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The Start of Summer

June 5, 2015 Environment, Featured Comments Off on The Start of Summer

Summer officially begins on June 21st at 11:38am CST, but for me it began when I saw the green cherry tomatoes on one of our three tomato plants.

Green cherry tomatoes on our 4th floor balcony
Green cherry tomatoes on our 4th floor balcony
In another planter we have a volunteer -- possibly zucchini or cucumber based on seeds in our vermicompost
In another planter we have a volunteer — possibly zucchini or cucumber based on seeds in our vermicompost

We also have chives and an extra planter of cilantro — a herb we buy often. What are you growing this year? What is the start of summer for you?

— Steve Patterson




Benefit Corporations Make A Difference and a Profit

Business is all about making money, right? Except when money isn’t the only bottom line. This will confuse some of you: not all corporations seek to maximize profits for shareholders! It’s true, Directors must make sound judgment so shareholder value isn’t negatively impacted but there’s no legal obligation to maximize short-term profits — but other goals aren’t considered. Some for-profit corporations, however, have goals beyond profit and shareholder value.

First we need to review some terms:

Triple Bottom Line:

The phrase “the triple bottom line” was first coined in 1994 by John Elkington, the founder of a British consultancy called SustainAbility. His argument was that companies should be preparing three different (and quite separate) bottom lines. One is the traditional measure of corporate profit—the “bottom line” of the profit and loss account. The second is the bottom line of a company’s “people account”—a measure in some shape or form of how socially responsible an organisation has been throughout its operations. The third is the bottom line of the company’s “planet” account—a measure of how environmentally responsible it has been. The triple bottom line (TBL) thus consists of three Ps: profit, people and planet. It aims to measure the financial, social and environmental performance of the corporation over a period of time. Only a company that produces a TBL is taking account of the full cost involved in doing business. (The Economist)

Benefit Corporation:

Incorporating as a benefit corporation legally protects an entrepreneur’s social goals by mandating considerations other than just profit. By giving directors the secured legal protection necessary to consider the interest of all stakeholders, rather than just the shareholders who elected them, benefit corporations can help meet the needs of those interested in having their business help solve social and environmental challenges.

Additionally, the demand for corporate accountability is at an all-time high, with many consumers already aligning their purchases with their values. The benefit corporation status is a great way to differentiate your company from the competition and capitalize on these customers. (Forbes)

St. Louis' only certified B Corp, Microgrid, installed this electric car charging station on Lucas between 6th & 7th
St. Louis’ only certified B Corp, Microgrid Energy, installed this electric car charging station on Lucas between 6th & 7th

Certified B Corporation: 

B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.
B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Today, there is a growing community of more than 1,000 Certified B Corps from 33 countries and over 60 industries working together toward 1 unifying goal: to redefine success in business. (B Lab)


B Lab, a nonprofit organization, certifies B Corporations, the same way TransFair certifies Fair Trade coffee or USGBC certifies LEED buildings. However, all B Corps meet a wide range of comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards.

There are over 1,200 Certified B Corporations in 38 countries across 121 different industries. (MaRS Centre for Impact Investing)

This B Corp video explains:


Impact Investing:

And around the world, there are stories of how impact investments are meeting needs in areas as diverse as childhood education, clean technology, and financial services for the poor.

Last year, New York State, Social Finance and Bank of America Merrill Lynch teamed up to launch a “social impact bond” designed to cut New York City’s seemingly insoluble recidivism problem. The $13.5 million raised will extend the proven approach of the Center for Employment Opportunities. If the Center meets targets for reducing recidivism rates, investors stand to earn up to a 12.5% return.

Or take d.light – a company that manufactures and distributes solar lighting and power products to those without access to reliable electricity, transforming lives in the developing world.  Over eight years, d.light has reached more than 30 million people worldwide.

Recently, J.P. Morgan and the Global Impact Investing Network studied 125 major fund managers, foundations, and development finance institutions and found $46 billion in sustainable investments under management.  That’s up nearly 20% from last year.

