Obama.. The First Green President?

by jamiesaunders ~ December 3rd, 2010

I recently discovered that the New York Times website features a blog called “Green – A Blog about Energy and the Environment”. As I was browsing through its most recent posts, an article entitled “U.S. Needs Critical Boost in Energy Research, Panel Tells Obama” grabbed my attention.  “Obama” tends to have that effect on a lot of people, even Canadians. The U.S. is spending far less on its energy research, development and demonstration than other industrialized countries, relatively speaking.

An advisory group of scientists and engineers outlined a number of reasons why the U.S. must triple their current spending on energy research from $5 Billion to $16 Billion.

  1. The risk of being overtaken in the development of new energy.
  2. Security concerns arising from an overrelliance on foreign oil.
  3. The environmental threat of climate change.

The reasons why the U.S. is lagging behind is a lack of public support and difficulty finding the funding. The advisory group has come up with a number of feasible methods for acquiring such funding; however, they have all been dismissed in favor of the government’s top priority, cutting federal spending.

I was personally very surprised to find out that sustainability is so low on the U.S.’s priority list, and concern list as shown above. Perhaps all of the green messages that flood the media and market place led me to believe otherwise.

Link to Article: u-s-needs-critical-boost-in-energy-research-panel-tells-obama

Square Bottles

by jamiesaunders ~ November 23rd, 2010

As I was reading through some of my classmates’ blogs, one of Akina’s posts contained two pictures that grabbed my attention:

I was initially drawn in by the bottles’ bold and interesting design, and secondly, I was curious  why these pictures were in a blog about sustainability. It turns out the rectangular design enables far more bottles to fit into a shipping pallet and on store shelves. In addition, the bottles are built to stack on top of one another to further eliminate wasted space while in transport. The bottles are also ribbed to compress, as shown in the picture above, and take up less space throughout the recycling process.

Akina mentioned that this concept is still an idea. If that is the case then I don’t no what Coca-Cola is waiting for. I love this idea and design. I would be compelled to try one of these new bottles even if they were no more sustainable than the current ones. Even if Coca-Cola has to rely on this trend, as the bottles’ mention of sustainability is very subtle, I remain confident that it would have great success. The new packaging saves Coca-Cola shipping costs and saves store owners shelf space. Finally, its eye-catching and appears functional and attractive. Oh ya.. and its good for the environment.

Flying Carbon Neutral

by jamiesaunders ~ November 17th, 2010

During a recent class discussion about air travel, I discovered that you can purchase carbon offsets to mitigate the environmental footprint of your flights. The airline industry is responsible for 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about this concept and its reasonable prices.

Despite air travel’s significant carbon footprint, I believe it is too important to eliminate or even limit. Traveling has been an important part of my life and has helped shape who I am today. Visiting other countries and cultures helps one gain perspective in life and, in most cases, grow as a person and as a member of society. Flying also enables people to visit family and friends that might otherwise be impossible. The internet is combating the need for business travel via virtual conferences; however, sometimes face-to-face meetings can’t be replaced. Last but not least, vacations to foreign countries can be an invaluable way of escaping the stresses of everyday life and restoring balance.

One company that would probably agree, but is nonetheless committed to environmental responsibility is Flight Centre. It has no net impact on the environment through its own operations (Environmental Office Policy), and aims to assist its customers to minimize their carbon footprint (Offsetting Policy).

Flight Centre:

Carbon offsets are simply credits for emission reductions achieved elsewhere by projects such as wind farms or solar installations. Flight Centre aims to be “carbon neutral”, which involves making all reductions currently possible, and then using carbon offsets to address remaining emissions. Although the best thing for the environment is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions instead of offsetting them, at present it is impossible to reduce emissions to zero. Purchasing offsets is a practical and inexpensive way to compensate for emissions that otherwise wouldn’t be addressed.

Offsetting a short haul flight (up to five hours) costs approximately CAD$5-$7. For longer haul flights the offset cost ranges from approximately $15-$25 dollars depending on the length of your flight.

Flight Centre has teamed up with Cleaner Climate Ltd. to provide a link to a “carbon calculator”. This adds a simple procedure at the time of booking your travel arrangements that allows you to determine the carbon emitted from your flight and voluntarily fund a renewable energy project in a developing country to offset it.

Carbon offsets are also available with Air Canada. When you purchase the offset through Air Canada, the money goes towards three projects: the Forest Restoration Project, the Landfill Gas Recovery Project, and the Tire Recycling Project. You have the option to allocate your “donation” between the  three projects as you like. For example, you could allocate your entire offset to the Tire Recycling Project.

