We’ve all seen the pictures, we’ve all heard the horror stories. We know about the 25% unemployment rate, the unsolved crimes; we know there’s not a single chain grocery store within the city limits. Detroit is depicted as the picture of dystopian America. But not everyone sees it that way. Plans to revitalize it surface emerge from time to time, but all the while, the 800,000 residents who remain have begun quietly transforming their own city, with small urban farms.
Now, financier John Hantz, a Detroit resident, is pushing a plan to convert large tracts of abandoned land within the city limits into a large urban farm. Hantz wants to use $30 million of his estimated $100 million personal fortune to establish farms that would sell produce locally and elsewhere, while helping to cut the city’s 25% unemployment rate.
Why a farm? Well, why not?
You might have read about the Pope’s recent (slight) revision of the Catholic Church’s stance on condom-use — a stance with far greater impact in the developing world than elsewhere. In a case of near-perfect timing, Sir Richard’s Condom Company has entered the market, promising to donate one condom to the developing world for every condom sold. The company is billing itself as “the world’s first sell-one, give-one condom company.”
But Sir Richard’s advantages don’t stop there. The company, based in Boulder, Colorado, (no relation to Sir Richard Branson) has taken the sustainable route wherever possible. The packaging is 100% recyclable, the condoms themselves are vegan, and the founders are working towards earning Fair Trade and FSC certification. Even the foil wrapper is well-designed, in a distinctive plaid — in fact, you might not be embarrassed to have one fall out of your wallet.
But company founder Mathew Gerson is concerned with more than the production end of his product.
Back in June, CDM Watch, a monitoring group, alleged that up to one-third of all the carbon emission reduction credits issued by the CDM may be fraudulent. According to CDM Watch, the CERs for HFC-23, which is a potent byproduct of coolant manufacturing, were collected by 19 companies in India, China and South Korea that artificially increased their emissions in order to receive CERs from bringing their HFC-23 emissions back down to normal levels. Under the program, factories can receive credits for up to a decade.
In response to the allegations, the Executive Board placed a number of the suspect projects under review, and recommended revisions to their HFC-23 reduction standards, acknowledging that the suspect projects may have “overestimated” [video] their reductions. The Board claims that without the CDM, factories producing the gas may have been replaced within seven years. “CDM does not provide incentive to close down the plant,” the Board ruled.
And the board has now approved new CER issuances to 17 of those projects.
The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), the U.S.’s only emissions credit exchange, will close shop by year’s end, citing a lack of legislative interest. While voluntary, the exchange was legally binding, and counted among its members Dupont, Motorola and IBM.
The exchange suffered a blow when it became clear no meaningful climate legislation would make it through the Senate, and this month’s elections sealed its fate. Participants have lost interest, says CCX parent IntercontinentalExchange CEO Jeffrey Sprecher.
“The bulk of the users have said to us that they really don’t want to continue to trade voluntarily in the absence of any credit for their work by the current administration,” Sprecher said. “The real value of that business is what’s going on in Europe.”
Energy-efficient homes constructed from sustainable materials are gaining traction across the country, but two Maine companies say they have created the first US modular net-zero homes, featuring superinsulation, efficient heaters and solar panels; together, the features will generate as much energy as the home will use in a year.
Because they’re modular, the homes on offer from Kaplan Thompson Architects and Keiser Industries are priced comparably with traditional homes, and cost much less than a custom-built net-zero home. Phil Kaplan, principal of Kaplan Thompson, is hopeful that they will appeal to buyers who may not have been in the market for an net-zero home, but will be attracted to their comfort, looks and advantages.
“Sustainable design has gotten a bad rap,” said Phil Kaplan, principal at the architectural firm. “People think it has to be more expensive, or if it’s not, it looks like a box.”
Ford has identified the markets it will target with its debut fleet of Focus Electrics, which is slated for release in just over a year. The chosen few are a variety of cities from coast to coast.
Ford used a number of criteria to determine where best to launch its first electric vehicle, including sustained hybrid purchase trends and local utilities’ commitment to an electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure. The decision wasn’t taken lightly; Ford has been working diligently to ensure grid readiness and build public awareness of EVs for years. In March 2008, Ford and the Electric Power Research Institute partnered to develop ways to integrate EVs into the grid, and that partnership that has since expanded to include Johnson-Controls, Hydro-Quebec, Eaton and others.
