Benefit corporations and Certified B Corporations aim to benefit society and our shared environment—rather than just the company’s traditional “bottom line.” More and more companies are choosing to be triple-bottom-line benefit businesses.

Benefit Corporations are “a new class of corporation that:

  1. creates a material positive impact on society and the environment;
  2. expands fiduciary duty to require consideration of non-financial interests when making decisions; and
  3. reports on its overall social and environmental performance using recognized third party standards.”  (Source: BenefitCorp.net)

Benefit Corporation status affects requirements related to corporate purpose, accountability, and transparency. It does not affect a company’s tax status.  To learn about the legal basis for benefit corporations, click here.

The Benefit Corporation corporate status is now (as of June 2013) legally recognized by 17 states and the District of Columbia.  Benefit Corporation legislation has passed in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Vermont, and New York (as well as DC), and legislation is currently moving forward in at least nine other states. For state-by-state information, click here.

Here is a searchable list of some of the businesses that have registered as benefit corporations.

Certified B Corps                                       

A non-profit organization called B Lab certifies corporations as Certified B Corporations (or B Corps). Note: Benefit corporations and Certified B Corporations are similar, but different. Benefit corporation is a legal status administered by the state, and benefit corporations do not need to be certified as B Corporations or certified by any other third party. Some benefit corporations choose to become Certified B Corps, and some (but not all) Certified B Corps have the “benefit corporation” legal status, as only some states and countries currently recognize and grant that status.

Certified B Corporations have been certified as having met a high standard of overall social and environmental performance: they have achieved a verified minimum score on the B Impact Assessment.  They also have access to a portfolio of services and support from B Lab to help them with marketing, sales, raising money, and learning from and doing business within the Certified B Corps community.

As of June 2013, there are 775 Certified B Corporations, in 27 countries, and in 60 industriesClick here to find a B Corp (search by location, name, industry, keyword).

These are a few of the top-scoring, “Best for the World” B Corp companies of 2013:

  • Preserve personal care products (toothbrushes and razors) and housewares

And companies like Sun Light & Power, Sungevity, Better World Books, and other B Corps companies have been deemed “Rockstars of the New Economy” by Fast Company magazine.

Newer post on this topic [added May 2014]: Beneficial and Benevolent Businesses: Top B Corps of 2014

Related post: Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Finance, and Sustainable Economies

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July 2, 2013
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Saving energy saves money. Reducing your energy use will reduce your gas and electricity bills (which frees up funds for other, more meaningful things). It also benefits the environment and your health in a variety of ways. For example, using less electricity reduces power plant emissions from burning fossil fuels, which reduces air and water pollution, and that helps protect everyone’s health and our shared natural resources. It also reduces the emission of greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change.

This checklist outlines a number of ways that you can conserve energy at home (or at work), by changing your household (or workplace) products and practices related to Heating and Cooling, Appliances and Equipment, Lighting, etc. Most of these strategies are easy and low- or no-cost, and saving energy helps save you money down the road.

