Green your life at home, work & play

Opportunities to solve eco-challenges April 18, 2012

In the spirit of  Earth Month, EMC Corporation, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and InnoCentive Inc, are looking for eco-innovators to help solve the challenge of electronic waste (e-waste). The challenge ends on June 3rd, 2012 and is open to the public for submission. Figuring out how to keep large amounts of obsolete electronics from being disposed of improperly is just one of the hundreds of issues our society is facing.

Organizations like InnoCentive help everyday people put their intellectual and creative expertise to work in order to solve real life challenges. InnoCentive allows you to create an account and browse through numerous challenging opportunities to help create solutions through innovation. All of the challenges provide monetary awards for winning ideas- not to mention that adding your experience in eco-innovation to a resume can open doors for other green opportunities.Challenges call for experts in business, chemistry, engineering, design and more. The demand for eco-innovation is on the rise, and it is encouraging entrepreneurs and thinkers to help out.


Are Black Friday and Cyber Monday a Really Good Indicators of a Sustainable Economy? November 26, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Anca Novacovici, Eco-Coach Inc. @ 1:50 pm

Some Americans love this time of year, of buying lots of stuff to make their dreams come true.  Other Americans understand that this behavior consumes virgin materials and is not a sustainable lifestyle in the long term. Yet, every year commentators look at the sales numbers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday as a sign of economic health.  They were quite good this year, according to ShopperTrak-Black Friday  – sales increased 6.6 percent over last year, over $11.4 billion in retail purchases and the biggest dollar amount ever spent.  Cyber Monday was even better-IBM’s Benchmark research firm noted that online spending was 33 percent higher than the same period last year and was 29.3 percent higher than Cyber Monday 2010.  Now there is even a question of numbers for Cellular Tuesday, but are these anticipated shopping days that important?

In the 1960’s, America’s economy was growing quickly, faster than at any other time in history.  At that time, Robert Kennedy asked an insightful question: if we grow our consumption by 50%, does that mean we are 50% richer in a real sense? 50% better off? 50% happier?  He suggested back then that we needed to stop measuring our progress by the quantity of activity and instead measure it by quality of life.

However, that is extremely difficult when advertising messages are blasted at us daily–buy, buy, buy! Promising we can become more popular, sexier, thinner, healthier and more loved.  After decades of pursuing stuff for the promise of success, most of us are deeply addicted. There is even a new movie out, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,”  making fun of product placement.

Taking part in the excitement of Black Friday this year, which for me was really on Thanksgiving night, I interviewed individuals at the front of many of the long lines, camped out waiting for the stores to open. After many discussions, I came to understand it was not really about bargains and consumption, but more about success, tradition and shopping as a group activity.  At 10:30PM, one woman standing about 10th in line had been waiting at Best Buy since 5:20am Thanksgiving Day. She had not taken any breaks and only had a small sandwich. She articulated what many others in line agreed with “This is how I spend my Thanksgiving every year; it is my tradition and the highlight of my year.” When questioned about her shopping list she said, “I just like to get a new laptop and TV every year.  It makes me feel good.”  “I am very happy.” And she said that even before she stepped into the store.  Americans are used to buying and then throwing a product out after a short time.  Whether or not it is a toy or a laptop, as a country we are used to planned obsoletes.

To get a better grip on the cradle to grave pursuit of stuff; the now legendary animated Story of Stuff is well worth viewing.  “The Story of Stuff” is especially fun to watch with kids, as well as the PBS program. We live in a consumption-based economic system which most of the world has bought into.  Fortunately, there are people who aspire not to join this idea and, without attempting the impossibility of living without money or stuff, try to change the way we think about our consumption.

Consider this-if we buy less stuff then we have less stuff to maintain.  We would not need to work quite as long to make money that we can use to buy more stuff.  If we work less, we have more time to spend with our families and friends.  Ask your friends how many of them could manage to spend 10% less on stuff in exchange for an extra month’s vacation every year.  We could start with the actions of each individual-small changes make a big difference.   This idea is not new; bestselling author Juliet Schor’s book Plenitude: The NewEconomics of True Wealth talks about this concept and also offers a  short video.

Shopping less and working less means in the end finding new sources of happiness, which is easy to say but harder to do.  However, the research is in-more stuff does not make us happier. ”The Five Ways to Well-Being”, from the scientists at the Centre for Well Being, shows that well being is rested in awareness.  Connecting with people, being physically active, taking notice of the world around us, learning new things and giving to others round out the ways human beings can increase their well being.  Not one activity on the list has to do with increasing their consumption of stuff.

What do you think?

Additional resources are below:


So you want a green job? May 17, 2010

There’s a myriad of reasons why people want green jobs.  Some want to help the planet.  Others are looking for a new career.  While others may want to be part of what some experts have called the “next big thing.”

