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Marc Gunther is a veteran journalist, speaker, and writer whose focus is business and sustainability. Marc is editor at large of Guardian Sustainable Business US and a contributor at FORTUNE magazine. He’s also a husband and father, a lover of the outdoors and a marathon runner.

Meaty business

By Marc Gunther
Why won't foundations go after meat?

This article was originally published on the Nonprofit Chronicles.

Coal plants, fracking, pipelines, gas-guzzling SUVs, plastic bags, coffee pods—all are targets of environmentalists. Why not meat?

Eating less meat — chicken, pork and especially beef — may well be the most important thing an individual can do to reduce climate change.

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Wild things

What's the best way to conserve wild places?

This article was originally published on the Nonprofit Chronicles.

Several years ago, at Brainstorm Green, a conference on business and the environment that I co-chaired for Fortune magazine, Rick Ridgeway of Patagonia (the company) talked about Conservacion Patagonica, a nonprofit created by the late Doug Tompkins and his wife, Kris, that has protected more than 2 million acres of land and laid the groundwork for a future Patagonia National Park. “National parks serve as the most effective conservation tool for protecting and restoring wild lands for wildlife and people alike,” the group says.

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Striving for transparency

Should foundations be subject to “sunshine” laws?

This article was originally published on the Nonprofit Chronicles.

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson, despite strong misgivings, quietly signed into law the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), giving citizens the right to access government data. Since then, more than 100 countries – Burkina Faso was the latest – have passed open government laws, often called”sunshine” laws.

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Farmers to reap benefits of ‘smart’ implements

Cutting-edge digital technology is sowing the seeds of more efficient, sustainable agriculture.

Drive any road in Salinas Valley, Calif., and you’re apt to see crews of workers stooping to weed or harvest fields of lettuce, spinach, tomatoes or strawberries. Sometimes called “America’s Salad Bowl,” this is John Steinbeck country, the place that inspired him during the Great Depression to write “Of Mice and Men” and “The Grapes of Wrath” about the migrant workers who, then and now, do backbreaking work under harsh conditions for low pay.

To replace some of those migrant workers, Jorge Heraud, co-founder and CEO of a startup called Blue River Technology, has invented a “smart” implement that is able to thin out excess lettuce plants. Smart implements are machines that use cutting-edge robots, computer vision and software algorithms, and they promise to make farming not merely more efficient but more sustainable. They will do so, if all goes according to plan, by precisely delivering fertilizers and pesticides to individual plants, significantly reducing chemical use in agriculture that can pollute waterways and overuse of fertilizer that increases carbon emissions. In fact, about half of the nitrogen fertilizer applied to crops is wasted, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

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Are direct cash payments the most effective way to combat poverty?

GiveDirectly: Where cash is king

This article was originally published on the Nonprofit Chronicles.

You know the proverb: Give a man to fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

But what if we’re not very good at giving fishing lessons? What if, instead, we simply give money to poor people, and let them decide how to spend it?

That’s the radically simple idea behind GiveDirectly, a fast-growing nonprofit that sends a one-time payment of about $1,000 to extremely poor people in Kenya and Uganda. Its supporters include Google.org, GiveWell and Facebook billionaires Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. To learn more, I went to see Paul Niehaus, the 33-year-old president and co-founder of GiveDirectly, at the University of California at San Diego, where he teaches economics.

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U.S. cricket farming scales up

Tiny Farms co-founder Daniel Imrie-Situnayake is helping to lay the groundwork for industrial-scale insect production in U.S.

Two billion people worldwide think nothing of munching on a tasty insect snack or entree, but until recently very few of them were Americans.

That’s all changing, though, as edible insects inch their way into mainstream fare in the United States, with crickets rapidly emerging as the “gateway bug.” Hip startups in Brooklyn, Boston and San Francisco are already baking cookies and snack chips with cricket flour, and cricket flour protein bars will soon be part of snack boxes on JetBlue airline flights.

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Water taps and information gaps

How do you know that your donation to a water charity has made a lasting difference?

This article was originally published on the Nonprofit Chronicles.

If you’ve donated money to a water charity, congratulations. You’ve stepped up to try to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems–the fact that roughly 750 million people do not have access to clean water.

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Walmart targets climate-smart suppliers

The world’s largest grocer is exerting its influence on food companies to reduce their environmental impacts.

When an Iowa corn and soy farmer named Tim Richter took the stage at a big sustainability conference organized last fall by Walmart, he had a message for the crowd gathered to hear about the giant retailer’s sweeping efforts in food and agriculture: Sustainability makes business sense.

“I like to grow corn, and you can’t grow corn without fertilizer—especially nitrogen fertilizer,” says Richter, who farms about 7,000 acres of land. “But . . . in a leaky system of agriculture, what you don’t use becomes a pollutant.” Nitrogen not soaked up by crops can escape as a potent greenhouse gas, while runoff from excess fertilizer pollutes waterways and creates dead zones in the ocean.

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Evaluating nonprofits

If not overhead, then what?

This article was originally published on the Nonprofit Chronicles.

In the summer of 2013, in a remarkable development that was little noted outside of the world of philanthropy, GuidestarCharity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance, the US’s three leading sources of information about nonprofits, together published a letter intended “to correct a misconception about what matters when deciding which charities to support.”

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