The Sustainable Business Council Blog


• 7 Fixes from the Green Economy
January 20, 2009, 3:33 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Sustainable Business Council is pleased to partner with Green American in spreading the message of the new model of sustainable business and living that is poised to raise us out of the current economic and environmental crisis and carry us into the future with sustainable prosperity.

7 Fixes from the Green Economy

Bold solutions from the green economy are the antidote to the broken economy—and can repair the damage and create a world that works for all.

Economy Everyone now understands that the economy is broken. What our members and readers have known for years— that the economy is not working for people and the planet—is now playing out on Wall Street and Main Street every day.

While many name the mortgage and credit-default-swap crises as culprits, they are only the most recent results of an economy with fatal design flaws. These design defects range from a dependence on growth, consumerism, and the structure of money to the short-term focus of today’s markets, and policy goals that are focused on growing Gross National Product. Yet, when GNP growth includes a whole set of “bads”—from sweatshop labor to manufacturing toxic chemicals—every dollar of GNP growth actually reduces wellbeing for people and the planet.

Taken together, these fatal flaws systematically create economic injustice, poverty, and environmental crises.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The green economy offers solutions that are the antidote to the current breakdown.

Green America members have been trailblazers for green economic solutions for years. We now have a teachable moment to be bold in stepping up with these solutions for long-term change toward sustainability—and helping people through tough times. Now these green economy solutions are more important than ever.

Simply put, we need to move from greed to green.

Here are seven green economy solutions to today’s economic mess.

1. Green Energy—Green Jobs
A crucial starting place to rejuvenate our economy is to focus on energy—for the sake of the economy and the environment. It is time to call in the superheroes of the green energy revolution—energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and plug-in hybrids—and put their synergies to work with rapid, largescale deployment. This is a powerful way to jumpstart the economy, energy independence, job creation (with jobs that can’t be outsourced), and the victory over the climate crisis. The five green-energy keys are rapid, large-scale deployment of:

• Energy efficiency—moving toward 50 percent savings in five years.

• Solar and wind—getting to an all-renewable electric grid.

• Plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEVs)—getting to at least 20 percent of the US vehicle fleet in ten years.

• Smart grid—rebuilding our aging electric grid with a smart grid that makes it easy to scale up energy efficiency and renewables.

• New national and state electric utility regulation and building codes that make it easy to scale up with efficiency, renewables, and PHEVs.

This year, Green America is launching Project LEAP—our Low-carbon Energy Acceleration Plan—to show how to combine these superheroes for real economic prosperity, energy security, and 80–90 percent greenhouse gas reduction. We shared this with our allies on President Obama’s incoming team (along with our idea for the financing mechanism; see #2 below). But you don’t have to wait for Washington—use Green America resources to get started today:

• Guide to Efficiency First!
• Solar how-to articles, and interviews with the solar leaders of our Green Busienss Network™
• Solar High Impact National Energy (SHINE) Plan. [PDF]
• Utility Solar Assessment (USA) Study. [PDF]

2. Clean Energy Victory Bonds
How are we going to pay for this green energy revolution? Green America and our allies at Clean Edge propose Clean Energy Victory Bonds. Modeled after victory bonds in World War II, Americans would buy these bonds from the federal government to invest in large-scale deployment of green energy projects, with particular emphasis in low-income communities that are hardest hit by the broken economy. These would be long-term bonds, which would pay an annual interest rate, based in part on the energy and energy savings that the bonds generate. During WWII, Americans bought over $185 billion in bonds—that would be almost $2 trillion in today’s dollars.

Millions of people are looking for a way to help the country right now. During the townhall- style presidential debate, one person posed this question to the then-candidates: “What would you ask us to do?”

Green America’s answer: Invest in Clean Energy Victory Bonds so our country can start building the clean-energy infrastructure and get people to work in good, green jobs, right now.

Sign up for the Green America e-newsletter to help advance these and our other green energy policy measures all year long.