Following in the footsteps of Nicolas Sarkozy, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has directed the Office of National Statistics to develop metrics to measure the UK’s “general well-being.” Happiness indices have received a fair amount of press in recent years (including here at Triple Pundit) since Nobel Laureate economists Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen began advocating a move away from a exclusively economic view of gross domestic product towards a model that takes into account less concrete measures, such as sustainability and, yes, well-being.
In the wake of Stiglitz and Sen’s recommendations, several other countries including Canada and France have begun investigating the best way to tabulate and quantify citizens’ satisfaction with their lives. Downing Street sources have said that Cameron’s poll will take some direction from the French and Canadian groundwork.
“The UK plans are putting into action the two most important elements of the Stiglitz/Sen report: systematically measuring subjective wellbeing as part of a broader national accounting system, and using these data to inform policy choices,” says John Helliwell of the Canadian National Statistics Council. Helliwell has been advising UK officials on the shape of their poll.
Sage Electrochromics has received an $80 million strategic investment to help bring their relatively inexpensive electronically-tintable dynamic glass to market. Sage makes a glass technology that absorbs heat, and the best measure of its potential may be the identity of their new investor: Saint-Gobain, one of the world’s largest glass and construction material manufacturers.
SageGlass can be switched from clear to darkly-tinted at the click of a button, or programmed to respond to changing sunlight and heat conditions. It can significantly reduce a building’s heating, cooling and lighting costs. In fact, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “[SageGlass] has the potential to reduce building heating and air conditioning equipment size by up to 25%, resulting in construction cost savings. SageGlass could also potentially reduce overall cooling loads for commercial buildings up to 20% by lowering peak power demand and may reduce lighting costs by up to 60% while providing building occupants with more natural daylight and greater comfort.”
Supply chain emissions are notoriously difficult to track. With the complexity surrounding them, it’s not hard to see why companies tend to ignore them when setting reduction goals in CSR and environmental reports. Tracking the emissions generated from harvesting natural resources, through transportation, refinement, assembly, and delivery to an end-user seemed like an insurmountable task just a few short years ago, but bit by bit, tracking is becoming easier.
Case in point: pharmaceutical distribution giant McKesson has adopted IBM’s Supply Chain Sustainability Management Solution, a Web-based analytics system which will allow McKesson to determine the emissions and distribution costs of any number of variables.
Everyone remembers the network and cable news brouhaha when the CEOs of the Big Three automakers each flew to Washington, DC on corporate jets at a total cost of $45,000 to plead with Congress for a bailout. The CEOs’ journey was recently retraced by two employees of Brammo, the electric motorcycle firm based in Ashland, Oregon — “at a cost of $4 per guy.”
Brammo makes the country’s first highway legal, all-electric motorcycle, the Enertia. The bike is powered by a lithium-phosphate battery produced by Valence Technology, which is more stable than other lithium-based batteries and can fully charge in just three hours.
With a top speed of 60 miles per hour, the Enertia is not intended to be a racing bike, but it’s perfect for urban or suburban commuters who travel less than 40 miles daily — read: about 75% of Americans. It’s built of high-quality parts including Marzocchi forks, Brembo brakes, and Elka shocks, resulting in an ultra-smooth ride. It only has one gear, a feature intended to appeal to non-traditional motorcyclists — particularly women — and it’s easy to control, since it weighs just 280 pounds. And the best news for Brammo is that with economies of scale now in effect, the Enertia’s price has dropped by almost a third in the past year, from $12,000 to $7,195 with federal incentives. Depending on state incentives, it could be even less.
The Walt Disney Company has announced medium and long-term energy and environmental goals, with big plans to reduce emissions and waste, and cut electricity and fuel use. The announcements were part of the company’s 2008 CSR Report, which included a GHG inventory, plus analysis of waste and water usage. The company first began taking stock of its total emissions in 2007 using the World Research Institute’s GHG Protocol, with 2006 offering the first figures available. Aggregate emissions that year, from fuel and electricity use plus refrigerant leaks, totaled a whopping 1.84 million metric tons of CO2e.
While Disney emphasizes a long history of environmental stewardship – citing their endangered species conservation efforts with the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, themes in such films as Pocahontas, and more – the company also wants to seize any opportunity to strengthen their bond with customers and make their company “a more desirable place to work.”