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A very promising climate change solution with an image problem

Bill McKibben's new column in Orion magazine reports on one of the most effective ways to cut carbon emissions that we've got, a mature technology which stands ready to recycle enormous amounts of waste heat into electricity. It boggles my mind that we're not doing this everywhere, instead of discussing new coal plants or nukes. Talk about low-hanging fruit! The article centers on the fine work of the Chicago company Recycled Energy Development, piloted by frequent Gristmill contributor Sean Casten, and discusses the technology's image problem: it's not as sexy as wind or solar. Here's an excerpt, but the article …

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All hail the biofuel boom

A UN official recently declared biofuels a "crime against humanity," because they leach agricultural resources from feeding people and direct them to feeding cars. But one man's crime is another's boon. Surging biofuel use encourages farmers to maximize yield over all other considerations -- and they do so by lashing the earth with all manner of chemicals. That's why shareholders in agrochemical companies are celebrating the explosive growth of biofuel use. Syngenta -- the Swiss-based maker of herbicides, pesticides, and genetically modified seeds -- has seen its shares more than double since the biofuel boom began. Here's how one Wall …

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How to find a job in your local area

I've been on the road. I started the first week in October at the University of Michigan and ended it at a "career visioning" retreat in the Connecticut woods with students from Yale. My impressions? At both universities, I found aspiring environmental professionals who are committed to building a sustainable society. (I also found great vegetarian food.) As we talked about "sustainable solutions" careers, more than one student let me know that their most important career concern was location and that national statistics about job prospects were pretty much meaningless. Having already decided to make a life in, say, Missoula, …

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Major car-sharing companies will merge

Major car-sharing companies Flexcar and Zipcar announced yesterday that they plan to merge. Zipcar, the larger of the two, has had strong growth mainly in large cities on the East Coast; Flexcar is more widely available on the West Coast. In both schemes, members can reserve a car over the phone or the interwebs, generally at a cheap hourly rate, then return it to its same location. Gas, repairs, parking, and insurance are all covered; a survey of Zipcar members indicates that they save some $5,000 a year by car-sharing instead of owning a vehicle. The new car-sharing company -- …

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Manufacturing a new economy

If we eat food from local sources, we can decrease our ecological footprint, reduce carbon emissions, and eat better food. In addition, any society that cannot produce its own food is vulnerable, as it cannot create one of society's main sources of wealth. It just makes sense to grow food locally. The same principles apply to manufacturing. Grow locally, eat locally; more generally, consume locally, produce locally. In the case of manufacturing, "producing locally" would mean consuming goods that were mostly manufactured within your major metropolitan area, with most of the rest coming from around the country, but certainly not …

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IBM announces new process to reuse, recycle silicon wafers for solar panels

Tech giant IBM announced it has developed a simple new process to recycle the silicon wafers it uses in many of its products. The process extends the silicon wafers' useful life, and when that life is finally over, the wafers can then be sold to make solar panels. IBM calculates that if all of the 3 million wafers discarded each year worldwide by the tech industry were instead turned into solar panels, they could create enough electricity to power about 6,000 homes.

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Umbra on corporate holiday cards

Dear Umbra, My company wants to send out holiday cards each year, but I find it wasteful, especially because of the increased transportation load on the post office. What could we do instead? Cindy Truckee, Calif. Dearest Cindy, A stumper. I can think of three choices: No cards, paper cards, and email cards. Is tradition stacked against you? Photo: churl Businesses send holiday cards to show appreciation, remind clients of their existence, and generally keep clients a-clienting, right? Replacing holiday cards with nothing at all does not help a business meet any of these goals, so I think we will …

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Trade consultancy: Whole Foods will ‘consolidate supply chains’

Apparently, I'm not the only one who worries about what the Whole Foods-Wild Oats merger will mean for organic-foods suppliers. In a report published by Organic Monitor, a European-based consultancy working on contract for Decision News Media, analyst Amarjit Sahota has sounded an alarm about Whole Foods' growing power. Organic Monitor calls itself a "business research & consulting company that specializes on organic & related industries." You can read Sahota's full analysis here on the Decision News site, but here is some of what he had to say: Following the approval of its acquisition of rival Wild Oats, Whole Foods …

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Forest Stewardship Council will overhaul too-lax rules

Ooh, bummer: The Forest Stewardship Council, trusted certifier of sustainably sourced wood and paper, plans to overhaul its standards after acknowledging that some companies using its label are logging destructively.

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On those quotes in Businessweek’s ‘Little Green Lies’

This post is by guest blogger Auden Schendler, executive director for Community and Environmental Responsibility at the Aspen Skiing Company. Named a "Climate Crusader" in Time magazine's 2006 special issue on climate change, Auden once worked for Amory Lovins at the Rocky Mountain Institute. You can read his full bio here. Auden has unique insights into the difficulties of corporate sustainability in the absence of government leadership and a price for carbon. ----- Recently, Businessweek covered Aspen Skiing Company's work on emissions reduction as part of an article titled "Little Green Lies." The article has received considerable coverage in the …