Susan and CALC participate in the NYC “People’s Climate March”

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From left to right: Susan Labandibar of Tech Networks of Boston, Laury Hammel of the Longfellow Clubs, Bob Master of Commonwealth Care Alliance

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Susan Labandibar of Tech Networks of Boston and the Climate Action Liaison Coalition (CALC) were in New York City this past weekend for the “People’s Climate March”. They were among 400,000 people marching and calling for action against climate change. Early reports suggest this was the largest climate march in history!

This was a precursor to very important decision-making on Tuesday at the 2014 UN Climate Summit. The UN is meeting to come up with a plan for a new global climate treaty that would be signed at the end of next year. 140 world leaders, including President Barack Obama, are expected to discuss ways to tackle the growing threat of carbon pollution. CALC’s Executive Director Quinton Zondervan and Program Director Michael Green will also be in attendance.

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This is a timely matter as a report was released yesterday showing greenhouse gas emissions were up last year, proving we are not doing enough to stop climate change.

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How does your business lead the way in sustainability?

Did you know a lot of your company’s carbon footprint is from traveling to work? Many companies are transforming their business models to embrace energy efficiency or resource management.

Tech Networks of Boston has an electric vehicle, the Mercedes Smart available for company use. We also offer employees an MBTA program in which we reimburse half of their MBTA pass. These perks save our company travel expenses going to and from client sites, and are great incentives for employees to stick to using public transportation.

At TNB we are investing in clean energy through renewable offsets, cutting down on our waste stream, and purchasing new lighting technologies to make our building more energy efficient.

What are your favorite ways to increase your organization’s sustainability? Send your stories to marketing@techboston.com or comment here!

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CALC leading the charge against the rising flood levels with Boston Businesses Acting on Rising Seas

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As CALC looks forward, we see a future for Massachusetts and our small businesses impacted by rising seas. For this reason, we are joining our partners at the American Sustainable Business Council to spearhead the project Boston Businesses Acting on Rising Seas. This project follows from ASBC’s work with South Carolina Businesses Acting on Rising Seas (SCBARS). This project will engage Massachusetts’ coastal businesses and municipalities to demonstrate the ultimate physical and economic consequences of climate change and rising sea levels, as articulated in a recent report from The Boston Harbor Association. The businesses will publicly display where sea level rise will reach by the year 2050 in a 100-year flood on the interior and exterior of their buildings. Through their engagement, businesses will take a step towards engaging the in advocacy necessary to mitigate and adapt to the change the science shows is coming. They will begin by sparking the conversations in their communities, and hopefully join CALC in taking action and advocating for robust policy at the municipal and state levels.

Susan Labandibar speaks at CommonBound Conference June 8th

Susan spoke at the CommonBound conference on June 8th about technology’s role in the new economy. This topic encompasses our strategic priority of contributing to the missions of organizations that improve our community. Susan highlighted that as the economy changes, you must also evolve the way you use technology, such as TNB using technology to create successful collaborations.

One example of the new economy creating opportunities for technology is the creation of B Corporations. Tech Networks of Boston was recently granted B Corp certification, which legally allows a company to prioritize mission over money. The government is realizing that encouraging businesses to put community before profit increases innovation for the greater good. Information Technology is becoming more and more useful for building community and the CommonBound Conference was a perfect showcase for the like.

CommonBound 2014 is the New Economy Coalition’s largest and most significant convening yet. This conference showcased a wide variety of new economy strategies, and participation from organizations such as the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, Demos, Climate Justice Alliance, Shareable, PolicyLink, and more.

To learn more about the New Economy Coaltion (NEC) visit neweconomy.net.

