Better LED Light Bulb on the Way

  • The 60 watt incandescent bulb will have more competition once new LED lights make it to store shelves this fall. (Photo courtesy of Darren Hester)

Buying a light bulb used to be a simple job. But in recent years with the explosion of choices of types, wattages and colors, it’s gotten confusing. Lester Graham reports it’s about to get more complicated.

Transcript

Buying a light bulb used to be a simple job. But in recent years with the explosion of choices of types, wattages and colors, it’s gotten confusing. Lester Graham reports it’s about to get more complicated.

Philips, is introducing an energy-efficient replacement for the 60 watt incandescent bulb, but it’s not a compact flourescent. The industry has been whispering about an LED bulb that would light up a room like a warm incadescent, use less energy like a compact flourescent and last much longer.

Philips says it’ll start selling that bulb in retail stores early next year. The price? Somewhere around 60-dollars a bulb.

Ed Crawford is the CEO of Philips Lighting, North America. He says yeah, that’s a lot for a bulb, but –

“It’s going to last in your home or business for 25 years –certainly 20-25 years depending on how often you use it. That’s a real break through, but it’s a different kind of product.”

And unlike a compact flourescent, the LED does not contain mercury and will work with dimmer switches.

For The Environment Report, I’m Lester Graham.

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Green Biz in the Black

  • A green "stop-n-shop." Locali's in L.A. (Photo by Devine Browne)

When the banks failed and the recession
hit last fall, lots of people predicted
that the burgeoning green economy would
get nipped in the bud. But that’s not
what happened. Julie Grant spoke with
some business experts about the status
of green companies:

Transcript

When the banks failed and the recession hit last fall, lots of people predicted that the burgeoning green economy would get nipped in the bud, but that’s not what happened. Julie Grant spoke with some business experts about the status of green companies.

Last fall, the iconic supermarket of the green movement was in trouble. After years of growth, Whole Foods’ stock prices were plummeting.

Nancy Koehn is professor of the history of retailing and consumer behavior at the Harvard business school.

She says despite the lingering high unemployment rate and the store’s notoriously high prices, things are looking better today for Whole Foods.

“They’ve rebounded very effectively over the last six months. their stocks trading up considerably, traffic is up in the stores, per customer tabs, or receipts, if you will, are up.”

But Koehn says Whole Foods customers might be a core group that’s committed to buying green. The jury is still out on whether green companies will win over mainstream consumers.

Lots of people rushed to Wal-Mart last Christmas – to get things as cheaply as possible in the wake of the financial meltdown. But Koehn says the large-scale flight to Wal-Mart has mostly run its course.

“The question now is – are consumers now, in this post crisis world, going to move to a new normal? – which includes a different way of thinking about the impact of our dollars on how what we buy affects a whole range of issues and people in the world.”

In other words, will people re-consider buying cheap goods made in China since many American jobs have been lost to that country, environmental concerns about products from China and that country’s record on human rights.

And, Koehn says even Walmart is becoming greener both in its operations and its products. For example, it now sells only energy efficient lights bulbs.

Joel Makower is editor of GreenBiz –dot-com. He says changes at WalMart are just a small part of the green business story today. Although, he might not have said that a year ago.

“I think the remarkable story of 2009 is that the green economy did not disappear when the overall economy went south. that it’s not only remaining in place, but the number of products and services from better cars to better cosmetics to computers are coming in to the market.”

Even though we’re the ones who buy these things, Makower says the future of the green business isn’t really about consumer demand. He says there’s a confluence of green technology, government regulation and available capital that’s driving the green economy forward.

“We’re going to be seeing that in energy, we’re going to be seeing that in buildings, we’re going to be seeing that in vehicles. We’re already seeing that in information technology. Where these things are coming together and regardless of consumer demand are being made available and attractive to consumers.”

Makeower gives the example of the IPOD. He says it wasn’t developed because people demanded it, or because we were running out of material to make CDs – it just offered a better technology – and so consumers have been buying it. In the process, the IPOD saved tons of material that was to be used on CD packaging.

