EPA Proposes to Tighten Ozone Emissions Standard

| Thursday November 27th, 2014 | 0 Comments

epa mccarthy shutterstock_155024234On Nov. 26, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy took another step forward in the federal government’s three-plus decades long effort to improve air quality, and environmental and human health and safety, by driving further reductions in air pollution across the U.S.

Responding to “extensive recent scientific evidence about the harmful effects of ground-level ozone,” or smog, Ms. McCarthy announced: “EPA is proposing to strengthen air quality standards to within a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion (ppb) to better protect Americans’ health and the environment.” In addition, EPA said it is taking comments on tightening ozone emissions standards further, to 60 ppb.

“So, 60 is on the table for comment as well as consideration,” McCarthy stated in a conference call. “Now this is a proposal, so taking comments on a range of different outcomes is exactly how we’re supposed to do it, and I’m excited to get moving with the comment process because the conversation isn’t over. This is an opportunity for us to look at all of the science together.”

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Komaza Plants Sustainble Microforestry in Kenya

RP Siegel | Thursday November 27th, 2014 | 0 Comments

KomazaSometimes, what we don’t know can set us free. Visiting a foreign nation — and seeing local people struggle to eke out a living on arid and unforgiving land — can certainly move and inspire a bright young man, who has never heard “all the reasons things cannot change here,” to come up with a clever plan that may or may not work.

One need look no further than the example of the renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs (whose biography I recently finished) to see both sides of that story. Sachs had an ambitious plan to eradicate extreme poverty in Africa, which he threw himself into with all the considerable passion, talent and fundraising he could muster. And while his Millennium Villages Project did improve the lives of numerous families, it ultimately fell short of its ambitious goals for a number of reasons. Most notably it lacked a sustainable business model.

Tevis Howard traveled to Kenya and saw what Sachs saw, and he too became determined to do something about it. After coming up with numerous business plans, Howard settled on the idea of planting trees and founded Komaza, a Swahili word that means “to encourage growth.” This was a fortunate choice, likely inspired by Wangari Maathai, the founder of the Green Belt movement and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Maathai championed for human rights, democracy and conservation, all organized around the planting of trees.

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Climate Financing Drops in 2013, Driven Mainly By Falling Solar Costs

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday November 27th, 2014 | 0 Comments

solar panelsAnnual global climate flows last year decreased from 2012, according to a new report from the Climate Policy Initiative. The report, titled The Global Landscape of Climate Finance 2014, found that annual  global climate finance flows in 2013 totaled $331 billion, $28 billion less than 2012. However, public actors and intermediaries contributed $137 billion, almost unchanged from 2012.

It is not necessarily a bad thing that global climate finance flows decreased. The report cites the falling price of some renewable energy technologies, namely solar photovoltaics (PV), as the the main reason. Or as the report put it, “These cost savings mean that in some cases more renewable energy is actually being deployed for less investment.”

It cost $40 billion less in 2013 to achieve the same level of solar deployment than it did in 2012. About 80 percent of the decrease in private investment came from the falling prices of renewable technologies, particularly solar PV. If investment costs of solar PV had stayed the same in 2013 as they were in 2012, then the global climate finance flows total would have increased by $12 billion, according to the report.

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Hyundai and Kia Promise to Triple Number of Green Cars by 2020

Leon Kaye | Wednesday November 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment
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The Tucson Fuel Cell is only a start for Hyundai.

Hyundai and Kia recently pledged to increase their models of more fuel-efficient cars threefold by 2020. The announcement by the South Korean automakers comes on the heels of a massive settlement to which both companies entered into an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after they were accused of underestimating greenhouse gas emissions of over a million vehicles. Together the companies will pay $350 million in civil penalties to the U.S. government. A week later, both Kia and Hyundai said they would offer more green cars by the end of this decade.

