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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 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 [starting this year, it has been increased to $175,000], 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 marks the 25th anniversary of this international prize. And this year, for the first time ever, the Goldman Environmental Prize ceremony 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:

  • Helen Slottje (NY, USA) — Helping towns across New York defend themselves from oil and gas companies by passing local bans on fracking
  • Desmond D’Sa (South Africa) — Rallied south Durban’s diverse and disenfranchised communities to successfully shut down a toxic waste dump that was exposing nearby residents to dangerous chemicals
  • Ruth Buendía (Peru) — United the Asháninka people in a powerful campaign against large-scale dams that would have once again uprooted indigenous communities
  • Ramesh Agrawal (India) — Organized villagers to demand their right to information about industrial development projects and succeeded in shutting down one of the largest proposed coal mines in Chhattisgarh
  • Suren Gazaryan (Russia) — Led multiple campaigns exposing government corruption and illegal use of federally protected forestland along Russia’s Black Sea coast
  • Rudi Putra (Indonesia) — Dismantling illegal palm oil plantations that are causing massive deforestation in northern Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem, protecting the habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino

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

Here’s the video about Helen Slottje, who has provided pro-bono legal assistance to help towns across New York (including Dryden) defend themselves from oil and gas companies by passing local bans on fracking, using a clause in the state constitution that gives municipalities the right to make local land use decisions.

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

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April 28, 2014
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The 13 buildings that are highlighted in this post are among the greenest building and renovation projects of recent years. They include Living Building Challenge certified projects (and a couple of projects that are currently pursuing that certification), as well as some of the highest-scoring LEED Platinum certified projects around the world. (Bear in mind that many traditional and indigenous structures were built using more sustainable materials and methods than those that are typically used in these modern times, so many of the world’s greenest buildings were constructed long before the advent of green building certification systems.) The following projects were all built or renovated within the past decade.

Living Building Challenge Projects

The Living Building Challenge, administered by the International Living Future Institute, is widely recognized as the most rigorous certification system for green buildings; it can also be applied to infrastructure and other types of development projects. It goes beyond most of the LEED requirements. In their own words, “It calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture. To be certified under the Challenge, projects must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements, including net zero energy, waste and water, over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy.”

So far (as of late 2013), these are the only four buildings to have achieved the full Living Building certification:

Bertschi School’s Living Building Science Wing
Seattle, WA

More Info

Hawai’i Preparatory Academy’s Energy Lab
Kamuela, HI
This building also achieved LEED Platinum certification under LEED for Schools v2007.
More Info

Omega Center for Sustainable Living
Rhinebeck, NY
This building also achieved LEED Platinum certification under LEED NC v2.2.
More Info

Tyson Living Learning Center
(at Washington University’s Tyson Research Center)
Eureka, MO

More Info

[February 2014 Update: A fifth building has now achieved the full Living Building certification:
Smith College Environmental Classroom
, Northampton, MA]

These two ultra-green buildings have also been completed and their project teams are currently pursuing the Living Building Challenge certification:

Bullitt Center (Bullitt Foundation office building)
Seattle, WA

(Living Building certification pending)
More Info

Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes
Pittsburgh, PA

This building achieved LEED Platinum certification under LEED NC v2.2.  (Living Building certification pending)
More Info

 

Top-Scoring LEED Platinum Certified Buildings

So far (as of late 2013), the following projects have achieved the highest scores among all LEED certified projects with the Platinum rating (LEED’s highest rating level). Some are new buildings; some are renovations. And a couple of the projects involve interior spaces (office or store interiors) only.

