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Budget-friendly hotel chains also have the smallest carbon footprints

When choosing an environmentally friendly hotel chain, the best indicator probably isn't whether the place asks you to hang up your towels if you don't want them replaced each day. According to a new analysis [PDF] by sustainability company Brighter Planet, budget and mid-range hotels tend to produce the least carbon per room.

Topping the list are Vagabond Inn, Red Lion Hotels, and Red Carpet Inns. Travelodge comes in fourth. It's not a hard and fast rule, but if you want to aim for carbon-friendliness, budget chains are likely the best option: The top performer in the high-end range, Four Points Hotels by Sheraton, came in 33rd overall. 

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Clean energy: Still a wedge issue that favors Democrats

wedge heel shoesOh, wait, not this kind of wedge?

In his much remarked-upon interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama said some (in my view fairly tepid and passive) things about climate change. What interested me more is the very first bit:

Let's talk about the campaign. Given all we've heard about and learned during the GOP primaries, what's your take on the state of the Republican Party, and what do you think they stand for?

First of all, I think it's important to distinguish between Republican politicians and people around the country who consider themselves Republicans. I don't think there's been a huge change in the country. ...

But what's happened, I think, in the Republican caucus in Congress, and what clearly happened with respect to Republican candidates, was a shift to an agenda that is far out of the mainstream – and, in fact, is contrary to a lot of Republican precepts. I said recently that Ronald Reagan couldn't get through a Republican primary today, and I genuinely think that's true. ... You've got a Republican Congress whose centerpiece, when it comes to economic development, is getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Doesn't all of that kind of talk and behavior during the primaries define the party and what they stand for?

I think it's fair to say that this has become the way that the Republican political class and activists define themselves.

Obama's contention is that the GOP political class and activist base have worked themselves into a blind ideological fury, but most people who identify as Republican do not share their rigidity. They are more likely to lean in the direction of Independents and moderates.

If this is true, it identifies a political vulnerability. Democrats ought to be able to exploit the differences between the masses and the ideologues, to set them at odds with one another.

I'm not sure how many genuine "wedge issues" there are, actually, but one that shows up in the polls over and over again is clean energy. As I wrote back in January, clean energy is a wedge issue that favors Democrats.

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Chair-dance-worthy indie rock video explains why plastics don’t have to suck

It's like Threadless and the Arcade Fire teamed up with BASF to talk about green chemistry and the threat of peak oil.

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Swedish fast food chain makes bank by becoming ‘Klimatsmart!’

Sweden's No. 1 burger chain got rid of its kids'-meal boxes and, contrary to expectations, sales of the meals rose. Apparently parents who are facing the prospect of their children scrabbling for survival on this wrecked cinder of a planet don’t like creating needless trash? At least in Sweden, anyway.

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Scorcese doc ‘Surviving Progress,’ featuring Margaret Atwood, is now in theaters

Here's the trailer for the new documentary Surviving Progress, which hit theaters in New York on Monday and comes to the rest of the country on April 20.

I think it's important to make a distinction between progress and good progress. Things progress in the sense that they change. But when they reach a certain scale, they turn out to be dead ends.

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Turbine makes fresh water out of thin air in the desert

If you've ever watched water drip out of a window air conditioning unit, you've seen the operating principle of Eole Water's new wind turbine in action. Tests of the turbine in Abu Dhabi have yielded between 500 and 800 liters of water a day, and the company thinks it can get it up to a cool 1,000 liters -- not bad for a desert.

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9-year-old builds the world’s cutest recycled cardboard arcade

Nine-year-old Caine didn't build his home arcade out of cardboard because he wanted to recycle -- he did it because he likes arcades, has access to a lot of boxes, and is a DIY genius. But you can't help but be inspired by his innovative remaking. And you definitely can't help but be a little thrilled when a local filmmaker drums up a huge flash mob to come make Caine's arcade dream a reality.

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Why going green during a recession actually creates jobs

Economists have long known something that politicians apparently do not: If you need to impose expensive environmental regulations, there’s no better time than during a recession. Or so says macroeconomist Josh Bivens, writing in New Scientist.

In fact, says Bivens, when the economy is sucking wind, environmental regulations actually create jobs, for three reasons:

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If everyone used as much energy as Americans, we’d run out of oil in 9 years

Unlike gluttonous American industry, Europe's most profitable companies plan to make even more money by getting ahead of this whole peak oil trend, reports Der Spiegel. And it’s a damn good thing, because if everybody guzzled oil like Americans, we’d be even more screwed than we are now.

Case in point:

If every person on Earth used as much energy as the average person in the United States, today's known oil reserves would be exhausted within nine years.

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Terrified by peak oil, FedEx turns to biofuels, efficiency

FedEx owns 700 planes and tens of thousands of trucks, which is why CEO Fred Smith is crazy for energy efficiency, reports NPR.

Shortly after Smith founded Federal Express, the 1973 Arab oil embargo almost killed it. The experience imprinted Smith with a keen interest in the price and availability of oil.