Category Archives: sustainable lifestyles

Search: Global Warming, Climate Change and Sustainability

In the article, It’s all in a name: ‘Global warming’ versus ‘climate change’ by University of Michigan scholars* more people believed in climate change than in global warming. I want to put out there, as a counter balance, is the information from Google search trends which shows global warming outpacing climate change, especially in the United States in terms of search traffic.
Global Warming in Blue Outpaces Climate Change

Global Warming in Blue Outpaces Climate Change

The study results were summarized as “Overall, 74 percent of people thought the problem was real when it was referred to as climate change, while about 68 percent thought it was real when it was referred to as global warming.”  There are more folks, however, searching on global warming (blue) than either climate change (red) or sustainability (yellow).

By the numbers, global warming search traffic is about 2.7M, 1M in the U.S.A. with climate change at 1.2M globally and 301,000 in the U.S.A. which is about the same amount of traffic as for sustainability in the U.S. while it is only 800,000 worldwide.

Based on search results I would recommend that climate change folks emphasize global warming and climate change, linking them together and, from my point of view, including them both as major category of sustainability.

*Jonathon Schuldt co-authored the study with U-M psychologists Sara Konrath and Norbert Schwarz.

Experts on Nuclear Reactors and Issues Involved

For the facts about the reactors and the issues involved, please consult the following resources and experts from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, and Beyond Nuclear.

Dave Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, (202) 223-6133
Ed Lyman, senior scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists, (202)223-6133
Arjun Makhijani, president, Institute for Energy & Environmental Research, (301) 270-5500
Paul Gunter, director, Reactor Oversight Project ,  Beyond Nuclear, (301) 523-0201 (cell) or (301) 270-2209 (office)
Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste watchdog, (240) 462-3216 (cell) or (301) 270-2209 (office)

Union of Concerned Scientists

Nuclear Information and Research Service

Beyond Nuclear

How big of a nuclear disaster? Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant

The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan have raised new concerns about the risk of another nuclear reactor disaster. Despite reports by the New York Times that “officials said radiation leaks from the plant were receding and that a major meltdown was not imminent,” scientists from organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists and Beyond Nuclear are working to access the risk of a major disaster. They have reported “there are indications that there has been some fuel melting, and there are reports that some radioactive cesium has been detected.” Their fact sheet is being updated regularly.” Here is video of the explosion.

The fact sheet also suggested to me, anyway, that officials are struggling not to take action that will permanently disable the reactor, although the Concerned Scientist folks don’t think that is a bad idea at all.  News reports suggest the situation is “spiraling out of control.”

Global Warming and Nuclear Energy

With a high risk of disastrous consequences from the damage done to the Fukushima nuclear power plant, it’s time to focus attention on nuclear energy and the risks associated with nuclear power plants.

As part of our response at we have established a special collection, Global Warming and Nuclear Energy.  We are linking nuclear energy to global warming because nuclear energy proponents offer it as an antidote to global warming and a viable alternative source of energy, a contention not Nuclear Information and Resource Servicesupported by sustainability advocates from both science and economic perspectives.  We will be adding to this collection and encourage you to become better educated on the subjects of global warming and nuclear energy.  You might also want to check out the Nuclear Information and Research Fact Sheet on the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.

Typically the scientists and the economists who address the high risks and costs associated with nuclear power are not covered in the mainstream press so in our special collection we will bring to the fore those voices of sustainability advocating solutions to global warming that do not recommend investing in nuclear energy. There are companies who are bringing innovation to the problems associated with existing nuclear energy plants such as cleaning up nuclear waste and we will seek out sustainability leaders addressing these innovations.

Process Matters

McKinsey released a report this month, The Case for Behavioral Strategy, which pulls out the fly in the ointment by doing the analysis on the question:  “how much of the variance in decision outcomes was explained by the quality of the process and how much by the quantity and detail of the analysis.”

The answer: process mattered more than analysis—by a factor of six. The fly being poor processes of which any one who has spent any time in large companies knows out trumps the numbers, but, well numbers are king. Or were.  They are important, of course, but “superb analysis is useless unless the decision process gives it a fair hearing.”  And, as you will find out reading the report, superior processes improve ROI.

Sustainability initiatives present an excellent opportunity to address unsustainable processes.