3. Reduce, Reuse, Rethink
Living lightly on the Earth, saving resources and money, reducing inequality, and sharing —jobs, property, ideas, and opportunities—are the principles crucial to restructuring our economy. This economic breakdown is, in part, due to living beyond our means—as a nation and, in too many cases, as individuals. With the enormous national and consumer debt weighing us down, we won’t be able to spend our way out of this economic problem. From planting gardens to conserving energy to swapping clothes to making gifts—these green economy basics will help us move to an economy that works for all.

As Dr. Juliet Schor, economist and author, puts it, “We’ve lost the ability to profitably … grow our way out of recession. The usual kinds of consumer spending (cars, electronics, furniture, apparel, travel) degrade vital eco-systems and have an economic cost. Business-as-usual puts us deeper into an economic hole.”

Ultimately, we need an economy that’s not dependent on growth and consumerism. So it’s time to rethink living over-consumptive lifestyles, and turn to the principles of elegant simplicity—what Green Americans have known all along.

4. Go Green, Fair Trade, and Local
When we do buy, it is essential that those purchases shift from the conventional economy to the green and local economy—so that every dollar helps solve social and environmental problems, not create them. What we spend our money on—and refuse to buy—does matter. Expanding the green economy is fundamental to the transition to an economy that works for people and the planet. Moving dollars away from conventional agribusiness and toward supporting local workers and local, organic farmers creates more justice and sustainability.

Use the National Green Pages™ to make as many of your purchases as possible from the green economy. Turn to Green America all year long for ways to be intentional with your money—to help create a better economy with the choices you make every day.

5. Community Investing
All over the county, community investing banks, credit unions, and loan funds that serve hardhit communities are strong, while the biggest banks—from Washington Mutual to CitiGroup —required bailouts. The basic principles of community investing keep the community investing institutions strong: Lenders and borrowers know each other. Lenders invest in the success of their borrowers—with training and technical assistance along with loans. And the people who provide the capital to the lenders expect reasonable, not speculative, rates of return. If all banks followed these principles, the economy wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today.

You can provide capital to community investing banks and credit unions—it’s as easy as opening a federally insured account. Check out the community investing section of our Web site to get started.

6. Shareowner Activism
When you own stock, you are a shareowner and have the right and responsibility to advise management to clean up its act. Had General Motors listened to its activist shareholders, it would have invested in the efficient and electric cars that would have prevented the need for a bailout from bankruptcy. Had CitiGroup listened to its activist shareowners, it would have steered clear of the faulty mortgage practices that brought it to its knees. Activist shareholders are key to reforming companies—from jumpstarting them on the energy revolution to addressing executive compensation to stopping the corruption created by corporate lobbying—for the transition to the new economy. Let’s up the ante.

7. Building Community
“Whatever the problem,” says Dr. Lynnaea Lumbard, psychologist and interfaith minister, “community is the answer.” Connected, resilient communities help people get through tough times—and celebrate during good times. Now is the time to get started. Get to know your neighbors. Do a neighborhood skills inventory—so people can help each other fix their roofs, repair their bikes, mend a torn coat—saving money and building community. Plan a community garden, a neighborhood garage sale, or clothing swap. Start a dinner or home improvement co-op. (Get more ideas and learn more here.)

The Time is Now
It looks like we have a huge opportunity on our hands—a global economic breakdown that is teaching us that we are all interdependent. There’s no “there” to escape to, so we all might as well figure out how to live together —and transition our economy to one that protects vulnerable people and our vulnerable planet. Stay tuned to Real Green all year long. We look forward to working with you on turning today’s problems into opportunities for a more just, sustainable, and joyful world.

—Alisa Gravitz



Raising eco-aware kids builds sustainable community
January 18, 2009, 6:41 AM
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

By now we’ve all heard enough scuttlebutt concerning politics, government and regulatory agencies to last a lifetime. So with climate change concerns, financial woes and energy challenges all weighing heavy upon us – do you feel comfortable hoping the government will take care of it all?

