Category Archives: environment

Greenwashing Takes “Green” Industries to the Cleaners

greenwashingThey used to mean something. Words like “sustainable,” “eco-friendly,” “green,” “low-impact,” and “natural” set apart products and services that were better for our environment.  But once these terms became trendy, the practice of “greenwashing” (so rampant now it has its own Wikipedia page) has rendered these words virtually meaningless.

First reported by Forbes and Business Pundit, now the web-based Greenwashing Index, developed by the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, is a clearinghouse for dishonest greenwashing in the media.

But greenwashing products like soda, coal and bottled water may be the most damaging to genuinely “green” companies, practices and products.  As these terms are devalued, how does a company, like Trout Headwaters, for example, set itself apart?

One word we’ve used quite a bit to describe our services is “sustainable.” Once an important identifier, sustainable and sustainability have become junk words that can mean whatever people want it to mean, from environmental perfection to, well, nothing.   As a recent article in a Charleston newspaper pointed out, when Smithfield, the U.S.’s largest factory hog processor announces, “Sustainability is integral to the way we conduct business at Smithfield Foods every day,” and Monsanto, the giant multinational maker of chemicals and genetically-engineered seed, declares it is “A Sustainable Agriculture Company,” all we can say is, “Really?!”

How are consumers to know if products and practices are truly sustainable, green, and eco-friendly, or if they are just being duped by a greenwashed marketing campaign?  We all just have to be more vigilant, and do our homework.

In our industry of freshwater resource renewal and repair, we define sustainable as “works with nature,” “adds multiple values,” “self-sustaining,” “maintenance-free,” and “improves over time.”  Maybe we’ll have to coin a new term.

You may also like: 10 Questions to Ask Before Restoring Your Stream or Wetland

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Big Data Tools for the Environment – Experience EcoBlu™ Analyst

NPDESDataSetDisplayTHICOPYRIGHT2013The EcoBlu Analyst  is a new tool developed by Trout Headwaters, Inc. that provides project managers, investors, non-profits and government with the power of big data in a secure, low-cost and customizable interface.  First deployed for use by the National Mitigation Banking Association NMBA Mitigation Analyst Announcement, the product easily transforms hundreds of thousands of lines of raw data into useable information.  The powerful system enables rapid ‘mash-ups’ of multiple databases from USGS, USEPA, USACE, and more.  Even add your own proprietary data.  Rapid visualizations like charts, graphs, and maps take only seconds to create, enabling fast, accurate data analysis and output.  To learn more  Contact Us or email or phone 800-218-8107 toll-free nationwide.

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Carbon Sequestration Is a Happy By-Product of 20 Years of EcoBlu Restoration

Wetland Restoration and Enhancement (MT)When a study came out earlier this year in the Journal of Environmental Quality showing that constructed wetlands were excellent at sequestering carbon from the atmosphere we were intrigued.

At Trout Headwaters, we’ve worked to create, enhance and restore significant numbers of wetland acres over the last two decades. The study reported that constructed wetlands sequester carbon at an average annual rate of 2,150 pounds per acre.  So, we did a little calculating, and it turns out that a conservative estimate of atmospheric carbon our work has helped to sequester is around 1,000 tons. That’s a lot of carbon!

To be fair, we’ve emitted some of our own carbon as we drove to and from project sites, and used equipment, but even being generous with our emissions, we’ve had a 10-times higher sequestration rate than emissions rate.  That’s a happy by-product of freshwater resource restoration.

As the head research scientist of the journal article suggested, we shouldn’t ignore restored and man-made wetlands as we look for places to store carbon long-term.  If you have a wetland creation, enhancement, or restoration project you’d like to discuss, contact THI for a free initial consultation.

You may also like: Created and Restored Wetlands Are Unexpectedly Efficient for Storing Carbon

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6 Latest Trends in Corporate Sustainability

We're Your EcoPartnerEarlier this month Ernst & Young and GreenBiz Group released a new study, entitled ‘2013 Six Growing Trends in Corporate Sustainability.’ Based primarily on a survey of the GreenBiz Intelligence Panel of executives and thought leaders engaged in sustainability, this study reveals that “companies are increasingly connecting the dots between risk management and sustainability by making sustainability issues more prominent on corporate agendas.”

While the study shows companies in general move forward when it comes to sustainability, it seems that they still make progress incrementally rather than taking the fast lane. Nevertheless, it is still interesting to learn about the current trends in sustainable business and this report presents six of them that are shifting now the business landscape.

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How to Add Excitement to Sustainability!

Raz Godelnik, the co-founder of Eco-Libris and an adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware’s Business School, wrote a blog post for Triple Pundit that explores why sustainable topics are sometimes ho-hum.

“While it would be hard to guess what specifically makes you excited, it’s probably not a sustainable product, brand or culture phenomenon,” he writes.

