

Celebration ideas:
Hmmm. This is a hard one… Learn about the Kyoto Protocol? Send a letter [to the government?] asking them to pressure President Obama into signing?

Happy Kyoto Protocol Day!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Social Media Week

"Social Media Week (SMW) is a global platform that connects people, content, and conversation around emerging trends in social and mobile media.

Delivered primarily through a network of internationally hosted biannual conferences and online through social and mobile media, Social Media Week brings hundreds of thousands of people together every year through learning experiences that aim to advance our understanding of social media’s role in society."
What role does social media play in sustainability initiatives? 
My answer - a huge role. Growing the movement and getting the message across to our politicians that we want change is about amassing a huge number of people with the common goal of more environmental initiatives and getting them to work together to create a framework for these initiatives. 
Coming up with sustainable ideas involves innovation - and innovation is sparked by informed discussion and debate. Social media is also used by companies trying to advertise their corporate social responsibility campaigns. 
As we have seen recently in Tunisia and Egypt, social media can be effectively used to organize a group of unsatisfied citizens and empower them to do something about the situation. I think these events in the Middle East helped shock politicians and professionals all over the world into understanding that Facebook, Twitter, and the myriad of other social networking websites are not just for teenagers to play on - they have real power and need to be taken seriously. Just in the past couple of weeks I have seen an increase in the number of ad campaigns aiming to get the viewer or listener to "like" their page on Facebook or "follow" them on Twitter. Whether this is because I am paying more attention to these campaigns because of the recent events or is actually a true increase in this marketing technique, they are grabbing my attention. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Carbon Nation Documentary Review

Peter Byck, creator and producer of Carbon Nation, said his audience for the film is skeptics and people who just don't care - yet. He took the "big tent approach," to quote him directly. He said he didn't want to go down the blaming road, but rather to create an uplifting presentation of the answers to climate change.

I think the biggest problem with this movie is that Peter Byck is a filmmaker who decided to make a documentary about the environment, rather than an environmentalist or expert on a particular sustainability issue choosing to make a documentary.  [Side anecdote: At the end of the screening there was a Q+A with him and two representatives from the organization 350. I asked if they had any upcoming events, if there might be one on 11.11.11 (since there was a huge event on 10.10.10) and Byck thought this was just genius! He was amazed by it for a good few minutes…]

I would not recommend this movie to any fellow bloggers or people who have studied the environment for any significant amount of time. The movie really is for beginners, for all others it's simply frustrating.  Its oversimplification can been uplifting and hopeful, but causes many inaccurate statements. Its broad range of topics prevents the movie from delving into any single topic significantly and only allows time for a statement of the most obvious facts. Throughout the movie there were interviews from poorly described "experts," who I assumed could have very well been executives at companies whose products they were advocating.  If you know anything about environmentalism this movie will probably not teach you anything.

Overall rating: thumbs down
oversimplified, inaccurate, naïve

NYPost gave it 1 star and said "Wind power plus solar power equals hot air in the propaganda piece "Carbon Nation," a documentary so disconnected from reality it could have been produced by President Obama's speechwriters.  
Read more

New York Times said "all we need to do is enact some kind of carbon tax, and our problems will be solved. That may be true, but it sure is naïve. This film seems blissfully unaware that political obstructionists are paralyzing the legislative process; that deep-pocketed influence peddlers have a vested interest in maintaining the fossil fuel culture; that, in general, people resist change."
Read more

Turn Your Valentine's Day from Pink to Green

There are just so many good eco-friendly Valentine's Day ideas, they couldn't be ignored.
  1. Write a Valentine's Day e-vite instead of a physical card or use a card made of recycled paper.
  2. Choose eco-friendly flowers - great Mother Nature Network article.
  3. Make an environmentally conscious meal - or go to an organic/vegetarian/local/sustainable restaurant.
  4. Give something useful! Don't give your loved one a present that will be thrown into the landfill just days, or even hours, after it is given. Put thought into your present, try hand-making something. 
  5. If your gifting clothes, buy ones made from organic cotton. 
These rules actually apply 365-24-7, not just on Valentine's Day.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Must See Movies

I haven't seen these documentaries yet, but they are definitely on my must see list.

And here is part 1 of Flow: For the Love of Water

Also, the series Big Ideas for a Small Planet by Sundance Channel looks great!

 There are just so many great documentaries out there! Leave a comment with any suggestions :)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Darwin Day!

Today, February 12, is Darwin Day!

Check out the official website of Darwin Day.

