Earth, wind or fire? How consumers are picking renewable winners

August 27, 2013 by Anna Clark Comments

Exploring Yellowstone National Park last week, we were awestruck by marvels such as Old Faithful, the Lower Falls and Sulphur Cauldron - phenomenal displays of nature’s power to generate energy. Hiking with the family, our conversation turned to the practicality of renewable energy applications for American consumers.

“Everyone who lives in a sunny climate should have solar panels on their roof,” my mother-in-law said. I agreed and asked what is still holding her back from having a solar array installed on her Texas hill country home.  “Expense,” she replied. “I don’t know much about the incentives available. There’s also the matter of the minerals the Chinese are extracting from the earth to make the panels.”

Collaborating for conservation: Texans unite in the fight to save the shark

May 17, 2013 by Anna Clark Comments

Today is Endangered Species Day, and animal advocates around the nation are ratcheting up the fight to save their favorite species. Here in Texas, the battle is on to save the shark. According to the latest research, 100 million sharks are disappearing from our oceans each year, primarily driven by the lucrative trade in shark fins, the main ingredient in shark fin soup. Once a dish for emperors, shark fin soup is now served at banquets and in restaurants to satisfy the appetites of Asia’s upwardly mobile society. 

The Chinese consumers who are bent on showing off their new money through the consumption of this tasteless delicacy may not fully comprehend the consequences. As apex predators, sharks are the regulators of the sea.  Their presence is critical for maintaining a balanced ecology on which fisherman and tourists rely, as well as the two billion of the world’s poor who depend on the ocean for their main source of protein.

To counter this devastating trend that is driving some shark species toward extinction, states are passing legislation to ban the sale and consumption of shark fins. Already Hawaii, Washington, California, Oregon, Illinois, and Maryland have passed laws.  Three other bills from East Coast states now await their governors’ signatures to become laws. State by state, Americans are working diligently to close down the market for shark fins. Texans have a historic opportunity to join them.

Dallas/Fort Worth rally for position in solar power

February 15, 2013 by Anna Clark Comments

Dallas ranks 6th and Fort Worth 7th among the utility-supported solar cities in Texas, according to a recent report from Environment Texas Research and Policy Center. The report, “Reaching for the Sun: How San Antonio and Austin are showing that solar is a powerful energy option for Texas” finds the Metroplex in the shadow of solar leaders San Antonio and Austin.

The report finds there are 972 kilowatts (KW) of solar energy that have been installed in Fort Worth and 1,243 KW in Dallas, in part from incentives from the local utility Oncor. While Oncor ranked a distant 3rd among utilities in Texas, the entire deregulated area of the state fared poorly. The report from Environment Texas finds that the municipally-owned utilities in San Antonio and Austin installed four times more solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity than the rest of Texas combined - or 85 percent of the state total. The report credits the cities’ strong policies encouraging solar power on residences and businesses, and in utility-scale installations.

“DFW is a world leader in energy, but when it comes to solar power, we’re being eclipsed by other cities,” said Jennifer Rubiello, Dallas/Fort Worth organizer for Environment Texas. “It’s time we reach for the sun and bring clean solar energy to the rooftops of our homes, schools and businesses.”

“For the past three years, Texas has faced a looming energy shortfall based on rapid demand growth,” said Principal Solar executive Michael Martin, “but solar can fulfill this shortfall well, demonstrating excellent daily and seasonal correlation to peak demand.”

“Of the various abundant natural resources that Texas is blessed with, solar offers the greatest underutilized potential for us to tap into a clean source of power,” said Anna Clark, founder of EarthPeople, a sustainability communications firm and co-founder of the Dallas chapter of Interfaith Power & Light.

Click here to read the full press release.

Why Americans don't talk about climate change

November 01, 2012 by Anna Clark Comments

Since 1950, humans have manufactured more goods than have ever existed in history. Our consumption of those goods – a highly inefficient use of our natural capital – has wrought a long list of environmental consequences. Staggering deforestation, check. Increasing greenhouse gas emission, check. Rising heat, sea level, and incidence of extreme weather events – check, check and check

We all talk about the changes, but when it comes to the issue of climate change, the conversation goes in different directions - or ceases altogether. According to the latest study from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, the American public's concern about global warming can be sorted into six categories, ranging from alarmed (13%) and concerned (26%), to cautious, disengaged, doubtful and dismissive (that's the other 61% of us).  With so much evidence, why are Americans so disengaged from climate change – arguably, one of the most critical problems of our time? 

To continue reading my article "America's miasma of misinformation on climate change" in The Guardian, click here.

