It seems like just yeterday that Gap and Nike were the pariahs of the ethical trading community. They’ve since been welcomed back into it, with Gap now being a member of the ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative). Nike, since revealing all of its global suppliers last month, is considering membership.
While it would be nice to believe these two transnational entities are pusuing CSR (Corporate Social Responsinbility) soley for the sake of human welfare, CSR has become a part of bottom line reality. Shaw Lebakae, of the Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers Union, said:
Gap had to change because its brand and image was being damaged. The people who it was selling to, American college students, were protesting against them because they didn’t want to support that image. Companies like Wal-Mart, which have no brand or image other than being the cheapest retailer, have no impetus to engage with trade unions in our country.
A new truck stop innovation is reducing both noise and air pollution, while saving truckers money. It’s also saving them sleep, as the sound of chugging diesel motors surrounding the trucker’s cab during sleep time is greatly reduced.
The invention is called IdleAir. It replaces the need to to leave big rigs running while stationed at truck stops in order to run air conditioning units and other appliances such as stoves, microwaves and TVs.
With an estimated 400 billion cups consumed annually, coffee beans are one of the most coveted agricultural commodities. Unfortunately, deforestation and loss of habitat are often associated with this market staple.
The BBC reports that some growers in El Salvador are using a method of cultivation which uses tall trees to provide shade. Up to 120 different tree species shade the coffee on a single plantation, Coffee shrubs are fertilized with organic compost made from husks that would otherwise be thrown into rivers. These techniques connect two prominent national parks via a green beltway, revitalize habitat, and decrease erosion. The article reports business owners were initially sceptical of the idea, but have since been won over with great enthusism. Co-op President Julio Antonio Martinez says:
I was one of the people that were against Rainforest Alliance because I didn’t like somebody coming into my house and telling me what to do, what to plant or what not to plant. But I realise now that they were giving me good advice. They were telling me plant trees so you will get water – without trees you don’t have rainfall, without rainfall you don’t have coffee.
Also reported on Worldchanging.
As reported by “Clean Edge”, Ford may be taking a more formidable approach to hybrid technology than ever before. Mary Ann Wright, Ford’s first director of sustainable mobility technologies, admits: “I’m not going to hide behind the line that [the large SUV] ‘is what our customers want.’ We have to balance that with our environmental responsibility as a company. Climate change is here, we aren’t denying it, and we’ve got to take action.” It’s not just a shift in climate that is motivating Ford. Strong sales with Ford’s Escape hybrid have shown the bottom line viability of alternative automotive technology. Read more…
A $300 million agreement has been reached between a semi-conductor corporation and SOLON AG, Germany’s largest photvoltaic module manufacturer. The product being supplied by SOLON AG is for their new “SOLON-Mover,” a system designed for deployment in multi-megawatt power plants. The system’s panels rotate and tilt automatically during the day, so that they directly face the sun at all times. This unique design, which allowins for increased power generation of up to 50%, makes these units viable for large power stations. Typically, solar technology is used to power individual units as opposed to centralized power stations.
Forgive us while we toot our own horn for a minute – Presidio World College, offering an innovative and accredited MBA program in Sustainable Management, will be receiving the 2005 Acterra Business Environmental Award for Environmental and Sustainability Education. The award will be given at Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto, CA. The Presidio MBA program specializes in a sector of business that is gaining increasing momentum: That which takes into account People, Profit, and Planet.
The May 2005 MIT Technolgy Review reports that up to 25% of additional energy added to Europe’s grid may come from wind. A multitude of factors must be considered when evaluating how to maximize this energy output, and contradicting theories exist among industry leaders. For instance, some feel that harnessing as much power as possible in an individual windmill is the best way to go in order to reduce the cost per kilowatt hour, and in order to do so, windmills must be built as big as possible. On the flipside of this argument is that if mechanical problems arise, they are more challenging to offset, because each individual unit is responsbible for a greater energy output. Numerous other cosideration abound. Read More…
Although, alternative technology needs not incoporate breakthrough principles into its design, new wind turbines are proving that innovation can indeed revolutionize the past. Spanish researchers are designing windmills with efficiency far greater than any horizontal axis windmill of old. One of the key advantages of this design is that the blades are located in the front rotation area and in the direction of the wind, and offer practically no resistance when blades are cycling through the generator’s return area. This allows the machine to harness available wind more efficiently. Read more.
An Engligh program called Changing Places, involving 500,000 volunteers and £57 million of investment, has been extended to complete its ambitious schemes. Already, some of Britain’s worst wastelands, derelict collieries, former chemical dumps, old quarries and industrial areas have been transformed into parks, wildlife areas, gardens and sports facilities. Rags to riches, one of the concepts in the American entrepreneurial spirit of pulling oneself “up by the bootstraps”, is in many ways synonomous with turning liabilities into assets. In this vein, it would seem a wonderful reinfusion of core American values to learn by example from this profound English project.
With gas prices skyrocketing, economic conversations often turn into furious complaint sessions pertaining to these rising costs. What is rarely considered is how ridiculously cheap gasoline actually is. Upon comparison to a relatively simple commodity such as Coca Cola whose supply is seemningly limitless, the tremendous impact government subsidies have on one of our most coveted resources is suddenly obvious. When gasoline prices are compared to other liquid products, Snapple comes out costing 5 times that of gas, with nasal spray topping the list at a whopping 230 times the price of gasonline. Free market rationale is without an explanation as to how such a contested resource that requires so much time and energy to mine, convert, and transport can be cheaper than compounds whose complexity is barely beyond combining water and sugar.
Electric cars, once the most promising automotive option for drivers wanting to get out from under the thumb of oil companies, are all but extinct. In fact, instead of offering former lessees the option of buying these cars, American automotive companies have refused to do so, with GM opting to take its EV1s out to the Arizona desert and crush them instead of letting their legend live on. Only Toyota has allowed their customers the option of buying these cars.
There are numerous theories as to why electric cars failed and American manufacturers seem so petrified to still have them on the street. Ideas range from the fear of being sued for lack of replaceable parts, to animosity on the part of automakers that California legislation mandated that major auto manufacturers build a certain number of polltuion free vehicles amidst clean air efforts.
The U.S. Transporation Department estimates a whopping 10,000 barrels of oil a day could be saved by extending daylight savings time by two months. The savings would come due to a decrease in electrical demands during daylit hours. In an attempt to offset skyrocketing energy costs, an ammendment stipulating this extension has already been approved by lawmakers. Hopefully the legislators invloved realize that the sun not only provides natural light, but also harvestable energy that could further offset rising costs.
The Department of Energy has come to an agreement with GM and DaimlerChrysler to develop hydrogen powered vehicles. The 4-state deal says that over the next five years, consumers will report back on the vehicle’s performance. In conjunction with the agreement, the DOE will provide $44 million for the project. One thing I can say for certain: If the Department of Energy offered me $44 million to develop fuel cells, I’d agree to it as well.
Today’s Forbes reports that Energy 1 Inc. is working on a Florida hydrogen initiative to convert orange peels to hydrogen. Orange peels, which comprise a significant portion of Florida’s solid waste, release the hydrogen-rich gas methanol. The project involves harvesting this methanol and using it for energy at a model interstate rest stop. It’s a win-win for the state of Florida, as one of their primary waste forms is converted from trash to electricity. In the process, a road show is created for millions of motorists demonstrating the power of hydrogen.
One never knows for certain how the world of tomorrow will shape itself. The closest we seemingly can come is peeking into the cutting edge technology of today. “Transmaterial” is a 186 page compendium of some of the most incredible designs in existence. Best of all, it’s available as a series of free PDF downloads.