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Business & Technology


Assault and battery

Chinese workers pay for our cadmium-battery habit

In the last 20 years, the United States has essentially dismantled its industrial base, moving production of consumer goods south to Mexico and east to Asia. This has not only dramatically lowered the cost of goods, fueling a consumer boom; it has also helped make our economy less energy-intensive, and lowered our exposure to industrial waste. But net gains for the environment and worker health have been imaginary. We've merely shifted the burdens of industrial production onto other lands and other people -- most recently, China. Don't be a Cad. Photo: iStockphoto I think this is the most important political-ecological …


Starbucks will no longer offer organic milk

Photo: gisarah Starbucks will cease offering organic milk to its coffee-quaffing customers at the end of February. The company has offered organic cow juice since 2001 at an extra charge, but "orders of drinks made with organic milk have consistently been a small percentage of total orders," according to a spokesperson. The chain has stopped using milk from cows shot up with artificial growth hormone; says a Starbucks memo to employees, "If a customer requests organic milk, let them know that our milk is now rBGH-free." Organic milk is also rBGH-free, but additionally requires that cows have access to pasture …


Business-y news I should write more about, but probably won’t

GE is going to double its investment in renewable energy from $3b to $6b; Toyota plans to offer plug-in hybrids by 2010; meanwhile, GM, which also promises a plug-in by 2010, just struck a deal with Coskata, a start-up which will be making cellulosic ethanol from waste products. [Token acknowledgement that cars are not the way of the future, Grist is car-obsessed and in the pocket of The Man, public transit is awesome, and something about the happy motoring delusional something something.]


New MacBook Air has some green qualities

Photo: Apple Inc. head honcho Steve Jobs has introduced the new MacBook Air. Your nerdy cousin's new object of lust is LED backlit, comes with a recycle-friendly aluminum case, and gives purchasers the option of an efficient 64-gigabyte solid-state hard drive. It also boasts a mercury- and arsenic-free display, a circuit board without brominated flame retardants, and PVC-free internal cables. Consumers can tote it home in 56 percent less retail packaging than the MacBook -- and the Air is the thinnest laptop evah, so hey, less electronic waste! It can be yours for a mere $1799 -- and you'd …


Clorox + Wal-Mart = deeelight

The latest green partnership

Dave posted earlier about the new green cleaning line from Clorox and his combined reaction of happy feelings and "how will greens spin this into suckage." But wait, it gets better: Wal-Mart is investing big time in the Clorox product line. Check this quote from a Wal-Mart press release: "Wal-Mart's support of Green Works has significantly influenced the scale of our launch," said Ed Huber, vice president of sales, Wal-Mart team at Clorox. "Along with their size and scale, their commitment to sustainability is enabling us to take natural cleaning to the mainstream at a global level." Is there anybody …


Green Clorox

Bleach company discovers its green gene

Joel Makower has a characteristically thorough and thoughtful look at Clorox's launch of their new "Green Works" line of cleaning products, in which he was peripherally involved (does the guy sleep?). I'll admit, when I read these things, I feel positive and hopeful, and then I think, hm, how will some enviro manage to spin this as a hopelessly cynical greenwashing ploy from The Man? Sometimes I can predict in advance, sometimes I can't, but it's inevitable. Sigh. Anyway, here's the uplifting conclusion: But there's a potentially bigger story here. Clorox -- a 95-year-old, relatively stodgy company -- seems to …


Tech companies offer free rights to eco-friendly patents

Four tech companies have partnered with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to introduce the Eco-Patent Commons, which will offer the rights to eco-friendly technologies for free. IBM, Sony, Nokia, and Pitney Bowes have together donated 31 patents into the public domain, including one for a shock-absorbing cardboard tray that would replace the need for Styrofoam peanuts and another for a way to recycle cell phones into new devices. "Innovation to address environmental issues will require both the application of technology as well as new models for sharing intellectual property among companies in different industries," says IBM Senior Vice …


Automakers unveil greener vehicles at Detroit auto show

At press previews of the 2008 North American International Auto Show that opens next weekend in Detroit, automakers announced plans to roll out greener vehicles as well as other greenish initiatives. On the hybrid front, market leader Toyota has said it will offer a plug-in hybrid to government and corporate customers by 2010; the plug-in will run on lithium-ion batteries instead of the nickel-metal hydride ones that help power its popular Prius model. Toyota hasn't yet announced when it expects the plug-ins to be available to the general public, but the news has plug-in enthusiasts salivating. Meanwhile, General Motors has …


Sweet, sweet monopsony

Wal-Mart pushes electronics suppliers to rate their products by eco-friendliness

Wal-Mart is giving its electronics suppliers a scorecard on which they can rate their products on green qualities like durability and ease of recycling. That's tricky, of course, given the lack of a national standards for such things -- so it's pushing for that, too. Given Wal-Mart's size, I won't be surprised if it single-handedly forces the issue. But still, um, evil bad awful satan!


Please do disturb

New certification in the works for green hotels

Saw a passing reference in a piece on travel trends about a new certification scheme for green hotels. Supposed to be developed in the next 90 days, says Joe McInerney, president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. AHLA's site, meanwhile, has a list of hot green hotel progress, ranging from Motel 6 using sensors to turn off heat and AC in unoccupied rooms to the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas pursuing LEED certification in part by building a monorail to the Bellagio. Oh, if only Joey Bishop had lived to see it.