These new products aren’t necessarily being labeled green products. And Business historian Nancy Koehn says American companies are going through a huge transition that won’t make such labels necessary.

“Because pretty soon the core aspects of what we define as green today will be such a part of so many businesses that we won’t make this distinction, we won’t have this kind of differentiation by the word green.”

Koehn says companies that have already started going green might be ahead of their competitors right now – in terms of energy efficiency and offering a wider array of green- products. But because of stockholder demands, government incentives– and eventually consumers – other businesses will likely start catching up to them.

For the Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

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Growing a City in a Greener Way

  • Trussville, Alabama Mayor Gene Melton may not be a staunch environmentalist - take a look at his car - but he still thinks greenspace is important in his city (Photo by Gigi Douban)

For many small town mayors, growth is all good. After all, more houses means more tax revenue, more retail, more jobs. One Alabama mayor agrees, but he also recognizes green space is an amenity worth keeping. And for that, the timing couldn’t be better. Gigi Douban reports:

Transcript

For many small town mayors, growth is all good. After all, more houses means more tax revenue, more retail, more jobs. One Alabama mayor agrees, but he also recognizes green space is an amenity worth keeping. And for that, the timing couldn’t be better. Gigi Douban reports:

Here at the grand opening of a subdivision in Trussville, Alabama, a few dozen families gather outside the sales office for the usual ribbon cutting with giant scissors.

(sound of applause and cheers)

Soon, everyone heads down to the Cahaba River. The river literally will be in the backyard of these houses once they’re built. On the river, they’re having a rubber duck race.

(announcement of duck race)

It’s gimmicky, but these days developers will do just about anything to attract potential buyers.

Another developer had approached Trussville about building homes along the Cahaba River, but then the housing market took a nose dive. The developer wanted out.

Trussville Mayor Gene Melton says the city would have been crazy not to buy the land.

“This property was probably going to sell for $35,000 or $40,000 an acre. We got to the point where we were able to acquire this for $4,500 an acre.”

The city could have turned it into an industrial park or zoned it for retail. But instead, they’ll turn it into a greenway. It’ll connect to nearby parks with the river as the centerpiece.

Now, the mayor of Trussville is not a staunch environmentalist, by any measure. He tools around the city in a gas guzzling SUV. He’s pro-development. But, he says, the same way a city needs development, it needs greenspace, too.

“Have you ever flown in to a big city like Atlanta or Los Angeles and for miles and miles all you see is rooftops? Well that’s how not to build a city.”

The Cahaba River watershed stretches through Alabama’s most populous county. Recently, heavy development along the Cahaba has polluted the water. It’s endangered habitats not just here, but downstream. Trussville is very near the headwaters, so what happens there affects the entire river.

Randall Haddock is thrilled about the new greenspace. He’ a field director with the Cahaba River Society, a conservation group. Haddock says the Cahaba River is among the most biologically diverse in the country.

“It turns out that Alabama has more fish species, more snails, more crayfish, more turtles, freshwater snails more than any other state in the US. So when it comes to things that live in rivers, we’re at the top of the list by a long way.”

(sound of people walking near river)

Haddock says all along the Cahaba, he’s seen plenty of examples of how not to build near the river.

He says this greenspace is an example of how easy it is to minimize impact. Keeping grass on the ground not only means a cleaner river, but it might help reduce flooding.

“When you make so many hard surfaces, the water runs off real fast and gets into the river real quick. And you’ve increased the volume of water and the only response that a river can make is to get bigger.”

The bank erodes, the water is polluted and soon, you start to see species diminish.

(sound of high school students)

David Dobbs is the city’s high school environmental science teacher. He takes his students out behind the school to check on the river. The result: a clean bill of health.

“All the little bugs, they end up being food for the fish, and the more they are of the good ones that are here, that means there’s more food for the fish, so therefore there’s more fish, it’s a very healthy part of the river.”

