Blog

What follows is a chronological list of all blog posts by NCS staff, interns, and associates. Use the menu to the right to search or restrict your results by author, publication or date.

Project Spotlight: Lyons, CO

Sustainable Recovery (by Toby Russell)

It’s been a long time in the making. Way back in August of 2013 Natural Capitalism Solutions won the contract to support the creation of the Lyons Environmental Sustainability Action Plan.  The vision of the plan was to create a document that would help guide Lyons on a path toward a sustainable future. A future that harnesses the creativity of the dynamic population minimizes their impact on the environment, and spurs innovation.

Just after the project started, a devastating flood tore though Lyons and changed everything. It destroyed and damaged twenty percent of the housing stock, desolated the town’s parks, and displaced 200+ residents. But in true Lyons spirit the community rose up, rallied around those that needed help, and volunteered—over 500 people took part in the recovery planning process. Natural Capitalism was there every step of the way to help guide them through this process keeping resiliency and sustainability at the forefront of the process.

The result was a great Recovery Plan but more had to be done to help the town become as resilient as possible moving forward.

Natural Capitalism and those that initially supported the creation of the Sustainability Plan picked it back up and drove it forward. In order to move beyond recovery Lyons needed a comprehensive strategy to be more resilient and to reduce their impact on the environment. After all, the effects of climate change directly contribute to the soaring increase of natural disasters.

Through a series of guided stakeholder meetings and research into best practices of successful sustainable communities 130 recommendations were identified and refined down to the 60 that were most popular and impactful. The recommendations along with the full Sustainability Action Plan can be found at: www.lyonssustainability.com.

The path for Lyons to a sustainable future is clearer now, in large part because of Natural Capitalism’s work. We applaud the efforts and accomplishments of our neighbors seven miles to the West and look forward to continuing our work with them in implementing this ambitious undertaking.

Hunter's Corner: Traveling The Globe To Create a Movement That Matters

Hunter in China with New Economy movers and shakers

Hunter in China with New Economy movers and shakers

Spring 2015

Where did winter go? My friends in the Northeast are pleased to see it move off, but for me it’s been a blur.

My main priority has been to push forward the creation of a narrative for an economy in service to life—one that works for 100% of humanity, as Bucky Fuller put it.

This is something I cannot do alone, so I have been pulling together a coalition of leaders from across the globe. After pitching the idea at the Club of Rome, I was asked to serve on their Executive Committee and help make it one of their three core-action pillars.

We made progress in February when the DeTao Academy in China invited core members of the coalition to Shanghai, chaired by Dr Robert Costanza, who is the one who got me into all this in the first place. In this meeting on the Future New Economy my colleagues, John Fullerton of Capital Institute, on whose advisory Board I serve, and Dr Robert Eccles, now overseeing the creation of the new Sustainability Accounting Standards Board here in the US, discussed transforming finance, accounting and all aspects of our economy. Today John is releasing the full version of his seminal Regenerative Capitalism paper: livestream at 4:30pm EDT. Follow the #RegenerativeCapitalism hashtag on twitter for real-time updates.

In two weeks I’ll join John and some of the biggest brains I know on an island off Stockholm to try to set out a strategy for how we go about getting to this new economy.

We can do it. Never thought I’d say this, but we’re winning. Whether it’s the news on China’s coal imports in the first three months of 2015 being 42% below a year ago, or talks with utilities trying to figure how to move rapidly toward renewable solutions, I’m more encouraged than I’ve been in years. This is the message I’ll give for my dear friend Anne Butterfield’s “Soiree” this Saturday in Boulder. Join me for a great evening of conversation.

It’s also what I said in March at Maui’s conference on the Future Utility Customer, as I urged the state to commit to 100% renewable energy.And again last week at my dear friend Bob King’s SPEER Summit on energy efficiency in Texas, when I warned that the thinking of the last century is changing fast: Eon and RWE the two biggest, previously fossil-based utilities in Europe, watched profits fall last year respectively 60% and 91% as Germany shifts rapidly to renewable energy. Both Eon and RWE are now divesting of their fossil assets. Citi Group’s Energy Darwinism report warns of the “alarming fall in the price of solar.” Alarming to whom? And Michael Liebreich of Bloomberg New Energy Finance wrote last week that Fossil fuel just lost the race against renewables, saying: “…there is going to be a substantial buildout of renewable energy that is likely to be an order of magnitude larger than the buildout of coal and gas.” Congratulate yourselves, all of you have  worked so long to bring about this transformation.  It’s happening.

