Tuesday, March 31, 2009

McDeceit: no Earth Day credit for you!

For Earth Day 2009, monuments from all corners of the planet will dim its lights for an hour to celebrate earth and emphasize the threat of climate change--from a research base in Antarctic to the floodlights at the foot of Great Pyramids of Egypt to the Colosseum in Rome to the Empire State building in New York and to the Acropolis in Athens.
The golden arches of McDonald's wants in on it too. Let's count them in for Earth Hour! After all, they've been making great strides towards being verdant. McDonald's will dim the lights of its golden arches at all of its restaurants.* Unfortunately, McDonald's does not have the legal right to order its franchisees to dim their lights. As a result, only 1.5% of McDonald's locations will be participating in Earth Hour.

* Offer valid at participating locations only. Prices may vary.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Paperless baseball cards and newspapers

This month began with an online outcry against United Airlines that touched upon paperlessness, followed by GE wasting paper and then by FedEx giving away free paper. Other paperless forms have taken shape this month, including cultural mainstays: newspapers and baseball cards.
Let's start with baseball cards. I still have my complete collection. Had I sold them in the early 90s, I might have been able to get a fair return on my debilitating habit of buying and collecting baseball cards. On a more positive note, the backs of each card gave me the gift and curse of a lifelong obsession for baseball statistical analysis. As a currency, baseball cards were over-printed and consequently devalued to worthlessness. For the 2009 season, Topps launched Topps 3D Live cards that come in ToppsAttax packs. A collector can hold up a card to a webcam and the featured player is brought to life in 3D. This will placate any baseball nut for hours, especially with fielding practice drills and detailed baseball statistics. Baseball statistics will live forever; but if baseball cards weren't dead already, this clearly marks the death its value on paper.
Now onto newspapers... If print is dead, just how dead is it, if it's still around? This month, the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Seattle's oldest newspaper, becomes the first major metro daily to go online--exclusively. While the Seattle P-I retreated to digital because of financial hardships, this could be the beginning of a trend for other newspapers to survive financially. Plus, with gadgets like the kindle, newsprint looks and feels more and more like a dirty mess. Unpopular magazines and newspapers may soon seem as distant as the days of when baseball cards were valuable.

Addendums for March

- Contrary to Verdantic's hopes and predictions last week, Exxon didn't do anything for the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill.
- Verdantic was recently confronted by a reader about what veganism or vegetarian has to do with verdancy? In other words, how is eating meat environmentally unsound, if it is a natural point along the circle of life?
Our world is no longer perfect, but if it were, animals could graze on grass and we could collect their manure to fertilize other produce. Unfortunately, a calf is ready for slaughter as soon as 14 months because it is loaded with hormones while it eats 25 pounds of corn per day. Thus, its manure is too toxic to use as fertilizer and also ruinous to wildlife in waterways. Starting from fresh and whole foods, the more a food is processed, the further it moves up the food chain. Since all farm animals eat corn, they have already progressed along the food chain. Moving up the food chain drastically reduces the food energy, while it requires more energy to produce and transport. In addition to wasting food, it is a waste of valuable calories, nutrients and natural resources.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The cheapest yet easiest on the environment

Who wants 47 miles to the gallon? Everyone. Who wants to drive a 2-cylinder engine that maxes out at 65 mph's? Mind you: it's 5 x 10 feet--just slightly larger than a queen size bed mattress with stingy crumple zones. At least 1,000,000 people on the wait list in India want one. The Nano is the answer to India's growing middle-class with demand for car.
Today Tata Motors announced the release of the Nano, the world's cheapest car. Although it's not a hybrid nor an EV, the 4-door Nano has the smallest footprint and turning radius of any car in the world. Its base model begins at $2,200, but heat, air conditioning and power brakes can bring it up to $3,800.
Citizens of emerging economies, like India, shouldn't be inhibited to achieve. For those that have already plundered, polluted and depleted, all we can say, "do as I say, not as I do." While they may have fallen into our pitfalls, they have succeeded in achieving an innovative solution that blows away the $12,000 Chevrolet Aveo.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Exxon Valdez 20 years later

