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The Plenty 20 awards for 2008


Plenty Magazine recognizes 20 businesses, 20 people, and 10 ideas that will change our world


By Anuj Desai, Dan Fost, Liz Galst, Tobin Hack, Jessica A Knoblauch, Alisa Opar, Sarah Parsons, Mindy Pennybacker, Victoria Schlesinger, and Jessica Tzerman



There are game-changers and then there are world-changers. From Internet giants working to make renewable energy cheaper than coal, to a sea captain monitoring the ocean’s plastic waste, to the growth of intentional communities (they’re not just for hippies anymore)—welcome to Plenty’s second annual list honoring (in no particular order) 20 dynamic individuals and 20 pioneering companies that are bettering the planet, plus 10 innovative ideas that will revolutionize how we live. 

THE PLENTY 20 PEOPLE:
Al Gore
Andrew Revkin
Charles Moore
David de Rothschild
Fred Krupp
Frederick Kirschenmann
Heidi Cullen
James Hansen
Joe Lovett
Kathleen Sebelius
Kevin Wall
Lester Brown
Maude Barlow
Michael Pollan
Mindy Lubber
Nicholas Negroponte
Peter Diamandis
Van Jones
Vinod Khosla
William McDonough & Michael Braungart

THE PLENTY 20 BUSINESSES:
A123 System
Applied Materials
Arup
Bon Appétit Management Company
Coskata
Environmental Working Group
Forest Stewardship Council
Google
Home Depot
Iberdrola
IBM
Innovest Strategic Value Advisors
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Nike
Patagonia
Pizza Fusion
RecycleBank
Swiss Re
TransFair USA

THE PLENTY 20  IDEAS:
Carbon Labels
Closing the Loop
Economic Energy Efficiency
Green Affordable Housing
Green-Collar Jobs
Green Media
Intentional Communities
Living Catalogs
Nature Education
Skyscraper Farms


2008 The Plenty 20


THE PLENTY 20 PEOPLE

Maude Barlow
It’s been said we’ll launch 21st-century wars over water, not oil, but Canadian activist Barlow has been leading the battle for water justice for decades. She made international waves with her 2007 book, Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water; and her global initiative, Blue Planet Project, helped successfully lobby for groundwater protection in Vermont and is driving the push for a UN covenant declaring clean water a personal right.

Michael Pollan

An advocate for sustainability, heirloom species, and local food, Pollan turns a critical eye on both green (for example, industrial organic) and mainstream businesses. His charming humor and self-deprecation inspire readers to follow suit in planting gardens and asking farmers about their methods and produce managers about their sourcing. Pollan’s 2006 book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and his latest call for food-system reform, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Mani­festo, made bestseller lists.

David de Rothschild
If you combined Indiana Jones with Al Gore, you’d get 30-year-old David de Rothschild—a modern-day explorer hell-bent on saving the planet. He runs Adventure Ecology, an organization that spotlights global environmental crises through high-profile expeditions, like his fastest-ever crossing of the Greenland ice cap in 2005. De Rothschild also manages a self-sustaining organic farm and was named a Young Global Leader at the 2007 World Economic Forum. His list of feats is already legendary—including being the youngest Brit ever to reach both poles—but it’s his commitment to the planet that’s truly superlative. 

Al Gore
With a groundbreaking documentary, an Oscar, and a Nobel Peace Prize under his belt, Al Gore took a new approach to raising environmental awareness in 2007: advertising. His nonprofit Alliance for Climate Protection’s $300 million “We” campaign runs ads on American Idol, The Daily Show, and other programs, aiming to build support for fighting cli­mate change. Already, more than 1.4 million people have joined the campaign, demonstrating that Gore is on the cutting edge of environmentalism.

