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Sustainability

An Effort to Bury a Throwaway Culture One Repair at a Time

Interesting idea from Amsterdam, appearing in the New York Times, May 8, 2012.

By Sally McGrane

“AMSTERDAM – An unemployed man, a retired pharmacist and an upholsterer took their stations, behind tables covered in red gingham. Screwdrivers and sewing machines stood at the ready. Coffee, tea and cookies circulated. Hilij Held, a neighbor, wheeled in a zebra-striped suitcase and extracted a well-used iron. ‘It doesn’t work anymore,’ she said. ‘No steam.’

Ms. Held had come to the right place. At Amsterdam’s first Repair Cafe, an event originally held in a theater’s foyer, then in a rented room in a former hotel and now in a community center a couple times a month, people can bring in whatever they want to have repaired, at no cost, by volunteers who just like to fix things.

Conceived as a way to help people reduce waste, the Repair Cafe concept has taken off since its debut two and a half years ago. The Repair Cafe Foundation has raised about $525,000 through a grant from the Dutch government, support from foundations and small donations, all of which pay for staffing, marketing and even a Repair Cafe bus.

Thirty groups have started Repair Cafes across the Netherlands, where neighbors pool their skills and labor for a few hours a month to mend holey clothing and revivify old coffee makers, broken lamps, vacuum cleaners and toasters, as well as at least one electric organ, a washing machine and an orange juice press.

‘In Europe, we thow out so many things,’ said Martine Postma, a former journalist who came up with the concept after the birth of her second child led her to think more about the environment. ‘It’s a shame, because the things we throw away are usually not that broken. There are more and more people in the world, and we can’t keep handling things the way we do.

‘I had the feeling I wanted to do something, not just write about it,’ she said. But she was troubled by the question: ‘How do you try to do this as a normal person in your daily life?’ Inspired by a design exhibit about the creative, cultural and economic benefits of repairing and recycling, she decided that helping people fix things was a practical way to prevent unnecessary waste.

‘Sustainability discussions are often about ideals, about what could be,’ Ms. Postma said. ‘After a certain number of workshops on how to grow your own mushrooms, people get tired. This is very hands on, very concrete. It’s about doing something together, in the here and now.’

While the Netherlands puts less than 3 percent of its municipal waste into landfills, there is still room for improvement, according to Joop Atsma, the state secretary for infrastructure and the environment.” ….

Read more about this innovative concept of Repair Cafes here.

Do you think a similar concept would work in the U.S., or are we too deeply enmeshed in the ‘Take-Make-Waste’ economy?

Visualizing sustainability’s rewards via MIT’s new interactive tool

Published on GreenBiz.com, 5-14-2012

By Deb Gallagher

“MIT Sloan Management Review released the results of its latest global survey on sustainability and innovation earlier this month, revealing that a significant number of companies see the value of sustainable business practices — and are repeating the financial rewards.

For the first time, the results were released in an interactive data visualization format. The new tool allows readers to filter the data by industry, company size, company performance and other factors. Presenting the data this way yielded several interesting findings.

  • The automotive sector gets it:  The automotive industry leads the way in making the buisness case for sustainability. However, when it comes to profitability, automotive is only the middle of the pack; the consumer products industry is at the top, with 42 percent of consumer products respondents saying that they are profiting from their sustainability activities.
  • High representational benefits: Improved brand reputation is the greatest benefit companies enjoy from addressing sustainability issues. This is especially true in the automotive, consumer products and media/entertainment industries.
  • Customers drive sustainability: Of the ‘harvesters,’ those respondents who say their companies are profiting from sustainability-related activities, 53 percent indicate that customer preference for sustainable offerings was a key driver in changing their business model. In the more resource-intensive industries, such as chemicals and energy and utilities, issues such as legislative or political pressure and maintaining a ‘license to operate’ increase in influence.
  • Size matters: Overall, the larger the company, the more likely that it will make a business case for sustainability. But that trend varies across industries – in industrial services, for example, companies with more than 100,000 employees were less likely to make a business case for sustainability than companies with 200 – 1,000 employees within the same industry.”

For ‘Special Features’ and to read more, click here.  

 

Iconic Milwaukee Brewing Company Rolls Out First “All Local” Beer

Something from closer to home …

From Triple Pundit, by Leon Kaye

“Beer is only one reason to visit Milwaukee, a city rich in architecture, culture and a vibrant sustainable business community. When it comes to beer, the same could be true for just about any city or town in the U.S. Naturally every community brags about its local I.P.A. or lager, and generally the boasting is justified. But Lakefront Brewery recently started serving what it describes as the first truly “local” beer in the U.S.

Lakefront’s “Wisconsinite” adds to the company’s reputation for innovative brews. Last year Lakefront introduced its gluten-free New Grist, and had to go through bureaucratic hoops in the U.S. government in order to have it “officially approved” as a gluten free beer. Lakefront also sells the nation’s oldest USDA-approved organic brew.

So what makes a genuinely “local” beer?

It helps that Wisconsin benefits locavores with its ample farmland. Geography is a boost as well. The water, of course, comes from Lake Michigan. The wheat comes from Chilton, near Lake Winnebago and 80 miles north of Milwaukee. Malted barley is super local, processed by another local company, Malteurop, just across town. And the magic ingredient, hops, are grown 110 miles west in Mazomanie. For decades, most hops grown for U.S. beer production have been raised in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.”

For the rest of the story, click here.

Graduation Gowns Go Green

For the first time this year, the 900 graduates at UWGB will be marching across the stage to accept their diplomas in gowns that exemplify the environmental tradition of the university. The GreenWeaver fabric used to make the gowns comes from 100% post-consumer plastic. It takes an average of 23 bottles to make one gown.

Other environmental tidbits about the gowns:

Reduce – CO2 gas emissions are reduced by over 54% in the process of manufacturing fabric from recycled plastic versus virgin polyester.

Reuse – In addition to reclaiming and reusing the plastic bottles, thermal recycled energy is used instead of petroleum to produce the fabric, which saves energy use by over 52%.

Recycle- any student not wanting to hold on to their gown as a keepsake will have the ability to place them in collection boxes after commencement and those gowns will be recycled into new product.

Also, look for green ribbons on graduates’ gowns. If you see one, you know that these students have taken part in the “Green Pledge” national movement. The pledge states that the graduates will consider environmental and social justice aspects in their lives and future jobs. This is the fourth year that the UWGB campus has participated in the Green Pledge.

Congratulations to the Class of 2012!