Here is her full speech:
“ What is the new economy? It’s human scale, resourceful, restorative and compassionate. Just like in colonial times, it’s profoundly DIY and it’s profoundly democratic. But unlike colonial times, it is built on highly sophisticated technology that is so simple to use and so affordable, that almost everyone can use it.
Why is this so important to the development of the new economy? Well, let’s step back for a second and let me tell you that we already know how to live within our planetary means, even with a population of more than 7 billion people. All we need to do is reduce the standard of living worldwide to that of the average citizen of Bangladesh. Now that doesn’t sound so appealing. The new economy is more than just the democratization of technology, but let me tell you, there is no way we’re going to build durable economies without it.
The democratization of technology has had profound implications on the business I work in, Tech Network of Boston. Tech Networks is an IT services company that started twenty years ago delivering used computers to inner city college students. When computers became cheap and ubiquitous, we shifted our focus to maintaining computer networks for local area non-profits. Then, guess what happened? The same thing. Email, shared files and applications began to move to the cloud. Software in particular became so easy and cheap to use that almost anyone could download and install them on their phone. So then we started helping people use technology to collaborate.
For three years now, our mantra has been: “We’re Better Together.” And over time, we’re learning how to build even more powerful collaborations and break down silos. Some people think that we earn our living by maintaining servers and building network infrastructure, but that’s becoming less relevant. We are helping non-profits use information technology to serve their employees and their constituents, to scale in size and impact, and to innovate.
But Tech Networks, like so many other social enterprises today, is itself an innovative organization that defies traditional labels. We’re a Certified B Corporation on the road to becoming a Massachusetts Benefit Corporation. That means that we are legally allowed to prioritize mission over money. Thank God. If I had investors they would have fired me a long time ago!
Our mission, like the new economy itself, is complex. In the new economic ecosystem there are no clear boundaries. Yes, we enable positive change in the world by helping non-profit organizations take advantage of IT. But we have many other relationships within the community, including our IT community of practice, our workforce development partnerships, and our initiatives outside the IT field, like Southie Trees which focuses on maintaining and expanding tree coverage in South Boston, and the Climate Action Liaison Coalition, which enables businesses to take action against climate change.
Tech Networks is extremely grateful that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has created a legal status for businesses like ours. But there is so much more that government could do to encourage the growth and development of the new economy. For the last thirty years, the City of Burlington Vermont has explicitly followed an economic development plan that features government, small businesses and non-profit organizations working together to build a durable economy that meets the needs of all residents. It’s my hope that cities and towns across the nation will take notice of the success that Burlington has achieved by following this model.
I’m going to wrap up with a story with a personal story about government, the new economy, and an opossum in a trash can. One of the crowning achievements of the Department of New Urban Mechanics at the City of Boston was the “Citizens Connect” iPhone app. Whereas, prior to the app, City of Boston employees used to drive around the City, looking for potholes and other problems, the Citizens Connect application allows any smartphone user to snap a picture of a broken street light, pothole, or other annoyance and automatically report the location to the City. There is also a Twitter feed, so people can follow along as the problems are reported and fixed. I had just downloaded the app after learning about it at a neighborhood association meeting. I was bored, it was 11:00 on a Friday night in the middle of winter. I clicked on a few pictures of potholes, and then I saw a picture of a red trash can with something in it.
The accompanying text was: “Possum’ in my trash can. Can’t tell if it’s dead. How do I get this removed.” I got on my coat, walked ten minutes to the trash can location, and, sure enough, there was an opossum trapped in a trash can. 15 minutes later, I filed the return tweet: “Possum? Check. Living? Yep. Turned the trash can on its side. Walked home. Good night, sweet possum.”
Talk about “We’re Better Together” When citizens, businesses, and governments work together, you never know what can happen. Sometimes, you might even save an opossum.”

 

Boston Businesses Against Rising Seas Launch Event: Climate Adaptation for Small Businesses

The rising sea levels in Boston have been a rising concern in recent months. Businesses are realizing they need to put climate change in their business plans and take precautionary measures to protect their data.

Please join us June 24th, as Tech Networks of Boston, the Climate Action Liaison Coalition and the City of Boston launch the Businesses Acting on Rising Seas (BARS Boston) program. Tech Networks of Boston’s President Susan Labandibar, and other key speakers will focus on specific steps business can take to prepare for rising sea levels and other anticipated climate disruptions, including moving data storage to the cloud to improve business continuity.

The BARS Boston launch event will take place on June 24th, 2014 from 6:00-8:00pm at the District Hall in Boston, MA and you can register here. This event is free and open to the public.