Nicholas Negroponte 
Author, entrepreneur, and MIT scholar Negroponte has helped spur innovation in technology and information science for the last four decades. The One Laptop Per Child Foundation is his latest triumph. Since mass production of the $188 computers began in November 2007, more than 600,000 children in schools from Uruguay to Rwanda have received OLPC’s solar- and human-powered XO laptops. The success of these super-cheap, super-efficient machines has inspired widespread innovation among computer makers.  

Lester Brown
An agricultural economist, Brown founded the Worldwatch Institute—one of the first organizations to address global sustainabil­ity issues—in 1974, and the Earth Policy Institute in 2001. He focuses on the world population’s effect on resources and predicted the cur­­rent food crisis. Among his more than 20 books is this year’s Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, a comprehensive strategy to reverse the effects of global warming by tackling four areas: climate, population, poverty, and ecosystems.

Mindy Lubber
As president of Ceres—a nonprofit assisting financial investors and cor­porations with environmental sustainability—Lubber works to expose the financial risks of global warming, making them an everyday part of investment decisions. Under Lubber, the group has advised 65 major institutional investors (including the state controller for California and CFO for Florida), representing a total of $5 trillion in investments. All have agreed to demand that their money managers disclose how they incorporate climate risk into their portfolios. 

Peter Diamandis
As chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, Diamandis dreams up lucrative competitions to design objects that benefit humanity. Most recently, he launched the Progressive Automotive X Prize. The $10 million quest is for a road-tested, production line–ready car that gets at least 100 miles per gallon (or the energy equivalent) and produces about 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional cars. Consider this the tech and auto worlds’ Nobel Prize. 

Charles Moore
Since 1997, Moore’s nonprofit, the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, has documented the “great Pacific garbage patch.” Also known as the Pacific Gyre, the 3.5 million tons of plastic floating in the ocean threaten organisms of all sizes, from whales to plankton. In 2007, Moore found not just a patch but a super-highway of junk running between San Francisco and Japan. The discovery garnered international media attention, and now governments are adopting Moore’s protocols to monitor plastic waste in the ocean.

Van Jones
Last year, Jones was instrumental in getting the city of Oakland, California, to fund an initiative to train citizens in green-collar jobs. But that’s just one of his environmental-justice achievements: As founder and president of Green For All, a non­profit whose goal is to decrease poverty and inequality by creating a green economy full of opportunities for disadvantaged communities, he also helped pass the national Green Jobs Act of 2007. The law provides $125 million to prep tens of thousands of people annually for work in eco-industries. 

Heidi Cullen
What to do when major news and weather channels refuse to acknowledge global warming? Bring in a peppy, brainy climatologist as the resident climate expert. The Weather Channel’s weekly Forecast Earth has soared in popularity since its expansion to an hour-long show in 2008, so while most weather anchors are stuck predicting “cloudy with a chance of showers,” Cullen gets to chill with the likes of Al Gore, Van Jones, and Sylvia Earle.

Andrew Revkin
In 2007, Revkin, The New York Times environment correspondent, launched his DotEarth blog. He uses this platform to examine, among other issues, humans’ impact on the environment and climate, and vice versa. In the first seven months, his 247 posts prompted 18,998 comments; monthly page views now average 400,000. Revkin is particularly concerned for the poor, who will be hardest hit by climate change and the expanding global population.

Vinod Khosla
When Vinod Khosla so much as glances at an emerging tech company, venture capitalists follow. Lately, he’s turned his attention to green-tech, focusing on cellulosic fuels, distributed and utility-scale solar, and bioplastics. The 52-year-old, whose net worth is $1.5 billion, made his money cofounding computer and network giant Sun Mi­crosystems and later betting on tech start-ups like Excite and Corvis.

Kevin Wall
Wall’s an old hand at producing major concerts, but last year’s Live Earth was his biggest effort yet. Eight concerts across the globe featured more than 150 top musical acts, including Madonna and Metallica, playing for 24 hours to some 2 billion people—all to raise awareness about global warming. For this year’s Live Earth, Wall has planned regional events around the world to tackle specific cultural and political challenges related to climate change. 

