In late 2012, Patrick Halligan, co-founder and CMO of Live Green Be Green by PMD United, was presented with the opportunity for temporary reassignment from Citystash, Washington, DC to the San Francisco office to assist with business marketing, development and operations.  Patrick, a 2012 graduate of the Fordham University Gabelli School of Business, viewed this offer as a great chance to hone his business skills and to boost his resume.  He eagerly accepted this proposition and set out to ready himself for the trip.

With the assistance and support of his girlfriend. Becca Donnelly, a recent graduate of George Washington University, Patrick carefully planned this cross-country trip.  While they realized this would be an awesome road trip, they had no idea that it would be an amazing testament to green living and sustainability.  It turned out that each step of this journey tells a story, a very personal one, of two members of the Millennial Generation, whose daily lives and interests seamlessly incorporate and reflect principles of green living and sustainability.  While having fun seeing the sites and enjoying each other’s company, Patrick and Becca’s journey unintentionally created a symbolic quilt with interlocking pieces displaying a theme of those principles.

Family.  In planning their journey, Patrick and Becca looked to family for moral support and encouragement for their trip.  Additionally, they made sure their route included stops to visit family, including cousins, a sibling and niece and nephew in Chicago.  They also reached out to west coast cousins while in California.  During their time in California, they took time out of their busy schedules to entertain east coast family members visiting in the area.

Energy Conservation.  As part of the Millennial Generation, it was only natural that Patrick and Becca chose to take this trip in a Fiat 500, a small energy-efficient car that gets great gas mileage.  With careful planning and limited space, they readily adopted a minimalist attitude, taking only what they needed.

Climate Change.  Patrick and Becca’s chosen route resulted in an unintended reference to climate change, often associated with extreme temperature changes and violent storms.  While visiting in Chicago, they encountered a severe lightning storm, and while driving through Wyoming and Nevada, they experienced continuous days of extremely hot weather with temperatures soaring as high as 118 degrees Fahrenheit.  In San Francisco, they experienced a summer quite different from the east coast, with some days not even making it to the 70 degree mark.

Nature.  Throughout this trip, Patrick and Becca experienced nature at its best, reinforcing the idea that we as humans do not own the earth.  Rather, we are stewards of this land, and as such, we are obligated to coexist with nature.  They visited many landmarks, including Mount Rushmore and Deadwood, as well as Yellowstone National Park and the Badlands.  While in Yellowstone, they saw animals free to roam, rather than being in corals.  After arriving in San Francisco, they walked the foothills, swam and played in the ocean and enjoyed the wonders of Big Sur where man’s footprint ends, and nature is in command.  They also enjoyed amazing sunsets, undisturbed by man’s light pollution.  They stood beside sea lions, allowed to coexist with man without being reduced to a commodity, contained in zoos or aquariums for the entertainment of man at a price.

Sustainability.  On their journey, Patrick and Becca included a stop to the Coors Brewing Factory in Golden, Colorado. There they were treated to a lesson in sustainability.  They toured the brewery where they were educated on the company’s business practices that makes it a priority to increase the productivity of natural resources with zero waste tolerance.

Their adventure also reflected the importance of people, which is recognized as an integral component of strong sustainability theory.  The success of their journey is largely attributable to the support of people, starting with the owners of CityStash, who believed in Patrick and offered him the opportunity to work in the west coast office.  Also, it is important to thank the Wygant family — Scott, Joelle, Bill and Diana.   These kind people graciously served as Patrick and Becca’s safety net in this leap of faith, particularly Bill and Diana, who provided them with a place to stay and helped them familiarize themselves and navigate the San Francisco landscape.

There are so many lessons to be learned from Patrick and Becca’s journey, too many to discuss in one article.  Perhaps the greatest lesson is that each of us should seek to engage the greater good in life, which in most cases will lead to living a greener and more sustainable lifestyle.  To do this, it is important to take a leap of faith, drop many of our rituals that encumber us and to heed the call of the universe to “come away with me” to a new place.  To do so is to live green, be green.

If you are ever in San Francisco, be sure to visit the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. This beautiful place has been around for over 100 years and thanks to First Lady Hilary Clinton, in 1998, The Conservatory was placed on the 100 most endangered world monuments. It currently exists as the oldest public glass and wood greenhouse in the United States!



In response to the continuing decline in the bee population globally, an interesting and timely film documentary by Markus Inhoof brings attention to the phenomenon of colony collapse disorder— the name given to this occurrence.  This film notes that 80% of plant species require bee pollination to survive, and without the necessary pollination, “most fruit and vegetables could disappear from the face of the earth”.  Additionally, the honeybee is “as indispensable to the economy as it is to man’s survival”. 

In this film, Inhoof takes a close look at honeybee colonies in California, Switzerland, China and Australia.  He examines several agents responsible for “weakening of the bees’ immune defense“, including pesticides and medicine used to combat them, parasites (notably Varro mites), new viruses, traveling stress and the “multiplication of electromagnetic waves disturbing nano particles found in bees’ abdomen.

