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September, 2012

September 21st, 2012

Power in numbers: UNH student groups launch Sustainability Alliance

This column first appeared in The New Hampshire, the student newspaper at UNH on Friday, September 21st.  The piece was authored by Climate Counts intern Ben Trolio.

With the recent news that UNH has been named by Sierra magazine as one of the Top 10 “coolest schools” for its commitment to sustainability, student groups recently came together to fulfill the need for a unified approach to on-campus messaging.

The Student Sustainability Alliance (or SSA for short) is the brainchild of the UNH Sustainability Institute, Climate Counts (a UNH-based nonprofit) and students who get the big picture. These groups realized that building relationships is the key to organizational success and to extending the sustainability message beyond individual programs.

“In order for students to engage in our sustainability ethos at UNH, they first need to understand what it means,” said Jackie Furlone, program assistant at the Sustainability Institute. “With groups representing food systems, climate change, ecosystems, energy and society, it will help get the message across that we are taking an integrated approach to having a positive impact on our community.”

Student groups participating in SSA include Slow Food, Get Real, Oxfam, Net Impact, Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) and the Organic Gardening Club. Together these groups encompass all aspects of sustainability and can reach the entire student body.

With one meeting under its belt, the SSA has already struck gold in pushing the sustainability envelope even further at UNH. Net Impact and SEAC are considering a potential partnership around sustainable investments at UNH.

With the university investing over $100 million in the free market to leverage its financial savings, some of these investments are tied to oil and gas companies, which increase society’s dependence on the burning of fossil fuels, a leading contributor to climate change. SEAC is addressing this issue through the Divest for Our Future campaign, which is asking President Huddleston to commit to stopping investment in fossil fuel companies. Meanwhile, Net Impact is researching viable alternatives related to sustainable investment practices and responsible reinvestment. Potential collaboration between Net Impact and SEAC is a taste of things to come for SSA.  Through similar initiatives, the SSA hopes to mobilize students around a common vision.

The early success of the alliance is possible because of the realization that smaller student groups can have a much larger impact when coming together to tackle shared challenges. By making connections across sustainability groups with overlapping missions, there is less competition for the same audiences at UNH, and less confusion among the student body as to what sustainability means and how they can engage.

The SSA is ready to step into its role as a common voice for UNH’s student-led sustainability initiatives—not just for students of today, but to leave a legacy of sustainability at UNH. This alliance marks an opportunity for student groups to realize their collective vision around sustainability and to propel our university to new heights.

September 20th, 2012

Interview with Mike Bellamente- Director of Climate Counts

This interview first appeared on IdeaMensch on Thursday, September 20th.

Mike Bellamente is the director of Climate Counts, a national organization that rates major consumer brands on their commitment to addressing climate change. Prior to joining the organization, Mike established his career with Level 3 Communications in Broomfield, Colorado, before serving as primary environmental liaison for NADO, an economic development public-interest group in Washington, DC. Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, Mike was named to the economic solutions team—which was led by the White House—to conduct impact analyses for oil-impacted communities.

Bellamente has written extensively on the role of the private sector in combating climate change. His work has appeared in Huffington Post, GreenBiz.com, and Corporate Responsibility Magazine. In February of 2012, Bellamente was named to Ethisphere’s list of 100 most influential people in business ethics. Mike received an MBA in international business from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Plymouth State University.

What are you working on right now?

I’m trying to figure out how to repackage climate change in a way that inspires people. When Climate Counts first began rating companies in 2007, climate change wasn’t so politically polarizing like it is today. Instead of coming together as a society to address the issue, politicians have turned this into a Right v. Left issue, which has caused people to tune it out altogether. The science hasn’t changed—just people’s perceptions of the science. It now falls to me and the people in the “outreach” business to tell the story in a way that’s compelling, guilt-free and non-partisan. Most major companies have a climate and energy strategy that’s tied to risk avoidance; for them it just makes business sense to protect their assets. These are the stories we need to tell.

Where did the idea for Climate Counts come from?