HEATING AND COOLING

  • Program your thermostat to provide less heating or cooling at night and during the daytime hours when your home/building is not occupied. If you don’t know how to change the settings on your programmable thermostat, read the manual or ask someone for assistance. (If you’d like to have an easy-to-program, energy-saving thermostat with an elegant design, take a look at the iPod-like Nest thermostat.)
  • On hot and sunny days, cover your windows by closing the shades, blinds, opaque curtains, or shutters; and turn off any lights that aren’t needed (especially any lamps that are using conventional incandescent bulbs, as they emit a surprising amount of heat). And if you live in an area that regularly has hot summers, consider adding shade trees, awnings, or overhangs (particularly outside of west-facing windows) and putting a light-colored roof on your home when it’s time to replace the roof.
  • Avoid or minimize your use of air conditioning, when possible. Air conditioners use a lot of energy, making them expensive to use. In warm weather, try using ceiling fans, floor fans, or a “whole house” attic fan (or in dry regions, an evaporative cooler) instead of AC. These options can often provide adequate cooling.
  • Follow the recommended maintenance procedures for your heating and cooling systems. Replace or clean air filters as specified in the owner’s manuals. Have your furnace or air conditioner serviced if it isn’t operating properly or efficiently.
  • Keep your heating/cooling vents dusted.
  • Keep furniture, curtains, and other objects away from heater/air conditioning outlets, to allow conditioned air to flow freely into the room.
  • Make sure your windows close properly. Fix any broken window panes, seals, or latches.
  • Don’t leave the heat or air conditioning on if you open a window.
  • Weatherize your doors and windows by using weather stripping or seals to minimize air leaks and drafts.
  • Make sure your home is well insulated. Insulate your hot water pipes and water heater, and add insulation (if needed) to your attic, walls, or basement.
  • Hire a home performance contractor to do a home energy audit; they will inspect your home and identify any inefficiencies and seal up air leaks. In many homes, fixing air leaks can save more energy and money than installing a high-efficiency furnace. (One very experienced company that offers these services in California is Advanced Home Energy, formerly called Recurve.) You can search here for a contractor near you who has been accredited by the Building Performance Institute. If you live in California, check out the information provided by Energy Upgrade California.
  • When purchasing a new furnace, air conditioner, ceiling fan, water heater, windows, or doors, choose products that have a high Energy Star efficiency rating. (For windows, at a minimum, make sure you choose double-paned glass.)

Please continue reading. The rest of this post includes tips on lighting, appliances, electronics, and more:

[CLICK HERE to CONTINUE]

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May 29, 2013
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The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest and most prestigious annual award for grassroots environmentalists. Goldman Prize winners are models of courage, and their stories are powerful and 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 an award of $150,000, the largest award in the world for grassroots environmentalists. 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.”

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

  • Kimberly Wasserman (Chicago, IL, USA) — Fought to get local, polluting, coal power plants shut down; leading community greening projects
  • Jonathan Deal (South Africa) — Fighting against hydraulic fracturing (fracking) gas extraction
  • Azzam Alwash (Iraq) — Restoring marshes and protecting water resources
  • Nohra Padilla (Colombia) — Instituting recycling and waste management programs
  • Rosanno Ercolini (Italy) — Fighting toxics from incinerators and spearheading a Zero Waste movement
  • Aleta Baun (Indonesia) — Protecting sacred forestland from marble mining

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

Here’s the three-minute video about Kimberly Wasserman, who “led local residents in a successful campaign to shut down two of the country’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants — and is now transforming Chicago’s old industrial sites into parks and multi-use spaces:” 

Last year’s recipient from the U.S. was Caroline Cannon, who has brought “the voice and perspective of her Inupiat community in Point Hope, Alaska to the battle to keep Arctic waters safe from offshore oil and gas drilling.”

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

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April 15, 2013
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People all over the world are starting to see an increase in extreme and volatile weather, record-breaking “natural” disasters, shifting seasons and habitats, species losses, and dwindling resources. (These are all trends that climate scientists accurately predicted would occur as a result of high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.) This climatological and ecological instability is creating huge economic burdens and heart-breaking social disruption and dislocation, and climate projections show that the situation will almost certainly get worse.

As the costs and consequences of climate change become impossible to ignore, more people are recognizing the need to be more prepared for the challenges we’re likely to face in the short-term and the long-term (e.g., power outages, food and water shortages, or flooding from storms and sea level rise in some areas). A variety of initiatives are arising that aim to share ways of becoming more resilient—i.e., able to survive and thrive in the face of climate-related dangers. These efforts are occurring at the household, community, town, city, regional, and global levels.

Some initiatives are focused on the design of durable, climate-responsive, and disaster-resistant homes and buildings, including dwellings that can withstand hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes, or that incorporate “passive” heating or natural cooling strategies so that they can remain livable when there is no power; later this year I will post a list of companies that design and manufacturer disaster-resistant homes. Other initiatives are focused on personal or local food security; or the decentralization of energy production into localized or on-site power generation; or restoring degraded or contaminated land and habitats; or creating self-sufficient rural homesteads, self-reliant communities, and/or strong local economies.

