Here’s a selection of five good TED talks related to the environment, energy, public health, nature, and other relevant topics. The engaging speakers who have given these talks are experts in their fields. Check out these free videos of the following brief and fascinating talks. We’ll post another set of our favorite TED talks later this year.

The Business Logic of Sustainability / Ray Anderson

The Voice of the Natural World / Bernie Krause

Biomimicry in Action / Janine Benyus

A 40-Year Plan for Energy / Amory Lovins

Protect Our Oceans / Sylvia Earle

And here are some other collections of environment-related TED talks:


September 29, 2015
[Click here to comment]

10pFlower1The organization Bioregional works with communities (as well as businesses, governments, and other entities) to create better places where people can “live happy, healthy lives within the natural limits of the planet.”

They base their work around the following 10 principles of the One Planet Living framework:

Health and Happiness
Encouraging active, sociable, meaningful lives to promote good health and well-being

Equity and Local Economy
Creating bioregional economies that support equity and diverse local employment and international fair trade

Culture and Community
Respecting and reviving local identity, wisdom and culture; encouraging the involvement of people in shaping their community and creating a new culture of sustainability

Land Use and Wildlife
Protecting and restoring biodiversity and creating natural habitats through good land use

Sustainable Water
Using water efficiently in buildings, farming, and manufacturing. Designing to avoid local issues such as flooding, drought, and water course pollution

Local and Sustainable Food
Supporting sustainable and humane farming; promoting access to healthy, low-impact, local, seasonal, and organic diets; and reducing food waste

Sustainable Materials
Using safe and sustainable products, including those with low embodied energy, sourced locally, made from renewable or waste resources

Sustainable Transport
Reducing the need to travel, and encouraging low- and zero-carbon modes of transport to reduce emissions

Zero Waste
Reducing waste, reusing where possible, and ultimately sending zero waste to landfill

Zero Carbon
Making buildings energy efficient and delivering all energy with renewable technologies

The following are the most established One Planet Communities that Bioregional has been working with around the world:

  • BedZED, Hackbridge, Sutton (south London), UKBioregional-BedZED

And these One Planet Communities are currently being developed:

  • Zibi, Ottawa, Canada

One Planet Communities is a voluntary program, and it is not a certification program. Similar frameworks that do offer certification include the: Living Community Challenge, and LEED for Neighborhood Development, and STAR Communities. (Check back soon for a new post about those rating and certification programs.)

Related post:

Sustainable Neighborhoods and Communities


July 30, 2015
[Click here to comment]

B Corporations (known as B Corps, for short) are companies that “use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” As of June 2015, there are now more than 1,300 certified B Corporations, in 41 countries and 121 industries (twice as many industries as were represented a year ago). Among the larger and most well-known companies that are certified B Corporations are: Ben and Jerry’s, Method, Patagonia, Seventh Generation, Sungevity, The Honest Company, Natura, and Etsy (which recent became a publicly traded company).

BCorp-620x415Each year, B Lab recognizes a group of B Corps as “Best for the World” honorees. These companies have earned an overall score in the top 10% of all certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment, a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of a company’s impact on its workers, community, and the environment. These are businesses that go beyond simply being benign or reducing their harm to society; they make significant efforts to be beneficial and even benevolent.

Dozens of companies made the top 10%. But here are this year’s Best of the Best. The companies that got the five highest scores of all (in the overall Best for the World list) were:

  • South Mountain Company (an employee-owned, residential design/build and renewable energy firm), West Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts [They received the top score overall, which is currently 179]
  • Juhudi Kilimo (an agricultural asset financing and training company; lender / credit provider), Nairobi, Kenya
  • Echale a tu casa (self-build affordable housing program and housing improvements production company), Mexico City, Mexico
  • Beneficial State BankBeneficial State Bank (community development financial institution; bank / credit provider), Oakland, California
  • One Earth Designs (sustainable living products, such as the SolSource solar grill), Hong Kong (as well as offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts and in China)


Within the Best for the Environment category, these were the companies with the five highest environment scores:piedmont_logo_LRG_0

  • Atayne (high-performance outdoor and athletic apparel), Brunswick, Maine
  • Dolphin Blue (sustainable products online retailer), Dallas, Texas
  • Method Products (home and personal care products), San Francisco, California

There are also categories for Best for Community and Best for Workers.


