Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Sustainable Business


I Am Not a Virgin makes cute clothes out of beer bottles and yogurt cups

These are maybe the most attractive "green" clothes we have ever seen:

They’re trendy, they make your ass look good (or at least they make her ass look good), and they’re made in part from recycled glass bottles.


Let them eat kale: In Harlem, a farm share for the people

Dennis Derryck, founder of Corbin Hill Farm.

The same week I interviewed an author who dismissed local food as nothing but “a niche product for upper-crust consumers,” I learned about a project in New York City that directly challenges that assumption. The folks behind Harlem-based Corbin Hill Farm don’t see sustainably grown local produce as a passing craze for the foodie elite; on the contrary, they’re figuring out a way to make it accessible to low-income communities on a large scale.

Founder and longtime Harlem resident Dennis Derryck has long been aware that people in his community and the nearby South Bronx don’t have much access to good, fresh food. But when it came to solutions, as he saw it, “all these small and beautiful things had very little impact. School gardens, rooftop gardens, educational programs -- at the end of the program, where was the parent or the kid supposed to go?”

Derryck saw promise of more lasting change in the community-supported agriculture (CSA) model. But a traditional CSA design -- in which members essentially invest in a local farm by paying a large share at the beginning of the season -- wouldn’t work for neighborhoods where many residents live on food stamps and struggle to make rent on time. So Derryck tweaked the model to make sense for low-income consumers: Corbin Hill shareholders pay only a week in advance, can put their shares on hold at any time, and can use any form of payment -- including food stamps. The program caters to neighborhood cultural tastes by including items like cilantro, tomatillos, and collard greens whenever possible, and every box comes with recipes written in both Spanish and English.


How to put solar panels on your roof, even if you don’t have a roof

sun over solar panelRight now, if you want to embrace the solar-power revolution, you have to have a roof and a lot of money -- or at the very least, a roof and a good credit score, so you can finance a solar system or work with a leasing company like SolarCity.

A bill advancing through the California legislature would change all that and make it easy for anyone who pays a utility bill to become a solar customer. Senate Bill 843 has passed the state Senate and just got approval from a key committee in the Assembly. As GigaOM reports:

The bill ... aims to enable people who don’t own homes, or own homes that don’t have suitable roofs for solar panels, to buy clean power and offset their utility bills. They could sign contracts with owners of solar power projects for a portion of the power produced, and the amount they pay for would show up as credits on their utility bills. The proposed program would be available not only to consumers but also businesses who are customers of the three big investor-owned utilities.


Lay off the Konarka: Dem energy message risks defeating Dem energy message

So, what's the state of play on energy in the presidential race? I'm glad you asked.

Broadly, what's happened is that both parties now perceive, accurately, that the public is pro-energy. That's why both parties are grappling for the "all of the above" slogan.

"Pro-energy," in the U.S. public's case, means pro more energy, cheaper energy, cleaner energy, and more secure energy. What the public does not like is the trade-offs between those goals. It doesn't like hearing that it has to give anything up. It doesn't like hearing about "anti-energy" penalties and prohibitions. And it never likes favoritism, waste, fraud, or generic "spending."

Given that all energy policies involve trade-offs between various desiderata, a political party's ability to sell an energy policy to the public hinges on its ability to evoke the right frames. More/cheaper/cleaner/safer energy always polls well. Restraints, added cost, pollution, and foreign-ness (especially Middle Eastern-ness) do not.

This basic dynamic helps explain why Mitt Romney is not dropping Solyndra. Conservatives still see it as one of their bests attacks on Obama. It evokes Big Government spending, cronyism, waste, and failure (i.e., less energy). It tars the rest of Obama's clean-energy programs, nay his entire agenda, by association.


17-year-old tells world leaders to step up, give her a future

Brittany Trilford.

If you had just a few minutes to address world leaders -- to give the ultimate “My Fellow Earthlings” speech -- what would you say? That was essentially the question behind A Date With History, a challenge sponsored by the climate campaign Tcktcktck, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Climate Nexus. They invited anyone between the ages of 13 and 30 to write a speech addressing the attendees of the Earth Summit in Rio next month.

Tell the bigwigs about what kind of future you want, they said. The best speechifier will win a trip to Rio -- and possibly a chance to address the gathering in person.

The videos streamed in from the far corners of the planet. The web-surfing public narrowed the field to 22. And a star-studded jury including Leonardo DiCaprio and Daryl Hannah picked the winner.

Her name is Brittany Trilford. She’s 17, from Wellington, New Zealand, and yeah, she’s got some things to say to the folks who are in charge -- about broken promises, about the consequences of corporate and government actions, and about what we could learn from nature about how to run the planet.



Trash talk: A visual tour through the e-waste recycling process

Like carnival goldfish, electronics seem to have a life span of about a week before they're flushed into the junk drawer. But there's a better way: We visit an e-waste collection center and recycling facility to follow deceased gadgets as they go through the stages of reincarnation. (Try that with a goldfish.)


Life recycle: How e-waste recycling gives your gadgets a fresh start

Click for a visual tour through an e-waste collection center and a recycling facility.

If e-waste disposal had a late-night infomercial, it might go something like this:

Congratulations! You bought an iPhone 6S! Now you can spend hours Instagraming and making Siri talk dirty to you. BUT WAIT … what should you do with that ugly, decrepit, heavy, chipped, old flip phone of yours?

Throwing it in the trash can cause toxic chemicals to leach out into landfills and groundwater. And putting it in a drawer with all your other outdated gadgets takes up so. much. space! Worst of all, your phone and all the private data in it could fall into the wrong hands. There’s GOT to be a better way!

Now, there is: e-Stewards-approved E-WASTE RECYCLING! No child or prison labor, no toxic fumes released into the air of third-world countries, and no incomplete data wipes -- guaran-TEED! Operators are standing by!


Greens break silence, ask Obama to attend Earth Summit

Well, it’s not the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but it’s a start.

A coalition of U.S. environmental and social justice groups has asked President Obama to step up and attend the Earth Summit, a gathering of international bigwigs next month in Rio. It'll be an important opportunity to meet influential people from other countries, attend critical meetings, and lead high-level negotiations. Oh, and figure out how to build a green economy, Van Jones-style, around the globe.


The best comic about industry and ecosystems you’ll ever read

Stuart McMillen, who wrote and drew that cool comic about reindeer on St. Matthew Island, has a new comic comparing human industry to ecological development after the Mt. St. Helens eruption. I know, it's no gay X-Men wedding, but it's really interesting! I promise!


Could Romney’s scorn for wind power hurt him in the heartland?

Photo by Eric Tastad.

On Thursday, President Obama will visit TPI Composites, a wind manufacturer in Newton, Iowa (population, 15,254). There, he will reiterate his support for the Production Tax Credit (PTC), a federal support program that has helped drive wind's rapid expansion in the U.S. The PTC is now in peril, as Congress appears unlikely to renew it when it expires at the end of this year. The loss of the PTC would put tens of thousands of current jobs -- and almost 100,000 future jobs [PDF] -- at risk.

Newton's experience is illustrative, so let's recount a little history.