Kathleen Sebelius
In May, Kansas Governor Sebelius vetoed a bill for the third time to allow two new 700-megawatt coal-fired power plants to be built, citing their CO2 emissions as detrimental in the face of climate change. While Kansas gets 76 percent of its electricity from coal, Sebelius espouses conversion to wind power and has signed on to the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, which commits Midwestern governors to establish a regional cap-and-trade system to lower carbon emissions. 

William McDonough & Michael Braungart
Before a widespread concept of sustainability existed, McDonough and Braungart were working on a model for responsible living and intelligent design. The architect-chemist duo behind the Cradle to Cradle certification values eco-effectiveness (“good,” regenerative, closed-loop processes) over eco-efficiency (“less bad” cost-cutting measures). And if last year’s client roster is any indication—the US Postal Service and Seventh Generation were among those who sought their help—the Next Industrial Revolution they advocate might finally be underway.  

Fred Krupp
The president of the renowned nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Krupp greatly influenced the public and legal realms this past year. His New York Times bestseller, Earth: The Sequel: The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming is a useful guide for tomorrow’s tycoons and is an optimistic take on how private-sector innovation can save our planet. EDF also spearheaded a legal and media campaign that stopped energy titan TXU Corporation from building eight coal-fired plants in Texas. 

Joe Lovett
Lovett is a character straight out of a John Grisham novel: Ten years ago, he launched a successful legal career fighting environmental destruction in Big Coal country. Since cofounding the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment in 2001, Lovett has led efforts to nationalize mountaintop-removal mining (for easier monitoring) and has advanced precedent-setting litigation, taking the government and coal industry to task. This year, Lovett helped force a West Virginia mining company to stop exceeding discharge limits for a byproduct of mountaintop removal called selenium, a pollutant that causes fish deformities. The court order could have broad implications for the entire mining industry.

James Hansen
As head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, Hansen ranks as king of the climate scientists. For more than 20 years, he’s emphasized the disastrous consequences of continuing to spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Finally, officials and the general public are starting to listen. This year, Hansen and colleagues reported that the safe limit for atmospheric CO2 is no more than 350 parts per million—a level the world passed 20 years ago. 

Frederick Kirschenmann
Kirschenmann is a driving force in sustainable, mindful agriculture. A farmer, philosopher, and third-party organic certifier, he helped set the standards for the US Certified Organic label launched in 2002. His latest undertaking is a label identifying family-farm products grown with environmental and fair labor standards, with full transparency at every step—from farmers to retailers, chefs, and consumers. The slogan: Food you can trust, from people who trust each other. 


THE PLENTY 20 BUSINESSES
A123 Systems
The dawn of the hybrid car—not to mention $4-per-gallon gasoline—shows the importance of fuel-saving batteries. At the head of the class is A123. This Watertown, Massachusetts, start-up has a $148 million venture capital war chest that fueled a nanotech breakthrough: a battery that charges faster, holds more power, and is safer than anything out now. A123 is already taking orders for lithium batteries that turn a Toyota Prius into a plug-in machine clocking 100 miles per gallon; and by 2010, they will power GM’s Chevy Volt.

Applied Materials
Even as big-money  entrants crowd the solar field, Applied stands out as a likely winner. Already a Fortune 500 company producing computer chip–making equipment, Applied has repurposed its nanomanufacturing technology to create the largest thin-film solar cells in the world. Thin-film, which involves layering sunlight-reactive material to mold around a variety of bases, has sky-high potential because of its low cost and flexibility. As Applied works on increasing solar-film efficiency, this technology will likely play a starring role in the clean energy picture.