Click here for stories about some of this year’s Best for the World companies.

Also follow the B Corps blog and B The Change Media, a new media hub for stories about B Corporations and benefit corporations.

And click here to find other B Corps. (You can search by location, name, industry, or keyword.)

Note: B Corporations and “benefit corporations” are similar but different things. For an explanation of each and the difference between the two, please see our previous post on this topic:

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: Businesses for the Common Good

Other relevant posts:

Beneficial Businesses: Top B Corps of 2014

Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Finance, and Sustainable Economies


June 10, 2015
[Click here to comment]

We post morsels of illuminating information and inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page every day. Anyone can view the page, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. But if you do have an account, we hope you’ll click on the page’s Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” the page).

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the wide variety of topics that it covers. You are welcome to comment on the posts and we hope you’ll share some of our links. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your Facebook homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.

Here’s a sampling of topics that we’ve highlighted on the page over the last couple of months:

  • Tesla’s Powerwall battery for home energy storage
  • Climate Rides (and Hikes)
  • Hawaii commits to 100% renewable electricity
  • Toxic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are really biocides
  • Goldman Prize winner videos
  • RoundUp’s links to cancer and other health and environmental harms
  • Environmental education, curriculum resources
  • Fossil-fuel-free funds have outperformed conventional stock-market funds
  • Community Choice local renewable power programs
  • Mother Earth News Fairs
  • Portland generating electricity via turbines in city water pipes
  • Wind turbines installed on the Eiffel Tower
  • New films: Inhabit, Oil and Water, Dryden, Merchants of Doubt, Mother, Revolution, Planetary
  • Quotations, photos, graphics, cartoons, etc.

May 19, 2015
[Click here to comment]

Green Business is one of this blog’s main content categories. The following are some of the business-related posts that have been published on The Green Spotlight:

Green products are one subset of the green business category. The following are a few of our posts related specifically to green products:

Additional posts on sustainable business topics will be published on the blog in coming months. Check back soon for more.


April 26, 2015
[Click here to comment]

The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest and most prestigious annual award for grassroots environmentalists. Many people refer to it as the “green Nobel.” Goldman Prize winners are models of courage, and their stories are powerful and truly inspiring. “The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives a financial award of $175,000. The Goldman Prize views ‘grassroots’ leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.”

2015 is the prize’s 26th year. The Goldman Environmental Prize ceremony, which is held in San Francisco, California and then in Washington DC, will be broadcast LIVE on the Goldman Prize YouTube channel.

This year’s six prize recipients (one from each of the six inhabited continental regions) are:

Click on each recipient’s name to read—and watch a brief, well-produced video—about their remarkable efforts and achievements.

Here’s the video about Marilyn Baptiste, from British Columbia, Canada.

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:


April 20, 2015
[Click here to comment]

Ever since Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was published in 1962 (sparking people’s awareness of health threats from chemicals, and leading to the ban on DDT 10 years later), an array of scientific studies have shown that various toxic chemicals and pollutants—in our air, water, soil, food, yards, indoor environments (homes, schools, and workplaces), and household and personal products—are causing or contributing to a myriad of public health problems. Such problems Basic RGBrange from asthma, allergies, headaches, and skin and respiratory conditions to serious reproductive/endocrine (hormone) problems, neurological problems (including learning disorders and lower IQ), birth defects, infertility, heart conditions, and many types of cancers. Recent studies have also linked chemical exposure to diabetes and obesity. Children and babies are particularly vulnerable to toxins, including through pre-natal exposures. And people in certain occupations (such as janitors, farm workers, nail salon staff, and some factory workers)—who have jobs in which they are regularly exposed to a stew of toxic chemicals—suffer from higher rates of certain health conditions than the general population.

