Friday, April 29, 2011

Experts' Opinions on Sustainability

What is the most pressing sustainability issue we need to address?

Jeffrey Davis –
I don't think one issue is more important than another. I think to quantify such issues will only succeed in alienating people who don't specifically care about those certain areas of sustainability. I think the most pressing issue is the one that matters most to each individual...because that is the issue they are most likely to take action on.

Brendan DeMelle
Climate change is the most pressing issue facing humanity. Right now we are spending down the planet's ecological capital with abandon, loading the burden of our joyride onto future generations. We must collectively kick our fossil fuel addiction and transition immediately to clean, renewable energy, and learn to use energy much more efficiently and wisely. 

Edward Hall (
           We have to address the lost efficiency between progressive efforts.  We can continue to "solve environmental problems" without looking at HOW we are solving those problems.  We have to problem solve problem solving!  It's a bit funny but once you look at efforts in sustainability it becomes obvious: the worst crime lies in the lost efficiency through lack of coordination.  LightSource, is all about that... Bringing projects together, providing the mindset, motivation, infrastructure and environment to get us working beyond these arbitrary boundaries that keep us from doing our best to solve serious problems and live fulfilled lives.
           I would also add, we must preserve and value diversity of cultural perspectives... This culture we have inherited is clearly off, and we have to learn from other cultures and peoples who are more in-sync with our planet.  We can't keep looking to technology to get us out of this mess... we have to really reexamine our cultural values and learn from other cultures.  I guarantee it will make us happier at the same time. 

Credit: TreeHugger
Consumption. Because it is the source of our free market desires that drives the crash-test ride we call “industrial and civilized society.”
I could pick on industrialization but that would just be more unnecessary gripe and moan; and I don’t think we could stop the progress of industrialization without addressing our fundamental consuming patterns so the attempt would be futile; I could go on and discuss the backward sense of “civilization” we experience so distant from our original distinct connection with Earth, but then I would look like some kind of cultural fanatic. Either one is not worth the discussion because they both focuses on the past; they are topics about what has gone wrong, not about what we can do to make things right.
What we can do to make things right is a hard thing to pick on because it is a deeply ingrained social norm protected by our collective sense of denial. It is our palpable overt desire to consume that drives our demand for oil, plastic, cheap meats, chemically fed giant broccoli, and diabetic babies. Yet there is an eerie sense of social stigma against those who would dare to say: “consume less,” and it is thus left unsaid.
Talking about consumption requires an admission of guilt: I too over consume and am part of the perpetuated problem to our Sustainability Crisis. I own many gadgets that hardly justify their existence. I consume and waste more water than a village in China. I use electricity generated by coal freely while I sit on my high and mighty horse and preach. I am in denial because I don’t know a way out of my conditioned pattern of behavior: buy more stuff, love more gadgets, enjoy daily showers, and plug more things into the walls . . .  
Well, they say the first step is to admit the guilt and come out of denial. What is the next step? Why can’t life come with instructions?

More ecological – and less – consumerism:
       Many of us are not aware of the social and environmental impact of the things we buy. Products are not made to last. Foods that are not in season are imported from other parts of the country or from abroad. We are wasteful.
We must learn to make do with less.
       Daniel Goleman, author of “Ecological Intelligence”, does not hold much hope: "We need a profound change of attitude. We need to stop thinking/speaking about the Earth being in need of healing. It doesn’t need healing. We do.”
       Here is one example of a product, which has a significant ecological impact: “strawberries in winter” (a European perspective).
      Strawberries: Between mid-February and mid-April, France imports 90,000 tons of strawberries from Spain. These are transported 500 kilometers to markets in France. The strawberries are grown in vitro in central Spain then trucked south to Andalusia for planting in soil sterilized with chloropicrin which Saddam Hussein’s regime used to gas the population in Kurdistan. Plants are grown on black plastic and require large quantities of fertilizer, pesticides, fungicides. Irrigation of the fields is drying up the surrounding area. After harvest, the 5,000 tons of plastic used to cultivate the strawberries is either dispersed by the wind or burned. Most of the strawberries are grown near a delta area, which is a main reserve for migratory birds. Workers, mostly foreign women, live in unhealthy conditions and suffer from respiratory diseases and skin infections.

