green business

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. (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 Vested.org. 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

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February 27, 2015
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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:

Companies:

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:

FORMER EMPLOYERS

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), KQED.org, GreenHomeGuide.com, GreenBuildingAdvisor.com, 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 MotherEarthNews.com, 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.

-ML

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January 22, 2015
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It’s not always easy to tell which products are green, how green they might be, or in what ways they are green. There are no standard, universal definitions for the terms “green,” “environmentally friendly,” or “natural.” However, the FTC has recently created more stringent guidelines to prohibit marketers from making fraudulent environmental claims about their products.

Finding products that have achieved green certifications (from groups that have rigorous standards) can help you separate true green claims from “greenwashing.” So look for eco-labels from legitimate, independent, third-party certifiers (as opposed to industry- or self-administered programs); several third-party certifiers are listed below.

Manufacturers that have had their environmental product claims independently assessed, verified, and certified by a third-party group can feature the corresponding eco-label on their certified products. Be aware that some certifications only verify specific single-attribute claims (e.g., energy efficiency, organic status, recycled-content percentage, indoor air quality/emissions, or biodegradability), while others review multiple attributes related to a certain kind of product (e.g., forest products, paints, cleaning products, etc.). Green attributes can relate to the design, manufacturing, and/or operational (use) impacts of a product, or they can address the full lifecycle impacts of the product: from raw material extraction to end-of-life disposal/recycling/reuse.

Bear in mind, though, that many small companies can’t afford to put their products through a costly certification process, so there are some very-green products that do not have green certification labels. Therefore, it can also be helpful to look carefully at product ingredients and read up on the company’s claims and any outside analysis of those claims. But first, you should have a basic understanding of product stewardship and the criteria and attributes that might make a certain product greener than others of its kind.

Products’ green attributes tend to fall into these four general categories:

  • Public / Environmental Health: pollution reduction during a product’s lifecycle (e.g., reduction of toxic inputs and by-products, and reduction of fossil fuel/energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing, etc.); protection of air, water, and soil quality and climate stability
  • Individual / Household Health: minimized exposure to toxins/hazards for product users’ health and safety
  • Resource Conservation: conservation of natural resources, including water, raw materials (e.g., trees, minerals), land/habitat, soil; reduction of resource extraction, resource use, and waste
  • Social Responsibility: supports safe, responsible, and equitable labor practices, local economies, fair trade, human rights, humane treatment of animals, community vitality

[Note: I’ll be adding additional examples of specific product attributes within these categories soon.]

The following are some of the major certifiers of green product claims, as well as some other relevant standards, rating systems, and online assessment tools and resources. This is not an exhaustive list:

General: Multiple-issue / multiple-attribute

Certifiers/Eco-Labels:

  • Green SealGreenSeal
    standards and certifications for numerous types of household and institutional products; see list below
  • SCS Global Services
    4269numerous types of certifications, including “Environmentally Preferable Product” lifecycle assessment; FSC; FloorScore; FairTrade; specific product claim certifications, e.g., recycled content, etc.
  • UL Environment
    CradletoCradleCertifiedECOLOGO lifecycle certifications, as well as Greenguard chemical emissions certifications and single-attribute claim validations

Other general green product standards and ratings:

  • GoodGuide product ratings (website and app)ecologo-logo

Issue-specific

Certifications/Eco-Labels:

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130px-USDA_organic_seal.svg fair_trade_certified_logo-cmyk

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Industry- or Product-specific

Certifications/Eco-Labels:

  • Green Seal (see logo above) has certifications and standards for numerous types of products (e.g., household/cleaning products, hand soaps and cleaners, institutional cleaning products, personal care products, paints and coatings, printing and writing paper, windows, adhesives, paper towels and napkins and tissues, food packaging; cleaning services, hotels and lodging, and restaurants and food services, etc.) fsc
  • Electronics: EPEAT registered products (managed by the Green Electronics Council)
  • Flowers and Potted Plants: Veriflora “Sustainably Grown”

There are also green certifications for services. While this post is focused on products, rather than services, here’s one example of a green service certification: the Green Shield Certified certification for pest control companies that use good Integrated Pest Management practices (including avoiding use of the most toxic pesticide products).