Unfortunately, many toxic chemicals remain virtually unregulated, and existing regulations are not adequately enforced. Most products and chemicals that are used in products are considered “innocent until proven guilty;” they are assumed to be safe until it’s proven that they’re dangerous. But even when there is strong scientific evidence of the toxicity and harmfulness of certain substances, they are not always banned—or it can take many years of battles to get them banned. Known, probable, and suspected carcinogens and other harmful chemicals are in products that we all use every day. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the main chemical safety law in the U.S., but it is weak and outdated; it desperately needs to be updated and strengthened, but some members of Congress are currently trying to weaken it further, putting the profit interests of the chemical industry over public health.

A few of the most toxic chemicals/elements, many of which are still commonly found in products, CradletoCradleCertified-NoLevelinclude: mercury, lead, arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde, PVC (poly-vinyl chloride—dioxin is a by-product), phthalates (plasticizers), flame retardants (PBDEs, TDCP, TCEP), cadmium, chromium, hexane, PFCs, trichlorethylene (TCE), and asbestos. And there are many other toxic chemicals and ingredients. See the Cradle to Cradle product certification’s Banned Lists of Chemicals.

Bear in mind that chemicals and pollutants that have negative effects on human health usually have (even worse) negative effects on other species (pets, wildlife, fish, etc.) and on environmental health overall. Our air and water and soil are shared resources, and all living things depend on them for their survival and health. Some of the worst chemicals are classified as PBTs: Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic; these are toxic chemicals that are known to persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in people and/or wildlife (increasing in concentration as they go up the food chain).

All public health—and especially preventive health—efforts should start focusing on reducing environmental (and fetal) exposures to toxins, which means minimizing the production of toxins and pollutants at their source. The World Health Organization estimates that outdoor air pollution alone causes 7 million premature deaths (of humans) each year. If something else were killing that many people, it would be considered a public health epidemic.

The following organizations focus on health issues related to environmental exposures to toxins. Visit their websites to learn more about their efforts and ways that you can get involved:

Center for Environmental Health 

Collaborative on Health and the Environment logo-ewc2

EWG (Environmental Working Group)

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families

Silent Spring Institute

Coming Cleanschf_logo_site

Physicians for Social Responsibility

The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX)

EPA’s Safer Choice product label

EPA’s Green Chemistry information

Union of Concerned Scientists

Several other broad-based sustainability organizations—including Earthjustice, EDF, Greenpeace, and NRDC—also address health and toxics issues, among other issues.

Among the many types of toxins that people are exposed to on a regular basis, some of the worst sources include: power plant emissions, and other oil, coal, and gas industry inputs, by-products, and emissions (including fracking chemicals); nuclear radiation; pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides (including atrazine and Roundup/glyphosate); building materials, finishes, furniture, and furnishings; electronics (manufacturing and disposal hazards); and personal care products (e.g., shampoo, sunscreen, toothpaste, etc.).

These groups are working to reduce harmful exposures to chemicals from the following, specific sources:

Pesticides / food:

Nuclear radiation:

Building materials:

Interior products (and building materials):

Electronics / tech:




Books and Films

Living Downstream (book and film; book written by Sandra Steingraber)

No Family History (book and film; book written by Sabrina McCormick)

Other recent films on topics related to health, toxins, and the environment include: The Human Experiment, Unacceptable Levels, Toxic Hot Seat, The Atomic States of America, Hot Water, Blue Vinyl, and A Will for the Woods. You can find links to these and other films via the following posts:


Other health-related posts:


March 16, 2015
1 comment

The rapid rise of the global fossil-fuel divestment movement is a very promising and heartening sign of real progress.

