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Show your sweetheart you love the world as much as them.

Here are 6 ideas to make the sweets-for-your-sweetie more sustainable and easier on the environment.

#1: Pour It On Thick With Maple Sugar
Satisfy your sweet tooth with delicious, nutritious maple syrup. Real maple syrup is more expensive than pancake syrup, but a little goes a long way and adds nutrient-packed taste. New England-produced maple syrup is available at local supermarkets, for a regionally-produced, sustainably grown, delicious sweetness.

Two upcoming NJ events are: Feb. 23 at the Reeve-Reed Arboretum in Summit and Mar. 15-16 at Lusscroft Farm in Sussex County.

#2: Make It the Thought That Counts, Not the Card
You can say it better than Hallmark. Make a card with magazine-cut-outs. Tramp out an I Love You in the snow. Hide a list of the top 10 reasons you love someone in a pocket. Bake their favorite cookies. Let them drive the remote. Do their most-hated chore. Call them just because. Create your own tradition that costs less, doesn’t produce landfill trash and shows how you feel.

#3: Dress Up (or Down) and Dine Local
Whether you pick white-linen upscale or family friendly, a close-to-home night out saves gas and supports local business.

#4: Say It with Flowers, But Greener Ones
It’s hard to think about, but commercially grown cut flowers that come from South America often are produced using pesticides and labor practices that put floral workers at high risk of chemical exposure and harm.

Whole Foods Market sells cut flowers that ensure better wages, environmental practices and working conditions.

#5: Make Their Heart Beat Faster
Spend time, rather than money, and get outside for a heart-healthy Valentine’s Day for a walk or hike. Visit the penguins at the zoo. Find a good spot to look at the skyline twinkle. Skate hand-in-hand at your local rink.

#6: Chocolate but Better
Bypass the generic big red heart-shaped box and spend a little more for an earth- and worker-friendly choice of organic, fair-trade or locally-made chocolate. Find them at Whole Foods Market and specialty grocers.

With a drop of creativity and an extra dollop of planning, you can show your sweethearts that you love the world we live in just as much as them.

This post evolved into a Feb. 7 piece for Sustainable Brands. But here’s my original post that inspired it.

No more smokes.

Yesterday, drugstore chain CVS announced that it will stop selling tobacco products.

This is a business decision that will inconvenience at best, and aggravate for sure, many of their customers.

It’s a big deal, and here’s why.

(As a side note, I believe that commercially produced tobacco is a faulty product. Unlike sugar or trans-fats or salt, there is no safe dose of it.)

It signals a tide turning towards saying, “It’s wrong. So we’re stopping.” Even when there doesn’t seem to be a financially sound reason for doing so.

When a business owner says this, it means they are valuing something else more than short-term profits.

It’s saying, “I can’t go on with business practices that are fundamentally incompatible with being a responsible person for my company, my community, and for my customers.”

CVS is making a very carefully calculated decision. And good on them for it.

To back up, let’s remember that Target made a similar decision to stop selling tobacco way back in 1996. (Thanks to Kathrin Winkler for the tip.)

In 1996, Target stopped selling tobacco because it was *too expensive* for their bottom line short term. Target’s tobacco sales were being wiped out by: 1) shoplifting and 2) overhead costs for (inadequate) theft prevention measures.

Today, CVS leadership is saying that it’s taking tobacco off the shelves because it they are valuing long-term results. It’s part of CVS’ strategy to pivot from being a seller of goods (stuff) to a provider of service (health services). Over the long-term, the $2 billion loss in annual sales from tobacco products won’t matter.

In 1986, Target said, “It’s a money decision” because saying “It’s wrong. So we’re stopping,” wouldn’t have flown.

Today, I feel, CVS can say, “It’s wrong. So we’re stopping,” for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s happening when more Americans can access and afford more healthcare services.

Second, CVS can count on its allies to quickly broadcast and broaden support for the move through social media. Remember, Twitter’s megaphone didn’t exist in 1986. (President Obama’s office tweeted his endorsement within minutes of the announcement.)