While in this post I called out the process message from the study, the story begins with the profound “cultural change” it’s going to take to “debais” strategic decisions. Well worth a read and for the C-level executives a chance to look at how they might be converting process or work problems to people problems. This is how social sustainability can begin to play a bigger role in “greening” our institutions and cities.

My mentor, Dr. Herbert Heaton, then Comptroller of the Rockefeller Foundation and a numbers guy, warned me of the inclination for decision makers to convert work problems to people problems, resulting in firings and lay-offs, and an inordinate amount of time spent accepting and rejecting people.  My boss and mentor, Dr. Randy Hamilton, then of the Institute for Local Self Government, weighed in with the observation that “people hire in their image and likeness.” As I said, this study addresses the role bias plays in our decision-making. Here’s the hard part:  “ strategic decision making leaders need to recognize their own biases.” Now let me link all this talk about process and bias to employment.

The workforce of a company is its most strategic asset and addressing the bias inherent in the process of acquiring and managing this asset is what I move to the top of the list.  The report  doesn’t really talk about people-related decisions favoring instead to reference decisions around mergers, strategic plans that often ignore competitive responses, and investment projects.  Social sustainability and prosperity go together, you can’t have one without the other and prosperity is our economic foundation.

Google Search on Sustainability: What’s It All About, Alfie?

For more than a couple of years now I have been keeping very close watch on the results using the search engine, Google, and the search term, sustainability. My project,, the voices of sustainability is designed to be right up there (not yet though) along with Wikipediad on the term, a kind of educational videopedia just for sustainability. My objective is to make sure that on that first page of organic search results it isn’t a who’s who of corporate America with no options to learn about sustainability from the experts, business and civic thought leaders, citizens, teachers, kids. Granted wikipedia is educational, but it is also written by unknown sources and is, as such, heavily processed information, like white bread.

Up to now the biggest organization, other than Wikipedia, showing up on the first page of results was the E.P.A. and the rest were smaller, research and consulting companies, mostly all business to business (BtoB) companies, not consumer (BtoC) companies.  That was until this week when Walmart showed up.

Sustainability Defined

Sustainability Defined

I have also been tracking using Google Insights on what they call “rising searches” related to sustainability.  Worldwide, since 2004, walmart sustainability is no. 1 in rising search with wikipedia in the no. 2 spot. No other large corporations are on this list.  Do the same query for 2009 and the rising searches include SAP (no. 1), Microsoft (no. 4), both beating out environmental sustainability, with Walmart coming in 8th.

Hoarse Race

Walmart is in middle of pack

For 2009 in the U.S. the “Walmart Sustainability Index” is no. 1 on rising search with the highest number of searches coming from Oregon, Vermont, and Hawaii. It won’t be long before SAP, Microsoft, SAS and other large corporations are what you will see on the first page of Google search.  Why is that a problem?  Because the single net impression will be that corporations define sustainability and the issues associated with it such as environmental sustainability. They will own the term, sustainability, worldwide.  And  yes, research shows the kids don’t go beyond that first page and neither do many of us adults.  It will contribute heavily to what I called out in my previous blog as valueswashing.

But wait.  While keeping my eyes on the big picture something else started to happen this last week.  Out of the blue Portland-based sustainability organizations suddenly appeared.

Portland FirmsHow is that I asked? I emailed several friends in San Francisco and asked them to do a search.  Similar results to mine, but no Portland.  How about Berkeley?

Berkeley One can put in to any search a geo parameter, e.g. Portland or a zip code, but in this case no such geo parameter was added.  So how did the search engine know I’m Portland and my friend is San Francisco? I cleaned by cache, removed Google cookies.  I have recently removed my city from my Google profile.  No change so far.  My money, though, is on the profile information in Google.

Factoring in your geo location into search is a boon to retailers and other local businesses.  I’m just now sure how it’s working and I’m not sure I like a search having a parameter that I don’t choose. But then I’m a librarian at heart (and by education) so this makes me nervous,  directing access to a body of information based on profile information.

Does this bother anyone else out there?

In summary, there is a horse race on to own the search term sustainability using organic search. At the same time, search results are starting to vary depending upon the geo you are searching from without you stipulating a geo search parameter. Stay tuned.

Confessions of a Ms. Twitter

It started when I turned 22.