A growing number of people are trying to “put their money where their mouth is” (i.e., where their values are). They want to stop giving their unintentional financial support to destructive, polluting companies and industries, such as the fossil fuel industry, and to shift their support over to clean, forward-thinking companies and industries that aim to have a positive impact on our world.

Putting your money where your mouth is might involve more than just being selective about which stores you go to and which products you buy. You could be unwittingly giving some of your money to companies you don’t want to support, through your accounts and investments: e.g., mutual funds, retirement accounts (IRAs, 401Ks), or any other stock-based accounts or investments. If you look at the list of company holdings that are part of your accounts’ portfolios, you might discover that Exxon and other oil/gas companies are in there, or Walmart, or Monsanto, or Koch Brothers-owned companies (also see the Buycott campaign/app), or McDonald’s or Coca-Cola or cigarette companies… Even if you don’t have any stock-based accounts of your own, there’s a good chance that your city, your college’s endowment fund, your church, or your pension provider invests in companies that don’t align with your values. Institutions like these are increasingly being confronted by local and national divestment campaigns.

_DshqZRQ_400x400Fossil Free maintains this list of the hundreds of institutions (including colleges and universities, cities and counties, religious institutions, and foundations) that have committed to divesting from fossil fuels. They include: Rockefeller Brothers Fund; the City and County of San Francisco; Seattle, WA; Dane County, WI; Ann Arbor, MI, and many, many more. Countries committed to divest billions of dollars at the UN’s 2014 Climate Summit, and many world leaders have spoken out in support of the divestment movement; they include Desmond Tutu, Ban Ki-Moon, Christina Figueres, Mary Robinson, and even the President of the World Bank. People and institutions are divesting from fossil fuels for a variety of reasons. In addition to the values motivation, or to limit the political influence (lobbying budgets) of oil and gas companies, some are simply divesting because they feel that we’re approaching (or have already hit) “peak oil” and/or that fossil fuel reserves will soon become “stranded assets” and fossil fuel stocks are going to rapidly or drastically drop in value.

942A5VXM_400x400At the Divest-Invest site, you can pledge to divest from fossil fuels or to invest in clean stocks, and learn more about the issues and options. At Fossil Free Funds, you can do a search to find out whether your retirement plan/mutual funds have fossil free stocks. (Also see the links below.)

Whether or not you have any accounts that can be divested from fossil fuel or other harmful companies, you should think about investing some money in clean energy or other socially beneficial companies. If you want to switch your mutual fund or retirement accounts over to—or start a new account with—a “socially responsible investment” (SRI) fund, there are many to choose from. Going this route does not necessarily mean that you have to settle for a lower return on investment. SRI funds often perform as well as (or even better) than market averages. (See some performance stats here and here and here.) And socially responsible investing has become much more popular in recent years: U.S-based SRI assets jumped 76% between 2012 and 2014 and reached $6.57 trillion, according to US SIF. You can learn more about fossil-free funds and other SRI funds at the following sites:

A few funds that are fossil-fuel free (to date) include: Green Century Fund (both of their funds: Balanced and Equity), Green Alpha FundsParnassus Endeavor FundCalvert Investments’ Green Bond FundPortfolio 21 Global Equity Fund, and Pax World Global Environmental Markets Fund.  A couple of fossil-fuel-free indexes have been developed, as well:  FFIUS Fossil Free Indexes, and FTSE ex Fossil Fuel Index.

Note: In addition to the relatively new fossil-fuel-free criterion (which most SRI funds do not yet meet), there are a number of other environmental and social issues and criteria that SRI funds can screen for, in areas such as: pollution/toxics, nuclear power, defense/weapons, human rights, animal welfare, executive pay, labor relations, diversity, tobacco, alcohol, and many others. (When you click on the link above, select the Screening and Advocacy tab to find out how/whether various funds address each issue.) Note: It’s important that you look at each fund’s holdings and portfolio policies, as many SRI funds do include some companies that are widely seen as problematic (including oil and gas companies); some but not all of those funds explicitly try to influence and improve those companies’ policies through shareholder activism.