I believe the idea of carbon offsetting demonstrates sustainable progress within the airline industry; however, I believe it can be taken much further. I would love to see governments intervene to make carbon offsets included in ticket prices. The cost of carbon offsets are insignificant relative to the cost of the tickets themselves. I am going to Sweden for a Student Exchange in January and returning in late June. The cost of my round trip flight is approximately $900. The cost to offset the 1.570 Tonnes of CO2 that I will be personally responsible for is $24.65. Considering some airline companies charge $50 for a second piece of luggage, I would feel quite petty complaining about an additional $24.65 on a $900 flight that’s purpose is to save the environment.

I am a strong supporter of carbon offsetting in air travel and would like to see it make an appearance in the gasoline industry. Perhaps, a fourth button at the gasoline pump.

JD pulling a Ted Danson?

by jamiesaunders ~ October 28th, 2010

This post relates to a discussion that took place in my Sustainability Marketing class earlier this month. The topic of discussion was Jack Daniels’ very discreet sustainable practices. Jack Daniels is not regarded as a green company, but it should be. At its small distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, 99% of waste is reused.

The question was posed: “Why doesn’t Jack Daniels promote its green initiatives like Coca-Cola or Walmart?” There is no mention of sustainability in any of Jack Daniels’ advertisements or on any of its packaging. Most companies would flaunt such admirable and positive company attributes wherever possible.

A number of possible reasons were examined, including the following: “Jack Daniels is concerned that its stereotypical customer (hunter and fisher)  may have unfavorable attitudes towards sustainability, associating the green movement with hippies and flowers.”

It was later revealed in the class discussion that Jack Daniels went to the 2010 Sustainable Brand Conference and put its green practices on display. Why? Was it pulling a Ted Danson? Please watch the following five minute clip from an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm to find out what a “Ted Danson” is.

Curb Your Enthusiasm – Anonymous

If you couldn’t a take the time to watch this clip, Ted Danson made a sizable anonymous donation to the NRDC. He told a few close friends that he was the anonymous contributor and word spread. As a result he received more admiration than the other named contributor because his donation was believed to be out of the goodness of his heart.

As I was watching this episode, I immediately thought of Jack Daniels and how it is taking Ted Danson’s approach. Jack Daniels is keeping sustainability out of its promotions (keeping his name off the wing) and talking about it at a prominent conference (telling a few close friends). As a result, other people will be the ones singing Jack Daniels praises, as opposed to Jack Daniels boasting about how great it is. People tend to look favorably upon this kind of modesty and genuineness. In addition, many individuals who attend these types of conferences have loud voices and platforms within the green community. Apparently the news has spread because I am sitting here doing free grass-roots marketing for Jack Daniels right now.

Nevertheless, as I have mentioned in earlier posts, I prefer this more subtle approach to green marketing; however, I think Larry David might disagree.

The NFL Cares!

by jamiesaunders ~ October 19th, 2010

Football is one of my favorite sports to play and watch. I’ve been competing in a  Yahoo! fantasy football league with my friends from high school for the past five years or so. To my detriment, I probably spend more time watching the NFL  on Sundays than I do studying. As I was looking for a new tight end to replace my injured Jermichael Finley, I asked myself.. is the NFL making any efforts to go green? In my search for an answer, I came across an interesting article called: “Six Ways the NFL is Greening Super Bowl XLIV. Really.”

My star fantasy football tight end, Jermichael Finley, being carted off the field. :'(

Many companies take advantage of the Super Bowl’s enormous viewing audience to promote their latest “green” message. I’m going to describe several ways the NFL is trying to make the event itself more sustainable.

1. This is the fourth year in a row that the NFL will use RECs (Reusable Energy Certificates) to match the electricity consumption of the Super Bowl and its related events. I would like to see them expand this procedure to their playoff games, and eventually regular season games as well.

2. It is going to fund the planting of “hundreds” of trees at various locations throughout South Florida. As a tree planter who worked for a company that planted more than 100,000 trees a day, I realize that hundreds of trees is a relatively insignificant amount. I think it would be extremely hip if they planted one tree for every fan in attendance.

3. Solid waste will be reduced through recycling at Dolphin Stadium (home to this year’s game).

4. Extra prepared food from Super Bowl events will be collected and donated to community agencies.

5. All leftover materials from Super Bowl and Pro Bowl events are inventoried and donated to local non-profit agencies in South Florida.

6. The NFL is designing a new project called “Super Kids” that provides an opportunity for local school children to donate their used books and sports equipment to other needy children in the South Florida community.

All in all, I commend the NFL for its efforts. Unlike some of the companies who’s green motives I’ve criticized in earlier blog posts, the NFL does not appear to be trumpeting or seeking “hero” status for their efforts . Thus making me less inclined to doubt their sincerity.

The original article goes into further detail regarding these six initiatives and many more, including the idea of a “zero waste football stadium”. To read this article, click on the link below:

Six Ways the NFL is Greening Super Bowl XLIV

Hyundai’s Live Smart Advertising Campaign

by jamiesaunders ~ October 12th, 2010

Hyundai recently launched a new advertising campaign for its hybrid Sonata, entitled “Live Smart”. The original concept behind this campaign is that the production of the commercials are “as energy efficient as possible”, or as the cars they feature. The first time I saw a Hyundai Live Smart commercial I was filled with an overwhelming number of thoughts and considerations.

