Celebrating Eco-Progress: Green Business

This installment of Celebrating Eco-Progress, rather than highlighting the sustainability efforts of one company in particular, highly recommends digging into GreenBiz.com‘s 2011 State of Green Business Report.

While reading the entire report is illuminating, I thought I’d bring focus on one excerpt titled Consumer Giants Awaken to Green, which names a number of HUGE companies that have made recent commitments to sustainability.

Large consumer packaged goods companies, the so-called CPGs, have long been reluctant entrants into the green world. The makers of the leading brands of detergents, personal care products, processed foods, and other things found up and down supermarket aisles have stayed largely on the sidelines, viewing green marketing as a risky, if not losing, proposition. Suddenly, the world’s biggest brands seem to be leading the way. Kraft, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson, and Unilever were among the CPGs making green pronouncements during 2010.

Elsewhere in the report, there is acknowledgment that, as I wrote last week, progress usually has an up-and-down trajectory. And yet…

What’s encouraging about this year’s report is the momentum we see, embodied in the stories my colleagues at GreenBiz.com bring every business day. While not every story is earth-shattering, the corporate commitments and achievements continue to grow every year in both size and scope. During 2010, for example, we saw major corporate commitments from Procter & Gamble and Unilever; major commitments to buy electric vehicles by GE and other companies; a new wave of water footprint assessments by several large companies; zero-waste accomplishments by GM, Kraft, and others; a new generation of green chemistry coming from Dow, BASF, and others; plant-based plastics being used by several major consumer packaged goods companies.

These are encouraging signs of progress indeed, and absolutely reasons to celebrate.

Vacation Irony Is A Cruel, Cruel Thing

costaSo this funny thing happened yesterday.

As some of you might have noticed, I posted a long-ish, self-pitying rant yesterday about how badly I need a vacation and how plans to schedule one were foiled in a maddening variety of ways.

Well, when I checked Fish & Bicycles‘ visitor stats this morning I discovered that, for some reason, the very same day, someone read through a series of entries I posted almost exactly a year ago, entries about…

…the last vacation I did manage to pull off, a fantastic, adventure-filled journey through Costa Rica. (All entries were tagged ‘Costa Rica’ and can be found here.)

That’s.Just.Plain.Cruel.

In an apparently uncontrollable spasm of masochism, sitting in my office on this gloomy and blustery day, I decided to re-read the many posts from that amazing trip, a trip filled with lush, tropical rain forest, a lovely Central American culture so radically different from our own, close encounters with hummingbirds, macaws, monkeys, coati mundi, and a tarantula, swimming in pools, rivers, waterfalls, hot springs, and a bath-water-warm Pacific Ocean, etc.

I.Want.To.Go.Back.

For now, however, the plan is to book airline tickets this week for a trip in April for Spring Break, and rather than a tropical/beach trip, it’s looking like we’ll be heading back to a spot where we had a lot of fun in May of 2009: Joshua Tree National Park.

Rock climbing, wild flowers if we’re lucky, soaking in a hot tub under a dense field of stars in the vast desert night sky, and a brief visit with friends in Los Angeles.

Here we are doing a rain dance in a boulder field:

Missing: 1 vacation

It seemed so simple.

The son has the whole week before President’s Day off from school, a glorious thing called Midwinter Break, which, including the bookend weekends, adds up to a total of 10 days available to us.

A few measly days off around Christmas and the new year was not enough respite from months of the daily grind, and so I was highly motivated to get the hell out of Dodge and have some fun.

Planning not exactly a strong suit, I uncharacteristically plunged myself into the nightmare that is airfare shopping weeks and weeks ago, for the news that Alaska Airlines had started offering non-stop service from Bellingham to Honolulu, with an insanely cheap introductory fare of $149 round-trip, had sent me reeling with visions of palm tress, white sand beaches, and snorkeling in crystal clear blue water amidst coral and a spectrum of tropical fish.