Neither do we.

Individual empowerment is where it’s at. Collectively our behavior modifications can help to sustain this planet for generations to come. If you’ve been following our column, you know that we’ve been offering monthly go-green tips such as giving local vendors the first shot at your business, consuming less and rethinking daily patterns (like where you shop and how much you drive). What else can you do to effect high-impact change?

Young children have a great ability to absorb values, attitudes, skills and behaviors that support sustainable development such as the wise use of resources, cultural diversity, gender equality and a sense of democracy. They also have an innate sense of empathy and can much more easily connect to the world around them. This is the period when the foundations of thinking, being, knowing and acting are becoming “hard-wired.” It’s the period when habits are formed that will last a lifetime.

Education in the home starts with you, our esteemed reader. Influencing others, particularly children, by engaging in desirable behaviors is arguably one of the strongest educational modalities around. What do you do in your own home and life to model eco-responsibility for your friends and family?

Does your pantry contain a plethora of pre-packaged foods? Do you balance that with trips to the farmers market? Do bottled waters cram the fridge or do you each have you own reusable water bottle? Is your garbage full of aluminum, tin, cardboard and plastic, or are these items sorted and ready to be recycled?

As winter approaches, do you find that you are letting your car warm up for longer periods of time? Do you ever walk or bike while going about your daily tasks? Do you reward your child (or yourself) for a job well done by a trip to a big chain store to purchase something you probably don’t need and can’t afford? Do you take reusable bags to the grocery store? Little changes add up to big results.

Another potential sphere of influence is the secondary education system. Curricular goals should include development of caring and responsible young people genuinely concerned with (and capable of) contributing to a just and peaceful world.

Ideally, a sustainably literate adult will emerge from this system and continue to morph as new experiences and educational opportunities arise. We’re all aware of the benefits of lifetime learning, from early childhood education to classes for seniors. Let’s thread sustainability education through the needle of each stage.

Many experts agree that the first five years of life is the most crucial time for building identity. It is in these years that the groundwork is laid for children’s emotional, social, language, cognitive and physical development – all critical elements for school readiness and life success. A core component of that success is learning to live and flourish in a sustainable manner.

Historically, traditional early childhood programs have been geared toward the employment-focused academic skill set of public schools at the expense of a kind of education that helps children make sense of their own immediate worlds.

Children are very sensitive to nature and its elements – animals, plants, flowers, the phenomena of fire, water and wind. They are emotionally touched by, and intellectually interested in it. Experience shows that many adults who live in big towns remember with pleasure unforgettable moments of their formative years in rural areas, recalling vividly the organic shapes and smells of plants, seeds, trees, rivers, gardens, birds and animals.

And so it makes sense to nurture this deep ecological interest in early childhood. You can be sure that SBC members such as Spirit at Play and Academic Advantage Academy are developing sustainably minded kids.

In the long term, children must genuinely value the environment and understand natural capital as a set of resources that have constraints. This requires a holistic vision of sustainability education. Focusing on ecological knowledge, environmental attitudes and behaviors, building a sense of place and forging connectedness within our communities are all part of this.

How does this all fit with the Sustainable Business Council? These children are the future welders, investment bankers, chefs, musicians, bookkeepers, nurses, journalists, alternative energy technicians, Web designers, farmers, natural resource managers, local entrepreneurs and mechanics who will be shaping our world in the very challenging years ahead.

We think they need to enter their professions giving equal credence to people, planet and profit (triple bottom-line thinking). Our solemn responsibility is to help each one of our children understand that sustainability isn’t so much a lifestyle “choice” as the only viable path to ensure prosperity for future generations.