A particularly interesting finding shown to negatively impact the lives of bees is “factory farming“.  Beekeeping for the production of honey, beeswax, royal jelly and other products has become very popular in the past few years.  Bee farmers rely on factory-farmed honeybees, resulting in an annual production of 176 million pounds of honey with a value greater than $250 million.  To accomplish this goal, honeybees are manipulated with exploitation of their “desire to live and protect their hives”.  They are subjected to unnatural living conditions, genetic manipulation and stressful transportation“.  The white boxes traditionally used for beehives since the 1850s have been “moved from shapes that accommodated their own geometry to flat-topped tenements, thereby sentencing the bees to life in file cabinets.  Additionally, beekeepers also clip the wings of new queens to prevent the natural division of hives upon the birth of a new queen that would result in a decline in the honey production.

All of these factors stress the bee population and could serve as a threat to mankind’s very existence because of the need for these very important pollinators to remain in existence.   

To date, the documentary, More Than Honey, has received good reviews, particularly in regards to its beautiful nature photography.  This is just one story about human invasive practices that threaten our food supply, and it is a very important one that cautions us to remain ever mindful of our need to ensure that we protect our environment and our food supply.  To do so is to live green, be green.


honey bee, pollinating

honey bee, pollinating (Photo credit: turnbud)

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Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students from the Kansas University School of Business (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is noteworthy that Warren Buffett, one of the principal investors of our era, has turned his investment attention to solar energy.  Even if you do not follow the markets you, likely know are familiar with Warren Buffett. Whether it is from the fact that he was the world’s richest man for an impressive period of time or from frequent discussion regarding his famous frugal lifestyle or his witty comments on our nation’s politics, you know two things about him, namely, he is very rich and incredibly successful. As one could imagine, these two things go hand in hand. Mr. Buffett accomplished this by becoming, “arguably the greatest value investor the world has ever seen. His investment holding company, Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A), has averaged a compounded annual gain of 19.8% since 1964”.[1] When Mr. Buffet speaks, the world listens, and when he takes action, we take heed. Mr. Buffet is known, in particular, for his style of investment, the long haul. He will take large positions in companies and hold them for a long time. When Mr. Buffet decides to purchase stock in a company, he is not looking to make a few quick dollars. He is looking for something with inherent value that he feels is undervalued and can produce long term success. That is why many ears perked when it was announced that, “Mr. Buffet’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company has acquired two SunPower solar photovoltaic power  plant projects in California for between $2 billion and $2.5 billion. The adjacent Antelope Valley Solar Projects will be built in Los Angeles and Kern counties and will generate 579 megawatts of electricity for utility Southern California Edison. At peak output that’s the equivalent of a big fossil fuel power plant”.[2]

To understand why Mr. Buffet made this purchase, we only need to look at one of his recent purchases and to abroad to understand the future he sees. Let us first look at Mr. Buffet’s purchase of Burlington North Santa Fe Railway in February 2010. When they looked at the railroad industry they saw that, “fuel prices were up 120% since the March 2009 lows[,] unemployment stubbornly hovered around 9% in most areas[,] [and] shipping rates, as measured by the Baltic Dry Index, were 1/10th of their 2008 highs”.1 Many people enjoy quoting FDR’s line, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”, but do not grasp the context of the words. We recognize the meaning behind the words but tend to fail to see the world to which they were spoken. They were words spoken in the thralls of the Great Depression, reaching out to a world in the grip of compounding fear. Fear, like many traumatizing forces, tends to have a multiplier effect and a perceivable impact on outcomes. People were living in a world where there did not seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, but what they failed to recognize is that they were the ones who had to dig to the light. Mr. Buffet not only recognized that the light was there, but also comprehended what was necessary to reach that light.  Now he is reaping the rewards: “the freight railway industry is enjoying its biggest building boom in nearly a century…Profit in the industry has doubled since 2003, and stock prices have soared…Fortune has even dropped a “green” gift in the industry’s lap. A train can haul a ton of freight 423 miles on a gallon of diesel fuel, about a 3-to-1 fuel-efficiency advantage over 18-wheelers, and the railroad industry is increasingly promoting itself as an eco-friendly alternative”.[3] What we have found buried in this purchase is a sound decision that showed vision and an in-depth understanding of the intersection of both environmental concerns and the drive for profit. How successful was this purchase for Mr. Buffet? In the first nine months of 2012, BNSF accounted for roughly a quarter of Berkshire’s profits. To put that in context, Berkshire owns roughly eighty companies.[4] When Mr. Buffet undertook this purchase, he followed the wisdom of his own words: “‘In business I look for economic castles protected by unbreakable ‘moats.’’”1 Now he turns his gaze to the solar industry, and to understand why, we must turn our gaze abroad.