IBM
Big Blue has said it will spend $1 billion in its “Big Green” initiative to make its products more energy efficient (primarily in carbon-chomping corporate data centers). But IBM is also one of the key players in a movement that includes Fortune 500 companies, nimble start-ups, and electric utilities exploring ways to make the entire energy grid smarter. This means putting computer processors into every node so that companies can more accurately meter and charge for energy usage—creating incentives for efficiency unimaginable in the past.

Arup
Arup brings to life the cutting-edge eco-dreams of architecture’s stars. This inter­­national design and construction consultancy has worked on more than 1,000 green projects in the last ten years, with a portfolio spanning from the new Califor­nia Academy of Sciences and its living roof, by Renzo Piano, to the eco-city planned for Dongtan, China. Arup also advises clients about marine ecology, human health impacts, and noise pollution, as it brings the latest ideas in sustainabil­ity to the built environment.

Bon Appétit Management Company
You don’t need a neighborhood vegan café to boost your low-carbon diet—if you’re lucky enough to eat at one of the 400 companies, universities, or arts institutions (eBay, MIT, and the Seattle Art Museum among them) where Bon Appétit runs the cafeteria. With services spread across 28 states, this eco-company buys food accord­ing to deep-green principles that include direct purchasing from farmers and artisans located within 150 miles of where each meal is served. Commitment like this makes Bon Appétit the first and largest food services group in the country to address issues surrounding origin and social responsibility.

Coskata
A biofuel that doesn’t use food? Fill ’er up, please. This Illinois company says it can convert tires and glass as well as municipal and agricultural waste into fuel. With more than $10 million in­vested and a third round projected at $50 million more, Coskata plans to make one gallon of cellulosic ethanol for less than one dollar, using less than one gallon of water. The comp­any’s demon­stration plant is slated to open in 2009.

Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Eco-friendly from the start, this design duo made understated upholstery fashionable and has topped $100 million in sales. The company uses regenerated fibers and soy-based biomaterials in its seat cushions, nat­ural and recycled mate­rials made from plastic bottles in its pillows, and responsibly sourced wood in its furniture. Their eco-designs are available at big retailers like Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, and Pottery Barn, as well as at their own stores, where they also sell photography by Tipper Gore.

Environmental Working Group

The FDA doesn’t require cosmetics companies to test their products for safety, so the $250 billion industry can use any number of toxic ingre­dients. In 2004, the Environ­mental Working Group devel­oped a database called Skin Deep, available to the public online, that matches ingredients in nearly 30,000 products with 50 definitive toxicity and regulatory databases. Skin Deep makes EWG the de facto nonprofit looking out for consumers’ health. Their Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has also been a great success, getting more than 600 companies to pledge to replace hazardous chemicals in their products.

Pizza Fusion
If we’re going to make fast food eco-friendly, let’s start with pizza. Pizza Fusion shows how easily it can be done, using organic, locally sourced in­gredients to make a high-quality pie that’s then packaged responsibly and de­livered in a fleet of hybrids. Customers get discounts for bringing pizza boxes back, the only utensils are “spudware” (made from potatoes), and the company’s energy use is offset with wind credit purchases. Are you listening, Pizza Hut? 

Forest Stewardship Council
In Dr Seuss’ world, the Lorax spoke for the trees. In ours, we have the increasingly influential Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), created out of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to establish standards for sustainable forestry around the world. Beyond forest man­agement, the FSC reviews paper mills and building products with an evaluation that emphasizes eliminating water pollution, irresponsible logging, and chemical treatments—giving a green stamp of approval eco-consumers can rely on. Select furniture, musical instruments, and packaging companies are getting the FSC once-over, too.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) created the IPCC in 1988 to provide objective information about human-induced climate change. Nineteen years later, the IPCC’s volunteer scientific experts—the group considers its contributors to number in the thousands—were finally recognized for their efforts when they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for providing a scientific basis with which to frame the global warming crisis. The panel’s strong language, including chairman Rajendra Pachauri’s statement that “if there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late,” kick-started landmark legislation like America’s Climate Security Act of 2007 (though it was eventually killed) and has inspired initiatives worldwide to decrease carbon footprints. 