Hyundai Live Smart Commercial

The strongest of my initial reactions to the Live Smart commercial was to question its sincerity. Although the commercial was done very elegantly,  the concept seemed gimmicky. The amount of energy saved by making the commercial “Live Smart” style has to be microscopic compared to the amount that will be saved by its new line of hybrid vehicles. Nonetheless, the commercial focuses on its production process for a third of its duration. I believe this advertising campaign would have more success if it revealed its production methods in a less obvious and self-righteous manner. In my opinion, the conclusion to the commercial undermines its earlier mention of the car’s innovative environmental benefits.

I was also interested to see if the commercial was in fact, as green as it claimed. After further inquiry, it turns out that it is.

Apparently, Hyundai reduced its CO2 emissions by 96% versus traditional production methods and invested in carbon offsets for the remaining 4%, thus making the entire commercial campaign with no carbon footprint.

Grouse Mountain`s Wind Turbine

by jamiesaunders ~ October 4th, 2010

A sixty-five meter tall wind turbine was built atop Grouse Mountain in February of 2009. Family, friends, and myself included have been Grouse Mountain ski and snowboard pass holders for longer than I can remember. North Vancouver residents take pride in the pristine view of Grouse Mountain`s skyline; therefore, it should be no surprise that a 65 meter tall wind turbine that protrudes into its center was a subject of hot debate.

View of Grouse Mountain by my house before wind turbine.

For several weeks following its erection, it seemed like the turbine fell victim to criticism each time it came into sight. Even those individuals who defended its integrity had a hard time arguing that it was aesthetically pleasing. Many people whom identified themselves with Grouse, their home mountain, were pained to see it undergo such an ugly makeover. The general consensus among my peers was that the wind turbine is progressive and beneficial, but should have been constructed in a less intrusive location.

Wind Turbine

According to The Province: “A passionate debate on the pros and cons of the big windmill ended with the North Vancouver District Council voting 4-3 to issue a permit to Grouse Mountain Resorts to build the turbine.“ Thus, it appears that the District Council had some conflict but ultimately ruled in favor of green energy. The wind turbine generates approximately 25% of Grouse Mountain`s energy needs. It also acts as a unique tourist attraction, offering a 360 degree view of the city and mountains. In addition, the wind turbine was installed just prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics. Perhaps the District Council thought it would be a good way to show the world that Vancouver is undertaking sustainable initiatives.

When the wind turbine was first introduced, I thought on a cloudy day it made Grouse Mountain look like Haunted Hill. Now, when I look up at Grouse I don`t even notice it. In fact, now that I am becoming involved with sustainability, I am proud that Grouse Mountain is setting such a good example for the rest of the province. Hopefully, other businesses and communities across the province will be inspired to take steps of their own in support of B.C.’s goal of becoming electricity self-sufficient by 2016.

Aquafina’s New ECO-FINA Bottles

by jamiesaunders ~ September 27th, 2010

Over the past year or so, I’ve noticed some of Coca-Cola and Pepsico’s sustainable packaging initiatives becoming more and more prevalent. Aquafina’s Eco-Fina bottles are now made with 50% less plastic than in previous years, eliminating around 75 million pounds of plastic annually. I would like to take this opportunity to look further into these new ingenuities and share some of my thoughts on them.

The new Eco-Fina packaging offers a more sustainable way to consume bottled water. Although it is much more environmentally friendly to use re-usable water bottles, the Eco-Fina bottle offers a greener option for those who can’t resist the convenience of buying disposable water bottles. It would appear that Aquafina is taking these initiatives out of concern for the environment and the goodness of their hearts. I would be very surprised if that was their only motivating factor, if one at all.

I have purchased and drank from Eco-Fina water bottles and found them to feel flimsy and cheap. I actually had one start to leak when I placed it in the messy cup holder of my car.  By using less plastic to make their water bottles, Aquafina is substantially reducing their central cost, packaging. Sustainability seems like the perfect excuse for Aquafina to cut costs and look good while doing it. I also believe Aquafina’s  brand image would have suffered tremendously had they failed to make any visible efforts towards sustainability. Aquafina would potentially seem heartless, indifferent, unfashionable, and uncool compared to Dasani and other competitors who have been taking similar steps to go green. That is not to say that the environment can’t benefit from Pepsico’s selfish motives. In addition to the bottles being made of less plastic, the labels contain “green” cues such as the recycling logo. These cues should help keep sustainability on the minds of the consumers, especially when they are deciding where to dispose of their empty bottles. It would appear that Eco-Fina packaging is a win-win for Pepsico and the environment.

“Social improvement is attained more readily by a concern with the quality of results than with the purity of motives.” – Eric Hoffer

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