Trussville, like many small towns, still says without growth, there’d be no city. But now they know, that growth has to protect one of its top amenities – the river.

For The Environment Report, I’m Gigi Douban.

Related Links

Organic Clothes a Bullseye for Target?

  • An outfit from American designer Rogan Gregory, which is made of 100% certified organic cotton. The collection arrives in Target stores on May 18th (Photo courtesy of Target)

If you want to buy organic clothes, chances
are you’ll have to order them over the Internet.
But that’s about to change. Lester Graham reports a
big retailer will soon be selling eco-friendly clothes:

Transcript

If you want to buy organic clothes, chances
are you’ll have to order them over the Internet.
But that’s about to change. Lester Graham reports a
big retailer will soon be selling eco-friendly clothes:

The big-box retail store, Target, will soon be carrying a line of environmentally-
friendly clothes for women.

Tim Craig is Editor in Chief for the magazine “Retailing
Today.” He thinks if Target starts carrying eco-friendly clothes, other retailers will take
notice.

“Without a doubt there will be some me-too-ism. And they watch each other very
carefully. Certainly, Kohls and Target go back-and-forth as to who has the leadership position and I
wouldn’t put it past them to have some one-upsmanship, if you will, in the area of
offering sustainable, organic product.”

Craig says it’s unclear whether there’s a demand for those kinds of clothes. But for
women who want eco-friendly clothing, being able to see, touch, and try on clothes
before buying them might persuade them to skip ordering on the internet and instead shop at
the store.

For The Environment Report, this is Lester Graham.

Related Links

Food Prices on the Rise

  • Produce section of a supermarket in VA. (Photo by Ken Hammond, courtesy of the USDA)

Food prices are going up worldwide. A new survey
by the American Farm Bureau Federation finds supermarket
checkout costs have risen nearly 8% this year.
Julie Grant has more:

Transcript

Food prices are going up worldwide. A new survey
by the American Farm Bureau Federation finds supermarket
checkout costs have risen nearly 8% this year.
Julie Grant has more:

Retail food prices usually increase 3% per year. But over the last year the
cost of flour, cheese, bread, meat, oil, and produce is up – by more than
double the average.

The United Nations has predicted prices will stabilize in the long term. But
that consumers worldwide will face at least 10 more years of rapidly rising
food prices.

Commodity prices for corn, wheat, soybeans and other staples have been
skyrocketing over the past year – to more than double 2006 prices.
The higher costs are due in part to weather affecting crops, and growing
demand in China and India.

Economists also point toward the increased use of grains for ethanol and
other biofuels, putting pressure on food prices.

For The Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

Related Links

Online Shopping Lessens Footprint?

Retail groups say consumers will purchase nearly one-third of their holiday gifts
online this year. Using your computer to shop might help you beat high gas prices and
pollute less. Chuck Quirmbach reports:

Transcript

Retail groups say consumers will purchase nearly one-third of their holiday gifts
online this year. Using your computer to shop might help you beat high gas prices and
pollute less. Chuck Quirmbach reports:


Ordering items online usually means less driving around to retail outlets, and at
the price of gas, your savings can add up. But online orders often mean a
delivery truck still has to bring you a product.


Bryan Welch of the website EarthMoment.com says you can even cut the
delivery company’s costs and vehicle pollution by having items sent to your
workplace:


“If you work in an office, in all likelihood there are several deliveries a day to that
office already. So there’s no incremental energy used to deliver one more little
box to you at the office.”


Earth Moment is owned by Ogden Publications. It’s also running a program
where money from some online purchases goes to reforestation projects and
other means of offsetting greenhouse gas emissions.


For the Environment Report, I’m Chuck Quirmbach.