Check out these scenes of how the rising sea levels will eventually impact our city! We hope you will join us!
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Make the transition to a Cloud based environment to combat Climate Change

Threats from extreme weather can cause a real disruption to small businesses. Research conducted by the American Sustainable Business Council  has shown that small businesses are highly vulnerable yet a majority are not taking the proper steps to increase their preparedness. Since many small businesses only have one location, an event that prevents customers, vendors and employees from accessing the building can result in significant lost business. Even more damaging, having centralized data can threaten a business’s security by temporary power loss, or worse, power spikes and flooding could lead to a complete loss of your customer information and any improperly backed up data.

Many coastal cities on the Eastern seaboard are preparing for storm surges and other impacts associated with rising sea levels and extreme weather.  This calls for small businesses to plan ahead and make sure they are not vulnerable the next time extreme weather hits. We recommend you to move your company’s data off site by using Microsoft’s 365 cloud platform. This will remove the need for any onsite server, reducing your vulnerability as well as your energy costs. Microsoft will back you and your customers’ data to their network of servers, allowing it to be out of harm’s way and allowing you access from anywhere.

Small businesses can also increase their extreme weather preparedness by guaranteeing access to the internet. Having more than one viable point of connection provides an alternative when extreme weather brings their main line of connection down. Towerstream is a leading wireless service provider delivering advanced, reliable, high-speed internet access to businesses at a lower cost than traditional providers. They guarantee 99.99% network availability through their Service Availability Guarantee and have built their infrastructure to withstand any extreme weather events.

A secure business is a prepared business. Let Tech Networks initiate your company to be proactive in making the transition to a cloud based environment, and use Towerstream to prevent any future obstacles for your IT department. Having a reliable, secure, updated network will keep your company ahead of the curve and operating at its full potential.globe

Extreme Weather and the Small Business Bottom Line

Five foot storm surge in Boston

 

Water, water everywhere!

If the last thirty years are any indication of the future, it looks like Boston could be in for more flooding.  Sea levels in Boston are rising at three to four times the global average1.  Annual precipitation has increased ten percent.2 -The amount of rain that falls during severe weather events has increased 74%3  What does this mean for our small business community?

In conjunction with the American Sustainable Business Council , the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts and A Better City, we are pleased to present “Extreme Weather Events and the Small Business Bottom Line.” Boston’s leading climate adaptation experts will  brief the small business community on possible near-term climate change effects in our city.

  • How does climate change create risks for Boston’s small business community?
  • How does the City of Boston plan to protect property, road access and municipal services during severe weather events?
  • What measures can you take to protect your business and educate your employees?

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The cost of this event has been generously underwritten by The American Sustainable Business Council.  Your $15 donation will benefit CALC. Please click here to download the invitation or click here to register.

To download the full invitation, please visit here!

 Brought to You By

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CALC-ulated Action to End the Climate Crisis

CALC Pic from Boston TechieIn January, TNB launched a new project: The Climate Action Liaison Coalition (CALC). We saw an unoccupied niche in the climate movement: small to medium sized local businesses taking targeted action to end the climate crisis. CALC is for companies who recognize that climate change is both a major threat to financial well-being and an opportunity to build a new economy based on restoring our environment and fixing our future.

In the United States, businesses are key participants in shaping public policy on environmental issues. Climate Action Liaisons work within businesses to help them meet the challenges and opportunities of climate change. Liaisons educate employees, empower leaders to advocate directly for policy solutions, and collectively influence the business community’s position on climate change issues. Working with organizations such as Citizen’s Climate Lobby, Sierra Club and 350 Massachusetts, CALC’s goal is to recruit five businesses by July 1st. Recently, Spencer Organ Company, a group that services organs in many of Boston’s churches, has hired Richard Cutler, a volunteer with The Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps, as their Climate Action Liaison.

Click here to view the full Boston Techie newsletter.

Southie Trees and Climate Change

On Wednesday, November 7th,  I arrived in New York City and stepped into the midst of the freak snow storm that came in on the heels of Hurricane Sandy.  I was caught off guard by the snow.  But I wasn’t nearly as unprepared as the London Planetrees, the Honey Locusts, and the Norway Maples whose leaves were still on their branches when Sandy and the snow hit.