And third, most importantly, I think the CVS leadership team decided that it’s the right thing to do.

I believe that sustainability’s greatest strength has always been that it’s the right thing to do. I’m inspired by Lincoln’s (and Milton’s) call to appeal to our fellow humans’ better angels, rather than their bank balance.

CVS’ announcement moves the ball down field for more business decisions based on social and environmental impacts. It creates new safe “middle ground” to operate from the “morals” argument rather than the “money” business case argument that hampers well-meaning people from doing the right thing.

Sometimes the right thing to do doesn’t look like the best thing to do, money-wise, in the short term.

But when we give things a chance, they have a way of working out.

CVS’ leaders decided to say, “It’s wrong. So we’re stopping.”

Others will follow.

Jeana Wirtenberg knows sustainability is about people.

Living, breathing, caring, feeling human beings.

It’s not green. Or eco. Or solar. Or resilient. And it’s not even environmentally conscious or any other of the buzzwords we hear.

Sustainability is what people do to make sure we’re living today so there’s enough for all, forever.

That means each one of us.

Including what we do at work–whether we’re the boss or employee.

And if we spend the majority of our waking hours at work, we need to make them count.

For people close to home, across the county and around the world.

So, how do great companies do that?

They embed this “enough for all forever” awareness into their organization’s DNA by building a culture for sustainability.

A company’s culture is how each person works, and how they work together, for their customers and stakeholders.

That’s the genius behind Jeana’s new book. She exhaustively interviewed and researched nine leading global companies that have made sustainability part of how they do business. And then laid out a road map for replicating their success.

The companies she picked also happen to be headquartered in or have a large presence in NJ.

For too many years, the cult of “shareholder value” has lead companies to make decisions based on profits first.

That’s changing. And these companies prove it.

Jeana’s book is an essential contribution to the growing realization that not only is being a responsible corporate citizen a good thing for business profitability, it’s also the moral, right, human way for us to conduct ourselves in the world.

And as we race towards a 2 degree centigrade tipping point for our earth’s temperature, it’s also a game-ending race for survival.

As the sustainability expert Andrew Winston has said, “Business cannot succeed in a world that fails.”

In the same way, business cannot succeed if the people involved aren’t working together.

Jeana’s book offers case studies, concrete examples, and a path forward towards a sustainable, prosperous future–for ourselves, business and the world as a whole.

Building a Culture for Sustainability
People, Planet, and Profits in a New Green Economy

Jeana Wirtenberg Ph.D
Foreword by Andrew Winston

This practical, easy-to-understand book sets a path to successfully building a culture for sustainability in today’s global marketplace, providing “best practice” case studies from industries and sectors including manufacturing, business-to-business, hospitality, consumer products, telecommunications, and professional services.

“Sustainability” isn’t merely a buzzword; it’s critical to long-term success.

In their own words, leaders, managers, and employees from nine global companies explain how they are turning their visions into reality. Sustainability and human resources expert Jeana Wirtenberg describes how these companies are transforming challenges into opportunities by opening their minds to the megatrends that will define the future. The vast majority of today’s CEOs consider sustainability essential to their company’s success, yet most do not know how to embed it into their company and its culture. This book guides firms of all types and sizes—from those organizations just starting their journey to sustainability, to those seeking to accelerate their positive impact on people, reduce their negative environmental impact, and improve their bottom line. Wirtenberg shows readers how extraordinary results are possible by engaging the hearts and minds of employees throughout the organization.