The next couple months will be spent on an airplane. You can follow me on twitter @hlovins as I jet to Stockholm for my economy work and to London to work with the Guardian, for whom I am now writing: see my latest two “Life after divestment: how to spend the money saved from fossil fuel investments,” and “The climate denier’s guide to getting rich from fossil fuel divestment.”

Then back to NY to teach at Bard—finishing my class in political economy and overseeing student capstone projects, several of which will truly make a difference. Any of you who ever thought about taking an MBA in sustainable management with me, we’re forming up our class for next fall. Contact Katie Van Sant: kvansant@bard.edu if you want to come play.

After a quick run to Morocco to keynote a conference for the King of Morocco on Doing Well and Doing Good, I’ll return to Colorado to keynote a summit on divesting from ownership of fossil fuels, and why, if you’ve just divested you should be moving your money from harm to healing (I have…have you?) I’m working on this with the new investment advisory service, Principium to build a set of portfolios that are genuinely fossil fuel free, focused on the best new economy companies as well as the blue-chips, like Unilever, that have embedded sustainability into the core of their operations.

So welcome to spring. That said, last week, on a five campus tour, crossing the Berkshires to keynote the “Strengthening Ties for Collective Impact: Campus Sustainability in the Northeast Region” conference at U Mass, it snowed on us. And tonight there’s 5 inches predicted for the ranch.

Not whining—we need the moisture. This was the hottest 3-month start of any year on record and will likely be the hottest year ever.  As always, there’s more work to be done! And as always I cannot do it without you. Thanks for making it possible.

Turning Passion into Action

NCS 2011 Intern: Bonnie Lucara

NCS 2011 Intern: Bonnie Lucara

NCS Interns: Where Are They Now Series

 My internship at Nat Cap was the first step in turning a passion for environmental stewardship into a new career.  The very talented Nat Cap staff worked side by side with interns, treating us as colleagues, to produce their research and many consulting and education projects. I’ve often referred to the interns as a machine; they are an integral part of the engine that is Natural Capitalism Solutions.  Being an intern from spring through fall, meant an enormously enriching experience, working with many different interns, all from diverse backgrounds. I was also involved with Hunter’s first Sustainability Leadership and Implementation Course at Denver University, which provided further experiential learning and indoctrination on the business case for sustainability. What this experience grew into was the inspiration to turn an idea into a reality. Upon leaving Nat Cap I launched my business, Commute Matters.

The business case for sustainability, so thoroughly ingrained in Nat Cap’s mission, is now the primary tenet on which Commute Matters markets its Employee Commute Optimization System. The seed was planted many years ago when I  commuted from Denver to Boulder, always thinking  “someone on the other side of the highway is doing the same job in Denver and making the opposite commute; couldn’t we just swap jobs?” For years I thought about this.  While at Nat Cap I started talking about the idea and with the encouragement I received, finally started doing something about it.  I took an MBA class – Business Planning for Social Entrepreneurs, and there I realized where job swapping was both possible and made the greatest impact: in chain stores, in retail, food service, banking and hospitality, where the majority of the employees drive past two or three company stores getting to the one where they work.  By relocating workers to closer stores, the workers save time, money, and stress. They arrive more often, on time, and happier.  And they quit less, saving the company substantially on turnover costs.  Best of all, the community sees less traffic and emissions, which leads to a better quality of life.  Government has worked long and hard on solutions to traffic congestion and environmental issues, yet these problems persist. Using commute optimization puts control in the hands of business to solve not only a major talent management issue but to take a leading role in solving major transportation and environmental issues.  One retailer in a city can reduce traffic by 6 million miles and CO2 by 7 million lbs in just one year.  What if they all did?  That’s the mission we’re on.

I’m forever grateful for the great experience and education, incredible colleagues, and unforgettable inspiration I developed through my work with Natural Capitalism Solutions. Thank You!

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Hunter's Homework Assignments

ISSP Conference | Wisdom Panelimages
Denver, CO
13 November 2014

During the ISSP Conference Wisdom Panel last Thursday, November 13th, if your pen wasn’t flying fast enough you might have missed some of the books, videos, ideas and leaders Hunter thinks worth checking out. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.