Remember 1989? The Oakland Athletics won the World Series. In this coming week, it will be 20 years since the Exxon Valdez spilled 10.8 million gallons of crude oil on March 24, 1989. If Verdantic had 3 wishes, here's what would happen on Tuesday the 24th:
1. Exxon breaks ground on a bird sanctuary dedicated to the 700,000 birds that perished in the wake of the spill. Fortunately for Exxon, this PR blemish shouldn't affect their announcements for their whopping first quarter earnings in a couple of weeks.
2. No one buys and reads Exxon's drunk captain, Joe Hazelwood's book, The Spill: Personal Stories from the Exxon Valdez Disaster. The 288-page book is intended to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the spill and supposed concludes with his sincere apology. For Joe's sake, I hope he doesn't agree to any book signings events at Barnes & Noble.
3. Sarah Palin agrees to meet with media to discuss Alaska's challenges of both energy exploration and wildlife conservation. (Couric: Gov. Palin, what do you mean by "shoring up our wildlife"?)

Of course, I wish Exxon would spend more on cleaning up the mess that still remains. I did already mention that Exxon's $45.2 billion in profits for 2008 set a U.S. history record.

Let's observe...

1 million electric cars by 2015

Prior to his insensitive gaffe on the Tonight Show yesterday, President Obama unveiled a $2.4 billion grant with a goal of reaching 1 million electric cars by 2015. He might have been a little too funny with Jay Leno, but our charismatic leader opened his speech at Edison International saying, "it's always nice to get out of Washington for a little bit, recharge your batteries." The main components of the plan include the following:

* The Department of Energy is offering up to $1.5 billion in grants to U.S. based manufacturers to produce electric vehicles, and up to $500 million in grants to produce other components needed for electric vehicles; and
* The Department of Energy is offering up to $400 million to demonstrate and evaluate Plug-In Hybrids and other electric infrastructure concepts.

China's plug-in car is already on the market selling for $20,000 and plans to sell 350,000 by the end of this year. Ford plans to bring four new EVs to market between 2010 and 2012. If GM rebounds from its current crisis, it could have its Volt on the market within 2 years. That might help offset their H2's 13 mpg and 3.4 metric tons of carbon emmissions per vehicle per year. From the stimulus package, $7,500 tax relief for families that purchase electric vehicles. By some estimates, Obama has already detailed at least $12 billion in EV funding within the stimulus package. Together with the additional $2.4 billion, that sounds a tad better. As an academic grant, that's huge but pardon me for being desensitized to exorbitant pricetags, e.g., AIG's $180 billion or even GM and Chrystler's $17.4 billion.
In his speech, Obama did also mention that we are importing more foreign oil now than we were on 9/11/2001. So how much money does the government get from import taxes on oil? That said, how much tax can be collected on Exxon's record-breaking $45.2 billion in profits in 2008?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nonrecyclable recycling at your neighborhood retail chain

Last resort should be landfill, but TerraCycle has a new solution for non-recyclable through convenient collection stations. TerraCycle collects unrecyclable products and creates them into new products, like gardenware, cleaners, handbags and office equipment. Pictured, the station collects tape rolls, caulking tubes, saw blades, paint brushes, chip bags, candy wrappers, fertilizer and soil bags, furnace filters and plastic bags.
TerraCycle locations were originally located at civic groups or schools, but has now gained greater reach and exposure thanks to partnerships with large retail chains such as Best Buy, Home Depot, OfficeMax and PETCO. The goal is to set up 10,000 stations at retail locations by 2010.
TerraCycle ensues its environmental quest with social responsibility: they will donate 2-6 cents to the charity of the collectors choice for each unit that enter the system. Not sure how effective or efficient this component might be, but then again, 6 cents can be considered as a lofty quarterly dividend on some stocks in today's economy.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Investing in the green

