Carbon Crusaders


Sick Site: Nothing is Perfect, but What is too Far? by ddelcourt
July 25, 2007, 7:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I recently ran across Carbon Credit Killers, a site dedicated to bulldozing and razing trees in order to “take away the pathetic excuse of Carbon Credits from those liberals who hide their shame filled lives behind money-bought lunacy.” I thought the site was a farce, run by the Onion or the Daily Show. But lo and behold, I am wrong. This organization sells carbon debits, designed to offset the carbon credits Al Gore and other “liberals” purchase to offset their footprint. I don’t want to give them any more publicity than this. Suffice it to say they represent an opportunistic, sardonic business plan that I despise. Enough.

Besides the absurdity of the site, this of course brings up the question of whether carbon credits are simply “feel good” indulgences for our environmental sins, or if they represent a positive ecologic solution to climate change issues. What it comes down to are two factors. The first, and most important, is whether these offsets are used to justify additional consumption. In the case where an individual has reduced to a minimum carbon impact level, then carbon credits are a method to take responsibility for their remaining footprint without abandoning house and car for nomadic living.

The second question relates to the carbon credits themselves. The additionality principle is often referred to. The simplest way of describing additionality is with this question: “Would these projects have been built if there were no credits?” If the answer is yes, then the credits are not additional and should not really be counted as offsets. For instance, if a forest that was devastated during hurricane Katrina was to be replanted, that forest should not be given carbon credits. Why? Because there is no added benefit. The forest before and the the forest after would have absorbed the same amount of carbon.

When it comes down to it, credits should be approached as an imperfect solution. However, they are one of the best options in the short term. What is not a solution is to do what the folks at Carbon Killers are doing, and try to rectify the issue by tearing down trees. What ignorance. Don’t agree? I’d love to hear why.



The “I’m not a plastic bag” bag by ddelcourt
July 21, 2007, 7:23 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Women’s accessory designer Anya Hindmarch has made a statement with her “I’m Not a Plastic Bag” totes, available throughout the globe in absurdly limited quantities. Offerings have been met with sell-out crowds and such high-interest that Anya’s website announced the cancellation of several east Asian offerings due to safety concerns.

What interests me most is not the bag itself (sorry, in the fashion vs function world I favor function), but rather the huge response her product got. These bags are not pricey. Normally Hindmarch’s tote bags fetch over $300, far out of most people’s range. However, these are $15 bags… that’s three lattes or one lunch. If this is the type of response we can expect from well designed products that promote sustainability, I’m all for it.

Let’s face it, most of the “green” products out there are too expensive for the regular consumer, and are designed to stand-out in the crowd. The Prius looks like a space age hatchback that carries a $5,000 premium (which you make back on gas savings of course!). Levi’s eco jeans line sell for over 100-150% of their traditional counterparts… I don’t believe for a second the markup is due to materials costs. Instead, these and so many other products, carry a green premium because those consumers interested in these products have been willing to pay the higher price tag for sustainability.

The laws of supply and demand have to be put to work in order for this movement to continue to grow. Prices for green products have to drop while green products themselves need to be made more widely appealing. Hindmarch’s bags are a perfect example of a fashionable, functional, affordable green product which has not only captured consumers but is spreading the awareness that is needed to drive this movement. I’m impressed. Now how can I get one of those bags?



Green-Collar Jobs by bnbrown11
July 19, 2007, 7:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I attended a “Green Jobs Forum” in Boston earlier this week. It was host to a range of influential speakers, most notably John Kerry and Van Jones, who reminded us that the next wave of the environmental movement will rely on repudiating it’s elitism, or as Van Jones put it, “you shouldn’t have to buy a hybrid to get involved”.

The truth is, the green retrofitting of America will represent one of the largest labor opportunities in the 21st century – our generation’s new deal. More importantly, a high portion of those jobs will be for lower income workers. It represents an opportunity to bridge both the socio-economic and environmental divides in America. To reclaim, revive and reconnect communities. It is becoming clear that we must move beyond the eco-apartheid that has confined the environmental movement since the 70’s. We must surge towards eco-equity and the recommendations put forth by the forum for government programs represent a great start in that direction.

Recommendations:

1. Green Enterprise Zones, where the city works with local labor and businesses to bring green businesses into underserved neighborhoods.

2. Prepare a green workforce. Start with “people with barriers to employment” — e.g., conviction, no high school diploma, etc. Don’t just start with people already in the workforce. It will cost more up front ($8-10,000 vs. $1-2,000 per person). But it saves a lot more elsewhere. These folks are not out hurting the neighborhood — instead, they’re working to benefit their communities, take care of their families, etc.

Click here for a more detailed discussion of the “Green Jobs Forum”.

Click here for more information on Van Jones and “The Reclaim the Future” initiative in California.



Farmer’s markets (berry nice) by ddelcourt
July 16, 2007, 11:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This morning I took a walk through the farmers market. I always seem to be busy during the 11am-5:30pm market, but today I had to have a look. Fresh vegetables, fruit, local baked were just a few of the delicacies I found. At their roots, farmers markets represent just about everything I seek out in my shopping. They promote a local economy, offer the freshest, healthy produce and often are a much more friendly environment to shop in then your average large supermarket chain. Today, I spoke at length with one of the farmers (Farmer Al) about the blueberries and raspberries he had. He proudly pointed out they were pesticide free, organically grown and tasty to boot! I bought a quart of each and can vouch for their flavor.