Whatever your reasons, finding a green job is a new type of job hunt.  The traditional methods of uploading your resume to various job boards may work but it often takes much more time to sort through to find green job listings.  Not to worry! Here’s 5 ways to search for and attain your green job:

1. Constantly jumping all over the internet, trying glean the best way to find a green job can be slow going and sometimes frustrating.  If you’re looking for a one stop resource, pick up DC Green Jobs and Careers. This comprehensive guide provides an inside look into the DC green job market and offers concrete local and national resources to help you navigate the emerging green job market. The book can also be downloaded as a PDF.

2.  Online job boards are still valuable tools to find green jobs.  You need to seek out boards that exclusively list green collar jobs.  Often times you may even find tips and a green jobs board within a traditional job search engine like Yahoo.  Another mainstream job board provider, Career Builder, launched a site devoted only to green jobs last year. Check the boards regularly and stay up to date on any new boards that may be useful to you.

3. Networking is an excellent way to learn about unannounced jobs as well as potential careers.  You may know you want a green job but aren’t exactly sure in what capacity.  Utilize LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networking sites you may be a part of to find people in the fields or jobs you’re interested in.  To ease into it, you can simply start with your alumni network at your respective alma mater’s career website.  Once you find a match to your interests, contact him/her for a fifteen minute informational interview to start building your own green network.  You probably won’t get a job right away but networking is all about building relationships.  Your contact may not have a lead now, but may in the future or may know someone who is looking for someone with your profile.  If you’re not already part of social networks, join today!  They can be extremely useful tools for both personal and professional relationship building.  Some green networks: Bright Green Talent, 2People, and care2.

4. Sometimes people find themselves experiencing a “catch 22”, you find a job you want, but it requires experience, but how do you get experience if no one will take you without experience!  This can be frustrating but a good way to move out of this pattern is to volunteer.  Volunteering with an organization that supports a cause you’re passionate about can give you experience, help you learn more about that particular field, and make contacts that may lead to a job.  This is also advisable to those who are trying to transition into a green career.  Idealist and even some of the above mentioned social networks are a great way to find volunteer opportunities.  Or just go to your favorite green organization’s website and contact the staff to see if there are any volunteer positions.  Volunteer positions can range from administrative work to organizing a large scale event or workshop.

5.  Attend job fairs and conferences in your area of interest.  Many cities are starting to host green job fairs.  You just need to keep an eye out for them.  Some sites to check for job fair info include: Green Collar Blog, Green Jobs Spider and Green Jobs Network. One of the best ways to find a green job fair is to subscribe to or regularly check green job websites.  In addition to job fairs, conferences are a treasure chest for job seekers.  Conferences may cost money, but you can often attend for free, if you volunteer some of your time.  At conferences you can learn more about your field, companies in your field, and also make some valuable connections/network.  There are a few ways to find conferences related to your interests.  Check out the web pages of organizations in your field of interest for events.  For example, if you’re interested in solar energy and know about the American Solar Energy Society, you can check its page for conference info.  And if you don’t know about any particular organizations, use your favorite search engine to type in “‘your interest’ conference” and hit search.  Additionally, the various blogs and websites mentioned in this post, may also have events pages to explore.


If you have to go, go GREEN. January 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marcus Cohn @ 5:02 pm
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Each year worldwide, more than 50,000,000 people pass away.  Burial practices can be extremely toxic and have a harmful environmental impact.  Despite these times being difficult and sensitive, it has become increasingly important to consider the environmental cost of traditional practices.  Embalming, for example, is a significant source of groundwater pollution today.  Even though the less toxic formaldehyde replaced the original embalming fluid, arsenic, it is still found to be fatal and is classified as a human carcinogen by the EPA.  Almost all of the estimated one million gallons of formaldehyde buried in bodies year in the US will make its way to our groundwater.

Here are some organizations within the US that can provide further information about green funerals/green funeral services.


Environmental Justice November 17, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — lavigne1982 @ 6:13 pm
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Important questions have arisen within the field environmental studies/politics/ethics etc. Who gets to participate in environmental governance and more importantly who assumes the majority of the burdens of environmental degradation?

Environmental justice is, by no means, a new subject. Beginning in the 1980s awareness increased regarding the disproportionate distribution of environmental burdens being placed on the most marginalized segments of the population. In light of globalization, the discussion has broadened beyond the US’s borders. Regardless of where the conversation occurs, the subject matter is very charged and very important. We, as active or inactive citizens, should be aware of how our actions are affecting others or how other’s actions are affecting us–this also includes the actions of our country, state, or local businesses.

According to a compilation of thoughts by several notable Environmental Justice organizations (Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, Environmental Health Coalition, People Organizing to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights, Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition/Health and Environmental Justice Project), root causes of environmental injustices include “institutionalized racism; the commodification of land, water, energy and air; unresponsive, unaccountable government policies and regulation; and lack of resources and power in affected communities” . Therefore, as a alternative to current command-and-control environmental governance, Environmental Justice demands a reconnection with citizens. There is a public role in the private and public sectors of environmental governance. This can be accomplished by allowing community representatives to participate in industrial processes regarding facility location. This also permits a broadening definition of environmental policy, one that addresses factors related to lower qualities of life for poor and minority communities.