Features
• Never-before-published stories and lessons learned from nine successful global companies that are building cultures for sustainability
• Tips from business leaders on how to create purposeful work environments that ignite employees’ passion
• Practical resources: on-the-ground successful programs; proven global and local best practices; top-down and bottom-up strategies and activities; and user-friendly frameworks, tools, and references that help firms at any level of sustainability build a more sustainable culture via increased employee engagement

Must Reads:

Grist’s Ben Adler asks: Why is Chris Christie silent on climate change, even as New Jersey is threatened by rising seas? Includes good background on how New Jersey used to be a leader for clean energy and climate action planning

New York Times front-pages leaked IPCC draft, highlighting mounting costs of climate inaction: http://nyti.ms/1asqoc3

 

Green links:

Four great (tree-free!) ebooks for your new-to-green friends & colleagues from Julie Urlab at Taiga Company http://t.co/6DcVe5pNsc

Pondering ways to connect the “Blackfish Effect” to climate action. Similar in cognitive dissonance? http://t.co/mMIhlMBGw9

Why storytelling matters. Required reading from Seth Godin for the sustainability and climate action worlds. http://t.co/aoFXqhxNSW

Great analogy for restoring & protecting: “broken windows” theory from Hudson Riverkeeper http://t.co/u47t5C6kbw

Just a super share from Susan McPherson on how to be your best on social media https://t.co/yRfnCK31RP

My take on NY Comptroller DiNapoli’s climate action win: http://t.co/TVJCuOXcFC

A solar car! Future-fiction or not-so-far-off? https://t.co/438krn5ZC0

Are your U.S. Sens on the Boxer/Whitehouse Act on Climate taskforce? Mine are. Thanks to Senators Booker and Menendez http://t.co/at5ImiqB7p

My “5 Things #Climate Skeptics are Right About” | Feb 20 event w/ Yale Center for Climate Change Communication’s Geoffrey Feinberg http://t.co/0bQ7KFcX4a

Terrific essay: The sociology of climate change http://t.co/bo1k7YuDc5

Check out this SRI blueprint from Marcy Murninghan and Bob Monk: Trusting Harvard: The Cost of Unprincipled Investing http://t.co/VGVmORLVhm

Just when you think you’ve got a system, life throws you a curve ball.

Here’s Part 6 of my co-authored series on Sustainability Metrics Pitfalls for Greenbiz.com.

We dive into how Sabremetrics has changed the business of baseball, and come up with practical resources for Sustainability practitioners to keep their eye on the ball.

What “Moneyball” can teach us about sustainability metrics

One theme of this article (and to a degree, the entire series) is to consider what you’re not measuring and the possible relevance to sustainability. Other than the education field, probably nothing shows this more starkly than sports.

“That’s just how we do things here.”

I wish.

My town is not the greenest city in America, and it’s definitely far from the worst. I wish we recycled more, made less trash, saved more energy and used less water. It’s darned near impossible to ask people to change how they live. And I know better than to pick Quixotic fights with my good neighbors.

But I still want to change my neighbors’ minds about we use energy, spend money, and protect natural resources, as a town, state, and country.

Endlessly awesome Seth Godin nails behavioral economics in 229 cool words.You want people to change? Make it easy, make it the norm.

He also neatly captures the core insight of the late Donella Meadows, the Grand Dame of Systems Thinking. In her classic article “Leverage Points: Places to intervene in a system,” she ranks 12 strategies by how well they work to actually change a system fundamentally.

Meadows said that the most powerful way to change a system is through paradigm change. Not by inches, but by whole.

So forget about small potatoes like swapping out some light bulbs or reusing grocery bags. The kind of change we need would look like this: Everyone in my town decides overnight to decrease our municipal energy use by 50% and funnel those savings into renewable energy investments.

Is it doable? Seth says yes.

Via Sethgodin.typepad.com:

Change the culture, change the world

Plenty of marketing, particularly the marketing of social-change groups, focuses on educating people and getting them to make different (and better) decisions.

But most actions aren’t decisions at all.

In Reykjavik, shopkeepers keep their doors closed (it’s cold!) and if they were aware that in Telluride most stores keep their doors propped open (even in the winter) they’d think it was nuts.

In China, the typical household saves three to five times as much of their income as a household in the US. This is not an active decision, it’s a cultural component.

The list goes on and on. A practioner of Jainism doesn’t have a daily discussion about being a vegetarian, and a female graduate of Johns Hopkins is likely pre-sold on the role of women in the workplace.