According to Reuters, both companies will also increase their total of fuel efficient cars to a minimum of 22 cars before 2020. That boost is in part due to investors complaining not only about the huge fine paid to the EPA, but also because of Hyundai’s most recent Genesis and Kia’s Soul offering a lower fuel mileage than previous models.

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Mercedes Conceptualizes Solar Paint

3p Contributor | Wednesday November 26th, 2014 | 8 Comments
Mercedes Vision G Code

Mercedes Vision G Code.

By Roselin Dey

One of the first car brands that comes to mind when we think of luxury and style is Mercedes. In fact, so much has the brand’s popularity grown over the past few years, that it overtook BMW with the sales crown in the luxury auto segment in 2013.

And now, Mercedes might just bring about the next revolution in sustainable mobility.

Imagine a car with an innovative paint job that can enable it to run on solar as well as wind energy. Well, this could possibly come true with the latest concept car by Mercedes, unveiled in Beijing earlier this month at the opening of a new research and development center.

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Video: Jacques-Philippe Piverger of MPOWERD Talks Diversity at Net Impact ’14

| Wednesday November 26th, 2014 | 0 Comments

JP “The topic of diversity is thrown around quite a bit. I think oftentimes we don’t fully appreciate or understand what it’s really about,” Jacques-Philippe Piverger, co-founder and CEO of MPOWERD, said at the 2014 Net Impact conference last month.

“Diversity comes down to the core topic of appreciation and love, and fully accepting all people for all that they are and the way that they operate,” he continued. “Whether it’s about your personal relationships or a business that one creates, I don’t think it can reach its full potential unless we’re really open and accepting of others.”

As part of our Talking Diversity video series, Piverger goes on to make the business case for diversity and explain why it matters to MPOWERD, a New York City-based company providing solar solutions to customers on and off the grid, in this two-minute clip.

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VW on Track to Meet 2018 ‘Think Blue. Factory.’ Sustainability Goals

| Wednesday November 26th, 2014 | 0 Comments

vorschau1 From the boardroom and executive suite through the ranks of management, down to the factory floor and across its global network of dealers and suppliers, Volkswagen AG (VW) has been at the forefront of auto industry efforts to make ecological sustainability and social responsibility a strategic motivating force.

On Nov. 18, VW announced that its ‘Think Blue. Factory.‘ environmental sustainability program is on track for success. Per Think Blue. Factory’s targets, a total of some 5,000 individual measures are to be taken by 2018 as VW aims to reduce energy and water consumption, as well as waste, carbon dioxide (CO2) and solvent emissions, across all its factories 25 percent.

VW has already carried out more than 2,700 environmental sustainability projects at its factories, resulting in production processes that are 17 percent “more environmentally compatible over the past three years,” according to a team of more than 250 environmental experts that conducted an interim evaluation of VW’s ecological sustainability program.

A few days later, on Nov. 21, VW Group announced that it would invest €85.6 billion (~US$106.46 billion) to develop “new models, environmentally friendly technology and production facilities over the coming five years.” Around two-thirds of the total will be invested in developing “increasingly efficient vehicles.

“We will continue to invest in the future to become the leading automotive group in both ecological and economic terms – with the best and most sustainable products,” Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, VW AG chairman of the Board of Management, stated during an address at VW headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.

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Healing After Typhoon Haiyan Through Basketball

Presidio Sports
Presidio Sports | Wednesday November 26th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing student blogging series entitled The Business Of Sports & Sustainability. This “micro-blog” is the product of the nations first MBA/MPA certificate program dedicated to sustainability in the sports industry. You can follow the series here.

A reclaimed basketball court in Tacloban, Philippines, six months after Typhoon Haiyan.

A reclaimed basketball court in Tacloban, Philippines, six months after Typhoon Haiyan.

By Ny-Ann Nolasco

On Nov. 8, 2013 Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines with winds reaching 280 kilometers per hour (175 mph). It was not only the 30th storm to hit the country in 2013 alone, but it was also the strongest storm recorded. More than 6,300 of our people, our teammates, died. People who’ve never heard of climate change are now all too aware of its impacts. Nearing the first anniversary of this catastrophic disaster, I would like to remember the lives lost and the role of basketball in rebuilding lives.

