CSRHub Blog Research on ESG metrics and comments on sustainability best practice

The Three Rs of Green Living – Revisited

[fa icon="calendar'] May 11, 2012 10:30:00 AM / by CSRHub Blogging

This post is part of an ongoing collaboration with Gia Machlin, president and CEO of EcoPlum, an online green shopping rewards site. Watch for her contributions to the CSRHub blog on eco-friendly products and green living ideas. For more on EcoPlum, or to follow the EcoPlum blog, visit www.ecoplum.com.

By Gia Machlin

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  So cliche.  Yet so ignored.  Dare I say that it almost goes against what we are taught from day one in our consumer driven society? Poopy diaper? Throw it out!  Make a mess? Clean it up with paper towels and wipes.  It’s your birthday?  Let’s get you a shiny new plastic toy!  It seems that from the moment we are born, we are programmed to Use, Dispose, and Buy new.  It doesn’t sound as catchy as Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, but it’s how most of us live our lives.  Even well intentioned eco concious families, such as mine, often choose convenience over conservation because, well, we live in the 21st century, and most of us don’t plan on living “off-the-grid” any time soon.  But just because we can’t wipe out our carbon footprint, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all try to minimize it, every day.

I’m guessing the reason that “Reduce” comes first in the saying, is that it is the most important piece of the equation.  Reducing consumption alone could solve many of our environmental woes.  But reduction is the hardest part to do.  Believe me, I try every day.  For example, while I no longer buy Ziploc® bags, I haven’t found a really suitable replacement for them. Tupperware and deli containers are bulky, and cloth bags just don’t hold in the moisture, and it is a pain to wash and dry the bags for reuse.

Which takes us to the “Reuse” part of the saying. While easier than reducing, reusing is still more difficult than number three: “Recycle.”  So I think we should reword the saying in order of ease: Recycle, Reuse, Reduce.  People need to tackle the easiest part before they can move on to those steps that require a little more of a change in lifestyle.  And since we are only recycling a fraction of what we could be recycling right now, let’s try to do better!  Let’s challenge ourselves to be more conscious in our recycling habits.

Here is a clip from my appearance on Cafe Mom Studios’ Mom Ed: Green Living show in which I talk about recycling.  I hope you find it informative.

For more information on what and where to recycle different types of materials in your location, please check out our recycling widget from 1800recycling.com. Also, please see this post about recycling with some great ideas from our readers.

Did you learn anything new about recycling today?

Gia Machlin is the president and CEO of EcoPlum, an online green shopping rewards site with eco-friendly products and green living ideas that make it fun, easy, and rewarding to go green. EcoPlum aims to inspire a community of people to be conscious of ctheir daily habits, purchases, and impact on the world's limited resources. Prior to founding EcoPlum, Gia was president and principal of MMC 20/20 Systems, Inc. and co-founded Plan Data Management, Inc. She has also worked with MachlinConsulting Group, Deloitte & Touche, AT&T, and Unisys. She received her MBA with honors from Columbia Business School and her BS in Industrial Engineering/Operations Research with honors from the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She makes her home in New York with her husband and two children. 


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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in Ecoplum, Gia Machlin, reducing waste, Uncategorized, consumption, recycling

Buying Our Way to Salvation

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 8, 2010 6:14:36 PM / by Berit Anderson

Friday November 26th was “Buy Nothing Day”, an International Day of protest against consumerism led by Adbusters magazine, which describes it as, “[a] sudden unexpected moment of truth, a mass reversal of perspective, a global mindshift – from which the corporate/consumerist forces never fully recover.”

In spite of the organizer’s claims that it is “sudden” and “unexpected,” Buy Nothing Day was, in fact, scheduled to coincide with “Black Friday”— the Friday after Thanksgiving traditionally set to kick off the Christmas shopping season and perhaps, this year especially, save the economy from its doldrums. I daresay that the winner this year was Black Friday, since presumably most readers haven’t even heard of Buy Nothing Day and, anecdotally at least, people were buying. A friend on Facebook reported on a “Black Friday Traffic Jam” from the Hudson Valley:

“Last night taking late bus back from NYC after splendid day with sons and their friends and wonderful meal, the traffic was backed up 5 miles in every direction from Woodbury Commons trying to get to their midnight to midnight Black Friday sales... it was unbelievable. Talk about shop till you drop. Visa and Master Card are raking it in in the Northeast today.”

