Carrot & Stick: November/December 2008

MyFarm founder Trevor Paque, for introducing forward-thinking San Franciscans to the idea of the "decentralized urban farm"
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MyFarm founder Trevor Paque, for introducing forward-thinking San Franciscans to the idea of the "decentralized urban farm." Paque is part of a new breed of eco-entrepreneurs who have responded to the desire of many city dwellers to eat locally and grow their own food, though they may lack time, space, or gardening skills. For a fee, Paque comes to the aid of these "lazy locavores." He designs, plants, tends, and harvests his clients' plots, which can be as small as 4 square feet. MyFarm is more than just having a weekly gardener, however: Paque's customers can reap the fruits of their own garden, as well as those of neighboring clients. Gardens in foggy areas of the city might grow broccoli for customers to share, while sunnier areas might grow tomatoes. Produce is delivered by bicycle.

Home Shopping Network and Overstock.com, the cable television and Internet-based retailers, both of which have announced plans to stop selling products made with animal fur. HSN, which reaches 90 million homes, will halt fur sales by year's end, donating any remaining inventory to PETA for use in antifur campaigns. Overstock.com made its announcement jointly with The Humane Society of the United States and became the 100th name on HSUS's list of fur-free retailers and designers. Fireman's Fund Insurance and Lexington Insurance companies, for being the first companies to offer green homeowners' insurance policy upgrades. The upgrades will allow homeowners to repair damage with environmentally sensitive materials, including Energy Star appliances, sustainably harvested wood, and low-volatile organic compound paints and adhesives. Under the Fireman's Fund upgrade, homes that have been completely destroyed can be rebuilt to Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design standards, including hiring LEED-certified professionals for design and construction. The Fireman's Fund upgrade costs about $70 per $1 million in insured value.

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AT&T, for sponsoring the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association as its wireless provider. While rodeos are promoted as wholesome family entertainment, they are notorious for mistreating animals, severely injuring and sometimes killing them, according to Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, a watchdog group that documents rodeo abuses. Rodeo organizers defend the use of cattle prods and deny the cruelty of participants kicking, roping, and dragging animals by the neck, though some observers are now comparing rodeos to cock fighting and dog fighting. The band Matchbox Twenty cancelled its appearance at Cheyenne Frontier Days—the "Daddy of 'em All"—after viewing videos of rodeo-animal abuse.

The World Bank, for systematically failing to consider environmental impacts when lending money to poor countries, according to a report released by the bank's own Independent Evaluation Group. "Climate change is yet another devastating example of the World Bank getting it incredibly wrong," writes Karen Orenstein of Friends of the Earth US in the comments section of The New York Times' Dot Earth blog. "The World Bank is the largest multilateral financier of fossil fuel projects. Between 2007 and 2008, the International Finance Corporation's fossil fuel lending increased by a whopping 165 percent." The IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest source of financing for private-sector projects in developing countries.

The City of Houston, for being the least recycling-savvy city in the United States. According to a report in the trade magazine Waste News, the largest city in Texas (and the fourth largest city in the nation) recycles just 2.6 percent of its waste. By comparison, the three largest cities, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, recycle 34 percent, 62 percent, and 55 percent of their waste, respectively. Why is Houston so lax? Land is cheap and plentiful—hence, so too are landfills. Combine that with the city's sprawling layout, which makes collection expensive, and the result is residents waiting as long as 10 years to get recycling bins from the city.