Shaquille O’Neal, then center for Los Angeles Lakers, jersey #34, came to visit the Philippines in 1997 and was quoted as saying that he found no other place in the world who loved basketball as much as Filipinos do. And it’s true; it has always been both a pastime and an obsession. Basketball is something Filipinos do without a court, without being taught the rules of the game, or a care if they’re any good at it. Basketball is a part of life. Basketball hoops are one of the few items that will never reach landfills in the Philippines because there is always someone ready to take a free hoop. If none is available, any circular object that resembles a hoop will do. Even wire hangers are sometimes reshaped and repurposed as basketball hoops.

In recent years, basketball has also become a forum for healing, bringing laughter and glee in the wake of a lineup of worsening natural disasters. It surprises foreign journalists such as Todd Pittman, who wrote in “Signs of life amid misery reveal Filipino’s spirit” that basketball hoops are usually one of the first, if not the first, structure to come up after a storm. Pittman writes, “As a foreign correspondent working in the middle of a horrendous disaster zone, I didn’t expect to see people having a good time — or asking me to play ball. I was even more stunned when I learned that the basketball goal was one of the first things this neighborhood rebuilt … It took a moment for me to realize that it made all the sense in the world.”

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U.K. Supermarkets Change Newspaper Display Stands After Social Media Protests

Leon Kaye | Wednesday November 26th, 2014 | 0 Comments
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No More Page 3 invites users to submit artwork to protest retailers’ newspaper displays.

One of the curiosities of visiting the United Kingdom is to gape and guffaw at newspaper displays while walking around town. After all, the content in tabloid displays, thanks to such fine publications as The Sun, Daily Mirror and Star, make American tabloids look like Reader’s Digest. But not everyone is amused, including the advocacy groups Child Eyes and No More Page 3, and they in turn launched successful social media protests. Some of Britain’s largest supermarkets then took notice.

Both organizations claimed victory as supermarket chains Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose have announced they will alter their newspaper displays so that they are no longer in the line of sight of children. The U.K. government recently passed new guidelines over how retailers should display newspapers after commissioning a report that attacked the country’s overly sexualized “wallpaper” surrounding children, but the largest chains in the country continued to display magazines and newspapers in full view of all customers.

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Video: Judith Weisinger of Mills College Talks Diversity at Net Impact ’14

| Wednesday November 26th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Judith “Given all of the corporate crises [we’ve seen] over the past several decades, it’s important for businesses to step up and emphasize ethics and socially responsible leadership,” Judith Weisinger, associate professor of business at Mills College, said at the 2014 Net Impact conference in Minneapolis last month.

“The demographics suggest that the nation is becoming increasingly multicultural, and the nexus between business and society is ever-increasingly important. Therefore, an emphasis on diversity is really imperative,” she continued. “It’s not really an option anymore.”

As part of our Talking Diversity video series, Weisinger goes on to explain how diversity matters at the Mills College Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Management, where she teaches the new generation of business leaders, in this 90-second clip.

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Renewable Energy ‘Poop Bus’ Begins Operating in the U.K.

Bill DiBenedetto | Wednesday November 26th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Bio-Bus_Press_1 (640x463)Here’s a new renewable energy twist on the old bumper sticker — circa the 1970s oil crisis — “Eat More Beans, We Need the Gas!” Take the “Poop Bus!”

Today, that’s not so silly or outlandish, because public transport powered by human waste and sewage could be coming to a bus stop near you before too long. In fact there’s one operating now in the U.K. on a trial run basis.

Billed as the “next big trend in sustainable energy,” according to The Guardian, the U.K.’s ‘Bio-Bus’ runs entirely on biomethane gas generated through the treatment of sewage, as well as food waste that’s unfit for human consumption. The waste and sewage is treated at a plant run by the recycling and renewable energy company GENeco. The 40-seat Bio-Bus can travel up to 186 miles on one tank of gas, which takes the annual waste of around five people to produce.