Jessica Reeder (

Shane Shirley-Smith (
I believe that the most pressing sustainability issue that needs to be addressed is the health and well being of human beings.  Our health is our future right?  From green chemistry, healthier school lunches for kids,  warning labels on items with artificial colors and everything in between from vaccines to PFOA’s, we must insure health for our future sustainability. 
             What we are leaving for our future generations politically, financially and environmentally are intertwined and will prove to have an enormous impact on a healthy future. Keep listening, learning, and sharing all you can to protect your health, the health of our environment and the health of future generations.
             Our future depends on our knowledge and actions, what choices will you make today that will change your health and the health of our world tomorrow?  Together we CAN find the path that leads us to a greener, healthier future - we must act now individually, politically and collectively.
Please take a moment to watch this wake up story

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Earth Day New York!

Wow, Friday's Earth Day Celebration put on by Earth Day NY in Grand Central Terminal was incredible! Very well done with speakers and many booths outside.

Food Panel
Watch the video below to hear about the panelists.

The name of the first speaker is Ana Sophia Jones (apologies I didn't catch the beginning).

1. Have you seen any sort of progression in America's attitudes toward growing and eating fresh food?
Ana Sophia Jones: The food movement is really diverse and apolitical - it's starting to take off all over the country. You can see farmers' markets helping to revitalize the local economy.
Anvil: There is a movement toward organic cotton and organics in clothes, not just food. Organics require crop rotation (good for almost any crop), so, often, organic cotton is rotated in with organic foods products. The organic industry is a $29 billion industry, growing at a rate of 7.7% per year.  Anvil works hard to showcase the stories behind the product so that consumers can relate and be more knowledgable about the production process.

2. How useful and  is third party certification in the organics industry?
Very. The USDA organic certification program has strict codes that are enforced. We need to make sure that federal support for this program is not lost.

3. What can we do as individuals?
Vote with your dollar.
Slow down! Work to get rid of/limit the "bigger, faster, cheaper" mentality.
Look for underutilized spaces and resources.
Small steps are great, but what we really need is policy change.

4. How can we increase transparency in the food system?

Resources mentioned:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kick Off to Earth Week at The Visionaire!

The Visionaire: "The Visionaire Condominium is recognized as being the greenest residential high-rise in the country and has been the recipient of the CNBC Property Award, AIA Building Type Honor Citation and Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence." It is located in Battery Park City, one of the first, if not only, areas of Manhattan to enforce strict green building and renovation codes.

The staff of the Visionaire held this Earth Day Celebration of Sustainable Living and opened it to the public. Vendors had tables in the lobby, speakers presented in common areas on higher floors of the building, there was lunch on the terrace, and attendees were even given the opportunity to take a tour of the eco-friendly operating systems - micro-turbine, air filtration, solar photovoltaic panels, and more!

Overall a great event to showcase the forward-thinking actions of this building, Battery Park City, and the neighboring businesses. I think it's the direction we really need to be heading in.

The event was held on Saturday, April 16 at 70 Little West Street, Battery Park City, NYC, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Photos by Michael Toolan.
Bradley Fleming of Holton Farms

John Filippelli, deputy director of the Division of Environmental Planning & Protection
 for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 2 Office, presents on water conversation
 and environmental issues affecting New York and New Jersey.

Jeff DiTaranto of The Albanese Orgnaization, Inc., developer of The Visionaire,
gives attendees tours of the building’s green operating systems.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Imagining the Future of Green

This Meetup took place on Monday, April 11, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. at Green Spaces and was hosted by Ethical PR NYC and Carbon Outreach.

