Thursday, December 23, 2010

California leading the cap-and-trade movement

Last Thursday the California Air Resources Board, with a 9-to-1 approval, voted in a critical piece of AB32 (the climate change law set to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020). Beginning in 2012, the nation’s most comprehensive carbon trading program will take effect in California.

This program will incentivize, through allowances and credit/offset purchases, businesses and factories to curb their emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. Each allowance represents one ton of greenhouse gas emissions. The allowances will be mostly free for the first three years with the allowed emissions level declining annually.

When it comes into effect, companies over the allowed levels will either have to reduce their emissions or buy credits from other businesses to cover their excess. With a huge incentive to invest in clean technology, companies seeking reduction in emissions will be turning to green tech businesses to help shift their current emission levels. Also, green businesses already below the levels will be able to sell their credit to other companies and earn a profit.

Although it is too early to truly tell, this major change sounds like a great boost for green businesses everywhere and will hopefully spur economic recovery.

To learn more, check out the LA Times article:

or the NPR article:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Spread Joy to Mother Earth and Local Communities

With the holiday season upon us, it seems impossible to celebrate and enjoy the holidays while being environmentally friendly. But have no fear! There are many ways to support your community and be an environmentally sensitive and responsible consumer.

Rent a Christmas tree! Instead of cutting down a live Christmas tree or buying a synthetic one, rent one! A company called The Living Christmas Co. rents out locally-grown Christmas trees to residents and business owners in Southern California. You pick from a variety of trees, they deliver to your home or office, you keep the tree throughout the holiday season, and when the time comes, they pick it up and return it to their nursery. The room will have that pine scent people love about live Christmas trees, there will be less mess since the tree will not be dying, you won’t be buying plastic, you won't have to worry about finding storing space, and the tree will ever-so-slightly help offset carbon emissions. What I love the most about this option is that you can even adopt the tree, so that year after year, you receive the same tree and get to watch it grow.

Think differently about wrapping presents. Instead of buying wrapping paper, try using cloth, shoeboxes, newspaper, or reuse gift bags from other occasions. During my childhood, my family would collect shoeboxes and gift bags that we received from shopping or parties and use them for all our celebrations. We also would try to save as much tissue paper as possible and refold them for future use. I didn’t realize it back then, but every year we were being environmentally-conscious! It was easy, cheap, and I grew to have “favorite” bags that I would look for.

Buy from local businesses. Support your local community this holiday season and head to some fun events where you can find the most unique and memorable gifts for your loved ones.

Here are some excellent ones to check out in the Los Angeles area:

A great upcoming event is Unique L.A. happening next Saturday and Sunday (December 11 & 12) at the California Market Center on 110 East 9th St in Los Angeles. From 11-6pm each day, explore the handcrafts, clothing, housewares, and food from over 300 local designers and artists. It will be the largest independent design and gift show in the country and only costs $10 for admission, which includes a limited edition tote bag, free drinks, contests, and workshops.

Another wonderful event happening those same days (December 11 & 12) from 10am-6pm is the SPIRAL Foundation Holiday Bazaar, taking place at 211 Vance St. in Pacific Palisades. A non-profit humanitarian organization, the SPIRAL Foundation fundraises money to help those in Nepal and Vietnam find employment, receive education, and treat life-threatening diseases.

Once you are done shopping at Unique L.A. and SPIRAL’s Bazaar on Saturday, that same evening head to the Mahasukha Center’s 3rd Annual Festival of Bliss at 6512 Arizona Ave in Los Angeles. From 7:30 to 10pm, there will be a silent and live holiday gift auction and entertaining music and theater performances by award-winning artists. All proceeds will benefit the Mahasukha Center, where they offer donation-only yoga, meditation and in-depth study classes in the Dalai Lama’s lineage.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

LA County Pushing to Ban Plastic Bags

It’s finally happening! Two days ago, on November 16th, 2010, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took the first step to ban single-use plastic bags. The final ordinance will be come up for a vote next week!

If approved, beginning in July 2011, sixty-seven supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies, and drug stores in the unincorporated county area must discontinue providing plastic bags at check-out counters. By January 2012, the ban will cover 1,000 stores throughout the county. Even more progressive than San Francisco, the ordinance will also place a 10-cent surcharge on paper bags to deter shoppers from turning to other disposable bags.

Interestingly enough, the American Chemistry Council (consisting of members who make plastic bags) have already sought to use the recently passed Prop. 26 (refer to my previous blog post for more information on this initiative) to prevent the 10-cent fee from becoming enacted. Tricky tricky ACC, but the 10-cent charge would be exempt from the fee approval because the revenue from the charge would be given to the store owners, not the government.

Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for a news update from the LA Times. Maybe in a year we’ll see less of these “urban tumbleweeds” drifting across the freeways, clinging to the trees, and slipping into our ocean waters.

Check out the full story from the LA Times.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Café Gratitude

I recently discovered two amazing business leaders - Matthew and Terces Englehart – the creators of  San Francisco’s beloved Café Gratitude  and authors of Sacred Commerce: Business as a Path of Awakening.  This dynamic partnership demonstrates perfectly how a business prospers by being grateful and generous. 

During a panel discussion on social enterprise at the Leaders Causing Leaders Conference in Long Beach, the Engleharts candidly discussed how they are able to stay profitable while embracing the needs of their 200-plus employees and keeping their customers happy.  In their daily business practices the company employs the concept of “Oneness.”  Meaning that any decisions made are based on what would be the most beneficial for the entire community. 

For example, when San Francisco changed their laws to require employers to provide health care insurance to all employees, the Engleharts had a choice to only provide health care to the employees within that local jurisdiction, leaving some employees who don’t work within San Francisco without insurance, or insure all employees.  The decision, based on oneness, was obvious:  insure all employees.  

Another “oneness” business decision that the Engleharts made in 2009 was to create the “I am Grateful” Bowl Program in response to the economic challenges in their community  - a pay by donation bowl of delicious organic food.  Essentially, customers are able to receive healthy and sustainable food based on what they can pay - even if it’s only 5 cents - while other customers who feel abundant can donate funds to support the program.  The program is not charity; it is community taking care of community – and instills a cycle of gratitude and generosity. 

In today’s economy, businesses are feeling the pressure to keep their overheard low and cut costs.  However, Café Gratitude operates on a much different model – they ask the question how can we give more – how can we support the community?  The shift in perspective is powerful and is the kind of thinking that has kept the company growing and more popular than ever.

As we move into the holiday season  - re-discover your capacity for gratitude and generosity.  Use Café Gratitude as a model to think about how your organization can transition from thinking about cutting costs – to  how it can give more to the people and community that make it profitable in the first place.  

Matthew and Terces Engelhart

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Election Day: A Day to Speak on Behalf of the Environment

Election Day is right around the corner! I hope all you fellow Californians are registered to vote and are geared with the knowledge to address the issues. Want some tips? Below are the propositions that I found will affect the environment and my reasoning on whether to vote Yes or No:

yosemite national parkProp 21- establishes $18 annual vehicle license surcharge to help fund state parks and wildlife programs; grants surcharged vehicles free admission to all state parks.
Vote: Yes. California’s state parks have undergone multiple budget cuts and need funding for proper maintenance and repairs. Not only will this measure allow for the continued existence of our beautiful parks, it will incentivize the public to visit these areas and enjoy the outdoors.

Prop 22- prohibits the state from borrowing or taking funds used for transportation, redevelopment, or local government projects and services.metro red line
Vote: Yes. Last year the State passed a budget that borrowed and took approximately $5 billion in city, county, transit, redevelopment and special district funds. Beyond taking money away from police services, healthcare services, road repair and maintenance, parks, and libraries, the State hurt public transit maintenance. As I’m sure many of you have noticed, bus/rail/shuttle fare prices have increased and routes have been redirected. Saying Yes on 22 will protect these necessary services from further cuts and protect the local community that relies on them.

Prop 23- suspends implementation of air pollution control law (AB 32) requiring major sources of emissions to report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, until unemployment drops to 5.5% or less for full year.
Vote: climate change polar bearNo. California’s Global Warming Solutions Act AB 32, signed in 2006 by Governor Schwarzenegger, is set to bring the state’s emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020. Prop 23 would stop the implementation of AB 32 until unemployment is below 5.5% for at least a year, a number our state’s unemployment has not even touched in three years. It would effectively kill California’s landmark climate change law and discourage other states from passing similar statutes. We cannot let this measure go through; if there is only one thing that you remember on November 2nd as you stand in the booth, I hope it is “No on 23.”
For further information: Learn more about AB 32, hear a catchy tune, read what Environment California has to say.

Prop 26- requires that certain state and local fees be approved by two-thirds vote; fees include those that address adverse impacts on society or the environment caused by the fee-payer’s business.air pollution
Vote: No. This measure, if passed, would make it more difficult to pass fees on industries that pollute our air and water and ultimately endanger our health. The funds raised by these pollution fees are used by state and local governments for programs to clean up oil spills or hazardous waste and address the health effects of cigarettes, pesticides, and alcohol.

To learn about all the propositions that will be on the ballot November 2nd, please visit the official voter’s guide or Even if you ultimately disagree with what I have said here, I hope that you stay sharp, stay aware, and make sure your voice is heard.

