Sustainability Blog - The Grid
Day breaks above a rolling, moss-covered forest. Adorable, red-capped mushrooms and furry critters stretch out in the young day's sun, as round notes from a cello -- then a flutter of woodwinds -- rise to a flute-driven crescendo.
A sentient tree lowers a branch down to this computer-animated paradise to cradle and raise aloft… a FedEx delivery truck.
Somehow it’s already year-end, a time to look back and try to make sense of what’s happened. Creating any “top” list of stories from 12 months is nearly impossible. But as I’ve done for the last 4 years, I’ll attempt to summarize some of the latest stories about the big environmental and social pressures on business, and how some innovative companies are dealing with them.
This year, like recent years, saw some continuation of big trends: with a few exceptions, the international policy community keeps failing to come to a meaningful agreement on climate change; carbon emissions just keep rising; transparency is increasingly unavoidable and keeps gaining technology-enabled traction; pressure from big companies on their suppliers keeps going up.
InsideClimateNews.org -- A decision 90 years ago by the people of Sacramento, Calif. to oust a private electric company and start a government-owned utility has been the unlikely inspiration for Berliners trying to wrest control of Germany's largest grid from a coal-fired utility.
While little known in America, the creation of Sacramento's Municipal Utility District was the model for a November referendum to give Berlin a municipal utility that would pump more clean energy into the grid. The 1923 vote in Sacramento helped the California city build a rare, green record—constructing the nation's first big solar plant, voting to shut down a nuclear reactor and approving a goal of slashing climate-changing emissions by 90 percent by 2050.
InsideClimateNews.org -- Jerry Skinner stands in his garden, looking into the distance at the edge of a forested mountain. Amid the lush shades of green, a muddy brown strip of earth stands out. It's the telltale sign of a buried pipeline.
"The pipelines are all around this property," Skinner said. "When I came here, the county had an allure that it doesn't have anymore. I'm not sure I want to live here anymore."
InsideClimateNews.org -- As environmentalists began ratcheting up pressure against Canada's tar sands three years ago, one of the world's biggest strategic consulting firms was tapped to help the North American oil industry figure out how to handle the mounting activism. The resulting document, published online by WikiLeaks, offers another window into how oil and gas companies have been scrambling to deal with unrelenting opposition to their growth plans.
The document identifies nearly two-dozen environmental organizations leading the anti-oil sands movement and puts them into four categories: radicals, idealists, realists and opportunists—with how-to's for managing each. It also reveals that the worst-case scenario presented to industry about the movement's growing influence seems to have come to life.
Dumb Question sat down recently with Jeff Seabright, Coca-Cola's vice president of environment and water resources.
Q: It’s really hard to compare or rank companies based on their sustainability strategies. Take Coke and Levi’s. Coca-Cola can make drinks without sugar and caffeine. But Levi’s makes what it calls “waterless jeans,” which comes close to eliminating water use in the last phase of production.
ImpactIQ.org — Some of the biggest names in institutional finance are starting to bank on sustainability.
Morgan Stanley this month announced a five-year goal of $10 billion in client assets for its “investing with impact” program, which offers investors a range of products targeting social responsibility and environmental sustainability. The company also said it would put $1 billion of its own money toward a "sustainable communities" initiative to preserve affordable housing that is at risk of becoming either too run-down or too expensive.
China has recently made major decisions about its economic future. On November 15, 2013, China announced dramatic new social and economic policies contemplating much greater reliance on market forces than it has in the past and inviting private-sector participation and foreign competition in industries long previously controlled by the central government. It also relaxed its one-child policy, opening the country and its people to vast new opportunities and inspiring new hopes and dreams.
Xi Jinping and other leaders have made it clear that China is willing to accept a slower growth pace if this will allow for a more sustainable, consumer-driven expansion of its economy. Some prognosticators are quick to conclude that China’s economy will soon significantly slow down, especially because China’s economy has sputtered following prior instances when the nation’s leaders have effected such fundamental economic reforms (such as in 1978 and 1993).
Diplomats fly, drive or otherwise fling themselves hundreds or thousands of miles to United Nations climate treaty talks every year. As they converge on Warsaw this week, with attendant nongovernmental organizations and journalists, it’s worth considering just how much pollution they create in the name of cutting pollution.
``In the grand scheme of things, the emissions of the conference aren’t very big,'' said Alden Meyer, director of policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. ``But as a symbolic gesture, it's important to offset them.''
(An earlier version of this article misstated the the number of parking spots in the lot.)
If the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, who wear green, added any more wind or solar power to their stadium, the facility would have to comply with rules meant for Pennsylvania electric utilities.