If you ask someone about a cultural practice, the answer almost always boils down to, “that’s what people like me do.”

Powerful organizations and great brands got there by aligning with and accelerating tectonic cultural shifts, not by tweaking sales one at a time.

There are two lessons here. The first is that the easiest thing to do is merely amplify what a culture is already embracing. The second is that real change is cultural change, and you must go about it with the intent to change the culture, not to merely make the easy change, the easy sale.

Life’s complicated. That’s the simple part.

Here’s Part 5 of my co-authored series on Sustainability Metrics Pitfalls for Greenbiz.com. We dive deeper into Complexity scholarship and offer some practical resources for Sustainability practitioners to make things simpler.

Why Sustainability Metrics Need to Mix Simplicity With Complexity

Over the course of this series, we’ve described pitfalls where steps that look like the right course sometimes backfire. Life cycle analysis, for instance, may lead to a surprise about the assumed high priority of recycling for every item.

But systems thinking is hard. So in this piece, while we continue to provide additional reasons why it’s essential, we add some “practically idealistic” ideas to make it more feasible.

 

The devil’s in the (complicated) details.

You know the old joke that if a problem can be fixed with money, it’s not a problem?

Same goes for measuring Sustainability. If a measurement problem can be fixed with numbers, it wasn’t much of a problem to start with.

Real problems are complex.

Here’s Part 4 of my co-written series on Sustainability Metrics for Greenbiz.com:

Why Complexity Matters When Measuring Sustainability

We note that systems thinking is starting to come up in sustainable business conversations, but remain concerned about persistent mindsets that ignore complexity. Without it, sustainability practitioners are unequipped to grapple with a point that should come up early in metrics work: “Did we just miss something very important?”

Too many articles implicitly distill big problems into linear, simpler solutions. While the latter have an important place, the large reliance on them fails the global test — in all senses of the term — that our world’s challenges demand.

Who is making sure New Jersey is ready for the next Sandy?

That’s the question I brought to yesterday’s Climate Change Preparedness in New Jersey: Leading Practices and Policy Priorities conference at Rutgers University.

The conference delivered as promised. The morning and lunch panelists described where NJ and other states stand in preparing for coming climate change impacts on public health, land use, planning, business, and communities. (Answer: Just getting started.)

Experts from past disasters, including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and Superstorm Sandy, shared their lessons learned.

The afternoon session I attended explained how an alliance of NJ-focused planning, development, and conservation groups are working together to create a climate change adaptation plan for New Jersey.

My takeaway for the day, from what was said and unsaid, is that the NJ Climate Change Adaptation Alliance has stepped up to fill the leadership and coordination role that I feel the Governor and the NJ DEP should be doing.

(Missing) Elephant in the Room: To the best of my knowledge, there was no one (among 250+ participants) from the NJ DEP or NJ state government.

Word Not Spoken—Mitigation: I asked the following question in my afternoon breakout session: “Why is today’s event focused only on adaptation? And not on mitigation as well or in addition to? Is it because the cow is out of the barn as far as climate change is concerned?”

The session moderator replied that the Climate Change Adaptation Alliance is focused specifically on, well, adaptation. While important, mitigation is outside the scope of this group’s work, she said.

One of the panelists, Tim Dillingham, Executive Director, American Littoral Society, added that increased CO2 is already baked into the atmosphere. Given that, there’s no preventing the effects (temperature effects and sea level rise) that are already happening.

RGGI did not come up in any presentations I heard or in my conversations.

Who’s Not Playing on the Team: All five of the panelists at the afternoon session I attended mentioned the need for State leadership to coordinate and drive climate change adaptation preparedness. Left unsaid: this isn’t happening today.

Dillingham mentioned that New Jersey has the Global Warming Response Act on the books that isn’t being used. (If Matt Polsky hadn’t mentioned this Act recently, I wouldn’t have known what he was talking about. It was a quick aside, so I’m not sure how many people in the room got the reference.)

