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Sustainable Business

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Mosaic sells solar panels to people who don’t even have roofs

How many times has this happened to you: You're sitting in your crappy apartment, watching Colbert on stolen wifi, drinking boxed wine and trying to get high on whatever charred resin is left in your roommate's bowl. All of a sudden you're just, like: "Damn, why is it only homeowners with well-sited, south-facing roofs get to power their domiciles with solar power?!" Wonder no more, my friend: Mosaic Solar is here. Like other community sharing projects -- agriculture, fish, gardens -- Mosaic allows you to own a little piece of a collective, only in this case it's a big solar …

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Ranchers struggle against giant meatpackers and economic troubles

All cattle, no hats.Photo: Rob CrowA sea of cream-colored cowboy hats, the kind ranchers wear on their days off, fills a sterile conference room at the Fort Collins Marriott. Banners from groups like the Ranchers-Cattlemen Legal Action Fund and the Western Organization of Resource Councils add bright slashes of color, and warn that JBS, the world's largest meatpacker, now controls 24 percent of all cattle produced in the United States. It's August 2010, the night before a national workshop on competition in the livestock industry, and well over 500 ranchers, feedlot owners, and their allies are packed into this room …

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Pro sports are going greener, and that means the rest of us are too

The Seattle Sounders don't just have crazy fans. Their facilities have a 57.6 percent landfill diversion rate.Photo: Mike HPro sports may not seem like a natural ally for environmentalists. Players fly from Boston to Los Angeles and back for a single game. Leagues and teams convince cities to build expensive and often unneeded new facilities with taxpayer money. Fans clog up roads as they drive to games and clog up trash cans with hot-dog wrappers and beer cups once they arrive. But six teams representing six major North American sports leagues have kicked off a new effort to make themselves …

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How green are those solar panels, anyway?

SolarWorld's ratings aim to keep the photovoltaic industry on the sunny side.So which is the sunniest solar manufacturer of them all? I don't mean companies whose photovoltaic panels generate the most carbon-free electricity, but which are the most environmentally friendly in their manufacturing, labor, and recycling practices. Solar modules can contain toxic materials, and they have a finite life cycle. As the industry booms -- the number of megawatts installed in the United States in 2010, for instance, spiked 67 percent -- photovoltaic trash eventually will become an issue. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition this week released its annual Solar …

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How a carbon-neutral product is made

Making environmentally-responsible products is hard, so kudos to M.E. Heuck Co., houseware manufacturer, for even trying. After more than a year of work with their partner FirstCarbon Solutions, they have unveiled ZEROCA Carbon Neutral Cookware. Yeah, they had to buy offsets to make it totally carbon-neutral, but first they did their best to tamp down emissions in every area they could. They also sourced their materials as responsibly as possible: The handles are made from 'farm-managed' bamboo, and the steel is 100 percent recycled. FirstCarbon helped M.E. Heuck conduct an "independent analysis of manufacturing process, including the supply chain behind …

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How does your supermarket stack up to the world’s greenest grocery store?

The Whole Foods in Dedham, Mass. is bringing new meaning to the word “greengrocer.” It’s a showcase facility, which means it basically tries out all the company’s environmental best practices to see how they work in the wild. The result is a store with an inspiring combination of architectural and procedural innovations: The building’s steel frame is 100 percent recycled. A white roof reduces climate control bills and emissions. The building draws power from a 400 kWh fuel cell and 80 kWh solar panels, which provide 90 percent of its energy. Skylights reduce the need for artificial lighting. The kitchen …

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Alexis Madrigal chats about the crazy greentech history you’ve never heard

This is the first in a series from my conversation with Atlantic tech channel editor Alexis Madrigal about themes and stories from his new book, Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. DR: What were the first glimmers of the book? AM: It was about 2007. At the time, Bruce Sterling had just said, "green will never be sexier than it is right now." And that was true. I kept hearing these apocryphal stories about renewable energy projects of the past. The first one I heard about was Luz solar plants out in the Mojave. As someone …

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whew, the coase is clear

Debunking myths about free-market environmentalism

Money makes the world go ... green?Cross-posted at The PERColator, a project of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). A recent post on Grist attempted to dismantle the intellectual foundations of free-market environmentalism -- the application of markets and property rights to solve environmental problems. But far from toppling a burgeoning movement within modern environmentalism, it succeeded only in misrepresenting the subject. To recap: Clark Williams-Derry claimed that while free-market environmentalism may be effective in some areas of the environment (e.g., fisheries management), its reliance upon unrealistic assumptions about the real world largely relegates it to useless intellectual theorizing. …

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putting the "world wide" in www

How wiring the developing world can help save the planet

Envaya helps people in Africa build ultralight websites, on the ultracheap.Like most equatorial countries, Tanzania is feeling the impacts of climate change. Malaria is spreading to areas at ever-higher altitudes. Lake Victoria, which feeds the Nile, is retreating. The rainy season is starting later and getting shorter -- last year, the typically four-month season lasted just two, cutting soil moisture and stunting crop growth. Fodder for grazing animals is getter scarcer. Some farmers are foregoing water-hungry crops like corn, beans, and bananas in favor of mono-cropping plants like cassava, a tuber that is drought-resistant. These and other effects of global …

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Fishermen find creative ways to get paid more to catch fewer fish

Fishing is ripe for innovation. New catch limits are critical for sustainability -- without them, fish stocks would collapse, and then nobody has a job, plus a protein source vital for the planet's expanding population is wiped out. But they force fishermen to catch fewer fish, which means less money. A string of new programs and techniques are addressing the cash issue, allowing fishermen to make more scratch even as they bring in less catch. You've heard of energy audits for your home. Well, now Steve Eayrs, a research scientist at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, is conducting them …