Pick 5 for the Environment

Pick 5 for the Environment Logo (not available as of 2014)Pick 5 for the Environment is an international initiative from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of State. I heard about it while watching the BeGreen2013 – National Summit on Environmental Education and Sustainability, so went to the U.S. EPA Pick 5 website to check it out.

Pick 5 Initiative

Pick 5 was introduced several years ago via a U.S. EPA news release dated 04/22/09.

“As part of its Earth Month outreach efforts, EPA today launched ‘Pick 5 for the Environment,’ encouraging the public to commit to taking at least five actions to protect the environment. Pick 5 helps people identify ways they can protect their environment and makes use of social media sites to allow them to share their tips and stories.”

In a short video, Leilani Munter, an American race car driver, said to offset her carbon footprint she adopts an acre of rain forest for each race. Wonder how that pencils out. At least she’s taking responsibility for her choice of profession.

The It’s My Environment video is a collection of video snippets from all around the world showing people taking Pick 5 actions. It was fun to watch.

The Pick 5 actions are still relevant today. Visitors to the Pick 5 website are encouraged to learn about potential actions, pick 5, make a pledge via email, and share their story.


  • Use only the water you need, and reuse when possible.
  • Help keep water clean by using biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaning products.
  • Dispose of solid and liquid wastes and medications safely.
  • Protect your local water source from pollutants, excess pesticides and garbage.


  • Use human powered modes of transportation to get from place to place!
  • Pass on gas! Take public transportation, carpool, and plan your day to reduce trips and vehicle emissions.
  • Make sure your home’s air is healthy.
  • Buy locally, or grow your own!
  • Reduce your potential for exposure to mercury.
  • Plant a tree. Or plant many trees!
  • Prevent additional air pollution by finding alternatives to burning your waste.


  • Use pesticides safely!
  • Learn about composting, try it out!
  • Learn about ‘Greenscaping’!
  • Learn about the native species and the negative effects of non native plants and animals in the environment.


  • Save energy at home.
  • Go renewable! Create your own power from wind, the sun, water, or biofuels.
  • Find alternate ways to reduce use of diesel and other fuels for transportation, production and energy.
  • Find out how much of your home’s energy is supplied by renewable sources, seek to increase it.


  • Reduce.
  • Reuse. Upcycle! Take something that is disposable and transform it into something of greater use and value.
  • Recycle metals, plastics and paper.
  • E-cycle.
  • Don’t litter! Properly dispose of trash and waste.
  • When purchasing goods, opt for sustainable, recycled or reused resources. Choose items in less packaging.


  • Participate in a local environmental festival or event.
  • Organize a local event!
  • Establish a Green Award program in your community.
  • Talk to a friend about Pick 5!
  • Find a ‘Green Mate’ across the globe, double up to make a difference.
  • Share your commitment on social networking sites.
  • Join or start a green club in your community.
  • Bring environmental education to your local schools and community.
  • Raise Awareness!

My Pick 5 for 2013

Rather than select actions we are already doing (which we’ll continue doing anyway), I decided to select 5 new actions to take for 2013.

  1. Help keep water clean by using biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaning products. I’ve wanted to learn more about eco-cleaning products. No time like the present.
  2. Learn about the native species and the negative effects of non native plants and animals in the environment. We live in a Monterey Pine forest with limited water. We don’t irrigate our yard so I’d like to learn about native plants that require no irrigation and invasive plants to keep an eye out for.
  3. Go renewable! Create your own power from wind, the sun, water, or biofuels. Late last year, we decided to put solar panels on the roof of our house. They are being installed next month so I think it’s fair to count this action for 2013.
  4. E-cycle. Although our farmer’s market provides a monthly e-cycling program, we have yet to take our collection of old electronic equipment. This is the year.
  5. Share your commitment on social networking sites. I started on this one by signing up for a Twitter account and started tweeting @unlikelyenviro.

Consider visiting the Pick 5 website and picking your own 5 actions for 2013.

Related Posts: BeGreen2013 — National Summit on Environmental Education and Sustainability

Building Social Business — Book Review

Building Social Business Book CoverI learned of Muhammad Yunus, the author of Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs while researching microfinance.

Yunus is a pioneer in the microfinance industry. During the 1970s, he founded Grameen Bank, a microfinance institution in Bangladesh.

I was fascinated by the work of Yunus and wanted to learn more so looked for additional reading material. Building Social Business looked intriguing and it was.

Book Review

Building Social Business introduces a new business model called a social business which exists to solve a social problem not to generate profit and dividends for investors. Yunus believes that people are not just driven by maximizing profit, that every person, capitalists included, wants to do something for the good of other people.

The book describes two social business models as follows:

  • Type I – is a non-loss, non-dividend company devoted to solving a social problem and owned by investors who reinvest profits in expanding and improving the business.
  • Type II – is a profit-making company owned by poor people, either directly or through a trust that is dedicated to a predefined social cause.

Social business characteristics are outlined in chapter 1 and reinforced throughout the book. To paraphrase:

  1. The business objective is to solve a social problem not to maximize profit.
  2. The company needs to attain financial and economic sustainability.
  3. Investors only get back their initial investment, no dividends.
  4. After the investment is paid back, profits stay with the company for expansion and improvement.
  5. The company will be environmentally conscious.
  6. The workforce is paid market wages and has good working conditions.
  7. Do it with joy!!!

There is a lot of discussion about funding for social businesses including foundations, non-governmental organizations, joint ventures with for-profit companies, and people who want to invest in a company working for the common good.

An interesting dichotomy is what Yunus refers to as cross-subsidization, wherein, some people, those who can afford it, pay more for the same product that is sold to poor people at a lower price. This method enables a company to obtain funds to stay in business and provide a product to more affluent and poor people.

Yunus has been involved in the start up several social businesses and uses real-life examples to provide practical information and advice for people interested in starting one of their own.

The Bottom Line

Readers don’t need a business degree to understand the concepts shared in Building Social Business. It provides a viable alternative, perhaps more of a companion, to profit-driven businesses. I agree with Yunus, I believe people are both selfish and selfless. Perhaps it is time for some of us to give our selfless side more exercise.

I recommend Building Social Business to anyone interested in broadening their understanding of what business can achieve and an alternative way of measuring business success.

Yunus has previously written, Banker To The Poor, and Creating a World Without Poverty, which both look like worthwhile reads.

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