Home Depot
The world’s largest home improvement retailer started changing its ways with a 1999 wood-purchasing policy that has made the company one of the largest suppliers of certified wood on the planet. Less than 0.15 percent of its wood comes from the Brazilian Amazon basin, and the company pro­motes sustainable timber harvests in the region. In ad­dition, Home Depot demands fair-labor and environmentally friendly practices of its suppliers, and runs one of the world’s largest green-labeling programs: Its Eco Options brand certifies thousands of home products as eco-friendly. 

Iberdrola 
How can we meet our clean energy needs? The answer could be blowin’ in from Spain. Power company Iberdrola—the largest renewable-energy operator in the world, producing 2,739 million kilowatt-hours domestically—has announced plans to invest $8 billion in renewable energy (main­ly wind power) in the US in the next two years. Iberdrola also signed a deal to buy its turbines from General Electric, helping the Spanish giant reach its stated goal of generating 21,991 megawatts of wind power in the US by 2010.

Innovest Strategic Value Advisors
When investing in a company, why just look at the financials? Innovest believes a firm’s performance on environmental, social, and governance issues also gives clues as to how it will fare in the long run. Managed by seasoned senior executives from giants like Citibank and Royal Dutch/Shell Group, this financial services firm calculates the carbon as well as the cash flow. Innovest directs more than $1.3 billion in investments, but just think of the good that could come if its client base—with more than $7 trillion in assets—put all of its money under this green innovator’s direction.

Patagonia
Already a darling of the eco-set for their all-weather gear and for giving back to the planet, Patagonia took a major step forward in accountability this year with the launch of the Footprint Chronicles. This website discloses the eco-impacts—good and bad—of many of Patagonia’s products. (The Eco Rain Shell Jacket, for example, uses 100 percent recycled polyester components, but it also has a water-repellent finish made of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, “a synthetic chemical that is now persis­tent in the environment.”) Hopefully, other manufacturers will follow in Patagonia’s trail.

Nike
The giant Oregon-based sneaker-maker, once skewered by Michael Moore and others, is now a member of the industry-funded Fair Labor Association and scores highest among apparel companies for reducing its carbon footprint, according to Climate Counts. Nike’s Considered program has launched some impressive products—including the Air Jordan XX3, made with eco-rubber and a water-based bond­ing process—and has helped the company set some audacious goals for reducing toxics and waste and using more environ­mentally friendly materials. Expect big changes from Nike’s full footwear line by 2011 and its apparel line come 2015. 

RecycleBank
For all the talk about recycling, not many people actually do it—less than 10 percent of households. RecycleBank, started in Philadelphia but going nationwide in the next few years, offers incentives that go beyond green. Your recyclables are weighed upon pickup, and based on the weight, you get reward dollars for discounts at more than 250 US retailers, including Starbucks and Ikea, and save on earth-friendly choices like Stonyfield Farms and Sun & Earth. Thanks to RecycleBank, the trash bin is becoming the bargain bin.

TransFair USA
Get a whiff of this: TransFair USA, already famous for certifying coffee as Fair Trade, added flowers and honey this year to a list that includes tea, herbs, vanilla, chocolate, rice, sugar, and bananas. More than 1.4 million producers racked up $2.21 billion in sales of TransFair-certified Fair Trade products in 2006 alone. That means farmers are paid a premium for making sure they grow their goods sustainably and pay their workers fairly. Diamonds could be next, compliments of a grant from the Tiffany & Co Foundation. Wouldn’t that jewel look lovely in TransFair’s crown?

Google
The Internet giant is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to find a clean, low-cost form of energy, for reasons both self-serving—it uses a lot of power—and altruistic. With a joint corporate and philanthropic effort investing $30 million in cleantech start-ups this year alone, Google’s RE<C (renewable energy cheaper than coal) program wants to spur inexpensive, large-scale production of clean energy. Google’s own facilities are home to one of the largest corporate solar installations in the country, and it’s hiring top engineers and energy experts in a massive research and development effort seeking lean, clean power.

