3p Contributor: Andrew Burger

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and across the Americas. Twitter: @mightysparrow LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email: Huginn.Muginn@gmail.com

Recent Articles

Smartphones Are Everywhere … But Where Are the Standards?

| Friday July 18th, 2014 | 2 Comments

electronics cord_thinkstockThe electronics industry has become the de facto face of innovation in the post- WWII era.

When it comes to sustainability in the electronics industry, much attention is being paid to e-waste and energy efficiency. However, there is much more to making a sustainable smart product in the 21st century. That’s why UL – Underwriters Laboratories – through UL Environment developed the UL 110 standard for mobile phones, tablets and other “smart” products.

The UL ISR 110 standard is points-based and devices that receive the certification must:

  • contain environmentally preferable materials;
  • be manufactured using environmentally and socially responsible practices;
  • be recyclable at end-of-life;
  • make use of recycled and recyclable packaging;
  • have minimal environmental impact;
  • have minimal human health risks;
  • perform efficiently; and
  • demonstrate innovation in sustainable manufacturing.

Mobile devices create a unique challenge from a sustainability certification perspective. They are complex pieces of equipment, contain metals that may have come from conflict regions and chemicals that may be harmful to human health; they are also difficult to recycle given the high number of components they include, and at the end of the day, each one only gets used for an average of 18 months.

Yet, creating a greener product can provide a competitive advantage, as Scot Case, UL Environment director of markets development, explained in a 3p interview.

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California, Massachusetts Top U.S. Clean Tech Rankings

| Friday July 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

CleanEdgeRptCvrCalifornia, Massachusetts and Oregon topped the ranking of U.S. states in terms of clean tech leadership, while three California cities – San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego – came out tops among U.S. metro areas, according to the latest edition of Clean Edge’s “2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index.”

Monitoring clean tech activities and conditions across all 50 U.S. states and the 50 largest U.S. metro areas, Clean Edge found that the improved performance and lower costs of clean technologies are prompting U.S. states and metro areas to tackle climate change head on.

“Climate disruption and the growing availability of market-competitive clean-energy technologies are driving many states and cities to tackle climate issues head-on,” Clean Edge founder and managing director Ron Pernick said in a news release.

“More than ever, this year’s Leadership Index highlights how some top regions are taking climate action seriously, with double-digit clean-energy adoption rates, new policies like California’s energy-storage mandate, and the deployment of clean-energy investment vehicles such as New York’s Green Bank.”

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CSR Asia Highlights the Benefits of Sustainable Palm Oil

| Tuesday July 8th, 2014 | 2 Comments

palmoilPromulgating the notion that they are developing “green” biofuels, the palm oil industry has actually been associated with a wide range of predatory business practices, extensive damage to ecosystems and biodiversity, and an abundance of air pollution and carbon emissions.

For more than 15 years, affected communities and environmental and public interest NGOs, as well as governments, have been pressuring palm oil producers to clean up their act. In a new white paper, CSR Asia, in partnership with Oxfam, examines the experience of ‘the little guy’ – smallholders participating in the palm oil value chain – with an eye towards instituting equitable, sustainable business practices industry-wide.

Focusing primarily on the work of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – which was established in 2003 to define and implement sustainable palm oil standards – CSR Asia focuses on “the certification of sustainable palm oil and the opportunities that this can provide for smallholders.”

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Fairtrade International Aims to Open Climate Finance to the Underserved

| Tuesday July 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments

fairtrademug With developing countries driving economic growth and energy use worldwide, adopting climate-friendly clean energy and sustainable development pathways in these nations has become a priority for the U.N., World Bank Group and other multilateral lending organizations, as well as governments, around the world.

Providing local small businesses, cooperatives and communities with streamlined, cost-effective access to international climate funds continues to be a major sticking point, however. Voluntary, private carbon offset credit systems providers and international organizations founded on principles of equitable, sustainable development have stepped into the breach, reaching out to communities with less in the way of capital, market access and other resources.

An example of this is a collaborative agreement between Fairtrade International and The Gold Standard. Joining forces to leverage and capitalize on their respective strengths, the two organizations on June 13 opened up the formative-stage Fairtrade Carbon Credits (FCC) Standard to an initial round of public consultation.

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‘Dragonfly’ Malware Highlights Vulnerability of Energy Infrastructure

| Friday July 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment

PowerLinesWith an explosion in the number of “smart” Internet-connected devices, it seems hardly a week goes by when we’re not reminded of the vulnerability of individuals, organizations and even entire societies to malware, online spying and cyber attacks.

In a whitepaper released June 30, Symantec Security Response reports on an ongoing, sophisticated, very possibly state-sponsored “cyber espionage campaign dubbed Dragonfly (aka Energetic Bear)” that managed to infiltrate information systems of “energy grid operators, major electricity generation firms, petroleum pipeline operators and energy industry industrial control system (ICS) equipment manufacturers.”