Other industry-specific green product standards, assessment tools, directories, and other resources:

 

Also keep in mind that companies that are greener than others (e.g., companies that have greened their internal operations and have active green commitments) are more likely to make and use green products. So also look for products (and services) from companies that have been certified as green:

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: Businesses for the Common Good
Beneficial Businesses: Top B Corps of 2014

 

Related posts:

For additional information on green products, see:

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December 26, 2014
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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:

  • SoKind gift registry / wish list website
  • Fresh Cab: safe, natural rodent repellent (repels mice and rats)
  • ELF solar-electric hybrid cargo tricycle
  • TheRainforestSite.com
  • Mosaic: Solar energy investment platform
  • Solar power’s exponential growth and grid parity (cost competitiveness)
  • New films: Disruption; Mission Blue
  • Resilient: Soil, Water, and the New Stewards of the American West (short film)
  • Global human population has doubled over the past 35 years (approx.)
  • Drop-a-Brick: toilet-tank water-saving product
  • Air-to-water technologies
  • Indigenous Environmental Network
  • International Dark-Sky Association
  • Quotations, photos, videos, etc.
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November 29, 2014
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The following are the posts on The Green Spotlight that provide information and links that are related to energy, power, fuel, and/or climate change—with a strong focus on solutions.

SLB102_Blk_LimeGrThese posts are the most directly related to such topics:

And these posts are also related to energy and climate issues, in ways that might be less obvious but are equally important:

In the near future, we will add posts on fossil fuel divestment and renewable energy investment; local power (local renewable electricity utilities, Community Choice Aggregation); reforestation and carbon sequestration initiatives; and other important efforts to slow/mitigate the progression (and severity) of climate change.

Here are a few other online resources for good information related to climate change and climate solutions:

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September 21, 2014
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Many new electric vehicles have hit the marketplace in the past few years, and their popularity is growing fast. This post lists some of the non-car—two-wheeled or three-wheeled—electric (or hybrid) vehicles that are now available or are expected to be available soon. These vehicles have a wide range of prices, from very affordable to pretty pricey. Think of how much gas you could avoid buying (and burning) if you were to use one of these instead of driving a car!

The following vehicles are currently in production and are available to buy:

BMW
C Evolution electric maxi-scooter
(only manufactured and sold in Europe, so far)

Brammo
High-speed electric motorcycles: Empulse and Enertia models

KTM
Freeride E off-road electric motorcycle

Mission Motorcycles
Mission R and Mission RS models: High-performance, high-speed, high-priced electric motorcycle

Segway
Two-wheeled, standing, “Personal Transporter” electric vehicles
(an off-road version is available; and a three-wheeled version is available for law enforcement patrol use)

Switch Vehicles
Three-wheeled electric vehicles

Trikke
Three-wheeled, electric “carving vehicles”—essentially standing scooters (but with sort of a roller-blade or ski-like feel)
(Trikke also makes non-electric, human-powered scooters)

ZAP Jonway
Various electric motorcycles, scooters, and foot scooters
(as well as electric cars, trucks, and a minivan)

Zero Motorcycles
4 models of high-performance electric motorcycles

 

In addition, there are also many brands of electric bicycles and electric bike DIY kits. (Click on that link to see listings of a wide range of other Light Electric Vehicles (LEVs), as well, including other motorcycles and scooters, and various types of velomobiles.)  The ELF is a particularly cool, solar-electric and pedal-powered hybrid, covered tricycle that has cargo room.

 

The following are alternative vehicles that are currently in development; they’re in the prototype phase, and they’re expected to be mass-produced in the near future. Some of these companies are currently taking reservations from people who want to be the first to buy these vehicles when they become available.

Elio Motors
Three-wheeled, enclosed electric vehicle

Green Lite Motors
Three-wheeled, two-passenger, 100MPG, enclosed, hybrid vehicle

Harley-Davidson
Livewire electric motorcycle

Lit Motors
Two-wheeled, enclosed electric vehicle: C-1 and Kubo (cargo) models

Sparrow Motors
Three-wheeled, enclosed electric vehicle

Sway Motorsports
Three-wheeled, tilting, scooter-like electric vehicle

Toyota i-Road
Three-wheeled, enclosed electric vehicle
(currently in limited production in Japan and being used for a car-share fleet in Europe; not for sale to individuals at this point)

 

Have you tried riding/driving any of these yet? Do you know of other two- or three-wheeled electric or hybrid vehicles?

