Last September, as Detroit residents were still in the midst of 80-degree summer weather, the city’s water department went to court. Its issue was the 27,000-some customers who were getting Detroit water but weren’t paying their bills.
As of March 2014, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) was missing about $175 million in water payments, almost $100,000 of that from residential customers who had lost their jobs or couldn’t afford the hefty water bill last summer. Residents were already paying an average of $64 per month water access. With an 8.7 percent increase in June, many unemployed residents and individuals on Social Security Income checks couldn’t afford water for cooking, washing and basic needs.
A number of solutions have been put forward to address the daunting problem facing roughly a billion people on this planet: a lack of clean, safe drinking water. Climate change is only making the problem worse. Some experts say that 50 percent of the global population will experience some form of water stress by 2030.
A large percentage of these people live near an ocean. Since 97 percent of the world’s water is found in the ocean, it makes sense to use sea water, if possible, as a source that can be purified or desalinated for drinking and cooking purposes. Although desalination tends to be energy-intensive and costly, it has inspired a number of recent improvements.
Another project in France uses wave power to generate mechanical pumping action that forces seawater through a set of reverse osmosis filters. A smaller, portable solution has been developed by a team at MIT. This system, which is primarily intended for disaster relief, features a set of solar panels, a water storage tank, a desalination pump and a filtration system.
A sea change is gathering in India as the country contemplates embracing the promise of solar-powered electricity.
You can see it at the ballot box, through the prism of international diplomacy and in the capital markets.
India, keep in mind, is among the top 10 economies in the world, is already the third largest electricity market globally and is second in population only to China. Its clean-energy growth potential is gigantic.
Grassroots support for energy reform is substantial, seen most recently — and in stunning fashion — earlier this month in the Aam Aadmi Party’s win in the Delhi state elections. It wasn’t just an unexpected setback for the ruling party but a jarring reminder that the masses of India have enormous clout. A central issue in the election was making electricity both more sustainable and more affordable for the poor. One way to do that: solar.
Christian Grande’s AbiFloat combines sleek design with next-gen sustainable living.
Perhaps fretting over climate change and rising ocean levels is a waste of time. After all, with over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface covered by water, there is plenty of room for floating communities to house the world’s population. It could eliminate the need for massive seawalls, skyrocketing insurance rates and a boost in hiring for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ideas for floating villages keep popping up, and why not? The automakers always tease us with concept cars, so why not have concept floating villages?
The latest idea is from famed yacht designer Christian Grande of Italy with his recently presented AbiFloat, which combines modular building and luxury. (Based on the size of his yachts, Grande already has designed a floating village.)
Combining the best ideas we’ve seen in the magazine Dwell and HGTV, Abifloat allows for “living in nature without borders,” and its homes’ designs would integrate into the local landscape, Grande said. The homes would be built out of lightweight and sustainable materials including aluminum, recycled plastic, straw and cork. Measuring 21 feet by 11 feet (6.5 by 3.25 meters), the structures could function as “modular reference points” and could be snapped together to make even bigger “superstructures.”
Earlier this month, DTE Energy announced a rate hike for LED lights. The decision sparked anger in Michigan city officials involved in municipal streetlight conversions, who would see their financial incentives for energy conservation diminish. At the same time, DTE plans to lower its rates on sodium lighting, which can use up to three times more electricity than LED.
In 2014 Ypsilanti, best known as the home of Eastern Michigan University, converted all 1,100 of its streetlights to LED — making it the first Michigan municipality to do so. City leaders worked with DTE Energy on the project and expected to see substantial annual energy savings. In the first year, the municipality’s DTE energy bill was 29 percent lower, saving $176,000. Now, with DTE’s proposed rate increase, Ypsilanti’s city leaders are seeing their expected savings disappear.
To pay for the streetlight conversion, Ypsilanti required all homeowners to contribute $114 per parcel, a fee that was hard for residents to swallow, but the city was sure would result in future savings. Now, city leaders feel misled by DTE, saying the company never mentioned the rate increase during the conversion project.
“We worked with DTE Energy for more than a year on the switch to LED streetlights and at no point in the discussion did they warn us that LED lights would cost more than old high-pressure sodium lights. If this rate hike happens, we’ll really feel like this was a bait and switch,” Ypsilanti City Council Member Brian Robb told MLive.
