Business & Technology

Great Coal Debate had some false information

Peabody Energy exec misleads during coal debate

Last night I debated the role of coal in our country’s energy future with Peabody Energy VP of Government Relations Fred Palmer on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis. The debate took place in front of more than 500 students and community members at Graham Chapel on campus, and was watched live online by nearly 4,700 additional interested observers. Here are four minutes of highlights: If you want to watch the full debate, click here. The debate was a great conversation about the dangers presented by coal and there was frank dialogue between Mr. Palmer and I about …

Grapes of Wrath

What climate change means for the wine industry

John Williams has been making wine in California’s Napa Valley for nearly 30 years, and he farms so ecologically that his peers call him Mr. Green. But if you ask him how climate change will affect Napa’s world famous wines, he gets irritated, almost insulted. “You know, I’ve been getting that question a lot recently, and I feel we need to keep this issue in perspective,” he told me. “When I hear about global warming in the news, I hear that it’s going to melt the Arctic, inundate coastal cities, displace millions and millions of people, spread tropical diseases and …

Water into wine

Interview with ‘Growing Green’ water steward Mike Benziger

An April 13, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) announced the four winners of its second annual “Growing Green” awards, which honor leaders in the sustainable-food world in four categories: “thought leader,” “producer,” business leader,” and “water steward.” I interviewed “thought leader” Fred Kirschenmann here and “business leader” Karl Kupers of Shepherd’s Grain here. Now I turn my attention to Mike Benziger, who brought home the “water steward” prize for his work at Benziger Family Winery. ————- Mike Benziger on the family farm. When Mike Benziger and his family began growing grapes and making wine in 1970s-era Sonoma County, the …

SPILL BABY SPILL

Oil rig leak and the week in fossil-fuel industry disasters

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill.Photo: NASA’s Earth ObservatoryThe oil and coal industries have been making themselves look so bad lately, it’s almost as if they want to help out their clean-energy competitors. It’s time for another damage report: About 42,000 gallons of oil a day are leaking into the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion sunk the oil rig Deepwater Horizon and left 11 workers missing (the rescue search for them has been called off) and three others critically injured. Responders are trying three methods to stop the flow — one that would take hours, one that would take …

he's redefining green

Rob Jones

Art: Nat Damm Rob Jones Cofounder, Crop Mob Carrboro, N.C. Like a growing number of young folks across the country, Rob Jones, 27, likes to get his hands in the dirt, making his foodshed and community more robust and vibrant. Once each month, Jones and a band of young agrarians alight upon an area farm. Calling themselves the Crop Mob, they do a big project together—say, break new ground for raised beds or harvest a labor-intensive crop like sweet potatoes. The host farmers make a big meal, and everyone eats together. Sustainable agriculture is “way, way, way more labor-intensive than …

She's redefining green

Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart

Art: Nat Damm Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart Founder, Vaute Couture Chicago, Ill. Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, 27, launched Vaute Couture last year with a line of chic, eco-friendly, cruelty-free, ethically and locally produced coats that are warm enough for Chicago winters. As a vegan, model, and MBA, she brings a unique perspective to her work—and strong values too; all profits from one of her styles are donated to Farm Sanctuary, a haven for rescued farm animals. Vaute Couture also sells vegan-themed T-shirts and jewelry. Hilgart tells you about it all on her blog. Watch Hilgart talk about her business:

he's redefining green

Matt Golden

Art: Nat Damm Matt Golden President, Founder, and Chief Building Scientist, Recurve Sausalito, Calif. Matt Golden, 35, has become a golden boy of the nascent energy-efficiency industry. He started Recurve—formerly called Sustainable Spaces—back in 2004 before retrofit was hip. While Recurve works on a software-driven solution to scale up the energy-efficiency business from mom-and-pop shops to a sustainable industry, Golden spends much of his time in Washington lobbying for Home Star and other legislation to fund energy-efficiency work and create thousands of jobs. Read more about Golden in a Grist article on Home Star and a Grist article on Sustainable …

he's redefining green

Cisco DeVries

Art: Nat Damm Cisco DeVries President, Renewable Funding Oakland, Calif. Sure, you’d love to have solar panels on your roof, but where would you get tens of thousands of dollars to install them? Cisco Devries, 36, has come up with an innovative answer: Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a new type of financing program that lets private property owners pay for energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects over 10 to 20 years via an addition to their property tax bill, instead of coming up with the cash up front; the financing comes via municipal bonds, and if an owner sells the …

he's redefining green

Jim Cochran

Art: Nat Damm Jim Cochran Farmer, Swanton Berry Farm Davenport, Calif. Despite what many consumers may think, organic rules don’t ensure fair treatment of workers—and tight profit margins mean that working conditions and pay on organic farms are too often no different from those in conventional operations. But Jim Cochran, 62, who launched California’s first organic strawberry farm in 1987, refused to accept the established norms. In 1998, he became the first organic grower to sign a contract with the United Farm Workers union—and he approached them. Then, in 2005, Cochran rolled out what might be the nation’s first stock-ownership …

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