Some policy progress has been made. In fact, the EPA has an Environmental Justice division founded in 1992. In 1994 executive order 12898 sought “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations” (Buchannan, 256). Regardless, progress is still needed. Much of what has stultified the progress, some claim, is that environmental justice remains margininalized as a viable policy approach due to its focus on redistributive issues. Such issues are highly polemic in nature and demand clear cause and effect relationships between pollution and its subsequent effects of specific populations. Furthermore, market incentives and not institutional racism may drive businesses to low-income neighborhoods because property values are lower.

However, new legislation, adapting civil rights laws, and adapting existing environmental statutes are three essential avenues policymakers must use to advance the cause of justice. Whether such avenues are easily accessed is not clear. What is clear, to me at least, is that environmental justice is incredibly important on equity grounds. But, social concerns are not our only concerns. The environment and even the economy deserve attention and consideration. Policymakers cannot base environmental regulations strictly upon the redistributive grounds; however, it should consider it. Policymakers can use an environmental justice approach to many urban based concerns and maintain an overriding policy directive based on sustainability, where the justice approach takes care of the social imperative.


Green Finance Emerges on Wall Street May 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — salemdk @ 6:17 pm
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As the global economic storm rages on, Wall Street executives and their city officials are discussing how to transform the US financial sector into an international hub for green finance and environmental commodities trading. Talks were sparked by news of a draft for energy and climate legislation recently unveiled by House Democrats Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

The cap and trade proposal has investors and analysts talking amongst themselves and measuring the prospects of the nation’s economic future. There are certainly provisions to be wary of, such as those concerning a federally mandated carbon market, which may make it difficult to find domestic offsets. Still, carbon offsets require low capital intensity and promise guaranteed returns. Not to mention, the Waxman-Markey proposal seems to offer the much needed confidence to many that Congress is poised to pass a bill that offers more business opportunities than costs.

As the city and state of New York are heavily dependent on the financial sector for revenue, it is hoping to position itself to wall_streetcapitalize on the potential federal opportunities. The commotion seems to be inspired not only by survival, but about helping the US shift toward national sustainability and keeping New York the financial capital of the world.

Indeed, the anticipation of a larger, federally regulated carbon market is the biggest driver behind the growing popularity of green finance, along with the support of the New York City Economic Development Corp. The notion that emissions trading and climate change related investments could potentially help revive Wall Street’s fortunes has corporations actively seeking how best to position New York’s financial community ahead of the game.

It appears the general advice is to stake a claim in the expanding US carbon market, now largely dominated by the voluntary Chicago Climate Exchange. New York has already missed out on the chance of becoming the center of market activity surrounding the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the burgeoning cap-and-trade program involving ten Northeastern states and currently the nation’s only mandated carbon emissions trading scheme. A federal carbon market would dwarf RGGI and all other emissions trading initiatives.

Currently, most of the trading volume can be found at the Chicago Climate Exchange, Chicago Climate Futures Exchange, with some activity is growing at the Green Exchange (an initiative launched by the New York Mercantile Exchange). NYMEX’s Green Exchange is already a popular platform for trading in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution permits, so carbon markets could abundantly grow there. It will be interesting to see where the momentum drives the trends and the future.


It Makes Sense to Build Green – Part 5 of 6 (Materials & Resources) February 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johnston1 @ 10:21 am

Materials and resources that go into the construction process are enormous and they generate massive amounts of waste. About 40 percent of the total waste stream in the United States is from construction and demolition. There is no doubt that there will be a demand for materials and resources during construction but how we go about acquiring those resources can greatly reduce the impact of building? Recycling is the foundation of this category; from using recycled material, to recycling project waste, to using existing buildings and resources.

brick_stackThe LEED system requires a building to facilitate space for all occupants to recycle. Employing this prerequisite in your building is easy and educating building occupants on waste management will help everyone understand the demand to make your building green. This category addresses the importance of extending a building’s life cycle, by reusing as much of a building a possible and by redirecting resources back to manufacturers and appropriate sites. The materials and resources section offers 13 possible points in 7 different credits. Using high percentages of existing buildings (around 95 percent of the existing structure) and diverting large amounts (around 75 percent) of construction waste to reusable sites will earn you maximum points in this credit section. Emphasis is also placed on using recycled material and content inside the building, assuming it is not finite raw material – those materials should be rapidly renewable, including compliant certified wood. Another great feature of this credit is the stress put on using local materials. Materials extracted, processed, and manufactured within 500 miles will earn you credit points.

Following this LEED section closely is important for your business but also your community. You can help stimulate your local economy by buying local recycled products, which is good for local commerce and increases the demand for all companies to recycle and consider the environment. Check out the previous posts on other sections of the LEED system.


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