– Genevieve King and Lisa Swallow



• Montana Sustainability Center
January 17, 2009, 9:52 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized
The Idea:

The Montana Sustainability Center (MSC) is a campus style development that will offer a variety of sustainable retail, office, and warehouse space. Environmental, alternative energy, social justice, for-profit, non-profit: if it’s sustainable this could be your space. Locating multiple organizations and experts together in one location will boost the regional green/sustainable business movement by strengthening all of the participating organizations. Benefits and synergies of the Montana Sustainability Center include the following:

  • The Center will incubate and nurture growth; many of the businesses/organizations operating in the green /sustainable products fields need to grow but have run out of space at their current locations. For example, the Center’s anchor tenant, Home Resource is moving from under 7,000 net SF to 20,000 net SF;
  • The Center will allow the participating businesses to leverage their shared customer bases in one location, i.e. regional one stop shopping for all green/sustainable products and services, creating a top of mind space brand and location awareness;
  • The Center will enable its occupants to achieve economies of scale in marketing and distribution;
  • The Center will enable its occupants to achieve increased capacity and higher efficiency by sharing conference rooms, office equipment, phone systems, and computer networks;
  • The Center will allow businesses with shared values to cross pollinate ideas creating new products, services, business models, and technologies;
  • The Center will demonstrate sustainable business methods and alternatives throughout the facility and broaden the market for green goods and services;
  • The Center will be a conduit for local green activities and national/global green activities.

The Montana Sustainability Center

Rates:

Rates range from $8.50 to $10.00 a square foot* for Phase 1

Space Available:Approximately 14,000 square feet is currently available in Phase 1. Choose your size and MSC will build to suit*! The floor plans detailed below are subject to change to fit the tenant’s needs.

* Long Term Triple Net Lease

The Montana Sustainability Center

Your Alternative Space

The Goal:

The Montana Sustainability Center (MSC) will have tenants moving into Phase 1 (the rebuilt former 4 G’s Plumbing Building) by early Spring of 2009. Phase 1 provides a mix of retail, office and warehouse space for its tenants at extemley competitve rates.Once Phase 1 is fully occupied, construction will begin on Phase 2 which is tentivley scheduled to begin in late 2009 early 2010.The Montana Sustainability Center (MSC) is looking for sustainable and like minded folks to join them in their vision of a synergistic sutainable alternative to commercial and office space in Missoula. Envorinmental, alternantive energy, social justice, for profit, non-profit if you think your group would make a good fit at the MSBC please contact Jed for more information.

Need more information?

Contact:Jed DennisonRealtor531-1216

jed@zillastate.com



• Solutions from the Green Economy
January 15, 2009, 3:28 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Solutions from the Green Economy
January 15, 2008

Everyone now understands that the economy is broken.

While many name the mortgage and credit-default-swap crises as culprits, they are only the most recent indicators of an economy with fatal design flaws. Our economy has long been based on what economist Herman Daly calls “uneconomic growth” where increases in the GDP come at an expense in resources and well-being that is worth more than the goods and services provided.  When GNP growth exacerbates social and environmental problems—from sweatshop labor to manufacturing toxic chemicals—every dollar of GNP growth reduces well-being for people and the planet, and we’re all worse off.

Our fatally flawed economy creates economic injustice, poverty, and environmental crises. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can create a green economy: one that serves people and the planet and offers antidotes to the current breakdown.
Here are six green-economy solutions to today’s economic mess.

1. Green Energy—Green Jobs
A crucial starting place to rejuvenate our economy is to focus on energy. It’s time to call in the superheroes of the green energy revolution—energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and plug-in hybrids—and put their synergies to work with rapid, large-scale deployment. This is a powerful way to jumpstart the economy, spur job creation (with jobs that can’t be outsourced), declare energy independence, and claim victory over the climate crisis.

2. Clean Energy Victory Bonds
How are we going to pay for this green energy revolution? We at Green America propose Clean Energy Victory Bonds. Modeled after victory bonds in World War II, Americans would buy these bonds from the federal government to invest in large-scale deployment of green energy projects, with particular emphasis in low-income communities hardest hit by the broken economy. These would be long-term bonds, paying an annual interest rate, based in part on the energy and energy savings that the bonds generate. During WWII, 85 million Americans bought over $185 billion in bonds—that would be almost $2 trillion in today’s dollars.