This was one of the best conversations I've had recently. The audience ended up being minimal (we finally got some really nice, spring weather), so it became a round-table discussion with the following panelists:

Jesse Ash (@GreenerMedia on Twitter) is an award winning Filmmaker and Partner at Greener Media, a Brooklyn-based multimedia production company that focuses on creating environmentally and socially conscious content. Over the past few years he's helped grow good ideas for the Sustainable South Bronx, New York Restoration Project, Greenpeace Australia, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, and a handful of other organizations that are doing good in the world. He can be reached at
Greg Barber (@RecycledPaper on Twitter) is Founder and President of Greg Barber Printing, a prominent environmentally-responsible printer in New York City. Started on Earth Day in 1990, Greg has worked with companies like the NRDC, Earth Pledge Foundation and US EPA.
Helen Clarkson (@hl_clarkson on Twitter) is the US Director of Partnerships & Projects at Forum for the Future. Prior to working with Forum, Helen worked for Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF-UK and at Deloitte's public sector consulting team.
David Marks: has dedicated his personal and professional life to the prevention and remediation of toxic exposures, protecting the health of children and educating others about environmental issues, energy conservation, green living and Jewish responsibilities towards the environment. David is highly experienced in entrepreneurial business development, online marketing, social media and business networking, communications, public outreach, and group organization. He is Co-Founder of Shades of Green Network, a business services and marketing resource network focused on the green industry. He has also founded an internet development firm, The Giving Web, a business networking association, the Dynamic Netowrking Association, and is Chair of the Green Synagogues Committee of his synagogue, Kehilat Kesher in Englewood, New Jersey.

Erica Grigg (@CarbonOutreach on Twitter) moderated a great conversation on the future of green. She is the founder and CMO of Carbon Outreach.

1. What strides have been made in the past decade to make you excited about the green movement?
There are mixed opinions on how optimistic we can be on this topic. Some believe that the general public has made great strides toward environmental awareness, but I'm not so sure. Jacquelyn Ottman cites in her new book, Green Marketing, that an astounding 80% of consumers consider the environment before making purchases - this seems incredibly optimistic to me. 
I think we all agreed that social media has made incredible strides in the past decade. This can both help the environmental movement and create disinformation as Jessica Reeder commented in the latest Experts' Opinions on Sustainability post. The internet has gone viral providing information, and misinformation, to the masses, improving transparency, and sparking social movements. We commented on's successful use of social media as well. 

But, how much do those Facebook "likes" really matter? Slacktivism has also emerged with the internet - giving people the idea that clicking the "like" button is enough, that they've done their daily duty. 
Also mentioned: Earth Excess Day - the day the world uses more resources than it has for that year. (Unfortunately I was unable to find a link to this.)

2. How will the green movement change in the next 30 years? 
There is a debate here between which sector will take on the green movement: 1. The People 2. The Government 3. The Corporations.
I believe it is the corporations. Despite the benefits of the small, everyday actions that are being emphasized, it is really larger scale actions we need to be taking. The powers in charge of this are government and companies, and, because so much of the government is controlled by special interest groups and lobbyers, it is the companies that need to take the initiative. We are fortunate to see the current emergence of the CSO - Chief Sustainability Officer - in the corporate ladder, as noted in their recent webinar

There are several unpopular discussions that need to take place to look at the environmental movement over the next 30 years:
1. Population Control 
2. Unsustainable Economic Growth [despite what politicians keep saying "grow out economy!" - it's just not sustainable - "you can't have infinite growth on a finite planet."
3. Unsustainable American Lifestyle 

We also agreed that the environmental movement is currently fragmented (an idea I have found over and over again, especially in the environmental blogosphere, and the reason I created the EOS project). Websites like 2Degrees are helping bridge this gap, but it is a long road to having everyone working on the same page. 