In the United States

LaraSwimmerPhotoSt. Martin’s University, Cebula Hall Engineering Building
Lacey, WA

LEED Platinum NC (New Construction) v2009
(97 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

Integral Group’s Deep Green Office (remodel)
Oakland, CA

LEED Platinum CI (Commercial Interiors) v2009
(102 out of 110 points)
Info
Video Tour

The Bridge Building (historic renovation)
Nashville, TN

LEED Platinum CS (Core & Shell) v2009
(99 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

502 Second St. NW office building (historic renovation)
Grand Rapids, MI

LEED Platinum NC (New Construction & Major Renovation) v2.2
(66 out of 69 points)
Info
More Info


In other countries

Pixel office building
Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

LEED Platinum NC (New Construction) v2009
(105 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

The Change Initiative store
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

LEED Platinum Retail CI (Commercial Interiors) v2009
(107 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

ITC Green Centre office building
Gurgaon, Haryana, India

LEED Platinum O&M: EB (Existing Buildings) v2009
(99 out of 110 points)
Info

To see other Platinum projects, check out our listing of LEED Platinum Certified Buildings, Offices, and Homes worldwide.

This post has provided a selected, not a comprehensive, list of super-green buildings.  If you know of another completed, ultra-green building that you’d like others to know about, please mention it in the Comments, with a link to information about the project.

Related posts:

LEED Platinum Leaders: January 2012 Update of Top-Ranking States and Countries

Model Sustainable Neighborhoods: LEED ND Developments in the U.S., Canada, and China

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December 11, 2013
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If you want to avoid buying clothing that was made in sweatshops (characterized by unsafe conditions, unethical labor practices, and poor wages); and/or you want to buy clothing that is made from natural and organically grown fabrics, rather than from synthetic, petrochemical textiles or from fibers grown with toxic pesticides, you should probably—at least for the time being, until the industry shifts—avoid buying most of your clothing from major retailers, especially those that sell clothes for super-low prices. Those “fast fashion” clothes are not just cheap in price. In most cases, they’re also cheaply made (so they’re not durable), and the people who make them aren’t making a living wage. As President Benjamin Harrison said, “I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process.”

Furthermore, those workers work long hours in dangerous factories: facilities without proper health and safety standards, audits, or enforcement. (For example, in recent years, more than 1,800 garment factory workers have died on the job in Bangladesh, mostly due to unsafe buildings that collapsed on them. Some clothing retailers, such as Walmart and the Gap, have so far resisted signing onto a new building safety agreement, and instead have proposed weaker initiatives of their own.)

Look for well-made and durable, certified Fair Trade or domestically made (Made in the U.S.) clothes, made of certified organic, natural materials (such as organic cotton, wool, hemp, bamboo) or recycled materials, by ethical and sustainable brands [follow the links below to find some]; or buy clothes second-hand. And most importantly, don’t buy way more clothing than you need, and be sure to donate your unwanted/extra clothing.

Apparel Product Assessments and Vetted Brand Listings:

Check the Apparel section of GoodGuide (which also has a mobile app):

…and look for clothing labels that indicate certification with the Global Organic Textile Standard, as well as Fair Trade Certified,

…as well as clothing companies that are Certified B Corporations.

Also check out the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and its preliminary Higg Index, which aims to measure the environmental (and, in a later phase, also the social) performance of apparel products. In addition, there is Greenpeace’s international Detox fashion campaign, which has challenged major clothing brands to get their suppliers to make non-toxic clothes and to eliminate their release of hazardous chemicals, especially those that are contributing to water pollution.

Selected Companies/Brands:

These are a few brands that take the environmental and social impacts of their products more seriously than most other brands. Most of the following companies offer organic and/or Fair Trade clothes. Be sure to check out their “Sale” (or “Specials” or “Clearance”) pages to find discounted products.

  • Coyuchi  (see their pajamas and robes)

If you know of other relevant brands and you would recommend their products to others, please mention those brands in the Comments section.

 

For further information on this topic, you might want to read this book:

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth Cline. (Also check out the author’s Shopping Directory.)

 

Other recent posts on green products:

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October 31, 2013
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This is a list of links to information resources related to sustainable agriculture, organic farming and gardening, and growing and buying good, safe food.