With blue chip stocks reaching all time lows and the resurgence of buying gold derivatives, making a profitable investment in a company is more difficult than ever. If you can't find a worthy investment for your money, might Verdantic suggest that you invest and support a green(er) organization?
CSR and green marketing can be deceiving, but how else should we judge the worthiness of an organization? Standards & Poor released its new service: S&P U.S. Carbon Efficient Index. With the help of Trucost, this index ranks companies in the S&P 500 by dividing an organization's carbon footprint with its annual revenue. In other words, how much pollution did you emit to make a buck?
It's not a perfect system, by far. GHG emission reports are not standardized. Further, it doesn't account for supply chains and outsourcing. That's like saying Nike is not responsible for sweat shops in Indonesia because they only buy the shoes but they don't own the factory. Unfortunately, the real bad guys are even allowed on the index. 100 of the most carbon intensive companies have been screened from the index so we looking at service sectors like insurance and banking as opposed to manufacturing and mining. I may have just ruined it for you, but it's a sign for better things to come and a handy shopping resource before you invest.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wall-E in good company

The Walt Disney Company unveiled its 3-5-year green strategy and plans to reduce its carbon footprint. By 2013, Disney announced that it will cut its emissions in half, reduce electricity consumption by 10% and halve its waste at its parks and resorts. Disney's long term goal is to net zero waste and emissions.
With summer around the corner, Disney's theme parks and resorts are still renowned for its 6-figure energy consumption and garbage generation. Disneyland will not be making any top 10 lists for green vacations, but it will be cutting its operating costs while reducing carbon footprints for vacationers.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Smells better on nice paper

Verdantic has mentioned FedEx twice; ambivalently at best but never in a positive manner. Fedex stores, formerly Kinko's, will help job seekers today (3/10) by offering one day of free resume printing. The service will offer up to 25 FREE COPIES of resumes submitted and picked up inside any of their 1,600 store for customers currently job hunting. "We understand that the economy has affected many people in a very profound way, and we want to help," said Brian Philips, president and CEO of FedEx Office.
With over 12 million unemployed Americans, this is a great service to our enocomy and country. It is certainly a better use of paper than GE's caper.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

GE: Let's blow a million pieces of paper!


This interactive content was brought to my attention by one of Verdantic's readers. On GE's website, there is digital hologram that you can make by printing out a "solar panel marker" on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. It doesn't provide any additional insight on the Smart Grid technology but it does look kinda cool. I won't hate you for doing it. Caveat: the solar panel marker prints bold black lines rendering the reverse side of the sheet useless. Thus, the printout may have to be discharged without the possibility of being re-used, so share your solar panel marker with a friend or co-worker.

Friday, March 6, 2009

And now, a Verdantic PSA on improving health & safety

I trust that my friends, cohorts, classmates and professors are respectful of bicyclists on the road; so instead, this message is intended for double-parkers, heedless car door-openers, cab drivers and FedEx truckers.

Nota Bene: dear NYPD, stop pulling me over. Know the law. I'm not trying to be a smartass when I tell you, "I am NOT required to ride in the bike lane."
102-a. Bicycle lane. A portion of the roadway which has been designated by striping, signing and pavement markings for the PREFERENTIAL or exclusive use of bicycles.

34 RCNY 4-12(p)(1) states that bicyclists should ride in usable bike lanes, unless they are preparing to turn, or are avoiding unsafe conditions (including but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, motor vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, pushcarts, animals, surface hazards).
Bike lanes are far from safe in NYC--especially due to emissions from police horses in our lane. Therefore, bicyclists should not be willed to ride in unsafe bike lanes.

Economic necessity driving Americans towards Veganism

In our modern depression, those with homes should be thankful. With family budgets as tight as they are right now, American diets are changing. People were eating scraps and garbage during the Great Depression, but some of the finest Americana cuisine did result from the hardships.
  • Spam
  • Kraft macaroni and cheese
  • Bisquick
  • Ritz Crackers
  • Kool-Aid
Today, with fluctuating gas and transportation costs, ethanol affecting grain-based goods, Americans are eating more eggs, fresh vegetables and milk, while eating less meat, processed foods and snacks; buying less food for pets; and surprisingly consuming less alcohol. OK, "towards Veganism" might be an overstatement, but apart from animal compassion, this is a much greener and healthier way to live, especially if brand communications won't be contributing in this regard. Benevolent anti-obesity campaigns will never suggest a healthier diet, rather they promote exercise with sports celebrities. Obviously, a healthier diet would detract revenue from Pepsi's drinks and its Frito Lay chips--but not so much for its Tropicana division.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

'Smells better when wrapped in green

A recent study shows that while most Americans identify with the word sustainability, only half can define it. Good enough.