Also mentioned:
Green Schools Alliance
Shades of Green

Participating in the discussion included the following:
Frank Moris of Ecological Advisors
Lauwrence Schaw, Creative Director of Line Works Studios
Mario Vellandi (@MVellandi on Twitter)
John Messerschmidt of Green City Challenge
Greg Barber of Eco Friendly Printer and Neil's Wheels
Bob Leonard, CEO of Earth Garage

As always, please leave a comment below with thoughts and questions!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Experts' Opinions on Sustainability - Social Media


What role does social media play in the environmental movement?

Jeffrey Davis - Eco Snobbery Sucks
A huge one. It seems like we're bombarded with information at an ever-increasing rate these days, but I think we're also able to filter that information better than ever as well. For example, I watch, listen to, or subscribe to ANY mainstream media outlets. I choose the news and information I want to be exposed to by what feeds I subscribe to, what twitter accounts I follow, what podcasts I download, and even whose posts I allow to show up on my facebook home feed.
Social media helps us connect with causes that matter to us, and more importantly, other like-minded people who share similar passions. Through those connections I think we can learn and achieve more than we could separately, lone ranger style.

Edward Hall - LghtSrc
An essential role.  We need new social media though.  Diaspora, the open source Facebook, could provide the platform help people totally get the word out and organize without private interest influence.  Programs like,,, they all provide so much value in curbing global warming, empowering people, organizing movements... That's why I've moved on from working on research at Columbia University in sustainable behavior to trying to implement that research entirely in online communities.
When nearly every person on the planet can access something that makes it incredibly powerful.  It's time we recognized that power and ALL started building things for the better of humanity.  We have to make sure that our online communities are being build through insight and experience we gather in real life though.  We have to grow from there and hopefully use the internet to help people get off it, to use MeetUp's saying.

(When you read the following, please note I advocate for a learning revolution through digital media in China, not a political one; I want the Chinese people to use their digital information infrastructure responsibly for the purpose of overall Human Sustainability; while I do not endorse violence as a form of opposition, I do believe there are human rights issues need be addressed in the Chinese criminal defense process related to Sustainability; I simply ask for the Chinese People, a fair and reasonable defense infrastructure to reduce corruption and improve cost efficiency for government programs; got my fingers crossed.)
The role of social media in the environmental movement, or any movement a all - Egypt, Iran, China, etc. - is about starting a conversation, building a community learning/knowledge platform, and generating activities from the grassroots up to really challenge the status quo and make a difference.
I consider the “Discussion Boards” that started the violence of the Cultural Revolution in China, and subsequently sent thousands to death and re-education camps (my father included), a form of Social Media. But today, in the US and most of the world, we have a lost sense of social media intricately combined with the powers of the Internet and various computing devices. In much of the US, social media is trendy, high-tech, and sometimes about nothing with significant substance: what did Kim Kardashian have for lunch today?
Social Media, to me, in the truest form, is about bringing people together on a topic and uniting the consensus to overturn the established norms put in place for the benefits of the few, the rich, the careless. Social Media is about using our high-tech devices to generate a collective and existential question we must ask ourselves: where do we see ourselves in the future as a species, a steward of Earth.
There are company sponsored social media/marketing campaigns structured around products or single sided political messages. I call these “Peer Review for Profit” social media, (and these are entirely different from “Social Media” that challenges authorities, overthrows governments, and advocates for those who are voiceless). This type of “Social Media” is part of the established norms for the benefits of the few, the rich, and the careless. This is the kind of social media that influences the masses who stands for nothing, who will fall for anything.
On the other side is the type of Social Media that makes social media sexy and dangerous. This is the kind of social media that exist not for the sake of politics or product sales. This is the Social Media in ListServs of human rights lawyers for China; this is the Social Media in private forums for scientists to discuss their views on Sustainability; this is the Social Media on Twitter that raised over $70,000 for cancer research in one day. This is the kind of Social Media that gives our conversations substance, helps us learn and grow, and get us away from our daily routines to do something good for our society.
I learned from a good friend, Susan Bird, that a conversation can change the world. Many marketing professionals and the so-called social media and marketing companies often miss this very point. Social marketing and viral marketing is effective not because technology has made it so, but because technology made that conversation available. But a conversation is not enough to start a movement. Conversation means nothing if there is no substance and no meaning. The Internet is littered with unnecessary conversations these days. The unfortunate thing is we have wasted so much time paying attention to this useless information. Let’s face the reality: gossips and rants will never solve the challenges we face in world hunger or global warming. I am guilty of frivolous rants and I am working on changing that.  What we need is a Method in the Madness. Our job and responsibility is to stop this deterioration and help generate positive learning via Social Media and technology.
So to me, Social Media is not about technology, not about trends, not about meaningless things that does nothing for the Human Experience. To me, Social Media is about a Conversation, about Learning, about making a difference – for our environment and for our fellow human beings; for Earth.