Darwin Day is celebrated on the day of Darwin's birthday, February 12 (1809) and honors the first man to describe evolution.
Some claim that evolution has not been "proven" because it is called the Theory of Evolution; however, this is a misunderstanding because the term theory in science is a statement that has been proven.
"More generally, Darwin Day expresses gratitude for the enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, has contributed to the advancement of humanity." More about Darwin Day

Click here to help make Darwin Day an official holiday!
"The New York Times recently reported that only 28 percent of biology teachers present evidence for evolution as recommended by the National Research Council, while 13 percent “explicitly advocate” creationism. Furthermore, with climate change quickly gaining speed, and anti-environment regulation law-makers denying its impact, a true grasp of science is the strongest defense against global warming." -From the resolution to make Darwin Day official

Mission Statement of the International Darwin Day FoundationThe dual mission of The International Darwin Day Foundation is to promote public education about science and in addition to encourage the celebration of Science and Humanity throughout the global community including the general public, private and public institutions, science professionals, science educators at all levels, libraries, museums, the print and electronic media, and science enthusiasts everywhere. More

Gasland Documentary Review

Gasland wins 5 stars! It is an incredible documentary that highlights the horrible issue of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) and makes you want to do something about it. Fracking uses over 596 chemicals to extract oil from the ground and pollutes millions of gallons of water. 
Although the overall tone of the movie was ominous, with the director Josh Fox's voice narrating slightly monotonously, there were some good laughs as well. And, as I found out in the Q and A session afterward, Fox is really a charismatic public speaker. 

The video above shows the overall tone of the movie.

This next video gives you some more of the facts.

Some of the main facts:
  • 1-7 million gallons of water are needed to frack each well each time.
  • Each well can be fracked up to 18 times.
  • It takes 1,150 truck trips for each frack job.
  • Fracking is now being considered in the Delaware River Basin, which provides water to over 20 million people (including NYC)
  • There is currently a moritorium on fracking in the DRB, but it expires July 1. 
  • Dick Cheney was the CEO of Haliburton (a huge oil company) before he was VP.
  • Haliburton Loop Hole: Exempts fracking from the law and was conveniently passed during the Bush administration.
  • As Al Appleton said in the Q+A after the screening, normal PR advice for the natural gas companies would be to stay mum and not react at all to Gasland. However, as you can see from this video below, they aren't doing that. Why? They feel threatened because Fox did such a good job showing the human face of this issue.

What we can all do to help fight fracking:
  • United for Action Mission Statement
    We are a group of volunteers who shape public policy decisions by organizing and mobilizing groups of like minded citizens. Our current focus is to stop the process of hydraulic fracturing of gas wells in the Midatlantic States and Nationally. We are working to raise public awareness of the unacceptable risks posed by this process to our water, air, and mother earth, thus endangering our health and our lives. We seek to empower people to organize, unite and take actions towards a safer, healthier future.
  • Sierra Club
  • Call the DRBC (Delaware River Basin Commission) and demand that a public hearing be held on fracking in NYC
    • DRBC Exec. Director: Carol Collier (609) 883-9500, ext. 200
    • New York: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (518) 474-8390
    • New Jersey: Gov. Chris Christie (609) 292-6000
    • Delaware: Gov. Jack Markell (302) 744-4101
    • Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Corbett (717) 787-2500

What the FRACK is going on???

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

National Green Week


National Green Week is a program run by the Green Education Foundation.

National Green Week Documentary

"The objective of National Green Week is to empower students to be leaders of their own sustainability campaign. During National Green Week 2010, Green Education Foundation (GEF) mobilized over two million children to participate in sustainability education programs, and reduce their trash by over 100,000 lbs. National Green Week 2011 kicks off February 7 - 11, but schools can chose any week from Feb.7- April 22 (Earth Day) to participate.

National Green Week 2011 is a FREE program. Schools and groups are encouraged to take this opportunity to spend time with their students discussing environmental issues and specifically what they can do to make a difference. Participate for the whole week, a day, or just one lesson or activity. On Earth Day 2011 (April 22 ) the GEF website will announce the impact of the combined efforts on behalf of all of the schools and green keepers.  Read on to learn how you can be part of this exciting, nationwide event!" -Green Education Foundation

Gasland Screening Tonight

Tonight there will be a screening of the documentary Gasland at the Dalton School in Manhattan, NYC.
I will be at the event and look forward to writing a blog post about it afterward.

Greenpeace Boat Tour

My tour of the Greenpeace boat yesterday was great! The Arctic Sunrise icebreaker actually used to be a sealing boat and has had an eventful history. It is traveling at full capacity (30 ppl) up the east coast raising awareness about it's latest "Quit Coal" campaign.  Here are 6 Coal Myths (from a Greenpeace handout)
  1. Coal is cheap and renewables are expensive.
  2. We need coal to keep the lights on.
  3. Coal is clean.
  4. The U.S. has 200 years of coal to burn.
  5. Coal means jobs.
  6. "Clean Coal" will allow us to burn coal while protecting the climate.
I highly suggest you go check out the boat for yourself!

Thur 2/10 - Open Boat 12-6 pm
Fri 2/11 - Open Boat 12-6 pm


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Corporate Social Responsibility

Credit: Industry Player
Credit: Acton Institute Power Blog

What is Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR?

Here's Wikipedia's Answer: 
"("CSR" for short, and also called corporate conscience, citizenship, social performance, or sustainable responsible business[1]) is a form of corporateself-regulation integrated into a business modelCSR policy functions as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards, and international norms. The goal of CSR is to embrace responsibility for the company's actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere."

Last night I went to a Meetup titled "Social Media to Engage Stakeholders (on Sustainability & CSR)" (click on link for Meetup Website) at Green Spaces, in downtown Manhattan. The title sure is a mouthful, but the general idea was quite simple - How does social media play into Corporate Social Responsibility? 

