Better World Club

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's That Time of Year Again!

Better World Staff Retreat in Tahiti!

Uh, Nice Try, Chris

Actually, It's Time to Announce Better World Club's Carbon Offset Contributions for the 2008/2009 Fiscal Year

As carbon offsetting becomes more popular, there has also been a(n) (inevitable?) backlash against offsets. Some argue that global warming doesn't exist (see next door's Washington Watch) while others see offsets as assuaging guilt rather than reducing greenhouse gases.

Better World Club thinks that even if you don't believe in global warming, you should agree that greenhouse gases are still air pollution. (Are the compounds designated as greenhouse gases good for you?) Even though greenhouse gas elimination should be a top priority, carbon offsets are a necessary form of remediation -- just like medicine when we get sick.

This year, Better World Club and our members are purchasing nearly 2,000 offsets which will offset some 1500 tons of greenhouse gas as part of our TravelCool! program.

But we can do better. See below to learn how you can reduce your carbon footprint. (And yes, as we age, our feet do get bigger.)

Thank You For Sharing!

We're Happy You Kept Us in Mind, But We Don't Need Your Vehicle Information to Keep You Covered

You scrimped and saved for months. You called three different insurance companies, haggled with a salesman, kicked the wheels, and signed on the dotted line. But did you contact your auto club? You don't have to!

We really enjoy talking to our members, especially when they have happy news. But we don't keep a record of the vehicle(s) you drive. We cover you, the individual, and not your car. You are eligible for service in any eligible vehicle you happen to be riding in at your time of need. Unless you have purchased a hybrid or biodiesel vehicle and are looking for an alternative fuel discount, we don't need to know what you're driving. But, if you want to share your happy news with us, go ahead and give us a call or send us an email. We promise not to be jealous so long as you give us a ride to the Green Festival.

Amtrak Denies BWC a Member Discount Because It Can't "Publicly Oppose AAA"

Did AAA Use Its Influence to Intimidate Amtrak?

How's this for an unhealthy relationship: AAA -- an organization that has consistently lobbied against mass transit for the past 50+ years -- is granted a 10% Amtrak discount for its members. Better World Club -- an organization that has consistently lobbied on behalf of mass transit in general (and Amtrak in particular) -- is denied an Amtrak discount.

When advised by Amtrak that we would not receive an Amtrak discount equivalent to the one AAA members receive, an Amtrak representative actually stated that Amtrak couldn't "publicly oppose AAA" by offering a discount to BWC members. Is offering our members a discount "opposing" AAA? If Amtrak did offer BWC members a discount, would Amtrak executives have to start parking only in brightly lit parking lots?

Since Amtrak receives A LOT of public funding (we've even lobbied on their behalf here and here), we've approached lawmakers and asked them to look into the legality of Amtrak's preferential treatment of AAA.

What's next? How far is Amtrak going to take this self-loathing behavior? Will Amtrak employees stop taking the train to work in the mornings and all start driving alone? We want to help Amtrak break this cycle of self-defeating behavior. Readers, please comment on this article and let us know what you think is the best way to proceed.

New Network of Responsible Business Organizations Forms

Turmoil at the US Chamber of Commerce Is The Backdrop

BWC's Mitch Rofsky Appointed To Network Steering Committee

A number of Responsible Business Organizations came together on October 23rd to agree on principles for a network of responsible business organizations, the American Sustainable Business Council. The groups included New Voice of Business, Green America, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), and B Corporation, among others.

BWC President Mitch Rofsky will represent New Voice of Business on the steering committee.

The new network comes together against the backdrop of turmoil at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has announced a hardline stance against action on climate change, a policy that may have breached the Chamber's internal rules as it was not passed by a board vote.

In September and October 2009, several companies quit the Chamber due to the Chamber's stance on environmental impact reform, including Exelon Corp, PG&E Corp, PNM Resources, Apple Inc, and Mohawk Fine Paper. Nike, Inc decided to resign their board of directors position but to continue membership. Nike stated that they believe they can better influence policy by being part of the conversation.

Give credit where it's due: The US Chamber of Commerce "Knows Drama" (our apologies to TNT). In a move calculated to simultaneously grandstand and stall for time (until another round of elections?), the Chamber attempted to force the Environmental Protection Agency to arrange a climate science hearing before any federal climate regulations were passed and in order to challenge the very notion of human-caused climate change.

In any case, regardless of their impact on society and whether they are warming or cooling the earth, the fossil fuels that are a substantial source of climate change are polluting. And products should be priced so that pollution and its impact on 3rd parties are discouraged.

The Chamber opposes the Waxman-Markey energy bill and is threatening to sue the EPA if it regulates greenhouse gas emissions, arguing that such a move would dramatically increase "the price of everything that uses energy." Bill Kovacs, the Chamber's vice president for the environment, technology, and regulatory affairs, still asserts that the minority views of climate change "whistleblowers" and skeptics are being ignored by policymakers.

In embracing this aggressively narrow climate policy, the Chamber appears to have gone around its usual policy-making process. According to the Chamber's internal rules, its policies and positions are developed by committees and then approved or rejected by its board of directors. But Donald J. Sterhan, Chair of the Chamber's energy and environment committee, says that its Board of Directors and its committees never formally endorsed the climate stance.

"There was no vote taken," he says. He adds that his committee held "really more of an information discussion" than a policy debate on the issue. The final decision to challenge the EPA's regulation of greenhouse gasses was apparently a reflection of the Chamber's staff's position.

Nike made clear that this lack of transparency and accountability led to its decision to quit the Chamber's Board. Nike stated that the process in this instance conflicted with the organization's own democratic principles, suggesting that the outsized influence of a few Chamber members is determining its climate stance.

Meanwhile, the Chamber's self-description that it represents 3 million businesses has also come into question. Recent reports indicate that it is closer to 300,000 -- or fewer.

If you work in a business, please contact Better World Club to obtain information on the business organizations that could better represent your values.