It’s Not Easy Being Green – or is it?

I’ve often identified with Kermit the frog.  His sentiment “It’s not easy being green” was often the way I felt throughout my earlier years growing up in a conservative ranch town turned sprawled-out suburb.  As a kid it was a challenge to get my family and neighbors to recycle, people thought I was an alien from outer-space when I told them that I was a vegetarian, and our local supermarket did not carry anything labeled “Organic.”

Today, not only is it easy to be green, it’s also become something that everyone wants to be.  This powerful shift is the result of an entire planet waking up to the idea that sustainability is something that makes our lives better and can make business more profitable.  What once was a paradigm of “jobs vs. the environment” has been replaced by “green-collar jobs” and the “green economy.”  This shift is not just the slick efforts of marketing masters. It is the result of real, truly innovative and passionate environmentalists working in every sector and level of the economy.  It is also the result of some very significant changes in state and national laws which incentivize green business over traditional dirty business and create mandates at state and local levels. 

To be sure, it has been a long road to make green easy, and we still have a ways to go.  But, it is clear, that Kermit the Frogs everywhere can wear their green proudly knowing that it is because of them that being green will continue to get easier and easier.    

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What Goes Around, Comes Around

What Goes Around, Comes Around in Green BusinessYou know that old adage “what goes around comes around?” I think it is absolutely the best strategy to grow your organization sustainably. I have found, not only in my practice as a lawyer, but in all aspects of my life, that if I take the time to help someone else with what they need, I will inevitably find that I, and my own business grow stronger as a result. The key to making this strategy work for you and your organization is tap into what you do best and give it away to those that could actually use what you have to give. What happens next is: that person remembers you, knows what you do, and will not only tell others about what you did for them, but they will become an advocate for you. Before you know it, you have more business!

Case in point. While still working at my old law firm, I made friends with supervisor of the mail room. She was such an inspiration. While holding down a full time job at the law firm she also found time to organize gang prevention programs and a charter school in South Central Los Angeles. She would tell me stories about the kids affected by gangs in those neighborhoods and how their simplest needs were not met. I wanted to help her, and my particular skill was organizing fundraisers for social missions. So, I set out to organize an office Thanksgiving basket program for families in need with her. It was so successful that the firm continued the program even after I had left. Shortly after starting my practice, one of my first clients was my friend and since then she has referred me other clients. And so it goes, what comes around, goes around. I have countless stories just like this one, and I’m sure you do too if you think about it.

So, how can you harness the power of “what comes around goes around” for your business or organization? Here are some ideas:

· Find a local charity and invite your employees to participate in it during their work week. (You will find that their enthusiasm and inspiration from this project will translate to the work that they do for your organization). If you are in Los Angeles you can go to to find an organization that fits your organizational values.
· Plant a tree for every new project you have (You’ll develop a loyal client base of likeminded companies. For example check out Chromatic Lithographers, their project is called the Green Print Alliance.
· Help your friend or colleague that needs a new job by forwarding them job openings that they might be interested in. (If that company actually hires your friend, your will have a great connection at that company – and who knows - get some new business from your new alliance).
· Give a little to that person that you drive past every day. (You will realize how much you have, and be thankful for it).

We’d love to hear your ideas too. Please share them with us!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Opportunity Green

Opportunity Green Business ConferenceLast week Becki and I had the fantastic opportunity to participate in the largest multidisciplinary green business conference in Southern California: Opportunity Green. Situated in the heart of Los Angeles at LA Center Studios, this two-day business conference brought together over 800 attendees from Fortune 500 powerhouses to cutting-edge startups and showcased ideas and practices at the forefront of today’s sustainable business practices. Some of the lecture and workshop topics included renewable energy, marketing a business, philanthropy, lifecycle analysis, and green technology.

It was an absolutely refreshing experience. From the very beginning there was a vibrancy that emanated from everyone. What I truly enjoyed was the great balance between speakers, workshops, networking breaks, and competitions. I loved that there was always someone new to meet, someone to gain inspiration or knowledge from, someone to share passions with. Even during the presentations there was a lively community atmosphere. Center Studio’s Stage 2 was laid out with round tables in the front and couches in the back, enabling entrepreneurs to network and engage in friendly conversations that otherwise would have been hindered in a standard conference row seating environment. Vendors and speakers were also willing to talk and answer questions at all hours of the conference, facilitating partnerships with green advocates from businesses both large and small.

I don't think Becki or I could have asked for a better experience. For me personally as a student looking to become an environmental lawyer, I really gained a sense of pride for the sustainability movement in Los Angeles and beyond. The amount of innovation and collaboration in this field is quite remarkable and I am so excited to be a part of it in the coming years.

Opportunity Green