Of course, this is Bellingham, where the winters send many otherwise happy, healthy, emotionally stable individuals into a deep, dark depression, and so, by the time I made it to the Alaska Airlines website, the $149 fare was sold out.

Trying to identify a Plan B started with a simple enough premise: sun, warmth, outdoor play. And yet, one by one, the ideas we came up with failed, either because the airfare was too steep and/or the temperatures this time of year in nearly every place we could afford to fly to didn’t meet the first two criteria.

Finally, we settled on a trip to Southern California. We’d fly into Los Angeles, rent a car, and drive to either Bishop, CA or Joshua Tree National Park, two rock climbing meccas, then drive back to Los Angeles to visit some friends there, and then home.

I even found a great fare on Virgin America and came close to buying our tickets, when we received an email informing us that our son’s youth marimba band will be playing a gig at the Ronald McDonald House in Seattle on Tuesday of our vacation week…and our son insisted that he can’t miss it.

After that, we batted around a couple of ideas for shorter getaways, but nothing seemed to stick. Seeing that I was getting disappointed because I so badly need some time off from work, my wife suggested that I just take off on my own, and for a very short time I fantasized about a road trip or a train trip, I had no idea where, but it would be some time to myself, something I never do…mainly because I prefer company.

And so I emailed my friends, all working parents, and asked if anyone wanted to take off on a spur of the moment getaway, that I had no real good ideas where to go or what I wanted to do, only that I didn’t want to go to Vegas.

Yeah, like THAT was going to work.

In the end, the son, wife, and I will be heading up to Canada for a few nights late in the week and into the weekend, to Harrison Hot Springs (pictured here) and Hemlock Valley Ski Resort. Not a week-long vacation, but possibly enough of a break from normal to get us through until Spring Break.

Now, let’s see. Sun, warmth, and outdoor play in early April…

Non-violence prevails in Egypt

So, Mubarak has resigned.

And while we’re left with many more questions than answers — What will this Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the body that has been put in charge of the county’s affairs, do now? What will Mubarak appointee Vice President Omar Suleiman’s role be? How quickly will reform be enacted? Will the people of Egypt get the government they want? Will there be elections soon? — the one thing that goes without question is this:

Non-violent revolution has once again been proven possible.

Yes, there was some violence (almost universally considered to have been instigated by pro-Mubarak supporters), and there could very likely be more before a stable government, supported by the majority of Egyptians, is in place.

But there was no war.

A 30-year reign by a brutal dictator was ended not by the people of Egypt taking up arms in a civil war or military coup, not by some other country storming in with shock and awe, but by millions of Egyptians taking to the streets for 18 days of non-stop demonstrations, by suffering tragic losses when they were attacked, and by resisting the seductive power of retaliation.

18 days!

Peaceniks and progressives across the globe needed to be reminded of what it really takes to non-violently oppose a powerful establishment. It takes more than a day of speeches and entertainment in front of the Lincoln Memorial. It takes more than a few days disrupting the meetings of the WTO or the G8.

More than organization (the Egyptian revolution was largely leaderless), it takes will and commitment and sacrifice.

But this isn’t just a message for peaceniks and progressives. It’s a message for all the cynics out there who rigorously argue that a non-violent alternative to war is not possible.

Once and for all, cynics, give it up. Ghandi’s example really should have stood on its own, but in the years since we’ve seen other examples, large and small, and now we’ve seen Egypt follow suit, the most populous state in the Arab world.

Today, it’s time to celebrate peace!

Rhett Miller & Old 97’s

I was into this band Old 97’s years ago, and I even liked frontman Rhett Miller‘s 2002 solo album, The Instigator, a lot, but then I got distracted by other music and lost track of them.

Nice surprise, then, to come across some videos from a recent in-studio appearance by Rhett at KEXP in Seattle, to find myself really enjoying them, and to remember how much I like Rhett as a songwriter and performer.