Godelnik identifies 4 points to think about when adding the secret sauce of excitement to sustainability:

1. There’s nothing exciting about being less bad – Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart wrote more than a decade ago in Cradle to Cradle how “less bad” is a depressing vision of our species’ role in the world. “…To be less bad is to accept things as they are, to believe that poorly designed, dishonorable, destructive systems are the best humans can do,” they wrote.

2. Reimagine the sustainable horizon – Companies need not just to think in a creative and disruptive way, but also to think about the sustainable horizon as the place where science fiction, Hollywood, playfulness and personal dreams meet.

3. Give consumers Beckham, not Vanessa – Most companies keep selling their old unsustainable products while trying to advance lines of products that are more sustainable. H&M, a fast fashion company with sustainability ambitions, launched an eco-friendly Conscious Collection and this year, with Vanessa Paradis.  But H&M’s other campaign, for its bodywear line featured David Beckham. ‘Nuff said.

4. Be aware of the curse – In his report, The Curse of Innovation: Why Innovative New Products Fail, Harvard Business School Professor John Gourville explained that innovative new products fail many times because consumers systematically undervalue and firms systematically overvalue the innovation relative to what an objective analysis would suggest. He called this phenomenon, the “curse of innovation.”

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Flowing Rainbows Capture the Natural Migration of the Mississippi

the-alluvial-valley-of-the-lower-mississippi-river-harold-fisk-01These incredible maps of the Mississippi River were created in 1944 by Cartographer Harold Fisk and in  Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River.  In great detail he mapped the twisting and changing path of the river over time in these swirling rainbow colors.  The result is the most amazing set of info-graphics presented in a beautiful way.  The high resolution files can be downloaded from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


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Norfolk Southern and GreenTrees: Trees and Trains Project to Plant 6 Million Trees in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley

NORFOLK, VA. – Norfolk Southern has made substantial progress on its Trees and Trains reforestation program, planting 2.4 million trees on 4,000 acres in four states in the ecologically important Mississippi Delta.

The Trees and Trains project is a five-year reforestation and carbon sequestration project to plant six million trees on 10,000 acres in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV) with GreenTrees®, the leading reforestation program on private lands in the U.S. The $5.6 million project, in its third year, is the largest carbon reforestation project in the nation. Over time, the trees will generate 1.12 million tons of carbon-offset credits, significantly offsetting the railroad’s CO2 emissions.

Considered North America’s “Amazon,” the MAV is the nation’s largest watershed and a vital habitat for numerous wildlife species. Forest once covered 25 million acres of the valley, but most of the land was converted to agricultural production, and today only four million acres of forest remain. Trees and Trains calls for creating a permanent forest. Under the program, landowners receive carbon payments for planting trees instead of crops on marginal or frequently flooded land.

GreenTrees Managing Partner Chandler Van Voorhis explains, “Landowners retain the use of their acreage and can earn additional income through recreational usage, conservation tax benefits, and timber sales. These agreements encourage long-term storage of carbon dioxide in the trees, roots, and soil on the land.”

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You might also enjoy: Restoring Nature’s Water Filter: How Streamside Vegetation Can Save the Gulf of Mexico

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Tribes’ win to restore salmon habitat may go way beyond $1B in culvert repairs

Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Seattle Times reported that a federal judge has ordered culvert repairs to ensure tribes have fish to catch, as guaranteed by their treaty rights. The ruling could have broader impact on other types of development.

A long-awaited tribal fishing-rights decision by a federal judge means the state must immediately accelerate more than $1 billion in repairs to culverts that run beneath state roads and block access to some 1,000 miles of salmon habitat.

The ruling comes out of the landmark 1974 Boldt decision, which upheld the rights of tribes to fish, and could result in other court-ordered restoration work, according to tribal leaders and policy experts.

“This culvert case is a ringing of the bell, OK you got to wake up,” said Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. “We have to protect and restore the environment while we continue to look creatively for ways to develop new job and industry opportunities.”

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Drought Still Threatens Mississippi River

Caption: U.S. Army Corps of Engineer vessels dredge chunks of limestone from the Mississippi River. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, Wikimedia Commons)

Discovery News recently reported that due to drought conditions, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warned that the Mississippi River could become unnavigable by mid January. However, efforts by the USACE to blast away rocks have bought more time for barge shipping, according to a press release from the American Waterways Operators (AWO) and Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) The river will now likely stay open through January.

In times of drought or flood, healthy floodplains can mitigate the negative impacts of either extreme.  Healthy floodplains act as a sponge to store water in times of drought and absorb excess water during flood events.  That’s why at Trout Headwaters we tirelessly advocate for healthy, functioning floodplains for rivers and the smaller tributaries that feed them.

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The Nation’s River

From the Huffington Post

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson called the Potomac River, polluted with sewage and riddled with algae blooms, a “national disgrace.” Forty years ago this year, the Clean Water Act of 1972 (CWA) was signed into law, and resulted in expansive, real improvements in the health of the Potomac River.

The CWA is critically important and has made a real difference, but has it gone far enough? Perhaps the new documentary about the Potomac River and the challenges facing it will help shine a light on how successful the law has been or, more importantly, has not.



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