We turn to Germany which has been making waves lately with its energy reports. Their numbers from this past summer show us why Mr. Buffet was attracted towards solar:

Renewables now account for 25 percent of energy production, up from 21 percent last year, the country’s energy industry association (BDEW) said in a statement that reinforced Germany’s position as a leader in green technology…Solar energy saw the biggest increase, up 47 percent from the previous year”.[5]

Germany is no small fish; it is a member of the G8 and has a GDP of $3.479 trillion, with a GDP per capita of $42, 625.[6] As such, Germany is quite comparable and offers a viable alternative for America. As of 2011, renewables only accounted for 9% of US energy consumption, with solar only accounting for 2% of that.[7] Unfortunately for the renewables sector, there are many barriers to entry into the energy market in America. Most notable are the huge subsidies given to fossil fuel companies that artificially lower prices. Despite these obstacles, renewables are making inroads. Science has for the most part always been on their side but now the economics are beginning to adjust as well with, “the cost of PV modules, currently the single largest part of system cost, and [falling] 74% in the last twenty years”.7

Still, however, one must question Mr. Buffet’s wisdom. Why would he invest in solar, which makes up such a small percentage of an already small percentage, when he could invest in oil? Oil, already, accounts for 36% of total US energy consumption 7 and the US is set become a net energy exporter in the next few years.[8] Mr. Buffet recognizes that despite the fact oil production is on the rise, we are no longer simply paying prices based on our demand, but on world demand. As such, we no longer solely determine the price.

So then what do we make of Mr. Buffet’s decision? Mr. Buffet, in my opinion, merely did what he has always done. He saw an undervalued industry that has room for growth and decreasing costs. With his purchase he bought a company which not only, “will build and operate the projects for MidAmerican Renewables, and the energy will be sold to Southern California Edison in accordance with two long-term agreements that have received approval from the California Public Utilities Commission[9],  but will print the blueprint of a way forward in America. Germany has already shown us that despite the common argument, it is possible to put yourself on a renewable energy track, while maintaining a high standard of living.  We have a castle for a model, but we still need the moats. The moats, of course, are the inherent failures of the fossil fuels, both economically and environmentally. People enjoy stability and control in their lives, and a country whose energy consumption is reliant on fossil fuels can expect neither. In the end, we are left with an industry with growing demand and shrinking costs. Furthermore, we have an administration that has made its support for renewables crystal clear. Mr. Buffet is in this for the long haul and in the long haul, the sun is always going to be there.  Warren Buffett clearly recognizes the economic value of investing in alternative energy that helps us live green, be green.

By Sean Patrick Maguire











SunPower Corporation

SunPower Corporation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Simple sustainability efforts go a long way.  Here’s a bit of a scoop on one such effort we’ve deemed worthy to shake up our headlines here at LGBG.

That’s right. It’s a company by the name of MPG Car Rental, and although its not the largest company, it hasn’t allowed that small fact to prevent it from doing big things!

Similar to rental car services like Hertz, Budget, Enterprise, and even old Thrifty, MPG provides a slew of automobiles to its customers on a temporary, rental basis.  No biggie, right?  But what sets this little Venice, California-based rent-a-car service apart from its traditional competitors, is that MPG’s fleet of vehicles are “all green” and still suit all needs.  Whether customers are looking for compact sedans or full-size SUV’s, MPG Car Rental boasts a wide range of eco-friendly vehicles.

The brand management experts at Interbrand rank the most green global brands yearly, based on what they consider to be critical criteria in determining the sustainability of business efforts.  In first, third, and fourth place on 2012’s Interbrand Best Global Green Brands list were Toyota, Honda, and Volkswagen, respectively.  It should therefore come as no immediate shock to the consumer that MPG Car Rental offers some of the flagship hybrid vehicles associated with these top performing brands.

Aside from Toyota’s three generations of Prius vehicles, MPG offers its Camry and Highlander hybrids, as well as its Lexus offspring, including the CT 200 hybrid and two variations of the RX model.  Also members of the all-green MPG fleet are Honda’s Insight, Volkswagen’s Jetta TDI (diesel), and Chevy’s new Volt and hybrid Tahoe.  And the customer should look forward to seeing this selection of vehicles change, as MPG makes it a point to constantly re-examine and continually update its fleet’s member vehicles to reflect current top performance trends.

What further sets MPG’s business model apart from those of competitors is its special test drive program.  MPG allows its customers who are thinking about purchasing a eco-friendly hybrid vehicle to rent and test drive any member of its fleet for up to four days to see if the vehicle fits the customer’s lifestyle.  From that point, if the customer purchases that model vehicle from one of MPG’s affiliated dealers, the customer is automatically eligible for the reimbursement of up to four days’ rental of that MPG vehicle.  Clever and helpful.

Through minimal efforts in specialization within the constraints of already established methods of business in an industry, MPG has managed to re-vamp operations to increase sustainability.  Customers can rest assured that they are not only receiving vehicles that perform well, but that they are helping lessen their carbon footprints all the while.  MPG Car Rental should be an example to all future rent-a-car companies, that small change can make a difference and still pay off financially.  Hopefully the company continues to grow, both in successful business, and in the admirable ideologies with which its conducts its business.