SXSW ECO: Moving sustainability beyond rhetoric to solutions

October 07, 2012 by Anna Clark Comments

The second-annual SXSW ECO conference just wrapped up, and I am beyond excited about the people I encountered there.  (A tremendous thank you to EARTH-NT for connecting environmental and clean tech advocates in Dallas to this event.)  Something remarkable happens when you convene an international group of professionals and activists to brainstorm solutions.  Trying to break through inertia can feel like solitary work, so I’m thankful for the chance to “recharge” along with other green-minded social innovators and thought leaders. 

In the coming weeks, I will be writing on several of the many groundbreaking ideas and technologies from the conference, including:

  • GIVE ETF: Philippe Cousteau’s new sustainable investment fund
  • Global Water Games, a joint project of UVA, Azure Worldwide, and The Nature Conservancy
  • OgilvyEarth’s Mainstream Green report on how marketers can close the green gap
  • AMD’s Tim Mohin’s book, Changing Business from the Inside Out: A Treehugger’s Guide to Working in Corporations
  • Dell’s Planet group, a global green team
  • Washington Post environmental reporter Juliet Eilperin’s book Demon Fish
  • Sustainable seafood solutions from Fish Revolution and I Love Blue Sea
  • Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff videos, viewed over 20 million times by people in every country in the world

Casting vision: RMI's formula for getting to a green economy

June 26, 2012 by Anna Clark Comments

It’s 2050. The roads are much less crowded, and engine growls have given way to bird song. The old zoning rules have been repealed and sprawl is no longer subsidized; developers now pay the full costs they impose on public infrastructure. Workers still go to the office a few days a week, but many work from home exclusively. Fueling stations dispense biofuels and hydrogen, complementing the ubiquitous smart-charging points for electric vehicles. Clean energy has replaced fossil fuels in quantities sufficient to power society as we know it.

Such is the future described in Reinventing Fire, the Rocky Mountain Institute’s meticulously-researched manifesto on the new energy era.  Click here to read my complete article and view my interview with RMI CEO Michael Potts on Greenbiz.com.

Plasticity Rio ‘12: Innovation through collaboration at the UN Earth Summit

June 01, 2012 by Anna Clark Comments

Overdue for some eco-tourism?  Environmental advocates and social innovators would be hard pressed to find a better excuse to travel to South America than the upcoming Rio+20 Earth Summit.  Marking the anniversary of the first Earth Summit held there in 1992, the once-in-a-generation event is the latest in a series of United Nations conferences on sustainable development dating back to Stockholm in 1972.

The upcoming three-day conference will focus on building a low-carbon green economy and creating a global governance for sustainable development.  Severn Cullis-Suzuki, the 12-year old girl who silenced the world for seven minutes at Earth Summit 1992, is among the international thought leaders expected to attend. Severn’s sobering call to action, immortalized in a 1992 video, is still a relevant rallying cry for this year’s Summit.  In fact, given the leaps in technology, the issues she implored participants to address two decades ago may be much closer to workable solutions.

Turning the ship around: Dallas at the helm

April 22, 2012 by Anna Clark Comments

There is justifiable concern today over greenwashing – the intentional or misguided practice of using vague sustainability claims to market to consumers.   However, in our rush to expose the imperfect, we risk neglecting the good.  As industry heavyweights and policy wonks sort out new standards, Dallas is getting into action.  The Lone Star State may is one of America’s biggest energy consumers, but we’re also one of its biggest producers of renewable energy. This paradox makes our region extremely relevant in the sustainability discussion.

Sharks and sustainability: what you should know

March 01, 2012 by Anna Clark Comments

n. sym•bi•o•sisA relationship of mutual benefit or dependence.

At a recent networking event, I got some quizzical looks when I announced my new project in support of shark conservation.  In this meeting of the green minds, sustainability professionals exchange ideas and information about renewable energy, zero waste, consulting and training, and other topics related to our work.  Animal welfare does not often come up (although some of us are personally motivated to conserve habitats and species).  I was surprised to discover that the decline of shark populations is not a well-known issue, even among environmentalists.  It should be, because if we are going to work hard to conserve our earth, which depends on healthy oceans, we’re going to need the sharks on our side – and sharks are disappearing rapidly.

Leading & thinking: the value of thought leadership in sustainability

February 20, 2012 by Anna Clark Comments

This article first appeared in Sustainable Brands.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Like most clichés, this one conveys some truth, as do words attributed to ancient Greek poet Hermesianax: “As within, so without.”  Those who have endured inner-work fully enough to enjoy the outward results will attest that self-awareness leads to empowerment, which in turn leads to voice.  Leadership, expressed through courage and contribution over passivity and disengagement, begins when we recognize our potential and accept the responsibility that goes with it.  As within, so without.

So what does this have to do with sustainability?  Everything.  Truly sustainable sustainability - the kind that occurs when a critical mass internalizes new ways of thinking and being and leverages that into organizational and societal change – begins with the transformation of individuals.