In The Hartman Group’s Sustainability Outlook: The Rise of Consumer Responsibility, the Bellevue, WA-based firm found that the ability to have some kind of afterlife is the packaging feature that matters to them most--recycling, that is. 75% ranked the ability to return a product’s vessel to the consumer marketplace via curbside bins as either “very important” or “important.” The feature that ranked next in packaging preference was biodegradability, 71%. Oddly, both these choices outranked minimal packaging, 62%, which one would think would require less recycling and biodegrading. That makes sense: the mantra of the 3 R's is working. First and foremost, reduce above all else.

The study proves that consumers want to be greener even if they don't know how or what it even means. At the risk of revenue loss or decrease earnings per share, brands will have to be more innovative with their packaging. Whatever motivates a brand towards verdancy, even monetarily, is a step in the right direction. Even Wal-Mart's lofty sustainability goals are endearing.

Wal-Mart’s environmental goals are simple and straightforward: to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy; to create zero waste; and to sell products that sustain our natural resources and the environment.

To their credit, Wal-Mart's 15-truck fleet has been retooled to run on used cooking grease, from oil left over from frying chicken in Wal-Mart delicatessens is a great concept. It lands on many parts of the circle of life in consumerism. The truck is fueled by grease from leftover grease that came fattened customers that paid for the overhead on the truck and fryer.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The 2009 Verdantic Cell Phone Awards

Something tells me that an early adopter doesn't wait for his or her cell phone carrier's offer of free phone every 2 years. In which case, greener cell phones are an excellent idea. Verdantic would like to acknowledge and award the following cell phones for its excellence in the following areas.The Samsung Blue Earth Phone.
- Best screenplay & Best special effects
It has a touchscreen that generates all of its required operating power from the solar panel built into the back. Not sure how this works inside your pocket or handbag but it'd be great to not have to deal with wall chargers. Plus, most of it is made from PCM, a plastic extracted from recycled water bottles.2. Nokia's Wooden Phone.
- Best picture & Best costume
This phone is made from sustainably harvested wood and it has an 8.0 megapixel camera. It kinda looks like a Tivoli radio, no?

3. Motorola Renew.
- Best director & Best actor

It's made from PCM plastics and it is certified Carbonfree through the carbonfund.org. The phone's carbon existence is being offset by Motorola. It's a damn ugly phone but it is the only phone that promises to be a good phone with its CrystalTalk technology.

* * * * *

And remember, throwing your phone and its batteries in the trash is illegal in New York City. Stores that sell batteries are required to accept them for recycling, so have them deal with it. And thankfully large retailers are required to accept and recycle plastic bags, but not type 1 plastics, from which PCM is harvested.

Paperless airline eBitching

Blogging live from SFO, the birthplace and haven of Verdantic. Getting back to NYC looks doubtful due to inclement weather on both ends. 4 flights from SFO-JFK have been canceled today but my flight in from Shanghai was thankfully rather uneventful. Nonetheless, I hate United Airlines. On both flights across the Pacific, we were informed over the intercom, “we will be serving a light lunch followed by a beverage, then followed by a light dinner.” Verdantic is all for smaller portions, dietary restraints and anti-obesity, but being hungry, trapped and staring at a mayonnaise sandwich and some shitty snacks is not okay. I also was bereft of my Economy Plus ticket and thrown into Economy. They didn’t budge when I spoke to them in Mandarin so I left and came back as a foreigner--clobbering them with English words and gestures until I got my Economy Plus ticket back.
Verdantic is not the letter writing type because I can get over things and not hold a grudge. Plus, writing letters is a waste of paper, unlike this web address printed on my boarding pass: GIVE FEEDBACK – WWW.UALSURVEY.COM. That’s a great way to make letter-writers to put away their watermarked letterhead stationery--full of plight--addressed to United’s CEO. It saves time and it has a lighter carbon footprint. On the other hand, there’s Verdantic and I promise that I will only abuse the privilege of this blog just this once. So, I hope the Groundswell monitoring operatives at United Airlines technorati-searches and finds this bit of consumer opinion and insight: United Airlines, you stink!