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General Mills Announces New Water Conservation Efforts

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday November 26th, 2014 | 0 Comments

cerealGeneral Mills Chairman and CEO Ken Powell declared the company’s commitment to water conservation at the the Nature Conservancy (TNC) Global Water Summit in Chicago last week. Powell talked about the company’s efforts of “uber-collaboration” with stakeholders to improve watersheds around the world.  General Mills aims to preserve freshwater supplies in particular.

“As a food company, food security is important to us, and we’re tied tightly to nature,” said Powell in a statement. “We know that without healthy water for land, ecosystems and wildlife, agriculture simply does not work. Businesses languish. Economies falter. People suffer.”

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What Defines a Social Innovator Anyway?

3p Conferences
| Tuesday November 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 8.53.55 PMBy Maura Dilley

Conferences that explore emerging thought leadership are an enjoyable place for a cultural ethnographer. We understand the world through common language, metaphors and reference points. When you’re making something new, like social innovation, you invite an intellectual struggle to organize ideas in our collective mind. Results being the occasional euphoria of a new idea, as well as the confusion of speaking at crossed purposes. The spectrum of self-identified social innovators on parade at the Social Innovation Summit Silicon Valley 2014 gives up much for study.

Understanding the spectrum of self-identified social innovators

First, we have “social innovation natives” like Kiva, Code for America and DonorsChoose.org. In my mind, these organizations define social innovation; they are dedicated to designing products, services and, indeed, companies that fundamentally improve society by re-designing its operating systems. Social innovation is their modus operandi. And there “social innovation re-modelers” — companies, foundations and philanthropists very large and somewhat small, drawn to identify with social innovation for a variety of curious reasons. Parsing these out was an entertaining exercise.

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A True ‘Plug-and-Play’ PV System is Closer Than You Think

| Tuesday November 25th, 2014 | 9 Comments

Fraunhofer CSE plug and play PV systemBack in the spring of 2012, the Energy Department announced a $5 million, five-year initiative aimed at producing a true rooftop ‘plug-and-play’ photovoltaic system, meaning a solar panel that you could pick up at your local building supply store, plant on your roof, and have it soaking up the photons all within the same day.

The concept of a solar appliance that is just as easy to install as any other appliance sounds reasonable enough, but the residential and small business solar market faces a unique set of obstacles. We’ve been covering plug-and-play PV developments since at least 2009, and generally speaking they still involve more time and effort than, say, installing a new fridge.

That’s partly because retail solar systems are relatively new. Standardization is just beginning to emerge, and in the meantime solar customers have to put a lot of elbow grease into the process.

Contrast that with the rest of the retail appliance industry: It is a mature field with a firm platform of standardization, which accounts for why you can buy practically any kind of new stove from just about anywhere without having to think about getting special permits or making other special arrangements.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a new plug-and-play system, developed by the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSE) with funding from the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, and see how close we are to a true plug-and-play system for solar.

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Video: Tawanna Black of Northside Funders Group Talks Diversity at Net Impact ’14

| Tuesday November 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Tawanna Black Headshot- Bus.“Simply having diversity does not produce results for the bottom line,” Tawanna Black, executive director of Northside Funders Group, said at the 2014 Net Impact conference last month.

“We’ve known that just mixing people up one way or another doesn’t actually produce results — in fact, sometimes it creates more conflict and more challenges that may hinder business sustainability and growth. But inclusivity does.”

The concept of moving beyond diversity to inclusion came up several times in our Talking Diversity video series. In this two-minute clip, Black makes the business case for going that extra step to ensure inclusivity and why it’s important to allow employees to bring their “whole selves” to work.

“Americans spend more time at work than anywhere else,” Black noted, “so why wouldn’t we want [our workplaces] to be places that we enjoy?”

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