Image created by Matt FarrarThese resources are organized into the following general categories (though some are relevant to more than one category): Organizations, Magazines and Blogs, Educational Programs, Funding & Investing, Permaculture, Urban Farms, Agri-Tourism / Farm Tours, International/Non-U.S. Initiatives, Films and Books.

At the end, you will find a few suggestions of simple ways to get involved in the good food movement.

Organizations

Magazines and Blogs

Educational Programs

Funding and Investing

(including some crowdfunding sites)

Permaculture

[Partial list; please mention other groups in the Comments.]

Urban Farms

[This is just a small selection; there are many, many more. Please mention other urban farms you are familiar with in the Comments.]

Agri-Tourism / Farm Tours

International/Non-U.S. Initiatives

Films and Books

Many films about food and farming have come out recently. One of the most recent is Symphony of the Soil.

There are also many good books on these topics. One new one is called Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing, by Daphne Miller, MD.

I also recommend reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, as well as books by Wendell Berry, Michael Ableman, Michael Pollan, Frances Moore Lappe, Anna Lappe, and Marion Nestle.

For other relevant books, check out the offerings from Chelsea Green Publishing, Mother Earth News, and New Society Publishers.

Taking Part

You don’t have to be a farmer to be involved in sustainable agriculture and the good food movement. Here are just a few of the steps that almost anyone can take, to create a healthier family, healthier community, and a healthier planet:

  • Buy organic, non-GMO, and locally grown foods whenever possible (from the grocery, a farmer’s market, local farms, a CSA, etc.) To find local farms, farmer’s markets, or food providers, go to LocalHarvest.org, and if you live in California or New York, check out Farmigo.com, which is basically an online Farmer’s Market or CSA for small or large groups.
  • If/when you buy meat (from stores or at restaurants), avoid getting factory-farmed meats. Look for and ask for meats from grass-fed and grass-finished animals, that are free of antibiotics and added hormones, and that also, ideally, have third-party certifications (such as Animal Welfare Approved) verifying that the animals were raised and slaughtered humanely. Boosting the demand for such products will help shift the industry away from factory farming. (We’ll be adding a blog post with more information on humanely raised meat in the future.)
  • Buy organic, non-GMO seeds and organically grown plants, and plant them in a kitchen garden, window boxes, porch pots, raised beds, a greenhouse, a community garden, or wherever you can.  Use organic/natural rather than toxic chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. It’s fun and satisfying to swap your surplus harvest with friends and neighbors.
  • Replace water-intensive, conventional grass lawns with a garden, or no-mow native grasses or groundcovers. Choose low-water (drought-tolerant), native or adapted (climate-appropriate) plants and flowers, including those that attract and feed pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

 

Related posts:

Sustainable Agriculture in the Spotlight: Fresh films, books, etc.  [August 2009]

Sustainable Ag: Marin and Sonoma County Resources

Recent Films with Green Themes: Food, farming, energy, etc.  [2011]

Quotations for Gardeners, Farmers, and Others  [MotherEarthNews.com blog]

Chocolates of Choice: Organic, Fair Trade, and Delicious

 

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July 24, 2013
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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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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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The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest and most prestigious annual award for grassroots environmentalists.

“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.”

The Goldman Prize ceremony (which is held in San Francisco) is one of the best events I attend every year. The recipients are models of courage, and their stories are powerful and inspiring. This year’s six prize winners (one from each of the six inhabited continental regions) are:

  • Caroline Cannon (Point Hope, AK, USA) – Issue: Oil and gas drilling
  • Sofia Gatica (Argentina) – Issue: Toxic/lethal pesticides
  • Ma Jun (China) – Issue: Pollution from manufacturing plants
  • Edwin Gariguez (Philippines) – Issue: Nickel mining
  • Ikal Angelei (Kenya) – Issue: Large dam development and water security
  • Evgenia Chirikova (Russia) – Issue: Highway development in a protected forest

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

Here’s the three-minute video about Caroline Cannon, who has been “bringing the voice and perspective of her Inupiat community in Point Hope to the battle to keep Arctic waters safe from offshore oil and gas drilling.” Shell and other oil companies currently have plans to drill in the Arctic.