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July 31, 2014
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You can find fresh, daily morsels of information and inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page. 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 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 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 month or so:

  • Navajo teen wins award for building solar ovens
  • Tesla makes its patents open-source
  • Solar Impulse 2 airplane
  • Warka water tower gets water from the air
  • Best ways to protect homes from wildfires
  • Climate Confidential
  • Natural mosquito control
  • EWG’s guide to safe, effective sunscreens
  • Ways to reduce breast cancer risk
  • Cowboy and Indian Alliance
  • Films: Triple Divide, DamNation
  • Wendell Berry poem
  • Quotations, cartoons, photos, videos, etc.
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June 18, 2014
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B Corporations (known as B Corps, for short) are “a new type of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” As of May 2014, there are now more than 1,000 certified B Corporations, in 33 countries and 60 industries. Among the most well-known companies that are certified B Corporations are: Patagonia, Ben and Jerry’s, Method, and Seventh Generation.

Each year, B Lab recognizes a group of B Corps as “Best for the World” honorees for creating the most positive social and environmental impact. 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 strive to be beneficial and could even be considered benevolent. (For more information on B Corp certification, see our previous post on this topic.)

I’d like to highlight a small selection of this year’s “Best for the World” companies, within a few types of industries:

Financial

Energy/Solar

Consumer Products

There is also an Environment sub-group of Best for the World honorees, for the companies that scored in the top 10% of all B Corps within the environmental impact category. And there are sub-groups for the top 10% companies for worker impact, as well as community impact.

Click here to find other B Corps (you can search by location, name, industry, 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

You might also be interested in this post on green and socially responsible business:

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

 

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May 5, 2014
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I launched The Green Spotlight about five years ago, in late January 2009. Since its inception, I’ve published more than 70 blog posts, and the blog’s readership has grown steadily—and it continues to grow. The Green Spotlight was also nominated (two years in a row) for a Best Green Blog award.

I appreciate everyone who has taken some time to read the blog. I especially appreciate those of you who have shared the posts (or specific information or links from the posts) with others; have incorporated suggestions from the blog into your lives; or have added helpful comments and recommendations.

Please subscribe to The Green Spotlight’s e-mail list. Doing so means that you will receive a brief, quarterly email—only once every 3 months—that provides a listing of my most recent posts, along with a favorite quotation. Here’s one example of a recent email bulletin. I won’t send you any spam or share your email address with anyone else.

Subscribe to email list


 



Also, if you haven’t already, please join (“Like”) The Green Spotlight’s page on Facebook, and share the page with your friends. The page is getting close to reaching 1,000 Likes, and with your help, it could pass that mark soon.

To mark The Green Spotlight’s 5-year milestone, I recently added an ARCHIVE page, which is essentially a Table of Contents that lists the titles of all of my blog posts to date. Please peruse this list, to see the wide range of topics and issues that I’ve covered so far; I hope you’ll find a few that pique your interest.

The following are among The Green Spotlight’s most popular (i.e., most viewed) pages and posts:

And these are a few of the topics that I plan to write about in future posts:

  • Electric Motorcycles and Scooters (and other non-standard vehicles)
  • Tips for Green & Healthy Cleaning: Ingredients & methods to use or to avoid
  • Disaster-Resistant Homes and Buildings
  • Remedies for Light Pollution and Noise Pollution
  • Favorite Green Household Products: My personal recommendations
  • New Films with Green Themes
  • Permaculture: Principles, practices, and programs

Of these topics, which one(s) are you most interested in? Do you have a suggestion for another topic that you’d like to see covered?

Please add a Comment to this post or send me an email message [email: info (at) thegreenspotlight.com] if you have any feedback or constructive criticism. And I’d be thrilled to hear about any changes you’ve made or actions you’ve taken based on information you found on TheGreenSpotlight.com (or the Facebook page). Too often it can feel like I’m working in a vacuum. I rely on interaction and feedback from my readers to get a tangible sense of the results of my efforts.

If you are a big fan of The Green Spotlight: Please send me a message [email: info (at) thegreenspotlight.com] if you would be willing to write a short blurb (1-3 sentences would be plenty!), stating what you like about the blog. You can read existing blurbs at the bottom of the About page. It’s up to you whether your name (and/or a link to your own website) will appear with your blurb.

Thank you for reading The Green Spotlight, and for striving to do your best—and spreading the word to others—to keep our planet life-supporting, habitable, and beautiful for all people, all species, and future generations.

– M

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February 27, 2014
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