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Procter & Gamble gets serious about sustainability

Procter & Gamble products

A sampling of Procter & Gamble products. In its new sustainability initiative, the company is striving to use recycled materials for all products and packaging.

The largest consumer packaged goods company in the world has committed itself to sustainability through a new series of environmental goals.

Procter & Gamble announced a fresh long-term vision this week, an effort that would transform the company’s products and operations.

The initiatives include long-term goals like using 100 percent renewable or recycled materials for all products and packaging and powering plants with 100 percent renewable energy.

Check out this video of Len Sauers, P&G’s vice president of global sustainability, on the company’s new vision.

These goals go beyond the simple effort of a workplace recycling campaign. If the company meets these initiatives, it will radically change P&G’s global footprint, which is no small feat. And it may influence how other mega companies operate.

Here are a few more of the company’s long-term sustainability goals:

  • Emitting no fossil-based CO2 or toxic emissions
  • Delivering effluent water quality that is as good as or better than influent water quality with no contribution to water scarcity
  • Having zero manufacturing waste go to landfills
  • Having zero consumer waste go to landfills
  • Designing products to delight consumers while maximizing the conservation of resources

These are big-time goals, which will take years, even decades, to implement company-wide. First up are the 10-year goals, which include reducing product packaging and increasing renewable energy for running operations. If you want a good overview of P&G’s plans, this Associated Press piece will give you all the basics.

There’s lots of story angles to pursue from this news. How will the company’s plans impact the plastics industry? Just think of the business winners and losers both nationally and locally and you’re bound to find some good leads.

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Following green stimulus monies to find biz stories on your beat

A screenshot from a story on green stimulus monies awarded to several small businesses in Texas. The story was written by Asher Price of the Austin American-Statesman.

During our Covering the Green Economy conference in June, Russ Choma showed reporters how to dig through stimulus spending to find the money earmarked for green projects on their beats.

Choma, an investigative journalist based in Washington, knows this topic well. He authored the series, Blown Away: America’s billions for clean-energy jobs are flying overseas,” which found that more than 80 percent of the first $1 billion in grants to wind-energy companies went to foreign firms.

Asher Price, an environmental reporter from the Austin American-Statesman, took Choma’s tips seriously. And it didn’t him long to put what he learned during the session into action.

Price’s recent story highlights an area of green stimulus energy spending that has often fell under the public’s radar. His piece,Stimulus helps small businesses with clean energy projects,” explains how a dog ranch and a piano workshop in Texas scored a combined total of $39,530 in federal monies for renewable energy projects. The grants helped the two small business install solar panels, a result that’s helping the environment and saving them money.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

“Over the past year, the Department of Energy has showered billions of stimulus dollars on clean energy efforts, mostly to large-scale wind and solar projects nationally and in Texas. Tucked among these hefty grants, however, are seemingly random payouts like the $23,948 for DogBoy’s Dog Ranch and the $15,582 to Rappaport’s Piano Workshop outside of Round Rock, according to a Statesman review of a federal stimulus program for commercial renewable energy projects. Statewide, they include an animal hospital in Odessa and an aerospace engineering laboratory in the small town of Justin, north of Fort Worth. The owners of these small businesses used their savvy and tips from experts to tap an enormous federal chest and cut down on their energy bills.”

Price took the big picture of stimulus spending and narrowed the focus to show how the monies targeted at green projects had trickled down into his coverage area. It’s a story you can find too, just follow’ Choma’s tips and take the time to dig through the deep piles of grants.

Choma was excited to see a story inspired by his presentation, so much so, he blogged about it. He’s even offered to put together another tipsheet for reporters on the latest round of grants. Choma said an additional $2 billion in green stimulus grants were awarded to about 400 participants in June. He’ll share the details in a post on BusinessJournalism.org in October on how you can track that money to find stories in your area.

But if you’ve got the itch and are ready to begin digging right away, check out our archive of our Covering the Green Economy materials, including videos, PowerPoints and handouts from Choma’s presentation: “The challenges and rewards of reporting the biggest pro-green legislation.”

Or you can register to see his presentation live at our workshop – What’s Next for the Economy in Your Town - in Washington on Oct. 27.

