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As the ground shifts under their feet, food giants experiment with new strategies

When you smile, the food world smiles with you ... maybe. Photo: Original by heatkernel For more than a generation, the major corporations that process and sell the vast bulk of our food have had it pretty easy. They've had access to cheap energy to ship food over globe-spanning distances and run giant food-processing plants; reveled in cheap inputs like corn and soy, transforming them into everything from breakfast cereal to chicken nuggets; and relied on low-paid, abundant, and politically disenfranchised workers to do the dirty jobs. Together, these elements formed a kind of tripod propping up the industry's enormous …

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Companies knew about high formaldehyde levels in FEMA trailers, Dems say

Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said RV trailer manufacturers knew that the trailers they sold to the government had excessively high levels of formaldehyde but didn't disclose the information for fear of bad press. The trailers, which were used to house hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast, have been a touchy subject at FEMA ever since occupants began reporting headaches, nosebleeds, dizziness, and shortness of breath. The agency has since asked many families to move out of the trailers. One trailer-company chairman told the Oversight Committee he thought the results of tests showing high levels of …

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Insurance co. offers green-rebuilding coverage

Fireman's Fund Insurance Co. has rolled out a home-insurance policy that covers the cost of rebuilding a home to green standards. The new coverage -- which can only be added to Fireman's top-tier insurance policy -- covers the cost of reconstruction with sustainably harvested wood, efficient lighting and plumbing, nontoxic paints and carpeting, and more. The coverage runs an additional $70 a year for a home insured at $1 million, and can be purchased regardless of the greenness of the original dwelling, though owners of previously green-certified homes get a 5 percent discount on their premiums. Fireman's, a division of …

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How to green your day job

Simple steps are the key to a greener office. Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to waste we go. Nope, those aren't the lyrics the Disney dwarves belted out en route to the daily grind, but in today's world they're right on the money. Most skyscrapers, offices, and cubicles are eco disaster areas, squandering massive amounts of energy, water, and paper while spewing out toxins and trash. It's enough to make a person downright weepy (not to mention grumpy and wheezy). You're probably thinking there's not much you can do to help, short of swearing off computers and jobs altogether -- right? …

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Annals of meaningless statistics

Mattel worth more than GM on strong outlook for Matchbox, Hot Wheels cars

At the present moment Mattel, the maker of Hot Wheels and Matchbox toy cars, is worth $6.2 billion, putting it at a premium to GM, worth a mere $5.7 billion. Created in 1952, Matchbox cars were instantly popular because they were hard for children to swallow and required no batteries. With the price of a fill-up now topping $100, drivers are likewise finding GM's line up of trucks and SUVs very hard to swallow.

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State workers in Utah will enjoy mandatory three-day weekends

Starting in August, thousands of Utahns will begin enjoying mandatory three-day weekends. Some 17,000 government employees will switch to a compressed workweek -- four days a week, 10 hours a day -- as the state undergoes a yearlong experiment aimed at reducing energy and fuel costs as well as greenhouse-gas emissions. While employees of various U.S. counties and cities mandate a shortened week, Utah will be the first state to instigate such a program. About one-third of the state's 3,000 government buildings will be closed on Fridays, and savings on heat and air conditioning are expected to hit $3 million …

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Toyota may put solar panels on new Prius to power air conditioning

A Japanese newspaper is reporting that Toyota plans to install solar panels on its next model of the popular Prius hybrid. If the company follows through, it would be the first major automaker to incorporate solar power into its vehicles. Even with the panels, though, the pimped-out Prius wouldn't actually run on solar power (it's still a gasoline-electric hybrid, yo); instead, the solar panels would reportedly power the vehicle's air conditioning.

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Chipotle grilled

When will the conscientious burrito giant pay up for less exploitative tomatoes?

Tomato pickers in Florida: To earn $50, fill and carry 125 buckets. Photo: Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Chipotle Grill has received a lot of good press over its efforts to support local food systems in the areas where it operates. Even I've gotten into the act. In a post back in March, I reported on a conversation I had had with a Chipotle PR person: I told her that as long as Chipotle was committed to paying a fair price to farmers -- and not merely using them them for marketing leverage -- I thought the company could play a …

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Milking sustainability

Sustainability goals for the U.S. dairy industry

Last week, we witnessed the dairy industry hold their first ever Sustainability Summit for U.S. Dairy. The week long conference culminated in the announcement of an industry-wide commitment and action plan to reduce milk's "carbon footprint" while simultaneously increasing business value (translation: profit) from farm to consumer. But how truly "green" are their efforts? Sustainability -- ah, it sounds so good doesn't it? In recent years it has become the buzz word among businesses. Most large corporations have sustainability officers and are taking huge strides to become "greener." In part, these initiatives are driven by consumer and public demand for …