The majority of the victims were located in the U.S., Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey and Poland, according to a post on Symantec’s Managed Security Services Blog. As CNNMoney journalist Jose Pagliery noted in a July 2 news report, it seems the Cold War didn’t end with the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, it just moved into cyber space.

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Scientists Call for Holistic Tropical Coastal Zone Management

| Thursday July 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

More than 1.3 billion people worldwide – most in developing countries – depend largely on coastal marine zones them for food and livelihoods. These zones face declining health and productivity from pollution, overfishing and a myriad of other issues.

New regional-scale, science-driven approaches to governance of coastal marine zones need to be implemented in order to address the declining health and productivity of tropical coastal waters, according to a group of leading environmental and marine scientists.

Writing in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, 24 scientists from Canada, the U.S., the U.K., China, Australia, New Caledonia, Sweden and Kenya on July 2 called on governments and societies “to introduce and enforce use zoning efforts of Earth’s coastal ocean waters, mirroring approaches commonly used to manage and protect land resources.”

“[O]ne fifth of humanity — mostly in developing countries — lives within 100 km (62.5 miles) of a tropical coastline. Growing populations and worsening climate change impacts ensure that pressures on tropical coastal waters will only grow,” they warn.

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Indy Motor Speedway Completes World’s Largest Sports Solar Farm

| Thursday July 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

indy500logoRacing is a longstanding and hugely popular spring and summer tradition in the U.S. And when it comes to car racing events, they don’t get any bigger than the Indianapolis 500. The world’s largest single-day spectator sporting event, the Indy 500 covers 500 miles – 200 laps on the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval.

Built for speed and getting a whopping 3 miles per gallon, Indy racing cars conjure up what the American Chemical Society referred to as “images of gas-guzzling, pollution-belching environmental menaces” – not exactly “in tune” with a nationwide clean energy and energy efficiency drive.

As it turns out, the ethanol blends now being used in Indy race cars actually make their emissions cleaner than those of the cars Americans drive every day, however. That’s not all the organizers of the Indy 500 are doing to clean up their energy act.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 1 marked the opening of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) Solar Farm. Consisting of 39,312 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels ground-mounted along an under-utilized portion of the 1,000-acre campus, the 9-megawatt (MW) PV installation is the largest solar farm at any sporting facility in the world, according to an IMS press release.

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Global Ocean Commission Charts Course for High Seas Recovery

| Wednesday July 2nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

GarbageShoreCovering nearly 75 percent of the Earth’s surface, the ocean is the single largest ecosystem on the planet. From influencing weather patterns and climate trends and providing food, essential nutrition, livelihoods and recreation for billions to supplying the oxygen we breathe, it’s difficult to overestimate the influence of the ocean on the development, evolution and maintenance of life and human civilization.

Unfortunately, the health of the global ocean is in decline. “Habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, overfishing, pollution, climate change and ocean acidification are pushing the ocean system to the point of collapse,” according to an introductory letter from the co-chairs of the Global Ocean Commission.

“Governance is woefully inadequate, and on the high seas, anarchy rules the waves. Technological advance, combined with a lack of regulation, is widening the gap between rich and poor as those countries that can, exploit dwindling resources while those that can’t experience the consequences of those actions. Regional stability, food security, climate resilience, and our children’s future are all under threat.”

In “From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean,” the Global Ocean Commission Report 2014 puts forth a package of eight proposals that it believes can turn the tide and reverse the degradation of the global ocean within the next decade. That’s if the proposals are “expeditiously acted upon,” which is why the commission is also issuing “Mission Ocean,” a call to action for public and private sector leaders and concerned individuals the world over.

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Business Leaders Call on Congress to Extend Clean Energy Tax Credits

| Monday June 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments

GE1.7WindTurbine Business leaders are calling on Congress to take action and extend clean energy tax incentives. A total of 302 companies and business associations signed a letter urging Congressional leaders to vote ‘yes’ and pass the EXPIRE Act, which would extend the tax credits they say “are critical to the continued growth of clean energy technologies.”

Listed among the 62 tax incentives included in the EXPIRE (Expiring Provisions Reform and Efficiency) Act are renewable energy production and investment tax credits that have been seminal in fostering rapid growth in wind, solar, biofuels and other clean renewable energy sources across the U.S. The EXPIRE Act would extend these provisions for an additional year, through Dec. 31, 2015.

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Waste Heat Recovery a Path for Cement Makers to Cut Costs and Emissions

| Monday June 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments

IFCCementWHRCvr Widespread adoption of waste heat recovery (WHR) systems could drive substantial reductions in carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for cement manufacturers, according to a recently released report from the International Finance Corp. (IFC) and the Institute for Industrial Productivity (IIP).

The predominant building material of our times, cement manufacturing requires an inordinate of energy. It also produces an inordinate amount of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. It is estimated that cement manufacturing alone accounts for 5 percent of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions globally.