3. Reduce, Reuse, Rethink
Living lightly on the Earth, saving resources and money, and sharing (jobs, property, ideas, and opportunities) are crucial principles for restructuring our economy. This economic breakdown is, in part, due to living beyond our means—as a nation and as individuals. With the enormous national and consumer debt weighing us down, we won’t be able to spend our way out of this economic problem. Ultimately, we need an economy that’s not dependent on unsustainable growth and consumerism. So it’s time to rethink our over-consumptive lifestyles, and turn to the principles of elegant simplicity, such as planting gardens, conserving energy, and working cooperatively with our neighbors to share resources and build resilient communities.

4. Go Green and Local
When we do buy, it is essential that those purchases benefit the green and local economy—so that every dollar helps solve social and environmental problems, not create them. Our spending choices matter. We can support our local communities by moving dollars away from conventional agribusiness and big-box stores and toward supporting local workers, businesses, and organic farmers.

5. Community Investing
All over the country, community investing banks, credit unions, and loan funds that serve hard-hit communities are strong, while the biggest banks required bailouts. The basic principles of community investing keep such institutions strong: Lenders and borrowers know each other. Lenders invest in the success of their borrowers—with training and technical assistance along with loans. And the people who provide the capital to the lenders expect reasonable, not speculative, returns. If all banks followed these principles, the economy wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today.

6. Shareowner Activism
When you own stock, you have the right and responsibility to advise management to clean up its act. Had GM listened to shareholders warning that relying on SUVs would be its downfall, it would have invested in greener technologies, and would not have needed a bailout. Had CitiGroup listened to its shareowners, it would have avoided the faulty mortgage practices that brought it to its knees. Engaged shareholders are key to reforming conventional companies for the transition to this new economy – the green economy that we are building together.

It’s time to move from greed to green.

–Alisa Gravitz



• Volunteers Needed!
January 13, 2009, 7:29 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

CALLING ALL VOLUNTEERS….

We are in need of volunteers to help out with Missoula’s 3rd annual Project Homeless Connect event!!  Project Homeless Connect is a one-day, one-stop service event for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless.  More than 65 Missoula service providers will be on hand to help folks, and last year, we served more than 300 people in a 5-hour time span!  Event details are below and in the attached flier.  Please post the flier and forward this email to anyone you think might be interested in volunteering.  A wide variety of volunteer positions are available, and volunteers will be provided with food and beverages.  Thanks in advance for your response!

PROJECT HOMELESS CONNECT
Thursday, January 29, 2009
10am – 3pm
First United Methodist Church
300 E. Main (Across the street from the library)
Contact:  Caitlin Swock 829-3928 or caitlinswock@montana.com



• Start 2009 off with ‘The Story of Stuff’
January 4, 2009, 7:03 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized


• A noveau look at New Years resolutions
January 1, 2009, 6:36 AM
Filed under: Uncategorized

Welcome to a brand-new year! Ripe with possibilities, impregnated with hope, many of us enter the new year driven by a litany of goals (OK – maybe just one). We are certain that this will be the year that we adhere to our resolutions. But alas – few of us actually end up following through. Maybe it’s because our annual reflection typically produces nebulous goals such as “getting healthy” or “increasing net worth” or “spending more quality time with family.”

This year is notably different. As we look at the world around us, it is clear that many economic, environmental and social entities and ideologies are transforming in front of our very eyes. That may feel pretty uncomfortable and leave us with a sense of “What can I do?”

As Thomas L. Friedman points out in his new bestseller “Hot, Flat and Crowded,” the most transformative periods in history (the Enlightment, the Industrial Revolution, the Information Age) share one compelling thing in common. When things started changing, people could not fully grasp the magnitude of the paradigm shift.

What’s driving the global transition? A population explosion that is stressing our already-overburdened natural resources, biodiversity loss, the fear of financial collapse, climate change, growing social inequity, toxic food, overflowing landfills, and the mass transfer of wealth to dictators who control the world’s petroleum reserves – just to name a few.

