Green Business: Making McD & BK Better

Sometimes the giants are the good guys.

There are a whole lot of thing I don’t like about America’s biggest burger joints, but when food giants McDonald’s and Burger King take positive steps, they can move the whole food chain in a more sustainable direction.

The news from Burger King that it will make the switch to cage-free eggs in the next 5 years levels the playing field for small egg-producers across the country. Everybody moves to slightly larger-scale production methods, nobody loses financial advantage.


Burger King Goes Cage Free

Here’s some super-sized news in the world of food sustainability and the humane treatment of livestock. Burger King (NYSE: BKC), the world’s second-largest fast-food chain, is making changes that will dramatically affect the welfare of the millions of chickens and pigs it uses annually.

The Miami-based company is pledging to switch to 100 percent cage-free eggs by 2017 and to eliminate gestation crates for breeding pigs. While other chains already use some cage-free eggs, the news marks the first time a major U.S. fast-food chain is going completely cage-free.


Can McDonald’s Lead in Green?
McDonald’s now has key partnerships with environmental organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and the Environmental Defense Fund and last month it launched a pilot program to phase out polystyrene beverage cups.

The international food service icon recently released a report, 2012 Global Best of Green, a collection of its best environmental practices. The report highlights recent progress in eight categories including energy, packaging, anti-littering and greening the workplace.

Green Government: CA Gov Orders Green Building

Here’s the thing.

It’s actually cheaper in the long run to build energy efficient government buildings.

It’s not green. It’s just good business.

Via News

California Governor Issues Sweeping Order to Green Government

California Governor Jerry Brown issued a sweeping executive order that will make the state’s government a model for green building.

50% of new state buildings beginning design in 2020 must be Zero Net Energy, and all new state buildings and major renovations that begin design after 2025 must be Zero Net Energy.

Green Shift: Can Permaculture Return as Our Dominant Meme?

Take a good look at this infographic and the article below. Consider how it describes a sane, sustainable way of living.

Permaculture PrinciplesVia

Will Permaculture become the new dominant narrative?

The dominant narrative of our culture is that economic growth can continue indefinitely but the realities of resource depletion, peak oil and ecosystem collapse mean this is wishful thinking.

Narratives define our society. Pick any significant issue and it is the narrative, rather than the ‘facts,’ which define it. Narratives have been part of the human experience for millennia and no doubt will continue to do so for millennia to come. They drive how we view the world, the way we live and the decisions that we make.

Narratives do not necessarily reflect reality. Rather they offer a version of reality which suits the group or groups of people that believe in the narrative (or want you to believe).

My only quibble with this idea is that I believe in large measure that we need to return to a permaculture mindset that prevailed for the greater part of human experience.

It’s not a new thing.

It’s the old thing we temporarily forgot how to do.



Green Blueprint: 3 Ways Unilever Does Sustainability Right

Conserving the world’s natural resources is good for business.

Global good conglomerate Unilever is the name behind household consumer brands like Lipton, Skippy, Ragu, Bertolli, Hellmann’s, Suave, Dove, Ben & Jerry’s and Breyers.

One year after announcing its Sustainability plan, Unilever reports reports positive progress on materials sourcing, waste reduction and energy efficiency.

Read Unilever’s April2 012 Sustainable Living Plan

How positive?


Since launching its ambitious Sustainable Living Plan in 2010, Unilever is buying more sustainable palm oil and cage-free eggs, putting less salt and fat in its tomato sauces and spreads, selling water purifiers to poor people in the global south and rolling out climate-friendly freezers for its ice cream.

Some highlights:

*24 percent of the company’s agricultural raw materials, including palm oil, soy beans and soy oil, paper and wood, tea, fruits and vegetables, were sustainable sourced last year.
*48 million people in poor countries were reached with Lifebuoy soap’s handwashing program aimed at curbing disease.
*100 percent of the electricity that Unilever buys in Europe comes from renewable sources.
*Pure-it, a water-purification technology, is expanding from India, where it already has reached 35 million people, to Bangladesh, Mexico and Brazil.

I see three key Sustainability elements that Unilever is getting right:

1. Visionary leadership in the person of CEO Paul Polman. As the article cites, ““We are showcasing a different business model that shows how you give to society and the environment rather than just taking from them.”