The Adidas Group made a big announcement this week: In 2014, the company sourced more than 30 percent of its cotton as Better Cotton, exceeding its original 25 percent target. That is the most sustainable cotton used in the company’s history.
The majority of the Better Cotton sourced by Adidas came from India, Pakistan and Brazil. The company will provide more information about its progress in its 2014 Sustainability Report, scheduled for release in April.
Adidas has set a goal to purchase 100 percent of the cotton it uses from sustainable sources by 2018. It aims to use 40 percent Better Cotton by 2015. The athletic wear brand’s goals on cotton are part of its overarching sustainability strategy, which includes a low-waste initiative.
Why is Adidas’ announcement so important? The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) serves as a way for companies to work with the cotton sector to create a more sustainable system. BCI’s Better Cotton Standard System includes a traceability system, and farmers in 19 countries are using it to produce Better Cotton.
Last week, the U.K. Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) launched a new campaign – ‘Power to Switch’ – to encourage domestic energy consumers to actively engage with the market and switch their energy to a better deal. Not only does this immediately benefit consumers with monetary savings, but it also has a number of long-term benefits, such as getting people involved and engaged with their energy usage. This will only promote an awareness of energy consumption, and contribute to sustainability in the long term. However, the campaign focuses solely on domestic energy customers and neglects to take businesses into account.
Given that around 60 percent of all energy in the U.K. is used by non-domestic consumers, it would stand to reason that getting business energy customers clued-up and involved with the energy market has the potential to make the changes that the government and industry authorities are calling for, while also having a huge impact on energy efficiency and sustainability. But, with the Power to Switch campaign firmly targeting domestic customers, businesses are being left out in the cold.
It seems there’s a need for some light to be shed on the commercial energy switching process, and why businesses stand to benefit by engaging. Read on to find out more.
A major press conference today featuring Bill McKibben and U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, as well as senior Sierra Club leaders, announced the launch of a new Congressional bill aimed at simultaneously addressing the issue of climate change with that of broad growth in the American economy.
The bill, HR 5721 or the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act, is an update of a bill introduced last year by Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland. It is, in essence, a cap and dividend plan that would collect gradually increasing fees on the “first sellers” of fossil fuels, with all of the proceeds being distributed equally to all American citizens. The fees would be collected as a limited number of pollution permits were sold at auction, and the dividends would be paid quarterly to every American with a social security number. The rationale behind this is that since we all are collective co-inheritors and co-trustees of the atmosphere, the polluters should be paying us for the right to use it as part of their business.
Social and environmental responsibilities are rarely at the top of mind when suppliers are racing to the bottom of the price curve. That’s why sustainability is hard to come by in commodity industries. But a small giant in New Zealand is changing all that, at least when it comes to wool.
Dave Maslen is global partnership and sustainability manager at the New Zealand Merino Co. (NZM). In this video interview (after the jump), he shares the story of how Merino brings traceable, sustainably-produced wool to market by working directly with farmers and the value chain. Traditionally, farmers sell their wool in the spot commodity market. This makes for fluctuating and unpredictable prices, and significantly impacts on the sustainability of both the grower and the value chain. To change this dynamic, NZM facilitates the purchase of wool from farmers through multi-year supply contracts, targeted at sustainable pricing for growers, value chain and brands alike.
In 2012, India set the record for the largest energy blackout in history, affecting more than 700 million people and exposing the weakness of the national grid. There are a handful of technologies that can deliver reliable power to a country like India that suffers from endemic power cuts — and rooftop-solar power is one of them.
While the potential for rooftop solar is vast, a lack of financing stifles many entrepreneurs’ efforts to provide local people with reliable solar power. Local banks are uninterested in funding this seemingly “new” technology, even though it’s been around since the 1970s. International lenders like the Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC) and the International Finance Corp. (IFC) could jumpstart the market by providing the initial funds, but they are stuck in the past paradigm of big centralized power plants. To catalyze the rooftop solar industry in India and beyond, international lenders need to develop a new framework to invest in small-scale solar projects.