Swiss Re
After 145 years, this insurer to insurance companies (the largest of its kind) knows about taking—and surviving—risks. Because they often pay out after natural disasters and poor weather, Swiss Re is now playing a leading role in tackling climate change. The reinsurance giant is a pioneer in buying certified emission reductions (CERs) and high-quality verified emission reductions (VERs) to make itself “greenhouse neutral.” It’s also advocating for index insurance for climate risk management and pushing global leaders to adapt what it views as sensible environmental policies. Swiss Re makes money by staying ahead of risk trends, so it’s no surprise it’s on the cutting edge here, providing valuable leadership on climate change.


THE PLENTY 20  IDEAS

NATURE EDUCATION
Government officials and the media are (finally!) trying to transform today’s children from couch potatoes into naturalists. The movement started with Richard Louv’s 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. In 2007, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD) proposed the No Child Left Inside Act, legislation that would provide $500 million to implement environmental education programs in America’s schools. And now, some states are taking action, too: This year, environmental groups in New Mexico lobbied for a “sin tax” on new televi­sions and video games—if imposed, the tax could provide $4 million a year for outdoor education programs. 

CLOSING THE LOOP
Landfills are suffocating under the more than 200 million tons of garbage that Americans produce each year. To remedy the situation—and eliminate the concept of waste altogether—eco-minded companies are creating Cradle to Cradle–style products and take-back programs (see page 67). Patagonia customers can return used Common Threads apparel, and the company will turn it into new clothing. Nike takes back worn athletic shoes (of any brand), grinds them up, and makes sporting and playground surfaces. And pet-toy manufacturer West Paw Design asks customers to return chewed up toys from the Zogoflex line—the company will make a new toy from the remains, free of charge. 

GREEN AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Why should green housing be the exclusive domain of eco-conscious movie stars? Shouldn’t our nation’s low-income residents—about a third of American households—also benefit from lower energy costs and improved indoor air quality? A recent report by the affordable housing group Enterprise Community Partners found that greening the nation’s existing affordable housing stock could save “up to 50 million tons of CO2” over a ten-year peri­od. Proof of the health benefits can be seen at the High Point Homes, a former housing project turned thriving, mixed-income community in Seattle, where the percentage of asthmatic chil­dren needing “urgent clinical care” dropped from almost 62 percent to 21 percent. With green afford­able homes, the poor and the planet benefit together.  

SKYSCRAPER FARMS
During the next 50 years, the world’s population may reach 9 billion people, and the vast majority will live in urban areas. Feeding those hungry mouths could require clearing an additional 10 billion hectares for farming (an area the size of Brazil). But there is another, more innovative solution on the table: farming in skyscrapers. The Sky Farm, proposed for downtown Toronto, would stand 58-stories high and produce enough food to feed 35,000 people each year. Envisioned for New York City, the 30-story Vertical Farm would cultivate a variety of produce and grains, support aquaculture and perhaps poultry, and employ energy- and water-saving practices—all without pesticides or transportation costs.  

INTENTIONAL COMMUNITIES
Newsflash: Communes aren’t just for hippies anymore. You don’t have to pat on patchouli or live in a tent to join one of the 385 registered eco-villages or 500 cohousing projects around the globe. Eco-villages—communities or towns united by residents’ attention to sustain­ability, conservation, local living, and respect for nature—won’t save the world all on their own, but they are safe-havens for the ambitiously eco and inspiring models for the rest of us. Offshoot concepts such as farm shares (for example, Community-Supported Agriculture shares, or CSAs), student co-ops, urban housing coop­eratives, and even green retirement homes are already sprouting up countrywide.   