2. Accounting and planning for Climate Change costs (estimated at €200 million annually)

3. Taking responsibility for environmental degradation, with plans to build a $100 million palm-oil plant in Indonesia so that the company can ensure its palm oil comes from certified sustainable sources.  (Palm oil is in everything from soap to soup. The way you get a palm oil plantation is to cut down a forest. )

Green Business: Make it About the Money

In the eyes of non-profit corporate sustainability group Ceres, environmental and social sustainability issues are material “balance sheet” issues.

Think about that for a second. This mindset calls for a full accounting of everything that goes into a business’ profit and loss statement. I’m talking about the real one, with the numbers. Not just the sidebar Corporate Responsibility brochure.


For businesses in all sectors of the economy, sustainability is a strategy for building long-term shareholder value, managing environmental and social risks, and improving competitiveness. Environmental and social sustainability issues are material “balance sheet” issues. They pose risks and present opportunities that will drive the success of corporations.

And if this is case, the logical conclusion is to link compensation with sustainability results.

Ceres Vice President Andrea Moffett lays out the case for this in her Apr. 24 blog post: It’s Time to Link Compensation With Sustainability

Good ideas.


Green Blueprint: NJ Resources Cuts GHG, Ups Profits

Saving energy is good for business.

Just days before Earth Day, Natural gas provider New Jersey Resources announced Apr. 19 that it has met its 2020 GHG emissions reduction target.


NJ Energy Company Meets 2020 Greenhouse Gas Target

New Jersey Resources announced yesterday it has already achieved its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020, a target the state of New Jersey also has embraced,

How’s they do it?

The target was achieved, in large measure, by its chief subsidiary, New Jersey Natural Gas, which reduced its emissions by 33 percent by using heaters to keep natural gas flowing through the pipeline.

In addition to its pipeline energy reductions, NJR achieved airline and travel emission reductions of 29 percent and fleet reductions of 19 percent. It also achieved building emission reductions by retrofitting lighting in most of its buildings.

Here’s the company’s own press release:


And NJ Resources latest Corporate Sustainability Report



Green Shift: Luring Bees to Green

I enjoy reading the EPA’s Greenversations blog because it offers a variety of voices and perspectives from EPA staff members.

This week’s blog struck a chord with me. Author Lina Lounes obviously means well, and sincerely so, but she’s luring bees with vinegar.

Green Choices Are the Right Choices

Environmental protection takes hard work. Doing the right thing for your environment and your health involves tough choices. Whether you want to save water, save energy, protect natural resources, reduce toxic chemicals, all these actions involve making a choice between a greener option or a less environmentally friendly option. Let me explain.

The greenest option is not always the easiest. For example, you want to save water? You can’t let the water faucet run without end. You can’t take a shower mindlessly. Want some suggestions for water conservation?  Turn off the tap while shaving or brushing your teeth. Take showers instead of baths and the shorter the better.

Right. Wrong.

Hard. Tough.


These aren’t words that will lead people to greener choices.

What instead?

Demonstrate.  Facilitate. Implement.

I believe that people don’t care about special places and natural resources unless they experience them physically and viscerally. Pictures and words, even video, won’t do it.

Show your neighbors the splendor of a morning woodlands walk.

Teach a young friend to recognize bird calls.

Bring newcomers to nature.

Plant a garden and share the harvest.

Offer help and expertise.

Bring people along until they can do it themselves.

Connect *here* with *there* so that your friends understand the interconnected dependencies of our communities.

Being Green isn’t about sacrifice, in my mind.

Being Green is about expanding our appreciation and positive experiences with the natural world, in ways that preserve our natural treasures for future generations.

Because once you pave paradise, and put in a parking lot, who’s to know or mourn the loss?

You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

So while we still have so much beauty to enjoy, let’s protect our shared world’s natural resources for all people today and future generations to come.


Green Business: Walmart’s Sustainability Report

In a passionate opinion piece, GreenBiz editor Senior Editor Marc Gunther examines Walmart’s just-released 2012 sustainability report and asks: Is it good enough?

I’ll add: Is it the right way to go?


How Much of a Difference Can Walmart Really Make?