Some estimate that the impact investment market could grow to $3 trillion. And as the more socially conscious millennial generation of entrepreneurs build impact-driven businesses, you can be sure the supply of impact investment opportunities will vastly expand. (Forbes)

All sound too abstract for you? Here are some examples you might be familiar with:

  • Ben and Jerry’s — “Ben and Jerry’s produces a wide variety of super-premium ice cream and ice cream novelties.”
  • Cabot Creamery Cooperative — “Cabot Creamery is a 1,200 farm family dairy cooperative with members in New England and upstate New York”
  • Change.org — “Platform that empowers anyone, anywhere to start, join and win campaigns for social change”
  • Etsy — “We are bringing heart to commerce and making the world more fair, more sustainable, and more fun.”
  • King Arthur Flour Company — “America’s oldest flour company and 100% employee-owned”
  • New Belgium Brewing Co, Inc. — “100% Employee owned brewer of fine Belgian inspired ales”
  • Patagonia, Inc. — “Outdoor clothing, apparel and gear for climbing, hiking, surfing, running, travel”

780 of the 1,179 B Corps are located in the US — at least one in each state! Here are some examples, including both from Missouri:

  • AE Works; Pittsburgh, PA — “AE creates social, environmental, and technical capital as a TBL design firm for the built environment”
  • The Arnold Development Group; Kansas City, MO — “Mixed use real estate development and real estate services”
  • Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods; Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada — “Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods is the world’s largest vertically integrated hemp foods manufacturer”
  • Microgrid Energy, LLC; St. Louis, MO — “Microgrid Solar is a clean energy company committed to operating on a triple bottom line basis.”
  • The Natural Baby Company; Bozeman, MT — “The Natural Baby Company builds and sells earth-friendly baby brands including GroVia and Ovolo.”
  • Renewal Funds; Vancouver British Columbia Canada — “Social venture fund investing in environmental and social mission businesses in Canada and the USA
  • Telesis Corporation; Washington, D.C. — “Planning, financing and building urban communities that are livable, beautiful, and safe”
  • Union Kitchen; Washington, D.C. —  “Food incubator catalyzing small business growth by lowering barriers to entry for food businesses.”
  • WasteZero, Inc.; Raleigh, NC — “WasteZero works with municipalities to deliver the most effective waste reduction programs in the US.”

You can search certified B Corps here. I can think of a number of St. Louis companies that could likely become certified.

There are now more than a thousand B corps in the U.S., including Patagonia, Etsy, and Seventh Generation. And in the past four years twenty-seven states have passed laws allowing companies to incorporate themselves as “benefit corporations”—which are similar to B corps but not identical. The commitments that these companies are making aren’t just rhetorical. Whereas a regular business can abandon altruistic policies when times get tough, a benefit corporation can’t. Shareholders can sue its directors for not carrying out the company’s social mission, just as they can sue directors of traditional companies for violating their fiduciary duty. (The New Yorker)

Missouri doesn’t yet have a Benefit Corporation provision, existing corporations can still become certified. Three neighboring states, Arkansas, Illinois, & Nebraska have Benefit Corporation legislation; four neighboring states have introduced legislation: Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, & Tennessee. Kansas, like Missouri, doesn’t have benefit corporation legislation or pending bills. For more information on states click here.

If you’re committed to social/environmental change, but also want to make a profit, consider working for, or starting, a benefit corporation.The fact so many people around the world are working for more than to line their own pockets is comforting.

— Steve Patterson


Tree Recycling at Three City Parks

January 9, 2015 Environment, Featured Comments Off on Tree Recycling at Three City Parks

With the cold weather I haven’t gotten out much so I was struggling to think of something positive to post about today, Good News Friday (#GNF). Looking through my pics there it was: recycling of old Xmas trees into mulch continues!