Prodded by environmental NGOs and government regulatory agencies, cement manufacturers have been on a drive to reduce their CO2 emissions, and they’ve made significant progress. Looking to add to them, installation of WHR systems “can reduce the operating costs and improve EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) margins of cement manufacturers some 10-15 percent. According to IFC-IIP’s “Waste Heat Recovery for the Cement Sector: Market and Supplier Analysis” report.

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The High Cost of Cheap Shrimp

| Thursday June 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment

ShrimpRptCvrThanks in large part to aquaculture, global shrimp production has increased by an average 13 percent per year since the 1980s. Prices have dropped nearly 30 percent. That’s turned shrimp from a luxury food item into one of the most popular and affordable seafood products in the world — and made shrimp aquaculture a lucrative and important industry in Asia and other developing regions.

While the benefits of lower prices and greater availability are clear for consumers to see, the social and environmental costs associated with shrimp aquaculture and fishing are often not. As a report from CSR Asia highlights, shrimp production as it’s being practiced today is associated with environmental degradation, excessive use of antibiotics and chemicals, and land grabs — not to mention scandals revolving around slavery and human trafficking.

In “Opportunities for Inclusive Business: A Case Study of the Shrimp Value Chain,” CSR Asia brings to light 10 key challenges facing the shrimp industry in three of the world’s leading shrimp producing nations, then goes on to identify “possible entry points and interventions for inclusive business opportunities.”

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Bill’s Passage Boosts California Distributed Energy and Storage

| Thursday June 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment

PNM_Prosperity_Energy_Storage_Project_picCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown signed a wide-ranging Public/Natural Resources trailer bill into law this past weekend. Among a host of significant new measures and amendments, Senate Bill 861 (SB 861) adds impetus to the California state government’s pioneering energy storage initiatives, which extend down from utility-scale energy storage mandates to incentives for small- and medium-sized companies to deploy intelligent solutions.

More specifically, enactment of SB 861 maintains annual funding of $83 million of California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), allocating a total $415 million in state funds to assure its operation through 2019. Run by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), SGIP provides “rebates for qualifying distributed energy systems installed on the customer-side of the utility meter.”

In addition to wind turbines, waste heat-to-power systems, pressure reduction turbines, internal combustion engines, micro turbines and fuel cells, qualifying SGIP technologies also include advanced energy storage systems, which are poised to play a significant role in the emergence of a clean energy ecosystem in California.

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Joule Assets Targets First $90 Million for Energy Efficiency Contractors

| Wednesday June 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

led-lit-bridgeJoule Assets on June 18 announced that it is targeting an initial $90 million of an anticipated $270 million in funding for 10 U.S. energy efficiency and demand response contracting companies.

Opening up the mid-tier energy efficiency and demand response markets to accredited investors across the U.S., co-founders Mike Gordon and Dennis Quinn launched Joule Assets’ Energy Reduction Assets (ERA) Fund in late January. The fund enables investors to earn a share of the returns generated by energy efficiency and demand response projects carried out among U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

“In a given year, a typical energy efficiency contractor may see $2 million to $3 million worth of projects stall due to a customer’s budget constraints for upgrades. The lines of credit from Joule Assets enable those small-to-mid-sized contractors to offer financing options, radically shortening sales cycles and extending their project pipelines,” Joule Assets stated in a press release.

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Germany Sets Three National Solar Records in Two Weeks

| Tuesday June 24th, 2014 | 4 Comments

8158394785_59dd13c524_zA core facet of Chancellor Merkel’s historic “Energiewende” clean energy transition, Germany has led the world in driving adoption of solar energy technology and systems. Although it is now pulling back hard on incentives, the market momentum created by its precedent-setting solar energy feed-in tariff (FiT) persists.

Three national solar energy records were set in Germany over the past two weeks. According to the Fraunhofer ISE solar energy research institute:

  • Solar met more than 50 percent of Germany’s total electricity demand for the first time;
  • A new solar peak power production record was set; and
  • Weekly total solar power output hit new highs.

That’s not all. With prospects for new, cheaper and more effective energy storage solutions improving, sales of solar power storage systems are “set to skyrocket in Germany,” according to German economic trade and development agency GermanyTrade & Invest

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1 Million Hectare Reforestation Project Planned for Panama

| Monday June 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

forest_carbon1_f A groundbreaking initiative launched in Panama highlights the role agroforestry can play in promoting sustainable socioeconomic growth, combating climate change and enhancing the value of ecosystems.

Establishing a precedent-setting alliance, ANCON (Panama’s Association for the Conservation of Nature), the Panama Association for Reforestation (ANARAP), and the Panama Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture (CCIAP) on June 17 announced a sweeping project that envisions forestation or reforestation of 1 million hectares (2.47 million acres) of land.

Dubbed the “Alliance for 1 Million,” the 20-year forestation project has three main goals: strengthen sustainable development of Panama’s forestry sector; help realize the goals elaborated in Panama’s National Forestry Plan; and help Panama meets its pledge to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions by capturing as much as 7 million metric tons of CO2 per year.

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