Federal investigators have finally released the results of a year-long investigation into Duke Energy coal ash spills in North Carolina. Three U.S. attorney’s offices and the Department of Justice Environmental Crimes section, have filed charges against Duke Energy for dumping waste in a string of events that date back to at least 2010.
U.S. attorney’s offices for the western, eastern and middle districts of North Carolina each filed criminal bills of information last week in the district courts. The charges allege violations of the Clean Water Act that include unlawfully dumping coal ash and/or wastwater and failing to maintain onsite equipment at designated Duke Energy stations.
“I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can’t find anybody who can tell me what they want.” ― Mark Twain
The new year inevitably brings rumination about where we’ve been, contemplation about where we are going and predictions of future trends. This annual ritual can be overwhelming as our piles of prognostications and advice grows larger and the speed at which it accumulates accelerates.
Most of us enter the new year thinking about goals, and our default is to think about new goals and resolutions. Twain’s quote made me think that the continual push to the new might not be helping us get to our goals. It could be that the path to the peace and shared prosperity that we have wished each other as holiday tidings over the past couple of months — and that is central to the work of corporate responsibility professionals — might be more easily blazed if more of us spent less time thinking about the new ‘new thing’ and focused with greater intensity and determination on the old things that continue to be really important.
I continue to believe that the greatest opportunities for business will ultimately be for those who have the courage and discipline to set goals that extend beyond the fiscal quarter to long-term value-creation. If we lengthen the lens, the divergent interests of profit and sustainability become more convergent. Without this shift in perspective, the centrifugal force of our fast, volatile economy may spin all but the most centered off of the merry-go-round that is our economy. Those that maintained their grounded long-term perspective will have the competitive advantage of having developed their competitive attributes while having simultaneously improved their own operating contexts — and our world.
If you are looking for inspiration on how you might establish your own center, focus and goals, here are just three of the people I have been following who might also offer you inspiration. I think they are some of the most interesting voices in business over the last year. Here’s why they inspire me.
Sari workshop in Bhiwandi, India — the garment industry has a ways to go to improve its reputation on human rights.
Business and Human Rights Resource Center, a United Kingdom-based independent NGO, today released a new interactive platform that sheds more light on the effects multinationals and governments have on human rights. The organization’s data, the result of surveying 50 national governments and 72 companies, shows that while progress has been made, more work needs to be done.
The results are hardly surprising: Many respondents repeated the oft-heard notion that a complex supply chain and weak government enforcement pose challenges to businesses that say they are committed to human rights. But considering how some business sectors have a struggle with both their track records and perception that they are making progress on human rights, the nature of the organizations that did and did not participate are surprising.
With 2014 acknowledged as the hottest year on record, U.S.-based organizations are taking substantive measures to address climate change. They’re taking innovative steps to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reduce the resource-intensity of their operations, including selling carbon credits to fund clean energy projects on U.S. university and college campuses, and realizing more ambitious GHG emissions and pollution reduction targets.
On Feb. 24, the EPA announced the 2015 Climate Leadership Award winners, honoring “16 organizations and one individual representing a wide array of industries from finance and manufacturing to retail and technology” that have demonstrated “exemplary corporate, organizational and individual leadership in response to climate change,” EPA states in a press release.
New York: Feb 27 – Mar 1 EXPOSED 2015 EXPOSED is a three-day interactive food, wellness and social impact event in New York City Register here.
San Francisco: Mar 16 – Mar 18 Cleantech Forum San Francisco Cleantech Forum SF is the world’s largest summit for those immersed in sustainability that drives innovation. 3p readers use CFSF153P for $300 discount. Register here.
San Diego: Apr 16 – Apr 19 SVN Spring Conference Connect with likeminded business leaders and join TriplePundit in San Diego for the Social Venture Network's Spring Conference! Register here.
New York, NY: May 14 – May 16 Sustainable Cosmetics Summit Taking place in New York City on 14-16th May, the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit will showcase major developments in green ingredients, distribution, social and customer impacts. Register here.
San Diego: Jun 1 – Jun 4 Sustainable Brands 2015 Reinvent yourself in response to changing norms. The demand for brands to deliver purpose is soaring. Get a 20% discount with the code "NW3pSB15sd"Register here.
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