I graduated from San Francisco State and moved to New York to experience big city lights and the skating rink in Central Park. Because I had worked in a library my junior and senior year, I found a job in less than a week with the General Motors Company in the public relations library. A big part of my job was to read the major newspapers and industry, trade, and business magazines for articles of interest to the company and to the executives on the floor above us. I clipped the most interesting ones and filed them in cabinets that took up an entire room and held a clipping collection going back to the 1930’s. My tweeting history officially started with my clipping job.

But then it was during the Vietnam war and GM made tanks, so I only stayed a short time and moved to Washington, D.C. for work with the National Association for Community Development.  I did not have any formal clipping responsibilities, but it had become a habit so I often hand delivered articles to my colleagues. If we could find anyone from back then I’m sure they could be made to remember my clipping habit.

Now it’s the 1980’s and clipping gets easier, more technical, hipper. I’m sure you can see how email became my medium of choice as I continued throughout the years to “clip” and because I worked for  high tech companies I was an early emailer, using a peer-to-peer system in 1981 to not only “email” but publish a magazine based on articles submitted electronically. I took my clipping habit to a new level.

In the early 1990’s I  hailed the invention of the hyperlink and today rarely send out an email without at least two links as background.  This brings me to my twitter habit and why I think I should be nominated as Ms. Twitter but not for having thousands of followers – I’m in the quality not quantity school – or for being one of the first persons to use it – I was fogged in by the limited text thing – or for having millions of  tweets, but because I am the most an experienced twitterer and see it as a highly effective educational channel and an antidote to the over-commercialization of the Web.

However, I’m writing less in my blog because of my twittering. I’ve communicated more in 225 tweets then in a multitude of blog articles. I realize that in the blog worldPicture 5 it’s all about me: my opinion and my experience mixed with knowledge gleaned from the whitepapers, research, articles and books I am always reading. With my tweets I’m bringing to my audience other voices, the voices of sustainability from our EarthSayers collection of over 400 video programs highlighting the voices of sustainability experts, business and civic leaders, teachers, and citizens from all walks of life. I saw Twitter could be an educational channel, a way to take earthsayers to followers who are interested in and can use the information in their work.  I call attention to at least five videos each week. Instead of a book review, I’m tweeting the release of interesting book titles I receive related to sustainability such as the Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest by Ray Troll (Illustrator) and Amy Gulick (Photographer) or TRUE GREEN LIFE IN 100 EVERYDAY WAYS, a National Geographic Book.

I get press releases because of this blog, but it makes more sense to put the news out over Twitter. I’m thinking of posting a new books roundup as part of my blog, but haven’t figured out how to manage the information in a way that makes this easy and timely.

Then there are the new products in categories ranging from cars to health and wellness products and services. Here’s one:
Elm Grove, WI — February 16th, 2010 — Valentin Technologies has given the public its first glimpse of its 170 MPG IngoCar, currently in the stage of development.  This release of three teaser sketches shows the five-seat, four door sportwagen, brimming with innovation. Doesn’t it make you feel better that there is someone out there working on 170 MPG.Auto by Valentin It may be too late given the recent projections on climate change and peak oil, but it is something positive to talk about.

And possibly the most interesting information for the marketing folks are the notices about research that ask important questions such as:

Do the corporations that benefit from environmentally-conscious purchasing and investment choices deserve their green halo?

Last week New Scientist reported on their study finding evidence suggesting that US consumers have little idea about companies’ relative environmental performance, across a wide sweep of businesses. They went on to note there were also some dramatic mismatches between performance and perceptions: Fresh Del Monte Produce, for instance, is one of the greenest companies around in the eyes of the U.S. public. But according to Trucost’s analysis, it has the biggest environmental impact ratio of all the companies in our sample.

Other key findings: (I am taking the time out from the Twitter theme because this is really important information)

·         In general, consumers fail to recognize the large environmental impacts of food and beverage production
·         Some companies are benefiting from underserved “green” reputations – and could be vulnerable to a consumer and investor backlash
·         Others, such as The Coca Cola Company, are getting little public credit for some fairly impressive efforts to protect the environment
·         Greater disclosure of companies’ environmental impacts will help investors and consumers to make choices that promote a green economy
·         Green marketing can work – as our results for General Electric reveal
·         In our sample, Whole Foods Market has the highest consumer “green” perception; Google and eBay the lowest actual environmental impact

twitterIt’s hard to get in the twitter flow because it’s a lot like taking on a bird as a pet. Certain equipment is needed to make things comfortable for yourself and the bird, but most troublesome is the daily feeding requirement. Fortunately there are tools out there to manage and schedule tweets so it turns out to be less trouble than a bird because you don’t really have to do it every day. And, because people use searches and alerts to find those on Twitter by subject matter, in my case, sustainability, you add followers at a regular pace and amass people and organizations with mutual interests from around the world.