While many of these have been grassroots efforts, the importance of resilience as a key requirement for sustainability is also beginning to be understood at an institutional, policy-making level. For examples, some major cities (e.g., San Francisco, New York, Seattle) see the writing on the wall and are actively trying to figure out how to become more adaptive and make their systems and infrastructure more robust and secure.

These are some noteworthy resilience-related initiatives and information resources:

  • Resilience  (a program of the Post Carbon Institute)

RDI explains resilience well: “Resilience is the capacity to bounce back after a disturbance or interruption of some sort. At various levels —individuals, households, communities, and regions — through resilience we can maintain livable conditions in the event of natural disasters, loss of power, or other interruptions in normally available services.  Relative to climate change, resilience involves adaptation to the wide range of regional and localized impacts that are expected with a warming planet: more intense storms, greater precipitation, coastal and valley flooding, longer and more severe droughts in some areas, wildfires, melting permafrost, warmer temperatures, and power outages.  Resilient design is the intentional design of buildings, landscapes, communities, and regions in response to the these vulnerabilities.”

The various actions that they suggest are organized into these 12 categories:

1.) Ensure that a home is safe in a storm. 2.) Build to resist or survive rain and flooding. 3.) Build super-insulated envelopes. 4.) Incorporate passive solar design in heating climates. 5.) Minimize cooling loads in cooling climates. 6.) Provide natural cooling. 7.) Maximize daylighting. 8.) Provide backup renewable energy systems. 9.) Plan for water shortages. 10.) Address fire resistance and durability. 11.) Consider resilience at the community scale. 12.) Support local food production.

  • Hunt Utilities Group (HUG): a resilient-homes research and development campus in Minnesota. (More info about them here.)
  • Mother Earth News, which focuses on modern homesteading, among other resilience-relevant topics

Related posts:  

 

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February 28, 2013
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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 they 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, and you are welcome to comment on the posts and share your own recommended links.

Here’s a sampling of topics that we’ve spotlighted on the page over the last month or so:

  • Mosaic’s successful solar crowdfunding platform
  • Hybrid Vehicle Scorecard
  • Global Green’s K-12 Green School Makeover grants
  • The ultra-green, newly built Bullitt Center in Seattle
  • Fossil Free: a divestment campaign for campus endowments
  • Farmigo.com: a virtual farmer’s market that delivers to workplaces, schools +
  • Webinar on community/neighborhood/bulk solar projects
  • How to opt out of receiving the printed Yellow Pages
  • New books: Clean Break; Carbon Zero; etc.
  • New films: You’ve Been Trumped; Promised Land; etc.
  • Organizations: 350.org, Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, etc.
  • Cartoons, photos, graphics
  • Great quotations from Martin Luther King Jr., John Burroughs, Rachel Carson, Ross Gelbspan, Mary Oliver, etc.
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January 21, 2013
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There are a number of large and well-known environmental organizations (e.g., NRDC and the Sierra Club) and other broad-based sustainability groups that do very good work. But there are also many lesser-known, smaller, or more issue-specific environmental organizations that I believe also deserve attention and financial support. You might not have heard of all of these groups before, but they’re worth knowing about. They include:

It was difficult to narrow down my long list of favorite organizations to this small set; there are so many other effective organizations and initiatives that deserve support, as well. If you have a favorite organization to recommend, please mention it in the Comments section.

Remember that you can always give a donation to a group or a cause in honor of someone else—as a gift. It’s a wonderful type of gift to give for the holidays or any other occasion. You can also give someone a charity gift card (such as the TisBest Charity Gift Card) that allows the recipient to spend the funds on a charity of their choice.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to mention a few other non-profit groups that are near and dear to my heart, though they are not directly related to environmental issues. I hope you will look into and support some of these groups, as well:

Also consider making donations to local organizations that serve your community (e.g., food banks, shelters), as well as to local and nationwide public radio/TV programs and other non-profit media outlets.