Videos:

Books:

  • Winning the Story Wars: Jonah Sachs
  • Creating Climate Wealth: Jigar Shah
  • The Spirit Level: Kate Pickett & Richard Wilkinson
  • Limits to Growth: Donella H. Meadows

Leaders:

 

A Small Team Making a Big Difference: An Intern's Look at NCS

By 2014 NCS Intern
Teija Mortvedt

“Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” -Steve Jobs

People often think that it takes extraordinary genius, luck, or serendipity to make big things happen. That corporations are untouchable behemoths that rule the world. I had grown up with the preconception that only the ‘big’ could produce big. At Natural Capitalism Solutions, I’ve seen the truth first hand: that businesses everywhere run off of the work of individuals, whose passion and dedication can make change and can influence the world. It is real people, not governments and corporations, who build the things that make up the world around us. While interning at NCS, I felt like a contributing member of a small team making an indisputably large impact. It has always been a dream of mine to make a dent in this world for the better and this experience has made me feel that not only is this dream worth striving for, but it is actually very attainable –an exciting paradigm shift that already changed my approach to work and life. Read more »

Why We Rob Our Childern

WSBill Becker
5 February 2014

 

In 1934 when the FBI asked Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, he reportedly answered, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Today, if you ask an investor in the fossil energy sector to be candid about why he is robbing our children’s future, he would give the same response: That’s where the money is.

Whether we’re talking about government subsidies, or buying stock, or wildcatting for oil, or shoveling coal, or destroying a wetland for economic development, we are investing in things that degrade the future, squander natural capital, and spend our children’s inheritance.

That needs to change not only for moral reasons, but also because investments in things that hurt us tend to become bad bets. The increasing risk of investing in companies that help create climate change or whose profits are threatened by it is the reason the Securities and Exchange Commission wants companies to publicly report their climate risks each year and why most companies apparently don’t want to. Read more »

The Knife's Edge of Cheater Capitalism

CapitalPeak-KnifeEdgeby L. Hunter Lovins
17 October 2013
Commissioned by the United Nations

The Problems

The global economy rests on a knife-edge. It is based on unsustainable assumptions and business practices that are driving societies and ecosystems into successive collapses. There are many palliative “fixes” that can prop the system up – but only for a time.

What is needed is a new development paradigm, one based on recognizing that the economy depends wholly on preserving healthy ecosystems. The current paradigm, based on what Randy Hayes calls Cheater Capitalism,[i] in which individuals are told to make their own way in a dog-eat-dog “free” market, while incumbent technologies and corporate profits are subsidized, losses are socialized, the commons are privatized and the too-big-to-fail are bailed out. Yet we believe the shared story that in capitalism the smartest win, everyone has equal opportunity to get rich, techno-geniuses like Bill Gates have the money, so they will save the world. The unspoken option is to stand with out hands out.[ii]

We need a new strategy of change. Read more »

Welcome to Global Weirding—and we’re not just talking about the weather

By 2013 NCS Intern
Eliza Kovnat

Q: Do you believe in climate disruption?
A: It Depends on the Weather

Human caused climate disruption is real and happening all around us. According to some, however, the conviction that climate disruption is indeed happening, well, depends on the weather.

Figure 1: Snowpack Update 2012 Totals

Figure 1: Snowpack Update 2012 Totals

As Professor Ed Maibach at George Mason University stated in an interview this past May, “People’s assessments of climate change are very susceptible to what they’ve recently experienced in the weather.”[i] It shouldn’t be this way. We ought to be smart enough to know that weather does not equal climate, but Professor Maibach is not alone in his assertion. Numerous  studies conducted by the scientific community show that public opinion of human-caused climate disruption changes after recent extreme weather events.[ii]

Unless you live in a cave, you noticed the extreme weather variability between Spring 2012 and Spring 2013. Figure 1 shows the extreme dryness in Colorado in April 2012. In April 2013, however, residents experienced a completely different story as depicted in  Figure 2. In 2012, most states in the country were gripped by drought, many experienced severe to anomalous levels of dryness.[iii] The drought, of course, contributed to the active fire season last year and such megafires as the High Park Fire near Fort Collins, Colorado and the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs.[iv] Read more »