Climate Counts was actually the brainchild of Gary Hirshberg, chairman and former CEO of Stonyfield Farm, a New Hampshire-based organic yogurt producer. The original idea was to give consumers the information they needed to make purchasing and investment decisions in a way that would drive sweeping changes in how companies measured and managed their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Similar to the disinvestment movement in South Africa that eventually led to the end of apartheid, Gary saw the potential to get the public motivated in a way that would drive the private sector to act on climate change. Then, of course, the financial crisis came and people stopped worrying about climate change.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Similar to a stand-up comic, I first test my material with people who are close to me. If they tell me the idea sucks, I’ll ask a bunch of people I don’t know until someone’s says they like it. Then I’ll focus on how I can get the most out of the idea quickly, without spending a great deal of time or money. I’ve found, through running a nonprofit, that time and money are very difficult to come by.

What does your typical day look like?

It’s all over the map, really. One day I’m writing articles on climate change and guest lecturing to business students, and the next I’m out fundraising and planning peer learning events for our corporate partners who are interested in driving this issue forward.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The fact that the concept of “sustainability” is steadily gaining traction in the private sector is something to be positive about. Politicians will always be morons. What we really need is for good ol’ American business to lead the clean technology revolution in a direction that will put the U.S. back on top. I honestly think we can get to a point where no one has to sacrifice their Ford F-150 for the good of the environment—cars and trucks will eventually run on magical fuels made from plastic. Mark my words.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I had a job at a startup company in Denver, where I had to cold-call builders, plumbers and electricians to buy our service. That was the worst job ever. I don’t think I made one deal. I learned that no one should ever call someone unsolicited unless they’re notifying them that they’ve won a lot of money or that there’s a bomb in the building.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

Not to diminish the importance of things like abortion, gun control and poverty, but I think we need to begin viewing climate change as its own separate thing. It disturbs me to see how politicized the issue has become and how people are just linking it to their existing ideologies, thinking, “Oh, you’re environmentalist, so you must be a democrat.” When scientists tell me that smoking causes cancer or that the earth revolves around the sun, I tend to take their word for it, as I, myself, am not a scientist. I wish more folks would do that too, and I’ve made it my mission in life to help those poor scientists get their words out to us normal folk about climate change.

Tell us a secret.

Polar bears are pissed that they’ve become the face of climate change. In fact, most of them are invested in big oil. (Don’t ask me how I know).

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

A Brave New World. It’s a classic and everyone should read it. Also, it illustrates the power of uniqueness and individual thought. Today, it seems like people are very okay with being told what to think by the folks at Fox.

Who is your hero?

Peter Forsberg. He’s retired now, but he was the greatest hockey player to ever live.

September 12th, 2012

Back to School Sustainability

Whether you are a seasoned college student, a high school senior or a prepared parent, the arrival of school brings with it many to-do lists. With respect to our natural environment, the top priority should always be in reducing the amount of STUFF you buy and repurposing old gear.

When you absolutely NEED to buy new stuff, your choices and voices can prod corporations into taking a more aggressive approach on climate change. In fact, building a movement to solve the climate crisis rests on a foundation of decisions we make every day.

Here are some quick tips based on the Climate Counts Scorecard to make your school shopping adventures more climate wise:

1. Clothing – Thanks in part to relentless TV ads about back-to-school clothing sales, parents feel obligated to make sure little Suzie and Tommy are showing up with the hippest threads on Day 1 of the school year. If you find you or your children fall victim to inadequate footwear or other clothing, consider getting your new apparel from companies like Timberland (86 out of 100 points on CC’s scorecard), Nike (85) Levi’s (74) or Gap (62). All of these companies are members

of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP).

2. Laptops – When searching for a computer to procrastinate from schoolwork or join the online debate of Mac vs. PC, feel confident in your choice as you reach for a HP (83), Sony (80), Toshiba (77), or Dell (71). All these companies are making enviable strides to reducing their GHG emissions. Sorry Mac fans, Apple (60) limps into the gate as the lowest in the electronics sector on CC’s scorecard.

3. Airlines – Whether your flying home for Christmas or heading to Daytona for spring break, considering flying Delta (56) or Southwest (55), the two highest performing companies in the airline sector.