Last year’s recipient from the U.S. was Hilton Kelley, who has been fighting for environmental justice for communities along the Gulf Coast of Texas.

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April 19, 2012
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This post provides a list of links to green-business-related organizations, associations, websites, books, and other resources, which are useful not only to people who own, manage, or work for companies, but to all of us—as consumers and citizens who are affected by business decisions and corporate practices every day. The resources are organized into the following categories:

  • Green Business (general)
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Environmental & Social Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Financing, and Investing
  • Clean, Green Jobs
  • Local Economies / Community Investment and Resilience
  • Confronting the Corporate Corruption of Government
  • Ecological Economics
  • Online Media
  • Books

[Note: New links were added to this post in April 2012.]

Green Business (general)

[CLICK HERE to CONTINUE]

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February 20, 2012
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Platinum is the highest rating in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification program. Building projects that have attained this rating are among the greenest in the world.*

I recently added newly certified Platinum-rated projects (buildings, homes, offices, and stores) to my online listing of LEED Platinum Certified Building Projects Worldwide, which I had last updated a year ago. The listing is organized by country and—within the U.S.—by state. Some of the listed projects are linked to online case studies. The listing includes projects of all types, from every LEED rating system: New Construction (and Major Renovations), Existing Buildings/Operations & Maintenance, Neighborhood Developments, Commercial Interiors, Core & Shell, Homes, Schools, and Retail.

As of my latest review of the data (at the beginning of January 2012), it appears that there are now more than 1,045 LEED Platinum rated projects worldwide.

While the vast majority of these LEED projects—about 950 of them—are located in the United States (where LEED was created), Platinum rated projects now exist in 25 countries; a year ago only 16 countries had LEED Platinum rated projects. The nine countries that gained their first LEED Platinum projects over the past year are: France, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Turkey. The other countries with LEED Platinum projects are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and of course the United States. After the U.S., India is the country with the most Platinum projects, with about 35 projects so far (up from 20 a year ago). Canada and China also have many Platinum projects.

Within the United States, 49 of the 50 U.S. states (all states except North Dakota)—plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico—now have building projects that have achieved the LEED Platinum rating. A year ago, Alabama and West Virginia did not yet have any LEED Platinum projects, but now they do.

In terms of the absolute number of LEED Platinum certified projects in each state, here are the top 5 states with the greatest number of LEED Platinum projects (at last count):

So California has more than 2.5 times more Platinum projects than any other state—but that’s not too surprising since it’s the most populous state in the country.  On a per capita basis (i.e., as a percentage of population size), Washington D.C. has more LEED Platinum rated projects than any of the states. And when you add in the 50 states, here are the Top 5 with the greatest number of LEED Platinum projects per capita:

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Oregon
  3. Montana
  4. Vermont
  5. New Mexico

The range of Platinum project types is very broad. In addition to high-profile projects (such as the iconic TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco, which got the Platinum rating for its upgrades under the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance rating system) and a number of high-end offices, retail spaces, and luxury residences, LEED Platinum projects also include several public buildings and many modest homes and affordable housing developments. For example, there are dozens of Habitat for Humanity-built LEED Platinum homes around the country, and more than 75 affordable Platinum homes built in New Orleans alone through various initiatives, including Make It Right.

* Another green building certification, which is widely considered to be an even higher bar to reach than LEED Platinum, is the Living Building Challenge. To date, four projects have achieved the Living Building Challenge certification: the Tyson Living Learning Center in Eureka, Missouri; the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York (which also got a LEED Platinum certification); and the Eco-Sense home in Victoria, British Columbia. The latest project to achieve this certification (along with a LEED Platinum certification) is the Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab in Kamuela, Hawaii.

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January 19, 2012
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