If you don’t know of the farmer’s market nearest you, check out the USDA’s farmer’s market map. Of course, this is a great resource but is in no way exhaustive. Local coffee shops or book stores have postings here in Boston. In the meantime, I’m polishing off the remainder of the blueberries and raspberries, waiting for that stomach ache around 8 this evening.



It’s a (Press) Wrap: Thanks! by ddelcourt
July 11, 2007, 2:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

MakeMeSustainable officially launched a week ago yesterday. It was 3:30am when Matt Marshall at VentureBeat released our first coverage story, which was followed by an exchange of high fives and iced coffee cheers. Matt set the tone for what would be an eventful week of positive reviews, characterized by support for the mission, design praise, and excitement (and good suggestions) for upcoming functionality releases. I must thank Josh Dilworth at Porter Novelli for all his great work, and also each reporter who took the time and energy to cover our project (see links below). MakeMeSustainable is more then a business for me and my co-founders Ben and Adam, it’s service fueled by the belief that we can in fact make a real difference for the environment, our wallets and our community.

I don’t want to single out any one article here, but I’d like to list a few of great quotes from a some of the coverage. I will provide the links to all of the articles (that I’m aware of!!) below. Please read through a few of them, and if you like them feel free to Digg, post, delicious, or whatever you would like to do. Oh, and these are in no particular order.

Jeremy Jacquot from Treehugger wrote: “Overall I came away very impressed with the website (especially since it’s still in beta) and the creators’ overarching mission: providing a simple-to-use yet extremely powerful toolset to allow individuals or organizations to go one step further and actually take control of their environmental impact.” Thanks, here’s the link!

Terrence Russell from Wired’s Epicenter Blog: “From my experience, I can say that the site excels in its ability to provide users with a set of tools to quantify their environmental impact.” Exactly, and you can quantify your $$ savings from that environmental reductions! Link is here.

Matt Marshall from VentureBeat: “Amid growing concerns about the environment, several other sites have emerged lately to let you measure and then offset your carbon usage — such as Terrapass and Begreen — but no other site we’re aware of can track your carbon usage daily.” Check out VentureBeat’s article.

Kristen Nicole’s Mashable article “MakeMeSustainable Launches Great Community for Living Green” says: “This is a dynamic service, so as you change your behavior, your footprint will reflect the actions you’re taking to improve the environment (…) MakeMeSustainable will also show you how much money you’re saving per year, and all of this information is displayed in graphical representations as well.” Link here.

Elsa Wenzel from CNet’s Webware blog: “Despite those wishes, MakeMeSustainable’s efforts are an impressive start, especially for a tiny startup that is only beginning to secure outside funding. I plan to keep using it. ” See that article here.

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg for GreenOptions: “One word really sums it up: empowerment. The team at MMS want to empower users with the tools and knowledge that will help them actively reduce their carbon emissions, and connect with others who want to do the same.” Link here

Robin Raskin from Yahoo!Tech: “A Green Site where Actions Speak Louder then Words”

Brian Heater for PCMag’s Appscout blog: “MakeMeSustainable: Reducing your Carbon Emissions Socially”

Jesse Noyes at the Boston Herald: “Web site helps you find energy-use profile”

Ok, I’ll stop. There are others I’m sure and I apologize for leaving them out. On the whole we have been very pleased with the press coverage and have gotten excellent feedback through each article. One entrepreneurial lesson learned, is that it is always worth 30 minutes of your time to chat with reporter. They ask the right questions and get you thinking about issues you never knew existed. So, thank you to everyone who covered us, blogged about MakeMeSustainable, Dugg us, commented, or signed up.



Live Earth: a reflection by ddelcourt
July 9, 2007, 7:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yesterday’s (and today’s) Live Earth concert was amped up to be the largest event for global warming awareness, with an estimated 2 billion viewers world wide. I was one of those viewers, and must admit I enjoyed Al’s introduction, bounced to the Chili Pepper’s exuberance, and loved the Police’s performance…they’re just in a class by themselves. Oh, and a shout out to MA’s John Mayer on guitar and Chicago’s very own Kanye for “Message in a Bottle.” I did not get a chance to see beyond London, though I will be looking for the British research band’s set from Antarctica.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this concert was a PHENOMENAL awareness booster. Layered on top of his monumental documentary and congressional hearings, Al is more then a carbon crusader, he’s a personal hero. But now come the tougher questions. Was the huge energy, cost, and resource mobilization that went into this concert, the promotions, and coordination really worth the level of awareness grown from the event? I don’t think we can answer this question yet. However, I feel in order for the concert to prove successful, this huge event has to translate into individual level, grassroots, localized environmental awareness and change.

I remain confident that with top-down pressure from people like Al, Bloomberg, and Schwarzenegger, political action is all but guaranteed. What is required now is bottom-up change, recycling at home, abandoning disposable coffee cups, and so many other small changes that will lead to larger environmental actions and a real difference. We as individuals and communities need to co-opt the Live Earth energy and transform it into positive, concrete change.

My hat is off to all the artists and the organizers who put LE together. Now I hope to extend my applause to all the viewers and audience.



MakeMeSustainable Officially Launched by makemesustainable
July 2, 2007, 8:18 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hello all,

We are proud to announce that after close to three years of idea grinding and burning the midnight oil (metaphorically and sustainably speaking), MakeMeSustainable.com Beta opened its doors today. The site was designed to be a vehicle for connecting concern for the environment with behavior. About empowering people to affect change in their lives and communities.

We look forward to seeing you online and we welcome as much feedback as possible (we’re a beta). So please feel free to contact us through the MMS feedback loop on the website. We can also be reached at feedback@makemesustainable.com. Now get out there and move, act, and help build this community for change.

Ben, David, and Adam