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December 7, 2012
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More than a dozen of the Green Spotlight’s previous posts have referenced green products. Below is a list of many of those posts, which have covered everything from building- and home-related products to films, chocolates, and other types of goods. Many of the products mentioned in these posts would make good and useful gifts (for holidays, birthdays, etc.).

At the bottom of this post, I’ve also added links to some books for eco-minded readers.

Home/Building Products

Other Products

Books

The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places, by Bernie Krause

Or if you’re interested in books on green business, check out the book listing at the bottom of our Green Business post.

You can find a wide selection of books on sustainable living from Chelsea Green Publishing and from New Society Publishers.

And here are a bunch of other books on sustainability topics.

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November 26, 2012
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Generators are typically used to provide electricity during power outages (e.g., during storms, emergencies, and related disaster-relief operations) or in off-grid situations or areas where there is no access to a built-in power source (e.g., on construction sites, on camping trips, or at outdoor events—for concert stages, food booths, etc.). So, in a nutshell, they’re mostly used for temporary, portable/mobile, back-up, or remote power needs.

Conventional generators have a number of downsides. They require gasoline (or diesel fuel), which can be expensive—especially during emergencies, when there can also be gas shortages. The stinky emissions from gas-powered generators also contribute to air pollution and climate change, and they can cause carbon monoxide poisoning when placed inside a home or building, or too close to doors, windows, or vents on the outside of a building. (In fact, several people who were using generators due to Hurricane Sandy died from carbon monoxide poisoning.) Furthermore, gas generators are very loud.

Solar generators provide a smart, silent, safe, and clean alternative that uses renewable energy (no fuel = no emissions), and there are a number of products available to choose from these days. (Biodiesel or hybrid generators are other options to consider.)

Below is a list of the U.S.-based solar generator brands that I’ve looked into so far; this is not a comprehensive listing.  If you know of other brands of solar generators and would recommend them, please let us know in the Comments. Thanks!

SolManSmall-Scale, Compact Units

These solar generators are designed to provide a modest amount of electricity for temporary, emergency, or low-use power needs. The smallest units can easily charge gadgets and power lights, but do not have the capacity to run large, power-hungry equipment or appliances (e.g., refrigerators or heaters) for more than a short time. (For example, a 1500-watt unit can generally only run a small space heater for up to 2 hours or so at night, when the unit is not being recharged by the sun.) The average price among these compact options is somewhere around $3,000 – $4,000, though you can find some that are less expensive (note: the cheapest products often use panels or components that are made in China). The prices could change significantly in coming months and years, as the cost of solar panels continues to go down, and battery and photovoltaic technologies are evolving rapidly.

SolMan (from Sol Solutions, based in Northern California)

EasySun (from Suburb Solar, based in Northern Michigan)

Ready2Go (from E.A.R.T.H., based in Hawaii and Southern California)

SUNRNR (A.K.A. Sun Runner, based in Virginia)

Larger Systems

Some of these are intended for use on construction job sites or public works projects. Most are mounted on trailers that can be towed. While many of these generators are meant for commercial/industrial uses, some could also potentially be used to power an entire off-grid homestead.

Mobile Solar PowerMobile Solar Power (based in Central California)

Pure Power Distribution (based in Southern California)

SolaRover (based in Colorado)

 

Some companies offer hybrid systems that allow for back-up generation using biodiesel, if solar power is not providing adequate energy for a user’s needs.

Please chime in with additional info and recommendations based on your own experience or knowledge of solar or biodiesel generators!

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November 12, 2012
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If you would like to be represented by more elected officials who support environmental safeguards for our air, water, and land, take a good look at the resources provided by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). LCV “is a national non-profit organization that works to turn environmental values into national priorities. To secure the environmental future of our planet, LCV advocates for sound environmental policies” and works to “elect pro-environment candidates who will adopt and implement such policies.”

One of LCV’s flagship reports is its annual National Environmental Scorecard, which shows how each congressperson voted on every environmentally relevant piece of legislation. You can search the Scorecard by state, zip code, a congressperson’s name, or by year. Or you can download a PDF of the entire Scorecard.  Congressman Paul Ryan earned a very low score of 3% in LCV’s 2011 Scorecard, and just 13% the year before.

