The Plenty 20

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

The Plenty 20 logo designed by Hinterland

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 (, 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.                         

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Issue 25

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