GREEN MEDIA
Gone are the days when writers, producers, and media corporations were content to sprinkle a token green-bite into their regular programming. Television, print, radio, film, and the Internet are experiencing a kind of revolution. It’s now protocol—even high-brow—to devote an entire issue, radio show, or news website to environmental coverage. But the most extreme eco-media gamble to date? The Discovery Channel’s 2008 launch of Planet Green, the first-ever 24-hour TV channel devoted entirely to the environment. 

GREEN-COLLAR JOBS
As green business grows, so does skilled employment in sectors like energy retrofits, sustainable building, infrastructure, and food production. These green-collar jobs provide training and pay better than a living wage: They’ll also seed environmental awareness and economic well-being in low-income neighborhoods. A 2007 report by the City of Berkeley, California, recommends the nation remove barriers to entry such as lack of a high school diploma; form a Green Business Council; and provide more affordable space for green businesses. And early-action programs in inner-city communities—like the Green Jobs Corps in Oakland, California, and Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training in New York—are giving youth a grip on the green career ladder. 

CARBON LABELS
Not to be confused with carbon offsets, carbon labels reveal the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during a product’s manufacture and shipping. Tim­berland’s “nutritional” label gives a shoe a carbon rating from zero (less than 2.5 kg of CO2) to ten (100 kg). Suit manufacturer Bagir gives its new recycled–wool/poly menswear a 15 kg carbon label. In the UK, each packet of PepsiCo’s Walkers potato chips accounts for 75 grams, and Tesco supermarkets have carbon-labeled 20 items. But that’s not all: Britain’s Carbon Trust (carbontrust.co.uk), a government-funded nonprofit, is setting uniform national standards to avoid the pitfalls of company self-monitoring.       

ECONOMIC ENERGY EFFICIENCY
There’s a new approach to retrofitting residences for energy efficiency: Make it so affordable that renters and homeowners get onboard. Under new Pay As You Save projects in New Hampshire and Hawaii, an energy provider would supply the capital for renewable energy products like, say, solar water heaters. Tenants then pay an extra charge on their monthly utility bill to cover the provider’s investment, but because of the energy savings, the overall bill is lower. Through the REnU program, homeowners in all but nine states can rent solar panels for one, five, or twenty-five years, paying a per-kilowatt fee instead of a local utility bill. The fixed monthly rate means that as energy prices rise, participants will reduce their carbon footprints and save money. So far, more than 30,000 people have signed up.      

LIVING CATALOGS
Soaring extinction rates and declining biodiversity have spurred international projects that collect, store, and analyze life, and use those findings to aid in conservation. In February, the Encyclopedia of Life went live; currently the online database contains few entries, but the goal is to cover all 1.8 million known species. On the same day, the Global Seed Vault opened its doors, aiming to stockpile seeds to preserve crop diversity. The San Diego Zoo’s Frozen Zoo has lofty aspirations to cryogenically preserve genetic material from every animal on the earth to conserve genetic diversity. And one of the most ambitious projects yet, the Consortium for the Barcode of Life, is developing technology to quickly and accurately identify creatures by a genetic sequence, much as supermarket scanners distinguish products with Universal Product Codes.                         


Comments

I understand it's a print magazine article we're seeing here, but I'm still surprised at the lack of links for the people, companies, and ideas mentioned. I take it as a good sign of my life direction that I'm working on converging several of the listed ideas and have worked with or studied under some of the people listed.

One minor quibble: Your reference to ecovillages as "safe havens" understates the environmental and social benefits of community living... far beyond the "sticks and bricks" of green building, it helps us teach each other how to get greener every day. I'm living the dream in one of the 113 U.S. cohousing neighborhoods, leveraging the mortgage system, camouflaged as a mild-mannered condominium, changing the world, one neighborhood at a time.

Here's a good intro and some links to modern cohousing: http://www.brightfuture.us/new/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=222&Itemid=31

I really like this list.