4. Shipping – For those moms out there who are keen on sending care packages, you’ll want to reduce your carbon footprint with UPS (80).

5. Furniture – When surfing the web on your eco-friendly HP, you’ll want to be sitting on Herman Miller (63) or Steelcase (60) furniture. Both companies scored well according to the Climate Counts Scorecard. If you don’t need furniture though, the planet will appreciate it even more.

If you already splurged on new stuff for the coming school year, then tuck our pocket shopping guide inside your wallet for future use. In a world saturated with advertising, it can be difficult to make the right choice. Next time you need to go shopping, you will be armed with the knowledge to have a more sustainable back to school shopping experience!

September 10th, 2012

Climate Counts Recognizes Annie’s, Inc. for Commitment to Sustainability and Climate Leadership

Annie'sDurham, N.H. – Sept. 11, 2012 – Annie’s, Inc. (NYSE: BNNY), a leading provider of natural and organic alternatives to traditional comfort foods, has been recognized as a “Striding Climate Leader” by consumer advocacy group Climate Counts for its commitment to monitoring and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Annie’s achievement as a Striding Climate Leader signals that the company is committed to mitigating material costs and risk associated with climate change.

“For Annie’s, sustainability isn’t just a passing trend – it’s core to who we are,” said John Foraker, Annie’s CEO. “We’re proud of this achievement and recognition from Climate Counts. It reinforces Annie’s commitment to being socially and environmentally responsible, and demonstrates that we can maintain profitability while also reducing our environmental footprint.”

“When consumers see respected brands like Annie’s taking voluntary ownership of their emissions and energy consumption, it resonates with them,” said Climate Counts Director Mike Bellamente. “We’re seeing a shift in how the private sector is moving beyond the politics surrounding climate change toward a path that is more sustainable in the long term, both for their business and the environment. It’s encouraging to see this type of leadership.”

Annie’s, well known for its organic macaroni and cheese and snacks, now makes more than 125 organic and natural food products sold in more than 25,000 retail locations in the United States and Canada.

“We’re proud to be considered a Striding Climate Leader by Climate Counts,” said Shauna Sadowski, Annie’s Director of Sustainability. “We continually strive to improve our accountability and transparency around GHG emissions, as well as our overall commitment to energy efficiency. Annie’s ultimate goal is to produce the best-tasting, highest quality products while contributing to a more resilient and regenerative food system.”

Annie’s participates in the Climate Counts company rating process through the organization’s Industry Innovator (i2) program, a voluntary initiative designed to help companies identify gaps in their sustainability approach and encourage company-wide emissions reductions. Since Annie’s initial assessment in 2011, the company has increased its performance dramatically by embracing measures including: adopting standardized GHG accounting and reporting practices; engaging employees in achieving emissions targets; recognition for efficiencies with a LEED Gold headquarters; and working with upstream suppliers to identify GHG hotspots.

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About Climate Counts

Climate Counts is a non-profit organization based in the Sustainability Institute at the University of New Hampshire. Climate Counts brings students, consumers and companies together in addressing global climate change. Launched with financial support from organics pioneer Stonyfield Farm, the Climate Counts Company Scorecard was developed with oversight from a panel of business and climate experts from leading non-governmental organizations and academic institutions. Criteria are based on their effectiveness at accomplishing a single goal – proactively addressing climate change. Since 2007, Climate Counts researchers have used these criteria to rate the climate actions of nearly 150 companies (representing approximately 3,000 brands) in 16 industry sectors. Companies are given the opportunity to confirm or provide public data sources. Information on all scored companies is available at www.climatecounts.org and on Facebook and Twitter (@climatecounts).  Climate Counts also has a free consumer iPhone App.

About Annie’s

Annie’s (NYSE: BNNY) is a natural and organic food company that offers great-tasting products in large packaged food categories. Annie’s products are made without the artificial flavors and synthetic colors and preservatives regularly used in many conventional packaged foods. Today, Annie’s offers over 125 products which are present in over 25,000 retail locations in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1989, Annie’s is committed to operating in a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable manner. For more information, visit www.annies.com.

September 6th, 2012

Wind Energy Growth in UK

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