LCV endorses pro-environment candidates (or at least candidates who are far more green-leaning than their viable opponents) in Congressional, Gubernatorial, and Presidential races. See their list of current endorsements here . The Senate candidates whom they’ve endorsed for the upcoming election include: Tim Kaine (VA), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Jon Tester (MT), Richard Carmona (AZ), Martin Heinrich (NM), Elizabeth Warren (MA), and Chris Murphy (CT), among others. A few of the House candidates they’ve endorsed include: Tammy Duckworth (IL), Ami Bera (CA), Jared Huffman (CA), Dina Titus (NV), Raul Grijalva (AZ), and Ron Barber (AZ), among many others. LCV has also endorsed Barack Obama for President, and Jay Inslee for Governor of Washington. [A post-election update: Almost all of the endorsed pro-environment candidates won their races. LCV has created a webpage they call Environmental Facebook, with profiles of all of the newly elected, LCV-supported congresspeople.]

LCV also makes anti-endorsements. This year, LCV named five incumbent House candidates to a group they’ve dubbed the Flat Earth Five: five of the most staunchly anti-science, climate-change deniers (AKA denialists) in the House of Representatives. LCV is encouraging voters to vote against the Flat Earth Five, who are: Dan Lungren (CA); Dan Benishek (MI); Joe Walsh (IL); Ann Marie Buerkle (NY); and Francisco Canseco (TX).  LCV issues an annual Dirty Dozen list, as well, which includes the Flat Earth Five this year, as well as other candidates who consistently vote against clean energy and conservation. Among this year’s Dirty Dozen are: George Allen (VA); Heather Wilson (NM); Dennis Rehberg (MT); Josh Mandel (OH); Linda McMahon (CT); and Mitt Romney.  Since 1996, 60 percent of candidates named to the annual “Dirty Dozen” lists have been defeated. [A post-election update: 11 out of the 12 of the "Dirty Dozen" and 4 out of the 5 of the "Flat Earth Five" were defeated.]

More than 30 states now have their own state-level LCVs, which hold state elected officials accountable on various environmental issues. Click on the map at that link to find the website for your state’s LCV and learn about your state and local candidates.

LCV features several petitions and actions that people can participate in.  Some other ways to get involved with and support the League of Conservation Voters are to: join their Facebook page or follow their Twitter feed; share their videos; sign up to be on their mailing list; or donate to LCV or to specific pro-environment candidates.

Patagonia (the company) also has a Vote the Environment project, which is affiliated with LCV, along with the band Wilco, the group HeadCount, and others.

Other important info for the upcoming election:

Make sure you are able to vote:

  • Verify that you are still registered to vote: Go to CanIVote.org and click on your state and follow the links, or contact your county’s elections office.  Thousands of voters have been purged from the voter rolls in several states. Make sure you aren’t one of them.
  • Register to vote, or re-register to vote (if you’ve moved or changed your name or been wrongfully purged from the registration system): Pick up a voter registration form at a Post Office (or a library or government building) in your county; or go to RockTheVote.com, 866OurVote.org, or to your county’s election office to register. Be sure to register before the deadline for your state. And if you think you might not be able to get to the polls on election day (the upcoming national election is Tuesday, November 6), fill out the absentee ballot form to receive a mail-in ballot before the deadline.
  • Get info on your polling location and hours, as well as voting requirements in your area (e.g., voter ID requirements), and report any voting problems: Go to Election Protection’s 866OurVote.org website, or call 1-866-OUR-VOTE, email help@866ourvote.org, or download their free Smartphone app.

  • Find out whether your state’s voting systems are reliable and publicly verifiable: Go to VerifiedVoting.org: working for election integrity/preparedness, i.e., reducing the odds of electronic and physical vote tampering, to try to ensure and verify that every vote is counted as cast.

And last but not least: please vote—not just for your own sake, but for the sake of your family, future generations, and the environment and atmosphere that we all share and depend on for life.  Thank you.

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September 25, 2012
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