Related Links

Ten Threats: Hidden Costs of Invasives

  • Foreign ships like this one from Cypress are known as "Salties" around the Great Lakes. These ships are responsible for bringing aquatic invasive species into the Lakes, and we're all paying a price. (Photo by Mark Brush)

In looking at these threats to the Great Lakes, almost everyone we surveyed agreed the worst threat was alien invasive species. Shipping goods in and out of the Great Lakes has helped build the major cities on the Lakes. But shipping from foreign ports has brought in unwanted pests. Zebra mussels are probably the most infamous, but there are more than 160 aquatic species that have invaded the Lakes and changed them, almost always for the worse. So why can’t we keep them out?

Transcript

Today we begin an extensive series called “Ten Threats to the Great Lakes.” The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham is our guide through this series:


In looking at these threats to the Great Lakes, almost everyone we surveyed agreed the worst threat was alien invasive species. Shipping goods in and out of the Great Lakes has helped build the major cities on the Lakes. But shipping from foreign ports has brought in unwanted pests. Zebra mussels are probably the most infamous, but there are more than 160 aquatic species that have invaded the Lakes and changed them, almost always for the worse. So why can’t we keep them out?


Well, let’s say I import widgets.


(Sound of widgets dropping into a cup)


I’ve been getting widgets from somewhere in Asia, but I found out I could get widgets from an eastern European company for a dollar-a-widget cheaper. The factory there can ship them directly to my warehouse in Great Lakes City, USA by ship across the Atlantic and into the Great Lakes.


Pretty good deal. I get good widgets, the shipping costs are cheaper, my profits go up, and it means cheaper widgets at the retail level. Everybody wins, right?


Well, the ship that brought the widgets also brought an alien invasive species that stowed away in the ship’s ballast. A critter that’s native to eastern European waters is now wreaking havoc on the Great Lakes ecosystem.


Aquatic alien invasive species that have invaded the Great Lakes now cost the economy an estimated five billion dollars a year. Five billion dollars of what’s considered biological pollution.


So, who’s paying the price?


Cameron Davis is with the environmental group Alliance for the Great Lakes.


“Unfortunately, in most instances, who pays for those hiddens costs are you and me. We pay for our water agencies to have to clean zebra mussels out of their pipes, we pay our agencies through taxes to have to keep Asian Carp out of the Chicago River, we pay through our taxes in any number of ways to try to fight these invaders.”


So right now, taxpayers and utility ratepayers – even those who never bought a widget and never will – are paying the price. Davis says that’s just not right.


“One of the things we need to do is make sure that those ships are paying full cost for everything that they bring, not just the widgets, but the stowaways like the zebra mussels, things like that that they have on board.”


So, why target the ships?


Dennis Schornack chairs the U.S. Sector of the International Joint Commission. The IJC is a bi-national agency that monitors a water quality agreement between the U.S. and Canada. Schornack says that’s the way it usually works: the polluters pay.


“The cost of the impact of these unwanted creatures is something that’s not baked into the price charged for the widgets. So, somewhere that external cost needs to be captured back into the price. The ship owners themselves are the likely target to pay for this through a permitting fee which, of course, they will pass on to their customers, the people who made the widgets.”


So all of us who buy widgets end up paying a little more, but paying permits and fees could cost shippers more than they can afford. George Kuper is with the Council of Great Lakes Industries. Kuper says he understands the first impulse is to make the shippers pay.


“The problem with that, of course, is the shippers were already close to non-economic as a method of transportation, which puts us right up against an environmental challenge because shipping is by far the most environmentally un-intrusive method of moving large amounts of materials.”


Kuper says using other methods of transportation such as trains or trucks to move that cargo from East Coast ports might burn more fuel and cause more pollution.


But of all the shipping on the Great Lakes, only six percent of the tonnage is carried on ocean-going vessels. The rest is transported on Great Lakes carriers that never leave the lakes and don’t bring in new invasives. So, the question is this: is that six percent of cargo worth the damage that aquatic invasive species cost each year.


Many experts say there is a fairly simple answer to all of this. Technology is available for cargo ships to eliminate invasives from their ballast tanks. Requiring those ships to use that technology would likely add some to the cost of every widget, but supporters of the idea say it would greatly reduce the environmental cost to the Lakes.