Meris Michaels - Towards Better Health
Calls to action:  anti-nuclear groups holding daily demonstrations following the disaster in Japan, forcing countries to rethink the nuclear issue.

Jessica Reeder - Love and Trash
One of the biggest roadblocks for the environmental movement has always been disinformation [false information that is intended to mislead], which often comes from hearsay and punditry. People on both sides of the issues tend to be misinformed, because there are so many differing views on every topic. Particularly while much of the research on climate change, health, nutrition, agriculture etc. is still very much in progress, people don't always know which news sources to trust. Facts seem to shift, and it's hard to know what the "right" answer is -- or if one exists.
Social media allows experts and brands to develop a trusted voice that people feel they can rely on. By offering consistency and good information, by being reasonable and trustworthy, environmental activists are better able to dispel rumors and spread knowledge on important issues.
Unfortunately, this works the other way as well. It's crucial that we remain authentic in our messaging, that we don't fall into extreme viewpoints or logical bogs. Too many news sources rely on sensationalistic headlines and exclusionary moral judgments to pull in more readers; this can easily degrade into publishing bad information for the sake of traffic.

Social media accelerates our collective shift to a far more transparent world. Traditional media outlets can be laden with associations that prevent true, unbiased, and unfiltered reporting and opinion, but social media provides access to information from a wide variety of sources and and gives engaged citizens a voice. It does not only facilitate transparency; it also increases the demand for it.
Heightened transparency is ushering in a new paradigm in which citizens are increasingly aware when a business interest is in some way at odds with the public interest. The "environmental movement" and the notion of sustainability benefit from this type of information sharing because it creates an increased understanding of the true interconnectedness of our world. It encourages all parties to rethink our our notion of value, and to pursue value in ways that do not diminish value elsewhere or in the future.

Shane Shirley-Smith - Environmental Booty
You hear it everywhere these days, social networking through the use of social media is a must for every business.  Why should it be any different when it comes to sharing the green message?  What is the environmental movement anyway?  Isn’t it just a bunch of individuals who, when they are able to come together and connect, can use their collective power to create change?  Social media has made the connection part of the change equation as easy as turning on the computer.  From blogging, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and every niche community site in between, people have seemingly unlimited opportunities to connect with others who are as passionate about sustainability as they are. 
I think the question which should be asked is not to what role social media has in the environmental movement, but what role do you have in using social media to create the change you want to see.   Do you want to start a blog to share all you are learning on your walk to green living?  Why not hop on YouTube and check out the latest vids from your favorite non-profits?  Do you want to use Twitter to get up to the minute information on issues like alternative energy use and ways to live greener?  How about jumping on Facebook and joining local environmental groups or laying down links you find in your daily web searching?   Corporate executive gatekeepers have been replaced with Twitter @mentions and if you want your message to reach the highest on the corporate ladder, social media is your friend.  Social media has made it easy for greenies to make important connections and form partnerships which, just a few years ago, were difficult to create.