Read the report, and I think you’ll agree that Walmart is “greener” and more responsible than it used to be (that’s Duke’s claim), that the company does a lot of good (by delivering value to its customers and providing employment to 1.4 million people in the U.S. alone) and that it is a powerful driver of efficiency throughout the global economy (that’s at the core of Walmart’s business model, and its peculiar genius as a company).

And yet.

As I read the report, I was reminded of that even Walmart — which is arguably the world’s most powerful company — can only go so far when it comes to protecting the planet.

Gunther gives Walmart well-deserved praise for its ambitious, far-reaching improvements in 10 focus areas last year:

  • *Reduced waste by 80 percent
  • *Expanded locally grown produce (up by 97 percent)
  • *Pledged to source $20 billion from women-owned businesses in the U.S.
  • *Saved customers $1 billion on fresh fruits and vegetables
  • *Announced a “Great for you” icon that will help shoppers identify healthier food items.

Not to take anything away from these accomplishments, but I think Walmart benefits this year from the fast-start and low-hanging fruit.

If you double your locally sourced produce from none to one, that’s a 100% increase.

And what’s more, Gunther reminds us to keep an eye on the ball: the carbon emissions ball. For all the Walmart is doing business better, it’s doing more business and increasing its overall global carbon impact with each CFL bulb it sells.

Gunther says that the power to change Walmart’s course ultimately rests with us–not as consumers, but as engaged citizens.

Green Living: Red Fish, Yellow Fish, No Fish

Hanging out in the shadows of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle club is the action that consumers and retailers don’t want to talk about: Refuse.

“Refuse” means not buying something instead of choosing a greener, better, more local choice.

For years, I carried around a little Blue Ocean Institute wallet guide to consult when I wanted to purchase fish. The card lists fish species as being Red, Yellow or Green based on how vulnerable or healthy the stocks and practices are for different fish species. Download the latest version. 

Recognizing that sometimes choice is confusing, Whole Foods Market has announced that as of April 22, they will no longer sell wild-caught salmon that are in danger of over-consumption or are brought to market in unsustainable ways. They’ve opted out of the consumption chain. They’ve refused.


Starting Earth Day, April 22, the natural and organic supermarket chain will no longer carry wild-caught seafood that is “red-rated,” a color code that indicates it is either overfished or caught in a way that harms other species. The ratings are determined by the Blue Ocean Institute, an advocacy group, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.

I’m with Whole Foods Market. At the end of the day, buying-better isn’t going to work as long as we keep buying-more-and-more. The way we eat fish, for the most part, is unsustainable. Reading the book “Cod: The Fish That Changed the World” helped me understand how the ocean’s former plenty has been plundered, almost to none. The world’s fish stocks cannot survive increasing demand.

There is some good news, in some places, on some fishing grounds. For a look at the progress that’s being made to stabilize fish stocks worldwide, read the Monterey Aquarium’s 2012 Turning the Tide report.

For me, I choose to Refuse, most days, most months. The times I eat fish are few but purposefully chosen, and preferably bought from the person who caught it.

Green Business: Buy a Solar Panel in a “Solar Garden”

It’s a beautiful thing when the right thing is the easiest (and cheapest) thing.

Here’s a new idea (to me):  It’s called a “Solar Garden.”

Think of it as a community garden for renewable energy.

The energy company puts up solar panels, you buy one, and each month you receive credit for the power generated by “your” panel off your bill.

Via and

Solar garden planned for Poudre Valley REA

The project will encompass more than 400 solar panels generating 115,000 watts of electricity.

. . .

The solar garden concept allows all consumers to participate in renewable energy, including renters, those with poorly sighted properties and individuals of all income levels, without having to build a costly system of their own, and reap the benefits directly on their monthly electric bills through the utility.

What I love most is that this is a joint venture between a for-profit company that facilitates replicable, scalable clean power generation with real-time Smart Meters,  and a not-for-profit member-owned electric power cooperative.


1. Fair, Affordable, Accessible: Levels the playing field for renters, low-income folks, and those with non-solar-friendly homes.

2. Consistent Production: Colorado receives 300 days of sunshine a year for dependable generation.

3. Load Responsive: System generates more energy during times of peak demand (hot summer days).

4. Scalable: The utility has space and ability to grow with demand.

5. Aligned Interests: Both entities and consumers have skin in the game to produce the most clean energy for the lowest cost.

Win. Win. Win.

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