So, yes, I am a twitterer and have been for years. I highly recommend it to educate and inform like minded people.  Next I’ll talk a little bit about why I want to go for the Ms. Google title and THAT goes back to 1975 when….


Qualities of Sustainability Leaders: The Short List

A short list of five qualities I have found in sustainability leaders and now “findable” in abundance at, the voices of sustainability.

Now that I live and work in a community where there is much more support for sustainability I don’t have to spend as much time doing missionary work on the relevancy of it, but I do talk more about leaders and why sustainability leaders need to ban together and become much more visible, not just on, but, locally in their communities.

At the same time I have been listening to leadership experts who generally don’t reference sustainability (more missionary work needed here), but who have been talking about the qualities of leadership that are lacking and, as Bill George of Harvard and a member of the Board of Exxon Mobile and Goldman Sachs observes;  it is a”failure of leadership” that has put our country at risk. Of course it’s not just our country is it? Back to Professor George in a minute.

Based on what two leadership experts are talking about and my own experience reviewing hundreds of speeches and interviews,  here is a short list of the qualities I have found in  sustainability leaders:

(1) Givers not takers.

Sustainability leaders don’t fit the old model of leadership as detailed in a speech to the Google folks by leadership expert Bill George of Harvard University. On what basis have we been choosing our leaders? “More for charisma, than character, more for style than substance, more for their image than their integrity.  Not very authentic people, smart, but not committed, takers rather than givers.”  Just give a listen to B Corporation members, there are over 200 of them, as the “B” is “for benefit.” Here are three on EarthSayers, including the cofounder of B Corps, Jay Gilbert.

Jay Coen Gilbert, B Corporation; Jeffrey Hollender, Seventh Generation; Miranda Magagnini, Sustainability Leaders

(2) Motivators

Again from Bill George: “Economists told us for many years that people only interested in money. Not motivating people. Today we want to find meaning and significance in our work.

Over 90% of the voices on have motivated me to continue with my work and many in different ways emphasize the significance of taking the first step.  I don’ think anyone says this better and more simply than Kip Ward, owner of a completely recycled motel in the beach community of Lincoln City, Oregon. Give a listen to what Kip has to say and my thanks to both Kip and filmmaker, producer Barry Heidt of Lincoln City, Oregon who understand the significance of and produced this for EarthSayers.

(3) Different and Humble

According to Blair Sheppard, dean of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, company recruiters are saying they need a “different kind of person. (They) need a person who is more of a leader, but humble.”  I think the collection of leaders on EarthSayers demonstrates how different the sustainability leadership is, you can hear and see it for yourself.  Experts and leaders such as the head of Common Cause, Bob Edgar, all say the same thing: “We are all called to be leaders.”

(4) Multi-cultured

Here’s Dean Sheppard. “If you think about the structure of the problems businesses are grappling with today, more and more of it requires that people work effectively with other people, often times from different civilizations from their own. “ It’s not just businesses is it?

Organizations such as the Ecotrust recognize the most innovative indigenous leaders for their efforts to improve conditions in their communities through award programs and public events. There is Kavita Ramdas, President and CEO of the Global Fund For Women and then there is the The Goldman Environmental Prize, world’s largest award for grassroots environmentalists.

That’s my short list for now. It will grow as we add more and more sustainability leaders to  Oh wait, I forgot the last one.

(5) Visible.

With the help of Chelsea Peil, community developer, and Barry Heitd we are establishing local offshoots of EarthSayers starting with the Portland Sustainability Leadership Channel and the SeaStar Sustainability Leadership Channel, an ecotourism-focused channel for Lincoln City, Oregon.  This is a simple, easy- to- put- into- action model for bringing a focus on the leaders in local communities using YouTube channels and, internationally, through connection to the EarthSayers network.  Robert Seireeni in his book, The Gort Cloud, references “The Invisible Force powering today’s most visible Green Brands.” Well, it’s time to get visible.