Still have an xmas tree you need to get rid of? If so, take it to one of three city parks: O’Fallon, Carondelet, or Forest Park.

Our neighbor helped my husband get our tree on the roof of our car last Saturday,
Our neighbor helped my husband get our tree on the roof of our car last Saturday,
At Carondelet Park's recycling area my husband David removes the plastic bag
At Carondelet Park’s recycling area my husband David removes the plastic bag
A large stack of trees awaiting the shredder to become mulch
A large stack of trees awaiting the shredder to become mulch

If you have a tree to drop off for recycling you might be wondering how much longer you can procrastinate. Well, I’m not sure. The website, retrieved yesterday, says through the 3rd week of January but it also says through January 10, 2014.

Not sure when this ends, the 3rd week ends on the 17th.
Not sure when this ends, the 3rd week ends on the 17th. Hurry!

In the Spring there’s nothing like the smell of a hot pile of clean xmas tree mulch! Have a great weekend, see you Sunday with a new poll question.

— Steve Patterson



Broken Zipper: Washington Ave Street Tree Wells

The Washington Avenue streetscape, completed about 15 years ago, was designed to visually play tribute to the area’s history as a garment district:

Through the ’30s and ’40s, St. Louis had one of the largest needle-trade centers in the country—second, many said, only to New York—and was the center of manufacture for junior-size dresses. (St. Louis Magazine)

So Washonhgton Ave was given a zipper motif. But in the last 15 years the very expensive streetscape’s design elements haven’t always been respected. Most recently the street trees.

The picture on the left shows how the metal tree grate aligns with stones in the street, the pic on the right was take just to the West. The same visual has been totally obliterated because the pavers were opened up to uncover more of the tree well.

The street trees never did well because the costly streetscape was designed with style over function — too small of a surface area to collect rainwater. After removing the dead/dying trees extra grates were used to cover the holes where the original trees were planted, which kept the design motif intact.

If the the new trees survive perhaps it’s worth sacrificing the design, still visually jarring after all these years.

— Steve Patterson


Heating With Soft Coal Caused Black Tuesday 75 Years Ago Today

"Mist and smoke hung over St. Louis on this day in January more than year after Black Tuesday however the smoke lifted within a hour." Missouri Department of Natural Resources
“Mist and smoke hung over St. Louis on this day in January more than year after Black Tuesday however the smoke lifted within a hour.” Missouri Department of Natural Resources

During the 1930s the population of St. Louis was declining, no doubt in part due to the unhealthy air during the winter months when soft coal was used to heat nearly every building.

In February 1937 a smoke ordinance was passed creating a “Division of Smoke Regulation in the Department of Public Safety”, forcing larger businesses to burn only clean coal and setting standards for smoke emission and inspection. By 1938 emissions from commercial smokestacks had been reduced by two-thirds. (Wikipedia)

Mayor Bernard F. Dickmann, the first Democratic Mayor in decades, put Raymond Tucker in charge of cleaning the air. In 1941 Dickmann lost the race for a third term, defeated by Republican William F. Becker:


Perhaps the most significant development during Becker’s term as mayor was the adoption of a civil service amendment to the City Charter. The amendment enacted a merit system for the hiring of city employees. Prior to that time, a political patronage system prevailed in which all city employees could be replaced with a change of partisan administration. Becker supported the civil service reform and it was approved by the voters in September 1941. Becker also retained Raymond Tucker who had been appointed Smoke Commissioner by Mayor Dickmann, and supported his efforts to reduce air pollution within the city. (Wikipedia)

Becker was killed in a glider accident just two years later, he was succeeded by the Republican President of the Board of Aldermen Aloys P. Kaufmann.  Kaufmann was elected to a full term in 1945, he was the last Republican mayor in St. Louis.

I’m glad the citizens of St. Louis in the 30s & 40s took the big steps they did to clean the air. Today I don’t think we have the kind of political leadership that it takes to achieve such change.

— Steve Patterson