For the GLRC, this is Lester Graham.

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Organic Farmers Look for New Recruits

  • A neighbor feeds Sir Herman, a calf at Beaver Creek Ranch. Herman is a Scottish Highland bull. Highland cattle are raised in the Midwest for their lean meat. (MPR Photo/Cynthia Johnson)

Organic food has become so popular, it’s hard to keep up with demand. For organic farmers, that booming market is a mixed blessing. When they can’t supply as much as the customers want, it puts pressure on the farmers. Some farmers are trying creative ways to fill the demand. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:

Transcript

Organic food has become so popular, it’s hard to keep up with demand. For organic farmers, that booming market is a mixed blessing. When they can’t supply as much as the customers want, it puts pressure on the farmers. Some farmers are trying creative ways to fill the demand. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:


About a year ago, chef Kirk Bratrud and his family built a small restaurant near the harbor in Superior, Wisconsin. It’s called The Boathouse, and it features fresh-caught fish, local vegetables, and — Scottish Highland beef.


“It’s a very lean but tender piece of meat, it has a slightly peppery flavor, something approaching elk but more like beef.”


Bratrud says his customers love Scottish Highland beef.


“Our problem with beef however is that we wish more of it was available.”


He has to take it off the menu when he runs out. It’s hard to find, and the only way he can get it at all is because three farmers in the area raise it. One of them is Doug Anderson, owner of Beaver Creek Ranch. He says Highlands offer plenty of advantages to a farmer.


“There is no waste in the animal, as the fat is on the back of the animal rather than a heavy marbling. And our animals are not grained at all. We don’t even have a feedlot. When we’re ready to take an animal to processing, it will just be picked out of the herd, put in a trailer, and go for processing.”


The animals graze in pastures. They don’t need the antibiotics that are routinely fed to animals in feedlots. Anderson has nearly 50 Highlands. The herd is growing, but it takes time to raise cattle. About 20 steers are ready for market each year.


When he started selling to The Boathouse in Superior, he realized there was a bigger market out there than he could supply. He’s recruiting his neighbors to help out. Three nearby farmers have bought brood cows and bulls. Anderson says when their animals are ready to butcher, he’ll put them in touch with The Boathouse and his other markets.


Three miles away, another organic farm has a different specialty – aged cheese made from sheep milk. Mary and David Falk milk about 100 sheep, and make about four dozen cheeses a week. The aging cave is a concrete silo, built into a hillside.


(sound of door opening)


Inside, it’s dark and cool. Nearly a thousand cheeses are resting on cedar planks. Mary Falk enjoys the different molds growing on the rinds of the cheese.


“We’ve got a gold mold, there’s a mauve colored mold, there’s a blue mold, there’s a soft green. So each one of those little molds adds a a hint of flavor and complexity to the cheese.”


The Falks used to sell their Love Tree cheeses to restaurants in New York and San Francisco. But after September 11th, the orders dropped off suddenly, and the Falks found new customers at a local farmer’s market. Now, they don’t have enough cheese to satisfy their local retail customers AND supply restaurants and cheese shops.


To boost her production, Mary Falk tried buying sheep milk from other farmers, but it didn’t taste the same as milk from the flock on her Love Tree Farm. So she tried to recruit farmers to buy some of her sheep and sell her the milk. A couple of neighbors tried it, but quit after awhile.


Her latest idea is what she calls the Love Tree Farm extended label program.


“What Love Tree is known for is our grass-based milk. And if somebody is making a high quality cheese on their farm, we are willing to put that into our market for them. We would put the Lovetree label on their cheese, like “Love Tree introducing Johnny Smith.”


Falk says it would give customers a chance to learn about new cheeses from a name they trust, and it would give new farmers access to an established market.


It takes time and ingenuity to match producers and consumers. But more and more people want organic food. Farmers who’ve been successful are trying to recruit other farmers to join them in the organic producers movement… an effort that can be profitable and easier on the environment.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Stephanie Hemphill.