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A database of green biz innovations packed with story ideas

A photo of a flying wind turbine developed by one of the innovators featured on WWF's "Green game-changers" site.

The WWF is using a crowdsourcing approach for its “Green game-changers,” an initiative that will establish a database to track innovation in environmentally focused products and businesses. The organization hopes that building a bank of those at the forefront of sustainability will inspire others to follow the same path.

“We believe the business community will provide a lot of the solutions to help us move towards a sustainable future,” said Dax Lovegrove, head of WWF’s business and industry relations, in a press release. “In the face of escalating climate change and an ecological recession, businesses will need to innovate more to build resilience and maximize on opportunities.”

The initiative doesn’t officially kick off until next week, according to this article from BusinessGreen.com, but there’s already a bank of companies listed that are worth checking out. This project definitely has the potential to morph into an inspiration board for a slew story ideas.

So far on the list is a company called Xeros, which is developing washing machines that use 90 percent less water than standard models and also Magenn Power and Makani Power, which are behind the concept of flying wind turbines.

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Finding stories of sustainability in your inbox

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Planet Profit Report from ColoradoBiz magazine strives to cover the new energy economy.

In my ever-jammed inbox last week another e-newsletter lurked. I’ll admit freely that my typical response to these is a quick scan followed by a prompt delete. Unless a headline or snazzy graphic catches my attention fast, those messages usually end up in my trash.

Most journalists, I’m guessing, can relate to this system. But occasionally, there are some messages that would serve us well if we stopped, took a few extra minutes and read them fully.

This newsletter had an item on a renewable energy research project developed at the University of Nevada, Reno and another about an influx of applications to build solar plants in Arizona. Each piece was newsy and got me thinking about the variety of story ideas that could be generated off these topics. The few moments I spent reading was definitely worth it.

This weekly e-newsletter is called “Planet Profit Report” and its mission is to cover the business of sustainability in the West. Initially, it began as a quarterly publication in ColoradoBiz magazine three years ago, but now its striving to cover the “new energy economy” on a more frequent basis. The publication began expanding and has been landing in inboxes since July.

Mike Cote is the editor of ColoradoBiz magazine and Planet Profit Report

Mike Cote, the editor of  ColoradoBiz magazine and “Planet Profit Report,” was a recent fellow during the Reynolds Center’s Covering the Green Economy conference in June. Turns out, he added my name to the mailing list. Works for me. This is one list I’ll happily stay on.

Cote shared a few more details about the publication via e-mail:

“We believe sustainability issues – including the conflict between fossil fuels and renewable energy sources, how corporations are adopting sustainabilty practices, and the growth of the green building movement – will continue to have major impacts on business opportunties and how businesses must conduct themselves. Our mission is to report these changes and show business how they can benefit from them. We’ll do that from correspondents in various Western states as well as from guest contributors from the industry and research universities.”

Intrigued? Learn more about “Planet Profit Report” or sign up and start getting the newsletter delivered to your inbox.

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A quick chat with John Daley on covering the environment and other big stories


John Daley listens to a presentation during the "Covering the Green Economy" seminar in Phoenix

John Daley reports for KSL-TV, the NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City, and has covered everything from mine disasters to the Elizabeth Smart case.

He specializes in political, investigative and environmental reporting and was both a Knight Journalism Fellow and a Western Enterprise Reporting Fellow at Stanford University.

He was also a fellow during the Reynolds Center’s “Covering the Green Economy” seminar in June.

Daley began covering the environment in 1992 when he started working as broadcast journalist.  Since then, he’s worked the general assignment beat while continuing to develop a speciality in environmental reporting.

“Since growing up climbing mountains, hiking and skiing in Colorado, I’ve always had a profound interest in reporting on the natural world and our relationship with it,” he said.

While Daley said he hopes environmental pages will eventually find their way back in to major media outlets, he isn’t sure if the current business model can support a stand-alone section. He’s certain, however, that environmental issues will increasingly “dominate our world.”

When it comes to his overall journalism career, Daley said he’s motivated by uncovering important stories and informing the public  He is currently investigating a story about a board member for the local transit authority in Salt Lake who might have used his position to personally profit.  The story has been unfolding for about two years and Daley said it has the potential to become a significant public-service piece.