If you would like to have an investment advisor assist you in selecting a fossil-free or other SRI fund, these are a couple of advisory firms that I am aware of:

(You can also do a web search to find firms or advisors who specialize in SRI or clean energy investment or fossil-fuel divestment and who are also based in your area.)

logoAnother way to invest your money is to make a direct investment in a social impact venture, AKA a social enterprise. One place to find some social enterprises and funds that anyone can invest in is CuttingEdgeX. Among their current offerings (which are called Direct Public Offerings) are the RSF Social Investment Fund and the Calvert Foundation’s Community Investment note at For a list of some other funds that are available to everyone (but with a focus on food and farming-related enterprises), also see the top section of this page.

Some people are also able to invest their money in local, distributed solar projects in their area or elsewhere (on housing, schools, etc.). These are two platforms that allow people to do that—though unfortunately, for now, most of these platforms’ offerings are only open to California residents, due to current securities regulations (which could change in the future):

(Note: Having solar panels or a small-scale wind turbine installed on your own property is another good way to invest your money and get a solid return on investment.)

Most direct investment opportunities are only open to “accredited investors” (who, basically, are people wealthy enough to endure the risk of losing a considerable amount of money on investments: an accredited investor is currently defined as someone with an individual income of more than $200,000/year or a joint income of $300,000, for the past two years; or a net worth exceeding $1 million, individually or jointly with one’s spouse). If you are an accredited investor, there are all sorts of social enterprises you can invest in, e.g., through groups like these:

And there’s yet another way that everyone can make a difference with their dollars: Move your regular (checking/savings) accounts (as well as any credit card accounts) out of the huge, greedy, bail-out banks (e.g., Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, Wells Fargo, etc.) and into a local credit union (credit unions are non-profit cooperative banks that share profits with their members) or a small community bank that won’t charge you ridiculous fees for basic transactions with your own money; won’t gamble with your money, your mortgage, and the economy for short-term gains; and that will give back to its members and your community. There are also a few banks that have an explicit social and environmental mission (and are certified B Corporations), such as:

The Sierra Club offers a credit card with Beneficial State Bank. (Most affinity cards are affiliated with the big, bail-out banks. This is one of the few that isn’t.)

Efforts are also underway to create Clean Energy Victory Bonds, which would be treasury bonds where all the funds raised go to support clean energy in the United States. Click that link to learn how you can support this initiative.


Other general resources for further information:

Related posts:

Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Finance, and Sustainable Economies

Climate and Energy-Related Solutions and Resources


February 27, 2015
1 comment

Some readers might wonder what I do when I’m not preparing posts for The Green Spotlight, as I almost never mention my (other) professional work in my blog posts. I am a sustainability writer, editor, and advisor, and I work on projects for a wide variety of clients.

This is a partial list of organizations and companies that I’ve worked with in recent years. For most of these clients, I have done writing, editing, and/or research (for printed materials or online content) related to some aspect of sustainability. Click on the links below to learn about the important and interesting work that these groups are doing.

CLIENTS  (past and present)Global Green

Non-profit organizations:


Before I formed my own communications and consulting business in 2005, I worked for a public radio program (as a producer and reporter), a green building consulting firm (as senior associate), an architecture firm, and several environmental non-profits:


I also used to do freelance writing fairly regularly, and my pieces were published by the San Francisco Chronicle, Natural Home magazine (now Mother Earth Living),,,, and other media outlets. In addition, I authored a chapter of a book: Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing, edited by Global Green USA (Island Press, 2007).

For the past few years, my blog posts have been published on, as well as here on my own blog (The Green Spotlight). If you’d like more information about my writing, editing, and publications, please see Green Writings and Published Work or my Publications page.



January 22, 2015
[Click here to comment]