As I jogged through the snow the next morning, it became very clear that there were hundreds of  downed trees in the five boroughs.  Irreplaceable street trees had failed to shed their leaves in time, leaving their great heavy boughs vulnerable to the ponderous weight of the wet snow.  Others couldn’t survive the heavy winds.  Here muddy spring-like conditions were the culprit.  Without being anchored in deep-frozen ground, the trees pitched over, their twisted roots torn from the soil.

The situation in the local cemetery was no better.  Trees meant to shade graves for generations to come were toppled over tombstones like soldiers on a civil war battlefield.  For someone who knows the effects of climate change on trees, it was a sobering sight.  Pollution, road salt and soil compaction are responsible for claiming the life of an average street tree within seven to fifteen years.   A warming climate will increase the burden of insect infestations, season shifts, droughts,  and violent storms on all trees, including those that create our urban canopy.

Hurricane Sandy was a wake up call for many of us.  But for me, it was about the trees.  In the months preceding my trip to NY,  I had begun to question some of my assumptions about how I could best leverage Tech Networks resources to preserve our environment.  When I started Southie Trees as a “do gooder” program with one full-time employee

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working at Tech Networks of Boston, I imagined us working with volunteers to  preserve heritage trees and plant new ones for future generations.   The program exceeded most people’s expectations.  We rescued trees in parks, on streets and in housing projects.  We helped all kinds of neighborhood groups apply for grants for new trees and organized volunteers to plant and water them.  We educated kids in schools, cleaned up tree pits, and appeared in a documentary film about trees in South Boston.

Back in storm-ravaged New York, I spent one evening at an old armory in Brooklyn where displaced seniors from Far Rockaway were lying on cots, waiting for the flooding to subside.   At 2:00AM, as I journeyed back to my sleeping place, I made my decision.  For me, Southie Trees was not the right point of intervention in the system.  As fast as we planted trees, we were losing them.  With climate change in the picture, we were never going to meet our goal of improving the tree coverage in South Boston.

“You have to lead from where you are.”  That’s what Craig Altemose, founder of the Better Future Project, told me a few months ago.  Suddenly, it made sense to me.  I’m a small business owner.  I’ve spent the last 18 years working with small businesses and small non-profit organizations.  While there are many rewards to being a small business owner, ample free time is usually not one of them.  Like other small business owners, as I grew my business, I hired people to do what I no longer had time to do.  What if I were to hire someone full-time to advocate for a real solution to climate change?  Now the question is:  Are there other businesses like mine who would gladly include one percent of sales if they believed that their actions were key in the fight against climate change?

We started the Climate Action Liaison Coalition to answer that question.  The momentum behind the program is rapidly building.  Very soon, it will be apparent to all that there are many business owners today who are ready to step up and take action.  We look forward to working with them.

I’m sure you are wondering what happened to Southie Trees.  Our “do gooder” program is alive and well.   Thank you, Donna Brown and the South Boston Neighborhood Development Corporation, for taking over the funding the program.  We also owe a debt of gratitude to  Bethany Lawlor, the Southie Trees program coordinator, who kept it going.  Bethany now works for SBNDC.

Southie Trees: A Year in Review

2012 was a year of achievement and successful advocacy for Southie Trees.

Spring projects included mulching and planting flowers along Broadway and the planting of 11 trees through the Grow Boston Greener Grant. During the summer, a Water-A-Tree Program was implemented, a deep root feed was held on Castle Island with Jason Mraz, and a survey of the street trees on West Broadway was conducted. In the fall, we planted trees with Excel High and South Boston Catholic Academy.

Southie Trees - Tree Planting

In all, Southie Trees planted 14 trees, mulched and cared for over a hundred more, and increased community involvement in preserving trees.

In light of Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events, Tech Networks has decided to redirect its efforts to tackle the broader issue of climate change in 2013. Going forward, we are grateful to Donna Brown and South Boston Neighborhood Development Corporation for sustaining the Southie Trees program. For more information, email southietrees1@gmail.com.