Presentations & Coverage: As of posting, here are links to the presentations and press coverage:

Agenda and Presentation Links

NJ Spotlight

Atlantic City Press

Notable Quotes and Points:

“Superstorm Sandy is a gamechanger in terms of a broader understanding of Climate Change in New Jersey.” — James H. Hughes, Dean, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy:

“[We formed] the Alliance one and a half years ago because we recognized NJ is a vulnerable place, with a long shore line and older cities. We saw a need to bring people and resources together to plan for the future. Not just respond but plan forward.” — Anne Hoskins, Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Sustainability, PSEG

75% of NJ Residents Are Concerned About Climate Change: Bloustein School Professor Greenberg shared new survey results. Read the Atlantic City Press’ coverage.

New Rutgers Climate Institute Announced: Just before lunch, Dean Robert Goodman announced that, as of September 1, 2013, two Rutgers climate initiatives (Climate and Society, and Climate and Environmental Science), will merge into a united Rutgers Climate Institute. Creating, he said, a “single portal for all things climate at Rutgers.”

“There will be winners and losers in global climate change.” This idea came up in several presentations, meaning not every habitat or species or location can be saved. “Retreat” of property to higher ground as an adaptation strategy came up a few times. Goals need to be reexamined in light of scientific realities about the changes ahead. This is a concept that is easy to talk about but hard to do. At least it got mentioned even if only on a surface level.

“Find Common Ground & Adjust the Message to Meet Your Audience”: NOAA Director Margaret Davidson’s straightforward style reminded me of Hunter Lovins. She compared Climate Change conversations to golf: you have to play it where it lays. She said, “Senator Inhofe doesn’t get climate but he sure gets drought.” Whether or not people agree on the details, she said, “Something’s going on with the weather.”

“The Poor Always Pay More” I was pleased that the conference made room to address the needs of poor and vulnerable citizens. Two presentations were devoted to Public Health impacts (Michael A. McGeehin) and Environmental Justice issues (Beverly Wright). The “differential effects of weather disasters” means that poor and vulnerable people suffer more and more often. Adaptation plans have to put the needs of these people first.

“Talk About Nature’s Defenses Instead of Ecosystem Services” Another common theme was the wise advice to explain things simply. It makes more sense to talk about how “Nature protects people and property better than anything we can build out of concrete,” rather than “adaptation strategies” or “ecosystem services.”

Presentation Especially Worth Reading: State of New Jersey’s Climate — Professor Tony Broccoli, Rutgers University (Broccoli presentation)

If we aren’t going to get the leadership I feel we need from our State government officials, it’s good to know that the state’s scientists, business leaders, planning and public health experts, conservation advocates, social welfare organizers, and others are already tackling the job.

I’m encouraged that the NJ Climate Change Adaptation Alliance’s work will bring us to a robust and comprehensive state-wide plan. Every state surrounding NJ has one, and we should too.

We need to be ready when—not if—our next Sandy hits.

Catastrophic weather events are bad for business.

Everyone agrees.

Which prompts New York Times economics reportor Eduardo Porter to ask:

If there were one American industry that would be particularly worried about climate change it would have to be insurance, right?

And if insurers are worried, then the reinsurers–the people who back up primary insurers–have reason to worry too.

The whole article is interesting, but I struck by the potential for alliance-building across politicized lines.

Here it is:  For Insurers, No Doubt on Climate Change

But take a look at how the headline is slightly different in the browser bar and link:

Insurers Stray from Conservative Line on Climate Change

See that? This alternate headline zeros in on the point in the article that there are growing interests on the Conservative side of American politics for dealing with climate change. People who think, like I do, that human-caused climate change is the top issue for humanity. And business.

Now, this is still the “Money” argument for climate change action. “It’s in our best interests financially to do something about it, sooner than later.”

My preference is for the “Morals” perspective. “Let’s work together on climate change because it’s the right thing to do for humanity and the species we share Earth with.”

But honestly, I don’t care how we get to climate change common ground.

It’s a pretty good idea, actually to have people in the room who know how to assess, calculate and monetize risk.

Bring on the bankers and insurance professionals and let’s work together.