Maybe in light (or heavy) of all this, it’s a perfect time to try something a little different on the New Year’s resolution front. Instead of establishing another reactionary me-centered resolution, why not embrace a holistic approach?

We’d like to encourage you to choose one step to get started from the list below. Clip this column out, post it somewhere visible and return to it throughout the year for additional steps.

Start by committing to one action. Some are more easily accomplished than others and will make such a tangible difference in your life, you’ll wonder how you made it to 2009 without them.

So, repeat after us: “My New Year’s resolution is to contribute, within my capacity, to a sustainable future by:

•Bringing my own bags to the grocery store (and every store). Each year billions of bags end up as ugly and toxic litter. It’s estimated that there is six times as much plastic in our oceans as plankton.

The only tricky thing about this behavior change is you’ve got to devise a system to get the bags back to your car for the next trip. Try putting them somewhere conspicuous immediately after you unload groceries. Before you know it, bringing your own bags will become automatic.

<div>•Buying fewer disposable items. Look for long-lasting goods that won’t have to be replaced as often. Did you ever notice that the items get smaller and smaller and those blasted impossible-to-open hard plastic containers get larger and larger?

As a society we’ve become addicted to convenience, and yet the collective impact on our planet of throwing away all our disposables is truly staggering. Catch yourself when you reach for individually packaged items and you will soon see how gratifying it is to reduce your family’s volume of waste.

•Recycling. The jingle from our friends at Missoula Valley Recycling says it all – “It’s the least you can do!” There are opportunities to recycle just about everywhere, you just have to look. Retrain yourself. Garbage is out, recycling is in. If you don’t have a recycling bin where you need one – put one there. Use a pretty basket or container that fits with your decor.

•Eliminating the energy vampires. Some of the biggest saps of energy are cell phone and iPod chargers and computers, printers and the like. Have a walk about – notice the proliferation of appliances and chargers that are idling, literally stealing money out of your pocket 24 hours a day. Energy vampires can be avoided by using a power strip and clicking it off or making sure you unplug things when they’re not in use.

•Buy local and organic food/products whenever possible. Start by looking at your food consumption patterns. The average grocery fruit or vegetable has 16 chemicals sprayed on it. Most stores have sections that contain the organic version of anything you need.

•This isn’t an “all-or-nothing” proposal – go out of your box a bit and give a few new food products a try. An added bonus of choosing organic and locally grown foods is they are often fresher, taste much better and are more nutritious – plus you’re helping to buffer Missoula from the recession by keeping our economy strong.

•Supporting locally owned, independent businesses keeps MisSOULa unique. Sustainable Business Council’s member list is a great place to start your adventure into the fabulous and unique world of Missoula’s own.

•Carpool one day a week. Find a co-worker or buddy to share your daily commute. It’s a great way to cut your fuel costs, reduce wear and tear on your car and make new connections. Ride the bus a couple of days a month. Don’t run errands until you have two or three things to do in the same part of town. And if exercising more is a must in the new year, do some of your shopping and errands on foot.

•Invest your hard-earned money in a socially responsible manner. We’ve watched many supposedly stable global industries spiral downward, and yet renewable and clean-tech sectors are booming ($148 billion into alternative energies last year alone). Nothing speaks louder than supporting green technologies – all the while growing green in your accounts.

•These are just a few of the many steps we can take on the road to a healthy existence: mind, body and planet. Visit http://www.sbcmontana.org for a comprehensive list of actions you can take and share your resolutions with us.</div>

It took us years to perfect our bad habits and decades for our culture to design its patterns of consumption. Change isn’t going to happen overnight, but another year will come and go whether you make the right choices or not. So, pick one – any one – from the above list and just do it. Each and every one of us is somewhere on the path and we can all resolve to live lighter on our shared island home in 2009.

– Genevieve King and Lisa Swallow