The panel was moderated by Erica Grigg (CMO at Carbon Outreach). Some of the points the panelists made are below:

Susan Arnot Heaney (Director of Corporate Responsibility at Avon Products, Inc.)

  • You could be doing the best thing in the world, but if no one knows, it doesn't matter.
  • You have to get the word out, without seeming like you're tooting your own horn.
  • There are rules that state that a company must tell the public about their CSR actions before they publish them to a research or ranking organization.
  • 5 Points of CSR
    1. Share don't sell, educate
    2. Listen, conversation should be a dialogue, not a monologue
    3. Clear plans
    4. Start internally
    5. Be painfully honest

Cary Krosinsky (Senior Vice President at Trucost in North America)
  • Companies can use CSR as an investing tool.
  • He also mentioned that sometimes social and environmental factors can collide, citing one specific example of a company that provided energy to an area in need; however, the energy came from coal. I have to rebut his statement - being more on the environmental side of things, I don't think this collision is really possible - sustainable options are the only ones that should be set up. Although I do not know the backstory of the situation he mentioned, it seems like a better company to support would be one setting up solar panels or wind turbines in the needy area. Coal will probably ultimately create more problems for the community.

Susan McPherson (SVP of Fenton Communications)

Aman Singh ('s Senior Editor, Corporate Responsibility and author of Vault's CSR blog, In Good Company)
  • When the 18-25 year old age group is getting the message, then you know your PR is working
General Comments:

  • What can be considered successful marketing and CSR? --> It is often hard to measure success. With Twitter, Facebook, and all the other social media involved, it's often difficult to distinguish the good from the bad feedback. Hashtags can be helpful.
  • Where should the CSR person/people in a company work? 
    • In PR? Can often seem like "greenwashing."
    • As an outside Consultancy? Often too removed.
    • Next to the CEO's office? This can really make sure that CSR is in the DNA of the company, but sometimes isn't the best solution. 
    • In HR? 
  • Social media is emotional not rational 
  • It's no longer just companies choosing whether or not to engage in CSR, but social media allows the people to challenge the companies.
  • Examples of successful campaigns: Chase Community Challenge, Pepsi Refresh Project
  • Examples of unsuccessful campaigns: Kenneth Cole, Groupon's superbowl commercial

Links / Terms Mentioned: 
Climate Counts website: "We score the world's largest companies on their climate impact to spur corporate climate responsibility and conscious consumption. Our goal is to motivate deeper awareness among consumers — that the issue of climate change demands their attention, and that they have the power to support companies that take climate change seriously and avoid those that don't." More about Climate Counts
Crowd Sourcing (wikipedia definition): "is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call."
Forum for the Future: (mentioned by Helen) "Most organisations now recognise that global challenges like climate change, food and energy security and population growth will mean big changes for the way they operate. Forum for the Future’s role is to help them find their way to a sustainable and successful future." More about Forum for the Future
Social Mention:  Social Mention is a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user generated content from across the universe into a single stream of information. More about Social Mention
Radian6: "Radian6’s social media monitoring software helps businesses listen, measure and engage in conversations across the social web. Radian6’s software platform tracks mentions across over 150 million social media sites and sources. Clients explore real-time results on an interactive dashboard that provides meaningful and actionable insights for their business, and act on these insights using Radian6’s Engagement Console." More about Radian6
Quora: "A continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it."
Hello Green Tomorrow: Avon's foundation to help save the Atlantic Rainforest.
Twestival: "Twestival® (or Twitter Festival) uses social media for social good by connecting communities offline on a single day to highlight a great cause and have a fun event. Twestival is the largest global grassroots social media fundraising initiative to date. Since 2009, volunteers have raised close to $1.2 million for 137 nonprofits. All local events are organized 100% by volunteers and 100% of all ticket sales and donations go direct to projects." More about Twestival
Web MD vs. Mayo Clinic NY Times Article
Call2Action (Charlotte Rademaekers - Co-Founder and CEO): Mission: "Call2Action provides the go-to widget for any online cause campaign. We are dedicated to furthering our partners’ goals through raising awareness, driving engagement, and building community. We are committed to ensuring our technology is simple to use, comprehensive in scope, and seamlessly integrated with leading industry applications.
We believe a good business is a responsible business— fiscally, environmentally, socially, and ethically, and endeavor to lead by example. We practice collaboration, innovation, and celebration, and believe in technology as a tool to help drive positive change." 
Kenneth Cole: Here is a SFist article summing up their recent infamous tweet. 
Groupon Superbowl Commercial: Groupon explains super bowl ads in CNN article.

Some questions for further discussion:

  1. What goes into choosing a successful CSR campaign?
  2. How do you think the CSR and Social Media fields with continue to advance in the upcoming years? 

Green Spaces NY is a unique company with a great purpose:
"Our vision is to forward the sustainability globally through widespread local hubs that cultivate social entrepreneurs, startups, and freelancers alike. We have coworking spaces in New York and Colorado." -About Page

Disclaimer: In writing the post above, I did not intend to plagiarize, misstate or infringe on any copyright or trademark laws.