One of Daley’s biggest accomplishments was the publication of his essay “Zephyr to Zion.” The essay appeared in a book about climate change in the Rocky Mountains titled, “How the West Was Warmed: Responding to Climate Change in the Rockies.” Daley said the essay was a revelation because it gave him an opportunity to write in an unfamiliar way.

“The essay form is a big change from writing two minute stories for TV news,” he said.  “It was a challenge, but very satisfying.”

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Erik Ortiz on getting down the basics of covering business

Erik Ortiz has covered business for the Press of Atlantic City in New Jersey for about three years. It’s a beat that has him diving into stories about the state’s economy, labor, tourism and the gaming industry.

Ortiz was also a fellow during our “Covering the Green Economy” seminar. He chatted with us about his experiences covering the business beat and his thoughts on China’s growing role in the world’s economy.

What aspect of business coverage are you most interested in?

“Energy and unions – two vastly different areas of the business beat, which is probably why I like them. I think energy and the implications of how we procure it will continue to have a huge impact on society and the global economy. It affects everyone because most of use electricity and drive. On the other hand, while not everyone deals with unions, they are collectively a powerful group, and as a reporter, there’s so much to uncover. It never gets stale.”

What’s your greatest accomplishment so far as a business journalist?

“I still have a lot to accomplish, but any day I can get a private business owner to reveal their finances is an accomplishment.”

Does covering the business beat require a special set of skills?

As journalists I think our mindset is to parachute into any story, whether it’s breaking news about a shooting or the local college announcing a new president or a company laying off hundreds of workers. So I don’t think to cover business well you need to have a degree in economics or accounting, you just have to bring that same set of skills you would use to cover any beat to business. But it takes a lot of understanding about how companies operate and the financial aspects of a business to make a business story stand out.”

What will be China’s impact on the world economy as it continue to grow?

“What China does and says will continue to have great implications on the global economy. China’s recent announcement to allow its currency to appreciate and its exchange rate to become more flexible is expected to help bring stability in the global market and increase household incomes in China. Most extraordinary to me has been the growth in Chinese buying power and the possibility of a middle class lifestyle. More foreign companies will certainly want a part of the Chinese consumer market if the value of the currency rises. I remember reading a story about an Ikea in China where people just went to take pictures but didn’t really buy anything. Maybe soon they will.”

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Asher Price shares the inside scoop on the environmental beat

Asher Price writes for his newspaper's green blog, "Salsa Verde"

Asher Price covers the environmental beat for the Austin American-Statesman. He talked to us about the challenges and rewards of reporting on one of the hottest topics around.

How did you get your start on the environmental beat?

“I had been a general assignment reporter at the Austin American-Statesman for a couple of years. It was good, interesting work, but I found myself skating from story to story. I was looking for a beat to develop depth to my reporting, and the environmental beat happened to have opened up at the time.”

Why is it important to have a reporter assigned to the environmental beat in a newsroom?

“It makes for interesting and sometimes important stories – profiles about what crazy things people are doing to get off the grid or stories that explain the intersection of money and politics and energy. By having an environmental beat, the paper is showing that it is serious about engaging in complex issues.

“The environmental beat is especially significant in Austin, which sits by a large underground aquifer and by a region that has numerous endangered species. On an everyday level, environmental issues affect all of us – in terms of air and water quality, say – and our readers are interested in these issues.

With the oil industry so large in Texas, how is the BP spill impacting your coverage?

“In an odd way, the BP oil spill feels a little distant from Austin. Our city is at least a three-hour drive to the Gulf, and then it’s the wrong part of the Gulf from the spill. We’ve been grappling with how to write about it. I’ve written about the state’s spending and response historically to spills in Texas waters.

Asher Price, an environmental reporter for the Austin American-Statesman

How have you seen environmental reporting change as the topic becomes more mainstream?

I’ve had the environmental beat for four years, and in that time it hasn’t changed much, frankly. It’s possible it’s gotten more attention — especially when the price of oil spiked a couple of years ago — but my sense is that by the beginning of this decade it was already a hot topic.”

What do you hope readers take away from your stories?

“Mostly I hope they’ll be engaged a little more on a topic and see a little more nuance to it. So much information we get is bifurcated into good/bad or yes/no, often promulgated by advocacy groups of one stripe or another. On political stories, I hope they understand there’s invariably a relationship between money, power and policy, and on lighter stories I hope they’re entertained.”