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Destination Superstores Buy Up Farmland

  • Retail superstores, like this Cabela's in Dundee, Michigan, have become tourist destination sites. Environmentalists worry that these types of developments are adding to poor land use patterns. (Photo by Sarah Hulett)

Throughout the region, tourism is an important part of the economy. Families travel far and wide to visit historical sites, cultural institutions, and favorite recreation spots. But a relatively new part of the landscape is drawing people in for a single purpose: to shop. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports on how the trend is affecting land use patterns:

Transcript

Throughout the region, tourism is an important part of the economy. Families travel
far and wide to visit historical sites, cultural institutions, and favorite recreation
spots. But a relatively new part of the landscape is drawing people in for a single purpose: to
shop. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports on how the trend is affecting
land use patterns:


Brad Brinker is in Michigan for the day to take in the sights. He flew his plane from Pennsylvania
to Dundee, in the southeast corner of Michigan. Now he’s standing next to a waterfall that spills
into a pond filled with trout and aquatic plants.


“We were always impressed by the size of the mountain and the animals they have. That’s why
we’re here!”


The mountain is fake. The water? Pumped in. The animals? Stuffed.


This is Cabela’s – a 225-thousand-square-foot retail temple to the outdoors. It’s the home of 65-
thousand gallons of aquariums, dozens of game animals like caribou and mountain lions. There’s
a gun library, and acres of fishing equipment and hunting gear.


“Cabela’s considers itself a tourist attraction as well as retail. And in all of our major sites, we’ve
become one if not the major tourist attraction in the state.”


Steve Collins is the operations manager for Cabela’s. He says the strategy for drawing tourists and
shoppers hinges on careful placement of the store.


“What we try to do is make them destination stores, so people have to go out of their way a little
bit to get there. But once they get there they’re very easy to find. We’re not in the middle of a
mall. We’re not in the middle of town where you have to try and find us. Once you get down that
thoroughfare, we’re usually right at the exit. You can’t miss us.”


Michigan’s Cabela’s store IS easy to spot. You can see two 20-foot-tall bronze grizzlies from the
highway, locked in battle above a vast expanse of parking lot. The five-acre store was built to
look like a massive log cabin. It sits on a sweep of what used to be farmland. A U.S. highway
feeds thousands of cars a day onto its property.


It’s a familiar strategy for big-box retailers such as Home Depot and Wal-Mart. Land is generally
cheaper and easier to acquire in rural areas. And some of these superstores and outlet malls have
become destinations not just for shoppers, but for tourists. George Zimmerman directs Michigan’s
travel bureau.


“I think in the last ten years, on the national level, the Mall of America is an example of that.
Certainly the outlet mall boom is a big part of it. That certainly was a key point as far as retailing
as a destination, when those started popping up around the country.”


But superstores and outlet malls give environmentalists headaches. They say stores that set up
shop in undeveloped areas contribute to sprawl patterns that require expensive infrastructure.
They can also sap resources from nearby cities and towns. Although the business association near
Cabela’s Michigan store says the retailer has actually helped bring shoppers into the downtown
area, five miles away.


Victoria Pebbles works on sustainable development issues for the Great Lakes Commission.
Pebbles says there need to be disincentives for stores to locate in rural areas.


“If there are disincentives, for example, through farmland protection programs and protection of
natural features and cultural resources that are in our rural areas, then you can help to tip the
scales a little bit.”


Pebbles says right now, there are few restrictions on developing farmland into shopping malls.
Some states – such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – have set aside money to help
local governments better coordinate land use planning. And Michigan recently set up a task force
that will make land use policy recommendations to its Legislature.


(bring up Cabela’s parking lot sound)


In the meantime, it looks as though retailers will continue to look for cheap land with easy access
to highways. Cabela’s plans to open its fifth store in the Great Lakes region this fall. Its
Pennsylvania store will be easy to spot, perched on a hundred acres right off I-78 and Route 61.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Sarah Hulett.