Although CSRHUB’s founders believe that business must be part of the solution, CSRHUB is more aligned with the forces of Buy Nothing Day than with Black Friday. As stated on CSRHUB’s “About Us’ page, the CSRHUB founders believe that business can be:

“an agent of positive social change. We believe that providing these corporate [ratings on environmental, social and governance performance] will increase the transparency . . . and encourage critical discussions of how companies treat their employees, impact the environment, adjust their carbon footprint, act in their community, provide innovative products and services for sustainable development, and govern themselves.”

But can businesses actually be a source of public good, and not just for today but for Seven Generations? Clearly, since the start of the Industrial Revolution, business has helped feed, employ and raise the living standards of billions of people.  But what good is this to our children and grandchildren if we have created ever increasing dead zones in our seas (405 dead zones worldwide, the largest 27,000 sq. miles), an ever increasing ozone hole in our skies (resulting in increasing ultraviolet radiation), widespread species extinction (according to a report published in Nature, 15-37% of known plant and animal species will be extinct by 2050 from climate change alone), and we are heading toward a literal climate meltdown?

If overconsumption is a problem, how can businesses -- generally motivated to maximize sales and profits -- solve that problem?  How can business be remade to be Triple Bottom Line – not just for profits, but for people and planet also?

One solution is to encourage companies to produce less or to manufacture products that have a social good, through tax and other incentives,.  Since corporations are individually chartered by the state, it’s possible to create a new type of corporate entity -- a “benefit corporation” -- that is highly protective of the environment, its employees and society in general, and to provide tax and other benefits to such entities.  One major step in this direction is the B Corporation movement, which requires B Corporations to: 1) achieve a passing score on the B Ratings System, a comprehensive tool to assess a company’s social and environmental performance; and 2) agree to legally expand the responsibilities of the corporation to include the interests of its employees, suppliers, consumers, community, and environment. So far there are 327 B Corporations with $1.6 billion in revenues in 54 industries (including CSRHUB which was recently approved).  And, indeed, earlier this year, two states, Maryland and Vermont, passed legislation actually codifying and making it possible for businesses to be chartered as “benefit corporations.”

Another possibility is to create mechanisms for businesses to make more money by selling less. Although this isn’t currently practical for most businesses, it is possible and is being done in regulated businesses.  In the electric utility business, for example, state public services commissions have decoupled profits from sales, and created a mechanism for utilities to make more money by selling less by utilizing efficiency and conservation methods.

CSRHUB seeks to solve this problem by “rewarding” businesses that perform well on environment, social and governance issues with good ratings.  CSRHUB Users, for example, can see which companies perform best on environmental issues and can make decisions about what to buy, who to work for, and who to do business with based upon those ratings.  CSRHUB also uses tags to allow users to identify companies that are involved in a wide range of behaviors such as coal production, nuclear power or pesticides and pollutants, or that have been rewarded for being one of the “100 Low Carbon Pioneers”, a member of the “Carbon Disclosure Project,” or an EPA Climate Leader.

So far, these are all small steps.  But for those of us who have been part of and watching this movement for numerous years, they are important ones that are starting to snowball and create new consciousness. CSRHUB is proud to part of this new ecology.

Stephen Filler is a CSRHUB Cofounder and Advisor. An intellectual property attorney, he is the Director of Business Development for Prism Solar Technologies, Inc., a solar photovoltaic module manufacturer. He has provided legal services to and served on the boards of sustainable, environmental and renewable energy businesses, technology and media companies, non-profit organizations and trade associations. Stephen serves on the Boards of NY Sloop Clearwater, NY Solar Energy Association, Sustainable Hudson Valley Business Network. He received his JD from Boston University Law School.

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[fa icon="comment"] 1 Comment posted in Berit Anderson, Black Friday, CSRHUB opinion, responsible business, Triple Bottom Line, Buy Nothing Day, consumption, CSRHub

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