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Keeping up with green auto writer Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli test drives a car for his blog "Driving Directions," which is published in The Daily Green

During the first day of our “Covering the Green Economy” conference, Jim Motavalli led a session to help journalists identify green auto trends. But after he was finished, he jumped right back to work.

Motavalli, a green transportation writer for a variety of publications including The New York Times and Mother Nature Network, stayed for the reminder of the conference, sitting in on sessions to soak up as much as he could. Once he got back from Phoenix, he put those story ideas into action, blogging away on a variety of topics, including this piece on converting delivery trucks to battery power.

Just the other day, Mother Nature Network published Motavalli’s Q&A with the seminar’s featured speaker, Jeff Goodell. Goodell is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone and author of How to Cool the Planet,” which details the emerging science of geoengineering. In this piece, Motavalli asked the investigative journalist to dive deeper into the controversial subject and to give readers a glimpse of how it could someday impact global warming. It’s definitely worth a read.

Also, don’t forget to check out the archive of conference materials, which include Motavalli’s session, “Greening the auto industry: Hype or reality?”  He shares lots of great tips for localizing green auto trends on the biz beat.

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Patrick O’Grady chats about covering the business of the environment

Solar panels at Arizona State University's School of Sustainability by Kevin Dooley

Patrick O’Grady has been a reporter in Arizona for nearly 15 years and currently works for the Phoenix Business Journal covering technology, sustainability and manufacturing.  He has recently won awards for his coverage of the solar industry in Arizona.

We spoke with him about his reporting on the green economy and asked his advice for reporters looking to add environmental stories to the biz beat.

What is most exciting  part of  covering the green economy?

“There are too many things from which to choose. It’s a growing sector of the economy, and it’s so diverse and there are tons of new technologies springing up to deal with environmental issues. One day is covering green building, the next solar, and a third working on a new energy system. There’s never a dull moment.”

Should Arizona be playing a bigger role in the development of solar technology?  Is it truly a viable replacement to current methods?

“Yes, Arizona should be playing a bigger role in solar technology development. Arizona came to the party late and is just getting its feet under it in terms of development of the technology. The focus here is primarily on manufacturing and not research and development, with a goal of moving more manufacturing in as well as spurring solar installation as a replacement career for construction. ASU and UofA, however, have several active fields of solar technology development, from concentrated photovoltaics to solar collecting dyes that can be used on fabrics and generate enough electricity to perhaps power an iPod or a laptop.

As far as solar being viable, it depends on what power source you want to replace. Right now, solar could replace natural gas as a peak power source, but it’s still a few years out on replacing base load power sources such as nuclear and coal. The technologies exist to expand solar power beyond when the sun is out, it just needs to be implemented on a large scale. The challenge at this point is somewhat technical, but much more financial in nature as well as having a number of regulatory hurdles.”

What advice do you have for reporters looking to incorporate environmental coverage on the biz beat?

“Environmental concerns are weaving their way more into business. Companies are looking at their carbon footprint and the life cycle of their products, not just in a cradle-to-grave scenario but from cradle to cradle, how those products break down and can be used again.

Patrick O'Grady

Always be skeptical of their claims. Businesses are looking for any way they can to spin their company as green, and in today’s economy they are looking to grab the green niche as a marketing tool. And like any story, watch the money. In Arizona, the stimulus funding has been a boon for the energy-efficiency industry, but so many new people are jumping into the business that it could lead to problems down the line. The same thing is happening in home solar installations as well.”

What is the importance of having an environmental reporter on staff now compared to 10 or 15 years ago?

“The level of environmental awareness is continuing to grow and has either reached the level of tipping point with the mainstream public or is about to. There also are many issues that can be covered from an environmental perspective. Building new freeways, for example, can lead to discussions of clean air and land use issues, as well as the potential of other green transportation methods. Particularly in urban areas, the issues of water, land and sky are becoming increasingly important in the quality of life factor that many businesses use as a determining factor of where they are going to locate and many people use for the same reason.

“There also is a tremendous amount of federal money flowing to green projects that likely will be a springboard for even the non-mainstream ones to become more widely recognized.”