Since I’ve been a huge Bob Dylan fan for something like 30 years, it was especially fun to hear the song Champaign, Illinois, from Old 97’s new album The Grand Theatre, Volume One, which is described in this clip as having been inspired by Dylan’s song Desolation Row.

And for those of you not familiar with Old 97’s, here’s the whole band in action.

Celebrating Eco-Progress: Clorox

If you are anything like me, when you think “Clorox” words like toxic, chemicals, disease, deformities, and death come to mind.

And yet, today’s Celebrating Eco-Progress installment gives a hearty hats-off and a job well done to Clorox for substantial efforts towards sustainability.

Via GreenBiz:

Sustainability was one of four mega-trends observed by the Clorox Co. in 2006 as potential business opportunities.

Consumers’ desire for greener products led the company to launch a new green cleaning brand, acquire Burt’s Bees, and reposition the Brita brand to include a sustainability focus.

“That’s what really drove our focus on sustainability. It was all about growth,” said Clorox CEO Don Krauss. “It was also about being on the right side of the angels.”…

Clorox set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and water use each by 10 percent by 2013, relative to 2007 baselines. Clorox also plans to cut waste by 20 percent. The company is on track to meet the goals, Knauss said, and may even reach the targets a year ahead of schedule. All told, the efforts save the company about $25 million a year.

The company has also committed to green building and replaced its sales fleet with hybrids. Compensation is tied to sustainability performance through an Executive Scorecard. Even its philanthropy arm expanded its focus from K-12 education to improving families and childrens’ wellness.

It’s really worth the few additional minutes to read the whole short article, because it gets to the heart of the point I’ve been trying to make with Celebrating Progress; that the more we celebrate business efforts towards sustainability, the more we support them by buying their sustainable products, the more we motivate businesses to continue and expand their efforts.

As Don Krauss says:

Sustainability, he said, shouldn’t be a one-off effort and has the potential to grow the bottom line.

“You have to focus on sustainability as part of the overall strategy of the company,” Knauss said. “It can’t be a hobby.”

The Ups & Downs of Progress

While I could continue in the negative direction of my last post and go ballistic over news that a Washington State Senator — a Democrat no less! — is the lead sponsor of legislation that would charge Washington EV (electric vehicle) owners $100 per year to compensate for the fact that they won’t be paying tax on gas purchases, taxes that go toward the maintenance of roads that they will continue to use, albeit while not contributing to global climate change, I’d rather make peace with the fact that the road to progress is not a steady march forward.

Progress, instead, is susceptible to the same ups and downs that all life experiences tend to face. There will be setbacks, gross errors, maddening defeats of all shapes and sizes, and periodic one-step-up-two-steps-back dance sessions.

They key is to remember that for every down there can be an up, if we give up the downs will most certainly win, and so it’s up to us all to produce and celebrate more ups!

Therefore, while I could have written a rant on the first thing I came across at Inhabitat today, the Washington State EV fee, I’d rather celebrate the other EV news I found there a few hours later:

Proposed Bill To Give Electric Vehicle Buyers $7,500 Credit Right When They Buy

As a way to help advance President Barack Obama’s goal to get 1 million new EVs on the road by 2015, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow unveiled a legislative proposal on Monday that would give buyers of plug-in electric vehicles up to a $7,500 rebate at the point of purchase. Currently, buyers have to file their taxes to get the $7,500 federal rebate on electric cars, so receiving the credit right when they buy could really spur on EV sales.

The Charging America Forward Act would also award another $2 billion in grants to extend an existing public-private partnership to boost US production of advanced battery technologies. Additionally, businesses will get a tax credit for buying medium or heavy duty plug-in hybrid trucks until 2014. The credit would be worth between $15,000 and $100,000, depending on the size of the truck.

That’s awesome news and a great bill. Let’s all send Senator Debbie Stabenow an email thanking her, and let’s send emails to our own representatives in Congress urging them to support this bill.