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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

  • Help end world hunger
  • Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Carbon Neutral Products

    I am starting to compile a list of carbon neutral products, excellent alternatives to conventional products. It is a good way to start decreasing your carbon footprint.

    I start with Carbon Neutral Coffee. Most people don't realize what a large part of the world economy coffee is. Next to oil, it is the most traded commodity on earth. The growth, processing and transportation of coffee all contribute to global warming. The impact of your coffee habit can be cut down. Shade grown coffee, for example, preserves forests, thus reducing the carbon impact of the coffee. But some companies offer carbon neutral coffee, where between reduction of carbon impact and carbon offsets, your cup of coffee is as carbon neutral as possible.

    My favorite comes from Deans Beans. This particular Peruvian coffee is fair trade and carbon neutral:

    The world's first carbon neutral coffee! A sweet velvet roasted Peruvian from Pangoa Coop. We have calculated the entire carbon load from planting to drinking, and neutralize it with hardwood plantings by the farmers themselves at Pangoa. Fight Global Warming one cup at a time!

    We are constantly working on ways to limit our impact on the resources of dear ol' Mother Earth. With NoCO2 coffee, we have launched a new coffee and concept to fight Global Warming one cup at a time, and to show our customers that we both contribute to the problem by simple acts every day and that we can also address the issue with simple acts.

    We calculated the total carbon load generated by a pound of coffee, from growing, harvesting and processing, to shipping, roasting, shipping to you and brewing your coffee at home. This took a long time and required help from Trees for the Future, UPS, World Resources Institute and Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (thanks to all!). Seventeen pounds of coffee generates about fifty pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. We also found that one hardwood in the Tropics of Coffee sequesters about fifty pounds of CO2 annually. So we have devised a program to plant one tree in Pangoa Cooperative for every 17 pounds of NoCO2 Peruvian coffee consumed by you, our loyal customers. This is not a joke or a clever, meaningless marketing ploy. It's a real attempt to take our responsibility seriously, and help consumers take theirs seriously as well.

    We have begun the project with the Ashaninkas indigenous farmers of Pangoa, whose land was denuded by illegal logging in the 1980's. They have chosen the species, Tornillo, which grows about fifty feet tall over time and provides shade, critical migratory bird habitat,and when properly managed provides "social security for our grandchildren" in the form of a harvestable forest product, according to Esperanza Castillo, the manager of Pangoa.

    To date, over eighty thousand (yeowww!) trees have been planted, way more than needed to compensate for the carbon load of our relationship with the coop. So drink up... Give NoCO2 a try and see if this hot coffee can help cool the planet.

    I should note that Deans Beans have other great coffees, some with their own interesting story. For example, one monthly special is Captain Phillips Pirate Brew:

    This bold, wild Ethiopian was liberated from the clutches of Somali pirates by Navy SEALS.

    Haven't tried it, but that's a cup of coffee with a story.

    More expensive than Deans Beans, but perhaps a bit more gourmet, is Grounds for Change. Shade grown, fair trade and carbon neutral.

    Next there are Carbon Neutral Batteries: (found this at CarbonFund.org, which is also where Grounds for Change offset their carbon)

    Venom Batteries a Carbon Neutral Alternative to Disposables

    Venom Power’s Eco Alkalines™ brand batteries for consumer electronics are now certified carbon neutral by Carbonfund.org. This means we all now have a carbon neutral alternative to conventional disposable batteries. As with other dry-cell batteries you may have, these batteries are recyclable. They now carry our product certification label, the first carbon neutral label in the US!

    Venom Batteries are designed to perform dependably, while having 0% mercury, cadmium or lead. The batteries are carbon neutral after a rigorous product life-cycle assessment, and offsetting the carbon footprint of the batteries. Venom is supporting Carbonfund.org and Paso Pacifico’s Return to Forest project in Nicaragua. Validated to the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards with Gold Distinction, the reforestation project is reconnecting critical biological corridors on the Pacific coast, as well as sequestering about 170,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere.

    Eco Alkalines™ will begin shipping to retailers in North America in the fourth quarter of this year, and we’ll update you on where you’ll be able to buy them. You can also visit Venom Power on the web, and learn more about our project, Return to Forest.

    Next I found (at my local food co-op) some excellent olive oil that is carbon neutral and also contributes to long-term stability in the Middle East. This comes from Alter Eco:

    As today's news headlines are filled with stories of conflict in the Middle East, Alter Eco Fair Trade defies these events by unveiling the first USDA Certified Organic, Fair Trade Certified™, Carbon Zero Certified Extra Virgin Olive Oils from Palestine. These GMO free, Gluten free, dairy free, and vegan oils originate from Rumi and Nabali olives, both native to Palestine.

    Planted, picked, and processed by fair trade cooperatives in Palestine, Jenin, West Bank, Alter Eco selects the highest quality olives with perfectly balanced flavor, aroma, and acidity while maintaining their fair trade commitment to help empower marginalized rural communities.

    Each bottle directly supports a better life for farming families by having an over 30% increase in farmer revenue over conventional prices. This translates into financing scholarship funds, micro loans for women's empowerment programs, and olive tree planting.

    From Carbon Neutral Actions I find there is Carbon Neutral Beer: New Belgium Brewing Company from Colorado. They are wind powered and they also offset their carbon (though they do so through the controversial Chicago Carbon Exchange). From an article on them on Lime.com:

    Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Company, based in Fort Collins, makes some of the country’s best microbrews – including Fat Tire, Blue Paddle, and Sunshine Wheat. But as important as the quality of the beer is the philosophy of the company, which is dedicated to energy efficiency and social responsibility. Founded by a social worker and an electrical engineer in 1991 – in a basement, with a home equity loan – New Belgium has been finding ways to reduce its CO2 emissions for nearly a decade. The brewery is powered by wind energy and uses sustainable technologies and Earth-friendly throughout its business. New Belgium’s media director Bryan Simpson told LIME about the company’s policies, and why he likes going to work every day.

    Check out their beers here. And to find where their beers are available, check out this interactive map.

    I will end with one warning. There are companies that claim they sell "carbon neutral paper." I have encountered advocates from the paper industry who make claims that between reforestation and energy production from paper waste they produce a more environmental alternative than recycled paper. This is bunk. Although the paper industry DOES replant trees, this is monoculture reforestation that has been found by scientific research (published in peer-reviewed journals) is actually environmentally harmful and is NOT the kind of reforestation I advocate. So far I have found no viable claim of carbon neutral paper and buying recycled paper is still one of the best options. You can find out more about what is and isn't environmentally sound paper, check out Conserveatree.org. And they have links to paper products worth checking out.


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